Of Cats Canaries And Ceilings


ben_icon.gif brian_icon.gif cat_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Of Cats, Canaries and Ceilings
Synopsis In the aftermath of the briefing by Edward Ray, Ygraine attempts to cheer up Brian. A touch of cross-training ensues, before a weighty discussion is had with Cat.
Date January 24 2009

Old Dispensary

On the outside, this sprawling multi-level complex has not seen use in many years, its walls covered in greenery and stone exterior and glass windows showing evidence of disrepair. Surrounded by a chain link fence, a drive leads from the street to a large dock, and around the back one can expect to find more sprawling greenery that eventually leads to a concrete drop off into the Atlantic Ocean.

Passing through the chainlink fence and into the dispensary will reveal that the aged and crumbling outside is a facade. The loading dock is kept clear for the most part of everything save vehicles and supplies, though a section has been quartered off and transformed into an open workshop. The dispensary itself has been transformed into something akin to a makeshift dormitory, complete with common areas, a sizable kitchen and eating area, with various rooms converted into bedrooms for the residence. One room has even been set up as a makeshift clinic, amply stocked with supplies.

The back lawn and garden of the dispensary is surprisingly well tended, green and lush during the right months. Vegetables have been planted in accordance to season closer to the building, though someone has indulgently planted a plots of flowers - notably sunflowers - here and there. Further out, the ground drops a little and makes it to a concrete edge from which opens out into deeper water of the Atlantic.

Clad in much the same fashion as she was for yesterday's meeting, Ygraine enters the Old Dispensary swathed in leather - though her black-visored helmet is removed shortly after passing inside, to reveal a pensive scowl creasing her brow.

Ben is presently brewing a pot of coffee in the kitchen area; he's in his civvies instead of his uniform. There's a large book on the counter next to him.

In one of these so called common areas not so far from the kitchen, Brian is curled up on a couch. Or at least, one of him is. A thin blanket is draped over him, and he's cuddling quite fiercely with an unfortunate pillow. His eyes are open, though he doesn't seem to be looking at anything in particular. His shoes are off, though besides that he is fully dressed.

Boots clomping solidly on the floor of the corridor, Ygraine rounds the corner and enters the living room. Her expresion softens, a lop-sided smile lifting one side of her mouth as she espies the slumped Brian, though the noises from the kitchen prompt her to glance in that direction before speaking to the young man on the couch. "Hi there", she says gently. "I was hoping I'd find you here."

Ben turns his head as Ygraine goes past, tensing for a moment; then he just nods, stirs some sugar into his coffee before tucking his book under his arm and wandering closer to the common area.

Raising one hand from the pillow, he gives a little wiggling of his fingers to Ygraine in greeting. A very feminine gesture, but Brian is most likely aware of that. A yawn is let out as his arm resecures itself around the pillow and he burrows in deeper against the couch as if to get away from Ygraine and Ben.

Ygraine sighs softly, darting another glance to Ben as he arrives, before resting her hands on the back of the sofa, leaning over it to peer down at Brian. "I don't think that you're a canary", she informs him.

Ben sips his coffee, blinking. "Brian, you alright? Want some tea or something? Hi, Ygraine."

That gets a little grin and even a little chuckle from the young man on the couch. Raising his hand it moves forward to Ygraine's cheek where he imitates a grandmother pinching a cheek, except without the actual pinching because he knows that hurts. Dropping his arm, he looks over to Ben and gives a little shake of his head. "I'm okay man, thanks though."

Ygraine chuckles softly, visibly relieved by Brian's response. She looks to Ben, then lifts a brow, straightening up to offer her hand. "Ygraine. Were you at the meeting last night?"

Ygraine chuckles softly, visibly relieved by Brian's response. She looks to Ben, then lifts a brow before shaking her head. "It took me a second… Alley Cat really is a front for Phoenix, isn't it?"

Ben shakes his head with a little smile. "Not at the time for me," he tells Ygraine. "Yeah, I was there. Kind of… in the back."

Watching them converse, Brian brings one arm up again to pat Ygraine on the shoulder. Then he pats the couch before him, the edge that his laying is not occupying. Some might argue the polite thing to do would be to sit up, but apparently Brian isn't aware of that. "Crazy, huh?" He asks of Ben.

Ygraine glances down at Brian in response to the pat, but moves to perch - with a soft creak of leather - on a chair of her own, there to strip off her riding gloves and partly unfasten her reinforced jacket. "I was up in the balcony. Particularly in light of the advice to remain anonymous, I figured that making sure that I had an escape route open made sense. Not that anonymity lasted long…"

Ben has another sip of coffee, head bobbing. "Crazy," he confirms. "But necessary."

When Ygraine goes to her own chair, Brian's lips pull back to reveal his fangs, a snarl that lasts only a split second before he gives a shrug. "Not the nicest guy. That Doctor Ray guy, but.." He gives another shrug. He should be saying 'his plan sounds like it'll work' but that would be a lie. "This is like some bad tv show." He murmurs softly.

