In The Absence Of Proof


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Scene Title In the Absence of Proof
Synopsis When Catherine Chesterfield comes bearing what should be good news for Colette, the young photokinetic finds every reason to be suspicious, and in doing so loses an opportunity.
Date January 10, 2011

Pollepel Island, Bannerman Castle Infirmary

The infirmary in Bannerman Castle was once packed to capacity. On the days following the tumultuous 8th of November there were more bodies lied up in this room of the injured than were beds. Floor space had been littered with blankets, wash basins and frantic Ferrymen who knew even the barest scraps of emergency first-aid.

In the time that Nurse Young has been taking control of Bannerman's infirmary, supplies have been dwindling and difficult to receive due to limited excursions to the mainland. But now that time has passed and some distance and perspective on the 8th can be had, the infirmary sees less use than it did back in that hectic first night of occupation. Smaller injuries are commonplace now, from both horseback riding patrols, hunting and the gathering and splitting of firewood. Even these day-to-day mishaps remind the infirmary staff how sparse the medical supplies are beginning to become.

Beyond the double-doors leading into the supply room at the back of the infirmary, Colette Nichols has been tasked with the responsibility of gathering an inventory of the remaining medical supplies so that an accurate assessment of how much longer the Ferry can operate without a proper resupply can be made. Crouched down between portable metal shelving sparsely lined with rolls of gauze, boxes of band-aids and bottles of peroxide, Colette arrhythmically taps a pencil against the corner of the clip-board resting across her knees. Mismatched eyes scan the bottles, boxes, tins and bags containing everything that the Ferrymen need, save for the vital innoculations against the H5N10 virus.

That item on the inventory has a large "0" next to it.

"D'you ever wonder why they call it peroxide blonde?" Colette asks over her shoulder, and not just to empty shelving like some raving lunatic. Doing boring inventory work is best done in pairs, and that Tasha Renard has come to spend time with her father (and keep an eye on Colette) has given the latter an opportunity to Shanghai her into things like this.

"I mean, peroxide's clear and the bottle's brown," Colette's nose wrinkles as she stares out at the botle of Hydrogen Peroxide, squinting at the label. "You'd think it'd be peroxide… brunette? Right?"

Sometimes her age shows.

Tasha's mouth opens and then shuts at the question. "Quit sniffing the bottles while you're counting, I think it's going to your head and killing off some brain cells, Cole," she finally says with a snicker. "It's the color of the hair after the peroxide's been used, goof ball. Though you know, someone like you or me, if we used it, we'd probably be more of an orange, and not in a good ginger sort of way at all."

She's counting boxes of bandages, which are running low as well. It doesn't help that people have gone around getting into fisticuffs on the island — they had enough injuries before supposed allies decided to beat one another up on any manner of ways. She heaves a sigh. "We might have to go rob a pharmacy or something at this rate."

"Not really," a voice from the doorway tosses in, "some things can be bought routinely, if care is taken not to draw attention by getting too much at any one place." Cat doesn't enter the room further, she's content to observe both younger women as they conduct inventory and banter among themselves. Cash is extracted from a pocket and laid on a table just inside, indicating without words she's paying for at least some of those needs.

Someone who doesn't have a wanted poster will probably be needed for the actual shopping.

Mismatched eyes stare down at the money when Colette turns her attention towards the new arrival. Cat's appearance has given Colette a reprieve from the embarrassing revelation that she did not know about peroxide bleaching for hair. Clearing her throat, she instead furrows her brows and looks back and forth from the money to Cat again.

"Megan isn't here," Colette implies with a kick of one brow up towards her bangs. "I ain't gonna' have the time to like, go shopping or nothin', so… you can keep your cash." Turning to look back at the metal shelf in front of her, Colette boosts herself up to stand straight, tucking her pencil behidn the clip on the clipboard. "Did you need somethin' outta' here?" Is asked dismissively, her mood downturning from the brief moment of levity earlier.

