The Lie

Participants:

jessica_icon.gif niki_icon.gif verse_icon.gif

Also Featuring

dl_icon.gif elle_icon.gif micah_icon.gif

Scene Title The Lie
Synopsis In the mindscape of Niki Sanders, Agent Verse's interrogation takes on a dark new level.
Date March 28, 2009

The mind is a marvelous thing…

"Yea', just hold on… I'll wait here, you go flag down a cab." Standing beneath the awning of a bus-station terminal, D.L. Hawkins looks down to the young man at his side, one hand settling atop his head as fingers work through all-too-corly hair. His eyes lift up to the woman across from him, a smile creeping up on his lips. "All we gotta' do is just relax, play it cool, and just keep movin'."

It, like all things human, can create such profound scars in reaction to injury.

The slate-gray skies of New York's midday should be so much brighter, but with the thin cloud cover that has rolled in, everything seems painted with less colors than usual. As she stands there, looking at D.L. and Micah beneath the bus-stop's awning, Niki Sanders can't help but feel a twinge of deja-vu that is laced with dread. These moments where she peers out into the stalled traffic gridlocked bumper to bumper during lunch traffic, these moments where she sees her husband and her son standing close enough to touch, these moments when she spots a cab that has no passengers in it all seem too familiar…

It can create any number of fantasies to help us cope, should the truth of a matter be far too painful.

…and at the same time dreadful. When the cabbie brings the vehicle over to the curb and pulls it into park, it's evident to Niki that this is exactly where she needs to go. But at the same time, a lingering feeling in the back of her mind is telling her this is exactly where she shouldn't be.


Midtown Manhattan

November 8th, 2006 — 11:48am


Niki looks about, and smiles. "Don't worry. We're all together, and that's all that matters. I'll go get us a cab." The smile is just a little forced. Something's nagging at her, playing at the rims of her consciousness. A thought, one of those gossamer ones that's so close you can almost clutch at it. But she smiles warmly at both, leaning in to give D.L. a quick kiss and resting a hand on Micah's shoulder, before she heads towards the cab.

As she moves across the street, Niki's eyes catch sight of a billboard on the side of a bus, displaying a red and orange bird with its wings outspread. The slogan beneath it reads, Phoenix. When one of the cars adjacent to the bus pull away, it's clearly revealed to be an add for tourism in Arizona, proclaiming Visit Phoenix. The desert depicted bristles with cacti, and a remote stone building set into the mountains. It seems vaguely familiar, all things considered.

Once to the side of the cab, Niki catches a glimpse of herself in the glass. Stern brows lowered, the ferocious lioness' countenance of Jessica Sanders. But her clothing doesn't match that of Niki's, instead it is just a muted orange jumpsuit with the collar unbuttoned, her name mirrored backwards along with a serial number. The back of her head throbs for a moment, and a distant sound of crackling fire and a dull roar doesn't seem to fit the world she sees before herself.

It causes a little bit of a confused look. Phoenix. Wasn't there something about a phoenix? A story? Or something. But it's the look in the window that confuses her. Jessica. Jessica's never been dressed differently from herself before. She reaches out to rest fingertips on the glass, looking at it with a puzzled expression, and looks back and around, as if someone's watching her.

Behind her, Niki notices a few patrol officers walking down through a courtyard between two office buildings. One speaking into the radio on the shoulder of his uniform, the other watching Micah and D.L. where they sit on the bus-stop bench, talking. Behind Niki, the passenger's side window to the cab rolls down, and the cabbie quietly calls out, "Did you need a rise, Miss?"

It's almost hard to hear him over the sounds of jackhammering, a street crew just a few feet away working up pulling up a huge section of the road, sewer workers laying out road cones around an open manhole while another police officer directs traffic.

Over all of this, just on the other side of the tall skyscraper beyond, the sound of something crashing shakes the city. Thorugh a plate glass window of the Linderman Building, a police squad car comes flying through the air, spiraling out of control before crashing into the concrete, bouncing end over end as it cartwheels into another office building's front door. The ground shakes, there's shouting, gunfire, and screaming in the direction of Kirby Plaza on the opposite side of the skyscraper. D.L. and Micah move up from the bench, turning first to spot the cops, then to recoil away from what comes next — a flash.

