Parting Of The Ways


cat_icon.gif jennifer_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Parting Of The Ways
Synopsis An effort is made.
Date February 8, 2009

Jennifer and Ygraine's place at Le Rivage Apartments

She hadn't wanted to press so soon after the meeting, and she remembers very well the expression that greeted her when she found Jennifer at the dorm room on Columbia's campus, the way the door slammed when she moved away from it. It makes Cat a bit hesitant to approach, but she must. It's Sunday morning, February 8th, her phone display claims it to be approximately 10 a. m.

At the door of the apartment shared by Debater and Jennifer, a knock comes.

There's a short pause, in which the householder moves to the door and peers through the shielded peephole to see who's outside, before a succession of rattles and clunks announce the removal of the extra security measures mounted on (and in) the heavy door. Then the portal swings open, and a rather surprised-looking Briton waves an invitation for Cat to step inside. "Hello there. Didn't expect to see you." With tousled hair and clad in little more than a thigh-length, off-the shoulder woollen sweater of voluminous size, she certainly looks as if that's the case.

Ygraine's apartment, however, looks as if it's received the benefits of a thorough (and early) Spring cleaning, with everything spick and span. The curtains have been pushed wide to let in the watery February sunshine, hazy reflections visible in the polished wood. A lone rose sits in a vase atop the dining table, while a scatter of receptacles on the kitchenette's work surfaces suggest that breakfast might be in preparation.

For her part, Jennifer has not yet emerged from the bedroom. Not at 10 AM on a Sunday. It's fairly certain that she's awake by now, but "awake" and "out of bed" are two entirely different things.

Stepping inside, Cat shows a slight smile. "Morning, Debater. I… I think I picked too early a time to visit," she begins. Her eyes don't roam the interior much, they remain on the British woman in front of her. "You're both well?" she asks. This morning she's in jeans, coat, and boots with hair pulled into a ponytail. Hands sans gloves rest at her sides, and she's got the fairly customary guitar case and backpack over her shoulders.

Ygraine closes the door behind Cat, slipping one bolt and the sturdy chain into place, before gesturing for the musician to move further inside. "I've been awake for a while. Just fixing breakfast, if you'd like a cup of something warm. Or fruit juice, if you're feeling healthy. Are you here to see me, or…?"

"Both of you," Cat supplies, to finish that sentence. "Coffee is good, thank you."

Ygraine offers a slightly lop-sided smile and a nod in response, turning to pad over to the kettle to set about making Cat her requested drink. "I'll fix that for you, then see if Sleeping Beauty is up to receiving visitors", she says, tone faintly nervous.

"Thank you," Cat replies, asking "I can come back another time if that's likely to start a riot, Debater. I'm fairly sure she hates me now. The forcefulness she used in slamming the door that day, the way she looked at me like I suddenly grew fifty heads…" Her voice trails away.

The door to the bedroom opens, and Jennifer steps out. She's in just a knee-length sleeping tee, but despite that manages to look at least a little dignified, if only so her dignity can be ruffled. "I see we have company."

Ygraine darts a sadly sympathetic glance across to Cat, opens her mouth to reply - then closes it again and offers Jennifer a nervous smile. Collecting drinks, she moves across to deliver one apiece to Jennifer and Cat. "I'm just trying to arrange an upgrade for you, to the more talented and prettier leggy brunette", she cracks in what she clearly knows is a feeble joke. "But yeah - Cat's here to have a talk, if we're up to it."

"Morning, Jen," Cat offers quietly, eyes briefly settling on the younger one. The coffee is accepted in hand and held there. Her face shows calm, but inwardly she wonders when the flying objects will start coming at her.

Jennifer cracks not a single smile. She might as well be made from ice. "What do you want, Catherine?" Frosty. She's never been "Catherine". Just Cat.
Ygraine turns away to the kitchenette once more, taking the opportunity to hide behind her hair and conceal her troubled concern for a few moments as she finishes preparing her own coffee.

"I'd hoped we could talk, Jennifer," Cat replies, keeping her tone even. "I'm sorry I misunderstood you and, apparently, everything about you." The frostiness doesn't make her flinch, despite what she may be thinking. Her poise is kept, eyes don't look away from her.

Jennifer replies "I believe we've said everything there was to say, at and before the meeting, no?"

Ygraine turns back to face the others, hands cradling her own mug, rump propped against the work surface. She remains silent, albeit clearly worried.

