Description: TS, Joss, and anyone else; downtown
Tsuyoshi Shaw - November 6, 2010 08:02 PM (GMT)
It was well into mid-day when he put the boat ashore. T.S. could have stopped off earlier - the UBC campus had looked promising - but he'd decided to move farther in along the coast and stick to the original plan. Downtown was a more central location. It'd be nearer to more hospitals and therefore to more people if the survivors had found a cure. It was possible. He'd certainly been out of touch with the world long enough. The Convention and Exhibition center seemed like the best place to start along the waterfront. Its docks had apparently been intended for seaplanes and puddle-jumpers, but most were long gone. T.S. took his time securing the 24-foot weekender in its moorings and climbed the stairs to the courtyard between the dock and the convention center.
Vancouver had fared worse than he'd feared. The convention center was in pitiful shape, its floor-to-ceiling windows smashed in. That wasn't the surprise, though; he could understand a little stir-craziness resulting in vandalism. What T.S. missed was any sign of the vandals.
Where the hell was everybody?
Don't think that, Tsuyoshi, he told himself. You made it. Don't freak out now. Find something else to focus on. He picked his way through the shattered remnants of the convention center's doors and peered around for any signs of life.
Joss Hunter - November 6, 2010 09:14 PM (GMT)
Since picking up Charles Doman, Joss' life had gotten a little more complicated. He wondered how Sasha did it. He supposed the kids knew about her. That would make a difference.
Charles didn't. Maybe he suspected. Maybe he just looked that shifty all the time. Old people got that way; time did something to them. He wasn't such a bad guy, and Joss didn't think he was Infected, but he couldn't be sure. Even if he could... even if he could be sure, where else could the man go? The Kahlites would kill him. They had their own pack and--he'd heard--their own humans to think of, so naturally that left Joss to take care of everybody else on the whole planet.
He'd bought himself a few days, promised to come back with food. Hopefully Charles would do as he was told and hang around--read or something--while Joss went to do some hunting. At least... that was the official story.
Downtown was a bad place. Joss knew there had to be survivors here, but he also knew that a lot of them had to be Infected. Maybe they didn't know it yet, but they were dead already. When Joss absolutely couldn't stop himself--like now--and he just had to go chase something down and kill it... he tried to go there. Mainly there were other dogs there, and cats, living off of what garbage survivors (both clean and Infected) left behind.
Rats and pidgeons were pretty safe, but they didn't need to be fighting feral carnivores who could be carrying anything.
That was precisely how a halfgrown adolescent wolf with pale cream-colored fur came to be lying on a sidewalk eating the entrails of what was surely the mongrel descendant of somebody's pet Saint Bernard. His forelimbs and the lower half of his face and neck were wet with cooling blood. This dog... its parents had been loved by somebody. Now all Joss could find to love was that it was warm, and heavy, and no longer a threat to anybody with half its body mass down in his digestive system.
Joss sighed, and laid his head on the larger animal's back. There was too much dog here. There was no way he could eat it all.
Still! Good fight. Good meal. Now he needed a good bath, or he'd scare off every other tasty bit for a mile by walking around covered in dog blood. The pale-furred wolf pulled himself to his oversized puppyish feet, shook himself once to indicate to any dogs watching that he was finished with his kill, and trotted off in hopeful search of water that was at least a little cleaner than he was.
Tsuyoshi Shaw - November 6, 2010 09:52 PM (GMT)
T.S. tugged at his goatee while he looked over the mostly-intact directory for the convention center. He always found himself fiddling with it while trying to think. The "You Are Here" star put him nearest to the dining and vending areas of the center.
The banquet hall would be a wash. The kitchen refrigerators and freezers would have lost power early on during the disaster. He didn't hold out any hope for the pantry, either. Vending had possibilities, though. Junk food had more preservatives than food to it, and if the drink and snack machines were sturdy enough they might have kept vermin out. Survivors were another matter, but -
A noise disturbed the quiet. Splashing outdoors, behind him. Shit! The boat! T.S. took off at a sprint back to the atrium doors. He'd been lucky to find a yacht in working shape that he could handle by himself. If he got boat-jacked now, he'd have a hell of a time finding a replacement for the weekender. He pulled the pistol from the waistband of his Dickies. It was useless as a weapon, just a single-shot .22 that the weekender's original owner must have used to start races. T.S. hadn't even found a single round for it on board. Then again, whoever was stealing the yacht wouldn't know that.
