Marco ... Polo!


cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Marco… Polo!
Synopsis Catching up on intel and figuring out plans.
Date Oct 8, 2009

New York Public Library


The text went out at midnight Tuesday night to several people, and although it is a child's game, it served two purposes: to let others know that Liz herself was alive and to ping those same others — Cardinal, Cat, Helena, Teo — into at least a simple response to ease her mind. Elisabeth hasn't spoken to anyone in person — she's been too busy on the scene of the Municipal Building's collapse, working herself to the point of collapse attempting to locate people in the rubble — but the Polo responses that did come were more than a little appreciated.

Sometime in the wee hours of Thursday morning, more than 30 hours after the disaster struck, Elisabeth slipped silently into the library and crashed on the floor of the room that Cardinal uses as an office. She cannot abide the darkness and silence of the rest of the building, the generator's rumble and the small desk lamps that she left on sufficed to handle her phobias while she slept out of sight of casual passers-by. She wakes to all the aches and pains that come with climbing over rubble, moving mountains of debris in ways that are not the norm, exacerbated by sleeping on a stone floor, and she lets out a groan of pain as she moves stiffened muscles to get off that aforementioned floor to go find out if other residents are actually in the building.

The sound of movement leads her to a room not far off from that office, a room strung with strings taken from the inside of a Slush-O stand on Coney Island - a stand destroyed, perhaps not so coincidentally, during the disaster itself. Edward Ray's string web was painstakingly recreated from Xiulan's sketches, and when she finds Cardinal he's examining it carefully, one particular tangle dangerously close to the center of the web the target of his examination.

"This has to be the Municipal Building," he mutters under his breath, fingers brushing along the strands. White. Shard. Others that aren't labeled and have no name. "Shit. We're getting down to the wire here…"

Weary blue eyes study the web, and Elisabeth carefully steps around it. "Why do you think that?" she asks softly, shoving her hand through her tangled hair. She's still grimy from the debris site, and only now does she really seem to notice. Too bad she can't see the streak of dirt that still crosses her forehead from where she rubbed the back of a filthy hand on it as she was climbing the stairs last night. "Hey, babe," she greets as an afterthought.

"We're getting close to the center… to Staten." The little piece of paper declaring the number killed is brushed by Cardinal's fingers, bouncing lightly on the strings, and then he starts to extricate himself from the web to get to her, reaching out to slide an arm around her waist and pull her wordlessly in against him. "Hey," he echoes, softly.

When he reaches for her, Elisabeth molds her body to his and silently hugs him hard. For as long as he allows, she buries her face against his neck and takes comfort in the sound of his heartbeat, the scent of his skin. It's been a long couple of days. From that position, she finally asks very softly, "Is there still enough time to enact a plan?" To change it all, to stop Norman White.

"It ain't over 'till the Fat Lady sings," Cardinal replies, pressing a kiss against her temple, fingers stroking down through her hair as he holds her in against him. He could probably use a shower, but then, so could she. "He might even be dead, but since we couldn't find a body.. well."

With a faint nod, Elisabeth sighs heavily. "I definitely wouldn't assume anything, even once you see a body." Too many have come back from the dead, Liz herself included. "How long have you been staring at this thing?" she asks, nodding at the string array. "Anything useful in it?"

At that, Cardinal draws back a bit to look at the strings with a frustrated expression. "Hell if I know," he admits ruefully, "I'm just starting to figure out how to read the damn thing. I'd give my left nut to have Nakamura here right now."

Elisabeth tightens her arms for a long moment, reluctant to let him step away. But she stands on her toes to kiss him softly and then releases him to move carefully. "When I came in, you said we were down to the wire. Tell me what you're thinking." Her eyes skim over the string map. "Almost everything in this array comes back to the action at the center — like a spiderweb. So to cut the strands would require averting that particular thing….. or averting a number of these other things, wouldn't you think?" She gestures, at several parts that are heavily knotted together. "Or am I reading this wrong?"

"If I'm reading it correctly, that tangle there— " Cardinal keeps one hand on her side, rubbing there lightly as his other comes up to point at the crossing of threads that he was examining when she came in, "— that's the Municipal building. And yeah, severing the strings could prevent the disaster, but which ones? Not to mention the fact that doing that could lead to a worse event."

