One Thing At A Time


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Scene Title One Thing At A Time
Synopsis Mother and daughter are reunited to discuss what's come between them.
Date February 12, 2010

Solstice Condominiums

On the outside, the snowy streets of New York City are gradually left behind for the contemporary peace and quiet of something more subdued in its wealth than the destroyed Chesterfield home in Hartford. Up those concrete steps and to the wooden door of the condo, Catherine's knock of the brass loop on the front door comes at the same time an ambulance goes speeding past, sirens on and lights flashing, headed to a wholly different part of the city.

After a few moments of silence, standing on the stoop of the brownstone residence, the door cracks open, and it's with a hesitant smile that Jennifer Chesterfield opens the door, dressed for work and professionally, as always, though from the button undone at the top of her collar and the reading glasses on the bridge of her nose, she's been done with today's real business for a while. The fuzzy red slippers are also an indication.

"Catherine," Jenn offers in an unusual show of both emotion and relief, hesitating when she goes to take a step forward, arms moving as if she were going to mebrace her daughter, but comes just shy of the act itself when words from just a night ago echo in the back of her mind.

We don't trust you.

Her smile fades, just a touch, and Jennifer Chesterfield takes a step back, motioning for Cat to come in. "Why— Why don't you come in, I'm sure there's a lot you need to talk about."

"Good evening, Mother," Cat replies in quiet words as she steps through and makes room for the door to be closed behind her. "That's true," she also confirms in response to the statement. "But not just myself, I'm certain." Her winter gloves are soon removed, then the coat. Her expression is subdued, pensive. "I wasn't the source of press articles about either of us," she provides. "I have to suspect the Lockheart campaign, although I've no idea how they'd come by the information."

With the coat gone, her own attire is revealed as a dark grey jacket and pants with a cream colored turtleneck, made by Brooks Brothers. "I also got your message from Sarisa Kershner, and recently met with Miss Nichols. She's not so pleased with me."

"I— Didn't suspect you were…" Jennifer admits with a worried look on her face as she shuts the door, following in her daughter's footsteps across the hardwood floor in her slippers. The stops, though, arms folded across her chest and brows furrowed. "My— I don't recall using… miss Kershner as a courier for any sort of messages. As for Nicole, she's— in a very stressed position right now, I'd ask if you could empathize with her a little but…"

Jenn shakes her head slowly, moving over towards the living room, gesturing for Cat to take the plush red armchair opposite of the one Jennifer herself is moving to occupy. "Let's leave the campaign talk on the sie fo rnow, I'd rather not have to think about Lockheart or Donovan right now, and I figure it'll save us the stress of arguing over something neither of us want to talk about." There's a tired noise as she settles down into the chair, brows furrowed.

"What was this message you said was delivered from me through miss Kershner? I— Don't recall giving her any missives to send, and I don't frankly see myself as using a member of the CIA as an errand boy," there's a joking tone to that, at least.

"Message," Cat admits, "is perhaps the wrong term. But she did say it may not surprise me you were chief among contacts with the Company that insisted on my involvement in that assignment. It was the twenty-fifth of November, in Ryazan, Russia. Right before she went on to offer the bribe for what I'd intended to do anyway." Her lips quirk up into something of a smile. The offered chair is settled into, legs crossing smoothly at the ankles out of habits. "Mission accomplished," she reports gravely, "with a cost. It turns out, depending on the situation, I can indeed work with the Company. The stakes were far more important than any other issue."

"Nicole's position I understand. It can't be pleasant to discover the sorts of things her sister is involved with. I didn't drag her into any of it, this I assure you. She was led to us by a precognitive and volunteered. I have to wonder… is Nicole electrokinetic? While leaving, she placed a hand on the wall and suddenly there was a power fluctuation. Light fixtures were shattered."

Furrowing her brows, Jenn looks momentarially confused, "Nicole's never mentioned anything about being Evolved to me, but then again it's not any of my business if she doesn't want to tell me about her private life…" which is the way Jenn always infers and it's none of your business either ever so passive-aggressively.

