Conversations Before Dawn


cardinal2_icon.gif gillian3_icon.gif veronica2_icon.gif

Scene Title Conversations Before Dawn
Synopsis Members of Alpha Team gather to discuss things while they still wait for word on movement plans. Soon there will be no secrets left to reveal between them.
Date December 9, 2009

Subtropical Jungle

The dark, vine-laden greenery that defines the swath of jungle growth in Cerro de Hierro Negro's shadow is not really lush so much as it is resilient. Ancient trunks wind crooked under thick mats of cool moss and the same damp litter of decay that makes the ground soft underfoot, with brambled undergrowth and brackish stream beds just sparse enough to be navigable if one is careful about where they step. Rumbling passages of thunder stir often through the rustle and sway of branches thatched far overhead, but the rain that should accompany it has been scattered in recent days. Crawling insects are common despite the chill wind off the mountain ahead, and every so often the shrill keen of a persistent predator splits the night or the springy passage of ungulate hooves whispers invisible along an unseen game trail. To the northeast, the flutter and burble of running water is occasional audible with gentle turns in the wind.

The sun's not up just yet, the dark before morning thick in the jungle during those quiet pre-dawn hours that even the insects seem to have ceased their constant song. Supposedly, Cardinal's on watch right now, but it's rather hard to tell. If he is out there, he's in shadow form, which means he could be pretty much anywhere.

Veronica usually wakes early back home — to go run, or beat the traffic when she needs to drive out to Fort Hero. Her body rhythms have followed her to Argentina, and so it is she tries to quietly extricate herself from the bed roll next to Gillian's without waking her friend. She heads out of the shelter, limping with a bit of achiness and lack of use. looking around for a shadow that's more than a shadow. "Card? If you want some rest, I can take on watch."

The attempt not to wake the companion sleeping next to her seems to have been a moot point, cause not long after, Gillian sits up and wraps the blanket tighter around her body and begins to wander out after her. "Is Cardinal even out here?" It's hard to tell, after all! He could be up a tree… she doesn't sound at all like she just woke up though. Maybe she was laying there awake for a while. "I really wish we had a descent roof over our heads, walls, an actual building… I'm not good at sleeping outside." She was never much of a camper.

"I'm here."

A shadow spills up the bark of a tree, and a hand emerges from it, followed by the rest of Cardinal; the darkness fading slowly to match the normal light, a faint smile curving to his lips. "I'm all right. I don't get very tired when I'm like that… besides, still a bit before the sun comes up."

Chuckling at Gillian's words, she nods. "It's one thing when you choose to — and another thing when it's forced upon you." The ground isn't very comfortable, especially with her injury. She moves next to the other woman and pulls the hem of the blanket up to duck under it. "Lucky you. I'm still tired, but I don't think I could sleep any longer, at least not right now." She looks out into the darkness, though it's not like she can decipher one shadow from the other like Cardinal can.

"Back when I had Rickham's ability I didn't need to sleep. Or eat. At least until I came out of it," Gillian comments, musing a bit, but it's a comparison she seems to want to make. She pulls the blanket tighter. She didn't really get cold either in that form. Sometimes she misses Metal Her. "No more robots at least?"

"Our powers aren't all that dissimilar," Cardinal says, though he doesn't go into it further for the moment. A hand scratches at the side of his neck, admitting with a faint smile, "No robots that I've seen, so far. Still wearing those lovely new pieces of jewelry?"

Veronica's hand pops out to show off the lovely "bracelet." "Yep. And I think the stupid puncture wound is getting a touch infected. Can't really get in there to clean and all," she says, wrinkling her nose. Nothing too dangerous. She won't die of sepsis or anything; the wound is just in the superficial skin. Unlike the deep cut of her thigh. "But since the robots haven't come back… I'd guess either they consider the signals already answered or something…? At least Magnes' and Gillian's, if the theory that they test our blood is correct."

"You should see if… Peter might be able to help you. Might lose a tree or two, but it's better than you limping or infected when we finally have a battle plan," Gillian says, looking down at the leg, as she lifts the blanket up enough to show hers. Still there. "Magnes is afraid to remove them cause he thinks they might blow up, and shit. But we may not know for sure if they still work until we go back to that area. I guess. They might have a limited range. Like those cheap walkietalkies you buy in the store."

"I'm not sure if he can heal you with a tree, actually," replies Cardinal with a shake of his head, "I told Ross to bring an unactivated one we got back with him, so maybe we can figure them out, I'm not sure if he bothered or not…" A sharp glance to Veronica, "How much do you know about him?"