A brilliant, white hot flash.

So far away. They're so far away. It's dawning like a slowly recoiling horror, as her eyes widen. "NO!!!!" She tries to force her body to obey, to run to D.L. and Micah, her eyes locked on them. Please. She has to get there. She can get there. She doesn't have to see this.

Not again.

It's like watching a movie when Jessica takes over, watching with horror when she runs not towards the pair, but away. When she escapes from the roar of nuclear fire and —

Everything goes black.

"That's… really how you remember it, isn't it?" The voice is unfamiliar, deep and calm. "You're full of confusion, and lies, and self-deception. I've never met someone quite as damaged as you." The voice echoes in the darkness, in the cold and disconnect of whatever bodiless state she's held in.

"Niki." The name comes off more as chastising than anything, "you actually think they're dead?"

the world snaps back with a blurred quality. Reality's focus turns into something more recognizable, more sharp in contrast — a run-down house on the safer fringes of Staten Island. Some windows cracked from abuse, wallpaper peeling, old and musty furniture. Something far more recent in her mind's eye.

Seated on the sofa looking across to the kitchenette, Niki spots the man in a long, black coat seated on a stool, the jacket spilling down over the sides, his hands folded in his lap, eyes shielded by dark sunglasses.

"Niki," the voice is the same as the one in the darkness, "we should talk, you and I." As vision clears, so do Niki's senses of touch, taste and smell. The ringing in her ears stops, her eyes adjust to this new reality wholly. "I want to… ask you some things. The more correctly you answer them, the less…" one of his hands waves in the air, "of that you'll have to experience."

She gasps, looking around wild-eyed in that initial moment of clarity. "I…no! That was…" She looks around, considering the room. "Wait..this isn't…" She seems confused. "This isn't…" She looks over at the man in the coat, still trying to get her brain to line up all in a row. "What do you mean they're not dead?" She can't bring herself to NOT buy into that some. Her greatest hope? Yeah. It's hard to resist. She takes a few steps over to the man in the coat. That even takes priority over "what's going on".

"D.L. Hawkins?" The darkly dressed man rolls his shoulders where he sits, "Well, we can talk more about that after you answer some of my questions." A smile creeps up across his lips, "My names is Verse," like a part of a song? "I'm here to ask you some questions about a group called Phoenix. Now, there isn't much guarantee that you know anything about them, but I'm willing to dig around in this… fun-house of a brain of yours to find out."

Verse reaches up to remove his sunglasses, folding them closed before sliding them into his pocket. "Now I can't promise you won't have to see some… things, while I'm poking around in here, Niki." There's a loud thump on a door to a closet, and it earns Verse's attention for a moment, almost frightened in his expression. Swallowing tensely, he looks back to Niki. "You know, the things you dad did. Now we could go revisit those happy family memories while I look around, but you know… I don't want to hurt you. So, how about you start by telling me everything you know about them."

Verse leans forward, folding his hands and resting his forearms on his knees, "Members, safehouses… whatever you know."

The blonde nods slowly. "I…don't know a lot. Jessica knew more than I did. I…just, please, tell me about D.L.? I don't know much. Just a couple people who were involved with them. I wasn't part of them or anything." Her expression is hopeful, but then moves to worried and wary at the second. "I don't know what you're talking about." With her father. That was the reason de etre for Jessica's existence…keeping her safe from those memories.

"I know psychiatrists who would make their career analyzing you," Verse says with a crooked smile. "You give me a few names, the names of the people you know…" He eyes the closet, then looks back to Niki, "and I'll tell you what I know about D.L." Tilting his head to the side, Verse's brows raise over the top of his sunglasses. "Then, I can just… let you sleep, and Jessica and I can talk. It's as simple as that."

Niki looks somewhat relieved at that. After all, she assumes that by this point, the names she has are known names. But…what if they aren't? She's torn, really. But the notion of finding out more about D.L…"Abigail Beauchamp." She offers one. The most well-known, really. She's reluctant to sell out Elisabeth or Teodoro if she doesn't have to. "She's the one I know the most…really anything…about."

