Issues With Such Thorns


cat_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif mona_icon.gif

Scene Title Issues With Such Thorns
Synopsis A discussion of law and ethics.
Date July 28, 2009

Cat's Penthouse

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.

Keeping herself busy as is possible is a common thing for Cat, it stops her from dwelling on things not so pleasant like loss and grief. So it is this morning, as she waits in the kitchen of her penthouse for guests to arrive. She's asked them to come here so they can meet, and also because she has a specific subject to discuss with them. Coffee is ready, enough for all three and them some. There is also orange juice, steak, and eggs with toast at three set places around the table.

While waiting, she sips her own dark brew and reads through today's New York Times as well as a copy of the publication where West Rosen writes. Mona's latest works, already perused by Cat, are placed before the seat she plans to ask Elisabeth to occupy.

She only went home yesterday. Elisabeth has a plate full of cop things she's gotta get done today, and having to come back by Cat's is not exactly the shortest breakfast stop. But Liz does it because she figures Cat has reasons — besides, with everything else coming down, it's not wise to leave her friend hanging right now. So Elisabeth lets herself into the building, and into Cat's apartment, dressed for work in a pair of gray slacks and a sea-green top, her badge hanging around her neck and her hip holster in plain sight. "Hey, Cat," she offers, heading for the table and helping herself to coffee. "What's on the agenda this morning?"

As usual, Mona is fairly punctual about her arrival, seeing as how she normally does get up well before this. Not an early bird by choice— it's just the way things have to be, if she wants to get anything done. Once the elevator has arrived an the level of the penthouse and she's stepped out of the double doors, she mostly follows her nose until she's at the source of the hot, breakfast-y smell. "Cat," she greets as she lays eyes on the brunette and enters the room, also offering a slight smile at the unknown face that is Elisabeth. She herself is dressed in jeans and an indigo blouse with slit sleeves.

"Introductions," she begins as the blogger arrives, not having any doubt Mona closed the elevator access panel and locked it before she came through the open penthouse door which she would also close and lock. "Elisabeth, meet Mona. Mona, Elisabeth." Cat stands and gestures to the chairs, "Please sit, join me." There's nothin about her which indicates heading to or from any kind of professional job. Tank top with the Beatles' Abbey Road cover on it, dark shorts, no shoes.

"Thanks for coming."

Elisabeth takes her coffee and settles in for breakfast, offering Mona a smile. "Pleased to meet you, Mona." We're winding up with a lot of new people lately, she thinks to herself, but she'll keep that thought for later. Her attention turns to helping herself to breakfast while they talk — Cat knows she's got to get to work in relatively short order.

"And you, Elisabeth," Mona responds with comparable warmth, taking the one empty seat left at the table and lifting her glass of orange juice to take a sip. Her eyes stay on Liz's face for a moment after she does, as though digesting the thoughts that had just drifted across the surface of her mind, but then she transfers her gaze to Cat. Silently, also in curious question of what might be on the agenda this morning.

"Mona's a new member," Cat states, not certain Elisabeth would know and opting to confirm in any case. And to Mona she offers "Elisabeth's been with us for some time, through a number of operations. She's invaluable." It's left unsaid for the moment that the blonde is a detective, that can come out later or maybe sooner if the detective wishes to share it. One hand gestures toward the printed material before Elisabeth. "Mona's work," she informs. "Some recent selections."

"I didn't just ask you both here for introductions," she admits after a sip of coffee, "I'm also thinking about ethics and the rule of law."

Although she skims the papers in front of her while she gets her plate settled, Elisabeth's blue eyes are on Cat while she talks. Her body language is mostly subdued, and Cat's comment has her interest. "In what way?" she asks as she starts to eat.

When the question is asked, Mona is focusing on heaping scrambled eggs onto her plate— she's starving— but she's also all ears, judging by the thoughtfulness in her bearing. "Go on," she prompts Cat unnecessarily.

