A Head's Up


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With appearances by…

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Scene Title A Head's Up
Synopsis Meredith finds herself deeper in the Company rabbit hole — with an apparently easy way back out.
Date January 23, 2010

An Empty Room in Fort Hero

Meredith Gordon was kept sedated for two days, although she wasn't told that part — not how much time elapsed. She woke up in a room markedly superior to the meat locker, in that it is somewhere with central heating and far less macabre interior decoration.

No interior decoration counts, there.

The walls are concrete, as is the floor; there are no windows, except the one in the door, and the air has the scent of something far removed from the great outdoors. Yet it isn't a cell, exactly; it has the dimensions and feel of an office that hasn't yet been claimed, or a dorm room sans assigned occupant. There's a bed, a real bed, frame and mattress and blankets and all; a simple desk and chair; and nothing else to speak of. There's even a rug on the floor to soften the cold cement, although its simple black and white nested squares aren't much to look at.

Meredith still has the clothes she came in, or her choice of a simple loaner set; and if she's allowed to the bathroom shared by what seems to be a block of similar Spartan, unoccupied rooms only under escort, well, she does have it all to herself. Her attendant is a prickly, surly, redheaded young woman apparently immune to overtures or temptations; and in addition to a warning that she won't make it past the end of the hall if she tries to bolt, Meredith has apparently been negated. There will be no pyrotechnics here.

Judging by the meals she's been given, Meredith has been in this room for one full day and night; the second day's breakfast was supplied just an hour and a half earlier, cereal and toast and orange juice, the dishes not yet cleared away by her keeper. When the door opens again, it's to reveal an unfamiliar face — two of them, in fact, an older woman with silvered hair and genial blue eyes dressed in midnight blue and charcoal-gray, her silent shadow taller, a decade younger, and with a crisp-looking black suit.

"I apologize for the inconvenience of your lodgings, Meredith," Sabra Dalton says as Ashton closes the door behind them. "But I hope you will understand the necessity of all this."

It's a funny thing that Meredith has missed two days and doesn't even know it. When she looks at a calendar, it's sure to confuse and disorient her, but for now she'll remain in a time ignorant state. Having been in this position before, she knows all the drills of being under Company Care. She doesn't expect stuffed animals on the bed or steak for dinner and she knows enough not to run. She's sure there are cameras everywhere and if not that, then Evolveds who are just as good as cameras keeping track of her.

Once she was up, she tested her power, just to see if she was able to use it. Needless to say, she wasn't surprised when nothing happened. However, that doesn't stop her from testing it at odd intervals to see if whoever or whatever is negating her falls asleep on their duty. Nothing yet on that front, either. Solitary confinement isn't easy on most people and when Meredith doesn't really want to sleep much more, for what she sees there is enough to will herself conscious. It's been a very boring day and night with little in the line of distractions. She's not at the point where she starts talking to herself or the guard, but she's certainly not in a good mood.

The entrance of Sabra is certainly a change, welcome even if Meredith's not sure if it's a change for the better or worse just yet. She doesn't recognize the silver haired woman when she enters or her younger companion, but she can guess that they're high up on the totem pole. Though the pyrokinetic doesn't get up from the bed she's sprawled out on, she shifts so that she's sitting with her back against the wall. "I'm just glad I didn't wake up in a meat locker again." She's not exactly getting used to people she doesn't know knowing her, but it's something that she sort of expects now. "I don't think I know you. Either of you. Not that that's a surprise, it's been awhile since I've seen any of ya'll."

The woman smiles affably, wrinkles creasing deeper in apparently genuine good humor. "I believe my time here came before yours," she allows. "Sabra Dalton," she continues, by way of introduction. "My aide is Ashton." There's a slight gesture with her left hand, and the taller man inclines his head politely.

She walks across the room, not towards the bed but towards the desk, whereupon Sabra pulls out the chair and has herself a seat. Apparently she intends to be here for a little while. Ashton, meanwhile, remains by the door, watching them both in silence. "You left our employ some time ago," the elderly woman begins, without censure in her tone although the words are — an oversimplification, at the very least. A purposeful and meaningful one. "I don't expect you to have any familiarity with current internal politics and tensions. But Agent Crowley had the choice of turning you over to Homeland Security or— " She lifts one hand, fingers half-splayed to indicate the room. "— all this," Sabra concludes with a small, rueful smile. "Regrettably inelegant, one might say, but I think you will agree that Homeland Security's involvement is… less than desirable."

