2007-02-23: Knowing Is Half The Battle


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A chance meeting in a Chinese restaurant has strange and unforeseen consequences for Jack and Cass. All is fun and games until Jack finds out that Cass' store has an Isaac Mendez painting hanging inside of it. The two go to see it, Jack calls in Hiro and Cass' brain gets broken.

Date It Happened: February 23rd, 2007

Knowing is Half the Battle

Frying Man Restaurant and then Enlightenment Books

This late in the afternoon, The Frying Man restaurant is /completely/ packed. This leaves a grumbling, ill-satisfied Jack sipping tea at a booth near Cherry Blossom's front door. His myriad facial cuts and bruises are almost completely healed now, little more than a faint spotting of pinks and vauge purplish-greens that's nearly invisible in the low light. The only mark that remains is the tenacious slash that travels from the middle of his brow down to his cheekbone in a straight line.

Not expecting the complete and utter wall to wall people in the Cherry Blossom, Cass pushes through the doors into the steamy warmth. In fact, in her effort to get to the hostess to put her name in for the wait, she trips over someone and nearly falls face first into the table nearby. Pinwheeling her arms, she manages to grab a hold of the wall and steady herself before much damage is done. She's already had enough excitement from tripping and spilling things on other people. Finally, she makes it to the hostess and puts her name down. "/How/ long is the wait?" Frowning, she sighs. "Fine, fine. Aldric for one. Just, yell when it's my turn." Weaving her way back to the door, she leans against the wall to wait. Until she notices Jack is seated mere feet away from her. Straightening, she checks to make sure it's actually him. "Hey, I know you."

One dark eyebrow curves curiously as Jack is addressed. He pauses, one hand halfway outstretched toward the plate of lettuce wraps on the table in front of him. It takes a moment of mental efforting, but he rarely forgets a face. Names, though? That's chancey buisness. Finally, he gives up on what seems to be the less important half of recognition, at least to him. "Bookstore Girl!" he chirps, evidently far less uncomfortable than when the two met last. Jack gives a meaningful glance around the packed restaurant, then gestures to the empty half of the booth. "Care for a sit-down?"

"One and the same. Cass." Cass grins and unwraps her scarf from around her neck. Dropping into the opposite chair with a grateful sigh, she starts peeling off all her outside winter clothes, she lets her bag sink to the ground by the chair. "You're a life saver. It's crazy in here!" Righting her tea cup, she helps herself to the teapot. Then, realizing that she's intruding, she smiles sheepishly and scoots it back toward Jack. "Sorry about that." Just happy to be sitting in what would have taken an unspecified amount of time, she takes a small sip of still too hot tea. "We keep running into each other. I see you're healing up nicely. Glad to see it!"

Jack grins winningly in response. "Jack is strong-like-bull." Unperturbed by either the interruption or by Cass's forward nature, he flags down a passing waiter and speaks a few words in halting Cantonese, then holds up two fingers. When the man scampers away, Jack turns his attention back to his new tablemate and pushes the plate of lettuce wraps a bit closer. "I hope you plan on sticking around. I just placed an order for two."

"I can see that. Hopefully not the kind of bull they use in bull fighting, though. They kill those bulls." Cass settles further into her seat, seeing that invitation to sit isn't temporary. Hanging up her jacket on the chair behind her, she unabashedly takes a lettuce wrap. They were offered, after all! "I was planning on stapling myself to the chair so you couldn't force me to leave. Do you know how long they said this wait was going to be?" She takes a big bite out of one of the wraps and chews. Swallowing, she grins. "And you speak some Chinese. That's impressive. Now, do you know what you ordered two of?" He started off the teasing and she's more than willing to keep it up.

Jack lets out a soft snicker. "I either ordered walnut shrimp and chicken with peppers, or I told him that in my youth, his mother was well-known as a trollop." Miraculously, he holds a straight face for all of three seconds after his statement, then breaks his grin out once again. "I hope you don't eat kosher, because the shrimp is /excellent./" Reaching out, he too scoops up a wrap and takes a healthy bite.

Cass grins and pops the rest of the wrap into her mouth. Once she's done chewing, she gives him a wry grin. "It's those tones that'll get you every time. Chinese is almost impossible to learn." Impressed by his ability to keep a straight face, she pours more tea, holding out the pot to see if he'd like a refill. "No no, I'm not Jewish. I love shrimp." Picking up her small cup, her grin turns into one that's a bit more mischievous one. "So, if I remember correctly you were supposed to tell me the story of how you got all banged up. I've been making up lots of stories in my head about what it could be when I'm bored."