The agent's brow knits as Gillian offers Peter's ability up to her. She doesn't like his ability and isn't sure what she thinks about it. "We'll see. If it gets worse, or if I can't keep up. Otherwise… you know. Save the rainforest and all." She offers a fakely chipper smile that shows off her dimples, a rare sighting.

To Cardinal, she shakes her head. "Nothing, to be honest. He's not from the New York 'branch.' I only know he's higher clearance than me, got medical training, that he's my superior." She snorts a little at that, obviously not a big fan.

"He should be able to, he just doesn't know how yet," Gillian says, insisting that it doesn't need to be a person. "And if it does have to be a person, it can be me. Vee's a much better fighter than I'll ever me, so having her up to full speed is more important than me. As long as I can touch Magnes or one of the others I need to augment, I'm still useful." Or so she'll insist. Even if she feels a lot less useful right now than… well… she'd like to be.

"…So wait, baldy is one of your guys?"

"Yeah. He's Company. Apparently he reports to Sabra Denton," Cardinal replies, leaning himself back against the tree and lifting one hand to scratch under his chin in bemused thought, "Any relation to the cowboy, or just sort've a coincidence of names, there?" A glance over to Gillian, lips twitching in a faint smile, "So how's the kid doing, anyway?"

That amuses Agent Sawyer. Perhaps it's the fatigue, perhaps the infection is spreading, but she actually giggles. "Sabra Denton," she repeats, leaning back to gaze up at the stars in the pre-morning canvas of sky. "Sabra Dalton," she corrects. "But I didn't tell you that. Anyway, I don't know him, but it's a large organization, as you likely know. I've never met him. He seems … well. There are worse people." The name Paulsen comes to mind.

Cowboy? Sabra Denton? Not names that ring a bell with Gillian, so she sticks to what she knows. Which isn't the Company, but the kid in their party. Who isn't really that much younger than her, but she'll treat him like he is, in this case. "The kid's a little on the lonely side. Pining for his girlfriend who he's afraid he'll die without ever having sex with."

"Oh, Dalton…" Cardinal's head bobs in a rueful gesture, "…good, I was terrified of having to deal with the cowboy's ex-wife or something at some point." A mock-shudder, "Terrifying thought." Then he grins to Veronica, before shrugging one shoulder, "You should probably know that Petrelli was telling him that you weren't totally in on this mission and possibly untrustworthy."

That dropped, he turns a look at Gillian, one brow arching. "What the hell. Is he still fucking obsessed about fucking Claire? We're in the middle of a fucking jungle being hunted by robot dogs and he's still going on about that?" I knew I should've bought him a fuckin' prostitute back in town."

"I thought it was a cat and an alpaca," Veronica quips. Might as well make light of the crappy situation they are in. She chuckles a bit at Cardinal's indignant reaction. "He mentioned it to me when we were still back at that motel." She remembers when he was talking about meeting the girl in question on the roof while still a Company agent.

"It did kinda look like a cat to me, too," Gillian corrects, before she looks back toward the sleeping accomidations. She's keeping her raspy voice down, but she can't help but look for sturing of others while she speaks anyway. "He's too much of a boy scout to actually have sex with anyone. So I doubt he'd sleep with a hooker even if you got him one. He did have the condoms for it, though. He gave them to me. Not that I'm gonna get any use out of them. But they always carry condoms in those army movies, so they might have some use."

"That's because they keep rifle barrels cle— wait, wait, why the fuck did he have condoms out here?" Cardinal just looks at Gillian with an utterly baffled expression, then he holds up a hand, "Second thought, no, don't— don't tell me, I don't think I wanna know."

"He clearly hoped she would be here with him," Veronica says. "Probably better that she's not — well, for her sake. I hope things are going better for them than they are here. She'd be a distraction to him here — though she is even not being here, apparently. Still, when things get really difficult," because she has a feeling that so far things have been relatively easy, scary as that thought is, "it's probably better he can worry about himself instead of worrying about rescuing her." And what does that say about Gillian being near Peter and being distracted by him?

"He might take the risk more seriously if she were here beside him too," Gillian says, perhaps realizing her own paralell being made there. And not liking it from the defensive sound in her raspy voice. "But without her we won't have to hear him trying to figure out how to have sex in the middle of a jungle. So that's a good thing, definitely." Also cause if she's not having sex, then she definitely doesn't want to listen to someone fumbling their way through it, either.