The teen turns, even as she asks that question, walking down the narrow aisle past Tasha, tapping the clip-board against the brunette as she passes. "'Cause we're almost done here an' we'll be outta' your way. If you're lookin' for Megan… I ain't seen her since this morning."

"I can do it," says Tasha quietly, regarding the shopping — Colette shouldn't be in public stores any more than Cat should be, after all. She glances at Colette a little worriedly at the change in demeanor from the other, and then glances toward Cat with a smile.

"The shopping I mean. I can get the supplies to one of the boat guys and send them back with them, once I get back to the mainland, since…" Since she's not wanted goes unsaid, filled in with an awkward shrug and tip of her head toward one shoulder. Both Cat and Colette know why they shouldn't be the ones shopping after all.

A hand reaches up, fingers hooking on a belt loop of Colette's pants, to moor herself to the other girl and also let Colette know she's there — for whatever is bothering her.

A quiet chuckle is let out, as eyes rest on Colette. The usually stoic Cat seems a bit amused. "Assumptions," she remarks, "oft are false. Do you not think I might possibly have come looking for you, Colette?" A pause occurs as she shifts attention to Tasha, gracing her with a simple "Thank you," when the spawn of Lazzaro who doesn't carry his name offers to do the purchasing.

Back to Colette afterward, she states "I've learned something you'll be pleased to hear."

"Yeah?" is muttered by Colette with all of the disaffected tone of someone certain that they aren't going to be pleased by anything they hear. Situated beneath one of the rows of cheap incandescent lighting, color is bleached out of Colette's face, offered only in profile-view to Cat. The dark circles under her eyes seem pronounced, deeper cut from the stark angle of the illumination. Freckles on the bridge of her noe and cheeks from a few days out on the beaches of Staten Island seem darker, more sharply contrasting and serve to only make her look more sick than she is.

"What'd that be?" Colette's mismatched eyes look up to the next shelf, scanning over a metal tin containing sterilized surgical tools, then roll to the side as she angles her head towards Cat. The motion causes Colette's bangs to fall down over one eye, partly obscuring the milky-white cataract.

The smallest of the three brunettes in the room gives a worried glance into Colette's face. She doesn't offer to leave the other two in private — Cat can ask or Colette can ask, but otherwise she'll stay put to be where she hopes she's needed. She busies herself, though, counting boxes of gloves and gauze packing and then taking the pen and clipboard from Colette to jot down a numbers of each, tapping the pen twice thoughtfully, before moving on to the next item on the list.

There's nothing in her demeanor which suggests Tasha is unwelcome, and in words there's no request for her departure. "I have more than this to share," Cat cautions while examining the nails of her left hand, "but I'm told Tamara departed the Institute under her own steam and is in New York City. Exactly where she might be is unknown, but I'm also told she seemed more lucid than before."

A few beats go by to let that sink in before she tacks on.

"Experience says one doesn't find Tamara, she simply knows she's desired and does all the finding."

"Wh— what?" Colette whips around, brows shooting up to her hairline and practically pushes past Tasha. "Who— who did you hear that from? Where— who saw her? Where did they see her? Are— are you sure!?" There's an energetic and feverish pitch to Colette's tone of voice, eyes already welling up with tears and throat tight at the notion that Tamara has managed to weasel her way out of capture.

Swallowing awkwardly, one shaking hand moves up to cover her mouth, followed by a vacant look of wide eyes scanning the floor in front of her before looking back up to Cat. "Tell— tell me everything. I— I need to go look for her, or— or see if I can get Molly to— to at least let me know she's alright, I— " she's practically rambling now, her jaw unsettled and breathing unsteady.

"Who saw her?" is asked in a tiny, tiny voice.

The pen is dropped, and Tasha's eyes are wide as well, though she frowns a little at the delivery, buried lead and all.

"What? Who told you this? She's okay?" she echoes Colette's queries, one hand going to the other's shoulder and squeezing it with reassurance and happiness, but then that worried expression returns to her face. "Not… not to put a damper on our plans or anything, Cole, but — if they let her go, it might be a … it might be a trap. To get to you, or here, or whatever. I mean — why would they just let her go, otherwise? She might be being followed. You… we need to be careful."

