Leopards & Spots


donovan_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif harding_icon.gif short_icon.gif

Scene Title Leopards & Spots
Synopsis At the behest of Commissioner Donovan, Elisabeth meets with a reluctant presidential hopeful.
Date March 13, 2020

The Safe Zone isn’t what it used to be.

The penthouse suite at 22 N 6th Street looks out over the Safe Zone skyline from sixty stories. An invitation-only event of New York City’s political elite was once dreamt of as fantasy, but in the years since the Safe Zone’s founding the city has come so far and so fast it might give its citizens whiplash.

Muted piano notes carry across the penthouse and the close to 200 guests on the list for tonight’s celebration mingle and converse with one-another. Influential members of local and state government rub elbows with wealthy industrialists, senators, and taste-makers. The east wing of the penthouse is where the predominance of tonight’s celebration takes place, overlooking the city lights of the Safe Zone at night to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Ravenswood Generating Station and the Safe Zone’s energy independence.

Marcus Donovan is Elisabeth Harrison’s date for the night, platonically speaking. They arrived together from the Watchtower, mingled together, and then parted ways for an hour to make the rounds until the real purpose for their socializing could come into play. Among the tuxedos and cocktail dresses, a power play for the highest office in America is underway.

If Marcus Donovan has any say in it, tonight could change history.

22 North 6th Street Penthouse
NYC Safe Zone

March 13th
7:43 pm

“That’s him.”

Easing next to Elisabeth, Donovan motions with his martini through the crowd to a tall Black man in a tuxedo walking in with an elegantly dressed woman on his arm. “Governor Joshua Harding,” Donovan says under his breath, then takes a sip from his drink. “The woman on his arm is his wife, Elisabeth.” He looks over to Liz and cracks a smile, then back to Harding fielding greetings from local politicians.

“Tonight’s the only night I could convince him to come up from Florida. He’s here to meet with Mayor Short,” Donovan says, indicating the curly-haired and petite woman making her way to Harding, “to endorse her mayoral campaign for next year.” Donovan looks back to Liz, one brow raised.

“Harding’s a good man, Harrison.” Donovan suggests, discreetly sipping his drink. “You saw his file. He deserves to run, he deserves to win. You just need to light that fire under his ass.”

It's funny to Elisabeth, how comfortable she is at this part. Partially because she can draw on years of performing experience to keep her expression pleasant and neutral, partially just because she's always been okay with socialising. She turns her ear toward Donovan but her eyes continue to scan the veritable Who's Who of what remains of New York City's power brokers. They're all celebrating the reopening of the power station brought down so many years ago — her memories of that and the man who accomplished it are definitely close to the surface tonight, bittersweet.

Despite having come from work, the blonde had a dress in the locker room and she cleans up quite nicely — the black sheathe of a cocktail dress fits right in.

Lifting her glass to her lips to sip at her white wine, Liz replies in a murmur, "I told you I'd talk to him. I can't promise anything else." Slanting blue eyes up at her boss, there's an amusement to her. "People rarely get what they actually deserve, Marcus," she points out drily. Like she has to tell him that? Then she slips her free hand into the crook of his elbow and smiles. "Introduce me."

“You just lay on that genetic charm,” Donovan says out of the corner of his mouth, taking Elisabeth’s arm and guiding her over through the sea of guests. Before he can quite triangulate on Harding, the slight figure of Mayor Short catches sight of Elisabeth and lights up like a Christmas tree.

Lieutenant Harrison!” Mayor Short chirps, a broad smile spread ear-to-ear. She offers a gesture of a toast to Elisabeth with her glass of wine, then looks over at Donovan. “Marcus, a pleasure as always. Now,” she looks back at Elisabeth, “what are you doing with a crusty old barnacle like this hanging off your arm? Where’s your fascinating husband? Is he here tonight?”

