Discussion Over Duck


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Scene Title Discussion Over Duck
Synopsis Daniel and Helena discuss life before and after the bomb, the future of PARIAH, and the validity of algebra.
Date September 5, 2008

Condemned Tenement

Once home to dozens of working-class families, this building has long ago been officially evacuated and condemned after it was partially gutted by a fire. The brick exterior is covered with layer upon layer of graffiti, the windows are boarded, and some sections of the roof are less than sound. The fire took hold on the fourth floor and expanded upward. Below that, many of the apartments are still intact.

Daniel, at the kitchen table, has an intro to algebra book - clearly brought from the library - and is working problems slowly but surely on the back of Homeland Security evacuation flyers, the most common source of paper in the area. Just like this was a regular kitchen in a regular home and he was four years younger.

Helena is standing in front of the oven, stirring something in a pot. She's also humming and looking thoroughly pleased with herself as she sprinkles in her much coveted and carefully hoarded spices. "Let me know if you need help, Daniel." she says, smiling over her shoulder at him.

Daniel looks up. "It smells good. What are you putting in it?" he says, perhaps a bit too eager to take a break from his work.

"Well, it's duck." Helena remarks. "So it's a little bit of pepper, a little bit of thyme, and a whole lotta garlic. There'll definitely be some teeth brushing tonight, I can tell you that much. But I was in Chinatown during lunch and it was on sale kinda cheap, so I picked some up and brought it home for dinner tonight. The duck, I mean. How were your runs today?"

Daniel says, "Easy money. I put the mask on and tried for speed. It's hard breathing through that when you're running. I'm getting used to it. So…you put different spices in for different meats?"

Helena nods. "Of course." she says and smiles. "Cooking's kind of like play time. Sometimes it's a board game where you follow the rules, and sometimes it's like coloring, only you're completely going outside the lines." She considers. "Do you have an excuse for your equipment?"

Daniel says, "Hell yes. Everyone should be wearing masks. Radiation. Asbestos from the older buildings. Industrial exhaust. Chemicals not cleaned up yet." He's very earnest when he says it - then there's that tiny smile. "It sounds good because it's almost…" He holds up his thumb and forefinger very close together. "Almost true."

Helena laughs. "Almost. But it's not common, so I guess you'd just come off as kind of a hypochondriac. But that's better than being arrested!"

Daniel says, "I might be a little, uh, obsessive…" He thinks he's got the word right. "…for real. Wash my hands a lot. That kind of thing. I think everyone's got a little bit of that in them somewhere."

"Well, do you feel panicky when you get dirty? Do you get upset if you're not able to wash your hands?" Helena asks.

Daniel laughs. "No, nothin' like that." he joshes. "Just weirds me out when I think of all the stuff that goes through me."
Helena points out with a giggle, "It goes through all of you, so how does washing your hands help?"

Daniel says, "I didn't say it made sense! Don't you get antsy when the weather gets too hot or cool or windy or whatever?"
"Of course I do, but that's different. The weather effects my emotions and my emotions effect the weather." Helena points out, gesturing with her stirring spoon. "You're just getting squicked."

Daniel says, "What if it's psychological like it is with me? Could be, you never know…" He's still smiling, he doesn't /grin/ exactly, but it sounds like he is in his voice. "So when did you first control the weather anyhow? That seems handy for someone who gardens and such."

"I don't garden like my mom used to garden." Helena says with a faint smile. "I learned how from her, but hers were just beautiful. She was Evolved too, she could make plants grow and stuff." She doesn't quite answer his question.

Daniel says, "Did you know when you were a kid? I don't, I don't know if my mom was or not. She never did anything, so…I don't know, maybe she could do something she never tried."

Helena pauses in her stirring. "I knew my mom was special, but it was kind of like the way all kids were a little special. When I was about eight, I had this lima bean project - did you ever do that? Well, mine wasn't doing so good and I was all upset and crying about it, and my mom told me not to worry. When I woke up the next morning, I had like, the best lima bean sprouts in the class."

Daniel says, a smile lighting up his face, "Awesome, yeah…the lima beans, hell, I remember those! All in styrofoam cups and such…" A different cadence is in his voice when he talks about things so long ago - his normal quiet tones return at his next comment: "Sounds like you had good care taken of you." he says, and that's not the same as asking 'what happened'. After the bomb, it's rare to ask that.

Helena echoes the smile, and shrugs. "Anyway. We didn't live in the city, we lived well away from ground zero. My powers were kind of locked inside of me for along time, it was only maybe a year or so ago that they started activating…at least obviously."

Daniel nods. "I was in the city when it happened. At school. My probation officer, he had me doing community service at the school where my teacher could keep an eye on me, make sure that I was where I was supposed to be? Down in the boiler room. It pretty much saved me. Would have killed me, too, if I hadn't been able to walk through the walls and collapsed beams and so on to get out." He tells the story with clear-eyed intensity - a crucial event in his life, and not one he fears to share with her.

Helena blinks. "Wow. You're right, you were really lucky." She resumes stirring, and then lifts the spoon out of the pot. She blows and takes a sip. "Hmmm. C'mere."

Daniel approaches eagerly to give it a try. "Not everyone can be as lucky as us." he opines quietly. "Or as unlucky."

Helena takes another scoop with the spoon, blows on it a little, and with one hand underneath to catch the drip, holds it up for Daniel to try. "Tell me if you think there's enough garlic."

Daniel takes a bite. "Mmm…it's good? I don't know if it needs more garlic or not. The duck is tender! I like it. Maybe a /little/ more." He eagerly joins in the process, not quite like he wants to please her, but like he wants to learn what she has to offer.

