Hearts and Minds

July 08, 2015:

Tim meets with Caitlin to discuss registration, and offer her work. Things don't go as planned.

Steel Yard - Gotham

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: [*\# None.]


Fade In…

Working out is kind of challenging when you're as strong as Caitlin is. On the one hand, it absolutely helps, but on the other, you can't exactly go to the gym and play with the free weights. So once or twice a week she goes down to a local steel yard and helps bend girders.

By girders, literally, she takes the heavy I-beams used in major construction projects and cranks them in half. Wedged between two massive steel columns, she's set up a fairly clever set of steel steps to give her leverage in bending the beams back and forth. The heaviest of the beams weighs easily close to ten tons, and sweat beads on her back and bare shoulders as she heaves and hos on a beam. The men in the yard, long used to her presence, treat her with a friendly camraderie, but largely leave her alone to swing the massive girders with no interference or risk of hazard if she drops one.

Overhead, on a scaffolding that lines the steel yard, Red Robin watches. It wasn't hard to track Caitlin down, after last night. She's pretty "on the grid" and it's not that difficult to find a lady of her stature. She draws attention.

"Impressive." His voice, metallic flanged and almost menacing, reverberates through the air. On his lips, a lopsided grin that's all dimples and white teeth. He could actually be handsome under that cowl. "You're even stronger than I thought."

He leaps off of the scaffolding, flipping and catching hold of an upright steel girder to slide down it's length to the ground nearby. "You're a bit… public, though. That puts you in danger. You're aware of that, right?"

Caitlin is a bit more in 'the zone' today. Probably from working out. She doesn't look terribly surprised at Red's arrival, eyes narrowing a bit, and pausing in her efforts. She rolls her eyes at his commentary and shoves the bar to a ten degree arc, then carries it to a stack of other I-beams under one arm like it's a bag of flour. She's wearing rugged dungarees and a cotton tank, with an industrial-grade sports bra under it. She's also fairly grimy, under the sweat.

"I know," she says, brushing her hands off. She goes back to the pile of girders and picks one up, balanced on her hip, and carries it over to the bending tower. It hits the ground so hard that it'd make Red's teeth chatter. "But I don't have much choice. Thirty seconds after I grew a foot and gained a hundred and eighty pounds, the video was all over YouTube." She gives Red a wry look, then heaves and bends the bar first one way, then the other, putting an S- curve into it, a bit pointedly. "I can take care of myself, though. Who are you? What was the deal with those… zombie… whatevers?" she asks him, moving the next I-beam over to the stack.

"Yeah. I saw the video. That was… rough." He says quietly. For now, he simply moves towards a beam nearby, but out of her way. His cape is drawn closed around him, like a shroud, making every movement he makes seem like he's gliding through the air, rather than walking. That is, until he affects a casual stance, leaning against the steel beside him.

"I'm Red Robin. Or… at least, that's what they're calling me these days. I didn't choose the name. It's just kind of stuck." He says, exasperration in his voice, even as modulated as it is. A small frown draws his lips into a thin, straight line. Still, those unblinking white eyes never stray from her. Not even for a moment. "We're still not entirely sure what a bunch of voodoo gangsters were trying to accomplish by stealing chemicals from Wayne. It's likely they thought that they'd be able to use whatever they found to make super zombies. Most of what they took, though, were just chemicals used in industrial cleaning agents."

That's said with a smirk, and Red Robin tilts his head, letting it rest against the steel he's leaning his shoulder against. Still, his smirking facade fades quickly, and he says, "I can see that you're… strong. But that might not always be enough to keep you safe, Caitlin. That's… actually what I came here to talk to you about."

"Okay, I'm here. We're talking. So, talk," Caitlin invites. She's not being rude, per se- but definitely a bit blunt. Perhaps even defensive, if Red was the sort for keen personal observation. She grabs a worn towel and blots at her face a few times, scrubbing away sweat and steel dust, and looks at the caped vigilante. "I don't have any family. My friends are all perfectly capable of defending themselves, trust me," she assures him with a wry tone. "I haven't run into a gun yet that does more than sting really bad."

Her eyes narrow again as a thought strikes her. "Hey…. are you here because I'm in trouble, or are you here looking to see if I 'need protecting'?" she asks him, vague flickering commentary from the previous evening niggling at her memory.

The scowl on his face is seen again on his lips. He does get the defensive vibe from her, and that's not going to make this conversation easier. He doesn't need to be battling her ego in order to make his point. This should be friendly and open. That's what he wants.

He pushes himself up off the beam once more, and now he approaches her more directly. He shakes his head, and says, "This isn't about me trying to play the big damned hero and save the damsel in distress. You don't need to get your hackles raised, okay?"

