Of Robots And Aliens


cat_icon.gif west_icon.gif

Scene Title Of Robots and Aliens
Synopsis Cat takes some time out of her day to visit West. Their old wounds have not healed.
Date January 23, 2010

Greenwich Village

Manhattan's East Village has changed greatly since the bomb. What was once the counterculture center of New York, it has become something of a refuge for the wayward and wandering in the bomb's wake. Situated roughly two miles southeast of ground zero, the jagged and broken northern skyline is a constant reminder that the city that once was, will never again be the same. The drive from Harlem is a long one, given the traffic congestion caused by the re-routing of traffic caused by reconstruction efforts and section of the city that simply aren't safe for vehicle passage.

While the East Village is only a few blocks from Greenwich Village, the sense of foreboding and desolation that comes with that once vibrant neighborhood carries through here like an infection. Vandalized cars rest in an empty lot beside the off-ramp, leading onto 6th street. Many of the buildings here were damages by rampant fires, looting, and vandalism immediately following the explosion, and three years has been hardly enough time for the neighborhood to heal those wounds. More windows than not are boarded up with plywood, then further vandalized with spray-painted graffiti. More than once the slogan, "RISE UP" is prominently display across an abandoned storefront on a whitewashed spray of paint over old PARIAH logos.

Yet for all its suffering, there are still signs of hope among those who refused to move out. A few small businesses remain open, the pulse of a community that refuses to back down to gangs, urban decay, and the chaotic political climate. The snow falling down has painted the entire area a chalky white, laid a fine dusting over the once browned snowbanks and cracked ice. It's clear by the time Catherine Chesterfield turns on to Avenus A that she is in a more "cleaned up" section of the neighborhood, less signs of damage to the buildings and businesses, newer cars parked on the street. It's less than a block before he sees the ostentatious sign swinging in the breeze, a purple and gold affair depicting the Eye of Ra prominently in the center, with a marquee below that reads, "Enlightenment Books." Over one side of that sign, a paper banner proclaims CLOSED. While in the window of the store, there is a temporary sign reading "NEW VOICE NEWSPAPER OFFICES."

The building itself is unremarkable, resting on the corner of Avenue A and 2nd Street. A double pair of bright red doors mark the office's entrance, shelves stacked halfway up the front windows with hardback books. A small sign flipped around in the window and the lights turned on inside show that it's still open, plenty of parking right out front at that.
"I could've walked here from the Verb," the purple Neon's driver remarks under her breath. The windshield doesn't reply, being what it is, but it was addressed just the same. Eyes remain focused on the building ahead as she pulls into one of those spaces, stops, and moves the automatic transmission selector to park. Very shortly she'll go inside the place and make contact, if the person desired is present. But for now she has another task to perform. Her iPhone is taken out, and a message prepared.


Credit goes to Gillian Winters for unlocking your steganography. Only the guilty run. Only the fearful hide. You are neither. And you are watching. I'm embarrassed to not have guessed the correct password myself, I thought it too obvious.

I've seen today's message, hacked into Federal lies about what really happened, and am working to uncover the hidden content. May I ask what it conceals?

I am at the corner of Avenue A and 2nd Street, possibly about to speak with West Rosen. Is there any specific message to convey, or task to perform?

May I also ask the status of K.Apila?


She doesn't expect Rebel to reply directly, but surprises do happen, and she has nothing to lose by asking. So she waits with eyes on the screen.

Cat gets exactly what she expects— nothing. It's strange, what's been happening with T.Monk and R.Ajas int he last few weeks. Radio silence isn't unusual for them, sometimes they would go weeks at a time without making contact, but after saying they were making an attempt to free Hana Gitelman from captivity, their silence — coupled with the strange hacks and messages online — makes their refusal to answer direct communications surprising. But what other way is there to communicate, if not directly?

Sitting in her car, with the engine still running and the heat on full blast to drive out the abysmal cold that sinks into the city streets, Cat is left with no answers to her questions. Or perhaps, the silence itself is an answer in a way, radio-silence is often chosen by military operatives in the field when they presume that communication is not secure. Is Rebel avoiding contact with outside sources among the Ferrymen and Phoenix now that Hana is not there to act as an intermediary? Or is something else driving him to ground?

