Having A Choice


abby6_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif howard_icon.gif

Scene Title Having A Choice
Synopsis After his encounter with Abigail, Howard Phillips is confronted by Eileen.
Date November 29, 2010

Pollepel Island

That has been a full day since Howard Phillips was sent to the infirmary before he regained consciousness is not surprising.

Under the dim light of oil and electric lanterns, the rows of cots once filled in the days immediately following November 8th are now largely unoccupied. In the middle of the infirmary, Howard's condition is clearly visible from the doorway. Bandages wrapped around both arms, his bare chest, neck and legs are indicative of the severe electrical burns he suffered just twenty-four hours ago. That his heart didn't stop beating entirely is nothing short of miraculous. His clothing, mottled with blackened holes from where electricity erupted out of his body, is folded at the foot of his bed that he is — notably — handcuffed to.

On a wheeled wooden stand beside Howard's bed, a medical kit rests open with fresh gauze unrolled, a plastic bottle with cream for his burns, and a tarnished copper curiosity — a pocket-watch shaped compass, left open on the night stand with the needle pointing lazily southwest.

Howard himself has only been awake for a few minutes, long enough to send word up to Eileen that he's finally come to after he was dragged out of the woods not far from the castle. His blue eyes stare up vacantly at the ceiling, one arm held up over his head so as to put less strain on his cuffed wrist shackled to the rolled metal frame at the head of the bed.

"He hasn't said anything," is the quiet assertion from the doorway from one of Nurse Young's assistants, a middle-aged woman named Frida with no proper medical training save for a healthy curiosity and willingness to help. Having been a seamstress before her young son manifested and they entered Ferrymen care just means that she gets the less glorified work. Anyone's who's split themselves open on a nail or sharp rocks since coming to Pollepel knows her needlepoint.

"Won't respond when I talk to him, either…" Dark eyes move to Eileen as she keeps her voice low, conspiratorial, nervous. "I didn't know who else to go to. Nurse Young's getting some sleep… so— I just…"

"Take a few minutes," is Eileen's suggestion to Frida, gently-spoken at a level Howard will not be able to hear from his bed. Her footsteps whispering across stone are another matter, followed by the rustle of wool as she sits down on the edge of the cot beside him, the shape of her thigh dimpling the mattress where she applies the most weight. Springs creak and a shimmer of dusty gray feathers in Howard's peripheral vision has a catbird alighting on the edge of the wooden stand, its black eyes studying him with none of the kindness he'll feel in the Englishwoman's hand when she touches the back of it to his forehead and checks his temperature.

The catbird slivers a glance past Eileen to her companion. The time for quiet reprimands is past; Eileen has already let Abigail know how she feels about what happened between her and Howard, leaving so little tension in the air that the residual smell of cigarette smoke and what might be lavender hand cream overpowers it.

She isn't wearing gloves, but she's also touching him with her hand that has a flush of colour to it and does not resemble that of a corpse.

The discussion between the pyromorph and the smaller woman might be why the EMT hasn't gone forth quite yet with her trip to the Mainland yet like she'd told Howard she was doing and instead remained very much on the island. It also likely accounts for the look of guilt and shame on her face for having lost it so bad that he ended up in here in the state that he is. She's deathly quiet, shoulders in, head down a fraction, her hands in her back pockets of the fresh jeans and has otherwise been keeping herself busy, if not checking in to see if he's woken up yet. Submissive. Francois and Teo know this posture of Abby's, her parents know this posture and it's quite opposite of how she was with Howard the day before.

That Eileen gets the faintest of static pops across her skin on touching Howard's forehead is unsurprising, all things she's heard about his ability considered. Blue eyes flick to Eileen's hand in the way a dog's turns to look at a newspaper when its raised, even if it isn't noseward-bound. Get hit enough, and the conditioning stays.

Howard's running warm, feverishly so, but that the young man opts to wear an open jacket and no shirt all the times that Eileen has seen him likely has some implication towards his core temperature being hotter than normal. Abby herself could attest to having seen that very thing. It doesn't seem to bother Howard much, save for the electrical burns.

"So, when do I get lined up an' shot with ol' Benny?" Howard's question is asked thorugh his teeth, a nervous flick of his blue eyes over to Eileen's catbird, then back to her again with equal parts wariness and venom. Seems as though Howard hasn't taken easily to his current predicament.

