The Nature Of Fear


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Scene Title The Nature Of Fear
Synopsis First contacts, and electronic inquiries
Date November 26, 2008

Financial District

In spite of itself, New York's financial district has weathered these tough times like it has other crisis' in the past. The neighborhood and it's people certainly aren't a strangers to them. The Financial District has its own scar, and it's own Ground Zero, though from an admittedly earlier tragedy. While the memorial to the September 11th attacks stands out amidst the skyline of this hub of New York's commerce, it is a wound that the city learned to survive, just like the events of November 8th.

Despite it's proximity to the fallout area and the Red Zone, the Financial District has bounced back onto its feet well. Public and private corporations funneled billions of dollars into the economy of the neighborhood to ensure that Wall Street didn't collapse along with the remainder of New York's heart. This multi-billion dollar effort was not without obvious results, and this neighborhood of New York is almost exactly as it was before the Bomb. While the western edges of the borough at Battery Park City were temporarially evacuated during the initial fallout scare, this region hasn't seen the dive in property values or spike in crime as strongly as other similarly hit areas such as Staten Island and Queens has.

Buildings in the area look well-tended, the city streets are kept clean, and the NYPD has a strong presence here. Overall not much has changed in the local attitude since the Bomb happened, save for the jagged northern skyline, and how the neighborhood slowly begins to degenerate in condition the further away from City Hall and Wall Street you go.

No one thought it was going to rain today.

Outside, the slate-gray skies have opened up with a heavy and bitterly cold downpour. With the wind as gusty and the air as cold as it is outside, much of the streets have taken to being frosted by a thin coat of ice, along with many cars parked all along the street outside. The inclement weather is made further unseasonable by the low and rolling rumble of thunder that accompanies the driving rain and bitterly cold winds.

Few people would arrange to be out on a dismal day like this, exposing themselves to the clinging cold and the rain. Colette Nichols is not most people, not by any normal stretch of imagination. Seated at the top of the stairs leading up to the front doors of Le Rivage, the young girl looks posatively frozen to the bone, but like some stubborn gargoyle has perched herself beneath the pitched awning that covers the stairs and double-glass doors that enter the apartment complex on 21 West Street.

Seated more so on the wide stone railing that flanks one side of the steps, the girl has her back up against the brick wall beside one of the doors, her arms drawn around herself and hands pulled deep within the heavy suede sleeves of her fur-lined winter jacket. The hood is pulled up enough that perhaps her ears aren't completely numb from the cold, but not enough to mask her most distinguishing feature; mis-matched eyes that peer vacantly towards parking meters and ice-crusted cars by the sidewalk.

Her head shifts to one side as the wind changes direction, blowing cold rain hard across the side of the building, close enough to almost doust her with the same damp and icy chill. For now, though, her seating on the far edge of the stairs has afforded her dryness, even if not warmth itself. Red-cheeked and lost in thought, she sits in quiet vigil for something or someone.

She's got a mission to carry out, actually one of several missions to tend today. They're all in her head, part of a list she calls up at will to consult. Things are needed, and even if some of them are things she doesn't want to acquire Cat can't claim to have forgotten like so many would. She's stuck. The more pleasant of those includes paying off someone to bag two wild turkeys in the woods of Connecticut and give her the birds, picking up other items for eating the next day, and sending something to her parents in Hartford. This is pleasant, because Cat knows it means not having to deal with them.

But the task which brings Dr. Chesterfeld to Le Rivage is another thing entirely. She's checking out lower-cost apartments at Teo's request. Her umbrella is stuck out and opened before she steps from the car, and under it she walks toward the building and Colette

The area around Le Rivage isn't Grace's usual hangout, and braving the day's nasty weather isn't exactly her idea of fun. She's sans an umbrella, but shielded from the weather by a powder-blue coat with a black faux-fur ruff, the latter half-hidden beneath its drawn hood. The woman makes her way down the street, the empty sidewalk less pleasant than it would be under other conditions. Blue eyes flick to the bundled-up girl on the building's porch, to the woman walking her way, and Grace slows her speedwalking, partly from a desire not to collide with anyone, and partly from mild curiosity. Blocks and blocks around them of no one braving the weather, and now there's a veritable crowd here.

