Who: JD and Zoe What: Asking a Favor... and Chatting When: 20th September, late afternoon (backdated) Where: Zoe’s lab, the road home. Rating: Low Status: Complete
Things had (thankfully) stayed relatively quiet since the sad death of Hannah at the beginning of the month. True to his word JD had written and mailed a letter to Hannah’s family, it was a hard letter to write as he didn’t know her all that well but he did the best he could and hopefully they’d realize that despite everything their daughter still loved them.
The day before he had messaged back and forth with the young tech genius - Zoe and she asked if he could drop by her lab and maybe walk her home. In a weird kind of way she was also an employee of the government, otherwise such casual contact between them might be seen in a different light, he really should get a burner phone next time he went to the mainland, have a way to keep in contact with anyone on the island.
After his shift had finished JD did a quick workout in the gym, followed by a shower in the barracks and changed into his casual clothing. Walking down the corridor he knew that he was a bit early but they could always talk until the official finishing time.
Yes, it was the weekend, but on the island one day was really just like the other. Especially when she had work. Levi has been in earlier and they’d worked on his leg. She was anxious for the parts for his leg to come in. Zoe heard the door and looked up from her computer. “Hello? Oh… hi JD.” She said with a shy smile. “Sorry, just finishing up.” Her eyes turned from the computer screen, down to her tablet where she used her stylus to adjust the design.
Weekends didn’t really exist when you were working on a roster, occasionally they’d get days off but that often coincided with the days that he and Ian would have to head off island to get the next food shipment, escort it over and then deliver it to the residents. JD had planned dinner and a movie with Ian at his place, but that was still several hours away and he had to do something to fill in his time.
After stepping into the lab he closed the door behind him, out of habit mostly, although he was sure that Zoe would appreciate it as a closed door seemed to also keep out the sounds of chattering and so forth that often filled the corridor. “Take your time, I’m running a bit early.” Again, a force of habit. You were never late in the Army. He saw the leg that she had mentioned working on sitting on the table, to him it looked pretty much like any other prosthetic at the moment but he knew if Ian saw it his friend would be able to describe every little part and detail. “Pretend I’m not even here.”
Zoe continued to work for a bit before saving and turning everything off. “Sorry, just trying to come up with a way to help support the weight of-“ she shook her head. “Never mind. I’m done.” She told him as she grabbed her jacket and slipped it on. “That’s just the frame.” She explained. “I’m waiting for the mechanical parts to come in next week.”
“It looks better than what the vets get, basic and practical is mainly what the VA’s interested in. You can get a blade if you’re the type of person who enjoys running but this looks really interesting. I’ll have to drop in to see it when it’s done.” Somewhere in the back of his mind he was wondering if Ian would be interested, while he knew his friend never complained about it he could see for himself the kinds of stresses it put onto the body. “What do you need help supporting the weight of? I’ve had my share of experiences with them.” Hopefully he was being helpful in some way.
“That-“ she gestured to the prosthetic. “Most of it will be made of light weight materials, but the mechanical parts still have weight to it that can cause strain in the leg. The recipient doesn’t seem to want to have surgery for a support port, which I can understand. So I want to make sure that it will both be secure and That the weight will be distributed to not put too much stress on the leg or the hips.” Zoe explained.
He could definitely understand why the person didn’t want surgery, he had met some veterans that had and quite a few who hadn’t. He also knew that heavy and cumbersome prosthetics were the bain of every single person who had them, having a light one usually meant sacrificing something. “You’re good at creating and problem solving, I’m sure you’ll figure out a way to reduce the weight but still keep the structural integrity of the limb. But please don’t skimp on comfort of the socket, doesn’t matter how light it is, if it hurts to wear it then it’s no use at all.”
“Oh no. If it’s not perfect, he won’t get it until it is” Zoe insisted. “Levi’s a nice guy and I hate doing shoddy work.”
She grabbed her shoulder bag and pulled it over her head to lay over her shoulder and across her chest. “Ready?” The favor she had she didn’t want to ask until they were outside and clear of cameras.
“Good that you’re sticking to your standards. We all deserve the same standards no matter who we are.” There was one thing that JD had learned when he first started his job on the island, not to mention where he worked or what he was collecting was destined for residents, there was no shortage of shoddy suppliers who’d sneak in substandard items because they didn’t believe that people on the island deserved the same as everyone else.
“Whenever you are.” He said with a smile. Stepping forward he opened the door for her, stepping back to let her out before letting the door close behind him. “Straight home? No detour via the Marketplace?”
She shook her head. “No, I have leftovers for dinner.” Zoe smirked. “And hopefully a game night with my brother.” At his place of course because hers was a bit cluttered.
