B&E: Interview with Elsa Beremud (IC)

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_Araneae_

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If there is a God, he's determined to ruin everything in my life and I can't even fathom just how true that is right now. Grumbling, Katie turned her glare toward the men who'd kicked her out and the building representing the latest in a long line of goals standing right in front but just out of her reach.

She'd tried numerous times to get through, but faced stalwart opposition at every turn. Ever since the Alaric Foundation press conference Elsa Beremud had gone silent. No doubt fielding offers from various media sources for more information. Whoever was the first to break a follow-up story would have clout for decades. A perfect opportunity, Katie thought, to start making a name for herself. She could certainly use the boost more than the average inquirer. But something about a no-name 16-year-old with no credentials and no experience getting an interview with the Foundation's head just seemed preposterous to everyone but her. As much as it stung to associate herself with her mother, she even took to signing off "Katherine Kurtz," in hopes that her sharing the surname of the biologist might earn a measure of respect and consideration. Numerous emails went unanswered before finally she received a response which read,

???? ??????? ?????? ?????? ?? ????????? ??. ???????. ??? ?? ????????? ???? ??? ??? ?? ???? ?? ????????? ?????????? ????? ??? ???? ????.

Other methods yielded no better results. The woman on the phone seemed to take it for a joke and promptly hung up. Katie'd gone to an office out of which Elsa was said to work, and the woman at the desk (who was the same woman from the phone) stared incredulously before laughing as she realized the "joke" was serious. Katie'd been turned away once again, escorted by security, and given a polite but stern warning to cut it out. (She could hear the guards trying not to laugh and, while embarrassing, attributed their relatively nice demeanor to the apparent hilarity of it all.)

But despite the persistent discouragement, Katie had at least one more Hail Mary to try before she could admit defeat. She spent the rest of the day spinning silk, knitting a crude "infiltration mask" from her own webs, and dyeing it black. Once the mask had dried out, slinging her backpack over her shoulder, she was ready to move.

The best part about infiltrating a halfway house of all places was, even if she got caught, that was just another "in." (...Right?) The downside was...everything else. It was just far enough away from Gothic's major points of interest to make it a pain in the ass to reach. And the place was a Goddamned mansion, way bigger than any residential property she'd seen outside of the Academy. Getting to Elsa Beremud undetected was going to be a chore at best.

There was just enough daylight by the time she arrived for Katie to spend an hour watching the house from a nearby tree while eating a sandwich she'd made. After which the lack of much discernible change jogged her memory to the fact her eyes functioned extremely well even in low-light conditions. Suddenly, sneaking in after dark seemed preferable, even. She had a visual edge over any rent-a-cops who might've been watching over the premises, a tactile radar biologically wired into her brain, and in a worst-case scenario Katie could find a room to hide out in one of the rooms til morning--a possibility that seemed more and more likely as she realized Beremud was unlikely to live and sleep at her place of work.

Counting on her body's radar to alert her of any ground-level movement, Katie crept cautiously until she could feel no human-sized bodies within 60 feet. She didn't even look as she leapt, easily clearing the fence and landing with a flourish reminiscent of a gymnast. Still, the moment of self-indulgence was short-lived. Seconds later she'd gone from gymnast to cat burglar, albeit sacrificing some caution for speed as she slunk across the lawn toward the first wall she could scale, and the first window she could open.

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"We have a breach."

The words were delivered in the same dour monotone that her assistant, Silas, made all his pronouncements, whether it be concerning the loss of an MRF outpost with associated personnel or the fact that dinner was ready. The head of the Alaric Foundation leaned back in her chair, her icy blue gaze lifting from her personal computer to a large monitor that hung on the far wall. "Bring it up."

Rather than displaying conventional close-circuit camera footage, the screen displayed a computerized representation of the grounds, based on data collected by motion sensors, which were much less obtrusive and prone to malfunction than cameras. The fact that they used circuitry not generally available on this planet gave them a range and accuracy far greater, as well. The Beremud scion arched one eyebrow, but otherwise displayed no emotion as Katie's athletic violation of the halfway house's perimeter was represented. Impressive. "Only the one?"

"She is operating without any discernible support. No audio transmissions detected."

