Conclusions and Connections


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif ygraine2_icon.gif

Scene Title Conclusions and Connections
Synopsis An information-exchange and invitation. Surprisingly productive, in spite of talk of Liz's panties
Date March 16 2011

Redbird Security Solutions Office

"I figure it'll be easier to have you here," Cardinal says in slightly wry tones, one hand rubbing at the nape of his neck as he relaxes back in the tall-backed chair behind his desk, the fedora tilted forward with the motion to shadow his features, "I don't know her very well, and most of the people I've talked to lately who've come out of the Ferrymen have been kind of… paranoid. I'm a little worried about what's going to happen to them, to be honest…"

Elisabeth's perched on the corner of his desk facing him, one leg pulled up to swing her foot. She's dressed for meetings — her hair's captured at the nape of her neck by a clip leaving waves to tumble down the back of her navy blazer. A pair of khaki slacks topped by a white button-down blouse, the sleeves of blouse and blazer rolled to the forearm. "I don't know how much easier it'll be, but Ygraine's just as worried about the actions of the Ferry at the moment as you are," she says quietly. "So far, frankly, I don't see anything that they're doing as being over the top. They've hit a couple places for vaccines and things, from what I gather, but mostly they're holing up. My big concern is that because of where they're holing up, they're painting big fat target right on their own heads."

Jo taps on the door to escort Ygraine in, though, and the blonde moves to stand up at the side of Cardinal's desk. She offers the brunette and the receptionist a quick smile.

Not that Ygraine's a brunette any more. She'd begun returning to her natural shade while trapped in the Dome, the red dye fading - but it has now been replaced by her markedly more Gothic look, all glossy black save for the warm blue providing a splash of colour across the lowest portion. As might be expected at present, her previously-customary braid is also not in evidence, leaving her hair to flow in an extravagant cascade over her back.

Extravagance is also in evidence in her attire, the highwayman or gentleman pirate look having again been chosen - tight breeches, cavalry boots, embroidered and brass-buttoned waistcoat, frock coat… even a tricorn. One sleeve, however, is emptily pinned up at the shoulder, with that arm firmly immobilised in a leather sling.

Burgundy lips quirk into a wry smile, and the hat is swept off as the visitor offers the pair already present an extravagant bow. She's wearing less make-up than might at first seem to be the case, still drawn and possessed of the look of mild but persistent ill health that goes with a life spent constantly either on painkillers or in pain, but she does appear genuinely pleased to see Liz, at least.

"I'm not concerned about what they're doing as much as what they aren't doing…" Cardinal's hand sweeps away from his neck, fingers splaying through the air, "…with them all clustered there like that— they can't just hide away forever and not interact with the real world. The longer they're isolated like that, the more paranoid they're going to get, and the more likely they are that the government'll be able to sweep them up. The public is notoriously suspicious of groups of people who stay isolated from the rest… they label them cults, militias…"

Then the door opens, and he lifts the fedora from his head, dropping it to the edge of the desk as he sits up, a tired smile curving his lips at the sight of her. "Interesting outfit you've got there, Ygraine… is it Renaissance Week or something?"

There's a soft chuckle of appreciation at Ygraine's outfit. It's cute! Elisabeth moves forward to gently hug the woman and gives Jo a quick smile before shutting the office door. And soundproofing it. Gotta love just a little paranoia on her part, right? "Hey stranger," she says to Ygraine as she hugs. I figure the two of you don't need a chaperone, but I'm nosy," she teases.

Ygraine leans into the embrace, gently squeezing the older woman while offering her partner a wry smile. "Externalising the darkness and embracing the inner freak. A form of social armour, if you will", she explains. "By being an obvious freak I can scare off the closed-minded without drawing the ire and opprobrium that Evolved status or… other quirks might."

Smiling warmly at the pair, she chuckles. "Am I in the running for being made another of his floozies?", she asks, risking a joke.