The tips of Eileen's fingers curl in, knuckles bent, but her hand does not withdraw. "A basin with some cold water, please," she asks of Abigail without elevating the end of her request into a proper question. "And a clean cloth."

Now her hand does move, not to seize Howard's chin or crack knuckles against his jaw. That his eyes are blue does not escape her notice, and neither does the fear in them. She grew up looking into her brother's, which were much the same, though she cannot say if this still holds true. The only thing she avoids more than other people is meeting Nick's gaze.

Fingers brush Howard's wrist below the cuff, inspecting for damage the young man may have inadvertently inflicting upon himself while trying to escape. "Is that what you think we do here, Mr. Phillips?"

Cold water, clean cloths. Both are in abundances down here and the taller brunette straightens up enough to nod towards Eileen - the bird will catch the motion - and heads off to other places in the room to fetch the items with a flicker of a glance spared to Howard before she's gone from sight.

"I think that's what you do," is Howard's all too quick answer, "but maybe 's not the best question t'ask me. People talk, an' when they do an' your name comes up, your old mates get brought up from time to time. Now me, yeah I might've made a couple of bad mistakes in my life, ones that my friend Benny helped me outta'. But none of them ever amounted to genocide."


Howard's brows furrow, lips downturn into a frown. "I asked your girl there, Beauchamp, t'talk to your people about gettin' Ben out of whatever hole you got him locked up in. You know what she tol' me?" Howard's blue eyes flick to Abigail, then back to Eileen. "She told me t'talk to someone else, 'cause once you get an idea in your head there ain't no gettin' it out. I told her to grow a spine, 'cause last I'd been told you people are a fuckin' democracy. Or is all your talk'f council just, like, show?"

Howard's wrist seems fine, bandages for his burns aside. With his fleetingly brief consciousness, no worthwhile attempt at escape has been made. "People get 'friad enough, they start willingly giving up freedom for security. Happened t'this city, looks like it's happenin' here now ain't it?"

"I am notoriously difficult to deter," says Eileen, and if the situation wasn't so dire and her face so solemn, Howard might be able to detect a note of genuine self-depreciation in her tone, cool and ruefully teasing. "Your friend is being confined to a room that I'd previously assigned to a family of four. He has a bed, clean linens, access to any reading material he asks for, and fresh water for cleaning up between showers. His rations are the same as anyone else's.

"The only difference is that he isn't allowed to speak with anyone until we can determine the nature of his relationship with the Department of Evolved Affairs. He's on Adynomine for the time being, unfortunately, but there's nothing to be done about that."

Abigail did grow a spine Howard, look where you are though (sad face). Though it seems to be elsewhere right about now. A very fleeting thing this spine is. Abigail eases back with the requested materials, clearning off that side tray, the watch put within reach of both individuals to make room for the water and cloth. "Language" Oh so softly offered. The infirmary does treat younger people who repeat things like the sponges they are.

Howard's brows scrunch up at the mention of Adynomine. "Sick fucks," seems to imply that he knows his obscure, Company-developed drugs. It also implies that he's going to swear, regardless. Blame his mother for that one. "You ain't got no idea what depriving him of his abiliy'll do t'him," and neither does Howard, but he likes to not give an inch when it comes to people that have him handcuffed to a bed. "He ain't done nothin' wrong, it's— just a fuckin' fake ID, man. Look at the guy, he ain't no goddamned Fed. I wouldn't have been hanging with him if he was, fuck."

There's a rattle of the handcuff as Howard reflexively moves his arm, the wince he gives is also reflexive, only if because of the friction applied to his bandages from the motion. "You ain't got no right t'hold him here, an' I sure as shit ain't leaving until you let him go. We ain't done nothing t'you people, an' we woulda' left sooner if it weren't for Nora bein' hurt the way she is. Now'r you gonna un cuff me or what?"

Frustration is starting to show in Howard's features, impatience too, he's trying but rapidly failing to keep his collective cool on things. Benji is nothing if not a soft, vulnerable spot in Howard's otherwise leathery personality. "Let'm go, he don't like bein' locked up anymore'n I do."

