A Good Heart


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Scene Title A Good Heart
Synopsis As the sun sets on an auspicious day, Monica Dawson finds the living among the dead.
Date June 28, 2018

The world hasn't stopped turning.

Every time Monica Dawson returns to Yamagato Park it feels like she's been away for months. With everything happening in the Safe Zone, with hunting down leads about Adam Monroe, with Eve being Eve, with food shortages and human traffickers going to war, with every single insane thing Richard Ray told her it's hard to remember that there's personal battles here as well.

Driving past the Yamagato Building, seeing the construction still ongoing to repair the damage done during the bombing, she's reminded of Hachiro and his condition. He still hasn't come out of his coma. He may never. There's never enough time in one day to address all the problems; time and again Monica is reminded that she can't save everyone.

Not now, not then.

Cresting Wave Apartments

Yamagato Park

June 28th

8:10 pm

The sleek silver-painted electric car comes to a stop in a marked space flanked by other electric vehicles. Through tall glass walls beyond the parking spaces the sunset skyline of Yamagato Park sprawls it's fiery shades of summer sun and nighttime neon. Purple and blue dominates the east where the city has gone dark, but the sun still burns low to the west.

The car door opens, one foot stepping out before the other, and Monica Dawson emerges into the Cresting Wave parking garage with daylight to spare. Her parking space is just a short distance away from the direct elevator straight to her apartment, her bed, and a relief from the day.

«Monica» Jiba’s voice chimes from thin air. «Welcome home. You have a guest waiting for you in the lobby.»

It draws her eye line to the elevator down to the lobby level, across the other side of the parking garage.

«Her identification card scanned as Nia Dawson. According to your personnel file, this is your grandmother.»

Jiba’s voice might as well be an out-of-tune tuba for all the blood rushing to Monica’s ears at the invocation of that name.


"Jiba," Monica says to the greeting, "it's always good to hear your voice." Which is true, because for all the chaos that swirls around Monica at any given moment, Jiba often feels like the port in the storm. The news that there's a visitor pauses her steps toward the elevator as she tries to work out who might have come to see her.

She knows she doesn't have to ask. And the name Jiba gives her is not… right. She looks back to the car as if she might get in it and reset her entrance, try it over again. But she doesn't.

"That's not possible, Jiba. Can you double check? It might be a forgery." Whoever this is has guts, she will give them that. Walking into her building using her grandmother's— her Nana's— name. If they were looking to lure her out, they are about to succeed. She opens the door of her car, tossing in her jacket and her watch, her jewelry. Anything that might get in the way. What she doesn't do is alert security. Because this is obviously personal. And they'll figure it out, if they end up being needed.

"And tell her to stay there. I'll meet her."

She couldn't go home now and relax if she tried. So she opts for the other side of the garage and the ride down to the lobby.

Monica’s brisk strides across the parking garage lead her to the lobby-level elevator, and it takes that span of time for Jiba to chime back in, this time their voice emanating directly from Monica’s arm. «Her credentials appear accurate. Chipped Chesterfield Act ID card minted in KC, print date 6/6/16.»

Chesterfield Act?

What the means doesn’t hit Monica until she’s in the elevator, the doors sliding shut with a soft swish. This metal-walled elevator provides no view of the outside world, instead it offers muted reflections of Monica’s own visage in the brushed metal. She doesn’t need to hit the button for the lobby, Jiba sees to that for her.

As capable as Monica is, this seems to be beyond her. She backs herself into a corner as the doors close, mind running over the possibilities that could explain it away. All the possibilities except one. She doesn't want to hope for it, even with Jiba confirming it. Losing Nana once was enough.

An enemy would be easier. She knows what to do with an enemy.

"I don't— " Monica pushes her hands through her hair, at a loss for anything else to do in this situation. At a loss is new. Even when she's panicked or scared or losing, Monica always knows what to do. It may be the wrong thing, but she is never without a plan of action, never stuck. But she is now.

"Jiba, what do I do?" she asks in a whisper.

The elevator continues its descent from the upper level parking garage, but the journey down isn’t as long as Monica might hope. «I am not certain, Monica. I do not have access to your redacted personnel files, only publicly available data. Other than a biological relative, who is this Nia Dawson to you? Why are you so suspicious?»