Ygraine sighs heavily and nods, closing her eyes for a moment. "I'm wondering if Helena knew how… quite how that would go. She tells us to show up and protect our identities: he blows them wide open. With photographs. She says that she can handle the steam vent threat. He takes her off that task, and then the supposed "vital" part of whatever his alternative plan was - this Christian guy - is suddenly unavailable. Had any inspiration on how to do everything we're meant to in our team, Brian? I've not. Then there're little things like announcing that he views someone as a canary…."

Ben leans against the back of one of the seats, shaking his head. "Not nice, though he doesn't have to be. He seems like the kind of guy who's got so much math in his head he can't relate to people so well. I hope he's trustworthy."

"Don't worry Yggy." Brian says with as soothing as a smile as he can muster. "I'll just bring more of me. I'll be vital for you." He offers with a little grin to her. Though when she talks about the canary he gives an uncomfortable shift in his positioning. Yeah, that wasn't very pleasant.

Ygraine musters another smile, offering it to both her companions. "I have the impression that he wants us to succeed. Right now, I'm not… wholly convinced by his supposed predictive abilities or masterful planning. "I'll take solution A away from you. I had a solution B. But that's gone. Tough luck - make it up on the fly", doesn't strike me as the best way of "planning" a supposedly essential part of the operation. But… sorry. Fretting about it isn't going to help."

"I don't have a better solution to offer, either," Ben admits, hunching over the back of his seat. "Are there non-Evolved on each team?"

He gives a little shrug. "I don't think so." Brian says in response to Ben's question. He tries to recall who's all on his teams. "Teo is leading one of the teams I'm on… I can't think of any other non-Evolved." He admits. "The Feds. I don't know about them." Another little shrug, before his gaze swivles to Ygraine. "How exactly does your ability work Yggy? I guess we should know how each other operate if we're going to gun down bad guys." Even though it's a joke it creates a knot in his stomach. How the hell did he get here?

Ygraine sighs heavily. "I'm a Brit. I've never even _held_ a gun", she says tiredly. "But… gah. You fancy signing up, Ben? I've no idea what your capabilities are, save for some cycling. We're all… thrown together for this. My team was meant to be myself, Conrad - whom I think I met once, but he insulted me and didn't bother to introduce himself - the mysterious Christian, and Brian. Now, it's Conrad, Brian and me. Apparently, a carefully-chosen team meant to maximise our abilities…"

She shakes her head, then musters a rueful chuckle. "Brian can duplicate himself. Conrad, from what I've seen, can act as a ventriloquist. And I can flip gravity - though only for two objects close to each other. I can't send anyone flying, but I can let myself and others walk up walls, sit on the ceiling, or the like."

Ben scratches the back of his head with his book hand and a wince. "…I'm not Evolved and I can shoot a gun. And I'm a medic. This is worrisome."

"Oo. We can walk on walls?" Brian asks, with arched brows. This sounds very exciting. "How many can you take up walls and stuff?" The young man asks, calculating how many of himselves he should send on this particular team.

Ygraine shoots Ben a distinctly sympathetic look, then shrugs slowly to Brian. "I'm not sure. I've never tested the limits - it's not as if it's seemed like a good idea to find crowds of volunteers. But… I can give an object - or person - a "charge" that reorients gravity for a few minutes, even if I pay no further attention to them at all. And I can flip it around pretty much at will, so long as I'm close enough, and the objects I want to form the connection between are close to each other. Taking yourself and Conrad up and over obstacles shouldn't pose me any trouble at all. And for basic stealth, we've got all sorts of options. Commando-crawl along the ceiling, walk around the outer walls of the building two stories up, or whatever. So long as we can get past the initial permiter, a lot of mundane security's going to be irrelevant."

Ben's head bobs. "You have some time to test it out beforehand, anyway. It'd be safe to test here."

"Wanna try it?" Brian asks, suddenly sitting up, looking a tad excited. "Cause, he made it sound like there's going to be.." A little shrug is given. "Like a lot of bad guys with guns. So.. I was thinking of bringing more me. I don't know how many do you think would be good? Three? Six?"

Ygraine winces. "If we're up against a firefight… argh. I suppose I might be one of the better ones to be shot at, conceivably. I own ballistic-weave full-body suits as a motorcyclist." She winces and shakes her head. "I'd guess that we're looking at stealth as a first option, so we don't want to have too many while sneaking around - nor to be trying to lug around guns for a small army while we do so. But… sure." She bends over, starting to work on the fastenings of her boots. "Just let me get these off, so I don't track prints all over the ceiling."

Ben raises his hand. "I'll help test. I've never gotten to walk on walls or anything before." It kind of sounds fun!

Kind of. Brian has all but forgotten that he's a canary and that he's probably going to die a bunch of times in four days. Eyes wide, he's standing and ready to partake on the adventure to the ceiling!

