Damage Control


hana_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title Damage Control
Synopsis Vincent goes directly to Hana for an explanation of the prior day's events at Liberty Island. Hana has some bad news.
Date November 9, 2017

The Bunker

This isn’t a surprise visit.

0800 - just over twenty-four hours after Colette Demsky and Avi Epstein returned to roost, Vincent Lazzaro has made himself comfortable across the desk of Hana Gitelman, settled back in his seat like the exceptionally coutured little demon he is. His suit is a sooty grey, collar and cuffs creased sharp, tie knotted precise at his throat. Shadows have had time to take hold around immaculate stubble; his eyes are black in his head, hooded dark with fatigue.

They’ve spoken, since they assumed their respective roles, but it’s been years since they’ve had a conversation like this. Back then it was all mud and blood and BDUs.

He’s left his security entourage out on the tarmac, at least. He’s also absolutely clean of electronics: no “smart” watch, no phone, no panic button. Hard to say at this point if he’s done so out of courtesy or caution. The uneasy pacing of the men and women he’s left up top has more to say about the former.

“What happened?”

He drops the question like a lead bar between them, heavy and flat. No hostility, no accusation.

No humor, either.

Hana is dressed in black, as she so often is, her long-sleeved suit jacket nearly featureless save for the discreet join of panels down its front. The stark non-color does nothing to make her look any less weary than she actually is. She sits with hands folded one over another on the edge of the desk, not precisely at ease — and nothing at all like relaxed — but the stiffness in her posture is of a type easily attributed to formality and trying circumstances.

She regards Vincent levelly across the desk, dips her chin slightly, and begins at the only appropriate place: the beginning.

"Four months ago, Commander Epstein was detained by DHS. The Tlanuwa was additionally seized from the airfield, even though it was a company asset not involved in Epstein's actions. No explanation was given to Wolfhound for either event." Vincent is likely aware of just how many calls and emails Hana made trying to get information out of DHS during that time. The fact that she didn't try to go over heads or otherwise circumvent red tape says something about how much Hana's trying to work with the system these days.

He has also likely inferred that the craft could have been pulled out at any point, if the technopath so chose.

"In September, I was finally informed of the alleged killing of Agent Lowell— " Alleged by technicality, the lack of trial and conviction, not because she has any doubt of the event. "— that Epstein claimed self-defense, and that he would be held indefinitely. Along with the Tlanuwa." Why yes, Hana is more than a little bitter about that part.

"No mention was made of trial proceedings or even pressing charges," she remarks. "Between that, impounding our aircraft, and the delay, I will admit, we all found the situation… strange." Fishy. Shady as fuck. But she's being… formal.

Hana pauses then, briefly presses two fingertips against the bridge of her nose, between her eyes; the gesture is the smallest of indications of the depth of her vexation, and the fact that she makes it at all conveys much more.

"At shortly after 0200 hours yesterday morning," she continues, "It came to my attention the Tlanuwa had gone live. Epstein contacted me soon after with a trajectory. At 0330 hours, we rendezvoused about halfway between the Safe Zone and Rochester. The plane didn't have enough fuel to reach base," she elaborates.

"During the debriefing that followed— " That being the polite word. "—Officer Demsky informed me she had on her own initiative broken into the detention facility, saved Epstein from an extrajudicial execution, and reclaimed our aircraft."

Hana tips her head slightly. "She also mentioned there being a Hunter robot on-site." But she doesn't actually make a query of that observation, because she knows better than to expect any answer. It's not Homeland who's being held accountable right now.

"I am holding them both confined to quarters for the time being," the major concludes. "I did attempt to contact Liberty Island, but — understandably — they have not been fielding calls."

Vincent listens at a neutral remove, eye contact composed as the slow current at the surface of any tar pit. His shoulders are at a low rest against his seat, posture at east past a steelier pluck of tension up the back of his jaw at her italics. Particularly the ones hovering over the Tlanuwa.

He eases out of that lock when she pauses to touch her nose, pressure vented through the measure of a sigh butting subtle at the backs of his ribs. They’re being Professional.

“Four months ago, Commander Epstein turned himself in for killing Agent Lowell,” is the first correction he has to make, point blank, with only the smallest passive aggressive absence of apologies that Avi didn’t fire an email off to Hana’s all-seeing eye before he did it. He conveys the sentiment in a lingering look instead, in the beat before he reaches to slip the file folder he brought along off the empty chair next to him.