"I don't," Cat replies. "I wish you'd spoken to me like this some time before it came to all of that, Jennifer. The times we talked, and things talked about, all I saw was a genuinely sunny person. Nice all the time, never seeming to be unhappy. You'd even told me you stayed away from strong opinions, and when we talked about decisions, you didn't know if you could make that kind of call. I remember hoping you'd never have to."

She lapses to silence briefly before adding "I'm sorry I didn't see past that."

Jennifer frowns. "That was before I got used and ignored. And before people decided it would be a good idea to send my fiancee off to potentially get killed, all of it without any training. I went into the whole thing good faith. And I got walked all over for it."

Ygraine shoots Jennifer a worriedly concerned look. "One thing _has_ occurred to me", she says gently. "If… if Conrad figured out in advance what he'd have to do, my complaints about his lack of interest in the preparation of the others in his team become somewhat moot. In that specific case, I think I can certainly forgive him for being preoccupied. I can't even imagine what he must have felt like, if he suspected in advance what'd be required of him. But…" She shrugs, and nods agreement to Jennifer. "That's one case. And one I really hope'll never be repeated, so it's not remotely a general explanation for what we've seen of the leadership's lack of interest in any recruits doing anything other than certain pre-set functions that fit plans the leadership don't bother telling us. Did you know I'm meant to be "field espionage"? I don't even know what that should be taken to mean. I used to be supposed to be part of an analysis team, if I remember right. But those things - they're not your fault, Cat, and I know it. You're just… caring enough to ask."

"I'm not going to criticize Helena while she's stuck in a prison cell somewhere and can't speak for herself, Jennifer," Cat replies quietly. "I won't claim the plan was perfect, plans like that never are. We took on a force of significant potential size, and triumphed. I spoke to Doctor Ray a few times, hoping to see his plans, what he was designing, and he wouldn't show any of it until the whole thing was ready. He's as difficult, as insufferable, as Father can be," Cat laments. "The man knows my father, knows things about him I'd not even known." Her head shakes to chase that thought away.

Then the eyes settle on Jennifer again. "I didn't do those things to you, and am still standing here to take whatever you throw at me. If you have concerns in the future, my eyes are open now. I'll hear them, and carry them to the top personally."

Then she addresses the Briton. "You are in analysis, Debater. I compile information, and write opinions, putting them where others can read and comment. I told you yours would be welcome, and encouraged, didn't I?"

"You don't agree, at least not yet, but… we pulled off a miracle. Defeated the plans of a much larger operation with handfuls of people. Billions of people aren't dying a nasty viral death. I'm having a hard time seeing that as other than good."

Jennifer replies in annoyance. "Yes. And who was it who made the vaccine they wanted in case they needed it? Who was it that was coughing up blood for two days as a result? And who didn't even get a fucking thank you?" No, icy glacial chill is now giving way to volcanic heat. "And you're not going to criticize? I will. If they want their little coffee club to be all about their inner circle, fine. I'm tired of being used. I won't be, any more."

"I don't think that either of us disagrees with preventing the virus from being released as being a very good thing indeed. But… oh, to revert to a familiar idiom for me: many countries are happy to win any medal at all at the Olympics. But there are some that set out to do as well as they can - not just to get the baseline target of success, but to make the best possible use of all the resources at their disposal. Phoenix doesn't have the backroom staff and experience of an Olympic team - but it could have aspired to operate as a team, and aspired to make best use of those who signed up for it. That the missions succeeded does not alter the fact that the whole design was deeply flawed. To refuse to criticise it is to invite not just more bloody sacrifice in future, but to invite failure - because Phoenix's enemies'll learn, whether or not its leaders do."

The Briton darts a glance to Jennifer. "I want to help to save the world. But… you'll have access to my advice whether or not I'm in Phoenix, and the stated difference between Phoenix and the Ferrymen that was given to me by Helena was that Phoenix'd get out and do things. Yet my team included two Ferrymen, and the impressed me with their competence. Right now, I admit that at the moment the Sailing Club looks a lot more tempting as a place to stay than Phoenix - even with someone I like and whose intelligence I admire finally given a formalised role in leadership. Teo made the right noises, but I have the impression that many in Phoenix won't see past the fact that people are daring to criticise success."

Her features shift. "Vaccine? What vaccine?" This is clearly something she hadn't heard about. Cat looks from one to the other, her hands tightening into fists and opening again, to be held stiffly at her sides. The voice she speaks with is still calm, but has evidence of cracking. She's holding back. "I've said things weren't perfect. I've said there are ways to improve. I've not claimed otherwise. It stinks, Jennifer, that you worked so hard and coughed blood for two days. It really does. But you're free, not stuck in a prison cell wondering if you'll ever get out, wondering if you're even remembered. If we're going to compare sacrifices, Jen, you lose hands down."

