lynette_icon.gif sabra_icon.gif

Scene Title Unearthing
Synopsis Lynette's investigation into Odessa's past continues.
Date July 2, 2018

The Clocktower Building

The Clocktower Building is in many ways much like the organization it hosts: approachable and welcoming on the street, yet with layers and levels reserved from public view. The building's interior design is expansive and warm and eminently modern — dominated by hardwood floors and ivory walls, occasional splashes of color provided by carefully-selected artwork. The receptionist behind the lobby's granite-surfaced desk is not the person Lynette spoke to on the phone, being too young by far; she proves adept at companionable small talk while Lynette waits for her escort deeper in.

The man who arrives to collect Lynette does not speak at all. It's the receptionist who provides his name — Ashton — even as he offers the visitor what might be a deep nod or a slight bow and gestures for her to accompany him. He leads the way to an elevator, from which they emerge on the thirteenth floor, the lowest level of the tower proper. Characterized by the same aesthetic as the lobby below, the space is not a traditional office in any sense; the square space features an open floor plan, and the portion of it Lynette is led to features cream-colored chairs oriented around a glossy, dark wooden table — it more closely resembles a parlor than an office.

A white-haired, elderly woman with strikingly bright blue eyes sits in one of those chairs. The only thing on the table at present is a tea service, delicate-seeming porcelain painted with roses and rimmed in gold. One cup and saucer is already filled, set before the hostess; another sits empty, waiting for the guest.

"Lynette," Sabra Dalton greets with genial welcome, implying a certain tone for the meeting. "Please, do make yourself comfortable," she continues, gesturing towards the other chairs. "Would you care for a cup of tea while we talk?"

In the past decade or so, Lynette has picked up a habit for flippancy, for irreverence. But once upon a time, she knew how to conduct herself in a place like this one— it's a skill she's chosen not to use recently, rather than having forgotten it. So here, she's polite, she's appropriately impressed and not tucking it under any sort of humor. After all, she's here for a favor, not the other way around.

So when she's brought to the parlor, she greets Sabra with a smile before she takes her seat. "Thank you. I'd love a cup," she says, setting her purse down on her lap instead of clinging onto it for comfort the way she might like to. "And thank you for seeing me. I hope it wasn't too much trouble to fit me in."

Sabra is a busy woman, after all, being in the position she is.

Lynette's escort steps in to pour her tea, setting the cup in easy reach before withdrawing out of the sphere of conversation. "Oh, not in the slightest, my dear," Sabra assures her meanwhile, with every indication that the pleasantry is sincerely meant. "Corbin saw fit to put you in touch. That's worth a bit of fitting in, I should think."

The elderly woman folds her hands around her teacup, lifting it and drawing in its aroma, but not yet taking a sip. "And it's been some time since anyone wanted to unearth such old history," she remarks, "the world having moved on as it has." As she settles herself back in her chair, Sabra's expression crinkles in a faintly rueful smile. "Though in many respects, that is for the best."

"He was very kind to do so," Lynette remarks, because Corbin certainly didn't have to help her at all, given the circumstances. She glances over at the escort when he pours her tea for her— and she responds with a smile. "Thank you, Ashton." Something in her tone there gives away that that isn't usual for her at all. Not that anyone should suspect it would be.

"Not the whole world," she notes as she picks up the cup. "But I agree, it's mostly for the best, how things have turned out. So far." But this isn't why she's here, to discuss the state of the world post-war. She takes a drink before getting on with it, though. "I'm trying to find out about Odessa because I'd like to help her, if I can. I'm hoping that you can tell me more about what it was— to be a child prisoner of the Company. About why it happened. About… why her own history was hidden from her."

"Hm." Sabra regards her visitor across the gold-limned rim of her cup, her expression politely neutral. "A ward," she rephrases, too mild to be a correction, and yet there's a hint of underlying insistence. Another tone to be set.