Unfortunately, his silence raises more questions than it does answers.

They also work in clandestine ways, she knows, and are up to something. The mentioned possibility of failing in battle to rescue Hana in her tangle with another technopath and that documents would discreetly come to her if that happened shows this as true. Now there are warnings of camps, the making public of what Cat feels only a fool would take as anything other than either a nuclear mushroom cloud over the southern pole or a fake photograph, and the quick response to insultingly thin Federal lies about what happened. That thought makes her eyes roll briefly. "Really, Nathan, do you or your puppetmasters Linderman and Angela Petrelli really think we have soup for brains?"

Another question floats in her mind, one which the silence does nothing to address. Was it really Rebel who designed the messages and the site? The voice is different. Though the words used fit the pattern, anyone who's seen Rebel's public missives could use them. One must, in such a case, simply pick A or B and run with it. A: It isn't Rebel. B: It is Rebel, and their silence supports it. Rebel didn't immediately disavow involvement in the messages and/or remove them. Option C is no option. She refuses to even consider Rebel were defeated, rendered unable to act.

As she exits the car and walks to the door, pocketing the iPhone, Doctor Chesterfield chooses B.

Hopefully, she's right.

Out of the car and onto the street, the chill in the air is oppressive. It's almost too cold to be snowing, and the tiny, malnourished snowflakes that drift lazily from the sky above is a sure sign of that. Circling around her car and moving up onto the sidewalk, Cat is given momentary pause by the telltale pop of gunfire echoing from somewhere down the street. Just two quick pops and then nothing but silence, she knows the noise well enough not to mistake something else for it. No one else on the street seems to pay it the slightest bit of attention, no sirens ring, nos creams rise, no one is running away; Welcome to New York.

Weapons fire isn't a surprise, Cat doesn't flinch, but there is a glance around to see if there's risk of being in crossfire and a readiness to take cover. When no such need is spotted, her course toward the building continues. Her mind brings up gun laws; she reviews the rules on concealed pistols with and without silencers, pistols carried openly, and carrying an M16.

Then there's the door. A gloved hand reaches out to open it. Anyone looking her way would see a woman of five feet eight inches in jeans, gloves, winter coat, and raised hood. Mr. Rosen himself would know her identity.

It's a long litany of things in Cat's head as she walks, New York City's extremely tight — and if rumors are to be believed further tightening concealed carry laws. Without being in personal security, the option to carry is a highly restricted one. But really, Cat knows so many people who are usually in violation of that law, so many people who're one curfew violation search away from having their gun found, and being legitimately locked up. It's that very thought that processes through the back of her mind as she opens the door, into the sound of too loud music pounding through the walls of the New Voice offices.

The place looks like it was a bookstore, and frankly most of it still feels that way. Shelves lined with paperback novels and reference materials line the walls. Old posters for vintage movies from the 1970s line the walls, including one original theatrical poster for THX 1187. Not far from the entrance, two desks rest face to face with one another, desktop computers and a pair of Apple Macbooks are propped up on their counterpases. Seated behind one of the desks, trying to sort thorugh a clutter of paperwork, a curly-haired blonde woman in her forties seems surprised to see anyone coming in thorugh the front door.

"Oh uh, I'm sorry you must be Natalie Carpenter?" The blonde seems to have a case of mistaken identity as she rises up from her chair, dusting off the back of her jeans as she offers Cat a tired but honest smile. One of her hands is busily fussing with a broken frame of her reading glasses as she speaks.

Eyes wander as she closes the door after entry, taking in this interior. Effortlessly committing it all to memory. In a short time, they've come to settle upon the speaking woman, and a slight smile appears. "No, my name is Cat," she provides, "I was hoping to find Mr. Rosen." Calm is exuded, poise and confidence. "Is he present?"

"You're— " The blonde pauses, lips pursed to one side as if she were considering the sourness of a lemon, and her fidgeting hands set her broken reading glasses down ont he messy desk. "West!" All she does is hollar at the ceiling, blue eyes uplifted towards the noise of music thumping thorugh the floor. She waits, expectantly, and then begins moving past the desks, towards a series of stairs that rise up to the second floor. "West!" Her shoulders slouch, head shakes, and with each stomping footfall it's clear her patience draws thinner and thinner as she makes her way up to the second floor, swinging the door at the top of the stairs open.

