You're A Freelancer


cardinal_icon.gif cat_icon.gif

Scene Title You're A Freelancer
Synopsis Cat hires a man for a job, who forgets to settle terms on his fee.
Date March 14, 2009

Ruins Of Midtown

Standing in the ruins of Midtown, it's hard to believe New York is still a living city.

There's life enough around the fringes — the stubborn, who refused to rebuild somewhere else; the hopeful, who believe the radiation is gone, or that they somehow won't be affected. Businesses, apartment complexes, taxis and bicycles and subways going to and fro — life goes on. Perhaps more quietly than in other parts of the city, shadowed by the reminder that even a city can die, but it does go on.

Then there is the waste. The empty core for which the living city is only a distant memory. Though a few major thoroughfares wind through the ruins, arteries linking the surviving halves, and the forms of some truly desperate souls can occasionally be glimpsed skulking in the shadows, the loudest noise here is of the wind whistling through the mangled remnants of buildings. Twisted cords of rebar reach out from shattered concrete; piles of masonry and warped metal huddle on the ground, broken and forlorn. Short stretches of road peek out from under rubble and dust only to disappear again shortly afterwards, dotted with the mangled and contorted forms of rusting cars, their windows long since shattered into glittering dust.

There are no bodies — not even pieces, not anymore. Just the bits and pieces of destroyed lives: ragged streamers fluttering from the handlebar which juts out of a pile of debris; a flowerbox turned on its side, coated by brick dust, dry sticks still clinging to the packed dirt inside; a lawn chair, its aluminum frame twisted but still recognizable, leaning against a flight of stairs climbing to nowhere.

At the center of this broken wasteland lies nothing at all. A hollow scooped out of the earth, just over half a mile across, coated in a thick layer of dust and ash. Nothing lives here. Not a bird; not a plant. Nothing stands here. Not one concrete block atop another. There is only a scar in the earth, cauterized by atomic fire. This is Death's ground..

It's near nightfall in Manhattan on a Saturday evening, all the better for Cardinal to use his abilities. Shadows are plentiful in and around ruined buildings, Cat is waiting near one of them for the man she arranged to meet in this section of Midtown Manhattan to arrive. She took care to avoid being captured on traffic cameras in coming to this place amid the ruins. Inside her coat is a photo of a man.

Clad for the weather, she scans the area around her for signs of Mr. Cardinal arriving.

If a pigeon flew overhead, it'd cast a shadow over the pavement. A dark form fluttering from one side of the street to the other, unnoticed amongst the other 'flying rats' and other movements between the earth and the moon above. The shadow would suggest just that occuring… but, of course, there's no bird to match.

Into the shadows nearer by, the essence of the shadowwalker spilling up along one dark wall, blending in with the existing shadows. There's a few moments of silence that pass before a voice - hollow, rasping - stirs from those shadows, "'Cat', I presume?"

Her head stops its slow movement and focuses forward when the voice comes, the reaction not one of shock or surprise. "That's me," Cat confirms. "Mr. Cardinal. Thank you for coming." A light chuckle emerges, and she remarks "What I was told of you is true, and that makes you perfect for this task, sir." Her features are businesslike and focused, gloved hands tucked into pockets of a dark coat above jeans and boots. Brown hair falling to mid-back is visible now also, having been hidden under her ski mask during the helicopter transport and the raid which freed people so very recently.

A darker patch spreads across the wall, a human-shaped silhouette there with, apparently, arms folded, head cocked a bit to one side. A dry note slips into that hollow voice, observing, "…that's funny. I don't recall having agreed to anything just yet." A pause, "I'm not with Phoenix, you know… but, I'm willing to listen. What is it you need me to do?"

She smiles. "This is true, sir, yet I sense you've a taste for helping people in trouble. I have to hope this is correct, my impression of you taken by the way you helped come for and carried Abby out that night. I could be wrong, of course. But sometimes one simply must take the chance." Cat goes quiet there, reaching into a pocket and coming out with a photo of a man named Tyler Case. It's one to two years out of date, but is him just the same.

"I believe this person is hiding somewhere among the ruins, in places cameras don't go, sir. He is sought after by the police for connection to incidents they're investigating, and by the Triads for issues existing between him and them. There is likely a bounty on his head from those operations. If they get him, he's likely a dead man. If the police get him, the likelihood is DHS also gets him soon afterward and put him down the deep dark hole forever."

"I would like to find this man, Tyler Case, and offer him a third path."

"I was there to get Abigail out, and that's all," comes the response, Cardinal's words rather sharp in their retort to that, "Don't get me wrong, here. There's some things even I can't accept - the slavery bullshit being one've them - but I'm a crook, not a terrorist. Or a… freedom fighter… or whatever Laudani calls himself."

There's silence for long moments, before he asks after a moment, "Case. He's the one that Ivanov arrested Deckard for information about, I take it?"

"That would be him," Cat confirms. "It was so unfortunate. If I'd been able to speak with Mr. Deckard, I could have learned all he had to share regarding this matter, and passed it along to the relevant persons, and it would never have come to that. What's done is done. Mr. Deckard is once again free." She won't say how, or where.

