Teaching Moments And New Teammates


aric_icon.gif cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif francois_icon.gif peyton2_icon.gif

Scene Title Teaching Moments and New Teammates
Synopsis Aric has his first lesson in what it means to pick up a weapon and go to war, and Francois meets some of Endgame.
Date Aug 28, 2010

Redbird Security Soluntions, Financial District

The afternoon's been jam-packed with activity. Elisabeth was already here to meet with Rebecca, and so when Aric's call came in that he wanted to see her, she told him to simply meet her at Redbird. She let him in the front door with a curious smile and preceded him all the way down to the basement, shielded and guarded as it is, before doing more than offering a hello. Once they're downstairs, she says, "Well, now, handsome, what's on your mind today?" Her tone and mood are deliberately light — perhaps lighter than she's actually feeling, but her body language at least is far, far less tense than the past few times he's seen her.

All the lights in the basement are on and there are several boxes of papers open. There's a notebook on one of the tables, and it appears perhaps she's been studying the massive string diagram over there in the far corner.

"Thanks for seeing me Liz." Aric has a small package under his arm as he places it on the table. The smell of chocolate and strawberries slowly begin to linger in the air. He moves to plop down in a chair as he sighs, "I am beginning to feel a little lost with all that is going on. With the 31st so soon I am gonna have to register soon. I don't want too. They will take me if they ever find out I am a telepath. I know you are a cop yet I am gonna have to lie to them. Come up with some fake power. And with the attacks getting worse…I…

"Well I was wondering…can you help me get a gun and teach me to use it. Until Cardinal gets in contact with this Kaylee woman to see if she will be willing to teach me. I have no defense way to use my ability. Something tells me the calm before the storm. I might need a way to defend myself."

"Ah…." Elisabeth says, leaning her hips back against the table and crossing her arms and ankles. "Well, now… part of that I've got handled. Monday morning, you're going to go see a friend of mine, and he's going to sign and stamp your papers for you as Non-Evo if you want that. You might be better off going ahead and allowing your particular ability to be listed as something Tier-0 level benign, but that's up to you. Either way, I've got you covered on that."

She tilts her head. "And yes, I can teach you to use a weapon. But a gun is only as good as the willingness of the person who is wielding it to use it," Liz tells him gently. "I can make a decent marksman out of anyone. But if I can't make a shooter out of you — if you'll never be willing to point that gun at a human being and shoot to kill — having it is more of a danger to you than anyone you come across. It's how people get killed with their own weapons. Are you up for that decision?"

As he slides off his sandels, Aric tucks his knees up to his chest and sits his feet on the edge of the chair and lets out a soft sigh, "With the registeration I am scared to death of it. What do you think I should do?" As he reaches over and pops open the box of brownies he runs a hand through his hair, "I am not willing to kill anyone. Yet I do not want my friends or myself to be harmed by someone who will harm me. I would be willing to shoot them in the knees or shoulder or ass. I would do all I could to avoid killing someone if I could. It is against my beleives to kill unless I had no other choice."

Elisabeth considers his dilemma here. "Then I think you're better off learning to use a shotgun than a pistol. When you take a pistol in your hand, you need to mean business. You have to know that if push comes to shove, if you have to choose between the letting the guy get close enough to you to take the gun from you or shooting him, that you'll shoot. And not just some spot that's gonna piss him off and give him the chance to kill you," she says quietly. "A shotgun will generally do enough damage to hurt and distract and slow them down without having to take the time to be accurate, and in general unless you hit something damn near point-blank, it's not going to kill. And if they're that close, you've already lost. Better to hit with a wide dispersal pattern than to aim a pistol and miss entirely." She shrugs. "And if you want to learn that, we've got a few of those in here too."

As he nods slowly, "Well why don't we start with the shotgun but I think I should learn the pistol. I can keep a pistol with me and hide it easier then I could with a shot gun." Aric sighs, "It is not my first choice Liz. Trust me yet something tells me. I am gonna need to grow a pair and defend myself and what if the government came in here to take us. I am not gonna be placed in some cage…not without a fight."

Her expression goes neutral. Liz is weighing his words, his determination. His willingness to actually get good at this. And then she nods sharply. So be it. She pushes off the table and heads toward the glass-walled firing range. "C'mon, then. We'll use today to teach you how to stand and to not be afraid of the weapon. If you hit anything today it'll be a bonus." She smiles over her shoulder at him.

As he blinks, Aric was not expecting to do this now as he slides his feet into his shoes and snaps up in a fluid motion, "Now?" He looks down at himself, "Am I dress properly? I mean to shoot a gun for the first time?" Aric begins to follow Liz as she leads him to the concealed firing range. "What do you mean not be scared of it. Should I be?"

