You Choose


claire2_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif noriko_icon.gif

Scene Title You Choose
Synopsis Every minute of every day, you choose who to be… and who not to be.
Date Jan 5, 2010

USS George Washington

The early morning hours finds Claire sitting at one of the small mess hall tables, a tray of food untouched in front of her. Instead of the black tee from last time, her normal military like dress has a white shirt. One arm rests on the table which she is leaning over, a pair of tog dogs swing slightly as the hang there. Her other hand holds a fork which she uses to push scrambled eggs around on her plate.

Her eyes seem unfocused, distant, and very tired. She didn't sleep hardly at all the night before, not that she has slept well any nights since coming on board, but last night had been one of the worst.

Elisabeth is actually getting more sleep on board the George Washington than she's had in ages. It's not great sleep — coming off the anxiety medication means that she doesn't quite have the buffer against the rest of the world that she's had for the past few months. But it's sleep. And Russia, for all that it was hard and stuff, did not hold the kinds of terrors that the other two teams suffered. It's been a time of healing, though Liz didn't really realize it at the time. As she goes through the line and grabs breakfast, the blonde is dressed once more in similar fashion to the crew. She's taken to wearing a white T-shirt and the blue digital cammie pants just because they're easy to get hold of with a pair of combat boots that she's breaking in by wearing them for everything except her morning runs, which she takes with the ship's crew during PT half the time. She slides into a seat across from Claire's with her tray. "It helps if you talk about it. It gives it less power," she says mildly as she sits down. "I used to think people were full of shit when they said that, but…. it's actually true. The more times you say it out loud in a safe place, the less power it has to eat you alive. Wanna tell me?" Her blue eyes hold sympathy for the younger woman but no pity.

"Magnes, came to my room last night to talk." Claire says softly setting her fork down and pushing the tray back a touch, only then she see look at the blonde across from her. "I've lost a good portion of five to six months of memories. He started crying feeling sorry for me… and I wanted to run.. just run away."

"Does that make me a bad person Liz?" The young blonde sighs softly, hand pressing against her forehead, before it slides down to cradle her cheek. "It's hard.. going from trying to have no emotions to feeling everything. On that island, there was so much violence and destruction… there wasn't time to really feel, if you did… well.. you might have died."

Resting her elbows on the table, Elisabeth replies softly, "No. My father's reaction when I finally told him what happened to me… what I was missing… was similar. He was aghast at my being tortured, and it hurt his heart that I'd lost so much time with my mother. But… he also knows me well enough to understand that I didn't need his emotional burdens, which I'm grateful for. I needed to compartmentalize. And that's what you're doing too. It's a coping mechanism." She smiles a bit. "And any soldier on this boat who's seen combat would be able to sympathize. You and I, Claire? We're…. we're not soldiers in the same sense the Malagasy are. But we have seen more horrible things than most of the world will ever know. We've done horrible things. And if you couldn't compartmentalize to cope, you'd be insane. So… do I think you're a bad person for wanting to avoid the emotional entanglement of Magnes's pain? No. You have enough of your own to process."

Her head nods slowly as she listens, "You.. know what my function there was?" Claire gives her a sad smile, "Well, before I was captured? Then according to Candy I was a science experiment…. Anyhow, I was the shield… the decoy… the one that got shot up. The bad guys would come.. I'd go out guns blazing… die.. get up and continue." Strangely, there is amusement in her voice when she talks about it. "Found out.. body armor.. makes me much more effective against larger rounds." something to think about.

"I think….." Claire starts, shifting to sit back in her chair, slumping in slightly, "… if we did not have more road to travel on this mission… I might have wanted to go back, to help Dajan….. I'm having a hard time.. stepping down from being a soldier, even if I'm not really one."