Ygraine chuckles, hauling off one boot and starting work on the other. "First off - this isn't Spiderman stickiness or the like. I flip gravity. It'll… well. Every time I flip it to a new direction, it'll pull you that way. Obvious, right? Well, it pulls all of you. Your soft tissue. The contents of your stomach. Your brain. And it switches instantly. Jennifer finds it pretty gross, and for just about anyone it's… weird. One of my major ideas for hand-to-hand fighting, incidentally. Precious few people'll be used to the effects it has."

Rising to her feet, she pads across to one wall, holding out her hands to either side. "C'mere. I can work the effects at a range of perhaps six inches, but holding hands'll let me monitor what's happening with you to some extent. Lift up one foot and brace it against the wall, putting a good bit of your weight onto it - you're about to get _all_ your weight on it, so it's a good idea to be set."

Ben stoops to tug his boots off; one of his socks has a little hole at the toe. Bachelor life. He moves to take Ygraine's hand, lifting his leg to place his foot firmly on the wall. He looks kind of excited, like a kid who's about to see a party trick. Even with the warning about it feeling awful.

His shoes already off, Brian takes Ygraine's hand tightly, placing his foot against the wall. Trying to lean against it, he has a big grin on his lips. If ben is a kid who's about to see a party trick, Brian is a little kid who just discovered an enchanted forest complete with cheery pixies and friendly gnomes.

Ygraine glances at each man in turn, then… does nothing at all visible - but gravity switches. Suddenly, the former floor is now a wall, the wall is the floor, and Ben and Brian are leant forward at a really bizarre angle, with their formerly-supporting leg planted against the wall behind them. Then there're the warned-off effects on everything gravity can pull on, with hair clothing, stomachs, and brains suddenly pulled in a different direction. For her part, Ygraine steps smoothly onto the wall, and keeps tight hold of each hand, providing what support she can.

Ben lurches forward, grip on Ygraine's hand tightening. He woozily shuffles his feet to half-crouch on the wall. "You're right. That feels pretty damn gross," he mutters after a little grunt of distaste. "Can we move away from you? How far?"

Well you can't really be prepared for that, can you. Brian is sent stumbling forward, his feet clattering against the wallfloor. His hand remains tight on Ygraine's hand, though his free hand flies out to catch him as he falls on his new floor. Taking a deep breath he decides it best not to speak so he doesn't vomit. He allows Ben to do the talking for now. He's going to have to get used to this..

Ygraine chuckles softly. "As a speed freak, I guess I'm more used to the effects of sudden fluctuations in gravity", she says rather apologetically. "But… you're free to let go. For the next few minutes, this wall is your new "down". There're a few ramifications of that - the _wall_ is your new source of gravity. Not this side of it, not gravity being reset to this direction. I seem to send a pulse, or something, through a clearly-identifiable plane of structure. You can probably walk around to the far side of the wall through a doorway. I know I could, but I'm not quite certain how much tweaking of gravity I do subconsciously nowadays."

Ben hesitantly lets go of Ygraine's hand and proceeds to clamber away from her, slowly, in a most undignified position. He seems to feel better if he can drop to his hands quickly, so he's hunching along, ass up in the air, hands hovering a few inches from the floor. Wall. Whatever. "Neat," he manages to say.

Releasing Ygraine's hand, Brian starts off in a tenative crawl away from the woman. Though once he realizes that this wall really is not going to come out from under him he slowly gets to his feet. He lifts one foot off as if testing. Then the other, then he's brave enough to try a little jump. Then a bigger jump, which he takes a deep breath after, apparently he startled himself. "This can work on the ceiling too?" Then he grins. "I hope someone walks in right now." And with that he's taking off in a run along the wall, up towards the ceiling.

"Wait!", cautions Ygraine hastily. "Keep some part of you within six inches of the wall, or you'll break the connection. And I need to reset you to a new object when you reach it - the ceiling's a different plane of structure, but moving from here to it works just the same as moving from the ground to the wall. Though ceilings aren't always built to hold someone's weight. Polystyrene ceiling panels aren't good to walk on…"

Ben crouches to try a little hop like Brian, but the bit about keeping six inches makes him rethink that idea. He slowly straightens up, inching along at first, then walking at a normal pace with his arms held out to either side away from Ygraine. "Can you reset someone's gravity without touching them?"

That forms another knot in the stomach. Six inches. God. How high did he jump a second ago?" Now his running slows to a stop. Wall walking is scarier than he thought it would be. Brian slowly relaxes into a sitting positio on the wall, looking over at Ygraine and Ben. "When will it wear off on me?"

Ygraine can't help but laugh. "Six inches would be a heck of a bounce to make while walking. But I know how much you want to make sure you stay close to the wall. I spent ages on hands and knees, trying to perfect the Spidey-crawl, believe me. Erm… in order: yes, I can reset without touching, but only at a few inches range. And it lasts a few minutes without me refreshing it. By now, you should have adjusted to it, I'd guess - it'll feel quite normal, save for the… conscious awarness of the sofa looking like it's mounted on a wall, and so on."

"Yeah, that's pretty weird," Ben says, standing a little straighter and turning to look at the sofa and his coffee. The coffee's extra weird, because it's liquid and should be falling. But isn't. "You want to test your range for swapping without touch, or are you really confident about it?"