Elisabeth laughs. She herself is wearing a pair of tan capris and a loose pink tanktop with a pair of canvas flats on her feet. "And what do you suppose proper shooting attire is, Aric?" She holds the door open for him and heads for the locked gun cabinet, pulling out her keys to the thing and opening it. "And no, no one should be scared of it, but most people when they first start shooting are….. nervous of the weapon and the loudness and the recoil, the feel of it, startles them for the first few clips. Then they get the hang of that part and have to learn to control their involuntary muscle movements," she explains.

Aric nods slowly as he chuckles, "I am not most people. I am kind of like a cat. I am curious yet my issue is…I need to not be so curious it gets me killed." As he runs a hand through his hair, Aric takes out a hair tie and pulls it up on his head to get it out of his eyes, "I am kind of nervous I won't lie yet I have always learned and believe do what your scared of the most." He watches Liz go to the gun cabinet and says, "And what do you think about my issue with registeration…should I still do it or lie and be non?"

As she pulls a 9mm automatic from the cabinet along with its requisite ammunition, Elisabeth says quietly, "The best lies are always 80 percent truth, Aric. Especially when you're not good at dissembling. Registering as a Tier-0 with the occasional flash of intuition, or registering as Tier-0 with an unknown power would keep you from being hassled in many ways. No one can tell whether you're lying or not." She shuts the cabinet and walks back to the firing line, picking up a headset for him as she does. She won't mute the gunshots for him this time — he needs to get a feel for how loud it really is at first. Her hands on the weapon are casually competent, no hesitation in holding it by just the trigger-guard on one finger, along with the ammo box in the same hand. "Telling them you're not and then later getting hurt and winding up in the hospital where they might test your blood? Would be a lot more dangerous. But in the end, this has to be your own call."

As he nods slowly, "This friend you have coming Monday. He can sign off that I might have the intuition or I was thinking extra perception. With my ability I can hear thoughts and get a feel for where the person is…so I though no one would care if I had a really good internal GPS." He looks down at the 9MM and takes a soothing breath as he looks at the headset. He looks at them and says, "Might be best if I do that then?" He looks at the gun and the ammo and then back at Liz curiously.

Elisabeth shakes her head. "The first stage of Registration is simply showing up at an appropriate location — a cop shop, the Suresh Center, a registration center — and handing them the paperwork. A law enforcement official takes the papers, signs them with a witness, and then files them. You get an appointment to go to a Registration Center to let them test out your ability. And you demonstrate whatever you want of your power to them. I was Registered as a Tier-1 because of the way I was using my ability in my negotiations jobs. After I exploded the Pinehearst Building, they moved me to Tier-2," she says dryly. "You can put what you want on the papers, and you don't even need my contact if that's how you want to handle it. He's only for if you want Non-Evo paperwork passed through. It sounds to me like you could easily be settled as Tier-0. But believe me when I tell you that I understand why you don't want to be Registered at all. If I had had a choice, I wouldnt' have either."

"Your killing me Smalls." He chuckles dryly, "I am kidding. I am just as confused as I was when I walked in here with that…I know you know more then I do when it comes to all this and I need you to help me." He tucks a loose strand of hair behind his ear and says, "Give me a straight answer. Do I register as Teir-0 or do I go as a Non-Evo. I am not gonna base everything on your answer but I need some direction on how to consider this…" Aric sighs, "A little direction here?"

She takes a deep breath, setting all the equipment on the table. He doesn't need to be a telepath to be able to tell that Elisabeth is torn, uncertain how to answer this query because basically he's asking her to make a life choice for him. "I fight the system, Aric," she says slowly. "This? What we do here? It's not just about …. rescuing people snatched up by crazy scientists. It's about… helping anyone who does not want to be Registered be allowed to make that choice. I am not, however, completely anti-Registration. I'm anti-MANDATORY Registration. Were I in your shoes…. knowing the people that you know already… I would do the same thing I did two years ago. I would Register." The answer sounds simple, but … it's not, really. Her history is quite checkered.

"I see." It is clear the man is torn with this choice right now as he says, "I will have an answer for you by Monday. I just don't know yet…I want to help people. I feel I need to protect those who need it especially as I learn more and more of what is going on and what is to come if we don't avoid it." He places a hand on hers and says softly, "And I plan to avoid the future the best I can…kind of why I am picking up a gun." He looks at the table and waves a hand over it and says, "So…what first?"

"I don't know what the future holds," Elisabeth says quietly, slipping her hand out from under his. There is a wistful regret, a hurt about the future that blazes off her like a beacon, but she buries the thought of what could have been deep. Uncertain whether she's done so before he catches it, honestly. She picks up the handgun and holds it out, unloaded, to him and begins to walk him through the parts of it, how it works, and letting him get the heft of it. The very basics. She explains how he should stand and works with him on the stance, even making him pull the trigger on the empty chamber a few times while she corrects his body and feet.

