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Rodent registration

Posted on Sun Jun 30th, 2024 @ 9:00 by Valjean Beaumont & Rebecca McMillen

Chapter: Besieged
Location: Kitchen, Avalon Institute
Timeline: Afternoon, Saturday, 23rd of January, 1993
1830 words - 3.7 OF Standard Post Measure

The prime Valjean stood with his arms crossed, sternly watching the woman talk to yet another rodent. He kicked himself for agreeing to her terms and thought that perhaps spreading just a little bit of rat poison, or a mouse trap here and there, would keep the worst of the offenders out. What if one day the little critters decided to rise up? What if they no longer felt compelled to listen to Rebecca's arguments.

"They are getting more bold, more frequently." The French lilt was something that would never fade.

"It's winter and they're hungry. Avalon is the safest place for them, too." she brought the rodent out to the loading door to release back out in the wild with a stale cracker as a bribe. "In the end, we're all just looking for a place that's warm, safe, and comfortable. Once the weather warms up, they'll be on their way." she closed the door after bidding the rat goodbye.

"And I know it's not much of a compliment to know that they prefer your cooking, but every one I talk to tells me how much of a good smell this kitchen is, and how much of a good taste the food here is. Like it or not, you've got fans." she offered, knowing how little of a compliment that was. "But I also appreciate you letting me get them out on friendly terms." Rebecca grew quiet for a moment, everything about her seemed to wither despite her not losing an inch. "I... it means a lot to be able to help them."

Valjean knew that in a place like this hunting and killing rodents was a losing battle, so taking the little bit of goodwill that Rebecca offered and managing the issue without racking up the costs of rat poison and mouse traps was a mental health decision he had made. Though, in fairness, Rebecca some days made it difficult to accept it was a good trade. "Fans that rummage around le garbage and eat rotten fruits." He huffed in a way that only the French seemed to have mastered, "How do you even know they're not just coming 'ere to get your treats? Perhaps it's better to put the fear into them rather than reward them for making the trip, non?"

"Would you put that same fear in every kid on the street, digging around in the trash for food? Would you rather some runaway be too afraid than take the chance?" she asked, not able to look the chef in the eye as she did. "That's how I got here. I ran from London, and the rats told me where all the good food was. Where it was safe."

She turned to look at the chef, her eyes damp but defiant, "So yeah, maybe they are coming for the treats. Maybe I owe them that for getting me here. Avalon isn't safe for them, but it's safe for me, and I'm the only one that can hear them." she paused, her glance dropping, "It's easy to shoo away the problem when you can't hear them."

There were a great many things to be said about that, for example kids aren't rats. "Mon dieu." Valjean sighed under his breath, waiting for her to come back after freeing the rodent. "Is your mutation known to the government?" He wondered out loud after processing what she said about Avalon being the only safe place for her.

Gone was the fire that Rebecca held in here eyes, over one simple question. Did they know?

She gave a nod, looking away. "My folks..." she started, "They did it so I couldn't leave. Mum said it meant if I ran away, they'd bring me home. My sister Jill said it was like I was registered as a... a pet!" she spit out. How long was she on the road to Avalon? Walking. Bussing. Hitching.

"They know. Because my parents told them." she took a breath and held it.

"C'est nul," Valjean muttered under his breath, "Still, they do not know where you are now, eh." He cut a bit of old cheese and pushed it closer to Rebecca. "I was in the care of the state, even without this registration, they know very well my capabilities." He wondered if he would be considered a threat to them or if the charges that landed him in prison were benign enough to not be taken into account with that.

She reached for the cheese almost like she had a sense for it. A gentle pluck and a nibble or two comforted her better than anything else, truly. He'd see her relax. Shoulders, posture, everything just...

"I didn't exactly pay for a lot of the trains or bus trips I took up this way. It's easy to sneak around when you can do what I can do. And I really ho..." she paused, then shook her head. "I was interviewed during the festival. They came right up to me, I said my name, they kept that camera parked on my tail half the interview... I mean, what are the odds some London family would see something on local news from up here?" please be low. Please.

