4764/Who's The Fairest....

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Who's The Fairest....
Date of Scene: 17 January 2021
Location: Eastside - St. Martin's Island
Synopsis: Kian and Vorpal discover that Colette has a doppelganger after all - and not all doppelgangers are alike.
Cast of Characters: Colette O'Connail, Terry O'Neil, Kian

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    There are ways people can broach a subject casually, to build up to it and avoid causing alarm.  Then there's Colette.  There is receiving a text from an unknown number that reads 'Terry - Colette here. Other number has been compromised, do not use. Doppelganger. Meet me park opposite the tower, 5pm.'
    It is of course suspicious in so many ways, in this time of paranoia.  Does she mean Terry's doppelganger has stolen her phone?  Does she mean she has a doppelganger?  Is it really her, or is this a trap set by Terry's doppelganger?  Or Colette's doppelganger?  There are too many possibilities, and a lot of them suggest that meeting at the park could be walking into a trap.  On the other hand if it's a trap, why try to spring it so close the tower, where help is on hand?  But then if it's not a trap, why not meet at the tower?  Unless she has reason to distrust someone at the tower.  This is all very confusing.
    The sensible thing is probably to show up, with backup.  Ideally with more backup on call at the tower.  On the other hand, sensible is not Terry O'Neil's middle name.  Still, it's in sight of the tower.  In daylight, or at least the tail end of it.  Surely it's safe.  Ish.  And she might have info.  Or be in trouble.  Or….
    There's only one way to find out, and that's to go to the part at the appointed time.  It's a nice little park built onto a slope with a great view of the tower.  There are a few benches scattered around that during a warmer time of year would be filled with people taking the view, but the few people in the park now are staying moving.  Unusually for Colette, she is not there half an hour before the appointed time.

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry has absolutely had it with Doppelgangers.  He had dealt with Lois', his own, Gar's, Nick's, and now there was another looming in the distance.  Colette's enigmatic message made him very uneasy, and he decided that he was going to be prepared for whatever might happen.  If Colette had a doppelganger, they would need some serious firepower.  That's where Kian came in.
    "I don't have Rabbit Holes anymore," Terry had said to the Akiar, "So I am going to need your backup.  I'm going to project an illusion of myself and stay by the way, invisible.  If she starts acting strange, or I am sure she's a doppelganger…."
    Terry had pointed.  "Stay high, out of sight… I'll have my comms on so you can hear what's going on."
    Did Kian argue?  Did he propose a different plan?  Whatever the case, Terry at least waits for 'Colette' at the appointed space, illusion in place.

Kian has posed:
    Kían does not argue—he's not a tactician, at least in matters outside of aerobatics.  "Another you, another Gar, you said you haf a frien' who was also other… I thin' maybe my double mus' haf the city to himself, wherever he iss."
    The birdman is already looking for high cover—buildings with cornices, evergreens (pesky winter), any place a birdman can be without being obvious.
    He gives Terry a slightly confused look.  "An' how are we suppose to know 'strange' for Colette?"

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    One sign of strange for Colette is not being early.  Today it seems like she's late.  Five, ten, then fifteen minutes go by with no sign of her showing up.  It's starting to seem like she isn't going to show and it's going to be a boring trip when a woman peels away from where she has been leaning against the railings looking out over the tower and sits down next to Terry's illusion.  "Hello Terry," she says in Colette's voice.
    Her clothing is not the high-fashion, or at least expensive, standards that Colette goes for.  Her hair is cut shorter, and distinctly not Colette's blonde.  She has a peaked baseball cap that shadows her features and the light isn't great—but it's the right build, the right voice, and what's visible of her features looks right.
    She sits silent for a few moments, staring out at the tower.  "I don't get it.  You've got to be suspicious.  What precautions have you taken?  Whether you are the real Terry O'Neil of this universe or his… doppelganger… from another, I would expect you to have taken some kind of precautions, but I don't see them.  Someone watching us from the tower?  Too far, even if they can teleport.  How safe do you feel, right now? With me here?"

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "You're asking a lot of questions that are kind of sus, 'Colette.'  I could ask you why you're suddenly cosplaying at Avril Lavigne, and why you are no longer a suicide blonde."  Dyed by her own hand.  "Never you mind my precautions… what is this all about?"  The human redhead keeps an arm's length distance from Colette.  This is for a very good reason, of course.  He raises a hand and points a finger at Colette.  "You told me there was no way you had a doppelganger, because you would've chosen to incarnate in a better world.  Now I'm not so sure.  What was Harley's gift?" he asks, dripping with suspicion.