Jack nudges his cup out into the middle of the table, indicating that he would in fact like a refill. He shakes his head slowly, once, twice. "Yeah, that's right. Sorry I rabbited on you the other day." He reaches up to trail one rueful fingertip over the slash that narrowly missed taking out an eye. "Not much of a story, really. Exploding van crashed into my favorite coffee shop." Jack's voice is a tired deadpan. It's not that he's sick of telling the story, persay. He's just sick of not being able to tell the whole thing.

Cass fills Jacks' tea cup up and then puts the pot back onto the table. Holding onto her own cup, she shakes her head. "No, it's fine. I had a customer and I didn't expect you to stay for too long." It's hard not to pick up on Jack's tone when he tells the opening lines of the story, which she assumes he would like to be the closing lines as well. "That's…a big story. I think I read about that in the papers. Sorry, you don't sound like you want to talk about it."

"It was intense, I'll give you that much." As he speaks, Jack picks up a tableknife and deftly slices the delicate lettuce wrap in half. Transferring the piece to his mouth, he quickly chews and swallows before continuing. "Everbody got out ok.. One way or another. That's what's important, I think." A carefully composed, thoroughly practiced poker face drops down over Jack's features. He smiles, making an obvious attempt to keep up his engaging demeanor, but the expression never quite makes it to his grey eyes.

Cass nods, sipping at her tea while she does so. "I can't imagine a van crashing into a place being calm. Of course, I've never had the experience before, so I couldn't say that with empirical certainty. "Good to hear that everyone made it out alright. What do you mean one way or another, though?" She doesn't really see through the poker face, but she can't forget the tone of his voice from earlier. "Seriously, if you don't want to talk about it, we don't have to."

Jack gives another quick headshake. "I guess I don't really want to talk about that part. It was a long evening, sufficed to say." He scrubs his long fingers over his face and through his hair, wincing as he contacts the wound in his face. Still, when his hands fall back to the table again, he's lost the forced edge that made his pleasantness a bit stiff a moment ago. "Anyway, you should've been there. You could've seen me make this face," he forms an overly-surprised, melodramatically unintelligent grimace for a moment. "All whilst I was falling ass-first through some furniture."

"I believe it." Pushing the plate of lettuce wraps back toward Jack, Cass shakes her head. The last one's for him. "No, count me out. I've had enough violence pointed in my general direction for years to come. Though, really, it might have been worth it for that face." She grins, looking down into her tea for a moment before looking up. "I hope they find those paintings that got lost. The artist that did them was local, you know. Isaac Mendez. The man who owned the Enlightenment before me really loved his work. He hung up one of his earlier works right behind the desk. It's a really weird piece, but I haven't had the heart to move it."

While Cass speaks, Jack swoops up the last bit of crisp, fresh lettuce-wrapped goodness. Then, as she brings up the Mendez collection, he pauses in mid-chew. When she mentions that she has access to a Mendez of her own, Jack's eyes widen and his jaw fairly drop. No attempt to conceal his surprise, here. Hastily, he gulps down his mouthful. "Err. What's it of? The Mendez behind you desk, I mean. What's in the painting?" His query has a casual air that isn't entirely believable. Still, rather than being menacing, he seems apprehensive and even a bit afraid.

Jack's surprise and apprehension are easy to read. Especially when he's making no effort to hide it. She's curious about it, but just as curious about his knowledge of the painter. "You know him? Seriously? I thought nobody really knew his work. It's so weird and kind of a different painting style. Not that I actually know that much about art." The question about what the painting is of sounds weird, too, but she overlooks it. "It's…um, you know, I can't really remember. I studied it when he first got it years ago, but I haven't really looked at it since. It's just kind of there, you know? There were two people in it and they were in some dark room. You can come by and see it, I'm not taking it down any time soon."

Blessed, blessed luck. A waiting is passing by. Jack snags him by the elbow, presses a few bills into the man's hands, and rumbles out another bit of broken Cantonese. "Can we go now?" Realizing the oddness of his abrupt change in conversational direction, Jack improvises. "I'm a collector, as well. I may be interested in your Mendez. /Very/ interested." This last statement is puntuated by a rubbing of thumbs and fingertips, the universal sign for money. "And if you're not selling, I'd still like to look at it." Then, in response to Jack's generous tip, the food arrives posthaste, tucked into neat, waxed cardboard containers.

This whole turn of events has made Cass wary. She's not even finished with her tea! "But…what about the shrimp?" Plus, she just sat down and was looking forward to a nice meal with banter. "Now? What's the hurry? It'll be there tomorrow. Or after dinner, if you really want to see it today." However, in the time it's taken to make her argument, food in take away containers has already arrived at their table. "I don't know what this is all about, but the painting's not really for sale. And it's going to be hanging on the wall there for awhile." Despite all her protests, she's started to gather up her things because he obviously wants to leave right now. And if nothing else, she's going to be heading out, too.