"I can see that— and hey," Cardinal's eyes roll behind his shades, two fingers sliding under them and rubbing against his eyes, "I do not have floozies. Jesus. Also I don't know what opprobrium means, and I am hereby banning words from my office that I don't know the meaning of. I have people who deal in five syllables and more for me."

Elisabeth laughs. "I like being his floozie," she asides to Ygraine. She gestures the other woman to the chair and perches on Cardinal's desk.

A musical little giggle, and Ygraine moves to fold herself carefully onto a chair, moving to steadily protect her vulnerable arm. "Well, I am in need of a job, so… I might be open to arrangements for uses of my time with one or the other of you", she teases. "Though… I'm glad to see the two of you happy together. And I apologise for failing to entirely talk her out of punching you."

"So that was your fault, hm?" A wry, good-natured question, Cardinal's hand dropping back down to rest on the desk's edge, "I'm not saying anything else until someone tells me what 'opprobrium' means, though. I demand definition."

"No…. it was your genetics that did the whole triplets thing," Elisabeth retorts on a laugh. "She'd talked me into my big girl panties before that and I was getting all settled." She winks at Cardinal. "And I've no idea what it means, so there." She's in a good mood, at least. Or mostly.

"Actively-expressed scorn or contempt. The deliberate heaping of abuse on someone's head", Ygraine offers by way of explanation, smiling as she does so. "And apparently it's thanks to me that you only got punched the once, and only when you shocked her with the announcement of the situation being three times as substantial as previously realised", the Briton adds dryly, before raising her hand in self-defence. "Though I swear - I've not meddled at all with Liz's panties!"

"I'd be willing to watch, if you change your mind on that last bit," replies Cardinal without missing a beat, leaning back in the chair with a soft creak, gloved hands folding loosely over his chest, "Anyway. What can you tell me about this Liberty project of yours, Ygraine?"

Well, I never! Elisabeth sits up straight and looks at him over her shoulder, startled. And slightly pink in embarrassment, too! Mumblemumble under her breath. And she just listens to the stuff about Liberty.

Ygraine shoots a broad grin at Liz, then winks. "Well, only if she's up for it. I suppose it could be one way to cover the mortgage", she teases….

"As for Liberty? Something I tried to interest the locals in for a fair while, before going ahead and covertly setting up myself. The US Constitution grants certain rights to specific bodies of the overall structure of the United States - the states, federal courts, the House, et cetera…. And it also explicitly states that any rights not so granted are reserved to the people. And that should the people feel their rights are infringed, they have a constitutionally-guaranteed right to appeal to the Supreme Court. Which has the explicit power to overturn anything it deems to be an unjust infringement of the people's rights. And since all previously-unassigned rights belong to the people, any new right or power claimed by any administration has to be taken from them."

"Specifically, in our situation, the rights of individuals to protect the privacy of their bodies and to avoid investigation without justification meant that DNA could not be taken without approval by a judge. Not too hard to get, but the formal legal procedure had to be gone through and a specific justification in that case had to be made. That's entirely gone with regard to Registration - and the reverse is now true. Fail to surrender your DNA yourself, and you are a criminal. Even though, as demonstrated most visibly in the Dome, Registration can literally place your life in danger. But even without that… it's a reversal of rights. Which means that it's automatically subject to Supreme Court review."

"And… that's what Liberty exists to try to bring to pass. Separate to the campaign is a trust fund - out-with our control, very specifically. Through PledgeBank and some funky technical wizardry, you're able to either donate money now or pledge it to be taken from your account if and when a court case gets underway. The idea being that the trust fund will pay the costs for any court case brought to the Supreme Court to consider Registration and attendant legislation. Liberty can be gone, I can be dead, and the trust fund - safely housed overseas - will still exist to perform the perfectly legal act of contributing to legal costs. So that any US citizen can bring the case, and won't need to worry about bankruptcy. If we can get it properly going, that is."

