Anarchy In The UK, Part IV


alistair_icon.gif claude_icon.gif cooper2_icon.gif emily_icon.gif esme_icon.gif gutierrez_icon.gif lance_icon.gif liza_icon.gif reeves_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Anarchy In The UK, Part IV
Synopsis Paths converge when Zachery Miller's time in the UK collides with a covert CIA operation.
Date April 19, 2021

Fireflies dance across tall blades of grass in a darkened field.

They are the only light in the dark under a starless night’s sky. Save for the lights coming from an old, decaying farmhouse. Moths gather around the porch light, fluttering and casting alien shadows against bleaching wood grayer than the mane of the old horse in the nearby barn. It is peaceful here, smells of hay and manure.

Exhaling a lungful of smoke, Claude Rains stares up at the dark night sky and squints. He coughs, slightly, then looks at the cigarette with a distasteful expression while smacking his lips. Claude raises one foot, snuffs out the cigarette on the heel of his shoe, then flicks it into the damp grass.

“Guess m’not a smoker…” He murmurs, then turns to go back inside.

A Remote Farm

Edinburgh, Scotland
United Kingdom

April 19th
10:06 pm Local Time

Inside the farmhouse, there is relative calm now. The chaos of a few hours ago has ended, and dinner is wrapping up. Claude returns from his brief respite outside, shaking off the cool of the night air as he does.

The dining room he returns to is one lit by dim lighting and dominated by a long table stacked with a few plates and the remnants of a chicken dinner. Zachery Miller sits at the table with some reluctance, a half-finished cup of coffee in front of him. Beatrix Reeves sits across from him, next to the wayward girl they’d come to travel with, Esme Leighton.

“So, now that you’ve a meal in your belly, maybe you can give me a better picture’f what exactly happened?” That reasonable question comes from none of the farm’s guests, but rather its owner; a rugged-looking man in his early forties, starting to pick up dinner plates from around the table.

“Because this sounds precisely like the kind of trouble…” He continues, coming to stand behind Reeves’ chair, “that I told you I didn’t want brought t’my doorstep.” But for all he’s blaming Reeves, he really isn’t.

Alistair McKeon left this life behind when the Second American Civil War ended. Except some people in his life still had a tether or two, a lifeline back to the old world. To some, this farm was a lighthouse in a storm. A fitting place for a Ferryman to wind up.

“Nobody fight over who gets t’be first t’talk or anything,” Alistair says with a crooked smile.

Glancing up at Alistair behind her, Beatrix gives him another apologetic look, the latest in a long series of many with more sure to come.

“I’m apparently brilliant at that,” she says, thinking of poor Nigel who’s now missing his car and has house repairs and trouble with Torchlight. He did at least get his Vauxhall back, with a text to where it was left abandoned before they ‘popped over’ to Scotland.

“But only to the doors of people I know would want to help.” Her brows lift and she smiles, tipping her head slightly in what she probably considers a winning manner. “I’d explain, but I’m afraid I only came in on the tail end of it all, so I’m not precisely sure all of the details except that Esme was in detainment and her brother is still at Whitehearth. Torchlight happened upon Dr. Miller in search of these two escape artists, and we, as you Americans say, booked it out of there,” she says. “Claude here doesn’t have all his memories, and Dr. Miller is ostensibly on a bit of a vacation from New York for reasons he probably doesn’t want to go into, but he’s innocent of any wrongdoing, here or there, though I doubt Torchlight will see it that way.”

Wrapping her hands around her cup of tea, Reeves bestows that apologetic look on Zachery, then turns to Esme. “How did you manage to escape?”

Between the day's events so far, the coffee and the sobering trip over, Zachery has had some thinking to do. He's been keeping so still he may well have died where he sits leaned back in his chair.

But finally, an unfocused stare into his half finished dinner turns upward when he's relieved of his plate, his eye finding Reeves just in time for him to catch her glance, returning it with a thoughtful knit of his brow.

All too abruptly, he sits up straight, elbows propped up onto the table as he sucks in a breath and asks of Esme, "And how opposed would you be to a plan where we just…" He pauses to consider his words, then adds with some severity and a twitch of a lean forward, "Burn it all to the ground?"

“Not opposed at all,” Esme and Claude say in unison. The two stare daggers at each other immediately after.

