Often Doubt Remains


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Scene Title Often Doubt Remains
Synopsis Hana Gitelman is briefed and asked for an assessment.
Date March 20, 2010

Staten Island Boat Graveyard

Exactly where land gives way to water at this point of the island's edge is uncertain - first because of the saltgrass growing everywhere, both on dry earth and in the shallows, giving the illusion of solidarity; second for the structures visible in the distance, drawing the eye away from the deceptive ground, suggesting its reach extends beyond its grasp. Even if the structures are still recognizable as ships, and nothing that ever belonged on land.

There are a multitude of them, abandoned hulls of salt-stained wood and rust-pitted steel, dying slow and ungraceful deaths as wind and water claim their dues. Some still appear to rest upright, braced upon the debris of older, lost relics below; others list to one side, canted at an odd angle like someone who just struggled to the surface in search of a desperate breath. There are no hands to pull these hulks from the water, no ropes to save them from drowning; each has been surrendered to the sea, left to the ravages of unmerciful time.

At low tide, some of the closer ships can be reached - not without getting soaked, but such is the price of daring. Never mind that the rotting metal and splintered wood are the stuff of nightmares for any germophobe, definite hazards to the unwary. The more distant ships are distant indeed, beyond the reach of all but the most bold - and are all but submerged besides.

Pre-dawn is a gloomy thing when the sky is as overcast as that above Staten Island; gray beginnings of light made gloomier still by the rusting hulks which rear out of cold morning fog, twisted, jagged profiles dark against that pale background. There's illumination enough, however, to make out the distinctive tread of snowshoes across snow-crust, and to follow their track towards one of the scrapped craft in particular.

A hole in the side allows cautious entrance to the boat's innards, a gutted cavern walled in rust-pitted steel plates. Once inside, the flickering glow of candlelight offers somewhat more light for the seeing; a good thing, because there's enough junkyard debris to pose a hazard, for all that the lack of snow makes it clearly visible. Snowshoes removed for sake of navigating these obstacles rest against the wall near the entrance; the woman who wore them kneels in a clear space near the bow of the boat, her back presented to the entrance, her face to the single white taper burning in the twilight.

Prior to the dawn, as she was told, Cat makes her way to the location. She comes from Manhattan by boat, crossing the water in thick coat with woolen cap covering the top of her head and a scarf partly obscuring facial features. The woman's shape and height, however, testify to her identity. One thick-gloved hand carries a briefcase with documents in it, items she printed out for the purpose of sharing in full disclosure to brief the technopath.

Candlelight is spotted and approached, debris carefully avoided, until she arrives at the occupied scrapped craft. There, a terse greeting is spoken in Hebrew. "«Morning, Hana»."

Shape, height; the phone she carries, distinctive as a fingerprint — although not as conclusively identifying. The voice matches Hana's recollections, however, and so the woman remains where she is, not even turning to greet her visitor. "Cat." Deliberately, the Israeli chooses English for her next words; Hebrew has other connotations in her view, ones less well-suited to this meeting. "Whatever the import of this girl, I do not want to know her location; and I do not advise sharing it with Rebel either."

"I sha'n't," Cat assures as her frame steps into the craft and commences dual occupation. "Rebel don't seem themselves. After the battle they entered at your aid, they told me you'd been extracted and would be given further physical aid at some point, then went silent until very recently. I received no direct communication until I came upon the girl and Brennan at Central Park. They told me of her significance then." She opens the briefcase, but doesn't yet remove anything from it.

"Soon afterward, Rebel contacted me and Richard Cardinal for assistance. Mr. Redbird and I have spoken, he began a search for her. It was some days later when Brennan raised periscope with the Ferry, and still more before I was able to speak with him and the girl. Her name is Liette, and all indications say she's spent her entire life in labs." Now items are taken out; the first of these is a photo of the person in question.

"What happened in that battle? It is not like Rebel to make threats against someone's family. They are just familiar enough for me to believe it's them, and different enough to be distrustful."

"Rebel…" Hana falls silent after that single word, letting silence pervade for a time, as if she might be weighing exactly what to say. With her face hidden, there are no expressions that might lend further credence to this impression. "Rebel was once a shared name. Richard Drucker and Micah Sanders both acted under it; who began its usage, I do not know. Once, I would have estimated the boy."

Another pause; an uncharacteristic hesitance. When the woman resumes speaking, her voice is leached of tone, crisply clinical in its lack of personal inflection. "Rebel now is somewhat else. Neither Richard Drucker nor Micah Sanders continue to exist independently; combined with them is the remnant of a third, the technopath we all fought. I can only guess that they circumvented the virus he used by some manner of mutual annhilation or absorption."