Brian scoots, back towards Ygraine now. Sort of a crab walk, rather than his breaking out running and jumping. That six inches comment really affected him apparently As he finally comes to rest at a sitting position right next to Ygraine's leg.

Ygraine giggles down at Brian, shaking her head, before casting around the room, expression pensive. She hops back down to the floor, walking over to Ben's coffee cup. She holds her hand a few inches above it, focuses… and then leans down to scoop up the drinking receptacle, inverting it. The coffee remains placidly in place. "I've experimented quite a lot, but… I'd hope that I'm gradually improving over time, the more I practice. I've only been at this for a bit under three years, really."

Ben walks further away from Ygraine, keeping himself closer to the real floor in case he strays too far and falls. "You could cheat at parkour so easily."

Crawling back down towards the real floor, Brian gives a somewhat anxious look to Ygraine. Signaling he's ready to get down.. or up, whatever now. Hugging his knees to his chest, he simply waits for her to change his gravity again.

Ygraine once again fails to hold back her laughter, moving over to restore Brian's physics to default settings. "There you go. And… yeah. I've been studying parkour a little. First tried it a few years ago, but it seems more appropriate now. Of course, I mostly just use the techniques to get an initial leg up and to make fast dismounts easier - for me, so long as there's any link between what I'm standing on and the ground, I can get down fairly safely."

"Do you use it for anything else?" Ben asks, bouncing lightly on his heels on the wall. He shoots Brian an amused grin.

All but falling on the ground, arms flailing out to use Ygraine as a support system, Brian stumbles for a bit before catching himself. "Uh.. I'm gonna go to the bathroom for a second." He notes, and with that, makes his exit.

Ygraine shrugs slowly, stepping back onto the wall to rejoin Ben, before waving farewell to Brian. "It's got some limited use on two wheels", she says after watching him depart. "I can set the bike or motorcycle to be the locus of my gravity, reducing the risk of overbalancing. I can't reset the bike's gravity fast enough to be useful, and my range is too short - no helping myself up steep slopes with the aid of gravity, sadly. I routinely reset hot liquids to their containers when I'm carrying them, just for safety. And… otherwise, my main ideas are for unarmed combat. There're some really horrible things I can do, especially with a wall or two nearby."

Ben waves to Brian. "Man, he was running five minutes ago," he remarks. He nods. "Unarmed combat, huh? Have you trained much with that?"

"Forty-odd lessons in savate", Ygraine says. "Also known as "French kick-boxing", it's an European martial art. If you ever saw the film "Brotherhood of the Wolf", it's the art featured in that. After a decade of competitive riding, I figured that any self-defence I learned ought to take advantage of the silly amounts of muscle I'd built up. It's not as if my arms are heavily muscled."

Ben makes a little face. "Oh, I saw the movie," he says. "It won some awards, didn't it? Or was big in the indie scene or something. I haven't done much training. Basic self defense and a bunch of moves from different things some ex-military and cop types taught me."

Ygraine shrugs, somewhat self-consciously. "I spent a lot of time in nothing but second-skin lycra, riding through foreign towns and villages I'd never visited before. Some self-defence seemed… sensible. More for my own confidence than out of any expectation of need, but…"

"No, that sounds cool," Ben tells her with a smile. "And sensible." He scratches his head. "That was racing, going through all those places?"

Ygraine nods. "Until last year, I'd still got… dreams of making it to an Olympics. Though my best shot would have been Beijing, but for… well. I was here in November '06. And now… they're making moves to make Evolved participation in virtually any competitive sport wholly illegal. So… unless they start up Evolved-only contests, my days are done anyway."

Ben grimaces faintly. "Maybe they'll make Evolved-only competitions. Should the social climate change some, though maybe regular people would be interested in watching. Probably. I'd watch."

Ygraine chuckles ruefully. "Not that I'd be sure about going public anyway… but even if I were to want to cheat, cycling's got very extensive and very high-tech testing - blood as well as urine. And sooner or later, a successful test for Evolved will be found, and…." She shrugs once more. "I'd _like_ to be able to race again, certainly. But even if they do get around to it, it probably won't be for another few years - and then I might well be up against people who can manage three hundred pedal strokes a minute, or something."

Ygraine shakes her head. "Why cheat? Particularly when if you do get caught, it'll cast into doubt every single result you ever had - and possibly wipe out the results of any team you ever participated in. It could foul up a load of other people's careers, as well as my own. And there're legal procedures for reclaiming fraudulently-won prizes, sponsorship, and the like. The couriering, though… that's a chance to combine riding, with doing something useful. Alley Cat's providing a trickle of the city's lifeblood, holding together the areas on either side of the blast zone, and trying to get them back into regular and reliable communication. That struck me as a good idea - and it lets me face at least some of my demons, every day I ride."

"That's true. It wouldn't be fair to the others," Ben says. "The courier job's important, too. And it's a good job for someone in Phoenix to have."

