Live Alone, Die Together


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Scene Title Live Alone, Die Together
Synopsis Cat and Teo discuss various matters organizational and personal.
Date February 10, 2009

Cat's penthouse at the Village Renaissance Building

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..

It'd been a good session with Anne and Ben, discussing the problem of their captured members, with Cat left to contemplate more after they left. She sent word to Teo as they departed, asking him to pay a visit, and she waited for word he'd entered the building so she could time it right with exposing the hidden buttons so he could take the elevator to the sixth floor penthouse. The entry doors across from the elevators are open, and she's nearby waiting.
Her face is pensive, but not unpleasantly so; it seems she's perhaps come to a realization or had an idea she feels good about.

The man who steps across her threshold, on the other hand, looks slightly ashen from the unequivocal horror of whatever his brain is currently trying to digest. Could be any one of a hundred things, considering it's Teo. A hangover, a particularly heavy passage in the Bible, or a tactical error that ended in the decapitation of a few civilians too close by, God knows. Nevertheless, his expression and manner are restrained enough. "Buongiorno, Catherine." He inclines his head politely, leans on the foyer wall to kick off his boots, mannerly in that unthinking way. "What's up?"

She seems about to speak when he enters, but the sight of his face gives her pause. Cat's chosen language in addressing him is Italian. "Buongiorno, Teodoro. What happened, man? You look like you've seen something worse than ghosts." He's studied briefly before she continues on, still curious, and closes the doors. "We've not talked since the meeting, I thought we should, to discuss matters and for you to be briefed on thoughts I've had."

Then she's walking a few steps, looking back to see if he follows, and asking "Would you like something to eat or drink? It seems you're in a beer state."

"I have to stop drinking," Teo replies, ruefully. He pops his jacket zipper up with a brusque hand, shrugs off the quilted material with a seesaw of broad shoulders. Unthinkingly, he sticks to English, making their conversation a peculiar exercise in second tongues. "I spent the last two evenings a little more fucked up than would be dignified to talk about. Water, if you don't mind?"

Casting the jacket over the back of the nearest available furniture or wall hook, he pads across the floor, his gaze darting between caramel-clothed windows. "Shit happened. Abby may be unavailable for longer than two weeks. For now, not one of Phoenix's direct concerns— I don't think HomeSec did it. What do you have?"

Her head tilts to one side, registering surprise at the mention of Abby being gone. Cat sticks to Italian, speaking it easily as she continues walking toward the kitchen and once there draws the man a glass of water. "I firstly wondered at your impressions of the meeting we held, we've not had a chance to discuss it. Secondly, Anne's begun to roll out and brief on the GPS locators and extraction protocol. I got mine yesterday and we tested it. It works well." A few beats of silence settle in, but not so many as it seems she's yielding the floor. When she resumes, it's with professional bearing and poise, perhaps this is how she carried herself in college, or maybe a hint of how she can hold the attention of a crowd when performing onstage. Both?

"Earlier today, there was brainstorming on our imprisoned fellows and how to get them out. We still lack needed data on where they are and the basics of the places they're in, we can't really begin to plan anything yet. We've also not identified targets to influence to that end. But other ideas were floated, which have merit. Anne suggests there must be some drug in use which suppresses abilities, otherwise prisoners would free themselves with little trouble. It would be a good goal to identify that chemical or chemicals and discover their sources."

"It will, sadly, take us time to pull anything off, so I floated the idea we should find a way to send messages letting them know they aren't forgotten, to keep their hopes up. There's a hole in that, though, as Anne pointed out. Telepaths could pick up on them having gotten word and know we found our people."

The Sicilian's eyes sharpen. Flatten. Sharpen again. The color ebbs slowly back into Teo's angular face as he follows her a few long strides into her culinary area, turning up the corners of his mouth when she sets about getting him his water, nodding his head at the success of the GPS panic buttons. He stops at the kitchen doorway, his posture canting, oddly casual given the style and subject of their conversation, his shoulder leaning against the frame.

