The River


cat_icon.gif edward_icon.gif helena_icon.gif

Scene Title The River
Synopsis It's a metaphor for time.
Date January 15, 2009

New York Public Library

Once upon a time, the New York Public Library was one of the most important libraries in America. The system, of which this branch was the center, was among the foremost lending libraries /and/ research libraries in the world.

The bomb changed that, as it changed so much else.

By virtue of distance, the library building was not demolished entirely, like so many others north of it; however, the walls on its northern side have been badly damaged, and their stability is suspect. The interior is a shambles, tattered books strewn about the chambers and halls, many shelves pulled over. Some have even been pulled apart; piles of char in some corners suggest some of their pieces, as well as some of the books, have been used to fuel fires for people who sought shelter here in the past.

In the two years since the bomb, the library — despite being one of the icons of New York City — has been left to decay. The wind whistles through shattered windows, broken by either the blast-front or subsequent vandals, carrying dust and debris in with it. Rats, cats, and stray dogs often seek shelter within its walls, especially on cold nights. Between the fear of radiation and the lack of funds, recovery of the library is on indefinite hiatus; this place, too, has been forgotten.

It's funny how in the blink of an eye, all that you thought about the world can change.

The world's been changing fast lately, but the defeat of security, and the defeat of what seems like all of Phoenix's hard work has to have come as a heavy blow. Was there ever any point in the struggle, was there any point to the risks taken? Can history ever truly be changed, or is the world doomed to near extinction several days from now?

All of thse thoughts linger in the minds of Phoenix operatives, which may well be why one of its leaders has come back out to the New York Public Library. There's a certain level of hope that can come from knowing the future before it happens, and also a certain level of grief. Winding through halls that are far emptier than they once were, down now abandoned corridors past rooms that were once occupied by Phoenix members, Helena Dean finds herself where the answers might just lie, in the den of Edward Ray.

But the Doctor, it would seem, is not in.

The long table he normally sits at is empty, save for books scattered across it. The laptop is open, shedding a blue-white glow against the rolling blackboards behind it. Wind rushes outside, causing the plastic covering of the windows to suck in with a loud crinkling noise, then push out, expanding like clear plastic lungs.

But no sign of the doctor…

Helena looks around, in sheer, utter disbelief. "No." she says. "No!" She turns around and around, taking in the room, looking for any sign. "Edward!" she calls out, "Dr. Ray!" Standing still in the silence for a few moments, Helena finally creeps over to the laptop to peer at the monitor, hoping it will be the oracle that she needs to answer all her questions…including where the good doctor has gone.

Helena isn't the only one to come here seeking to inquire of the Doctor's opinions. Cat makes her way into the library which once functioned as headquarters, in the early evening, some time after she had Jennifer Galloway as a guest in her new home. The building is explored with the same results, until she too intersects with the computer Edward Ray left running. "Stormy," she greets, and her own eyes settle on the screen.

There's a web browser pulled up and maximized on the screen, one of many news sites' coverage of the 2008 election. This particular article focusing on Nathan Petrelli, a large photograph on the right side of the screen displays Nathan stepping down from inside of a small, private jet, while behind him, Angela Petrelli looms in the doorway, clad in black fur like some inverse Cruelle DaVille. Both Helena and Cat have only has a moment to look at the article though, before a rustling sound in the back of the stacks catches her attention.

From thee row of sheets hung on thin rope like a makeshift partition, there is a grumbling groan, followed by a shaky parting of the curtains. "Mmnh… Miss Dean?" There's a hollow, somewhat shaky and not quite on-the-ball sound to the voice. Shambling through the curtains, a rather tired and equally cold looking Edward Ray makes his way past the rolling blackboards, and out onto the floor near the table, zipping up the front of his heavy winter parka to keep the cold out.

His eyes blearily settle on Cat as his hands fumble and struggle with one pocket, producing his glasses to rest upon the bridge of his nose. "Sorry… I…" He glances at the computer screen, then reaches out and slowly slides the laptop closed. "If I'd known you were going to be coming, I wouldn't have laid down for a nap." He turns, looking up from the laptop to Helena, then Cat. "I take it this is some sort of emergency? What with all of the shouting."

Helena collapses in the chair. "Don't — " she says numbly. "God, don't do that!" Don't do what, of course, is the question. "I'm sure you've heard by now Rickham has resigned before even taking office." Adrenaline is still coursing through Helena's veins, but given the context it's making her feel slightly ill. She takes slow breaths, trying not to make her effort to calm down too obvious. "I remember you saying Nathan Petrelli would be better for our chances. I want to know how things have changed. I've also got some potential additional factors in the Volken situation."

She's quiet as Helena speaks, some of her concerns being the same as those just expressed. No commentary is made to the way in which Edward emerges, Cat is content to absorb info for the moment.