Ygraine chuckles dryly. "Even though the horde of recruits found there all seem to leave it rapidly? Even I've got an offer of an alternative job, now. Though I'm thinking that I might try to work part-time for Alley Cat, even if it's just behind the desk or taking the occasional bad-weather job on my motorcycle."

"Yeah? What's the other job, if you don't mind my asking?" Ben offers a crooked grin. "And I left Alley Cat because I didn't think I'd be joining Phoenix. And I didn't know there was already someone with a healing ability."

Ygraine quirks a wry smile. "Fancy trying the ceiling?", she asks, offering her hand to Ben, intending to guide him up onto it. "Don't do yourself down. I have the impression that I'm of use chiefly as an extra body, and secondarily as a way of getting other people past physical security. Jennifer sometimes feels that she's only even _remembered_ when they want something made. Your skills - everyone can appreciate those. And as I understand it, Abby's more of an ally than a member."

"Sure," Ben says, reaching for her arm and curling his fingers around hers. "I'm more an ally myself. And I'm useful, I know that. Usually just to patch people up before they get to Abby." He grins again. "But I do other things. Jennifer's the girlfriend, right? I haven't seen her around at all."

Ygraine carefully guides Ben through the process of transferring his weight, then stepping up onto the roof. "Yeah, Jen's my beautiful little actress. She's responsible for recruiting me, as it happens."

Ben is standing on the ceiling with Ygraine; he releases her hand once the initial bout of nausea passes. "Oogh. That didn't feel any better than the last time. How'd she get involved?"

Voices drift out of one of the communal areas near the kitchen, and at a glance it shows some signs of occupation - there are boots standing empty on the floor, and a gently steaming cup of coffee resting on the table. But Ygraine has just escorted Ben onto the ceiling, where the pair now stand as if it were the ground - clothing, hair, etc falling with seeming ease upwards, apparently wholly unaffected by the world's own pull.

With a grin, Ygraine shrugs to her companion. "You get used to it. Eventually. Ummm. She was in the Ferrymen first - I was meant to be getting considered for them, but… Phoenix emerged, and apparently I was considered more suitable for an active role, or something."

"I honestly don't entirely understand the distinction between the two," Ben says with a little shrug, resting his hand over his belly, which is protesting the gravitational shift still. "How did you discover your ability, if you don't mind my asking? Sorry, I'm shooting off a lot of questions here."

The door opens and a woman shaped person enters. She has a guitar case over one shoulder and a backpack across the other. A quiet survey of the interior is made, and the heard voices are approached. Cat appears in the doorway to the kitchen area, and stands there quietly taking in the display of gravity reversal. It seems a mild curiosity to her. The two are looked at, but their conversation isn't disrupted.

Ygraine flashes a grin at Cat, offering her a cheery little finger-wave. "And here we have a demonstration of the head-wrench that can be offered by meeting someone operating under the normal laws of physics", she says to Ben. "Me…? I, ahh, discovered it first after the Bomb. But I thought I'd just… hallucinated, until Senator Petrelli's announcement. That… that helped me a lot, personally, though I know many Evolved hate him for it."

Ben tips his chin toward Cat. "Hey," he greets. And a nod to Ygraine. "Yeah. I know some people who were helped by his announcement, too. Thought they were crazy."

Being spoken to, Cat replies. "The announcement to me isn't so much the problem as him being tied to Linderman and the Linderman Act," she opines somberly. "Before that, the only people we required to register and be kept track of were convicted sex offenders." She sets down her gear and makes for the coffepot, to create some if none is present.

"Less the registration, more the idea that people have abilities," Ben explains. He made a pot of coffee not that long ago, so there's still some left.

Ygraine nods in agreement to Ben. "The… revelation that this wasn't just in my mind. Without that, I'm not sure when I'd have recovered enough to be let go…"

Ben's hip buzzes; he pulls out a phone and murmurs, "Shit. Gotta take this." He'll wait for Ygraine to take him down before wandering off.

Her eyes watch Ben depart, then turn back to SpiderWoman above. "I never thought of myself as Evolved until that point," Cat admits. "I just thought I had this really great memory thing going. It kicked in after Father insisted I study pre-law in addition to music, or be cut off. I tried to do both, had to leave the band I was in, and even then it was a struggle to keep up. But when the memory went active, well…" Her voice trails off as a smile appears.

Ygraine quirks a lop-sided smile, nodding to Cat. "Me… I thought that it was just proof that I'd really lost my mind. It seemed so _real_, these incidents in which I thought the world moved aorund me, or the half-memories of crawling up a wall…"

"It sounds odd that you'd think yourself insane," Cat remarks. "Peter Parker, after all, experimented and figured it all out right from the start. Even tried to go pro with it." She pauses there, her head tilting to one side. "I sometimes wonder if Stan Lee wrote all those titles because he knew people like us, and was maybe thinking to prepare the world by telling stories."

Ygraine pads through to the kitchen to pour herself a cup of coffee. "I _went_ insane", she says gently. "After the Bomb. I was in an institution, while trying to figure out whether or not the gravity-shifts were hallucination or real."
Pouring her own cup, then dosing it with cream and sugar, Cat remains silent, simply listening.