Hana looks straight ahead towards the rust-and-gray steel surface rising before her. "Rebel claimed that each still exists as one third of their whole; what accomodations may have been reached, I do not know. What lengths Rebel will or will not accept, what price for his goals, what means to his ends — I no longer know."

"That would explain it," Cat replies gravely. "You may be, or already have been, approached by Scott Harkness regarding Rebel also. They were a topic of discussion at a recent meeting, he indicated a desire to consult on them with you." More items come out of the briefcase, soon compiling into the complete content of Rebel's recent actions to bring things into the light.

"I conducted research," Cat informs, "and found there were incidents of Registered persons gone missing in Texas soon after having visited H1N1 vaccine centers. There were indeed reports of that vaccine having tainted batches and fatalities from it too. The most recent iteration of the site they use says Summer Meadows and other places may be converted into ghettos. The place cited as having had a wall raised does have a barrier, a fence used to make it a gated community for protection against crime, though this could be a smokescreen. I'll be looking to have background checks done on people at Summer Meadows to see if there's a Federal connection as Rebel allege. As things stand now, there's just enough to say something might be going on, but not enough to overcome doubts."

The Israeli woman inclines her head — once to the statement concerning Harkness, twice to the remainder of Cat's words, the discussion of Summer Meadows and gated communities. "Often doubt remains until the bitter end," Hana observes distantly. "What would you do, if his theories are correct, or even near the mark? What would you do if they are not?"

"If they're not correct, nothing needs to be done. If they are, things are dicier. I would advise no one moving into or staying at Summer Meadows, and seek to address matters carefully. Part of the underlying effort, if it's true, is to use riot activity in justifying the actions. Thus; word spread without caution might only serve their ends. A self-reinforcing plot." Cat doesn't linger on this topic long, however, it being just one part of a whole.

"The virus which causes the 510 flu is, to me, without doubt engineered. For an illness which generally attacks the lungs and digestive tract to have effect on the nervous system and brain that ability suppression indicates must be something constructed to have that result. But, as additional evidence…" Her voice trails off as she takes out copies of the medical records Alia gave her. Names and other privacy-deserving details are blacked out, but they demonstrate a near 100 percent correlation in this group of patients between having taken H1N1 vaccine and developing the 510." Her hands continue sifting through the briefcase contents.

"While overseas, there were a few people taken into Federal custody. Hector Steel, mechanical genius, was found in Argentina. A doctor called Gregor, who I can best describe as a modern Mengele, was found in the labs of Edmond Rasoul on Madagascar. More scientists are missing and perhaps in Federal hands, the whole lot of them maybe pressed into Federal service for some unknown project. The formula creator, Zimmerman, was recognized by Liette. He works with her father in a lab. Doc Carpenter, who was with Norman White, was also recognized, she says he's sleeping in a tank. Liette says she's never seen him before. The image of Luis was ignored altogether."

Four photographs of Eve's paintings are laid out and touched as she names the people in them. "Luis. Gregor. Zimmerman. Carpenter."

Now, at last, Hana turns, dark eyes glancing briefly over the documents Cat lays out. "The suppression is less suggestive than its specificity, I should think," the Israeli replies. "No one really knows what makes abilities work, or why a method may disable them; not, at least, so far as I've uncovered. The two may simply go hand in hand." In the end — it's immaterial, to the technopath's worldview, and her dispassionate tone conveys exactly that truth.

She reaches out and taps a photograph — the picture of Luis. He has recent public records, after a fashion. "Your 'evidence' is not truly indicative of the influenza being artificial; be cautious of your assumptions, Cat. There may be a correlation. There may not. Until you can connect the influenza directly to the institute at which he is employed, or to one of these others — assuming they are at one and the same location, which they may not be — that assumption should not be embraced."

The woman pauses for a moment, looks directly at Cat. "Don't mistake me," Hana continues, her lips pressing into a thin line that bears remarkable resemblance to a muted, caged snarl. "It's well within probability that the virus was engineered. But there are risks in extrapolating conclusions."

"There remains research to do," Cat concedes, "into what side effects viruses can cause. I'm a Juris Doctor, not a medical doctor. Brennan himself is the best source at hand to ask, along with Francois Allegre. There are branches to this, links which aren't yet verified, but which suggest strongly. Sources tell me a grouping of Zimmerman, Carpenter who can duplicate minds and place them in other bodies, Hector Steel, and Gregor would be a particularly frightening coven to have assembled. Steel and Gregor were taken in at the end of Apollo, Sarisa Kershner led that operation." The panmnesiac continues to lay out her assessment.

