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September 2015

Bereft of his crossbow, Riley sat in the infirmary waiting room, reading a technical manual. He'd already filled out his paperwork, showed his student ID, and made sure Nurse Joy knew that he was there and was patiently waiting for his next turn. At least in theory. When he wasn't in a blind with a bow in his hand, or waiting up a tree, Riley had never been very good at patience. So instead he buried himself in stories about the construction and care of wind power plants, all the while making the usual adjustments for whatever tools and other equipment would be missing back on his own Earth. Raymond couldn't keep running forever, he knew from lessons drilled into his head by his mother, and by the time he was an adult his community would need some other source of power to survive. 

He was going to make it back there. He was sure of it. 

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Jimmy entered the infirmary waiting room looking much the same as usual. He was dressed casually in a t-shirt and cargo shorts, and was wearing flip-flops, for the comfort. He liked his feet to breathe. The short kid made his way to the check-in counter, pulling his student ID from his pocket and flashing it quickly. "Hi, Jeremy Stone, I think my old doctor sent my patient files? I need bi-monthly checkups to check for recurrence and make sure everything's A-OK." The smile on his face was a little forced, but after a bit the nurse found his file and told him to go wait in the seats.

He made his way across the room and, quite disrespectful of privacy, plopped into a seat right next to Riley and immediately started talking. "Hiya. Don't think I've met you yet. Jimmy." His hand was stuck out to shake, and the grin on his face was maybe only a little bit forced this time.

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"Hey." Riley sat down his magazine and shook Jimmy's hand, his callused hands gripping the other boy's firmly. "Riley Quinn." Jimmy had heard that name around the boy's dorm floor already; there'd been a fight between two boys that had ended with the two being seperated and reassigned to different rooms. For his part, Riley looked Jimmy up and down and repressed a quick smile - Jimmy was one of the few boys his age shorter than he was. "Recurrence, huh? What'reyainfor?" he asked, his words sliding together in a fast drawl that wasn't quite like any accent Jimmy had heard in Freedom City before. 

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Jimmy's hand, in contrast to Riley's, was fairly soft and bony, like the rest of the boy. He retracted his hand after shaking Riley's, flexing the fingers slightly before dropping it into his lap. Jimmy mulled the name and what he knew about it over a few times in his mind, then decided that caution was a good choice. As usual, the shorter boy had to look slightly up to meet his conversation partner's eyes - he was used to it, so it only slightly bothered him anymore. "Lung cancer. Well, it used to be, but, it went into remission recently. I used, uh...unproven treatment, though, so my family was all paranoid about recurrence and arranged for regular checkups."

There was a short pause, afterwards, as he mulled over whether or not he should say the other reason. "Also, they like to, you know, monitor my rad levels and make sure nothing's spiking abnormally. Safety thing, mine and everyone else's, you know? What are you in for?"

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"Oh, man, sorry," said Riley, looking stricken at the other boy's words. "My...uh, my dad died of thyroid cancer when I was five," he admitted, something he realized he hadn't even told Robin. "A lot of people get it where I'm from. But you're really okay?" he asked, looking Jimmy over, obviously impressed at the extent of his evident recovery. "You look great," he told the other boy sincerely. "So did they use radiation on you or something?" he asked. "My mom's a nuclear 'gineer over at Raymond," he said, pointing in the direction of Freedom City's nuclear power plant. "so I've been around that stuff my whole life. And I'm just getting a shot," he added. 

Edited by Avenger Assembled

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Jimmy's gaze fell gently into one of empathy. "Oh...man, sorry. That sucks. I...well, I'm mostly fine." Knuckles rapped gently on the arm of his seat, just in case. A little superstition never hurt anyone. "I used...yeah, some sort of radiation. Did some weird things though, so they like to keep an eye on it. Plus, they can't find the guy who administered the treatment to have a chat about the side effects, so they're a little more paranoid than normal." He smiled slightly. "Thanks, though. I need to do some exercise. My mom wanted to sign me up for physical therapy, but I told her I could handle that without a doctor." He paused, folding his hands together and crossing his legs, then a thought occurred to him. "You're from around the plant? And you're getting your immunizations?"

