donna_icon.gif kyla_icon.gif maddox_icon.gif mohinder_icon.gif odessa_icon.gif rich_icon.gif waite_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

aric_icon.gif balfour_icon.gif df_cardinal2_icon.gif bf_kravid_icon.gif nathan_icon.gif

Scene Title Changes
Synopsis A new chapter begins.
Date April 8, 2019

The chop of a helicopter’s blade drowns out nearly all sound inside its cabin.

Come gather 'round people

Two rows of seats face one-another, each with metal hoops in the floor at their feat, so that those seated in them can be restrained not only by the handcuffs around their wrists, but so that chains binding them can hook through the floor, preventing passengers from standing. But passengers don’t wear orange jumpsuits. It’s the other word that starts with P. Prisoners.

Wherever you roam

Mohinder Suresh sits with his shoulders slack and eyes squared down at the space between his feet on the floor, his lips are downturned to a frown. Dark circles around those distantly-focused eyes show that he hasn’t been sleeping, perhaps not in years.

And admit that the waters

"In Santa Cruz, a boy somehow sucked all the oxygen out of the air. Suffocated his entire middle school." The report from the Commonwealth Institute fans out before Mohinder, and Nathan's disapproving stare burns holes in his mind. Mohinder rises from his chair, moves over to the files, starts pawing through them.

Around you have grown

"My God," Mohinder whispers, fingers trembling.

And accept it that soon

"These events are increasing. People are anticipating another Sylar," and at that Nathan leans forward again and levels a demanding look to Mohinder. "In your original assessment," lie; the mind constructs a narrative. "You posited a potential solution," lie; the mind constructs a narrative. "Extinction." Demand; the mind builds pathways. Mohinder blinks several times, looks up to Nathan and adjusts his glasses with a trembling hand.

You'll be drenched to the bone.

"Yes," Mohinder begins, the fiction coming together from the fact, "but I never meant to suggest that— " Morality pushes his tone, but Nathan doesn't allow it to continue.

If your time to you

"They wouldn't be the first species to be exterminated for the preservation of another." Implanted; the mind treats the lie as fact. "Your words." Implanted; the mind constructs facts around a newly proposed reality. Mohinder scrubs one hand over his mouth, steps away from the desk, breathes deeply and exhales a rough sigh.

Is worth savin'

"I was talking about the natural order of things." Mohinder wheels around, the lie is too big. He can't reconcile it with his sense of self. "What you're talking about is genocide." Revulsion twists Mohinder's stomach, and Nathan locks eyes with the professor again. Mohinder's head swims.

Then you better start swimmin'

"Self-defense," Nathan states flatly. "And I'm not suggesting it lightly."

Or you'll sink like a stone

"We've just run out of options," Nathan eases back, making the lie seem reasonable. "You haven't slept in five years, Mohinder." The lie builds itself, coils around the back of Mohinder's mind. He hasn't felt this tired in his entire life. It's true, it has to be. "We need to put an end to this."

For the times they are a-changin'.

Thin and fragile in the way porcelain dolls are, Kyla Renautas’ eyes are reddened and puffy, her jaw trembling. She’s been quietly crying for hours, possibly days, since her trial and sentencing hearing. She can’t keep still, can’t do anything other and exhale shuddering breaths and try not to make eye contact with the people that will be her only company, possibly for the rest of her adult life.

Come writers and critics

"Family's what you make of it," is something a little wiser than David expected Kyla to say. It gives him pause, directs his pale-eyed stare to meet hers. Sighing, David shakes his head and leads her into the motel room. Here, duffel bags full of ammunition are piled up atop an old, ratty motel bed. Grenades sit out on the nightstand, and two rifles with hunting scopes are resting against the wall by the door.

Who prophesize with your pen

"Well, I didn't raise him. I spent practically his entire life in a fucking cell." David is quick to remind Kyla of that, and she looks away and wraps her arms around herself, lingering in the doorway between the motel room and the parking lot. "Look, this…" David turns, looking back at Kyla. "I appreciate this. You, them, helping me. But I just want to find out what happened to Michelle. I want answers, I don't want to try and play step-dad to an adult man who never even knew me."