"As for, ah, miss Kershner's comment— yes. Yes, I… there was some vetting going on at the Company about involvement. A few people had reservations about offering you aboard, but that wasn't really here nor there once I decided to speak up. I was one voice among many at that meeting." Folding her hands in her lap, Jenn stares down at the glass coffee table between the two of them, silent for a moment before looking up towards Cat.

"Why did you want to talk to me, Catherine? It obviously isn't about the campaign, or about Nicole or her sister… otherwise you would have just said so. It isn't like you to beat around the proverbial bush unless you're fishing for something and you don't know what you're looking for. I've known you as long as you've known yourself, Catherine… don't try and pretend otherwise."

"Maybe she has the SLC, maybe she doesn't," Cat remarks. "It normally wouldn't be anything I'd wonder about. But… if she has such an ability her control lacks when temper is raised, and she caused damage. At the very least, timing was curious." Her peace has been spoken regarding that matter, she lets it go and moves on. "She found me frustrating and evasive about campaign matters, such as those articles. I'd not spoken with you to compare notes on how much she's been told of the full picture, and thus chose not to enlighten her without doing so."

"Her position with you made me curious about Allen's involvement. It's difficult for me to picture him allying with someone who willingly returned to the Company, to an organization linked to Linderman. The man who rigged Nathan Petrelli's election to the Senate in '06. I suspect he'll try it again. The possible presence of Allen and the matters of those articles led me to make contact, I called just after Nicole left."

"Since then, I've learned more. You had an encounter with a dream assaulting entity."

"Allen doesn't have a heart for politics anymore," Jenn's explanation is curt, equally evasive as Cat had been to Nicole, "and my personal assistant has full disclosure of what happened at Pinehearst, I told her everything, after what happened to her sister. She deserved to know what was going on there and what was at stake." Folding her hands in her lap, Jenn's eyes linger on Cat for a moment before she stares down at her folded hands.

"So you're here about the Nightmare Man then?" One brow arches, she doesn't look willing to discuss Rickham or the campaign at all. "Yes, I had a rather unexpected encounter with him the other night, along with— one of your employees at your club, I think her name is Delilah? I didn't catch her last name. Miss Dean was also there, I— didn't stay long enough to see how the confrontation ended, but— I wish you and the others had come to me sooner to ask about this. But it's obvious why you haven't, and I'm not going to bother arguing the point again."

"Is it safe to discuss with Nicole just what other things I've been involved with? Defeat of Nazi madmen and their plots to release dangerous viruses, the plan of his survivors to melt Antarctica and flood the world? When Nicole suggested I claim I was misguided and childish," Cat relates with her head shaking a bit, "it was all I could do not to burst out laughing. She clearly had no idea. And I wouldn't give her any clue without talking to you first. How much do you want her to be told, Mother? And if she were told, would she accept it or think we're both insane for believing such things?"

"See, this isn't just about the dream invading entity," she explains, "you know I called to meet and talk over other things before that happened. Nightmare Man… isn't that giving too much credit to a nocturnal invader with no body?" Cat's head shakes again, the term just doesn't sound right for her ears. "Anyway, it just adds to things for discussion. The first time I heard about the entity was from Helena after I got home. She explained the basics, the Jungian psychology and the defense methods, and told me Hokuto Ichihara was gathering assistance to fight it. Nothing was said about you being involved at any time in the past. When Hokuto herself pulled me and several others into a dream classroom to teach a basic seminar, she also said nothing about you ever being linked. I never thought of the possibility," Cat admits. "You knew, and yet… Hokuto didn't bring you to help teach class."

"Catherine." Jenn grouses with one hand pinching the bridge of her nose. "One topic at a time. Not everyone is your father." Rubbing a hand over her forehead, Jenn disregards about half of what Cat was rambling on about, going with what she'd brought up first and foremost. "Do you really need to tell Nicole all of that? Will she gain any useful insight from your second-hand explanations of something she had no involvement in, or are you just trying to stroke your own ego over your good deeds? Do you need to force all that trauma on every single person you encounter? Sometimes knowing the truth doesn't make people happy Catherine. Sometimes people just don't need to know because it doesn't affect them."

Rising up from her chair, it's clear Jenn is tense. Probably the political situation weighing on her. "Just because you did what you did doesn't give you the right to go around lording it above everyone else, like your victories make you— No, I'm not going to have this argument with you. You can tell Nicole whatever you want to tell her, she's my employee, not my slave. You're a free person, you can do whatever you want, you don't— and never have— needed my permission."