"We'll want to know if they're being reamed by telepaths on a regular basis," Teo acknowledges, after a protracted moment. The strength goes out of his neck, abruptly, and the side of his skull hits the right-angled edge of varnished grain with a solid thunk.

If it hurts, he forgets to let it on, apparently lost in thought. "If they aren't, I'd risk sending a message. We're probably going to need their cooperation to get them out."

His jaw scissors sideways, teeth grating in thought. "There are two Evolved I know of who have abilities that would be conducive to recon. At a range, so— little risk to themselves or of discovery. I believe they could get us the layout of whichever facility— or facilities, staff-count, et cetera, if we got them to the appropriate city with Anne. I'm in reasonably good standing with both of them," Eileen; Lucrezia; not names to volunteer just yet, he thinks. "So I believe I could make it work."

"I'd consider tampering with the suppressant medication if we find something out about it, but that has risks too.

"I also know a phaser who breaks the law in exchange for money. Could come in handy. First, though, you're right." Eyes the color if not the coldness of ice pips blink back to the present, finding her face amid the chrome and polish of the room. Belatedly, he puts out a hand for the water, his mouth hiking in gratitude. "Need location first."

The glass is placed in his hand as Cat nods while listening to Teo's remarks. "They're captives, so I don't believe any amount of training versus telepathy or resistance will be successful. Blocks of marble are stationary, sculptors chip away at them with leisure until they get what they're after. Just like prisoners at the mercy of that Evolved artist, or artists. But…"

"… it occurs to me even if we can't safely let them in specific know we've not forgotten for that reason, we can perhaps get messages out to the entire populations at all the prisons, something terse like 'You are not forgotten! Don't let the bastards grind you down!'. And possibly also aim a message at the guards and staffs at each prison. Like 'let our people go!'. Hana may or may not be able to pull off something so ambitious. I'd bet she can."

"We know two of them were together, one was segregated, with the two having been taken out of state. I'd estimate Helena's the one segregated and kept behind. Which leads me to another idea that could help in determining locations, or at least narrowing things down."

The glass of water tips away from Teo's face half-empty. The Sicilian's right eye squints closer to shut, studies the woman out from between a ragged frame of dark-lashed lids. "How do you know they were divided like such?" he inquires. Lacking enough hair to do so, his head doesn't tousle against its hard 'pillow;' he's left looking more uncouth, more the scruffy thug than usual, buzzcut, canvas and clothing scratched with use, layers of high school teacher and diligent student falling away like dead scales.

"I don't think she could get word to all prisons without a lot of physical effort and close-range risk from others. Not a lot of them use wireless technology. Or if they did, not since Matt Parkman figured out Hana works with us."

"Common prison practice around the world is, to my knowledge, separation of men and women, Teo," Cat replies. "Therefore I estimate Helena was separated from Al and Brian. On the issue of whether or not she could send out word like that, it's true they might not all, or any, use wireless technology. But isn't it at least worth finding out?"

"Returning to the issue of finding them, we can perhaps at least identify which prisons house women and which don't by examining their supply chains. Certain things would go to those holding women, and not go to the others."

Cat's logic receives a cant of acknowledgment from his head. "It wouldn't hurt," he hedges, after a long moment. "But I believe it might be wasted effort. I don't know for sure they're being kept at a prison. For all I know, they could be at a closed Company facility somewhere, nailed into a steel barrel behind a fucking warehouse. No books and no radios. You're right, though. If anyone could get a message out that wide, it would be Hana, and Al, Helena and Brian would know that."

"The gender split isn't a bad idea either," he nods. "Something to look into."

"The drugs," Cat muses, "could also be a weak link in the chain, something not protected very strongly. If we can identify where they're made, we could perhaps have Kinson use his talent on a person or persons working there and cause the chemicals to become deficient, substandard in some way which will take long enough to become apparent that they won't be able to simply ship in new batches, resulting in abilities rebooting throughout the system. But I would also estimate they're made in several places. That would be the smart way to operate. If the compounds come from the same physical location, I'd have to disbelieve it was that easy."

"I recently ran across Minea Dahl. She isn't an ally, but does say she made Conrad an offer regarding false identities which is still open with a time limit based on her being reassigned. I gave her no concrete answer."