“Wait,” Alistair says with one hand in the air, looking at Claude. “You don’t remember me?”

Claude squints. “Sorry, you’ve got one of those faces,” he says helpfully.

Alistair pinches the bridge of his nose and shakes his head. “Jesus Christ, okay. How?” He asks, looking up to Claude. “What happened t’you?”

“If I bloody knew that I might not be in such a shit mood,” Claude says with a raise of both hands into the air. “I woke up when this little imp nearly killed me.”

“I rescued you.” Esme says defiantly.

“You blew me up.” Claude says with a wave of one hand in the air. “Blew. Me up.”

“If I blew you up you’d be in pieces,” Esme retorts back.

Kids!” Alistair says with a sharp raise of both his hands. “Don’t—make me turn the farm around.” Claude and Esme both glare daggers at Alistair in unison. “One at a time,” Alistair says, gesturing to Claude. “How the fuck did we get here?”

Claude settles in back at his seat at the table, picking up his half-finished cup of coffee. “Like I said, I woke up when that little gremlin,” he motions to Esme with his mug, “blew up whatever place I was being held in. I was on a slab—table—bed? I dunno, it’s all hazy. There were sirens and alarms, people fuckin’ shouting, guns. Y’know.”

“How’d you two get out?” Alistair asks, glancing back and forth between Claude and Esme.

“She wasn’t lying.” Claude begrudgingly admits, “she rescued me.”

Alistair watches Claude for a moment, then looks at Esme. “What do you remember?”

“Everythin’,” Esme says, crossing her arms over her chest. “I manifested last month, big bullshite moment. Blew out the windows of my mum’s flat. Torchlight came, ‘cause I caused property damage. There was a discrepancy on my last blood test, I’d come up neg. They took me an’ Theo—”

“Her brother,” Claude interjects over the brim of his coffee mug.

“—My brother Theo,” Esme continues, “into custody. We spent a while in some kinda hospital, my brother came up positive too when he’d tested negative last year. They wouldn’t let us talk to our parents, some people came and said we’d have to go stay somewhere //for our protection, an’ then we got shipped off t’Whitehearth.”

“A Sectioning camp,” Alistair says with two fingers massaging his right temple. “Okay. So that was a while ago, how’d you manage to get out of a sectioning facility?”

Esme motions to Claude. Not to talk, but indicating responsibility. “He rescued me.”

“I did fuckin’ not,” Claude says as if protesting that he ate someone else’s lunch.

“Me an’ Theo got separated. They keep boys an’ girls in different places. I was in a small room for a few days with a bet and a loo, an’ then they came in and said I was going into a special program. They took me t’some kinda’ hospital and I was pretty sure they were gonna cut me up or something, so I flipped.”

“You flipped.” Alistair echoes, leaning on the back of an unoccupied chair as he listens.

“I kicked one of the doctors in the face when he unbuckled my leg, bit another one on the mouth. Knocked one fucker out with one of them trays, and had the other guy with a knife until he buzzed me out.” Esme says with a scowl. “They didn’t get t’stick me like they did in the morning, so when I felt my arms start to shake again I just—”

“She turned a wall into a door.” Claude says, making an explosion gesture with his hands. “Right into where they were keepin’ me, I guess.”

“Yea’. They had him and a bunch of other people in this big building, lots of bed and wires and stuff. A bunch of people tried escapin’, I dunno if they made it out. We wouldn’t have if Claude hadn’t grabbed me when we started runnin’.”

“I was in my street clothes,” Claude says, tugging at the collar of his shirt, “I’ve fuck all of an idea how I got there. M’not even sure my bloody name is Claude, ‘cept that’s what it said on the ID card in my jacket.”

“That’s what I knew you as,” Alistair says with a shrug.

“So, how the fuck d’you know me? Do I owe you money? Do you owe me money?” Claude asks with a squint, leaning forward.

Alistair can’t help but laugh, shaking his head as he does. “You stayed in a safehouse I ran for a while, back in the States. I didn’t know you well. Just by name. Hana didn’t like you much.”

“Who’s that?” Claude asks.

“Wireless. Hana Gitelman. Ferrymen.” Alistair rattles off things that mean almost nothing to Claude. “What I did before the war.”

The war?” Claude says with a deepening squint.

