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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Bodyguard
Synopsis Monica's orientation with the Deveaux Society continues as she is introduced to two operatives from Kansas City.
Date January 27, 2020

The penthouse of the Clocktower Building has become a regular roost for Monica Dawson. The spacious common area is frequented primarily by Claudia while she’s in New York on business. Alice Shaw is supposed to be around, but she’s been scarce since Monica was inducted into the organization. Early in the morning, the kitchen is occupied primarily by an old acquaintance of Monica’s, Aria Baumgartner.

The blonde telepath sits at the kitchen island on a high stool, the same breakfast every morning. One cup of tea, two slices of white toast with orange marmalade, and a hardboiled egg. She is a quiet person by nature, though not standoffish. Simply respectful of other people’s space, which — for a telepath — is a refreshing stance. Aria primarily occupies herself with reading news feeds on her laptop, scrolling with one hand while cradling a piece of toast with the other.

Also present in the penthouse is Claudia’s personal assistant, a seven-foot-tall gorilla of a man named Manny. Manny is a big-hearted, soft-spoken, broad-smiling man with arms the size of tree-trunks and a seemingly bottomless stomach. He’s on his third bowl of cereal, loitering between the sink and the island, contentedly chowing down while carrying on an entirely one-sided conversation with Aria.

“So, the thing was,” Manny continues, “the car wasn’t even registered. Somebody took it off the lot, see, and— ” He’s interrupted by a buzz of his phone, hastily swallowing down the rest of his cereal in a tip of the bowl before fishing his phone out of his pocket. “Calavera,” he answers, cheerfully. “Oh, are you downstairs? I’ll be right there,” Manny explains, offering a broad smile.

“Sorry, Claudia’s here with Em.” Manny says, pocketing his phone and moving toward the elevator. “Rain-check on the rest of that story!” He adds in his thick Brooklyn accent. Aria looks up with brows raised and slowly nods, then angles a look over toward Monica.

The Clocktower Building, Penthouse
NYC Safe Zone

January 27th
7:15 am

Breakfast, for Monica, turns out to be a large mug of black coffee. She's more night owl than early riser, but getting used to a new home, new job, and new expectations means she's awake more often than not. She listens to Manny's story with a crooked smile— amused at the manner of his telling rather than the story itself. Although, she's sure he would come around to the climax eventually. When he goes, she sees him off with a small wave before crossing to settle at the island on the next stool over from Aria.

She doesn't speak at first, because silence and warm drinks are a gift at this time of the day. And also she's still working out the ins and outs of the social side of her new situation and where she sits in it.

"How many times have you heard that story?" she asks, once she's had enough coffee to feel inspired to conversation. Her head nods to the door that Manny disappeared through.

Six,” Aria says without looking up from her laptop. “You should see him when he mentions his friend Dixon,” she looks up over the top of her screen, “you think he’s excitable now, it’s like a gorilla talking about his favorite kitten, who is also a gorilla.” Aria closes her eyes and shakes her head, then blinks her focus back down to the laptop screen. “They’re nice, though. Dixon’s daughter is an angel,” she adds as an aside.

“How’re you acclimating to the whole,” Aria takes a sip of her tea and over-enunciates, “illuminati thing.” Her attention squares on Monica again. “It’s a lot, isn’t it?”

Monica chuckles at her assessment of Manny and his capacity for glee. It's a warm sound, because she's gained a certain fondness for him since moving in. Perhaps a guarded fondness, but still.

Her eyebrows lift at the question, though, and she takes a moment to consider her answer. A sip of coffee fills the time, but the mug settles on the island soon enough. "You'd think it'd be harder to accept," she notes, "but you know, it really isn't that strange. This clandestine group is a lot fancier than the ones I've been a part of before and the focus is different, but— " Monica spreads her hands. She's seen too much— and been part of too much— to need much time to acclimate here. "I like the idea of making a difference. Of making a better world. Maybe it'll work one of these days."

Which is not a fair assessment of her own past. She knows how back it could have been and how many ways it could have all fallen apart. But when she compares the world now to the one she wanted to make… it falls below her expectations.

“It did,” is Aria’s opinion, attention still focused on her laptop screen. Only after a moment does she blink a look up to Monica. “Trust me, the alternatives we explored were— ” The chime of the penthouse elevator draws Aria’s attention. She closes her laptop and gives Monica a wordless look, then picks up her plate from breakfast and carries it over to the sink, quickly tidying up.

As the elevator doors open, Claudia emerges from within and begins shedding her fur coat. Behind her, a pair of unfamiliar women follow in her pace. Both women are over six feet tall. One of them is a redhead in her thirties, a brick red sweater beneath her leather jacket helps keep out the cold. She looks around the penthouse with a sharp whistle. “Ms. Zimmerman, you were holding out. This is way nicer than the KC office.”

