Not A Word


barbara_icon.gif nora_icon.gif

Scene Title Not A Word
Synopsis Barbara tracks down one of the island's denizens on behalf of the Council.
Date December 05, 2010

Pollepel Island

It's not terribly often that Barbara Zimmerman goes out expressedly looking for someone. Even when she was helping to run Thompson, most of the time if she needed someone, she would simply wait for them to cross her path unless her needs were truly urgent. It was a plan that happened to work with amazing frequency, and still does to this day. Maybe a bit of luck, maybe a bit of good timing, maybe a little bit of childhood magic and hope she had never really been able to let go of.

But today, she's on the hunt, in a manner of speaking, for someone in particular. She had given the "let things come to you" approach a try the previous night, but it hadn't turned up anything, and honestly the faster she found who she was looking for, likely the better. Nora and her friends had been the main topic of conversation the night before, and she had offered to speak with the blind girl the first chance she got.

Hopefully that would go well.

It had taken her a bit, after finally finding someone who had seen Nora sitting by her lonesome in the castle, Barbara was on her, hands in her sweatshirt pockets and hat pulled low on her head. Quiet the entire walk, it's only when she turns a corner and spots Nora, in one of the more sparsely populated parts of the castle, that she finally speaks up again.

"Hello, Nora," she says gently as she approaches, trying her best not to startle or surprise the young girl. "Do you have a moment?"

The teenager is curled up in what she's come to think of as "her" corner, where she goes to get away from the voices of those in the castle and to listen to those she hears instead in her head. At least those aren't meant to accompany visuals she can't see. Nora's wrapped in a blanket, arms huddling her thin legs toward her chest. When she hears her name, her head turns from the wall to the hallway, her ever-present sunglasses covering her non-seeing eyes.

"Hi," she says tentatively, fingers finding the edge of the blanket to pull around her a little more tightly, a defensive gesture. "Sure. Who is it?" She's met too many people to recognize all of their voices on just a few words.

Barbara chuckles a bit at the question - she hadn't forgotten that Nora was blind, but nor had it occurred to her to actually properly introduce herself. "Barbara Simms," she answers, looking to see if there's space for her to take a seat besides Nora. "Do you mind if I take a seat? I wanted to speak with you." Still trying to sound gentle - tones and sounds obviously matter much more than posture and other physical cues. "Nothing bad," she adds after a moment, "I promise you that much."

"Pull up a slab of whatever cold material my butt's sitting on, sure, feel free," Nora says lightly enough, a hand gesturing to the area in front of her. There's a tenseness to her posture to suggest she's not entirely credulous of the older woman's words that it's "nothing bad." After all, Benji's been holed away and Howard's been hurt. She rakes teeth over her lips as she waits for Barbara to sit and to broach whatever subject she's there to talk to her about — time is relative, and when one can't see, pauses feel like forever.

Forever it might indeed feel like, if only because the ground is rather cold and it takes her a moment to get settled and collect her thoughts. She's been over what she's intending to say several times in her head now, but now actually faced with the situation, careful revaluation is necessary. The last thing she wants to do, after all, is accidentally upset someone. "You weren't joking about the cold," she starts with a bit of a laugh. A little strained, but largely genuine. There's another moment of silence as Barbara lets out a bit of the sight, looking up into the younger girl's sunglasses covered eyes. "I wanted to start by apologising about how your friends have been treated. Things are… tense, and it's a required precaution. But we're trying to make things as right as we can at the moment."

Nora is quiet for a moment, a long moment; her brows knit above the top of her sunglasses before she nods slowly. "It's understandable. I mean, I understand the precaution, and all, and you also saved our lives, probably, so, you know." She shrugs.

"Yin and yang, right? I don't know what Benji's in trouble about, just that he was, but I know he wouldn't do anything to hurt anybody. He couldn't, I don't think, even if he tried. He's a nice guy. If he and the others hadn't looked out for me — I donno. I'd probably be dead." Her voice is a little thicker, edged with a defensiveness borne of fear and uncertainty.

