More Equal Than


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Scene Title More Equal Than
Synopsis Two weather wizards talk philosophy, politics, and trust, with a peripheral exercise in testing their abilities with— or against each other.
Date September 25, 2009

Staten Island — Coast

"Are you with Shard or only against White?"

As old sage questions go, that one lacks a little for neutrality or subtlety of color, maybe, but only a little. The old man stands on the sand, the half of a wrecked and buried jetty protruding from the shoreline's coarse level like a standing ribcage from deteriorated flesh, the nearest ship too far away to identify even by the size of the letters coated onto its rusted hull. Clear vespertine wind nips at his collared blue shirt, the khakis rolled up above his bare ankles. If it weren't for the scar bisecting his eye, if it weren't for Staten fucking Island, he'd looks like a well-to-do retiree, enjoying the benefits of a resort scenario.

There's a gun tucked in his pants, though. And the scar, the island, even the question he tosses at her with casual small-talk curiosity troubled by the war. It's quiet out here, tonight, but even that has a redolence to it, decay, animals chased down their burrows and birds back to their roosts, a coming storm.

The chill of New York's autumn is nothing to these two. Helena's hoody is more to keep her face obscured than because she's cold, which she's not. "I am certainly anti-White." Helena confesses. "But I'm also not 'with' Shard. It seems like he and I agree, though. I mean, it looks like we're kind of going in the same direction with things." She looks back up at the man, trying not to allow herself to feel kinship with him on the basis of ability alone. Helena's finally learned that she reaches out with trust and care far too easily, and now she's being careful. "What about you?"

A grin quirks the man's broad mouth up, adds crow's feet to the edges of his eyes. He widens the sturdy fingers of his right hand and she feels a change in the air around her, pressure— not painful— like a cold finger resting on her skin, testing the consistency of her skin and the difference of temperature, before it abates, dissipaying. Only, the temperature of her skin doesn't change; not at all. "I disagree with much of what he believes and strives for, but I haven't picked up arms in your choice of battlefields yet, either. I'm— I think the term is" and he pauses here, like he's testing the shape and flavor of the phrase: " pro-Evolved."

It is hard to resist and so Helena doesn't. Her own power reaches it, like an invisible hand, as if testing to see if they will butt up against his like a pair of jostling animals, or if their influences will interlace, and if the latter, what that feels like. "That's fair." she says equably. "I mean, I guess. To a point. There are some very bad Evolved out there, along with bad non-Evolved." She pauses, thoughtful for a moment. "But I'd rather save one Evolved person than kill a dozen Humanis First operatives."

Resistance meets the younger atmokinetic's influence. Nothing belligerent or eerie, but a simple conflict of physical directions and molecular pressure: she nudging the subtle chemistries of the air toward him, he toward her, the psychic force conferred over their respective swathes of atmosphere niggling against one another.

A faint line etches itself in over his brow, barely visible in the low light of the evening. He might be a little curious, too. "I think the average bad non-Evolved could amount to more under different circumstances, but the average Evolved is above-average." Tension coils in the sky, a shift of gaseous weight both miniaturized— subtler, and further-reaching than the crush inside the cabin of a descending aircraft, a gentle palm closing a fist around the harbor's granite-rimmed expanse.

"Are you wanting to say that we're superior just by virtue of the Suresh Linkage Complex?" Helena asks musingly. It becomes something like the martial arts exercise of push and pull, she begins to push and then withdraw, like the hands of partners each taking turns yielding and pressing alternately. "That's a very dangerous road to go down. I mean, maybe we're the next step. But I think it's a bad idea to try and force that hand. It has equal potential to turn into what those who are afraid among non-Evolved are trying to do to us."

Creak, spill, reseal. The ocean breathes salty if only shallowly at first, push and pull, evacuating air and velocity through the steady bellow action of twinned abilities bearing in from the shore. Click-clock: the water's surface takes a new chop, sine curve of movement gaining strength and amplitude, waves decorating their peaks with a curl of white foam. "I don't think anyone really has a doubt that we're the next step.

"Not a step some people want humanity to take," he concedes, wryly. He shifts his shoulders back, pulling tendon against shoulderblade like wings, and a breath. "I say we are superior by virtue of the Suresh Linkage Complex.

"Dont' get me wrong. I don't think we should butcher, segregate, or 'cure' our less blessed brethren. So many of our abilities have direct application to and benefit for a wider human society. Technopaths would be less without the Worldwide Web— I honed my ability on shaping the weather systems over the farming locale I worked in. Yes, an exploding man destroyed New York City once, but the first of God's angels leads His army, and the times call for war here on Earth.

"I don't want to force anyone's hand, Helena. Not Norman White's, not— President Nathan Petrelli's, not yours. What you do with your hand, what you wield and why— that's your business. My interest," he squares a thumb back, at himself. Cloudcover blots the moon out overhead, runs watercolor tracks, texturing ambient starlight and rhythm to the drone of the wind. McRae cracks her a grin, mad old fool that he is. "Is what you have in your heart."