After a pause, and a lifting of his hands in surrender to indicate that he's genuine, he continues. "I've done my homework on you, Caitlin. You're strong, you're fast, you're tough. Superhumanly so. No thug with a gun is ever going to pose a threat to you. There's no question there. But right now? We're all in trouble, Caitlin. Every last one of us. We have the government looking to force people like us into registering with them. This will allow certain… unscrupulous factions within the government to lay claim on you. To literally draft you into service as a military killing machine. They have the means to do it, too."

Tim's shoulders roll, as if he's trying to work out some of the tension that's held in them. "They're spinning this whole Supergirl killing HYDRA soldiers as a "genocide" to do just that. To sway public opinion over so that they can control us. But, I'm part of a group of friends and allies that are trying to stop that. And trying to help keep them from coming after the more… open individuals, like yourself. But make no mistake, Caitlin. This isn't just altruistic white knighting, either. Like I said, I've done my homework. Double Major from Columbia in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and you were working on your Master's. You're… what… twenty-three now? That's amazing. You're brilliant, Caitlin. You're a genius, and you're powerful. I'm not trying to save you, because I think you'd be an incredible asset to my friends and I."

"Nope."

Caitlin just walks away from that whole stream of rhetoric. The impassioned plea, the compliments, the indications of his research and a strong moral position all summed up in an eloquent statement intended to entice her into considering a more socially conscientious attitude.

And she just walks away from that sales pitch, with a single word. She stoops down and picks up a doughnut-shaped steel ingot easily six feet across and easily weighing three or four tons, and without any particular effort, moves it from one side of the bay to the other. She's better than any commercial forklift, and in the short time they've been talking, she's shifted at least fifty tons of raw steel across the storage area.

And she doesn't look particularly exerted.

Perhaps it's a good thing that the cowl doesn't show much of his face. All she can see is his disappointed frown, and not the backlash of fury in his eyes. Nope? Seriously?

"Did you not hear what I was just telling you?" He says, walking along beside her like her shadow. "Waller and her goon squad will come for you. They will subdue you, and they will use you as a weapon. There is no question in that, Caitlin. These are bad people who do bad things, and you… with your open profile and power set? You're what they call a priority target."

He steps in front of her, looking her square in the eyes. "You're smart, Caitlin. Think about it. You know I'm right. You're one of the first people they'll come to when the witch hunt starts. I'm not asking for you to do much, either. I'm just asking you to lend us your intellect. Work with me on solving the problem before it becomes a problem. It's not a problem that can just be fixed with punching people. We need people like you, and like me, to work together and figure it out. In the process… you say you don't have a family… Well, maybe, if you come with me, we can find you one."

Caitlin picks up a piece of metal with an unusual heft to it, about six feet long and a solid foot thick. "This is industrial corbonate," she tells Red, hefting it a few times. "They use it to earthquake proof structures and attach load bearing beams to counterweights in skyscrapers. This is what you use to keep buildings from falling down."

Staring him in the eye she bends it almost to a ninety degree angle, muscles in her arms and across her chest standing out, then just as deliberately, bends it mostly straight again. "I don't have any idea who you are, dude. I've never had a secret identity. I've never even had a /nickname/. I'm just Caitlin, or Fairchild, or 'ginger freak'," she says, resting her hands on her hips. "So yeah, frankly? I don't see what registration is gonna do except help things get better for me. I'm tired of having to talk to a lawyer every time someone gets a bruise while I'm hauling their car out of a wreck. Or being hit with 'emotional distress' for getting attacked by robots in their proximity." She flips one hand in the air, suspending the question on her fingertips.

"As far as I can see, you're telling me I can either play ball with the government- the /government/- or I can help with this whole insurrectionist thing you've got going on, and go right back to still being a publically listed tabloid queen who has to bend creepers in half once or twice a year just to remind the rest of her stalkers to stay better hidden. Frankly, I could use some government help."

"I get that. I understand that you think it'll get better for you, Caitlin." He says, and for what it's worth, the sympathy in his voice is apparent, even through the modulation. "I know that being you, so out in the open like this? That it's been painful, and that the world is full of people who are looking to use you as an excuse to make a buck. I get that you think the government will help you. But I'm telling you… without a doubt, Caitlin… They'll use you. They'll take away from you your free will. They'll brainwash you. They'll weaponize you."

He shakes his head, lowering his gaze to the ground and letting his arms rise and flop back down at his sides. "I know you're not a killer, Caitlin. You're not a bad person. I'm genuinely trying to help you. I'm trying to give you a home. Friends that understand and support you. People who are in the same situation as you are. I can only offer you that. You know that saying, "Blood is thicker than water"? That's actually misquoted, which reverses the meaning of the original phrase. The correct phrase is "The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb". It means that the friends we make, the family we chose, is stronger than the bonds of the family we're born into. I'm trying to offer that to you. And we're not looking to be insurrectionists. I want to fight this thing above the board. Legal and public. Not with covert missions, not with rebels versus the Empire. Legit."

