Bigger Fish


jenn_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif rickham_icon.gif

Scene Title Bigger Fish
Synopsis Jennifer Chesterfield comes clean to her assistant about recent allegations levelled at her. She also reveals the true ace up her sleeve isn't Nicole's political prowess.
Date February 9, 2010

Solstice Condominiums - Chesterfield Residence

The residence of Jennifer Chesterfield is typically a quiet place, away from the hustle of Campaign headquarters, a place of contemplative respite where the tired can rest and recouperate for another long day of politics ahead. With the glow of street lights flooding in through the sliding doors at the back of Jennifer's condominium, there are delicate shadows cast across the floor in stark contrast to the light colored hardwood. But it is the only thing delicate in the condo tonight.

"Do I sound like I care where the fucking information came from!? I want you working on that right fucking now and I want it done yesterday do you understand me!?" Screaming into the receiver of her cell phone, Jennifer Chesterfield looks like a woman possessed by the mythical berserker demons of Hindu myth.

"No— No that won't work Stephen. I need you to go down to that newspaper and find out who posted those tips and then I need you to call the Director and get Rene down there immediately!" Her voice rings off the walls, so loud that she doesn't even hear the sound of a key turning in the locks or a door opening.

"You listen to me you little snot-nosed prick, I was doing work for the Company before you were even a stain on your mother's thigh!" Her brows lower, voice raises again. "I don't care if you have to track down every telepath in the city I want that name and I want it across my desk by morning!" Her phone slaps shut, a frustrated growl of a scream escapes the brunette's clenched jaws, and when she turns around ot see the silhouette of her personal assistant standing near the kitchen and the front door, she practically has a heart attack on the spot.

"Oh— Jesus— " Jenn moves a hand up to her chest, "Nicole… I didn't— expect you to get here so fast. I— I'm sorry you…"

Had to see me tearing someone's head off and spitting down their neck stump?

"I'm sorry you had to hear that."

For a long moment, Nicole watches Jennifer Chesterfield's tirade with the same amount of care she would give an infomercial. Is she bothered? No, she isn't even bothered.

"Jenn," Nicole greets and responds calmly, "I've worked for much bigger fish than you. If you think I've never seen a candidate lose it right before an election, you must think I'm still in leading strings." Still dressed the way she was for her meeting at Desperado - of all ungodly places - she sets her handbag aside and steps out of her heels, padding across the hardwood floors in her silk stockinged feet. She weaves only slightly. "Do you mind if we sit down?"

"Ah, yes bigger…" Jennifer's voice lowers, her eyes flick to the front door, and then down to her feet as she brings one hand to move up her glasses and rub at the bridge of her nose in the same motion. "Sitting sounds wonderful," she admits, making a shuffling and sore approach over to her armchair in the living room, settling down in it opposite a matching — but less worn in — chair of the same red velvet fabric. "This whole… blindsiding thing, I'm not entirely certain what to make of it, to be honest. I mean— I know what to make of it I just— I haven't figured it all out yet."

Voice sounding on the hoarse side, Jenn motions to the kitchen before Nicole can make it the full way into the living room, "could you get me a glass of water from the kitchen and my cigarettes from the counter by the microwave, dear?" There's a wave of one hand in the direction of the kitchen behind Nicole, and Jenn goes back to rubbing at her forehead.

"Of course." Despite all her misgivings, and conflicting orders on whether or not to actually help her client win this important election, Nicole genuinely has come to like Jenn Chesterfield. She comes out to the living room, a glass of water and a pack of cigarettes in each hand, one she holds out to the other woman to take before she sits down and lights up a Camel menthol.

A deep inhale, and a slow exhale of smoke and Nicole tips her head back to rest against the plush velvet chair. "Do you ever wonder why we do this shit to ourselves? I mean, I can remember why I started this. But I was young, naive and idealistic." Lifing her head again, she fixes Jenn with a gaze and a playful smirk. "You're older and wiser than I am. What's your excuse?"