There's a soft snort of almost-amusement from Elisabeth. "You do realize that's sort of common sense, right?" she asks of the body armor comment. She picks up her coffee cup and sips from it as she listens. "I know the feeling," she admits quietly. "I'm a cop, Claire. I'm a cop in New York. Or at least…. I was until I was kidnapped onto this run. Pretty sure my career's in the toilet at this juncture." She hesitates. "I was part of the SCOUT team — the Evo team that was put on the streets to counter Evo criminals and people like PARIAH." She meets Claire's eyes while she takes another sip of coffee. "A year ago, I helped bring down PARIAH. And yet… I'm also, or at least I'd like to think I was, an integral part of Phoenix as well. Not so much these days, I think, because … I'm not even sure what Phoenix is doing right now. I've spent most of the past few months doing my day job and helping Richard." She smiles a little. "Most of the past year, we've pretty much been soldiers, Claire, running from one crisis or state of readiness to the next. Believe me when I tell you… it's not time to stop being a soldier yet." There's acceptance to her tone in this instance, and her blue eyes hold a wealth of knowledge. "Richard's mantra lately is 'we'll rest when we're through' — he keeps promising me Tahiti when that happens," she laughs.

"Take me with you when you go.. Maybe there is some young hot guys there to distract me," She jokes. It's not exactly the kind of comment the young blonde would have made a few months ago. "PARIAH… " Claire sights the word softly, "Still seems like mere child's play. I don't know…." Her mouth pulls down in a frown. "I remember I live with Richard…. had a room of my own in a place. I know.. emotionally he's safe and that I help him with whatever he does… I still remember when he helped me when I was dying… but…" He head shakes slowly. "It's all I remember. It bothers me that I've lost at least six months of memory." She picks up a glass of ice water from the table. "Who knows how much more till people back home start talking about what I can't remember."

Elisabeth tips her head, her hands cradling her coffee cup while her bagel remains on the plate in front of her. "Claire, without thinking too hard about it… tell me the last clear memory you have in your head. Just… before Madagascar, tell me the last full memory you have of being in New York."

"Richard telling me about my grandfather and what he did to him." Claire states with certainty, her expression thoughtful as she scours her memories. "He lifted a foot and said that he hadn't cleaned his boots yet. That there might be some of Arthur on it." A small smile touches her lips.. "…after that.. it's jumbled mess of emotions, fractured memories, and flashes of images.. like moments frozen in time…. like Richard giving me a shotgun.. he told me something.. but it's gone."

"I have no idea how much I lost before that point in time… " Claire's shoulders gives a slow one sided shrug of uncertainty. "It's like coming out of a time capsule. So much happens around you, but you haven't seen any of it, but people talk like you were there."

Pursing her lips, Elisabeth thinks back. When was Richard running about all proud of having bits of Arthur still stuck on his boots? "Well… We dealt with Arthur in the end of July. So… that's probably the first week of August or so?" She considers. "So, it sounds like the most recent four months or so are … jumbled, at best." She looks at Claire and says quietly, "The fact that you even have jumbled memories is actually a good sign that the shotgun blast didn't obliterate everything. There may be things you're missing, but whatever remains, the brain has remarkable abilities to compensate for." She smiles faintly. "The bullet that took the chunk out of my head literally obliterated my memories, so… take that for whatever comfort it's worth." She sets her coffee down. "Obviously some things were a little different for me. For example…. I don't remember going to the police academy, learning how to shoot a gun, I don't have any memories of college, of learning to play some of the piano pieces that my fingers know. I can just do those things." She pauses. "It's a tough place to be, no lie. And you've got a couple days to process and work through it, but… that's about all the luxury you'll get, kiddo. We've got work to do. You up for this?" It's an interesting mix of sympathy and kick-your-assitude Elisabeth gives in the way of a pep talk.

That last gets a chuckle from Claire, the woman across from her getting a smile, "Am I up for this? Always, Liz… I think I'm more dreading going back to an unfamiliar life back home then I am what we are doing now. Right now this is familiar… just not all the angst that seems to come with it." her eyes drop to her untouched plate, "The appetite will come back right? I mean… I woke up hungry, but when I sat down to eat, I just was suddenly unable to even look at it." She doesn't mention why, it's too disturbing really.. one of the few images burn into her brain and not lost in the brain matter that leaked out of her skull.

"I need to try and see Sanderson today… Tell her thank you." Claire says it out of the blue. "Not sure I would be here if she hadn't been there."