Ygraine adds just milk to her own drink, pensively eyeing her cup as she stirs. "I was on Broadway, heading North, on the day of the Bomb. Fortunately, on my motorcycle - so full leathers and helmet, with the visor down. The blastwave plucked me off the bike and put me through a storefront. Two days later, I came round in a refugee camp hospital. Between… just nightmares, or memories I hope are nightmares. I got airlifted out with other Brits, and a couple of days after that, I was committed. Without Petrelli's declaration, I don't know when I'd have got out."

She's mulling it over in her mind now, the brow furrowing. "You were committed, rather than committing yourself?" Cat asks, as she blows on the liquid to cool it some. "It sounds like you presented yourself for care, and stayed, not knowing what was and wasn't real."

Ygraine manages a low chuckle. "My parents arranged for me to spend a while in a sanitarium. At that point, I wasn't even thinking about gravity shifting. That only became a concern as I recovered… and things that I'd thought were part of my hallucinations and nightmares seemed to stay with me. I didn't dare speak of them to the doctors, lest I never get out at all. And Petrelli saved me from having to work out how long I could avoid doing so, by confirming that what I thought I felt and saw really _could_ be real. Having the Ability to focus on, to practice with, provided me with a great deal of help."

They're different people, Cat realizes; where she would've been trying actively to duplicate the effect from the start and master it, Debater went the other way. It's not a thing she'll comment on, that she thinks would be cruel. Understanding shows in her features instead. "I didn't tell anyone when I became able to sit through entire lectures and not need to take notes. I faked it. Pretended to write things down in class, feigned studying. I took pains not to be seen for what I had, fearing it would get me labeled a cheater and scrutinized. I only told one person the truth."

Ygraine takes a careful sip of her hot coffee, then raises her gaze to Cat's face. "I can understand that. For me… reality had broken down enough without the basic rules of existence seeming to shatter as well. For the world to stay badly askew when it otherwise seemed as if my mind were returning to some sort of working order - that just felt like a particularly cruel joke. How could I get better in other ways, while getting worse in this one? Thankfully, I never did tell anyone about the strength of my "residual hallucinatory episodes", or else I'd have been drugged out of my mind. That, or carted off to whatever the British equivalent of The Company might be."

"The Company might at least have convinced you it was real and helped you get control," Cat replies quietly. "But organizations like that still need to be dragged out into the light of day, made transparent." Her jaw sets on that score, the mention of them raises her hackles. "For all we know, the Company could have branches in Britain. They've operated in the shadows for so long…"

A few beats of silence later, she shakes it off. "The only one who knew before we were all outed was Dani. When that happened, I realized I had something more than just eidetic memory, this was an order of magnitude stronger." Her lips quirk into a grin. "One of the first things I did at that point was to buy Suresh's book and read it. Once."

Ygraine nods gently at mention of Dani, then chuckles at Cat's final word. "As I said recently - in some ways, I'm deeply envious of your ability. But there are certainly memories that haunt me more than sufficiently strongly as it is. They're the ones I'm here to try to face down."

"It does cut in both directions. Everything stays, even when I want it to go. Handling that probably makes me seem cold. Callous. At the same time, it makes me more impassioned. Opinionated. We study history in high school and earlier, each time goes a bit more in depth, and I needed to cover the subjects again at Yale on their level, which had me reading texts again, and this time every word, every image stuck. In my head, I can't separate the bomb from the historical example of Kristallnacht, and registration from the requiring of yellow stars on clothing afterward." Cat blows on her coffee again briefly, and tests it for safety in drinking.

"Then there are the Inquisitions, the Witch Trials at Salem, the various pogroms of Eastern Europe… History repeats when people are desperate and afraid, they give police too much power. All that makes the Holocaust different from earlier attempts at genocide was the use of industrial mechanized process."

"The rationalisations tended to be different. There was no "higher power" the Nazi's claimed to follow - according to ideology they _were_ the embodiment of the nation in arms, not merely its servants. There was no divine sanctioning for what they did, no attempt to directly replace "worthless" occupants of the land with more worthwhile ones, as the Mongols intended to do when attempting to convert Northern China into pastureland for their horse herds. But the underlying… effects of persuading people that it's a "them or us" zero-sum game, that the only way to avoid utter defeat is to exterminate "the other" - those are the same."

Ygraine shrugs gently. "As it's taught on the other side of the Pond, good international relations theory is virtually all about communication and decision-making - individuals and societal groups, not some faceless "system" that provides "signals" to be followed. Without understanding what happens to people in conflictual situations, and how those who seek power can generate conflict to ride a wave, none of it'll ever make sense. This whole situation seems obvious to me, and always has since I discovered it. Unless the Evolved are accepted as "real people", the best that can be hoped for is to be a tolerated secret, used by the government and other power-players as they see fit, while the masses are kept in the dark to avoid a panic. And that option's already gone."