"Older, maybe." Jennifer opines with a chiding laugh, reaching out to pluck the cigarette pack from Nicole's hand and lay it on the arm of her chair. She never does smoke from it, the pack's probably five months old now, but it's a comfort to have by her side. It was Mason who smoked, and for all her worth Jennifer can't throw away one of the few tangible things she has left to remind herself of him. "Wiser, that's up for debate…"

Staring down at the glass coffee table between the two of them, Jenn is cradling that glass of water in both hands, not yet drinking from it. "I'm doing this because I know it's the right thing to do, despite the fact that the decisions I've made have driven a wedge between myself and my daughter, cost me my husband, cost me my friends, cost me… everything." Her brows come together to emphasize that. "I know what I'm trying to do for this city will be in its benefit, but I'm worried… that no one is going to be able to see beyond the bad decisions I've made in the past." Tired, old eyes look up to Nicole, and in this lighting Jennifer looks at least ten years older than she normally does; creases, wrinkles and bags under her eyes so much more prominent. "I probably sound like an idealistic little girl… I baulk at my daughter for the same naivete."

"Kids," Nicole sighs. "No matter how much guidance you try to give them, they'll always repeat your mistakes. And somehow on a grander scale than we ever did." Glass of water set aside on the coffee table, Nicole rubs the bridge of her nose with her free hand before taking another drag of her cigarette. "I'm not going to lie to you, Jenn… I'm not sure we can recover from this."

"We're down in the polls only by a small margin," Jenn admits, because she's been watching them like a hawk, "but we were already running behind Donovan and Lockheart. I have some associates of mine looking into information regarding Sylvia's former drug habit, to see if we can try and scrape something up, but I just don't know if there's time or if that would do anything for us. It's a difficult situation to have found ourselves in."

Rubbing at her mouth, Jennifer shakes her head from side to side slowly, breathing in deeply before exhaling a breath. "To be honest, I wouldn't be upset if we lost— I'm upset that they dragged Catherine into this. She didn't deserve this, didn't deserve to get brought into the spotlight, but I warned her it was going to happen. I'm just thankful she got Registered when she did, or this whole mess could've blown up even more so in our faces."

Swallowing dryly, Jenn's eyes flick up to Nicole, watching the younger woman with a hesitant smile. "You just always happen to find yourself on the dark horse candidate, don't you?"

Nicole chuckles hoarsely, creating an irregular sort of plume of cigarette smoke. "I hope you don't think that's anything more than unfortunate coincidence. There's not much profit in causing candidates to lose. It doesn't result in much future work." She offers a weak smile, then presses her lips together. "How dirty do you want me to play, Jenn?"

"If you're asking if I think you sabotaged this ship, Nicole— No, I don't think that." Lifting the glass of water up to her lips, Jenn's hands shake slightly, and her swallow of the water is a long and silent one as she contemplates her next move. "I don't want you to play dirty at all. That's exactly what the others will be expecting. We're… going to play this a more old fashioned way. Whoever knew what came out about me knows my family better than most people could, which means this was more than just for political gain."

Angling a look over to Nicole, Jenn's brows furrow in contemplation. "There's a few people out there on a list that would want to do this to me, and none of them are just in things for the politics, I just don't know who's involved yet. I'm going to have someone look into it, but for now, I'm doubling my security detail as of tomorrow." That seems to be an abrupt jump in logic.

"If it's any of the people I think it could be who don't want me on that seat, I wouldn't put my physical well being outside of reasonable consideration for the next target if this smear campaign doesn't stick. Whatever happens, Nicole, I need you to be careful and take care of yourself. I'm covered, I've— got someone watching my back. But you need to be able to watch out for yourself, they might try and drag you into this. After all, you're attached to the histories of bigger fish."

How did she know that would come back to haunt her? Nicole frowns deeply. "I can complicate Donovan's problems. That could win us back a few points in the polls if your people can dig up the dirt on Lockheart." The old fashioned way just doesn't seem like the right route. Not this time. "Shit." The younger woman rises from her seat and heads back to the kitchen to run water over her cigarette before tossing it in the trash. "Okay, so what if we lose? Then what?" For one thing, Nicole goes back to the unemployment line. Sort of.

