As Rome Burns


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Scene Title As Rome Burns
Synopsis Faulkner and Yi-Min discuss the respective paths ahead of them and the crumbling of the world around them.
Date March 18, 2021

Isaac Faulkner is no stranger to late hours.

He's spent the late afternoon and evening hours hard at work in the Petrelli house's library — building rapport, coordinating supplies, making assurances, covering bases, doing what little he can to try to shore up the defenses of his crumbling empire against Agent Darlow's ongoing war of attrition, coordinating maps and logistics. Confronting the ghosts of his potentially manufactured past. Fending off an existential crisis.

He's had varying degrees of success in these endeavors.

Now, though, night has fallen. His fellow guests at Chateau Petrelli seem to be settling in for the night, making ready for the long road trip that is to come in their own ways. Isaac, for his part, will probably do the same himself soon… but he has one final bit of business. One last thing to do before he's done all that he can do.

He pulls out a phone and punches in a number.

On the other end of the ringing line, Yi-Min Yeh has not been idle, in her fashion. Her own particular machinations have been much less lofty in form than those of Senator Faulkner— certainly, far less to do with the concerns of empire, and far more to do with simply ensuring the survival of her and her kin.

And it isn't as if she's alone. After all, it's as much as any of them can truly do in these days of chaotic leadup to the long march that they all seem destined - or doomed - to take.

But when Yi-Min sees the ID of the person daring to call her at such a late hour, she does not hesitate to pick up the phone. A long, expectant exhalation precedes her curt (but far from displeased) greeting into the line.

"Mr. Faulkner."

"Ms. Yeh," Faulkner returns the greeting; he's not going to fuss on titles, this is business. "I do hope you'll forgive the lateness of the hour; however, the situation has… developed." There's a suggestion of distaste in his tone that suggests that he's not entirely pleased about said developments. He pauses. "I trust you're well? No further complications with those… drones?"

The corona of tenseness that grips Yi-Min's narrow shoulders when Faulkner mentions the situation having changed abates - though only just - when he then goes onto inquire about the drones. Whatever he wants, it's thus somewhat likely that drones aren't the central topic.

Thank god for the tiniest mercies. But Yi-Min is also through with titles, through with decorum, through with any semblance at restraint. At the simple inquiry, a small, crazed-sounding laugh burbles from her throat which she barely makes an attempt to contain. "Oh— well, you know. A few days ago the love of my life proposed to me, was brutally murdered by my own twin brother several minutes later, and then asked me the next morning if I would like marmalade or jam on my toast.

Oh, Kara. Those dead, glassy eyes—

Those bright, hope-filled, loving eyes—

Alone, Yi-Min stares at the phone in her violently-shaking hand for a second before placing it back to her ear. Her wide eyes are tearless, her grip bloodless.

With the same mad, calm tinge of laughter in her voice, she finishes her little monologue with a veneer of complete cheer. "So, I am doing extremely well. I hope you are doing even better! Now. How can I help you?"

Faulkner is silent for a long moment. "I… see," he says. There is a long moment of silence as he processes this information. There are a great many responses he could give, but only a very few that he thinks will actually be helpful. He opts for one of those.

"Other way around, Ms. Yeh. You requested that I keep you in the loop; I'm calling to fulfill my obligation on that front," Faulkner says, tapping a pen on the table he's sitting at. "Tomorrow, a great many of us are planning to leave New York, venturing — by various roads and routes — to Las Vegas. Asami insists that there we will find resolution." Isaac takes a breath. "Most of us are going."

"Now, as to how you may help me… first of all, what do you plan to do with this information? Will you be heading to Vegas tomorrow?"

"Good. Good." At first, it sounds like Yi-Min is echoing the word as much to completely calm herself down as to affirm what Faulkner is saying.

There follows a moment of near-silence from her as well, though Faulkner can still hear her very quiet, rattling inhalation of breath.

The final time she repeats back the word, it sounds at last like a solid and vehement reseponse.

"Good. I am glad to hear Asami insist that this be so." The qualification is perhaps… unexpected, coming from Yi-Min. And she says the comment with such menace. "So… the promised exodus is happening at last, then. Yes, at this point, there is almost nothing that could prevent me from going. I– I, plan on taking Yi-Shan with me when I do. Are you thinking of some method of collaboration, perhaps?"

