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Scene Title Bug
Synopsis That era in the history of the United States of America when capitalism released its vulgar grip on Valentine's Day and oracle-primed espionage took over.
Date February 14, 2019

Bay Ridge, NYC Safezone: Burning Rose Restaurant

Dinner reservations: a luxury in this day and age, even in a depleted economy where most of the rich know better than to live in New York City, safezone or not. But the Burning Rose is on the crest of a tide of successful businesses, targeting that affluent demographic that runs Yamagato, political spheres, the higher-paid echelons of SESA. It's a beautiful property, oceanfront, one of the newly-completed mid-rises overlooking the harbor.

They probably had to hire an SLC-Expressed plant manipulator to get the vines to grow up the insides of the walls like this. Worth it. The rich, green filigree stands in sharp contrast to the white walls.

The golden glass spheres that contain the lights and the candles look like bubbles trapped in honey, afloat, surreal.

And this is the scene that Nick and Delia find themselves ushered into, this fine Saturday of May. Most of the tables have been claimed for the evening already, the remainders already posted with rose-gold "Reserved" signs. Two or three other couples, one business meeting of a mixed international audience, three young men finishing up their steaks in a noisy clatter of knives, and two elderly women kindly being asked to put away their cigars, obviously knowing it wasn't allowed, but they had been hoping to get away with it on the power of real pearl brooches and the hundred-dollar bottle of whiskey they bought. The menus are printed in very attractive fonts.

It seems somewhat unlikely that a place like this would have a hamburger. But there probably is one. Just printed in fancy text, small-caps.

While this sort of thing isn’t the norm for either of them, Nick does own suits that will meet the dress codes of this sort of establishment. He even looks good in them. The azure of the dress shirt matches Delia’s eyes more so than his own, which are a bit paler, not the deep cornflower of hers. A tie of the same color finds some juxtaposition in the small amber diamond shapes throughout, the color toned down by the deep gray of his spring-appropriate suit.

He grins at the cigar-smoking duo, perhaps imagining some of the women he knows in those roles in another fifty years, before pulling out Delia’s chair and then settling into his own, opening that beautifully-printed menu to study it for a moment.

Glancing up at Delia, he reaches for her hand to hold on the table. “Don’t worry about the price. Get whatever you want.” She’ll worry anyway, probably. It’s what she does. “I’m not sure how Astor knows this place even exists, honestly,” he adds, looking around skeptically.

Astor had told her there would be a cheeseburger, but this is the kind of place you dress up to go to. Only crazy people dress up to order a cheeseburger, as far as Delia is concerned. For Nick she has an arched eyebrow and crooked grin, "He's probably been around the city for longer than we knew." How long he'd been wandering alone, she just didn't want to think about. Not tonight at least.

"I'm going to order the turf with either neptune or surf," the decision was made without glancing at the menu. Living so close to Long Island Sound all of her life and under the Ryans roof, she's had exposure to finery but never really had the opportunity to indulge. Nowadays, it's just not feasible. Even if Nick protests about how much he has. The argument? It's not how much she has.

The two of them cut a stylish figure, an extremely aesthetic young couple tonight, and the waiter who comes toward them looks well-pleased about it. There was a time that waitstaff at Michelin star institutions of the United States could easily make six figures a year— probably indicative of nothing great, considering how badly most of the cookstaff are treated, but it says something about the state of America's recovery, that we're back to our old capitalistic foibles.

"Good evening," the waiter says. He is immaculately pressed. "I'm Ambrose, I'll be your server tonight."

Behind him, the next couple tables over, that group of three young men are sitting back, sated. Their own server collects two of the plates, while the third insists on finishing off their shaved cheese in just mustard sauce. They put in for a bottle of whiskey that has to retail for at least a solid thousand dollars— and this perhaps puts their clothing into perspective. They hadn't quite dressed up as Delia and her paramour did, but that one there, his sweater is cashmere; the other has a diamond the size of a pinkie nail in his ear. Little signs. Money talks, wealth whispers.

But Ambrose is the consummate professional, his attention on his own patrons and not the table of overprivileged youth behind him. "Welcome to our restaurant. May I take your order?"