The car's approach and eventual halt doesn't rouse Colette from where she sits, even the sheen of headlights in the rain against icy pavement does little to rouse her from her stupor. The sound of footsteps, though, at least brings some sign that the girl still draws breath. Her eyes divert from the empty space they had been so fixated upon, dark lashes blinking as she refocuses on the woman with the umbrella coming past. It's the first person she's seen this morning, coming or going from the apartments. She'd been too late to catch the morning rush out of the apartments, and is too early to see people returning for lunch. Most everyone else, it would seem, has opted to avoid the foul weather.

This woman, though, the one making her way to the apartment is exactly what Colette is looking for. Her eyes fall to the umbralls first, watching cold rivulets of water trailing down nylon, and then below to the women sheltered beneath it. She watches the way the wind plucks and pulls at the umbrella's edges, sending ripples through the waterproofed fabric, it buys her time to think on how to phrase what she wants to ask. In the end, though, it still comes out bewildering and disjointed; "Is… it safe?"

Her voice isn't lost to the wind, there's a timing to her question, waiting for that last gust to die down before she speaks up. There's a shakiness to her tone though, a nervous uncertainty that's just a little more than someone with slouching confidence would have when addressing a stranger, there's an honest and anxious fear there. "Is — " Her words hitch in her throat just enough to cause her to reconsider reiterating the question so soon, and in that hesitation she might have noticed Grace's careful approach in the periphery of her good eye, were her focus not entirely on Cat.

The ends of her long coat, which certainly appears other tha cheap, move as she walks. Beneath them her jeans and dark boots can be seen, above the collar there's a hint of blue hooded sweatshirt. She takes time to look up at the sky and inwardly wonder if someone disturbed Rock, Rock 2, Stormy, all three, or some combination. It's brief, though, because the seated Colette catches her attention. Eyes study the girl, she becomes committed to memory like everyone and everything else before a reply is made in question form. "Is what safe?"

From a distance, the seated figure is anonymous; up close, the blinded eye is a distinctly identifying feature. The voice, young, female, is merely a final confirmation. One slender, dark brow arches at Colette's choice of query, clear blue eyes studing the teen. "What, the weather?" She can't think of anything else to worry about at this very moment. Grace's ruined voice sounds in opposition to the current damp atmosphere, reminiscent of dust and dry stone, the rasp of sandpaper on metal — but still a little perplexed by Colette's anxiety. "You're wrapped up well enough."

It's only on Cat's question answering her question that Colette realizes the oblique nature of her original query. The girl cringes and breathes in a shallow breath, the chill in the air stealing the rest away. "Is it safe — " She motions with a cold-reddened nose towards the street and the sidewalk, "Out there?" Though the gesture is somewhat direct, there's a vagueness, a generalization, in her tone. She's not wondering if it's safe on this particular street, or perhaps even the next street over; she's asking about the city itself, or maybe even the world at large. In either regard, it's a question not fit for a short answer, perhaps not even fit for a long one. But despite the almost sarcastic nature of the question Colette asks, there's no hint of absurdity or humor in her tone, only wary uncertainty and hesitation. It makes her perch here on the steps seem less vigilant, and perhaps more reluctant.

All of that changes the moment a voice more distinctive than any other the girl has heard calls out. Colette recoils, not out of fear, but in the fashion a child might when caught with their hand in the proverbial cookie jar. It's a recoil of anxiety in the face of a figure of aurhority, and one that makes the girl nearly tumble back off of the wide railing she was perched upon, just one small gloved hand catching the corner of the brick wall to hold her in place. Her eyes divert immediately to Grace, wide and fretful, "I — I'm uh — " How much has Trent told her, Colette is immediately left wondering. She knows the two have talked in the past, and with her absences from the church for weeks now, she has no idea of just how much has been said. One problem in front of another, like a pair of awkward feet marching steadily towards trouble. It's enough to make her unable to come up with an answer quick enough.

And the question asked is a loaded one. Cat studies the girl quietly while she frames an answer, mulls over the possibilities. She could be talking about terror activities, about the climate for Evolved people if she is such a person, or about something far less wide in scope but still personal. But she doesn't know the teen, and therefore can't give an honest answer. Dr. Chesterfield therefore opts to give no answer, instead turning toward Grace. An eyebrow raises, in that simple gesture the unspoken question 'Do you know her?'