She exhaled shakily. "But I'll go with you to find her," she adds. As if there were any doubt Tasha would follow Colette's lead.

"Elisabeth Harrison told me Tamara is free, she left under her own steam," Cat provides. Her demeanor is calm and mildly chiding, eyes settling on each of the pair as they speak. "I would hope," she quietly urges, "you would listen to me, and at the least you would have some faith in Tamara. You know who she is and what she does. A trap is possible, yes, but do you really believe she wouldn't be able to defeat it? As I said…"

The voice trails off.

"One doesn't find Tamara. She does the finding. Let her do so, yes?"

"No," Colette insists, "I— no I need to— I need to see for myself that she's okay. I won't— I can't just— " putting down the clip-board ont he shelving, Colette paces back towards Tasha, offering her an overwrought expression before turning back around towards Cat. "Okay, s— so. So Liz saw her? Alright, did— did she tell you if she said anything? Where she saw her? I mean— I can't— Liz knows Tamara, she— " there's a tight swallow, and Colette lifts one hand to wipe at her forehead, brushing bangs back from her face.

"Where'd Liz say she saw her? I— " Mismatched eyes flick from side to side, and Colette looks down to her feet, then back up to Cat. "You don't understand how it is for Tamara. Nobody understands her better'n I do, so don't— go telling me that I should have faith. Faith is for— for idiots." There's still that knife-like sharpness in her voice.

"She needs to be sought, or— or maybe I won't be there in the future, I— you don't get it. Where'd Liz see her? What— tell me everything!" Colette's voice wavers as she pleads, looking back to Tasha and holding out a hand towards her shakily, in need of support.

Tasha's hand wraps around Colette's, fingers interlacing and squeezing, as if her strength could flow through the space between them and into Colette. If only it could. But she shakes her head at Cat.

"No offense, Cat, but … we don't know what the Institute did to Tamara while she was in there. They could have done something to her that makes her… I don't know. People … people who were in that place before, they didn't come out right, you know?" She was in the triage on Staten after the raid on the Institute-turn-Asylum. "They could have messed her up. Messed her power up. Messed her memory up. She might need someone to find her, for once. You can't just ask us to hold tight and not try to help her." Her voice is soft but determined, her chin lifting in a polite defiance.

She glances back to Colette. "We do need to be careful, though. They … they might have let her go as a trap." Dark eyes slide back to Cat. "What did Liz say?"

"She says Tamara was seen at the Institute, and was more lucid than she'd been before, that she left on her own when it was time, as I stated already. That she was more lucid than prior to capture tells me she wasn't mentally altered," Cat states in a voice taking on a hint of its own edge. I advise letting Tamara find you. Whether you heed that advice is up you. It won't be the first, or the last, time my counsel is discounted. I hope it won't be another case where the results are unpleasant."

Unintent on arguing the issue any further, she turns focus to another topic.

"My research into Colonel Heller has started. I may not be able to find out much, technopath support is gone for the present, but I'm told he isn't just an Army commander. He leads the Frontline team on Staten Island, and his squad is a bunch of psychos. The man himself, as you might guess from the massacre, is a butcher."

"Fuck Heller," Colette blurts out to push the topic of the murderous Army officer aside, "I don't care if they saw her at the Institute or— " There's a furrow of Colette's brows when she tries to put Elisabeth anywhere near the Institute, though with her FRONTLINE connection that blurry line becomes slightly more clear. "You said she was in New York, where did Liz see her?"

Target focused ike a dog chasing a car, Colette advances a few steps towards Cat, mismatched eyes saucer wide. "How'd Liz find any of this out? I mean— do— do we have a source inside the Institute or something? Just— please— just lemme' know where in New York they found her. When Tamara's been unconscious for a long time she gets really fuzzy, her— she shouldn't be more lucid than normal. Are you sure it was even her? It— "

Colette's words cut off, eyes shut and she struggles to fight back the overly emotional flow of tears welling up in them. "I don't care about Heller, tell me where she was goddamnit!"