And keep your eyes wide

Kyla shakes her head, raking a slender hand through her pale hair. As she steps into the room, she briefly surveys all of the munitions they stole from the Florida Republic Militia, and then looks back to David. "We wouldn't be here if it wasn't for him. Every resource we have, he built. I know it's complicated, but a version of your son built everything we have left, and a version of your son tore all of that down and reduced it to ashes."

The chance won't come again

David cracks a smile, picking up a live grenade. "I suppose Cardinals don't do anything in half-measure. Do we?" He sets the grenade back down, looking over at Kyla as she meanders closer. "He's smart," David concedes, "he's got a head to figure out all of this bullshit, and maybe at the end of the day we want the same thing. But really, what's it matter in the end?"

And don't speak too soon

"It matters because he's all you have left.”

For the wheel's still in spin

Across from Kyla Renautas, Donna Dunlap sits with her hands folded together and head down, shoulders straight and feet squared. She acts as though it isn't her first time in chains, she acts as though she doesn't feel their weight around her wrists, that she doesn't feel the burden of the past in them. Donna looks down the length of the helicopter’s cabin, squaring a look out one of the windows to the blue sky and ocean. To the illusion of freedom.

And there's no tellin' who

Deep, panting breaths accompany fast movement. The distant sound of gunfire echoes through the white-painted halls, and three agents move swiftly down the corridor, their dark suits silhouette against the wall of windows viewing the cascading waterfall running over the Ross dam. Turning back down the hall, the man in the lead is iconic in appearance: An ink black suit, white shirt and blue tie, chalk white hair and pitch black brows. Director Balfour casts a furtive look back to the two Company agents following him, one young man fresh out of training, blood dried on the side of his face that isn't his own, and a woman just a couple years his senior, black hair showing a streak of blonde in her bangs.

That it's namin'.

"Agent Dunlap," Balfour notes as he moves to look out the windows viewing the dam, spying the black helicopter that landed in the parking lot. "I'll need you and Kirkland to go ahead towards the rendezvous point…" Balfour's eyes narrow as he watches men in black fatigues with goggles and helmets fanning out from the helicopter, guns raised. "I have an agent waiting— "

For the loser now

The sound of a close gunshot has Balfour nearly leaping out of his skin, turning around and leveling his gun towards an open space where agent Kirkland was once standing. Disbelief crosses Balfour's face as he sees the young man dead on his back, blood pooling out beneath himself and one eye bloodshot from the blast at point-blank range to his temple.

Will be later to win

Lifting his gun towards Agent Dunlap a moment too late, Balfour hears three sharp gunshots fire in rapid succession, sending him staggering back against the tall windows, blood running down the panes at his back. His gun, heavy now, falls from his fingers before knees buckle and Balfour slides down the window, looking up to the black-haired young woman training him in her sights. "Donna," Balfour hisses in disbelief, but Donna's brows only furrow, eyes narrow.

For the times they are a-changin'.

"You were going to let that Mendez painting come true," she hisses at him, stepping through the blood on the floor, one finger brushing over the handgun's trigger. "Lemay offered me a better chance than you could of circumventing it. I'm sorry, Sir."

Come senators, congressmen

Bruce Maddox is a broken shell of a man. Much like Mohinder Suresh, he does not look at though he's slept in weeks. His graying hair is disheveled, his face scruffy with stubble, eyes bloodshot with fatigue and emotion. He can't stay still, either. Maddox’s right leg bounces up and down on the ball of his foot, and though his chains should be rattling the noise of the helicopter is drowning them out. It does nothing, though, to drown out the sounds in his head.

Please heed the call

A steady vibration begins to build through the machine Aric is mounted into the heart of, and as electricity starts to flow from the turbines, it becomes clear that they're only starting the system. Inside of the observation room, Cardinal turns to a tall and thin man dressed in a winter jacket, his hair combed back nearly and a look of unsettled disconcertion on his face.