Eileen wrings out the cloth, draining it of excess water. Rivulets run through her fingers and dampen the sleeves of her sweater. "You're making things worse for both of you," she says, and rests the cloth in her lap rather than attempt to wipe the sweat from Howard's face in an attempt to make him more comfortable, which is likely what the compress is for. If the static pop that made the fine hairs on the back of her neck stand up on end is any indication of what his ability is capable of—

"You're frightening people, and as you've already pointed out, people make rash decisions when they're afraid. I was, when I joined the Vanguard at sixteen. I'm not proud, Howard, about what I participated in. And I'm not proud of this, but I'm willing to make you a deal if you're amenable."

Blue eyes go wide when he sees the cloth, flick back to Eileen and his breath hitches in the back of his throat. He has no way of knowing that the presentation of the wet rag is anything other than a threat, but what Howard Phillips knows of Eileen colors some of his ultimate decision in regards to the notion of torture. Her choice of words help make it slightly more unsettling and feed into the paranoia. A dog and the newspaper.

"Go on," sounds to Eileen like he's willing to hear the offer, but it could also be a boast, a challenge for Eileen to use that wet rag like a weapon, use water the say way Abigail used heat. Howard is nothing if not an uncomfortable collection of weaknesses and vulnerabilities, heaped upon a wiry frame and a broken personality.

Eileen's seen victims of torture before, some more direct than others if what the Remnant did to Khalid Sadaka to secure the compliance of Detective Walsh was any indication. She also recognizes a victim of abuse, and this much Howard typifies.

The fingers holding the cloth loosen and Eileen's mouth pinches into an expression that's difficult to read. The bird on the stand flutters up onto her shoulder, sleek body pressed against her throat. From this vantage point she observes Howard in a silence that lasts several beats longer than it ought to, and ends with icy realization creeping cold and sick through her veins.

"When I was small," she says finally, "and I had a mother who still loved me, I used to catch cold. I was little enough that a fever would have burned right through me, but she'd take me into the bathroom, undress me, and bathe me there in the sink until I stopped crying."

I'm sorry, is what she means to say. I didn't realize.

"I know a healer. Zhang Mu-Qian. If she's willing, I'd like her to take a look at your injuries."

Abigail's taken up a seat on the other side of Howard, just out of arms reach, one leg bent up so she can rest her chin on the top of her knee and listen. Watch. Wait.

"When I was little, my mum died, day I was born." Howard's eyes narrow, jaw tenses and his throat works up and down into a tight swallow. "I got raised by some people she hardly even knew, people I wasn't even related to. But they tried t'raise me well, then y'know what happened?" Howard's voice hitches in the back of his throat, jaw trembles.

"One day I get picked up, I get— " Howard stops himself, closing his eyes and shaking his head. "Maybe Abby didn't tell you, but the Institute fucked me up, permanently. I got metal inside my body, in my spine, in my arm and leg and God fucking knows where else…" Abrasive as he is, Howard's tone has changed.

"I used t'be like her. Living lightning, a force'f fucking nature…" Howard's pale eyes flick towards where he'd last seen Abby, then angle back to Eileen. "Now what I do is slowly killin' me. I'm in constant pain, all the time. Some days'r worse'n others. If I flare up too hard, it'll kill me dead, I won't be nothin' left but bone and steel and wires."

Blinking his eyes shut a few times, Howard's voice drops out of shame more so than anything. "You think we're some kinda' fuckin' government fucks? The Institute's the people that did this t'me, in their house of fucking horrors with their Doctor Mengele playing in the gene pool with his highwaters on and a bone saw. I ain't no fuckin' narc."

Howard's voice tightens as he tries to blink away the glassy quality to his eyes. "An' neither's Benji."

A nod from Abigail confirms Howard's story, and Eileen places the cloth back in the basin again, spreading ripples through its surface. "I want to believe that very much," she says in a low whisper, "and I'll be speaking with Benji myself to confirm it, if what you say about him is true. I'm sorry your mother couldn't protect you. There are children here without mothers to protect them, and so it falls on us to make sure what happened to you doesn't happen to them.

"Right now, that means asking Benji questions and taking the time to consider his answers before we make any final decisions." She presses out a slow breath, and touches her hand to Howard's trapped in the cuff, cold but no longer wet. Her fingers curl around his. "I'd like for you to stay with us so you can see the work that we do. You want revenge for what the Institute did to you and I can help, but you'll have to let me first. Trust me, Howard, and I'll trust you."