“I don’t know what that means, but absolutely, if you want it,” Nick says, with a nod for Delia — he’s not sure if it’s something she’s made up or just one of those Americanisms that he hasn’t quite picked up, despite. Or one of those Ryansisms. He’s even less adept at those, the family unit a mystery to him despite all these years on its fringes.

“Evening,” he says to Ambrose. “Can we start with a bottle, red or white house, whichever the lady prefers,” his eyes dart to Delia. “Do you have any neptune tonight?” he asks, eyes sparkling a little. “Only if the neptune is fresh, of course.”

He’s either teasing himself or Delia, but his eyes sparkle a bit with merriment at it, before nodding to Delia to order for herself; ladies first is still in his code of chivalry, but ordering for a lady is not.

And dinner proceeds beautifully. Their food arrives pristinely laid out on immaculate ceramic. The waiter's demeanor is professional — not too warm, but inscrutably polite, memorably forgettable. For a long half-hour, forty minutes even, it would seem very much like Astor Loukas simply set up his favorite aunt and (dubiously favorite) uncle for a romantic evening under candlelight.

But that one table over, something is amiss.

By the standards of the Second Civil War, it's nothing, really. The curly-haired boy sitting amid his companions, drinking whisky, is getting hammered. In coincidence, Delia stands to take a call, and in the quiet of that moment, Nick can't help but notice the youth at the other table announcing loudly his intention to retrieve his own car from the valet and get the fuck to the airport. He has a flight to catch! His companions seem

slightly perturbed, no doubt. But it is perhaps a symptom of the condition of being extremely fucking rich, that neither of them are wont to discourage him, looking at one another, laughing it off. They're tipsy too. But how dangerous can it be? It's easy for them to reason, in the near-empty, post-apocalyptic streets of New York, and little personal sense of civic responsibility, that it'll be fine. They do not, incidentally, count on there being a CIA agent nearby, in a conspicuous down-beat of his romantic evening.

There’s a sigh of exasperation as Nick waits for someone other than himself to have the sense to stop the young man. But no one seems to step up to the job and he sighs, setting down his own glass of wine he’s been nursing post dinner. He’s too sober, if anything, and perhaps part of him wishes he wasn’t.

He doesn’t want to be the fucking adult on his night off.

Finally, he glances over at the table, less discreetly than his previous glances. This one is direct, a brow lifted as he nods to the group. “Hey, maybe call an Uber or a cab?” he suggests, shifting into his generic American accent — for some reason, he thinks that might go over better than a Brit telling the bro squad what to do.

The trio of young men stop silent for an instant, slightly drunk, their reactions slowed. Slowly, three pairs of eyes rotate around on their expensively coiffed posts to peer at whoever is interrupting them. And slowly, three pickled brains sequence the same clumsy thoughts. There are no New York Police anymore; what a private citizen says makes no matter. (Though to be fair, Nick is probably right; if he were speaking in a British accent, they'd probably have something else to say.)

"All right, sure. I'll do that, and you should help yourself to a brow wax, on me." The young lout, the ambitious driver in question, grins at Nick. Shows two rows of orthodontically perfect teeth. "This guy," he adds, for his friends' benefit. He jerks his head at Nick, and then pulls himself up from his chair. Swaying slightly, he then stoops to snatch up his briefcase from the carpet. He hustles his hand through his pocket, pulls out a key fob with a Yamagato brand insignia on it.

"This is just me putting my keys somewhere safe to make sure I'm not tempted to use 'em," he says, laughing. He starts for the door, waving back at his friends, who at least have enough grace to look mildly uncomfortable at this whole exchange.

One of those dark brows arches. Did the bro just insult his brows, of all things? Somewhere, the dandy that Nick might have been in another life is insulted, but this Nick is simply mildly amused. The priorities and perspectives of himself and his insulter are clearly different.

He watches for a moment, ice-blue eyes alighting on the other men to see if they are going to intervene.

Which of course they don’t.

He sighs, turning to follow the man for the door, a glance thrown to one of the servers. “Tell my date I’ll be back in a moment,” he says, long legs purposefully shortening the distance between his table and the door.