He ducked through the shattered doorway, out into the courtyard. I hope my pokerface is better than I remember, T.S. thought. He stopped at the stop of the stairs to steel his nerves and thumb back the hammer on the starter pistol, but when he came down to the first landing on the stairs, the boat was fine. He breathed a sigh of relief... and then cursed under his breath. There really isn't anyone here. Not a soul.
Tsuyoshi followed the noise to his right, and saw a canine figure at the water's edge, shaking its coat out. He couldn't place the breed - Aleutian, maybe? No. Why bother? You know dick about dogs, anyway. It looked like it was in great shape, not one of the patchy balls of mange he'd seen picking at scraps in other stops. He assumed there must be an owner nearby.
"Man, am I glad to see you!" he said, trotting down the stairs to the boat and the... dog? Never mind, it was good news. Had to be.
Joss Hunter - November 6, 2010 10:07 PM (GMT)
Finally Joss could smell himself again, and not just the blood all over his--
Steps on the stairs. Joss didn't want to get in another fight; he was all full and wanted to take a nap, not--
Well, the human wasn't pointing the gun at him. Just calling out at him fit to bring down anybody nearby. What was wrong with him, anyway? Weren't Infected people supposed to be afraid of water?
Pale blue eyes stared up at the human as he came running on down. Glad to see him, huh.
Joss could feel the air chilling his skin beneath his fur as it raised in annoyance. Running at him, shouting like a friend, carrying a gun. Wasn't that just like an old person. Full of nice words with a fucking shooter in his hand.
Black lips pulled away from his teeth in a brief snarl, a pretty clear warning if this jackass were smart enough to take it.
Run at me with a gun, why don't you. See how that goes.
What the stranger may or may not have picked up were the animal's eyes not on his face, but on his firearm. Maybe it was just a big dog who happened to have some kind of personal grudge against guns. That happened, right?
Tsuyoshi Shaw - November 8, 2010 06:05 AM (GMT)
"Hey, okay. Message received." T.S. sidestepped closer to the weekender without drawing any nearer to the snarling fangs. "I get it. You don't know me, I don't know you; no sudden movements or loud noises. Fair enough."
He sidled a little further and put the boat between himself and his first conversation partner in months. The pale blue eyes stayed locked onto him, but T.S. felt a touch safer with a physical obstacle in between. He hoped the feeling was mutual. "It's just... a guy's got to look out for himself, right? I didn't know who was down here splashing around and if some crazy asshole makes off with the boat, I'm up the creek with nothin' to paddle." He dropped his hands to his sides with a sigh. "Of course, they'd probably be about as scared of me as you are," he said, tossing the starter pistol into the boat's small cabin. "I'm not gonna be fooling anyone with that piece of crap, am I?"
T.S. stepped down into the boat and sat on the edge of the hull. "That's assuming anyone is even around to fool." It occurred to him that there might not be anyone taking care of the growling canine after all. Domestic animals went to pieces without a keeper, but the wild ones seemed to get by fine. He hadn't seen a lot of National Geographic before the disease hit, but there had never seemed to be much wrong with the lions or wolves or whatever they were showing.
...Or wolves? Sure, why not? This was Canada. He'd heard they could carry the bug, but then, so could humans. And here T.S. was, still kicking... unless his host changed his mind.
"I think we got off on the wrong foot, here..." ...now how exactly am I gonna fix that?
Joss Hunter - November 8, 2010 06:31 AM (GMT)
Creeping away, that's what he was doing. Humans were stupid. Old people were stupid. Old humans were stupid. Somewhere beneath the satiated hairy self-appointed king of Vancouver, a boy named Joss was aware that he might have become an old human someday and he most certainly would not have been stupid. He created some kind of rationalization in there about exceptions proving the rule. Or something.
Chattering, too. Talk talk talking. What was wrong with him?
