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Scene Title Crypticality
Synopsis Cat and Mona meet and find they share a lot in common: an unregistered ability, political views, a mutual deceased friend.
Date June 9, 2009

Piccoli's Delicatessen

Everything about Piccoli's is welcoming. There's a large, cheerful neon sign mounted on the roof, the interior is brightly lit and spotlessly clean, and the old-fashioned decor is more reminiscent of mother's kitchen than a successful business. Since the doors opened in 1946, Piccoli's has been best known for pastrami, hot dogs, corned beef, and salami. The wait can sometimes be a little long, but the prices are reasonable and the food is always worth it.

It's a place she likes coming to. The food is good, the people running it are pleasant, and memories are attached. Not all of them are good, but such things a woman like this simply must live with. There are images of Dani in a hospital bed as Cat enters, she playing out the memory of when her slain lover was in hospital after the attempt to investigate Daniel Linderman and food was brought to them from this place more than once.

From there, as she waits in line to approach the counter and claim her order called in earlier, the mental journey takes a tangent. The Company, Linderman, the Petrellis, Allen Rickham, alleged coups d'etats, Pinehearst… The five foot eight inch brunette generally has tons on her mind, and today is no excception for the woman clad in a tank top featuring the image of Pat Benatar from a decades ago tour and shorts. Her eyes settle on a portion of wall, she being so distracted as not to notice the number of people ahead of her becoming less.

As for Mona herself, her feelings underlying her trip to Piccoli's are entirely more mundane— if no less stressed, by the looks of it. Here to grab a quick bite of lunch, she is, before heading home to do work. A lot of work. Perhaps thinking of this, the dark-haired woman rubs at her forehead from her casually slumped standing position, a still, silent figure in the midst of other shopgoers busily streaming around her. Waiting.

All their thoughts are a constant barrage on her mind: a chaotic, river-like mosaic that fluctuates with every person to brush by, and that's presumably also part of the reason she's rubbing ruefully at her scalp like she is. The images of Danielle Hamilton wash by in their turn, lingering tantalizingly before floating off again, and at first she takes no notice of the vision of the woman on a white bed. But then—


It's gone, now that Cat has gone on to think about other things. Roused from her restless state, though, Mona's puzzled eyes travel to the the musician's face and rest there. Maybe rudely, though there's no rudeness intended. "—Hey," she hazards uncertainly as her hands fall to her side and she approaches slightly, her voice nearly lost in the hubbub of the kitchen, and other people. Awkward!

Being spoken to draws Cat's attention back to the here and now, eyes coming away from the wall to settle on and take in the source of that voice as well as checking her position in the line and finding two people moved along, making her just one short of being next. Feet move that short distance forward as she speaks. "Sorry," she offers, "I got a bit distracted. Was there something you needed, Miss?" The expression is neutral, but she does manage a slight smile in replying.

The eyes, however, show a bit more for the perceptive. Loss, pensiveness, intelligence, alertness. She hasn't managed to completely slip into poker face.

It's less Cat's eyes that have Mona's attention than her entire appearance at a glance, more vaguely. Visibly hesitant, Mona blinks slowly once before she speaks again, expression screwed up as though she's trying to make sure her recognition is valid. They're closer to each other now, at least, which makes talking easier, even though Cat's periodically moving forward in line and she's not.

"Sorry if this is an odd question, but are you— Catherine Chesterfield?" Just maybe?

Wariness comes into her mind now, as the question is asked. Who is this person? Cat wonders. DHS? Primatech? Pinehearst? Less malignant possibilities? Her eyes move a bit, checking for the presence of apparent backup ready to move against her outside and within, a thing she attempts to play down doing. Seeing no such thing, a reply is made. Lying is pointless, the woman knew enough to ask her name, after all. "That's me," she affirms. "Doctor Catherine Chesterfield."

When the affirmative is given, the look on Mona's face melts into a warmer, somewhat relieved one. She casts a sidelong glance at the countertop some distance away, then neither seeing nor hearing any progress on how her order is progressing, she turns her attention more permanently onto Cat. "I thought I recognized you," she continues in a tentatively more conversive tone. "But I wasn't sure. I've heard a lot about you from Danielle." There's a pause, as she searchingly waits for what kind of reaction the name will elicit.