“Look we’ll—we’ll be here all night if we play twenty questions.” Alistair says with a slow spread of his hands. “Right now we have a problem, obviously. Whitehearth is a high security holding facility for Expressives, the fact that the two of you managed to bust out is basically a miracle. Getting back in there to get Theo?” He breathes in deeply and then scrubs his hands over his face. “I dunno.”

“Weren’t you a Ferryman?” Esme asks accusingly to Alistair. “Didn’t you do this for a bloody living? Didn’t you fight a whole war about it?”

Claude raises his brows at that notion, looking back and forth between the two.

“Yeah, well, I don’t count an army here. It’s me, you two, and…” Alistair looks at Zachery, then Reeves. “Bee, I can’t ask you to put your neck on the line like this.”

Beatrix has been following like she’s watching a tennis match, eyes darting back and forth over the rim of her teacup. She sets it down at the mention of Hana Gitelman, looking a little fan-girlish over the fact the two men sitting in front of her knew the infamous Wireless.

She looks like she’s ready to launch into her own twenty questions, but Alistair’s comment erases the look of excitement utterly, and she looks both touched and annoyed at the same time.

“Funny, I could say the same to you, couldn’t I,” she says. “I brought them to your doorstep, as you kindly pointed out, so I’m in it, at least as much as you are, if not more so. Though Dr. Miller…”

She turns to look at Zachery, and reaches to pat his hand. “I will take you somewhere else, because you’ve jumped from the frying pan into the volcano, at this point, haven’t you, poor man? Do you want to go back to New York? Anywhere else? I’ve a spot in Mexico. Cancun. Really lovely. Though you’ll need sunscreen.”

If any of the names are familiar to Zachery, he keeps it and any related thoughts to himself. He turns his head to briefly search Claude's face upon questioning the war, but Reeves' pat has his attention snap right back to her.

He leans back with a wry grin and a wrinkling of his nose, as if her kindness came in the shape of a slap across his face. "Listen— I know should say yes, please and thank you very much, but be honest. There's always room on these sorts of things for someone who's got nothing left to lose, isn't there?" Though he doesn't look away, he does tilt his head ever so slightly in Esme's direction. "Especially when there's one with so much yet to gain."

Esme glances at Zachery, but then does a double-take and it lingers. There’s a hint of appreciation behind bitter, young eyes. Her expression softens just a touch. Claude notices it and seems to relax, too, running a hand through his shaggy hair.

That makes Alistair do a double take.

“What the fuck is that?” Alistair asks, pointing at Claude, to which the older man just gives him a befuddled look.

“Presumably a six dollar haircut?” Claude retorts, but Alistair is already closing in on him.

“No, that.” Alistair says, starting to reach for Claude’s head. Claude, of course, takes affront like an unruly housecat and swats at Alistair, and they go back and forth like that for a minute until Alistair takes one of Claude by the wrist and then pulls up his hair on the side of his head…

…revealing a port in the side of his skull.

“Claude.” Alistair says, thumbing the metal rim around the port. The two lock eyes, and Claude brings a shaky hand up, fingers brushing over the metal like he’s only just now noticing it. He pulls his fingers away like it burned him, and Alistair lets his other hand go.

“He was plugged into the machines.” Esme says with a nod in Claude’s direction. “Everyone there was.”

That elicits a look back from Alistair. “I thought you meant like—intubation.”

“I dunno what that is.” Esme says with a wrinkle of her nose. “He had wires in his bloody head. They all did.”

Alistair looks back to Claude, who is giving the table his best thousand yard stare, then looks over to Zachery, then Reeves. He doesn’t even know what to say for a solid minute. Finally, in the awkward silence, he just sighs.

“I’ve got a couple of friends who could loan us a truck, but I don’t think that’s going to be fuck all of help,” Alistair says with a slow shake of his head. “And the longer we wait around t’do anything about…” he glances back at Claude, “whatever the fuck this is, the bigger risk we have that they’ll all be moved.”

Alistair looks pointedly at Esme. “How long ago did you break out?”

“This morning,” Esme says with a look to Claude, then back to Alistair. “Right ‘round when the sun was coming up.”

“What’s your surname?” He asks immediately after.

“Leighton,” Esme answers.

“Bee,” Alistair says with a look to Reeves, “think you can use your contacts and find out what happened to her parents? If we do this we’re gonna need to hit everything all at once. Torchlight’s basically the Company. Once we swat that hornet’s nest nowhere’ll be safe.”