The man listens intently as he holds the gun. He looks at the safety button, and even though the barrel is empty the first time he squeezes it he has his eyes shut. He lets it bounce slightly in his hand as he gets a feel for it. He says, "Lighter then I expected." He looks over his shoulder as Liz corrects him and follows instruction but sniffs his arm pits when she gets a bit closer, "Sorry if I smell. I was in the kitchen this afternoon."

She laughs softly. Because everyone does it. That instinctive close of the eyes. "If you flinch or shut your eyes every time you fire, you're gonna miss. Every time," Elisabeth tells him gently. And she rolls her eyes. "You smell fine. Now…. it's lighter than you expect because there's no ammo. And there's no 'bang'. So… " She picks up the clip, shows him how to align it, load it into the grip, pull the slide. When to cock it and when not. "I'll be able to hear you just fine, you won't be able to hear me that well. Fire the entire clip, keeping both eyes OPEN and focused on center mass of the target. When you're done, set the weapon on the counter and we'll talk." She sets the headgear on his head, and she does help him get his stance ready for the first shot before stepping back.

As he nods slowly, "Ok…ok." Aric takes a deep breath as he says again, "Ok…ok." He lowers the gun and says, "Harder then I thought. I can do this…sorry." He takes a deep breath as he raises the gun and focuses on the target. He begins to unload the clip. The first shot…Aric's eyes are closed and it bucks back a bit too much. He uses his muscles and firms his stance as he continues to fire and forces to keep his eyes open. He blinks each time a round is let out as he loses control of his eye on the target. As he lets out of the entire clip, only one hit the target about 3 inches to the left of center. Luck or Skill? Most likely luck right now. Aric stays kind of frozen before he jumps slightly and sets the gun down on the table like it were made of China. He takes a step back from the weapon.

Actually, all in all, it's not too bad. Not for a first time. Elisabeth watches him make the same mistakes that everyone makes the first time. And once he's done with the first clip and sets the gun down, she motions for him to take the headset off so he can hear her. She shows him how to eject the clip, hands him a new one to reload it himself this time, and coaches quietly, "Okay…. now that you know what it feels like in your hands, how it moves, how the recoil acts…. the trick to keeping your focus on the target and in the same general vicinity — in this case, the paper at the end — is to breathe. A lot. Breathe in, steady yourself, breathe all the way out, and squeeze the trigger gently. Don't pull."

Aric looks down at the clip as he whispers softly, "That was…scary. The ability to have this much power in one's hands…I…" He looks over at Liz and says understanding for the first time, "I understand why you have to be sure now….why you have to be sure your gonna use this and all." He sighs looking very sad and says, "The circumstances of the world are so variable that an irrevocable purpose or opinion is almost synonymous with a foolish one." He looks at the full clip and loads it in slowly pushing it into the barrel.

Elisabeth is quiet as he speaks, sympathy in her blue eyes when he does. "It is scary. And the first time you point a weapon at a human body is … indescribable. The terror. The … adrenaline. The horror. I'm good at teaching people to shoot, Aric. But I don't like to do it much anymore. I used to teach other cops. I liked that. But… this? This is teaching you how to wage war." There is a sadness there. "And it's a necessary evil." Only then does she hand him the weapon so that he can load it, and she steps back again. "Breathe," she says softly.

A soft nod escapes Aric as he does as instructed. He takes his time to make sure he does it correctly. He looks over at Liz every so often to see if she gives him a clue if he is doing it right or wrong. When he does have the gun loaded, he takes the head phones and places them over his ears and says softly, "Breathe." He slowly lifts the gun up and there is nothing. Aric just stares at the target for a good sixty seconds as he says, "There is no spoon."

*Bang* A single round is fire. He flinches yet controls the recoil, and the bullet hits the target paper two inches above the target. Aric lowers the gun and sets it back on the table.

She smiles slightly. And simply waits, her arms crossed as she leans back against the wall behind him. Elisabeth figures he needs a few moments to even figure out what he's feeling, and she gives him whatever space she can.

***Meanwhile, upstairs -

"So this is the building we just bought," Cardinal's voice stirs into the lobby as the door's pushed open, and he steps out of the way - holding the door open for the man that he arrived with, gesturing grandly with an arm for him to come in, "The upstairs floors are apartments, so if you ever need crash-space if your place explodes or is full of ninjas or something…"

What's disturbing the most is how possible both scenarios are.

"…you can stay here. Or if we need to keep someone in protective custody or something like that."

Francois ducks through the door— eurotrash first— as Cardinal opens it for him, an eyebrow raising as he takes in the interior — it looks nicer within than it does from outside, and there's a soft huff of a chuckle as those ridiculous/likely scenarios are related to him. He hadn't been at the Ferry funeral, or whatever it was, which is marginally irresponsible of someone who had taken part, had helped try to unite groups towards such a goal, but if he were to bet money on the people lining up to call him on it—

He'd probably win. Dressed in loose garments, faded jeans and a light sweater with the sleeves rolled in response to summer heat, his meander inside is just as casual. "That's useful of you," he notes, mildly accented voice echoing through the small foyer. "This is— truly a security company?"