"I know you aren't a Resistor, Mr. Cardinal. You're a freelancer. You might well take the photo of Mr. Case, find him, and tell the Triads where to collect the reward. I have to take that risk. I have to hope there's some way you identify with the underdog and will help me find Mr. Case."

"I should also tell you Mr. Case is believed to have an Evolved ability which interacts with other Evolved abilities in some way. He may trigger latent ones in others, or he may transfer them from one person to another temporarily. He is scared because this has begun to happen, he is hunted by the Triads, and now by government agencies. I recommend caution in approaching him for these reasons, if you do at all. You might choose just to locate him and tell me where, keeping watch for changed locations before I arrive, or meet him with me."

"Of course, as you are a freelancer, I anticipate there would be a fee for your assistance."

"I know." About Deckard, presumably. He doesn't say how, or from who, either. The shadow listens, nods ever so slightly. "I'm not sure how close I'll want to get to him in that case - if something went wrong with my ability…" He trails off, leaving the thoughts of half-manifested limbs or worse mutilations ripped from the more brutal of sci-fi horror films lingering without being fully voiced.

"I'll see what I can do, though. Do you have any information about where he's at, who he might have contacted… what he's doing, his goals, aside from just finding a hole to hide in?"

"I believe he may be in this area somewhere, out of reach of cameras law enforcement agencies can use to track him, Mr. Cardinal," Cat informs. "It seems a decent enough place for such a person to lie low, does it not? In any case, it's an area you can access and cover more easily, or quickly, than most could, and without being noticed doing so."

"I'd imagine his goals are to simply survive, and not get tossed down the deep dark hole. In his position, trust will be a premium. But he may also realize he has to take leaps to find shelter. My goal, along with finding the man, is to learn what if any ability he has, assist him in controlling it, and help him get beyond the reach of those who wish him ill."

"It doesn't hurt that you could probably use an ability like that against Petrelli's army of jackbooted fascist assholes, I suppose, hm?" A cynical observation from Cardinal, his shadowy form fanning out into the stark silhouette of soldiers tromping across the wall steadily, like the repeating frames of a short film on loop. More thoughtfully, "If he's still in the area, he must have some reason. The smart thing would be to get the hell out of the state and disappear. Family? Friends? Old debts? You have intelligence operatives, has anyone done a background check on the guy?"

"His continued presence suggests a lack of those resources," Cat replies, "As to old debts, I believe this is what got him into trouble with the Triads." Then her face shifts into a quiet grin. "I've not thought about how his ability could be used against Petrelli's army. I can't say I never will, but it would be his choice in any case. If he did, well, that's in your interest too. Unless you're registered, which I think is unlikely for a freelancer, that army of jackbooted fascist assholes is after you too in the end. Maybe even if you are registered."

"Oh, Harrison already sic'd HomeSec on me," replies the shadowmorph rather dryly, "If she didn't have such a nice ass, I might be more annoyed at her about that." A pause, "And yeah, yeah, I'm not arguing with you any, there. I'm just not going to put a fuckin' human-interest face on this shit. We've all got an angle here, whether it's enlightened self-interest or… something else. So. Family? Any alive? Or should I call in some favors've my own for a background file on this guy?"

The files are called up in Cat's mind and scanned quickly to pull up the data she's asked for. "His father died in 2000, mother and sister are presumed dead in the bomb. There aren't any contacts in the information I have. He doesn't have much of a record, and his extended family lives in Boulder, Colorado."

"Mnm. Not much to go on, there," Cardinal considers, "Well, this should be… interesting. So we've got the cops after him, we've got the Triads. Homeland Security, I imagine." Dry, "Well, you're certainly not bringing me a cake-walk here, but I suppose that's why you brought it to me."

She nods. "It needs someone who can look and not be seen looking, by him or others interested in him," Cat comments. "I do believe he'll be somewhere in this area, since he's not been found and moved on in any area covered by cameras."

"It's such a charming area, too," observes the shadows with tongue firmly in cheek. Well, if he had a tongue at the moment. "I'll see what I can cover… won't be long before this place'll be crawling with bounty hunters and government agents, if you're right."

"Thank you, Mr. Cardinal," she replies. "Best of success." Business seems concluded, so Cat turns to make her way back across Manhattan, taking care to avoid traffic cameras herself along the way.

It's only once she's gone that the shadow spills back into incoherence in the natural darkness once more, a sigh stirring aloud through the air with none to hear. "How the hell did I get into this sort of shit? God damn it. This is all Deckard's fault somehow."

Walking away, she doesn't say it. But the thought is definitely in Cat's mind. Mr. Cardinal does seem to have a taste for helping the underdog. She realizes one critical thing in their exchange.

He neglected to name and begin collecting that fee.

March 14th: Sounding Boards

Previously in this storyline…
A Real Sweetheart

Next in this storyline…
Check The Pet Shops

March 14th: The Weakest Link
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