The cycles of the planet are not sentient, but on an intuitive level, Helena feels like they are. The interchange of powers generates a metaphorical electricity, it energizes her, almost lifts her off her feet from the buzz. "It doesn't have to become worse before it gets better." she says. "I understand that violence has often been the greatest force for change, and that no peaceful movement has ever been successful without having been confronted by violence. But it doesn't have to turn into carnage. It doesn't have to be some kind of apocalypse now."

She begins to edge her power back carefully, not wanting to throw things out of whack, but she does it slowly - the way it makes her feel, it gives her a sort of inner thrill, a wash of excitement, of joy, like she's vibrating, it's not something she wants to give up. "Isn't the hand ruled by the heart? That should give you an idea of what's in it." She presumes that's what he's asking about.

It is, in part. McRae lets his thumb down, his hand angling down, planing the trajectory of passing wind.

He's solidly built, for a man his age. No six-pack or glacial cut of a bodybuilder's musculature implied by the ruffle and huff of the shirt buttoned down his torso, but there's undeniable strength in the arm that he raises up toward the sky, the round bones of his wrist and straight bolts of the metacarpals splayed under the callused skin of his palm unwavering despite the fervor growing in the breeze. Pull, push.

Helena's private microcosm of comfortable summer warmth doesn't waver under its buffet and press, but she feels its edges surer than she had before, its shape and strength defined by its defiance. She doesn't have to be able to see the front of his balded head to know hard concentration presides there. "The heart can be led astray and led back. The hand can learn with it. The hand should." Abruptly, his open fingers yaw, flex in on acute angles. No fist.

The horizon shimmers, flexing, half a mile out— and suddenly ruptures around a whirling axis, a waterspout lurching, twisting, serpentine-skinny and an absurdity of boneless agility, a hundred yards high and skewing, looping diagonal up and up toward a cauldron of fresh-formed stormclouds. It looks all the world like a straw struck down from Heaven to suck up the immense but merely terrestrial expanse of the sea, but Helena's senses tell her better, gigglingly whispering its secret: the walls are water vapor, scintillating, a cloud sculpted by a tornado's roof-splitting force, no trick of tide or sea.

A tornado, a cyclone. Down in Florida, when it's off at sea like that, they call it a water spout, such an innocuous name for something that could actually creat great problems. Helena watches with fascination, but after a few moments of silence, raises her hand as well, slim and smooth compared to his older, work hardened one. Her effort is not so much because she wants to defy McRae as it is to see if she's good enough to surpass him. Helena's not unaware of the level of power she can wielded…at her most powerful, heightened by Gillian's purest, whitest energy, Hel could sense and touch every weather system along the Eastern seaboard. She's never forgotten what that felt like.

The warm air pressure is tricky in this situation, as she begins to try and counter the oceanic cyclone to try and bring calm to the stormy skies. She has an innate understanding of what to do and how to do it, but whether she has enough strength and influence is another issue altogether.

"What is it that you think should be in my heart?"

"Or shouldn't be." she adds quickly.

It isn't supposed to look like this. The New York Bay is nothing like Florida, ought to be ruled by fierce cold and steel bridges but not by this shrill exposition in meteorological mayhem. It's beautiful, even in the dark. Especially in the dark. The blotch and cover of the clouds is wrong, artificial, shaped: a small island fringed by enough moonlight to give the suspended freshwater particles a sheen, definition and distinction against the matte, flat black of the sky behind it.

"Godliness!" he answers, in something of a shout to be heard, and God knows what he means by that; the word encompasses two conventionally diametrically opposed definitions. Piousness and His own divinity. "And through that, humanity."

The whimsical spout sags in its middle, not quite its base, a section of it slowing its aerodynamism and sagging out of its flight under the sway of Helena's influence. Sends a crescent slice of foam ripping white through the sea's surface, falling, water into water, the wall growing thready, cracking.

This won't do. Helena's brow furrows, she pushes harder. Surely the bridges can stand, but the cars on it, if it gets out of hand? Likely not so much. This could cause chaos. Hand still extended out, she turns her head to look at him, even as her hand still extends, her will still tries to force imposition over his. "We're not gods." she says, her own voice raising over the whistle and blow of the wind. "And I try to do what's good. That's all I can do. That's what's in my heart." And if he doesn't like that, well, too bad. That's what she's got.

"No. That would be blasphemous," McRae agrees, glancing over his shoulder at her, brows in pale relief against his tan. The division of his concentration takes its toll on the waterspout's ravening spin. It warps, twists, snakes through the surface of the ocean in the air in circuits and sidling shifts that take up hundreds of yards, shying from the shore, but it never jigs a real threat toward Bayonne, or anything there.

