In Your Hands


aria_icon.gif monica_icon.gif

Scene Title In Your Hands
Synopsis It's not the peaceful succession anyone had in mind.
Date February 11, 2020

The sun just set behind the clouds. Right now, the city seems peaceful.

Exterior lights are just now coming on in the Red Hook Market, rows of string lighting tied between exterior cafe seating for the little coffee stand come Safe Zone staple, Red Hook Coffee. Metal tables are set out on the open-air deck under a trellis of creeping ivy and string lights. The coffee shop owned by Eleanor Ridgely has grown since its first establishment, taking over what used to be an antique book vendor’s spot right at the entrance of the sprawling bazaar.

Even though the chilly February weather has warmed a little, the exterior deck hasn’t seen many patrons. But it makes it a private space. It’s the perfect place for Monica Dawson to appreciate a sunset and consider the greater issues at hand in her life. The warm coffee situated in front of her is enough to keep her warm, if the heavy jacket wasn’t.

The sun disappears behind the market’s high brick walls.

Darkness comes.

Red Hook Market
Outside Deck

February 11th
5:20 pm

There’s few people outside as Monica enjoys her coffee. Passers-by entering the market or leaving through its large, arched entrance. Shipping trucks heading around back of the building. The presence of someone walking in off the street through the open gates of the market is at first commonplace, then confusing when she notices it’s Aria Baumgartner. It’s further alarming when she sees the look of dread and panic on Aria’s face.

Ms. Dawson, Monica hears inside of her own mind. She’s never heard Aria’s telepathic voice before and it’s extremely subtle, in that it almost sounds like Monica’s own voice. I need you to get up from your seat and come with me, she thinks as her walking pace slows. Pretend like nothing is wrong and you are finishing your tea.

Aria waits not far from the gates. Like you were waiting for me to show up. But it isn’t Monica’s internal voice. But she can feel the anxiety and dread all the same.

At first, Aria's appearance gets a quizzical look, but hearing the voice in her head makes her redirect her attention to her coffee. She sips at it, watching the sky instead of Aria's face. Just a glance of the panic was all she needed to be on alert. But once the mental direction is given, she glances over again and her face spreads into a smile. She gets up to her feet, taking a moment to leave a generous tip behind under the napkin dispenser before she heads toward the gate.

Acting is not an issue.

It's coffee, Aria, she says, although the attempt at levity fails. Her mental reply can't hide her worry the way her face can. She nods a greeting, the gestures Aria forward, to walk with her. Just a casual meeting. What happened?

Aria waits for Monica to reach her, and it’s clear that she’s struggling to stay composed. Up close, Monica can tell the blonde’s eyes are teared up and her face is flush red. She looks like she just got mugged, but Monica knows better than that. Aria swallows, audibly, and backs toward the gates of the market, looking over her shoulder as she does and walking to lead Monica out with her.

I was at the Clocktower, Claudia had guests. Aislinn Graves from Raytech and her assistant. For as panicked as she is, Aria’s mental voice is both calm and German, in spite of Aria herself speaking with a subtle British accent. Ms. Shaw and Zachary Stone were there. As they pass through the arch of the gates, beyond the brick wall of the old textile factory grounds and into the dirt parking lot full of cars, Aria momentarily covers her face with a gloved hand and then exhales a ragged breath.

I could tell something was amiss. Claudia was acting strangely, Aria thinks to Monica, stopping beside an old pickup truck to catch her breath. She called me over, discreetly. Just outside of Mr. Stone’s psychic block, and— and she directed a thought to me. Aria bends over, hands on her knees, struggling to control her breathing. She is counting out loud while her thoughts remain composed and calm.

Pirau. The word resonances in Monica’s mind.

The Maori word for decay. It’s a codeword among leadership, it… it’s a failsafe. It means leadership has been compromised and may be dead. Aria looks up to Monica, confusion in her eyes. She then said out loud for me to go to her apartment and fetch estate transfer documents. Another code. Aria stares at Monica, in stunned confusion.

