2009-12-27: Last Gasp of the Velvet Glove



Date: December 27th, 2009


Tammy gives Lena one last chance to "make things right".

"Last Gasp of the Velvet Glove"

Sekrit Government Building - New York City

It wasn't just one day this time, Lena was left alone for four, maybe five, in a row, with nothing to occupy her time by slate gray walls. Nothing to draw with, nothing to read, nothing to stare at, other than one of the guards who came three times a day with her meal. The only break in this monotonous routine was when she was taken to the showers once a day, and then she was only allowed ten minutes once inside. And that was it was as day turned into night, and back again, left with nothing but her thoughts to occupy herself, and not so much as a clock or a window to tell the time by. In fact, the only way she would have known when Christmas was, was that there was a little slice of ham served along with her dinner that night.

And then the clomp of eight heavily-booted feet heralds the arrival of a break in the routine. The guards don't speak, other than to give Lena orders, such as 'stand away from the door, over near the wall', before shackling her up in the same manner as all the previous times, and hobbling her out of her cell. They answer no questions she might be having of whether she was going to see her usual interrogator, or whether she'd been 'kicked up', but the route, if the girl had a good memory, was the same as the last time she'd been removed from her cell. And finally, she deposited in the same visitation room she had last been drug out of.

There, she's left to her own devices, with only an uncomfortable chair for company, and a lone window that was on the other side of the thick, double-paned glass, which offered the occasional view of a cloud. Fifteen minutes, a half-hour, then an hour all creep past, with no sign of anything changing. Finally, after nearly seventy-five minutes of waiting, the door on the opposite side of the visitation area opens, admitting the prim form of the dark-haired special agent. Tammy's heels click against the tile as she nears the desk area with an equally uncomfortable-looking chair before it, setting down a pair of files. Her eyes flick up as the land on the table, the edges of her fingers held against the flat, smooth surface.

"Miss Grey. You're not looking well. I'm told you haven't been eating properly. I'm afraid your time has run out. This is your last chance to cut a deal. My supervisors are asking for my recommendation, and if I walk out of here empty-handed, I'm afraid I won't be inclined to ask for leniency for either of you. Please, have a seat."

The first day or two, she'd spent pacing. Burning energy she couldn't afford, due to lack of appetite, on counting the steps needed to make it around her cell. The steps needed for a full circuit, for diagonals, for back and forth, for zigzagging. And when the novelty of that had worn off, Lena retreated to her bunk where she curled up, pale and despairing. Every other meal went entirely untouched (including that oh so festive Christmas ham). She drank water. She ate a few bites. But the majority of the remaining days were spent stewing in depression.

There was a reason Dr. Lansing was given the position she holds.

After being collected and deposited in the same interrogation room, the brunette spent the time waiting in pressing her nose against the window to catch a glimpse of the outside world. It isn't much, and it certainly doesn't help improve the gloom fogging her brain. By the time the shrink-turned-tormentor arrives, Lena's blinked back several bouts of tears and has the look of someone coming down with a cold: glassy-eyed, reddened nose and liberal amounts of snuffling. She crosses to the chair and sinks into it slowly, showing no taste for the theatrics she'd demonstrated previously.

The look she gives the older woman, through the clear barrier, is flat. "You can't make me eat," the girl observes quietly. "Can't knock me out to put a tube in, can't hit me with tasers or I'll choke, can't hold me down or someone gets bitten or spit on. You can't make me eat."

This is something she has given a lot of thought to, see.

"You're correct, we can't force you to eat. But what you have to realize is," Tammy pulls her pen out of the breast pocket of her blazer, setting it down on the table area in front of her as she observes the woman solemnly through the glass. "The only person you're hurting is yourself. Now a philosopher from a few decades previously once stated that sometimes the only power you have, is the power over how little you have. But I have to tell you, that advice has never served anyone any good at all. What do you gain by tormenting yourself? By making yourself unhealthy? No one here is losing any sleep because you're not eating. So please, reconsider your stance on that point, at the least."

With her pen now back in hand, she opens up the file tabbed GREY, CAROLINE, spinning the pen around in her hands over and over as she reads over some hand-written notes, which were pointedly not in her own tiny, illegible little script. Of course, from the other side, one would have to kneel on the table and press their face against the glass in order to have any hope of reading the words.

"Mister DaSilva will most likely be terminated on Thursday, if not sooner. It all depends on how long it takes the Deputy Director to get around to hearing his case out. But it will be by the end of the week, at the latest. Perhaps as early as the middle." The tone of voice she uses to deliver this news is even more devoid of emotion than that used to urge the woman to eat, as if she were listing off social security numbers of strangers, rather than life-and-death information. "I see you've also decreased in physical activity during your detainment. I'd advise against this. Proper eating and calisthenics are likely two of the most important things for you, especially when confined to a small space."

