Times Change


cat_icon.gif claire2_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif

Scene Title Times Change
Synopsis Three women meet in Central Park to say their goodbyes.
Date January 19, 2009

Central Park

New York City's Central Park is not entirely unlike Marion Island or the shores of McMurdo Sound this time of year. Snow blankets the ground and clumps in the skeletal branches of trees, forming jagged icicles where the sunlight briefly transformed it into meltwater at some point during the day. Although it's well into the evening now, Manhattan's city lights reflect off the frozen landscape, illuminating the park's many pathways. White Christmas lights not yet brought down twinkle like strings of fireflies connecting the lampposts together, and it is under one of these beacons that Eileen Ruskin — now Eileen Spurling — stands, gloved hands in the pocket of her wool coat and her dark hair covered by a headscarf she wears knotted under her chin.

She isn't alone. The lamp light bathes two other figures in its wan glow, one tall and the other short, the smaller with hair the colour of cornsilk and the willowier woman with a head of auburn brown. Two months ago, the three of them together would have been a rare sight.

Times change.

"It's warmer than Russia too," the tallest of these tres mujeres states. Cat's eyes focus into the distance, regarding the snow and icicled trees. Silence from her extends, she chases away a rising recollection of events in Europe's northernmost nation in favor of letting herself travel down a path of memory to a moment not so long before, one when she stood on the shores of Marion Island and fed tuxedo'd birds.

A thin smile settles onto her features, inspired by this perceived imagery.

Bundled tight in a warm jacket, scarf and a hat low on her head, Claire is huddled a bit, nose tucked in the knitted length around her face. Her legs are clad in dark jeans, so much different then the military issue stuff she's been wearing for the past couple of months. She shifts a bit, making snow crunch under her boots. "Thank you for meeting me Eileen." The breath puffs white from the scarf.

"Didn't have much time to really corner you and talk since Madagascar." Blue eyes flick over to the other woman briefly, Claire's smirk hidden. "Warmer period then Antarctica, but still cold."

Eileen's hands come out of her coat pockets with a package of cigarettes and a matchbook bent between two fingers. The edge of her thumb slips under the paper lip and crinkles the gold foil protecting the rolled tobacco from misting rain, too fine to form droplets any larger than the point of a needle. "I don't like being cornered," she says, removing a single cigarette from the package before she flips the lid shut and replaces it in her left pocket. A fire engine red match-head scrapes across the book's striking strip and brings a thin tongue of flame into being, which she uses to light the cigarette, now dangling from the Briton's pursed lips. "You're welcome."

"Sometimes," Cat offers quietly, "all you need to have a conversation with Eileen is to find a flock of birds, wait until they see you, and start talking." These words spoken while she still seems distant, as if she'd recently done so on foreign shores in the presence of those non-flying birds. Content of conversation to again assure she had not and would not share the contents of their conversation on the seventh with Kershner or her immediate underlings. And which also featured advice to be elsewhere as swiftly as possible if she saw a large man called Rene approaching.

In the here and now, aside from such recollections, Cat's mind is partly filled with curiosity regarding Jensen Raith's claim of two people with altered memories. One was obviously Noriko, the other she suspects may have been Eileen. But she isn't certain.

A chuckle comes from the young regenerator, though there is a bitter edge to it, "I don't blame you there. Not at all." Claire goes silent for a moment. "But you know what I mean. Either way… I wanted to thank you…" The words from the young woman are soft, "… for protecting me… that night." Eileen hopefully knows the evening in question. "And… I'm sorry." The sincerity in her words is not faked, she really is sorry about the loss of Gabriel.

A glance is sent to Cat, but her words are for Eileen alone, "I really… I felt… no… damn, it's hard to find the right words for what I wanted to say." Eyes cast to the ground, toes scuff at the snow a bit in thought. "I am… glad for the team I had. I wasn't in the beginning, but it worked… despite the one snag."