"I think I understood enough of that legalese to get the general gist," Cardinal admits with a slight, crooked smile, one hand coming up to scratch under his chin thoughtfully, "Of course, it'd help if the main sponsor of the bill - i.e. Linderman - was cast in a darker light." He flickers a glance to Liz, "Have you been in touch with Jessica lately? She claimed she had information proving he's a scumbag, but I haven't heard anything about it since…"

Elisabeth shakes her head. "No…. I haven't heard from her since she went with Nakamura," she admits quietly. Similar to the situation with Francois, really. No explanation, no nothing.

"Officially, we're a politically-neutral group", Ygraine says dryly, though her expression has darkened. "In theory, getting this heard by the Supreme Court is in the interests of the pro-Registration lobby - if they think it'll get through. But given the nature of the Court and the methods of appointment to it, that's far from certain. I suspect that many 'grand old figures of the establishment' appointees there are likely to view Petrelli as an interloper and upstart who needs to be put in his place, quite apart from any political or legal differences they might have. But until the Supreme Court has considered it, it's verging on a kind of legal limbo - and could be overturned at any time."

Shaking her head, Ygraine worriedly purses her lips. "One of the first… and few… friends I made upon my return here, in oh-eight, was a lovely young journalist called Dani - Danielle Hamilton. She… came across powerful evidence against Linderman, apparently, and was going to expose him. A short time later, she was working for him as a PR specialist. Not long after that, she was kidnapped and murdered by the Vanguard."

Closing her eyes, Ygraine sighs softly. "It's… Cat's not exactly been the same since, from what I saw. They were lovers. Cat survived the kidnapping. Dani didn't. Whether Linderman had anything to do with it, I don't know. But I confess I've… had my suspicions."

"Wonderful," Cardinal mutters under his breath at Elisabeth's words, his head shaking ever so slightly, and then he turns his attention back to Ygraine to listen to he words.

"I don't suppose she left the evidence anywhere? No, I suppose not," he allows, lips pursing in a frown, "Jessica's evidence supposedly came from one of the sources that would have full access to the things that he's done… given how much she hates the old sonuvabitch, I'm surprised she hasn't made use of it."

Dryly, he adds, "It doesn't help that Humanis First is in control of New York City."

Elisabeth looks down. It was her failure, in many ways. "I never met Dani; I only had to try to negotiate her release." She purses her lips and looks up at Ygraine. "If Linderman had ties to the Vanguard, I never knew of them. Never even heard of them," she admits. "But I was very new to Phoenix at that time. I would have thought if that information were actually viable, Cat would have put it in the computer database she had." She grimaces and looks toward Cardinal. "The Catabase, by the way, which was turned over to the Company and with which the Deveaux Group is now making contact with some people." She grimaces.

"If anyone would know, it'd be Cat", Ygraine murmurs softly, nodding agreement. "But she might not have regarded it as… Phoenix-relevant. Dani, from all I saw, was serious about wanting to expose him. I kind of doubt that she would up doing press and publicity for Linderman just because he waved a nice salary offer at her. Anything she had… she probably either had to trade or hide. And if Dani's life depended on it? Or those of her family? Would Cat really have risked passing it on to Phoenix? But that's pure speculation…."

Shaking her head, she then nods once more. "And yeah - according to Alice Shaw, I was found via the version of the Catabase provided to the Company by their pet telepath and infiltrator, Mona Rao - or Ananda Kaur. Shaw also hinted that she wouldn't be surprised if there weren't still a remnant considering itself 'the Company' in hiding out there, and was explicit in having picked up former Company personnel herself. Who had been set to investigating me as one of their chosen 'contacts' in the making. For that, apparently, is what the Deveaux Group does - at least for the time being. It makes contacts between suitable people."

"Charles was a clever man…" The hint of a smile curves to Cardinal's lips, his head tilting a little to rest his jaw against one fist, "…and I suspect he learned more from me than he let on. I wish I'd gotten a better chance to know him. That was a man I would've followed." He almost sounds wistful, about that.

There's a pause, "Speaking of Catherine, I met with her and Brian's fiance the other day…" His eyes close briefly, "Brian's out of commission. Ezekiel overdosed him on Refrain and ripped his power out of him."