Edited by Almilee

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"No, I had those after I arrived. I'm not from Earth-Prime. This dimension," Riley clarified, not knowing what Jimmy knew about dimensional travel. "This is a good place to work out. They've got a nice gym here, probably the best I've ever seen. And I should know - I have to spend a minimum of 2 hours a day getting physical training, since I don't have any powers except muscle and bone." He scratched the back of his short hair before going on, "I get testosterone shots," he told the other boy frankly. "For my voice, and so maybe I can grow myself a 'stache in a couple of years." He grinned. "What do yer folks do?" 

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"Ohhhh. Okay, that makes sense. So, I guess that means your mom works at the nuclear power plant, but in the other dimension? Or, the mom of the you from this dimension works at the power plant?" Jimmy's face scrunched up a little as he considered the possible permutations of a simple sentence like that, when spoken by someone who was technically two someones. Simultaneously, he reviewed what he could actually specifically remember of their conversation, and double-checked for new meaning. 

Satisfied that he didn't find anything, he returned to the conversation. "I haven't been to the gym yet. Don't really see the appeal of doing all that stuff in-doors. I'd rather go for a jog or play football or baseball or soccer, in the park. You know, outside, with the wind, and the birds chirping. In-doors gets pretty cooped up after a while, and with all those people sweating, it probably smells awful."

The real meaning of Riley's final revelation flew at Jimmy...and passed right over his head, barely even ruffling his hair as it went by. "Oh, you have that thing where your body doesn't produce enough testosterone? I thought it was just old people who had that. Maybe it's a dimensional thing..." Busy as he was mulling that over, Jimmy only answered Riley's question as an afterthought. "Oh, uh, my mom does some part-time teaching work, and my dad's an executive at...a tech company of some sort, I never really learned the specifics."

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"She's a 'gineer in both places, yeah." He frowned, looking at Jimmy. "How do you not know what your mom and dad do?" Jimmy's answer seemed to thoroughly baffle him. "What do they talk about at home?" He couldn't imagine not knowing about his mother's career, not having grown up in the same rooms as her, in the same space, year after year. "I mean, uh...sorry. I know things are different here." He shrugged a little, and looked away. "Out of doors is nice. I spend a lot of time there. You ever make it out to the state forest?" he asked, looking over at Jimmy. "I hear it's real pretty there, especially in the fall. Supposed to get a hunting license this year." He shrugged. 

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"Well, until fairly recently, I wasn't at home quite enough to know what they talk about." His mouth said happy-smile, but his eyes said buried pain. "Hospitals are not conducive to a good home life, you know." One of Jimmy's hands moved to scratch his neck slightly, giving him a bit of an excuse to let his eyes move to the ground, then back up. "I haven't gotten to the forest yet, I only just got here, and figured I should probably make a show of good faith and wait til my first appointment before going out wandering. You know, in case they warn me about something out there." He paused. "What's hunting like?"

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"It's great," said Riley readily. "I mean, it's scary as Hell when you're out there, but there's nothing sweeter than stalking, tracking, and bagging your own kill. When you're out there on your own with just your weapon in your hand, with just your brain and your guts between you and being in the guts of a grizzly bear, it's the best feeling in the world. It's a way of feeling in touch with everybody who's ever come before you - and everybody who's gonna come after." He grinned, enjoying this guy's company pretty well despite himself. "And nothing tastes better than meat you killed yourself. Sometime I'm gonna get out there, get me some venison, it's gonna be damn nice." 

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"That sounds, uh..." Well, Jimmy wasn't personally that into the murder of tiny animals. He certainly would never be able to get that excited or...intense, about it. But hey, to each his own, right? Jimmy's hands fiddled together, fingers getting twiddled and moved about as he thought. "I've never had venison." Change the subject, a tried and true tactic. "Is it good? What's it like? Is it like chicken?" Everything was like chicken, or so he'd been told. Now was the best time to really find out.