Monica laughs at the questions, but the sound lacks mirth. It even comes off a little panicked. "She was practically a second mother to me. And when my mom died, she was it. She— " For a moment, she can't remember if she's ever actually spoken out loud about what happened to her family, to Nana. "She died during the civil war," she manages, but only by being clinical about it, straight facts only. "That's why I'm suspicious."

«Searching» is Jiba’s response to Monica’s assertion, just as clinical as her own response. «I can find no confirmed death certificate, though this does not inherently contradict your statement. There are numerous unreported deaths from the war, and with the destruction at many datacenters, previous records are lost.» Jiba goes silent for a moment, as the elevator is nearing the lobby floor. «Her Chesterfield Act card passes a secondary background check. It appears to have been filed on her behalf by SESA Secretary Claudia Zimmerman.» The elevator comes to a stop, and Jiba grows silent.

As the doors slide open, revealing the spacious glass-walled lobby of the Cresting Wave building, far from the rear elevators stands a familiar willowy figure with a cotton-candy mane of chalk white hair threaded with deeper steel and silver hues. But gone are Nana’s casual clothes, instead replaced with a tailored blazer the shade of a sunset, loose white blouse with a few ruffles, and a pencil skirt suitable for an office job. Flats on her feet, though, because Nana doesn’t need to impress anyone. She doesn’t notice the elevator doors open, standing idle with a purse over her shoulder, adjacent to the front desk where a lobby clerk sits on the phone.

«Should I call park security?» Jiba quietly asks, emanating from Monica’s arm.

Monica lingers in the elevator, her hand holding the doors open. She isn't surprised to hear there's no record of her death— there are missing records for a lot of things. She is surprised to hear that someone like the SESA secretary would handle her Nana's paperwork personally. But rather than comment on that, she stands at the entrance to the lobby, neither in nor out, staring at the woman standing near the front desk.

It's the AI's voice that pushes her into action again. Her fingers wipe at her eyes and she steps out of the elevator, letting the doors close behind her. "Thanks, Jiba, but that won't be necessary." Not now that she's seen her. Not that it still couldn't be a trick, a metamorph or illusionist or telepath or or or— but those particular concerns are pushed away as she crosses the lobby. "Nana," Monica calls out before she's actually there, but she picks up her pace a moment later. And even though the employees around the Park have a certain perception of her, she doesn't seem to mind shaking her reputation for being an intimidating cyborg in order to hurry across the room and hug her grandmother.

Well,” is the sharp welcome that Nia Dawson gives her granddaughter, “I guess I have to come all the way up to what’s left of New York City to get even so much as a hello?” Both brows raised and tone layered with a paternally mild disappointment, Nia carries herself with a familiarity and confidence that creates waves of disorientation and confusion. “I’m not sure if you’re too busy now that you’re working for Yamagato, but you could at least send me a card on my birthday once in a while.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, head tilted to the side, Nia’s confounding attitude is supplanted by a warm smile and a slow, gently chastising shake of her head. “Look at you, all full of…” her eyes fall to the mechanical hand poking out from Monica’s sleeve. Nia’s eyes narrow, flit back up to her granddaughter, and there is an immediate look of concern on her face, and finally a juxtaposition of the confusion she inspires in Monica. She’s acting like nothing is unusual about this situation except for Monica not coming to visit.

Monica puts her hand on Nana's arm, pivoting back to look her over, like she is making sure she's okay. Or that she's really there. Really her. She chuckles at the chiding— she can take her to task all day as far as Monica is concerned. She's just grateful to be able to be chided at. With the glance to her arm, Monica shrugs her shoulder. "Lost my arm in the Alaska fiasco," she explains, fairly casually for the subject matter. There's something more pressing, after all.

"Nana," she says, shaking her head, because this is difficult to adjust to even with her standing right in front of her, "I got word that you died. During the war. You and… Damon?" The name is spoken with sudden hope, because if she survived, couldn't he be out there somewhere, too? Angry over missed birthdays, too?

Looking to the hand at her arm, Nia’s expression momentarily tenses, then relaxes as she understands some unspoken solution to this puzzle. Swallowing, she reaches out and rests a hand on her granddaughter’s shoulder. “A lot of things happened,” is the kind of half-answer she gives for a private conversation currently too public for her tastes. “None of them good.”