"Jesus Christ," Elisabeth sighs. She rubs her forehead. How many more? How many more of their people are going to be targeted? She remains silent other than the expletive, though.

Ygraine lifts one brow, then sighs. "I don't pretend to have followed all of that… but I passed on a request for aid from one of Brian's young charges, some time ago now. She said that her Brian had simply disappeared. I sent a message to one of the Council asking that she check up on him - I hoped that any other Brians would have a very good idea of what had happened…."

Shaking her head, she refocuses upon Cardinal. "Charles? Deveaux? Pretty much all I know of him came in a few words from Liz in the recent past. But… from the last words Shaw said to me, it seems that the Group named for him are at least wanting to be seen as on the same side as you. I thanked her for seeing me and for being polite enough to share what she had - she said it wasn't politeness, but survival."

"It's my fault," Cardinal admits quietly, "I… formulated a plan to try and resurrect Brian Fulk awhile ago. I wasn't going to implement it, but apparently Ezekiel has other opinions. You know, when I can't even think without my own thoughts being used against me and my friends…" He grimaces, two fingers rubbing against his brow, and then his hand falls down to rest on his knee.

"Yes. Deveaux… was one of the Founders of the Company. He was a good man. One of the few who weren't corrupted by the power of what they all began," he says, "I warned him that the Company only had a decade left. I guess he took steps."

Ygraine nods slowly and thoughtfully. "Did you ever come across the name 'Davignon' in relation to the Company? I was told by Shaw that 'through' Soleil Remi Davignon I would find all that I should hope for - in the context of financial assistance for myself and Liberty. That was reiterated after I indicated that I knew her - which was a surprise - and that she'd already been generous enough to pledge a couple of grand to the trust fund for the court costs. And that her parents had been explicit about being careful with her money…. Shaw also was anxious 'not to make the wrong impression' with regard to the Davignons, and was going to set some extra people to checking up on things. While also knowing - though she presumably won't have been in the Catabase? - that Remi is a 'promising young telepath'…."

"Overall", Ygraine muses, "I confess that it left me with the impression that her father might well have Company ties, and that he has been avoiding face-to-face contact with her since her manifestation - which is apparently the case - to avoid the telepath seeing into his thoughts. But that's pure speculation. The man had his wife nuked and his daughter turn into a freak who promptly had a nervous breakdown while hearing voices. Mundane explanations for a reserved distance between himself and the woman who, presumably, constantly reminds him of his dead wife would be easy to find."

At that, Cardinal's brows raise ever so slightly. "Remi?" He sounds rather… bemused. "Remi's about as naive as a child in a sandbox. I mean, she's got money, I won't deny that… hm. Company ties are possible. I'll ask what Company agents we have laying around if they're familiar with the surname…"

"Actually, not much money. Well, not compared to her resources", Ygraine corrects with a rueful smile. "Her parents vested in her the necessary acoutrements for an 'appropriate' lifestyle - but her disposable cash is tiny compared to what you'd expect for someone who owns three luxury homes. I think that part of her naivete comes from being deliberately sheltered. Consciously kept out of the loop. And all the more so now that she can read thoughts. But… that's speculation. But Shaw was worried about making a poor impression with regard to the Davignons. Conceivably that's just because Remi's a telepath and they're a clandestine organisation… but she spoke of Remi in the terms of someone who… thought she knew all there was that was important about her. And had opinions on, even plans for, her future. 'Promising' and 'young' aren't things you're likely to say about someone whose good opinion worries you even in absentia."

