It's Like... A Ghetto


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Scene Title It's Like… A Ghetto
Synopsis Samara meets with Richard Cardinal. She isn't impressed.
Date March 14, 2011


Harlem stretches from the East River all the way to the Hudson, miles of packed residential districts filled with refugees and vagrants, a neighborhood stricken with crime and poverty. Harlem was, and has been for generations, one of the urban hearts of New York City. Before the bomb, this borough of Manhattan was the center of the African American community in New York City. Now after the destruction of Midtown and the wake of social devastation brought in by the bomb, the borough has seen better days. Much of Harlem suffers from the same plight as much of New York — Overpopulation and crime in the wake of the collapse of infrastructure in 2006. With major traffic arteries cut off, power and water only recently restored, the area was in chaos for those first few terrifying weeks after the blast.

Before the bomb, Harlem had been shaping up, cleaning up its crime rate and working towards becoming a safe place for its residents. All of that hard work was laid to waste in a single night. Many of the buildings on the southern side of the neighborhood bordering on Central Park were gutted by arson in the chaotic weeks following the bomb, and the vast majority of them haven't been torn down yet, leaving the southern edge of the neighborhood a burned out and dangerous ruin. Even if it wasn't for the fires, the looting, vandalism and crime that spiked shortly after the bomb only made things worse for the Harlem residents, followed by the electricity and water stoppage from the damage done to the city's infrastructure.

With the major highways mostly repaired, Harlem is in a process of reconstruction and revitalization. Most of the neighborhood's historic landmarks still remain, and the region surrounding 125th street continues to be the urban pulse of Harlem as a whole, and from that street it's hard to tell anything has changes. It is the center of the reconstruction movement, constantly packed with repair crews, construction workers and maintenance teams.

Monday, Monday…

In other times Cat might be thinking of that particular Mammas and Papas tune, but right now she's back in that rundown place she borrowed to meet with Miss Dunham two days earlier, but using a different time of day. Morning, in fact, before the yellow orb gets high enough in the sky to trouble one of the people she expects to join her.

Precautions have been taken, just as had been in that previous encounter, the only way into her location is to go through the wall. Or to slip under the door by means of shadows.

Sami has more confidence walking right in this time, when compared to her meeting with Cat just days before. There's no apprehension as she becomes incorporeal, slides through the door (and the barricade blocking it), only to become whole on the other side.

There's nothing extraordinary about her today, save for a slightly paled face and darker shadows encircling her eyes. The lighter spring trenchcoat tied at her waist is a lavender hue. Along with her blue jeans it leaves a casual appearance. "Hi Cat," she manages a flicker of a smile towards the other woman.

"Catherine… Catherine…" The whispers stir through the dirty room, seemingly from nowhere at first before the shadows that gather in one corner suddenly elongate in a sweep up the length of the wall, shifting slowly in a dry drift over the crumbling drywall until it becomes the silhouette of a man with a fedora upon his head. "…I see your paranoia hasn't eased any. But then, is it paranoia if they really are out to get you….? …out to get you…"

Richard Cardinal, it seems, has arrived as well.

Simple attire, fit for weather in the mid-50s. Hooded sweatshirt, jeans, well-worn athletic shoes. That's what the hostess of this assemblage is wearing when her guests arrive and make themselves known. Cat's demeanor is generally stoic, as usual. Acknowledgment and return of greeting goes to Samara first.

"Morning," she offers simply, gesturing with her head toward a nearby empty crate. No food or drink this time, though. The printed material in her hands is closed and set aside. It seems to be written in a combination of some language with an alphabet other than the one used for English and the standard variety.

The second voice draws brown eyes toward the shadow which becomes a man and prompts a quietly chuckled reply.

"Richard," she rejoins, "how very you, to greet me with an insult." Her lips quirk upward, into an almost-smile. "So amusing, that someone chooses to believe I'm gripped with irrational fears."

The crate song and dance isn't new. With a light smile that doesn't quite touch her eyes, Sami slides to the indicated crate, not quite sure. There's an unusual hesitance in her step, altogether laden with the weightiness of the situation which she needs to discuss. In many ways, her steps themselves are inconsistent with her general demeanour, leaving them an oddity among her otherwise graceful, nearly airy motions. But then the building weariness on her face aligns with those paces.

A leery glance is given each in turn as Samara assumes her seat— one ankle crosses over the other, anchoring her in place. Her fingers grip the sides, further issuing her that groundedness she so desperately desires.