Jack lets out a low, quiet groan as his uncouth behaviour finally catches up with his more delicate sensibilities. "Crap. I'm sorry, I know it's wierd.. Tell you what, I promise I'll make it up to you. Scout's honor." He holds up three fingers and smiles crookedly. "I'd back down so we could sit and eat like civilized folk, but then I'd look indecisive /and/ crazy."

Cass stands up and wraps her scarf around her neck. "Weird is right," she frowns slightly. "Well, we don't want you to look indecisive, now, do we?" Her jab is good natured, as her lopsided smile peeks through all her winter clothes. "Telling me what this is really all about would definitely be a good way to make it up to me." Pulling on her messenger bag, she makes for the door. "Well, then let's start the craziness."

Jack shakes his head, a gesture that's becoming far too common as he's begun to learn more about the world around him. "Trust me, lass, you don't want to know." He shrugs into his overcoat, tugs his dark scarf tight as well, then follows Cass out onto the street.

It's not long before the Jack and Cass reach the locked door of Enlightenment Books. She pulls the keys out of her bag, picks the right ones and then goes about unlocking the two or three locks on the door. She pushes open the now unlocked door and steps inside to hit the lights. Since it's light enough to see the rest of the store, she only hits the ones that light up the information desk to the employee door so that Jack can get a good view of the painting. Stepping aside, she holds the door open for him and then closes and locks it so that they don't get unsuspecting customers. "There it is," she gestures in it's general direction as she starts to unravel herself from her coat and other winter items. "See what I mean? It's kind of weird."

Jack strides directly up to the Mendez, then pads a half-circle around it as he studies the painting closely from several different angles. He's no art critic, but it appears authentic enough. He grimaces a bit. This isn't going to be fun. For a moment, Jack thinks of Hiro, who's probably busily recruiting people and chattering about being a superhero, and feels a distinct lack of envy for the tiny, energetic man. "This looks like the real deal," he finally murmurs. "You should know that there are people who want to get their hands on every Mendez they can. They're likely to try to buy this, too. But if you turn them down, they'll probably stop being friendly." He glaces over at Cass. Fine worry lines crease his brow and the corners of his mouth. "Do you mind if I make a call?" Suddenly there's a cellular phone in his hand.

"What do you mean, looks like the real deal?" Cass is confused and steps forward to investigate the painting she hasn't really thought that much of since Thomas bought it a couple years ago. The only reason she hasn't put it away is because it has such sentimental value to her. Then, when Jack issues his warning, she crosses her arms in front of her, suddenly annoyed. "Is everything I have in this store freaking dangerous for no reason? First the books, now the decorations. /What/ is going on with this city lately?" Sighing, she waves a hand in an exasperated manner. "Sure. Sure. Call away. Who are you calling?"

"I'm calling the strangest man I've ever met, and I'm going to ask his advice," Jack admits dutifully but dubiously. He flips the cell phone open, thumbs two buttons, then presses it to his ear. Mere moments later he's speaking into it urgently, "Hey, Short Ro—Shit. Sorry. Hiro." Jack pauses to clear his throat. "I've got another Mendez right in front of me. Another pretty abstract one. I don't know if it goes with our set or not. I'm sending you a picture, now." He aims his cell at the painting, thumbs a few buttons, then brings it back to his ear.

"I…okay…" Cass puts a hand to her head, like she's getting a headache, and then lowers it. Grabbing her coat and things, she heads for the employee door and tosses them all in there. If she can't do anything else, she'll be tidy. However, she's keeping her ears on the one-sided conversation she's hearing from Jack while she does that. When he takes a picture of it, she steps forward. "Hey…!" She's not sure she likes the fact that he's sending pictures of her store to someone she doesn't know.

Jack cups his hand briefly over the phone's mouthpiece. "Sorry, lass. Greater good, and all. I'll make it up to you, remember?" Then into the phone he says, "I don't know what the hell it means!" Serveral bits of terse, hushed conversation follow, then Jack snaps the phone closed and tucks it into a coat pocket.

Once the phone is snapped closed, Cass's eyebrows raise, obviously waiting for an explanation. "What exactly is going on? What is this set you're talking about? And how in the hell is taking a picture of my painting part of a greater good. /What/ greater good?" Her arms are crossed in front of her again. Tighter this time. "I think you should explain this to me and then I think you should leave."

