Faces in the Crowd


cardinal_icon.gif peyton_icon.gif

Scene Title Faces in the Crowd
Synopsis Peyton stops by to see which faces Cardinal wants her to seek out at the Corinthian charity gala. He adds one more to the list.
Date February 20, 2009

New York Public Library

As the sun begins to set over the silence of Midtown, a ghost haunts the stacks of the old library where a chill wind whistles through the windows and empty halls. The soft rumbling of the generators are still going strong down in the lower floor area near to the entrance to the underground level - the increasingly bitter weather ensuring that more and more of the business is going on down there, where the earth provides shelter from the temperature.

A table in the lower antechamber that's being used as a common area is spread out with maps and paperwork, and a shadow moves over it — flowing here and there in broken shreds and tatters, examining one piece and then another, working through something perhaps.

Steps sound, getting closer. A glance at computer monitors will reveal Peyton, who peeks her head into the room. She sees the shadowy form looking at the various pieces of papers and maps. "Do you need a hand? Or a pair of them? To … turn the pages or anything?" she says, uncertainly. It's strange to talk to a shadow, though she knows that the spirit within belongs to the same man she's mourned for the past month. "By the way, I came across your journal… well, it was just one entry, so I'm not sure it's really a journal. It —" she pauses, and glances at her snow boots, "helped. It helped me want to continue to fight. So thanks." Despite the uncertainty, she seems more sure of herself and the choices she's made — perhaps he has something to do with that.

"No, I… think I've got everything I need spread out. Thank you. Claire helped, earlier…" Earlier… The shadow draws together across the tabletop, congealing into a darksome solid - more or less - at Peyton's approach. As she tells him about finding the journal, he's silent for a moment, before Richard's hollow voice stirs once more, "…good. I'm glad. I didn't think — anyone would ever read it." Or care…

"You have a really good way with words," she murmurs, a little shyly, sitting on the corner of the table. "So I actually came with a question for you, so I'm glad I found you easily enough. Otherwise I might have been asking every shadow in the place if it was you," she says a little more brightly, trying to instill a bit of levity into the conversation that suddenly feels rather awkward. "Did you know the Corinthian is opening? There's a big charity ball. Gillian got an invite, and we figured it might be good to go to — Linderman being the owner, right? I was wondering if I go — if there's anyone I should try to see so we can look in on them later. And if there's anyone you want me to meet."

"Thank you." A quiet moment, perhaps embarassed that someone read it, before Cardinal answers, "—ah. Well, everyone, of course." A hollow, echoing little chuckle, "Linderman, Kain Zarek… any governmental representatives that happen to show, particularly Praeger or Lockheart — or Kershner, but I doubt she'd show…"

It's too many names for her small brain! She makes a face and looks around, eyes falling upon a pen an then a scrap of paper. She jots down the names. "I already met Praeger once!" she exclaims, remembering the name and matching it to a face in her head. "Tall white haired guy, right? I met him at Summer Meadows, when you all were gone. Lockheart and Linderman, I know who they are. You told me about Zarek. What's he or Kershner look like so I can keep an eye out for them? It might be weird if I keep asking people to point out these people to me…"

"Yes, yes, that's him… Zarek— Kain's a blonde, usually has a ponytail, scruffy, cajun drawl. Kershner's a blonde too, kind of curvy, usually wears black gloves, unless she's using a power. Do not let her touch your skin." Skin… "John Logan, I don't know if you've met him," Cardinal muses, "He'll probably be there. Short blonde hair. Kind of effeminate. Clean-shaven."

Peyton takes notes and nods. "I'm trying to work on seeing people based on photos or videos… that I haven't met, but it's not quite working yet. I can see someone I saw from someone else's vision, though, so I think… it might just be a block of some sort. I've been reading up on Evolved powers and how sometimes it's just a block of some sort, not actually inability on the Evolved's part. I'll keep working on it it," she says, then folds the paper and puts it in the back pocket of her skinny jeans.

"I talked to Colette the other day — she is supposed to contact me when she is ready to meet you. She seems a bit shaken up by whatever happened with that Refrain stuff. Like she's withdrawing from her friends because of it. I get it, of course. It might actually help our cause, though I hate to know the kid is going through that." She's only three years older than "the kid" but three years is a long time when one is finally 21!

"Good," Cardinal compliments, "Many of our powers are… more expansive than we know. Sometimes it just takes practice and working through it to get it, I suppose…" A pause, "…poor girl. Yes, bring her in when you can. Maybe I can help." Help…

"Yours…" Peyton says, glancing down at her feet, "You're the reason we're alive, aren't you? If you weren't there, Cardinal… we'd all be dead?" She looks up again, eyes shining with gratitude, awe, fear. "And you volunteered to go — it's not that the government planned that, right? If you hadn't chosen to go…" The realization makes her shiver.

"Edward sent me." A quiet statement from Cardinal, "The false identity, the tickets to get onto the ship, the arrangements to ensure I was on the mission… he had it all planned out. He put me where I needed to be, and I… I did what I needed to do." Died… "It wouldn't have been… all bad, if we'd lost. If you discount the billions dead, it wasn't a bad future. It was more honest than this one. Humanity survived." Survived…

"Billions dead, though…" Peyton says witha shiver. "It could have been us that died. We would have never known the better future." She looks at the maps and files and chuckles a little, giving a shake of her head. "Does his map make any sense to you? I couldn't figure out anything… but then I guess he'd known you would survive — no reason to leave clues that would make sense to people like me, if he knew you were coming back."

"Once White was gone, the map was out of date…" A coiling of shadow over the pages, tatters and splinters drawn back into the whole, "…I don't know enough string theory to create a new one, unfortunately. I wish Hiro hadn't dropped out of contact, I know he understood it…" It…

The splintering of the shadow is difficult to watch and Peyton frowns slightly, before consciously turning her lips into a wry grin. "I know I don't, that's for sure. Totally over my head. Look, you should rest. I know it's taxing to talk. I'll go to this shindig and see who I can see… and then you can tell me when to look through who's eyes. It doesn't make any sense to me most of the time without someone to decipher what I see." She slips off the table. "Thanks, Boss."

"Wait." There's a pause, and Cardinal asks, "I need you to look for someone… when you have the time. I know you've seen them before, so there should be no trouble, but if I'm right… the vision may not be pleasant." Pleasant…

The last bit earns him a bit of a short laugh from her. "Richard, most of what I've seen hasn't been. I'm getting used to it. Funny for the girl who used to watch horror movies through her fingers over her eyes, huh?" She tilts her head, curiosity piquing. "Who? Is someone else kidnapped?"

"You might say that…" The shadow is silent for a moment, "…Doc. I've had you look at him before, when he was assisting White?"

"I remember him, yeah." Peyton glances at a clock. "I better get home before it gets dark, but I'll see what I can see and get back to you. She begins to head toward the door, then glances back. "Whether it was a good future or not — thanks for keeping us safe. I know very few people will ever know — but I want you to know that I appreciate it." And with that, she heads out.

"You're welcome, Peyton," Cardinal replies in a quiet whisper, and then as she departs, returns - one imagines - to reading the papers he has spread out on the table, for whatever reason they're there.

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