"They did make those claims in Goebbels' propaganda. It was claimed that Jews murdered Jesus, it was claimed that Nostradamus predicted the rise of Hitler, any argument they could use, they did. And the German people, being destitute and hungry with the worldwide depression, bought the arguments that Jews were responsible for it all. They wanted someone to blame, and followed the boldest, most confident person to show on the stage. I was proud," Cat asserts, "when Rickham was elected, it showed the lessons of history weren't totally lost. The nation's ideals weren't abandoned."

Ygraine chuckles. "The Nazis draped themselves in any and every tradition they thought might be useful at any given moment - and sadly, Germany had a long history of pogroms, especially along the Rhine. Just as the blood libel was dug up and aimed at Muslims in Bosnia in the early 90s, as the day's "enemies of civilisation", the "murder of Christ" rationale was convenient in Nazi Germany. But the purges were explicitly conducted on mortal - Hitlerian - authority, and were presented as rational. I remember being shown some of the propaganda movies while I was at school - the focus was on Jewish dirtiness, greed, and conspiracy, not on religion. After all, if it were purely religious, converted Jews would have been safe…"

"There's a debate over whether or not the persecution of Armenians in Turkey during the First World War might be the first "modern genocide", conducted consciously in a rational manner to achieve "ethnic purity"… but the core task for perpetrating it is to persuade the majority of people that the targetted group are "other". Once that's done, you only need a tiny minority to take the step to violence and active persecution. With most standing by or merely tut-tutting at the rise in violent crime…. That's why I was stood outside the radio studios during the live debate. I don't have a vote here, but I could at least be another body added to the crowd supporting Rickham. And I was delighted when he won. Genuinely delighted. And hugely relieved. But now…"

"It was always going to be hard," Cat replies somberly. "There was probably always going to be blood. There has been any time social change on this level has been needed and fought for. Without him holding the Presidency things are harder, but the core fact remains. We still understand the risks in giving in to fear, and letting police authority get too strong. Those are the keys to everything: Even if one hates and fears is for being advanced, having a better toolset than they do, eliminating us solves nothing. The people they give power to won't easily let it go, and once we're exterminated, they'll need someone else to become the focus which justifies their power."

"By having elected Rickham, this nation's people demonstrated understanding that wiping us out is also a license to wipe them out too, should they happen to fall into whatever group is targeted next."

Ygraine chuckles ruefully. "I think that you might be giving the average voter too much credit. It's notoriously the case that many voters will turn against anyone they perceive as "nasty", and Rickham was the obvious "nice guy", while also having things like experience and a decent speaking voice…. But… did mean to try to grab you. I sincerely hope that I won't need it, but I should pick up that thermite literature from you. And… also let you know that I'm interested in the job. I'm thinking that I might treat it as a part-time thing, unless there's more to it than I think, so that I can keep contact with Alley Cat… but that can be sorted out easily enough once we've got a better idea of what exactly the role'll entail."

"In this climate," Cat replies with a chuckle, "one seizes hope where one finds it, yes? The words in the opening of our independence declaration were right on the mark. Saying governments are based on the consent of the governed wasn't a statement that it should be that way, it's saying things are that way. Even in the most despotic of cases, people still choose to obey, or not."

And she changes topics, nodding in reply. Her backpack is opened, and she hands over two copies of the literature without comment. "That's excellent to hear, Debater," Cat replies. A smile takes shape.

Ygraine blinks uncertainly at the second copy, holding one in either hand. Then she leans forward to try to plant a peck on Cat's cheek. "The accommodation impressed Jen, too."

She accepts it. "It did?" Cat asks.

Ygraine nods cheerfully. "She apparently hadn't realised that the apartment I have is actually _mine_, and thought it would just be switching one set of rented accommodation for another. But… she was quite keen on the idea of moving in even when she thought it would just be a change of address and living with friends somewhere secure."

A nod of understanding prefaces the reply. "She wants, I think, to have your home be one you and she made together, instead of a place you already had and she moved into. It boosts the feeling of being an equal partner, makes it feel more like home." Cat turns wistful. "Dani often felt inferior, much as I insisted she wasn't, and I never thought of her that way, but one thing I could never change was always true."

Ygraine takes both sets of literature and her cup in one hand, to let the other be brought up to give Cat's shoulder a gentle squeeze. "I feel quite inadequate compared to Jennifer", she says gently. "I somehow found myself with a beautiful, passionate, idealistic young actress - and she got the washed-up wreckage of a former athlete. I'm not even the best gravity-manipulator we know of! But… she insists that she's getting a good deal, and I have to try to persuade myself that I can believe her, however wonderful I think she is and however many of my own flaws I worry over."

Her shoulder is squeezed, as the wistful expression remains. "Seven years, all the way back to when we were both new at Yale," Cat states in a subdued voice. "My closest friend. The one I could take it all too. The only person I let see the full effect on me when I shot a man in the chest with an arrow. Christmas Eve, I went to the Cathedral and did something rare. Held a one-sided conversation with a deity somewhere above the ceiling, to ask if this was karma, reaping what I'd sown." There are no tears to her eyes, just the solemn faced and hushed words. "In the end, I betrayed her. I accepted her life was over, and never tried to save her."