"It wouldn't be very useful as a front if it didn't do business," observes Cardinal in rather wry tones, letting the door slowly swing closed behind him, "We already have a contract with Homeland Security to help with the investigation into the Sylar and the Sylar Copy-Cat murders."

As the door closes, he allows, "You may laugh now, and how absofuckinglutely hilarious that is."

"They only want us for our licensed postcog, though," he admits as he walks along into the lobby finally, pausing to look up at the Brill print that he's got framed on the wall, a picture of a future that will never be. "We're mostly a consulting firm."

True enough, is expressed in a brief tilt of his head as green eyes roam over the hung up paintings, arms folding as he moves in roughly the same path that Cardinal takes. "I'm still learning the worth of legitimacy," Francois admits, with a mildly crooked smile, attention steering from what he does not know to be prophetic brushstrokes to glance at Cardinal's profile. "I conducted myself a lot very much off the map for a long time, but then, so did my enemies. I can adapt, if they can too."

"Oh, I wouldn't say we're legitimate, at least not completely…" A sidelong glance returns the look of the frenchman, and Cardinal cracks a little bit of a smile, "…the front's legitimate, but the rest of what we do's only as legitimate as Kershner's willing to cover for us. And I don't tell her half of what I'm up to."

That said, he jerks his head towards the hallway, leading the way at an unhurried stroll. "C'mon, I'll show you where we do most of the planning and work."

He'd taken a similar tour recently, through the catacombs of St. Luke's, if quicker paced, a little grimmer, a little brighter. "I am sure she would appreciate your discretion," Francois says with a shrug in his voice as opposed to making the gesture itself. "She still to this day doesn't know how I came back from Antarctica. It is beneficial for us both that it remains that way.

"Do you trust her?" The question is abrupt, impulsively spoken and said as soon as it springs to mind as something to be said. It was the same kind of query Teo had given him, on the decks of the immense boat that had sailed them to the bottom of the earth. Possibly, Francois' answer has changed.

"I don't think she knows for sure how I got on Apollo in the first place," admits Cardinal as he steps from the lobby to the hallway, his tone touched with just a hint of brittle amusement, "A little mystery's a good thing, though… it keeps a woman interested."

A hand's lifting to the handle of a door as that abrupt question cuts through the air, and he pauses with gloved fingers just-brushing the metal, turning to look at him for a silent moment over the edge of his shades. "That's a hard question," he admits, straightening instead of opening the door, "I trust her… to a point. I think we both have the same goal in mind, but I don't have any illusions that she wouldn't sacrifice me in a second if she thought it was necessary. So I'm not going to be putting all my cards down on her table anytime soon. Or shaking her hand without gloves."

"No," Francois agrees, on that point. "I should perhaps make you aware so that you do not feel as though I keep secrets, that she— well. She does say that she believes we're relatives. From long ago. I am, perhaps, her grandfather, or maybe earlier still." He shrugs a little helplessly beneath the loose white of his shirt, looking towards the door that Cardinal came close to open.

"She says that she can tell from the way her ability interacts with me — it sees deeper. I do not know if it's true and to be honest, I have been fine with allowing it to remain that way without looking so closely. It seemed useful. Has been useful."

A single eyebrow leaps upwards once Cardinal's told of the alleged relationship. "…huh," he murmurs, "Interesting. It can't hurt, I suppose, if she believes it - whether or not it's true. We work fairly closely with her, to be honest."

The door's opened, then, and he leads the way downstairs, "Could always get a DNA test done, but maybe it doesn't really matter. Come on downstairs."

***Camera shifts back to the basement perspective --

As he takes a deep breath, Aric picks up the gun again and empties the clip. The man's stance is good, his wrists have a bit too much tension in them as he hits the target a few more times in various uncontrolled spots. He kept his eyes open this time and controlled the recoil much better this time. He sets the gun down and takes a step back from it. "I think that is enough for today." He begins to rub his hands and his left bicep and asks, "Do you think we could meet again and practice some more on Monday?"

"Certainly," Elisabeth says quietly. She's studying his stance, his movements. And then she nods. Monday will be a day of many many rounds. But today is just for starters. She looks at his face and says quietly, "Some of the others would tell you not to Register. Just … ride it out. But there was a future that people I know saw, Aric, where the Registry was — for the most part — what it was supposed to be. The system is flawed. It sucks. And maybe Registering voluntarily is the coward's way."