"We cross that bridge when we come to it. I'm not about to just lay down and die, but I'm not going to play by their rules anymore." Running her tongue over her lips, Jenn stares down into the water glass. "What I need you to do, for me, is field the press like you have been. Don't let any of this seem plausible, we keep denying it to the hilt. I'm… going to try and do something outside of the box, and talk to my daughter about admitting her connections to PARIAH, and playing the sympathy card of the misguided youth, and try to spin it so that it's the city's fault she fell in with them and… see if we can manage from there."

A strained sigh comes from Jennifer, and her tired eyes lift up to look at Nicole again, brows tense. "You're all dressed up but you look like hell, dear. You should head on back home and get yourself some sleep. We've still got a few days until the voting booths open on Monday. So I'll need you rested."

Nicole looks over her shoulder. "I can field the press, but I need you to be honest with me." She returns to her seat and finally starts to drink some of that water she poured for herself. "How much of what they've said about you is true? The Pinehearst stuff, Jenn. I need to know about the experiments. Refrain. I don't run on plausible deniability. I need to be able to come up with alternative stories, and I can't do that if I risk hitting too close to the truth."

"Every word of it." Jennifer states with a furrow of her brows, looking up from the glass with a stern, steadfast expression. "But it wasn't to develop some hallucinogenic drug. The people who're doing Refrain right now have no idea what it was originally created for. Pinehearst— " Hesitating here, Jenn looks away and shakes her head, jaw clenching for a moment before her eyes settle back on Nicole again. "Pinehearst was attempting to develop a formula that could imbue a normal human with an ability. I was a part of the experimentation team, so was my husband."

She glances down at the pack of cigarettes, then back up to Nicole. "I thought we were doing good work… sometimes I still do. But what came out of that place was nothing but nightmares, Nicole. We were funded by the government, this was all… off the books, black projects. Frontline?" Jennifer's brows furrow, "Was supposed to be staffed by synthetic supersoldiers churned out of Pinehearst. Mason and I only came to our senses when it was too late."

Swallowing tightly, she looks back down to the glass of water in her hands. "The damage had already been done. But there's only a handful of people alive who knew I worked there. Of the ones who I think would try and condemn me… none of them aren't dangerous people."

"Jesus Christ, Jenn." Nicole sits back in her chair heavily, the gravity of what she's just been told weighing down on her. There are no words for the thoughts spinning through her head over this confession. "Jesus fucking Christ." Rubbing her hand over her face, Nicole forces herself to try and think clearly. "Can you promise me you aren't still into this shit? If you are, I'll still work to say you aren't, but I need to know. I need you to look me in the eye and promise me that you aren't still a part this Pinehearst travesty."

"Pinehearst is gone." Jenn states into her reflection in the glass, "for better or worse. I'm back with older and more familiar devils now, but they don't do this. If they did I would be down on their heads faster than a guillotine in the French revolution." Her eyes lift back up to Nicole, tightness pulling at the corners of her eyes again and down on her lips. "These are the kinds of things I wished I could've spared you from having to find out. You know the world's an ugly place, but it's barely balancing on a thin mesh of matchsticks…"

For a woman who had connections to something like what Pinehearst was actually doing, her aspirations for the position of mayor seem strange. "I've said from the beginning, that I'm doing what I'm doing because I know it's what's right. Some people can't see past the mistakes I've made, and I have fear that one of those people is tagreting me now…"

In a way, she's right. But only half.

"All right." Nicole drags her fingers through her hair, ruffling through the back of it as though it might stimulate her brain cells. "So your daughter's a misguided terrorist, and you're guilty of human rights violations." A heavy sigh. "I expect a damned good benefits package if we pull this off. And an office of my own. With a little plaque on the door that says my name." There's a hint of humour in her tone. If she can't learn to laugh at the absurd situations she's thrust into, Nicole will quite likely go insane. "I'll get you through this, one way or another. But now…"

"I need your help, Jenn."

Everyone always needs something. It's the way the world works, and personal assistants aren't any exceptions to that. "Alright…" Jenn's voice is a bit guarded in tone, if this was something to do with the campaign there'd be nothing to merit the emphasis or the hesitation on her assistant's part. So she leans back, like the way it was in the old days when a Company agent would come in, needing to be reassigned, needing guidance.

