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Viewing Single Post From: This Be The Verse
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Don't cast aspersions on my asparagus.
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((Bradley Floyd continued from The Gadfly Cometh, GMing approved))

Bradley was far from the worst travelling companion.

Bryony and Alba could certainly have done worse. It wasn’t just that Bradley was not actively malicious. He was talkative, kept the mood light and genial, more about gossip and banter and chatting about TV shows and video games than anything potentially dreary, like life ambitions or philosophy. He was certain most people would, naturally perhaps, be drawing the conversation to those topics. It was all too heavy, too existential. There would be no point in making an echo chamber of misery. It was sorely tempting to try and use these final moments to say as many smart or poignant things as possible, but Bradley saw that instinct for what it was: letting the terrorists win.

Instead, he brought his best casual conversational game to the table. Not completely divorced from the reality they now found themselves in, of course. It would be psychopathic, not to mention eschewing a unique comedic opportunity, not to in some way confront Survival of the Fittest.

So he cracked jokes about the more vocal birds and more bizarre animals that inhabited the island, the speaking style of the kidnappers, the more eccentric weapon assignments, the permanent dangerous connotation given to science trips. It was perhaps risky humour, but not too dark. Playing into benign violations, showing that there were still things everyone could laugh about, that was one theory of humour Bradley was quite fond of.

The greatest gift about being with Bradley is he kept the mood high, at least by his own reckoning. Definitely prevented it from falling into morose self-pitying. But beyond that, he thought he was being a pretty decent travelling companion. He was considerate, sharing snacks and offering his thoughts on what they needed to do, making sure he announced every decision to wander off the beaten path or pull his gun into a more accessible position. Volunteered to stay on watch whenever necessary. He walked in front, made sure he would absorb any threats first. Real gentlemanly, very courteous and magnanimous. The little things like that, really.

Of course, his whole idea of keeping things light, of keeping things relatively relaxed, of demonstrating to the world that he was still the same old harmless guy as ever, would eventually include making off-colour jokes. That wasn’t the entirety of Bradley’s persona, he wasn’t quite so simple as to only make crude jokes to keep the mood light, but eventually, material ran dry, and Bradley wanted to make it clear that he was still the same old guy as he was back in Kingman. Some measure of continuity might perhaps make Bryony and Alba feel safer, was his not illogical thinking.

And when they reached the gym, Bradley was through his...twenty-fifth joke. Well, twenty-eighth if you count the anecdotes. He was being an equal opportunity offender, and self-deprecating to boot. That was his way of conveying that he wasn’t placing too much stock in these jokes.

“And the rest fit in the ashtray. Geddit? Anyway, another one. So, a Catholic Priest and a Rabbi are at the park, when this young boy-”

Bradley would have loved to tell that joke, but no. Cut off by the announcement. Bradley had, at some point, in a throwaway aside were he to be honest, proclaimed his intentions for the announcement. To add levity, to keep spirits high, he would make jokes. “Good morning ladies, gentlemen and those of unspecified gender”, began the disembodied voice of their captor.

Bradley managed to get in one quip before they reached the meat of the announcement. “Oh, it's good they remember those beyond the gender binary!”

Alba was surprised. Pleasantly surprised might be an overstatement, but there was a hint of appreciation in her voice. “Oh hey, they did.” Bryony, as always, was more phlegmatic, her words coming out in little more than a chain of stutters: “oh, um... I guess you're right, I didn't think-”

Bradley interrupted. Well, it wasn’t really interruption, considering Bryony was saying nothing but filler words. “See, they're not SO bad. Hitler wouldn'ta made that accommodation.” There was no time left to wait for their responses. His eyes fixated on a random point on the gym’s walls, between two cameras, as if expecting some sort of visual accompaniment.

Jennifer Su came first. Bradley furrowed his brow at the news. Hearing she had died was sad. There was no getting around. He had never really clicked with her, but still. He had made a promise, but he found himself unable to crack a joke about her gangly frame and social awkwardness. “Was that a suicide or an accident? These are the key questions you gotta ask. Can't assess things, or crack a good quip, without knowing the circumstances.”

Alba had remained silent, but Bryony was clearly in some state of distress. As was only her right. Shit. “No... No, she... she couldn't have... she wouldn't…” He felt bad for her. Jennifer meant more to her, that was obvious. Losing a friend straight out of the gate? That had to sting. It was evil. Really fucked up. Rather than giving him pause, it gave him confidence. Made him promise to be bolder with his jokes. If they were to direct their anger against him, or actually see the humour in his black comedy, then hey, things would be good.

He tried that with Florentina. The Luz family was a big thing around Cochise, but Bradley did not spend any time thinking about them, forced himself not to dwell on how they felt about losing one of their own. That would hit too close to home. “You snooze you Luz! Sorry, terrible pun. Not even Hitler would stoop that low.” It was a terrible pun, and it deserved the sole “um” it received from Alba. He tried not picturing Tina’s face. Made the jokes less personal, more restricted to mere wordplay, but it was easier.

The same tactic worked with Scarlett. He liked Scarlett. She spoke her mind, had a good personality. Didn’t want to think of her as dead. “See, McAfee always was shitty security software. Real talk, though, the guy who invented McAfee was a fucking nutcase.”

He turned around to face them, perhaps hoping to distract them from the announcement. Bryony seemed nigh catatonic, mumbling under her breath even more: “that's not... she doesn't... she doesn't deserve that…”

Alba, happily, seemed slightly more distracted, and it gave him some hope that his strategy had some viability. “Wait, what does that have to do with Scarlett? Does her family make software or something?” She seemed more quizzical than distraught, and that was a good place to be in.

