Doing something kind of major


jennifer_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Doing something kind of major
Synopsis Jennifer tells Ygraine about a major step, and past and future are discussed
Date March 17 2009

Le Rivage, Ygraine's apartment

A comparatively large and well-maintained apartment occupying one corner of its floor. Windows dominate two sides of the living room, illuminating it brightly throughout most days. A kitchenette occupies one corner of the lounge, while several doors offer exits.

Luxurious but slightly worn brown leather furniture is arranged around the television in the main room, with a small dining table and high-backed chairs diagonally opposite the kitchenette. Wall-mounted shelves and stand-alone cases take up a lot of space along the walls, almost wholly filled with books. A collection of full-size geographic, political, and historical atlases have been given pride of place - though academic texts on history, international relations, conflict theory and linguistics are also prominent, alongside a fair collection of DVDs. The one sizable decoration is a blown-up photograph of mist-shrouded Edinburgh castle at sunset, a black silhouette rising out of white and luminous gold.

Of the exits, one (with an extra lock, deadbolt, and a sturdy chain) leads out of the apartment; another to the bathroom; and the next to a small room that has been converted into a rather cramped home gym. A computer desk, filing cabinet, and a single bed take up most of the space in the next room, while the last is the master bedroom - dominated by a double bed (upon which sits a two foot tall cuddly penguin) and more bookshelves (these holding a jumble of magazines, art books, Neil Gaiman graphic novels, and a collection of science fiction and historical novels), with a clearly well-traveled laptop resting on the bed-side cabinet. Here, high-quality art-prints of dragons decorate the walls, while a small cabinet holds a collection of cycling trophies.

Another chilly day in the Big Apple, but at least it's sunny and bright. Curled in her living room, Ygraine has been joined on the sofa by her two-foot-high cuddly penguin and an array of texts in (and on) French. Her laptop is open, receiving an occasional rattle of activity as she enters notes into a word-processor, but for the most part she seems to be caught up in cross-referencing and reading…

Jennifer comes in, after her frustrating discussion with Elisabeth. It's the afternoon, and she walks in, taking a look around before spotting Ygraine on the couch. "Hey. We should talk." she says.

Ygraine takes a moment to haul her attention back out of her book, then switch languages to English. Raising her head, she blinks at Jennifer… then saves her work and flips shut the laptop. "Just a sec and I'll clear you a space", she says half-distractedly, hastily starting to move the computer and books.

Jennifer frowns. "No, I'll stand." Something's bothering her. "I did something kind of major today. And I'm still considering doing something more major still. I need to pick your brain about it."

Ygraine blinks rather worriedly up at Jennifer, but finishes moving enough books to the table that there's room available to sit beside her should it be required. "I…." She gulps. "I'm scared now", she admits quietly, focusing intently on her fiancee's face.

Jennifer takes a deep breath. "I went ahead and registered today." There's no blunting that one, and so she doesn't try. "Went to Homeland Security, filled out my paperwork; got it done."

Ygraine blinkblinks, pauses, gulps once more, then tentatively holds out a hand. Clearly, her thoughts are racing too fast to find coherent words just yet, and for once she's opted against blundering her way through whatever babble first comes to mind.

The college student takes the extended hand, and squeezes reassuringly. "So…that's part of it. The other part…I'm really seriously thinking about the whole "turning over the information I have to Homeland Security" part. They tried to be heroes instead of letting the professionals handle it, and got people thrown in jail and at least one killed, as a result.

Ygraine winces again, gently shaking her head even as she warmly squeezes Jennifer's hand. "That'd formally condemn me for international espionage, darling. At least one faction in HomeSec seems to be determined to cover up their fuck-up by scapegoating those who they know actually did something. There were Federal agents involved in what happened that night, because their own agencies weren't doing jack shit about it. If we hadn't taken action, there's no reason to believe that the relevant authorities would have done so - they'd had chances, and instituted nothing that even their own agents knew about. And on the ground… at ConEd we saw nothing at all to suggest that they'd have had anyone at all - even a local cop - there even ten minutes after it was too late. For Heaven's sake - the Feds failed to notice that there was a bloody tank at ConEd."