Though she doesn't do the whole pleasantries thing of how nice it is to meet the two of them, Meredith also doesn't insult them. "And now you're back. Once an Agent, always an Agent, I guess." Which makes her have a few second thoughts about Bennet, now that she's here. It's hard to get rid of these people. It leaves her a strange position, that's for sure, as she once was an agent for a very brief amount of time.

"To be frank, I didn't really know much about 'em back then, either." What did she care about politics? Meredith only stuck around long enough to get her brother out and then she ran. They both did, with the help of Thompson. That was all the politicking she needed. A glance goes to Ashton, who remains there guarding the door before she returns her attention to Sabra. By the time she's facing her again, there's a smirk in place. "And, well, isn't he just my hero. If he weren't such a prick I might be grateful." So, yes, she's met Agent Crowley. "But now that you've got me here, what do you plan to do with me? Keep me in this box till I rot?"

That smile remains, undeterred by Meredith's smirk. "Actually, I haven't been an agent since — well, we shall just leave it at a very long time," Sabra replies, with a hint of self-deprecating humor. "The particulars are, I suppose, of no interest to you.

"And I have no interest in your rotting," the woman continues. She folds her hands across her knees, and her smile recedes as though someone turned down the dimmer considerably — though it remains in her eyes, in the shape and set of her expression. It's easy to see Sabra Dalton as a patient, genial and generally benevolent grandmother; easy, and not always untrue. But not true, either; not for the woman who has no children.

"In fact, I am quite prepared to follow through on what Agents Crowley and Thompson began in shielding you from the grasp of Homeland Security, and returning you to the life you have chosen without them ever becoming the wiser." Sabra might even take a little pleasure in such sleight of hand, if her tone of voice is any indicator. She smiles again, amiably. "You of course wonder what the strings attached to this gift are. I believe you will find none unduly taxing." She leans forward just a little. "I want the full story behind the fire of January 18th, Meredith.

"And when you have finished telling it, I want you to listen with an open mind in turn."

The smirk doesn't exactly fade when Meredith listens to Sabra speak. She doesn't interrupt and she doesn't look like she's going to give the elder woman more attitude than is normal. Instead, she looks over at Ashton again and then back over at Sabra. They're a package, but he hasn't said anything quite yet. It makes her nervous.

"So, what you're sayin' is, that if I tell you what happened to my apartment, you'll let me go free and you won't call HomeSec on me?" The disbelief in her voice is completely audible. "You put me in a meat locker for a day, keep me in solitary confinement for another just to hear a story? One I already told Thompson?" There's got to be more to it. "You realize how crazy that sounds, right?"

Just the fact that Sabra phrases her words in such a certain way makes Meredith, for a second, flash back to the Meredith wrapped in flames who set fire to her apartment building in her dreams before Meredith herself did it. She thinks of how sure she was when she woke up that someone messed with her mind to make her do such a thing. Those sureties have faded, though she still doesn't believe that she could burn down her safehouse. "How do I know you'll actually let me go? You guys don't exactly have the best track record with the truth. Once I tell you my story, you may not like what you hear."

Sabra sits back in the chair, hands resting casually in her lap. "These are crazy times, Meredith," she allows, gray brows drawing in slightly. "Suffice to say there are reasons, but it would take more time than we have to explain them — and because many of those reasons come back to politics, I suspect they will avail you little in any case."

A moment's silence, blue eyes regarding the pyrokinetic across from her. "There is no assurance I can give you that you will believe. You will simply have to decide for yourself whether the offer I have made is sufficient," Sabra replies.

Sabra doesn't have to tell Meredith from crazy. She's already living it. When she went to sleep a couple of nights ago, she certainly never thought she'd wake up to a burning apartment building and then custody in a meat locker with the people she's spent most of her time avoiding. "That's not exactly reassuring." Of course she doesn't want to hear about all the politics about the Company, and she has a feeling that Sabra doesn't want to tell them to her, either. So, that leaves her at another crossroads. This one a little slipperier than leave an apartment to burn or run to save her own skin.