Very impressive. A thought suddenly seized Elsa's mind, a spontaneous urge to indulge in her own suppressed ego and gain some amusement at the same time. "Clear a path for her, but don't make it obvious. Herd her towards the study. Have a response team on standby, but ensure that they do not engage without my direct orders."

"Desired tactical outcome?" Silas' expression remained unchanging as he dutifully keyed her instructions into his phone, alerting his security team.

"Sating my own curiosity," she stated brusquely, as she stood and strode towards the door to her office, pausing only to glance over her shoulder. "Beyond that...we'll see."

Silas merely nodded, then opened a channel to his security teams, using the digital display to follow Katie's progress and deploy individual officers and teams as necessary to push her towards Elsa's private study, deep within the cavernous halfway house.

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As she tramped freely across the lawn Katie's face gradually stretched into something of a gleefully manic smile. The secret, the story, the risk. It was exhilarating! And...a lot easier than expected, she mused, noting not a single person (that she could perceive) patrolling the grounds. Probably a front for rich kids who get in trouble to avoid bad press and still get to party all the time. Several yards out she sprang from the ground, a girl-sized jumping spider, and slammed into the wall—a bit harder than expected. Dazed, she caught herself on a hastily made web to keep from falling off the side of the building, hanging limp while she gained her bearings.

Eventually she righted herself, placing her feet along the wall but still gripping hard to the web. She hadn't yet established firm control over the electrostatic forces which allowed her to adhere to surfaces - neither sticking when she always wanted nor releasing whenever she wanted. As long as she didn't accidentally freeze herself in place, infiltration was as good as done.

It took some feeling around, but apparently the new danger sense wasn't just applicable to physical danger. The "ping" was virtually constant, more present and painful than usual, but occasionally stung harder—roughly around the same time she felt movement close on her radar—and less pronounced the further she got from those representing a threat to her mission. Finally sensing a vacant room, she simply lifted the window and let herself into what appeared to be the kitchen. Or a kitchen. Probably at least three in this place, Jesus Christ.

Her eyes immediately snapped to the corners of the ceiling. One camera, to her right. Katie got the sense its main angle of focus was meant to encompass the cabinets and refrigerator, so she angled herself along the wall until the anxious feeling subsided, and skittered into the hallway when she felt two bodies moving her way from around the corner.

"I'm just sayin', there are certain phrases that should be a crime to say in certain contexts. Like 'you gotta believe me' if you're being interrogated, or 'let em go' - and relevant variations - if someone's hanging someone over an edge!"

"No, yeah, I hear ya. I'm just..."

By then she'd already run-tiptoed the other way, thankful those dance lessons had taught her to be light on her feet. Still, it wasn't long before she found herself once more interrupted by seemingly innocuous conversation.

"So he says to me, 'Aye! I ain't sweet. Not no nancy or nothin' like that. A proper man, I am!' And I said back, 'Yeah I believe you. Proper man who likes to feck other men, that's all.'"

They were so loud laughing that Katie was surprised the whole floor didn't come running. "Takes all kinds to make a world," said the other. She rolled her eyes and kept on.

As open and unsecure as the grounds felt, inside was that much more constricting. Security presence was surprisingly heavy, between cameras and personnel, and Katie couldn't quite shake the feeling that she might've made a mistake. That she was a spider in the web of a much larger spider. And she couldn't even act to the best of her ability. One stray thread of silk outside the building might go at least a week or so without notice and by then it'd be untraceable, but inside? Girl sneaks in for an interview and suddenly both guards and cameras are doused in webs? No way anyone's buying that coincidence.No way but the hard way. And to make matters worse, she soon realized, she was surrounded on nearly all sides—including the way from which she came. And no way out. Feck! These idiots are blocking my way and they don't even know it! Geez, how lame are you, she thought. Trapped and they don't even have the first clue, just imagine if they were trying.

But a reprieve, it seemed, was in sight. Turning left down a narrow corridor she couldn't sense a single person. As if there's any other choice. And as though on cue, as Katie pressed further down the hall, the patrol closed in on her former location. This was starting to feel like more than a coincidence but by then it was too late. With encroaching footsteps foretelling the end of her infiltration and no other choice, she shoved her way through the door and closed it as quickly and quietly as she could.