Briefly glancing to the front desk receptionist, Nia furrows her brows and then settles a look on Monica. “I was hoping we could talk in private, but it sounds like we need to, more than anything else right now.” Then, quieter, she squeezes that shoulder. “I'm sorry.” For a lot of things.

Monica looks down at that answer. She knows it means that hope is out of the question, and has to shove down an emotional reaction. And maybe kick herself a little for letting herself hope. "Yeah, same here." A lot of things since the last time they talked. "Come on, we'll go up to my apartment. You still like your bourbon neat?" Because they're going to need some.

Leading the way, Monica takes Nana to the elevator, then up to her apartment which is— like all the others here— high tech and expensive. Aside from the rather large bird cage and bird to go with it, Monica's apartment barely looks like anyone lives there. There's no pictures, no knickknacks, no memories. Not even a vase of flowers to add some color. "Make yourself at home," she says, tossing her keys on a small side table on the way to the kitchen. To get drinks. "What happened?"

A simple, but loaded question.

“They put me in a camp,” takes Nia Dawson a long time to admit. Aside from her bod in the affirmative about how she takes her bourbon the trip up had been awkwardly quiet. But that answer is one that comes with visible emotion.

“The house got bombed,” Nia recalls, swallowing dryly and walking to one of the windows overlooking the balcony. “Damon got hurt bad, and…” she looks over at Monica, as if for recognition, and then continues when she sees none. “We didn't die in the house. If I had to guess, Inwas falsely identified as deceased because of the… the state of things.” A more detailed answer seems too hard for her to give.

“Soldiers came for us. They gave me a blood test… it was positive.” Nia looks over at Monica with a pensive expression. “Said I was one of them and went to put me in a truck. Damon came up negative, but tried to stop them when they grabbed me. They shot him and…” Closing her eyes, Nia pinches the bridge of her nose with forefingers and thumb. “They took us, twelve people, to a camp in Arkansas.”

Monica is familiar with those kinds of camps, the brutality experienced on those imprisoned, and the short lifespan associated with it.

“I was there for five months before the camp was liberated,” Nia says in a hushed voice. “Out of the hundred or so people in the camp, only four of us survived. We were moved to a medical facility in western Georgia. Stayed there for a few weeks while they sorted me out…”

Finally pulling her gaze away from the window, Nia looks over to Monica with tired eyes. “People were supposed to find next of kin and send word of what happened. I… always assumed you knew, and that you were just too busy to— ” She can't finish that sentence, briefly looking to Monica’s arm and then away. “A volunteer working with a group called the Deveaux Society collected my information, was supposed to find you. I suppose— I suppose that's harder than it sounds sometimes.”

Closing the distance to Monica, Nia looks around the apartment again, then back. “I… After I didn't hear from you I assumed the worst. I volunteered with the Deveaux Society, putting my time to reuniting families. I've been in the south for a while now, trying to put people's lives back together. I heard you were up in New York when I saw you on the television at the gala…”

That seems to break Nia’s heart all over again. A twist of fate and mistaken truths about their lives driving them apart. She looks at the arm again, mechanical and unnatural, still unable to reconcile it with her granddaughter. “Then there was the bombing and… I took an assignment that would bring me back here. I— I had to see you. Even if I wasn't sure if you wanted to see me.”

Nia smiles ruefully at that, as if realizing only now how foolish it sounds when said aloud.

There was a version of the future where it was Monica that ended up in the camps. Having her nana go instead was no relief. She would have preferred it the other way.

While Nana explains what happened, Monica pours drinks in stony silence. If she could, she would go back in time and go after every one of them that hurt her family. But there's no need to let her grandmother know the sort of thoughts that race through her mind. She sets the bottle down carefully, but can't quite bring herself to look at Nana yet.

"I'm sorry," she ends up saying, "I'm sorry that I made that possibility so easy to believe. Running up here, playing hero. I didn't appreciate how much I had at home until you were gone. I always meant to save the world for you, for Damon, but I ended up regretting every day I wasn't at home. And I'm sorry you ended up in one of those awful places. And finding out that way, that must have been… hard."

No mention of Damon's fate. Not yet. Maybe later. Maybe never.