"What argument?" Cat asks quietly. "I certainly don't intend on having one, Mother. It was merely a question of how much she should know and can handle, versus her assumptions about things. Her inferences I've been a misguided child, had the wool over my eyes. That I'd been fleeced…" She remains calm in demeanor, eyes resting on the tense and rising woman. "Asking your opinion is a gesture of respect and conciliation."

Her tone, having been conversational and calm, quiets some. Becomes subdued. "I wish there weren't things between us. So much I don't understand. After Pinehearst, I was open with you. Explained what I'd been up to and why. Worked to bridge gaps. And still you chose to go back to the Company, knowing all they are. You can make it happen without them, I know it. Could run and win the election without any ties to Daniel Linderman or anyone like him. I'd have been right there with you. But instead you were gone almost overnight. Are we both so stubborn it'll always be like this?"

"Nicole's a big girl, Catherine. She can decide on her own what to believe and what not to believe, who to trust and who not to trust… you can't force someone to believe something they're not willing to," Jenn looks away from "Cat as she says that, "you can just hope they have the capacity for understanding." Clearing her throat, she moves towards the kitchen, not so much in search of anything but nervous energy making her somewhat wandering.

"I was open with you too, Catherine. I told you what I wanted to do with the Company, told you the risks involved, and I even asked you to come aboard. No organization is without its problems or without its dark stains on history, but if you don't try to change them, all you're doing is washing your hands and giving up. I've been with the Company nearly my whole life, Cat. They've done bad things— terrible things— enough that Mason and I quit. But it was the wrong thing to do. You can't ever just quit what you believe in. One day, some day, it'll come back to you."

At the thought of Hokuto, Jenn just shakes her head slowly. "I never really knew Li's daughter very well. She was very young when I left the Company, and then we were living in Hartford and she and Akado were in New York. Her parents would come by the house from time to time, but even then that eventually stopped once Li became sick. I never really knew Hokuto, not well. Not outside of the project anyway, and I'd rather not think back about that…"

"I can't see any redeeming value in the Company, Mother," Cat replies somberly as she too rises and walks. "An organization like that is so corrupt, so tainted, the only thing for it is being torn down and eliminated. You going back to it… all I can see is it eating you alive. Sending Rene to make you forget if you come across things the Founders don't want you to know. To stop you from knowing when they're still up to the same old games. It scares me." For Cat to speak of having fear, that's a very rare thing.

"For all I know, they're up to something again. Primatech Paper folded up, it could easily have been relabeled as something called the Institute and be the people making these camps that are being built. The source of tainted flu vaccines that affect people with SLC more than those without. If they are, can you be sure they aren't hiding it from you, letting you believe such activities are in the past? How can you believe they'll ever change, that they won't instead be working at changing you bit by bit, each time you're called upon to make some subtle compromise framed in such reasonable terms as to make it seem good? I…"

She spends some moments in a speculative silence, her features showing how much she hopes what she says is getting through.

"I get accused sometimes by people around me of being too idealistic, being too rigid. What I never let on to them, refuse to display, is fear. It looks and feels weak. So I hide it. The truth is I am that way because I see my own compromises. Things my heart tells me should be made public, regardless of consequences, which I keep secret anyway. People I've collaborated with for bigger goals."

"It makes me dig my heels in and speak against anything of the kind, giving ground only grudgingly when there's no other option. And now I see you back with the Company, I've not spoken with Allen in months, and Rebel aren't communicating with me anymore. Arthur discovered you and Father turned against him, and you were in danger. We found you, and you made it out, but Father didn't. I can't tell you how much that hurts. Grief and perfect memory…"

"How do I manage to have your back when you're inside the Company? Even if I were inside, I don't think I could pull you out if needed. They know I oppose their existence, and I'd be under their microscope all the time." Her eyes close, she seems about to crack, just managing to hold it together.

