Not Giving Up


cardinal_icon.gif gillian2_icon.gif

Scene Title Not Giving Up
Synopsis Sometimes the best advice comes from unlikely sources. Such as criminals. And sometimes those unlikely sources are actually the most likely of all.
Date September 18, 2009

New York Public Library

Once upon a time, the New York Public Library was one of the most important libraries in America. The system, of which this branch was the center, was among the foremost lending libraries /and/ research libraries in the world.

The bomb changed that, as it changed so much else.

By virtue of distance, the library building was not demolished entirely, like so many others north of it; however, the walls on its northern side have been badly damaged, and their stability is suspect. The interior is a shambles, tattered books strewn about the chambers and halls, many shelves pulled over. Some have even been pulled apart; piles of char in some corners suggest some of their pieces, as well as some of the books, have been used to fuel fires for people who sought shelter here in the past.

In the two years since the bomb, the library — despite being one of the icons of New York City — has been left to decay. The wind whistles through shattered windows, broken by either the blast-front or subsequent vandals, carrying dust and debris in with it. Rats, cats, and stray dogs often seek shelter within its walls, especially on cold nights. Between the fear of radiation and the lack of funds, recovery of the library is on indefinite hiatus; this place, too, has been forgotten.

A part of the roof caved in here long ago, leaving this upper room of the library open to the sky; the debris's been moved away, and most recently the entire area's been taken over by a home-made hydroponics set up. PVC piping criss-crosses over itself like a skeleton's ribcage, cups made of halved two-litre bottles filled with water and nutrients within which seeds and cuttings are floating.

The moon's just coming up, and Cardinal's crouched beside the main tank off to the side, measuring out a cup of something from a bottle and squinting at the measurement lines upon the vessel.

Travelling in Midtown alone at night wouldn't be a good plan for a young woman, but as far as Gillian's concerned, the worse that could happen has happened. Many times over. Or she'll consider death the worst, at least. With just a bag against her side, she carefully walks through the Library, still wary of possible traps, for which she's especially careful. Luckily she's been here before. The sound of flat shoes can be heard tapping against the floor, the weight and style making it likely to be female up until she steps into the open air.

"That's going to be really uncomfortable in the winter," she comments in a raspy voice, identifiable as belonging to Gillian. Could be her clone, but she's lacking in the mischevious smile that Stef tended to wear.

There's signs of construction downstairs, and chances are she'll run into at least one of the other denizens of the library— several people now living here full time. No traps yet, but from the looks of things, that'll be changing before too long.

"Probably," admits Cardinal, pushing himself up to his feet and turning to flash a tired but easy smile back over to Gillian, "The beauty of it is, though, this is light as hell. I can just separate it into sections and carry it to the next wing over, set up some sun lamps. What's up, beautiful?"

"That's useful," Gillian admits quietly, before her eyes wander up through the hole to seek out the moon. No eclipse right now, which could be a good thing. When she looks back down she's rather serious. "I got a message from Edward Ray, left for when I went to ask about my parents. Fucking bastard seems to just know everything. I don't know if I trust him, but I…" She hesitates a moment, reaching up to tug on her hair, that has grown out since the last time she colored it. The top part is lighter.

"Did he give any indication at all what was going to happen with Norman White and Staten Island? Do— I mean I know the whole 'sink Staten Island' thing, obviously, but did he say how this'll happen?"

At the mention of a message from everyone's favorite bastard, Cardinal's brow furrows a touch; lips pursing in a frown, he turns to pour the cup in his hand into the tank, tossing the cup to clatter to the floor beside as he seals the cover neatly. "It was his thing— and I trust him to have the best fate of the world in mind. Not necessarily the people in it, though."

A turn back to her, stepping slowly over to the young woman, his head shaking, "No. He didn't give any details, unfortunately. I've been watching the situation for any signs— it might just be when they run head to head with FRONTLINE."

There's a frown across her face, which causes wrinkles to show up on her chin and cheeks. Frowns don't really suit her. "The last time someone said I was the 'only one' who could do something— I almost went nuclear trying to fight Arthur. And even before that I ended up helping release many of those prisoners from Moab," Gillian explains, holding the bag close to her chest, perhaps even hugging it. "You don't think he Edward Ray would want White to sink Staten Island, do you? I mean— my getting involved wouldn't cause it to happen if he says that I can help stop it from happening."