Straightening up, she picks up a glass to pass over, finally looking he way. "I've been hard to find. I was in a safehouse, then the war, and after, I was traveling until just a few months ago. Don't blame them, I'm sure they tried." When Nana's gaze falls to her arm again, Monica gives her a sad smile. "It's a little strange, I know. But it's just a fancy prosthesis. I'm sort of giving it a test run before it's declared a success. But it works with my ability as well as the original. That's why it has to be so high tech."

Nia’s eyes stay fixed on the arm for a moment, then lift to the glass that she takes with one hand. Her other moves up to the arm, resting on Monica’s bicep. Brows furrowed, Nana Dawson offers the unyielding arm a gentle squeeze. “Everybody lost something important during the war, but how many folks can say they got something back in return?” She lets the hand slip away, takes a cursory sip of her drink, then looks to the apartment windows and their view of Yamagato Park.

“It’s been so long, I almost don’t know how to reconnect with you.” Nia looks back to Monica, then, with an awkward smile just watches her granddaughter for a short time. Finally, with an expression of bittersweet amusement she watches Monica’s reaction as she releases the glass to hover motionlessly in the air in front of her, a low harmonic hum lingering around it and in the space between them.

“It turns out the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with you,” Nia admits. “I just didn’t realize what kind of tree I was until I was old and gray, I suppose.” Which is unusual, manifestation this late in life. But Nia doesn’t pay the topic much attention.

Monica sighs at the squeeze, at her words. That's the woman she remembers, resurfacing from under her own years of trauma. "Nana," she says, her tone softer, "I just got something much more important back." This time around, she's not content to take reassurance and comfort, not without giving some back. As a kid, it might have escaped her notice that her grandmother was in as much pain as she was, but here and now, things are different. "So, I guess I must be pretty lucky."

She chuckles quietly at that observation, because it is a strange situation, no doubt about that. But she isn't new to weird family connections. Of course, she isn't about to bring up her MIA child from a dead future, but learning to connect with him has ended up being a helpful bit of experience. "Just like this. A drink here, a dinner there. Movie nights." Just as an example. "It'll be awkward for a bit, but that's okay."

When the glass hovers, Monica's smile widens, her eyes brighten and she looks from it to Nana. "That's cool," she says with a chuckle. "You hear that sound? Does that always happen?" Monica doesn't plan on poking at the oddness of her age; if ever there was going to be a late manifestation, Nia Dawson is the obvious candidate. Because she was already awesome. "Grey doesn't keep you from being a badass, Nana. It never did."

The smile that Nia gives back is one that Monica once gave her, a reassured thing coming from a place of need. Need for reassurance that everything really can be okay again, reassurance that the world isn't still burning, that there can be a return to normalcy. But as Nia’s eyes focus on the hovering glass, taking it from the air and meeting her granddaughter’s gaze, she isn't sure she knows what normal even looks like anymore.

“I always hear it,” Nia says softly, to the question of the sound. “Even when I'm not using it. I always assumed it was tinnitus, but now… I just know it's something else, asking to be let out.” Taking a dip of her drink, Nia looks down into the glass then around the apartment. In the silence it's clear she's really seeing Monica’s apartment for the first time. Really soaking in the notion that there might be a tomorrow, that her relationship with her last living family member might be able to be salvaged.

“I was gonna ask you when you're planning on settling down,” Nia says with a playfully judgmental look leveled on Monica, “but you are so much like your grandfather… I know better than to ask that.” Nia smiles, fondly, and rests a hand on Monica’s shoulder. “Have I ever told you about how long it took for Carl to finally ask me to marry him?” It’s a rhetorical question, Monica knows. That's just Nia’s tone. Have I ever told you this story? it begs, but it really means because you're about to hear it again.

"Sounds like your ability is as demanding as mine is." Monica never really discussed the push of her instincts, how it sometimes felt to her like her ability was in control instead of her. But here, it's easier to bring up the downsides. Even if just to prove that they can be managed. "Is someone helping you learn about it?"

Monica can't help a laugh at that look sent her way. She shakes her head a little, even though Nana already knows the answer. "For the first time in a long time, there's no war to fight, no rebellion to rally. I'm just going to take my time and enjoy that for a while." A partner isn't so much in plans. Not in the near future. "Plus, who wants to live in a crowded apartment," she adds with a smirk. If someone else was living in this apartment, she might not even know.

