1965-07-13 - Justice and Order
Summary: Helping a lawyer find a book brings a new friend.
Related: None
Theme Song: None
jennifer-walters karnilla 


There's no such thing as 'too early' in the Explorer's Club. They who waited with baited breath at the docks and strove through arctic wastelands and searing deserts to make a new discovery. The poles of inaccessibility sung a siren song to the likes of Scott and Amundsen and Livingstone. In their hearts dwelled a spirit that need not sleep or wait on the diurnal rotation to appreciate anything. That's probably why a symposium takes place in the back room between bunches of healthy men in their prime and a very few women, talking about the prospects of a South Pacific voyage, something for the breadfruit Islands and the fringed atolls in a boat made of leaves. It's all very significant.

A young woman descending the steps taps a legal pad with a pen. Her writing approaches calligraphy, impeccable, though she carries a paper folded up underneath that to the point she can just see the headline and the lede, not much else. And the concerned look on her face as she enters the bookstore element of the much larger club, the library being the bulk of the collections on high, is fairly tremendous. Columbia students are always about, and the brightest literati, but they might lump her in with the former. It's all fair. The black curl bouncing off her brow gives her a youthful lustre. The fine cut of her clothes suggests she's a very young lady who lunches. They probably think she's frowning over the society column.

"Oh, you poor fools and your bombs," she murmurs.


Jennifer Walters is kind of hard to miss in a crowd. She's taller than anyone else there, head and shoulders, and wearing a skirtsuit and low heels that probably cost more than most people pay for rent in a single month. Half-moon glasses sit low on her pert nose, and she frequently tilts her head back to go through the titles on the shelf in front of her.

Also, she's green. Emerald green, nose to toes, and even her professional hairbun has glints of deeper viridian in the black.

"Markov… Marlow… Morrison …" She glances at the notepad in her hand, frowns, and goes back down the shelves in the opposite direction. Not findind what she is looking for, her frown deepens and she pivots on one foot and reverses course again. "Morrison… Marlow … no, darn it, where /is/ it?" she mutters in the habit of someone who talks to herself aloud quite a bit. She starts checking the catalogue numbers against the shelf's contents, clearly hunting for an elusive book she can't put a hand to yet. The attache case on a nearby desk very likely belongs to her, an oxblood leather affair that is precisely the sort of thing one might expect a businesswoman to always have on her person.


Karnilla drags her fingertips down the edge of the folded newspaper, giving some deep thought to the contents. The Mont-Blanc pen taps steadily against the margin of the page. She delicately etches out a doodle with the point of the pen, circling around a growling bear larger than her by a head, and probably close to eye-to-eye with a jade giantess. Goodness. That might be enough to halt her, those brilliant eyes lifting from the slew of curved letters and the newsprint in decidedly more regular typeset.

"Good morning," she says, the inflections of an accent there, only tracing the edges the way a monk sparingly illuminated a manuscript in gold. It could be a whisper of French and Swedish, a confluence of the most curious fashion. "Have you checked the returns cart? Patrons occasionally return them to be shelved." She gestures at the edge of an aisle where a solid wooden cart that probably served in Dunkirk with honors, after being a stalwart defender of the Somme, stands rather proudly under a few books that classify as 'coffee table sized.' They look fairly focused on astronomy from the top, but that's not exactly certain.


Jennifer glances over when she's addressed, one immaculate brow hiking minutely as she gives Karnilla a quick once-over. A pleasant smile crosses her features, taking them from a glacial composure to something warmly friendly. "Good morning," Jennifer returns, automatically. She touches the corner of her glasses with one hand, then takes them off so they can hang from a silver chain around her neck that is almost invisible except when reflecting light. "The returns, huh? That should have occurred to me," she says, wryly, drifting that direction without quite taking her attention from the intruiguing proprietess of the shop.

Her french tipped nails skim along the spines, and a disappointed sigh escapes her. "Not here, either. Rats. I might have to get it ordered special," she concludes, hollowing one cheek as she frets at the inside of it. Her eyes return to Karnilla and to the newspaper folded in her hands. "Anything good in the paper today?" she inquires, a little whimsically.