Claude looks up from the table, blinking at Alistair. He doesn’t say anything, but his eyes show a hint of both recognition and confusion, then nothing.

Zachery’s words draw an appreciative look from Reeves, as well, and she pats his hand again. “Well, then, we’re all in.”

She shifts in her seat to see what Alistair’s on about, and her eyes widen in horror. “Foolish humans acting like gods. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean they should. Did no one learn anything from reading bloody Frankenstein?” she mutters, mostly to herself, but she nods at Alistair’s suggestion, already pulling out her phone.

“Standard spelling?” she asks of Esme. “First names?”

Zachery, too, finds himself staring at Claude, the forced grin from before fading instantly when his eye finds the port. His jaw sets, and his arms are pulled back toward himself, folded loosely.

But even with the new discomfort washed over him, he laughs— an action performed in spite of himself and quickly stifled, ending in more of a wince than anything else. As if to shake whatever thoughts prompted this reaction, he looks between Alistair and Reeves and asks, "Also, ah— speaking of foolishness, and as one confused homeless man conscripted by another, are either of you able to lend me a gun? Because unless we figure out a way to weaponize an expired medical license, I'm not entirely sure how I can be of assistance."

Yes,” Claude says, slapping his palm on the table before motioning to Zachery. “That’s what we need. Let’s give the neurotic chap with the shakes a bloody gun.” He adds with a bark of laughter, unconsciously fingering the lines of the port in the side of his skull.

Alistair, trying to be diplomatic, just makes a calm down gesture at both Zachery and Claude. “One thing at a time,” he says with the tone of someone who knows where to get a gun, in Zachery’s experience.

Esme is content to let the men squabble while she turns her attention to Reeves. “George and Nancy, typical spelling. Leighton. L-e-i-g-h-t-o-n.” She enunciates, brows furrowed together as she looks Reeves up and down, most of her attention fixing on Reeves’ phone.

“He’s been in America far too long,” Reeves quips, even if that is her preferred nation of residence at the moment. Her eyes stay on the screen as she deftly types and swipes, brows drawing together as she reads the hits that come back from her search. Pressing her lips together, she looks up at Esme, apology in her eyes.

“According to a news article, Esme, her brother, and her parents are deceased, killed in an explosion in London, courtesy of Mazdak,” she says softly, but follows it with a more bright tone: “Clearly this is not the case for neither you nor your brother, so let’s assume it’s not the case for your parents either. It’s clearly a cover up. Let me see what else I can get; I’ve still got a friend or two in high places in Scotland Yard. Meanwhile, it’s possible I can get some help on this from someone in the US government. DOE’s been working with SESA with some success” — she shoots a look at Zachery as if to dare him to say differently — “so they may be able to help with resources. I won’t mention you, of course, Dr. Miller, unless you want me to.”

Reeves gestures for them to continue talking as she stands, heading to a less-occupied corner of the room to make a phone call.

"Absolutely fucking not," Zachery replies, pushing his seat back with a sneer rising to his feet as well. One hand stays on the back of the chair, fingers pressed hard into the wood.

But it's not like he has somewhere to go. So his energy, instead, is turned back on Claude while Reeves does her searching. "I've fired a gun before." He fixes the other man with as sharp a look as his one eye will allow him, as if the frequency of his gun use was at all the issue here. He cants his head. "I'll grant you the first time was into someone's leg, and I didn't precisely mean for it to be, but… you don't even know me! What were you expecting I'd be able to do for you, hack into the mainframe?"

He laughs, short and cold, eye narrowing as if it will help him find the logic of this whole situation written somewhere across Claude's face. "Why did you drag a completely expendable stranger into this if not for—" His words slow as he realises what the end of his sentence is, though that does not keep the words from tumbling out regardless. "Some sort of… suicide mission?"

“I didn’t drag you here t’help, I dragged your bloody ass here to keep you away from the spooks.” Claude says with a brandish of one hand at Zachery. “You’re the git who volunteered to go all Great Escape on Whitehearth.”

Kids.” Alistair says with one hand pinched at the bridge of his nose. “Jesus Christ.” He lifts one hand up, palm out. Claude relents, settling back in his chair and angrily finishing someone else’s glass of water from the table.