"If we're going to get past public fears about sharing the world with us," Cat starts, "we have to reassure them on certain things, and if we expect the rule of law to be applied to us just like the majority who don't have our abilities, we have to accept the rule of law, a code of ethics, on how these abilities are used, yes?" Her eyes move from one to the other as she lifts a fork of steak and eggs to chew slowly and swallow before speaking again.

Elisabeth eyes Cat warily now, considering this statement from all sides. It quirks her lips into a half smile as she thinks about the things we've just finished doing. "If we expect the rule of law to apply to us, then we also have to be aware that the very actions we're taking to save the planet twice a year or so may land us in jail… and be prepared to actually stay there when we're arrested," she comments. "If you're not prepared for that idea, and the shitstorm that even raising it is going to bring, I'm not sure what exactly you're going to accomplish. But by all means, lay out your thoughts here."

"Cat does have a point," Mona notes, a vague crinkle slipping into her brow. "We—" For it is 'we' now, isn't it? "Aren't ever going to be accepted, I guess, unless we at least try to pretend we're not ignoring the law. But, well, who's code is it gonna be? If we let the normal people do the defining…" she shakes her head, her implication clear. They'll end up with people like Humanis First 'politely' trying to contribute their opinions, and that's no good.

"We won't get there overnight," Cat agrees, "and it does include accepting some risks. Ideally, when we reach that point we'll no longer have to undertake such things, because we'd be able to trust the Feds to do their jobs. In January, as an example, Parkman knew what was up, and he chose to break contact. He could've had large teams ready to go at a moment's notice, and even watched us for the right moment to arrive and say we could stand down, they'd do it, because it's their job. But instead they chose to let us do the dirty work and snatch everyone they could grab for darkholing without any trial."

"I've also got confidence that if we faced public judgment for all we've done, if the complete truth were out, we'd be pardoned or better yet not convicted by any jury."

"In any case, applying traditional law to our abilities brings some tricky questions out. I'll use telepathy as a starting point." Her fork lifts, she chews the bite carefully in silence.

Elisabeth listens intently and says, "In point of fact, I think you're wrong on that. The ends justifying the means….. in each individual case, we might each be pardoned. But as a whole, as an organization, we each have taken actions knowing they were illegal — and there are consequences for that, whether we like them or not. Should Helena and the others have had a trial? Hell yes. And that's the point of this — if we're saying that Evos are like everyone else and primarily just need a different kind of incarceration, the *first* thing that has to be established is how to rule in cases where powers are used…. you can't have trials without laws in place for what constitutes lethal force manipulation, etc. And most powers will actually fit under simple expansions of the current definitions, but somehow we've got to make that happen." She tilts her head, waiting for the additional thoughts.

Mona prods at her heap of eggs with the tines of her fork, also listening carefully to both Cat and Elisabeth. "It might be more complicated than that," she says, forehead still furrowed. "Like Cat implied, it… kind of depends on the individual ability. I'm— a telepath, by the way," she notes rather suddenly, mostly for Elisabeth's benefit. No need to have any unpleasant surprises there, right? "If there were some kind of legislation around that specifically dealt with the Evolved, that'd probably be the best way to deal with it. But there isn't, and in the meantime, we still have to deal with the fact that there's plenty of people who don't like what Phoenix does. By any means."

Elisabeth glances toward Mona and the information that she's a telepath tenses the detective right up. There are any number of things she doesn't want someone rummaging in her head for. "Thanks for the heads-up," she replies, a little tightly. Setting her fork down, she rests her elbows on the table. "The biggest problem is that the Constitution guarantees the right of free speech — and while we have the level of debate we do on the Evo question, there will never be a concensus on how to apply the laws. And by virture of the fact that we have some people rabidly anti-Evo and some rabidly pro, I'm not sure how to get to a point where we get some kind of fair legislation in place," she admits. Her glance goes to Cat.

