Elle knows she's being followed before she leaves the building. It's beyond the low hum of paranoia that often boils up in her when she allows her mind to flitter unchecked. This is real, the nearly superhuman sense she'd developed through a combination of Company training and being entirely justified in her paranoia. The flash of color outside the window too many times, the same sort of movement – she'd stepped away from the windows and collected her things (which didn't take long, as all the tangible possessions she had in the world could fit in her small black backpack). She'd been meaning to leave the hostel for a few days now; she couldn't sleep there, surrounded by so many people, but there had been a consistent door to the Bar, so she spent the nights walking alone in the city or sitting in bed, reading books she'd borrowed from the Bar by the orange light that glinted through the closest window from a street lamp outside.
Now, she packed up her bag, and left the hostel without a word to anyone. Without looking around for the same flash of color, she heads into the sidewalk, turning right and walking with the flow of pedestrian traffic; people in suits on their way to offices in and around the affluent neighbor, ducking into the shops and cafés that are opening up along the street. Elle keeps a steady pace, her turns swift and precise. It only takes three blocks for her to know her suspicions weren't baseless.
She begins to quicken her pace, take sharp turns and sometimes circling entire blocks. But she also stops a few times, dropping a few coins into a man's cup, reading the headline of a newspaper at a stand. Elle switches between the tactics for nearly fifteen minutes until, finally, coming to a full halt at the low gate of street café. Despite the slipping temperatures and that the day was only just reaching mid-morning, there were a number of people sitting at the outdoor tables, bundled in coats and scarves and clinging to their coffee, small wisps of steam visible from the cups.
And from nowhere, he appears behind her. She looks over her shoulder, meeting his dark eyes for only a moment, and then turns into the seating area, slipping into a seat at a table right near the gate. She hears his steps behind her, and without speaking, he takes the seat across from her.
At first, they say nothing, seeming to listen to what's going on around them: steps on the pavement of those passing them, tires starting and stopping, quiet voices and the clinking of cups and spoons. A waitress with long, black hair is placing too espresso cups between a couple at the next table.
Hiro Nakamura speaks first.
"You knew I was here?"
He has an accent, but it's thin. She doesn't smile, and decides against answering in Japanese. "Someone always is."
The waitress moves in – he orders some kind of tea, she orders coffee. Elle had seen what the artist had done, imagining this man dressed all in black, a sword strapped over his back. This man wasn't there yet – he didn't so obviously carry his sword, he still wore his glasses – but she'd seen the flash of his navy blue jacket, the swiftness with which he disappeared and reappeared on the street as he pursued her. Some things, it seemed, were impossible to avoid.
The waitress moves on, and Nakamura casts a glance around the street.
"There are other people here looking for you, Elle."
"I don't even know why you're here."
"To warn you." He reaches into his jacket, and pulls out what at first looks like two small, white sheets of paper. When he places them on the table between them, Elle sees that they're photographs. Or printouts of photos. Or distilled footage. A crowd, in a street that she instantly recognizes. It takes her a moment longer to see her own image in the top right corner, pulling on her jacket over her shoulders.
"You don't need to prove you're watching me." He already had. But Nakamura shakes his head.
"We didn't take these." The waitress returns, and Nakamura quickly sweeps the photos back into his jacket. The tea is cool and smells sweet, like mixed fruit. Elle reaches for her coffee and waits for Nakamura to continue.
"You've probably noticed what's been happening to people like us." Elle presses the cup to her lips, takes in the bitter flavor of the coffee. "That somehow a lot of us are just turning up dead."
She puts the cup down. "You think something in particular is behind it."
"I know it. We have someone on the inside with them."
Elle watches him, absolutely nothing she can do about it if he's lying. "And they gave you the photos."
"We don't usually work like that" He puts his own tea back down. "And not everyone wanted me to contact you. But you have a lot of things that none of the rest of us do."
After a pause, he adds, "And Noah Bennet vouched for you."
She still doesn't react.
"Why shouldn't I just run?"
"Because you won't stop. Once they spot someone, they don't give up until their target's dead."
The engine of a scooter rings through a nearby street. Elle takes another sip of coffee.
"I'm not that bad at running."
"And that's what you want to do?"
The revving grows louder. Elle raises her eyes to the far end of the street behind him, as that hum of paranoia is now a screech.
He looks over his shoulder. Her jeans press against the cool metal of her chair leg as she stands. The scooter has a single rider, dressed in black, a duffle bag slung low over his right shoulder, speeding right at their edge of the street.
And then, she's so close to him, his arm on her back, but she's looking up, straight up to the sky and something black blotted against it. It's all she needs – she raises her arm and sends a bright spark straight into the air toward the black bag that, in the lengthened fraction of a second he had created, Nakamura had grabbed it, the duffel bag once on the rider's shoulder. The rider must have thrown it toward them, and Nakamura had tossed it into the air. Elle sends a bright bolt of lightning up toward it, and she and Nakamura are gone before the explosion rocks the air above the café.