"It's certainly interesting," Cardinal admits with a slight nod over, looking thoughtful, "In any case, I suppose that I'll know more about the Group once Mrs. Zimmerman gets back into town, since I'm supposed to be meeting with her at some point. And she does rather owe me her life. Not that people seem to take debts seriously anymore…"

"I think they might", Ygraine says quietly. "I rather doubt that when Shaw warned me, with regard to Remi, that I would probably have to trade for assistance, because 'very little in this life is free' that she was solely talking about me asking Remi for help. And if they are honest about 'survival' being their core concern, then life-saving might well count for a great deal. But… one of the interesting things is that their concept of contacts seems to extend to their own people. Shaw, apparently, was not the 'right' person to talk to me. And she treated me very differently in manner to what Graeme told me about his meeting with her."

Only now does Elisabeth speak up. "Honestly, everyone's contact with this group has been strange," she says finally. "Obviously they know something we don't because they're making hte attempts NOW to make contact. But … we don't know what their agenda is beyond a very vague "survival." And quite frankly? That's Zeke's justification as well, so it doesn't hold a lot of water with me." She sighs heavily and glances at Cardinal. "I think you should let her take a look at what you have. She's pretty good at inference, maybe she'll see something we haven't. Other than that… I just don't have a clue what to do here. We're kind of in this lull between moments — everyone's waiting on something to happen, and I'm not sure a damn one of us even knows what the something is." She shrugs a little. "Or whether knowing it will change it at all."

"Alice was at Coyote Sands," Cardinal says with a slow shake of his head, "I got the feeling that she was more than a little… traumatized from the event. I don't know what's up with them, but…" A look to Elisabeth, and he observes in dry tones, "…I don't have much hard evidence. We have a little, but we need to get more. We can't prove enough yet."

"Well… if you want me to look over what you have…." Ygraine shrugs gently. "While in many ways I would far rather make jokes about meddling with Liz's panties - with or without you watching, or sorting out mortgage by doing so - I suspect that I'm of more active use if you let me know what you have and see what I make of it. I'm not a forensic analyst - I look at links and networks, how they change over time. What and how people communicate and how that changes. Very often it's not so much the specific things that are said but how those change over time, and quite when those changes occur. So I'll see possible connections and meanings that other people won't, if they're taking a more… data-focused approach. It's the perceptions and intentions that are most important to me: actions illuminate those, rather than the reverse. I want to know what happened so I can figure out why, because the why tells me what might be tried next - and therefore gives a shot at changing or using it."

"Well, for what it's worth…. we may have a little more help than we realized, too. Agent Pak, the one overseeing me since my fubar with Alia?" Elisabeth's smile holds a predatory, cold edge. "Well, she got a bit of a tour through Wonderland. And it appears she's going to go ahead and Register Aric, get Homeland off his back and chalk him up as not one of Nash's slips through the system. And she seems very unhappy with the notion that Homeland Security is being run by Humanis First." The blonde does grimace, though. "Although now I have to watch my step with Curtis Autumn, who has just been assigned to Unit 01." That sort of mumblemumble under her breath feeling happens again.

"Just keep him alive," Cardinal says firmly, tilting his hand to point a finger at Elisabeth, "We may need him to sit down in front of a Congressional subcommittee one of these days, after all. Better you than me, thought, I had to resist the urge to have him shot every day he was sitting in that fucking lobby." He looks back to Ygraine, and then he nods once, "I'll get you what I have. We just… need more. Alia's gunshy since getting caught— I'm hoping Hana's DNA resets soon."

Ygraine looks, frankly, confused. But she manages to muster a wry smile. "I confess that I have virtually no idea of the significance of any of what either of you just said. I clearly have a lot of catching up to do…."

Glancing at Ygraine, Elisabeth smiles slightly. "Oh, just follow the white rabbit, Alice…. it's an insane little world, to be sure." She pushes off Cardinal's desk and smirks faintly. "Oh, I'll keep him alive. And on a tight leash, too. Stick Felix on bird-dogging him like mad when I can't. And he's giving the impression of being pretty pissed at the Institute for botching a 'simple retrieval job' and losing him years of his life, so…. I dunno. We'll see where it goes." She brushes a hand on his shoulder as she stands and smiles. "See you guys later. I need to get into the office before someone starts screaming about something….. oh way. Today must end in y."