For the first time in a long time, Jennifer's daughter actually seems to be slightly more than just a walking, talking database of knowledge and information. For the first time in what seems like years, there's a glimpse of Jenn's little girl under all that hardened exterior. It's also, quite likely, what brings out the first smile Jenn's had — despite the situation — in nearly as long a time. The sigh she lets out isn't a chastising one, so much as it is a patient one.

Moving over to the chair Cat's seated in, Jenn lays a hand out on her daughter's shoulder. squeezing it gently. "I'm not going to try and push you to trust me… I won't, but I won't let it drive a wedge between us either. No matter what choices we're both making, we're Chesterfields and we're always going to believe we're right until proven otherwise. You— got both the worst and the best traits of your father, you know." Even if they aren't related by blood.

"Catherine, I made my choice about the Company a long time ago. I can tell you, ask you to trust me that things are changing in there, but we've already been down that road. I can't ask you to trust me any more than you already do, and Helena told me how much that is." It pains her to admit it.

Coming to settle down on the arm of the chair, Jenn slides an arm around Cat's shoulder and draws her in to that embrace she just had been too tense to before. "You… will always be my little girl. You will always be that little girl who pushed herself too hard, and never stopped pushing. But no matter what disagreements we have, and what crisis of faith come between us, it means you'll always be my daughter and you will always come first."

Jenn leans down in, resting her nose against Cat's scalp. "I want you to remember that," she breathes out into her hair, squeezing Cat in her arms gently. "You will, and always have, come first."

She's quiet then, accepting the attentions bestowed upon her, thinking of times when she couldn't put a person first, ahead of all else, and knowing she'd make the same choice again with those stakes. Cat won't speak of it, she's shown enough cracks already. Her breath is heard, quiet and steady, through the extended silence with arms moving to return the gesture.

Eventually, without moving away, she quietly states "If Allen is still around you, I'd like to speak with him. I've done a good bit of research, and there are things to talk over. He may or may not be in contact with Rebel. You may or may not admit it if they're around and in contact. But I have to hope they are, watching your back."

"I can't speak for Allen…" The question makes Jenn unwind from Cat, slowly, rising up from the arm of the chair to stand straight again. "Or for Rebel. He communicates with who he wants to, how he wants to. But I will tell you, Catherine, he hasn't communicated to me in months, not directly. Everything I know is from what he offers online, for anyone to see. Maybe it's his way of making a point, maybe not. I'm just not sure…"

Folding her arms across her chest, Jenn keeps her back to Cat for a moment. "Allen's doing whatever he thinks is best for himself, and— most importantly— he's doing what he told me he'd do once Pinehearst fell…" Jenn turns to look over her shoulder, offering a hesitant smile. "He's doing what he thinks is right, regardless of what anyone else tells him. He needs that confidence in himself, and if he hasn't told you what he's doing, I trust him to have a good reason for it."

Fully turned around now, Jenn moves to stand behind the chair she's been sitting in when this started, folding her arms over the back and leaning forward. "Is it true you didn't come to me, when all this Nightmare Man business started, because you don't trust me?"
"If I'd had any idea you knew of the entity, had ever dealt with it before," Cat replies evenly, "I'd have made an approach. You weren't mentioned to me in connection with any of it. Hokuto herself didn't tell us you'd been involved before, didn't pull you in to help teach her Oneiromancy 101 class in dreamscape, though she did have Angela Petrelli among the students. As far as I've known, your role's been biotechnology."

"Helena learned of the entity firsthand, it tried to make her walk off a roof to her death. Later she was approached in dreams, by Hokuto, and told the basics of resistance. She told me when I got home. She also told me of the link between Refrain and the entity, it being a beacon for the creature, and I've myself researched the link between it and suicides of people with the SLC. Refrain does possibly link to you, but I didn't see a need to ask. You were aware of the mission I'd been on, so I believe you were already briefed on what was found in Madagascar. I don't believe you were aware of subcontracts for some of the Pinehearst work."

"It was a Company wide problem. Your father, Maury Parkman and Angela Petrelli were on the original team sent to investigate what he was. Originally it was just… I don't know, like bad hauntings? People having a few bad dreams, but Angela knew it was more than that, she knew it was an Evolved problem. Bob Bishop arranged for us to look into it with Angela's help, and eventually our search led us to a consultation with Li Ichihara, young Hokuto's mother. She ran a bookstore out on Roosevelt Island, read fortunes… she was a brilliant psychologist, taught us quite a bit about the pathology of the man we were tracking down."

