Also Featuring:

angela_icon.gif arthur_icon.gif bob_icon.gif charles_icon.gif fletcher_icon.gif peter1_icon.gif kaito_icon.gif linderman_icon.gif mendez_icon.gif nathan_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif rene_icon.gif pratt_icon.gif

Scene Title Chop
Synopsis Nicole suffers a cognitive breakdown during the solar flare.
Date June 29, 2021

Shortness of breath.

Muscle tension.

Tunnel vision.

Increased heart-rate.

Nicole knows what an anxiety attack feels like. She can barely see the other end of the hallway by the time she realizes it's come on, but there was no environmental trigger. She knows full-well what sets off her anxiety, knows how to mitigate it, but this came on like a freight train in the middle of taking four steps away from—

Light-headedness is new for Nicole. She collapses onto the floor like a sack of stones, her head strikes the

Sixteen Years Earlier

The Deveaux Building

December 31st

For Nicole Nichols, this party is as overwhelming as it is exhilarating.

Being here on Daniel Linderman’s request so that she could be introduced to his inner circle leaves Nicole feeling like a cat brought in from the rain. There’s a whole penthouse full of people she’s never met before, faces she doesn’t recognize, and she was shed like an outdoor coat by Linderman so that he could have a private conversation with socialite Angela Petrelli upstairs.

Angela’s husband Arthur, the powerful and influential criminal defense attorney for the Linderman Group, is the center of the world around which all of the other constellations of conversations orbit with his sons Nathan and Peter. The entire penthouse is filled with both the famous and the remarkable. It’s a veritable who’s-who of the most powerful people in New York City, both known and unknown.

There’s a conversation happening just outside the dining room between art mogul Carlos Mendez, building owner and philanthropist Charles Deveaux, and a red-haired woman in a scarlet dress that Nicole thinks might be named Victoria.

In the study she’s caught sight of a fireside chat happening between the Chief Medical Officer of New York-Presbyterian Hospital Doctor Harold Fletcher and a man she’s fairly certain is the CEO of a paper company that the Linderman Group has dealings with, a man named Robert Bishop.

Out on the balcony the Penthouse’s residents—CEO of Yamagato Industries, Kaito Nakamura is enjoying a view of the city alongside an unfamiliar and very tall man in a dark suit.

And then there’s Nicole, standing by the stairs. Alone.

At least this time, she actually wore black. Between the morning at the salon, the Sixties inspired dress, the new, nice nylons, and the topaz earrings that really bring out the blue shade of her eyes, she's spent a good chunk of her joint birthday/Christmas money.

All so she can stand around a party at which she clearly doesn't belong.

There was never any concern on her part about whether her presence here would be seen as merely eye candy by any of the wealthy and influential in attendance, but without others of her own standing (she may as well be seated on the floor for all her lack of it), she isn't sure what the optics on her inclusion in this event are now.

The rumors about her at the office, however, those she's far more clear on. The pretty young intern who skyrocketed to this much favor after practically just waking in the door… In their shoes, she'd probably make some of the same assumptions.

Nicole shifts uncomfortably just thinking about Monday morning. Distracting herself from the mess she can't run damage control on, she takes another look around. Maybe she can catch the younger Petrelli brother in conversation? At least they're only — and almost exactly — two years apart in age.

Yes. Perfect. Complaining about birthdays at Christmas will be a great ice breaker. And if she manages to snatch a glass of champagne between here and him, so much the better.

“Nicole?” He remembers her. Peter gently taps his father on the shoulder and excuses himself from the conversation he was having with him and Nathan and weaves between a passer-by to sidle up to the blue-eyed guest.

“I thought that was you,” Peter says with a lopsided smile. “I didn’t expect to see you here. Did you come with Mr. Linderman?” So formal. But then, Peter was young enough to not really be able to sit at the adults table when it came to this crowd.

“Peter!” she greets warmly, a tilt of her head to one side to sell the friendliness of it. Trying to put him at ease. No, she isn’t New York’s elite, but that should make her the least intimidating person in the room, right? “I did,” she confirms of the coattails she’s riding on for the evening.

Leaning in just slightly, her eyes narrow faintly at Peter to give an air of conspiracy. “Would you join me for a drink? I believe we have a couple of belated birthdays to toast.” Nicole’s little smile mirrors Peter’s slightly.

“Oh, sure. Anything to get away from Nathan’s grandstanding.” Peter says with a slow raise of his hands in the air. “We’re having a perfectly normal night and he goes and just thinks he can tell dad that he’s going to head up an investi—” Peter suddenly feels like he’s shoved his whole foot in his mouth. “It’s business, and we’re here to party,” he decides instead.

When a server comes by with a tray of champagne flutes, Peter is quick to take two and offer one to Nicole. “Five minutes to midnight,” he says with brows raised. “Two thousand and six, can you believe it? Feels like time is just… flying by.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Nicole dismisses Peter’s concern about mixing business with pleasure. “I get it. Venting is good for the soul.” Her nose wrinkles a little with the good humor. “I know I feel like it’s a party now.” Even if she’s sure she’s still here on business.