The other woman is several years the redhead’s junior, but taller and broader. She lifts a pair of mirrored sunglasses off of her nose and sets them atop her platinum blonde hair, angling a look around. “Em, check this out. Damn, this is hot.” She laughs, a dainty and bubbly thing that seems to juxtapose well against her muscular stature. Manny comes out of the elevator last, and it’s like Claudia is surrounded by giants. He takes her coat and offers to take the other women’s jackets as well as Claudia makes her way toward the kitchen.

Monica, I’d like you to meet two of our representatives from the KC office. They’ve just come off of a security detail with President Praeger.” Claudia turns, to the two women as they approach. “This is former FRONTLINE officer Hannah Emerson,” she says with a motion to the redhead, “and our newest recruit and your bodyguard, Jo Bevilacqua.”

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While Aria cleans up, Monica only picks her mug up again to drink from it as she turns to see the parade from the elevator. It does present an amusing image, Claudia and her hulking entourage, enough that Monica greets them all with a warm smile.

FRONTLINE triggers a twitch, even now, but Monica keeps it from showing too much. What she can't hide is her surprise at the next introduction.

"My bodyguard?" She says it with an incredulous chuckle. Like she cannot believe what she's hearing. Because she can't. "Claudia, I hardly need a bodyguard. No offense, Jo," she adds, to the blonde, genuinely enough. "That's sort of like… a redundancy, right? Me. Bodyguard."

“Oh sure,” Jo says in her smooth midwestern accent without prompting, smiling broadly. She sidles up next to Monica, curling fingers around one mechanical bicep. Monica only then notice that it smells like fresh baked bread and cinnamon around Jo. “You’ve got this awesome robot arm, elite ninja skills, dedicated reputation as a world-saving hero! You could probably break a fella’s arm like,” and she snaps her fingers while saying, “that!” It’s fangirling. She’s fangirling.

“Problem is,” Jo says, moving her hand away from Monica’s prosthetic, “you break the wrong arm in a public setting, you might get sued. You get sued, the whole Deveaux Society does. Me? I’m expendible.” She laughs, shaking her head. “I’m not, but you get it. Anyhoo,” she angles her head to the side with a swish of that platinum tuft of hair, “you also gotta sleep,” she count on one finger, “eat,” another, “poop— ”

Okay, Jo.” Emerson says with a gentle hand laid on the blonde’s shoulder. “I think Ms. Dawson gets the point. Fact of the matter is, you can only be in one place at a time. Think of Jo as less of a bodyguard and more of a partner.” Jo beams at Emerson’s comment and gives an enthusiastic thumbs-up. “I’ve been brought on as chief of security, which up until now was an unfilled role in the society. I’ll report directly to you, Ms. Dawson.”

Claudia, pleased with herself, clasps her hands together and raises one brow in anticipation of Monica’s reaction.

"Girl, are you touching the arm right now?" Monica asks during the flurry of fangirling, but rather than annoyed, she seems amused by the audacity. Of course, then she's making good points than Monica literally did not consider until this exact moment.

She lets out a sigh.

"Wow, that's annoying," she says mostly to herself. Not that she tends to assault people in public. These days. Recently. Well, except that one time they blew up a warehouse. "But accurate," she says, conceding the point as she looks over at Claudia. "A partner sounds better." She's never been on this side of the bodyguard-client relationship. And she quickly decides that it's weird. But at least Jo seems capable. And entertaining. That was her style of bodyguarding, too.

Her look to Claudia gets a little more scrutinizing for a moment. She didn't realize how well they did their homework around here, not on someone who often considered herself a ghost.

"Well, then, welcome aboard, Jo. I'll try not to make your job too difficult." Try. "Emerson, what is it you do for the Society?"

Emerson straightens, folding her hands behind her back and adopting the at ease stance of someone who’s lived a soldier’s life for as long as she has. “Prior to this posting I was security detail for President Praeger, now I’ve been assigned to the chief security role here at the Clocktower Building.”

“Emerson is an experienced military professional,” Claudia explains with a motion to the redhead. “We’ve never had a logistics position here, but with you coming on board we figured it was ample time to diversify the Deveaux Society’s operations and rather than rely solely on each member’s own personal security detail, having someone whose job it is to be caretaker of it all.”

“To be fair,” Emerson says with a humble incline of her head, “it’ll be a few weeks before I have my feet under me here. But I can already see some gaps in the building security. I’d be happy to discuss that at a later date.”

“Emm’s always like that,” Jo says with a lopsided smile, leaning against Monica. “You get two beers into her though and—”

Claudia clears her throat, loudly.

“ —and that’s ol’ Jo’s cue to take a sudden interest in the kitchen,” Jo says with an awkward smile. Claudia sighs to herself, thoughtfully, then walks over to Monica’s side.

“We have to adapt or die,” Claudia explains in a hushed tone of voice, “it’s our responsibility,” she says with a look between Monica and Emerson, “to shepherd in the new generation.” Then, there’s a knowing look in Jo’s direction.