When she does, the blaring guitar of some preposterous Scandinavian speed metal comes thrashing out from the entrance, drowning out the sounds of her hollering and waving an arm down to the bottom of the stairs and where an unexpected guest resides. This is less like an office and more like an apartment the way things seem to be handled.

Turning from the doorway, the blonde woman starts walking back down the stairs, and the music volume is cut down as she walks. "He's up in his loft," she explains with a strained smile, jerking a thumb up to point to the top of the stairs behind her. "You can go on up."

"Thank you," Cat offers, then moves to make her way up. The very loud music is pleasant to her, she takes in the chords from the guitar part and pictures herself performing it. Her approach is most likely not heard given the volume of sound, and in time she reaches the top. Once again eyes wander to take in the environs, no move made to speak until and unless the man spots her. She is, also, interested in whether the sound is a recording or the man's own efforts with the instrument. Maybe both. There's a silent mental assessment of skill.

It's clearly coming from the iPod docked near the laptop on a desk right near the entrance from the stairs. Listening to the screaming Scandinavian man's voice coming bellowing from the speakers, it's clearly not West Rosen's voice, whatever it's singing about. Knowing Swedish speed metal, probably vikings or dragons or something equally preposterous. As Cat comes up into the sparsely furnished loft, this looks more like a newspaper office than the ground floor does. Aside from the small typing desk, there's a large table spread out with other newspapers that have been dissected with a razor down to individual articles.

West on the opposite side of the room, tugging a sweater over his head and walking barefoot over the hardwood floor. "Holy shit, Cat, what the hell are you doing here?" Isn't exactly the welcome that Caterine Chesterfield was expecting, or hoping for. "Man, you are like the last person I expected to come bug me today. What do you want? C'mon I'm busy, spit it out." West's demeanor has taken a turn for the hyperactive since last they met so many months ago.

Even in his insistence, Cat is able to pick up other details around the room as he's conversationally distracting her. An old-fashioned typewriter on a stand next to a bed which consists of a box-spring and mattress on the floor. A small painting, in its frame, depicting the Deveaux Building rooftop encrusted with vines, and the ruins of midtown in verdant splendor. A stack of old newspapers next to a recycling bin.

At least West is still habitually disorganized.

"Hello, West," she greets with a dry chuckle, "it's good to see you again too." Cat takes a few steps closer as she speaks, eyes moving to settle on that painting and get a good enough look to remember it before returning to the airborne-capable journalist. "I've followed some of your work here," she states, "and it seems you have at least one other person interested. Although I'm not certain they're aware of your journalism, given they asked I find you and never mentioned locating you themselves."

"But I believe as an astute journalist, you've heard of the technopaths called Rebel."

"Yeah, yeah, I'm sure you're here to discuss my budding journalism career." West notes with a sneer, brown eyes angled up to Cat as he strolls past her to his desk, flicking off his iPod before looking back up over his shoulder at her. There's something in his tone of voice that is less than friendly, something bitter. But all West can do as he narrows his eyes is sidle back up to his computer, bringing up a minimized window to reveal his web browser, and a very familiar website, arebel.000a.biz. However, the image displayed is different than the photo-negative mushroom cloud from earlier in the week, now it looks like something viewed under ane lectron microscope, along with some sort of prose.

"Everyone in the whole goddamned blogosphere knows about this Rebel stuff, Cat." Did he actually just say blogosphere? "This guy's where it's at, disseminating the truth. He's been hacking news websites and getting our attention, this— " he taps his fingers on the screen, "this is something big, and it ain't just like talking big either, but big-big."

Moving aside so Cat can look att he page, West quirks one dark brow up in the air. "This one just got uploaded the morning," he comments, clicking his mouse to view the page source. "There's all sorts of shit in the page source too, it's like— I dunno, clues or something. People figured out there's an encoded audio file in the first image, but nobody I've talked to has cracked this one yet."

