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Catching Up
[Image: s-restaurant-washington-dc.jpg]

Evelyn was always impressed by the decor and ambiance in Moreau's. It was a pretty French/Italian fusion restaurant. It was expensive, of course, but also very exclusive, so exclusive in fact that it was difficult for even someone of Evie's stature to get a reservation. She had to leverage her popularity as the U.S.'s most viral Congresswoman to get a table for two at such short notice. However, it's exclusivity meant that it wasn't uncommon to see sitting Representatives and Senators dining there. Her presence meeting an old friend there certainly wouldn't make a splash in the papers. Or at least, it wouldn't have if Nick hadn't made a spectacle of himself in public. For someone who claimed to just be a normal man, he certainly had a flair for the dramatic.

Evie's mouth twisted into a wry smile. Regardless, what happened happened, and she had to make the best of it. Knowing that Nick was blessed like her made things easier in some ways. She'd been hoping that she could trust her childhood friend's brother with knowledge of her gift. The fact that he was also blessed made him less likely to abuse her trust, or so she hoped. If they were lucky, the paparazzi would've grown somewhat bored or at least Nick would evade them. None of them would make it inside the premises of course, Moreau ran too good of a business to allow that. However, knowledge that she was meeting with him would almost certainly get out. Evelyn sighed. She would just have to be more careful of eavesdroppers.

Even in a room full of important people, Secretary Trano still made ripples as he entered. No one was so crass as to openly stare at him, but his progress towards her was tracked out the corners of many eyes, and whispers followed his wake. The entire restaurant was aware that a powerful man - both in the political and literal sense - was among them. Evie stood once he reached her table, offering her best politician's smile and handshake. "Nick, thank you for joining me. I'm certain that you have a very busy schedule, especially now."

Once they were seated, Evelyn bowed her head, clasping her hands in her lap. She quickly ran through an 'Our Father' before making her request silently Lord Jesus, shelter us. Dampen the flows around our table, so that sound travels less easily. Amen.
When she looked up, Nick appeared somewhat wary. "That trick is something that I used to use with Maddie all the time. It helped us gossip in school without getting in trouble."
Evie was still saddened by the loss of her best childhood friend, just as she always was. Hopefully mentioning her would get the elephant out of the room though. "I'm not sure the exact science behind it, but it muffles sound. It's not perfect. Someone actively standing by us and actively trying to eavesdrop may succeed, but it will prevent people in the tables nearby from easily overhearing us."
With that, she grew silent. She'd given Nick enough to muse over for now.

((I figured that Trano might get goosebumps when a woman is channeling around him, as some men do.))

Edited by Evelyn, Aug 24 2016, 01:56 PM.
It was hard to ignore the whispers sly glances that followed Nicholas as he crossed the room. His little stunt did a lot to show people that the power wasn't evil, but it also showed everyone what he was capable of. And that was barely anything,
he thought. It wouldn't do to go around melting down buildings like he was Nikolai Brandon. The bastard was probably half dead after that stunt.

Evie was sitting towards the back, and she stood to shake his hand when he reached her. She'd grown into quite the little politician, but it was hard for him not to see the little girl with pigtails he used to know so long ago. After she said her greeting and they sat down, something strange happened. She bowed her head and Nicholas felt a chill pass straight through him. The room was too warm, and nobody else around reacted.

What Evie said confirmed a suspicion Nicholas didn't even know he'd had. So, that's what it's like when women are using the power,
he thought. It wasn't as bad as when other men did it, but Nicholas wanted to punch whatever asshole decided to design in the make-everyone-around-you-uncomfortable feature.

Nicholas smiled at her explanation. "I never would've guessed you had it too, Evie."
He cocked his head, and then seized a small thread of his own power. He was curious how she would react. "Why did you have to look down like that?"

Evelyn paused for a moment before she answered his question. She had a bit of a reputation as an airhead, given her vlogging and cutesy appearance. However, she did her best to be crafty and playing politics for the past year and a half had taught her a thing or two. She'd gone into this meeting well prepared and Nick's remarks about Ascendancy were quite public. She'd seen the video of him decrying Brandon's godhood. His exact words were something like 'he's a human being just like any of us'. Evie had a feeling that Trano wouldn't respond too positively to the real reason she bowed her head. He seemed adamant that their gift was worldly, rather than the blessing it truly was. Well, she didn't need to be the one to argue with him about it.

