Masks On Masks


cat_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif

Scene Title Masks On Masks
Synopsis Cat receives a visit to discuss the compass and its riddles in make, purpose and weakness.
Date August 6, 2010

World Center Mall

Situated on the north end of Battery Park City, the World Center Mall is the largest shopping mall remaining in New York City. With the destruction of midtown Manhattan and the general financial decline following the bomb in 2006, many former businesses that eclipsed this large shopping center have gone out of business. The World Center Mall is a three story establishment featuring 150 stores as well as dozens of fast-foot restaurants and a 20-screen cinema located on the mall's third floor.

Given its status as one of the last remaining shopping malls of its type on Manhattan, the World Center Mall remains a busy and active shopping center, crowded with people during operating hours and severely lacking in parking accommodations that have not been expanded since the time of the bomb.

It's customary to have what she wants from this place purchased and delivered to the Verb by means of Alley Cat Couriers, or order it from the Internet version of a particular store, but today Cat has chosen to grace the bricks and mortar location with her physical presence. She's spent an amount of time inside the Borders bookstore acquiring complete dictionaries for Portuguese, Ukrainian, Greek, Japanese, and Mandarin Chinese along with a few university-level texts on chemistry.

Now she's on the way out, carrying those purchases with her as well as some of the coffee also sold on the premises. The cup is lifted to her lips and the contents tasted as she steps out into the mall proper, finding the crowds still sparse at this hour. 09:00. It's a change to her routine, not being at home either working out or performing her daily ritual of looking at various pulblications from the United States and around the world. They're on her kitchen table, and will still be when she gets back.

Malls are palaces in their own right, except that there is no visible throne. God is invisible and the kings and queens have finally ascended to His omnipresence, dematerialised, scattered into science and pricetags and movie screens. There are the gardens, the courtyards, the banquet halls. Lords and ladies in polo shirts and sensible heels, wheeling baby carriages, silhouettes around in a dance where consumers court product. No one sees faces.

Cat has a mind for faces. And names. And physical quirks and manners. But she won't need any of these things when the glaringly obvious shape of Gabriel Gray cuts into the scenery. He's a tall figure in black, with the grizzled, shadowy stubble on his jaw, thick eyebrows winging above moody-set amber eyes and dark hair finger-combed, broad shoulders lines of black wool. In one large hand sits a modest paper cup of icecream, Baskin-Robbins decorations, and he spoons out bitesized helpings of Strawberry and Orange Sherbert, savouring their contrast with each tuck of small plastic spoon passed teeth, tongue curling around cream and sugar.

His fingers fan out in a jaunty wave, as if he is just running into her out of crazy random happenstance, which is not the case.

Brown eyes land on the man when he appears from wherever he was prior, the woman letting out a quiet chuckle. "Good morning, Mr. Gray," Cat offers while feet carry her closer to the sherbert-eater. She acts nonchalant in keeping with the theme of him having just come across her by chance, but she knows better. As much as it's said she rarely goes anywhere or encounters anyone else without some reason in mind, the panmnesiac considers him to have that same tendency.

She doesn't ask the purpose for his presence, believing he like she will get to it in short order.

"Morning." No one is crying Wolf! just yet, or maybe there won't — maybe there are places in this city that Gabriel Gray can walk freely. Magic castles like these. Could be there's some other work at play, here, some other reason that the Most Wanted Man in America is recognised by no one but Catherine Chesterfield. Up close, though, he appears to be very real — as richly detailed as the weight of the books she carries and the scalding heat behind its thin barrier of waterproofed cardboard.

Stopping, Gabriel uses the edge of his hand to wipe an imagined trace of ice cream from the corner of his mouth, where there was none — for a serial killer, he's quite clean. "I have something that belongs to you. Don't get excited." He tucks his hand into his pocket, and pulls out the familiar prototype of a compass, turning it around in his palm. She will spot some differences that might indicate the way the thing has been taken apart and put back together.

Eyes lower to the device and study it, her mind instantly comparing and contrasting current condition against when she handed it over, including whether or not it now works, then raise to the man's face again. Cat hasn't the least trace of excitement about her features. Whether or not that reserve is true to the core presents as an unknown thing, as is her apparent lack of concern he appears before her in such a public place where there may even be cameras. The killer still known as Sylar has his ways.

"Most interesting," she allows in quiet voice. "Thank you kindly."

It remains disappointingly lifeless in her hand, and unlike her schooled features, Gabriel's show a flash of irritation when he tracks the progression of the thing, eyes darting further to dip his gaze in sprinkled ice cream, and take another bite after a loud scrape of plastic spoon along curved cardboard edge. "My power reduces things into puzzles," he explains, after a moment, some of that pretense dropped, but his voice remains conversational. Relatively quiet and textured like sandpaper. "And I can see the picture before it's done, and I can see the error someone else has made.

"I can see it in that, too. Missing patches. I need the pieces to figure it out completely, the parts that tune it to people like us. I guess we give something off, some other magnetic pull."

Another swallow of ice cream, a finishing bite, taking the time to grease the excess off his teeth with his tongue. The little paper cup and spoon are deposited in a nearby waste can. "Long and short of it is that it's a work in progress," is what he settles on, and it will be up to her to guess whether this is as close as Gabriel will ever come to admitting that he's failed at something without throwing it across the room, or if he's being perfectly honest. Or secretive.