Helena brushes against Daniel in passing as she moves to the counter. Picking up a knife, she moves a garlic bulb to the cutting board and makes with the chopping in short quick presses. "Did your mom or dad ever teach you how to cook something? Scrambled eggs or something?"

Daniel says, "Mom? No, cereal was all. I worked in the cafeteria at school on that community service? That was /nasty/, but the woman in charge showed me how to make all kinds of Puerto Rican food. It was fun. Never told anyone, I always pretended I was tough." with graceful self-deprecation, not running himself down, it's just how he was then. He seems to contrast that to now. He has nothing to prove now. "So how do you even tell if a duck is, you know, good. Is it a color or something?"

Helena grins. "Well, it's meat, and pretty much the same rules apply for meat spoiling. Color, smell. But the food vendors in Chinatown are super picky about their merchandise. It's hard to get bad food there."

Daniel says, "I remember when they'd take anything in a can. It's nice to be picky, huh? Even if, you know, the government's the one making it happen. So…what do you know about this Petrelli guy? What was he going on about with the bomb, was he really there at the time?"

Helena nods. "I think he was." she says. "It's hard on him. I think in some twisted way he feels responsible." She lifts the cutting board and moves past Daniel again to scrape the garlic into the pot before putting it back on the counter. She resumes stirring. "I'm thinking maybe it's survivor's guilt or something."

Daniel says, "So how did he survive, is he invulnerable, or…can he ghost out like me?" He leans on the counter. "Guilt, yeah. We all have that with us all the time, like ID papers." An odd but piquant metaphor. "But why would Cameron just turn things over to him?"

"I don't now." Helena says. "Peter's power is being able to mimic other people's abilities. He's known Claire in the past, so maybe he picked up hers." That's a good rationale for why he might have survived. "I don't think Cameron's turning things over so much as letting us try a different way. He won't give up leadership so easily."

Daniel nods. "It /sounded/ like he did." he says thoughtfully. "We've been doing things one way a long time. His way. Now we're going to do it another way." He's always stayed out of the internal schisms. Nobody really knows what he thinks.

"But it's kind of a way some people in the group have wanted us to go. There's nothing wrong with trying it if it makes sense. If it doesn't work, it'll go back to the way it was before." Helena says this soothingly, like she thinks Daniel isn't fond of change.

Daniel looks up a little, surprised at her tone. "No, no." he says. "It's not that I don't like the suggestion. If it can happen that way, I'm all for it. I just always thought someone had a /plan/. That they'd thought about it a lot and this was the best way."

"But your definition of what's best isn't always the same as someone else's, right?" Helena points out.

Daniel says, "Yes, but I'm not the guy who has a plan. I'm just the guy who can find out things without getting shot. But if I /was/ the guy who had a plan, and someone came in and said, do things this other way…I wouldn't do it just because the guy could imitate abilities."

"I think there's more going on there." conceeds Helena. "But I don't know what. It's past the worrying point, though. Either it'll work, or it won't."

Daniel says, "You're right about that. If there was a plan, it's on the back burner now." That worries him. "I wonder what the new guy will want me to steal?"

"If it's necessary, I'm sure. But we still take our orders from Cameron. Do you think there'd be an objection to it?" Helena seems surprised by the prospect.

Daniel says, "No, no. Just wondering. I look at what I steal, try to work out what our overall plan is. I had some ideas before, but you know, just ideas. It wouldn't be a good idea for me to know too much, because I'm out there on my own and if I get jumped, it would be best just to have to get rid of this building and that's it."

Helena blinks, surprised. Daniel has ideas? "If you have ideas, why don't you tell Cameron?" she prompts. "He'd at least listen."

Daniel says, "No, I mean. I had ideas about what we were up to. I'd steal certain documents from a police archive room, a few weeks later we would raid a storage locker. Things like that."

Helena nods, enthused. "Uh huh. You need to tell Cam these things, Daniel. Seriously. He'd likely tell you to go for it."

Daniel says, "Mm." noncomittally, he's not sure he's getting his point across. He changes the subject: "So you must have finished high school, or gotten pretty close, before the bomb?"

Possibly not! "Yeah." she says. "My mom was killed a few months later." She devotes her attention to stirring. "Everybody was scared."

Daniel says, the obligatory, "I'm sorry." and doesn't ask more about that. "Did you do this algebra stuff? I missed a lot of school, they eventually had me in the 'slow' classes to catch up."

Helena mms? "Sure, I did algebra. We can work on it over stew, if you want, but between you and me? It's kinda useless."

Daniel blinks as if that never entered his mind. "Maybe, but eventually they're going to have GEDs and schools and stuff again, and I want to know it. I didn't like being behind everyone." he says firmly. "I still don't like it. I'm almost twenty. I should know this."

"If you were to go one of the community colleges you could get a prep course." Helena points out. "I haven't even thought about college. I'm not sure what I'd want to do, exactly."

Daniel says, "Eventually I want to do that, yeah. But I don't have the time or the money right now - and there's a lot of risk, as well. So it's this for now. I'm doing good, I'm up to chapter six. Functions. It's not as fun as English, but it's all right." He is attracted to challenges, it seems.

Helena grins. "Well, I don't think I could have managed it without teachers, so you're pretty smart for keeping it up all on your own." She sips her duck stew again. "Oooh. Come try it now."

Daniel does indeed go back over, "It's just like exercise, you have to do it every day, push yourself, set goals, all of that." He takes a bite. "Now that is some duck stew." he declares, a full smile spreading over his lips.

Helena once more mirrors his smile and looks pleased. "Grab yourself a bowl and a spoon, you'll be the first dish up." she tells him.

September 5th: Practically Family
September 5th: A Request for Infiltration
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