As she studies the tangle, Elisabeth sighs quietly. "Bottom line is that we have to get White under control… or dead for certain. Yes?" She glances up at him. "I don't think the Municipal Building was his only target. One PP is right there, along with a number of other important buildings. That tangle there may in fact be as big as it is because the event was supposed to be bigger. Which I'm eternally grateful that it's not. Lotta bodies," she says quietly, looking away from him again. "If he wanted a civil war, I'm pretty goddamn sure he just got it," she admits quietly. "If they don't activate FRONTLINE in its full capacity and give them carte blanche orders, I'll be shocked."

"I hit him with one've Mortimer's itching powder grenades just after he took down the Muni," Cardinal observes in absent tones, considering the tangle in new light at Elisabeth's words, "I think you're right. At least we managed something…" He brings his hand up, rubbing the bridge of his nose, eyes closing, "I'm going to have to talk to Petrelli, I think."

Elisabeth goes still under the arm that's curled around her. "Do I want to know how many times you've gone and done just that?" she finally asks. "And whether it's done any damn good at all?" She pauses. "Speaking of Petrelli… his PR lady, Strauss?" Now she smiles just a bit ferally. "Danko fucked up. He missed her, tried to burn down my goddamn building attempting to kill her… and she's willing to testify. Picked him out of a lineup. I took the whole kit and kaboodle to the DA. There's a warrant out for Danko. Every goddamn cop in the city's watching for that bastard. It could be the break we need."

Cardinal's nostrils flare in a faint snort of breath. "Not once, not yet anyway. I'm not sure which one of them is the one in the White House… I can get him to come out, though," he admits, "I've got his daughter, after all." A turn of his head looks to her, and he grins then, "Well, there's some good news. Hell, never thought Strauss would do anything useful."

It's not so much that she thinks the cops will actually do anything — how many of them have anti-Evo sentiment after all? But Elisabeth smiles. She's proud of herself insofar as at least she's done the job. "Doesn't mean that they'll do anything about it, especially in light of White's actions," she acknowledges. "But it's something." And then Elisabeth raises a brow. "You're going to hold his … wait, what?" Liz doesn't know Claire that well.

Cardinal's lips twitch in a wry smile. "Claire," he replies, simply, "She's Nathan's illegitimate daughter."

There are several seconds of stunned silence, and then Elisabeth just…. shakes her head. What's she supposed to say to that??! "That'll go over well if it ever gets out," she finally comments in a dry tone. Reaching up to scratch the back of her head, Liz grimaces. "Okay… tell me what all actually happened out there? Varlane — who I got paired off with on rescue and recovery efforts — kept trying to talk to me about what happened, but frankly I didn't have time to give a good goddamn with 600 people buried." Her demeanor stays neutral and businesslike as she says it, but he knows her well enough by now to see the flash of pain — there are people they couldn't get to.

Hey, it's Cardinal. Is there anyone he doesn't have blackmail information on? Apparently the answer is 'no' as he even has things against the President of the United States. "It… well," he turns, pulling away to walk back out of the string web room, "White kidnapped a bunch of reporters, called some people together, and decided to declare that the reign of the government was over by starting to destroy shit. So I dropped an itching powder grenade on him, Claire started shooting people, all fucking hell broke loose. Ferris Wheel ended up falling over."

Elisabeth follows him out of the room, nodding slightly. "I saw part of a broadcast, replayed clips. Only followed what was going on out there en route to headquarters, really. Haven't heard a radio since." She grimaces, hesitates, and then finally asks softly, "How many did we lose?" She's bracing herself for him to tell her people they know are dead in the melee, and it's evident in the white knuckles that show as she wraps her hands around the back of a chair in the room.

Cardinal gives his head a tight shake, "Maybe some of the crowd, I don't know… the fight wasn't long. Claire died, but we just dug her out've the river and she put herself back together." One hand drops to rest on her hands, looking at her seriously, "It could've been a lot worse."