<! — what was once missing —>
<! — when brought to light —>
<! — become the key —>
<! — to your new sight —>

"It's commented out of the website so it doesn't show up on the main page. This is like, the beast or some like metacortechs shit going on here. Some people thought it was viral marketing for some sort've game, but you know— the truth's always way freakier than fiction." Seemingly excited, but still having that antagonistic edge, West crooks one brow as he looks at Cat, then back to the screen. "Your mom put you up to coming here?"
"It was a file titled notalone.ogg," Cat provides, "only the guilty hide. Only the fearful run. We are neither. We are Rebel. And we are watching." A pause follows as her eyes settle on the screen. "I saw that already. I've no idea yet what the password is. Yet." Her voice places emphasis on that final word, a signal of confidence she will.

And a hint of scowl forms, eyes raising to the man again. "Do I look like I work for Mother?" she asks. "It was actually Rebel who suggested I should find you. It's been some time, but here I am. They want you to be ready for things to come. Believe you're someone who would do the right thing."

And a tangent, next: "What do you make of truth.jpg, the image itself, West?"

"You look like someone who registered." West offers with a narrowing of his eyes and a side-long look. "I got an email from Rebel just the other day saying that you and a bunch of other people cut a deal with the government for amnesty. I don't know how you think that's supposed to look, but like— it looks bad. Word's already spreading on some of the forums I visit that Phoenix sold out to the man. You're all robots, man, all robots."

"I dunno what happened between whenever Rebel wanted you to find me and now, but you're on his do not call list now." Quirking his head to the side, West crooks up an eyebrow and looks to Cat. "Me and Ben were talking about it the other day, actually. See, Ben and I? We're doing the right thing, I dunno what it is you think you're doing. But you know— " West rolls one shoulder, looking at his computer, then back to Cat.

"So exactly how much did the government pay you to keep you quiet?" West asks with a wrinkle of his nose. "What was your two silver coins, they give you a recording contract or something?" He doesn't answer her question.

A laugh emerges. A dry laugh, which is short. "Tell me, West, if you find yourself on the trail of something, and it's critical to find it but you don't know where to look and you're then told where to find it, do you go look there?" Cat leans against a piece of furniture, the voice and demeanor still calm, as she speaks. "It's a thing that has to be done. The consequences of inaction are too stiff. You do it anyway. If at the same time the Feds say they'll wipe records, well, that's just bonus. Would you say no? Or would you even be able to stop them from clearing your record whether or not you said yes? Now, registration is easy, for the Feds. They discover a person has an ability, they know an address, and they print a card. No choice involved."

"Now, as to staying quiet," she goes on to say, "if there were something to stay quiet about, being darkholed for speaking out is a risk. But the greater risk, you as a journalist surely understand, is lacking proof. We're already accused of being conspiracy theorist nutjobs for all our claims about the secret prison at Moab, and we even showed proof. Photos of the prison, people in the yard. There have to be records of construction there. People who worked in building it. Moab, Utah residents who saw things. And still many disbelieve."

"I couldn't care less about government secrets. But helping them discredit us, that I'm not interested in." She goes quiet, inwardly wondering if the man before her thinks to wonder why she asked his take on truth.jpg, and by extension why Rebel would publish it.

"Yeah, whatever. You can spin it however you want, doesn't matter what you did, you still registered. That's everything we stood against, Cat. That's what the whole goddamned movement is about, you know? I dunno what you did, and frankly I don't give a damn, the consequences of it are you totally lost street cred with the people that believed in you." Shaking his head, West narrows one of his eyes and leans to the side, watching Cat with a scrutinizing stare. "Tell them to go fuck themselves, cut up your registration card, put up a video of it. Do something to denounce the system, put together a protest. If you really were all forcibly registered, make a goddamned stink about it!"

Scowling, West crosses his arms over his chest. "Look, Cat, it comes down to the fact that there's two kinds of people in this world. The ones who oppose registration, and the ones who go with the programming. Like I said a bunch've times before back at the tenement, aliens versus robots, Cat. That's what it comes down to."