“Oi,” comes a little of that British accent, clipped and sharp, as Nick catches up to the would-be driver to reach for the key fob.

Fortunately for Nick (debatably) or unfortunately for the young lout on his way out (not actually), it's very easy to catch up with a slow-moving drunken idiot. And said idiot is currently tossing and catching the keys in question, arrogant, sashaying down the hallway to the elevator. And once he's stationed there, waiting, it actually takes him an embarrassing second delay to realize that the fob didn't land back into his palm again, despite the audible clink of it landing.

The youth starts to look down.

But before he actually embarrasses himself further by properly searching the fucking floor for it, he aborts the motion. His head snatches upright, and then he twists his head around to stare. In reality, Nick has beautiful eyebrows. A beautiful face. And he looks nearly choreographed there, holding the keys suspended in empty air. His eyebrows snap downward. In the dim reflection of the elevator doors, Nick can make out the silhouettes far behind him, of the boy's two companions coming out to watch. Nervously. "Dude," the kid says, bolder than his fellows by far, "what's your fucking problem?" His breath smells expensively of whisky and cigars.

“At the moment?” Nick says, the corner of his mouth tipping up at one corner.


He was once a scrappy boy in East London, getting in fights over petty matters and as a means of survival. He’s no longer the malnourished, abused, short-for-his-age child of yesteryear, but that scrappy survival instinct still rears its head now and then.

Like now.

“I’ll call you an Uber,” Nick tells the man placatingly, his pale gaze finding those silhouettes and giving them a nod, seemingly assured that they’ll let him handle their friend.

It is too deep an insult, enough to injure. The young man, armed with wealth and pride but no common sense, can suffer this no longer. And even as he begins to puff up, like an angry tomcat, his friends are beginning to slide away backstage, seeking plausible deniability. They know their friend.

And so: the kid tries to hit Nick in the head with his briefcase.

Perhaps if he were less utterly fucking drunk, he'd have any kind of aim.

Which is to say, the hit goes wide. Nick barely has to lean to the left to feel the leather sing softly past his cheek. Heavily, the youth catches himself, snarling angrily. He hisses in — what is it, Russian? Nick thinks it's Russian, though the kid's accent had been distinctly British, albeit of a different class than the one that Nick speaks with. Then the youth raises up the case high above himself this time, moving clumsily, unmistakably, absurdly, to try and brain with it over the top of his head, classic whack-a-mole style.

It may surprise no one that the kid ends up simply chucking his piece of luggage straight into the stone floor, as the CIA agent pivots matter-of-factly out of the way. What may surprise everybody, however, is that the bad landing pops a hinge, and what had seemed to be an impressively sturdy, expensive piece of traveling equipment abruptly bursts open.

And cash money immediately erupts into the air, pieces of green fluttering like confetti into the quiet hallway. In the meantime, at the restaurant, the hostess is emerging to see what's wrong. She doesn't know that there's a Federal agent in the process of being assaulted just outside the legal property of her place of employment, or she would be hurrying more.

“Well played,” Nick says with a shake of his head as the briefcase lands, but the sudden shower of green paper has him lifting his brows in surprise.

There’s a few seconds that tick by as Nick wrestles with the choices Fate’s handing him just now. He’s not on the clock — in fact, revealing his credentials is dangerous when he’s supposed to be just Joe Schmoe when he’s in New York. He’s already gone past the ‘blend in and don’t get noticed’ part of his off-the-job description. So much for that.

Walking away has its perks. And it’s not like having thousands of dollars in paper money is against the law.

But he still has the guy’s key fob.

“See? Your hand-eye coordination has gone to hell, buddy. Let me help you with that.” The fob is put in his jacket’s inner pocket, where it’s neither too easy to grab nor too likely to fall out. He crouches, pulling out his phone. “Gonna call that uber for you.”

Which he will. But he takes the moment to take a photo of the man, while ostensibly poking through his apps to find the right one. In a moment he’ll send it to the CIA’s facial recognition office with a query: Anything on this guy?

And this is the part where the fella starts to embarrass himself. If that ship hadn't already sailed.