A tiny Japanese man, with some sort of courier tube on his back and glasses on his face, wanders aimlessly in the street for a few seconds. He talks into his phone, but doesn't seem to find that anyone is answering. Either Jack hung up, or his phone didn't like being relocated like that. He stops, swivels on a heel, looks up at the sign, and seems satisfied. He tries to door; it doesn't open. Rather that knocking, he peers inside, cupping his hands to his eyes to try and peek inside. He also waves once he does so. He looks vaguely like one of those sticky car window Garfields.

Jack holds both long-fingered hands out toward Cass palm-first. "Whoa. Calm down, missie. Trust me, it's good that I got here first." He stutters, then comes to a conversational stop. Obviously, he's strayed outside of his forte. "C'mon, Hiro.." he mutters beneath his breath. "Get your geeky hide in here and get me out of this."

Hiro taps on the glass. Tappata, tappata. Let me iiiin.

"Yeah. That's what everyone says." Cass frowns, her face set into something stubborn. "Even bad guys think they're doing something good." That's about when Hiro's face gets pressed onto the door window, right by the closed sign. Moving forward to the door, she shakes her head an points at the sign. She yells so that she can be heard through the glass and wood. "We're closed, sir. Closed! Come back in half an hour!" Taking that as the end of the conversation, she turns her back to Hiro and faces Jack again. "So, that explanation you owe me."

"Actually, I'm thinking that the explanation would sound better coming out of /his/ mouth." Jack points at Hiro, then steps over, slides the bolt back, and lets him in. Jack breaks into a grin. Against all odds, Hiro can explain this mess away in chatty Japanenglish if anyone can. He's just too damn cute to stay mad at, as is evidenced by Jack giving him a hearty, friendly clap on the shoulder. "Hiro-san. This is Cass. From what I gather, she owns this place. And this painting." One hand still on Hiro's shoulder, Jack uses the other to gesture toward the Mendez on the wall.

"Wait! I am not a customer! I am Hiro Nakamura, I…" And then Jack slides open the bolt. Hiro waves a hand cheerfully. "Mr. Jack! I found you," he observes, happily. "Hello, Miss Cass. My name is Hiro Nakamura. I am a friend of Mr. Jack. I also knew Mr. Isaak when he was alive," Hiro says.

When Jack opens her store for her, Cass is still not amused. In the least. Even if Hiro is cheerful and hard to keep a glare at. "Cass Aldric." She holds out one of her hands for him to shake. Might as well be polite. "Yes, I own this store. And technically this painting." Her voice is still clipped with a bit of anger. Or annoyance. It's hard to tell which. "So apparently you're the one that can tell me what the hell is going on? And why people would want to hurt me for this painting?"

"Trust me, he can. If I tried to explain it.. Ehh, just listen to the kid." Jack steps back now, suddenly finding the contents of the nearest bookcase to be absolutely enthralling. Nevermind that it's an assortment of treatises on UFOs and cattle abuse in the southern United States.

Hiro looks at Cass like a deer in the headlights. He looks to Jack, and then he sort of rubs the back of his head. He's been learning that some of the things he says sound totally crazy, but sometimes a hero has to tell the truth, even when he knows he will be ridiculed. It's part of the whole heroic code. He looks at the painting, studying it, before turning to face Cass.

"Mr. Isaac was a hero. And he was my friend. He had a special ability. A gift." Hey, that sounds more diplomatic. "He could paint the future. He saved the world. But the last thing he painted was his death. Before he died he painted at least fourteen paintings that have not yet happened. I think they might save the world again. But there are people who want the paintings for themselves, bad men who want to use them for evil. They will kill to get them."

Cass pulling back the hand that she had held out for him to shake, she tucks it right back across her body so that she's crossing her arms again. While Hiro talks, she looks at him and then at the painting, then over at Jack and his interest in her shelves, and then back at Hiro again. The little man looks so serious when he says such crazy things. Luckily, she's used to it by now, working in this book store. "You're saying that this painting predicts the future." It's a question, but a statement all at the same time. It's easy to hear the skepticism in her voice. "And that people would kill. Over a painting. Because of it." She looks over at Jack. "/This/ is supposed to be the better explanation?"

Jack lets out a breath that's been pent-up for far too long. And now, Hiro has broken the ice. One of these days, he's going to have to figure out how Short Round can spit out that speech and make it sound even remotely believable. Until then, God bless the advent of the cellular phone. Unfortunately, like when Jack was first faced with with concept, Cass seems to find it a bit… unpalatable. "It sounds crazy, I know." Abandoning his half-assed attempt to fade into the scenery, he steps up beside Hiro once again. "Still, I've seen things that compare. Don't dismiss it out of hand."

Hiro scratches the back of his head. Right, there was the crazy bit. He can't just go around telling everybody he can teleport; Nathan made him promise. He's already sort of pushed the limits of what he's supposed to do. "Wait!" he starts rummaging around in his bag, until he produces a comic book — an issue of 9th Wonders!. The artist is clearly Isaac Mendez. And that's Hiro on the cover. There's not really much way around it. He holds it up for her to see. "I was a friend of Mr. Isaak. I want to protect his legacy."