Once they were out of the facility and down the path a bit she wrapped her hands over the strap on her bag a bit and looked at him hopefully. “So on the 2nd of next month it’s our- my brothers birthday.” Being twins it was both of theirs, but he was focused on Adam. “I was trying to think of a good present for him and I think being able to write home would be the best I can give him right now. Especially since he’s here because of me.” She frowned slightly. “Do you think if he does, you’d be able to deliver it for me? I promise I won’t tell him who is helping me.”
Straight back to Zoe’s place on Liberty it was then. He gave a small nod as they started towards the door and then out through the open area outside of the building. JD’s hands were tucked in his pockets as he walked slowly but still with the iron rod straight back that the military had trained into him.
When they were a distance away and Zoe started to talk he turned his head to look down at her and listened. Getting another letter out to loved ones, shouldn’t be any problems at all. “I can do for him what I did for you. All I do is put it in another envelope which the box’s return address and mail it off. The rest is up to the postal service.” And so far they hadn’t failed him. “Though just so you know, there’s a dropbox down near the gardens, out of view of the cameras. Put your letter in with enough to cover a stamp and I’ll mail it when I go to the mainland, that’s the way I do most of my… business. Though like I told you, if they want them to write back tell them to double envelope it with your name on the inner envelope and the return one on the outer, your letters remain personal and I just take off the outer one before I get back to the island.”
She nodded. “He might want to. I don’t know if I could-“ Zoe frowned. Had it been wrong not to give them the option to write back? Maybe if she had Adam wouldn’t have come to find her. Wouldn’t be stuck on the island now. “He’s here because of me.” She said softly. “I wish I could smuggle him off the island.”
“Well, the offer is there. Tell him anything that comes back is delivery with his regular food delivery.” Although her brother Adam worked in the Mess Hall and probably ate there on occasion everyone, including the guard still got some form of rations. JD glanced down at her, hearing the sadness in her voice and about smuggling him off the island. “Unfortunately now they’ve got him in the system it’s highly unlikely that they’d ever let him leave. I know it sucks and I wish that I could do more but I’m risking myself with this postal service as it is.”
“No, I know.” Zoe shook her head. “I wouldn’t expect you to- I just feel… the only reason he’s here is because I wrote.” She admitted with a frown, averting her eyes from him in shame. “I didn’t expect him to turn himself over- he didn’t even know he had powers.”
JD often wondered how many more hundreds or maybe thousands of people were out there who had powers but either didn’t know about it or were smart and keeping themselves hidden. He knew the ‘official story’ - that a reactor meltdown caused people to be affected by radiation and they were shipped to the island as a precaution, but really, it was just a way to put everyone with these powers in one place where they could keep an eye on them. “He’s not the only one, there’s many more here who didn’t know they were different until their blood test came back showing something different.”
“But he only got tested because he came to the island. And he only came to the island because I wrote him.” Zoe sighed. “I was missing him, but I’m a bad twin for getting him into this mess.”
Shaking her head she looked up at him. “I’m sorry I didn’t meant to put that all out… it just- sort of came out.” One of the side effects of not talking to people regularly about things. She really needed to see Kyrie and be a more consistent friend.
It was a bit of a vicious circle and he knew that Zoe could blame herself over and over again, thinking ‘if only’ about every little thing but Adam was on the island now and he was fitting in quite well in the Barrack’s kitchen, most of the guards and other staff were enjoying his culinary skills. She could be proud of him for that.
There wasn’t really anyone around them as they walked slowly down towards Liberty, a hand went over and gave Zoe a quick pat on the shoulder. “It’s okay, sometimes it’s better to just get it out there, tell anyone who’ll listen.” He paused. “It is really quite nice to be able to talk to someone who’s not cowering away from me like I’m going to hurt them.” It was something they had discussed before, people were often scared of him just because he was a guard.
And with Zoe, the whole thing going over and over was a very literal thing. Every mistake she’d made, well after she got her powers, had a vivid replay. Those memories from before her powers were still. Very clear, just prone to errors.
“Of course. You’ve never given reason to not like you, you’ve helped me. And honestly most guards treat me okay or ignore me. I think it’s because I’ve either fixed something for them or they think that by helping people control their powers I’m helping them with their job.” She shrugged. “Hearing my brother getting beat up when he arrived wasn’t cool though. Just because he didn’t know he had gifts.” Zoe frowned at the thought.