"What's the status of Agent Ivanov, the newly christened public hero?"

"I recently made the acquaintance of an engineer with some talent. Alec Bonder. One never knows when contacts like that can be useful. He thinks my name is Ann Wilson Benatar." She lets an amused grin show there.

The possibility of knocking over the pharmeceutical manufacturing plant, should it exist, merits a low grunt. "I don't know if I want to unleash the abilities of many people Homeland Security is choking down in order to get to our three," Teo answers with reluctance. He knows that this sounds rather judgmental. Or, perhaps worse, acknowledges that their mortal enemy may have some accuracy in discernment, but— "There are dangerous Evolved assholes out there. It may be better that HomeSec has them off the streets."

"We'll see," he offers, after moment of frowning thought. Moves on, straightening the angles of his shoulders and lifting his head. "If Ivanov agrees to help with something, he can follow instruction. When asked to ad-lib or placed in a sensitive social situation, he tends to fuck everything up and end up riddled with bullet holes, plus a half dozen new enemies. He's a good man with the tact of an eviscerated pig, double-entendre intended. I'd be careful what we ask him to do."

He marks Alec's name and occupation with a thoughtful nod. "Have Hana and maybe Liz run background checks on him, please. Can't hurt to make new friends."

"I'd agree with you, Teo," Cat replies quietly. "There may well be, and probably are, people best kept off the streets. But if they get out, it isn't our concern. If Homeland Satan followed the law and acknowledged due process, with charges, trials, even civil commitment proceedings for those with dangerous abilities who've not committed any crime, I don't think you or I would have any quarrel with them. People with mental illnesses that make them dangerous even get more respect under the law than we do." Her voice becomes more somber. "I once myself shot a man because it seemed he was about to explode, either on purpose or by not having control over himself. He was radiating energy and being destructive at random."

"But the fact remains Homeland Satan doesn't act like a civilized governmental agency responsible to its bosses, us, so anything that happens in enforcing standards they should already comply with is purely their fault. If we don't take that tack, we're endorsing Gestapo tactics and when all Evolved are gone, some other group will be the target, a far worse thing than dangerous Evolved on the loose."

"These tests. I've heard rumblings in the legal profession of possibly requiring tests of us ahead of the general population, Teo. So I've given some thought to registering. I don't practice law often, but it's a tool in our arsenal that could be at risk."

Occasionally, Cat and Teo have a certain sense of humorlessness in common. When Teo's being serious, he looks it, earnest to the point of grim, a thinking scowl contracting the small muscles of his face and the longer lines of his frame. Relieving his hand of the emptied glass, he folds his arms at his chest, shifts his weight between one foot and the other.

"If they get out, it is my concern," he says, finally. "From what I understand, that could be fucking Midtown all over again, and though I love Helena, Brian, and Alexander with all my heart — and though Phoenix needs them home again, there is no fucking way that their freedom is worth something like one hundred and fifty thousand deaths and twice that ruined.

"I want a strike that's as surgical as possible. And I'm going to want to know there's absolutely, absolutely no other recourse before I consider otherwise." A quaver-beat's pause. "Not to go all imperative terms on you, or anything," he lapses, his gaze falling to the floor, briefly, before he lifts it to Cat's eyes. "The math just doesn't add up. Breaks my heart, don't get me wrong. But it doesn't." His mouth finds a harder line when she mentions the tests. Her public life, her employment; things that he's given up for months since asking the rest of Phoenix to.

He likes to pretend he forgot what it was like to have them. He sighs, then, cheeks puffing out with distinct regret. "Matt Parkman already knows your ability, si? I think— I think," a hapless half a grin, "you might as well, signorina. It's a minor miracle he hasn't blacklisted you already. We'll work on building you a false identity in case that shit goes south. Through Minea Dahl, Hana, whomever. Make sense?"

"We should, of course, seek to ensure we don't let dangerous people out," Cat does concede. It doesn't mean she'd let herself lose sleep over it if they did, for the stated reasons, but he's the boss, he has spoken, and there's no need to continue on the point. She accepts he's made up his mind and won't be persuaded away from it.