"Don't dismiss it out of hand." Cass repeats Jack's words in a deadpanned manner. "You actually believe this? That paintings can predict the future? And that this is one of them?" She jerks her thumb back at the painting behind her. "You're right. This /does/ sound crazy. Is there any other way it could sound?" Hiro's explanation she leans forward to look at the comic book he's pulled out of his bag. "You knowing Isaac Mendez isn't the crazy part, Mr. Nakamura. That I don't have a lot of trouble believing. It's very nice of him to make a comic book about you, but I don't see how that's relevant to what we're talking about."

Jack shrugs his wide shoulders before replying. "All I'm saying is, I've seen things that lead me to believe this guy isn't /totally/ insane." He claps Hiro on the shoulder once again. "Let him talk. He might convince you, too."

Hiro looks somewhat defeated. He's been trying to be better about secret identities. And keeping people out of danger. If he tells someone too much, it could just be putting them in the line of fire. "I am sorry," Hiro says, bowing. "If anyone else comes looking for the painting, please let them take it. And do not tell them you met us." Hiro pulls pen and pad out of his bag, and starts writing. "This is my telephone number. If you are ever in danger, you can give me a call," he adds, before turning a few degrees to Jack. "Now that we have seen it, we do not need the painting." If Cass has the painting, they'll just steal it. If she knows about the Evolved, they might kill her just for that.

Cass frowns watching Hiro and Jack. Her anger has passed now, just leaving confusion about this whole sitatuion. She's not sure what to say to all this. "You don't have to be sorry," she replies slowly. When he writes his number down and holds it out to her, she takes it and puts it in her pocket. At least she's not throwing it out. "Why would someone want this painting? And why does just having it put me in danger? I keep hearing that. You're the second person who's told me to just give in if anyone comes into the store asking questions. What's going on? That's all I want to know."

Jack meets Hiro's eyes for a long, silent moment. From the set of his jaw and and the twist in his lips, it's apparent that he doesn't care much for this solution. Thoughtfully, he fingers the 'Help Wanted' sign. "I don't like this, Hiro. We shouldn't just leave her here. They could—well, it doesn't seem right." Frustrated, he fishes a buisness card out of his pocket that reads, "Baulderdash & Chicanery" on the front, and has a phone number printed on the rear. He flips it onto the information desk, then crosses his arms. "If you don't want to believe the truth about the paintings, at least believe that there are people who /will/ kill you for it, whatever their reasons."

Hiro is a terrible liar. What he says doesn't sound particularly believable, but since he's decided it's for her own good, it's all, maybe, for the best. "There are very bad men who want to collect all of Isaac Mendez's paintings. They are very valuable, especially now that he is dead. They will do anything to get all of his paintings. Please be careful," he says, trying to avoiding making eye contact with Jack.

Cass frowns at Jack. "Okay, she is standing right here and can hear you talking about her. Who is this /they/?" All of the sudden she's gathering up a lot of numbers and not in the manner she enjoys. "So why isn't the police handling it?" Hiro's explanation gets something of an 'oh please' look. "Okay, fine. You don't want to tell me what's really going on here, that's fine. Or, really, that's not fine, I'm not fine with that. But don't go from telling me these things predict the future like some sort of magic eight ball and then say that it's evil collectors coming to kill me for them. It's really not at all nice to try and play with my head and tell me that people are willing to kill me for knowing someone or having a painting or stocking a book." This isn't all directed at Hiro and Jack. It's more a laundry list of things that have been happening to her. "It's made me really freaked out all week. And this is really not helping."

Jack's shoulder slump as he realizes that for now, at least, Hiro's got the right idea. The shaker and mover in him can tell that Cass isn't biting as hard as either the Japanese man or his unlikely Irish sidekick would like. "C'mon, Hiro-Hero. I think it's time we made ourselves scarce. I think we're just upsetting her, now."

Hiro is visibly torn. Should he leave? She's scared, and she's looking for answers. She is in danger just having the painting. Who knows why that van crashed in the first place, anyways? Hiro hems and haws for a good, awkward twenty seconds or so, before he bows his head. "Please forgive me for lying. I was trying to do the right thing." He holds out a book. It's Chandra Suresh's 'Activating Evolution'. "Have you read this?" Wait. Where the heck did he get that?