"Well, he's still alive, so that's a pretty good resume," Monica says, her lips curving into a crooked smile. But then, more genuinely, "Welcome to New York. The three of us will have to find our feet together, seems like." She sips at her coffee, before gesturing that way for Emerson. "Coffee's still fresh, if you like it. Aria was making some tea earlier, too." There are probably non-caffeinated options, too, but she doesn't know anything about those.

She looks over at Claudia when she comes over and follows her gaze to Jo. And then: a nod. She understands. And mentor to mentee is a relationship she prefers to client-bodyguard. Claudia can see her relax into an easier acceptance there.

"Don't worry, Claudia," she says, "I'm very adaptive." She's not dead yet, so that's her resume. She steps toward the kitchen, to get Jo's attention. "She-Hulk, if you want breakfast… there's some toast and some kinda of jam, help yourself."

It's her way of extending friendship. Nicknames and food.

Oh,” Jo exclaims, smiling broadly. “Do y’have orange marmalade? That’s my favorite.” Her smile grows to a beaming expression of excitement as she makes her way into the kitchen. Emerson slows her pace, lagging behind a bit with Claudia, offering a look over at the Society founder, then to Monica.

“There is one other detail,” Emerson says quietly, looking to Claudia first, then to Monica. “Claudia tells me you’re versed in the Crossing?” She fixes a quick look to Jo distracting herself in the kitchen, then back to Monica. “Full disclosure, I came over in the Crossing. Timeline designated, I suppose appropriately, the Flood.” Shifting her weight to one foot, hand on her hip, Emerson dips her head down and lowers her voice further.

“This world’s Hannah Emerson either died or went missing on November 8th, 2011. No body, but also no grid. The Deveaux Society had me take Emerson’s identity and slide back into society as an eye inside the Presidency.” Emerson explains candidly. As far as Monica was aware SESA had prevented anyone from doing exactly that. It seems the Deveaux Society operates outside of some rules.

“I thought you should know,” Emerson says curtly. “I’m an open book, Ms. Dawson. I prefer to operate with my superiors that way.”

Monica can't help a crooked smile at Jo's excitement. She really hopes there is orange marmalade in there, but she couldn't say for sure.

And of course, something more important than jams and jellies gets her attention. "I'm familiar with the Crossing, yeah," she confirms, and the warning helps her not seem too surprised to hear the woman isn't from around here. She looks over at Claudia, because this is all very against the rules. "I assume that's kept private outside of the Society. Does SESA know you're not the original flavor?"

She needs to know how secret to keep her facts, is all, there's no judgment in her words. Questions though? Absolutely.

"Do we have reason to worry about the presidency? Before November, anyway." That's to both of them, Claudia for her intentions and Emerson for her findings. She nods to the traveler's last words, "I appreciate being brought into the loop. Hopefully you'll find I'm a pretty decent ear, not just a superior." That's a pretty foreign concept to her, being anyone's boss, being in charge of… well, anything. Usually, her job is to put her catalogue of skills into practice, no more, no less.

“Yes, we’ve kept Emerson’s identity a secret,” Claudia admits with a dip of her head into a nod. She looks over to Emerson, thoughtfully.

“Most everyone who knew that I came over in the Crossing were residents of the Ark where I was living. I fled during the evacuation, most of the travelers who’d come to my timeline hadn’t met me outside of that frantic escape.” Emerson explains.

Claudia nods and folds her arms, regarding Monica out of the corner of her eye for a moment before turning to fully face her. “Mr. Praeger is always at risk. When it’s from lunatics in fringe anti-expressive movements or foreign actors seeking to destabilize America. We rotate his personal security detail so as to not wear them out, also fresh eyes. Mr. Praeger is well aware of… much of our operation,” she says with a coy smile. Which is to say, not all.

Ooh! Is that a peach cobbler!” Comes from the kitchen where Jo has her head in the refrigerator. She stands up straight and looks back over to where Claudia is speaking with Monica and Emerson, almost asking for the pie, but grimaces and thinks better of herself before slowly shutting the door.

“Why don’t I send Mr. Calavera to pick up some Chinese takeout?” Claudia says with a rise of her brows, offering a patient smile to Monica. “We can sit down, have some dinner and… go over more of the details. There’s still so much to catch you up on.”

“If it’s all the same, I’d like to do a sweep of the building to— ” Emerson starts to say before being cut off.

“My dear, relax before you wear yourself into an early grave in spite of your ability.” Claudia notes with an easy laugh. Emerson grimaces, rubbing one hand at the back of her neck before she relents.

“Very well, ma’am.”

Claudia fixes a look on Monica with one brow raised, as if to say you have your hands full.

"At risk, but not a risk? That's good." Monica never had the… pleasure of meeting Praeger, and she's not always certain she can really trust a stranger.

Or a… not stranger, either, sometimes.

"Have dinner with us, Emerson," she says, to add an agreement to Claudia's statement, "I promise tomorrow you can sweep the building as much as you like." That part's a tease. She peeks into the kitchen, chuckling quietly before she looks back to Claudia. "Aw, let her have the cobbler. Look how happy she is."

At least it isn't cherry.

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