Caitlin listens quietly to Red's words, then turns and walks back to her little three-walled cubicle, which is little more than a few sheets of plywood and a desk. She looks at her notes for the day's work, then steps behind the plywood wall and more or less hidden from view, wipes her arms and face off and changes her overshirt. Wearing a plain black babydoll that must have been a smaller woman's nightshirt at some point, she walks back towards Red, duffle dangling from her fingertips. Finally, she looks at him squarely.

"Sorry," she says, shaking her head. "I can't help you. I get what you're worried about. But I can't keep being out here on my own like this. A bunch of friends is all well and good until some day there's some kind of accident and a woman sues me for a million bucks. I'm just an intern, guy," she tells him. "I make forty grand a year, and I have to live in /Gotham/ and commute over to the labs. In five years, I might have enough saved I can actually look at buying a house somewhere out of the city. Maybe out of state."

"You're talking about these ideals and conspiracies and throwing around some really pretty words, but at the end of the day, the government's telling me they'll protect me. Maybe protect me from myself- protect others from me. All you're offering me is a shoulder to cry on and a couch to sleep on."

"The Star Wars reference was cute, though," she admits. "Yer kinda nerdy, arne't ya."

Red Robin lets her walk away for the moment, taking the time to recollect his thoughts and let her think about what he's telling her. When she comes back out, and begins to speak again, he sighs. Dammit, what can he do to make her see that she's making a mistake?

"You want out of this city? I can do that. I can give you a home that's gorgeous and scenic, in the countryside, but still close enough for you to commute to work. You want to make more than fourty-kay a year? I can connect you to people in Drake Industries or Wayne Enterprises. Get you a chance at the big leagues. Let you do the stuff that you really want to do. The stuff that drove you so hard to get those degrees before most people were even finished with community college. I can give that to you anytime. You just have to trust me."

The thing about being nerdy almost makes him grin. Almost. There might even be a bit of color in what little can be seen of his cheeks. He shrugs his shoulders, and says, "I'm a nerd, sure. I like Star Wars, and Tolkien, and spend half of my free time designing space shuttle prototypes or working on mathematical theories, because I always wanted to be either an astronaut or a mathematician growing up."

Caitlin smiles at Red. Despite any assertions she'd make to contrary, she really does have an excellent, sparkling smile, and she emphasizes it with a touch to the nape of his neck- though her touch is a bit ham-handed.

"I'm sorry, no," she says, shaking her head in gentle rejection. "You're not looking to hire me or get me a job- you just want to buy my vote." Her hand drops to her side and her face gets serious again.

"What I want is to know that I'm serving the public good," she tells Red. "That's all I've ever wanted to do with…" she gestures vaguely at herself. "This. But it's not right of me to walk around telling people that I know what's best for them, either. Maybe I can save someone by ripping their car apart. Maybe I can save someone by jumping into a building." She shrugs. "But maybe the people want me to save them by getting out of their way. I didn't ask for this, guy," she tells Red. "It just happened. My daddy was a big believer in life and lemonades. I'm not going to pretend I can't do what I can do, but I'm not going to go shoving my nose into every little problem- particularly if the people I wanna help are telling me /not/ to do that. At that point, I'm just a bully with a more conscientious social ethic."

He stands still, even when she touches him. The look on his face, what can be seen of it, at least, is pure disappointment. He shakes his head. "Then you've missed the entire point of this conversation. I don't want to buy your vote. I wanted to give you a chance to do the good that you want to do. I wanted to give you the chance to save people and live the life you want to live. Not bully people, and not tell people what's best for them. Just to save people. Like yourself."

He pulls out his grappling gun, firing off a line to a nearby brick factory. "I'll still put in the word for you. There's still good you can do working for Wayne or Drake, here in Gotham. If you want it."

He doesn't give her the chance to answer, though, as the soft "zwip" of his grapple line sends him soaring off towards the roof of the factory. As he nears the ledge, however, the line goes slack and disengages, allowing his cape to form gliding wings that carry him aloft and out of sight around the corner.

Caitlin sighs and exhales heavily once he's out of earshot, suppressing a tremble. Being confident and having social anxiety aren't mutually exclusive things. She takes a few breaths to steel herself and turns to leave, but can't prevent herself from casting a glance over her shoulder to where he'd vanished, and with a lot of doubt and niggling worry on her face, starts the long walk to her ridiculously cramped car and the unpleasant drive to her ratty, gross Gotham apartment.

All part of being a civil servant.

Right?

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