Edward blinks his eyes open and closed, looking from Helena to Cat, "Well, I'll keep that in mind next time I decide to get some sleep." Bristling a bit, Edward steps away from the table and rolls one of the blackboards aside, revealing a few plastic jugs of water and a pair of ceramic mugs sitting atop a small microwave. "Yes, Helena, I'd heard. I may not get cable TV down here in my fallout shelter of an office," There's a bit of a chiding tone there, "But my radio does get a few channels. I'd heard, but to answer your inevitable question — I knew before it happened."

Unscrewing a cap off one jug, Edward pours some water into one of the mugs, then quietly screws the cap back on. "I'm going to go out ona limb, here, and presume neither of you have a doctorate in theoretical physics." While he speaks, Edward keeps his back to the pair, quietly opening the microwave to put the mug in, then closes the door. "Time travel." He clarifies, pressing a few of the buttons on the microwave with a clear tone of beeps until it begins humming, warming the water.

"To put it into a metaphor, time can be likened to a big river; like the Mississippi. It flows in one direction, and sure you might be able to row upstream in a canoe, but it's going to be a hard frought journey." He turns away from the microwave, walking across the width of the room to a shelf where a small and flimsy cardboard box is, flipping the lid open as he rifles through it. "Drop a boulder in the river, the water flows around it and keeps going. Sure, the flow is changed around where the boulder was dropped, but it all ends up at the same point." He pauses, staring down at the box, "Earl Gray." Then nods to himself, plucking out a tea bag, turning back towards the microwave. "I think you two can probably see what I'm getting at with this, right?"

He untangles the little string from the teabag, turning to look over at Helena, then Cat, head tilting to one side as the microwave continues to whirr and hum. "What we did was drop a boulder into the river. The water flowed around it, and sure, some things changed, but we eventually ended up at the same outcome — Rickham was taken from power. It didn't happen like I predicted, because we changed the variables; the public isn't aware of his ability. But it doesn't change the fact that ultimately we were just an obstruction." The microwave starts beeping, spurring Edward to turn and pop it open, carefully retrieving his steaming cup of water which he quietly sinks the teabag into. He holds the cup under his nose, letting the hot steam and aroma calm himself some.

"And, well, let's say I admit to being wrong about Nathan Petrelli being better for our chances." There's a crookedness to Edward's smile he offers at that statement, "I was mistaken." Blue eyes flick from Helena to Cat, then back again. "What was this information you wanted to share with me?"

"One of Volken's top operatives has asked to deal with me. He is allegedly interested in turning tail. I don't know how potential influences your statistics, or if they do at all. I don't know if you can see options." Helena says. "In addition to that, Teo has signed on…for lack of a better word, we'll call them mercenaries. I can give you names, if that helps. Teo and Anne have located most of the bombs, it looks like, they turned the locations over to the police. Presumably they sent out their squads on it. God, I hope so."

"I know of the people you're talking about, Stormy," Cat answers. "I read the updated lists of team members, they're on it. Flint Deckard, Felix Ivanov, Christian Einliter, Minea Dahl… that one I need to meet, since she and I are on the same crew." And she pauses there. "I wrote a legal opinion of the situation under the 25th amendment. Logic says the VP elect will take two oaths on the 20th, under the procedures of presidential vacancy, but I also recall what you said, Doctor Ray, about a power vacuum which aided Volken. The 25th doesn't address vacancies caused by the elected President not taking his oath, and that leaves a risk. One would hope Mr. Rickham will at least show up, take the oath, and then resign to block any constitutional crisis."

Edward regards Cat's digression back onto the topic of politics with an uncertain stare, just giving the notion a somewhat half-hearted nod, as if his head is clearly somewhere else at the moment. "Yes… ah, as Doctor Chesterfield has said, I'm aware of the mercenaries. Mister Laudani was polite enough to drop their names by me recently." Edward takes one quiet sip of the black tea, thoughtful and introspective for that moment. "As far as the bridges go, I'll admit right now it's a lose-lose situation, I can see what Volken's planning there, and we were scrwed from the beginning, to be quite honest. However, what we've done is potentially saved life, but even in preventing the bridges from blowing up, we're going to cause a level of chaos in this city unlike any before."

Edward's head tilts to the side again, "The NYPD is going to have to evacuate all eight bridges, because if one blows up while they have a bomb squad on it, they're liable for more than just the lives lost. So we're looking at a mass exodus of the eight primary arteries in and out of the island of Manhattan. This congests traffic to the tunnels that leave the island. The odds are that the NYPD will call in the national guard to help with the bomb disposal, so we're looking at military presence in the city. Even with that help, the bomb removal is going to take half a week, if not more. We're going to see widespread chaos because of this — emergency and rescue traffic is going to be congested. In a measure of timetables, it's a well-planned trick."