Alistair looks over to Reeves, nodding in silent consideration of what she’s outlined. “Whoever you can, whatever you can do, but we’re on a clock. We have maybe eight hours before any window to rescue Esme’s brother or anyone else closes.”

“Can your door trick stay open long?” Claude asks, pulling his attention away from Zachery for a moment. “Like, long enough t’get some kids and whoever else out of a sectioning facility and… uh, to somewhere safe?”

Alistair looks between Zachery and Reeves. “If the US is willing to take them in as asylum seekers, it could work. The UK government will pitch a fucking fit, but provided we don’t give them any cause to connect the dots it should be fine.”

“You a Normie?” Esme asks Zachery. “No powers?”

“Esme.” Alistair says in a parental tone that elicits a downward cast of her eyes and slouch of her shoulders.

“Sorry. You don’t look like a Normie.” Esme says in some kind of backhanded apology.

“Mum’s the word,” Reeves murmurs at Zachery’s reply to her. As the others talk, she continues to type, her eyes darting up now and then as she multitasks.

“As long as I’m there to hold the door,” she tells Claude. “It’s quite literally walking through one door into another place, just like we do from the living room into the kitchen, but we have to step through all of the other places that I’ve still linked in my mind map. Once I close a door, no one else can come through, not without me. It’s-”

Whatever it is, she doesn’t say, as her phone lights up with the response to her query. “There’s a coroner report but it’s… well, quite shoddy, really, and I don’t buy an ounce of it, to be frank. Is Whitehearth all kids, or are there adults there, too, because my bet is Esme’s parents are not actually dead.” She winces at the word, giving Esme an apologetic look for the blunt language, even if she’s dubious it applies.

As if the whole room's turned against him unfairly, Zachery's gaze unfocuses and he looks pointedly absolutely nowhere off to his side.

But then he's asked a question, and a startled chuckle escapes him as he looks back across the table again. "She's got some fire in her, doesn't she?" He asides to no one in particular, pointing a finger in Esme's direction. Then, landing both hands flat on the table, he leans forward to say with a thoughtful squint, "It's a long story, and I might be a robot now, actually. But with none of the usual Go Go Gadget benefits. Seems really quite unfair."

To Reeves, he offers flatly, turning his head to peer over at her phone, "Those reports are a joke— no one reads them unless someone's got money riding on it."

Esme squints daggers at Zachery. She doesn’t believe the robot nonsense for a moment, but she’s been scolded enough to bite back about it (out in the open.)

“Whitehearth’s adults and children,” Alistair says after a moment of silent consideration. “Anyone with a power deemed too dangerous for general population. Like it was with the Tier-3’s in the US back before the war.”

“You keep bloody mentioning a war,” Claude says with a side-long look at Alistair. “Could you bloody please catch a man up?”

It’s with pity more than frustration that Alistair regards Claude. “Civil war, in the States. Government versus everyone else over situations just like this.” He says with a gesture to the table. “Government lost, civilians lost, everyone lost.” Realizing he’s letting his bitterness take over, Alistair takes in a calming breath.

“Country’s in shambles, half of it’s without power and running water, the other half’s a checkerboard of craters.” Alistair says as he crosses his arms over his chest. “But at least shit like this doesn’t happen there anymore,” he adds quietly, eyes unfocused and stare taking on a thousand-yard quality.

Claude grows silent, looking over at Zachery, then Reeves, then finally down at the table. “Well, shit.”

Forty Minutes Later

«That’s a hell of a situation you’ve got yourself in over there…»

Out in the field behind Alistair’s cabin, under a starless night’s sky, Beatrix Reeves feels the chill of late April air clinging to her while she talks on her phone. She’s confident that the encryption systems her organization uses can outpace any attempts by local authorities to listen in.

«I’m not going to mention this to anyone, you know you’re on your own.» Gates is nothing if not patient with this kind of situation. But for as much of a stiff he appears to be, there’s a subversive part of him that will always do what’s right when presented with a choice between right and legal.

«TRAC shows wide open nothing in your area. We didn’t even know McKeon was still out there,» Gates says, checking the DoE’s database. «But, hold on… you might just be in luck. Looks like you’re not the only extra-judicial visitors to Queen’s backyard.»

