Put Your Foot Down


cat_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif helena_icon.gif

Scene Title Put Your Foot Down
Synopsis Elisabeth encourages Helena to bring a tighter grip to Phoenix; Cat considers what to do next.
Date December 13, 2008

An Undisclosed Safehouse

The safehouse she found to install Cat however temporarily at least has heat and a working shower. Helena's given Cat some space and time to do things like sleep and feel clean and otherwise accorded her privacy. It means she sort of loiters in the safehouse like a ghost, except for the part where she eats some of the food. The call she gets from Liz on her cell results in the woman gaming some tidbits of information: the exchange happened, nobody died…but they only got one of the hostages, and the news about the other is not good. She'd say no more than that over the phone, but she was willing to give Elisabeth the means as to the location so the pair can talk face to face.

It takes her a little time to get the safe house, if only because Elisabeth is careful to dress for the area it's located in — no point in drawing attention. Jeans, a heavily lined denim jacket, neither of them new or in great shape, and a pair of beat-up sneakers. Her blond hair is pinned at the nape of her neck. Once she's inside, she unzips the jacket, though she keeps her left hand in its pocket — she's not wearing her sling, but she's still babying the arm and the pocket's the best way to manage it without the attention being drawn to the sling. When the jacket opens, the holster on her belt is visible as well. "How is she?" she asks Helena quietly, sincere concern in her blue eyes.

Of all the adjectives Helena can offer, the one that she does end up giving may or may not be a surprise. "Angry." Helena takes a moment to check the area, then closes the door and heads for the kitchen. Opening the fridge, she passes out a can of coke to Elisabeth. "What they want for Dani - it's not happening. Cat knows that. She's already grieving."

Elisabeth takes the can, grimacing. "I'm sorry," she says quietly. "I'm more sorry than I can fucking say that I wasn't more help. It goes against everything I believe in to let this asshole keep the other hostage." She studies Helena. "Is there any chance at all of negotiating other terms for the hostage? Or can we bring a damn raid down on their heads, maybe?"

Helena shakes her head. "We don't know where they are, and believe me when I say Ethan's not willing to negotiate. He wants Wireless." A pause as she realizes Elisabeth may not understand who that is. "Our technopath. She has complete control over anything computerized. She's also someone who trains us, and she's technically part of the Ferrymen. There's no way in hell we'd give her up, even if she was ours to do so. I'm just going to hate having to tell her about this."

Elisabeth nods slowly, sadness and anger vying for dominance in her expression. "All right," she says softly, heavily. Setting the unopened soda on the kitchen counter, Liz leans her hip against it and studies the girl in front of her. "Helena…." She pauses, trying to figure out how to choose her words and not knowing enough about Helena to really be good at it yet. "You and I need to talk. And I hope to high Hell you're willing to hear what I have to say in spite of the fact that you don't know me well at all."

Helena pops her can of coke, and moves to sit heavily down at the kitchen table. She takes a long swallow, and then finally, "Alright." She gets the feeling this is going to be one of those heavy conversations.

"I'm pretty sure I don't have to tell you that you don't have control of your people…. the very fact that some of them carried out this operation without you knowing about it until it was too late is all the example you need of that fact." Elisabeth looks grim, shoving her good hand into the other pocket of the jacket. "Sergei," even now she's careful to only use the name most of Phoenix knows him by, "believes in you. Believes that you have the potential to be a great leader… and from what little I've seen so far, he's right. The potential exists. I think your biggest problem right now lies in a twofold issue: Your own youth and the perceptions that come with that — that 'you're not the boss of me cuz we're all the same age' kind of mindset that comes with the age bracket of most of the people I saw in that meeting; and the fact that you don't appear to have laid down the law about what's acceptable and what isn't." She pauses and says quietly, "I'm not going to put down your experience or the things you've seen along the way. They age people in ways that are… not easily described. But I think you could use some advisors older than your own age bracket. And the two that I know you've chosen have commented to me that you don't listen to them."