She goes quiet for a long moment and then Elisabeth tells him, "But I would do it again. Not for the consequences if I didn't, but because it's being true to myself. I don't have to hide what I do. And I dont' have to worry about what happens to me if someone sees it — well, when it comes to NORMAL people anyway. I learned something from my friend Felix that maybe he didn't intend to teach me. If you have to hide what you are, it says more about you than it does about the people around you. Doing what I do with this group, I've still gotten into a lot of trouble. Almost went to jail. Some people I know have gone to jail just for being Evo. I've been damn near killed by people just because of being what I am. But I'd rather go down fighting than have to live lying about who I am."

"I didn't ask for this Liz. As a kid I thought I was insane. I didn't have the most loving parents and when I was placed into foster care. I learned to control it better. People will never trust a telepath. I know this…I have heard it. I thought I was the only one and when Cardinal told me about this Kaylee. All I could was think about her. The questions I have to ask her. I don't want to be ashamed but…" He looks down at the gun on the table and exhales sharply, "I will not be put in cage for being different or be forced to use my ability to hurt people. I might register yet…I am not gonna lie…I don't want too."

"Then don't," Elisabeth replies simply. "Because that is what I fight for, Aric. The right to make that choice. Same as I would fight for the right to not give birth." She moves to pick up the weapon and put it in the locker again. "You have to go whichever way works for you. That's the whole point of all of this. Nobody asked for it." Even inside the glassed-in cage, muffled inside the sound-proofed room, Elisabeth's attuned enough to her surroundings to know that the upstairs door has opened. The subtle shift of air currents, perhaps. Her blue eyes flicker in the direction of the stairs, and she jerks a chin out that way. "I think we have company." And she puts away the guns and ammunition just as the men descend.

The combination lock on the door's undone, and Cardinal shoulders it open, stepping out into the most unusual basement that any security company in the world probably has. "Welcome," he declares, "To Endgame, Francois." A hand lifts as he catches sight of the pair in the glassed-off section, a tight smile and a nod up to them.

As Aric closes his eyes and extends his senses to their maximum limit, he opens them and lets out a sharp exhale looking at Liz, "Yes…we do." He stuffs hands into his pockets putting his blocks back up to focus out their thoughts as he looks at Liz catching something he maybe should not have and yet remains silent. He sighs and says walking towards the exit of the sound proof room, "I will think about it. I am just scared for the worst and yet hoping for the best." Aric pulls out the hair tie that was on top of his head and allows his hair to fall back down into his face arranging his long locks to look nice again.

Emerging after Cardinal, Francois is probably not a very impressive addition to the team, on first side, nothing very imposing in his casual garb, pallid skin, average height and build and look of polite interest on refined features. There is a cut of an amused smile at Cardinal's gesture. "Merci," is spoken wryly, but not insincerely, either — it's a balance that Francois has honed to an artform. Old age has to bring about some kind of talent.

He darts a glance towards where friend and stranger take up space down here, an ironic sort of wave towards Elisabeth.

When Aric comfirms it, Elisabeth smiles slightly. Only once she's locked up the gun cabinet once more does she turn to gesture Aric out of the firing range. "Oh, good… Richard will appreciate another optimist in the group," she quips lightly as she walks out with him into the space where Francois and Cardinal can hear them. "Hey guys," she greets easily, walking toward the other two men and easily greeting Francois with a kiss to his cheek and a quick hug. "How's Teo?" she asks as she pulls away from him. The news has clearly not reached her.

"Hey." The door's kicked closed with the back of Cardinal's heel, and he declares in Elisabeth's direction, "I'm totally an optimist. I just think we're all going to die a horrible death, that's all. So let's try and prove me wrong…" A tilt of his head, and he offers, "Francois, this is Aric, our telepath — Aric, this is Francois. He's got experience."

Aric shrugs at Liz and says, "I am all for putting out good things into the universe Liz. Its the law of Karma…just scared if the Universe isn't in the listening mood what is gonna kick our ass." As Cardinal introduces him Aric looks over at Francois, "Hello. Welcome to the party…"He motions to the brownies he brought, "If your hungry by all means…they are home made." Aric moves to plop down on a chair.

Returning the embrace, it's really only then that Francois is checking out the space, its stark contrast to the above ground, and his attention lingers for the span of enough seconds that her casual, well-meaning query is almost missed, as if maybe there's something familiar in the configuration of the web. "As it were," he tags on the end of Cardinal's introduction of himself. "There is optimism in achieving a death well deserved. Mostly. Or imagining better futures, too. Better to find balance, ah?

"It is nice to meet you," he says, more directly to Aric, a hand twitching like he was about to offer it, before the telepath is already making himself comfortable, before the Frenchman is looking back towards Elisabeth, hesitating. "Teo is complicated, so why should his rescue be simple? One of him seems fine." He's totally taking a brownie, too, picking up one of the squarish chocolately blocks to pick at.