Don't stand in the doorway

«Mister Maddox here is going to turn on your ability I gave you in a moment,» Cardinal explains, motioning to the man at his side. «He has the ability to control your power for you, so… I'm going to ask that you just bear with us. We need the amount of electricity you can output in order to power the laser array on this device. But I assure you, Aric, what you're going to do here will save the world… even if you can't understand how just yet.»

Don't block up the hall

Cardinal pauses for a moment, tongue sliding across his lips before he adds, «Or why, either.»

For he that gets hurt

Richard Schwenkman is the only person in the helicopter who seems at peace with his current situation. Though there is worry painted across his face, though he's gone nearly as gray as Maddox, there's a certain stillness and calm to the scientist. He looks to the right, over to Maddox, and reaches out as much as he can to offer Maddox a hand. The two can't reach one-another, however, and the gesture is lost.

Will be he who has stalled

Rich blows out a heavy sigh, folding his hands in front of himself and shaking his head. "Jesus, there's hardly anyone left now." He looks aside to the cup of noodles, then up to Erica. "I've got to imagine if they didn't kill Gilmore, she's got to be nearly dead by now anyway without the stabilizing injections…" A troubled look hangs over him at the thought.

There's a battle outside

"Horrible way to go," Erica mumbles, staring down into her tea. "Pete wants me to keep this from Doctor Allen as long as we can. We're nearly done with the final stage research, I imagine… he'll probably just have her killed once all is said and done."

And it is ragin'.

Rich lifts up a hand and scrubs it over his mouth. "Do we have any assurance that's not going to happen to us all? The Director… has he talked about an exit plan? We can't stay here in the states. One of these days Wolfhound is going to figure out where we are, and our backs are up against a fucking wall here." Erica shakes her head in response, picking up her teabag by the paper tag marked with a rose, dunking it up and down slowly.

It'll soon shake your windows

"No assurances," is a quick answer from Erica, and one that belies how much she's thought about that very question. "I've asked Pete what our plan is, but he's…"

And rattle your walls

"Yeah." Rich says to fill in the ellipses.

For the times they are a-changin'.

Like Donna Dunlap, this isn't Odessa Price’s first time in chains, or her second, or her third. Her life has been measured in links of custody as adamant as any chain link. The Company, the Vanguard, the Institute, Humanis First… she's been a prisoner for more of her life than she's been anything else. What would one additional set of chains be other than more of the same? Yet, she is nonetheless haunted by the shadows of her past as the others are.

Come mothers and fathers

As Des exerts herself against the inertia of time itself, a shower of green sparks erupt from her arms. They peel away from her body like flakes of dried skin or a residue peeling away from leather. They crackle-snap with neon lime tinged with yellow, funneling toward Rasheed where they orbit slowly before spiraling into the accretion disk of the night-black El Umbral. Des feels a pounding behind her eyes.

Throughout the land

Des’ arms ache, fingertips tingle, and she can feel something going dreadfully wrong the moment she began to try and affect the world around the open portal. Everything she gained — stole — from Darren Stevens is being siphoned into the outer ring of El Umbral, tinging the portal’s edges a bright green that fades to electric blue. The surge of power sends a shock through Mateo, and he can feel his ability and Des’ linked like a thread and spindle.

And don't criticize

Des screams, involuntarily. There is a violent ache in her arms and chest, and it feels as though she's being turned inside-out as the portal begins ripping her ability apart like a spinning wheel disassembling a bolt of cloth. Green light leaps like flames out of her eyes and mouth, explodes like so much pyrotechnics and Rasheed can feel that weight he holds becoming heavier. Mateo can feel something else, he can feel the distance between two points, the distance between he and Lynette steadying. No longer is she falling away, but has stabilized. Still far, but not impossibly so. But the price — the price — comes so fast. The last bit of green light and fire explodes out of Des’ eyes and mouth and is sucked into the event horizon of El Umbral, and she realizes the horrific truth…

What you can't understand

…Des has been stripped of her ability.