Helena looks momentarily confused. "Two? There's Conrad, I'm not sure who else you mean. I listen to Hana and Bennet all the time." But there's a pause, a long pause as she considers Elisabeth's words. "Conrad wanted to go to the Feds on this, and I thought it might have made things worse. I don't see how that constitutes never listening to him, but maybe there's more example of that and I don't see it. And I'm not sure how to lay the law down without seeming like a petty dictator. Do you know how I can handle that?" Helena can at least identify the problems. She just doesn't have a reach for the solutions yet.
Elisabeth shakes her head slightly. "I don't know who Hana and Bennet are," she says quietly. Their ages, obviously, are older than Helena, though, since their names came up. "I can't give specifics, I can only tell you that both Conrad and Sergei have commented to me that they've tried to advise you and you don't listen." She shrugs a little. "Could also just be their perceptions of things too." She sighs heavily. "In point of fact, if you're willing to listen, I do have a couple of suggestions for you. One of them is 'get over it.' You splintered off of PARIAH to become an organization of your own. I don't care how democratic you think your organization is, there's a pyramid of power with a single person at the top — there HAS to be, or it implodes. *You* are that person… and whether it's reaping the benefits of things like your spree of miracles or reaping the shit end of the deal like in this… it's on you." Her tone and her gaze are sympathetic. It sucks to be the person in charge. "If you don't want the leadership, then you need to deliberately and visibly hand the reins to someone else. If you *do* want it… and frankly, I think you're as well suited for it as anyone else I've seen so far… then it's time to step up and put your foot down on your lieutenants and the membership. Lay out exactly what constitutes acceptable actions and what is not. They can function autonomously within a framework that you lay out, or they can walk. But…. " She bites her lip and says softly, "Dani's loss, whatever happened to Cat… all of that was avoidable. Your guys started some shit that's going to end in a LOT of bloodshed."

She's awake. Sleep doesn't come easily for Cat, there's so much in and on her mind. Feet settle on the floor and she starts to exit the room, but the sound of voices reaches her ears and gives her pause. The topic under discussion holds her attention, and restrains her from interrupting. Some of the things being said echo a few of Cat's own concerns, but she isn't one to openly disagree with Helena. Eavesdropping, she realizes, may not go over well; but she perhaps believes Elisabeth also intends to keep her discussions with Stormy between them only and does nothing to call attention to herself.

"Not as much as you'd think." Helena says softly. "But one death, most certainly." She leans back. "To be honest, Sergei hasn't been around much to give advice, and yeah, I do tend to take what he says with a grain of salt. He kind of has a self-flagellation thing going that makes me cautious. I'll talk to Conrad myself. Obviously he doesn't get how much we need him. How much I need him. Right now I've basically got Teo as my co-lead and Con and Alex as lieuts, with individual people in charge of specific projects. Do you think this should be altered?" Then, soft again, "I'll put my foot down. We may lose people, but I can do it. No torture, and a clear means of how to go about a situation. We didn't go away with taking Eileen completely empty handed, but I can't say it was worth the price."

Alex…. ex-cop Alex? He's a good choice, Liz deems in her head. She listens closely to what Helena's laying out as the supposed structure, and she considers as she leans against the counter. "Well, I'm not about to step into what you've got going with Sergei. Let's just say that I know him far better than you might think at the moment, and I can't disagree with your assessment so far, not having seen him in this context thus far." Her hands remain in her pockets while she thinks. "It sounds to me like your leadership structure is sound… so where the hell did whoever masterminded this kidnapping get off thinking it was okay?" She hesitates and points out, "And I highly suggest that anyone who advocates death to a hostage when said hostage-taking was not even approved by you that stays when you lay down your law be watched VERY closely." Their words are able to be heard because it doens't occur to Liz yet to regularly erect the silence bubble that Conrad uses so effectively.

"Elvis is the one who spoke up." Helena observes. "And while she's reactionary - I think it's tied into her ability somehow - she's not stupid. She tends to think of things as cut and dried, but when I said that wasn't an option, she conceded quickly. I think it's in her nature to consider brutal, simple solutions, but I also think she's not stubborn about them. Alex," and now Helena sighs, "He tried to torture Eileen. And Brian brought her silverware with her food, which ended up in Teo getting stabbed. I don't think Elvis is one of the problem children, so to speak."

Elisabeth shakes her head, boggled at the sheer stupidity of the whole thing. "Jesus Christ on a crutch," she breathes softly. Blowing out a breath, she thinks for a few moments. "Well…. for what this is worth to you, I don't think the conflict could have been completely avoided. Vanguard's out there framing PARIAH for its own actions. They're looking for a complete explosion of the Evolved situation, it's clear. So…. the specific situation here could have been avoided, but I don't think that the overall conflict could have been. The people you lose when you lay out what's acceptable and what's not can go play with PARIAH. I think you have a stronger hold on your membership than you realize — the voices in favor of your vision were strong at the meeting." She pauses. "As you pointed out to me…. we're going to get our hands dirty some of the time, and we're going to have to be proactive and not just reactive… but it doesn't mean STARTING a bloody, lethal barroom brawl, which is basically what your guys did by taking that girl."