«I know. I’m sorry. Did they hire us because we never do what we’re supposed to, I wonder?» Beatrix can’t help but muse — that Zachery’s here at all is her (and Toussaint’s) fault. She leans against a fence post, crossing one arm across herself and cursing herself for not bringing a better jacket, but she didn’t plan on being outside in the Scotland evening.

«Oh? Who might that be? I’ll take anyone friendly, but bonus points if it’s someone with a lot of weapons and the know-how to do this. Right now I’ve a pre-teen, an amnesiac, a reluctant Ferryman and…» Her brown-eyed gaze flits over to Zachery’s location, and whether his hearing is keen enough to pick up on her words or not, she isn’t about to disparage the man in his presence. «And Dr. Miller.»

Whatever he is.

«In other words, any help is appreciated,» she says dryly.

"Might I suggest disgraced identity crisis on legs?" Comes called over from Zachery, who only barely bothers to raise his voice or turn his head, standing at the edge of a dirt path with his back turned and hands crammed uncomfortably in the pockets of his hiking jacket.

His head dips down. In the quiet out here, he carries himself a little differently— a little heavier, shoulders down, the idle few steps forward he takes next slower than he'd like.

They don't carry him far, at any rate. For now, he settles for looking aimlessly out into the dark ahead of him, like the insects focused on the light behind.

Zachery can hear the crisp man’s voice coming through the earpiece of Reeves’ phone.

«Yeah, it’s SESA and the CIA.» Gates says. «Looks like they’re investigating the kidnapping of the plane crash survivors. You said Miller was there with you?» It’s rhetorical, of course. «I guess this is either congratulations for your lucky day, or my condolences for your continued run of bad luck, however you’d like to see it.»

A cool breeze blows across the back yard, and not far off there is a distant peal of thunder and flashes of lightning. The air has a wetness to it, the threat of rain.

«You want me to reach out and see if they’ll play ball?» Gates asks.

Reeves’ gaze travels back to Zachery at his suggested epithet and remain steady on him as she listens to Gates’ discovery that other American agencies are in the area.

<SESA and the CIA,» she repeats, mostly for Zachery’s benefit. «Miller is with me, but didn’t really want his name splashed about, but anonymity is probably a luxury we can’t afford, and that might be moot anyway once an agent sees his face, if they know his wife.»

Her expression turns sympathetic in case Zachery looks back at her. «I’m going to choose to see it as good luck; we quite need the help and I don’t think any of us are willing to leave without at least trying to help these kids. I just hope we don’t start a war by accident.»

Reeves looks in the distance of the lightning, her brows drawing together as she mentally counts the time before the thunderclap. «You could spell acidoses or diocese with the letters of SESA, CIA, and DOE,» she muses. «Both seem fitting in their way.»

Zachery takes three more steps forward, further along the dark, muddy path. One step for each of the organisations mentioned. He peers upward at the noise, only to turn his eye on Reeves a moment later, at her use of anagrams.

It does just enough to snap him out of the silence, and into a tight-jawed reply to no one in particular. "How is it that life finds a way to smack me right across the face no matter where I am?" He takes another few steps, dragging both hands across his face. "This was a mistake."

The cold comfort being that Zachery isn’t the only one who feels that way.


245 Miles Away
RAF Lakenheath
Suffolk, England

11:03 pm Local Time

“Alright, kid’s asleep and I think Lauraleigh’s going to try and get some sleep too.”

It’s been a long day. In an otherwise unoccupied US Air force barracks in RAF Lakenheath, Agent Carlos Gutierrez looks about ready for a week of sleep. Coming in from the adjacent sleeping quarters where Lauraleigh O’Donnell-Archer and her son Jude are resting, he approaches the folding table where SESA’s foreign operatives are seated.

“We’re going to want to take a look at her account of things closer, tomorrow, once she’s had some time to rest.” Gutierrez says with a wring of his hands together. “We got some… really outstanding intel today.” Some of it is spread out across the table, print copies of photographs taken from both teams’ investigations.

“At least we can be certain of one thing. Cecilia and Kate Archer are without a doubt the same person. I don’t know how she faked the birth certificate or led a double life for so long but…” Gutierrez shakes his head and sinks down into a folding chair, “we have that much.”