Relief brings color back to her face and Elisabeth smiles slightly. "Yeah… it could have. And thank God he did it at 11:00 at night — instead of thousands, they're estimating about 600 people in the building or the subway station beneath." She shoves a hand through her hair, the exhaustion clearly not quite handled by the few hours of sleep she got crashed on the library's floor. "How're you holding up?"

"I've been worse," Cardinal admits, flashing her a smile and nudging shoulder to shoulder, "You look exhausted, though, you should get more rest before you fall the fuck over, y'know?"

Rolling her eyes, Elisabeth snickers. "My apartment stinks to high hell with smoke damage, I have hundreds of people buried in a collapsed building, and one Evo and one human superterrorist on the loose… I doubt I'm gonna sleep much anytime soon," she admits with a rueful smile. "Of course, in addition, I have this guy in my life? He likes to tell me shit like 'you should get some sleep' even when he is running around trying to save the world from itself. And he's kinda a big dick about it, cuz he knows I'm going to help no matter how fuckin' tired I am." Pot? Kettle.

"That's why you need some fuckin' sleep," Cardinal replies, sprawling into the chair and stretching his legs out, head tilting to the back to look up at her, "You're not gonna get much for a little bit, so you need all you can get. Anyway— Kaylee, the blonde you mentioned, you know where she's being kept?"

Elisabeth blinks, a frown crossing her features. "A blonde I mentioned? I…. don't think so?" She looks flummoxed.

"Wasn't it you? Maybe… shit, it was Abigail," Cardinal brings a hand up to rub against his face, eyes closing, "Christ. Okay, point made, I also need some fuckin' sleep. God damn."

She moves while he's got his eyes closed, her hands settling on him and stroking up from his shoulders to his neck. "Don't know if anyone mentioned it to you," Elisabeth says quietly as she digs her fingertips into the muscles there. "Deckard went to heal Ivanov." She's not sure it matters one way or the other to Richard, truth be told. "I'm trying to remember if there's anything else you needed to know… and I'm so damn tired I can't figure out if I'm forgetting something. OH!" She pauses. "I don't suppose you know someone named Juliet? Some kind of possession power?"

"Can't say that I do…" As those fingers dig into his shoulder, his head falls back with a groan, eyes closing, "Mnm. Only possessor I know of is Isis, and Azrael, and the latter's dead, or so we presume. And yeah— yeah, I heard about the old man, Abigail told me. Why d'you ask about this Juliet chica?"

"I was handling a situation where her name came up — she apparently has a taste for danger. Possessed Denton for a couple days, ran up some major credit card bills and such…. it sounds mostly like kid stuff, but she was asking questions about his work, trying to get intel off the people who report to him. So I told him I'd look into it," Elisabeth says quietly as she works on his neck and shoulders. Her touch is firm without being too hard.

"The cowboy?" A snort of laughter, "That's kind've funny, actually. Mnm. What sort've intel was she trying to get off him, do you know?"

Elisabeth pokes him gently. "It's not funny. It's a fucked-up power. And no, I don't… but I can try to find out. He might tell me. Unlikely, but…" She shrugs a bit and goes back to massaging. "I also told him that at least one of the bastards is permanently off the wanted list."

Cardinal turns his head to brush a kiss against her wrist, murmuring, "One down, god knows how many to go. It's a start, though. God. Liz, if this does spark war— it's too fuckin' early. There isn't enough fuel to keep the fire burning yet…"

There's a soft smile though he can't see that. There's a long silence while her hands continue to rove over his shoulders and then up his neck to the base of his skull to run her fingertips onto his scalp. Finally, Elisabeth says, "You had a plan for starting this conflict. Norman's taken it too fast, too soon." She mulls it over in her head. "Can we turn it to our advantage. Not to ignite the flame he's already got burning, but to ignite it the other direction, just as we'd planned. Take out Mitchell sooner. With Danko on a warrant now, and still at large…. the possibility exists to make him take the fall."