"Have fun, babe," Cardinal offers wryly, "Better you than me…" He brings a hand up briefly, clasping her fingers where they rest on his shoulder before leaning back as she departs.

"Curtis Autumn," he offers, "General Autumn's son. He was brainwashed as part of some CIA experiment, put into Moab to spy on people. He escaped when the place blew up, was on the run thinking he was a psychopath by the name of Ashley Williams. Joined Messiah. Killed a lot of people. The Institute picked him up during the November riots, reverted the mind-wipe."

A faint smile, "…I also have him on tape admitting that Messiah was created and directed by the government."

Rising to her feet, Ygraine snares Elisabeth for a brief half-hug, hoping to convey some of her gratitude for the woman's trust - and also for her presence here. "Thank you", she murmurs warmly, before letting her go on her way.

Reclaiming her seat, the Briton looks to Cardinal once more, brows slowly rising as he provides his explanation. "That… sounds rather startling", she says dryly.

"You didn't know?" Cardinal arches a brow, "Messiah was entirely invented by Vice-President Mitchell… for the sole purpose of increasing his anti-terrorism funding." Dry, he notes, "Doesn't that just make you feel so loved by the government?"

"I'd heard something about it… but not eye-witness testimony", Ygraine murmurs. "And hey - I've never been a part of the American Dream. All those rights of appeal for protection from abuse I was talking about earlier? They're not mine."

"Yeah. Curtis's testimony is… some of the first we've gotten," admits Cardinal with a slight shake of his head, "I want to find some more evidence, but I'm a little low on ''covert'' agents at the moment. But that's what the meeting is going to be about, this Friday. Figuring out how to get evidence."

Ygraine again looks surprised. "I'm… rather useful when it comes to establishing surveillance on locations", she says cautiously, "but I hadn't had the impression that that was quite why I was being brought in…"

"No," Cardinal says with a slow shake of his head, "That's not why we asked you in. Liz thought that you could have some - insight - into the situation and possibly some ideas as to how to proceed once we have the information we need."

Ygraine looks a little relieved. "If you need me, I'll help. But… I'm rather aware that I'm still somewhat weak physically, and I wouldn't want to place over-much reliance on my mental stability. I… was told that I was in PTSD before I got shot." She closes her eyes for a few moments, lips narrowing. "Then after I came out of the Dome, a… someone proved I was wrong to think of them as my friend, when they pushed me into a breakdown that helped to leave them as my lover's partner and me trying to glue my mind back together. Throw in the fact that I'm bouncing between pain and the sensory blanking of drugs, and… well. I wouldn't trust myself under stress right now. But I think that my… capacity to analyse is still operational. And if you need someone walked up a building to mount a camera, or the like, I should be able to manage that without difficulty."

"Just… relax," says Cardinal somewhat gently, "I'm not about to put you in the field. We don't generally work like that anyway… although I'm starting to think that we're going to need to organize a covert team." A faint smile, "I might ask you for help when the time comes to disseminate the information, mind you. The broadcasters we set up in November are still in place."

"I… offer options no one else I've met does, for covert surveillance and movement", Ygraine says quietly, though she looks distinctly relieved. "I can take small groups with me, when I move. Some practice is a good idea so that the… shifts don't throw them off so badly. Many people find them… pretty horrendous, even with advanced warning. But I can move people around, and get them to places, that aren't otherwise at all easy to manage even for other Evolved. So… while I definitely don't want to get into any more gun battles if I can help it, don't count me out if I'd be useful, all right?"

"But… yeah. Disseminating information? Broadcasters? What do you have in mind for me there?"

"We stopped Carmichael's broadcast by interfering with all the local broadcasts - television, radio, even some internet feeds," Cardinal explains, his hands spreading slightly, "In all the chaos, they figured that some Evo did it. But it was just science. And they're still up there, on rooftops all over the city…" A smirk, "…just waiting to be loaded with something besides static."