She sips at her tea before answering, her attention shifting to the distance beyond Lynette, perhaps collecting her recollections. "I'm afraid I must admit to having little to share on those accounts," Sabra replies at last, her gaze returning to her guest. "Odessa's raising, and indeed that of any ward, was well outside any sphere of responsibility I held." She considers for a moment longer, then gestures slightly to one side with her teacup. "For her case in particular, I would add that temporal manipulators were always… a subject of concern, for reasons you might sympathize with. Keeping them close was one solution to that concern."

"The only record I've seen of it is Bishop's trial information," Lynette notes, to explain her word choice. She doesn't comment as to her feelings on temporal manipulators, there is only a nod of acknowledgement that could be read in any number of ways.

"Did you know her at all? Later, when she was an adult with responsibilities of her own?" She sips again before setting her cup back down again. "I've heard two versions of the story. One where Odessa is a villain, choosing always to side with the cruel and the powerful. The other, that she has only ever been a victim, robbed of her agency at every turn. I'm of the opinion that the truth lies somewhere in the middle, as a general rule. What I've seen of her, she has a lot of guilt and wants to do things differently this time. I was hoping you could point me towards the truth. Whichever direction it falls."

As much as she would like the truth to be on Des' side, it's clear that she is, at least, prepared to find out differently.

A fond smile comes over Sabra's features as Lynette adjusts her line of inquiry, tinged with the nostalgic melancholy that goes hand in hand with age. "I knew her as a teenager," she admits, "and we were reacquainted for a brief time in this very city before she ran away."

The elderly woman lingers over her tea for a few moments, giving full and unhurried deliberation to the tale she will speak. "You are correct, in that both of those narratives are… hmm… strongly polarized. What person is ever so simple at heart as to be explained away in a dozen words?" she asks; and though her brows arch in a prompting manner, it's clear the question is purely rhetorical.

Setting her cup on its saucer, Sabra folds her hands in her lap and gazes out one of the room's expansive windows, contemplating the cityscape beyond. "The girl lived a sheltered life in a small, self-contained world. Whether you consider it nature or nurture, she never learned how to stand independently on her own two feet. She also possesses a considerable string of… let us say, complicating personality traits," she adds with a distinct sigh that marks something of a conclusion.

Returning her regard to Lynette, Sabra continues in a slightly different vein. "Once upon a time, a fledgling asked to stretch her wings. I opened the door, and arranged a guide to ease her transition. Someone who had no authority to command or coerce, whose interest was her integration. She seemed pleased with that, and yet it was only a matter of days after that she abandoned us all." She lifts her cup, glancing briefly at the tinted liquid within. "I will confess, I spent no small amount of time wondering what I could have done better."

Lynette chuckles at the question, because she knows she isn't that easy to explain and she doubts anyone else is, either. But mostly she listens and she watches, sipping tea and nodding— because all of that makes perfect sense to her and the version of Odessa that she's been getting to know over the past few months.

"The concern isn't what we could have done better," she says, fingers tapping softly against her cup, "but what we can do about it going forward." And that we is left purposefully undefined. An invitation to the woman across from her, rather than a demand of her. "I personally think she can be rehabilitated. Not that I want to treat her like a child and not hold her responsible for her choices, but rather that she can learn from them and turn her life in a new direction. Maybe make up for what she's done. With support. But that won't happen if they're busy fitting her for a noose." The list of charges is a particularly damning one, after all.

"Can you help? Would you help?"

One silver brow arches as Lynette voices her request; rather than reply promptly, however, Sabra simply regards her petitioner for a long, silent moment, her manner suggesting thoughtful consideration limned by a suggestion of incredulity.

Ultimately, she reaches forward to reclaim her teacup, once again wrapping her fingers around its curving sides.

"I can see, my dear, that you have mastered the art of asking open-ended questions," is delivered as a gentle rebuke rather than sharp sarcasm. "And I certainly do not fault the nobility of your goal. But 'help' is an exceedingly expansive word in the context you present."

