Hello, Wrong Number


alexander_icon.gif ben_icon.gif helena_icon.gif

Scene Title Hello, Wrong Number
Synopsis An unexpected phone call leads to a new potential Phoenix recruit.
Date November 18, 2008

Cameron's phone rings.

Helena picks up, a decidedly feminine voice on a phone that is known to belong to a man. "Hello?"

That was unexpected. The voice on the other end of the line hesitates, then asks, "May I speak to Cam, please?"

Helena hesitates. "I'm sorry," Helena says after a moment. "Cam…passed away about a month ago. This is Helena." Helena Dean, one of Cameron's lieutenants and an atmokinetic. Ben might be familiar in passing.

Silence on the other end of the line, and then, "Cam's organization has taken a serious turn for the offensive recently. Is that your doing?"

Helena hesitates again. "No. He began to veer away from terrorist tactics, at the urging of those of us who were against them. After he died, the ones who didn't agree split off and took the name with them. Who is this?"

Another pause. This is a pretty stoppy-starty conversation, isn't it? "A friend. Maybe. I'm calling from my friend Nate Bedford's cellphone. He was killed about three weeks ago." No 'passed' for the voice on the other line. His tone is harsh. "He wouldn't've agreed with what people are doing now, but he'd want to help them if they weren't attacking people. And I don't know, is that the right way? Look where it got Nate."

"You have the advantage of me." Helena says, her tone dropping about ten degrees. "You know who I am, but I don't know who you are. Now if you're going to preach to the choir, do you think you might want to be a little bit less of an asshole about it and tell me who you are? Or would you rather mouth off safely behind aononymity? Because it's real brave, buddy."

"I'm not - " comes the reply, and then, "Bravery gets you —-," and again, he cuts himself off. "I'm Ben. I apologize, I meant to be more calm."

"Nice to meet you, Ben." Helena's voice takes on a more civil tone as well. "Ben with Nate Bedford's group? I think I've heard of you…you're a paramedic or a med student or something? Why are you calling?" She can't help but add, "Brave doesn't get you killed. Careless does."'

Silence. "Don't call him careless."

Helena replies, "I didn't." She leaves it at that. "So why are you calling?"

"I needed to know if I should offer my help. Things sounded pretty unreasonable here. It's good to know there was a split; I'm thinking I could work with you, but I'm not sure. And you're not sure about me, either, which puts us at a bit of an impasse."

Helena considers a moment. "How long you been in town?" she asks. "Long enough to take notice of the graffiti?" There's the PARIAH slogans everywhere, bt more recently, they've been over-tagged with the symbol for a Phoenix and the words 'RISE UP'.

"Just a few days," comes the answer. "I've seen the graffiti, yeah. Interesting approach. How's that working out?"

"It's just getting started." Helena admits. "We've got some ops planned, but you'll understand if I can't go into it with you just yet." There's another pause. Yes, this is a stop and start sort of conversation. "We could meet."'

"I'm pretty sure I don't want to hear about any ops," comes Ben's reply. "Not yet. We could meet." Another long pause. "I'm not sure how to go about that."

"Ever been to Little Italy? There's a little deli. Piccolo's. It's nice and public. Doing anything right now?"

"Not really. I know the place. I keep meaning to go in and check it out."

"Why don't you meet me there in an hour?" Helena asks. "I'll be having a pastrami sandwich, and it's possible I won't be alone. But you're welcome to join me."

Ben hesitates. Crap. "Alright. I'll have a book."

Helena sounds amused. "What book? A lot of students go there."

"A lot of people eat pastrami." There's sounds of rummaging, and then, "I will have… a Sweet Valley High book. Regina Morrow apparently dies in it." A pause. "Don't ask."

Helena can't help letting out a laugh. "I won't. See you soon." And with that, she hangs up.

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.

So, it's early evening in Piccoli's, and even for a Tuesday night, it's got a nice amount of customers. Helena is alone, sitting at one of the smaller tables, her hot pastrami sandwich and Dr. Brown's cream soda a comfort food staple of her life. There are in fact a few student types here, though the book she's reading is evidently for pleasure, Katherine Neville's The Eight.

Ben holds the door open for a pair of older woman on their way out before stepping in himself. His Sweet Valley High book is not out; it's in his bag, which is slung over his shoulder. He wants to see who's got pastrami sandwiches, after all. He's got a bit of a limp, one wrist in a brace, and some healing bruises on his face, mostly around his eye. He comes to the realization he can't identify a pastrami sandwich.

Well, this ought to be funny. Helena peers over the top of her book at the new arrival. Alone, with bookbag, and surely books inside. But is one of them about the sad, sad death of Regina Morrow? She takes a bite of her sandwich and elects to keep an eye on the young man.

Ben isn't bringing the book out quite yet; he steps up to the counter and orders a pastrami sandwich. Now he will know what a pastrami sandwich looks like, and once he's paid for it and has it in hand, he gives the place another once-over. There's an old man in the corner with a pastrami sandwich, but the voice on the phone didn't sound like an old man's. And there's a blonde girl with one. Ben stalls on action by taking a large bite of his sandwich before taking a breath and walking to Helena's table. "This seat taken?"