"It's possible," admits Cardinal with a slow shake of his head, "If he thought that it'd provide the correct divergence from the unaltered timeline…" A pause, frown carving deeper as he stops before her, regarding her expression carefully through eyes not shaded tonight, "…what'd he tell you?"

"You'd think killing Arthur Petrelli would've been good enough," Gillian says with a quiet mutter, hugging the bag closer. She hopes it would be, but it's not like she can ask the dead man. "He said that— that Shard, the ex-rapper, the guy with all the Save Staten campaigns— that he was the only one who could beat him. And that he could do it if I help him, augment him." From the way her brow crinkles, there's much more to it than that.

"Considering his future self sent Niles Electroman to kill me, and since I'm the reason he made that whole damn scenerio in the first place, I don't really trust my ability to do good… I mean, I don't even know what Shard does. And what if that's what sinks the whole damn island, you know?"

"I gather he has some sort of… mimicry abilities," Cardinal purses his lips in a subtle frown, "I've seen him use at least— two completely different abiities, although I don't know how it works, exactly. I suppose it makes sense; if he copied White, they'd deadlock, but if he were more powerful he could probably counter anything he tries to do…"

A look back to her, frown deepening, "What else? You wouldn't be this— upset if it was just 'help Shard'."

"Oh great. Me and mimics don't tend to go well," Gillian says with another small shrug, but he's able to see through her quite a bit. Even with help keeping her calm, she's still readable. "It's not just 'help Shard'. It's the fact that my ability could potentially destroy the fucking world if I'm not careful with it, you know? And I don't want to go down in history as the girl who helped sink Staten Island." Even without meaning to, it comes off as a dodge, even if a truthful one.

"I just wanted advice on if I should even follow this. You seemed to believe what he said— trust him. Do you think I should?"

"I can't… say," admits Cardinal, his head turning to look away, through the would-be hydroponic garden that may not last long enough to sprout of too many of the wrong predictions come true. Quietly, "He's lied to me before, to get me to act how he wanted, and he's taken… bloody shortcuts, too. He killed Isabelle because he didn't see any more use in her. And— and maybe just to piss me off, so I'd do what he wanted in the long run."

He's quiet for a long moment, then says, "I believe he knows what he's doing. But I can't make that call for you, Gillian."

"I'll see if I can't find out more, then," Gillian says quietly, looking skeptical and worried, too. "I got kind of a time limit on this, so I can't think about it too long, but I wanted to see what you thought, first." Time limit. Everything has a time limit, but this might be more definite, from the way she says it.

"Do you know where I can find Shard? I'll see what he plans to do about White too, after I ask around a little. See what Eve has to say about it. I don't really trust Edward Ray at all, but… it might be worth looking into further."

"I can get you in touch with Shard," Cardinal offers with a slight nod, "Although it might be— well— your, ah, other you— Stef, she's with his crew. Just to warn you ahead of time." He rubs one hand back against the nape of his neck, a ruefully self-conscious motion, "I still don't know what he— planned, plans, to have me do about it. He brought it to my attention for some reason, and went well out of his way…"

"I think right now— that meeting myself would be a good idea," Gillian says, though from the way her eyes slide off to the moon again, she might be hesitant to do so. No one knows her better than someone with all of her memories and a different set of baggage to go along with it. "I'll figure something out. He knew I'd go asking about my parents eventually, and he knew who I would ask, so— maybe that's another piece of the damn puzzle to fill in."

"Okay." Cardinal just watches her for a moment, then asks more quietly, "You all right?"

"Not really, no," Gillian says, though she's not crying or flailing. And considering what she says next, it may be a surprise. "I'm dying. Apparently. Like— the kind that ends up happening in about a month or two. Edward Ray said the formula that was used on me had a… small percent of problems, genetic kinds. I guess eventually I'm going to— My ability will become unstable, and then I'll die."

There's a slow exhale, she still seems rather calm, but it shakes quite a bit as she looks back at him. "I didn't die in the future that happened before. Makes me wonder if Arthur Petrelli managed to fix me. Which tells me there is a way to fix it, I guess…"

That little revelation causes his eyes to widen, heart skipping a half-beat. "What?" Softly questioned, "I— no. Are you certain? Have you had someone test you for any sort of… instability? He could be lying, Gillian." The latter is more firmly stated, a frown carving itself deep across his expression, "You lived in the other future timeline. He could just be trying to push you to do something reckless."