Then came Cristobal Morales. Bradley decided to go back to the old comedic territory he had treated before. Focus on the context. Bradley never went for that ‘never speak ill of the dead’ form of self-censorship, but it felt a bit iffy regardless, considering that their deaths were hardly the results of their own actions. So he turned his attention first to Kimiko, advising his companions to “never trust a mute. Jason Voorhees, Oddjob, William the Silent, Helen Keller, now Kimiko.”

There. A good ol’ personal attack, mixed in with historical and pop-culture references and an irreverent and inaccurate description of Helen Keller. He didn’t actually know who William the Silent was. Probably some kind of Dutch Che Guevara. He then went back to the old fallback, of traditional demography-based comedy. “Sucks to be Cristobal, though, but good on him for uncovering the truth - is it just me, or are the Hispanics dying first? Sorry Alba.”

She awkwardly smiled. “Um… no offense taken”, she replied, her voice slightly more like Bryony’s than it had been before. A bad development. The quiet adding of “I guess” only further gave Bradley reason to think that quip had been a swing and a miss. No matter.

He went back to critiquing the announcer when the tragedy of Barry’s death came through. He could have made a joke about Barry causing an earthquake as he hit the ground, maybe finally being part of the team he so loved, but decided not to. It wouldn’t have been that funny, he told himself. See, there they tell you why and how he fell. They should follow that precedent."

And then it felt like he got hit in the stomach. Abigail was - and shit, he’d never said this to her - the closest thing he’d ever had to a sister. He had never seen her as much as he would have liked. Same with Brady and Darius, really. He had never been the best cousin, but now? Fuck.

He could imagine a world without all the others who had died quite easily, as harsh as that sounded, as tragic as their deaths were. But Abby? She was kind and generous and a good person, and she was able to put up with the jokes he made about her faith and her parents without disowning him and fuck.

Making it a bit easier for the rest of them? Bullshit. She coulda kept them all going. A very brief pang of anger flared up, wanting to blame her, but logic prevailed, after a deep breath. An unusual silence had followed. Maybe Danya had been quiet deliberately, to let it sink in. Maybe his sense of time had just slowed down.

He couldn’t be hypocritical, though. No double standards. Humour was the coping mechanism he had chosen, he had to stick with it. What came out of his mouth read more like a eulogy than a joke. “I-I mean, I guess he's right. She was always trying to make things easier for others.”

Alba continued to stutter in response. “I...I don’t think…”

Then came the news of Conrad and Harold. More bad news. Bradley’s comments felt perfunctory at this point. “See, Isabel's hardworking. This is why I'm pro-immigrant.” Alba rewarded his efforts with a nervous laugh.

He avoided any expectation to talk for the rest of the announcements by going up to the side of the gym and pretending to look for traps or cracks. A futile look, and Bradley had no idea what he was even looking for, but it was procrastination.

One of his talents. No comments about Rea, with her perfect little relationship with Will. No one-liners about Joshua, and his annoying good looks and tennis skills. No jokes about the good people dying first. He’d insulted them before, had enough ammunition to make a joke out of it, but no. His heart wasn’t really in it. He’d recognised all the names, had hated hearing each and every one.

The announcement came to an end, their deaths at least escaping commentary. The supply depot was a danger zone. Good thing they’d left it. Kim had won a weapon.

And it was Bryony, surprisingly, who broke the silence. “How can you... how can you be so... heartless about this? How can you still make jokes at a time like this?”

He shrugged. Not callously. Just out of ignorance. He thought he had been helping, in truth. Thought that, if nothing else, he’d been toughening them up - well, Bryony up. Alba had her shit together. If not that, giving them a distraction. “I'd be a better announcer than Danya.” That was the only defence he was able to say.

Alba then spoke up, and there was no doubt in Bradley’s mind that his iconoclastic brand of moral support was unappreciated here. “Um, I’m all for a good joke, but I don’t think this is the right time. I mean…how many people just died again?” Then she added that “also, I don’t think anyone would want to be the announcer for this. It doesn’t seem like a good job.”

Whoosh. The joke had gone over her head. He would have rolled his eyes, but they were too heavy. Couldn’t move them around too much. There was some water in the corners that threatened to spill out.

“Well, sorry.” The sorry was ingenuine, and no attempt was made to disguise it. No attempt was made to conceal it or sanitise it. It was aggressive. Accusatory. He felt bad immediately. “Sorry.” Softer this time. “Just my silly attempt to try and stay sane, try and use gallows humour for its intended purpose.” He grit his teeth, outwardly indignant that his efforts were unappreciated, inwardly angry at himself for being so dim as to think his coping mechanisms were to everyone’s tastes.

He pushed open the gym doors, and walked in. Spotted Arthur and Coleen immediately. He was good with faces, good with names. Probably something that was an advantage here. “Well, if it isn’t Leonard Bernstein and Sandra Clegane!” Bradley spoke loudly, to seize control of the room, dispel any notion he was a stealthy fucker, drown out the more dissonant thoughts.

“Don’t worry, I’m not a violent person, look, here’s the proof of that.” He motioned to Bryony and Alba. “Living proof of the fact I’m not a killer, keyword there being living. Of course, if I was a killer, I’d have been on the announcement just now, but…” He furrowed his brow. “I mean-”

He was about to say that the smart thing to do would be to keep someone clinging onto life until after the announcement, give a day’s respite from justice, but he realised that could sound like a threat.

“I mean, sorry to burst your little privacy bubble or friendship circle or whatever. Me and the girls here were just looking for a bit of shelter.”
V7 peeps:
Nick Ogilvie
Ashlynn Martinek
Bill Winlock
Camille Bellegarde

V6 peeps:
Kiziah Saraki
Bradley Floyd
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