Helena looks up from her sip of cream soda. Deep-set eyes regard him a moment, and she says affably, "Depends on your choice of literature. What are you reading these days?" Either she's a booksnob, or it's Helena.

Ben puts his sandwich down on the table so he can dig into his messenger bag and remove a pastel yellow book with a pretty, dark-haired, gray-eyed girl on the cover. Sweet Valley High, check. He puts that down on the table, too, and hovers one hand over the chair opposite Helena with a querying sort of look.

Helena gestures with a Vanna-esque wave of her hand toward the chair. "Nice to meet you." she says quietly. "Welcome to New York. What brings you here?"

Ben pulls the chair out and sits down, sliding the girlie book aside to pick up his sandwich again for another bite. "My job in Boston ceased to exist. New York is the source of my line of work. I thought they might need me around here."

"And you're a paramedic?" Helena asks. "That could definitely be something this city needs." She regards him. "I'm guessing you're looking for community service. Of sorts."

"You'd be right. About the community service, anyway. I'm not much of anything except an ex-med student these days," Ben tells her, chewing his sandwich and making a bit of a face. He does not particularly like pastrami, it would appear. He sets it down, wiping his mouth with his good forearm. "Lost my scholarship in my last year. Got some field experience in Boston." He picks up the book again, turning it about in his hands absently. "I realize it's hard to find people to trust when you're injured and a little different or a little too popular with people you don't want to be popular with. I just try to be more trustworthy than people in the ER. It's your… people's choice if they want to trust me or not. I can give a number."

"It is hard to trust people, and we have to be very careful." Helena admits. "There's a lot out there. HomeSec. The Company. Sylar…the Dark Man." She shudders momentarily, and then holds out her hand. "Give me your phone? Please."

"HomeSec, I know," Ben tells her with a frown. The others, not so much. He reaches into his bag again, removing a phone that's been patched up on one side with duct tape. He hands this to her.

Helena's brows go up a little at the state of his phone. But she begins to mash buttons on it, speaking as she does so. "I'm pinging our network. It'll ennable you to get our updates. This'll be a start. Actually, there's a project I can tell you about, which if you're interested, you can participate in, and we can call it your test of trust, so to speak. Hear me out before you say no."

Ben shrugs a little. He knows what his phone looks like. "It works. Projects, huh? That sounds vaguely Fight Club."

"Well, you don't think we just sit on our asses, do you?" Helena asks with a wry grin. She hands the phone back to Ben. "Don't bother tracing it. We've got a good set up." Her tone is lowered, unless one was an audiokinetic, anyone not at her table would be hard-pressed to hear what she's saying. "We're setting up a twenty-four period upcoming very soon where those of us with abilities will be performing good works." A sip of soda. "Miracles. One of them will involve healing a terminal patient, but support from someone with medical experience would be helpful."

Ben glances at his phone before tucking it away again. "…There are people who can do that? Heal someone with… cancer or something?" He blinks.

Helena nods. "Oh, yes." Hel says softly. "It's not easy, at least not for the person who'll be doing it, but it can be done. She'll have at least one escort, if we can situate you in the hospital as a lookout, that would be helpful."

"I hope you'll have a lot of Gatorade and chocolate on hand," Ben murmurs, brow furrowed. Seriously? Heal cancer? "I assume the idea is to prove to people that not all of…" You? Us? "That they're not all bad?"

Helena nods. "It's going to be sort of our…coming out party, I guess you could say. The group is called Phoenix." Her smile grows faint. "After Cameron." Cameron, who was a pyrokinetic. It sheds a little light.

Ben looks blank on the subject of the name, but he looks down at his book and slides a thumb across the edge of it, making the pages rustle. "You're sure you want to have a name? A name is like a team sometimes. A club, maybe. You give yourself a name and people can point and say, 'Phoenix isn't all that bad'. You don't, and then people say, 'the Evolved aren't so bad'."

"Icon is everything." Helena says. "Branding has its uses, and people need something to focus on if they're going to be persuaded to our way of thinking." Her tone is unruffled at his query, but her answer is firm.

Ben opens his mouth to say something, seems to think better of it, and closes it again. He glances off to the side, then comes back with, "Just to be clear: what is 'our' way of thinking?"

"Evolved and Non-Evolved are still the same: human beings." Helena says quietly. "And the Evolved do not deserve to be treated as lesser or greater. We deserve our rights and liberties the same as anyone else - but we are prepared to defend ourselves, and those who have had those rights and liberties forcibly taken from them."

"Your stance on the Linderman Act?" Ben inquires, one eyebrow going up, voice still quiet.

"Unacceptable." Helena says flightly. "Violates the civil rights of those who just happened to have won or lost the genetic lottery, depending on how you look at it."

"Unacceptable." Helena says flirmly. "Violates the civil rights of those who just happened to have won or lost the genetic lottery, depending on how you look at it."

Ben rubs his cheek, the unbruised one. "I don't know about being a lookout. All I want to do is patch people who don't get fair treatment up."