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Riley winced, sensing the other boy's lack of interest. "It's fine, I know some people here like store-bought better. I've gotta admit," he confessed, "I'm lucky I work out, because the food here is really great, even if it's really crappy for me." He enthused. "I mean, I still like comfort food like chicken or venison stew, but you've got cotton candy, and those really spicy chips that make you cry when you eat them..." He ticked off a few menu items. "Prolly lucky I haven't broken out yet," he admitted, running his hands over his cheeks. "Of course, you've got cream for that here. I gotta admit, your world's pretty great about some stuff." 

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Jimmy nodded along as Riley, spoke, becoming more interested now than he'd been during the conversation about hunting. It seemed they'd stumbled onto a subject that fascinated the scrawny kid. "Oh, you mean jalapeno chips?" Unlike...anyone, really, who knew what they were talking about, Jimmy pronounced it how it was spelled in English, with no regard for the Spanish J or the tilde above the n. "Yeah! Those are great. I don't know how, but they figured out how to get jalapenos everywhere. It's pretty great."

"And! It's all thanks to Science!" The capital S and emphasis on the word Science was clear in his voice. He even pumped his fist into the air. "All of the stuff you talked about, the great stuff in this world, I mean. It's all thanks to science. Hey, wait...you mean, you guys don't have this stuff in your dimension?"

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"Not like you guys have," said Riley with a little shrug. "And it's 'hall-a-pena'", he added quickly. "I mean, my mom used to buy tortillas off Mrs. Gutierrez, fry 'em in a pan and salt 'em, but that's not the same as getting all the flavors of tortilla chips you have, or the cotton candy, or all the other things. We just don't have that kind of stuff where I'm from - all the caches got eaten up years ago, and nobody's making the flavors for 'em. We've got science, but it's mostly for keeping us alive. That's prolly what I'll do when I get too old and busted to be a Woodsman." He hmmed. "When I get back, I'll prolly go on a nuke run - that's where we get in the longboats and go hit a coastal nuke plant. Can't keep a nuke plant runnin' with no nuke stuff in it."

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Jimmy frowned, bringing back his knowledge of word/letter pronunciation. "Naw, no way, there's a J in it. J is pronounce juh. Juh-ah-lah-peeno. Jalapeno." He gave a wide smile, the kind that can only be given by someone who is absolutely, completely convinced that they are right, because any other explanation would just be silly. "Maybe it's another one of those universe things, though. Divergent languages and pronunciations are pretty normal in different parts of the world, they're probably different from 'verse to 'verse, too."

"Woodsman? Nuke run?" He looked completely lost, trying to figure out the words and fairly sure he was off on his guesses. "Why do you need Uranium? And what's a Woodsman? Wait, I already sort of said that, didn't I. Well, the question stands."

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"Well, uranium or plutonium. We..." 

"Riley Quinn!" called the nurse, sticking her head out. "Mr. Quinn," she said, "it's time." 

"Back inna few," said Riley with a quick grin Jimmy's way before walking off with the nurse. He and Nurse Joy seemed to know each other pretty well - he and the brown-haired young woman were already having a debate about the best places to eat in Bayview before the door closed behind them, leaving Jimmy for the moment alone in the outer office. 

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"Alright." Jimmy watched Riley walk off and into the deeper offices, and sat quietly, fiddling with his fingers. After a few moments, he picked up a journal lying on the table nearby, then remembered why nobody reads those - they're all just terrible. After about three pages, it finds its way back to the table, and he sits quietly, trying to amuse himself with daydreams.

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When Riley was done, he came out again, a green sucker sticking out of his mouth. He didn't comment on why he'd gone in; but he was certainly looking much more relaxed than before he'd gone in. "I was good," he commented laconically, taking the candy out of his mouth to talk. "I'll see you 'round, Jimmy." Is my voice deeper? he wondered. He knew that was stupid, hormones didn't work that way - but it was still nice to imagine. Gonna grow that beard yet!

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"Seeya. Have fun. I hope your, uh..." Had he got a straight answer as to why the other boy needed testosterone? "Whatever it is you need injections for, gets better. Or is better by now." Jimmy stood and nodded, and then went into the nurse's office for his own appointment.

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