Jenn breathes in a slow breath, then lets her head tilt to the side as she silently exhales it, regarding the young brunette through the lenses of her glasses. "What is it?"

"I think my sister's been kidnapped by people tied to Pinehearst. People making Refrain such as we know it now. Possibly the same people that are trying to ruin the campaign." A shaking hand flutters up to rub at the bottom of Nicole's nose, staving off a threatening sniffle. "I didn't know if I could trust you… I'm still not sure I should. This isn't your burden to bear, but I don't know what to do." She shakes her head slowly at her own thoughts.

"I'm not naive - my hands are plenty dirty - but I'm just the face. I've never actually had to deal with something like this where… the person or entity I'm up against didn't have some political motive." Nicole swallows hard. "The only thing people like you and I have when you take away our political agendas is our families. Our girls are all we have left." She expects the woman across from her to understand. At least, she hopes for it. Maybe she doesn't. Jenn Chesterfield's a different breed of woman from Nicole Nichols, but she's the kind of woman she aspires to be. Maybe they aren't so different.

"Pinehearst is gone," Jenn reiterates, as if trying to ward away some nightmarish spirit by the invective; fear more than frustration shows in her eyes. "The chief researcher Alison Meier died in the laboratory, my husband perished in the reactor core trying to— to prevent New Jersey from becoming synonymous with Chernobyl… the only other researcher who might have survived was named Zimmerman. But the people I work for have been looking for him and…" Jenn shakes her head, "His heart was never in the research. He did some terrible things in his youth, horrible experiments, enough that he changed his name and moved on to try and live a different life. He— he wouldn't be researching again— willingly. If someone else were forcing his hand, that's another thing entirely."

Swallowing audibly, Jenn looks to the side, down to a shadow on the floor, as if spooked by it— expecting it to leap at her or talk— then back to Nicole. "I… I can ask a few old colleagues of mine, see if anything inappropriate might be going on in places they're aware of. I can tell you now that the Triad are the ones who are marketing and distributing Refrain now, but ever since the collapse of the Flying Dragons, the production went somewhere else. I just don't know where. Whoever's producing Refrain is seeking to make a huge profit off of it, and also has the laboratory and pharmaceutical access to synthesize it."

Biting down on her lower lip, Jenn brings up a hand to the side of her head, massaging her fingers against her temple gently. "I'll talk to my colleagues, but I can't promise anything timely with them, which is exactly what you need more of." Swallowing tightly, Jenn's eyes narrow. "You know what… you and I may be able to kill two birds with one stone."

Reaching into the pocket of her jacket, Jenn retrieves that cell phone she was screaming on earlier, paging through her contacts list before offering it out to Nicole. "That number belongs to my daughter, Catherine. For all you've heard about her, parts of it were true. But she was there the night Pinehearst collapsed, saving people. Saving me." Jenn urges the phone out. "She has contacts, get in touch with her. She knows your sister…"

Then, narrowing her eyes, Jenn adds. "Colette was there the night Pinehearst fell, fighting alongside my daughter. She's a lot stronger than you realize."

Nicole patiently, if fretfully, listens to Jenn's assurances that Pinehearst is well and truly gone. While she's willing to believe that Pinehearst as it was no longer exists, a rose by any other name…

What she is told does little to ease any of her fears, but Nicole would be remiss if she didn't appreciate her friend's honesty. When the phone is held out, the number is committed to memory easily. She may not be on Catherine's level, but Nicole isn't a good organiser for nothing. But when Jenn gets to the part about her daughter knowing Nicole's sister, the woman's jaw just about hits the floor.

"Catherine and Colette?" Nicole's eyes lid slowly, taking in that piece of information and processing it. It doesn't want to compute. Colette was there went Pinehearst collapsed. Colette is rubbing elbows with a former member of PARIAH. When her eyes open again, the emotions evident are hurt and betrayal. "You knew? How long have you known?" The shock isn't quick to wear off, and alcohol combined with weariness means that Miss Nichols has used up the last bit of composure she possessed for the night. Fat tears well in her eyes until they have no other recourse than to spill down her cheeks. "I've failed her, haven't I? I wasn't there to… I didn't think she needed me to watch…"

Colette may be stronger than her big sister realised, but it also means Nicole's shortcomings as a guardian and pseudo-mother are greater than she ever originally thought.