Pursing her lips, Barbara does a bit of mental weighing of pros and cons before she speaks up again. "Benji is… he hasn't hurt anyone that we're aware of, no. But he was caught sneaking off the island, and in possession of a badge linking him to the Department of Evolved Affairs." Barbara leans back, slouching a bit. Thankfully, she doesn't have to appear formal and proper for Nora. It helps, really. "I can hope you understand how that might reflect poorly until we know more. He seems like a nice kid, for what it's worth." She offers a bit of a smile, even if Nora can't see it. "Hopefully, that will all be resolved soon enough."

She shifts in her seat a bit, looking over at Nora. "If you have any questions, I'll answer them as best as I can, within my allowances. But in truth, Nora, I'm here to speak about you, along with offering apologies." And now she sits back up a bit, hands coming out from inside her sweatshirt as she makes motions while she talks, out of habit rather than for Nora's benefit. "We're trying to find ways for you and your friends to help out and feel wanted while you're here. Not to say we want to put you to work, but we do want you all to feel involved, rather than alienated." There's a pause, legs drawn up to the redhead's chest. "So I have a question for you that I hope you don't mind me asking… We know what it is that some of your friends can do, both ability or otherwise. I was curious, Nora, as to what talents you have that you might like to put to use."

The blind girl sits still, very still, when Benji's issues are laid out by Barbara; without seeing her eyes, it's hard to read her expression from the impassive set of her jaw. At one point she swallows, but finally she nods slowly, to show she's hearing the other woman's words. Once more, after Barbara stops speaking, there's a lull — as if the girl is trying to choose her words carefully, perhaps, or whether to answer at all.

Brows knit together once more over her sunglasses as if she's frustrated at something, some minute or so after Barbara stops speaking.

"I don't feel alienated," she finally says. "People are nice enough. I mean, we're not the only ones here who aren't a part of your little club, right? Are you asking everyone what they can do or just us? And really, any talents I have — they're not super useful without my eyes, or without equipment that I don't have. I can play the piano — never tried blindfolded, so I donno how that's gonna work now. I'm not super smart or anything — been homeless, so you know, I've got a whopping tenth grade education behind me; won't help much with the little kids since I can't read their school books to help them with their homework — even if we had any school supplies."

"Eventually?" Barbara begins, tapping a foot on the stone ground, "I'm sure we'll get to everyone. Most people who are here are finding ways to help out, in kitchens, or hunting, or working with the kids. We're trying our best to keep people from just sitting around doing nothing all the time, both for their and the Network's benefit." There's a beat of silence before she continues.

"But for the moment? I will admit that we're focusing on you and your friends. Howard in particular has voiced disdain at being here, and with Raith and I breaking up the fighting the other day, and Benji being set up on his own at the moment. You can visit him, if you'd like, though it will have to be supervised. He's- not a prisoner. He can come and go from his room, see people. We just have precautions for the moment." Which includes drug induced negation, but she's trying her best not to talk about that at the moment."

One leg straightens out as Barbara sighs, shaking her head. "Hence the worry about alienation. We have to be cautious, but we don't want anyone feeling /unwanted// when it's not warranted." There's another momentary pause before Barbara speaks again, one that seems like an eternity even to her. "I don't mean to be rude, but I do have a question of curiosity that I need to ask, Nora. I know that several of friends posses… evolved abilities. From what I've heard of Hannah in particular, if she's willing to help, she could be a wonderful asset. It's your choice, ultimately, but if you are able to help us in some way, and willing, it would be greatly appreciated."

"We're not trying to get a free ride or anything," Nora says a little defensively, this time no long awkward silence after Barbara's words. Nora's feet scuff on the ground as her knees press closer to her chest beneath the blanket she wears draped around herself.