"We'll have to," admits Cardinal, his eyes closing fully as her fingers slide up his neck and through his hair, head rolling forward as he exhales a sigh, "Before there's a united front against us, we'll need to make a division— make people pick a side…"

"Forcing that could have disasterous consequences, you realize?" Liz asks quietly. Her fingers never cease moving as she thinks through the ramifications. "Norman's actions have pushed a button that can't be unpushed. The number of Evos is very very small compared to the normal humans, but Evos have the potential for a lot of destruction. Exhibit A," she comments dryly. "And what he's done is show them that they have reason to fear us. And he's given a lot of people who were or might have been very middle-of-the-road or moderate in their concerns reasons to really lean toward the anti- side of things… because Evos are actively attacking normal people without caring who they hurt." Her hands pause and she sighs. "I'm not entirely certain we can turn the tide with a human killing Mitchell. Are Mitchell's popularity ratings high enough to make this a counterpoint to what just happened?"

"It might, if we make sure it's part of a greater strategy…" Cardinal's fingers lift to rub against his face, eyes closed, "They do have reason to fear us, that's the problem. We need to— trick them. Balls in cups. If we can get Donovan elected here in the city, it might help too, especially if we can push him higher afterwards. Fortunately, White could've done worse. We can't give him another chance."

There's a moment of silence and Elisabeth comes around to perch on the arm of the chair he's sprawled in. "Nice armchair," she comments, apropos of nothing. "I liked Donovan. He was deputy chief when I was still in uniform. His platform is stable and on the surface, he seems to be everything we could want in a mayor. 'We' being all of us. My concern is that Cat's mother may have Linderman in her corner — she's got entirely too many ties to the Company and Pinehearst that in spite of her help, I don't trust her. And Linderman's been running things in this town for a long time, so she's got a serious chance. Do we have any chance of getting him elected? Truly? His Evo status may well screw the pooch, thanks to Norman's stupid ass." She considers. "I can mention to Cat that we need to start pushing Donovan's agenda. Cuz sure as hell the other two can't be allowed to take over."

"If we can get some documentable evidence connecting her to Pinehearst," Cardinal says, looking up to her with a serious expression, "That could hurt her campaign a good deal… also, I've got some plans that might bring Rickham back into the arena, and if we can get him to back Donovan, that could help push him all the way through."

Elisabeth looks thoughtful. "Could work," she concedes. "I'll see what I can dig up… and maybe ask Hana what she can dig up. If it hurts the Company, she may be far more motivated to do it than anyone else." She's not sure of that, but hey. Can't hurt to ask. Blue eyes study hazel ones, and Elisabeth finally smiles. "You look like hell, Richard. Don't you ever sleep?"

Cardinal's chin bobs in a slight nod over to Elisabeth, "Even if she's not associated with the Company since Pinehearst— fuck, I don't trust the bitch. I met with her recently, she was still arguing that Arthur was right up until Gabriel's power drove him insane. As if he wasn't already…" He flashes up a smirk, "I'm fine. I sleep enough, babe."

There's a short chuckle and Liz reaches out to casually stroke her fingertips across his hair and down the side of his face. Just a brief touch to reassure herself. Then she props her feet on the other arm of the chair and rests her elbows on her upraised knees. It's an awkward way to sit in front of him but eh… it's a place to sit that allows her physical contact, a touchstone as it were, and that helps keep the heebie-jeebies at bay. "The world is never black and white…. Arthur may have at one time had as good of intentions as we do," she tells him softly. "And we've got to be very careful here…. because we are not immune to the corrupting influence of power, Richard. And I don't want to wake up one day and see that we've turned into the very monsters that we're vowing to fight."

Those words have resonance, echoing those of a woman in a bookstore. The Magician, Reversed. "Neither do I," Cardinal says quietly, turning his gaze away, then up, patting her knee with a faint and wry smile, "But we have to move somewhere, or we'll just be paralyzed, Liz."

"I wasn't suggesting we don't move," Elisabeth replies. "Merely that we're watchful about where and why." She pauses and admits quietly, "I'm not good at the long view in this. I can follow the explanations, I can …. study Ray's string map. But I have a hard time comprehending how, for example, someone like Linderman operates mentally. Sixty steps ahead of everyone else, like the whole world's a chess board. I can't…." She bites her lower lip and then looks at him. "Maybe I sound unintelligent when I say so, but seriously…. I used to tell Cat that she was overthinking things cuz she would go off on these tangents that I seriously could not follow. Making connections that to me looked nebulous at best. And I sometimes even now wonder if we need people who can think like that on our side…. or if they just make it worse. Does that make sense?"