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Beremud

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Elsa sat in the pitch-black study, nestled comfortably into an armchair that had grown to be a favorite of hers, and from which she would have been able to clearly see the only door into or out of the room, had the light on the small end table to her right been on. She listened to updates and analysis from Silas as he carried out her commands, masterfully moving security personnel to herd their intruder without giving the officers any idea what they being used for.

As she listened to Silas' monotone analysis, she grew even more impressed. It would seem that their interloper possessed a great deal of physical prowess, but seemed to be lacking in training and experience. This was admirable; it seemed they weren't dealing with a professional assassin or saboteur, but someone possessed of an almost befuddling degree of determination.

Even the opening and closing of the door was done with remarkable stealth, and if she hadn't been watching for the telltale appearance of momentary light from the hallway, she might have missed Katie's entrance to the study entirely. Time to see how this one fares at a different kind of game, Elsa mused, as she reached over and casually turned on the light.

"I don't suppose you thought to grab any coffee when you passed through the kitchen," the Beremud scion greeted her visitor, in her trademark tone of voice that was equal parts cold and silky smooth. "It's getting late, and it has been a very long day."

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@beremud:

Still as a piece of furniture. Katie scoffed, more annoyed than anything that she hadn't figured there was anyone in the study. Not that it'd have mattered. She'd been a bit...preoccupied with avoiding detection, and her danger sense had been going off nonstop, just crossing the threshold into painful when she found herself racing down the hall. Amidst all that, she excused, it'd have been not only difficult but less important to fixate on the single individual isolated in that room.

If that person hadn't been the woman she came to see, Katie'd have decked her unconscious. Her smug introduction made Katie wanna deck her anyway. If she didn't need the interview so bad...

But something was...off. She could feel Elsa's heartbeat, slow and steady. The hearts were subtle, barely noticeable even under normal circumstances. But in a gentle, quiet environment like the halfway house at night, she could feel the rhythmic ba-dump clearly. Way too calm for someone who just had her place broken into. Unless...does she think I'm a kid live here? Does she live here?

"Yeah, sorry...headmistress?" Is that the right title? Shit! Get it together! "I did, but I drank it all. And you know how coffee runs right through you. Hoo boy!"

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@_araneae_:

Headmistress?

While it wasn't one of the official titles she used, Elsa had to admit that she liked the ring of it. Perhaps she'd have to commission a new sign for her office door. In the meantime, however...

"Oh yes, coffee does tend to run right through the body, much as you've been been running through this building." She fixed Katie with a pointed, though not overtly hostile (at least not for her, which was, admittedly, not saying much) gaze. "Of course, the coffee tends to make for the exit, whereas you've skulked into a study with only one way in or out, a mistake that someone familiar with the house would be unlikely to make."

She leaned forward, resting her elbows on her knees and resting her chin on steepled hands. "As I've said before, it's been a very long day, so let's dispense with games, shall we? Who are you, and what possessed you to sneak into my house? Depending on your answer, I may not have security physically throw you out...immediately."

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#7  Edited By _Araneae_

@beremud:

Tch! Bitch. You're the one who asked...Katie rolled her eyes but kept the most snappish of retorts to herself. No use getting this far only to be tossed over what was essentially a pop on the mouth.

"I'm Katherine Kurtz, with Action 6 News"—a lie, but they were the first media organization that came to mind—"and we were hoping to touch base with you about the developments of your recent press conference, about the so-called 'metahuman cure.' I didn't think my emails were getting through so I...was inspired to take the initiative. Much like you took the initiative in working on such a historic scientific breakthrough, and I...hoped I could get a word." In concert with her sinking voice, her right hand crossed over and grabbed the opposite elbow while her eyes fell demurely to the floor. Painting her in a self-conscious light that adults seemed to enjoy seeing in children and teenagers, playing small for Beremud's ego, she hoped, would be more conducive to getting her wish.

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This one is different.

Granted, her having ventured as far as she did without security catching her was already ample evidence of that, but her interpersonal approach was also novel. No aggression, no rapid-fire questions, seeking to pry any tidbits of information from her interviewee she could before being thrown out. Plus, who didn't enjoy a bit of ego-stroking?