This conversation seems to answer at least one question Cat's had; that of whether or not Gabriel is the person Abby spoke of taking that watch she recovered in Canada to. Were it so, she surmises, he would have those pieces. A number of other things could be considered. Honesty or the lack of it, pride against admitting failure and playing that off as simply having not succeeded yet, being secretive… But it's the practical she opts to speak of.

"It's very possible the equations I made it from are incomplete or flawed, the diagram for the device also inadequate. Do you have ideas what those pieces might be and how to acquire them?" She stands willing to do so. "We do emit an electromagnetic field, I located a person who sees the whole spectrum and he confirmed it as present for us, but not those without the Complex."


It's not singsong, the way he says it, but there's avoidance, there, the shift of his gaze away and then back. "And no, I don't know how to acquire them. But I have a question." And Gabriel pauses, a glance away to study the nearest of passersby, as if judging their glance there way, what they contain. Nothing important, evidently. "Thing is, that whatever you answer is going to be, it's going to be measured, perfect. You'd be a great politician. Better than your mommy."

It wouldn't be difficult, says the slightly facetious edge in his tone, but it fades again. "What are you going to use it for? Apart from understanding the enemy."

There's a stiffening to her posture and sharp intake of breath from the words he uses, slight evidence of a nerve being struck, an evidence of perceived personal failure. Having presumed Mother had security detail with her and be able to use her biochemical talents to dispatch Dreyfus when he made his move. Having not gone there in person soon as Jensen said she was under threat. Stoicism resets within the space of a second, she's not one to let on such things in front of others, especially not Gabriel Gray. Displays of potential weakness are anathema.

"I would hope," she replies in dry tones, "not to die garrotted on my knees." There's a brief temptation to discuss Samson Gray and his taste for visiting redhaired pregnant Delilahs, but she restrains it in favor of stating "It's more than understanding the enemy. The goal is finding a way to defeat the device itself. To mask the fields from attempts at spotting them. Devices like this one are crucial to success, one can't know if a method works without a means to test the masking."

There is only a trace of a smile, there, beneath his customarily dead eyes. It ticks up, flattens again, as fleeting as her startle, and he doesn't enquire as to how she might like to die instead. There are some subjects that you want to avoid, when you're a serial killer, and off-duty. "See?" Gabriel says, instead, hands tucking into his pockets, and there's more to say, but he hesitates, properly considering her measured phrase with the same respect fingertips give a rosary, one bead after the other, running over syllables and their inflections.

"I need parts," he says again, his voice flat like the underscore of some other phrase, teeth clicking shut on the period. "And time to consider my options. I can probably help you make it." Then something happens, a disturbance in the force, and before her eyes, his appearance ripples, silken in movement and without respect to the three dimensional planes that his body creates.

Grigori's breed of illusion drops as if discarded. Bored with it. The shapeshifted body beneath it is a boy with bronzey-blonde hair and high cheekbones, his mouth like a sullen slash in his pale face, and a full decade or more younger than Gabriel Gray. But Cat will see the way he holds himself is the same, and when he speaks, his words contain the same, distinctive rhythm, even if his tone is a clearer tenor. "I just need to figure out if I want to," the teenager remarks, lifting one vaguer eyebrow as he takes a step back from her.

Around them, no one so much as bats an eyelash at this change. Maybe they're used to Evos. Maybe only Cat saw it.

"What parts would you need?" Cat inquires smoothly, "and what might inspire wanting to make the device?" It's perhaps reassuring he doesn't already want to do so for obvious reasons. If he's not concealing such desire to see how much she can be milked for in addition. "You're as skilled with that as Grigori was, and this body you're showing me now… interesting choice. Years ago I might've tried to tackle him first, and get him to be my band's drummer next. Or vice-versa."

That gets a soft snort, breezed through a straight, narrow nose. "Masks on masks. Some days it's the only way to be sure." Sure of being hidden, and sure of being seen. Gabriel scuffs his fingers, now, through lighter hair slightly shorter crossed than his usual raven locks, stubby fingernails barely felt on his scalp. "Get me the needle," he finally says, after a heavy pause, and his mouth twists as if the words leaving it were bitter. Today, he doesn't want to negotiate, it seems.

Doesn't want to see what he can get out of her. What he can get out of the compass itself. "And then we'll talk."

"What makes the needle different than a normal compass needle?" Cat asks, "Is your need for one that isn't already magnetized?" She believes the object can be acquired, what's unclear is just what the object needs to be. "Or one that was already in such a device?" He is observed with calm, brown eyes perhaps masking recollections of a man who looked close to his current appearance. Maybe she did tackle such a person and lure him to be the drummer some years ago.

She wasn't always this measured.

"It's your riddle now," Gabriel says, flippant, speaking out the mouth of young Timothy Lantz, who was found with his head cut open, brains scooped out, some few years ago. His parents might never have known he was a shapeshifter otherwise, until the big bad Sylar came down, one day, like a virus. "But if you have one, what do you need me for?"

"I don't have one," Cat admits, "and will tackle the riddle." Hopefully she can convince Abby to surrender the needle, or whatever served as the pointing part, from that watch. Or if not one can be somehow acquired elsewhere. "I'll be in contact when I have it. Thank you again."

His mouth curls again, feline smile, before he dips in his narrowed chin into a nod. A hand raises, splays fingers like a star in a brief, still wave, before his fingers curl like claws, burned leaves, fingernails finding palm before that arm drops to his side and he's walking away, cutting the same path through the slowly thickening crowd.

Someone's shoulder collides with his, and Gabriel goes still for the time it takes for him to decide to do nothing about it, continuing his steady pace away.

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