Elisabeth shoves her plate over to Claire. "Stick to starches in the morning for a while," she counsels lightly. "It's usually easier to choke down a bagel than it is to choke down eggs. But yeah." There's a small smile, her blue eyes holding sympathy for Claire's pain. "Eventually the appetite comes back. Don't let Richard see you not eating. He actually damn near tied me to a chair when I wasn't. Don't need that kind of rumor running loose on the ship or anything, you know," she teases.

Noriko slips into the messhall, the hydrokinetics eyes looking around for anyone that she knews. Spotting the other captive of Rasoul, Noriko heads in that direction moving towards the table. As she approaches it, she says softly to the two women, "Mind if I join?" A smile brushing across her lips for now, even though it seems to be more out of habit then any true feeling behind the gesture.

Cheeks puff out a bit and she lets out a sigh, the bagel gets a disgusted look, "I don't know if I can yet… " Tied to the chair comment gets a smirk, "They do twist the truth around don't they and if I am… was… or whatever Magnes' girlfriend.. I don't how he'd take rumors of other men tying me up." She sounds a touch amused at the idea. "Cause how rumors end up.. they'll have me sleeping with Richard and that we get all kinky." That gets a roll of her eyes, but no blush. Another sign of change in the young woman.

The Asian's approach gets a small smile, "Hey, Cannn…. Noriko." Claire is quick to correct herself. "Liz here was just telling me what is best to eat till my appetite comes back." Her head motioning at the other blonde at the table.

"Not at all," Elisabeth replies, gesturing for Ca… no, Noriko… to sit down at their table. The benches are empty except for Claire and Liz herself. She twinkles just a hint at Claire. "Well, I'm reasonably sure Magnes would never believe whatever rumors he might hear about Richard. He knows you have a … sibling thing… going on." She rolls her eyes. "Well, at least now I don't have to hear you yammering at him about shutting the door anymore," she suddenly laughs.

"Hey Claire," Noriko responds as she takes her own seat, nodding a little to what is being said to her. She looks at Claire and admits, "Haven't been able to eat much lately either, though, I imagine its for an entirely different reason. More content to just sit and swirl whatever liquid is in my glass." A roll of her shoulders is given before she hears talk of Magnes and she closes her eyes. "He was whining to me yesterday about that," Noriko says with a roll of her shoulders, before looking back at Claire and saying, "If its any help to you, you and him stayed rather close while we were getting debriefed over what to do." She frowns suddenly and then asks rather randomly, "Do they have phones on this boat?" Its been so long without being able to use any kind of communication device, that the hydrokinetic has almost forgotten they existed!

A funny look is given to Liz, she plainly doesn't remember. "Shutting the door?" She looks amused, brows lifting slight. "Huh… " Fingers tap as she considers Liz's words. "That's… what I'm feeling." She says suddenly confirming something, "I thought it was weird him an I live together.. yet.. I don't feel like that towards him. Just trust.. and safety." She frowns a bit in thought and states blandly, "These gaps suck hard core."

"Yeah.. I asked about phones today.. there is a bank of them on the boat. Couple decks down." Claire offers, "Thought about calling home… Especially, since Magnes said my mom is living in New York now, but I don't want to talk to my father to get it." Her nose wrinkling a bit at the thought of having to endure the large amount of questions that would get thrown at her.

Elisabeth glances at Noriko and makes a grimace of sympathy. "He's…. a good kid. He really is. I would have thought that … maybe all of this would give him a bit more … maturity." It appears not, though. *sigh* Glancing at Noriko, Liz says, "Be aware that anythign you say on the ship's phones will be monitored and it's over open air. Just a reminder." She doesn't sound like it's a bad thing, merely a caution for Noriko. She slants a grin at Claire. "I wondered if you'd have any trouble working it out for yourself. The two of you — you and Richard, I mean — you've been pretty close, but there's not really a spark. Not that I've seen. And I've seen Richard spark over people," she grins easily. It clearly doesn't bother her.

Noriko shrugs her shoulders and replies to Elisabeth, "They can listen to me cry my eyes out while saying I love you to the girl I left behind if they want." Eyes going to Claire she frowns in sympathy, and then just leans forward to put her head on the table, not really caring what the others think, but once again, she finds herself feeling so alone and its a feeling that cuts to the bone.