Cass watches the hemming and hawing that Hiro does, punctuating it with looks at Jack. After his shoulder slump and defeated comment, she's not sure what else to expect from him. "Upsetting me is right. What else is supposed to happen when you tell someone that people are out to kill them?" In that period of time, Hiro has made his decision and holds up a copy of Activating Evolution. She blinks and looks at him, unsure of when he picked it up. Deciding it was during the time she was focused on Jack furrows her brows. "Yeah. I sell it here." Heading to the shelf, she reaches for where a copy of the book might be. But it's not there. "Weird. I just put a copy on the shelf this afternoon." Frowning, she shrugs and then steps backwards. Moving this time for the information counter she picks up her own, now much more battered, copy with all of it's post-it notes sticking out of it and pages folded down. "Anyway, yeah. Here's my copy."

Despite his contrary words and thoughts, Jack relaxes noticeably when Hiro reaches the decision to give it one more try. As much as Jack likes to play Duke, he knows he's been delegated the important, but less glorious position held by Roadblock. Which is to say that Hiro makes most of the decisions, and Jack hits, shoots, or blows things up as nessescity demands. As such, he's content to hang back and let his cohort retain the lead. "There's a reason that of all the crap in print, you can't keep that one book on the shelves, you know. And there's a reason that /your/ copy is more dog-eared than an eight year-old's favorite comic book."

Hiro bites his lip. He promised he would stop doing this, and things like this. "Mr. Suresh's book is true. I am sorry to draw you into this. But you are right. You did not have a choice. The painting found its way to you, and because of that, you are in danger. If we could find you, and if other people have found you, then the bad people will find you, too." He's finally made a decision. Sometimes you just have to jump off the cliff. "Mr. Isaac had an ability, like Mr. Suresh describes. Many people have an ability. I have an ability."

Cass's frown is still on her face as she listens to Jack and then Hiro try to explain this to her. She's gotten remarkably calmer, or less snarky, since they've decided to truthfully explain this whole thing to her. "Found it's way to me? But…I don't understand. Why would bad people /want/ to find me?" She's been keeping Activating Evolution high enough to show Hiro and Jack, but now she lowers it so that she's just holding it in front of her. "Abilities? What do you mean abilities?" Once again, she looks between the two men who are standing in her closed store. "You can't be serious. This is…this book is about people being able to fly and grow back arms and things. The only place it's sold in this whole city is in an occult book store."

Jack shoots a sidelong glance at Hiro, then huffs out an impatient sigh. And now it's time for Roadblock's discretionary action, though the term discretion is to be used lightly. Jack snaps his fingers and Cass's well-worn copy of Activating Evolution dematerializes from her grasp and appears in his own hands. As he hands it back, he shoots another glance at Hiro, this one a bit sheepish. "Sorry. It seemed like the quickest way to get the message across."

Hiro looks at the book. Which disappears. Hiro whirls around on his heel, following it. Or, at least, guessing where it's going to re-appear. His eyebrows raise, and then he looks back at Cass. "… er," he says, and pushes his glasses back up on his face. Let's hope this works out okay.

Cass's hands are still in the same position as when she had a book in her hand for a couple of moments after Jack has taking the book from her hands, seemingly by magic. When he hands the book back, she automatically reaches for it and then takes a hard grip to see if it's real. Suddenly, the world is spinning. "I…I…" taking a few steps backwards, she her back bumps against the front of the information desk and she uses that hard surface as a guide to slide into a sprawled sitting position on the floor. "I feel…dizzy. I think I need to sit down." She takes a couple deep breaths, still keeping a very firm grip on the very real book that just disappeared out of her hands. "What…what just…happened?"

Instantly, Jack is at Cass's side. He takes her arm in one hand and guides her back so she can lean against the counter. "Whoo… Steady, lass. This is what we've been trying to explain to you. There's more to the world than meets the eyes, these days." A bit ruffled himself, he drags long fingers through his dark, tousled hair, carefully avoiding the deep, vertical scratch on the left side of his face. This may well have been a big, big mistake.

Hiro gives Jack a scolding sort of look after all this goes nuts. Now there's no going back! But that's okay enough. Kind of. "It is his ability. I have one too. Many people do. And the people who have abilities, some of them, will want to find this painting. Not all are good. And there are people who want to control the people with abilities. They both will want that painting." Hiro scratches his head again, nervously. "That is who you are in danger from."

Slowly, the dizzy feeling starts to fade and Cass relaxes her death grip on her book. Letting it drop to the floor next to her, she stays sitting, not sure she can actually stay standing. "His ability," she repeats, trying to figure out what to say to that. Then, things start to sink in. "How am I supposed to fight against people who can do the things I read about in this book? That's…it's impossible." She can feel herself getting terrified and thinking about everything that could happen, all the powers that could be used against her. She closes her eyes and takes a couple more deep breaths. Tries to refocus. After she's slowly counted to fifteen, she opens her eyes and looks back at Hiro. "You said you had an ability? What's yours?"