Keeping her gaze on Katie, she casually unlocked her phone and spoke into it. "Silas, contact the kitchen and have some coffee brought to the study, please." Ending the call without waiting for a response, she waved Katie towards the chair on the opposite side of the small end table. "Your impressive infiltration has earned you a word, at least, Ms. Kurtz. Ask your questions; I will answer as I deem appropriate."

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@beremud:

Katie's face lit up like a star. "Really!? Uhoh, I mean, thanks, Miss...um, ma'am." Bowing her head in an overly formal, even obsequious, manner, she pulled from her bag a Sony camcorder and began racing around the room, testing surfaces at different shot locations, heights and angles.

"Sorry about this," she said as she set it on a shelf behind Elsa and pulled another camcorder from the bag. "These cost me like three hundred and eighty-five together, and that did not leave me enough for tripods. Internship doesn't pay, am I right? But Iwe all at Action 6appreciate your accommodation." The second camera, she placed on a window sill at an off angle behind herself. This was gonna take hours of editing, and she'd end up having to feel her way through the process, but the fledgling reporter couldn't help feeling impressed with herself already.

"If you could just gimme like three seconds after I sit? Just looking ahead, poised, so there's enough of a chunk. Thanks," she said, running around to hit record on each camcorder before setting her phone down to capture a side view. Returning to the offered seat, she counted down a silent 'three, two, one...' before another brief pause and flashing a smile, signalling the official start in her own mind.

Looking directly into the camera behind the warden's scion, Katie did her best impression of someone she imagined could work for Entertainment Tonight. And who wouldn't waste Beremud's time or patience. "So Elsa—Ms. Beremud, whichever you prefer—how long has this 'metahuman cure' been in development? Sounds like it must've cost a lot of time, money, and God knows what other resources."

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@_araneae_:

Elsa sat in silence as Katie bustled about, suppressing an amused smile. In spite of her own nature, she had to admit she was actually enjoying herself, tonight. She'd grown incredibly tired of various news outlets sending their hardball, experienced interviewers to try to trip her up and make her answers fit their preconceived narrative; this girl's earnestness was surprisingly refreshing, by comparison.

A member of the house staff brought in the coffee as Katie was finishing up, and Elsa took a sip between the opening shot and Katie's question, giving her the critical few extra seconds to craft the answer to the question. "Elsa is fine, thank you," she replied with a practiced smile: soft, but with a hint of steel behind it. "As for the 'cure,' it has been in development for a considerable length of time. The research was started by my father; I merely reallocated funding when I inherited the Alaric Foundation, which accelerated its completion. And you are correct, this development came at considerable cost. I'm going to avoid going into specifics, if you don't mind; as I'm sure you've surmised, this is a scientific breakthrough that could be incredibly dangerous, in the wrong hands, and I don't wish to give any of them clues that might enable them to replicate it."

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@beremud:

"Uh-huh, okay..." Katie muttered, tongue peeking just slightly through her lips as she scribbled in her notepad, scratching a few lines horizontally over the paper before once again looking up. For several moments she sat essentially gazing through Elsa, debating the course of the interview in light of her answer.

Ah, screw it. A detour like this could give my piece life."Your dad," she said, straightening up. "The...metahuman prison warden was working on this? And when you took over after...um, when you took over, there seemed to be much less focus on the prison and more on the group homes, like the one we're sitting in now. So the idea of 'metahumans living safe, comfortable, normal lives,' is it safe to say that originated with you? That its original conception may have been in search of a way to deprive metahuman criminals of the ability to cause extensive damage with their abilities?"

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@_araneae_:

Sins of the father.

Somehow, it always came back to that, here. As a species, humans were quite fixated on bloodlines, despite how many of them seemed to claim to value individualism and meritocracy. Granted, they were onto something; a species success was often tied to its genetic material, but the haphazard way the human animal went about trying to manipulate and predict it was laughably primitive. To an outsider, it would be like watching a caveman trying to master lighter-than-air travel by repeatedly jumping out of a tree and flapping their arms.

That hardly made for an appropriate response to the question, however. Instead, Elsa offered Katie a slightly knowing smile, with the closest thing to a hint of warmth anyone was ever likely to get from her. "Well, for starters, my father only served as interim warden until he hired a professional, I believe his name was Josiah Whitby, if I recall correctly. Father probably should have held onto the reins, in retrospect; Warden Whitby's tenure was not what I would call particularly successful."

