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Baggage: Outtakes

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While the I-5 freeway was carved shamelessly through Portland neighborhoods, there were some parts that were harder to reach on foot than others. The ghost freeways in particular were a challenge. Sure, there was Waterfront Park, which now sat happily against the west bank of the Willamette but had once been a busy downtown corridor. Garcia suspected that she could learn to access the freeways there eventually, but there were many spirits who had made the park their own since the pavement was torn up, and learning to do it without upsetting anyone was likely to take longer even if it was safer than playing chicken with the Fremont Bridge.

The Prescott Freeway was never built, but it's entrance and exit ramps were just one of several ghost ramps that wandered off from the bridges and overpasses that did get built during the hey-day of the freeway in Portland. And for some reason - probably because the Fremont Bridge liked her better than the Marquam did - Garcia always found herself here when she needed to make the crossing onto that secondary highway system.

Garcia hated driving with a passion, but Susan had been badly spooked the first time she brought her along and now she went alone. She only did it when strictly necessary, swallowing the panic attack that the freeway threatened. It was the dead of night to cut down on other traffic. She drove across the Fremont Bridge once, talking to it all the while, saying hello, tossing small gifts out the window when she felt appropriate. She exited as soon as she could on the other side and made her way back across the bridge on the lower deck, spelling out her plan and asking for Fremont's permission and help.

It's always a little hard to tell with bridges, but she was almost certain the bridge would help, so she bit her lip, stepped on the gas, and sped toward the blocked-off stump of the never-built northbound Prescott Freeway.

Garcia didn't crash through the barrier, and she didn't plunge to her death, so she considered this a resounding success. The Prescott Freeway went north and slightly east, veering past the faded remains of the homes that had been torn down to build the I-5 nearby. She took an exit onto the matching, unbuilt Going Expressway, which led her right to the clustered neighborhoods. She was able to exit the expressway and drive north on an old surface street, and eventually she knew she was in the general area of the Expo Center.

The Vanport of the undercity was still waterlogged, as if the place never forgot why it was lost. It had grown up during the war and flooded during the 50s, and she'd heard that sometimes the freshwater mermaids met there to discuss business with the once-human inhabitants of Vanport.

The place Garcia was looking for was nearby, but older. The Civilian Assembly Center had facilitated the removal of Japanese-Americans during World War Two; citizens had been kept there for months before being evacuated. As far as Garcia could tell, while some of the spirits that accompanied Japanese families had continued on with them to the internment camps, and others had stayed behind in Portland and been picked off, a number still waited here, farther than Pearl and those like her cared to worry about.

Garcia spoke only the Japanese she'd learned from Big Bird In Japan, but she'd prepared a Babelfish charm ahead of time. The magic was anchored to a pair of fish-shaped glass earrings, and she tugged lightly on first the right, then the left, to make sure they were still dangling from her ears and ready to go. They weren't strong enough to work in the city proper, but undercity, they would do.

"I know that some of you probably lived downtown; I'm new here but I did some research, and I know a lot of Japanese families were displaced too. I don't think these fae caused that, but I think they took advantage of it. Now they're trying to take what's left, and they're hurting other people in the process. I'm helping someone who wants to stop them. Will any of you join us?"

There was a long pause, just the tinkling of the internment tags on the wind, and then one surged forward. Then another, and another, and suddenly Garcia was glad she'd brought the car. This would have been awkward on the Yellow Line.