Although she's in the process of rolling her eyes at her boss, Elisabeth smiles at the mayor. "Mayor Short, it's wonderful to see you," she says as she touches glasses with the lady. "Unfortunately ma'am, Richard had business that had to be handled this evening, so he left me to the care and keeping of this handsome fossil," she's clearly teasing Marcus, "so that I could show my support for your campaign." After all, her team busted their asses and nearly got killed making sure the mayor was in the clear.

Lowering her voice, she shares easily, "Besides, he's trying to convince me that being in the upper echelon of our police department and having my face out there is not such a bad thing. He's introducing me around to some of the up and comers — I've been out of the loop in the City for a long time, and well… I knew some of my parents' contacts, of course, but those circles are a bit decimated these days." Jared Harrison, before the war, before 2011, was pretty well known around City Hall due to working on contract law in the city. He's a far more private person nowadays and many of the lawyers and judges retired or moved out or even died in the war. "Watch out for Mr. Lane over in the corner, though — he's got a roving eye and a wandering hand," she offers with a grin.

“I’ll be sure to take it off at the wrist if he gets too familiar,” Short says in quiet confidence, eliciting a grimace from Donovan. “You being out here means a lot to me, Elisabeth. The people of New York know who you are. FRONTLINE, SCOUT, all the work you did supporting the Ferrymen and combating the Vanguard… it’s nice to have a public face for the city with such a prestigious pedigree.”

Donovan kicks up his brows and looks over at Elisabeth with an I told you so expression. “I’m sure she’ll be voting Short come next year, too.” Donovan adds with a lopsided smile that draws a crooked one from Caroline.

“I can’t thank you enough for what you did for me in February,” Mayor Short adds. “Without you — without SCOUT — we’d have practically handed the keys to the city over to the worst possible offenders.”

“Certainly not on my watch,” Donovan notes with a laugh.

Elisabeth is uncomfortable, as always, with praise of what she did in FRONTLINE and SCOUT back before she disappeared from the face of the planet. She shifts her weight uneasily next to Donovan, masking her discomfort with a faint smile. "Plenty of others did far more," she demurs regarding the Old Days and her pedigree. As to what SCOUT did for the mayor? "Honestly, Your Honor, we were just… in the right place at the right time and did what we could with the information we had at hand. Good police work, a great team, and a little luck go a long way. It doesn't hurt to have a smart man in the commissioner's seat keeping watch. A smart man who hired me," she observes mildly.

She wanted to be an invisible cog in SCOUT's wheelhouse. But if she has to be out in front like this, well… some things ought not to be forgotten. She slants a glance toward Donovan. "And quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" She pats his arm where her hand rests on it. The unspoken response of I do is intended as both a reassurance to the mayor… and a reminder to the man who hired her under the premise of 'keeping him on the straight and narrow.' He wants her to help him build a regime… but she's keeping a close, close eye on the regime she's being asked to help build.

"I have to say, you have a lovely turnout tonight, Mayor Short. I actually was just asking Marcus to introduce me to a hero of his own. Have you met Governor Harding before? I'm a little nervous about meeting him — he has an amazing reputation."

Mayor Short smiles broadly. “Joshua is a gem. Today was the first time we’d met in person, but we’ve spoken remotely on several occasions. You actually might have a lot in common, he’s a veteran of the war as well.”

As well.

Sometimes it’s hard to remember that the world at large has no real idea where Elisabeth Harrison spent the last near decade of her life. She’s also not sure anyone would believe her if they did.

“Joshua,” Mayor Short says, twisting around to get Harding’s attention. “There’s someone here you should meet.”

Governor Harding fires a quick look at Caroline, then up to Donovan and Elisabeth before politely disengaging from the group of people he was speaking with earlier. “I’ll circle back around, promise!” Harding says in a loud, deep voice that fills the room as he turns away from them, coming to stand beside Mayor Short.

“Joshua, you know Marcus.” Caroline introduces with a gesture of her wine glass at Donovan. “And this is— ”

Commander Elisabeth Harrison,” Harding interjects, extending a hand in greeting. “FRONTLINE-02, ally to the Ferrymen, survivor of the Washington-Irving attack and a woman who helped stop a viral apocalypse.” Harding laughs and shakes his head, toothy white smile spread ear to ear. “Caroline, this woman needs no introduction to me.”