…. One of him? Elisabeth has run with this crowd too long and known Teo too well at this point not to make that connection instantly. "Oh fuck," she breathes. "They cloned him??" One hand cradles her own jaw, the other goes to prop on her hip. It is a pose she has never taken, but Cardinal might recognize it as one that Liz's mother took in several old pictures at a cabin in the woods. She looks much like her mother in that moment — her father would laugh. With a sigh, Liz says to Francois, "I'm sorry. I didn't hear about that." It means there are more of Teo out there to rescue, and the worry that blazes through her is laced with a large helping of guilt.

Looking at the group, Elisabeth shakes her head and says, "Aric's going to make a damn fine shot with some practice, just so you know." Blue eyes linger on the shadowman for a long moment and then she smiles just a little, averting her eyes to go perch her behind against the edge of the table with the brownies. "I figure Richard and I balance one another — he believes we're all gonna die, I believe God owes us something a little better than that. Truth's probably somewhere in the middle."

Footfalls sound on the basement steps and the feet that eventually appear give way to Peyton's form, dressed in a royal blue sundress with matching flip flops, her hair in a ponytail. She had gone home to change after the memorial, paying her respects and leaving with the first wave of people, feeling like she was not quite close enough to most there to stay for the socializing and commiseration that followed. She is about to greet everyone when her eyes fall on Francois and she tilts her head curiously, remembering him from when she witnessed him stitching up a beaten-up Eileen some months back, when she took a dizzying spin through Gabriel's multiple perspectives.

"Hi," she offers a little belatedly.

"Oh. Yeah, there's…" Cardinal scrubs a hand against the nape of his neck, grimacing a little, "…apparently three Teo's out there. Teo, Ghost, and, uh, I don't know what to call the blended one. Christ. I sound like I'm living in a Heinlein novel."

There are brownies. Brownies make everything better. Maybe the hippie put some weed in them, that'd be nice. He walks along over, picking one up as he points out, "Fuck the universe. Fuck karma. This is all about free will. Let's put some of it to work and choose our own destiny."

As the door opens again, he looks over, flashing a smile, "Hey, Pey. Peyton, Francois — vice versa."

Aric cocks his head to the side, "How can there be…is he one of the triplets or something." Aric shakes his head and looks at Cardinal, "Sorry Francois is it? I am in a funk and not really myself…help yourself. I will have to get Cardinal a real coffee machine and I can make you a latte or something to make it up. I just am struggling with the idea of doing the register thing…some are trying to be pro choice…others never actually choose that option." His eyes move to Liz before back to the immortal. "I am usually nicer…" He runs a hand through his hair and sighs, "Cardinal I shot my gun for the first time today. Liz helped me. So I am on the path to learning…the Goddess forgive me for what I do yet it is for a reason." He shrugs slightly. His eyes move to Peyton as he gives her a moody wave from his chair.

"Francois, oui, and think nothing of it," the doctor tells the younger man, and seems to mean it enough, a kind slant to the look he sends Aric's way, before it's focusing back down on baked goods in his hand, though he hasn't taken a bite yet — appetite shriveling like a leaf thrown in the fire. He'll probably finish it out of politeness, at least.

The blended one gets a glance, though not necessarily accusing — hell, Francois doesn't know how to nickname them either. At least Ghost was so kind as to give himself an alias, hokey though it may be. "Ghost has taken a different body, but apparently the Institute still has his. Just no one is home. The Teo we rescued is the one that came before Ghost existed. The one that remains in captivity is the one that I knew," he explains to Elisabeth, his tone somewhat quiet as if to let the unitiated ignore him as necessary.

"But the former seems willing to help us. I can explain later," the Frenchman adds, looking towards Peyton's arrival with blank unrecognition— until it keels over into being so, and he nods to her in greeting, amused.

Perhaps irreverently, a song pops into Liz's head and she sings under her breath, "All that we can do is just survive… all that we can do to help ourselves is stay alive." Rush's "Red Sector A" is probably a singularly appropriate thought considering what's coming down the pipe at us and the fact that one more of our own is still out there, even if he's in separate bodies or something. It's a kind of defense mechanism. She didn't really mean to sing it aloud, though, and blushes a bit when her voice projects further than she meant it to in the soundproofed room. "Sorry!" She's finding that she has to project a little more to actually talk down here, though it's more because she feels like she's all muffled up than anything else.

And then she stares at Aric and giggles start. Liz cannot help herself. This is my rifle, this is my gun. This is for fighting, this is for fun. Oh God….. maybe she's had too much caffeine. Or not enough. "I busted his cherry, lover," she says around a giggle. "He's not my first gun virgin, but he's definitely got the best straight out of the gate aim of the ones I've broken."

Elisabeth claps her hand over her mouth, actually somewhat appalled that her mood has shifted so radically in such a short space of time. She looks at Francois apologetically, because… yeah. Totally inappropriate laughter. It occasionally happens with Teo or Abby too.