"I'm not getting in your fucking Uber!" the kid veritably shrieks. "Ублюдок1!" That was definitely Russian. "придурок.2" The accent isn't perfect, but there is no mistaking his preferred cusses.

No, the ship has definitely sailed.

What ensues is a brief movie clip out of some kind of slapstick kung-fu comedy. The boy windmills at the man who is, unbeknownst to him, a CIA agent. He even slips on his own money, at one point; fortunately, the bills were packed together for ease of organization, so only a few escaped pieces end up underfoot enough for him to slip. If Nick were really heartless, he could probably put a hand on the boy's forehead and hold him at bay for a few seconds, but it's not necessary; he can step around, hold the fob, wait for this poor whelp to tire himself out.

Bzz. It's late, but the CIA always has someone on-duty.

Jaxon Goddard, 23
Diplomatic immunity
Flagged by INTERPOL, need clearance

Those two things are almost contradictory, aren't they? Potentially interesting.


A relevant question from the other boys and girls back at the Central Intelligence Agency. It's a wild frontier out here, these days; they tend to look after one another. And also, admittedly, the picture that Nick had sent over had shown the boy frothing and contorted, half falling over in his expensive clothes. It looked like the kind of sit that could use a rep. Maybe?

“That’s not very nice,” says Nick in English, looking a little amused at the windmilling arms and drunken efforts of the younger man. Eventually he tires of trying to type and duck, so with a lazy sort of feline grace, his foot stretches out to swipe the Jaxon’s ankle to get him on the ground.

“Pick up your money,” he instructs the man child, to distract him.

Burning Rose. Intercepted DUI. Case full of cash.

He’s helpful, and attaches his location, before glancing back at the drunk frat boy.

“Look, I don’t give a shit about your money but I have friends in this neighborhood and I”m not about to let you drive around, kid. So you can take an Uber or I can drive you or you can miss your flight. Going back to the UK?” Maybe that last bit is meant to seem friendly, but Nick’s exasperation is still evident.

Photo of cash? Cover your liability.
I can call the MP. No need to press charges.
They're running a drunk tank down the road from your GPS.

Jaxon in the meantime, is turtling on the floor. He feels very little pain, as a function of his state of inebriation. Is glaring up at the older man now, furious, and slowly trying to get up but having — significant trouble. His cohorts, back at the restaurant, are nowhere to be seen. While the hostess is unmistakably pattering backward with a cry of alarm, no doubt intending to call the Military Police anyway.

Sure, they have bigger problems to deal with, but who doesn't? And yet. Jaxon spits in the general direction of Nick's shoes, having half levered himself upright.

After stepping back from the spray zone, Nick’s not so mature these days he doesn’t still roll his eyes that this piece of shit has some sort of immunity — probably the child of some important bloke in the UK. The 1 percent always get their crimes and misdemeanors wiped clean, after all.

The camera on his phone is used to take a photo of the cash.

/Sure. Think they’re being called already but your call will expedite.

He leans back against the wall, watching the man for signs of fight or flight. “Don’t try anything. Police are on their way. Better hope that cash is gainfully yours.”

"You don't know who you're fucking with, unibrow," the youth sneers, angrily. "Just because you've never seen that much money in your pathetic life doesn't mean — Jesus fucking Christ, I need more whiskey." But he's stilled, refusing in all his bluster still to acknowledge that someone's gotten the better of him. However, much like a cat's revisionist history, he's decided that the enlistment of the Military Police will only prove his greater power in this dynamic.


— is probably not a very regulation, but the sentiment is heartfelt. The one fucking percent; Nick isn't the only one who feels that way.

Ten minutes later, the MP are in house. Their uniforms are still a frightening reminder for many residents of the United States to look at, the camoflage or black canvas and boots looking like an invasion against the backdrop of the city in this post-war era. But to an agent of the CIA, they're merely a couple more outfits in a diverse and international range of colors worn around the world to represent fidelity to cause. In this case, the enforcement of justice and regulation of life in the United States.