Your sons and your daughters

At the head of the helicopter, seated in the copilot seat, watching the forested terrain of Long Island disappear below them, Sebastian Waite also considers the past and the trajectory into the future that it sets. A new badge hangs on a lanyard around his neck, red and blue on white with the silhouette of an island and a lighthouse, PISEC in block font next to his name. It's hard to say if it's a promotion, but the change of scenery…

Are beyond your command

Waite swipes his badge, and the door unlocks. Hastily, he yanks it open, barely able to keep his juggling act going as he moves into the hall. Barred doors down the hall are already open, the way to the interrogation areas are open. "I'm down the hall," Waite says, ending the call. He can see the black-suited security officer stepping out from an open interrogation room, sidearm still holstered at his hip. He swiftly moves to clear the distance between himself and Waite.

Your old road is

"Sir," he begins, noticing Waite's about to push past him, "you might not want to— " But Waite does, both want to and intend to. He places a hand on the security officer's arm as he briskly moves past, slipping further down the the hall. Halfway to the interrogation room, he can hear wailing screams echoing from inside. They're incoherent, animalistic cries of agony and horror, and when Waite emerges through the doorway he finds Lauren Gilmore thrashing on the floor of the interrogation room in her gray shirt and pants, blood smeared across the fabric, the floor, streaked through her hair. The emergency medical team is already on site, trying to assess whatever it is they're looking at. Waite stands wide-eyed in the doorway, grip on his coffee tightening.

Rapidly agin'.

"Jesus Christ," he says to the room, looking away from Lauren to the security officer once again approaching. "What the hell," Waite asks without looking, then reiterates as he looks over and makes eye contact with the taller man. "What the hell is happening to her?" The officer has only a helpless shrug.

Please get out of the new one

"Gilmore said she wasn't feeling well when we moved her from her cell. She'd been complaining about nausea. Doctor Gilroy administered some antacids last night, that seemed to fix it. This morning she didn't eat, wasn't talking. When we moved her to interrogation she looked groggy, we thought it might have been from lack of sleep." The security officer glances to the door, but not in. "Phillips hadn't even gotten past the preamble of the interrogation before she started seizing."

If you can't lend your hand

Having heard enough, Waite steps away from the security officer and into the interrogation room. Lauren is still screaming, arms and legs kicking uncontrollably, eyes wrenched shut. She's covered in a thin sheen of sweat now, skin flushed red. "Somebody — anybody — " Waite starts, "what the hell is happening to her?"

For the times they are a-changin'.

«PISEC in sight, coming in for a landing.» The noise of the pilot’s voice over Waite’s headset awakens him from a dark memory, attuned his attention to the tip of Long Island disappearing beneath the nose of the helicopter and the dark green island just off the coast coming into view.

The line it is drawn

The shore is rocky beaches, and from the southern coast a lighthouse rises up above the mostly flat land. An airstrip and landing pad aren't far behind it, and just past that a multi-building complex comes into view, sprawling across acres of the arrowhead-shaped island.

The curse it is cast

As the helicopter descends toward the rooftop landing pad of the facility, Waite is left to watch as the vehicle makes its final approach. Some of the prisoners held in the rear twist to try and get a look out the side windows at the approaching structure they'll call home for potentially the remainder of their lives. But it isn't a prison, for as stark a structure as it appears.

The slow one now

When the helicopter touches down, DHS security on the inside in black tactical gear slide open the bay door on the side of the chopper, stepping out and meeting a trio of black-suited SESA agents waiting atop the roof along with facility security in Raytech-issue body armor and non-lethal weaponry. The handoff comes with the prisoners being escorted out into the bright sunlight one at a time.

Will later be fast

As each prisoner steps out into the light, they squint up at the mid-day sun, each prisoner chained to the next. The SESA agents retrieve custody of the prisoners as Director Waite emerges from the helicopter, and the procession swiftly moves toward the rooftop elevator.