Pointing a finger at the middle of his chest, West crooks a brow. "I'm an alien," then he points towards Cat, "and you're a robot." As if that perfectly explains everything, West turns around and minimizes the website, then closes the laptop and looks back up to the brunette. "You worked with them, you cooperated with a corrupt system. Sometimes you gotta' be willing to take it on the chin and stand up for your principals. Whatever it was, you weren't willing to take responsibility for what'd happen if you didn't do what they wanted, so now you gotta' deal with the responsibility of what happens 'cause you did."

"You haven't been listening to Rebel yourself, West," Cat chides. None of his histrionics have any affect on her demeanor. Her eyes, however, are hard. The eyes of a woman who's seen horrors and lived through them, in contrast to the still posture and calmly spoken words. "Registration should be a personal choice. People with the SLC can register, or not, as they desire. What we've come to understand is the value of escaping fear. Of not letting it rule our lives. Whether people register or not, we encourage everyone with the SLC to declare themselves publicly for who they are."

"Only the guilty hide, only the fearful run. Are you guilty, West Rosen? Are you fearful? Fly in full public view, let everyone see you do it, and prove you're not afraid."

From there her voice sharpens slightly. "Beyond that, West Rosen, be a fucking real journalist for once. Set aside the rhetoric and focus on the bigger story. Rebel posted a photo titled truth.jpg. Think about that. What do you make of the image in it?"

"And oh, yes… when you use a pen name, Rose Weston, seriously? You don't look at all like a Rose. Ross Weston, man. Ross."

"You're obviously drinking too much of the government's kool-aid, Cat." West offers with a furrow of his brows, head cocked to the side and arms crossed over his chest. "Just what I should expect from someone who has a big-time sleazeball sell-out for a mother. You totally missed the point of what Rebel's getting at. He's not telling us to register, he's telling us not to run and hide, he's telling us to fight." Narrowing his eyes, West just shakes his head slowly. "I'm no soldier, Cat, you know— I almost got out of the whole freedom fighting thing too. But when Ben and Erim came to talk to me, told me what was really going on…"

Closing his eyes and shaking his head, West cuts himself off and looks back up to Cat, brows furrowed. "Go try and talk down to someone else, Cat. You haven't been hardcore since the PARIAH days. Remember when you'd whip out a bow and arrow and just drop a dude in the middle of the street? You're fighting the government's battles for them now, and whatever you did to get yourself their nice padded victory prize, I don't want any part of it." He nods his head towards the stairs. "Go sell your peace, love and circuit-boards somewhere else."

Her eyes close, and her head shakes. What was starting to cause a rise of anger in her has instead shifted to a source of humor. The eyes reopen, and Cat is laughing. "Bloody hell, West, you're in the wrong business. You should be onstage as a standup comedian. You crack me up, really. An idiot who can't even think to use a man's name as his journalistic tag." She makes no further attempt to get him to see what was as plain as the nose on his face. Let him believe what he chooses to believe. Feet carry her down the stairs and toward the exit door, her laughter continuing all the way.

It's only outside, when she reaches the car, that it stops. The iPhone comes out again, she pulls up the needed program and taps at the screen, composing a message.


West Rosen will not do the right thing. He fails to see what's right in front of him, that you posted a photo of a nuclear mushroom cloud, and he won't even take time to think of why you posted it. If I had told him he owes us his life, twice over, from stopping the Vanguard he wouldn't believe. He cannot see that far ahead, and I didn't waste breath spelling it out.

When I read the government's lies about what happened at the south pole, in the wake of the photo, I wondered if Federal agencies believe we have soup for brains. But at least one person fails to even begin to get it. I don't believe they're right in that assessment, but I do worry sometimes.

He claims, further, that I and people around me are on your no-call list, that you've denounced us as sell-outs. This is false. I would be perfectly happy to discuss the situation and talk strategy. We do have one, which involves no longer giving in to fear. We believe you will see the wisdom of it. I can only hope you have not written us off, and will not.


Once the message is sent, she watches the screen to see if a reply comes. Rebel will answer, or not, and if not nothing is changed. She will continue to communicate and inform as before during such silences. With thoughts turning to conversations she at times has with Elisabeth Harrison, she wonders aloud.

"Do I sound like him?"

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