There is a firm nod of agreement to Liz, "Good looking guy, but just not sparking, but then what guys I can remember.. " Her eyes close and brows lower as she tries to think back, "I've never sparked easily.. " She chuckles suddenly, eyes opening to grin at Liz, "Maybe I'm just a slow sparker overall, which might explain why I am not feeling it for Magnes… maybe it took awhile then too. "

Blue eyes drift over to Noriko when her head rests on the table. "Well, if anything, this is your chance to call her.. What sucks is you can't mention anything about the mission.. or… what could happen if we fail?" She glances at Liz for confirmation, as it seems common sense. "I keep hoping that I told my mom I'd be gone for awhile.. she is a worrier. Surprised she hasn't developed any ulcer from it."

It's an instinctive move more than an intentional one as Elisabeth reaches out to merely touch Noriko's shoulder in sympathy. "Hang in there, okay?" she murmurs quietly. "God knows, Noriko…. I've lost men I loved in this fight." And isn't that an understatement? "Be glad that the person you love is home, safe out of this mess. Call home. Find your touchstone. It'll help you center." She looks between the two of them and smiles just a little. "Your father already knows, and I'm sure he's spoken with your mother." There's a certainty to that, even as she nods to the implied query of not telling anyone. "The entire mission is classified, but your dad has his ways." She doesnt' comment on sparking with Magnes.

Noriko shrugs her shoulders, even if she doesn't look up from that touch. She spent the entire time in captivity trying to make sure that they never saw how much they had broken her, how much they had frightened the scared college grad student in her. She managed it, but now she wonders how much of herself she sacrificed to be able to do that, even as the facade comes crumbling down around her. "I don't even know if I have a center anymore," she merely states as she sits there. "I know I should feel guilty about killing so many people… and yet at the time there was nothing there. There hadn't been anything there since I was sent to Moab. And… I don't know if I can put away that bloodthirsty monster," Noriko says to Elisabeth, opening up to the two blonde's around her. Moreso because Claire is there, and even if Claire has gaping holes in her memory Noriko feels a connection with her and the almost implicit trust that comes along with surviving their ordeal together.

"Good ol' Dad." Claire murmurs softly trying to sound sarcastic, but sadness leaks into her words. "Always seems to find a way to get what he wants." She huffs softly, before turning her gaze to Noriko. "I dunno if I would call what I did bloodthirsty… I did what I did to survive, to get the mission done."

"Standing at the bottom of the stairwell.. firing AK's at any man coming down the stairs." Claire's head shakes slowly as she folds her arms across her chest. "I felt nothing when I killed them, I know what I did, gave everyone time to prepare for the escape. Not joy over their deaths, no fear of them tossing a canister down te stairs… but also no sadness or guilt for the lives I took.. It was like.. they were just there.. even as the bodies stacked on the stairs."

A glance goes to Elisabeth, "I'm still waiting for it all to really hit me, I think."

Scooting a little closer, resting her shoulder companionably against Noriko's as the younger woman rests on the table, Elisabeth draws in a breath and searches for the right words. "When I got picked up by Humanis First… I was taking sniper shots at a bunch of their little foot soldiers. Some of whom? Probably had never done more than shot off their mouths. In Russia… one of the men we went after was an illusionist, and he … took over a body, pretended to be Abby. But … he had a gun. And he …. pointed it at Teo. And I double-tapped the body. Didn't care who was in it." She looks down, toying with her coffee cup. "The person inside the illusion was… just a kid. Maybe 19. Innocent of anything except being used as a puppet so far as I know. He was… the son of an ally of ours in Russia." There is deep pain, carefully buried and compartmentalized. "The worst part is that…. I'm only sorry that he had to die. I'm not… sorry that I actually killed him." She looks at her two companions.

"For what this is worth to both of you," Elisabeth says softly, "we do what must be done to survive. It's not pretty, it's not fun. It will take you places you never thought you'd go. If you let it," and this is more for Noriko than Claire, "it will consume you. And you'll become that which you were trying so damn hard to stop. It requires that you take a long hard look at your own actions and every day, every minute of the day, you choose who you will be. Everyone has the capacity to kill. It changes you when you do it. But you also have the capacity to come to peace with what must be done and not allow yourself to let it become all that you are."