Yi-Shan. That is a surprise; given Nicole's insistence on Harvey and Avery not being her children, it's unexpected to hear Yi-Min talking about bringing Yi-Shan. Not unwelcome, though, by any means. "I'm trying to get logistics organized. Hotel reservations, suitable vehicles, efficient routing, care packages of varying calibers for dissuasion of any unexpected solicitors along the way… though Yi-Shan is certainly more than capable of handling that aspect on his own," Faulkner says, with a faint uptick of amusement.

One that is gone quickly. "Should you have any special requests, though, don't hesitate to ask. I don't know what we'll encounter beyond the city limits; Asami insists that the simulation only covers New York City, and what lies beyond is anyone's guess… but when we reach Vegas… if resolution is to come, I would be glad to know you were there as well."

"Oh, yes. I am more than familiar with the types of care packages you are adept in sending." The sudden drollness in Yi-Min's tone does a good job of further restoring some apparent veneer of normalcy. "But, it is well. I have no idea what to expect out there. Out there, in here." One can almost hear the accompanying dismissive handwave over the phone. "I have faith in the sum of whatever preparations you are putting together."

Thinking more about same those preparations gives Yi-Min pause, her mind racing to consider all asepcts of her particular situation. "What manner of ‘special requests’ might you be thinking of? Additionally, I would love to hear what Asami has told you. Have you… had a talk with her? One-to-one, I mean."

"Any small items or tools I can acquire on short notice through the Linderman Group's connections. My budgetary constraints are somewhat more… limited… at the moment than they might otherwise be, but I do still have some resources, and may be able to attain… let us say, items of dubious legality on short notice."

The other question, Faulkner is slower to answer. "I have. She counseled going en masse, in the hopes of being able to serve as a shield. The problem is that I'm not certain she can be trusted to act in a consistent manner; she has demonstrated that she is not always able to control her compulsions," Isaac says, with just a hint of vitriol, "and we don't know that said compulsions might not come to present a danger in a high-stress situation."

"Hence my proposal of splitting up." Faulkner lets out a slow breath. "Beyond that… she was talking about this… other world. Everything she said fit exactly with what Nicole said… then she started talking about coffins and tubes and ports in our heads." He hesitates. "Both of them knew many of the people in our little group — or at least versions of them — but neither knew me. Or Nova."

In the lonely parlor where Yi-Min has been holding this conversation, reclined but not relaxed in a chaise lounge, she grips her phone tightly in her hand and stares off into the foreground. The face of a gold-lacquered clock on the mantelpiece stares back at her.

Tock, tock.

"She is a friend of mine," Yi-Min discloses reluctantly, her incredulity still a raw wound. "Now I have seen it, too. Will you believe it? Whatever is supposed to be on the 'other side' for me, I have seen it all. Over there- " she puts undue emphasis on those two words - "She is a good woman, one who has helped me. I owe her a debt of gratitude. And, ah, fifteen dollars for a bottle of soju." Her brow furrows with the absurd clarity of that last memory, and she exhales a sharp imitation of a laugh before pressing her fingertips to her forehead, settling back slightly further against her seat.

"No. Do not say it, I know. If this were a trick, some kind of elaborate mental deception, that would be the very first trick one would think to pull, no?" But Yi-Min doesn't quite know what to make of anything more, her dubiousness giving way to exhaustion. All her former barometers for measuring reality had failed. They had for everyone.

"But I agree with you. I still would not fully trust Asami with her compulsions, and perhaps I never will. Splitting up seems wise. One cannot be too careful."

Now it is Faulkner's turn to say nothing for a long moment, calculation clear in his silence. When he finally does speak, his tone is quieter — with weariness, perhaps. Or regret. "The Asami I once knew was a good person, too. And a friend," he admits quietly. "And… beyond her compulsions… I believe she still is. To a degree, at least. It is one reason I did not ask Yi-Shan for his services resolving the matter."

"Tell me, though. In your memories of that other world… did you know me? Or Nova?"