The touch on the shoulder, even quickly, had her blushing a bit. Outside of her family, she just didn’t know how to deal with physical contact. But she tried to act like it was normal. At least it wasn’t like when she was fitting Levi for his prosthetic. Her cheeks reddened at the thought as it replayed for her. Then when he’d put his hand on her for support. Most people probably would have considered it nothing, but when she had to touch someone for her job- and she tried to keep it to a minimum because it felt a bit embarrassing at times. But when she did it tended to be on the head or hands. Not hip and upper leg.
Zoe blinked, it took her a moment to break from the series of memories that flashed by her. “Sorry- I… sorry.”
JD was glad to hear that most of the guards left her alone, he knew that some of them were not exactly nice towards the residents and in particular the younger female ones. More than once he overheard them talking about how they had made someone feel uncomfortable, or how they had beaten up a newbie. If this was the Army and these were the soldiers under his charge he would be putting them up for court martial for this kind of behavior but he was a minority on the island, he just ignored them and went about his own tasks. At least Ian shared his views and were always on patrol together, it was the other tasks requiring only one person that meant he was separated him from his friend and now lover, another thing that no one else could know about.
“I’m sorry about your brother, I promise that I’d never do that to anyone. As you know some of the guys are… total assholes and they seem to get a thrill out of it.” It made him angry and more than once he wanted to hit a fellow guard, but he liked this job so he just bit his tongue when it came to it all. He was pretty sure that the guys beat up others when they knew that he and Ian weren’t around.
“It’s okay, don’t apologize. We do anything for our family.” He didn’t know that she was talking about her reaction to that small touch, for a world-wise guy he was still clueless about some things.
“Score one for social awkwardness.” She laughed a little. “Means that most people ignore you, so no harassment by the guards.” Of course, those she wouldn’t mind noticing her tended to ignore her too. “This is his first birthday on the island. I’m used to not celebrating, but I don’t want him to feel that no one cares. Of course… he’s going to have to make the cake, but that’s because if I make it… well it’ll probably burn.” She pursed her lips as a thought came to her. “I wonder if I can get Kyrie to come and we can have a little party… it can still be a party with just three people right? I don’t have a lot of friends- and I don’t think Adam would feel comfortable if I invited you.” She grimaced slightly. “Sorry.”
“You’ve found a silver lining there, guard or not I’m not exactly easy to miss.” One of the downfalls of his height and bulk, while he was only 6 foot 4 and not really the tallest person in the world he was one of the tallest guards on the island and it was often quite noticeable.
He smiled a bit as Zoe talked about getting a friend over and having a small party, it reminded him of his own birthday not that long ago and the small cupcake that Ian had gotten for him, that was all that he needed. The rest of that night remained a secret between them. “I’m sure he’ll love that. I just shared a cupcake with my best friend and that was enough of a party for me.” He chuckled softly. “And it’s okay, I don’t think that the... ‘powers to be’ would be happy with me going to a resident’s birthday party anyway.”
As they approached the residential area she nodded. “Sometimes any acknowledgement at all is nice.” She said, wondering what it will be like to have the day acknowledged for herself for the first time in years.
JD nodded in agreement. “I wasn’t usually a birthday person after I hit my mid teens, but the past decade my friend and I have done something. Before we came to the island we used to go camping, just get away and enjoy each other’s company and the quietness of nature.” Maybe one of them would get lucky soon and a birthday would coincide with their time off but he wasn’t hopeful, they could always go camping another time and enjoy one another anyway. “If your brother’s cakes are as good as the rest of his cooking I’m sure you’ll be in for one really great party!”
“Considering I was seventeen…” She started. All her ‘adult’ birthday milestones had happened on the island. Her 18th had been spent in her lab, her 21st had been spent at home where she turned in early for the night. Not having her twin to celebrate with- or anyone else for that matter- just made them not seem important. But now she wasn’t alone.
As they approached her building she slowed slightly. “Thank you, for walking me home. Even though you didn’t need to- it does feel a little safer not being alone when it gets a little dark.”
Seventeen, he was on the streets at that age heading for a bad life. But the Army had turned his life around and 20 years later he was quite happy with where it had gone, despite all the bumps along the way.
JD’s footfalls slowed as well. “It was no problems, I don’t mind at all. Though if you end up working late, don’t feel safe and I’m not busy I can walk you home.” He offered.
Zoe nodded. “Thank you. Really.” She nodded as she stepped away from him and toward the building. “I appreciate it. I’m sure my brother does as well- he’s worried about me about as much as I’m worried about him.” She laughed lightly. “And if I can ever do anything to repay you… just let me know. Need something fixed or something- I’m your girl.”
“I’m sure I’ll think of something eventually.” He smiled, with a nod JD waited until Zoe let herself into her apartment before he turned and walked away, looking around as he headed back towards the barracks.