Due North


cat_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Due North
Synopsis Cat seeks someone to fill in the blanks about a certain device.
Date July 6, 2010

The Verb

Arriving by any of four elevators, visitors will find they open into three foot corridors facing wide double doors made from sturdy southern pine which swing outward and have the strongest locks available. The stairs lead to single doors, also outward opening, at the end of three foot corridors. Entry requires both a key and a keycard; other security measures are a video camera and voice communication terminal at all doors. The 4th Street side has floor to ceiling windows interrupted only by the access points. Cream colored curtains are normally kept closed.

This level has enough space for sixteen apartments. There is an office space with reception area, conference room, and executive office; a room for archery practice and other forms of physical exercise; a very well appointed kitchen and dining area; a music zone with an array of instruments, electronics, and amplifiers; an entertainment area with an HD set covering an entire stretch of wall from floor to ceiling; a locked room where security footage for the building is recorded and can be monitored; a laundry room; a staircase for roof access; central air and heating; the main bedroom and a few smaller guest rooms; plush deep wine carpet everywhere except the kitchen, laundry room and bathrooms; and track lighting everywhere overhead. The light levels can be lowered or raised in the entire place, or selectively by segments. The overall decor suggests the occupant is a woman.

It's the day after the day after Independence Day, morning sun covering the city outside with the temperature already at 28C/84F. Her residence is climate controlled, cool air circulated by machinery elsewhere in the building, and she's clad for comfort. Dark shorts, red tank, athletic shoes. Cat sits at her kitchen table with coffee at her right hand, another cup across the table from her, and a stack of newspapers from various parts of the world to her left. On top is one from Wellington, NZ. In front of the woman there's a small round device.

No arrangements have been made for Gabriel's arrival and access to the place; much like Hiro Nakamura, Richard Cardinal and Vincent Lazzaro she knows he doesn't need any. He'll simply be present when he chooses to show himself as such, relying on one among many talents to enter. It just won't be a surprise, she having left word with Eileen asking to meet with him.

Ironic, that thing. About leaving a word with Eileen to meet him. Nothing had crossed the girl's expression save for a glassy stare and then a blink of understanding, English curved assurances that she'd pass the message along. Then Gabriel had taken his shapeshifted self home, to find a change of cloning, to sleep a few hours, and come back to the mainland land.

Now, he breaks and enters in the form of winding ink that moves through the air like it was injected into water and shifted by currents. It flows ahead of itself, drags along the rest, with tendrils that reach out to snag the smallest of handholds. Too black for shadow, it's a dense thing that soaks in the light that hits it, and now, it's squeezing through the front door of Catherine's apartment. By the time it's building back up into something made of solid flesh and bone, there's still time for Cat to hear his footfalls.

He appears in the doorway very much himself — healthy if mildly sleepless, ever-wary and dressed in black.

"Good morning, Gabriel," quoth the panmnesiac to the occasional powerthief, "good of you to come. Coffee?" The offer is made with a brief hand gesture at the place across from her where the other cup rests, and she stands. "Make yourself comfortable," Cat further invites, as she takes up the small round device. "I built this compass, but it doesn't work."

He doesn't seem to want coffee, or to— make himself comfortable, either, judging by the way Gabriel doesn't remove himself from the frame of the doorway at least for the first few seconds. After that passes, Gabriel does step inside, leaving lush carpet to tread on tile, his attention slipping to the device she's holding. "It's not hard. Get a magnetised needle, a piece of cork, a dish of water. It'll point north. We did that in— " His brows cinch in in mock thought. "Probably physics class."

She lets out a quiet chuckle as the device is held out toward him. "It's not that kind of compass, Gabriel. This is a rather special one, geared to things other than the Earth's magnetic field." Cat opts not to elaborate on what those might be, but it has to be something given her having shown it to him. And on being seen, it's easy to spot as an SLC person-detecting sort of compass. "I was hoping you might be able to tell me what I need to make it function."

Attention sinking into the item she holds out, Gabriel eyes it in silence for a few moments, head tilting to the side in study before he's moving all the closer, a wilder animal attracted forward with food. "I've seen this before," he is the first thing he says, only then lifting his hands to take it from her. "A long time ago. Well," and his head tips back upright, "not that long ago. I guess a few months. A former Company agent wanted to show it to me, to tell her how it works."

Which would be a likely time to unveil its secrets, but instead he simply says, "It works for Evolved. If it doesn't work for you, then maybe you made it wrong. Where did you get it?"

"I got the data from a group of film segments, cobbled together and transferred to DVD," Cat replies while observing the man. "There were equations, which I worked out were from the realm of physics. Specifically, a thing called the Casimir principle. Casimir with a C, that is, and there was a diagram for this. I got the materials together, read up on the physics involved, and put that together. That there's an error is easy to see," she concedes, "with the not working. I'm after what's missing. Can you examine it and tell me?" She glances across at his unclaimed coffee, then partakes of her own.

Now he seems to make himself a little more at home, distractedly kicking out a chair from the table to sit down, just next to his cooling coffee. Gabriel obliges her and examines, fingers crawling over the device as if tempted to crack the thing open like a clam and peer within. Silence ticks by for a few moments, eyes going hooded, narrow, glistening dark slits beneath heavy eyelashes before the device is gently set aside. Gabriel clears his throat only to hook long fingers around the handle of his cup of joe and take a lengthy sip.