"Making that happen," Cat offers, "comes over time, from making the case. As to our actions, I don't believe we've acted any more outside the law than those charged with upholding the law have. Defense of ourselves has made such actions needed, sadly. When we get to the point of our goals, if ever in our lifetimes," she knows it's possible they won't: woman suffrage came more than 140 years after the British monarch was chased away. The heat of the civil rights movement came a full century after the internal war. "we also need to let the crimes of those persons against us go, to not seek revenge."

"I mentioned telepathy because it's such a tricky thing to make law regarding, as is rape. Telepathy raises search and seizure concerns in terms of law enforcement. Should judges sign warrants for its use? Can a person interrogated by telepathy claim he or she was compelled to witness against him or herself if it turns up incriminating thoughts? And on the criminal end, if a charge of intrusion is made, how can it be proven?"

One might easily guess this is the purpose of having the discussion in this company; a lawyer, a detective, and a telepath.

"If it's any consolation, and if you'll believe me, I don't pry around in people's brains unless I have a very good reason to," Mona directs at Elisabeth a little apologetically. Personal code kind of thing, it sounds like. And Cat trusts them both enough to have them there together, so that should count for something, right? Almost cautiously, she leans one forearm onto the table, forking a small bite into her mouth and speaking only when she's swallowed. "Those're really good questions, Cat. But even if there's answers to all of them, it'll be hard setting answers that people will agree on, and I'm no lawmaker myself." That's an endnote of agreement with Elisabeth.

Elisabeth nods to Mona and seems to take her at face value, though her thoughts are of the 'but what about when you can't help but catch things they think that they would never say aloud' variety. She does listen intently to Cat and asks, "what exactly are you asking? Whether we think there's a way to write laws? Sure…. like I said, primarily, you start with the powers that are actually EASIEST to make laws for. Things like 'if you use a power in commission of a felony and someone dies, even if your power didn't actively cause it, you're equally as culpable as the person who did — whether that person used gun or power themselves'. That kind of thing."

"I know," Cat offers on the topic of prying, "and I can quite imagine there's times when you aren't listening and hear anyway," she muses, "much as one can hear a spoken conversation without wanting to, simply by the volume of it. That raises questions in itself, as to how charges arising from it could be defended against. It would work in your favor that there's a burden of proof, this is why we require proof."

She lifts her coffee, holding it in midair while stating "You aren't a legal expert, this is true. But you're a telepath, so you understand how it works and can advise on the practicality of law in this area. We'll not come up with all the answers in one session, to be sure, and might never. But I intend to try."

The mug tilts back, she sips from the coffee, then goes on with eating her food. It doesn't have to be all business and issues with such thorns.

-That-, you're right. I can't help. Though they are only Mona's thoughts, spoken right in Elisabeth's mind in true echoey mindspeak fashion, they sound more apologetic than ever. Her next statement is a normal and out loud one: "Though, Cat brought up a while ago that I could help with that. Or try to. Train some of you to resist telepathic intrusion, if such a thing's possible."

She also takes another sip from her cup of orange juice, gaze shifting between Elisabeth and Cat above the rim. "And right, I can try to explain things from my perspective. It might be different for different telepaths, but I do hear thoughts just by being around people— as you just saw. I can't really control it."

There's a jerk as Mona does that, and Elisabeth winces. "Oh lord…. please don't do that. Telepaths make me a little…. unnerved," she admits as she glances at Mona. "But if you can help teach me some tricks, that I would love. If they bring telepaths into the precinct, I'm screwed eight ways from Sunday as soon as anyone thinks to listen in."

Her eyes move from one to the other as they speak now, Cat being content to enjoy her coffee and food while they get to know each other and talk of practicalities. She's listening and not finding it needful to speak.

A tiny, crooked smile appears on Mona's face, and she makes no signs of repeating the projection. She does lean back in her chair, as if to ensure that she physically can't. "Yeah— no, it's totally understandable. I seem to have that effect on people. You're a cop, then?" Pretty easy guess, from Elisabeth's use of the word 'precinct'; her tone is that of having derived it from normal conversation. No telepathy involved there.