"It's difficult to access the power, to surrender myself to it fully."
Her poker face had been tried and tested in her brief career as a politician. Evelyn had no doubt that a skilled agent like Nick would know she wasn't the whole truth, but hopefully he wouldn't care enough to spend too much time pondering her real motivations. "I have to center myself before I can open to the power, lest it sweep me away."

"I get it, it took me a while to figure it out,"
He leaned back in the chair. "Let's get some drinks over here, Evie. How's it been since the last time we talked?"

Evelyn couldn't help but quirk an eyebrow at Nick's smirk as she flagged the server over. The last time they'd talked had been when she'd called him at the private number she'd obtained from his mother, when she'd asked him for his help wrestling the primary battle from the incumbent Democrat. Evie allowed a smirk to form on her own face. "I've done pretty well actually. Won my election, tripled my vlog following, got myself onto a prestigious subcommittee on the Committee for Foreign Affairs..."
There was no denying that she may not have even won the primary if it hadn't been for Nick's intervention, but she had plenty of accomplishments on her own merits as well, and wasn't embarrassed that she'd needed help kick starting her career.

The waiter didn't take long thankfully. The man passed unknowingly through her bubble of power, offering them suggestions about drinks and specials. With her more friendly smile, Evie said: "We'll just start off with two White Russians please."

"White Russian?"
He chuckles. "Reminds me of when you were sixteen."

The first time she'd gotten drunk had been with her best friend Maddie, and her best friend's older brother: Trano. The girls had been sixteen years old, and Nick a soldier on leave. Evelyn had been curious about alcohol but never tried it before. Her first taste had been the White Russian Nick had mixed for her. Evie wasn't too proud to use any advantage she had. Trano had helped her in the first place because of their past (though he probably thought she'd have lost the General Election, to be fair). Trano was here right now because of their past. There was obviously some sentiment there and she would take any help that she could get.

"Of course. I was counting on that."
Trano was smart enough to know that her choice of drinks was intentional, so there was no point in hiding it.

The smile on her face faded and she leaned forward. "Secretary Trano, you have a lot on your plate right now, so let me cut right to the chase. I mentioned that I'm on a prestigious subcommittee in the House Foreign Affairs... well specifically it's the CCD Subcommittee, and today we had an emergency meeting."

She relaxed back in her chair, satisfied that she had the man's attention. "Congress is freaked out about Brandon."
Evelyn remembered that Nick hadn't referred to him as Ascendancy. Her word choice was very carefully crafted. "They already feared his power, and that was before they knew that he was... well, powered."
Her mouth twisted into a wry grin. "They're sending a small diplomatic delegation to Moscow, to discuss why he kept such vital information from us..."
Evelyn waved a hand dismissively. "It's posturing of course, dick measuring. They want to have better idea of what he's capable of, and whether or not he's planning on using his power against us. There's going to be one delegate from the House CCD Subcommittee. I want to be that delegate."

She paused to let Nick digest all the information. In the break, their server came back with their drinks. Evie picked it up and toasted her companion silently. "As the Secretary of Powers, it would be appropriate for you to make recommendations regarding the matter of how our Government will respond to Brandon's declaration of power. We have our differences politically speaking."
Evie laughed wryly. They both knew that was putting it lightly. "But we do have two things that we agree on. You want powered individuals to be treated with all the rights and respect a citizen of the United States deserves. As the first and only openly powered Member of Congress, we would be working quite closely to get your legislative agenda passed."

Evie didn't need to insult Nick by stating the obvious. Evelyn had the largest social media following of any government official except the President and Nick himself. She was already a media darling before revealing her abilities. Trano had an enormous media presence, of course, but the people who followed his sites and the people who followed her were very different audiences. With her help, he could reach a platform who would otherwise reflexively turn their noses up at a 'conservative quack'. Additionally, with partisanship an eternal problem, having an ally across the isle was nothing to scoff at.