The smaller of the two teens opens her mouth to argue with Cat more, but Colette does it — louder and more emotionally than she would have. She lets go of Colette to let the other stride forward, but she shakes her head at Cat. "At the Institute is not the same as out and about, and the lucid thing makes me think she was tampered with — more than if she was just normal non-lucid Tamara. Are you listening to yourself? This doesn't make sense. Things aren't okay."

She turns to Colette, her own eyes wide and growing tearful. "This isn't right. It has to be a trap or something, or it's not Tamara. Maybe … whatever Liz was doing at the Institute, maybe they wanted her to think she saw Tam leave, but …"

Her eyes go back to Cat. "When was this?"

"Elisabeth Harrison is a Federal official, Colette," Cat explains with an effort to avoid rolling her eyes or snarling, which is what she wants to do. Patience is wearing thin, and there's an edge showing which might well remind of Hana when she's annoyed. A lioness in her own right, with her own fierceness. "This gives her access to places. She tells me she saw Tamara, that Tamara was more lucid than she used to be, and is now back to wandering the city. I've already told you this twice. It's what I know. If there was more, I'd have already shared it. Do you think I would hold out on you?" Eyes shift from one younger and shorter woman to the other a few times, engaging in something of a gentle staredown.

"Now, as to Tamara herself, you know her better than I do. Do you really think the woman who knows where to go and when to go there, just instinctively knows, could ever be held against her will? Let her find you, that's your surety it isn't a trap. If you won't accept my advice, at least have some faith in Tamara. She once walked into a maximum security evolved prison without triggering a single alarm, and arrived just where she was needed at the exact moment."

"You don't think I know that!? Who do you think was the one who had to take care of her after she got back!" Now Colette is crying, now she can't hold back. "When she showed back up, unconscious at the Lighthouse, I was the one who had to sit at her bedside and hope that she'd ever wake up again! You don't have any idea what kind of toll her ability takes on her, you don't— you don't understand what it's like to have her power! She was struggling on the 8th, she was trying so hard to control it— " the brunette's voice cracks. "She— she was unconscious for months after what she did at Moab, months!"

Hands shaking, fingers balled up into fists, Colette tightens her jaw and begins flickering. Portions of her body start to blur and distort, waver and ripple, becoming visible and invisible in patchwork quality. "She was so burned out and weak when she woke up that I had to feed her myself! When I left her— when I had to leave her during the riot's she'd been shot in the stomach! You don't— you don't just get up— "

Swallowing tightly, Colete wrenches her eyes shut as tiny spots of light blossom in the air around her, blotchy and uncontrolled manifestation of photokinetics. "Tell me where Liz saw her! Where in the city!?"

Tasha's arms wrap around Colette from behind, chin resting on the others shoulder before dark brows furrow as she looks at Cat from behind the other. "If Liz saw her leave and let her leave and didn't make sure she was okay and can't tell you where she is…" she begins, "If you can't say when this was…" she takes a deep breath, "and if you don't know that saying Tamara is 'more lucid than ever' is more suspicious than just about anything you could possibly say…"

Tasha shakes her head, unable to finish the thought, letting go to look at Colette from the side. "It's a trap. It has to be a trap," she whispers, a tear slipping down her cheek. "We can still help her. We can still go look for her, but … it won't be safe."

"My experiences with Tamara are different," Cat allows with most of the edge having left her voice, "she's mysterious. Appears when needed, if she decides the path presented to her is worth following, goes on her own when the task is done. I trust the same is still true. That if she were released as a trap, a means to find you, she'd know and lead them the wrong way. I can only address what I've witnessed, and what I've seen tells me to think positively. I hope you'll be able to do the same." Quiet settles for a few beats.