"Beauchamp?" One of Verse's brows arch, and a smile creeps across his lips. "Interesting, she's registered too." The name is filed away for his report later, and the amenable attitude earns Niki an earnest smile. "According to files I've been privy to," sliding off of his stool, Verse continues to speak as he walks. "D.L. Hawkins was last spotted by the Department of Homeland Securtity in the city of New Orleans, Louisiana…"

It's no small surprise, seeing that D.L. has family down there. "That was," Verse's head tilts to the side, "November 18th, 2008." Lips crook up into a hesitant smile, and Verse watches Niki's reaction carefully. "Maybe you just convinced yourself he's dead… maybe someone tampered with that Swiss-cheese head of yours," the closer door slams once more, and Vers'e words cut off as he warily looks to it.

Rolling his shoulders tensely, his focus turns back to Niki. "Do you know anyone else, Niki? Any places they might stay, people that would help hide them?" He makes his way towards the couch she sits on, hands folding behind his back.

The closet door slams again. Jessica is getting restless.

The blonde looks back to the closet door. She tenses up. New Orleans, on November 18th of last year. He's not dead. She has to find him. "What else do you have to give me? What about Micah?" Please. Let Micah be alive too. Her tone is pleading, hopeful despite herself.

One finger wags back and forth in front of Niki, and Verse clicks his tongue softly. "It doesn't work like that, Miss Sanders." Verse looks across the room to Niki, brows lowered and eyes trained on her. "Give me what I need, what I want, and I might be able to give you something else on your family." Sure, maybe he's making all of this up off of the top of his head, maybe he's not — but desperate people will cling to any desperate hope, and the look in Niki Sanders' eyes is that of desperation.

"You said there were others, aside from Abigail Beauchamp, I'd like to — " The closet door shatters off its hinges and falls to the floor with splintering wood. Verse jerks away from Niki, wide eyes focused on the silhouette standing in the doorway. He swallows tensely, head canting to one side, "You're— a lot stronger than I thought."

Niki looks surprised, and looks to the figure in the doorway. "No!! He knows about D.L.! About Micah! Not now!!" She stands, moving a bit that way, as if to interpose herself, though worried about doing so.

From the doorway, Jessica takes a step out. "You had better tell her what she wants to know, or you're going to find out exactly how strong I am." The MPD brain begins almost segmenting itself into two, making it more difficult to deal with.

"Does everyone have someone in their head to protect them?" Verse strains the words through his teeth, taking a few steps back from Niki. At least this time, unlike with Helena, Verse wasn't caught entirely with his pants around his ankles. It's in this moment of freedom that the world bends and distorts again, blurring and becoming something undefined, until the sensation of fingers around her throat becomes more prevalent.

It isn't right though, the details are so muddied and broken. Even Niki's father looks more like a caracature of light and dark against wrinkled skin than his real face. These deeply repressed memories are hard fought, the ones that she refuses to recall, shown mostly in broken images and sharp sensations.

"I could leave you here, forever." Verse boasts as Jessica feels herself slammed up against the dressed by thick, old hands. Niki's face aches from a bruise over her eyes and across her cheek, from the lash of a belt across her lower back.

"Tell me what I want to know." The hands press down again, blotchy color of busy wallpaper and yellow light from dirty lamps floods the indistinct room.

Unlike the other sharper, more crisp memories, this one wouldn't be nearly as hard to break out of.

Not so easy at all. This is something Niki has repressed, and there's no higher trigger issue for Jessica. The two-in-one look back, and Niki's part of their consciousness just -retreats-. Curls into a small little mental ball, leaving Jessica. The assassin and protector strains against the grip, and hisses back through a tight throat. "Fuck you. Is this the best you've got? I lived through this. If reruns are all you got, take your game and go home." she hisses.

"Reruns." Verse's voice carries that chiding tone again, and the scene snaps like a broken movie reel, only to snap back into place with a flash of blood and a scream. A bathtub half filled with water, a young blonde woman curled up in the fetal position, and Jessica's hands wringing the bones of her feet into pulp while the victim of the torture arches her back, whimpers, and moans as if enjoying what should be excruciating pain.