"If we don't try to think like that," Cardinal gives his head a tight shake, "Then we'll be outmanuvered by someone who does. It's— like nuclear weapons. Sure, they're horrible, but if you don't have them you're at the mercy of the people who do, you know?" A frustrated gesture of one hand, "— the world is a chessboard. We just need to make sure we're players."

Elisabeth nods slightly. "I realize that. I'm just telling you that I suck at putting the pieces together sometimes." She grins a little. "For a man who was nothing more — or so he thought — than a thief a few months ago, you've come a long way, Richard Cardinal."

Cardinal exhales a snort of breath. "I don't know. I barely remember who I was then… and I don't really know who I am now, either." He averts his gaze, staring off at the walls painted with Xiulan's power, "I really don't, some days."

Liz goes still and asks quietly, "How so?" Perhaps she's overly sensitive to that mood — she herself has been struggling with it for a while now too. But her blue eyes on him are thoughtful, attentive, and curious about his thoughts.

"You said it yourself," Cardinal points out, his head shaking just a bit before sinking back to the chair, offering her a wan smile, "I was a fuckin' second story man just— months ago. Now? Look the fuck around you. Who am I now?"

He asked her that before and she offered an answer that he didn't like. This time when he asks, Elisabeth offers softly, "You're a man in the right place at the right time… hoping that he has the right skills for a job he feels woefully inadequate to do." She unfolds herself from her sitting position up on the arms of the chair, standing in front of him. "Part of it is enlightened self-interest," she says quietly. "You're one of the minority being exterminated, and so you'll fight because you want to live." Elisabeth pauses and studies his face. "The other part?" She leans down, hesitating just before she touches her lips to his. "I could say things about the other part, but you wouldn't believe me anyway." She kisses him softly, lingeringly. "Get some rest, love. We've miles to go yet."

As she leans in, Cardinal brings a hand up to brush the hair from her face, cradling the curve of her face gently as he looks up at her with a tired, frustrated look in his eyes— but there's a warmth there, as he returns the kiss, murmuring in instinctive reply, "We can rest when we're done."

The smile she gives him is weary, and she chooses to say softly, "You asked me if I would still trust you with the blood of a quarter million people on your hands." In a dream, he asked… but it wasn't quite a dream. "I don't love you for the man you think I see when I look at you. The answer is yes. Because you'd never make that choice if any other option were available. I believe that you'll make your choices in good faith, or I wouldn't be here. 'At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want.' Sometimes…. it's a choice of the lesser of evils." She turns her face into his palm, kisses it tenderly, and then slips out of his hands. "I'm probably staying at the Verb for a few days while they clean my apartment," she says calmly. "I'll be on site at the Municipal Building at least the rest of today. I've been pinpointing heartbeats for them to dig to. When there aren't any more, I'll be done."

Hey now, that's dangerously close to the three-words thing right there! Those hazel eyes drop from hers after that first look, his hand sliding down from her cheek to rest on her shoulder. "I wish I had your faith in me," he murmurs, looking back up as she slips away and nodding once, "The Typhoid Mary isn't still staying there, right?"

She knows the look, and Elisabeth merely shakes her head at the man without commenting. There's a spark of amusement in her eyes. "It's hard to have faith in yourself. You know… Marianne Williamson once said — and I think Mandela used it in a speech once — 'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be?'" She grins a bit. "I think it particularly appropriate for you to mull over today. And no, Maya is no longer there — she's out in the fucking city killing hundreds of people, last I heard. And if she is fucking there, she won't be by tonight," she then grouses.

"You're half right. I am afraid that I'm powerful beyond measure." Cardinal's hands brace on the chair's arms, and he pushes himself up to his feet slowly, smirking, "Because, hell, I wouldn't trust me with omnipotence."

The sound of her laughter rings through the library as Elisabeth takes her leave.

At the center of your being you have the answer; you know who you are and you know what you want. — Lao Tzu

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