“All I can do now for the breakdown in communication is apologize. Know going forward that you have my express permission to contact me directly, the next time of one of yours gets into a homicidal altercation with one of mine.”

Another look — this one with a barb of mutually deprecating exasperation as he hooks his glasses from an inner pocket and pushes them up onto his nose. Nothing to say on the subject of robots, just yet. He splits the file folder open with his thumb, checks down through a few pages, some lighter through the back than others, and picks out three to pass across the desk to her.

They’re photographs.

Specifically, they’re full page black and white copies of photographs depicting former guards of the Liberty Island facility, cratered with bullets and in some cases dismembered. There are dark lines where lasers cut clear grids through the concrete floors, through the walls, through bone and armor.

“This is bad for both of us.”

Hana accepts the correction without comment; inclines her head at the explicit permission given. Someone else might protest the potential of future homicidal altercations, or promise there wouldn't be others; truth be told, she doesn't care about the barb in the words. She does intend to avoid repeat events, but that's an internal matter and none of Lazzaro's business.

His exasperation is mirrored, briefly; his perusal of the folder's contents observed with quiescent patience. When the photographs come out, Hana reaches up to receive them, arranging them in a neat line before her. Death. Destruction. None of it is exactly surprising — she's worked with Colette, and Colette's ability, for years. Taught her some of those strategies.

The understatement of the century earns Vincent a darkly slanted look. "It is," comes across more mildly, mere matter-of-fact agreement.

Hana's fingertips rest on the central image for a moment; she draws a breath in, releases it, eyes closing briefly. The kind of thing one does when facing and reaffirming an unwanted decision already made.

Then she reaches down behind the desk, demonstrates that she has a file folder prepared, too. This one is passed across the desk wholesale. "The first part of that," she says, nodding towards the unmarked manila folder, "is essentially what I just told you. Some incidentals from my interactions with Liberty Island these past months — call logs, transcripts — but none of it remarkable. I thought you might appreciate the hardcopy statement."

"The second part— "

Hana leans back in her chair, returning her hands to their prior neutral fold. "The second part, I'm adding because it's you I'm talking to."

There's a brief pause. "I imagine Homeland has files on my ability," she continues, non-sequitur that isn't. Her tone is stiff, nonexpressive, her features equally so. "This is not likely to be of direct use to you, never mind admissible as evidence, but— "

"I… overheard… messages originating from two phones on Liberty Island around the time of the attack. One contacted your emergency dispatch; it had the appropriate prefix for some employee's work phone and sent three status reports. I have included the numbers, transcript, geographic localization, and local maps for each end of the connection." A thin smile cuts across her expression, devoid of humor, darkly self-deprecating. "Consider that one validation."

Something that can be corroborated independently, not chalked up to potential technopath fabrication. Unlike the next part.

The smile fades. "The second followed immediately after, came from a number that matches nothing I am familiar with, and contacted another seemingly unassociated number in Queens, outside the boundaries of the Safe Zone. The message was encrypted. I have provided both the encrypted source and the key on top of the same information as for the other text."

Hana lifts her chin slightly, dark gaze intent upon Vincent. "That message called for a cleaner."

His lean to collect the folder on offer is shady with hesitation, dry humor leached away to leave harder dread behind in the bones of his face. No comment, again, initially — on files, on admissibility, on validation (he does look up to see her smile at that — flat affect too resigned for the reassurance to read especially defensive).

Past that he peruses excerpts in time with her explanations just enough to see the truth in them, and the shadow of an indistinct threat cast by things he should be aware of and wasn’t.

He closes the file.

There’s more grey in his beard than there was when they saw each other last, but his eyes are the same, dark to match hers across the desk, grim with familiar misgiving. He takes his glasses off, flicks them closed and puts them away.

“There are no Hunter robots in commission on Liberty Island,” he tells her, “or anywhere else.”

Whether or not she believes him — he doesn’t look like he’s trying to convince her, earnest without effort.

“I’m telling this to you, Hana, and not to Epstein. Certainly not to Demsky.” Just so they’re clear on where he’s comfortable placing his trust at the moment: as physically far away from a knee-jerk murder spree in a federal facility as possible. “In twenty-four hours, there’s been no reported trace of any robotic presence on the island. Nor is there any trace of Epstein’s would-be executioner.”