The flute is accepted with a broad smile. Nicole’s head tips lightly to one side, nodding her agreement to Peter’s assessment of time. “Here in an instant, gone in a flash,” she chimes with a light in her eyes. Her free arm slings across her midsection, fingers curling along the curve of her ribs, casual and shifting her weight to one side. “You know? I’m glad I’m ringing in the new year in such good company.” The evening is certainly looking up now.

She raises her glass and brings it forward for a toast. “Happy birthday, Peter.” It’s not midnight yet, after all. They have the other matter to drink to first.

Peter cracks a smile, snorting a subtle laugh. “I didn’t think you’d r—”

“That's enough, Daniel!” Angela Petrelli’s voice rings from the suite upstairs just before the grandfather clock begins chiming midnight. Peter’s attention swivels to the stairs, then his father. He sees Arthur looking in the same direction.

As the partygoers all begin cheering and singing Auld Lang Syne some pop noise makers and others toast to the occasion. Peter, grimacing, rolls his eyes and shakes his head. But Arthur seems less dismissive of the argument, he turns to look out onto the balcony and makes a beckoning motion with two fingers. As if he saw or felt the gesture somehow, the tall, dark-skinned man in the sleek suit turns away from Kaito and excuses himself while Arthur heads to the stairs.

“Wouldn’t be a party if my mom didn’t start a fight,” Peter says behind a pained smile. Whatever argument is going on upstairs is drowned out by the celebration of the new year.

Nicole is already subtly leaning forward with a smile that wrinkles her nose, showing her teasing nature, when the shouting starts. Her face shows her surprise, blue eyes wide and turning toward the staircase. Though her feet stay planted, she pivots at the hips and nearly starts in that direction. Peter turning to look the opposite way keeps from heading away to where she thinks she might be of most use to her employer.

Centering herself again, she smiles sympathetically when Peter speaks. “My mom was a lot like that, too. You’re in good company.” Her hand lightly touches the bend of his elbow briefly as she shakes her head. “Nobody here is bothered. Don’t worry about it. Let’s have fun, huh?” Nicole takes a sip from her champagne, adding flatly, “It isn’t as though we have anywhere else to go. Not unless we catch a cab and stage a daring escape.”

Peter glances at the balcony, then laughs. “We could always jump.” Then, awkwardly. “Maybe that was a little dark.”

As Arthur heads up the stairs, followed by the dark-skinned bald man in the suit, Nathan sees his opportunity to insinuate himself in his brother’s private conversation.

“Pete,” Nathan says with a gesture of his glass, followed by a broad smile to Nicole. “Ms. Nichols, it’s nice to see you dressed for the occasion,” he says in both a little deprecation and a playful jab at their last meeting. “I hope my brother’s not bothering you too much.”

The vestiges of that creeping anxiety are shaken off, even if it’s with a flippancy that should seem to make matters worse. Nicole laughs. Not nervous, not patronizing, not the sort of thing a person puts on just because they’re in the presence of someone who could ruin them with the right words in the right ears. “Who hasn’t thought about it?” she offers back to Peter’s supposition that they jump. Then, she confides with a shrug, “Maybe I’m just a little dark, too.”

Seeing the Petrelli scion headed their way brings the assistant to stand up straighter, shifting out of her conspiratorial conversation with the younger of the brothers. The one on approach is arguably more or her speed, but the warm sincerity of Peter leaves Nicole realizing for a fleeting moment just how much she misses having real friends.

Real friends will only stab you in the back. These kind ruthlessly bury the knife in your gut, straight to the hilt, in front of god and everyone, smiling while they do it and it’s expected that you’ll return the expression in kind while you bear the pain.

“Mr. Petrelli.” No feigned lovely to see you again after that opening barb. She can play nice, but she doesn’t have to praise him for his technique just yet. She’s young still, and learning yet how to hold her ground without curling her lip and gritting her teeth with obviousness, so perhaps this will be a defining moment for her if she manages to remain pleasant. “Not at all. Peter is wonderful company!”

The topic of her dress is left alone. That faux pas requires no further dredging. “I think I see what you mean about that balcony view,” Nicole asides to Peter.

“You work for Mr. Linderman, right?” Nathan absolutely does not take the hint as he ever so subtly puts his shoulder between Peter and Nicole, gesturing toward her with his glass of whiskey that is mostly just ice now. “You know, I was wondering if I could pick your brain about something. I’ve just got a couple of little questions, you know how family business is, maybe you could answer?”

“Nathan.” Peter delicately tries to inject himself back in his own conversation. “Can it wait?”

“C’mon, Pete.” Nathan says with a glance over his shoulder at his brother. “It’s just a harmless question. You two can go canoodle on the balcony in a minute, okay?” Peter blanches at the subtle jab, embarrassedly ducking his head down and threading a lock of hair behind one ear.

Nathan turns back to Nicole with an expectant smile.