Jack has the good grace to look chastised by Hiro's glare, knowing that's he's commited an Evolved faux pas. Once again, he decides it's more intelligent to follow Hiro's lead. He releases Cass, allowing her to find her balance, his expression apprehensive and understanding at the same time. Despite his generally positive attitude, the dark circles beneath his eyes and his near-constant state of batteredness speaks of a hard, long week.

"I can, um." Hiro tries to figure out how to get around this one. If Jack's power made her swoon and faint—well, he just won't demonstrate. "I can bend space and time," he says, pointedly, which is an honest but undramatic answer. Jack himself, however, probably hasn't caught wind of the "time" bit there.

Well, if Cass was looking for something to take her mind off of villains coming after her, Hiro's answer certainly did it. She looks over a Jack with an open-mouthed look, not sure why she's looking at him for confirmation for this. "You can bend space and time." She's been repeating a lot of statements this conversation. "You have the power everyone wants," she adds, giving a weak version of her lopsided smile before turning serious again. "But…why do /you guys/ want these paintings?"

The magnitude of Hiro's statement doesn't completely elude Jack. He's no physics professor, but he's not a slouch either. Bending space… That must be the Disappearing Man act. Bending time? That's where Jack experiences a good ol' fashioned mindbreak, unable to quite wrap himself around the concept. Instead, he focuses on Cass's question, finding that to be much more comfortable territory. "We believe that if we can determine what the paintings mean when they're all put together, we may be able to avert some of the more gruesome events that they depict." Jack's voice is quiet, solemn even.

"Mr. Isaac's paintings stopped the bomb," Hiro says. "It was supposed to go off in the middle of the city. It would have killed everybody." He sympathizes. Well, kind of. Hiro had an atypical reaction to his powers, but he learned quickly that it was not a role-playing game. "We think they can stop a tornado from doing the same."

"A bomb was supposed off here?" This whole thing is so fantastical and crazy that Cass's not sure what is going on here. "And now a tornado? Gruesome events? I'm…this has to be a joke. This is crazy. You can't know about events that haven't happened yet. That's just /not/ possible. This is impossible."

"But I can take a book out of your hands from across the room, and you're OK with that?" Jack queries. "I'm just sayin', let's keep all this is perspective, yes?" He leans back against a bookshelf, careful not to overbalance it with his weight. "As it stands right now, I think me and Short Round here have made a pretty good case as to why the unbelievable shouldn't be so unbelievable."

Well, he's handled this better at other times. It's okay if he messes up once, one supposes. "She is going to pop," he says, making an off-hand reference to the Matrix. He sounds a little disappointed. Not so much in Cass, but because he's blown her mind. He's supposed to be getting more secretive, not less! "You deserved to know why you were in danger. I am sorry that it happened to you. But perhaps it is destiny." He sounds serious — truly serious. This is the not-so-exciting party fun side of this whole heroism bit. Some people get swept up against their will.

Now that she's breathing easier, Cass frowns at Jack. "I'm not okay with that. I'm not okay with this whole idea. I saw a guy once who levitated an entire table without touching it. This is could be a little like that. I just don't know where the strings are. Though I don't know why in the world you'd want to make such an elaborate plot just to freak me out. Who knows, this could be a new reality tv series. Maybe I missed something." Frowning at Hiro, she takes a bit of offense of that. "I'm not going to pop." She sighs and leans her head back against the information desk. "Okay, maybe I am. I don't know what to make of all this. I don't know if I can even believe all of this. I certainly don't know if I believe in destiny."

Jack nods agreeably to Hiro, both at his apt paraphrase and the distinct possibility that all of this unpalatable news might make Ms. Cass vomit. In the case of such an emergency evacuation, he pulls his overcoat tighter around himself and scoots his black boots backward a bit. With a soft sigh, he reaches up to loosen his tie. To be fair, if he hadn't grown up with two Evolved parents, he might've had the same reaction. Almost as an aside, Jack murmurs to Hiro, "Sorry, man. I didn't mean to spook her so bad. I was just trying to save time."

"It is okay," Hiro says, to Jack. He's trying to help. It's not his fault!

Hiro pays most of his attention to Cass, to whom he gives a plaintive look. "I believe in destiny," Hiro says. "But I do not believe that we can know what it is. There is no fate but what we make," he says. "There is a painting that shows New York being destroyed by a tornado, and I must stop it. There are evil people who will hurt anybody in their way, and I have to protect you and everybody from them. I know it is scary. I am scared, too. But we are not alone," Hiro says. For a moment, it seems like Hiro is referring to some sort of divine being.