"Now, Colonel Heller. I'm going to study him as best I'm able, collect any data I can on him and his Frontline team, along with what locations Judah Demsky might be held. I don't advocate rushing down the guns of his crew, that would be suicidal, but over time a workable plan might flesh out, one people can be convinced to support. It could take months, or longer. But I assure you I don't write him, or Scott Harkness, off as irretrievable."

Silence comes for a moment from Colette, silence to Tasha, silence to Cat. There's a stillness to her, like a wild animal that has spotted rustling in the bushes. Her pupils grow wide, the spotty light fades down and her jaw sets, muscles tensing as her throat works up and down. "Who the fuck do you think you are telling me how to understand her?" The words are delivered through clenched teeth and conveyed with glassy eyes.

"You're— " Colette bites down on her words, lips pressing together flatly. She should be focusing on the information on Heller, but the target-focus she gets whenever Tamara comes up has blinded her to anything more important. "You are fucking full of shit," Colette hisses, her arms shaking and body warping into a flicker again.

Swallowing noisily, her teeth press down onto her bottom lip, fingers tighten further and her arms tense up. "I'm— going to get in touch with Liz," Colette strains in a shaky tone of voice. "If I find out that you are fucking with me— so— " she can't even form words, spluttering at the notion.

"We're leaving," is barked like an order to Tasha as Colette shakes herself away from the brunette's embrace, stepping around Cat and headed out the double doors into the infirmary proper, leaving her assignment of inventory behind completely. When she turns in the doorway, whipping around and pointing a finger at Cat, there's a baleful expression in those emotional eyes.

"If you are lying to me, I swear to God, Cat— I— " Jaws clench and Colette's brows furrow. "I'm not going to leave my girlfriend to die."

Dark eyes narrow as the answers to the questions are still not given, and she shakes her head, about to speak before Colette expresses her anger, vitriol hissed through clenched teeth. She's ready to follow, looking exasperated and angry herself as she moves toward the door.

But the last statement has her lips parting, the tears that have been lingering behind her eyes since the word Tamara was first spoken by Cat now springing forth, slipping past long lashes.

Her lips press into a thin line to keep the lower one from trembling, and she takes a step in the opposite direction. She shakes her head again and darts down the hall, arms wrapping around herself.

It's times like this that Tasha really wishes that she had her father's ability.

Her voice doesn't raise, in fact it gets quieter, the words are slowly spoken. Cat isn't one given to outward expressions of rage, but that doesn't keep her from feeling it. "Lying to you. Full of shit. Fucking with you. You really think I would come to you and not share what I know? You asked for help, Colette, I went to Elisabeth for information on the Colonel and learned of Tamara's freedom in the bargain, and came here to let you know. To tell you that though it seems help won't happen, it will. I answer your questions several times over, and you don't even listen once, then you accusingly say you won't leave your girlfriend to die, in the presence of your very much alive girlfriend, because I dare to be optimistic and try to show you the value of it. If you think I would play games with you, do the things you accused me of just now, well…"

She really wants to pick Colette up and snap her in half over her knee right now. It's only through superior restraint that she doesn't try."

"… then fuck you, Colette. Come talk to me again when your brain reboots."

A half turn has Colette torn between what looks like a fist being made just for Cat, and seeing Tasha running off. Mismatched eyes square on Cat and her jaw sets squarely. Silence hangs in the air along with tension, thick as a knife could cut, and Colette takes a step back and then another, keeping eye contact with Cat during the steps.

Nothing is said when she finally turns around, but too many things were considered there both verbal and physical. Running after Tasha thorugh the infirmary, Colette's boots slap against the stone floor. Doors to the storage room are left open, inventories unfilled. The only thing that has been added to the stockroom is a mouthfull of anger and distrust and a burning desire to know for certain what happened.

"Tasha, wait!" Colette's voice carries down the hall, along with her fading bootfalls.

Tomorrow, she leaves Pollepel for Manhattan and confirmation. An apology after the fact will be easier than accepting anything on faith for Colette.

Faith's in short supply these days.

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