The stranger put his arms down, and the wolf let up on the snarl. The pistol went away, and his posture eased. At T.S.'s comment wondering whether there were anybody around to fool, Joss' ears swiveled back, suddenly worried for the sounds of unwelcome footsteps, as though mere mention of Infected could bring them down. Nothing. Yet. Except this one.
Weren't Infected people supposed to be afraid of water?
"I think we got off on the wrong foot, here..." he said.
The big white hairy no-longer-snarling thing watched this stranger--this tourist--calmly, before shaking himself casually. It was a gesture that seemed to literally shake off tension, like a man straightening his jacket upon deciding he wasn't going to start a fight after all.
Joss wished--for at least the hundredth time--that he could smell the difference between clean people and Infected. Wouldn't be right to kill them before they were showing; a mistake might be as hard on Joss as on them, should he learn about it later. That sort of a mistake might even have been just as final.
He looked over his shoulder, and then back to that man. Then to the Convention Center. He took a sideways step toward it, and then halted. Joss wanted badly to get this weird tourist out of the open, but he had no idea how to communicate that without turning his back on an unknown guy with a gun.
Well, shit, he thought. Either leave him here or give him a chance to kill me. ...Shit.
As always, Joss' Calling decided. He picked up his feet and trotted toward the steps, pausing on one to look back. One ear flicked, giving the wolf an indecisive expression that seemed to ask, 'You coming?'
Tsuyoshi Shaw - November 8, 2010 07:00 AM (GMT)
T.S. straightened his back and craned his neck to watch the wolf, but didn't stand to follow it. Not immediately. Is he waving me on? Do wolves do that? He supposed they might, if they were leading a kill back to the pack...
No, that didn't make sense. He was cornered and exposed on the docks, and hadn't really even tried to stand his ground. There had already been ample chance to make a meal out of him if that was the wolf's plan. The thought of food reminded Tsuyoshi that the conference center might have something other than fish to eat. Seafood was getting old. Besides, if he grew a pair and took his chances now, he might feel better about having folded like a napkin at the sight of those long, white teeth.
"Hold your horses. I'm coming." He grabbed his backpack off of its peg just inside the cabin and stepped up onto the docks, following at a brisk walk. Running didn't go over so well the first time. Let's not piss this guy off twice if it can be helped.
Joss Hunter - November 8, 2010 07:16 AM (GMT)
With one more wary glance back over his shoulder, and another over the other to see that this weirdo jackass was going to follow, the wolf bolted up the stairs.
A question floated through Joss' thoughts. Could this guy be talking to him because he knew Joss understood? Because he knew what Joss was? Guy seemed earnest enough, smelled a little anxious maybe, but old was old, and old couldn't be trusted. Maybe he knew. Maybe he was up to something.
He wouldn't be Joss David Hunter if he wasn't a little more paranoid than strictly necessary.
Whatever. Maybe if the young wolf kept him talking, he'd learn something.
When T.S. crossed the threshold back beneath the roof of the Convention Center, there was a wolf waiting inside. He stood calmly, if not exactly patient. Once T.S. was inside, the blue eyed furry thing led them off again at an easy walk. Joss had to find someplace that didn't smell like recent people. Deeper in, maybe? He hoped so.
Tsuyoshi Shaw - November 8, 2010 01:09 PM (GMT)
Following the wolf deeper into the gloom of the convention center, T.S. grew too anxious to pick up where he'd left off with his babble. He could ramble endlessly at a visible, known threat like his guide, but here it too dark to see much. The quiet unnerved him, too. Instead of churning out endless noise, his brain busied itself populating all the rooms and halls with unseen threats. There could be infected people sleeping the day out down here. Wolves too, apparently. Or bats. Hadn't Vancouver had a zoo?
There could be anything in here. The wolf would notice a threat long before T.S., he knew, but if it turned out to be more trouble than a stranger was worth, he was pretty much screwed.
He strained his meager senses for details, anything concrete to box in his overactive imagination. There was a rotten smell, wet and mildewy. The pipes in the building had probably frozen and burst once it lost power and heat. Somewhere, some carpet or upholstered furniture was well on its way to becoming a soupy fungal mess. If something dangerous had decided to hole up in here, it would probably smell a little different and a lot worse. If in doubt, Meriadoc, always follow your nose.