"We have each other. I /know/ we can change the future. And we will, this time, too." he adds. "I am sorry you had to be made part of this, and that you could not go on with your life." He stands, straight up, and bows low. "Forgive me."

"Okay, that I guess I'm more okay with. If we have to talk about destiny." Cass takes a deep breath, though she's still frowning and confused and now a little terrified of this whole situation. She's not sure she wants to find out if this is actually real or not. When she speaks, she sounds a little miffed and resolute. "Okay, just because I can't make things disappear or 'bend space and time' doesn't mean I need to be protected like some kid." To punctuate this, she finally picks herself up off the floor on wobbly legs. Okay, it's not the most confidence building moment of her life, but she's trying. "Look, if you're saying you want to help me and you're willing to help me against whatever may be after me, then I want to help." She leans against the information desk some more. "Anyway, it's not your fault, Mr. Nakamura. You didn't tell me to stock Activating Evolution. And you didn't give me the painting. But if you /can/ help me from getting killed, I'd be really grateful. /You/ though," she points at Jack. "You I'm angry at for freaking me out." She pauses, looking between the two men. "This is for real, isn't it? You can actually do this stuff?"

Something in Hiro's words has definately got Jack's attention. When he wandered away from home, searching for acceptance and a purpose outside of his parents' embrace, this is what he was looking for. Not summoning frogs and plops of fake dog poo at children's birthday parties and bar mitzvahs. Jack beams, proud of the part he's playing in doing some good for a change, rather than lounging around, drinking scotch paid for with other people's money. "See what I mean? How can you not trust this guy, with his chubby cheeks and his brimming sincerity?" Then he clears his throat, all buisness once again. "This is only a joke if you make it one."

Cass's response illicits a bright grin from Hiro; after a moment of tapping into the serious, confident part of himself he's had to build over the course of his journey, he doesn't seem to be able to resist letting a little bit of the little kid out again. "Thank you," he says, and bows again. "Not all heroes have powers. My friend, Ando, is one of the greatest heroes I know." Yes, Hiro decides. This is destiny, too.

"It is true. I promise. If you ever wish to see, I will show you my ability as well. We saved the world once before. I will do everything to keep it that way."

Cass raises an eyebrow at Jack's response. "Right." Bending over, she picks up her battered copy of Suresh's book and puts it on the counter beside her. "I'm not sure why you're thanking me, but you're welcome, I guess." She runs a hand through whatever part of her hair is still down and keeps herself steadied against the information. "Some day, maybe. But I don't think I'm ready for that now." Taking a deep breath, she tries to keep her face set in the resolute mask she had earlier. "I don't know what I could do to help, though. THe only thing I'm really good at is researching."

Jack cocks a curious eyebrow at Cass's statement. "I think he's grateful that in the end, you decided not to call the police. I know I am," he murmurs. Tugging again at his irritable tie, he finally gets around to removing it completely and stuffing it into a coat pocket. After thumbing open the top button of his collar, he continues. "Nobody can decide if you want to help but you… Still, every little bit counts." He looks to Hiro for confirmation. This whole explaining things to people bit is still pretty new for him.

"I am thanking because you are very brave," Hiro says. "We may need research. Knowing is half the battle," Hiro says, hoping neither Cass nor Jack are aware of where he's cribbing from. "For now, do you want the painting to stay with you?"

"I wouldn't have called the police," Cass replies with a skeptical look. "What would I say to them? Help, two people tried to scare me by doing magic tricks and telling me that paintings can tell the future?" For a moment, she stares at Hiro, after she's heard what he said. "Did…did you just quote G.I. Joe?" Unfortunately for Hiro, she has a friend who is pretty into just about every fandom. This totally does not fit with the man who's been all eloquent and explaining powers to her. Then, she gathers her thoughts again. "Um, well, I'd prefer to keep it. It…it has a lot of sentimental value to me."

Jack sends another glance Hiro's way. "If she wants to keep it here, I'm not going to argue." He scrubs his hands over his face and through his hair, a trademark pondering-gesture. "I'd feel better if I stopped in every day or so to check in with you. That ok, Cass?" Jack peers at the woman quizically.

Hiro nods. "The painting is hers," he says, very earnestly. "We will keep in contact. You just have to be careful," Hiro says. "We will stay in contact. You have my number."

Cass looks up at the painting and then back at the two strange men. "Well, I don't think it has to be every day if I've got both your numbers. I can call if I get in trouble or something. I'll be careful. Just…keep me in the loop, too."

Jack nods agreeably. Ever efficient, he tips an imaginary hat to Hiro and slips out onto the street.

Hiro seems to agree. "Yes. I will. Just be careful," he says, and sort of scampers off after Jack.

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