It’s all Donovan can do to suppress his Cheshire smile, angling a blue-eyed look to Elisabeth with a knowing cock of his head to the side. Would Elisabeth have agreed to come along had she known Harding was a fan of her work? Maybe, but Donovan didn’t take that chance.

Elisabeth smiles as she takes Joshua Harding's hand, slanting her boss a quirked eyebrow of amusement. Marcus, you prick. The thought holds no rancor, but she does shake her head as she replies easily to the man enthusiastically extolling her 'virtues,' "I'm afraid the hype is a little overdone, Governor Harding." She wishes she could use the old standby of just doing what anyone in her position would have… but they didn't. "I just got lucky enough to survive and pissed off enough to fight back. A lot of people did." Not everyone. But enough.

"I'm thrilled to meet you, however, sir. You jumped right in feet first as the war got rolling and really did a fantastic service to the people around you. I can't tell you how much I admire your work."

“I’m sure General Washington thought it might be luck too,” Harding admits with a sly smile, “but I do like that answer. I might steal it the next time someone compliments my war record.”

Caroline offers a laugh at that, then makes a soft oh sound when someone gently taps her on the shoulder. She turns and exclaims loudly, throwing an arm around an old friend as she’s drawn out of the conversation.

“I should probably go make sure the bar doesn’t need any backup,” Marcus notes, looking between Harding and Elisabeth. “If you’ll excuse me.”

“Of course, Commissioner.” Harding says with a smile as Marcus makes his exit, leaving Elisabeth the sole focus of conversation. “So, spotlight aside, things seem to be going well for you. Congratulations on your wedding, I heard about it through the grapevine — and the Forbes list of America’s wealthiest bachelors going down by one.”

Once abandoned to her new companion, Elisabeth pulls in a soft breath and then has to laugh quietly. The bar needs backup, hmm? Her blue eyes turn back to Harding. It's rare for her to actually color over such a comment, but a light pink suffuses her face briefly. "Thank you, sir. I still can't quite get used to the fact that he's actually on that list," she admits easily, lifting her glass for a sip. "It cracks me up, if you want the honest truth. Not that I ever doubted he could do what he does, but … it was something of a shock to find that out when I got back." Her grin has genuine amusement at the memory of the shock of finding that bit of news out. "Much to my boss's dismay, I don't much care for the spotlight that shines on me over those things before the war. It was… what I needed to do at the time," she says simply, neither downplaying her role nor reveling in it. She really does seem to sincerely believe it was just doing what needed to be done.

"Things seem to be going quite well for you as well, though, sir," she observes lightly. "You're a highly decorated veteran on the right side of the war… and you've done an incredible job down in Florida leading the people back to something that tries to resemble what normal used to look like." She tips her head. "I heard through the grapevine that you might be considering another run at the presidency but that you're reluctant to throw your hat in again." She doesn't need to augment her voice to show genuine interest in his thoughts. "Do you mind if I ask what your reservations are?"

There’s a subtle look from Harding to Elisabeth when she says got back. It’s a tiny narrowing of his eyes and a turn of his head, as if something about that phrase didn’t sit right with him. But the follow-up and the eventual question about his Presidential aspirations and reservations distracts him away from things man was not meant to know.

“Honestly, I just don’t know if I have it in me.” Harding says with a deep sigh. “You’re not the first person to ask me tonight, and the window to put my hat in the ring is narrowing. I’d have to announce and register within a couple of months, and that’s…” Harding laughs and shakes his head.

“My wife, Elisabeth,” Harding says with a laugh and a smile, “says I’d be a good president. But, look at me.” He motions to himself with both hands. “First Expressive president and the first black president?” His smile turns into a grimace. “It’s like I lost the privilege lottery, you know?”