Valjean shrugged a bit, it was BBC Scotland, not really 'local news' in the truest sense of the word, but chances were not large portions of national news would've been dedicated to Avalon. Then again the footage was in the BBC archives, so if they wanted to do an item around the school it was easy enough to pull that up. With the mutant registration being a thing Avalon would probably make national news again before long. "Even if they've seen it, you are your own person. We would never allow someone to come here and 'claim' you back like some lost luggage."

That simple reassurance meant the world to her. Even from someone that she knew under a strained contract of rat freedom. "I appreciate that, Valjean. I .. I really, really appreciate that. I can't go back to what I left." she stated simply, still nibbling away her anxiety. "This is gonna hit folks pretty hard, I ..." she held up the slice of cheese he had given her, "Thank you. I forgot to say it."

"I might go through a whole block by the time this is over."

"I have two wheels. Claire asked me to stock up more than usual." Valjean hadn't really given it much thought when the request had come through. There was only so much room in their pantry and he was slowly but surely filling it up, even though it got more difficult with some suppliers now emboldened by the more openly anti-mutant stance of the government refusing service. He had reported them to Claire, as per her request, and was seeking other avenues to add to their supplies. "Perhaps we should get a cow, convince her to make us cheese. Do you talk to cows as well?"

Something about that made Rebecca giggle, breaking the dour moment and freeing her from her own fear and depression, "No, no no I don't talk to cows. That would be weird." like talking to mice was normal. "I needed that, thank you." Rebecca offered, giving the support cheese in her grip a nibble. "Things are going to get rough here, over this. We have to keep folks safe. This... is going to cause issues." she motioned in the air with the cheese, as though able to point to the whole of 'Registration', "That bloody Registration."

"I know a few good hiding places, just in case."

"That's a lot easier if you can be the size of a mouse." Valjean wasn't a small man, and his ability only multiplied his presence, not diminish it. He'd also never tested what would happen if one of his duplicates got fatally wounded, especially since small wounds did have an impact on him as the core person. It was diminished, but still a broken bone, or cuts, all resulted in some degree of bruising once recombined. Especially now that his bond with the duplicates seemed stronger after Halloween he was hesitant to get into harms way. "You and I, we are not fighters. But in the coming weeks and months we might have to become that."

Rebecca gave a nod. She didn't like the idea, but she liked the idea of people being hurt or imprisoned because of her inaction even worse. "Fighter, or maybe a saboteur. I read a book with a mouse that could fence, and while I do like the idea in my head, maybe some lockpicks or a prybar or something." she was thinking now. Visualizing. "It's like they say, when the going gets tough the tough get going." she paused, "I mean, except we aren't going anywhere." she stood a little straighter now, standing her ground with a modicum of confidence. A mole of self-esteem.

Valjean frowned a bit at that, wondering if perhaps the language barrier had made him misinterpret that particular idiom his entire life. Not something he'd freely admit, he already had a chip on his shoulder about being incarcerated and coming from a poor background. Claire was warm and kind and inviting, but it was always very clear to him that he and her came from very different walks of life. "I can teach you how to lockpick. Could probably teach you how to make a shank, too. Though that would probably be frowned upon." Mutants weren't popular in regular prison, and neither his offences nor his abilities had been such that he had been carted off to a more secure facility. He did not have a great time.

'Shank' was a word. A word that not only had a pretty clear image of WHAT, but WHERE. Rebecca opted not to pry into his story, as he had kindly not pried into hers. "Let's stick with the lockpicks." she opted. "I think the moment I'm armed, there's no going back." she admitted. The mousey blonde took a breath. "This is really happening, isn't it? This isn't some nightmare or anything..."

She just shook her head. "When can we start?"

"We can start tonight, after the dinner rush is over." Valjean looked around and decided that perhaps it was time to start preparing for the dinner rush. He focused and a secondary Valjean stepped out of him, then a third. They quietly went off in different directions to gather the needed materials for the large meal they were about to prepare. "Also, probably best to not tell Claire." He wasn't sure how the Head Mistress would react to someone actively teaching thieving skills on institute grounds.

She gave a nod, "Sounds like a plan." she agreed, kicking off the wall gently, "And yeah, we'll keep this between us." Rebecca agreed. This wasn't exactly something that Valjean was admitting out of love of the craft. She'd keep this quiet. "I promise."


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