Eileen flicks the spent match into the snow and smothers it under the toe of her boot with a raspy sizzling sound, but the only smoke rising into the frigid air originates from the tip of her cigarette burning amber. Speaking of birds, a pair of wings flickers overhead, and a moment later a large black corvid alights on the back of a nearby bench and lets out a low croaking call, beak parted and oily feathers rumpled. Catherine may recognize the silver band around the raven's twiggy leg — this individual has been in New York at least as long as Eileen has and acted as a harbinger for the Vanguard before the Narrows fell.

She doesn't want to talk about Gabriel. Green eyes shy away from Claire's face at the apology, and Eileen takes a slow drag from her cigarette in solemn silence. He should be here, but he isn't. "I am too," she murmurs around the filter, "which is why I wanted to speak with you. Phoenix, Cardinal's group, the Vanguard remnant — we come from very different places, but I'd like to think we can trust each other after what happened at Amundsen-Scott. I need a favour from both of you."

It's another point of curiosity Cat has; Eileen's emotions regarding Gabriel Gray. They were seen together most times she spoke with she who influences birds in the most recent months, suggesting a possibility, but there'd also been no evidence of romantic or other entanglement. No need now to mention or ask of such relations, for Cat estimates Eileen to be private about them as she herself tends to be. Never let them see her crack.

Curiosity in that arena becomes even easier to turn aside when another target for it is provided. A favor. Interesting. "I'm listening, Eileen," she quietly provides.

There is a short nod of her head to Eileen, Claire feels the trust toward the bird telepath. "Despite what happened to… " Claire's voice catches despite itself, and she has to clear it. "Despite what happened, Liz and I have agreed to carry on with the mission." A hand tugs down the scarf so that Eileen can see the small smile the blonde offers. "So let's hear it, if anything you have my undivided attention as a former teammate."

"Team Bravo saw things in Madagascar," Eileen says. "Nerve gas designed to target the Evolved and negate their abilities, pregnancy farms— I wasn't in Antananarivo long enough to get a real feel for was General Rasoul was doing there, but with the military occupying the capital and excavating Muspelheim, I don't think it's unfair to assume that the U.S. government has access to his research. Part of me wants to believe it's the real reason we were sent there, that Kershner knew from the start they didn't have the bomb. I don't trust her, and I don't trust the people she works for."

Smoke leaves her nostrils in ugly plumes like sulfur clouds from a dragon's snout. It doesn't smell much better, either. "Our people need to start looking out for each other. We can't continue to operate as we have been and expect to succeed, much less survive. They're going to be watching us like hawks."

"The Doctor, Gregor," Cat provides, "was captured according to what I learned. I interviewed you, Eileen, then spoke with Claire and Noriko too. Accounts matched up in some details, but not all of you saw the same things. I didn't get to speak with Sanderson, though I don't image I would have. Risky, she being a military officer, even though she apparently didn't carry through with the order to seize samples of that gas. A gas which ties to Pinehearst and Refrain." The panmnesiac's face shifts into a scowl.

"Since they have Gregor, they may be able to reconstitute what was made there. As to security and safety, the best protection is publicity. If we find proof of activities and make it public, attached to our names, disappearing us becomes harder. It would be a tacit admission we were correct. Jensen Raith spoke to me of this too, advised writing down what I know and making copies so they can't possibly eliminate them all." And here her features shift, acquiring a trace of hurt and sadness.

"I recommend, Claire, not letting Elisabeth know much if anything about what was found on Madagascar. She's one of Kershner's minions now."

"What I remember is pretty vague, but I remember the farms, and the incinerators…" Claire's voice trails off at that last, that was truly disturbing. "I agree, though… that nerve gas… and the fact that the formula for it… I… I think it was given to them by the government…" Wait… she frowns. ".. I… I think there was a deal. Someone.. worried about research. Maybe that Gregor person." Eyes close tight, words soft as if pulling bits and piece from her memory. Finally she gives a frustrated sigh, sending up a thick plume of steam.