Trust them or don't trust them, that's the problem. Though, really, what does she have to lose? She tells them a crazy story and then they let her go. If Sabra keeps her word. Being so long at the Company, she has to have a certain disposition, one that makes Meredith disinclined to believe her. Maybe this isn't about trust so much as what she can do to get herself out of this situation, owning up to what happened. Though, there are a lot more people she'd prefer to own up to than some Company Lady.

"Look, you're not going to believe anything I have to say anyway. I went to sleep, everything was fine, I woke up from a nightmare and I was already in the middle of running out the door, everything was on fire. I ran back in to try and stop it, but I couldn't. I could just stop it from spreading. Then came the Agents, the government and a meat locker. I don't have any memory of setting it."

The elderly woman waits as Meredith's thoughts race through her head, as patiently silent as the man by the door. Four sentences to explain is hardly a full story; but it is a start, and more importantly it offers the opening Sabra needed. She lets the comment about belief pass, for all that it isn't her belief which is truly the hardest to win in this room.

"And this nightmare?" is the whole of Sabra's spoken response.

It's not a long story. There's so much in Meredith's mind about it, however, it's all hard to put to words. How to explain a doppelganger nightmare that involved tarot cards, her brother and the cry of a baby that turned out to be outside? Plus, it's not the nightmare that's the important part of the story to her. She didn't expect to need to give it a full description of everything. The full story is just as good distilled as it would have been if she told Sabra that the fire smelled a lot like the burning spices from the restaurant downstairs. It's not something that she would assume Sabra would really care to hear about.

"Look, if I tell you it was a nightmare about my safehouse being on fire, you're going to blame me for setting it. But I don't remember doing it. I'm not the kind of person who has a nightmare and just lights everything on fire, okay?" So, she did burn an apartment building down when she was under duress a long time ago, but she's certainly changed since then.

"If I thought you were, Meredith," Sabra states calmly once this second part of explaining has finished, "we would not be having this conversation." Blue eyes regard the younger woman steadily for a moment longer, and then the elderly lady smiles. "Thank you."

A beat of silence passes, after which Sabra pushes herself up to her feet. "And now I want only a few minutes more of your time," she says, her stance oblique to her audience; not quite facing Meredith, and not quite in profile to her either, although her gaze is turned upon the negated pyrokinetic. "I would ask you to suspend disbelief for the duration if I thought there was a chance of it being possible." A brief, wry smile tugs at her lips, crinkles the skin of her face. "I will only ask that you listen.

"Yeah, well, I just wanted to get that point across. Just in case." Because the Company isn't really on the up and up most of the time — hell, almost all of the time. And who knows what they think about her. If this random information is valuable enough to them, for whatever reason that could be, she imagines they'd tell her they wouldn't think she's dangerous until they knew what they wanted and then dropped her off at a HomeSec holding pen.

"Okay. I'll listen." Though she's not so sure about suspending her whole disbelief thing. "But, you've got to answer me a question first." Of course, they don't have to do anything. She's sure that Sabra could just ignore her request and keep talking. It's not exactly like the blonde has much af a choice about it. However, Meredith eyes Ashton by the door again. He's the silent watcher that's been creeping her out most of her time here. She doesn't move from her seat on the bed, all she does is add, "Is that your bodyguard or something? He's kind of creeping me out just standing there." It's not like she has powers right now, so she's no real danger to Sabra.

That amiable smile again. "Ashton is my aide. He interprets that as my shadow, frequently, but it seems to work effectively," Sabra adds with a sidelong glance and an affectionate amusement to her smile. Ashton, knowing her glances well, raises one blonde brow and sketches a quick gesture; Sabra's answer is longer, but only slightly, and equally devoid of sound. Even if Meredith can't understand the exchange's specifics, the tone of it is conveyed clearly enough by posture and expression — the camaraderie of two people who have worked together for a long, long time. "Like most shadows, he doesn't speak — at all," Sabra continues, looking back to Meredith. "My apologies if this disturbs you." Although, in this one statement, her good humor has taken a back seat; it sounds like the hollow pleasantry it is. Given a choice between Meredith's sensibilities and Ashton's, it's the aide who would win here.