Her eyes shift to the Briton. "The Ferry are our allies. We help them, they help us. We do go out and do things. We took point on figuring out what Volken's crew was up to, part of it made possible by the secret experiments of a shadowy firm now allied with Homeland Satan, who failed to destroy the virus they created. We did the job of the Feds. If needed, we'll do it again and again. No matter what it costs us."

Her eyes move between both of them now as she speaks, the volume of her voice taking on coldness, a rage held back. "People died for this objective. Others got locked in prison." Cat's voice cracks. "My closest friend, my lover, got killed because the organization came first, it had to. We've all sacrificed, and we'll all have to sacrifice again in the future. You want heard, I hear you. You want improvement, I'm working on that." Her eyes squeeze shut.

"But if you value yourself more than anyone else in this organization, if you think you've sacrificed more than people who are dead or in prison, all I can say is grow up and get over yourself."

Jennifer looks back. "And if leadership had given a damn, and there'd been training, maybe those people wouldn't BE dead and in prison. Get out, Cat. Don't come back." Her tone is decidedly final. Meeting her anger for anger seems to have been a poor choice.

Though she seemed able to let the anger wash past her, Ygraine winces when Jennifer orders Cat out. Her eyes close for a moment, while she sips silently at her coffee. When she lifts her gaze once more, her expression is more than a touch mournful. "I fear I've explained it dreadfully badly", she says tiredly, "if you think that we're upset because we think we're worth more than others and shouldn't have been exposed to danger. I nearly died, saving a Brian. Wholly my own choice to take the risk, but I couldn't bear to see him put through another death if I could prevent it…. We're not upset because so many were saved from the virus, but because so little was done to improve the chances of those who signed up - both to survive, and to do things better. Sure, I'm told that I could've learned to use a gun on the range, if I wanted, or tracked down someone for sparring - but what about cross-training of powers? Working out how to combine abilities? Tapping people's non-visible talents? Making people feel _wanted_ and valued? And now, for daring to point that out, we seem to be viewed as aggressors who're announcing that it'd have been better not to have done anything at all."

Setting her mug on the counter behind her, she rises to her full height and offers a wearily apologetic smile. "But I should let you out before this turns nastier. I've no desire for any quarrel or upset here, though I fear that I'm weeks too late to avoid it."

"I came here to make peace, Debater," Cat replies. "What's done is what's done. Future operations can be influenced. There are improvements to be made. I've said that again and again. Making people feel wanted and valued, I'm here trying to talk with someone who threatened to go to DHS while I was out looking for people who hadn't reported in, to take stock of everything. I haven't told anyone about that. I've heard you out, heard her out, even apologized for things I didn't do. I can't do more to make you both feel wanted and valued than that. Sacrifice… Helena's in prison, Al, Brian… Dani's dead." A few tears form in the corners of her eyes. "Every one of us knew the risks, and took them freely. The leader herself is now locked away for the dreadful crime of helping to save billions of lives. What did you expect would be the result of threatening to quit after that, Debater?" She pauses on the way to the door.

"I still believe you're better than that. Think it over, and when you see the full picture, I'm not hard to find. Unless Jen carries out her threat, and I get thrown in prison."

Jennifer looks back. "Right now, that's where Phoenix should be." she says, her voice flat. "They gambled. An amateurish, lucky gamble with the fate of the world. Just because they got lucky, that makes it okay? And one of the people in charge is still in charge, and nothing has changed. We're not interested. And we're not involved. Go."

Cat's mention of the DHS seems to surprise to Ygraine, and Jennifer's response doesn't help her emotional equilibrium a great deal - though she regains her composure sufficiently to take Cat's coffee mug and escort the musician to the door. She continues to look deeply weary and very sad, however. "I tried to save Dani", she murmurs weakly. "I didn't know how to do it properly, and I failed - but I tried. From what you've said… I was the only one. So please, Cat - don't talk to me about giving up. Before ever Phoenix existed, I came back to this city _to_ help people - and myself, by doing so, but I'm here _to_ help." The chain rattles quietly as she unfastens it, then slides back the bolt. "I'll… I'll see you around", she offers weakly, by way of farewell.

"I tried, Debater," Cat replies. "I really did, even after she threatened to have us all, you included, locked away in a deep dark hole forever. I can't offer more than I've offered. I won't kiss her ass, which is what she wants, only to kick me anyway. I'll see you around… maybe in the prison after she gives us all up." And she steps outside.

February 8th: Sneezy, Grumpy, And Speedy
February 8th: Desperate
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