Sighing, Harding shakes his head. “The other complication is… well I’d either have to run as an independent, or join the Republican party. The Republican candidate got arrested by SESA and the FBI for human trafficking, so that’s a shit-storm all its own, and I don’t really support their base. I suppose I could go Green Party… but…”

Elisabeth’s seen this kind of decision paralysis before. Harding is overthinking the issue. The problems he’s talking about are all obstacles, not roadblocks. It isn’t that he thinks he’d be a bad president, it’s that he’s convinced himself he can’t win. Whether he’s right or not is a topic many in this room could ferociously debate for years.

Elisabeth sips her wine thoughtfully, watching the man. Marcus asked her to do something that, if the man in front of her had genuine reasons for not running, she wouldn't be willing to follow through on. But this? It doesn't go against her inner moral compass to bolster someone through this kind of doubt.

"You know," she says quietly, "especially with all that is coming out about the human trafficking and the doubt that still festers over the system, I would say it's the first election maybe ever where an independent has the advantage." There is only the lightest of enhancements to her voice, a subtle boost to coax him with nothing but the truth. "~Your record speaks for itself, Governor — and although there are certainly obstacles in your path, that's true of any candidate. It's not like you haven't broken down plenty of barriers and rallied people to your side before.~"

Elisabeth’s smile is faint, but it is definitely there. "It'll be a fight, no doubt… but giving up the good fight doesn't seem in your nature, if you'll forgive the presumption. Besides…" Her tone is downright cheeky. "You have the best support system around — an Elisabeth of your very own."

Harding has no way to know what just happened to him and his steady smile shows Elisabeth that there was nothing in what she did that registered to him as overt. He just laughs along with her joke and looks momentarily thoughtful. “It is a good support system,” he says with a broad smile.

“You know, you make some valid points.” Harding says after a moment, still smiling and shaking his head. “My term’s up as Governor at the end of the year. Been thinking about retiring, but I guess that feels like giving up in a way.” Harding looks down at the floor for a moment, then over to his wife across the room, then back to Elisabeth. “What would you do?”

The blonde pauses a moment and sips her wine, taking the opportunity to seriously consider her response. When she looks up at the tall man, there is a somberness to her expression, though she keeps her tone even.

"I think that it's really hard for those of us who take that oath 'against all enemies, foreign and domestic' to hold that line when the enemy turns out to be the system we trust and the people running it, sir. And it's difficult for those of us who do hold that line to do so when we don't trust the person at the top." Especially after all they've seen. She studies his face and admits quietly, "I've already stood in your shoes — the day Marcus asked me to come back on this job. And I can't say that there aren't days when I really want to let someone else shoulder it all, to let other people do the heavy lifting. But that oath isn't one I took lightly. And the job's not done yet." It really is that simple.

"Listen to your wife, sir," Elisabeth murmurs, her brow rising in amusement. "Selfishly, I would really like to know that someone who understands that there is still work to do is in that office kicking some people's asses — I really don't want to have to topple another government."

It's meant as a joke, although she acknowledges the kernel of truth that she's a hell of a lot more well known than she's comfortable with for exactly that.

Harding laughs, his irrepressible smile still wide as he shakes his head. “Lieutenant Harrison, I would be a straight up fool if I willingly went head-to-head with a woman who helped start a war that changed America.”

In the distance, locked in another conversation, Donovan catches Liz’s eye and raises his glass in a momentary toast to her, then smiles a Cheshire cat’s smile and looks back to the junior senator he’d been talking with as they walk to the windows.

“Why don’t I introduce you to my wife,” Harding says, hovering a hand behind Elisabeth’s back while gesturing with his other hand over to her in the crowd. “I think it would mean the world to her to hear about some of the things you’ve done in the past first-hand.”

It's the last thing she really wants to talk about, but Elisabeth smiles at the tall man. "I would be thrilled to meet your wife, sir," she replies sincerely. Slanting a look across the room, she offers her boss a rueful smile.

This didn't require her ability — not really. Just a judicious application of faith.

"It takes a special lady to back a spouse in the shark-infested waters of politics."

She would know.

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