A Slip Of The Mask



Scene Title A Slip Of The Mask
Synopsis Some heroes fight with their fists, others with their voices. Monica Dawson intends to do both to keep Medina from winning the presidency if necessary.
Date August 8, 2020

Deja St. Croix was in her first year at Cornell when the Second American Civil War began. She was born in Chicago in 1993 and is only the second generation of St. Croixs’ to go to college. She was in the first semester of her media sciences major when the news was filled with the massacre of children in a sewage culvert in Cambridge Massachusetts by the US Government.

Deja St. Croix’s vintage Chesterfield Act registration card indicates what she calls “three stikes” in modern America. Black, Female, Evolved. Deja was unmanifested in 2011 when the war hit, but she left her classes in Ithaca to protest the government’s extrajudicial slaughter of marginalized civilians and when protests turned to riots, when riots turned to civil war, Deja was there. She wasn’t a fighter, not in the physical sense, but Deja was a photographer. There’s a display in Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City that has some of Deja’s photographs from the war in it. She isn’t an unknown in the modern age.

But during the war Deja St. Croix’s “U” classification on her old card became outdated. She manifested, but kept her ability a secret for years. When the war ended and the dust settled, Deja started calling Kansas City her home. It was there that she struggled to find work because of the three strikes she had against her. Black, Female, Evolved. Society laid weights on her shoulders, make her work three times as hard for half the gain. When she was offered an opportunity in the Medina Presidential Campaign, she turned them down.


But when Frederick Medina approached her personally, talked to her and promised her the moon about how she could help guide the presentation of his campaign, get a chance to have her voice be heard not only by Medina himself but also his running mate Kiran Baqri, Deja St. Croix thought this was an opportunity to either make change on the inside, or reveal Medina for the monster his policies painted him as.

There is no official statement regarding Deja’s firing. But the day after she was released from the Medina campaign, Deja went down to her SESA outreach office and finally registered. It was a registration done out of defiance, but also as a warning to Medina’s campaign not to fuck with her. Because those “three strikes” have changed in her favor. In Deja’s eyes, they’re three warning shots.

Black, Female, Telepath.

Made in KC Cafe
Washington, KC

August 8th
11:17 am

To say that Deja St. Croix is nervous about today is an understatement.

She doesn’t show it, outwardly, but the tension twisting her stomach in knots has left her unable to enjoy her coffee. She’s seated outside in the warm, inviting summer sun of the newly-minted Washington, a half-eaten lemon danish sitting on a plate in front of her. She’s working on a contract news article for a local paper while waiting for her lunch date to arrive.

When a philanthropic organization historically founded by three old white women in the government wanted to reach out, Deja was understandably suspicious. But finding out that it’s under new ownership and that one of the most prolific charitable organizations for Expressives in the US is now run by someone like her was too good of an opportunity to pass up. Deja knows the name Monica Dawson from the Albany Trials, she knows the name Monica Dawson for other reasons too.

The copy of 9th Wonders starring Saint Joan sitting beside her danish is, perhaps, telling.

Unfortunately, Monica isn't wearing a hoodie when she appears. She has the car parked a bit down the street and has asked, begged, her security to be discreet so she can walk up without much of a show. It's important to her not to entirely lose touch with being an everyday person, just existing in the world.

She comes out onto the patio, coffee in hand, and approaches Deja's table with a smile. "Sorry I'm a little late," she says, pulling her sunglasses off as she takes her seat across the table and sets down her coffee. She holds her hand out toward her companion, "It's great to meet you, Ms. St. Croix. I'm Monica Dawson." Which, obviously, she knows, but it's still polite to introduce yourself, or so Monica thinks. She hasn't perfected this president of the organization thing just yet. "Thanks for agreeing to meet with me."

“Yeah,” Deja says as she half-stands from the table and takes Monica’s hand in a shake, then settles back down into her seat, “it’s nice to meet you. I mean, folks know you. But actually getting to meet the Monica Dawson.” She tries to not look at her 9th Wonders copy. “It’s cool, right?”

Setting her mostly untouched coffee aside, Deja takes out a spiral-bound notepad with a pen tucked into the spiral and flips it to a page of notes, looking it over quickly before flipping to a blank page. She sets the notebook down on the table in front of her and folds her hands next to it. “But this obviously isn’t a social call. Your assistant,” there’s a little uptalk there, she’s not sure on Aria’s exact role, “was vague on the details on the phone.”