"I can show you things that would make you claw out your eyes." The voice thunders around Jessica, and she has so easily pushed the inferiority complex Verse has with great aplomb. But despite his childish and bitter tone, it is only when Elle changes, when Elle is no longer Elle but rather thr screaming, writhing form of Micah that Jessica is crushing into a fine, bloody mess that his point is driven home.

"The mind is an amazing thing, Jessica. Tell me about Phoenix!" The voice rises, rattling the windows as if some Olympian God was crouched atop the roof of the derelict tenement this took place in, making with his demands.

Jessica gasps, yanking her hands back in an instant. She looks back, rattled, and then looks up and about. "This isn't real." she says, gritting her teeth. "None of this is real. But fine. You want them? -Let us go-. Turn us loose, and I'll cut you the name of their other leader!" Jessica, unlike Niki, doesn't have nearly so much loyalty towards the others. "And a cop on their payroll too."

Lips curl up into a mischevious smile shown in the reflection of a broken mirror in the bathroom, and Verse's voice now emanates from it instead of nebulously around the room. "Now this is far more like it…" Leaning in towards Jessica's side of the mirror, the figments of Michah and Elle vanish from the room. The walls begin to repair themselves and shift around like some great sliding puzzle. The mirror folds open as if it were a window, and soon Verse and Jessica are standing in a Level-5 Containment cell, the same one Jessica was imprisoned in back in the fall of 2008.

"I'll do one more than let you go, I'll even tell you where to find Mister Hawkings and…" He motions to a small television on a stand, an old rabbit-ears model that would look more at place in the 1970's. The static, black and white picture looks to be Kirby Plaza. "I can even show you what you've forgotten." Standing with his back to the door, Verse watches Jessica carefully, and then motions to the door behind him as it clicks unlocked and begins to swing open.

"Now, then… who is this police officer that works for Phoenix? Who is their other leader?" Dark brows rise, and finally, after all of this struggling, Stephen Verse is a hair's breadth away from exactly what he needs.

Jessica looks back, looking over to the television. She considers the room, the mindscape. "All right. You get one now. The other one when I am out of Moab. The cop. Elisabeth Harrison." Jessica gives up Elisabeth. After all, Elisabeth was so kind as to come arrest her and get her busted with Homeland Security. Turnabout and fair play and all.

"Harrison." One more name tucked away, and Verse moves across the room, gesturing to the television. "You're less ferocious than your psyche file says," his commentary comes with a smirk as the television begins to play, as if from some old and grainy film footage withdrawn from the archive of her mind. "Look long, and look hard," he motions to the center of the screen where a white flash fills the air.

"Watch," His voice picks up into a falsetto whisper, and there on the screen are D.L. and Micah, with the protective father wrapping his arms around Micah's shoulders, "and learn." And then both of them turn into an intangible haze of phased energy as the blast wave rolls past them, and the memory fades to black.

The mind is a wonderful and terrible thing.

Right in front of Jessica's eyes, where her palms brush across the screen, was evidenced locked deep away in her subconscious, of the breathing proof that her family was not gone — only abandoned. When the television kicks back on, it shows not the strength of Jessica crawling through a nuclear wasteland to cradle the remains of her son, no. That improbable event is forestalled to the grim reality of her escape, of her mind clouding itself to make her believe that she did not do what she did.

In reaction to a great trauma, the mind can conjure up multitudes of false realities, to ease the pain of our harsh one.

Her palms slide over the screen, looking at herself running through the sewer systems beneath Manhattan, running away from the explosion, from the destruction of New York, from the crumbling streets above, from the destruction of everything she knew and love. The memory of finding her son's remains in the blasted ruins of Midtown — a fabrication to ease her mind, to make it easier to move on, to be strong.

We question ourselves, and our memories, and what we have done because of them.

Soon enough, Verse isn't in the room in her mind any longer. It is just Jessica, just Niki, just Gina, confronted with the truth of her own loss. That she did not lose Micah and D.L…

The mind is a wonderful, and terrible thing.

They lost her.


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Previously in this storyline…
Face It

Next in this storyline…
Big Sister is Watching

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