Bay Ridge, New York Safezone: Military Police Holding

Thirty minutes later, young Jaxon Goddard is laying on a bench behind bars, singing some stupid song — audible down the narrow hallway, even if you aren't looking at the surveillance camera in his 'cell.' His briefcase, all bills accounted for, is resting on the desk beside Nick. The MP officer, a red-haired woman, who took Nick's information is just finishing up now. She jotted down quick that Nick has absolutely no desire to press charges, even given that the idiot assaulted a Federal agent. A couple of jokes exchanged about it, friendly; they are all nominally on the same side. She offered to get him coffee, or Delia, but she since went home to check on their unwanted adoptive stray Astor.

And that would be about when a third type of uniform walks in through the door. She has a coat pulled on over hers, but still, the TERP on the chest of her bulletproof vest peeks out in the unbuttoned V of the collar.


"Looking for Nick Ruskin," she tells the desk nearest the door. The lilt of her accent is nearly indeterminable, nearly West Coast American. "Someone said he was back here."

“Hopefully a few hours in the drunk tank’ll sort him out,” Nick says, with a glance over his shoulder in the direction of the singing, a frown drawing together his brows (plural, for the record!) and he shakes his head in some sympathy for the MP officers who will have to listen to the man.

Another sound pulls his attention when the Interpol agent enters, his brows lifting in curiosity. He never wore the uniform, but once upon a time he was an Interpol agent, after all, before rules were bent to allow him to don the CIA’s badge instead. FIguratively of course — he doesn’t actually wear it. That’d be bad for undercover work.

“Over here,” he says. In here, his London accent has returned, as he isn’t trying to fly under the radar with anyone but Jaxon.

The woman turns her head, dark brows leveling. Bi'ch navigates past the desks to find the British man, pausing to give the military officer who had been helping her a. rather. featureless glance. She's too distracted to smile, maybe, and when she arrives in Nick's space, there's still nothing but steel in her expression. She offers the Englishman a handshake that's firm. "Bi'ch Nguyen," she says. Maybe it's just the kind of name you have to say without smiling to waylay comments? "Saw you aren't trying to press charges. I take it you saw the flag we put on his file."

Bi'ch's voice is lower now than it had been when she had first come in asking for him, casting at least an illusion of privacy, in an office where anyone could have supersenses or telepathy, or whatever. When she is herself: one of those. It's respect, that she hasn't stuck fingers in his brain, kindly keeping her psychic parts to herself. "We could use your help with this one. On the books. We were a couple of weeks out from contacting the CIA, no specific personnel request. Pretty good timing, you happened to be there tonight."

If Nick is amused at all by the name, he doesn’t show it, a smile for the agent as he takes her hand. “Nick Ruskin. Used to be Interpol myself, before the war, but never in uniform,” he says lightly.

His brows lift at the request for help, his interest piqued. “Yeah? Can’t say I’m not curious, though it’s not usually the sort of file that hits my desk. I’m usually looking for Yanks hiding out in other countries, not the Brits bro-ing it up stateside,” he explains.

But there’s a lazy sort of shrug and a slow smile that follows. “If the brass is all right with it, it’s all right by me, of course,” he adds. “What’s this one about?”

"Well, our concern is that persons of interest in Europe are funding anti-SLC-E terrorists in other countries," Bi'ch says. She rests her fingertips on top of the table, then glances back over her shoulder, her dark eyes wandering absently through the room. Looking at nothing in particular, or at least nothing that a mundane eye can see. "The CIA's concern is that foreign money is funding anti-SLC-E terrosim in your country. You can see how our interests align. With any luck, you'll get your field trip in due time. In the meantime, it looks like the money's going in the wrong direction, that's going to be — fun."

Read: not fun.

"You'll be briefed next week. And I'll introduce you to the rest of the team." Bi'ch produces a business card out of some unimaginable place, the INTERPOL logo. Globe, wreathed. Sword through the middle, very Excalibur, walking some fine line between contemporary and mythological classic.

"I read your name," Bi'ch says. "But not your file." This is, probably, something she will be doing in the intervening week. She studies Nick, her face as neutral as iron, but not unfriendly. "Why'd you leave INTERPOL?"