Monica waves a hand at that, flattered and embarrassed at the same time. "Let's hope it's cool. I try," she says with a laugh. "I haven't seen that in a long time," she says with a nod toward the comic. She's just gonna point a neon sign at that particular elephant in the room.

"You're right that this isn't a social call, not just one, anyway. I was hoping we could talk about your time with Medina. And how it ended. I have found myself suddenly in a position to change the world— well, in a new way. I'd like to be a positive influence. And an active one." Monica isn't hiding that intention, not for someone who knows her history. "One of the things I am trying to do is learn about our possible future leaders. I'm on the backfoot, though. I was hoping you might get me up to speed."

Deja’s brows rise sharply with a sigh as she leans back in her seat. “I already told some of it to your assistant over the phone,” which was the bare bones, as far as Monica is concerned. “I wasn’t with Medina’s campaign for all that long. I never met him in person, not for more than a handshake anyway, so if you’re looking for dirt, I really don’t have any.”

Shifting her posture in her chair, Deja glances around at the mid-day lunch crowd, then looks back to Monica. “I was on his media team, fresh out of college, and it seemed like an opportunity to — fuck, it’s so stupid when I say it out loud.” She looks away and rubs one hand at her forehead. “You know, like, I wanted to think Medina was coming from a place of concern, you know? Like, I get why he’s afraid of people like me n’you. But…”

There’s a long pause as Deja considers how to frame her response. “Guy’s a fucking narcissist.” That’s the kid-gloves version of what Deja wants to say. “He’s like, never around. Guy is at his house 24/7, right? He never came down to the campaign office and we’d get these vague ass directives from campaign coordinators to make marketing copy.” Deja starts to loosen up, talking more freely. “So I decided I’m going to make a play. I’m going to try and present a softer image, maybe get him to get upset but talk to me, and I could make a case, right? Get to know him, get some face time.”

Deja rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “I put together this really nice campaign trying to moderate his rhetoric and… he fucking comes at me in this email. He calls me before I’m halfway through reading it. I’ve never said more than hello sir to this guy, and he is saying the nastiest stuff. Just swearing and screaming. He tells me he’s gonna sue me, sue my family, ruin my career and that I had to do all the things he put in his email.”

Deja is getting visibly upset as she talks. “So I look at his email and he’s got this just— it’s awful. All these dog-whistles about people like us being a shadow government, puppeteering the President, how we’re gonna take over and start killing Non-Expressives?” She looks horrified. “I’d never seen anything like that. I told him no — and I mustn't have been the only one because that shit never went to print — but he fired me on the spot, over the phone.”

“Guy hangs up on me and like two seconds later security comes over to my desk and escorts me out of the building.” Deja bites down on her bottom lip, shaking her head. “I feel stupid, you know? I wanted to think I could get through to him, like— like I could make a difference, you know? I thought I could change him. I just feel stupid.”

"Not dirt, necessarily. Just whatever your experience was," Monica says, picking up her coffee for a drink. She's quiet while Deja recounts her time with the Medina campaign, making a face or two when the details before clearer. None of it surprises her, but all of it upsets her.

"There is no shame in trying to make a better world. Or in hoping. Sometimes all we have to go on is hope and our gut. You tried. That's more than most people would do and it speaks highly of your instincts and your values. We can't control what other people will do, we can only try to live by our own code. Yeah? He didn't change, that shows his failure, not yours." Monica can't tell her how to feel, and she knows when things go wrong, it is hard to push back that feeling of stupidity. But, if a little of her own perspective can help someone else, someone like her especially, she's gonna give it.

Monica sighs as she sets her cup back down. "He sounds unhinged, to put it lightly." Her fingers drum against the table, her head tilting a little as she thinks. "There's pretty much no chance you're the only one he's treated that way. I wonder if we got enough people together… maybe we could paint a picture of what he's like. I wonder if that would even be enough." That's a little piece of her own flagging hope. She knows the hate for Evolved runs deep and long. People just need the permission to act on it. Medina gives them that. A progressive move has to fight against that tide.

Maybe you could,” Deja says with a quick look up to Monica, “with all that money and power. I still have to bust ass for a living, and if Medina wanted to tank my career he could. The only thing I have going for me is some blackmail.” The telepathy registration. “It’s Cold War logic, you know?” Mutually assured destruction.

“I’ve got over two hundred thousand dollars in student loans,” Deja says with a slow shake of her head. The tanked economy plus the current rate of inflation has destroyed a pre-war sense of financial scope. “I have one degree to show for it, and one city to use it in. If I get blackballed out of KC, I’m fucked.” Which is to say, she absolutely thinks Medina would do that to her.

