Victims of Circumstance


cardinal2_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif noriko_icon.gif veronica2_icon.gif

Scene Title Victims of Circumstance
Synopsis … exactly what the members of Alpha, Bravo and Charlie aren't. Several converge on the shoreline outside Midgard at sunset to take advantage of the fresh air and fading sunshine.
Date January 8, 2009

Marion Island

Marion Island supports a variety of flora, including tussock grasses, endemic lichens and liverworts. This time of year — in spite of its unusually cold and blustery climate — it's also home to moths and weevils, spiders seated in glittering silk webs, and portly elephant seals that lay inert on the rocky coastline with faces like stout English gentleman with jiggling jowls and eyes too small for their corpulent faces. Eileen knows better than to get too close to the local wildlife except for that which she holds dominion over: the skuas and giant petrels that prey on the penguin rookies at the tips of the peninsulas, the cormorants, wandering albatrosses and other, smaller birds, that flit unnoticed between the rocks.

She's found a place to observe the seals from a safe distance not too far from Midgard — a shallow tidal pool crusted over with barnacles. Waves lap at the shore and the young woman's bare ankles, her feet submerged in the icy waters. She wears her pant legs rolled all the way up to her knees and a wool sweater several sizes too large for her small frame. Nearby, guarded by a blue petrel with a white-tipped tail and a beak like a fat black fish hook, are her boots.

In full view of one of the bunker's entrances where two soldiers assigned to the USS George Washington have been stationed, she makes no attempt to hide from anyone or anything except the wind that blasts the rocks and creates a roaring sound in her ears similar to the distant crash of waves against the shore where the elephant seals are lazing in the late afternoon sun.

Noriko steps along outside of the base, and spots Eileen soon enough. She doesn't immediately recognize the woman, having been quite used to seeing one that isn't quite bundled up for weather. Regardless, she begins to head forward, and as she gets closer she realizes that it is in fact Eileen. "Hey there," Noriko says to the woman as she takes a seat, idley making an eddy in the tidal pool.

"Christ, it's cold." The heavy military gear that was issued to them for the assault is still being worn, at least by Cardinal; jacket, helmet, rifle and all, the latter held pointed down towards the earth with the safety securely on. He tilts his head a bit to look towards Veronica as they walk along down from Midgard, their path happening to lead town in the direction of that tidal pool, "I can barely imagine how cold it's going to be in fuckin' Antarctica."

"Wait." He stops dead in his steps, "What time of year is it in Antarctica?"

"Southern hemisphere, so it's summer, but I'm not sure that makes much of a difference that close to the pole," says the Southern California native Veronica, not looking forward to that kind of cold. "I haven't even had a real New York winter, since we left in November, and I got here last year in early spring." She's bundled up in cold weather camis that make her look like a 12-year-old boy playing army man. "What the hell is Ruskin doing?" she says with some amusement. She hasn't met everyone yet, but has most of their faces down from files and seeing them from afar.

The sound of feet whispering through the serrated grass draws Eileen's attention, causing her to cast a brief glance over her shoulder at Cardinal and Veronica. Their silhouettes block out the shape of the sun as it continues to sink down between two sloping hills peppered with thicker patches of plant life and wispy, low-growing vegetation. If there are any trees out here, or even shrubs, they aren't visible for miles. In the distance, a pale dusting of snow and ice shines silver and gray at the island's volcanic summit.

She turns her head back to Candy — Noriko — and offers the other woman a smile that doesn't quite reach or even warm her eyes. In this weather, her cheeks are rosier than they'd been in Madagascar, flushed pink by the cold to match the tips of her nose and ears. She looks more comfortable here than she did in the sopping jungle. "Hey," she returns. "Staying on, are we?"

"Well, spent most of the time in a cage. So, couldn't let everyone get a higher kill count than me," Noriko says with something of a smile, though its not nearly as feral as the smile she'd usually show. More like a joke, really.

"Ah, hell." Cardinal's chin tips up a bit, gaze lifting towards the skies through his shades and lips twisting into a grimace, "Summer? Shit. That's going to be… a lot of fuckin' light." He's seen the movies. He knows what it looks like down there during summer! The mention of Eileen draws his attention over, and he snorts a faint chuckle, "Wading. Maybe she's looking for birds to talk to. Let's go ask."