The youngest among them frowns as the talk of clones gives way to Liz's singing and bawdy humor. She shakes her head, unclear of just about anything right now. "Nice to meet you," she tells Francois, as she moves closer to him. "I … I'm a day late and a dollar short on the conversation, I know, but … but I know Teo, the Teo you know, because I've met you before, and Teo was there," she says softly, unsure how useful this will be to anyone.

"You say he's still in captivity — if you don't know where, I might be able to help, but I can't promise. All the Institute places look kind of alike. I never did figure out that the one on Staten was on Staten, unfortunately." She frowns at that, as she always does when her power fails to achieve results. Would it have made a difference? Probably not, as they only went in when the actual Institute goons were already killed by the inmates.

The brownie pauses between Richard's teeth, and then he takes a bite of it, chewing and swallowing. The hand not holding it lifts, points at Elisabeth. "Liz," he states, bluntly but wryly, the hint of a smile tugging to his lips, "You're fucking exhausted. Go upstairs and get some sleep, alright? Or go home, whatever, one of those…"

A step over, and he reaches to squeeze her shoulder, then slaps it, "Shoo."

Aric 's lips purse softly, "It might be best if I head out too. I need to check on the shop and get some rest myself. Alot to think about. Cardinal…any luck with Kaylee and speaking with her?" Aric stands up in a fluid motion before he runs a hand through his hair.

"Yeah — been a long couple of days," Liz admits with a wince. Almost four-hour drive up, same back, teaching Richard the Horizon armor ins and outs, lots of fresh air and exercise, full memorial service and a busy, busy day today ….. maybe she sort of overreached after feeling so damn good after a full night's sleep. "I'm sorry, Francois, that was entirely rude." She turns her face upward, kisses Cardinal lightly when he shoos her, and smiles a bit. "I'm heading back to the apartment. C'mon, Aric, I'll walk out with you." She'll leave Peyton and Francois to sort out the details of checking on Teo. The 'real' Teo. Is that the real one? Or is the split one the real one? Lord, she's gonna get a headache. And she'll get a full story from Francois then, when she's not feeling punchy.

Apologetic look is met with one of amused forgiveness, though it's a little fleeting, more or less content to let Elisabeth go and, as invited, explain later. Peyton is the one that's steered Francois' attention, forever cynical of any solution that seems too simple and conflict obvious in the way he looks at her. He spares a nod of departure to Aric as he does so, although, as if magnetic, his attention his drawn to what Peyton has to say.

"It would help to know if he is still alive," Francois admits, a little roughly, "if nothing else. It is not dangerous for you?"

"Bye Liz," Peyton says, smiling to the blonde as she heads out. She turns to look back at Francois, and shakes her head. "It isn't dangerous, not unless I stay at it for a long time or … that time with Gabriel, that hurt my head for some reason," she says quietly, not knowing exactly why it hurt her head still. "I just have to concentrate on him, and I should see him. I … It sounds like they're all separate so I think since I only know the one, that should be the one I see, but I'm not sure how it works, not entirely. I don't know a lot about clones." She glances from him to Cardinal and back. "Do you want me to check now?"

That kiss is returned, Cardinal's hand sweeping in a brief swat to Elisabeth's backside as she heads to the stairs. "I saw her at the memorial this morning, Aric, but things got… a little emotional," he admits, "I'll be able to talk to her soon, though, don't worry."

Then he turns to Peyton and Francois once more, pausing. "I don't know — if it'll be like Gabriel. Teo's ability might interfere with things too. If you do try, just — be careful, and break it off if something bad happens."

Aric nods slowly as he walks behind Liz and whispers to Peyton, "Be careful please." He gives the new guy a wave, "If you need something Francois. Your welcome to stop by the Blue Moon Cafe. I am sure we shall meet again." He gives Cardinal a respectful nod as he follows Liz out.

Chocolate and its strawberry filling is finally bitten out of existence, Francois being— not surprisingly— a clean eater despite the nature of the food, corner of his hand used to wipe his mouth of absolutely nothing as he listens to the interaction between Cardinal and Peyton. He doesn't say thank you for the cake to Aric, just glances in acknowledgement before he hooks thumbs into the pockets of his jeans. He doesn't add much more, either, to Peyton — his watching her is sedately expectant.

Peyton nods at Cardinal's warning, something apologetic in her gaze as well. She smiles at Aric and murmurs, "Goodnight," before moving to sit on the bottom stair once Aric's headed up.

Her eyes staring straight forward, the pupils within them spread, the black holes swallowing up the lighter brown irises until all that is left is that thin ring of copper.

Light. Too much of it, disruptive, a staticky compression of nonsense images, translucent, like overexposed film. Peyton has seen something like this before: when she went roving through Gabriel's divided mind's eyes.