Kian has posed:
    Kían is not happy about what he sees.
    That's Colette's face, but that's not her hair, her usual style.  Is that enough to go on?  He hadn't seen her in a while, what with all the activity at the tower lately.  People get their hair cut, people have casual wear.
    And people are being replaced by doubles who look the same but act differently.
    And Kían is still confused by human body language.  It's… wrong.  At least relative to what he's used to.
    The disturbing nature of the whole scene makes it easier to lurk above, in shadows, waiting for one wrong move.
    If this isn't Colette tavár'h, he… he… he didn't know what he'd do.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette tilts her head sharply to one side, looking at Terry's illusionary presence on the seat behind her, her lips curling up into an odd smile.  "If I was trying not to be found too easily, wouldn't it make a lot of sense for me to dye my hair, and… you know, not look like me?  Conversely, if I come from another universe and was intending to fool you that I am the Colette from this universe, who has blonde hair, wouldn't I bleach mine to match?"
    She turns away from Terry's illusionary form, again staring out towards the tower.  There is something almost wistful in her expression.  "Of course I might try to save the effort of bleaching my hair and pretend to have dyed it to be in disguise, instead.  What a tangled web we weave.  Your shadow is wrong.  Close, but wrong.  Believe me, I know these things."
    She lets that sit there for a few moments.  "You are cautious of me.  You know enough to be cautious of sitting next to me in case I am indeed not… not the me you know.  Despite being a superhero.  Anyone who can choose which world to incarnate on is someone who you should be cautious of, that's fair.  Would you be cautious of me still, if I gave you the correct answer to your question, and revealed that I was the the Colette that you know?"

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    Terry looks down at his shadow, and huhs.  "I should've stayed in the shade.  Figured a shadow princess would notice that… but we're taking the roundabout way here."  He still doesn't become visible, preferring to address Colette through his illusion.  "You said your regular phone became compromised.  Is that true?  What's going on, Colette?  You know the kind of pressure I'm under right now…."  He hadn't told Colette about Gar being found, as he was instructed not to relay news over text outside of the tower.  He was planning to see Colette before they went to Nadia's lab… but now things had obviously changed.

Kian has posed:
    "She looks… not quite right," Kían whispers into the T-Com.  "I do not know if she iss a double or not.  She iss not wrong… but she iss not quite right, but she iss not enough not right for me to say she iss wrong."  Good luck parsing that.
    The hard part is staying calm.  If he gets agitated, he might start to glow and that would give his position away.
    "I need advice," he whispers urgently.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "You're not in any danger from me," Colette says, still staring at the tower.  "Your test question was inadequate though, I mean that's the kind of information that can be discovered.  And you ask about a third party even, not something specific to me.  Something known only to your friends, perhaps?  People who know you?  Then you may have asked the same question to someone before.  Have you?  Asked a doppleganger that question?  If you have, then the question is no good any more.  Some of them may be working together.  Some may know what information is required to get past your guard."
    "There are things I can tell you to ensure you know that you are in no danger from me more fully and more completely than the question you asked.  132 North Pine Drive, Staten Island, for example.  You were staying there recently, remember?"  Colette turns back to Vorpal's illusionary form, and for all that he has been made, she gives it a gentle smile.  "If I had intended you harm, I would have killed you in your sleep.  You are in no danger from me.  Am I in danger from you?  Do you intend me harm?"
    She looks away again, sighing softly.  "Yes, what I told you was true.  The other number is compromised.  By me.  I studied her phone while she was sleeping.  I cannot make sense of her, and your world is very confusing."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "Stand by," Vorpal whispers into the comm, and Terry raises an eyebrow at the mention that she could have killed him in his sleep.  "I've been getting a lot of reminders lately about how I'm the weakest of all the Titans.  It's doing wonders for my self-esteem, you know."
    "So you are a different Colette, then.  And you're not like the other doppelgangers, because you haven't killed her, nor adopted her identity… otherwise you would've not made me suspicious.  But you saw something that has made you think that my Colette is the dangerous one… but I don't know anything about you Colette and…."
    The Cheshire cat sighs.  This is giving him a headache.  He dismisses the illusory Terry and reveals himself—but doesn't give Kian the signal to reveal himself just yet.  This is a test.
    "Okay, I'll trust you and I bite.  What's your story?

Kian has posed:
    Kían tenses, then forces himself to breathe slowly, calmingly.  No glowing.  He must not glow now.  He knows Colette is more than she appears to be, but he's never really known how much more, and triggering an otheruniverse Colette to demonstrate is not a good idea.
    He spreads and re-folds his wings under cover of the cornicework, watching with a hawk's eyes for any reason to act.
    Somehow, he even sounds calm(ish) when he radios back a simple, "Yis."