Of course, Tammy knew the implications. It was the same reason not so much as a bible was left to read. "Are you ready to reconsider your thoughts on your accomplices? Any information you would like to add to your previous testimonies?"

Lena has an answer for that. She isn't shy about meeting Tammy's eyes and holding them, the blue of her gaze turned a somber grey. "If I don't eat, if I starve, then you can't use me to hurt other people. You can't bring them here and torture them," she says in a tone of voice that aims for logic, and reason. It sounds far less impressive when spoken with that telltale twang, and the soft, slurred edges of someone who never completed a formal education.

The threat of Tiago's impending execution makes reason difficult, however. Her eyes fill with tears, the isolation and depression making crying a much easier prospect than it was previous to her capture. Her manners have likewise suffered; Lena wipes the orange sleeve of her convict's jumper under her nose to prevent the drip that's threatening.

"If I tell you anything, people who don't deserve it get to go through this shit," she says, bitterly. "If I don't, you kill someone who doesn't deserve it. You don't get it, do you? You…you kill Chi, and I'll kill myself. But I'm not gonna let you put more people in here like this. I can't. They don't deserve it." Pause. "Maybe some do, like that fire guy. But not all of them. Not even most."

"You've been eating enough not to starve. Dying of hunger is a long, slow, and painful process that takes a will that, quite frankly, you do not have. Most people don't know it, but the fear of dying will cause them to kill for food rather than starve." There's a small sigh as she leans back, dropping her pen back on the desk, crossing one leg over the other, she folds her hands in her lap. "And you expect me to believe you will starve yourself to death when a hot meal is delivered to you three times a day? No."

Tammy waits patiently through the nose-wiping, the spiel that follows, never batting an eyelash at any of the denials, or shifting her expression at the threats or accusations, almost as if every word that came out of the younger woman's mouth was already predicted, and this was just a motion they were going through in order for history to catch up to the psychologist's precognition. She lets the silence linger for a few moments, allowing Lena to regain her composure, if she so desired to.

"It doesn't have to be that way. I wanted to bring you both in unharmed. I wanted to negotiate a satisfactory deal with the both of you. I wanted to be able to go to a meeting with the powers that be and tell them that they have no reason fear what either of you would, or could do. I wanted to ask for lenience on both of you behalfs, and, after many talks and interviews with you in my office, eventually petition for your release. The only thing that has stood in the way of all that… is you. And it's beyond me why."

Reaching forward, she flips the file shut with a flick of her finger. "Tell me, what do I gain by detaining an innocent woman? What do I gain by seeing Mister DaSilva put to death? Who is he to me? You're already caught, Miss Grey. What do I gain by lying to you? If I was so vile as to wish you harm, you would not be fed. I would not have a file full of updates on you from the security officers who monitor the cameras on your behavior. I don't wish you ill, but your refusal to cooperate is taking matters out of my hands."

Lena would like very much to regain her composure. Her eyes with their ceaseless leaking are not so cooperative. The sniffling will continue until morale improves. Or not. It doesn't help that Tammy is spot on, with her analysis about the cruelty of starvation. It is not pleasant missing even one meal; were Lena really set on killing herself that way, she wouldn't still be nibbling at every other tray of government-issue food that comes through her cell. It's cowardice, and it stings all the more that she hasn't been able to conquer it.

The girl processes the rest of the older woman's statement in silence that is occasionally punctuated by a louder sniff. When she speaks again, it is in a very small voice. "Tell me where you were shipping those people on the train. You say you're not bad guys, you aren't…aren't trying to lock us all up or wipe us out. Where were you taking people then? Not just people…kids."

"I am not a field agent, Miss Grey. I'm not in any way connected to prisoner transport or securing them. It was sheer happenstance that put me with you. That being said…" Her slim eyes narrow further, staring through the glass speculatively, lips slightly pursed, as if gauging whether to tell the teenager anything or not. "People with powers are a tricky thing. It's not as easy as taking someone's sidearm and gun license away. At the moment, the science it would take to permanently separate a person from their power is beyond us. Those born with these gifts, or curse, if you prefer, have capabilities far beyond what most any of the rest of us can imagine. You can picture the kind of havoc these people can cause if left unchecked, if they begin to get a sense of entitlement, if they begin to believe they should rule fellow men, rather than standing beside them."

Leaning her elbows on top of the flat surface, Tammy presses her palms together, pressing the edges of her joined hands to her lips for a moment. "We must be allowed to monitor and evaluate these individuals, the same as the state would with, say, someone who is mentally disabled. To ensure they can function in society without being a danger to themselves or others. Should we allow a mentally unstable individual with a sexual compulsion to torture and mutilate small children loose simply because that was the way he was born? I think even you, without psychiatric trining and being in your situation, can come to the only reasonable conclusion to that particular problem. With children, it becomes even trickier."