"Mister Cardinal," her words aren't familiar like Cat's, in fact, in light of everything gone on, they're more apprehensive than they ought to be, particularly as they're nothing more than a name. "I don't know if you remember me— " there's a pause. As a rather sardonic, mirthless chuckle escapes her lips with a sharp shake of her head, "Recent events suggest I'm not very memorable. I'm Sam. Or Sami." Her eyes roll up towards the ceiling, "Or Samara for long," instead of short.

"I'm feeling less than charitable towards your organization at the moment," Cardinal's riposte comes with the effortlessness of someone who's dueled an opponent a thousand times, "Unfortunately, though, you're more right than you know… they're not irrational at all… not irrational…"

The shadowy head tilts slightly, "I remember. Brian's friend. The brunette. I never did hear back about either of your results with that little assignment… Zach…"

"You've met," Cat replies tersely. "Excellent. Samara has some troubles she wishes to ask you about, a thing which also makes me concerned and curious. It seems your Institute counterpart has struck again, depriving her fiance of his mojo and a sizable portion of his memories."

Having said this, the panmnesiac retreats into silence, leaving those guests the floor to converse amid themselves.

"It didn't go as we'd thought," Sam admits with a twitch of her lips. It's not quite a smile, but it's certainly a tell. "And he's my fiancee now after he proposed in January. And things were really really great until that day they weren't. And now I don't really— " with a shake of her head she recognizes she hasn't started at the beginning of the story.

Her shoulders and chest rise with a deep breath, an extreme inhalation of air to set herself up to tell the story as quickly as possible to give the gist, an overview of what she knows and what happened, "Brian woke up at the beginning of the month and didn't know who I was or what year it was and accused me of negating him even though I'm a clearly phaser not a negator then when I found another Brian at another place he thought that the year was two thousand nine which it isn't and he was also lacking his ability then I found another two Brians one was taking care of the other and the one was in this child-mind state and the other last remembered," her voice starts to squeak, forcing her to take another breath mid-story, "December."

Her lips press together as she turns her head to face Cat now, evidently something has changed since they met. Her eyes take on that teary quality they'd had only days before. "And then. Yesterday. Brian called me…"

There's a long moment's silence from Cardinal at Cat's and Samara's words. "…shit. What'd… the other one say? …say…" He apparently is reserving judgement until he hears the whole story.

Merde. Scheiss. Mierda. Cat knows the word in a number of languages both Western and Eastern. It comes to mind, but she chooses not to utter any of them. Instead she studies the shorter and younger woman's face, choosing to hold silence and let Samara retain the floor.

Hot tears roll down Sam's face. She'd cried on the phone. She'd cried on her walk out and about. And then she hadn't let herself that luxury again. Not until now. "Sorry," she nearly chokes on her own apology as she clears her throat and forces a very weak smile. "He.. " her hands scrub her face, drawing away the mess the tears caused. "He's in a prison of sort." She swallows hard as she continues to process her own thoughts, "He was shot with Refrain and then Tyler Case switched his ability with a woman named Lynette." Her tongue rolls over her lips to fight against the dry cracked feeling crying causes.

"He's in a prison or something. He can't leave. It's like… a ghetto. He has a place or something." She sniffles again while her head shakes slightly.

"He was shot with… fuck." It's a whisper, but a sharp one, the shadow's edges blurring for a moment before solidifying. The word is let hang in the air for a few long moments before Cardinal says softly, "It wasn't Tyler. It was just someone in his body. That… god damn it…" The shadow paces. Back and forth across the wall, "…this is my fault. If I hadn't concieved of this plan, Ezekiel never would've carried it out…"

Her features go from stoic to stern in the space of seconds, maybe less, as all of this is listened to and the existence of a plan is stated. Cat's voice, when the floor appears to become briefly open, is solemn, laced with something which simmers under the surface. "He's able to make phone calls, that's a rarity among prisons in this day and age, especially for people in our line of work who have mojo. I don't know what the effects of Refrain are in someone of his talents, if it'd affect his clones."

Moments later her eyes are shifting to the man of shadows. She doesn't ask in words, Cat lets her expression say it all.

Plan? What plan? Spill!

The admission from Cardinal has the former spectre trembling. Sam's eyes narrow, her eyebrows knit together tightly. In mere moments, her entire demeanour changes. The stern frown her lips press into is entirely uncharacteristic while her hands release the crate at her sides, instead balling into small fists. There's no butterflies. No chatter. No lightness. Just a blank stare and an eventual hiss, "You did this?"

And, very characteristically, tears burn at the edges of her eyes again, but their cause is very different this time. She's angry. But much like Cat, she wants an explanation.

"I did. But I didn't…" There's a moment's pause, a hiss of sound that's almost a sigh, and then Cardinal explains, slowly.