The eyes take on more sadness as Dani's name is spoken, and in them is also a measure of guilt, controlled rage. Loss. Her speaking voice is quieter now, a bit hollow. "You knew her," Cat states. Memories surface again, some happy, some sad, and an image forms in her mind as well.

It's December 19, 2008. She's standing in an apartment entry hall. It looks like a very comfortable place, carpeted floors. There's a hamburger wrapper on it not far inside the door. Fingers pick it up, there are words written in Dani's hand. And she reads.


This isn't the best way to write a last message. But it's the only one I have. Don't blame yourself. And don't hold guilt. This is the result of my actions, and I'm more glad than I can say that you didn't have to pay for my mistake. My things are yours, not that there's much of them. There's so much I want to say, but I don't have a lot of writing space. And not a lot of time, I think. I won't ask you to remember me. I know you'll do that. But remember the good things. Remember the good times. And don't let my parents know the details, if you can. They wouldn't understand. I love you, Cat. And I'm sorry we didn't have more time together. Find someone else. Live well." The last of it dissolves into unreadable blur, where she couldn't hold the pen, anymore. For better or worse, a last memoir.

She pushes the imagery out of her mind, a tear starting to course down one cheek.

Standing so close in proximity to Cat, there's nothing to keep the memory from overflowing right into Mona's head, too. All of it. When it's done, when the moment of simultaneously watching such a vivid recollection is over, the writer looks faintly horrified— both by what she had seen and by the tear running down one side of Cat's face. "Oh my god, I'm sorry— I didn't mean to upset you," she says in clear distress, impulsively reaching for the other woman's hand to half-pat it, half-hold it sympathetically.

Her eyes have a keen, worried look to them. Thankfully, with the hubbub around them, nobody seems to be paying them too much mind. "Uh-huh, I did know her. Friend of mine from a few years back. Still can't believe they don't really know what happened to her." This is more hushed than before, and she adds it with a half-shaky laugh. "I miss her too."

"It's okay," Cat replies. "Just things I have to live with." She's pulling up her resolve now, calling upon steel in her spine. She isn't one to be seen like that by others, to let what she feels be seen. This is in her thoughts, along with one about knowing the full story and having failed to save her. She doesn't pull away from the hand touching her own.

"You are…?" Cat leads questioningly. Those memories, the way they come through so vividly, might be discounted as such because of the event it concerns, but even then one might see it's even sharper than most would have of such a thing.

Once Cat shows signs of beginning to recover herself, Mona acknowledgingly withdraws her hand, moving it to adjust the purse strap riding on her shoulder. Her look of watchful concern doesn't change a whole lot, even from afar. At the prompt, she chuffs self-reprovingly. "I didn't introduce myself, did I. I'm Mona." It seems somehow redundant to offer her hand again, so she offers a smile from one side of her mouth instead. "Mona Rao."

Mona Rao. The name is gone over in Cat's head, images being pulled up as a result. Pieces she's written, showing in her mental eye with that same incredible detail. It's like she could read them again this way, word for word." She seems about to speak, but peripheral vision shows the person just ahead of her has been served and is departing, so Cat edges that way. "Hold that thought?" she requests.

Then it's to the counter, where she speaks with the attendant, pays, takes her food, and turns back to Mona. It comes along with a segment of recalling how much she enjoyed the last time she ordered what's in the bag. Cat really likes Piccoli's.

"No problem." But that's perfect timing, because not long afterwards: whatever shenanigans they were doing with Mona's order, they are finally done. She takes a little longer than Cat in retrieving her meal; a short grumbly conversation is overhearable across the counter about a 'new kid' and orders being mixed up. Once she turns back to Cat again, though, she is triumphant— wrapped food in hand.

"It's good to meet you, Miss Rao," Cat offers. "I've read some of your work, if you're the same Mona Rao," that is. She takes a few steps, bag in hand, while speaking after the reporter has her own. "It's bold to put yourself out there and advocate the way you do." In her mind is wondering at the motivation of it; is Mona into fairness and justice on general principles, or is she Evolved like us? Like us. Also receivable is her decision not to ask directly in this place, while considering doing so in a spot with less ears to pick it up.

"Pleasure's mine. Please, call me Mona," is Mona's incrementally more cheerful, instinctive appeal. "And have you? It's always nice to hear when people do. Yeah, that's me; don't know of any others." The question in Cat's mind is picked up on, and though she doesn't directly respond to it, she does mentally smile in reply. A combination of both factors, as it happens.