"I was working for Arthur Petrelli in the other future timeline," Gillian says, but there's a hesitation on her part, even then. "But you're right— it could be a ploy to get me to do what he wants, and to give me a time-limit on it. I'll see if I can find someone who might be able to fix genetic problems. Or even just confirm them." There's another shaky breath, before her hands rise up and she rubs her face. Not to get rid of tears, though. Maybe she already cried enough about this.

"When I went into Pinehearst— they took a bunch of blood for testing. I never did find out what they were testing for, but it could have been to test for that." Finally she lets her hands drop again, so she can look at him again. "Don't tell anyone. Especially not Brian."

"There's always hope," Cardinal says quietly, bringing a hand up to brush a bit of hair away from her face with only the slightest graze of skin to skin; his gaze serious but gentle as he looks to her, adding, "And the future's never fixed. I won't tell anyone, and I'll introduce you to Shard if you want, but don't— give up on yourself."

The slight touch seems to help. For a moment, Gillian's lips start to quirk toward a smile, dimples visible for an instant. It's long enough. "I haven't. I mean after all the times I've seen the future change— there's nothing saying this one can't either. If Ray wasn't just talking out of his ass to make me do something— that's very possible too."

"Good." A quick smile's flashed back to her, cocky as ever, "Besides, that's what I'm doing here. Changing the future, one move on the chessboard at a time…" Cardinal glances over the greenery, his smile fading, "We'll find a way. Hm." He pauses, slanting a look over, "— did anyone ever find Zimmerman's body?"

"Not that I know of," Gillian says, thinking back on that, until she finally asks, with a little narrowed curiousity, "Who was Zimmerman exactly? It's probably something I should know, but a lot of stuff slips my mind these days."

"Zimmerman was the geneticist that designed the Formula," Cardinal explains, turning a serious gaze back to her, "If anyone can fix what went wrong… without using an ability… it'd probably be him. If he survived Pinehearst."

"If people with abilities can't find or fix what's wrong, then maybe you could try to find him," Gillian says thoughtfully, wondering if more conventional methods would even work. "It's worth trying." In some ways it's an understatement. "I'm stubborn. I'm not about to go down without a lot of kicking and screaming." Once again, she smiles, this time without the need for physical contact.

"Good," Cardinal returns the smile with a wink, "Just make sure it's the fun kind of kicking and screaming, and I'll bring my video camera." More serious, he nods once, "I'll see what I can do to find him. Maybe Miss Chesterfield might know how I could try and get in touch with him."

"I haven't been in a video knowingly in a while," Gillian says with a grin that's edging toward playful, before she shifts the bag so it's actually hanging from her shoulder instead of being hugged. Maybe getting all of that out has made her need to hide behind something less. "I know you're resourceful even if you don't find him right away. So if anyone can find him, if he's alive, I bet it'll be you." There's a pause. "Mind if I crash here tonight? I'd have an easier time getting back to Staten in the morning."

A nod, to that, Cardinal's smile crooking a bit roguish, "There's plenty of room; pick your poison, pretty much, although we're low on bedding at the moment. I imagine it won't be any great hardship for you to be stuck around books all night…"

"I've slept in a lot worse places before, I can handle not having much of a bed," Gillian says with a grin, though it doesn't quite touch her eyes. She starts to move, as if to go find her poison. Or where she'll lay down, anyway. Then she hesitates and turns back, "I found out my father— my real father— played chess. It kind of made me wonder if that's why my dream took that form. I know it's silly, but— it felt more real when I found that out. Like the dream wasn't just an ability. That it was something that was mine."

The tank's left, the nutrient bath presumably at the right pH for now, and Cardinal moves to head with her towards the door. "What, like it wasn't before?" A look to her, a shake of his head, lips curving in a faint smile, "It was yours at the time, Gillian, and when it was… it was yours. You shouldn't put so much stock in the fact that your power isn't all that active, you know."

"I guess you're right," Gillian says thoughtfully, her usually raspy voice softened toward a whisper, even if it carries enough to be heard. "I'm glad I came to talk to you. You're a good guy, Richard Cardinal. Well— as good as the dangerous criminal types can be, at least." The last is almost said as a joke, before she turns back the rest of the way so she can head out and find a place to sleep. Or read. Whichever happens first.

"Hey now," Cardinal chides as he walks towards the hallway, "I still have a video camera laying around, y'know."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License