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    Colette… this other Colette, slumps back against the bench, staring out into space.  "I never quite know what to expect from people here," she says.  "I didn't mean to insult you or call your strength into question, Terry.  I am sorry if it sounded like I was implying that.  For what it is worth, from the research I have managed to do into you so far, I have the impression you are rather formidable.  Most people do sleep though, and there are few on this world I could not kill if I chose to.  That's reason enough to consider your Colette to be the dangerous one, is it not?  I know nothing about her.  But I know what I might have been."
    Colette jerks forwards rather suddenly, but not far—she stops, leaning forwards a little, her hands on her knees, looking down at the ground.  "Okay.  Decision time, Terry.  Either you are going to listen to me, or you are going to ask whichever colleague you have covering you to try to kill me.  Here I am.  I'm not moving, give them the instruction if that is what you are going to do.  However I don't know how much you know about me.  About her, the one you know.  Killing me would delay my mission, but it won't achieve anything.  I would prefer if you don't though, I really would.  Being killed is inconvenient.  And I'm not entirely able to stop the pain."
    She looks askance at Terry—the real Terry this time.  Her black, black eyes look haunted.  Her cheeks are more hollow then her opposite number.  "I'm not resisting.  Make your choice."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "The Titans don't kill, Colette.  In fact, I had an argument with your counterpart about that… so."  He taps his com.  "Birdy buddy, come down."
    The Cheshire cat grins.  "I did bring a backup.  But he wouldn't have killed you.  He was here solely for my protection and your incapacitation if needed… but let's get down to brass tacks."
    He walks over to sit down on the bench, next to her.
    "You mentioned a mission.  And I can tell it's not 'Take earth over for ZZGU', so I'm open to listening."

Kian has posed:
    A little hesitantly, Kían stands up on his rooftop, easily visible from where Colette and Terry are.  He comes down, landing a good two, three meters away, his expression clearly uncertain.
    He remembers seeing what other Gar did to our Gar.
    So, he does not come closer.
    He does bow, wings spreading, in his standard greeting.  "Kié… Colette."  He's wary, like he was when he first fell to this planet, and he does not sit, does not relax.  "You… haf not done anything to Colette /tavár'h/, have you?"

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "They say you don't," Colette says quietly.  "They say some of you, of your… team… were there.  They defeated the Tyrant, and did not kill her.  But I don't know what to believe.  There are some… some on my world who claim that is their ideal too, but would they refrain when the time came?  I do not know."
    She looks up again, her eyes going to Kian, who she studies with visible caution—and no hint of recognition in her eyes.  It's as if she is seeing him for the first time, which she is.  "It's strange to see non-humans walking around on this Earth, as if you… just accepted."  She puffs her cheeks out and sits back again, putting her hands in her pockets and hunching her shoulders a little, an almost protective gesture.  "I have been watching her.  Observing, trying to find out what she is.  That's all, so far."  She tilts her head again, looking at the bird-man curiously.  "You cons… do you consider her a friend?" she asks.
    "ZZGU.  It's strange to hear you speak of it like that.  So… casually.  It's gone, Terry.  Hopefully forever.  I do not serve it.  I never have.  I am immune to its abilities.  For the last three years I travelled through its world—yes, its world, not mine.  It was never mine.  Trying to do some good, trying to find some way to help those who didn't want my help, who wanted only to worship it and to hurt each other.  But I could never do enough, not nearly enough.  And now they come to your world, some of those still sick, still broken by what… it… did to them.  So when I heard of your world, of this other Earth, this paradise you live in, I worried what they might do, what sickness they might spread.  And when I learned that the people of this Earth are dopplegangers of the people of my own world, I worried what… what I might do here, too."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "Yes, she is my friend.  She struggles with a very dark load.  And I try to be something that keeps her from going too much into that side," Terry says quietly.  "I know she can be ruthless.  I also know she cares, too.  But it sounds like you do have a hint of how precarious your other you can be, sometimes…."  He smiles a little.  "It's a full time job, sometimes.  Beast Boy's doppel tried to kill my Beast Boy.  He nearly succeeded.  Colette wanted to be the gun that killed the doppelganger… and that was our disagreement.  I want him captured and sent back."
    He exhales.  "I know I have a doppel in that world, too.  I'm a fucking asshole there.  And he stole half of my powers.  So I need to grab him before he gets sent back… but we do have a problem.  And at this point, several people I know have had doppels trying to replace them.  We're supposed to not blow the lid on this but… at this point I am thinking about going to the Planet and blowing the whistle.  But it might cause mass panic… and yet the doppelgangers are here… so I am in a quandary."
    He glances over at Kian, and smiles.  "Our world isn't perfect, but it sounds like they're much worse over there.  We do accept.  Some of us, at least."