Notably, Deja didn’t contradict any of Monica’s assertions.

"Media Sciences with a focus in politics and PR? There a reason you can't use that in New York?" Monica lifts an eyebrow, an offer is buried in there, something that Medina could try to come up against, but Monica rather sees herself as a wave breaker for him to throw himself at all he likes. And he can break himself that way if that's his choice. "If you're interested in a move… well, I have room for smart, determined women with the Deveaux Society. And maybe can tilt the balance of that sword hanging over your head more in your favor."

She has a soft spot for an underdog. She's been one often enough herself.

"And then we can see what we can do about pulling back the curtains. On all of them." Medina isn't the only one she wants to get to the truth of. She is in a position to Know. And to make sure everyone knows.

Deja looks conflicted, watching Monica with the wary uncertainty of a stranger. But that expression abuts up against Monica Dawson’s public persona as a well-known hero. Invoking the name of the Deveaux Society brought Deja’s eyes down to her hands, fingers wringing together as she mulls over the complexities of what is happening here.

“I didn’t go to New York ‘cause unless I wanted to work for Yamagato, there aren’t many good opportunities with upward growth potential.” Deja takes in a deep breath, then regards Monica again with brows furrowed. “But the Society… I know the work you all do. Hell, SESA wouldn’t exist without the Society’s financial backing and advocacy. I just… I never thought that was an option. Always seemed like a rich white people thing.”

And, up until recently, it was.

“You’d bring me in, knowing me for all of five damn minutes?” Deja asks with one brow raised in suspicion. “Because I got a bad run from a shit politician?” It’s wariness from a lifetime of dealing with untrustworthy people that gives Deja pause. If there’s anyone who understands that life challenge, it’s Monica.

"It was a rich white people thing," Monica says, "Now it's fallen into my hands and I don't plan on running it how they ran it. I want it to be something better. Something louder. I want to make progress where I can and demand it everywhere else. But to do that, I need people who are a little bit fearless." Her head tilts as she regards Deja, her eyebrow lifting. "Maybe I have only been talking to you for five minutes, but I know your background and you told me your purpose. So think of it like a job interview. I know your resume and now I have an impression of the person behind it."

She shakes her head a little, belatedly noting, "You don't have to decide right here at this table. It isn't a hard call on my end, because what I see is a woman who pissed off a powerful man who hates everything she is and she's still standing. You didn't hide, you made your move to protect yourself and keep him behaving himself. That tells me that you're smart and resourceful. And you got yourself into that situation because you wanted to make a change. In my experience, that's the kind of person you want on your side." Monica lifts a finger, mostly to stop herself from running on. "But. It is up to you. And if you need to think it over, or if you've got questions, well, it's not on a time limit or anything."

Deja’s eyes are fixed on the table in front of her, jaw set and expression pensive. When she looks back up to Monica, it’s clear she’s given things some serious thought. “If you’re willing to take a chance on me, and you aren’t afraid of the shit I tracked in from outside,” and by that she means her entanglement with the Medina campaign, “I’d be stupid to pass up your offer.”

“But if, god forbid, that man becomes President,” Deja says with a shake of her head and a distant look in her eyes, “I don’t know what’s gonna happen to this country, and frankly, I’m a little scared.”

"I don't mind a little trouble. Prefer it, actually." Monica smiles there, crookedly. Pissing off someone like Medina, or letting him know in this way that she's going to be on his heels, well, she isn't exactly against doing so. But, her expression sobers up at Deja's last words and she leans forward onto her elbows.

"So am I. Someone like him would be a step backward. We've all lived through that before, so if it happens… we have to be ready to resist him at every step and make sure it doesn't go as far as it did before the war. And frankly, I'm not sure any of the others are much better. So. We stay alert, we do the work." Hopefully, this time, with less battlegrounds, less dead bodies. "So get yourself packed up. I'll send some people to help you get moved." And, possibly, for protection, although she doesn't say so. "And we'll put you to work."

Deja isn’t sure how to react to the suddenness of all of this, let alone from someone lionized in contemporary media as a hero. Swallowing back emotion, Deja stands up and extends her hand out to Monica with a crease of her brows and a squaring of her jaw. She looks at this hero, this woman who dedicated herself to a better future as an example of what she herself could be.

“We’ll get to the grassroots,” Deja says with certainty. “We aren’t letting him win this.”

I swear.

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