"—Hey. Wanna go outside and talk? Less people around." Tilting her head in the direction of the door, she doesn't need to suggestively glance around to confirm this. They both already have their food, anyway.

Her reply is given not with words, but with her feet. Cat opens the door and steps outside, holding it for Mona to do the same. After she's joined there she plans to go a short distance before speaking, her pace one which makes it apparent there's no plan to open up distance between them. In point of fact, Cat remains silent. The floor is left, thus, to the reporter.

It doesn't take long for Mona to hurry on out after Cat, soon falling into pace roughly parallel to her. "Thanks." That's for the door-holding. As she strides along, she bends her head a little to sip from the straw of her drink, clasped in one forearm. She stays as silent as Cat does, watching expectantly and letting the other determine when they're at a good distance to speak again. In the meantime, she adjusts her hold on her food so it's more comfortable.

"Your work is interesting," she eventually begins after seeing Mona won't. "Is it a desire to promote justice and fairness for you, or is it personal, Mona?" Maybe both," Cat muses quietly while walking along. Her voice is audible to the reporter, but low enough in volume to presumably not be overheard. The images of her pieces called up earlier return, she seems to be looking over them for details on the fly.

"I'll say it's a bit of both," Mona allows, thoughtful. "I think the first part's universal, at least among anyone who cares about what's going on— all the registration and laws and hate-crimes? What've we turned into?" And it's something she doesn't need to go into too much detail on, either. Cat knows.

Though she doesn't make any extra effort to delve into Cat's thoughts, she doesn't try to block them out when they filter into her brain, either, instead observing and perusing them as they flicker past. "Nothing's ever happened to me, personally," she says just a fraction more quietly, still leaving the question of whether she is Evolved up in the air. "Not. Up close or anything, I mean. But things like Humanis First. The kid in the next apartment, even. I'm sure we've all heard of something at some point, even if it's just in keeping up with current events."

"True enough," Cat replies speculatively. "And it looks like there's a war coming, what with the way violence increases around the world. And Frontline in development as a potential Gestapo. You haven't said if you have an ability, or not. I'm curious, of course, but I won't ask. You'll share if you choose to, and that's wise. You've no way to know if I'm a DHS plant looking to find out and force you to register." Cat's thoughts, of course, say this isn't true and reflect how ludicrous that would be, but also show understanding if there's suspicion.

"Humanis First are dangerous. They look to me as if they want to have that war at any moment, at least some of them, after having shot down that plane on video." What a thorny path, she muses inwardly. If someone tries to kill me, she'll kill that person instead if she can. No standing still to get murdered. But, she acknowledges mentally, she won't be out hunting the non-Evolved on general principles. Those who don't intend to kill her or people like her aren't the enemy.

"I hope to god there won't be a war, but the way things are going— " Mona's tone has gone quieter yet, even as she works at opening up her wrap so she can start with the sandwich inside. She does attempt not to rustle the paper too loudly, so as not to disturb the conversation, but her stomach is grumbling. She nods consideringly, her facial expression not showing just what she thinks about Cat's newest ponderings on killing, or hunting. "Humanis First is— the worst of the lot. They scare me quite a bit, if you care to know; whatever we need, it isn't more violent hate groups. I'm doing my next article on them." Not that's in been her first, in that area.

And there's a mild chuckle. "…I suppose if you were really a DHS plant, it'd be stupid to tell me that you were. And I'm the one who came up to you, not the other way around. But— because now it makes me curious. Do you?" Have an ability, that is. "You don't have to tell me, either."

"I'll remember you said that," Cat replies with a bit of a smile forming. It's a hint, or is it? "Hate groups," she muses while walking and carrying her food. "What do you make of the one called Phoenix, whose leader decided to out herself, Mona?"

Not one that Mona's likely to get, at least without further probing. "Phoenix isn't a hate group," she says with some surprise. "I'm surprised you'd put that way. I think it's wonderful, what they're doing— and what Dean has done. You call me bold for writing what I do, but that girl's put herself out there for the whole nation to target." There's a heavy pause. "So much different than PARIAH, blowing stuff up to make their point."