"Fuck this memory…" The words hissed out in Claire's frustration. "Who knows how much important information I lost." gloved fingers rub at her poor forehead.

Eyes snap to Cat, jaw setting some. "She's is not completely Kershner's minion, Cat. She is still one of ours. It was mentioned before wanting someone on the inside and so she is. Don't be too quick to judge, Cat, not yet." Claire studies Cat for a long moment. "Besides, she knows what I know. She is my friend and I trust her. Till she proves otherwise."

"Going public is the worst thing we can do." Eileen slips the cigarette from her mouth and drags her teeth over her bottom lip, skin raw and chapped from too much time spent above deck on the USS George Washington in the blustery arctic wind. "I don't intend on moving against Kershner unless she forces my hand, but we need to be ready in case the political climate here starts taking a turn for the worse. The network of safehouses that the Ferry has available isn't enough. If they hit us, we have to be prepared to take the blow and then hit them back twice as hard."

Rolling the cigarette between her fingers, she lifts her eyes to Catherine and studies the older woman from behind the frosty veil of her lashes. "I never met Cameron Spalding," she says, "and I realize that what I'm suggesting may not be popular with Dean. Appealing to the American public and putting this all out in the open where people can pass judgment isn't going to make a bloody bit of difference unless Phoenix is prepared to back it up with force. It's time we started thinking aggressively."

"Elisabeth would agree," Cat quietly asserts, "on a few occasions she's opted not to know things. In her work with the police, she was at times paired with Matt Parkman and took steps not to know things he could pick from her head by telepathy. In Frontline, one never knows when she may encounter a telepath. For that matter, Kershner's a psychometrist. A thing as simple as shaking hands can give her information we'd rather she doesn't know. And they'll be watching Elisabeth carefully too, they know who she associates with."

Then she turns toward Eileen, observing her features calmly for some moments. "Violence is a tool best used sparingly," she opines, "and best rarely ruled out. I agree we're not in any position to successfully emulate Gandhi or King. It doesn't escape me, either, they were both assassinated. If an attempt is made to silence or disappear me, or anyone around me, I don't intend to go quietly."

"We also need to keep our eyes very open for Emile Danko. I've no illusion he's been cured of hating us all for simply existing. Hindsight, Eileen, supports your position we should've shot him dead when we had the chance," Cat concedes.

"I agree with Eileen. Public is not the best way to go about this. Even though there are a lot of us, we are the minority around here." Claire says softly, head turning slightly as she looks between then both. "Making things public might move things in a direction we don't want." A hand motions at nothing as she says, "Having Elisabeth in FRONTLINE gives us a bit of an edge on that front. She'll know what is being planned and with hope she can get it to us in time if it's important."

"But right now.." Claire's finger points at the trampled snow below them. "I agree… time to prepare. Especially for the worst." A smile touches her lips. "We almost need a network between our networks."

Until now, Eileen hadn't been aware that she and Danko had any history prior to Madagascar. Her back stiffens, her face's austere features grow even harder, mouth flattening out into a narrow line. That Gabriel's murderer may have escaped Amundsen-Scott intact also hadn't occurred to her, but when Catherine presents the Briton with the possibility a surge of anger flares up from inside of her and emulates the slow burn withering the paper that holds her cigarette together.

"You may want to ask Dean if she's willing to consider stockpiling weapons and ammunition," she suggests. "Start putting together contingency plans at the very least. Clare's right — keeping communication lines open is to our advantage. We could arrange a meeting every few weeks with rotating representatives from each group to avoid arousing further suspicion. Kershner's not stupid. She knows that we're not going to just let this go."

Curiosity and suspicion of Eileen's memories being edited deepens with that visible reaction, but Cat avoids letting on any recognition of it. A topic for another time, that. "We have some arms," Cat replies, "and can likely get more. I have money, also. A step I need to take, if Wireless can't be found and restored, is to rebuild a way my assets can't be located and seized but are still accessible. I have property holdings which aren't under my name. The Verb is known, however; so I may make that public. I have another contact, which Kershner doesn't appear to know about, who might help with that. Among other things. Code name is Rebel."

