Critical Mass (Part of Morpheus TP.)
<NYC> East Village
Historically a center of counterculture, the East Village has a character all its own. Home to artists and musicians of many colours, this neighborhood is known for its punk vibe and artistic sensibilities. The birthplace of many protests, literary movements, it is home to a rather diverse community and vibrant nightlife.
It's that time of the month again: Critical Mass. A time when NYC bike enthusiasts converge to take to the streets and ride, sometimes in costume, and always in good spirits. Josiah does not have a costume, but he looks like he's having fun, wending his way through the crowd on his black, carbon fiber fixie, chatting people up along the way. The ride hasn't started, yet, but the crowd is swelling and some small groups look eager to get going. Josiah is not part of those groups.
Maya /has/ been part of one of those groups, chatting brightly with some friends from highschool from the seat of her practical lightweight (silver and purple) ten-speed. She's dressed warm against the weather though her getup is that of a very cheerful-sparkly /policewoman/. HUG PATROL on her back. She pulls away from her group after a time, though, wheeling up alongside Josiah with a quick bright grin, braking with a warm, "-- Hey! Going it alone today?"
Josiah is whistling heavily when Maya wheels up, and for a moment his pursed lips and her getup paint an almost uncomfortably cheerful portrait. "Hey, officer," he greets with a grin. "Brent's around here somewhere. At least, I rolled up with him." Brent is Josiah's younger brother, probably around Maya's age, and much more into the scene than he is. "How've you been?"
"Alive!" Maya says this bright and casual, though given New York's recent zombie troubles this -- might be less of a flippant answer than it would have been in previous years. "And well, really. I'm well. Family's well. My students are boisterous. As is Ratri." The large dog generally /is/. In warmer weather she tends to even /come/ on these things; with such large crowds of bikes they don't really move fast enough at most spots to make it hard for her long-legged lope to keep up. As a puppy she even had a basket to ride in. At a hundred pounds now she'd need more of a sidecar. "I read your latest piece in the New Yorker."
Josiah beams as he cruises along through the mess of colors and personalities. "You did, huh? They've got me on the culture desk, lately, but I'm hoping to get something a little more substantial going soon. Not that I'm not having fun with it," he says, laughing a bit. "So Ratri's at home tonight? Miss that sucker," he adds with a mock frown. "I've been thinking about getting a dog, you know. Speaking of celebrating life, I think I could use a bit more of that at home."
"Well it's not like you're not good at it. Still, if you'd rather something else --" Maya shrugs, just a /small/ twitch of shoulders with her hands still on the handlebars. "Substantial like what? I mean," she says with a small crack of grin, a wriggle of her shoulder to wiggle the HUG PATROL sign at her back, "does culture cover things like the /hug bank/ that appeared downtown? This place is getting stranger and stranger, I swear. -- And /everyone/ could use a dog at home. But you are welcome to come borrow love from Ratri any time you like," she adds as she glides along, "she has /so/ much more than enough to spare. It just comes with a lot of slobber."
The crowd begins to start moving as the ride officially kicks off, or at least as officially as this sort of event can. "You, with everything that's gone on lately, I just thing there's something better to write about than the sociological evolution of the wardrobe malfunction, you know?" Josiah laughs and leans back, expressively craning his neck to get a look at the back of Maya's outfit. "You wouldn't have anything to do with the hug bank, would you?"
"I only give hugs," Maya answers with an amused laugh. "I don't think an economy built on them would be all that strong. They /are/ valuable, though. Just," her smile skews slightly wry, "just not in any terms prized down on Wall Street. It's kind of bizarre. I mean --" She sets her foot to the ground, watching as the crowd ahead of her clumps up and spreads out in uneven fits and starts. "After this past fall I'm not really sure how to even measure bizarre anymore. But this is probably still up there on bizarre, no?"
Josiah peddles back and stops a half-wheel's length ahead of Maya, twisting his neck back to look at her. He's got a big grin on his face. "Yeah, totally bizarro. But you're right, it might make a good story. Want to go by sometime, see if we can't get to meet who's behind it?" He's already developing a pitch for his editor. "I want to ask for the strangest, won't-tell-mom-about-it kind of hug I can think of."
This earns another laugh, outright, a startled widening of eyes. "What kinds of hugs don't you -- I mean, do you think their tellers /give/ those? I tried to go once but the line was around two /blocks/ and I was on lunch, I couldn't even get in," Maya admits. "I should go back on weekend when I have time. I guess most banks aren't open weekends but this one doesn't /exactly/ sound traditional. I guess maybe their tellers might not be as stodgy as traditional ones either. Do you think they're owned by some -- I mean. They must be. But the stories just make it sound like the building appeared overnight."
"So many questions!" Josiah bounces on his bike a few times before starting off again, slowly, motioning for Maya to follow. He certainly doesn't elaborate on the hug he wants. "You know I can probably make a few calls, see about skipping the line. Anyways it's worth a shot, and this is definitely the kind of assignment I bring you along on." He seems set on the idea, figuring it might be a good way to spice up his work a bit. "And now that you mention it, I don't remember any building like that being around there before. Do you?"
"Definitely the kind you bring me on? Why? For my great smile?" Maya's turning that smile on him now, bright. "I wonder if they allow dogs. Ratri likes hugs. Though she covers them in an excessive amount of fur." She has to stop and consider for a moment, eyes turning to the road ahead of her and teeth pressing briefly to her lower lip, but ultimately she shakes her head. "That's the most bizarre /part/. I think it /is/ new. And how -- how does that /happen/. You can't just squeeze a building in between others, that's like -- straight out of /Harry Potter/."
"Oh, shit. You don't think he's behind it do you? That guys spells bad news," Josiah says, deadpan. "And no, your smile is great and all, but what if they set me up with big burly dude who tries to smother me? That would be dark. I need the hug patrol on the case." He continues to slowly peddle along, letting most riders pass him by, enjoying the lights and sounds, the commotion and blaring horns, of his hometown on a Friday night.
"He did sort of have that Jessica Fletcher vibe about him. Just, everywhere he went, death and destruction." Maya giggles at the suggestion of bringing her along on hug patrol. "Oh dear." She glances down at her own small stature. "The hug patrol is always vigilant though if they set you up with someone large and burly -- well. We'll bring Ratri. She's large." Though admittedly -- also an enormous wimp. "Maybe this weekend, then? If they have weekend hours. If they have /hours/? I've never really thought to look what kind of hours a hug bank keeps. What if they're twenty-four hours? Now I'm just wondering what sort of people frequent a hug bank at three a.m."
"Probably the sort who won't tell their mom about what they're doing," Josiah quips. "This weekend, then. I'll see if I can't dig up anything before then. Just in case there's something menacing afoot. After all, the thing doesn't entirely smell right." As Josiah and Maya ride along, Jay, one of his duplicates, gets an inkling to get up off the couch back home, stare out the open window in the direction of Wall Street, and hop on the computer to read up on the hug bank.
"This weekend, then." With this plan in place, Maya flashes Josiah a brighter grin. "Oh man. I think that person up there might need hugs." Her head tips towards someone ahead of them in the pack. She lifts one hand off the handlebars, gloved fingers curling in a wave as she curls and weaves in and around the bikes, pedalling faster so she can pull out and around. On a /mission/. Hug patrol, not to be taken lightly.