She nods in agreement, more of her thought process coming through. That the question was asked to see her reaction, hear what Mona would say on the score. "Terrorism," Cat muses, her thoughts at this point matching what she says, "is pointless, above and beyond being wrong. As a philosophy and political method, one could try to argue it has merit. After all, the Declaration of Independence says governments come from the consent of the governed, and one would argue by failing to oppose certain government actions people tacitly consent to them, becoming fair game. I wouldn't take that position, and in this case it's counterproductive anyway. We're a minority, and there are plenty among the majority who'd like to exterminate us. Spreading fear and terror can only make them more determined to wipe us out."

"Helena Dean," she goes on to say, "seems to realize her organization has to broaden its scope. Raiding illegal secret prisons and the like isn't enough. That alone doesn't change anyone's mind, won't ease fears."

"If you had a chance to interview her," she asks speculatively, "would you take it?"

In her thoughts is the possibility of making it happen.

"So you are one of the Evolved." It's gathered from Cat's extensive use of the pronoun 'us'. Mona's arched eyebrows reveal a measure of amused respect (less amusement than respect) for Cat's daunting grandiloquence. "I wouldn't take that position, either. I don't think a lot of people would, except, well, those like HF. The 'if you're not for us, you're against us' mindset has never really flown with me— you just make more enemies that way. Terrorism never has merits."

Her expression becomes more incredulous yet at Cat's offer. "Of course I would. You're not saying that you—" …are in a close circle with Dean herself, etc. etc? But how else could she pull the levers for something like that?

"I'll remember you said that," Cat replies with that slight smile showing again. Her thoughts reflect a bit of playfulness in wondering if Mona has it figured out yet. It also shows she doesn't yet have any clue of telepathy being in play.

And there's crypticality more afoot. "I was mainly wondering what your reaction to the question would be, Mona," Cat supplies. "I'm certainly not much on the idea of my name being mentioned in print connected to anything like this." In her head, now, is the general concept of needing to gather people with the right sort of positions together and prepare along with recognition of that being the reason behind sticking her neck out to this degree. Of hoping it isn't misplaced.

"I run a blog, not a tabloid," Mona reassures, or tries to reassure. "Don't worry— if there's no consent, you won't see it. This is all private." She certainly doesn't give off the vibe of a person who'd pull that kind of trick, anyway. Stray thoughts from Cat continue drifting across to her, though she refrains from actively burrowing any deeper, as if in keeping with her previous promise. A guess is made without the aid of telepathy. Her brow furrows. "And you keep saying that. Do you remember everything? And— what're you gauging my reaction for; am I being judged for something?" There's a lopsided, light sort of grin on her face, at that.

"You could say that," Cat replies, before commencing to recite every word of a piece Mona did more than a year earlier. Of course, as she does this it appears in her mind's eye and is read. When she finishes, silence reigns for a few beats before the woman somberly shares "It's a blessing, and a curse. But it's mine." She doesn't ask again if the blogger has any such tool in her arsenal, but it's in her head that the question hasn't been answered yet whether yes or no, and she simply hopes the act of putting herself out there and extending trust will be matched. Her task of gathering people, after all, often enough means she has to go first.

As she listens to the full length of Cat's delivery, Mona's eyes gradually go wider again; this time she is very genuinely impressed. "I'm jealous— if I could do that? It'd make my job so much easier, you have no idea." She stays silently thoughtful for yet another few moments, smile lingering. She looks slightly worried in anticipation of her next words, but she goes on with it anyway. "I guess. Well. I can tell you that I'm one of them, too." There's a tiny, meaningful laugh. "If you're a HomeSec agent; well, there you have it. I'm Evolved, and I'm not registered. I usually don't— you know— tell people. But you've been honest with me, so."

"I detest registration, and the Linderman Act," Cat replies with some distaste evident. "The only other people we require to do that in this country are sex offenders, and those have actually been convicted of a crime. In our case, it's all about in case we might commit a crime. Intolerable, entirely. Like the Nazis in their first step of making people wear yellow stars. Humanis First, it could be said, intends to parallel Kristallnacht, and along with it all comes the justification for a police state with Frontline. The Constitution itself is under assault."

Continuing, wistfulness enters her voice, along with images of Dani returning to mind. She forces herself not to travel the path of all that happened by strength of will, but there's enough to suggest it ties to the curse part of her ability.