Wine-dark lines bridle the young woman, swept in a series of curved seams against a dark shiraz dress that does wonders for respectability. The hairpins in Nilla's heavy locks shine from that upsweep of curls tailored just so. The pen rests against the pad of paper, the newsprint whispering at the corners when she comes to a complete stop. And stop she does, graceful in her fashion. Heels barely click against the floor. A curious look to the chain around the other woman's neck, then back up, propriety commanding that she respond in proper order and time, as is her wont. "The collection is large enough that a book might float anywhere. The significant ones seem to have a life of their own and venture off wherever they like." A flicker of amusement lingers at the corner of her mouth, almost hinting at a real smile instead of a polite facade spared for a few dozen souls.

The place is large enough to swallow up whole crowds. Books might disappear. Hell, there's a full rigged boat hanging in the atrium ceiling on the second floor. "'Tis not? Never fear, the book may be elsewhere, being rebound or such. May I ask what the title was?" She sets down her papers on the nearest table, bending smoothly to do so in a way that screams lady-like, but in a very soft cry of a cat, hardly intrusive. "The news varies. A good many births, cause for celebration, and the reopening of a historic market, I believe? Something about a spaceship and the usual malaise of violence. Nations deadlocked in sorrows will only give more for this one to reap."


"'Trade Routes of the Caribbean', 1900-1950, third edition'," Jennifer tells Karnilla absently, when pressed. "I'm working a lawsuit between two shipping companies. Need to establish which of them had preferential access to a port near Rio and no one seems to know who got their first or who signed the original contracts."

She drifts in a loose orbit to the edge of the table, stopping just around the corner from Karnilla and watching how she moves and speaks. Jen seems to have a keen eye for reading people at a glance, her body language a distinct balance between socially requisite poise and the lazy self-assurance of someone who is utterly self-possessed in her own skin. "A spaceship? Is that the third one this year, now?" Jennifer asks, lips quirking into a wry smile. "Gosh, seems like aliens are everywhere lately. Five years ago, they were just fodder for radio shows." She extends a hand to Karnilla, wrist and fingers relaxed. It's a little European, intended to be friendly rather than the classic American 'corporate handcrusher'. "I'm Jen by the way. Jen Walters," she tells the woman. "I take it you're the … owner?" she hazards, flicking an eye up and down Karnilla's figure again. "Either that, or you're the best-dressed librarian I've ever met. Love the shoes," she tells her.


"Trade routes of the Caribbean. Ah!" She flicks her fingertips lightly into the air, as though feeling the very sensation of the name and the tradewinds blowing over the inspiration of the early time. "Hemingway comes to mind. Yes, I think I could be able to imagine that." Her lidded gaze flickering, Karnilla turns around and faces the body of the library. The yellow legal pad comes back to hand, and she starts jotting down a few notes upon it. "Give me but a moment. That sounds rather fascinating. Do you also review maps? The port records you would not find here, likely, but that book shouldn't be impossible to locate." In every scribed shape comes another deviation of the norm, for the divination requires only a little effort to press her thoughts and will through the written forms.

It helps she's probably marked every last volume in the place, something for her to narrow her thoughts down with.

For the most part, Karnilla is quiet, allowing Jen the right to speak as she wishes. The stately poise of the woman is not entirely in keeping with her apparent youth, but self-possession comes in the blood and the rarefied environment of some households. She presses her lips together slightly. "Satellite, unmanned. They had two ships go into orbit and come back down." According to the news. The Russians didn't survive, the Americans did, thanks to a few rare souls. The hand offered to her will be taken, after transferring that expensive pen. "Nella King," she answers lightly. "A pleasure to meet you, Miss Walters. Jen? Do you prefer either? And yes, I'm someone who organizes things about here and keeps all sane."


"Miss Walters if I'm on the clock, but Jen to my friends," the jade giantess assures the librarian. "It's nice to meet you, Nella," she tells the other woman. Fingertips are lightly squeezed and released. "I've only been in here twice now. It's nice to meet the person who keeps the skis waxed, so to speak."

