Cause Of Death, Part I


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Scene Title Cause of Death, Part I
Synopsis After months of dead ends, Agent Quinn stumbles on to a harrowing new lead in the death of Cassandra Baumann.
Date February 3, 2020

There are times when life feels like it fades away. Times when small, innocuous sounds take on lives of their own. The buzzing of fluorescent lights at Fort Jay have been grating on Robyn Quinn’s nerves for the last week and a half. Life hasn’t changed much since returning from Antarctica, but her work at SESA has been largely relegated to her office — normally a bastion of security and isolation — now become a hive of annoyances. It isn’t the lights, though. Not really. They’ve always made the noise, it’s just become more pronounced lately.

A stack of paper files sits on Robyn’s desk, a part of an archival process that SESA agents are doing distributed duty on, meaning that even field agents — when they’re not on active assignment — are spending time digitizing and proofreading. No optical character recognition system is perfect, and the files to be digitized are too important to have any missing data. This is, truly, where the annoyance lies. In the mundanity, in the paperwork, in the nothing of interest happening when Robyn knows full well the world is teeming with activity. But Robyn Quinn is now riding a desk, and she can’t help but feel that somehow, somewhere, she pissed off Deputy-Director Voss to get this treatment.

Out of the five hundred and thirty-two paper records Robyn has been assigned to digitize, she’s gone through eighty-four. They’re all of varying sizes and ages, all the last surviving hard copies of records from the now-defunct Department of Evolved Affairs, all formerly SCI-classification, levels of secret clearance usually reserved for the CIA. Most of the documents dealt with the development of negation drugs, hard evidence of the government’s knowledge that the negation gas returned from the Vanguard in Madagascar was a carcinogen, documents detailing the planned deployment of anti-expressive robotic drones across the country, documents detailing the development of more “relocation” settlements, grisly accounts of massacres covered up and the location of unmarked mass graves filled with detainees during the Civil War. Most of it is harrowing, all of it is essential.

But none of it is field work.

Agent Quinn’s Office

Fort Jay, Governor’s Island
New York City Safe Zone
February 3
8:12 am

But that's her life bow. This is something she knows she needs to get used to, hands running across the edges of her desk as she turns over another paper detailing the unthinkable tragedies she had once worked so hard to try and prevent. Lips purse as she stares down at it, a deep breath subconsciously sucked in as she leans back in her chair. She hadn't wanted to start her desk tour yet. Not yet. Soon, but not yet. Too many cases unfinished. Closing her eyes, she takes in the sound of the Smiths record she'd turned over just a few minutes ago.

"Good time for a change
See, the luck I've had
Can make a good man
Turn bad

There's a temptation to reach into the compartment in her drawer and pull out her flask. If it's even still there, she's sure Voss has figured out that she keeps it there by now, or Nicole has borrowed it like she does every now and again. They were right to tell her she couldn't keep the whiskey decanters she had in her office in Rochester in it's Fort Jay counterpart, so she really should get rid of it anyway.

"So please please please
Let me, let me, let me
Let me get what I want
This time

Eyes open and slide over to look at her computer, where a half finished email sits open. A transfer application to Kansas City half finished in another window. That was what she'd said she'd do after Antarctica, to so many people. What she'd talked with Elaine about before the split. What she'd talked with Sable about, Gillian too. For once, she's following through on one of her threats. Or at least, she will be.

Once all this god damn paperwork is done.

"Haven't had a dream in a long time
See, the life I've had
Can make a good man bad

Adjusting her glasses, she leans forward and minimizes both windows. The more she puts off getting her share of this work done, the longer it's going to be before she can get her cases squared away. She lost count at how many she has left, so the simple answer is "too many" and "don't we have people for this?". Either way, it's a very droll afternoon ahead of her.

"So for once in my life
Let me get what I want
Lord knows, it would be the first time
Lord knows, it would be the first time

Until his face shows up.

Dmitri Gregor, the doctor of Mandritsara, Vanguard scientist, the puppetmaster of Staten Island Hospital. Dmitri Gregor may have died over a decade ago in the firebombing of Staten Island Hospital, but the monster he became lives on in the nightmares of every single person who survived that harrowing encounter. Robyn wasn’t there the day the Ferrymen hit that location, but she’s heard the stories for years. It is a harrowing reminder of things like the Commonwealth Arcology and the ultimate fate of Julien Dumont.

