Before the Walls of Troy


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Scene Title Before the Walls of Troy
Synopsis In Greek mythology, Ajax (one of the best Greek warriors) and Hector (heir apparent of Troy, noted for his devotion to family and country) met outside the walls of Troy in single combat. Neither emerged victorious, and in respect the pair exchanged gifts — Hector's sword for Ajax's belt. Ultimately, Ajax killed himself with Hector's blade, atoning for a prior fit of madness — and carried his resentment of slights given him by the other Greek warriors even beyond the grave.

Hana Gitelman summons Noah Bennet to a meeting; amazingly, all they fence with are words, and typically few at that. Her gift to Noah is a chance to dampen the future repercussions of her chosen, madly unswerving course; any gift Noah might give now is categorically suppressed before it can even come up, and what he gave her long ago may prove a double-edged sword indeed.
Date November 14, 2009

Metropolitan Museum of Art

Midmorning on a Saturday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. It's a busy day, inasmuch as any are; not up to pre-Bomb levels, but between the weekend and the cold rain outside, there's a good number of people checking out the current exhibits — galleries of samurai art and paintings inspired by American folklore.

Hana isn't at either of these, but in one of the other wings of the building, decorated with pedestals supporting red-toned carved lacquer ornaments. She's dressed up today, to a degree; a three-piece suit of charcoal with thin smoke-gray pinstripes, amber blouse beneath, and not a weapon in sight. 'In sight' being the operative phrase. The woman does a reasonable job of appearing like she's here for the art, impatience buried, just as the focus with which she 'listens' for the distinctive signature of a familiar cellphone, or any sign that her guest isn't coming alone.

Her guest comes alone. He's dressed a lot like she is, minus pinstripes, flat knife-creased woollen panels the same cool shade of gray as the stripes that stand out in relief on Hana's own garb. Noah Bennet. His shoes click faintly against stone as he walks and his cellphone throbs in her inner-ear, swearing a factual, reliable account of where he is at any given time, as ever entrusting her with that information, which is a little like trusting her with some elements of his life, which is almost like inviting her to reciprocate.

Which is all business, of course, insofar as they are the invaluable but unpaid agents that make the Ferry go. "Good morning, Hana. How are you?" Noah halts on the stone beside her, swivels his shoulder into alignment with hers and peruse the artwork through his spectacles. His hands are empty, too.

She doesn't reciprocate; Bennet surely expects no different. The woman turns to regard his approach, expression coolly distant save for the slight flare to her nostrils; Hana's grudges have never been known to weaken from age. Never mind die of it.

She turns back as he steps into line, hands resting at her sides. "I have a request," she says, quiet, curt, sidestepping the pleasantries of social small talk. "It's personal; I'll understand if you don't want to fulfill it." A slight gesture suggests they move along to the next display, and away from the incoming knot of sightseers.

The noise and crackle of Japanese persiflage draws the briefest glance from Noah, who probably picks up an errant fact out of the tour guide's narration, before he moves away and out of the stampede's path in tandem to his female companion.

She never says 'It isn't personal,' you know. It's rare enough for her to preface a request or even a soupcon of information with that phrase, however, and that warrants the due recognition, a lifted brow, a sidelong glance. The next display goes without in-depth appreciation, despite that Noah concedes to give it momentary speculation, largely for appearance's sake; though if he had a propensity for any color besides professional's gray, red might as well be it. Cinnabar.

"I won't say no based on those grounds," Noah answers. Never let it be said that he is unused to or pettily spiteful of being the target of an old grudge. His diction is indelicate, but nothing inherently rude in his frankness— at least, not with Hana— when he asks, "What do you want?"

It very rarely isn't personal — not with Hana, where either extreme carries the day. She doesn't return the sidelong glance, but looks at the carving; it's easier. Red though the lacquer is, it elicits no tangled emotions, no bitter history of shared memories. Looking admittedly doesn't mean she sees the work of art instead of those memories. "Your former partner," the Israeli states, by implication excluding herself in that title, leaving only one person it could mean. "I know you're still connected to him.

"I need a meeting."

"To do what?" Noah turns his head back to face the display, though in actuality, he studies the woman's rigid posture and expression in the translucent reflection interposed between audience and art.

It isn't a very close reading of the situation, not invasive nor particularly informative, even, but unlike the birds and the hollyocks and the clouds embossed behind them and despite appearances, Hana is mobile, alive, and wont to change her mode of expression from moment to moment. He isn't going to declare he isn't prying, no matter how pragmatic the question is: "Is this to the Company and the Ferry's mutual benefit?"

The ripple in her expression is betrayed by the imperfect reflection of glass; the nascent twist of an aborted snarl, hemmed in only by the pressure of other people around them. As are her other reactions; though the meeting place was of her choosing, it is ultimately to Noah's benefit. Which is why Hana named it, of course; she remembers as well as he the words spoken between them last time. Their echoes hang in the air still.

"It is to the Ferry's benefit." So much she does with every breath is; but the most dramatic of her actions are not. Benefiting the Company is nowhere on the list of Hana Gitelman's intentions, and Bennet knows better than most the truth of that fact.

Now her head turns, a twitch of chin, an oblique glance. "Are you going to arrange it, or not?"

The man's regard in the glass is not as exacting as it could be, but she's hackling already, albeit subtly, so Noah already knows that the polite presentation manifest in the choice of venue is beginning slightly to shred. "If you're asking me to leverage his loyalty to me against his loyalties to the Company, I need to know more about what is going on.

"You have a certain reputation with them, and responsibilities to our operation." It's almost a show, this conversation. Becoming one. If the Haitian's death was a priority, the invitation would not be phrased thusly, not sent through him. If she wanted information that the Haitian knew, she wouldn't look for it from the Haitian. The consummate professional, there's only one real reason the Haitian would be sought for a meeting, only one service he can perform unavailable inside the Ferry's sprawling network, worth not only the tactical risk but the revulsion of contact.

They both know Noah hadn't particularly enjoyed seeing her off to death or capture once before, though the fact remains that that only matters to him.

She turns completely now, her profile to the display of art, the full intensity of bitter, curdling resentment turned upon Bennet. Her expression is almost smooth, but it's more than evident in the woman's eyes. And in her words, spoken in a quiet voice drawn taut as tuned piano wire, its hissing edge as implacably sharp as the steel-bladed daggers she inevitably carries concealed somewhere in that suit. Probably several somewheres.

"You forfeited all right to question me."

Hana continues the turn, the twist of her head, aversion of her face, a blunt and brusque dismissal. "Do it, Bennet. Or don't." See if she cares.

She does, of course, or this meeting would never have happened, but it's damn hard to read that care in the stiff posture and long strides that carry Hana away.

"I don't want to s—" She interrupts Noah by walking away, which is neither unexpected nor much easier to stomach because it isn't expected. His mouth shuts around a white line and he stands there, watching her walk away, from him, from what would appear quite blatantly also to be the Ferry, no matter what she's willing to do to make the transition easier on it. On Phoenix, as well, her friends, the unlikely accumulation of loyal allies that have knotted themselves to her wagon in the most proximate years.

He can't say he hadn't seen it coming. Her figure diminishes into the distance, staccato-shod and geometrically rigid from her gait. Noah calls out neither a salutation nor a final answer, stands there, trying to remind himself that Hana isn't his daughter, and to forget that she has always been his partner.

The thought comes away bitter, and she punctuates it with a flash of closing plateglass doors.

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