"I might have registered already," she states quietly, returning to that topic, "except for the risks involved. I can't guarantee my name isn't on a list that would trigger if I walked into one of their offices and bring the handcuffs out. Elisabeth thinks the risk isn't big of that happening, that if it did they'd already have been looking to come for me. And they've not taken her in."

"But before I take a step like that, it would only be with your blessing, based on the damage done if I get taken and chipped away at by a telepath like a block of marble that isn't going anywhere."

There's a curl of Teo's lip, an almost visible flinch: he stops himself from spitting on Homeland Security's name, mostly because there's a floor in the way and if he messed it up, his hostess might not take kindly to it. "I'd wait until the hypothetical day we get to come out of hiding," he answers, finally. "As it is, I don't want your legal name popping up anywhere on the off-chance Parkman has put a bulletin out and we just haven't heard of it.

"In the end, I figure Registration is just a formality. Parkman knows who you are. Knows what you can do."

"If he's going to fuck Phoenix through you, whether or not their little computer database has it down too means jack and shit. If they try anything, we'll try to get you out. You ever thought about—" he lapses into a brief silence, head tilting on its axis. "Giving up being Catherine Chesterfield, completely? Figure it's a career hazard for all of us. Identity as a casualty."

"I have," Cat replies quietly. "I could hole up in here and be a recluse like Howard Hughes, never going outside again. Having everything filtered to me. I've got the resources for it. Resources which ultimately are also important to the organization. This whole thing, the building, is set up to sustain itself by producing as much income as I spend and keep the bottom line level. And I've taken steps to insulate it from my legal name. I'm not tied to this place in any connectible way, and I've limited who knows about it to insiders."

"Gone to ground, by your instruction, ends Thursday, yes?"

A low sigh chases a riffle of cloth down the front of Teo's shirt. "Thursday. Originally, anyway. But we're no closer to discovering where Helena and the others are being held. I think it would be prudent to push back the end date for longer. At least until we know where they are, who has them, some idea of what they've given— what they've been forced to give up."

He squeezes his right eye shut; not a wink by any mischievious or casual use of the term. Bleary. "I would hate to turn you into Howard Hughes," he admits, flatly.

"I'd hate it too," Cat replies with a slight smile forming, and a bitter chuckle. "I like being a woman." She pauses there, thinking in silence for some seconds, before stating "If you're not extending the time frame, I'll go register Thursday." Her eyes rest on his face, taking in his reactions.

There aren't a lot of them. Reactions, that is. Teo had stated his honest feelings on the subject— what damage there is to be done through Catherine Chesterfield's good legal name has already been wrought, and there's no point crying over spilled milk, though it galls him to think that the photographs relayed between Hana, Matt, and Cat had ultimately resulted in no more than revealing two of Phoenix's critical assets to Homeland Security. His features are still, not quite weary.

"I believe I'm going to extend the timeframe. We have no way of knowing whether they've noticed we've gone to ground: they might just be waiting at the fucking mousehole, so to speak. I'm sorry to take you away from your life for longer, signora, but it's better— to me— than those fuckers taking your life away. And everything else you bring to the table," he adds, remembering that Cat isn't the sort of woman to find acknowledgment of her tactical value demeaning.

He rubs the heel of his hand along his cheek. "How long would you advise me pushing the end date back by?"

"It's true that could be why they've not made a move on Elisabeth, waiting to see what she does," Cat replies. "But I'm no mouse. I'm the Cat," she quips dryly. "But my recommendation, if you feel it's necessary, is the 15th. Have we undertaken operations aimed at learning whether or not our headquarters are compromised, Teo? And is there any word on Sergei's location?"

While speaking, she's also clearly thinking a little ahead.

The line of Teo's mouth hardens. "No operations, per say— they've been under continuous surveillance. The library got crawled. Not the Dispensary. We should be able to move back to the shorefront shortly." He lapses into a quaver-beat's silence, his eyes moving across his own ghostly reflections cast up on cabinet doors and glossy tiles. "The fifteenth, then. I think Serghei's on Staten Island. I really do.