You’re in charge. Aria states with certainty, even though her expression is confusion. I think she sent me away so I wouldn’t be in the middle of whatever just happened. I called SESA, informed them of an immediate threat, and then came here per Code Pirau priority, to secure you.

It's a lot to take in. Monica doesn't react outwardly to the news, but she does put her hand on Aria's back. Mostly for support, but also to lean into that look that one of them is in distress and the other one is helping. The last thing she wants is someone to approach them because they both look like they just got mugged.

Even if that's how Monica feels at the moment. She's never been in charge of anything. Always someone's attack dog or spy or rebel. She never led any of those organizations she's been a part of. Even Boom is more a committee.

Okay, I know that's all really important Society business and we will totally get to it. But are you okay? What do you need? She, for one, feels very much like she can secure herself, although she appreciates the protocol and isn't going to fight Aria on it at the moment. It just means her own concern is more on how her companion is handling whatever just happened rather than her own safety. However, Aria can hear the mental checklist going through Monica's head. Business check on, how to conduct herself in front of the employees, calling her Nana, calling Richard. But it is background noise to her actual questions. More weight is given to one than the other.

“I don’t know,” Aria says rather than direct it as a thought. Monica could feel the telepath’s consciousness disconnect a moment after it began to become jumbled. Her current state is perhaps too chaotic to maintain a safe link. When she looks up to Monica, there is not the steely professional that is her facade, but a very real and vulnerable person whose entire world has just been flipped upside down.

Aria closes her hands into fists, trying to keep them steady. She swallows down the bile in the back of her throat, then looks down to the ground between her feet. “Panic attacks,” she says in a shaky breath. “Used to have them under control. Since Niles.” She swallows hard. “Sorry, I’m of no use right now,” comes out as if she’s accustomed to having to apologize for her perceived weakness.

"Okay," Monica says in simple acceptance that Aria is feeling lost at the moment. "Let's head to the penthouse, we'll keep it quiet and safe and I'll be nearby if you have an attack. And if you need anything, you let me know and we'll take care of it." During the war, and everything that led up to it, she learned a lot about trauma. And how people react to it. She moves slowly, making sure not to startle Aria as she places her hand on her back to move them in that direction. "You don't have to apologize," she adds, "and you don't need to be of use. All you need to worry about is your next step, your next breath. Okay?"

She doesn't dare call for a taxi at the moment— it might be paranoia, but if someone wants to take down the leadership and were able to get to the others in their own building, she doesn't find it hard to believe they could find her calling for a ride. Besides, she works better on her feet. And it isn't a terrible walk, in any case. "What happened with Niles?" It may not be the best distraction, but at least it will be one.

When Monica mentions Niles’ name, Aria just gives her a wide-eyed look and shakes her head. She seems even less willing to talk about that than her current problem. “We— we can’t go to the penthouse,” Aria says softly. “It may not be safe. The— we— we need to find s-somewhere safe to stay, lie low until SESA can— until it’s safe.”

There’s a worried urgency in Aria’s voice when she says, “I don’t know if they’ll be coming for you — or both of us. We need somewhere to go, off the Deveaux books.” Paranoid, Aria looks over her shoulder to the market, then around the parking lot to make sure they aren’t being watched or followed. “Do you have somewhere? Somewhere safe?

Monica just nods, since the idea is to get Aria's mind on something less upsetting, not more.

"Alright… no penthouse," she says, pausing a moment and looking up and down the street as if such a safe place might materialize before them. But that's not really it. She's weighing options.

"I've got just the place."

Not Long Later..

Cat's Cradle
Phoenix Heights

The door into the Oracle room slides quietly open and Monica peeks her head in just to check. She's not worried about enemies, but rather a hyperactive friend descending on Aria. But, with the coast clear, she gestures her companion inside. The smell of weed hits first, strongest, although it is certainly not the only substance used here. A scant few chairs are present, the lady of the house preferring floor pillows and low tables. However, Monica pulls over one of the former for Aria before she returns to the door, ready to close and bar it once they're in.