"And I'm concerned for powered people everywhere, not just here. Which brings me to my second point. Nikolai Brandon is dangerous, extremely so."
Evie's expression sobered. "You and I have differences of opinion for how to best protect America's interests from him. I think that diplomacy will work best while you want us to prepare for war. Regardless, we both want to protect America from his greed. Those diplomats are going to walk into a situation for which they cannot possibly be prepared. They have no idea what Brandon is capable of, not like you and I do. They are going to go into that meeting with him distracted by awe of his powers, or fear.

"You said today that Brandon is a human just like us. Unfortunately I think you know as well as I do how hard it is for non-powered people to avoid falling into the trap of thinking of us as more than humans. I won't have that problem. When the American Delegation goes to Moscow to speak with Brandon about his power, and about how that changes our relationship with CCD, there should be someone there who knows about that power, and who won't be afraid to see him as the mortal that he is."

Her piece said, Evelyn leaned back in her chair and took a sip of her drink. She had countless arguments and counterarguments prepared if necessary, but first she'd have to hear how her old friend responded.
He had to give her credit, she was definitely becoming quite the little politician. The drink, the cute act, it was good. But she wasn't being entirely truthful with why she looked down like that. It kind of reminded him of prayer, but there was no way she'd think the power was some kind of bible thing. She was too smart for that.

He let her finish her speech. When she finally leaned back in the chair, she looked like she'd just gone a round in a boxing ring - and she was ready to go another dozen rounds if she had to. She didn't even react when he drew the power. He let it go; no point in wasting the energy. He wondered why he couldn't see her net. He'd have to ask her how she hid it, when this business was through.

"You make a good case,"
Nicholas began. He took a sip of his drink and put the glass down. "But I don't think you understand my position. It's not that I want to go to war with the Custody. It's that Brandon's cult of personality makes that the most likely outcome. I've been in a room with the man; when he grabs the power you can feel it in your bones."

Nicholas leaned forward, sitting up straight and drawing the power to its greatest extent. "I'm holding everything I can right now, and it's nothing compared to him. As far as he's concerned, he's a god. So how are you planning to stop that? You can't reason with him. You're an ant to him."

Evie laughed. "You misunderstand me. You think that I'm trying to reason with Brandon, to control Brandon."
She shook her head. "No I'll be there to corral our people. To be a level head in the room, a reminder that it isn't just the CCD who has Powered individuals. You know as well as I that half the battle is confidence, and if the other delegates walk into that room thinking that they have no defense against Brandon crushing them with a thought, then they'll already have lost."

Evie definitely won on the confidence front, but she didn't have Nicholas convinced. Half the US's current diplomats and a sizable chunk of the house and senate were veterans. The Taiwan Strait war was only twelve years ago. Many of those men had faced death before - be it from a diesel electric submarine coasting unheard beneath the surface, or a man with a gun appearing unexpectedly on the battlefield. Dawson was a coward, but that didn't mean everybody in the government was.

"If he wanted to crush you, you couldn't stop him."
Nicholas leveled his gaze. "The thing that's going to stop him from crushing you is that he's not ready to go to war with the US. Not yet. The Custody's been around almost as long as you've been alive, Evie, and we've never gotten anything we wanted out of them. How is one more 'level head' supposed to change that? I can list ten people with more experience in international negotiation than you, and that's just off the top of my head."
His expression softened. "It's not that I'm trying to be your enemy, it's that I want you to convince me to support you."

Evie really came in swinging on the next round. "You know that he could crush me. I know that he could crush me. But he may not know that, not for sure, and the other diplomats certainly wouldn't." Evie tapped her fingers on the table. "There are certainly many people with more experience than I have, but none of them have the Power, at least not as far as we know. You don't understand; for you and me, it's easy to talk about this rationally, but normal people, people who never knew magic existed outside of fairy tales last week? They're panicking.

They have no clue what do expect. They've seen what Brandon can do, and they're wondering what else he's capable of. Can he read their thoughts? Can he control their minds? No matter how experienced the diplomat, they aren't trained for magic. The US Government is about to send a delegation of people who are a light show away from running around with their heads cut off.