Hana meets his glasses-free gaze, her head tilting just slightly. "Of course there aren't," could be acerbic, sarcastic, even snarky; it isn't. Neither is it an expression of confidence, belief, faith — not with the depth of implications now opening before them. The words are a pragmatist's simple statement of fact.

Of course there aren't.

Dark eyes go hooded as Vincent continues, her expression flattening, subtle though the distinction may be. "Neither of them have need to know," Hana states brusquely, which could simply be a matter of chain of command, but the cold core of her tone also hints at trust, loss thereof. After that affirmation, she lets her eyes slip closed.

No traces. Of course there aren't.

"Unfortunately," the major continues after a brief pause, looking back at Vincent and indicating the folder with a twitch of fingers, "what I've given you is all that I myself have." Her glance flicks momentarily past him, touching upon the closed door. "As I mentioned, Epstein and Demsky are in their quarters. Should you want their firsthand accounts." Or to take them into custody goes unvoiced, written between lines in the media of tone and demeanor.

Wolfhound exists to bring fugitives to justice. Hana does not intend to start creating them now.

“Ostensibly I’m here to take them into Homeland custody.” So they’re on the same page there — VIncent’s expression is inscrutable over the folder he’s been given, docked slim against the one he brought with him between his hands. “But it seems clear to me that they won’t be secure there.”

Whether that’s because of the attempt on Epstein’s life or because of the ease with which Demsky single-handedly penetrated their defenses, it’s impossible to say. There’s no hint in the black of his eyes, his appraisal of Hana across the desk from him shifted into a matter-of-fact remove as he turns his thoughts inward. Calculating.

“I’ll speak with Colette once the dust has settled,” is something he’s already decided, delivered offhand. One parent to — another. Sort of. “I don’t want her communicating with Tasha.”

The headache he’d been successfully ignoring tightens its band around his skull as soon as the words have left him, and he sinks further back, eyes closed, paired fingers set to his temple on their way to hooking across his mouth.

“I’m going to lock down Liberty Island,” he says, at length, to the backs of his own eyelids.

“I’d like for you to accompany me back to the facility to salvage anything digital they might have tried to destroy.”

Hana meets Vincent's inscrutable expression with one of her own. The word ostensibly hangs in the beat of quiet around them, its ramifications expanding silently outward. That solidifies the major's next steps then, at least as regards her own wayward children. Her expression remains neutral when Vincent speaks up again, and Hana nods briefly; she understands, although it seems something of a lost cause to her. But then, while Hana may be a parent, sort of, she never raised a child, never developed that particular flavor of protective streak.

Hana doesn't comment on security, lack thereof; nor on the shepherding of adult children. She simply waits as he sinks back, gives in to obvious expression of their shared (and unshared) aggravations. Locking down Liberty Island is not a surprise; the request that she accompany him is. Albeit a gratifying one.

"Certainly," is her prompt reply. Her head turns slightly, thoughts drifting briefly to the deeper parts of the station, the people waiting there. They can wait a little longer. "I can leave whenever you're ready."

“I’m ready,” says Vincent.

He isn’t.

“I need to make a few calls. You’re welcome to ride with us. If you prefer to find your own way you can bill me.”

When he finally lets his hand fall and shifts in his seat, it’s to look to a watch that isn’t on his wrist. He rolls his eyes at himself and drops the offending arm aside, breath drawn in deep. Christ.

Pushing to his feet is a rigid affair — aching bones locked in stiff through his right side, shoulder to knee. He does his best to ignore that too, tension tweaked up the back of his neck to keep his pride (and posture) aloft, chin lifted, folders in hand. It’s fine. Normal. Nothing coffee and the right prescription painkiller won’t sand the splintery edges off of.

“I aim to be back on the island by ten o’clock.”

After a moment, he thinks to add a milder:

“Thank you.”

Hana inclines her head as Vincent gives the response she expected — and an elaboration she did not. Her response is prompt, given without hesitation, no need for internal debate: "I'll ride with you." There's value in adding the show of collaboration to its substance.

She has the advantage of being able to make her own 'calls' even as she rises, passing updates to Francois and Scott. Stepping around the desk and walking Vincent to the office door, the major nods again. "You're welcome," she replies, equally mild.

Hana spends a moment watching Vincent walk down the hall, heading for where he can make calls with the illusion of privacy. She'll grant him more than just that illusion, given their mutual assumptions of good faith.

Hopefully those assumptions will bear fruit, rather than being dashed to pieces by whatever follows.

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