She paused, taking a sip of her coffee before continuing. "I can't full take credit for ideas like the halfway houses and the cure, however; those were all started under my father's tutelage. He wasn't as entirely militant a man as he wound up appearing; if I could fault him for one thing, it's that he spread himself far too thin. What I have done with the Alaric Foundation is focus its resources along what I feel are the most beneficial lines. There's sufficient violence and militarization in the world today, in my opinion; what we are lacking is places of sanctuary and learning, and scientific progress that improves the quality of life."

Another pause, another sip, timed to build the dramatic tension that the addled brains of the typical TV viewer craved. "As far as his original intentions for the cure, I'm afraid I am as left to speculation as you. I only learned of the project after his death, and there is no documentation about what he planned to do with it. It hardly matters at this point though, wouldn't you say? The cure is under my control, and I have already made my intentions regarding it clear."

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"Yes, I understand completely," said Katie, nodding intently. The entire time, her eyes were kept trained on Elsa's forehead. Two inches above the bridge of their nose, right above their eyebrows, she could practically still hear her own father say. If you try to stare into their eyes you will blink. But if you look right above their eyes you don't have the urge to blink and they can't tell that you aren't actually looking them in the eyes.

It was also a great mask for the fact she'd completely tuned out almost immediately at the mention of Whitby. Silently scolding herself for missing that crucial bit of information, everything within her also resisting the urge to give physical expression to her annoyance at Elsa giving such a dull answer. Oh well. Katie simply nodded her understanding. She'd be able to review it all in the editing phase anyway.

"Moving on...Does it only come in the form of an injection? Or are there other ways for it to be administered?"

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"Currently, it is injection-only," Elsa answered with a nod, setting her cup down on the small end table and leaning back in her seat comfortably. "Depending on the nature and complexity of the abilities being suppressed, a varying dose is required, so an injection is simply the most efficient method for doing so, at least at this early stage. We don't intend to rest on our laurels, though; I have lab teams working on a capsule version, although it may be several years before that becomes viable enough to be released to the public."

As she spoke, she paid close attention to her interviewing, noting her posture, expressions, speech patterns. In Elsa's line of work, she had come to respect how much one could glean about an individual based on these subtle, often unconscious clues. Even the most perfectly-crafted persona held clues to the true identity beneath, and she was eager to learn more of this seemingly innocuous young reporter who had managed an infiltration worthy of a professional spy.

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"Oooh, nice!" said Katie, nodding so enthusiastically that her entire body rocked somewhat. "I'll assume that's top priority, particularly since some might be afraid of needles, or there may be issues penetrating skin of some patients."

"But what I think a lot of our viewers are wondering," she continued, scratching a few more lines through her pad, "are details about the more intimate workings. Prospective patients in particular. You called it a 'long-term power suppressant,' but that's kind of a vague statement isn't it? How long-term are we talking? Is it a one-and-done kind of deal? Or would interested parties need to have successive doses over a certain period--or a lifetime--to keep powers suppressed."

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"It's one of several high priorities," Else replied with an indulgent smile, "but you're correct; we want to ensure that our treatment is available to anyone who needs it, regardless of the nature of their abilities. As to your question, however, it really depends on the patient, to at least some degree. Most of what we call 'low to mid-tier' abilities can likely be suppressed with one dose, or may only require the occasional booster every five to ten years. That said, as I'm sure you are aware," she gave Katiea knowing look, one that would likely be lost on any viewers at home, but that clearly sent the message I saw how you got into this property, "mutant and metahuman abilities aren't a cookie-cutter thing. As more patients take advantage of the treatment, the data we gather will enable us to dose its potency with increasing accuracy."

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#17  Edited By _Araneae_

@beremud:

"Uh-uuuhh..." Her mouth hung, face stuck in a dumbfounded "processing" expression as she parsed the implications behind Elsa's inflection and the looks she'd shot across the room. Where the feck did that come from?