She turns her attention to the maps at Nella's inquest, thinking. "Mm— maps, no, just the reference material," Jen says, shaking her head. She taps a pencil against her jawline in an arrythmic tattoo, mulling things over. "It's not crucial that we sort out a complete workup of shipping lanes, I just need records that confirm who was active in the region during what decades. It's entirely possible the judgement will be an even split, but I'm going to feel like a moron in court if I don't do my diligence and their research team finds something I should have seen," she explains.


Miss Walters on the clock. That earns an amused smile, brief as it is, controlled s the upturn of a cat's delicate curved smile. "By all means." Her light grasp is hardly anything to speak of, other than warm. A graceful alteration from the usual cool and soft hands of those ladies who never do a darn thing in life but complain and push out children thrown at nannies the instant they appear. The faint, wafting perfume around her is hardly detectable, all melodious, dark whispers of blood orange and Mandarin melting around a chypre heart that teases at exotic spices without ever giving them away. Luxurious depth and complexity reward an effort to pick out the complex creature, forceful and sweet, ahead of her time.

The same could be said for them both, really. Her head turns, a smile lingering on the side, for all who seek to know her. "The reference material," she murmurs, tapping her point of the pen twice. Her head turns, and she gestures. "This way. Naturally it might be mixed together, but the economics section is not the same as the socioeconomic, as it happens. We have a study down this way." Her footsteps are direct, not swift, as though she arrives exactly where she wants and precisely when she intends to, taking Jen along for the ride. "You have due diligence to perform. I understand that. Correct facts are essential to provide, of course."


"Yes and no," Jen says, retrieving her suitcase and following Nella easily with leggy, effortless steps. Her designer heels click smartly with each step, her tread just a bit heavier than Nella's though no less graceful. "There's a lot that goes into a good defense or offense in the law. I think of it more like trying to tell a story than anything else. Any attorney can pull research on precedent and jurisprudence, that part's just research. It's not hard."

"The winning ones make it into a story. Make the characters relatable. A goodhearted maligned hero and a cruel and callous villain. I've seen some pretty airtight defenses go up in smoke 'cause a good prosecutor picked the right facts and strung them up in the right order."

She is just a half-step behind Nella, glancing once at the woman's profile as they walk. "So do you own this library or just administer it? It's pretty classy. Feels more like a museum than a research center," she tells her companion.


Demure isn't her style, not in the slightest. Karnilla manages sophistication by simply breathing, though, guiding Jen into another portion of the library facing west, nearer to the river. "Indeed, I believe it altogether too simplified for someone to think mere argument proves a point. Lacking evidence, the argument remains merely a matter of opinion. I admire someone able and willing to sharpen the knives of their mind upon the whetstone of logic and apply those matters prodigiously into the realm of the court."

They swing past a print of a peacock in full bloom on a tapestry of floral threads.

"Charming. What portion of the law are you particularly given to study and practice? I see passing few ladies willing to apply themselves to the law. Unfortunate." Well, it would be. She serenely slips through and puts her hand on a section marked by a beautifully hand-written card, numbers laid out. "Here, I think. About halfway down, the Ms should begin." She steps back to allow Jen room to search, as she would. "I inherited it, as one would say. So the answer is truthfully something of both. I handle the operations side and allow those with a talent for management the leeway to do as they see fit. Senior archival staff, the Explorer's Club itself being an entity of at least a century in age." She nods. "Perhaps not so impressive as the British or French and Swedish varietals, but very respectable for the United States. This is an age of new frontiers more than ever, and I mean to encourage and expand its mission to reflect that. Not merely for those who mountain climb or paddle their way through the world, no."


"My firm specializes in litigation and high-profile criminal defense," Jen explains. "I don't care much for doing favors for the gangsters and rich jerks who don't want to divorce their wives after she calls the cops on them for slapping her," she says. "I take on the good fights when I can. Pro bono work for metahumans on the weekends, so to speak," she explains. "I do a little work as a public defender too. Shoulder to the wheel of the cause, so they say," she says, with a casual diffidence for Nella's opinion on metahumans. "Mostly it's the usual nonsense, some landlord won't rent a room to them or they get fired for being different. Mutant Town is such a mess with the overcrowding that it's hard enough to get a break, let alone if you've grown horns or something."