"No," Cardinal gives his head a tight shake to Gillian's words, "If she were here, he'd be freaking out about the danger to her and trying to evacuate her. Did you know that she made him kill her so he got it through his head that she can take care of herself? Christ, we've been doing weapons drills for weeks, the best he's done is ask Petrelli how to play with a pond, and probably re-organize his comic book collection."

He brings a hand up to squeeze the bridge of his nose, eyes closed, "Don't get me wrong, the kid has some potential, but if he doesn't grow up he's not gonna live to legally drink."

"He's actually legal, if I recall from his file," Veronica says with a shake of her head. She actually remembers because of recruiting him, but she's not about to say that. "Twenty-one." She glances up at some motions in the shelter, someone moving around in their sleeping bag and then going back to sleep.

"He was trying to use gravity manipulation on the fire, too," Gillian offers, but— yeah, there's a lot he would probably do. Does it mean anything that Peter tried his best to get her evacuated too? Then again, she can't take care of herself as well anymore. She frowns anyway. "Yeah, I think he is old enough. Not that it really matters, I guess. While I'm up, maybe one of you could teach me more about guns. Give us something to do while we're waiting. I've been taught a lot about handguns, by Eve, and I've used them more than a few times, but never hurts to get somemore practice— though I can't fire right now without waking people up. At least I can learn how to load and clean and stuff."

"I suppose you'd know. Seriously, though, even you guys didn't want him," observes Cardinal rather dryly, with a pointed look at Veronica before he looks back at Gillian. "I'd say you should come by more often for practice, but you said you wanted a normal life. The chessboard's not a good place for that." Of course, pieces only leave the board in one way, but she'll have to find out for herself there.

"I can teach you, sure," Veronica tells Gillian. To Cardinal, she shrugs. "He showed some merit. He wasn't bad in a fight. He probably saved my ass at least once, but almost lost his arm in the process. It was more the fact he didn't keep his affiliations separate. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty wasn't so secret. He's a good guy, when it comes down to it though." She pauses, and gives a rueful smile — these two people hate the people she works for. "Working with us black hats just didn't suit him."

"I don't exactly want a normal life— I just want to be able to have my job back, and not have to flinch every time someone says my real name," Gillian says, looking back toward the sleeping arrangments. It's difficult to be talking about someone when he could wake up and walk over. "I think I'd get bored with totally normal, and I don't expect to get out of everything. I just want to be me again, you know?"

"This life doesn't suit him," Cardinal corrects, his tone wry, "He's too honest for it." He scratches under his chin a bit, murmuring, "I don't know if any of us can be anymore, Gilli. I'm not the same person I was when this all began. Fuck— " A snort, "— I don't even know who I am some days."

The talk of a normal life has Veronica quiet. She isn't extraordinary as they are. She is not evolved. She thought she chose this life, but it turns out, she was manipulated into it. Her recruiter Persuaded her with a capital P. They turned her against the Evolved, when it was in fact the Company who killed her father, the whole reason she went into law enforcement. She has no idea who she would be, if the world hadn't turned for the worse. She simply looks away. She's not too honest for this life — her life is a lie, but she suits it well enough. What does that say about her?

"I'm sure I won't be exactly the same as I was, but I want to be able to make a choice about things, you know?" Gillian says, looking back at Cardinal and not noticing the silence of her friend for what it actually is. "Cause right now if I went back I wouldn't get a choice. They'd lock me up and throw away the key. They said I'd be Registered as normal when I get back, not locked up. So that's better than I got now."

"Mmhm." Cardinal's chin dips down a bit, and he fixes Gillian with a serious look over the edge of his shades, "And did you actually believe them when they said that, Gillian?"

Veronica looks up at that. "I'll make sure it happens," she says in a quiet, but determined voice. Her eyes flit from Gillian to Cardinal, and they hold the promise in them almost defiantly.

"Well I figured the best case scenerio would be that everyone would risk death or capture just to get me back…" Gillian offers, as the only other good outcome. "And honestly, I'd rather die in the middle of nowhere and stay dead than be locked up forever."

"You think we'd just let you rot in some new Moab, Gillian? Hell, we were already starting to track you down when I recieved my orders." A shake of Cardinal's head, slowly, before he gestures with a hand, "Maybe you're right. Maybe they'll give you that. I don't think so, though, and I don't think Sawyer really does either."

"She'll go free," Veronica repeats. Whether it's of their own choice or not, well, that's not the issue. "And we will get out of here. I'm not here to die. I'm here to stop Munin from detonating, somehow. And I'm not as pessimistic as you, though I'm not naive either, Shade, before you call me Pollyanna."