When he's done, absently swishing the remaining liquid around in the cup, he tilts his head to the prototype she had offered him. "As it is, it's useless," he tells her, in a tone that states he expects her to already know that. "It's a lot like showing me a picture and asking me to make it go — you've made a shadow of the real thing.

"Fortunately for you~," and the tilde is an audible shape to his word, curving his tone along with a glimmer of a smile, "I might be able to finish it — but only because I've seen it before."

"Do tell," the woman invites with a manner which is calculated to hide her real intrigue and thus avoid overstating importance, escape leading him to boost whatever fee he intends to seek for the task. Cat sips at her coffee across the span of a few seconds, setting the cup down afterward and regarding him, then the failed device.

Another sip, Gabriel peering into his coffee before he sets the cup resolutely aside so as to take up the device again, turning it in his hand like a reassuring presence, a pet rock or a token given to him by a lover. "Nothing to tell. I need to take it from here — I need time," he clarifies, with a lift of an eyebrow. He doesn't do 'reassuring' well, but there's an attempt at it in his tone. "And if I can't figure it out or I don't have the tools, I'll tell you the prognosis.

"Don't worry about a fee. For now. This thing's reward enough. I have friends, these days. Sometimes they get lost." The device is tossed into the air, caught again. "What do you want it for, Catherine?"

"Face value," she replies with honesty, "of it finding people like us. And then some." Cat's cup is lifted and sampled again, then tabled. "Having a working model, and understanding how it works… knowing the missing elements in its construction is valuable. It permits efforts to figure out defeating it, should unfriendly agencies become able to make similar devices. Would it be helpful to see the source calculations, Gabriel?"

The device is promptly dropped into a pocket of his jacket, Gabriel getting back up on his feet. Asking permission seems like an unnecessary piece of social conduct — they could both do well to know he's going to take it anyway. "Guys don't use directions," is a glib answer, absently pushing his chair back into place. "But it wouldn't hurt."

Features curve into a slight smile, one which heralds the fact she's prepared for the need to share, followed by fingers sliding one of the newspapers about halfway down the stack aside and extracting paper featuring the calculations involved and the diagram for the compass written in her own hand, reproduced from exact memory of the video footage. "The number of people who've seen these is very few," Cat remarks evenly, "for obvious reasons. They were found at a desert place, nearly fifty years abandoned. It's a story also not shared with many people yet, but an interesting one." She lets a silence settle in across a short stretch of time before making a quiet attempt.

"I'm interested in where and how you saw a compass like that one."

"A desert place," Gabriel responds, without a beat of hesitation, eyes clear in honesty and tone light. "One at the bottom of the world and only recently abandoned. You won't find much there, anymore, and you know the Company — they get their hands all kinds of interesting things." His hand hovers out between them to take the pages, fingers splayed and expectant, expression neutral. "I won't show anyone," he thinks to add, a brief blink to replace what would be a shake of his head.

The written calculations are handed off, eyes drifting across his face as Cat does so. "The Company," she scoffs in a quieted voice, "idiots. I ran into two of the Founders out there. One of them confessed they got out of the way, even helped the Midtown explosion happen, out of some insane belief it would make the world better. You're a smart enough guy, probably figured that out ages ago, but to hear one of them confess was very unexpected." Back to the coffee, voice halted for the duration of partaking from its vessel.

"The place was an internment camp, part of a Project Icarus. Same thing the Institute is pursuing now, and which Volken was tied to during his Nazi days. Four of the Founders were kept there for a time in their late teens."

"Small world." The calculations are folded lengthwise and tucked into his waistband beneath the flap of his jacket. There are probably more disturbing places he could put them, and few things are more secure than items beneath the wing of Gabriel Gray. There is some amount of biting back — considering his company, there might be little wisdom in bragging that no one did anything to cause the Midtown explosion apart from him.

And yeah Peter too. Boom.

Which takes nothing away from Cat's discovery, of course. Gabriel's mouth pulls in a sneer, hand tucked into pocket as if to protect the compass stashed inside. "I guess it's just a matter of time until the Institute pick up on this particular device and utilise it. Unless they already have."

"Thus the need to make one and figure out how to beat it. It was suggested the thing might not work at all, that the Company would've issued it if it did, but I disagree. They could've had it and kept the thing secret for whatever reason. If they didn't, well, the same applies. To our knowledge the Company never created a negation gas, and now one exists." Calmly, Cat imbibes another few swallows of the coffee.

Gabriel's head tips to the side in concession. "I think we can blame that one on entities like Pinehearst and overseas research," he says. "The Company are scavengers if we're talking actual research and knowledge, but who knows. You could be right. It probably won't matter, if the Institute have their fingers in exactly the same pies. Anyway."

On that cheerful note, Gabriel moves for the door, his hand brushing the frame of it as he goes. "I'll catch up with you later. To tell you the truth, I was looking for a project."

She follows, not that Cat needs to open one or both of the double doors at the closest exit which leads across a corridor to an elevator so he can depart. It's a simple function of being a good and gracious hostess to see her visitor out. "Thank you for coming, Gabriel." If she's reflected on the wisdom or absence thereof in giving such a device to a man known for killing to collect powers, perhaps she decided it wouldn't matter. He's never had trouble finding targets. Or she could believe he's no longer the sort to pursue such activities.

Maybe it's both.

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