She heads along the aisles as directed and finds the book rather quickly. She flickers through the first few pages, reads the titel, and snaps it shut with a satisfying 'thump'. "Wow, you /are/ good," she tells Nella. "I never would have figure to come back here and snoop for it. You probably saved me half a day of looking around," she explains. The book is tucked under her elbow opposite the arm holding her attache case. "So, what— was your dad one of the original Club members, or something?" Jen guesses. "He must have done pretty well, this is a spectacular place."


A nod follows at the explanation. "No, naturally not. Divorce leaves a certain lack of delight in the system, whereas finding the loopholes and the incorrect evidence must be a great deal more enticing. You seem very bright." Karnilla laces her fingers together. The magic around her is a subtler thing that even her perfume, collapsing away as the divination fades out. She listens, nodding at the explanation thus. Meta humans as a term doesn't seem to jar her at all, those dark lashes unmoving. At least she doesn't seem to be utterly bothered. "Mutant Town is a struggle? I am unfamiliar with that."

She lingers back, unbothered, giving room for the search as it needs to be.


A further pause of sorts lingers as Karnilla tucks her pen back against her sleeve, cap pressed flat. "I was fortunate enough that I had such a connection, yes Several gentlemen formed the organization together and incorporated back in the day, They weren't all greatly famous, though some, like Greeley and Furness, certainly were."


"It's hard for anyone who can't blend," Jen says, shrugging one shoulder. "People there look out for each other, but it's still tough. Too many people, small space, and most of them are competing for the few jobs that will hire a metahuman, let alone look out for them." She seems quite at ease, and in no great hurry to move on with her day.

"You're the … owner? Curator?" Jen says, still trying to pin down Nella's precise role in the building. "Are you also one of the explorers? I can't quite place your accent," she inquires of the woman.


Nodding, Karnilla inclines her head. "I understand that it must be. Unforgiving messages on the television and radio prefer women act in a certain manner, at the very least. They have to look much the same, too." Her lips press together under the lacquer of her faint lipstick, applied almost immaculately. The slightest bleed around the corners is unfortunately a state of human cosmetics. Max Factor hasn't perfected 'lipstick so smudge proof it stays on your lips forever, symbiote edition.' Venom has a job waiting for him.

"Curator," she agrees. "Ownership is somewhat murky where ten people originally founded the place, but the governance of contracts falls to me. Thus I suppose it makes me the decision maker. Like the chief justice?" A scramble for something that parallels brings out a bit of hesitation. One can hope it makes sense. "I was educated in Norway, primarily, close to the Swedish border. France after that, though yes, I am overly well-traveled." Light years, one might say.


If Jen's wearing makeup, it's hard to spot. Maybe a bit of mascara? The green verdency does wonders for bringing out the blush of cheek and lip. And whatever curses her affliction levels, one of them is not bad skin— her jade flesh is without flaw or pockmark.

"Oh, that makes sense. Norway, huh? I've never been," Jen says. "Most Americans aren't great travellers," she admits, moving a little towards Nella. It's boring standing in the stacks, and Jen's a dynamic person by nature. Also, anyone standing in heels on a hard floor without moving is going to start getting cramps eventually. It's considerate. "But it's a big country. I flew 3,000 miles to get out here from Los Angeles. Ocean, forests, deserts, mountains, corn fields… it's a lot of everything, even if you spend most of your time looking out the window."


Makeup may be unnecessary for a healthy verdant complexion, no? What's the point for influencing those glorious cheekbones with a bit of sylvan blush — paint, really, theatrical no doubt — when irradiated nature does the rest? That said, Karnilla could give Sophia Loren instructions on how to managing glamorous adaptations of a light touch. It's really her brilliant perfume that makes the world stand still.

"Norway and Sweden have a long history of looking beyond their borders," she replies, a tip of her mouth up into a smile making Nilla a touch more approachable. "You see how many ladies come for the cinema, actresses and writers, yes? Americans do not always have to be great travelers. Your country is enormous and full of diversity, from deserts to tundra and marsh." She gestures lightly, schooling the map in the far distance with an oval gesture. "I admire that it has diversity. The same dusty plane would not appeal much." Mild choice of words there, but might as well stab at Hel while you can. "I have seen some. I would like to view the waterfalls in the mountains more. I hear that a state in the west is very picturesque for that. Colorado, was it?"