Some of that tension bleeds out of Jenn when Nicole finally shows emotion in front of her for the first time since they've known each other. "It wasn't my secret to tell, Nicole. Your little sister isn't a baby anymore, for whatever you may feel for her. That girl… she was there with my daughter, she helped them get inside to stop the research Pinehearst was doing, and she nearly got killed in the process by the man responsible for it all. If you've ever seen that scar she has on her shoulder, she got that protecting the lives of countless people alongside everyone else there."

Wetting her lips, Jenn leans forward and rests her glass on the coffee table. She doesn't coddle Nicole, not like she would her own daughter, had Catherine the capacity to break down in front of her mother. Instead, she treats her still like a colleague, or in part a friend. "Whatever she's been keeping from you, Nicole, remember what age she's at. She's trying to find herself just as much as you were when you were a teenager, I'd bet. She's got good friends, reliable friends, and I bet they're out there looking for her right now. Which is exactly where you need to be— with the people Colette trusts. The only people I know of who could find them is my daughter, and— "

"Maybe I can be of service…" The deep, bass-filled voice coming from the darkened doorway of the guest bedroom is one that nearly causes Nicole's heart to leap up into her throat. Stepping out of the doorway, the light coming through the sliding glass doors illuminates the creases and wrinkles, the high cheekbones and shallow cheeks, the receding hair and broad shoulders of a six-foot four inch tall man that Nicole Nichols knows all too well.

"The least I can do is hit something for an old friend."

Allen Rickham.

Deep down, Nicole knows that Jenn is right. Colette isn't a child. Neither of them were children for very long. Still, she can't help but feel that she didn't press hard enough. She saw the scars, but she never asked what happened. Nicole never felt it was her place to ask questions when she'd been away for so long, but maybe if she had, Colette would be safe at home right now, helping her sister by stuffing envelopes or going door-to-door, encouraging people to get out there and vote in the name of Team Chesterfield.

Just when Nicole is sure she couldn't feel more sorry for herself, that voice fills her ears and makes her heart somehow simultaneously sink and pound in her throat. "Allen." Her head lifts slowly, taking the man in from foot to head. "I just- Oh, Allen." Heedless of how it may look to the other woman in the room, Nicole rises from her seat and dashes across the floor to throw her arms around the former president-elect.

As Nicole moves across the room, Jenn lowers her head, slowly turning to look over her shoulder from her chair to watch Rickham carefully embrace the brunette. The last time Nicole saw Allen— he was ten years older, ten years more scarred, ten years the monster that he'd been forced to become from a future than never will be. This Allen, this man of flesh and blood, is the one she remembers most. But he's here and he was in Jenn's guest bedroom.

"I'm sorry, Jenn." Rickham states as he looks over the top of Nicole's head, both arms around her shoulders, "I know I'm not supposed to get involved, but she's like family to me." Jenn's eyes close, head dipping down into a nod and one hand slowly removes her glasses, wiping off the lenses before sliding them back on slowly.

"Rebel's going to be upset if you get yourself killed out there, Allen." Dark brows crease together, but for all of Jenn's chiding tones, she knows it's just posturing. "But I suppose this is a noble enough effort. Alright," rising up from her seat slowly, Jenn looks between Nicole and Allen. "You've discovered my campaign secret, Nicole. Allen's been helping me recuperate since Mason's death. He's been giving me campaign advice from behind the scenes, and working to help instruct me on how to become a better leader. I can't outwardly say it because of the scandal involved, but a vote for Chesterfield is a vote for Rickham…" There's a hesitant smile on her lips as she says those words. Jennifer Chesterfield may be a Republican, but somewhere deep down inside, she's secretly always been one of Allen's supporters.