Ygraine inhales slowly, leaning back in her seat. "That could spark off a new wave of riots", she says quietly. "All too easily. But… there's power there, certainly. A way of fighting back. And you're waiting for the right information to come along? Where would I fit in?"

Cardinal nods ever so slightly, "…yes. That's why I haven't used it yet. That sort of power needs to be wielded very carefully." He rubs his fingers over his lower face, "I'll need someone to get up on the roofs to adjust them when the time comes. And we need people to help us figure out what information is the right information."

A slow intake of breath, then Ygraine nods. "It'll involve a lot of up-and-down work, but… that should be quite possible. So long as we can avoid the attention of the authorities. I'm not invisible while wandering around on the sides of buildings. And my old training-runs through the city have had to be… cancelled, thanks to the curfew and other patrols. Until fairly recently I was still training in Midtown, but…"

"It may not be necessary, it depends on if the speedster I usually hire for this sort of thing turns back up or not…" Cardinal shakes his head slightly, "Really, the… primary thing I need are more eyes and brains on this business. We need to get the right information, and enough of it."

"Speedster?", Ygraine asks apprehensively, brows raising. "If it's Priscilla, Speedster of the Desert, kill him now. Or whenever you have the chance. The guy is a terrifying psycho. He was butchering people, in the Dome. And I think he might be someone who was around on… on one of my trips to the past. When we were stopping an assassination team. He was on the kill squad."

"Uh." Cardinal's brows raise a little, "Don't know that guy, I don't think… you have a name? No, my speedster's a woman."

"Apparently favoured floral shirts, and hitting people in the head with crowbars while moving faster than the eye could follow", Ygraine says quietly. "And seemed to find it funny. But… a woman sounds like it definitely isn't him. I hope."

"No." Cardinal shakes his head ever so slightly, "That doesn't sound like her one bit… I'll keep an eye out for floral crowbar speedsters, though." A wry note to his voice, "There're plenty of freaks around, though."

"Violence comes readily in a conflict situation", Ygraine agrees, voice soft. "But… the guys he laid into hadn't opened fire, had in fact already had their weapons' safeties put back on, and were talking. He could have snatched away their guns or the like - but instead decided that pulverising heads would be fun. That's beyond 'freakish' and into 'scarily fucking deranged' and 'I hope someone's already put him down' territory."

"Trust me…" Cardinal shakes his head slowly, "That's the least of the shit I've seen people do… that's relatively fucking sane compared to the things I saw in Argentina… the things that happened in Madagascar…"

Ygraine's lips narrow a little. "I'm a student of conflict", she murmurs. "If you don't want to focus upon trade, or the formation of the European Union and the African and Asian would-be imitators of it, then conflict is arguably the key thing remaining. And I have family ties to Ulster. I grew up with an awareness that most people don't have of how horribly wrong things go as soon as people manage to crack the veneer of civilisation…."

"But there are only some people who embrace it eagerly - let alone with a laugh and a smile on their lips. For some, that might be a decision to take their humour black because it's all a sick joke, and they have no other way of coping. But I don't have the impression that Priscilla was one of those - because he wasn't forced into anything. He killed because he could, and because he liked it, and he did so messily. Is he alone in the world in doing that - enjoying doing that? No. But he's pretty rare outside places that have long histories of ethnic tension. Even in Ulster, most of the terrorists looked down on and tried to distance themselves from people who did things like that - because beating a functionally helpless man's head to a bloody smear on the road is hard for even most terrorists to justify as 'fighting a soldier's war' or the like. Do that, and you leave behind virtually every lie that people tell themselves to justify slaughter. You have to revel in the blood and the death for its own sake."

Cardinal's hands clasp loosely atop his chest, his chin lowering slightly. "I've seen a lot of people who take joy in killing, Ygraine," he says quietly, "I'll take your warning seriously, though. And I hope that if I ever get that bad, someone'll take me down…"

"Most of those who wind up enjoying it are on someone's leash", Ygraine says tiredly. "Taking orders. Not… freelance, seeking entertainment wherever they can find it. Especially not without any apparent care for the presence of an audience to their acts. The former, you might at least hope to influence through their bosses. The latter?"