Not being a telepath, Grace has no idea what's going on in Colette's head — it's only the apprehension and anxiety she can judge by. Mind, that's plenty. She looks down at the girl for a long moment, her regard a contemplative one. Pensive, but slowly gathering into a faint frown. "Well. That's one question I never expected to hear from you." It's a deceptively conversational remark, especially in Grace's ruined voice. Blue eyes flick to Cat at the other woman's silent inquiry, and the computer tech shrugs slightly. For a given value of 'know', yes. "That's like asking 'is water wet' or 'can pigs fly'." Those examples not providing either a 'yes' or 'no' answer by implied analogy.

Cat's deference of the question to Grace only causes the young girl to squirm a bit where she sits, finally extending hr legs down off of the short railing to hop down to her feet. Boots touch down on the somewhat icy steps with an abortive slip, one gloved hand yet again catching herself before she tumbles over. Once her balance is regained, those mis-matched eyes flit up to Grace and Cat, watching them as they discuss her as if she weren't even in their presence.

"I — I'm ah, s-sorry I didn't — I should…" Her boots scuff along the damp stone steps, pausing once she's within arm's reach of those double glass doors. She starts to reach out for them, but one purple-gloved hand curls fingers back against her palm, shakily lowering it awa as she looks back to Cat and Grace. There's a reason she's out here, and awkwardly trying to run away from it is exactly what's put her in this situation to begin with.

There's so much difference in Colette from what Grace remembers, the last time the two saw each other Colette looked more like someone living on a street, a little thinner in the face, but much healthier. Her eyes have a dark, sunken quality to them despite the healthy fullness in her face. While the girl's cheeks aren't as readily hollowed looking, it's like something else replaced her troubles in the interim. Her clothing is newer, cleaner, less tattered and ragged than before, but that seems to have somehow inversely affected her mental well-being. Gone is her confidence and chirping mannerisms, now she seems more reluctant, and much more timid.

"Is it safe?" Her question comes back with a little more firmness, and she very slowly steps down from by the doors, cautiously approaching the two strangers. "I — " Colette looks back over her shoulder, "I just — " By the time she looks back, it's clear she feels awkward just having this conversation at all. "How do you do it?" Her eyes wander Grace a bit longer than Cat, out of familiarity more so than anything. "With everything that's happening — H-how do you go outside and not be afraid?" And there it is.

Now there's a question Cat can answer. There's calm in her tone, as she states "Danger is forever. Even in calm times a person could still be hit by a bus or a drunk driver, any number of things. The answer, then and now, is the same. I don't go out without fear. I just refuse to dwell on it, deny it power to rule my life. " Her features show confidence in the next statement. "If you do, whatever you fear wins."

The change is not met with approval from Grace, although she keeps her disapproval to a discreet minimum. For now. The girl's young; youth is justifiably insecure. The woman can allow that. She folds her arms across her chest, looking over at the approaching teen, lips drawn into a slim line. "Shit happens," Grace states bluntly. "If you fold and just let it happen? It'll kick you while you're down, and never let up.

"Me…" That thin press of lips widens, the flash of teeth equally thin but far darker. "…I just meet everything head-on. Gotten me in trouble more than once," Grace admits, fingertips of one hand lifting to her throat. "But I refuse to yield to anything without a fight. Nothing rules me but myself."

"I'm not against losing," Colette glances up at the unfamiliar woman carrying the umbrella aloft, "if it means not dying." Her dark brows push together, and there's a wandering quality to the young girl's eyes as she stares out at the steet for a moment. It's perhaps the absence of life on them that gives her the most pause, not even cars passing down the street save for the occasional lone automobile every few minutes. No one wants to brave the weather, to go outside and suffer the cold. In a way, right now Colette can be somewhat empathetic to their plight, they don't want to go out and suffer — It may be a wholly different kind of suffering, but at least she can understand. Then there's these two women, out in the cold, and only a little worse for wear because of it.