Part of Abigail is hoping that he'll take it. Eileen's offer. "Your eyes. Your eye's, the top of your head, Your chest, the one side of you" She supplies, verbally, quietly. "When I'm in my pryo form, I see like thermal imaging. That's the parts of you that aren't normal. I'd have to turn again to see, but your eyes, they weren't normal, or behind your ribs"

Howard's brows furrow, a look shot to Abby distracting him from Eileen's attempts at negotiation. Aren't normal sounds a lot like an insult, at least to someone with paper-thin skin like Howard. "Ain't nothing wrong with my eyes, unless you plan on par-boiling them like you tried t'do earlier." Whatever affections Howard had for Abigail in their talk about where love actually resides in a person seems to have been boiled away too by their encounter.

By the time he's looked back to Eileen, he's let his frustration temper his answer. "I'm gone the second I know Ben is safe and Nora can get on a boat. You ain't gotta' worry about me, so why don't you go do whatever it is you gotta' do t'Ben. But keep in mind if you so much as harm a hair on his faggy head, I'll make it the sole purpose in my very short life to make sure nobody here lives t'regret hurtin' him."

A key turns in the lock and the cuff's interior mechanisms make a small, creaky sound of protest when Eileen snaps the metal band off Howard's wrist. "If you change your mind," she says, untangling the chain, "come to me." She guides Howard's hand across to his abdomen and folds his arm with the same care she'd afford a large bird with a broken wing.

"We have vicodin for the pain if you need it. If there's anything that would you or Nora more comfortable, ask for either Abigail or Nurse Young, and we'll do what we can."

Somehow, Abby doubts that Howards going to come anywhere near her, nor want her anywhere near him. Not anytime soon and she's off the island for the next while anyways. There's a flinch at his words to her, normal being subjective really and eye's like what she saw aren't generally classified as normal. Abigail lowers her foot, picking up the basin of water so she go drain it, stay out of his sight for now.

"Just keep your flamethrower on a short leash," Howard mumbles defensively as his uninjured hand comes to rub across the wrist that was restrained reflexively. "An' make sure she doesn't hurt Nora, she's gone through enough already…" More like a wounded dog now than anything, Howard's curled-shoulder demeanor and reluctant movement of his hands seems still wary of Eileen, though perhaps marginally less so. Whatever attitude he has seems largely out of a sense of having been wronged, and furthermore a sense of entitlement and defensiveness.

He will take the vicodin, he will take the help. Not from Abby, and not right away, but soon and as discretely as he can manage in a place like this where rumors spread as fast as the common cold does.

That does bring to mind, with the wind whistling through a crack in one window— flu season is coming.

Eileen rises from her seat at Howard's bedside, opening up the space between them. The movement flexes the catbird's claws and its toes sink deeper into the weave of her sweater in order to maintain its perch with only a brief flick of its wings to assist with balance. It makes a scratchy peep in her ear, draws the Englishwoman's attention toward the window and the splintery web creeping out from the weakest corner.

Leonardo Maxwell did not supply her with infinite funds, and although a large portion of her budget went toward restoring the castle's bones, insulation is important too. That includes the glass.

"We need to take inventory," she confides in Abigail as the pair takes its leave of the infirmary, "and have Megan find out how many of our people are vaccinated against H5N10. I've a feeling we might have another job for Special Activities."

Keep your flamethrower on a leash. Abigail almost visibly flinches at what Howard says. She turns her face to the side towards EIlene, still lowered and gives a minute nod.

"I'll be heading out with boats, I can see what we have down at GCT this week and get a count from all the existing safehouses and bring it back with me, but I think you're right. I think that we're going to have to do something. At least, there's not as many people this time around. We can put out a call to out of state, see if that might bring about anything" She's doubting it though. "Get a headcount of who all will need the Evo-flu shots and how many will want the normal flu shots here"

"Want nothing," says Eileen, her voice's echo floating in the high ceilings of the corridor outside the infirmary, joined by the sound of her foosteps and Abigail's. Everyone's going to receive a vaccination.

"They don't have a choice."

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