"So the question becomes, what's acceptable and what's not." Rising, Helena walks to where her leather men's jacket has been draped, digs around in the pockets, and produces a small notebook and pen. Coming back to the table, she flips it open to a blank page - apparently she's going to write these all down like a grocery list. "I need a concrete way of having people propose a mission, present it, and see it approved. No more spur of the moment shit. Yeah?"

Elisabeth nods. "That's a good place to start. And make YOURSELF a list of what's okay when things present themselves on the spur of the moment. You know… like "Kidnapping members of the opposing crazy cults just because you spot them on the street is NOT acceptable," and "attempting a full-on rescue operation without backup is not acceptable," but "Shadowing someone that you just happen to spot from the opposing crazy cults and reporting back on what they were doing and who they were talking to — so long as you don't get spotted! — is acceptable."" She pauses. "You're not goign to be able to cover all contingencies, obviously. A basic guideline would be, to my mind, something like taking actions that will save people's lives being an acceptable rule of thumb without having to check it, but … anything that could be put off until the leadership evaluates it should be put off. UNless you have specific projects in mind that you assign ahead of time. The last thing you want is the membership running about blowing shit up without the okay. How this organization runs is according to a vision. Right?"

Helena nods. "Right." she agrees. "Teo was in on the kidnapping though, and he's my co-leader. Do I need to re-evaluate that?"

Elisabeth shrugs slightly. "You think he's likely to pull shit like this again?" she asks. "ULtimately, your leadership is up to you. If you think a stern what-for is enough, go with it."

Helena nods some more. "Okay." she says again. "I'll put some thought into it, and then make it clear to everyone."
Elisabeth looks a bit relieved, honestly. "You know…. like everyone, I've been watching the news for a long time. Trying to decide what to do and how to live in this new world order. Your miracles pretty much decided me that you were the place to be. And aside from this — which looks a bit like someone got insanely overzealous — you've said and done nothing that makes me change that assessment. I think you have the right idea, Helena. Lead by example… show the world what good Evolved people can do for them. And I have some ideas to toss in the pot on that regard as well, though I can do it at a later time when we're not dealing with this thing with Ethan. I don't know why, at your age, it landed on you… but you're doing all right with it." She pushes off the counter, pulling her good hand out to zip up. "I'm willing to do whatever I can to help you. All you have to do is ask." She pauses and says softly, "And I'm *damn* sorry about Dani and the fact that you're having to make this choice."

Helena swallows a little. "No matter what Ethan says," her voice is strong despite her uncertain expression, "What happened to them is ultimately no one's fault but Ethan and his people's. They're the ones ultimately causing this, and I'm smart enough not to believe it when he tries to tell me it's mine." Which doesn't mean she doesn't carry some guilt, but she refuses to let it bow her over.

It's here that Cat chooses to come out, walking slowly. Her features appear calm, except for the murder in her eyes. The woman, not yet met by Elisabeth, is five feet eight inches, brunette, and in the back half of her twenties. She's wearing jeans, a blue sweatshirt, and athletic shoes. "I've been thinking," she intones solemnly. The eyes settle on the new face for a moment, then turn toward Helena.

Elisabeth says quietly, "Don't you forget that. The circumstances leading up to it… everyone shares some responsibility for that. But what he's doing to them? That's on him and his people, not on ANY of us. We didn't kill his girl. We gave her back — in worse shape than she should have been — but whole and mostly healthy." She puts a hand on Helena's shoulder and squeezes gently. "And don't you let him make you feel otherwise." She looks up at Cat, going silent at the other woman's appearance.

Helena turns to look at Cat, her brows lifting a little. "You do do that." she conceeds solemnly. "What is it?"

"There may be an opportunity. We've nothing to lose, after all, we expect Dani to lose her life because we can't, won't, hand over a technopath. We choose to do so, knowing the cost. But that doesn't mean we can't try to turn things to our advantage. Ethan Sadist believes we have a technopath. He doesn't know her name. If he knew her name, he'd have told us. He called me Catherine." Her eyes travel to each of the two in turn, watching their faces to gauge whether or not they seem to think she makes sense. "I recommend, when we contact Wireless, we ask her advice on the chances of pulling off an operation aimed at seizing Dani and/or Ethan Sadist. If neccessary, I will present myself as the technopath."