"I can't go out in public…" Allen states with a hand laid to the back of Nicole's head, words offered down into her hair. "But if you tell me the where and then when, you let me know where I can find your sister, you'll have me right at your side when the time comes. You know what I can do…" he admits in a hushed tone of voice, "you know I won't let you down again."

"Oh, Allen," is all Nicole can muster in reply to the man's assurances. After a few long moments where she manages to calm in his embrace, she turns her head to look over her shoulder. "Jenn, you should have told me. You know I would have understood."

Nicole steps back and assesses Rickham again, her gaze more scrutinising now that she's stepped past the stage of disbelief. "You look great," she tells him with a genuine smile. Considering the scarred man of iron she last saw, he really could have only improved. "Your family," she murmurs, "how's your family?"

"Safe." Is all Allen offers in response, "For the time being. A ah… unusual friend is keeping a close eye on them, as much as he can in his state." Offering a look over to Jenn, Rickham's brows furrow and he gives a somewhat what can you do about it shrug with one shoulder. Jenn seems slightly less blasé about Allen's cover being blown, but the sigh she offers in return is tempered by the generally slow shake of her head and faint smile.

"There's some things that can't be told, Allen's situation is a bit more complicated than it seems," she notes with a look over the frames of her glasses, as if having to remind the gung-ho iron man about that herself, "but his heart's in the right place at the moment, which is what counts. I just want you to know, Nicole, whatever goes down… you can't tell my daughter than Allen is staying with me, or anything about our arrangement. There's some things I want to keep her protected from until it becomes absolutely necessary. She doesn't trust me enough as it is, and if she thought for a minute that I was compromising Allen's judgement…"

There's a shake of Jenn's head, slowly. "I need you to go home and get some rest, Nicole. You've got a lot of work to do tomorrow, and you're running on limited time to do it. For your sister's sake, get some rest and go see Catherine tomorrow. See what she knows, see if she can find out anything going on or if she can offer any assistance."

Scratching at the side of his cheek with one finger, Allen slowly unwinds his arms and takes a step back from Nicole. "You heard her," he offers with a motion of his head towards the door. "Get yourself some sleep, I won't be around much tomorrow, I have a— " he glances to Jenn, then back to Nicole, "a meeting to attend. But if you need me, Jenn knows how to get in touch with me."

Nicole nods sort of numbly, taking in the warnings about the need for secrecy. "Don't worry. I don't want to share Allen with anyone else anyway," she jokes with a faint twitch of a smile. The consummate good guest, she picks her glass up off the table to take it to the kitchen sink before she begins to take her leave. "Thank you both." After gathering up her cigarettes, she stops and gives Jenn's shoulder a friendly squeeze. "I'll talk to Catherine and wrangle the press tomorrow.

"I promise I'll keep it together for you." It's an admission that the lapse in her stoicism bothers her more than she might have otherwise let on. There's no room for tears in politics. "I'll pick up take-out tomorrow. We can discuss my revised strategy over dinner." Her game face is firmly in place again. "Be safe, both of you." Nicole slips back into her shoes, plucks up her handbag and heads home to her own condo.

Once the door shuts and Nicole gone, Jenn exhales a sigh and looks up towards Rickham's towering presence. There's a furrow of her brows, a silent contesting to Rickham's insistance on helping Nicole. "Rebel's going to be upset at this… it wasn't a part of his plan." There's a decidedly guarded tone to Jenn's voice, and Rickham recognizes it well. When he looks up towards the door, the expression in his eyes is one of guarded uncertainty, much like her voice is.

"He'll have to deal with a few amendments to our agreement…" The tall man states in an authoritative tone of voice, "because I'm not going to sit idly by and just let this happen." Dark brows furrow, and Allen looks down towards Jenn, reaching out to rest a hand on her shoulder. "Our time's coming, don't you worry. Soon, the whole world will know what we're planning…"

Jenn offers a hesitant smile at that, and then looks back to the door Nicole left through. "Soon…" she offers in a hushed tone of voice, "but hopefully soon enough. Otherwise, they'll be coming for us." Her eyes lift back up to Rickham, tone more grave than before.

"Every last one of us."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License