Jennifer hangs her head, brows tensed for a moment as she goes deeper into thought. "Mason used to tell me about everything they were learning, and eventually, this Nightmare Man started stalking us, found me thorugh Mason. It was Li who gave us the ideas of shoring up our mental defenses by pulling from our subconscious. She didn't say it in so many words, Li never knew about the Evolved, about what Akado really did for a living. She thought we were police officers looking for a psychologist's advice on a case."

There's a hesitant smile from Jennifer. "I guess the apple doesn't fall far from the tree with Hokuto. I never knew the process actually worked with her, though. She must have manifested her ability years after I left the Company. She's like you, actually…" There's a faint smile from Jennifer. "Well, Akado and Li are her birth parents, but Hokuto was one of the very first test subjects for the Formula. They'd written her off as a failure initially, I guess it's somewhat refreshing to find out it wasn't for nothing. That— in a way— she's doing what her father and mother always did."

Exhaling a sigh, Jenn slouches forward some, and it become clear that she's wholly unaware that Hokuto started working for the Company. It must have been long after the Chesterfields bowed out of that particular business.

Refrain, though, Refrain draws a furrow of her brows. "Catherine, Refrain was never designed to be a drug. I— I can't prove that it's what I think it is, but if you're implying that Refrain came out of the basement of Pinehearst— That was never a drug. It was one of the failed tests of the Formula, it was Meier's baby, aside from the Advent Virus. She designed it with one half of the Formula, designed to target Evolved and heighten their consciousness and awareness. But… I don't know what she had intended for it to do."

There's a shake of her head, eyes closing. "No I don't know what was found in Madagascar, Catherine. The Company and the government aren't exactly— " There's a furrow of her brows. "We're not on full disclosure with one another."

She listens, absorbing the information quietly, nodding in spots where chords are struck and things, names, recognized. "I met Hokuto at that same bookstore on the island, I at first thought she was a precog using tarot readings, though she claimed they were just cards, and I vaguely remembered her from a party at home ten years and change ago. Fuzzy memories, then, in comparison to now. She also remembered seeing me. She is a dreamwalker, her health is suffering from fighting the entity, and she's gathering people to help battle it. According to her, the being has no body. I've faced it myself a few times," Cat reports with a grin, "with a large black panther at my side. No lost battles yet. Last time out, the attacker borrowed lines from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I half expected to see it try to make the target dance until she caught fire."

"Refrain attracts it, somehow makes it stronger, more able to manipulate dreams. Now, Madagascar… people who were there fighting Rasoul told me there were tanks of glowing blue liquid with Pinehearst logos in his labs, that subcontracts were sent there for part of the work. He had a doctor named Gregor who did human experiments of a barbarous kind working for him. Gregor was taken into federal custody. They had also developed an airborne negation drug, and had pregnancy farms. Women kept alive and sedated for gestation. Children born with the SLC were slain, I'm told."

Jenn's eyes open wide and her head shakes, then she just slouches down against the chair again. "I don't know what to tell you about Madgascar, I don't even know what Arthur was doing behind the scenes half the time. I wouldn't be surprised if there were more satellite research facilities for Pinehearst's work all around the world. It's not even an American company, but I'm relatively certain the United Nations shut them down for the nuclear violations in regards to what happened in New Jersey. The— the nuclear regulatory comission was probably up the UN's ass sideways."

Swallowing dryly, Jenn just quietly shakes her head. "I really don't know what else I can tell you about that, Catherine. I just— I wush you'd come to me when you knew there was a problem. Not because of— of some connect-the-dots line of reasoning that I was involved, but because— because I'm your mother. If you needed me to help you, even if you had to explain to me what was going on, you know I would have."

Shaking her head and staring down at her arms, Jenn's voice grows quiet. "The fact that you didn't just— " One hand comes up, and the topic is waved off. "Is there anything I can do now?"

"You're probably right about satellite facilities, I only know of what was discovered in Madagascar," Cat gravely states, "and I can only hope none of them are in places at risk of takeover by Nazi madmen. That they've been dismantled. Right now, I'm curious where Gregor is kept. Hopefully the Feds aren't putting him to work in a lab somewhere."