Elisabeth nods slowly, the idea having some merit to it. "Although I don't advocate swapping hostages here… " She glances at Helena. "It's not the best option… you could lose more people trying it. But… in point of fact, she's right. Dani doesn't have anything to lose. But if you consider it, leave grabbing Ethan out of it for now. The primary goal should be nabbing Dani, nothing else. If a sniper can take a shot and take Ethan out of hte picture…. well, I think that's not unreasonable." She leans against the counter to listen to the two of them hash it out.

Helena looks visibly torn. "Ethan's got snipers of his own." she points out. "I want to rescue Dani, but I don't see how we can turn the situation to our advantage."

"We may not be able to," Cat admits quietly. "This is why I recommend seeking the advice of Wireless when we report the situation to her. She and Mr. Bennet may have assets we don't which can be brought into play, and they may wish to confront a possible threat against Wireless directly in a proactive manner. Obviously, also, the entire thing would be their call for this reason. We would need their support." A long breath is inhaled and exhaled, she lets it out slowly as it was taken in, with her fists starting to clench and become white knuckled. "If a fake technopath is needed as bait, so be it. I'm her. I expected already to be dead. I never believed he'd release either of us. I'd made my peace with dying, as did Danielle. Ethan tipped his hand when he played games, after saying he wouldn't. To him, it was all a game."

"We'd have to work very quickly. But I can call Wireless, and see what she thinks of the idea." Helena rises once more, going for the inside pocket of one of her leather jacket.

"We had alone time here and there," Cat reflects somberly, "and were able to talk. At one point it seemed we were going to argue over which sacrificed herself for the other. But Dani wouldn't argue, and neither did I. It seemed we'd both made up our minds to take a bullet for the other and wouldn't be dissuaded. She… she told me I'm more important and should be the one to make it out if only one could." Silence follows as she watches Helena go for a phone, Cat placing her back against a wall and sliding down it to be seated. "I disagreed. When Ethan wanted something, he threatened and beat whichever of us wasn't asked for it. The sadist bastard wanted me to call you, Helena. I refused. So he cut off her thumb." Eye contact is attempted, she asks "Why did I refuse, when I believed he'd do that?"

Helena shakes her head. She doesn't know. "I don't know that we're in a position to situate ourselves well to get her back. We might consider setting up the meet but giving the details to SCOUT. I know Conrad's been saying we should use HomeSec, but I have a hard time validating helping them in any way."

"I refused because there was no reason to believe anything he said which didn't involve either or both of us being hurt or killed. It was the way he phrased his rules. He said any answer he didn't like would have penalties. It meant he planned to use torture regardless of what was said or done, with nothing to define what he wouldn't like. I told him I wouldn't call you unless he demonstrated good faith by putting Dani back in our apartment first. Barring that, the only thing I could reasonably believe is we'd both die. Every," she repeats, "every person in this organization needs to understand they could be in Dani's position and come to terms with that. Anyone not willing to be abandoned and killed if captured is in the wrong place."

Helena nods after a brief second, and writes something in their notebook. "I'll do the best I can, Cat. Do you know where you're going to live now? You can't go back to the Dorchester."

"I'll find a place," Cat replies. "I'll bounce from hotel to hotel until I do, maybe buy a sleeping bag and spend some nights sacked out in the library. I'll go back to the Towers, but only long enough to collect ID documents and bank cards, clothing, get a look at security footage from the night of the abduction, etc. Hit and run visits. Even if the place wasn't compromised in terms of security, I couldn't live there now. It'll be a while before I can even bring myself to box up Dani's belongings. Every single piece has a memory attached, and for me that's more intense even than for most people. Every object a reminder of the friend I met in college, who stuck by me across this stretch of years, the best friend who became my lover after she showed up in New York and got sucked into my life, and who I let be mutilated. Who I let die." Her voice breaks, her eyes close and moisture threatens to escape the corners. The lips quiver, she's having trouble forming the next words.

"I have to try asking Wireless to help mount an operation, Stormy. I have to. She and I talked about us both dying, she said she had no regrets. Said I had to make it out if only one could. I think she'll forgive me for this. I hope she will." The eyes, now about to run over with bitter and salty tears, fix on a wall.

"Please, Dani, know I love you, and forgive me for this."

December 13th: Have to Be

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…
Like The Odessa File

December 13th: The Devil's Due, Part III
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