“I dunno. I’ve met some guys really good at faking stuff like that,” Cooper says matter of factly, looking at the photo of his co-worker, while digging a chip out of one of those lunchbox sized bags of Doritos. Dropping it on the table, he shrugs, “Get a good technopath in this day and age… or grease the right palms. I mean… Look at the people that create lives for those of us who go undercover?”

Cooper refused to believe that part of his life was over. Refused.

“No system is infallible, no matter what any government says, someone will always find a way,” Cooper gives an unapologetic shrug and crunches another chip. It’s been a day for sure and despite the time he was somehow still holding on to wakefulness… somehow.

As Cooper’s hand pulls back from the bag of Doritos, Lance’s own sweeps out to snag the bag off the table— and it doesn’t even make the crunch of the bag being rustled. Drawing it into the safety of his lap below the level of the table, he observes, “Doesn’t hurt when you can teleport like that. Great for alibi, I imagine.”

One chip’s tossed in the air, and he catches it in his mouth, crunching it silently, looking at the others with both brows raised. “Do we have any idea who picked her up though?”

"Even split between Torchlight getting wise to her over the inquiries we were making through legal channels, or her employer figuring out the kidnapping in the US was botched coming to clean up loose ends, since we already have Oblonsky under lock and key in the States." Emily looks exhausted. Between jet lag and the stress of the day, she'd tried to nap on the way back out here, releasing herself to the notion that no amount of backseat driving would keep them any safer on the trip.

She'd jolted awake, dreaming that her legs were locking up in a terrible cramp— that she'd fallen and never made it to the car, that she'd been set upon and was overcome by a darkness not unlike what happened when Ali Underwood had taken her senses from her. She'd awoken throat dry, vision foggy, and answered nothing to the question of what was wrong.

She doesn't think either Gutierrez or Cooper had believed her, but after the day they had, surely they could sympathize even if they didn't know what specifically caused her to start.

"My money would be on Torchlight having grabbed her. Why else would they know her apartment was a crime scene?" To her, that would seem straightforward. But: "What happened at the farmhouse speaks to something different, though. They were still looking for Kate; didn't have her. Unless they thought they had Cecilia, which…"

All Emily can do is shake her head. She sighs out, "It might be possible, but feels unlikely." One hand comes up from her folded arms to rub at the knitted spot of skin between her eyebrows, trying to work it away. "So we're back to trying to figure out who her mysterious employer is, and maybe possibly finding her in the process before anything terrible happens to her."

"No pressure," the young woman comments under her breath to no one in particular.

Gutierrez points a finger at Emily and wags it a couple of times. “Me and her, like minds. Either Torchlight believes Cecilia is real and they think they have her, or they know someone tossed Kate’s place and she’s on the run. But the raid at the farmhouse… yeah, it lends credence to the idea that someone else has her.”

Sitting forward, Gutierrez folds his hands in front of himself and looks at the three SESA agents. “What we do have is some hard evidence of Kate’s involvement, along with potentially some testimony from Lauraleigh, who’s professing ignorance to the full extent of what Kate was doing as a contractor. We’ll press her later, but that’ll take—”

A buzz from Gutierrez’s cell phone derails his train of thought. He produces the phone from a zippered pocket in his jacket, then rises up from the table as he answers. “Gutierrez,” he says firmly, pacing a few steps away from the table. “Mnhmm, and—which agency is this?” He squints at the response. “And they know we’re here how?

“Hey!” Cooper protests as his little bag of chips disappears into Lance’s lap. The junior agent gets a flat look, eye never leaving him as Thomas leans away, reaching into the duffle bag by his chair. There is a crinkle as he slowly lifts a much larger bag into view. “You fell for the decoy bag,” he says quietly. An arm loops around it after he opens it, shoulders slightly curled forward as if protecting his precious bounty.

For all his antics, Cooper’s been listening…. It’s the kind of skill you need when working undercover. The mention of pressing Lauraleigh has Cooper swiveling his head around to look at Emily pointedly. It’s clear he’s not going to out her, but it’s obvious he thinks she should. Popping a chip in his mouth a brow pops up at Emily in silent inquiry.

“That’s an awful lot of Doritos,” Lance murmurs in cautious observation as he eyes the bag, then eyes Cooper, then shrugs one shoulder, “But don’t worry, I hear ‘dad bod’ is in, these days.”