Obviously I can't really protect them from Brandon, not if he really wants to harm us, but like you said we're protected more by our military strength than our hypothetical magicians. These are men and women who are used to negotiating with guns - metaphorical or otherwise - pointed at their enemies. Let's remind them that Brandon isn't the only one with magic on his side."

By the time she was finished, she almost looked out of breath.

Nicholas sat back for a moment, considering. This wasn't the little girl he knew. What the hell,
he figured. It's not like diplomacy with Brandon had ever born fruit anyways. "Alright, Evie. You have my support."
There was just one problem. "But having you in the room won't do anyone any good if nobody knows you can use the power."

Evelyn couldn't help the small smile that appeared on her face. She hadn't expected Nick to give in so easily, but then again given the fact that he seemed almost blase about it, the man probably didn't see any reason not to send her. Trano's opinions about CCD and Ascendancy were well documented. The man was a zealot at best, and an absolute warmonger at worst. Evie respected the fact that Nick did what he did out of genuine belief that it was best for the United States, but war with the Dominion would be a disaster for the entire world. Nevertheless, Trano saw war with Ascendancy as inevitable, and so any attempt at diplomacy, in his mind, was just a waste of time. Why should it matter to him whether or not she was a part of the delegation?

Evie knew better though. She wasn't so certain that world domination was Brandon's ultimate goal. She'd been... fascinated by the man for what felt like her whole life. Maddie had teased her relentlessly about her secret teenage crush on the God. Luckily for her political career it was a secret her friend took to the grave. Nevertheless, she'd always been inexplicably drawn to him, curious about him. It didn't escape her notice that Ascendancy never once conquered a Dominance by force. He spread order through economic prosperity and stability. It wasn't so different than what the United States had tried - and often failed - to do during the Cold War.

Evelyn wasn't blind to Brandon's faults. There were troubling accusations of humanitarian abuses in his regime, and a startling lack of democracy. However he was not unreasonable. From her studies of him, it seemed that Ascendancy's ultimate goal was order and peace. In that respect, the United States could be a valuable ally, and a stabilizing force on Brandon's policies. This would hardly be the first time in their Republic's history that they made nice with a dictator in order to advance their national interests. By working with the CCD, or at least having positive diplomatic relations with the nation, the U.S. could carefully nudge Brandon in a positive direction with regards to humanitarianism and democracy. All they needed was the right person for the job.

It was arrogant to assume that person was her. Evie wasn't ignorant of that. However... when she was fifteen years old, Evelyn had been sick, so sick she should have died from it. Other people did... Maddie did. Before that moment she'd never been religious, but she'd been a scared little girl, desperate not to die. She spent weeks fighting and fighting, because that's what you were supposed to do, right? It was in all the movies, that concept that if you fought your disease, if you had a positive attitude, then your chance of survival increased. And yet she just got sicker and sicker. Finally, when Evelyn had been certain that she was going to die, she clutched at the cross she'd inherited from her grandmother and just... gave up.

She repented all of her sins of anger and jealousy and pride. She surrendered herself entirely to the Lord. Evie had nothing; she swore that she would serve God in whatever capacity He demanded of her, so long as He spared her. In that moment, she felt Jesus come into her body. It was like the Rapture, like everything the bible had promised. It was sweetness and life beyond anything she'd ever experienced. Even still after all these years, it was far greater than drug she'd ever surreptitiously tried out in undergrad. Christ had spared her, and as promised she became His servant, His tool on earth.

Evelyn dedicated herself fully to helping others, to fulfilling the Spirit of goodness that Christ embodied. And in return He cleared a way for her. Even Nick himself was an unwitting servant. The ease with which she had ascended through her career was unnatural. It was no coincidence that she was easily elected the youngest Representative in decades, nor was it a coincidence that she got her way onto the CCD Subcommittee. No, Jesus had given her His blessing, just as He had given her His power. He was drawing her towards Nikolai Brandon, and when His purpose revealed itself, Evelyn would obey just as she always had.

"I did say that I would be the first openly powered Member of Congress, didn't I? Yes, I am prepared to go public with my abilities. The only question is what manner of doing so will best serve our purposes?"
Evelyn grinned at him.