Jen blinks. "I hadn't ever thought about it like that," Jen confesses, her voic dropping a little in sheer surprise. "But— I mean, if you can't go to Rome, bring Rome to you, right? Thank you, Nella," she tells the woman, rather suddenly. "That's gonna be the kind of thing I remember for a long time, I think."

She blinks out of a little reverie, straightening her shoulders, and returns Nella's smile with a wide, beaming one of her own. Jen's got the sort of smile that can change the temperature of the room around her. "Honestly, people on the East Coast just don't even realize how Big it is out west," Jen tells Nella. "Takes a couple days to drive across Montana. California's a two-day trip from LA to San Diego, easy. And there's all that wildlands out there, the national parks… anything and everything you can want to see nature-wise, it's out there. Geysers, waterfalls, deserts, forests… there are still places out west that no one but the Indians has ever walked on. Isn't that crazy, thinking about it?"


"Very much like that, yes," says the dark-0haired woman, her calm painted in dark, calm lines. The edge of her smile lifts a fraction when considering the taller, larger woman. Those eyes of hers, so clear and nigh fathomless, are thoughtful. "I owe you thanks, if you understand that and find something of value in it. We are ever fortunate if we can learn something from one another."

She nods at this mention of the country's size and the separation caused by a great distance. "One can have a hard time grasping the similarities with such an expanse of territory between them. You consider the size of France, a nation that for so long dominated Europe, and how tiny that would be placed inside the boundaries of this country. Amazing at times for me to envision how much the borders circumscribe now. And yes, there are indeed places that belong wholly to the native peoples." Interesting choice of words perhaps. But Indians in French or Norse aren't the same word as the ones American English uses.


"I think it's because of those lousy maps people use in school," Jen proposes. "It makes Europe look half as big as America, and America almost as big as Russia. Africa, is like— /huge/, but every time you see a map, Africa looks like it's about as big as Australia. Weird, innit?" she says, amusement in her tone.

"Listen— would you like to get some coffee or something?" she inquires of Nella. "I don't need to be back at the firm for a bit, but I'm dying for some caffeine and a bagel," she admits. "If you're busy, I understand, I'm sure this place takes a lot of work to keep rolling."


Yon bright-eyed queen listens intently. Part of that no doubt originates from the need to translate from English into her native language, a byproduct alas founded upon the simple fact some slang doesn't make sense to the native ear. Karnilla listens between the spaces. It's almost native to her, the pauses as loud as the glissade of syllables smoothly provided by the native Californian. "The maps, ah! Yes, the very ones that give no impression of the size of Alaska. Imagine that Greenland is the size of a continent. 'Tis an impressive island. I should know. A good many of the founders themselves tried to crawl from one shore to the other and learned the hard part about crossing a polar ice cap." She inclines her head, as though to salute the brave idiocy of ignorance.

"Ah! Coffee would be delightful. It is early enough most of it should be fresh." She nods to this, and then gestures. "This place will be loud and boisterous soon enough. The meeting goes on for some time and the students won't be in for at least another two hours, so I doubt the building will burn down." None of the signs say so, therefore she is quite well minus that nagging headache.


"Fantastic! I know just the place," Jen says, and beckons 'Nella' smartly towards the door.

Twenty minutes later, the two women are ensconced in a booth in an upscale deli. Home-baked goods are next to stuff brought in from other restaurants, a combination of in-house prep and import work. Lots of places do it— it's hard to find enough square footage for guests and brick ovens.

Jen orders a bagel, salad, and then glances at the clock and adds a bottle of Pinot Grigio to the order after the coffee shows up. "I'm ravenous, I haven't eaten in hours," Jen explains, shifting in her seat so she can cross her long legs to the side without kicking Nella or tripping anyone in the aisle. "So tell me more about Norway. I've never met someone who was /from/ there. How's it compare to America? I figure it's more like… Maine then New York, right? I was up in Portsmouth a few weeks ago, it's all rolling pastoral hills and everyone's pretty friendly. Which— one thing I gotta say for the East Coast, the rural areas are real relaxed. Out west, people are pretty clannish."