"Wear sunblock, lobster," Veronica tells the shadow man, looking amused at the fact that he got a sunburn from a lightning gun. "But yeah, that'll be rough. Snow blindness for even the less photosensitive. But hey, look at it this way. We get to go to a continent most people never do, right? Bragging rights." Not that that sort of thing really matters to either of them. She nods and follows as Cardinal begins to walk toward the two women nearby.

Eileen appears not to share Norkio's sentiments insofar as kill counts are concerned. Her smile falters, pulls down at the corners, and she casts her gaze back out across the water. The young woman's feet are undoubtedly numb by now, and as she experimentally lifts one from the pool and feels the rivulets run down the curve of her exposed calf, she decides that she likes it better submerged. "I knew Rasoul," she says, foot sinking back into the water with barely a ripple. "We used to work together. He didn't keep cages, then." This time, she doesn't turn to regard Cardinal and Veronica as they continue their approach, but she does ask of Noriko in a very soft tone: "Do you know them?"

"It'll take more than sunblock…" Cardinal's nose wrinkles up just a bit as he grimaces to the news and realization of what their trip's going to be like, "…I'm going to be completely blind out there too. Hopefully we won't be spending much time out there on the snow and ice." He meanders along over towards the tidal pool, one hand raising up in a greeting towards the two women closer, though they're not close enough to overheard more quiet conversation yet.

"Yeah, that's what I meant about snow blindness even for those of us not inclined to go blind at the sunlight," Veronica says with a chuckle. She lifts her hand in greeting to the other two women. "If you say 'Come on in, the water's fine,' I'm calling bullshit on that straight away," Veronica says with a grin to the woman wading in the water. "That looks absolutely frigid, unless you're a polar bear."

Noriko looks over as Eileen points and she replies, "The man is Cardinal, I don't know the others." She offers a bit of a smile, before shrugging her shoulders, and continuing to swirl the water, moving it over to Eileen's feet.

A polar bear, Eileen most definitely is not. Bundled up in her wool sweater, an eggshell cream, she instead resembles a bedraggled Persian cat with a flat face and ratty fur where the wind has made gnarls of her dark brown hair. Green eyes as clear as the water she stands in assess Veronica and Cardinal from beneath a veil of thick black lashes that make them appear larger and more feline than they really are. She doesn't attempt another smile for the sake of her cheek muscles — the temperature is too bitter for that. Even facial expressions that aren't forced hurt.

"The bottom's smooth if you mind the barnacles," she tells Veronica. "Alpha or Charlie?"

The sensation of currents swirling across her feet and between her toes does not go unnoticed. She's ticklish. Fortunately, the water is cold enough that it renders her mostly immune to muffled squeals of laughter and the discomfort she feels bubbling in the pit of her stomach.

"Alpha." A hand sweeps through the air in a vague gesture from the woman beside Cardinal to the one in the water, "Eileen Ruskin… Agent Veronica Sawyer. Sawyer, Ruskin. That's Can— Noriko, over there." The man's hand drops as he comes to a halt on the barnacle-studded pebbles and rocks near the edge of the tidal pool, regarding Eileen for a long and silent moment before offering in neutral tones, "Eileen. How're you?"

Veronica comes close enough to stay dry, but offers a hand to shake. Of course Cardinal drops in the word agent. She gives him a sidelong smirk. Way to poison the well from the beginning! "Nice to meet you. Call me Veronica, Vee, Sawyer… titles mean little in this situation, especially when I know most of you don't particular like what mine represents," she says quietly, much the same speech she gave Cardinal, Raith and Petrelli — or was he already mostly Kazimir by then? — back in November. "So that makes you Bravo, clearly," she says to Eileen. She nods to Noriko as well, offering her hand to her after Eileen, whether Eileen takes it or not. "You Bravo too?"

Eileen takes Veronica's hand, fingers like ice to the touch, and closes them in a firm but gentle grasp that doesn't linger any longer than is polite. "I'd have liked to see Argentina," she admits, "but I hear you and yours had a harder time there than we did in Antananarivo. I don't envy the Ryazan group, either."

Cardinal's query receives an inquisitive look from the Briton but nothing on the surface that might indicate she doesn't recognize who he is. "I'm well."

Noriko looks over at Eileen, eyebrows knitting a moment before she just shrugs. "Nice to meet you," she says to Veronica, before she smiles lightly and leans back. "Its so nice to be able to talk with Bella over the phone."