Before she'd realized, nearly half a minute had passed and she was still staring at the headmistriss with the same befuddled expression. Shifting her focus back to her pad, she glanced down the remaining list of questions she hadn't asked. Mulling over her next move, tapping her pencil on her chin, her eyes jumped repeatedly up and down the page. Finally, resolving the dilemma in her head, she scribbled a few more marks on the page. So much for "getting her defenses down." But if that's how we're playing, I can settle for controversy and edit a "discussion" portion into the video after.

She was far from a seasoned reporter, that much would've been apparent to any discerning viewer. But as she glanced back from the pad to Beremud her eyes sharpened. She had little doubt what came next would result in a request to have her thrown from the property, or worse, so she fired her questions as clearly as she could – though there was a notable uptick in her speaking cadence indicating hurry.

"What about subjects? To determine the effectiveness of your 'cure' you'd need subjects, and this obviously isn't the kind of trial you can just do on mice, so where'd you get them? Based on your earlier responses it sounds like you don't plan on publishing research so how can we even be sure your research is ethically sound?

"And what about people taking exception to your use of the word 'cure' to describe this development. What do you say to that? Are you suggesting a view of extranormal mutation as some sort of disease? You don't think that verbiage feeds into hateful rhetoric and beliefs espoused by those like Charlemagne LeBeau? And not to mention feeding into tensions from the other side, with factions like the Arcani Group and the mutant nation of Venezuela. What about those skeptical that this is motivated by some pure sense of selfless benevolence?"

Yet even as she waited for a potential answer (any of which she'd assume was to distract her), Katie shifted and poised herself for any potential need to spring suddenly from her seat, mapping a path that would maximize the speed with which she could snatch her phone and cameras before making a dash for the exit. Radar sense always active, even in her unconscious to notify her of any moving bodies within sixty feet of her, making her acutely aware well in advance of any ambush that would've been waiting on the other side of the door.

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@_araneae_:

This time, Elsa fully suppressed her grin. Her veiled reference to what she'd surmised about her interviewer had clearly had an effect, and it seemed likely that this interview was reaching its endgame. She set her coffee cup back on the end table, leaning forward and focusing her full gaze upon Katie. "Well, as far as ethics and test subjects go, you're sitting in the answer. Over the years, many metahumans have come here for sanctuary, often because their abilities preclude them from what most would call a 'normal' life. We recruited volunteer subjects from this population. Each was thoroughly educated on the potential risks, and each was fully vetted by our legal department and signed all the necessary waivers and disclaimers. Many of them jumped at even the chance of regaining some measure of control over their lives"

She leaned back again, adopting a more relaxed posture and expression. "As to the 'why' portion of your question about rhetoric, I'm afraid that most would find my answer to be on the boring side: it was for insurance purposes. Our market research indicated that, by classifying our product in a pathological manner, we would maximize the potential number of healthcare insurers that would cover it, in part or in whole. I certainly do recognize that this could play into the narratives being pushed by any number of malicious organizations out there, but I'm not going to deny anyone the right to live the life they wish to live based on semantics or politics. Frankly, it irritates me when some quip of language becomes taboo simply because of its use by disreputable groups, because that simply empowers those groups to claim more and more of that language. It makes far more sense to reclaim it."

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@beremud:

Okay. JRE. Joe Rogan, Katie. Come on! I'm Joe Rogan. Following a deep inhale-exhale, Katie put on her best inquisitive face while trying not to be too overtly aggressive. While a subtle flicker in her eyes and a hike in her brow said silently, Just remember you asked for this, lady.

"But that doesn't quite cover it. Classify it however you want for legal or insurance purposes, in private, to companies. But you did a press release and called a subset of our society a disease. This isn't about reclaiming language from hate groups, that's a strawman. In the medical field 'cure' is always used in reference to a disease. That didn't start with hate groups and nobody's talking about outlawing the word. You really mean to tell me you don't see how referring to mutation as an actual disease—not to a committe on insurane or a board of directors, but in a press release to the world—is virtually the same as certain historical parties referring to others as 'savages' who they wanted to 'help' by 'civilizing' them, or played rhetoric about 'keeping the race pure?'"

By then her non-aggressive front had completely capsized, though some vaguely aware part at the back of her consciousness reasoned she could play it off simply for passion. But locked in the moment, her conscious mind was completely unaware. "The point is your words have influence and very real effects on the population. And if you really buy that bit you just said to me, how about your next project be a 'cure' for melanin? Yeah, lots of people—through no fault of their own—aren't allowed to live normal lives because of the melanin in their skin. Why don't you 'cure' that next, see how well it goes over?"