Just because she didn't agree with Trano's politics regarding CCD didn't mean that she couldn't see the benefit of having a powerful ally in the Executive branch. And, as she'd said before, they had a mutual goal of protecting powered individuals from governmental and extra-judicial abuses. "So, Secretary Trano... how do we play this? I'm certainly open to suggestions of how to 'come out,' so to speak, in a manner that will most effectively advance the cause of equality for powered people."
Nicholas couldn't find any reason to be against Evie's plan to go to Moscow. Truth be told, he didn't really care about the results. But what he did care about was the chance to have an ally in the legislative branch; one who also had the power. But still, he had to be sure. "Before I tell you what I'm thinking, Evie,"
Nicholas began, "And before we go through with this - you have to know that once you go public there's going to be a target on your back."

Evelyn met his eyes, giving the statement the seriousness it deserved. "I'm aware of that, but it's a risk we'll have to take. Vice President Hernandez Luna is already trying to draw lines in the sand for political gain. If I don't do anything, then this just becomes another Right vs Left dichotomy that gets stuck up in gridlock while people are dying."
Evie frowned. "If we don't get ahead of her, then anti-Power bigotry becomes a plank of the Democratic Party."

Nicholas chuckled, breaking the tension. "Democrats freaking out about scary things they don't understand? I never thought I'd see the day."
His expression leveled. "But seriously, Evie. Even going off the little I know, the Atharim aren't a joke. You're going to have to increase your security. I'll cover the costs if I have to."

Evie nodded. "I'd be grateful for that."
She paused. "Although I would hope that the Capitol Police would give assassination threats against a Congresswoman the attention it deserves. We'll see."

Nicholas knew it was unlikely she would be getting any public threats. Still, she accepted his offer. They could move forward. "Alright, then. It's settled. I'll talk to my PSC tomorrow. After that, we're going before the House. You're going to tell them you have the power, and we're going to make sure this doesn't become a partisan issue."
Nicholas had made a career out of appealing to the right side of the political spectrum. It was time to diversify his holdings.
Going in front of the House? Tomorrow? Evelyn mentally reviewed her schedule, and once it hit her, she had to resist the urge to smirk. Secretary Trano was meant to be addressing Congress tomorrow, to discuss the scope of his appointment and to give a speech about powered individuals. She didn't know much about his prepared remarks; he hadn't released a speech yet and hadn't given out much more information than that blurb, but if he meant for to give her the podium...

It wouldn't be the first time that Evelyn had addressed Congress. She'd done so in her capacity as the co-sponsor of the Term Limits bill, but that had gotten polite attention at best. Her fellow Congresspeople had known that it was dead in the water, the type of thing that looked good during a reelection campaign speech but never stood a chance of actually getting through committee. Accordingly, it had gotten little press outside the liberal social media circles in which she already had a strong presence. But this... Nick was giving her the largest possible platform she could hope for. The eyes of the world would be upon her. The White House would be packed with both National and International news agencies. Evie had gotten her share of media exposure, of course, but nothing of this level. Why, perhaps Ascendancy himself would hear her speech?

It was difficult to resist the urge to grin, but she managed somehow. It seemed that her partnership with Trano would be more profitable than she'd even dared to imagine. "Excellent. So let's talk details then..."

Through the rest of dinner, the two of them worked out their strategies for how to make the biggest splash. Meanwhile, internally Evelyn started plotting how to launch her career to a national audience. With Nick's maneuvering in the background, and her sure-to-be-impressive 'coming out' speech fresh in people's minds, she was almost certain to land a spot on the Moscow delegation. And if she could use this speech to introduce herself to Nikolai Brandon as well as the American people... well, all the better.

((Sorry to mod this along, Evie's speech is going to take me ages and I want to get it out before I leave town. If you want you can reply to this thread or not. Seems that the best way to do it is for you to go ahead and post the speech thread. I'll leave the details up to you (meeting agenda, full congress or just house, etc.) I think we can post those parts mainly independently unless you want to pm/chat for details. If Trano does his part of the speech/hand over to Evie, then I'll finish up with Evie's speech.))

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