Ygraine winces, perhaps among the last of Phoenix to hear about the arrow incident… then winces more sharply at Cat's final words. Surprise flickers across her face, then she sighs and squeezes once more. "If I tried to imagine in detail what you had to go through, I think I'd break", she says quietly. "I know you loved her. And she loved you. Even if you were intimidating, and she did feel outclassed at times. "The girlfriend who does everything", she once called you. But I admired her as much as you, in her own way. I just hope she knew that."

"It was at Greenwich Village," Cat explains when she sees the wince. "There were two people about a block away, with explosions and screaming. One was a man who had energy coming off of his hands, blowing up cars, causing destruction. I can't be sure if that was his power or not, but he seemed out of control. It looked like he might have the sort of thing that wrecks cities, so I acted. I don't have tools like some have, like you have. Helena, for example, could make the wind blow him into something and be knocked unconscious without having to get close. Me, all I could do was take the shot, and it had to be at his chest, otherwise he's still up and possibly exploding."

"I believe I acted the only way I could, but that doesn't mean I don't have remorse, don't sometimes wonder if what happened with Dani was karma arriving to get me. She did love me, and her last message said she understood the situation, that she felt my life was more important than hers. It wasn't like that, though. Not more important than mine. It just couldn't be put ahead of the overall situation. I… I expected we'd both die when we were captive."

Ygraine nods meekly. "I understand that", she murmurs. "But I know that mere rationality won't make guilt disappear. Any more than it works on remorse. Congratulations on being human, in spite of your super-brain."

"Do you think less of me, for having taken that shot, Debater?" Cat asks with eye contact being made.

Ygraine cocks her head, brow wrinkling a touch. "That shot…? At living, rather than refusing the chance and dying with her? No, not at all. Especially not when she didn't."

"I wasn't referring to that," she explains. "When I was released, I didn't know I was being traded. If I had, I'd have tried to make them kill me right there. I thought we were just being moved again. It was as I was taken to the release point that instructions were put around my neck. That the price for Dani would be our technopath."

"No," she continues, "I was talking about taking the shot with the arrow, at the man who was causing explosions."

Ygraine winces once more, then slowly shakes her head. "I… don't know the situation. I don't think that I'd heard of it 'til now. Is this something to do with Evolved trouble in Queens, some time back? I remember something about acid and explosions…"

"That was the situation. Man causing explosions, another person burning people with acid. But it wasn't in Queens, it was at Greenwich Village."

Ygraine offers a weak half-smile. "From the sound of it, it might have been justified. But I can't say for sure, either way. I don't know what options were available, or what exactly was happening. We can sit down and you can provide me with a plan of exactly where everything and everyone was in relation to each other, if my understanding the situation well enough to pass judgement is important."

"It's simple. I saw a man with energy coming from his hands, causing explosions. It seemed like it might if someone out of control, or acting deliberately, might if he were building up to something like the bomb. Given what's all around us in Manhattan, that was foremost in mind." Cat looks off into the distance at a wall as she speaks now, perhaps playing it out in her head again.

Ygraine's grip tightens. "It sounds like stopping him was a logical choice", she says gently, expression concerned as she studies Cat's face. "What… troubles you about this? The outcome, or what you felt? Or the speed with which you reached the decision to shoot him?"

"Anyone who doesn't question herself, have remorse for what happened, spend some time second guessing herself after a thing like that, is what's commonly called psycho. Sociopath. Even if she'd make the same decision in the same circumstances again. I acted, a man is dead. Suffering loss so soon afterward naturally brings questions about whether or not karma is at work in that. And… that I'm talking about this with you, explaining it all, asking your opinion, that speaks volumes," Cat states.

"As does precisely what you are concerned about", murmurs Ygraine with a gentle smile. "For some, it would be hesitation, not action, that was a source of guilt. For others, not being there sooner. That you place the importance upon the man himself, his life… for me, that counts for a fair amount."

"There's no real point in speculating on whether one ability is better to have than another. They're tools in the box, like any other tool. I can memorize languages from books, I've become an encyclopedia on legs, but at that moment of decision, I didn't have the tools to take any other course. We each have what we have, or don't. None are better or worse, just different. I like my ability, downside included, because it's mine."

Ygraine quirks a wry smile. "Oh, some certainly provide more options. I bumped into a gravity-manipulator who seems to be able to do everything I can do - without any limit to range that he's thus far discovered. He can set "up" as his new direction, and off he goes into the sky. I might have more precision in what I do, but… the versatility of his ability far outweighs my own - and I very much doubt that it's merely a matter of practice."

"There's only one way to find out," Cat suggests.

Ygraine laughs softly. "Oh, I've tried simply flipping gravity. Oddly enough, the ability to simply leap for the ceiling struck me as a tempting one, long ago. I've managed to push my range out to about six inches. This young chap - he hurls himself across the city in vast leaps. It's rather dramatic to watch."

Cat proposes experimentation with Ygraine's power at some point, and heads for the basement….

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