Nella goes out the door, leaving the Explorers Club to itself. It's not as though the thing hasn't stood for quite some time on its own without her direct hand and, truly, who wants to irk the Witch Queen of Nornheim?

One cannot help but appreciate the delicious travails of proper food, food being the matter of the moment. Given the earlier hour, she prefers cheese and fruit herself, though nothing stops her from eating politely if not heartily. She touches her fingertips to each selection easily enough. But a grigio, ah, that earns her a tip of a smile. "Norway is a mountainous country perched on the very edge of Europe. Very much a communal nation, they view themselves as a community of people rather than individuals so fiercely defined by separation as some do here. You'll find the smallest of towns in their highland valley committed to pulling together and thriving as one. They have a fine relationship with their surroundings, too. High mountains, glittering rivers, plunging green valleys that run to the sea. It would be a great deal like Maine, yes, although higher altitude. Sharper country on the whole, watered by dreams and the dancing lights of the polar skies. Neither has Maine been frequently conquered by its neighbours for centuries," she says dryly. "Is clannishness a thing of the distance to the West, or something else?"


"Oh, I think it's the whole pioneering spirit," Jen says convivially. She pours a drink for Nella, then refills her own, and then takes a delicate bite of the bagel. Hungry, sure, but she's polite enough not to wolf it down in company.

"You know. Pioneer towns. Fifty familes all settle one little valley. New batch of families every few years. New settlers. You bring them in, help them barn-raise, boom, they're part of the community now. Family."

"Strangers are trouble, though. One stranger might be running to somewhere else, or from somewhere else. Thieves don't run in packs, and out west people kill over horses and water rights. I think that's why you see so many guns out there," she frowns. "In New York, help is a loud scream away. Out west, it can be… ten, twenty minutes of horse riding until you see a neighbor. I think that's rooted in the back of everyone's mind. How far away everyone is, even if you're from a big city."

She sip her white wine, making an 'mm' sound, and looks like she's relaxing just a bit more. "Norway does sound beautiful, though. The capital, that's… Bern, right?" she hazards. "Is that where you're from? What's the city like?"


Pioneers. "An interesting choice of word. I have seen a good many explorers not of that mindset at all," Nilla muses. She has her reasons. Planting a slice of cheese on a thin sliver of cracker takes a reasonable amount of time, all issued in delicate motions.

"I can imagine how the conditions encourage… insularity." A choice of word causes her to half, considering, and then she presumes to listen further. Jen is the expert, after all. The states out west are as unfamiliar as the moon to most. Her idea of west is somewhat limited besides. Something to think about come the future. She runs her fingers over the napkin to dust off any crumbs. "Strangers should not be viewed so direly, surely? This is a country of much change, many people. There are very few native inhabitants of any longevity. I would think that altered viewpoints somewhat."

Ouch. Bern. "Oslo, formerly called Christiania. A lovely city on a deep harbour, back to the mountains, and a place of considerable piece. It is not nearly so large as New York, but what is? You would be hard pressed to fit one of the city boroughs into all of Oslo, but there is some of its charm. A blend of old and new there suits me well. The other cities — Bergen, Trondheim — are much older in some ways. Though they suffered in the war."


"It sounds pretty," Jen says, sighing a little dreamily. "I mean, Oslo does. From what I've read about it." She smiles at Nella. "It's funny though, how you describe it. Absolutely perfectly. Some history, some facts, I feel like I could have read it in an encyclopedia." Fingertips dance on her wineglass, tilting it but not spilling a drop. "I mean— most folks describe the people. Or the places they visited. The sounds, the smells. Lots of little things."

A smile curls at her lips. "Then there's the way you talk. Words you use. Ways you speak. It's a lot of little stuff, sure, some things that I wouldn't have noticed at all by themselves."

"But you've got me wondering who you are, 'Nella. 'cause you pass yourself off as some wealthy WASP from Long Island, but I get the feeling you're not from here. From anywhere /near/ here- and I include Norway in that estimation."

A perfectly sculpted brow hikes minutely at Nella. One gets the sense it's an expression that has nailed a lot of people on cross-examination. "So, dish," she says, smile widening a bit— and a sincere one. "I'm a lawyer. Who'm I gonna tell, y'know?"


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