But Gregor’s paper file for the Department of Evolved Affairs contains numerous horrific experiments carried out under the auspices of developing a cure for the Expressives — Evolved as they’re called in the old documents. Gregor’s file photo is met with a list of psychological analyses, things signed off on by Nathan Petrelli or… maybe it was Sylar by then. No one is really sure exactly when the switch happened.

Seeing Gregor’s face, though, is a window back into the darkest hours leading up to the civil war. The worst atrocities that could have been enacted on innocent people. A shape of things to come, a shape that Robyn herself helped shatter.

There's a barely suppressed gag and a lump in the back of her throat as Robyn lays eyes on the picture. She couldn't remember who had first told her about Gregor and his sickening experiments. Gillian? Colette? Lynette? Or maybe it was just second, third hand - it's hard to imagine anyone even remotely adjacent to the things in the file in front of her wouldn't be traumatised.

Pressing a hand to the back of her hand to her mouth, she takes a moment to rise up out of her seat and make her way over to the turntable as another song begins to play. It's more a moment of ritual than anything else, how she gingerly picks up the needle off the platter, turns off the turntable, and sets the arm to rest comfortably back beside the platter. It's a calming motion for her, one that puts her back in a place of ease..

She stands there for a moment, before letting out a long sigh and making her way over to her desk. "Of course," she mutters to no one in particular. "Of course I get the Gregor file. Now I know Voss is pissed at me." It's hard to remember if she'd even been a part of the Ferry yet when that raid had happened. Either way she's glad she wasn't there.

With a resigned sigh she sits back down and pulls the file closer. Slowly, she begins to type. It's almost an absentminded action as she stares at the file, memories bubbling up and drifting out. "God. How did we ever get to this point?" She knew the answer to that, of course. To be reminded of it so clearly, though… it makes her glad that this isn't the world anymore. It's a moment that makes her glad she did what she did, and all the sacrifices that came with it. It makes her glad she doesn't have to help raise a child in that kind of reality, even if she did already have an idea how that could go.

…Would there be a file on that, as well? About Adel, Jolene, and their friends. She imagines that is far too classified, but… Her eyes drift back to Gregor. So should this be too. Maybe that's why she has this batch. There are things most people probably aren't meant to know here. She had never known Gregor was Vanguard, a word that dredges up other memories in the back of her mind. Ones that aren't hers, but now are.

"Fuck you," she growls out, again to no one in particular.

As Robyn moves Gregor’s file across her desk with all the force of another unspoken fuck you, several sheets of water-damaged paper slide out from the folder. They spill across her desk and fall into her lap and down onto the floor at her feet. Pushing back her chair, Robyn starts to collect the papers, trying to get them back into a proper order. But when she pulls one of the files out of her lap, something catches her eye.

An ID badge.


The badge is in good condition, considering it came from the hospital. It’s clipped to an internal DoEA report listing missing hospital staff presumed dead thanks to the action of Dmitri Gregor. As Robyn starts to set it aside on her desk and pick up more papers, the doctor’s face in the picture catches her eye again. Glare from the overhead lights washes out his skin tone, and with a squint it’s easy to see him as—

Twice!” A faintly British-accented voice cuts through the echoing clatter of the warehouse. Craning her neck where she’s suspended a few feet off the ground, she sees a pale figure cast in moonlight standing in the doorway of the warehouse that leads out toward the river. “Is she gone? Did you lose her!?” He is tall, well over six and a half feet, ghastly pale with no hair. His blue eyes feel overly large in his small, round head. Bundled against the cold, he looks like a scarecrow brought to life.

The albino’s blue eyes track to Cassandra. “Who— is this?


It’s Cassandra’s killer.

Robyn is on her feet before she even realises it, hands slamming down on the desk. Eyes widen as she stares down at the ID card. "…fuck," she breathes out, voice much lower than it had been moments before. No wonder they hadn't been able to find an ID match. She had her doubts that records of a supposed dead man from before the war would still be in any database. "Paul Sadler, you motherfucker. I've got you now."

She doesn't, but she finally has a path forward. Cassandra's killer, this whole case… she had allowed it to fall a bit to the wayside in her obsession with finding out more about her mother and dealing with the trauma of her overlays the previous year. Neither may be truly resolved in her eyes, but there's nothing to be done about it.

Not with this in front of her.

Picking up the file, pushes her chair out of the way and makes her way over to the door, practically throwing it open. The self satisfied and devilish grin she wears on her face probably seems like a bad sign to anyone in the pool, but she doesn't focus on them.