Ygraine shrugs ruefully. "I wholly agree that more risks were taken than were needed to be, that really relevant resources - and people - were wholly wasted, that the planning stank to high Heaven, that (at least in my experience) there was an insane degree of hostility to trying to train the teams supposedly specially-designed for it…. But just because it was implemented by a bunch of kids and one mysterious probablity mathematician doesn't mean that saving the world didn't need to be done, or that if we'd sat on our hands HomeSec and company would have suddenly decided to take the threat seriously. They'd spent months not doing so, to the extent that Federal agents gave up on them pulling their fingers out."

Jennifer frowns. "Well…the worst they could do is send you back home, right? And then I could go back with you? And if that was the case, they should have gone to the press. Something to get public opinion out there."

Ygraine shakes her head. "For espionage, they can _legally_ intern you here. The US is… bad at sending back home Britons for even "normal" crimes. Heck, the US used anti-terrorism laws to force the extradition to this side of the Pond of two bankers accused of giving poor investment advice. The US is… aggressive in its defence of what it sees as its legal sovereignty. And… we know that people are disappearing without trial anyway. It's bloody stupid - the British proved how badly internment without trial works in Ulster - but governments do love to fall back on the same bad ideas whenever they feel threatened. It proves they're "doing something". And… being foreign would just make more suspect. Without proof, I'm a bad person to disappear - I check in with the British Consulate frequently, I know some people at the UN, my father's a professor and my mother a lawyer… but get proof from my own fiancee that I conducted espionage? They could - wholly legally - use me as "proof" that there're fights between international conspiracies of Evolved taking place on US soil…"

Jennifer sighs. "Wonderful. Which puts me in a position of doing the right thing, or protecting my personal interests. I hate this. I should never have let myself get tied up in all of this. Such an idiot." She lets go, turning and pacing a bit.

Ygraine uncurls and slips off the sofa, moving to try to place her hands on Jennifer's shoulders. "Doing the right thing can be doing the illegal thing - that's something the US used to teach, very strongly. The country's meant to be founded on the idea that governmental power is not to be trusted and that citizens have the intrinsic right to do what is required when the government doesn't. Without us, we have no proof that the Vanguard wouldn't have released their virus. I saw no Feds of any kind at ConEd, and I really doubt that late-arriving local cops would have stood up to a tank too well. The other sites… I can't comment on so directly. But at that one, at least, I can say that I wholly believe that without us, the Vanguard would have been able to fire their mortars, and poison the water supply if they wanted. And from then… we'd not be worrying about bad planning costing Phoenix lives, we'd be in Hell on Earth, if we weren't dead already. The Federal agencies dropped the ball - and now want to cover it up by scapegoating the people who risked their necks to save the world. To do otherwise would cost them their power and authority, and that's unconscionable."

Jennifer looks back over at Ygraine. She doesn't seem happy about it. "I don't want to be a terrorist, Ygraine. I don't want to be involved with terrorists." It bothers her on a very real level. But she doesn't move away, letting her fiancee put her hands on her shoulders. "I don't see a good answer." She says unhappily.

Ygraine leans in to plant a kiss on Jennifer's brow. "We weren't terrorists", she says gently. "Vigilantes, perhaps - but in whom were we trying to inspire terror? We acted to save lives - billions of lives, in all truth…." She sighs, gently shaking her head. "The designers of the US constitution intended the elements of the federal state to work against each other - to watch each other for abuses, to oversee each other, to make sure that no part could grow too powerful. The explicit idea was that those in power couldn't be trusted with it - that liberty for the citizens would be preserved in the gaps between power that the contending power-blocks would create. That system's… broken, at best. The Federal agencies have no functional oversight at all - and some of their people realise that. Matt Parkman's HomeSec - and a senior one, given his role in looking after Rickham, I'd say. He knew more than enough about Phoenix to shut it down if he'd wanted to, and he knew it well in advance of January's events. What's happening now is a turf-war - factions within power-groups and agencies, ones that want to grab more power for themselves. And the US paradigm for a long time has been to scare the public with a threat, then build power on the back of that - the need to deal with "the problem" justifies breaches of prior laws and loss of liberties. If this was really about national security and stopping terrorists, do you honestly think that Parkman and the other Feds who knew about it in advance would have stood back… or in some cases been actively involved?"