"Brian Winters," he says carefully, "Isn't a real person. Brian Fulk is. But you never knew him. He was a duplicator that worked with Phoenix… he was with me at the beginning, more or less helped start the organization I now run. A good man. My friend. Arthur Petrelli killed him, destroyed all his clones that were still connected to him, ripped the power from him and took it as his own."

"The Company had kidnapped one of Brian's clones, though… they wiped its memories, essentially snapped its connection to Fulk. They built it a memory, a personality, a life. Brian Winters. Awhile ago, when he was experimenting with Refrain, I found out that Fulk was still there. His memories are suppressed, but they exist. I… theorized that if you separated a Brian from the rest of him and overdosed it with Refrain, it might— reset, back to Fulk. But I never would've done it."

Her eyes darken while listening, speech is eschewed in favor of leaving conversation between Cardinal and Samara for the moment. Cat's mind remains active while taking in data, comparing information already known with things being revealed and adding them together.

It was said Arthur got Winters, not the original. And he managed to get by her? Did he get coaching?

"You did what?!" Sam snaps back as she pushes off her crate, actually causing the box to topple over. Her skin pales, her lips purse, her nostrils flare, and her arms cross over her chest. "He is a real person to me. Never, ever suggest otherwise! I love that man! And I knew the history! He told me," she squeaks as her eyes clamp shut. There's something angry but still resigned in her position.

A rough breath is released as Sam shakes her head. "I've actually met Fulk. He's taking care of the babies right now. He was the second Brian I've met since the incident. The first held a gun to my head and accused me of being a Company spy."

Her tongue dabs at her lips while her head shakes slightly. "How could you have even thought that? Considered that?! Do you realize my baby could very well grow up without his or her father? I know the man's a replicator but every copy— save one— has completely forgotten me…"

"I consider a lot of things," Cardinal replies sharply, "Asymmetrical warfare requires a certain flexibility of thinking. I wouldn't have ever done it unless he turned on us completely… but can you blame me for trying to think of a way to get my friend back? Winters and I work together, but I wouldn't call us friends. I can't trust him completely. I trusted Fulk… Fulk…"

Another whispered sigh, "…this was all Ezekiel. I don't know why he did it. I'm sure he has some fucked-up reason, though. Tell me about this ghetto?"

"I wouldn't have thought you capable of brainstorming like this, Richard. You certainly never appeared to have the knack or patience for it," Cat murmurs darkly. "Perhaps that was an act in itself, a piece of strategy." There's a good bit more she could share, but chooses not to. There will be time for that. And for knives. But right now…

"Yes, the ghetto. Any detail could be important."

"Believe it or not, I can, Mister Cardinal. Blame you, that is. I just came back to life months ago. I'm latching on to the happiness I can find after losing four years of my own life. Thanks to you and your.." Sam's eyebrows knit together tighter, contorting her face into a scowl that's not remotely threatening, "'considerings some of that happiness has been stolen. So yes. I can blame you. In 'considering' your friends' resurrection, you invited some psychopath," it's presumptive and, as usual, Sam isn't wholly considering what she's saying as she chatters, "to break my fiance's brain."

There's a heavier sigh as she's pressed for info on this ghetto. "He didn't tell me where he was, but I'm not sure he knew…" her teeth toy with her bottom lip as her fingers tighten around each of her arms. "They were residences of some sort. And there were guards. And a fence. And he… " her scowl falls into a frown, nearly defeated by the promise she'd made. But she won't utter it. No reason. "They know how to deal with people like us."

"I was Edward's disciple, Catherine. He wouldn't have chosen someone who didn't have a brain you know…. you know…" The shadow of Richard Cardinal shakes his head slowly, "…blame me, then. God knows I've been blamed for worse. I prefer to blame the person who actually did it, though… who did it…"

There's a pause, and he says quietly, "If he gets in touch again, let Catherine know what he says. That sounds like… exactly the sort of concentration camp we know they're intending on building. Speaking of which, I know how Humanis is controlling the local government. Four people. Not including the vice-president, of course… Mitchell…"

"At least one of those camps is somewhere in Oklahoma," Cat opines, "based on Rebel's exhibitions some time ago. However many others there are is unknown. Samara…" she pauses, lining up thoughts and questions to phrase them carefully.

"First, did he call a landline or a mobile phone? If it was mobile, do you have it on you? I'm going to introduce you to a woman named Alia. She's… really good with electronics, there could be a chance of tracing his location, though the odds would improve if he calls again."

Mention of Humanis controlling local governnance doesn't cause any semblance of surprise. "It's likely something involving Lockheart, Georgia Mayes, and some others as yet unknown. Mitchell being in the Neanderthal club is well-known, that surfaced before Petrelli stole the Oval Office from Allen Rickham."