Elisabeth nods briefly. "Yeah. SCOUT division," she replies. "Which of course ups the odds that any day we'll actually GET a telepath or something, right?" She grins a bit. "Guess I'll have to decide then whether to do a runner or what." She shrugs. "It's a good job, most of the time." She pauses. "Well… half the time." She pauses again. "Some of the time?" And then grins.

There's a grin in reply. "SCOUT? I can see why you'd be interested." This is said dryly, though Mona briefly tilts her cup towards Elisabeth in a gesture of acknowledgement. "You must have a lot of experience with us, then. It's pretty lucky for Phoenix to have a contact inside law enforcement." 'Us', of course, would be a reference to the Evolved in general.

Elisabeth chuckles softly. "Interested? That's an understatement," she admits as she eats. "I have a lot of experience with people who are out to hurt other people. And it's getting worse because not only do I need to protect normals from Evos, I have to protect Evos from normals *and* from other Evos too." She considers. "Upholding the law is a complicated thing these days. And although I do believe in what Phoenix is doing, I'm never quite sure we're going about it the right way. So… you know? I'm game to dig a little and see what else we can do."

"Yeah." Mona's fingertips tap on the side of her mug, consideringly. She sighs, voice becoming sweeping and ironic. "I can see your dilemma. It'd be nice if we had a happy fantasy world where everyone just got along; Evolved, non, whatever. And nobody needed protecting. Guess it's not going to happen, though."

She sets down the cup."In the meantime, whatever we can do is worth it."

Liz snickers. "That's fantasy land there, lady," she comments. "But if there is anything that we can do… even if it's just to work out a rough draft for those bastards to fight over? Yeah… I'm in."

"I know." Oh, clearly, Mona knows. "And you know… I'm just wondering. Cat asked me the same question when I first met her. Are you working with Phoenix just for the sake of it, or do you have more personal reasons for believing what you do?" I.E, being Evolved herself, or knowing someone close to her who is.

She didn't realize that Mona was out of the loop on that one, but she'd have thought the information on the squad she's on would have given it away. Elisabeth says quietly, "I have personal reasons. But even if I didn't, I think I'd be in it for the sake of it anyway. Some of those bastards out there decided to bomb a high school that I was working at. Damn near killed me. Did kill a bunch of my kids and my friends. Not. Acceptable."

"Killed a bunch of your k— oh god, I'm so sorry." Mona's eyes go wide, and then her brows furrow in sympathy.

The pain is an old one now… but still vivid. "The worst part about it is honestly how the kids take it when they learn," Elisabeth admits. "I had a couple of kids in the school who learned they were Evo and hid it. One of them got the snot beat out of him by his own father for it. All he could do was change the color of things. Totally innocuous ability, you know? And then there were the 36… " That case was and still is the biggest sorrow of her career. "Things don't have to be perfect," she tells Mona, but I don't ever want THAT to happen again."

"Lord, nobody does," Mona remarks with something of a sigh. There's something that none of them in this room need to say out loud, probably. This meeting, though it's only a small step, is one that goes towards trying to ensure that nothing like that tragedy ever does happen again.

The intent to try's gotta count for something.

Elisabeth smiles and starts to say something else when her phone beeps. Pulling it out of her pocket, Liz blinks at the message on it, and climbs to her feet with one last swallow of coffee. Got a loc. The sense of urgency is obvious, and her thoughts are suddenly in a spin about some kid she's got to save from Reed. "Sorry, Cat, gotta cut this short. Work," she says abruptly. "Thanks for breakfast." And then she heads for the door.

"Nice meeting you." This is by way of quick farewell as Elisabeth stands up, Mona offering one hand in a little wave, the other staying clamped around her mug. As they come to the forefront of the other woman's mind, what details she can snatch of Reed are duly noted. Interesting. Looks like it's just Cat and her, now, and boy do they still have a lot to talk about.

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