"Oh, I'm sorry if giving you a non-violent, minimally evasive test of your trustworthiness is inconvenient for you." Helena says mildly. "Look. If your colors actually run true, then I've got a stocked clinic waiting for someone to run it for us. I've got access to potentially a nigh-unlimited supply of medicinal pharmaceuticals if we need it. But I've got no one to run it. Asking you to stand around in a hospital hallway and go 'psssst' in case someone's coming isn't exactly the same as demanding you invade HomeSec, now is it?"

Ben eyes her across the table. "…Do you mind? I don't know what the plan entails. I'll say I'm in when I do," he tells her. His voice goes flat. "I have my reasons for being skittish. If I were you, I'd worry more if I /didn't/ question or want to know more. Bitching at me doesn't…" he trails off, shakes his head. They're sitting at one of the smaller tables, speaking quietly. Ben's fiddling absently with a paperback in his hands, looking mildly agitated. Also, he's ignoring a pastrami sandwich with only a few bites taken out of it.

Helena can't help it, she's amused. "Are you all so prickly and sensitive in Boston, or is that just you?" she asks, and shrugs. "All you'd need to do is be in the right hospital corridor at the right time, and keep an eye out for people who might go about interrupting what's being done. I'd introduce you to the people involved beforehand. Their in and out is handled." She and Ben are sharing a table. The paperback in Ben's hands is a Sweet Valley High novel. It bears mentioning.

Ben's answer has no amusement whatsoever. "How did Cameron die?"

Alexander comes in, hands thrust into the pockets of the worn German army parka he's wearing. He's got a black knit watchcap on, and looks both weary and amused. It's been a long day, by his face, but he saunters over to Helena, and glances at Ben curiously, before greeting the blonde, "Hey. Mind if ah join?" His face goes still at the mention of Cameron's death, and Ben gets a longer, more speculative look.

The question takes Helena by surprise and her smile dies. Her eyes flick up to Alex and she shrugs. "If Ben doesn't mind, I don't." She looks back at Ben, expression scrutinizing. "The Dark Man." she says. "He's an Evolved. He touches people…and they just," she shrugs. "Die. Turn to dust." Bleak, and for a moment, her eyes are almost fright filled. She saw something. "It isn't pretty."

Ben starts as Alexander shows up; he had meant to pay more attention to his surroundings. "…I don't mind," he says quietly before looking back to Helena, eyes still cold as they were when he asked his question. He doesn't say anything else, though; he just clutches his book, curling it in his hands. It would be a shame if it wasn't a flippin' Sweet Valley High book.

"It's like something out of Stephen King," Al says, entirely serious, it'd seem. He seats himself next to Helena, quietly, pulling off his cap and stuffing it in a pocket. "I haven't heard of more deaths in that fashion for a while. Makes me wonder what the Reaper got up to."

"You asked, I answered. What happened to Nate?" Helena rounds back. Wordlessly, she drops three french fries in front of Alexander.

"He walked outside somewhere somebody knew he would be," Ben says quietly, knuckles gone white. He carefully forces his grip to relax.

Alexander scarfs down the french fries like food is going out of style. Once he's finished, he asks, cogently, "Who's Nate?"
"I'm sorry." Helena says. And she is. She gestures. "This is Alex. Alex, Ben. He's from Boston. Nate Bedford's group. Cam used to mention them."

Ben looks from Helena to Alex; he nods curtly, still bristling even if he's not white-knuckled anymore.

Alexander grins at that, wryly. "I remember," he says, expression oddly reminiscent.

Helena looks back to Ben. "I'm quite limited in what I can tell you for now, but I'll answer what else I can. If you have any questions."

Ben slides the barely-touched sandwich across the table to Alexander. "Yours if you want it. You can just not eat the bits I took a bite from. Pastrami." Opening the flap of his messenger bag, he plops the book in. "You have my number if you need to get in touch with me?"

Helena nods. "Should I assume that you're game, then? Or do you need more time to think about it?" Clearly, she and Ben clash. That's okay. You don't have to bestest friends upon meeting to be able to work together.

"Don't mind if I do," Al says, simply, and tears off the bitten-from part of the sandwich, before starting in on the rest. "Thanks," he says, after a hasty swallow.

Ben rubs his cheek - again, the one that doesn't have healing bruises. Someone put him through the ringer not all that long ago. "Yeah. We'll keep talking." He stands to stand.

Helena looks up at him as he rises. "If you don't mind my asking," she says, "What's that from?" She indicates the bruise work on his face, and remains seated herself.

Alexander glances up curiously as well, though the food is clearly the first order of business, right now.

Ben hesitates for a few seconds, eyes downcast. "I walked outside somewhere somebody knew Nate would be," he finally says.

Helena nods to that solemnly. She understands. "Good luck." she says. "You'll here from us in the next couple of days."

Ben nods again to both of them, adjusting his grip on his messenger bag as he turns to head back out onto the street, favouring his bum leg.

Any additional notes fall to the bottom.

November 18th: See SCOUT Hunt

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 18th: Do You Think He Likes Me?
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