"So much wreckage has shown up there, and I don't think he's dead." Not something he elaborates on, overmuch. Most of Phoenix is already aware that Teo had arranged for him to be suppressed and healed by Abigail days before the showdown. "The PD's looking for him, too. I'm thinking of getting Kinson out on the field with somebody to ask around the locals."

"The fifteenth," Cat replies. "I'll register that day, barring being directed otherwise." And she moves on. "I can go with Kinson to remember what's said, and to record whatever is seen or heard out there. Do you recommend an M16, silenced pistols, or both as weapons? Word is the areas away from our headquarters are potentially dangerous."

There's a faint show of teeth. "I'd prefer it if you didn't go with him alone, signorina. He doesn't blend too well as it is, but that's not a bad team in terms of abilities. I'd want you to bring someone with. Maybe Elvis, or Jezebel.

"Someone who knows the area and looks—" his eyes go slightly crescent-shaped with amusement, gesturing down her frame in a manner that is difficult to mistake for either indifferent or lecherous. "Scruffy. I'll come with, if I can." Teo considers the question about weapons in silence. "Pistola, knife, tazer. Word is right, signorina. Anything you can't conceal asks for trouble."

"Elvis is still downstairs," Cat replies, "recovering and occasionally being checked on by Ben, so, I'll contact Jezebel at the Garden and go with her and Kinson, to see what can be learned." Then she grins. "I can also look scruffy. Have you forgotten I was the Surly Wench's top stage act until Ethan decided he wanted to meet me?"

Downstairs. Pointlessly, Teo drops his gaze to the floor, then, as if his mundane perception could pierce through carpet and wood and find the broken young woman below. The lines of his face harden slightly, or at least grow grim. "Sergei is a fighter. If he hasn't fought his way out by now, we might need more muscle.

"I'll see about finding Elvis another healer to speed this process up." Fractionally, his expression softens when she mentions the Surly Wench. She's given the acknowledgment of a nod, favored with a crooked grin. "Crying shame I never got to see you perform. That about it, you think?"

"What sort of scruffy should I look to blend in, Teo?" Cat asks quietly. "You'll see and hear me perform yet. I'll let you know when I take the stage in the cellar here. As to other business… shall I begin working with Wireless on whatever she can possibly dig up about the prisons?"

"And did you have concerns of your own to speak about, insights gained at the meeting?"

'Kind of scruffy.' Teo's head lists slightly to the left; he pushes himself off the doorframe, finally, considering how to answer that question. "Cheap clothes.

"Simple, old or secondhand. Dark colors, pull your hair back, maybe a hat. Kinson should probably do something with leather and flannel. No perfume. Feel free to coordinate with Wireless — see if she thinks it's a good idea, first. We may not want Homeland Security to know someone's out there targeting prisons.

"She's still working on tracking our people down, too. I trust her judgment." For most things, anyway. Perhaps not her referrals on the city's finest cafes or normal business etiquette, but for most intends and purposes, Teodoro is Hana Gietelman's padawan. "Not really. Business as usual, si? Actually went smoother than usual. Is Jennifer gone, or still considering?"

"She's gone, at least for the moment," Cat reports, the mention of that subject darkening her expression slightly. "Her life is her own, we needn't waste time arguing with people who won't meet us in the center. I'm easily able to cover the shortfalls in our assets caused by her absence."

His recommendations are mulled over. "Thanks for your time, Boss."

Predictably enough, Teo colors at that — moniker. "Ffff." He manages not to toss his hands up in protest or otherwise give it undue ceremony, but it puts his face in a grimace. "Teo, please." Tay Oh. Her pronunciation, he has no fear of.

"Thank you for yours, bella." The fondism falls thoughtlessly this time, unpremeditated, sincere. He inclines his head and cedes a step back through the door. "For the water and other things." Despite not being one to volunteer criticism until backed practically against the wall, he offers tacit agreement and approval in the same simple sentence: "You've done more than meet in the middle. Ciao."

February 10th: Good Point With The Telepaths
February 10th: Paradise Sickness
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