Noriko looks over at Elisabeth and smiles gently, and it even seems to reach their eyes. Her eyes go back to Claire and she says, "I don't know… how much you remember about Etana. But, after I stroked, she showed me a vision. Showed me what I would do, if I kept going down the path I was going." She looks down, as she sits there, though, for now she seems to just be willing to let that end at that. Looking at Elisabeth she adds, "I'm not supposed to be here. I wasn't meant to have this ability. Pinehearst gave me this ability. They injected me as a child, and then used me as a pawn. I'm not supposed to be here…" She shakes her head a little and says, "But… I will be different than… I was. I want to be different than I was. I just, don't know how."

"She's right Noriko." Claire says softly after a moment, "Just as I told Magnes, when he told me I didn't deserve all this…. I chose the path I went down… I chose the path that brought me here the moment I left Costa Verde and joined PARIAH." A small smile to tossed Elisabeth's way. "Not that I expect it to get this bad, but I'm not done traveling this path. You might have told me I shouldn't be doing this.. but it's the right path for me. I am one of the few people that can say she gave her life for a cause she believes in.. over and over."T hat makes her gives a little humorless chuckle.

"I guess what I'm saying Noriko.. If you don't want to be that bloodthirsty killer, change your path. I already know you've changed.. I remember you at the beginning of the trip.. on the river. Are you broken? No.. Maybe then, but not now. Go back to New York… live happily ever after with your girl." She leans over and rest a hand on her shoulder and gives it a squeeze. "You totally deserve it. "

Meeting Noriko's eyes, Elisabeth says simply, "You're already doing it. You're not the only person who has abilities simply because they experimented on you. Gillian has the same situation you do. You choose to be different. And then every choice you make, you weigh — am I doing it because it's the right thing to do? Am I doing it to benefit people other than myself for the right reasons? And if the answer is 'no', then you rethink it. No one is going to come out it unscathed, Noriko. Don't let Pinehearst be an excuse for bad behavior — if you do, then they win. You've become what they wanted you to be." Her words might seem harsh, but the sympathy in her gaze is sincere. Sure, it's easier said than done. But so is everything in this life.

She nods slightly to Claire and grins slightly. "It doesn't mean that I dont' want more for you, Claire. But I have always respected your right to choose. I only advocate… attempting to find a balance between the crises and having a life. That's all." She looks between the two and nods. "The other thing I advocate? Is finding a balance between … reality and faith. You have to have faith that you can make a difference — that it will come out okay in the end — because otherwise? What the hell are you fighting for?" Sometimes it's not about fighting for what YOU get out of it. Elisabeth's come to accept that for her? There's nothing coming out of this except doing the right thing and knowing that other people will be okay. Richard would be so proud.

Noriko shrugs her shoulders and replies, "I know that I'm not the only one. I just… really wish they hadn't. I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't…" She shakes her head and smiles lightly and says, "I'll definitely remember what you said though." She brings her head up finally, before looking around for the nearest place to get water. When she finds it, she moves towards it to get some water in a glass and then returns. She's silent now, prefering to reach for the one thing that brings her comfort, and the one thing that she knows could be the end of her. The water raises from the glass, and she gently begins to manipulate it, for now content on shaping it in a stylistic heart.

Watching the water move, Claire says, "I think.. I'm gonna go hit the showers. I feel like I can't get enough of them after not hardly getting any at all. I remember maybe three chances to get clean with soap." Her nose scrunches in a look up disgust, the thought of what she probably smelled like getting on that helicopter. "And I feel like I still haven't gotten all the muck and grim off me."

Climbing to her feet, Claire picks up her uneaten plate of food. "Thank you for the talk, I… do feel a little better, Liz." She gives the older blond a soft smile, before glancing at Noriko and giving her a reassuring wink, "I will talk to you ladies later on."

"Someone once said to me, if wishes were chocolates we'd all be drowning in it." She smiles a little. "See you later, Claire," Elisabeth offers to the blonde. "C'mon, Noriko, I'll show you to the phone banks." Maybe it'll help the young woman settle herself a little.

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