Throughout her miniature rant not once did she glance back to her pad. Following the momentary lapse, signals firing through the nervous system alerted Katie to a slight pain. Glancing down at her hand, she was now tightly gripping a broken pencil inside a balled fist.

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Beremud

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@_araneae_:

Ah, there it is. The nerve was struck, and her hypothesis confirmed.

Elsa sat back, expression cool, even cold, with her elbows resting on the arms of the chair and her fingers steepled in front of her. Mentally, she counted to ten as Katie's outburst ended, letting the tense silence hang awkwardly before replying. "I realize that you're relatively new at this, Katie," she began, her voice even but her eyes growing decidedly cold, "but it's not very professional to put words in your interviewee's mouth. At no point did I refer to any population as a 'disease.' If I had, the cure would be eliminating who they are as individuals. What I am doing is offering an alternative to living with a physical status that prevents them from living the life they wish to live. How is that different from any other pathology? A human being is a human being, Katie, and what I am doing is giving them control over how they wish to live the human experience."

Another pause, this time to a five count, as she leaned forward, her brows narrowing and her icy gaze intensifying. "I am offering the metahuman community a choice, one that they are free to accept or decline. I will not make this choice for them, and I will not allow anyone else to use my cure to do so, but I find it supremely arrogant for anyone to insist that the choice shouldn't be theirs to make. Those who do not view their metahuman abilities as a detriment will have no need for what I offer. I presume that includes you."

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_Araneae_

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#21  Edited By _Araneae_

@beremud:

So there it was. The logical conclusion of their journey through this maze of an encounter. Even in the absence of concrete evidence, both knew the simple accusation would be enough to mark Katie a figure of controversy and rendered a toxic association to be avoided by many. (She herself had been banking on the same principle in her rhetoric.) But even that would've been bearable - not least because of her own edits and the "punching up" factor - if not for that smug bitch grin. That disgusting, holier-than-thou self-importance practically dripping through her demeanor like sludge. Hiding behind those rules all designed to keep people like her safe. But even if Katie couldn't win the game, nothing would stop her from flipping the gameboard.

"Those who do not view their metahuman abilities as a detriment will have no need for what I offer. I presume that includes—"

But if Katie'd judged their relative differences in capability correctly, not another word would be allowed to flow from the conniving heiress's mouth. The distance between them was short as it was; it wouldn't have taken an extreme physical display to cross the distance once she'd worked out where the conversation was going. And once she had, the intrepid self-proclaimed reporter darted across the room in an attempt to shut her up directly. Clamping her mouth shut probably would've sufficed but in her fury Katie decided at the last moment she wanted nothing more than to wrap her hand around Elsa's neck – still careful enough to avoid crushing the airway, instead opting for arterial compression. She was done playing nice, but a blood choke would be ultimately harmless as long as she didn't accidentally pop the woman's head like a zit.

"I'm not talking about the God-fecking-damn choice, it's not a fecking cure!" Lowering her voice to a growl, "Do you understand me, you smug fecking cent? Nod if you do."

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Beremud

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@_araneae_:

It was not often that Elsa was caught completely off-guard, but even she had to admit that this was one of those rare occasions. The nervous young girl had, over the course of two questions, transformed into a sudden whirlwind of apparent rage. There was some gratification in her reaction; it removed any doubt in the Beremud scion's mind that innocent young Katie had a metahuman agenda of her own, likely inspired by her own other-than-baseline-human nature.

Still, that satisfaction would be somewhat dulled if she didn't survive the encounter. The person who the world thought Elsa Beremud was would never back down from a threat, physical or otherwise, and she wasn't about to shatter that image because of one miscalculation. Not when she was surrounded by backup plans. Rather than nod, as instructed, she gave a light snap of her fingers. Faint as the sound was, the response was instantaneous, and the door to the study burst open to admit Silas, her blank-faced "assistant" weapon in hand and already trained on Katie.

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She met Katie's gaze evenly, fighting through her restricted oxygen, and raised one eyebrow. The message was clear: well?