Jennifer listens to Ygraine, and then sighs. "I don't know. I…" She breaks off. She heads to the couch, and NOW she'll choose to plop down on it. And hug the penguin. "I don't want to think about it. I just…I dunno. I should just let it drop. There's not that many people in there that I'm worried about anymore anyway."

Ygraine pads over, sinking to her knees before Jennifer, for once gazing up at the shorter woman. One hand comes up to give the penguin a gentle stroke, before she musters a smile. "Believe me - my basic instincts are to trust the authorities. I'm a middle-class Briton who's never been arrested or appeared in court. But… the authorities need to be worth trusting. And when their own people, even senior ones, hide what we did and what we told them, we have to conclude that either people like Matt Parkman - who fought to save Rickham's life and to give us a president who didn't want to set up concentration camps and have people disappeared - was actually Hell-bent on destroying the world… or we have to conclude that he didn't trust the Federal agencies himself."

She moves one hand to Jennifer's knee, squeezing gently. "I love and admire your passion. I'm scared that it's so intense it'll burn me sooner or later, but I adore you. Don't lose it. But… Phoenix and the Ferrymen - and the Feds who helped them - did what they did because they felt they had to. And at ConEd, at least, it was needed - there wasn't a Fed in sight. Even if everything else would have turned out fine, that one place alone is enough to make the effort worth the attempt. I have nightmares about it. I wish that things had been planned better. Maybe it could all have turned out better. Certainly, you shouldn't have had to spend two days worrying about me… but to save five or six billion people… I hope that made it worthwhile, darling. I'll put you through worry again in the future, if it'll save just your life, Jennifer. You're worth a bump on the head."

Jennifer looks back over. "I don't know that I agree. About them doing what they had to do. But the price to do anything about it is too high." Her shoulders slump. "I just hope I don't come to regret it."

Ygraine moves her other hand to Jennifer's cheek, expression worriedly sympathetic. "If we hadn't been at ConEd, Vanguard would have fired mortars containing the virus into Manhattan. And they'd got access to the water-supply there, as a back-up. The cops didn't show up until after we'd left - and squad cars couldn't have done anything about a tank, or men with automatic weapons. The effort had to be made… and it worked. That doesn't mean that it was well-planned, but… shouldn't we all be willing to risk our neck to save billions? Or to save those whom we love? I'd have razed ConEd just to save you, darling."

Jennifer sighs. "I don't want to talk about it any more, hon. It's time to move on. I don't know where we're going to move on to. But moving on to somewhere is definitely on the agenda."

Ygraine offers a low, gentle laugh, stroking Jennifer's cheek. "Are you still wanting to help out the Ferrymen?", she asks quietly. "Or do you want to focus on… mundane affairs for the time being?"

Jennifer frowns. "The Ferrymen are quiet. Barely active. I have a couple ideas…I'll have to see what I can put together."

Ygraine cocks her head, the upper hand dropping to join its companion on Jennifer's knee. "What sort of ideas?", she asks curiously.

Jennifer chuckles. "I'll let you know once I know if any of them are going to pan out. I gotta talk to people."

Ygraine pouts, half-playfully. "And you won't even tell me what you're trying? Bah! I'll tell you now - it's too cold for me to do nude couriering, or whatever else you're plotting to have me do." She winks teasingly.

Jennifer laughs. "Nothing of the sort. Come sit next to me. Right now I just want a hug."

Ygraine squeezes with both hands, then slips up onto the couch beside Jennifer, there to attempt to guide the younger woman bodily into her lap, for a very tight hug indeed…

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