Taking another sip to collect his thoughts, Edward sighs softly, staring down into the mug as he speaks. "I think I might have figured out the most likely places Volken will attempt to dispense the virus from, given his previous areas of activity, and some… guesswork." There's a wince at the word, "But if your man, this traitor, has any information he can spare. Go for it, if you feel you can trust him. Without really meeting him, my odds aren't as good at knowing whether he's more apt to help you, or knife you." There's an uneven tone to Edward's voice, and he only partly glances up at Helena in his speaking.

"I want to hold a conference with all of Phoenix, as well as the people Mister Laudani has enlisted into this movement. Next Friday night." One of Edward's brows raise slowly, "You can arrange the location, get word out. But I need everyone there, I need everyone ready and willing to listen to me. We're only going to have one shot at organizing this, and…" He seems distracted, "Can you set this up, Helena? I'm going to need a few projectors — you know, overhead projectors. The kind used for powerpoint presentations in offices."

"I can get you what you need." Helena says quietly. "And I will get everyone, even if I have to cart them in on wheelbarrows." Which she may have to do for Trask." She considers. "With Rickham out of power, I'm not sure if we're safe here. Parkman knows we're here. I'm hoping he's not going to try and rope us in since we don't have Rickham protecting us anymore. But here is still the best place, I think. I'm going to be having a phone conversation with Ethan," her eyes flick briefly to Cat, "Before I meet him in the flesh, if I do at all. It'll really depend on what he has to say." And how he says it. "I'll get everyone." she promises. "Monday."

Inwardly, Cat kicks herself for having expressed the opinion rather than ask targeted questions, and resolves to do just that now. "How did Rickham come to think he couldn't serve when we saved him from exposure, and why would he not wait until after taking the oath to resign? It doesn't make sense. Does probability indicate the Presidency will fall vacant on the 20th? Or will the VP elect take two oaths and become President that day? Is it not possible to remove the explosives without anyone knowing the devices were found, it being to our advantage to not show our hand, as you advised regarding the steam tunnels?"

Then she turns to Helena and states "I'll buy us whatever projectors he needs, if you desire." Her jaw sets on the mention of Ethan's name, and her fists clench. "The mission comes first. If you need to meet with Ethan the Sadist, you need to meet him. I'd like to be present, however. But I follow your lead."

"Since you gave the information to the NYPD? No, it's not. They have protocol to follow — Would you feel safe if the local police kept bombs on a bridge secret, and allowed you to drive over those bridges while they were attempting to disarm them? The moment they get that bug in their ear about those bombs, I can almost garuntee they'll all be shut down at once for public safety." Edward exhales a slow, soft sigh, then glances to Helena. "We're not safe here, Helena. We're not safe anywhere, and… Ethan?" Blue eyes narrow, "The man who tortored and murdered Danielle Hamilton? The man who blew up Washington Irving Higschool?" Now he sounds a bit more incredulous. "Miss Dean, pardon me if I seem a bit off base here, but that seems like the single most stupid thing you can do. Even if his information could possibly be valid, I… I don't know. And letting the proverbial scorned lover be present for the meeting I think would be even more ill-advised."

One hand moves up, to massage at Edward's eyes, pushing his glasses up to do so. "Look I — As far as the Presidency goes, I haven't even been following it closely. I…" He takes a moment to think, consider his answer with his eyes closed. "It's obvious that this choice isn't like what we saw of Allen Rickham, which means the decision wasn't his, it was eithr forced upon him, or Allen Rickham isn't present to make the decision." Moving his hand down, Edward lets his palm draw over his lips, then finally come back to rest cradling his mug of tea. "However it happens, it's going to happen. But I wouldn't be so worried about the Vice-President…" There's a lingering bitterness in Edward's voice, "He's not going to be the one who makes it into office. Not… as far as I think. This political shitstorm hasn't quite yet begun to spin at full speed."

"That's why this initial meeting, if you can call it that, will be happening by phone, or not at all." Helena says. "I'll see what he has to say, and Cat - I'm sorry, but even if were to come to a physical meeting, Dr. Ray is right on that score. It wouldn't be - " she feels for a word, "Wise." She looks back to Edward. "I can tap one of the other safehouses. I'll make it work." She has no choice, though her tone takes on an edge. "Or I could just say fuck it and go to Canada. Since we can't seem to manage to have one fucking thing go right." She rises from her seat. "The majority of Phoenix has already shifted base to a location Parkman doesn't know about, nor do the NYPD. I will have a time and a place for you by tomorrow firmly established, if you don't want it to be here. Is there anything else you need? Anything else I can tell you? Anything to make you more comfortable?" Helena's faith has been taking some hard knocks. Fuck it has never reared its head until now. She should have just left this revolution to the experts.