Concrete slithers into view like a serpent, a long sidewalk fading into a vanishing point. Buildings vaulting up on one side— West Village, a bounding, jiggling to Peyton's frame of view at the synchopy and speed of running, and matched to the thump of footfalls. There are people around, denizens of Manhattan: a grocer changing shift for the day, a girl in a Catholic school uniform sneaking a cigarette before she finishes the walk to her apartment, a man with a briefcase talking on a phone, their faces distorted by the over-intensity of sunlight that has bleached the clouds and sky into one uniform glare. None of them look at the runner like he's anything worth noting.

A pan lays ghostly over this. Stove grille underneath it, peppers and sizzling oil clumped on top, a wooden spoon in the grasp of a long-fingered, male hand. Tok-tok, wood stirring against the heated contents of cast-iron, and then the thrumming drone of a voice piercing the bustle of traffic and a male baritone hollering You're breaking up, Karl, and we need to have this Goddamn conversation— will you pull over? and a child's voice clashing in underneath it, piping about the chicken having been slice. It's held up on a plate into view, proffered by the child in person, all brown eyes and mocha-latte skin. Spanish television rattling in the background.

Static. More light. Less. Spark, a heaving lurch of perspective, and the vision ends.

There is a sharp little gasp after a few moments, and Peyton brings her hands up to her head when the layering of visions creates a dizzying effect, a wave of nausea and pain flooding her skull in the familiar form of a migraine. "Like Gabriel," she manages, closing her eyes and breathing deeply to steady herself.

The rest of the brownie in Cardinal's hand is devoured, tiny crumbs forgotten, falling as lost morsels of chocolate to be caught with a broom's bristles later. At the gasp, he tenses, worry thick behind his eyes, and then he's there by her side, reaching out a hand to steady her. "Easy," he murmurs tensely, "Easy… relax, just breathe, Pey."

He isn't about to pry, when the woman is obviously in pain — Francois says nothing at all at first, but doesn't leave, either, allowing her time as he moves to stand within the scope of her sight, crouching down to remain at a similar level with a hand braced on the floor, the other with an elbow against bent knee. "Take your time," he assures, small apology for being partially— or entirely— the reason behind her attempt.

"It's … too many things to sort out right," Peyton murmurs, one hand reaching to grasp Cardinal's and squeezing it. She lifts her eyes and peers into Francois' worried gaze. Hers are already a little bloodshot from the effort of her attempt, though the pupils are back to their normal size. "Too much light and … it's like static. Like too many signals are trying to be in the same spot," she explains, reaching up to rub her head again.

"The next bit I can make sense of — it's in the West Village, someone jogging, it seemed like. Then it changed. Someone was cooking, peppers and chicken, but then I hear someone, a deep voice, a guy, yelling to someone named Karl that he's cutting up and that he wants him to pull over so they can have the conversation, but then I see a little kid, dark-skinned kid saying something about chicken and he has a plate and then it's just… light and static and it stopped."

Her brows knit and her eyes look sad, apologetic as she shakes her head. "I usually can watch for a long time, but with Gabriel I couldn't either."

"It's a weird situation," Cardinal says with a tight shake of his head, "Not your fault, Pey."

The squeeze of his fingers is returned in a firm clasp, his other hand dropping to cover hers, and then he steps over to step around her, "I think I've got some tylenol upstairs, I'll go get it for you. Be right back."

"Never simple," is muttered, and disappointment is veiled in a slanting glance away, as if there were something intensely interesting on the other side of the room, before Cardinal is making his move to leave, and Francois is pushing himself back up to stand. "It is possibly confused because— the original, uh, body of the one you knew, is transferred to the one walking around now. Were you able to tell how many?"

It sounds like two. But the voice she describes— "Thank you, Richard," Francois remembers to say, before the man can go. "For showing me around."

"I think just two," Peyton says quietly, standing as well, and moving one step up. "But it's confusing, because of the sounds… sound is newer than sight for me. It's possible I heard something from a third — that conversation on the phone, maybe? But none of that seems very Institutey, if that's the case." She moves another step up. "I'll grab some Tylenol and I think head home. I'm not going to be any good to you here… the headache is gonna last for a while." She puts up a hand to Francois before he can make any sort of apology for her. "I'll be fine, and don't apologize. I offered, and I'm only sorry that I didn't see anything useful." She swallows. "I'll keep trying."

"You'll do nothing of the sort," Cardinal snaps, pausing on the steps to fix her with a look, "As much as we want to find him, it's entirely possible that you'll give yourself a fucking aneurysm splitting your viewpoint like that, Pey. There're other ways, and we'll use them."

An apologetic look to Francois, and he reassures despite his foot coming down on Peyton's power usage, "We'll find him."

"There are other ways. Other plans. Thank you very much, mademoiselle, but now we know that this is no longer a good one," is gentle agreement from the foot of the stairs, awarding both of his new allies with a brief smile before Francois nods to Cardinal's affirmation. Rather than follow them up, Francois sinks back to explore the basement properly, disappearing from where the stairwell cuts into the wall to be alone with his own thoughts.

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