Sabra raises her cup, takes a small sip and savoring it quietly for a beat that enforces conversational pause, bright blue gaze never wavering from its study of Lynette. "How is it you expect to realize this circumvention of the judiciary?" There's no censure in that question either, pointed though its words might be; she seems sincerely interested.

Lynette takes the rebuke with a tilt of her smile, which doesn't do much for making her look remorseful. Mostly because she isn't, terribly. "Expansive or narrow, depending on ability and willingness," she says, but the more focused question gets a more thoughtful expression in return. "Ideally speaking, I would gather enough evidence that she wasn't entirely working under her own free will, then… guide her defense team into leveraging what would be a messy, lengthy trial into a deal that would include government oversight, but also some freedom for her. I'm not sure to what extent she did or didn't help willingly— yet, in any case. But I know that the dogs won't sleep until they have their meat. And I also know that whatever she has done, she wants to make up for now. Do better. Be different. The idea being that she's given the chance to do that, but someone is always there to step in if she isn't sincere in that. Whether that means working for the government or having a babysitter attached to her, I'm not sure how that would shake out. But that's the general idea. Punishment and rehabilitation."

She pauses long enough to drink— long enough to think before she continues. "Help, in this scenario, would be any leverage you would be willing to provide or legal help you have access to that she does not. If you are, of course, willing to do so. I didn't come to manipulate or coerce, only to ask."

Sabra takes another sip of her tea as Lynette speaks, and another after, lingering over the flavor… and over the prospects set before her. "I confess," she says at last, "I cannot attest to optimism on demonstrating compromise of her freedom. Odessa stops time, and when she does — well, who is to stop her, from anything?" A negator. Adynomine. Another time manipulator. Not much else. Sabra shakes her head slowly. "The only evidence I could possibly add to her case would be damning rather than exonerating."

There's a short pause before the elderly woman continues. "Fond though I was of the girl, when it comes down to it, she is self-serving first and foremost; her allegiance follows wherever she perceives advantage to herself." Leaning forward, Sabra returns her teacup to its saucer; then she folds her hands in her lap and fixes a level, somber gaze upon Lynette. "I have only your secondhand word that she wants rehabilitation… but even if I had that very statement from her lips, they are the words that advantage her now. There are chances I am willing to take, limbs I am willing to venture out on, but putting faith in Odessa Knutson on word alone is not one of them. She broke the trust I had vested in her long and long ago." That statement carries a gravity far greater than can be ascribed to simply 'running away'.

Sabra shakes her head again. "If you bring me something I can believe in… but that, I expect, is no less impossible than the rest of your appointed task."

"A decent point," Lynette says, as far as Odessa's ability and it's advantages go. But as to the rest, she stays quiet. And listens. It isn't the first time she's heard someone talk about how little they trust her. Or how self-serving she is. Or any of it, really. Her expression dims, but there is understanding in it, not accusation. The disappointment there isn't for Sabra, that's easy enough to guess.

"Hard facts, definitely impossible. But if I stumble across something, I'll contact you. I appreciate you meeting with me, especially since the topic is an unpleasant one. There are far better ways to spend an afternoon," she adds with a hint of a smile as she stands up from her seat. "I won't keep you from it any more than I already have."

Sabra rises as her guest does, offering Lynette a pleasant, sympathetic smile. "Oh, it was no hardship at all, my dear," she replies, extending her hand for a parting shake. "I am glad to have met you, and I do wish you the best in your venture." She reaches up to pat the younger woman briefly on the cheek. "Please, do keep in touch. I would like to know how all this pans out."

From there, Lynette is escorted back to the ground floor by the silent Ashton. As the elevator doors close to send them down, her last view of the elderly woman is of her shadowed profile standing before the window, attention distant, seemingly lost in thought — or perhaps in reminiscence.

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