"About what can be done, the most important thing now is sharing information. I can forward you what I dug out of the Rebel site. I've also been told someone was anonymously asked to look into Dr. Zimmerman and a man called Hector Steel, a robotics expert found with the Argentine branch of Vanguard. Whether or not they have any connection to the camps, disappearances, and H1N1 vaccines, I don't know. Have you," she asks, "heard of a thing called the Institute?"

"I know the Company— to the best of my knowledge— doesn't have a clue where Zimmerman went. There was an agent down at our operations headquarters who had a meeting with Robert about that very man just a few days ago. Her name is Veronica Sawyer, you should know her from Operation Apollo. She received an anonymous phone call about Zimmerman, the Gregor man you mentioned, and this Steel fellow." Jenn's brows furrow slightly. "Unfortunately the Company has no idea where Zimmerman is, he dissappeared off the radar after the Pinehearst incident. He was working to help us all escape, and I know he left the facility the day before the raid… the only person I think that would know where he is would be Maury Parkman. He helped us at that final hour too, he and Zimmerman were working together to stop Arthur."

Moving around the chair, Jenn's finally had enough hanging on it as she settles back down in the seat. "I— haven't heard from Maury at all since Pinehearst collapsed. He might well have died down there somewhere, and I don't really know anyone who would know better. Suffice to say, the Company's looking in to the same things you are, through Sawyer. You two might want to try that whole teamwork thing again…"

There's a hesitant smile from Jenn, but it drops when Cat mentions the Institute. "You mean… are you referring to a place just called the Institute? Like, with a capital I?" One brow raises slowly. "I can't say I have, but I do recall seeing the term in that security camera image Rebel sent. I'm not sure if that's the same thing though, it's a generic term… sort've like the Company."

"Oh," Cat agrees, "Veronica and I will be talking soon. I doubt it was Rebel that spoke with her, they always identify themselves and it doesn't fit what seems to be the current pattern, but questions being asked about a biochemist, a robot man, and a Nazi doctor are very curious. And yes, the Institute. You saw the same thing I did, lower right hand corner of the laboratory photo."

And she backtracks… "A thing you can do to help, this is about the dream invading entity… You know the basics, you can travel through dreamscapes and help people resist the attacks. It's… odd, Mother. Last time I faced it, the entity claimed it was performing a service for the target. That it was trying to help her find her way. I don't see driving people to suicide as a service, but… in some twisted way the being seems to believe there's a benefit to what it does. Sort of a literal example of what doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. Refrain users, if you come across them, will be obvious."

"Unless someone turned me into Peter Petrelli in the middle of the night, Catherine, I can't dream walk. Your friend who's helping you never extended an offer to me, and Angela— maybe I could talk to her, so we'll leave it as a possibility." Jenn's brows furrow, her head quirks to the side, tongue rolls across the inside of her cheek and she crosses one leg over the other. "As far as it's motives, that's… different than what was happening when I knew about it. Back then it was just, I don't know, Li said it was like a child?" One dark brow raises.

"When we went to have the patterns of the Nightmare Man's activities psychoanalyzed, it was cited to be no more than a child throwing a temper tantrum. They were pointless, simple, childish things that were happening in people's mind. When I said it was like a haunting, I meant it. Glasses flying off shelves, windows breaking— all in dreams— and all impossibly vivid. But it was never… never like what you're describing, and like what happened to me the other night."

"Maybe… I'm not sure how much help I'll be." Jenn admits ina quiet tone of voice, "But, I guess old K-9 was nice to see again…" there's a hesitant smile at that moment of indulgence, her eyes angling back to Cat. "Why don't you stay here the night, I'll order out, we'll get something to eat, and you can spend some time with your mother? Lord knows I won't have much of that once Monday comes around… and then maybe you and I can test out this shared dreaming thing, and you can show me how it works?"

Jenn offers a nervous smile to the offer, looking hopeful that it'll be taken up. "Call it— unofficial mother-daughter bonding… I promise not to tell a soul." She smiles a bit wryly at that, seeming just glad to have her little girl around again.

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