As the present now

Inside, prisoners are separated from their restraints and under close watchful eye of the facility security. They are processed through holding like a prison; searched, given a round of injections, and afforded new uniforms to match their surroundings, though the zippered jackets and loose pants feel more like gym clothes than prison attire.

Will later be past

The prisoners are reunited and escorted through two more layers of security, magnetic lock gates and x-ray scanners, then finally brought through a windowed hallway in view of a large cafeteria, past a sprawling gym, several different laboratory environments, and then finally split off one-by-one…

The order is

Until Odessa Price is alone, brought to a cream-colored room with a single bed, a small writing desk and a flexible lamp, a narrow window to view the outside through reinforced glass, and a copy of Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass seated atop her bed.

Rapidly fadin'.

The guard says something about orientation, but she doesn't hear it. She doesn't even realize he was talking until the metal door shuts behind her; this one has a window so she can see the hall.

And the first one now

This one has a tile floor, not shag carpet.

Will later be last

This one is new.

For the times they are a-changin'.

Five Hours Later

Plum Island SLC-Expressive Center (PISEC)

Director Waite’s Office

April 8th


The office does not have a whole lot to make it personal. It’s very neat, and while it doesn’t have the stark, intimidating feel of some offices with literally nothing in them — though maybe it’s intimidating to some, considering the location, who knows — nothing really marks it as anyone in particular’s office besides some bureaucrat.

The only thing that gives a hint into the person whose office it actually is, is one photo on the dark desk, clearly something newly purchased because it hasn’t had any time to get scuff marks on it. The picture is of a man and a child who might be about seven or eight. The man has his arm around the child, and they do have a similar look about them, as though they’re probably father and son. Juxtaposed with the person who is actually sitting at the desk — clearly the man in the picture, but at least 15 or so years before — it’s perhaps a little bit sad, that he might only have that one old as hell picture of him and his son.

Oh well.

He himself is sitting behind it, looking not entirely comfortable, but not particularly uncomfortable, either, the sort of look of someone who hasn’t been in the space for very long, but is soldiering on because that’s what they do. He isn’t a particularly imposing figure, rather short with completely gray hair and plenty of lines on his face even though he’s probably not older than his middle forties, but he’s holding his own, for now.

Odessa feels as though she’s only just stopped shaking and feeling faint from the ride over here. It’d been an ordeal to get her inside the chopper, but someone - she doesn’t even remember who now - said something about her behavior being unbecoming or embarrassing, and she managed to pull it together long enough to handle the ride.

She’d hated those damn things during the war and she hated them now. At least this would be home for the time being - perhaps the rest of her life - so another one of those awful rides isn’t necessarily in the cards. There’s some comfort in that.

Sitting across the desk from Waite, Odessa stares down at her hands in her lap. Nudging at the cuticle of one thumb with the nail of the other, she’s been quiet since her arrival, but polite. Blue eyes glance up once to the Director, then back to her lap quickly. So this is how the rest of her life starts.

“Whose idea was it to give me a copy of Through the Looking Glass?” she asks in a soft voice. May as well break the ice.

“Mine.” Waite smiles, and it’s a small thing, but it’s probably meant to put her at ease, or as much as she can be put at ease in the current circumstances. Probably not much, but there is an effort made. Maybe that’s something. “It isn’t meant to mean anything, it was just the one I could find. I’m happy to get you whatever other books you might want.”

He laces his fingers together and rests his hands on the desk then, regarding her steadily but certainly not unkindly. “I know this is going to be a change,” he says after a brief pause. It’s the understatement of the century, but he doesn’t seem to be given to the opposite. “I won’t try and pretend everything is fine, and that this isn’t a confinement. However, my job here isn’t a punitive one. So, let me know what you need to feel as normal as you can, all things considered, and I’ll do what I can within reason to make it happen. I don’t know how much you were told about this facility?” People talk, after all.