"While it's possible other factions within the Federal government may have gained possession afterwards, it remains likely she's connected to whatever's afoot. Zimmerman was the formula creator, Kershner is the head of Frontline, and Frontline was to benefit from the remade formula through Pinehearst, where Zimmerman was on board until he disappeared during the assault." Eye contact is met and held while speaking.

"It may also be the virus, the labs where Liette was kept and the man she calls Pop works, Kershner, the scientists, the manipulated weather, the allegations regarding Summer Meadows and federal designs are all connected. But there isn't yet a smoking gun. I believe Liette has that smoking gun, or the knowledge to prove these things aren't all tied together. She is to be proceeded cautiously with, I'm not so callous as to try forcing things out of her or harming the girl in quest for data, but what she knows must be gotten from her." Cat's optical focus shifts to her hands for a moment.

"Liette shows little or no knowledge of the world at large, suggesting an extremely sheltered life. She speaks of things she isn't allowed to talk about, tests performed on people, and of being moved from place to place. She wants us to find her Pop and reunite them. Thus far, nothing's been said to indicate that shouldn't, or won't, happen. She claims not to know his name or location. Rebel wants her given to Cardinal, unless they changed their plan, and I've told Cardinal she's safe but not where along with letting him know she recognized people. I've not mentioned him to Brennan yet, both because Mr. Redbird wants it kept quiet that he didn't die at the south pole and because Brennan is spooked enough. It's too soon for bringing someone not with the Ferry into all this."

Her head tilts to one side, finally, as something seems to register. The image of Luis is tapped. "You recognize this man? What institute does he work at?"

"He has employment records," the technopath replies dryly. "Also interviewed recently in some magazine; it's been spoken of frequently." She falls quiet a moment, retrieves the periodical's name. "Pause. He works for the Commonweath Institute of Scientific Research, Cambridge, Massachusetts; where Mohinder Suresh might currently be found, as well." Another beat of silence, and a hint of dry smile creeps into Hana's expression. "Cardinal is indeed looking for Brennan and the girl; though, whether he found them, I am not certain. In either case, I imagine he is not waiting upon your introduction."

"Pause? That rag?" Cat scowls briefly. "I've avoided that since Nalani Hollingwood tried to frame a Ferrywoman and get her sent to prison. Even to the point of ignoring any questions a reporter from there asked during Mother's campaign and," her tone changes, hints of grief settling in, "after Carlisle Dreyfus assassinated her, if they'd sent any." A shake of her head sets that aside, she may make an exception and seek out the publication's latest issue now. But only that latest issue.

"Mr. Redbird is resourceful," Cat allows. "He has means to see where I go and who I talk to without technopathy. Remote viewing, as it were. I also can't be certain he wouldn't follow me directly, merged with the shadows and still. If he saw I was headed to Staten Island, and knows my boat, he could stash himself there and wait." One of her gloves comes off, she draws a pen from a coat pocket and uses the blank side to one of her documents as a writing surface. Large letters, black ink.

Hey, Peyton! Enjoying the view?

It's held up, maybe visible to Hana and maybe not, but Cat can see it and Peyton too if she's watching. "I should tell you, also, Liette is a power copier. Called it Transitive Reactive Mimicry. At least some of her movements were aimed at meeting people and copying their abilities, it seems a hobby to her like collecting stamps."

Speaking of conclusions and blind spots; but that would be pot and kettle. Hana doesn't exactly live by her own advice, after all, just recognizes that it is good advice. "Duly noted," is all the woman says, perhaps to one part of Cat's statements; perhaps to all. "Is there anything else we need to cover?"

"I think we're good," Cat replies. "I would hope you can help investigate some of these angles, but self-reliance is a good thing. It doesn't help to be over-reliant on technopaths and their talents, nor is it good to assume you'll assist." Tact, perhaps, which Cardinal claims she lacks; in avoiding suggesting Hana might not yet be ready and not assuming she'll help as a matter of course. "I'll keep you informed of what I find, if you wish. Would you prefer meetings in person to discuss and share information, or do you not object to transmissions?"

"I can't promise to always meet you." Hana no longer quite answers at the Ferry's beck and call; and while this leaves her at loose ends in some ways, she's not yet bothered by that. "Collect what you want me to know in a secure place; when you have a where established for that purpose, inform me in person. Then you need only let me know when it's been updated." Avoiding the transmission of information itself — which, implicitly, the technopath seems to object to. With Rebel being more of an unknown these days… there may be reason.

"Will do." Cat rises. Before she steps from the scrapped craft, a final piece of data is offered. "There is another technopath in the city, uses the name capital D dot Crypt, with capital C. You might cross paths." Her documents, unless Hana indicates she desires to keep and have them, are packed up and taken with her.

Then she departs. There's a magazine to buy and a clairvoyant to visit.

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