"I'd help more if I could. I'm not trying to be an invalid. I've helped dry plates and things like that but I can't hunt, I can't do much, and neither can Howard since he got hurt, and Benji being in isolation or whatever the last few days. If people think we're a burden, we can go."

Dark brows knit above her sunglasses. "If Benji's allowed to leave," she adds, pointedly, before sighing, hand raking through her dark hair suddenly, frustration welling up visibly. "Have you talked to Hannah about this?"

"I-" Barbara frowns, closing her mouth before she says much more, instead trying to think harder. "I… didn't mean to imply that anyone thought you were," she says after a moment, an apologetic tone in her voice as she looks down at the ground. "I'm sorry if I was being insensitive, I didn't mean to be. I admit, I'm not used to dealing with someone who's facing the particular problem you are at the moment." Maybe, in that sense, Eileen would have been far better for this than Barbara. But it's a little too late for that now.

She lets out a long sigh, not entirely sure how to continue that part of the conversation without further alienating Nora, so she does a bit of a hop to her other question. "Not yet. She's not being drafted or anything. But after her participation in the rescue operation the other week, the thought has been to ask her if she would like to. Her decision, of course. I was just using it as an example, really."

Nora bites her lip, and exhales a sibilant sigh of frustration. "I'm sorry, I'm … defensive, I know. It's just… this isn't me. I'm not the kind of person to … you know. Do nothing. So I guess I took it the wrong way, even if you're trying to offer me a chance to help. I want to make this world a better place — Barbara? I do. I can't stand to see… or you know, know the world is out there the way it is, and getting worse. But I don't know what to do now that I'm like this."

She waves a hand at her face, fingers hitting the sunglasses at the corner and knocking them free, clattering to the ground. Nora's eyes, dark brown framed by dark lashes, would be considered pretty if it weren't for the angry red on the whites of her eyes, too livid to be anything as mundane as pink eye.

The sudden exposure has Nora clamping her jaw tightly again, even as those damaged eyes start to well with tears. "I'm sorry. I — maybe I can help, but I don't think it's much. It's not like hunting or keeping guard duty, nothing so useful as that. I … I can do stuff with radio waves."

The councilwoman's frown doesn't abate, and she reaches down in front of her and wordlessly retrieves the sunglasses from where they rest on the floor. Seeing the young woman's eyes damaged as they are makes her wince, something thankfully unknown to the blind girl. It's a sad sight, one that makes Barbara feel that much worse for having accidentally offended her earlier. She doesn't yet respond, instead reaching down, carefully and slowly, to take Nora's hand and place the sunglasses in them - she'll leave it to her if she wants to put them back on. From there, the hand is moved and slowly placed on Nora's shoulder, squeezing in what is intended to be a reassuring motion.

"You have my sympathies, you really do," she says quietly, gently before removing her hand. "I don't think anyone here can stand to see how things are. But every little thing we can do helps. And like I said, it's your choice, we're simply offering the opportunity to be more involved." She falls silent for a moment, thinking. "Manipulating radio waves… Can you intercept them? Or just- change them without needing knobs?" She doesn't want to feel like she's probing, but it probably sounds like she is. "It could be useful for communications, depending?" Barbra actually isn't sure - this isn't her area of expertise. But people use radios for talking, right? "If you'd like, I can talk to someone about putting that to use. If not, that's fine."

Nora nods at the words of thanks, dark lashes dipping as she looks down. Her hand curls around the black frames, swallowing as she reaches up to swipe at her tearstained cheek with the cuff of her sleeve.

"I can talk on them without needing one," she murmurs. "I can make sure the signal's safe, only meant for the person I want to get it to — or at least, we think it is, from the tests I've done since I manifested. I can jam, too, depending on the signal strength. Easier if it's short range stuff than big stuff, you know?"