"Unconventional, but it's safe, I promise. Once the patrons upstairs clear out, we can get some food and stuff. All she keeps in here is booze, usually." Monica can't help an indulgent smile for her friend, odd as she may be.

“I don’t drink,” Aria says with a hesitant tone of voice as she creeps into the private sanctum of Eve Mas. Her eyes scan the ceiling, canvas leaning against the walls, dark corners where the ambient lighting does not fully reveal what the true form of a dark, amorphous shape might be. “But thank you for the offer.”

Aria doesn’t really relax once she’s brought in. Just lingers nearby to Monica and tries to focus on the unfamiliar space rather than the gnawing pit of anxiety at the bottom of her stomach. “This is where she lives?” Is said as though she’s worried Eve might leap out at any moment.

"This is more of a meditation area. She used to read futures in here. Her actual apartment is on the second floor." Monica locks the door, although she doesn't move far from it. She certainly doesn't sit. It's the only way her own nerves show, the fact that she remains on her feet and ready. "You're safe here, I promise." Even from Eve. at least for the moment.

"I have a friend in SESA. I'll call him. He'll get the official investigation started. And get some help securing the building so we don't have to camp here for too long. The faster we get officers on the scene, the better everyone will feel." She may not believe that an official response will get them answers, but she knows how to make people feel safe. Regular people, anyway. "I'll handle all that. You just have to relax and try to process. And if you're up for it, talking to SESA when they're ready to question everyone. And you only have to let me know what you need when you need it."

Aria has calmed, some. Though she still has too much nervous energy to sit. “You need to be briefed,” she says like it’s an introduction to some larger point, but she’s in no shape to accommodate that at the moment. “We have assets inside of SESA, Mr. Bluthner, Mr. Ayers.” Aria looks down at her hand, rubbing forefinger and thumb together in an old focusing exercise, but it isn’t helping.

“Monica,” Aria says with a waver in her voice, “Monica I— You were supposed to have at least a year of training before you were put in a leadership position. It’s— there’s so much to— I…” Monica recognizes the shallow breaths, the trembling hands, Aria is working herself up into a panic attack.

Monica comes over, taking Aria's hands in her own as she notices that panic rising. "Come on, we're breathing. Slow in, slow out," she says, slowing her own breathing to act as a guide for Aria to follow. "Just look at me and breathe. Squeeze my hands if you need to." It's a positive effect of her dangerous and uncertain life, learning to stay calm even when the walls are coming down. "You've got me and I've got you. We're gonna get through this together, okay? One step at a time. Right now, all there is to do is just breathe."

She is glad to hear the names Aria gives her of who their contacts are in SESA. Couple of good boys. Good agents. But she knows this event will shake up the Society's hold on more than just SESA. She and Aria are going to have to find their own way forward. Not the old way.

“Claudia’s all I’ve ever known,” Aria says shakily. “She’s… I spent the war living in White Hills with— ” she looks up to Monica. “God I— you don’t even know about— ” she swallows down her chaotic jumble of words, squeezes Monica’s hands back and seems once more to gather herself into a small semblance of control.

Aria’s dark eyes are fixed on Monica’s, tense and distant. “I’m not the planner,” she says with a wary hitch in her voice. “I’m not— I’m just a functionary. I just do what I’m told.” Some of that sounds like Claudia’s words coming out of Aria’s mouth, and Monica is left to wonder just how much autonomy Aria was allowed to have. Sometimes the Deveaux Society made dark choices in the interests of a brighter future.

“What do we do?” Aria asks, lost.

Now the ownership of those choices might be in Monica’s hands.

"You are not just a functionary," Monica says, because there are some dark choices that she can't support, whatever the case. "You're brilliant." The process of easing Aria back into comfort with her own control is quietly added to Monica's many projects for the coming months, because she isn't going to let her think of herself that way anymore.

As for the question, Monica lets out a small sigh. "We call SESA, let them get the investigation rolling, get some protection on us for a little while… and then we get to work."

There's a world out there to save.

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