"I haven't gone out since the building down the street blew up." Colette nods her head in the direction of the center of the financial district, not far away. Her eyes level on the raven-haired woman for a monent of silence just a bit too long to not be awkward. "I — I feel stupid about it, I just…" She seems to remember Cat standing there, glancing up to her for a moment with an apologetic smile, the placating way one does when a stranger is let in on an awkward private moment. "I'm…" What Grace says is in such stark contrast to everything else she's been told, felt, heard, and seen over the last few days. It's not the cautious paranoia being flooded over the television she hasn't been able to pull her eyes from, it isn't the anxiety that kept her pinned down to the same apartment for weeks on end. Grace and Cat's more centered, almost stubborn refusal to acknowledge fear seems entirely alien to the girl.

She looks back out to the freezing rain and ice-slicked streets, then back to Cat, and then Grace with nervous eyes. "How do I do that?" It isn't defensive, a question meant to dismiss, it's an honest question. "I don't want this anymore. I — I don't want to feel so scared." It's hard not to, espescially in the last few weeks. "I — I almost agreed to go to that high school." Her shoulders tremble, "The building down the street blew up — It's — It's like everywhere I'm going to turn, something terrible is happening." Judah's injury, Sylar hunting Felix down, there is some level of coincidence about disaster following the girl like her own shadow.

"You've won half the battle," Cat replies calmly. "You're outside. From there you put one foot in front of the other and keep going. If you don't, the bad stuff keeps coming. It just finds you easier." Like Evolved DNA tests, concentration camps, and so many other things afoot. "Everybody dies. The question is will you really live between now and then?"

"Losing," Grace echoes, even the raven's voice audibly pensive. Turning the concept over, testing it, measuring it. She's quiet as Cat speaks her piece, gaze distant. "There was a kid I knew, a while back. Went through books the way most people go through potato chips. Had a huge old book he'd read to pieces. Me, I'm not a bookworm; I never got past the first page. But he liked to quote from it, and there's this one…

"Fear is the mind-killer," Grace states, blinking once, her gaze returning to the girl. "Give in to it, girl, and you will die. It'll eat you up inside until there's nothing left." The woman steps in behind Colette, hands lifting to rest on her shoulders; for one who generally (and emphatically) shuns physical touch, it's an unusual move. If the contact is allowed, Grace will pull the girl's shoulders up, squaring them forward. "You draw the line. You say, I will be pushed no further.

"Yes," Grace allows, "you might be hurt. You might die. So what? So can anyone else; it's part of the definition of life. But if you want to live? You have to make that life. You can't just expect God to hand it to you on a silver platter. Neither God nor the world works that way."

The hands on Colette's shoulders make the girl tense for a moment, in that very brief fear of the last time she and Grace had a form of contact, it almost ended with a broken arm and Colette on the floor. But when all the older woman does is lift those slouching shoulders up, squaring them, she relaxes a bit. But there is an effort on Colette's part, an effort to keep those shoulders up, to keep them straight, if not because she fears what Grace would do if she shrugged off that advice, but for the slim hope that perhaps she might have a point.

The girl's lips raise in a thin slile, and she turn sher head to the side, peering out from her fur-lined hood towards the taller and older woman behind her, managing a gentle expression of thanks, even if it's a bit sheepish. "You sound like my sister." It's more of a compliment than Grace would know, and one that affords Colette some measure of confidence in the instruction.

"Um — " The confidence slips, if only marginally, as she looks over from Grace to Cat, "I — I'm sorry you uh, you know… I'm sure this isn't how you expected to spend your morning." Her eyes flit over to the apartments, then back to Cat, though she doesn't move an inch from where Grace positioned her. "Sorry." Her head ducks down, just a little, only to straighten when she remembers her proximity to Grace. It's not out of fear of reprisal this time, but out of confidence. She seems to stand just a little taller now, thanks to her defiant advice. But it's retaining that, which is the hard part. "Do — " Mis-matched eyes scan Cat up and down, "Do you know Grace?"

"We've met, briefly," Cat answers, her eyes traveling from the teen to the former military woman and resting there. "It was a short conversation at a great place for food." Cat's umbrella remains aloft while she speaks. "Cat," she adds, to identify herself. "Or Doctor Catherine Chesterfield, if formality is your thing." Her demeanor suggests neither matters much to her.