She cracks a thin smile at Helena's words of denial. "Don't be sorry, Stormy. I didn't expect you'd allow it, but I had to ask. I can't help wanting to look him in the eye without him having the upper hand. I also needed to reassert I can be professional, that the mission does come first." From there Cat moves on. "Blackmail, if he was forced. Someone wants chaos in the succession. Or the person who spoke in the Senate was an impostor. And the 20th could pass with no President." She seems about to say something to Helena when she mentions going to Canada, but restrains it. This is not the time or place for that. Nowhere in her features or her words, however, is there any sign of defeatism. She expects to succeed, because they must succeed. She believes that enough to be in the presence of Dr. Ray and brainstorm even though he appears to detest her.

As further words at present, Cat has only a question for Doctor Ray, and that from the one she asked Helena going unanswered. "Have you a specific model and make of projectors you want me to buy?"

"Well," He considers the offer for a moment. "No one did tell me where everyone else moved to." Edward manages a somewhat strained smile, "I just woke up one morning and half of everyone was gone, so I figured, well, it was a need to know sort of thing." He raises both of his brows, silently and somewhat sarcastically emphasizing his point as he takes a sip of his tea. "But you know, somewhere that has heat and electricity that doesn't short out when I run the microwave and the toaster at the same time might make me a little too complacent. Hold the meeting wherever you feel safe letting Mister Laudani's less-than-trustworthy accomplices know about."

Edward's focus shifts to Cat, having given some peripheral thought to her guesswork, "Anything's a possibility right now, there's too many options at this point for me to be even able to figure out. I say, if there's still a United States left to have a president come two weeks from now, then I'll worry about it." Though there's a pause, thoughtful and considerate. "Oh uh, no. Any old projectors will do, I've prepared a bit of a slide show for what I'm working on. It's… not finished yet, though."

Helena looks faintly scowly. "I thought you wanted to stay here. We can have you moved to the new facility - or one of our newer safehouses," she glances at Cat before looking back at Edward. "For what it's worth, I'm sorry. Obviously there was misccomunication. Lack of observation on my part. There's no need for you to be uncomfortable after you've done so much for us. Let me know if you have a preference - the new facility is on Staten Island, but Cat's new place is closer, here in Manhattan." A faintly apologetic look is given to the brunette, but the safehouse isn't meant to be a 'Cat gets to pick who stays there' sort of deal when she went and established it as such. "Excuse me." she says to them both, and withdraws, noting, "I'll be on the roof if someone comes looking for me to coordinate your move, Dr. Ray." And then she's gone, to find some sort of stability in her flowers and the starry night.

"I had feelers out among holdings some of my finances come from," Cat explains, "after my residence became compromised. I came across one that satisfies several objectives, one of which is safe places to stay when needed, as Phoenix and the Ferry see fit to send people. There's room for you there if you want it. If she hadn't mentioned the place, I would have offered."

Watching Helena quietly as she speaks, Edward is more than content to enjoy his cup of tea, watching the young leader of Phoenix goes about her conversational jumping jacks. The mathematician offers her an amiable smile on the way out, but soon focuses his attention back at Cat with an awkward laugh, "You know, it's nice of you — in theory — to make that offer, but I think with the way you refer to MIT as Harvard, and that you graduated from Yale might not be the best of convergences for permanent location. I…" He glances around the cold room, "Just wanted her to pipe some heating back here, but at th least I can check out the Dispensery." He gives a faint, crooked smile to that, looking from Cat towards the blackboards.

"Well…" Edward stares down into the empty recesses of his teacup, "nless there were any more late night surprises for me, I think I'd like to get back to my daily nap before pouring the remaining vestiges of my sanity into making sure we aren't all exhaling blood in a few weeks." He manages a playful smile at those words, setting down his cup on top of the microwave.

"That's your choice," she quietly replies. "I'm not immune to pique. I've been at a loss as to how to relate to you, when you turned up I thought we'd be a better fit than we are. Both Ivy Leaguers, you know my father, you've got the academic background, and with my memory being what it is, there's so much information to absorb, if you'll share it. How you form your opinions, what they are. Maybe I've been trying too hard to look good in your eyes, I probably have, and I've let not succeeding turn what could be joking around about the Harvard and Yale thing be more biting than it should be."

She goes quiet for a stretch of seconds before adding sincerely "I'm sorry it all has you unwilling to accept my hospitality. Good night, Doctor Ray of MIT."

Edward watches Cat as she speaks, slowly sliding his cold hands into the front pockets of his parka. There's a few long, and quiet moments of contemplation, before Edward very reluctantly replies as she's o her way towards the door, "We'll see what happens." There's a crook of a smile, "I know how you young kids and your rock n' roll can be." Though he sounds joking, there's also a hint of something more knowing there, something telling.

"Good night, Doctor Chesterfield."

January 15th: Fixer-Upper
January 15th: Civil Disobedience
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