Her expression softens at the touch to her shoulder, and she returns the fondness in an easy, warm smile. "You haven't," she says, not because she doesn't remember, but because she doesn't mind hearing it again. She might like to hear every story over again, but definitely this one.

“I’ve been teaching myself,” Nia sidesteps the topic of Monica’s grandfather for the moment. “But the Deveaux Society has given me some recommendations for licensed trainers. The one that came most highly recommended was a Gillian Childs, and I’m thinking of going to see her once I get settled in.” That last bit comes with a direct look to Monica. “I’m planning on staying here, for a while. I lost some of the best years of your life to a war… and I’m not about to lose any more.”

Smiling, wearily, Nia reaches out and offers a hand for Monica to take. “I’ve got a residence in Williamsburg lined up through the end of the year at least. Maybe… we can make this more than a one-off?”

"Gillian is very good. Sweet lady. I'm not surprised she comes with good recommendations. I'm glad you're getting some help. It's a lot easier that way." Monica drinks a little before she looks back over to Nia again. Like she could feel the look sent her way. The words give way to a bit of a melancholy smile, but she doesn't hesitate to take her hand when it's offered.

"It better not be a one off. We have a lot of catching up to do. And trouble to cause, right? Dawson women together again." She steps forward, setting her glass aside so she can hug her grandmother instead. There is no way she'll let her Nana think she isn't absolutely for the idea. "I'm glad you're staying close by. And if you need anything, you come tell me. Okay?"
“I’m self-sufficient,” is Nia’s sole protest to needing anything, which is the same sole protest she gave for years. In honesty, the years have been kind to her, but the pragmatist in Monica knows that eventually everyone succumbs to entropy. The thought of that burns. “And, I’m a little old for trouble. I suppose you don’t even know the kinds of things I got up to when I was your age,” she adds with a sly smile, sipping her drink again. “But I’d much rather make your grandfather blush in heaven than talk about my bad examples.”

Cradling her drink in one hand, Nia looks down into the glass and grows quietly thoughtful. “I met your grandfather in the summer of ‘61. I was almost exactly the age you are now,” she admits with a wryness that comes with comfort, a side of herself she doesn’t offer to just anyone. “This was before we moved to New Orleans, back when he was just a grease monkey up in Kansas, and I was trying to figure out what good a degree in political science was going to do me.” The corners of Nia’s mouth creep up into a smile, and her eyes become distant.

Your grandfather thought he was the hottest shit on the street, blowing his money on nice suits when he should’ve been saving.” Nia winds her arm tighter around Monica, resting her head against her granddaughters. “But we met because he couldn’t keep his fool mouth shut, and he got into a fight with my boyfriend at the time.” Her smile turns more playful.

“You have your grandfather’s fighting spirit,” Nia opines softly, tenderly. “You have the fire he had in his eyes, a passion for life and a bullheaded nature I fell in love with.”

"I know you are," Monica says, her smile turning easier, "but I'm still going to be around in case you need me. Even if it's just for the company." She might point out that no one is entirely self-sufficient, but since she also does her best to be, she leaves that thought unsaid. And she quiets to listen, and to chuckle at the mental image of her grandfather and his particular brand of trouble.

"He was looking to steal himself the best girl in town," she says, of how they met, her own smile brighter. Easier. "And come on, Nana, you thought he was hot shit, too." Eventually, at the very least. The last words have her tightening her hug, just for a moment or two. "That's probably the nicest thing anyone's ever said to me," she adds. She might have meant it to be playful, but it's too genuine to hit the tone.

"Did he win? When he fought with your boyfriend."

“No,” Nia admits with a fond smile. “He got his ass beat, but he picked a fight because he saw how Bernie was treating me. Talking to me like I was somebody not worth his time. Your grandfather got his bell rung for me, and… he dusted himself off, and got back up.” Nia furrows her brows and shakes her head. “But he didn’t need to be a fighter to win me over,” she explains, “he had a good heart.”

Squeezing Monica again, Nia motions with the brim of her glass at her granddaughter, looking at her with the same proud eyes she did when Monica was a child. “My Carl didn’t need to be a good fighter, because he was just like you.” Her smile grows, and the way Nia looks at monica is as painful as her words are; secret knives.

“He had a good heart.”

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