The revelation that Faulkner had specifically refrained from choosing the most extreme option for dealing with Asami comes as a slight surprise to Yi-Min, though it doesn't long before it melts down into acceptance— and then into another sharp glint of her tumultuous emotions, still riding shallow beneath the surface. She lets out an erratic laugh. "I might have thanked you for the decision, as that likely would have just gotten my dear brother killed. But lately, I have learned that apparently nothing can kill him here. He is just a doll, to be remade again and again."

At the inquiry, Yi-Min closes her eyes to comb through her newly-acquired bank of memories one more time, though she already knows the answer. "I did not. Not as far as I remember. I am sorry."

Again, that moment of silence. "I see," Faulkner replies. "Well, so it goes," he says, his tone carefully composed to mask the disappointment he feels.

He does not entirely agree with Yi-Min's assessment — had Yi-Shan caught up with Asami swiftly enough, Faulkner is confident that he could have disposed of Asami without a problem. Although, after a moment's consideration, it occurs to him that even had Yi-Shan delivered a bullet through Asami's skull, even when it seemed certain that a high-caliber sniper round would have resolved the matter… it might not have put a final end to her. Certainly Zachery had indicated that death wasn't always the end, here. Who's to say that she wouldn't simply have… come back the next day?

God, that would've been a nightmare.

Then again… it doesn't matter how things might have played out — all that matters is how they had.

"As to the matter of belief…" Faulkner begins, then pauses. "Let us say that the evidence supporting Asami's theory is accumulating to the point that it cannot in good conscience be ignored. That's why I'm going along with this… road trip," he says. "Burying my head in the sand accomplishes nothing. However… I will continue to play the skeptic's part so long as I can, Ms. Yeh, until Asami is proven correct beyond all reasonable doubt. Because the stakes of this are too high to do otherwise. I hope you understand."

"And that is where we differ, you and I." Yi-Min utters this quietly, a finality, but the tone that underlies it that of a reluctant sorrow. "For me, all of the stakes lie on the other side. Can you see why? There is nothing here for me. Escape is the only option I can accept."

"But do not misunderstand me. I do not blame you for your stance. Heaven knows I would be even more skeptical than you- you know what she did to me- were it not for what I have seen. I loathe her, the version of her I know in the here and now, and yet…"

Yi-Min pauses to take another proportionate breath of slow, shuddering calm. "The laws of reality are breaking down around us. That much, is clear to see. She is the demon who set the spark to this forest, but she also seems to be the only one capable of leading us out. I… must believe this to be so. I will follow her at a distance, but I will follow her out of hell."

"I understand," Faulkner says quietly, and it's true. "Certainly you're not the only one who feels that way."

"If I am proven wrong — if this 'forest' of ours is nothing more than hollow setpieces and seemings — then you may rest assured, I do not intend to burn with it," he says. "But that is for tomorrow or the next day — Las Vegas is where the promised resolution lies, one way or the other, and that's not a short drive. So… come what may, I will see you there, Ms. Yeh. I… thank you for your frankness in making your position clear. Is there anything else I can do for you?"

Illuminated solely by lamplight, Yi-Min smiles a bitter smile that Faulkner cannot see, but that tints her final words nonetheless. "Come what may, indeed. I will call you back later if I think of supplies I might need, but otherwise, it has been good talking to you." And she means it.

"Best of luck to you and yours. I'll see you on the other side." That's a statement with multiple implications, given their circumstances—

—and Yi-Min means all of them.

"I appreciate the sentiment," Faulkner says, although he is not quite so optimistic. "Best of luck to you and yours, as well. Good night, Ms. Yeh," he says, and ends the call. He lowers the burner phone and spends a moment longer looking out over the table — the atlas, the notes, the bottle of wine he pillaged from Kaylee's wine cellar at one point but still hasn't made much of a start on — and wonders if this is how Nero felt, fiddling while Rome burned.

But he has no time for self-pity; the night's work is done, now, and so Faulkner closes the atlas, gathers his notes and his phone and his bottle of wine, and makes ready to turn in for the night. Tomorrow will come soon, and all roads, it seems, lead to Las Vegas.

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