"See, that's where I think you're wrong, Steve. This isn't just a numbers game, it depends – "
"Come on – if you count all of them – how many, we can't possibly know yet – and all their friends and family –"
"- again, it's not just a numbers game. Even if we go with the high estimates – and that's maybe .01% of the population, maybe maybe a hundred thousand in Europe – and even if we assume their friends and family would side with them – it's not just about numbers. It's about how the public's reacting. And right now, no one's caring that so many of Them are just turning up dead. No one is protesting the registration requirements. Not enough, anyway."
"Sooner or later –"
"Sooner or later? There aren't that many. By the time we're done being irrationally afraid of them –"
"- well, one of them did almost blow up –"
"- there might not be any of Them left."
"That's just fear-mongering –"
"- the fact that nearly every government in the world has been curtailing human rights and even hunting these people down is just that, a fact –"
"Look, it's not the case for all of them, but some of them – it's a matter of public safety to get them in custody, at least for a while –"
"- because that's never been said –"
"Okay, gentlemen, I'm sorry to interrupt this discussion, but we have some breaking news in from Cairo, where there's been some sort of massive, freak ice storm – we're still waiting for word if this is possibly another R-plus incident –"
Elle pulls a few coins out of her pocket, and sets them quietly on the table. Without looking back, she turns, taking her jacket from the back, only sparing a glance to the many faces that are attentively watching the television, before she heads for the door.
"How are there no records of her? We've always had them when they have that mark."
He shakes his head. "There's nothing we've found. There might be some facility they had that we still don't know about, but nothing we've come across matches her description."
"So we're going to have to go in blind." She took off her glasses and pressed to fingers against her brow. He gives her the moment, watching her from across the small table. They've been going through these for nearly two hours, and going in blind was never a good idea. Still, once she's pushed her glasses back on her nose –
"Not totally blind. We know she's probably not regenerative, or she wouldn't have the scar. And whatever she can do, she can control it. They wouldn't have tagged her if she hadn't manifested."
She sighs, looking down at the photos between them. There are two, somewhat blurred from being resized, but the subject of their discussion is still clearly visible. They were taken from the footage recorded by a surveillance camera just outside a café in Södermalm – in the right hand corner of the stills, apparently waiting for a group of young children to pass in front of her, is a short young woman, with light skin and short blonde hair she's tied back into a short ponytail. She's wearing jeans and a long sleeve shirt, as well as a brown leather jacket, but she's still pulling it on as she steps into the camera's view. In one of the shots, the jacket has entirely covered her shoulders. But in the other, it's just below her neckline, the base of the back her neck still visible, and on it two small, but distinct marks. Tiny, parallel scars, that had appeared on people all over the world.
Always the same sort of people.
"I'm thinking direct, but no engagement," he suggests.
"If we miss, it'll put her notice. And we'll have created a stir for nothing."
He shrugs. "Then we don't miss."
Her eyes stay on the photos. But then she reaches toward the edge of the table, where a small intercom is sitting.
"Joan, could you come in here a moment?"
A door behind her opens, and another young woman walks in. She has dark skin and black hair tied back in a longer ponytail, and dark brown eyes that look straight out without any sort of hesitation. There's a small gold necklace at her neck, a pendant in the shape of a thin cross hanging from it. Unlike the woman in the photos, there is no mark on the back of her neck, though the people who work here don't know that was something that was ever a possibility. As far as they know, she is simply very gifted, and an exceptionally quick learner.
He picks up the photos, and holds them out to Joan. "This is case #4526. Take it up to the Hunters and tell them to make it direct."
Joan takes the photos, looking at him rather than them, and nods once before leaving the room.