"Needless to say, though neither of you may consider it valuable, if the need arises you both have a Yale educated lawyer free of charge. I don't practice law often," she tacks on, "the whole corporate office thing would feel too much like a cage, but for some I make exceptions. Where are you both most likely to be found? Columbia U dorms?"

"I'm pretty sure Liz and others of the end game, will agree with the idea of keeping communications open." Claire states firmly, a short nod of her head. "I'll have to see if there is anything in Cardinal's things about all this." The man kept quite a horde of information from precogs.

"Best thing you can do is call me… and we can meet. Maybe at Columbia.. I haven't decided, but not staying there, no. I have a home." A small smile tugs her lips. "Two if I'm desperate. Course the idea of living with my parents is not my cup of tea. My mother would like to shut me in a windowless room forever."

Despite the heat roiling around in her belly, Eileen's eyes are cold and have taken on ophidian quality not unlike the glassiness of the raven preening itself on the park bench mere meters away. The last time Catherine saw her like this, it had been when she was still in possession of Julian Kuhr's ability and the demeanor of a carrion bird. In a series of painstakingly precise movements, she takes a final drag from her cigarette, casts it to the frozen cement and crushes with more enthusiasm than she did the match. This time, her boot leaves a wet smear of ash and not much else.

"I'm staying at Fort Greene in Brooklyn," she says. "Apartment number five-o-five. If I need to get in touch with you, I'll do it by bird."

The preening bird is glanced at briefly, then eyes return to the pair of humans with her. "I'll probably call you in an hour or so, Claire," Cat comments. "Got someone I want to take you to." She doesn't, at this point, know if Claire remembers Helena. A thing soon to find out. First priority, though, is to converse more privately with Eileen.

"I'd… like to come by sometime… and talk, Eileen." Claire says softly, her expression serious. A part of her needs to talk to someone about the man that tried to take her ability. A part of her thinks it's unfair he was taken, just as she was coming to terms with things. "But when… you are ready. I don't want to lose contact with my team." And that's what they would all always be, even Gabriel.

Nodding to Cat, Calire gives her a small smile. "Alright, Cat." She glances at the sky. "I've got a few things to get done, so I'll get out of the way. "Once I have a new phone, I'll make sure you all have the number. For not Cat, you can get a hold of me though Liz… or my mom. My old one is somewhere in Madagascar.. probably bottom of the river for all I can remember."

A hand is offered to Eileen, a gesture of friendship. "Thank you again for having my back Eileen, with hope I won't have to do the same, but I will if need be."

Eileen takes Claire's hand in her gloved one and clasps it, her grip gentle but firm. Her voice usually is too, though not tonight — anger stretches it taut and transforms her tone into a curter version of its standard self-possession. She'd never admit it to anyone except Teodoro or maybe Ethan and Raith, but Gabriel's death has made her feel more like herself than she has since her memories were taken from her.

When she releases Claire's hand, she takes a step back and holds her arm out for the raven.

A snap of its wings carries it the short distance between the bench and the young woman, barbed feet seeking purchase in the thick material of her winter coat. It makes a noise in the back of its throat that sounds like an asthmatic cat attempting to purr, beak slightly parted as Eileen runs the crook of her forefinger along its glossy back. "I'll see you both soon," she resolves, turning to go. "Be safe."

She can't catch Eileen's attention to broach what she desires to without it being witnessed by another, and the option of speaking to the corvid is leaving along with its mistress. Cat watches her path for some moments, offering quietly "You also."

Then she faces Claire, pulling out a small piece of paper and pen. A number is written on it, then an email address, and handed over. "Contact me in an hour or so, I may have something arranged then." With that, Doctor Chesterfield also is departing.

"You too, Eileen." Claire offers, turning to Cat to take the paper offered. "I'll do that, Cat. Call you soon." The paper tuck away, the young regenerator moves in a different direction all together, scarf tugged up against the cold.

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