An impish smile’s flashed to the other man, then it fades as he looks over towards Gutierrez— eyebrows lifting as he hears what the agent says. “Huh. Sounds like the jig might be up.” In case they need to leave immediately, he ups the pace on his Dorito-eating.

Emily keeps her silence and her cool despite Cooper's look. Eavesdropping on Gutierrez's conversation is the perfect excuse anyway, her head turning slightly to listen. "So long as it doesn't mean we're about to get bombed by a foreign power reacting to an invasion…" she supposes quietly.

Hey, the US isn't exactly the warring powerhouse it used to be. Maybe someone would take the shot and risk turning the world on its head to tell the US to keep its kids and toys at home.

She likes to think pessimism occasionally leaves her pleasantly surprised when something better than her fears happen.

Liza's lips curve up into a bit of a smile as she watches the interaction between Lance and Cooper, unable to hide a snicker at the mention of 'dad bod'. Emily's quiet mention of bombing doesn't seem to sour her mood, and she offers a more comforting smile. "I don't think it'll get that dramatic," she points out. It's impossible for her to ignore the tone of Gutierrez's voice as he speaks on the phone however, and she looks back to the others.

"Whatever it is, I didn't do it. I think."

Mnhmm, and the OEI has authority to order this how?” Gutierrez asks into the receiver with one brow raised. “Oh. Well, okay. That’s—a really good answer. I—No, Mr. President I’m sorry I didn’t realize you were on the—of course.”

Gutierrez glances back at he SESA agents at the table, then starts pacing again. “I’ll rendezvous with Agent Reeves and we’ll get right on this.” He hesitates, considering something. “But—if I may? You said she’s a teleporter?” He grimaces. “Right, same difference. I need an equipment requisition if we’re going to do this. No, no. I already have it, it’s just in Washington.”

Gutierrez nods to something said on the phone. “Of course. Thank you Mr. President, it’s an honor.” Starting to make his way back to the table, Gutierrez ends the call. “Yes, Mr. President. I understand.”

Coming to a stop at the table, Gutierrez just sets down his phone and rubs his hands down his face. “So, fun thing. The President just uh, called. How…” he breathes in deeply, “do you feel about covertly liberating an Expressive concentration camp?

Dad bod? Naw son, it’s a father figure. He saw it on a shirt once and he was going to use it then… at least until the mention of the President totally snagged Cooper's attention. Wide pale eyes follow the agent, munching chips like he’s watching Star Wars or something.

When Gutierrez finally hangs up and turns to address them, both brows pop up. Whoa! Did he want to liberate….

“Do donuts have holes?” Thomas drolls out in an attempt at suave, with a mischievous smirk. “Does a bear….?” Wait, maybe he shouldn’t say that. Thomas shakes that phrase out of his head, “You know what? Scratch that.” He waves his hand in dismissal, before brushing orange cheese off on his pants.

“What I’m saying is, Yes!” Cooper says like Gutierrez asked a stupid question. “I absolutely would love to liberate a camp with you.”

As the words Mr President are overheard, Lance chokes on one of the doritos, doubling over a bit and coughing. After the first one he silences himself so that he doesn’t interrupt a call with the President, hammering on his chest a few times with his hand mutely before he finally manages to clear his breathing passages.

Looking up, his eyebrows raise towards the sky at the question they’ve been asked. He jerks a thumb at Cooper’s answer, replying with a sudden grin, “So, funny story, that’s literally what I was raised to do.”

Not trained, but raised. But surely Gutierrez has read his file.

A different kind of bomb came to the table, Emily thinks, one that could be just as dangerous. Her eyes waver between each of Gutierrez's individually when he comes up for air after rubbing his face, brows slowly lifting.

"I feel strongly," is how the young Epstein woman chooses to respond. She blinks to the phone and then back up. "Do we get any sleep before we head into that?" she wonders.

"Anything that can be compared to a concentration camp is something that should be taken down," Liza replies, a brow raised at the sudden and surprising change of dialogue. "I've got a little bit more than a tiny hunch that the lot of us are more than happy to help with something like that." The mention of sleep does get a nod of agreement. "Any small time to prepare could help, but I'm not sure where we're at in terms of time constraints."

Gutierrez seems relieved by everyone’s responses. No, proud.

“We rendezvous with the other team in thirty minutes,.” Gutierrez says, dashing any hopes of sleep or rest.

“We have until dawn to make this happen.”

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