“Thank you, sir.” The choice of title is ironic, but perhaps it really is just coincidence. She’s always enjoyed the book anyway, so it is a comfort, however small. Odessa glances up again, squirming in her seat slightly. She smoothes over her cuticle again, exhaling a deep breath. Finally, she looks up and keeps her gaze steady on Waite.

Tongue darts between lips gone dry to re-wet them. “I don’t know what normal is, sir,” she admits. If he’s read anything about her, he might understand exactly how true that statement is. “But if I think of anything…” She’s not trying to be combative, after all.

As to what she was told about PISEC, she shakes her head. “I’m sure someone tried to explain it to me, but all I remember hearing is life sentence. I know this is where I go instead of hanging. So, I guess I’m glad to be here.” That’s not said with any irony, sarcasm, or bitterness. Odessa is much happier to be alive, even if much happier does not actually push the needle to happy.

Waite’s smile twitches a little wider at her first words, but other than that, his expression doesn’t change. It’s enough to notice, though. He doesn’t say anything else for a moment, giving her time to reply, and when she does his smile softens a little bit in something that looks a little bit like sympathy. He doesn’t question her answer, though, just nods. “Well, let me know, in any case,” he says. “And you’re free to have visitors.”

He leans back in his chair, regarding her for a few seconds, before he speaks again. “This is a research facility, more than anything else. Eventually, once you’ve settled in, you’ll be given things to do here like everyone else who’s staying here. SESA sometimes gives us directives, or DHS, depending on what they might need at any given time. Hopefully they’ll be interesting to you. We have several projects going on at any given time. I’m not really involved in the content of many of them — it’s all over my head.” Another smile touches his face at this, not really self-deprecating, but just recognizing his limitations. He has other skills. “I’m more of a facilitator. Making sure people have what they need to work, passing the information gleaned on to the parties involved, things like that.”

Odessa nods along, indicating that she understands the purpose of the facility, and why she’s here. She’s still feeling numb about the whole situation, and it shows in the hollow sort of look in her eyes. But she’s listening and internalizing.

“It’s, ah…” Momentarily, Odessa seems embarrassed and almost cuts short her words. Ultimately, she gathers her resolve and gets her request out. “It’s my birthday today. Can I make a phone call?” She’s been alone nearly every birthday save for two that stand out. For very different reasons.

That it is her birthday seems to come as a bit of a surprise — not that he couldn’t have looked in the file and figured it out, but hey, it’s his first day. He hasn’t looked at every single file that closely yet. The smile shifts a little bit then, but he doesn’t comment on the fact that it’s kind of a terrible birthday. Maybe she’s had worse ones, who knows.

Instead, he nods. “Of course,” he says, “that’s fine.” He picks up the phone on his desk then, dialing a number, and when someone picks up at the other end, he says, “Hi. Can we arrange a phone call for Ms. Price?” There’s a brief pause, before he says, “Yes, today. That’s right.” Another pause, before he says, “Thank you. She’ll be over in a moment.”

He hangs up, then looks back to Odessa. “Your escort will take you down.” Her ‘escort’ is, of course, waiting outside the door for her. “Unless you have any other questions, you can go ahead and do that now.”

It’s all the woman can do to stare in stunned silence when her request is not only granted, but immediately. She had expected to be flat out denied, maybe with a gentle word or two - Waite seems the type - but not this.

Odessa bursts into tears, burying her face in her hands in embarrassment at her sudden outburst of emotion. “I’m sorry,” she whimpers. “I just— You’re being so nice to me and I—” And she is absolutely not used to that and certainly didn’t expect it in this place of all places. What she had expected of this meeting was to be told to keep her head down and listen to her betters. Nothing like this.

It takes a few moments for Odessa to start getting her crying under control. She reaches for a pocket where she would normally have a handkerchief, but comes up empty, of course. So she starts wiping at her face with her fingers, sniffling loudly just once. “Is— Is there a garden here? I like to garden.”