"Saito! Avec moi, you're going to want to see this!"

Saito’s head isn’t the only one to pop up from the rows of desks in the open-office pool, but he’s the only one to stand when he hears Robyn so excitedly call him out. Quickly moving away from his desk, Saito glances around the pool and then hurries toward the door to Robyn’s office.

Thirty Minutes Later

The discovery of Paul Sadler’s identification badge among the detritus of SESA’s records of Staten Island Hospital was only the beginning. Robyn’s instinct to call Saito in was a good one, bringing his analytical eye to the data meant he would be able to pull more information from across SESA’s disparate databases. Within a half an hour, Robyn’s office looks more like Hiro Nakamura’s old roost in Manhattan, with newspaper clippings and documents pinned to whiteboards by magnets.

“So if these org charts are right,” Saito says, paging through scanned PDFs on his tablet, “Paul Sadler would have been active at Staten Island Hospital right up until its destruction in the summer of 2010. We don’t have many internal documents from that time, however.”

Saito walks over to one of the whiteboards he’d wheeled into Robyn’s office, motioning to a picture of a middle-aged blonde man with round glasses. “This is Dmitri Gregor, ex-Vanguard scientist guilty of… I can’t even list the number of war crimes.” Robyn had long heard the name whispered in stories from her friends, but now she had a face to put to that name. “He’s the entire reason the US Government obtained negation gas. Apparently he designed it for them, there, at Staten Island Hospital. He’d originally created it for the Vanguard. He also performed some… I mean, unethical isn’t even the start of it but… unethical involuntary research on hospital patients.”

Saito moves over to photographs of vivisected bodies. “Gregor was searching for the key to synthetic Expressive abilities for the DoEA. I don’t uh… think he managed to succeed though.” Saito flips through the tablet, then motions up to a night-vision camera photo of the burning wreckage of Staten Island Hospital. “I don’t know how Sadler made it out of that.”

"The same way I'm still alive, probably," Robyn replies in a low, thoughtful voice, before looking up at Saito and grinning. "Luck. I'm talking about luck. Or… he made a deal with the right people at the right time." For her, it had been the Ferrymen. For him… well, that was something she will be asking herself until they figure it out. Tapping a finger against her chiun, she turns and makes her way to another nest of photos.

"I doubt anyone who survived his poking and prodding would remember seeing him. Even if they haven't blocked out the trauma, he'd be just nondescript enough." Shaking her head, she frowns. "Hell, it's a miracle I recognised him on his badge." Taking one of the pictures into hand, she examines the black white image closely. "I've only ever heard about Gregor's, uh… tendencies second hand. But I can imagine that's the only way anyone made it out of that place unscathed that wasn't involved in bringing it down."

A belabored sigh slips out her lips, and she sets the picture back down. "Unless he went full horror movie and was indoctrinating people, had a secret hideaway, any sort of horrifyingly unreal bullshit." The whole story already fits that description perfectly, but there's always ways for it to get worse. And besides, she'd like to think they'd have answers to those questions by now.

"Anyway. The last thing I want to do is talk about Gregor," she admits in a low voice. She wasn't there, but the horror stories she's heard are more than enough. "Now that we have a potential ID match on this resident a-hole… it didn't seem like he was working for himself. So how do we get from 'hospital employee' to 'murderer'? How does Cassandra fit into it." Turning back to Saito, she frowns. "Nine years is a long time to vanish for, and the state of the world since then makes it pretty much impossible to track his movements in that time. But even then… you don't just vanish for nine years. You have help with that."

“Nobody really vanishes,” Saito says with a firm nod. “I mean, except for people with invisibility. They— okay, and teleporters…” he realizes he’s losing track of his thoughts and shakes his head sharply. “There’s a mountain of data we can go over, some of it might still be in these old paper files,” he says with a motion to the box Robyn was working on.

Moving through his tablet, Saito checks on the most recent case notes they have. “Neither of the two persons of interest we picked up from Cass’ vision have popped back up for us. We left off on a cold trail, except, now that we know Sadler’s identity it might help shed some light based on old information. I’m going to cross-reference everything we found at the residences of Sadler’s accomplices with what we have in these boxes, see if anything lines up.”

Saito furrows his brows, looking from his tablet up to Robyn. “I hope you weren’t planning on going anywhere tonight.”

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