Oh. So she hadn't been that far off at all, had she? Though she feels bad for prodding the answer out of Nora, it's a good piece of information to have, truth be told. "I've never met anyone with an ability like that," Barbara admits, her tone thoughtful as she looks back ahead. "I used to run a safehouse commune in Canada. Not too unlike this island, though more structured. I'm used to… finding stuff for people to do, being very organised, so I'm sorry if I seem a bit pushy. But, it sounds like you can something that's really…" she pauses to chuckle, allowing herself a moment that feels like being several years younger than she really is, "awesome. And useful. I'll leave it up to you, but if ever want something to do… I recommend talking to Eileen. Or if he's not being too rough, Raith. I imagine being able to talk to safehouses without worry would be greatly appreciated."

At Barbara's laugh and use of the word awesome, Nora allows herself to smile, tension easing out of her stiff stance a little. "I can probably do that, if they use radios, yeah," she says quietly. She rubs her face, wiping away the tears but smudging dust across her cheeks in the process. "I'm not usually such a crybaby. You won't tell the others, will you? That I cried? Like… your people or my friends."

"Not a word," is a brief but well thought out reply from Barbara, and though Nora can't see it, she's smiling again. "I promise. And… honestly, with everything that's gone on, you're more than entitled to it, a bit. The commune I helped run, Thompson… we were raided by the Institute, back over the summer." Maybe details she may be chastised for sharing, maybe not, and really she's not normally so outwardly trust of someone whose friend is attached to the DoEA. But at the moment, Barbara believes in offering a measure of trust in order to get it in return. "They took a lot of people I'd become friends with. I'm not the crying type, I assure. But once I got away, once I had some time to myself…" Well, the story finishes itself, really. "So I wouldn't worry about it, too much."

Nora nods, unfolding the sunglasses in her hands to place them back on her face. "I don't want them to think I'm weak, you know? I'm already younger, so they try to protect me," she says quietly.

She's quiet for a moment, then adds, "I'm sorry about your friends, too."

Barbara gives another quiet laugh and a nod of her head. "I understand. I'll make sure it stays between us. And thank you. Part of the reason I'm here is to make sure nothing like that happens again." Which, Barbara hopes, will explain some of the tension about. The fact that she's refrained from mentioning Howard's compass isn't intentional, but even as Barbara remembers the detail now, she decides it best to leave that matter rest.

A hand reaches back, gently patting on Nora's back. "But if there is anything you need, or want to talk or complain about, you're welcome to find me and let me know. The same goes for your friends, if you want to pass that on." Barbara's feet shift a bit, Nora able to hear her shoes scratching across the concrete as she draws them back to her, getting ready to push herself back up to a standing position. "Okay?"

Pulling her blanket back around her from where it had slipped into her lap, Nora nods before resting her head against the wall. "Okay," she says in agreement, lips curving into a tentative smile. "I'll pass it on… though you might not wanna give Howard the permission to come complain to you. You may never have a spare moment to yourself again, if you do that," she quips — the time to be maudlin clearly passed, and her humor returned.

"I'll leave it to your discretion, then," Barbara replies with a bit of a chuckle, moving slowly back upright. She takes a moment to brush herself off, hands slipping into her pockets. "Do you need a hand, or are you planning on staying around here a bit longer?" An eyebrow is quirked, Barbara looking down at the young woman with one last offer before she heads on her way.

Booted feet scuff, nearly tripping on the blanket before Nora manages to disentangle herself and not fall, without any help. "I can get around okay now, if I count steps," she says softly. "But I'll walk with you. You can put me to work somewhere, maybe." Despite her saying there's little she could do, suddenly Nora seems to want to help, after all.

Thankfully unseen to Nora, Barbara winces again for having another somewhat insensitive moment. "Alright," she replies with a smirk, waiting for Nora to be up and ready to go before she starts walking. She's at least pleased that things seem to be in a bit higher spirits now. "Alright, hmm. Why don't we take a bit of a walk, and see what we can find?"" Admittedly, thinking of something for Nora to do is tough, but the redhead is more than confident something can be found.

After all, on Pollepel Island, there's much to do, and a place for everyone, whether they realise it or not.

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