Waite doesn’t say anything about the tears — he doesn’t try to get her to stop, or really even look that awkward. Maybe a little awkward, like one does when someone who one does not know well at all is crying rather forcefully in front of one, when one is the only one — haha — in the room. The only thing he does, when he sees that reach into her pocket, is pass her a box of tissues that he’d had sitting on the other side of his desk, mostly out of sight behind the computer.

He doesn’t remark on whether he’s nice or not, either — doesn’t really respond to that part at all, in fact. He does, though, reply, “There’s a garden. It isn’t all that well-tended — sometimes people are growing things that they need for whatever projects they’re doing, but it’s not very consistent. You’re welcome to have a section to yourself. I’ll figure out what parts of it are actually being used. All right?” His tone is gentle, but it doesn’t sound pitying. It’s possible he’s just a soft-spoken person.

The tissues are reached for with a shaky hand. Odessa goes about composing herself again while Waite explains the situation regarding the garden. After blowing her nose a couple times and crumpling up the tissue to push into the pocket of her jacket, she nods. “Thank you, sir.”

Odessa swallows hard and sniffs quietly, just the once. She draws in a steadying breath and looks down at the desk between them, clearly thinking about saying something else. It takes a few seconds before she nods to herself, courage gathered.

“I have just… I know this is a longshot, but I’d…” Blue eyes close for the space of one more deep inhale to steady nerves. When she opens her eyes again, she looks up at Waite instead of down at the desk or her hands. “I’d like to see James Woods. If I can. Or at least speak to him.” The look in her eyes is helpless, pleading. “I’ll be a model prisoner. I’ll do absolutely anything anyone asks of me. I just… I just want to see him.”

“You’re welcome.” Again, though, Waite quiets, letting her speak. Waiting, if you will. Since she isn’t going, he assumes she has something else to ask. And yes, she does…and his smile tips a little bit wryly.

“I’m not going to say yes,” he says after a moment’s pause, “but I’m not going to say no. Let me see what I can do, all right? It isn’t just up to me.” As she probably knows. “Give me a few days.”

He glances briefly to something on the computer screen, frowning a little bit, though the expression is more thoughtful than concerned about whatever it is, before he turns back to her. “Is there anything else I can do to help you settle in?” As though she chose to be here. But it’s probably better than a lot of alternatives, yes.

The woman’s head bobs up and down in acknowledgement. “I— Yes. I understand. Thank you, sir.” She presses her lips together, trying to keep herself from crying anew. A sharp intake of breath is as close as she comes.

Odessa pauses a moment to give the question thought before she finally shakes her head. “No, you’ve… This is a good start, I think. If I think of anything else, I’ll…” Saying she’ll let him know almost feels too presumptuous to her. Like it’s expecting some kind of relationship she doesn’t deserve. “I’ll put in a request,” she decides. “Thank you for your time, sir.”

“Good.” Once she says she doesn’t have anything else, Waite doesn’t try and keep her there any longer. “Thank you,” he replies, and he nods once. “Go ahead and make your call, and I’ll get back to you about the garden, and the other request.” He smiles then, and while it’s a small smile, at least it does seem genuine. “Welcome to PISEC, as much as we can really welcome anyone. I hope you’re able to do some things here that you feel are worthwhile for you.”

Odessa manages to return the offered smile with a small one of her own as she stands from her seat. Worthwhile. That would be nice. She only hopes this situation isn’t too good to be true. That it won’t turn out just like every other time she’s been told she’s going to serve the greater good.

Her smile renews even as her heart sinks into the pit of her stomach, weighed down by doubt. “Thank you. I’ll try to live up to the expectations.” Apparently dismissed, she then turns to let herself out of the office.

Odessa is taken to make her phone call, and however long it takes, afterwards she’s taken back to her room. About an hour or so later, though, there’s a knock at the door, and when she opens it, her ‘escort’ is standing there, holding a cupcake with chocolate frosting and a single candle.

Happy birthday.

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