She shakes her head, then musters a wan little smile. "Elisabeth was very keen to stress to me that you weren't like your… alter egos. Very keen. And from what I've seen, she'd appear to be right. I could… go over what I've surmised from her words, what little I know of you personally, and from seeing the two of you together… but it boils down to - I'm inclined to believe that she's right about you."

"A lot of people don't seem willing to believe it," Cardinal admits with a slight shake of his head, "So… thanks for giving me the benefit of the doubt, at least." He scratches his fingers against his jawline, a faint smile there, "I just hope I never get as desperate as he is."

"That's… one of the justifications for bringing in a loon like me." Ygraine offers another wry smile, and a slight shrug. "One of the most basic of instincts in a conflictual situation is to separate yourself from contact with hostile sources. Restrict yourself to those who won't cause you problems. Over time, that definition gets ever narrower, perceived slights and problems become harder to forgive, and… you eventually wind up with the 'you're with me or you're against me' idiocy, where every interaction is judged on the basis of the danger you perceive - and where anyone who ever 'lets you down' will be lucky not to be seen as a traitor."

"It's all a fine way of ending up isolated and utterly paranoid… and of creating very nearly as many enemies as you think you have. In contrast, the best decisions in a conflict are almost always made by those who seek more information than usual. It's a critical situation - so make the best decisions you can. Not the fastest, not the firmest, not the most unyielding - but the best. And for that, you want a range of opinions. You want lots of ideas - not less ideas and less debate, but more. You need to be able to make a choice, and judge when and how to do so… but the more chance you give yourself to make a good one, the more likely it is to actually work. And the less likely you are to end up trapped in a conflict because you know the conflict is worth fighting - rather than fighting to achieve somehting limited and specific and possible."

"Right." Cardinal's lips twitch in a faint smile, "I thought that's what I said. That's what happened to him, I think… everyone turned against him. Or he turned against them." He rubs his fingers against his forehead, "Time has inertia. I can't let that happen."

Ygraine snorts, then laughs, then sticks her tongue out. "Good to know that my expertise is appreciated", she grumbles - albeit with a smile. "But… yeah. The longer you let things run, the harder it is to turn them around. Not least because of entrapment - the more time, energy, and resources that people invest in something, the more committed to it they become. Whether it's finishing building their dream house even though it's a hundred percent over-budget, or… ridding South Vietnam of Communism. People get caught up in what they're doing because they've been doing it for too long to bear the thought of all that effort being worthless or wasted or better used elsewhere. So they keep hammering away at it. There's no requirement to change your goals - your ideals arguably should stay the same. But if plan A isn't working to achieve its original intent, you've got to be ready to try plans B through Z if required. Time's too valuable to just… sit back and hope that your earlier efforts will work."

"No, I'm actually serious, time has inertia. Once a future event has been predicted, it's very difficult to stop it from happening - the more major the event, the more difficult it is to prevent. And even then, it generally manifests in some form," Cardinal says with a slow shake of his head, quirking a faint smile, "If you want to change the future, you have to move mountains. That's what he told me, and he was right. So we'll see you on Friday?"

Ygraine cocks her head, raising her brows once more. "That's worth knowing. Though prophecies are often intended to be either self-fulfilling or self-defeating - driving people to change their actions from what they would otherwise have been, to bring about the desired result…. But… yeah. Sorry. What time? And here?"

Cardinal rubs his thumb against his temple, admitting, "Temporal physics are confusing as fuck… but they're something I have to keep in mind to do my job. And, ah, the evening. I'll send someone by for you, it's not here, I don't want to risk the fact that this place might be watched."

Ygraine winces, then nods. "Make sure it's someone I know", she requests, albeit with a rather sheepish smile. "I don't want to kill anyone as a spy or would-be kidnapper." Rising carefully to her feet, she restores her hat to her head, then bows.

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