T.S. had a better nose than his own to follow. He just wished he knew where to.
Joss Hunter - November 8, 2010 09:19 PM (GMT)
The main concern on Joss' mind was finding someplace that didn't smell like people had been there recently. Hopefully that'd mean whatever was worth scavenging was long gone, and any raving mad survivors were a good distance away.
He had a thought. Stairways echoed and were in general a huge barrier to anybody sneaking up on him. Above was also generally better than below, from the perspective of fighting his way out. At least, Joss preferred it.
The culmination of these thoughts was that the wolf--little more than a smudge of white in the shadow--paused in front of a door and looked back at T.S. His expression was one most humans would recognize from living closely with canines.
Open it, human. I don't have hands.
Tsuyoshi Shaw - November 10, 2010 02:22 AM (GMT)
"What? What is it?" It took Tsuyoshi a moment to connect their halt and the wolf's meaningful gaze. "Oh - ohhh, right." He opened the door and the two began to climb.
He might have kicked himself for being slow on the uptake, but his mind had things it wanted to puzzle over. Buddy, if you're a wolf - and you sure look the part - how'd you get cozy enough with the trappings of civilization to ask me to get the door?
As they rounded one landing and started up another flight of stairs, he decided he didn't really care about the how. What mattered was that his guide was definitely used to people, and he was leading T.S. to a point that was seemingly impossible for the wolf to reach without human help.
I get the distinct impression that you must be taking me to see somebody... just hope I won't be sorry when I find out who.
Joss Hunter - November 10, 2010 05:04 AM (GMT)
At the top of one flight of stairs--after having T.S. open one more door--they found themselves in a hallway. The exterior wall was more or less broken open to the elements, and mold had crept up the walls. At least here, unlike in the stairwell, it was light.
The interior wall had doors hanging open which Joss ignored, ducking down a narrow hallway that led deeper into the abandoned structure. There were two doors on each side, and Joss picked the second door on the left. It was the smallest room at the end of the best chokepoint on the floor, and therefore most defensible should they have attracted attention.
Joss needed a chokepoint, since if this blabbermouth tourist got involved in the fight, he was as good as dead no matter how it turned out. Might be as good as dead anyway.
The wolf shouldered his way past the half-open door. What light was available came in through the hallway, which left most of the room in darkness. Joss took a few steps in, turned to look at his new find, and sat down.
Tsuyoshi Shaw had indeed been brought here to meet someone. That someone was apparently the white-furred wolf which now stared at him expectantly.
Where's all that babble now that we've actually found a decent place for you to do it in?
Tsuyoshi Shaw - November 11, 2010 01:38 PM (GMT)
"I... don't get it," T.S. stammered. "This room's empty. I'm stating the obvious, I know, but this room is empty. What are we doing in here?"
He sighed and rubbed his forehead. "What am I doing in Vancouver, even? I should have sailed for Kyoto from Juneau. At least then I'd have ended up somewhere familiar." That's bullshit, he reminded himself. Chances are good that you'd have ended up dead. As badly as he wanted to go and find out how his family had fared, Tsuyoshi had to nod in agreement with the facts. "Yeah. Familiar and right next door to China. That's where the news said it started, right? Okay, so shit-can that idea. I'm here... in an empty room. With a wolf."
"Well... Here's hoping you're not a carrier, or I'll have spent two years on two boats for nothing." The wolf probably wasn't, T.S. decided. He couldn't think of any way for an animal to eliminate the diseased without almost certainly infecting itself. Biting a sick critter couldn't be much better than getting bitten. Isolation would be the only safe bet. "Let me guess... lone wolf? No pack to catch the plague from when the shit hit the fan?" He nodded to himself; it was at least plausible. "Believe me, I know the feeling."
Wait! That makes no sense at all. Tsuyoshi's eyes widened in growing alarm as the hole in his thinking became clear. Wolves that don't bite don't eat too much, do they? Four years since the first cases hit the news, and this guy doesn't look like he's missed a meal. Four years without eating anything infected - how likely does that sound?
His first impulse was to run, but he didn't like his chances. There was no way he was faster than an animal built for the kill. Besides, it wasn't making any motion to attack right now. He'd have to bide his time and hope that the wolf didn't go snarling super-rabies sickhouse on him before he could get away.