Kian has posed:
    "She has save my life when I appeared on this world," Kían says firmly.  "She pull me out of the bay; I fell through a hole in space an' coul' not get my bearin's and did not make the shore, an' she came into the water an' save me.  She has help fin' my firs' home, with the school, and my curren' home, with the Titans.  An' she iss teachin' me English."  It still sounds like 'Ing-liss' the way he pronounces it.
    His wings spread just a little.  Not menacingly—can you even imagine Kían looking at all menacing?  "Colette iss tavár'h—my frien'.  There is much about her that I do not know… and I do not care.  I know she iss tavár'h, that iss enough."
    He folds his wings neatly, the tips just crossed, visible between his ankles.  But he does not come closer, he just stands there, more or less casually.

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "'Precarious' is not a comforting word," Colette says with a soft sigh.  "She seems to have no mission in life.  I am uncertain whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.  But… she saved your life?"  She turns to Kian, looking curiously at the little alien.  "And continues to help you.  And she has friends…."  She looks back at Terry.  "Friends who choose not to kill.  Maybe… maybe that is enough.  I hope it is.  But she wanted to kill… it is as if she is still stuck in the middle."
    Her eyes drift off into the distance again, a thousand yard—or thousand year—stare.  "I… I need to be sure.  It would be easier if… is it possible that you two would not tell her about me?  I will swear an oath to you that I will do her no harm unless…."  Colette breaks into a frown and shakes her head, puzzled.  Then blinks a few times, the looks back to Kian, and then to Terry.  "Unless… you agree?  Is that acceptable?"  She winces slightly, and turns away.
    "I intend to return to my world, eventually," she says, almost at a whisper.  "With as many of them… of the others from my world as I am able.  I will give you what help I can with your own doppelgangers."

Terry O'Neil has posed:
    "She… wanted to kill.  Yes.  But it was because we thought Gar had been murdered.  I… can understand that.  I almost killed his doppelganger when I thought he had killed him.  It took a punch from Wonder Woman to stop me… so…."  He nods.
    "I can keep your secret.  But I want us to stay in contact.  Honestly, I might need you from time to time for advice on… how I might help her.  You can tell me about your own journey… maybe for dinner?" he says, looking at the sun.  "I have to take care of a few things.  But… who knows.  I'll help you on your mission, to take them back.  But what will you do after you have taken them back?  Your world sounds like a nightmare."

Kian has posed:
    Kían moves a little closer.  "You mus' not harm Colette tavár'h," he says simply.  It's not in any way a threat, it's not a plea, it's just a statement.  "We do not haf the Eart' way of swearin' promises."  He taps his temple.  "We jus' know.  We can not not know.  If you tell me you will not harm her, I will accep' your word."
    He smiles just a little.  "An' maybe then I can haf two Colette tavár'yw, yis?"

Colette O'Connail has posed:
    "I won't do anything at all to her," she says to Kian.  "Unless you both agree it is necessary to do so.  And even then I will do everything I can not to harm her.  If… it… it isn't her fault."  Colette shakes her head.  "She… You are her friends, but maybe you don't know everything about her.  We would have… we could make that decision… together?  I will offer my advice and my help, but it is your world, not mine."
    Colette stands up and looks around, shoulders still hunched.  There's very little of the confidence this world's Colette is so full of apparent.  "I… I have a phone," she says, pulling it out of her pocket and looking down at it.  It's a phone the Colette the two Titans know wouldn't be seen dead with.  "If it is switched off… I guess if you send me a message when it is switched off, will I receive it when I switch it on again?  I have never received a message before.  If not, I will put my phone on for five hours each day from midday.  I can usually get it recharged most days."
    Colette looks up at the darkening sky for a few moments, her eyes finding the dim crescent of the moon, then she looks back to Terry.  "It is a nightmare, Terry.  That's why I can't stay here in your paradise with so many strong people like you Titans to help each other.  My world cannot afford to lose any who have the strength to help it.  Please do not tell her about me."
    Colette extends her fingers, and the growing shadows under the bench and beneath a nearby tree creep towards her, swirling into a whirlpool of shade on the ground at her feet. Colette turns away, and is gone.