"Most of the people I acquaint myself with try to do what's good. I'm glad that's what's in your heart, but there are all kinds of good. All sorts of wicked men who believe what they do is righteous." Over the drone and roar of water, it's difficult to tell whether or not McRae meant that leaden note of irony to be there, wrapping that line tightly around Norman White. "It wouldn't kill you to embrace what makes you better than the common man. It may even save lives, if this is what you ultimately think it right to do//."

She cannot help herself, she is incredulous, but has the poker face to keep it in check. "I've embracedn my ability." she says. "Everything about it makes me feel connected, like I'm part of something. It's as essential to me as my lungs or my heart or my brain or my bones. The only thing as bad as Verse's torture sessions was not being able to feel…everything. I don't have to think myself superior, but I have to acknowledge my responsibility to do what I can to help my fellow man."

Verse is a name that McRae recognizes, and the feeling she describes— that, more even than him. A common history. He smiles more, and the expression takes up his whole face, before he turns it back to the sea. "In my humble opinion," he says, "you should have both."

His humility finds its most generous of expressions when he drops his arm— and, abruptly, the water spout with it. The monolithic serpent runs short of fuel like a boat's rotor choking out, frays, sending coruscating strands of freshwater out in clattering, cracking pointillism across the sea, dissolving to the will of gravity and tide. The gesture is simple. Possibly unnecessary. Underlines and bold-weights that it was his choice to do this, release the weather back unto itself. Or to her.

"Do you know why I was sent to Moab Federal Penitentiary?" Even his normal voice sounds loud now that it's quiet.

Helena's hand drops a moment later, and she is silent for perhaps an overlong time. "No." she admits. "Are you going to tell me you did something…" she can't even finish. This would of course be typical, that Helena even builds an incremental connection to someone, only to have some aspect of themselves be revealed that degrades it, no matter how fragile, or presumably unconditional it must be. Her fingers flicker, a breeze swirls around them, lifting her hair briefly, and him…well, man's not got much in the way of hair.

"What do you really want from me?" she asks suddenly. "Is it because you want something, or because we're the only two with our power that we know, am I just someone you feel you need to persuade into your way of thinking? Please don't be vague, or metaphorical, or allegorical, I'm not good at that. Please tell me what you want." Because in this odd emotional spot, she's not quite prepared for yet another betrayal, even from such a fragile, initial connection as this one.

No, David McRae doesn't have a lot of hair. This becomes more apparent when the artificially storm-blighted sky cedes its grip to moonlight, which highlights his great balding dome, its functionally close crop. Round. Symmetrical. His eyes are shadowed inscrutably dark underneath the cut of his brow, the differences of his facial topography now exaggerated by light. It looks dignified.

He looks a little tired, but pleased for all this. "I want you to listen to me," he says to the girl between the winged flare and drifting screen of her blonde hair. "But I want you to live with dignity, and I want you to succeed. We are the only two with our power that I know. I think that means something. I think it must." Despite his smile, he looks earnest saying that, utterly convinced in a way that Helena might feel she hasn't been in a long, long time. "And if it puts you at ease, I didn't do anything you'd term a crime.

"Except maybe that I Registered," no bitterness. None. "And some very powerful men needed an explanation for their stockholders about why the agricultural markets took a hit. Posthumans were popular at the time."

"I'm living with all the dignity I can, for someone who's looked at and viewed by most as barely more than a teenager." Even if she's gone through more than many her age in the recent years could imagine. Her tone's a little wry, but not resentful. "I'll listen to you." she says. "But I can't promise that I'll agree with everything you say. Like being superior. I believe the moment we convince ourselves that we're superior - that we're all animals equal, but some are more equal than others - we're becoming exactly what non-Evolved are afraid of." He knows she'll come see him again, even if she still feels hesitant to fully and entirely accept his hand, to presume on a deeper or gradual deeper connection as time passes.

That, too, you might call wisdom; learning from the unimaginable lessons wrought by recent years. "Better a teenager than a crazy old man. Or we can agree to disagree on that and the other point," McRae acquiesces, diplomatically. "I think it's better to be wary of hubris than enamored with it, anyway." There's a note of distinct irony, there. He might know a few young people who run the risk of car wrecking squarely in the latter category. "God knows I've never gained a thing from being feared.

"Maybe we can agree to agree on one thing?" He lets his voice lift at the end, allows that to become a question, the way he means it. As he steps away from the shoreline and the rubbled bones of the old dock, his feet peel away wet, leave pits dug into the beach where he'd begun gently to sink by the drag of the rejuvenated tide of his own making. "You have a destiny. And it's screaming in your ear a little louder than most people have to listen to. Sane, adult, non-Evolved, or no."

The wind steals by her, plays shyly at comradely daps and chuckles with the wrinkling seawater, should their quarrel be over and faded into the easy clarity of night. The old man makes his offer in a gesture: to walk her back inland.

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