Joss Hunter - November 12, 2010 01:53 AM (GMT)
Kyoto. Whoa. Wasn't that, like, Asia or something? Then again, he was an Asian guy. Maybe he was an actual Asian guy and not a second generation import or something. Joss wasn't solid on all these little details. Too much hunting to do to screw around with things like the geography of countries he'd probably never have the means to visit.
He listened attentively, pleased that the river of chatter had resumed its flow. This was information he needed, and he didn't really care why this guy was such a goddamn blabbermouth. From the sound of it he'd probably have conversed just as happily with a houseplant.
Two years on boats.
Two years? Two years? There were still people out there? Man, wouldn't that be a convenient thing. Someplace out of the way and isolated that he could maybe send Charles to in a couple of years if it turned out that the old bastard wasn't just in the lapse phase. Sort of promising, if Joss could think of a way to get him out there.
Then again, there was no way to convince them Charles was clean. If he were them, he wouldn't trust either of them on that front. People lied about that shit all the time just because they were afraid of being left out to die through the winter before they even showed symptoms.
Joss tried to convey the error of his temporary ward's suspicions, answering T.S.'s suggestion that he might be a SRLV1 carrier with as much of an 'Oh Christ here it comes' expression as a wolf could muster.
Then the talkative stranger got that look in his eye, that flash of fear and urge to bolt. Joss hoped he wouldn't, but didn't feel particularly motivated to stop him if he did. Let him go get torn to pieces by savage half-crazy people and plague-ridden feral cats if he wanted; he wasn't Joss' business if he chose to ran, was he?
He didn't, though. To reward and reassure him so that he'd keep talking, Joss heaved a heavy sigh and lay down on the floor. He yawned, which was a clearer expression of nonhostility to another canine than to a human, but the impression was still pretty casual. Joss was relaxing, Joss was not worried, and Joss was not going to eat him.
With his head between his paws, the wolf swivelled his ears forward, attentive to whatever this boat-person might have on his mind.
Tsuyoshi Shaw - November 14, 2010 03:06 PM (GMT)
It wasn't easy to rein in the urge to run, but the wolf's relaxed, almost bored behavior convinced Tsuyoshi that if he was indeed conversing with a time bomb, it had a fair length of fuse still to burn. "You probably think I'm a basket case at this point. First I can't wait to make friends. Now I'm pissing myself."
T.S. started tugging at his goatee again, signaling a full switch over into thinking mode. "Anyway, I had a plan when I got here, and I don't think it's time to throw it completely out of the window just yet. I still need to know if there's anything resembling a rebuilding effort yet - anything past scattered twos and threes of survivors who are perfectly happy to keep well away from anyone else."
He smiled and stretched, leaning back against the wall. "Don't get me wrong, you're a great listener and all, but you're not exactly forthcoming with answers. I guess I'll have to stick around. Sleep on the boat, probably... find a river mouth or some place to set up gill nets. Never heard of rabid fish, so I figure they're still safe to eat. I should be okay here, seeing what I can see, as long as I'm careful. After that... I guess we'll see."
Joss Hunter - November 14, 2010 06:25 PM (GMT)
Looking for a rebuilding effort? Looking for people getting together and putting things right again, making things make sense again, making things easier again.
There was some of that. Joss knew some survivors, Sasha had some humans, and he'd heard that there were some humans back with the university werewolves. There was some of what this guy wanted.
He'd never see it, though. Probably not, at least. Even if he was clean, even if he wasn't carrying the disease that'd make him go crazy and die, none of that was for him. Everyone was too busy protecting what they had to share it with anybody uncertain.
The only people who had absolutely nothing to fear from probably-not-infected people... were people like Joss.
Soon as he had that one dangerous thought, it was over. If he found a bunch of survivors who might be Infected and brought them together where they could destroy each other, a lot of them might die.
If he didn't, they all definitely would.
His head stayed on his paws, but the wolf heaved a long, sad sigh. He looked around at the small room, then back to the foreign tourist boatperson stranger survivor person. Was going to need to get a name for him, it seemed.
What in the world was Joss going to tell Charles?