"I'm not completely optimistic. I know there's a good chance I might die here," Gillian says, shrugging her shoulders. "But I've faced death enough times that… I dunno. If I am supposed to die at least I know this'll be the last time I have to go through it." Cause she had to go through it more times than anyone should have to when she made a bazillion abilities for a short time.

"Oh, I didn't say she wouldn't get out of here free… I just don't think that your bosses, and Petrelli's people, are planning on making it all legal. I could be wrong, and, honestly," Cardinal slants a look over to Gillian, "It's possible that Peter'll pull some strings with the big man in the White House where you're concerned." His gaze softens, then, and he says more quietly, "If anyone deserves a vacation, it's you."

"We've made other things go away for people. I hope they keep their word on that at least," the agent says. "If not… well. I mean, I have to say I've been doubting things a while now. Gillie knows. But if they don't keep their word to all the people they 'bargained with' to go on this mission…" Then what? Will she quit? Why is that the last straw the size of a barbell, when all of the other things that have caused her to question her line of work haven't done the job. She shrugs, leaving the words unsaid.

"Peter'll probably make sure I don't die out here, too. Even if it kills him," Gillian says, but she doesn't sound completely pleased about it. "But yeah— between him and Vee… I got two people with a some say who might be able to get more. Long as they don't make me work for the government, or something." Knowing her luck they'll knock on her door anyway, if they need her ability. "Sometimes I wish that they never would have injected little baby me with a power. But I wouldn't get to say that I flew, or turned to metal… which wasn't so bad." There's a lot worse things than what she's been through. "If I go on a vacation, though, I don't want to go alone. Vacations are best if you have someone to share it with."

"I wouldn't quit." Cardinal looks down to his wrist, twisting the watch on it so he can see the time before glancing back up with a faint smile to Veronica, "Your Company was founded with good intentions. I know there're some… honest people there. You. The Cowboy. If you're willing to do what needs to be done, you could… purge the dangerous elements from it. Bring in recruits you know you can trust. Work your way into power. Lie, kill, cheat, in the name of a better world."

"I only had a power for a few minutes, and it was more than enough for me," Veronica says with a shudder, thinking of the disorienting, nauseating moments in a Chinatown alley with her clones getting shot and then melting like cherry cobbler. "But I suppose it depends on what power you got, too." She smiles at Cardinal and shrugs. "Believe it or not, that's what I've tried to do. I'm not trying to take good people off the streets," she says, glancing to the east, where a gray glow indicates the sun is near rising. "Looks like we survived another night, at any rate."

"I had a dozen at one point," Gillian says, though she actually had more than that. "And I liked flying. And super speed. Those were pretty good abilities to have. I never had to take a cab." And there's a smile on her lips. "I do think that the Company must have some good people, no matter what I've been told. I mean there's you— but I don't know… They probably had a chance or ten to pick me up and never did." She doesn't doubt they tracked her down a few times, anyway. If Humanis First could, they probably did. She glances over at the sun. "Now I just wish we had something to drink out here. If we're not ready to attack, we could at least do a drinking game."

"It's got plenty've good people," opins Cardinal as he pushes away from the tree, gesturiing in vague dismissal, "Just remains to be seen if they ever wise up and shoot their bosses in the head one of these days… or let themselves keep getting pushed out of the way to let all the bullshit through."

An amused look's slanted over to Gillian, "We could always go ask Dahlia if there's a bottle layin' around."

Veronica glances up at the mention of shooting a boss in the head, her eyes wide and then narrowing in a 'why, what have YOU heard' sort of look. But she chuckles at the talk of drinking games. "Sure. You know the moment we're all plastered throwing quarters in a glass is the moment robo-kitty strikes again." She nods to the other two. "I'm going to go boil some water for that sorry excuse for coffee we have," she says, ducking out of Gillian's blanket and heading toward the shelter.

"I'm not going to hold my breath. Like she said, just cause we've been safe this long doesn't mean it won't strike right when we get nice and drunk." Cause that's how these things always happen. But wait. Her blanket is now empty of a second warm body, and she has to pull it tighter to keep the draft out. The sun will take care of that soon enough, though. "I thought it was called mud," Gillian comments on the coffee. "Or maybe that's just the flavor that it has."

That look's caught in the periphery of Cardinal's vision, and he only smiles, heading to walk back towards the others, "I should grab an hour're two to sleep anyway. Enjoy the caffeinated mud."

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