"I'm a woman. If I set my mind to it, I could be angry forever. Believe me, there's plenty of blame to be had," Sam's eyes widen as she agrees a little too emphatically. "But you don't just get to think on these things and wash your hands of it. People still have a responsibility to where their ideas go and how they're used. Otherwise no one would be responsible for anything. Ever. The guy that built the atomic bomb would say he just built it, while the guy that planned it would say he just planned it, the government that funded it would say they just gave money, and the guy that had— well, you get the picture." Evidently the circle of blame is large in scope.

"He called my cell. I'm not allowed to call him on it again. And I don't think he'll be calling me on it again. It was from a cellphone. I.. would like to meet her. Anything.." Her lips twitch upwards very slightly.

The Humanis First revelation warrants a very different reaction from the younger woman. Her lips part and a single eyebrow quirks upwards. Say what?

"With all due respect, Samara," Cardinal states flatly, "Fuck you."

"You have no idea how much I have on my conscience already because of the insanity that Ezekiel's pulled. On a scale of one to ten of the things I have to blame myself for, Brian being temporarily out of commission for three or four months doesn't even rate, and there's a lot fucking more at stake here than your storybook happy ending. I don't have the luxury of beating myself up for every little goddamn thing. We figure out how to fix or ameliorate the damage, and we move on, or we die… we die…"

"Tyler's power only lasts a few months. I suggest you round up as many Brians as you can and keep them safe. They should re-synchronize when it wears off… wears off…"

The shadow 'turns' towards Catherine, then, "Lockheart and Mayes are two of them. The others are the police commissioner, Samuel Irons, and Gregory Armond, acting secretary of Homeland. They're the ones who're pushing the drone program. Precognitive flashes indicate that the current timeline leads to a fucking dystopia with robots monitoring everything and some sort of Evolved eugenics solution in place. It's not a pretty picture… picture…"

None of this regarding the commissioner and acting secretary seems to surprise Cat, again. "I see," she mutters. "How is this to be proven? I would recommend exposure to the glaring light of day, if it can be done in such a way as to make it stick. While this is a war between people with and without mojo, it won't be won by simple force of arms. It can only end by enforcing the Constitution, making everyone see the whole truth."

A pause of a few beats duration slips into her voicing of thoughts.

"I met with one of the pair who sprang Alia and thanked her. Told her I'd be interested in meeting any associates she has with such interests. No information's been shared yet."

Moments later she turns toward Samara, speaking quietly and calmly.

"Brian won't be forgotten. Tamara Brooks isn't forgotten, nor Colette Nichols' adoptive father, nor Scott Harkness and anyone else captured in November. But that doesn't guarantee success in recovering them. This is a grim business, and it's exactly as I said. It'll tax your strength like never before, show you can handle more than you ever thought possible. Part of that is having patience. Plans take time to develop, information being collected. Nothing happens overnight, no matter how hard we wish for it."

"Don't preface that with respect," Sam counters just as flatly to Cardinal. "It's a downright jerk thing to do and you're obviously smart enough to know that much. You have no respect for me, and you suggested my fiance isn't even a person. You may have plenty to regret, but doesn't mean you can shirk it. It is what it is. You want to be better, then be better. You admitted fault, but never apologized. So don't tell me this is just another casualty. Don't tell me I merely lost my fairytale ending. It's more than that. And if this Ezekiel has a laundry list of things for your conscience, then maybe you shouldn't be 'considering' life like a game. We're not chess pieces, we're people." There's another pause as she shakes her head, "And even if he gets his ability back, his memory is so fragmented…"

Her gaze ticks downwards before cutting back to Cat, "If I need it.. I have patience in spades. I spent four years waiting to cross over because I thought I was dead. I'd rather not wait that long again." Her eyes trail the wall, then the door, and then back to Cat. "I need to get back to the kids." Her throat clears as she adds, I'll be in touch." And with that, she become incorporeal, disappearing through the wall.

It isn't until Samara's passed through the wall that Cardinal speaks again. "I agree, actually," he says quietly, "We need to expose them, but it's going to be difficult. I'm working on it. I have a — contingency plan in case we can't find proof of what they're doing, of who they are, but it's a secondary plan. First and foremost I want to expose them… expose them…"

A beat.

"So I want an answer, Catherine. Why didn't anyone tell me that Gabriel had gone rogue again? Again…"

Say what? Now Cat's eyebrows lift as if something surprised her, scant indication of it, but still more than her normal stoic presentation, enough to hint at a reaction in the woman's brain. "Gabriel went rogue? When and where did this happen, Richard?"