Feeling that Colette is maintaining the altered posture on her own, Grace releases the girl — though she does let her hands remain there as a reminder. Stand straight. "Maybe not, girl, but it's how we chose to spend our morning. Don't apologize for our decisions." A hint of pressure on those palms that might've translated into a shaking of the girl's frame, if Grace were someone else. "Then you just remember that. You find yourself shrinking back, you listen to us and stand up straight. Keep going. Just keep right on going. Eventually, it'll get easier. And then you won't even think about it at all." Blue eyes look over Colette at the other woman, and Grace nods once. "I gave up formality when I left the uniform behind," she replies, a hint of amusement in her rasping voice. "It never really sat well anyway."

Colette's lips screw up into a crooked expression of mirth far more like her normal self, "Doc." She nods once in affirmation to Cat, as if exchanging one three-letter nickname for another. "I um," her eyes drift up to Grace, as if for a momentary reassurance that the person she's speaking to really is trustworthy, then takes a half-step away from Grace and raises one gloved hand towards the brunette. "Colette," she wrinkles her nose, "Nichols."

And there it is.

The name has been floating around Phoenix's operatives less so in the last few weeks, but for a while it was a buzz in most ears. Abby's tormentor, "daughter" to an NYPD Anti-Evolved task-force operative, and all around blunt-headed troublemaker from Helena's perspective. It all sorts to piece together the commentary about the girl with "the funny eyes" that had been mentioned in Cat's presence once or twice. She's the girl from Chinatown, she's the reason Abby had to go into hiding.

Unfortunately for her, she's unaware of associations.

"Doc," she repeats with a quiet chuckle. And for whatever reason Cat sees fit to calmly explain something here. "Not a medical doctor, though. Juris Doctor." She'd heard things, sure enough, but in speaking with the girl connections weren't made, until now, with the name which promptly goes on the mental file. Not that it wouldn't have anyway. The gloved hand raised toward her is met with the JD's own right hand as if to shake once and release.

With Colette's step away, Grace lowers her hands, retreating to a more normal (acceptable) distance herself. She watches the other two exchange introductions, having said what she needed to say. "Lawyer, then," the woman observes of Cat — they hadn't even exchanged names the first time around, so it is a revelation. "Practicing?" Purely a conversational question.

"Lawyer still counts." Colette remarks with a bit of that whimsy still in her voice, even if the times have faded it some. "You're both right, I mean, about the whole being afraid thing. I just — " Her eyes look out to the city streets, then back again, "I was here. When it happened." Those mis-matched eyes wander down to her feet, "I survived it, um, you know with hospital treatment n'stuff. I lost a whole lot of my life because of this, and… I just — The last time, I lost someone really important to me. I — I'm just worried if something like that happens again, I'll lose who's important to me now."

Her head lowers, but then as if on some unspoken urge from Grace raises again, and Colette's posture straightens just a little. "But… I — I'm not the only one, am I?" She smiles faintly, recalling something Ygraine told her once, "So, I guess… I shouldn't be so selfish about that sort've thing. Thinking the way I do, it — It's immature." Colette sidesteps, letting her hands tuck into the pockets of her jacket as she looks side-long to Grace, though unable to see her directly due to it being on her blind side. She's gotten used to this though, the oddity of her lack of depth-perception. "I should go back inside, though." Colette's smile thins just a little, "You know, because of the cold. Judah'll get all worried if I start sniffling." She turns her focus back to Grace, offering her a warm smile. "You'd like him. He's surly."

"Not so much," Cat answers to the question about practicing. "Passed the bar, but being a professional musician is much more appealing. My legal work is limited to staying current and giving out pro bono advice on contracts and copyrights from time to time, unless it's for my own benefit. So nice not to need managers and attorneys to represent me, you know?"

Moments later, though, with reflection on what Colette shares she's a bit more subdued, though the poise remains. "You're stronger than you even know. Keep your head up, Colette, and take care."

"You're a kid," Grace observes, raven's voice dust-dry. "Kids are immature." Other than that, she listens to Colette and Cat speak, also reflecting on the words. Her gaze acquires a distant quality, thoughts wandering the distant roads of her own memories. Anything the woman might have said, however, is derailed by Colette's final comments; Grace refocuses on her, one dark brow arching. "Like him, how? You ever hear 'bout how 'like objects repel'?" she counters.

