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Scene Title Birdspotting
Synopsis An elusive bird has been spotted in Providence, but what should be done about it?
Date February 1, 2021

The ferry ride to Governor’s Island isn’t long, but Byrne enjoys the fresh ocean scent in comparison to the occasionally industrial tang of the water at the old Brooklyn South marina. It’s also an improvement over the scent of smoke and robot hydraulic oil that followed him back from Providence and stayed in his house barge all weekend.

En Route to Fort Jay

February 1st
6:45 AM

Byrne approaches the railing of the ferry, getting Nicole’s attention with a nod before turning to rest against it. His eyes move along the crowd as he settles himself, wary for listeners. “Good morning,” he says. “How was your weekend?” His own having been far more dramatic than he’d anticipated.

Huddled in her heavy coat, wrapped in a long scarf with a warm knitted cap on her head that matches the same green, black, and cream Fair Isle pattern of her gloves, Nicole lifts her head when she notes Byrne’s approach. She takes in the sight of him behind her sunglasses. At this hour, the sun hasn’t risen high enough to warrant them, but they seem as much a fixture for her as the diamond bracelet around her right wrist has always been.

Nicole smiles weakly. “Morning, Zach.” She stares out across the water. “Fucking miserable,” she says of her weekend. “But at least I wasn’t out fighting wildfires.” Maybe if she had been, things wouldn’t be as they are this morning. All she can do is prepare to bury herself in work.

“Sorry to hear that,” Byrne says, and lets it rest a moment. He continues with the baffled air of someone who can’t believe they’re saying something. “Ended up fighting more warbots than forest fires, unfortunately. But Providence is safe for now. Probably would have died if not for Dave.”

“Jesus Christ,” Nicole breathes out at the mention of warbots. She faced down more than a few of those in her time during the war. An involuntary shudder runs through her frame that has nothing to do with the cold wind on the water.

The thought is banished with that emphasized name. Nicole turns to face Byrne fully, her hip against the railing now. “Don’t tell me you were bird spotting,” she asks cautiously. Judging from her reaction, that’s not someone she expected to hear is attached to Providence.

“It certainly wasn’t my intention,” he says, “But the red ones are hard to miss. I didn’t realize they have gold eyes, either. Thought I’d run that past you either way before I talk to the boss. He seems like an avid bird guy.”

Nicole smiles tightly. “The red ones always seem to be the most coveted for cages.” It’s the plight of the ones with crimson plumage that she sympathizes with. Exhaling a heavy sigh, she pulls her sunglasses off if only so she can pinch the bridge of her nose between her thumb and forefinger.

“There’s no good answer to that. You know that, right?”

“I assumed so,” he admits, gripping the rail behind himself with both hands. He looks over the water as the island grows closer. “Figured I’d get your take on it, considering our earlier conversation on discretion.”

“He’s a…” Nicole can’t help but think of Richard. How betrayed would he feel if she suggested bringing in his father — such as he is — so he can rot in a cell? Richard Ray is a powerful ally. Too powerful to lose? Perhaps. The question is whether her sense of duty to her agency outweighs her sense of duty to her old friend.

“The beautiful thing about Providence,” she begins again, switching gears, “is that the citizens there just want to be left alone. They want their peaceful lives.” How true that is… Well, she believes it for the average person who’s come to settle there. The community leaders are another kettle of fish entirely. “I was undercover there for a time. I met a… lot of good people.”

Nicole shakes her head. “Nobody wants to upset that boat. They know what they have there is precarious enough.” One shoulder comes up in a shrug. Blue eyes blink heavily, her gaze shifts subtly. She doesn’t look at him straight on, but slightly off-center now. It allows her to see him past the blind spot that’s crept into her vision. “If it were me… I’d leave it alone. But I’m of the opinion that certain birds don’t belong in cages.”

Byrne’s gaze remains focused elsewhere, arms crossed in his contemplation. After a moment he nods. “They took a beating. Your friend Clara made it,” he says. “There were a lot of folks who weren’t so lucky. But the town’s still there.”

The news makes the woman’s heart sink, but not as far as it could have. Knowing Clara lived keeps her from spiralling into guilt. Later, she’ll tell herself she should have gone with, could have done something. For now, she simply nods. “It’s your call. I won’t say it wouldn’t be a feather in your cap,” if they’d like to continue the analogy, “but you know how often we had to ask ourselves what was right and what was good.”

“Yeah,” is his response. Making the moral choice nearly got him executed during the war. Despite Dowe’s desire to have his eyes inside SESA, she’d know better than anyone that given the option, Byrne will follow his gut instinct. Providence needs something, and all he knows is that it isn’t a SWAT assault.

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