"Thank you, Mona," she finally offers. "It's a leap of risk both ways, in these matters. Normally I might not, but times are taking a turn and demand a change of attitudes on such things." In her mind there is the curiosity about the ability this blogger holds, and the leaving of things to her choice. She will not ask.

But the nature of Mona's ability will surely come up in a future conversation; Cat might or might not happily take the news that her mind had been constantly read up until now. Until she can be sure, then yes, best to wait. "Oh, you're welcome. I agree with you wholeheartedly," she offers mildly. Something sort of similar, if not exact, had been posted in one of her previous stories. A lot of them had been full of historical comparisons, at any rate. "It's easy to see why we've both been— hesitant— to out the truth. I feel like I should be talking about making bunkers or something." She attaches a slightly nervy chuckle to this. They're not quite that far along yet, but. But.

"So when did you meet Dani, if you don't mind my asking?" As well as the subject change.

"Yale University, seven years ago," Cat relates. "Before almost everything. I was nineteen, she just a month older, and we became friends. Then my memory happened," she recalls with a wistful smile. "I told her what happened, and no one else. Back then we hadn't any idea of Evolved people. It was just something I had, until the President outed our existence. But afterward, I found Dr. Suresh's book and read it. Once."

"Yeah, I guess you'd only need to read it once. It's on my bookshelf, too." Mona answers in earnest amusement. Her half-unwrapped sandwich lies mostly forgotten, untouched in its wrapping since she had begun with it. She does lift her soft drink to her lips to take another sip, though, as she steps along. "Mine didn't start until right after the bomb. At first— honestly, I considered the idea that radiation did something funny to me, like it does in the comics. But I wasn't anywhere near the bomb when it went off." Obviously, or she wouldn't be here. "And you've known her longer than I have, then. Do you… know what happened?" This question, pointing towards Dani's death, is sudden and more puzzled.

Some idea has indeed formed in her head, just from being near Cat for the last while. But better to ask outright than try to knit together the truth out of a thousand half-sifted pieces of puzzle.

"I do," Cat replies somberly. "She was looking into a faction and got caught. They kidnapped and murdered her." It's the simple truth, that much shows in her thoughts, even as she forces herself not to call up the most painful details. It's still clear Cat feels the loss very much and has guilt over not having saved her. But much as Mona holds back about her ability, the story of that faction and her organization's dealings with them is for another time. "It was a Federal matter, in terms of law enforcement," she supplies, "and the outcome wasn't made public, likely won't ever be, but the faction was dealt with proactively."

"…Dear god." Mona actually raises one hand to her face, covering her mouth slantwise with the fingertips. Just goes to show the dangers of journalism, eh. "No wonder the public doesn't know about it. Whatever happened, and I don't know what did, I'm glad to hear her death was—" 'Avenged' feels like a silly word. Too trite and film-like. "Paid back," is what she settles for. She looks fairly troubled herself now, regarding Cat in a new light when she raises her eyes again. "You've been through a lot, haven't you."

"Memory like mine," Cat replies, "is blessing and curse. Some things I at times wish weren't so vivid, could fade over time. But it is what it is, and the only thing for it is to keep busy, make new memories. Happier ones, when I can. The world," she adds dryly, "is being so helpful about staying occupied."

While speaking her mind moves a bit forward, she's planning to introduce her to Helena Dean. "How do I reach you, Mona?"

"You can say that again." Even distracted as Mona is, unzipping her purse to locate a notepad and pen, she lets a soft chuckle slip out. After a moment of scribbling, she tears off the top sheet and hands it over to Cat. "My number. Both of them. If I don't pick up on my cell, you can reach me at home; it's my workplace, too."

A slight smile forms as Mona writes down her number and offers the paper. Cat doesn't take it, no, her arms don't even move with any intent to do so. Instead she simply looks at it and the recorded data if the thing isn't folded in such a way she can't see the writing. "I've got it, thanks."

Oh geez. How could Mona forget. The author tucks the piece of paper away in her purse again, actually laughing as she does so. "A curse it might sometimes be, but what you have, Cat, is amazing." No mistake about it. "I'll see you around?"

"Yes," Cat replies, as she hefts her bag of food. "You will. Take care, Mona," she offers, before turning to make her way toward Greenwich Village and home to contact Helena and brief her on this encounter.

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