The older woman regards the pyrokinetic for a moment, quiet, then nods once. Change of gears. "I am familiar with your perceptions of the Company, and those of some of your associates. I will not argue with them; in the end, I suspect it will all be a moot point. But there is a saying, Meredith, about the devil you know — and the one you don't."

She turns away, her hands clasping loosely behind her back; walks a few short, drifting steps, footfalls muffled by the rug underneath. "By the terms of our current arrangement with Homeland Security, you should now be in their hands, Registered, and probably locked away forever with the label of Tier Three. The same is true for several of your associates, but this information, their identities, their connections, the locations you… frequent… we have kept these things from their hands.

"I will continue to do so." She turns back to Meredith, smiles ruefully. "The simple fact is, the Company has neither their fear nor their rabid need for control." The smile fades, Sabra's expression becoming somber. "But I am afraid, Miss Gordon— " Formality, now. "— that I may not be in position to continue this for very much longer."

"Right." Yeah, it does disturb Meredith just a little and Ashton gets another look over before her attention moves back to where it really should be — on Sabra. "Okay then." Back to the part where she was listening. And she does so with remarkable attentiveness for someone who doesn't like the Company and certainly doesn't like where she is right now. It's not a very long discussion, of course, so it's easy to stay rapt. Though her feet are off the edge of the bed, the don't dangle or kick about. She remains still, almost like she knows she's prey who's caught the scent of a predator.

While she doesn't rise to the bait of snapping about her associates going where they need to go, the hairs on the back of her neck start to rise. Part of her always assumed that the Company knew more, that the Ferrymen were not so watertight that things wouldn't be leaked. That it isn't the government is good, but to know that it's the Company still chills her. Plus, the idea of being labelled a Tier Three Evolved isn't exactly high on her wants.

Meredith waits a beat after Sabra stops speaking before she narrows her eyes at the silver haired woman and asks the question she's sure is wanting to be asked. "What do you mean?" Though it sounds like Sabra will keep her away from the government and from being taken away to wherever they take Tier Threes today, what about tomorrow?

Sabra is quiet a moment, long enough to draw in a breath, let it out silently. "I mean what I said, Meredith. Consider it a head's up."

Facing the younger woman directly, she inclines her head. "Ms. Reid will see you to your transport. I am afraid you shall have to suffer the indignity of a blindfold for part of the trip — unless you would prefer to be sedated." Obviously, letting Meredith know where they are and how to get back here is not in the cards. It's also apparent that the woman has no intention of providing any more details on arrangements, agreements, or interdepartmental politics. Not at present.

She moves towards the door, which Ashton obligingly opens and steps out of. Pauses in the threshold. "It is the morning of the 23rd," Sabra comments for the pyrokinetic's benefit, "and the negation drug will wear off about nineteen hours from now."

Those eyes continue to narrow at Sabra. "So you're saying that we're all targets? What do I do when I get back to the outside — people are still looking for me about my apartment building." Has the Company totally wiped that clean? She doubts it, but she was expecting at least a little more coverage than being dropped off blind somewhere. Just because she's not in government hands now, doesn't mean she won't be minutes afterward when she stumbles blindly about in an attempt to figure out where to find the nearest Safehouse.

"So, wait, really? That's it? You kept me here off the government's radar and all you wanted to know about was the story about my apartment building?" Finally, Meredith pushes herself up off the bed and rises to her full height. It's not very tall, but it's something, at least. "Did that seriously mean anything to you?" Because they believed her that she didn't set her apartment on fire, but they didn't ask her any questions other than about her nightmare. Something weird is going on here.

And then her steps forward are stopped by that last piece of information. "It's the what?"

"You'll be dropped off at the Village Renaissance Building," Sabra elaborates. "What you do after that — well, I'd be deluding myself if I thought I could give you directions you'd follow, wouldn't I?" she asks with an affable rather than accusing smile.

The smile fades as Meredith continues. "The 23rd," Sabra repeats, sidestepping the question of a nightmare's significance. Silence, here, will speak louder than any words. "I imagine the NYPD believes, at the moment, that you have fled or gone underground. They will not have a trail for you; try to keep it that way."

The elderly woman dips her head in wordless farewell, before she and her shadow walk off down the corridor. Meredith's keeper, for whom she now has half a name, directs her the other way with minimal words and even less fanfare, intent upon handing off her charge to someone else.

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