Cat's words cause focus to shift back to her, brows furrowed together. "Everybody says that," she admits with a crooked smile, "Maybe one of these days I'll make you all right about that." Her eyes turn skyward in a sarcastic expression as her smile grows, "Or maybe I'll trip over my own feet up the steps." Her nose wrinkles as she manages a laugh, even if it is a tired one.

Colette's smile creeps up a bit further as she eyes Grace, then shrugs her shoulders, "I'unno, just a hunch I guess." She winks her blinded eye and keep sthat smile a bit crooked. "I — I really should be getting inside though." Her reddened cheeks and nose are testament to that. It's hard to say just how long she's been out in the cold.

"Thanks, though…" She smiles a bit awkwardly, "Both of you." Then, looking upt o Cat her expression turns a bit more wry, "I mean, for listening? I mean, who listens to complete strangers these days?" With her head held up, Colette makes her way up a few stone steps to the front doors, pausing with one hand on the door before she turns to look back at Grace and Cat with a black brow arched beyond her shaggy bangs. "…Why were you two coming here, anyway?" Her head tilts to the side, and then she slides her other hand out of the jacket pocket and waves it in the air dismissively.

"On second thought," She eyes Grace, then Cat, "You're probably both here for the henchwoman." Colette wrinkles her nose and cracks a smile teasingly, that little in-joke between she and Grace the last thing she says befre yanking the door open and getting her chilled extremeties back inside, before Judah wakes up and drags her back in.

Watching Colette make her way inside, and indeed waiting until the door is closed before speaking, Cat asks a question in a mildly curious tone. "Henchwoman?" Her eyes drift over toward Grace and stay there for a few seconds.

Grace watches Colette go, saved from having to respond by the girl finding an answer of her own. Incorrect, but that doesn't matter. "Ygraine," the woman replies, a hint of a smile pulling at one corner of her lips. "We've run into one another a couple of times with the girl around, and Colette seems to believe that means we actually work together or something."

The lawyer who prefers music over that which she earned a doctorate in raises an eyebrow, chuckling quietly. "That's a fairly unique name. I met someone with it once. A bicycle messenger with a talent for debating, who refused to admit the British monarchy is misognynist." Cat takes a few steps toward the building. While it's not a common name, she still doesn't believe this is the same person Colette called henchwoman.

"Wears a leather jacket with the British flag on the back," Grace adds to Cat's litany of characteristics, nodding a bit in affirmation of each one she voiced. "It's not a common name at all," the woman remarks as Cat steps away, tucking her hands in her pockets and for her part preparing to continue down the street.

She stops. "FitzRoy?" Cat's curious now, her attention held. "And why would Colette think anyone is your henchwoman? That's an odd term to use for a person one works with, unless…" The thought is left to trail off, she shakes her head, choosing not to believe Grace is involved in things that call for hench of any sort. Or does she?

Grace pauses, laughing softly. "Colette declared me a… an evil mastermind or something the second time we met. Ygraine was there and got lumped in as a 'henchwoman'." Clearly, the ex-military woman doesn't put any particular weight on either. "It's an ongoing joke she enjoys beating into the ground whenever we meet," she concludes, the shrug of her shoulders and a subtle quirk to her lips describing Grace's opinion of that. Which is to say, there's such a thing as overkill.

More data into the Colette file. Data are good, yes they are. "Quite the imagination she has," Cat muses. "Maybe she should write spy novels. If she does, and uses you as a character without permission, maybe I'll help you sue and get rich." A short laugh follows Cat joking. If she is joking.

"Maybe she should," Grace agrees. Whether Cat's joking or not, she seems to take the remark as such, snorting softly in reply. "Can't say I'd see the point. But thanks anyway." The woman shakes her head slightly, adjusting the wrap of her hood around head, and nods to Cat. "Have a good day, Catherine."

"You too, Grace." Cat takes a few steps as if to head inside the building, and does indeed enter to at least keep up the appearance of checking it out, but she stops short of doing so. Given Colette's residence, it doesn't seem the sort of place to recommend or arrange for Brian.

Cat and Dani's apartment in the Dorchester Towers, some time later.