"A harder time?" A subtle shake of Cardinal's head answers Eileen's words, his lips pursing in a tight line, "I don't think so. Not after what I heard from Noriko and Claire about what you all went through, Eileen. Comparatively, it sounds like our little trip through the jungle was a cakewalk." The man's tone is a bit sharp for some reason, regarding the woman for a moment before looking back over to Noriko with a brow's raise.

"Bella? Girlfriend?"

Veronica bears a few scars, though none of them are visible, from her time in Argentina. "It's a nice place to visit, not that it was during our visit of course. The coast is lovely. Good surfing. I " She didn't get any in, this time, of course. She glances at Noriko and gives a shake of her head to indicate she isn't sure what the other woman is speaking of. "And we came out all right, minus Varlane's eye and some flesh wounds, I guess. It's not the worst that could happen." She does frown deeply when speaking of Magnes.

Noriko looks over at Cardinal and nods her head a little. "Yes, she is. Is there a problem in there somewhere?" She offers a smile before adding, "Also, I would recommend you all coming out sometime tomorrow to gather your own fish."

"Hm? No, was just curious," Cardinal replies with a shrug, gesturing vaguely with one hand, "Christ, we get enough prejudice for being Evolved, I'm not about to start getting hypocritical." Then he looks at Noriko bemusedly, "Fish?"

Suddenly something clicks. Bella. Isabella. Isabella Sheridan. "Oh, that Bella," she says with a nod of recognition. "I don't really know her very well. The medical staff and I don't really run into one another that often." That and she avoids the psychologists and psychiatrists by rule. "And… we're supposed to get our own fish?" She frowns at this.

Noriko looks at Veronica before she nods her head a little, and says, "Well, yeah. I'll part the sea and you all get the fish that are flopping around so we don't have to eat MREs." She smiles a little, before she stands up and replies, "Welp, I'm off to go catch a couple bits of sleep."

Eileen watches Noriko's retreating back in silence. It isn't long before she's climbing out of the water, though she doesn't move to follow. Instead, she picks up her boots from the grass, shooing away the tern with a wave of her hand and a sharp noise blown through pursed lips and pulls out a pair of wool socks thinner than the material of her sweater. A brisk shake ensures that no insects have wormed their way inside. "No one has to eat the MREs."

"They're starting to grow on me," Cardinal admits with a shrug of one shoulder, turning his head to watch Noriko walk away as well; back towards Eileen, then, he watches her for a another moment before asking mildly, "You coming with us to Antarctica?"

"I think I'll just eat the MREs…" Veronica says slowly. "I'm not big on fish anyway." The manner of catching them seems unsportsmanlike to her. Not that she has a problem eating beef raised on a ranch meant to be slaughtered. "I don't mind them either," she adds to Cardinal. She crouches down to pick up a shell vacated by its prior owner, turning it in her hand and examining its whorls and colors.

"It's either Antarctica or the brig — I don't have much of a choice." Eileen pulls on her socks, followed by her boots, laces tightened and tied with slow precision. The splint on her wrist delays the process longer than she'd probably like, though the tern — having settled on a rocky outcropping nearby — keeps her company until she's rolling her pant legs back down. Then it's off, sooty wings spread wide to catch the wind and ride high into the darkening sky. "I suspect that's true for most of us. Present company excluded, Agent."

Cardinal's head lifts, watching the departure of the tern that rises up towards the skies above them before turning his gaze back in the direction of Eileen again. "Just you," he says quietly, "And the others who used to work for Volken. Most of us are here… on a relatively volunteer basis. Well." A sidelong glance, "I suppose it's the Agent's job, so she probably didn't volunteer, per se. Ivanov's, too." He raises a hand to scratch under his chin, "Maybe volunteer was a bad word."

"Gillian was arrested," Veronica says darkly. She's not all right with how Gillian was taken. "And no, I guess I didn't volunteer, but I didn't try to fight the assignment either. It's… important. It's something that I can believe in, something I'm sure is the right thing to do." Her voice is soft and her affect a little flat — rather than emphasizing the words most might, such as 'important,' 'right' or 'believe.' "I'm sorry if you were forced to be here," she adds to Eileen, dark eyes somber.

"No need to apologize." Eileen finishes lacing her boots, double-knotting both for good measure. Bent at the middle, she cranes her neck to look up at Veronica and Cardinal, the wind tugging at her hair and blowing curlier strands across her face. "Ethan, Raith, the others — Gabriel. We're all here because of choices we made. It isn't as though other people made them for us. I don't think anyone here can say they're strictly victims of circumstance."