"Apparently, he's working for Sarisa," Cardinal states flatly, "He showed up at the attempt to rescue Halebi. He'd been sent to kill us all and take Halebi's ability. Thanks to Shannon and Elle, we managed to - barely - convince him that Halebi was dead and drive him off, but it was a close fucking thing… Sylar…"

"Fuuuuck," Cat breathes out, "I said this was a bad idea, Richard, to assist Halebi, it smelled of an attempt to cause another nuclear tragedy and blame it on people like us. Sounds like Sarisa set it up to make just that happen. But I've heard nothing of Gabriel being back to his old tricks, let alone working for her directly."

Her head tilts. "Shannon, you say. Shannon McPherson?"

"Then it's a fucking good thing we did help him, Catherine," Cardinal retorts, "Because otherwise, there wouldn't've been anyone to stop Gabriel from ripping his skull open. I was there personally. That was him. Go talk to his keeper and find out what the fuck is going on, because as far as I'm concerned, he's off his leash… his leash…"

"Yes. Who is she? She wouldn't tell me, and Abigail didn't know… know…"

"There will soon be a conversation between Eileen and I," Cat asserts gravely, something in her eyes suggesting complete seriousness and that it might not be so pleasant. "Now, Miss McPherson is a former Company agent, one Noah Bennet brought to us. She ran into a psychometrist unexpectedly and was discovered as someone other than the Shannon McPherson she claimed to be. Her name is Candice Wilmer. I find her to be somewhat mercenary, as she can be hired for her talents, but she does live up to the terms of jobs she takes on and is paid for."

"Wilmer?" There's a surprised hint to Cardinal's voice, "Why didn't that occur to me…? In retrospect, it does make sense… make sense…"

Another silent moment, and he asks, "What's going on with the Ferry, Catherine? I've had multiple people approach me saying that they want to work with me, or that they're going freelance, because they're uncomfortable with the rather militant stance you're all taking… I'm not getting much information, but for God's sake, what I am getting has you all sounding like Messiah. I'm hoping that I'm getting biased information or something… something…"

"Have you, indeed?" Cat asks rhetorically, before moving onward. "I don't see our stance as particularly militant, no more so than it had been, Richard. As said, we declined to take part in the Halebi operation. Colette Nichols is also not so happy with us because we wouldn't just rush in to assault Heller's base and make a move to get her father back. But… there are operations conducted from time to time, such as acquiring vaccines. We've had some troubles with the 510, courtesy of Colonel Heller."

A silent moment is taken.

"This might also tie in to past decisions. Quite a few operatives weren't happy at all that individual members chose to take part in the hospital assault, and we lost people which fanned the flames a bit more. That might even have been what sent Susan Ball to sell us out."

"You used to hide in the world, Catherine. It seems to me that you're all hiding ''outside'' of it now… you can keep a small group living off the radar indefinately, but what you're trying to do… it's not going to work, Catherine. You're making yourselves too big a target… a target…" Cardinal admits, "I know you're about as unbending as steel, but to survive you have to adapt… this isn't the same world we started fighting in. It's a new one… adapt…"

"I can't directly act to stop Heller right now. I wish I could, the man's a fucking monster, but it'd endanger the position I'm in. If you get any hard evidence against him, though, pass it on. I'll need all the ammunition I can get when I pull the trigger on this. I might only get one shot, and I want it to count… to count…"

A quiet and dark chuckle escapes on hearing this commentary. "It becomes difficult to hide in the world, Richard, when the leadership core and most of the network's locations are served up to the Feds on a silver platter and raided in one stroke. When we find ourselves with our faces on wanted posters. I was amused by mine, and what I learned on inquiries to contacts I still have. Heller wants me dead on sight, I do believe, he's had people quietly checking out the Verb from time to time and even had a few show up to someone's concert at the Cellar last month. But the Institute, which means your aged doppelganger, supposedly wants me taken in alive. Have you any ideas what for?"

She lets that sit out there briefly.

"Adapting takes time. Hiding in the world as we once did means ducking and dodging around martial law and soldiers, finding new shelter locations, and preparing them, along with rebuilding our numbers for managing such places."

"Ezekiel's intentions are good, Cat. They are, I do, honestly, believe that. But he's forgotten what road good intentions pave, I think… but… if he can protect someone that he once called a friend, I think he will. If he thinks he needs them dead, though, well… well…" The shadow turns, dissolving into formlessness as it spills across the wall towards the door. Cardinal has one final statement.

"Maybe you should wonder if all of you are doing more harm than good. Maybe it's time to hand the reins over to people who aren't wanted… wanted…"

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