The entry hall has room for anyone carrying larger objects to move without much trouble and five doorways. First, on the left, is a kitchen with the usual appliances, microwave, toaster, blender, coffeemaker, and George Foreman grill. Cherry cabinets with brass handles above and below the marbled counter fill the spaces. In the center is a table of dark cherry wood with comfortable wooden chairs for six people on a waxed cedar floor.

The living area, second on the left, has a peach colored couch with cherry wood end and coffee tables along the far wall. On either side of those is a recliner chair. Atop one of the end tables is a caller ID phone with NYC phone books. Electronics line the left wall: a 60" thin plasma HDTV, cable box with DVR, stereo equalizer, radio tuner, twelve disc CD player, iPod dock, home theater system, and speakers. One of the other walls has a piano placed against it and a wide window overlooking Nuked York. Pale wine colored pull curtains, normally kept closed, hang before it. The fourth wall has a line of electric and acoustic guitars, a few amps of varying sizes, and a cello.

The first door on the right opens to the smaller of two bedrooms. The second right hand door leads to the main bedroom.

At the entry hall's far end is a bathroom with standard fixtures, a white tile floor, and products a woman would have. Bright and warm glows from overhead track lighting bathe the place. Deep wine colored plush carpet covers the floor, stopping only at the kitchen and bathroom.

But there is one thing she does when alone after reaching her apartment and able to access the terminal. An instant message is sent to the name Wireless, with the text a single word. Curiosity.

The nice thing about instant messages is that they are instant. Especially when they live in your head, without the obstacles of technology to get between message and recipient. Thus, Wireless replies after only a slight pause. Supposedly a defining attribute of cats. What do you need?

Sitting at home, with bags from shopping for food and the two wild turkeys she secured earlier, Cat reads the reply from Wireless and smiles slightly. She calls up the mental image of Grace and translates it into a verbal description, along with the query Is this woman, who identified herself only as Grace, part of any friendly or unfriendly organization? She was described by Item Two in this contact as having a henchwoman, and referred to herself as once wearing a uniform. Police? Military? Both? Data are sketchy.

The voice, even when described in text, is sufficient — when paired with that name — for Wireless to identify the woman in question. I admit, I'm surprised you haven't run into her previously, the technopath answers. She's part of the Ferrymen. Joined not long after leaving the Air Force, along with two others, one Air Force and one Army. Both male. Their safehouse was host to most of PARIAH before Phoenix's creation. Those details are supplied readily, basic defining stats that might be found in a summary file; a beat of silence ensues. A 'henchwoman' isn't something I've heard associated with her before.

In silence, she reads and files the info on Grace away before typing another query. Is there a surname for Grace Ferrywoman? Cat places her finger on the key to transmit, but doesn't. Instead she thinks for a few beats, choosing afterward to add more. Henchwoman was used by a female teenager, the previously mentioned Item Two, of the name Colette Nichols. She's a resident of Le Rivage Apartments, ostensibly under the parentage or guardianship of a man she called Judah. I plan to ask Stormy about her, something indicates this one is dodgy, to be careful of.

Matheson, Wireless replies. 'Dodgy' is apt. Colette seems to be a very… young… teenager, from what I've overheard. Selfish and self-centered. A pause. Given Manhattan history, she may have cause for that attitude, but she's still not trustworthy. Another pause, before more text appears on the screen. Grace is aware of this, as best I can determine. She also has a history of being very cagey with our info; I have no concerns there.

New paragraph. Judah, Judah Demsky. NYPD, detective, counter-terrorism, but possibly sympathetic — at least unto the point of 'right' actions. Nonetheless, it's seemed wisest to let sleeping dogs lie where he's concerned.

As she reads, both hands reach for one of the wild turkeys she acquired and lift it into her lap, it's held there at the ready to put away when the session is concluded. Interesting. To clarify, Grace is cagey, Colette is cagey, or both? Cat sends the message and watches the screen, waiting.

Grace keeps secrets very well, Wireless elaborates. Colette, according to the grapevine, does not.

She concerns me as well. Cat responds. Thank you for your time.

You're welcome.

With business concluded between them, Cat closes the IM program and rises from the terminal. She's on her way to the kitchen and refrigerator, there to secure two dead birds and the other supplies she brought home for the next day's meal.

Any additional notes fall to the bottom.

November 26th: Just Ask Alice

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

November 26th: Datura
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