"At least some of you have learnt to make better choices." Cardinal turns his head to look out across the waters of the ocean, the rifle he's carrying shifted to be slung over his shoulder more securely, both hands tucking into the pockets of his armoured jacket. He's silent for a few long moments, then, before saying quietly, "Claire Bennet's one of my people now, Eileen. I don't take threats to them lightly."

"Still. Something like this… it's not right to give ultimatums. It's too dangerous, but who's not going to give to grasp at a straw when given the choice of a life sentence or a chance out, even if the chance out might mean death, maiming, whatever else?" Veronica says with a shrug, standing up and dropping the shell. It bounces off the ledge of land into the water with a splash. "And those who are really dangerous… it's not a good deal either. Let them free if they help with this, but what happens back home? Not sure what the government is thinking, to be honest. Ironic, I know." She sighs a bit and wraps her arms around herself as the chilly wind blows in from the water. "People like Varlane shouldn't have been here. He did a good job, got us out of there, but… he's never going to be okay after this. And Bennet…" she shakes her head at what she's heard about the girl.

"Bennet was a member of PARIAH," Eileen reminds Cardinal gently. "And Cameron Spalding, like it or not, was a mass murderer. He blew people up to draw attention to his cause, and she followed him. At least here we're being given a chance to earn a reprieve — if she hadn't been assigned to Team Bravo, she'd have been tried and convicted of murder, sentenced to life in prison." And for Claire, life is a very, very long time. "I don't blame you for being concerned for her safety — I'm worried dearly about Ethan's — but let's be honest with ourselves. If you want to be angry with your government, there are more legitimate reasons than the way we've been treated."

She rises, brushing flakes of dead grass from the knees of the long skirt she wears and the woven stockings beneath. "We don't deserve to feel righteous indignation anymore."

A quiet chuckle rattles in Cardinal's throat at the woman's words, his head tilting to one side as he regards her with a smile that doesn't seem very honest - but the dark lenses hide whether or not it touches them. "No, no," he murmurs, "You misunderstand, Eileen. It's not the government I'm angry with."

"It's Gabriel."

The shadowmorph slides one hand from a pocket, fingers raking back through his hair as he looks skywards once more, "…I know what they're thinking, Veronica. If we win this… they get all the forbidden little secrets that the Vanguard has. All of Gregor and Skoll's experimental data, and them in their own stable. The negation gas, god knows what else. The world's saved, it goes down on sealed record as a government op. And if we go back home and we're dangerous? Well…" A smirk to the skies, at the cosmic joke of it all, "…they have their excuse to tighten the noose. It's win-win as far as they're concerned."

Veronica frowns a bit at Eileen's words. "I guess everyone chose their paths, but I know it's not above the government to sort of exaggerate the merits of one choice above the other. If they really wanted to dark hole everyone here, they would have done it without this as an alternative, right?" she says. Her somber eyes turn to Cardinal. "With all the Vanguard's shiny new tricks up their sleeves to help keep everyone in line."

"Were we talking about Gabriel?" Eileen lifts both her dark brows at Cardinal, her expression mild for the moment. "This sounds like a conversation you should be having with him rather than with me. None of us support what he tried to do to your Claire." Her eyes flick between man and woman, settling on Veronica's face and intently studying the shapes it makes as her mouth twitches into that frown. "There's nothing to stop them from making us dig a ditch when this is all over, either," she says as she turns to finally follow Noriko. "Gabriel's straightforward. He doesn't lie about his motivations. It's Kershner you should be wary of. She's more a danger to the people you care about than Sylar is."

"Good to know," Cardinal says, looking back over to Eileen with that same ghost of a smile, "And I think I'll leave that talk until after all this is over." He brings one hand up, scratching at his brow and saying more quietly, "They won't. Make us dig graves, that is. They're laying down too much groundwork— making too many plans that they wouldn't bother with if they were planning that. They may not shed any tears if we die doing this, but…"

He shrugs, "…we'll deal with the situation that we're in once we're in it. Course is set, now."

The company agent gives a nod of goodbye to Eileen as she walks away. She gives Cardinal an arched brow at Eileen's final words, her own gesture clear: explain this to me later. If he is still entrusting her with information that he probably shouldn't be.

"The less you know, Agent…" A subtle shake of Cardinal's head to her look, "…just keep an eye open if you survive all this. No, two eyes. Pick up some in the back of your head, if you can." He smirks a little, gesturing with a hand, "Anyway. Let's scout out that quadrant, shall we?"

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