Date: December 24th, 2009
The wayward come home.
"Out of the Cold"
New York City
There are two schools of thought when it comes to the meeting place of fugitives.
One, go somewhere public where those who hunt you down are too shy to attack in a crowd.
Two, hide in the shadows, because there is no such thing as shy hunters who have the law behind them.
Angela Petrelli makes her own rules and she enforces them until they stick. As such, she has combined both of these schools of thought: she stands alone in the dimly lit — indeed, shadowy — large, back meeting room of a very busy Japanese restaurant, rife with black marble and dark, harsh, yet sleek decor. The table is empty save for two glasses of water. This is not a business lunch. Per se.
Is the meeting place wise? Yes? Is it risky? Yes. You can't have one without the other in this landscape. The director of a Company which has, by and large, fell apart these past months, is regally poised in waiting just left of the door — behind it, for when it opens. The woman's vivid ruby red blazer and skirt suit is a contrast to the dark room, and fitting, for the holidays, but Angela is nothing but grim-faced, not exactly bursting with Christmas cheer.
The door opens, fairly close on the appointed time. The blonde who Nathan described steps into the room, after taking a look about. It's not that she particularly trusts the situation…but then, the call was placed, and she's answered, and she's not going to assume there's more than that. Yet.
"You've been causing quite the stir," comes the voice next to the door. Angela reaches out to close the door behind the blonde girl, stepping behind her — to block the exit, perhaps, but surely the aging matriarch would be no match for someone as sprightly and creative as the woman she's meeting. There is a certain amount of chastising hostility in Angela's dark eyes as they examine Stephanie. Clinically. Cynically. The description matches. Angela has no doubt. One hand remains on the doorknob behind her, like a spider around its prey. "You know you're lucky."
Stephanie turns to face Angela, putting a hand on a hip. There's a bit of a sarcastic tone to her voice. "Yeah, well, when the normal methods fall apart, you turn to the extreme ones to get what you need. Besides, no real harm done." Not to anyone that matters.
Angela merely regards the woman with a hint of a sardonic smirk tugging her lips into a narrow line. It's not as if she can — truthfully — argue the words. "Desperate times," she agrees. All the same, the Founder is unimpressed. "Feeling a little left out in the cold, are we?"
Stephanie nods to the table. "We going to sit? Or just stand around all day? And yeah…" she narrows her eyes just a little. "Downright chilly out there. And from what I hear, most of the reason that a perfectly good plan…which /you/ endorsed…went to hell, can be laid right at the doorstep of your eldest."
"Then you're severely misinformed," the Petrelli mother is quick to answer, a matter-of-fact slant coming easily and sharply to her words. Sit down? No, Angela makes no move to sit down. Stephanie can suit herself. "Or behind the times. Nathan has been missing until recently, or haven't you noticed. Don't let that imagination of yours get too carried away. What exactly is it you've been hearing, hm? I'm terribly sorry," she says, dripping thickly with insincerity. "That you've been out of the loop, but I'm guessing since you stole a file on the Alpha Protocol you've gotten some answers by now."
Stephanie nods. "Some. Not enough. From what it looks like, this Alpha Protocol crap is exactly what we were /trying/ to prevent from happening. So, I'm just brimming with questions. Everything looks like it fell apart, top on down. Thompson. Linderman. Bishop. And it stops at the woman whose kids have been responsible for screwing the whole thing up. The woman whose son works for the government, who, oh yeah, happens to be hunting us. Pardon me for just finding the whole thing a little too…convenient?"
Not to mention Kaito. Stephanie is not wrong in that regard. In others, however, Angela must severely refute her. She bristles, but every inch of collectedness remains. The younger woman is privy to a highly unimpressed glare from the older. "Things change, and they're not always what they seem. You out of anyone should realize that," she spits the words out. "The Company has fallen on hard times in the past, but we always got the job done, until now, with significant help from Peter in the past year, I might add." A wild example of how things change. "This is exactly what we wanted to prevent from happening, but someone leaked our files. Told the government about us. Nathan is doing what he can to stop what's happening. My sons happen to be some of or best hopes so you will leave them alone."
She looks like she's thinking about it, and she crosses her arms over her chest. "Why?" It's very flat. "Because as far as I can see, it's been mistake after mistake after mismanagement for the last year. Why is Bennet in Alpha Protocol? Who the hell is this Rebel guy? Who leaked the files? I'm seeing a whole lot of questions that ought to have answers. And, not to put too fine a point on it, I haven't exactly been getting the benefits of the whole Company package lately. Now, you've got two choices here. You want a loyal little Company agent? Sure. Hook me back up with instructions, a support structure, and oh-by-the-way, a paycheck? I'm your girl. You know what I can do and you know how valuable I can be. But leave me out in the cold? Or ask me to sit on my heels and do nothing while the government is after all our asses, mine included? Well…you also know how dangerous I can be." It's not a threat, not quite. But it's a statement of fact. Clearly, the last year has seriously cracked the foundations of trust Stephanie has for Angela Petrelli.
"The last year has been one of our most productive, but I can see why our newer methods weren't exactly to your liking," Angela replies, her voice becoming flat as if she is tired or blas about this back-and-forth with the girl. "Don't worry about Bennet." She levels her gaze even more intensely on the woman, her voice lowering, intent. "You're the one with a choice to make. To protect yourself or to protect everyone who's like you. Help to clean up this mess the government's made— " Not the Company. Distinction. " —and put things back as they should be, without the luxury of a regular pay check and health plan. Orrrr…" Angela waves a hand briefly. "You could have any life you want. Unlike the rest of us."
Stephanie replies "You're right, I could. And to some extent, putting my ass on the line for everyone who's "like me" doesn't really thrill me." There's a pause. "But. If I were to, I still can't do that alone, on my own, without information. I'm working blind here, and that means we're just as likely to get in each other's way as we are to help each other." She's professional enough to realize that. "You can't have it both ways. If you want my help…paid or no…you're going to have to bring me in on things, just so I can be effective."
"You have to promise that you won't go overboard and that I can trust you first," Angela states; the dark look she gives Stephanie does not exactly shine the light of trust. Then again, she doesn't inspire it, either. "This isn't revenge, it's war. Contrary to popular belief, there is a difference. We have to be strategic." Her grip on the door's handle is released and she reaches into the shallow pocket of her red blazer to withdraw a slip of paper, which is handed to the woman. "This is my personal line. Check in. If you're on board, there are others I have to inform before we can move on. If you mess up, well, remember that my friend the Haitian can follow you wherever you go and show the world who you really are, and I doubt that's what you want."
THAT gets a narrowed-eye look back at Angela. But, still, she half-threatened the other woman, and an eye for an eye is fair. "Were you ever not able to trust me?" she says. "As I recall, your son wouldn't be where he is today, if not for me. Keep me in the loop, and you can trust me. I'm not saying I need to know everything. I understand need-to-know. But you can't just ask me to sit around and cool my jets, when it /is/ war." She takes the paper, pocketing it. "I'm on board."
"Your talents could be a significant resource. I admit I'd wondered when you'd resurface. So many of our agents have disappeared. A true test of loyalty." A smile breaks Angela's visage for the first time since this meeting began. It is not warm — in fact, it's calculating — but it signals acceptance. At the very least, the beginning of acceptance. She whisks further into the dark meeting room of the restaurant, away from the door, no longer the regal barricade. Reaffirmed alliance or no, Angela's study has not wavered: she approaches the blonde girl, the matriarch's weighty presence focused on her eye-to-eye. Aging hands reach to hold the little thing at either shoulder. "Welcome back, Candice."