"Children, you see, are highly influenced by those around them. Also, should they have powers that can prove dangerous, a child's mind is not fully equipped to detail what society decrees is the difference between right and wrong. In our care, they can be trained to control, and most imporatantly, to suppress their abilities. They can be taught of their responsibilities, and how they must live with the rest of society because of their condition. It's an unfortunate truth. You yourself have come across such dangerous individuals."

For a brief glimmering moment it seems that Lena might relax under the sense of that explanation. The beginning of it certainly isn't anything she hasn't pondered before, although perhaps not with so many big words. But as Tammy begins to draw comparisons, the girl's brows knit together, depression banished by a fresh storm of anger. She stands, somewhat shakily, and glowers through the barrier protecting the woman. "I wondered how in the hell you could make yourself this any of this shit was right. You're like…like…like those fucking teachers who made the whole class do detention because one asshole was cutting up in the back."

What follows is disgusting: there is a ripping, choking nose deep in her throat as she draws in a breath. The lungful of air is used to expel a big drippy loogie at the glass. It sticks square in the center, aimed directly at Tammy's face. If the window weren't there, the shrink would be slimed.

"Fuck you. You wanna rip my finger nails out, you do it, bitch. You wanna kill me and Chi, fucking do it. We're not gonna help you put any more kids on trains."

Just to be certain that the point is made, Lena then flips the other woman the bird before turning her back to the barrier. Her arms fold across her chest and she waits for the inevitable guard response.

"We're dealing with lives, Miss Grey, not some child shooting spitwads at a girl he likes." Tammy doesn't so much as flinch at the ball of slime that smacks into the glass just in front of her face. Chances were she'd had things flung at her before, and some had probably even managed to connect. Where else would someone get that kind of cold certainty? She stands up from her chair, however, probably so that she can talk around the glob, rather than to it.

"I'm amazed that someone who is otherwise as reasonable and intelligent as you are can fail to see that everything we do, we do to save lives. Should I put thousands, perhaps even millions, of people at risk because it inconveniences you to be detained for a month, or even a year? You have a criminal record, and for all we know, you might develope your power enough to kill. What are we to do, then, when you decide to contaminate New York's water reservoir and cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people? Shall we then pat ourselves on the back, and at least go to sleep at night thanking God we didn't violate your civil rights?"

"Please. Lena." It was the first time she'd ever used that name. The dark-haired agent leans forward, placing her hands against the flat surface of the table as she stares at the woman's back. "Don't do this. This won't help. This will not solve anything. So much of what is happening is because people are scared, hostile, and uncooperative. Help me. Make us understand. Help us to find out more about people and their limits, and maybe we can begin doing things another way. If you choose this path, if you choose to force our hand, you will only be adding to the problem. Your friends will still be hunted, will still be hurt, may still be killed. If you help us, maybe we can change that outcome."

"Yeah, you are dealing with lives! Ours! One asshole might hurt someone but you're hurting everyone to get to that one guy!" Lena, reasonable and intelligent, shoots a dark look over her shoulder. She doesn't do Tammy the courtesy of turning around to continue the conversation. "You kidnap people, threaten them with torture and you wonder why they don't wanna help you out? We just wanna be left alone. You want me to help, you don't pin Chi getting killed on me, you don't fucking hand me over to some goon who's gonna hook me up to wires and zap me! And you don't put kids on a goddamn train to a concentration camp!"

Having listed the sins of both government and psychologist, Lena returns her narrowed gaze to the blank wall before her. Her jaw sets stubbornly.

"And," she adds in a hiss, "You don't go thinking I'd do shit because you thought it up and would do it if you were me. I dunno what kind of sick fuck you are, lady, but if you think I'd go skinny dipping in the reservoir just to mess with people…"

"Unfortunately, yes. That is exactly what we're doing. The choice between a hundred people who may be innocent, and a million people who are innocent seems very clear cut." Tammy sighs as she picks up the pair of files, tucking them under her arms. "Your world might stop at the end of your own desires, but we have many more people to think about than you. We don't live in a pretty world, we live in one rife with terrorism, and we don't have the luxury of waiting around to see if you decide to start killing others."

"My god, you're a danger to everyone you touch, but the only thing you can think of is how it inconveniences you to be isolated from others. But what happens to a six-year-old boy who brushes against your hand at the supermarket? You're dangerous. You know it, and I know it. You're the real villain of this story, and I'll do whatever I have to do to protect people from you, and your terrorist accomplices. Because I believe in second chances," Tammy turns to the door and opens it. Unlike Lena's, hers would open from the inside. "If you call for me before the next time you're brought here from your cell, we can talk more. Otherwise, I'm afraid your experience is going to be much less pleasant. Make no mistakes that we will not fail in our duty, and we will get what we want."

And then she's slipping through the door, which latches behind her, cutting off the noise of her heels. After a long moment, the door on Lena's side opens, the four guards pouring in to collect her, and return her to her cell.

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