Nick takes the card, glancing at it, then back up at her. That she hadn’t read his file makes his lips tic up into a grin. “It’s a bit unconventional, that one,” he says of the file. “And obviously so was joining the CIA.” Given that he was still a citizen of the UK when he applied.

The question about why he left earns a shrug, and he leans back to consider the answer before he supplies it. “A friend of mine, former CIA, thought it was a good fit, did some string pulling to make it happen. I trained during the war so I could be in the know… use it for good.”

He slides the business card into the inner pocket of his suit jacket. “Since then, chasing after war criminals. I’ve got a lot of friends who suffered at their hands.”

That's understandable, even for the citizens of the world who were not in the United States for — all that. Bi'ch watches the man closely as he speaks, the neutral line of her mouth threatening to turn here or there as she listens; sympathy from someone who nonetheless seeks to maintain an air of professionalism. Good to have common goals, even if at this point, Europe is a civil rights shitsty compared to the United States. For all the evil principle driving legislation across the pond, and bigotry blurs the line between government and criminal, it's still not legal to fund anti-SLC-E terrorism, even where Bi'ch comes from.

"Glad you're bringing that experience to the table."

She reaches into the pocket of her jacket then, pulling the lapel wide. She pulls out a small box, no larger than that which would contain a wedding ring. Inside of it, there's a diminutive device; he's seen the like before, if not this exact model. A tracking device. Her eyes cut past him, unfocusing for an instant. Refocusing. Quieter now, "How do you feel about jumping the gun, bending the rules?"

One black brow lifts and blue eyes narrow at the appearance of the box, and what’s beneath it. He watches her as her eyes look past him, then back to him, and the other brow lifts, questioning, even as she asks her question.

“My entire career’s been bending the rules,” Nick says with a shrug of one shoulder. “I’m… ostensibly… on another case but it’s mostly deadended research at the moment. I can help out.”

He nods to the tracker. “Is this an undercover thing? That ship may have sailed along with Jaxon in there,” he adds.

"Not quite," Bi'ch assures him. But what follows next is maybe less reassuring! "Wouldn't ask you to accomplish the impossible. The fact you're halfway out with him could come in useful, actually. We'd like you to plant this on him. It won't be activated until he gets back to the UK."

Because the judge hasn't signed the warrant, she doesn't say out loud. Fill in the blank.

Bi'ch holds the box out to the CIA agent, her fingers light on the edges of it. "We're moving to expedite his trip to the airport tonight. Ensure he makes his flight. It helps that he flies private." There's a half bitter twist of her mouth with that, sharing in the irritation Nick had experienced an hour ago; diplomatic immunity, private jets, free license to fuck around as one likes.

Her dark eyes level on him. "What do you think?"

Nick’s hand reaches for the box, glancing at the device, then back up to Bi’ch’s face. One brow tics upward. She doesn’t seem the type to sidestep the protocols.

He’s not one to judge.

“Sure, why not,” he says, punctuating the ambivalent phrase with a lazy one-shouldered shrug as he snaps the little box closed and tucks it into his pocket. “This has certainly made dinner more interesting than I expected,” he adds. “No rest for the wicked, right?”

"Is that what you are?" there's a ghost of amusement in Bi'ch's voice. She studies his handsome face, without criticism for any eyebrowscaping. She sees no evidence of evil; then again, there never is. "Glad you're on our side."

She pulls the tiny device out of the box, and then places it squarely in the middle of Nick's palm. Her fingers are rough at the tips.

At the other end of the room, a uniformed officer comes through the door leading to the cell area — and in that brief moment, a long, mannish (ish) curse pops faintly into hearing, before it gets shut out again as soon as the door swings shut. "Sounds like he's ready for release, the next ten minutes or so," Bi'ch says. "I'll be in the car. Shoot me a text when you know how it goes."

Ten minutes go fast. And so does young Jaxon.

But Nick is quicker, lighter on his feet. He manages not to get spit on, shows winning decorum when the misfit's behavior shows little improvement, despite that he's soberer now. And maybe there's a little bit of satisfaction, to having You're going to regret this sneered into your face, and you just planted a bug on a kid with a suitcase full of terrorist money. Sure. It's all Nick can do to resist the urge to say: One of us will.

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