While Nicole Nichols absolutely just curled up into a ball and crawled into a hole to die, it’s only on the most metaphorical level. She’s still very much in this penthouse, with Nathan Petrelli standing between her and the only person at this party who might actually be who they appear to be on the surface.

Far from blushing clear up to her ears at the thought of sidling up to Petrelli the Younger — and being seen doing so — Nicole instead lifts her brows and makes a show of sizing Nathan up as she declares, “You’re bold, aren’t you?” The tone she takes with him is vastly different from the one she’d taken with Peter just a moment ago. “I’m a glorified, walking date book.” Lips curl into a smile without flirtatious affect and she hopes it’ll suffice to show the difference of her opinion between the brothers, since she can’t flash Peter any look of apology with Nathan there to intercept it.

She’s working.

“The affairs of Mister Linderman and the Linderman Group are mine to assist in the organization of — I’m not sure what I’d even be able to divulge. If you need the dates of the next fundraiser, however,” Nicole murmurs with a tip of her head, “I can help you out.” Nicole can’t help but feel like she’s being led into some sort of trap, but she won’t be caught flatfooted. Hopefully. “How can I be of service, Nathan?”

“I could answer that a few ways,” Nathan says with a laugh and a look to Peter who does not laugh with him, which causes Nathan’s smile to turn to a grimace. Quickly pushing the expression away, Nathan starts to say something until a shrill yelp erupts from the stairway. It’s as brief as it is alarming. Nathan and Peter seem to react much more immediately to it than the other guests.

“Mom?” Peter says with a quick snap of attention to his older brother, who is already turning from Nicole to the stairwell. But by the time Nathan gets a few steps over, he sees his father and Daniel Linderman looming at the top of the stairs.

Nathan’s jaw flexes, and not far behind him Peter’s attention is divided between his father and brother.

Arthur slowly descends the stairs, right into Nathan’s accusation. “How’s ma?”

“She’s fine,” Arthur says with a wave of his hand, dismissing the notion. Linderman takes this opportunity to step away from Arthur, finding Nicole among the crowd. “She had a bit too much to drink and fell off the sofa. Only thing bruised is her pride.”

Nathan relaxes, as does Peter. Linderman gently puts a hand on Peter’s shoulder and slips past him on his way over to insinuate himself between Peter and Nicole.

“I do think the night is wearing on me,” Linderman says to Nicole with a glance back at Arthur. “Ms. Petrelli’s been hitting the bottle again. I think it’s a fair time for us to make our exit.”

Beneath the placid expression and the polite smile where Nicole is pretending not to get the joke made at her expense, she’s entertaining a fantasy wherein she either throws her champagne in Nathan’s face, calls him a grotesque pig in front of god (whom she can’t be sure is not, in fact, in attendance) and everybody at this party, slaps him, or smashes her champagne flute and stabs him in the arm with the broken stem just to make an example of him.

That one’s a bit dark, she has to admit. Instead, she’ll spin a better and entirely fictional story about two brothers vying for her affections and tell it to her sister when she gets back to their apartment.

She’s mid-way through surreptitiously mouthing a thank-you to Peter when their attention is drawn to the stairwell. The brothers’ pull is the concern for their mother, while the tug of Nicole’s magnetic north is concern for her employer. Her face is a stoic mask as he descends the stairs, hiding the worry in her chest. That he seems no worse for wear is a relief, and one she doesn’t have to wear on her face either.

Why does it seem that everyone in this penthouse is trying to stand between her and Peter Petrelli, however?

“Well,” Nicole says with a chipper tone and a smile, “we’ve made it to midnight, so I’d say we’ve accomplished the key goal attached to the holiday at the very least.” Like she can cross it off the agenda for the day. “I’ll collect my purse and have the car pull around up front,” she assures, gesturing for him to precede her toward the foyer so he can collect his coat…

Because she left her clutch on the side table. Nicole smiles sheepishly to Peter, murmuring a soft, “Hey. Guess work calls.” She gives her phone a little demonstrative shake as she starts to dial the number for the driver on retainer for tonight. Dialing, rather than using the speed dial, at a deliberate pace. “You could too sometime. If you wanted.” She gives a little half shrug of her shoulder, dipping her head as the call connects.

Her shyness is shed in an instant. “Manny! Ah, I hoped it would be you. I owe you a bottle of something for taking shift tonight.” More accurately, the mask of Nicole’s professional persona is donned once more. She cups her hand over the receiver to muffle the sound, offering one last smile to her conversation partner for the evening, secret and entirely his. “Happy New Year, Peter.” She makes her way for the entry, heels sounding smartly when they connect with the hard floor and fewer partygoers to muffle the noise.

“Mister Linderman needs the car out front.”

Present Day

There’s a hum behind Nicole’s head, matching the buzzing in her ears. It’s the idling of the refrigerator vibrating in her skull. She recognizes that she’s on the floor, back against the refrigerator, staring up at the kitchen island with bleary eyes. Her head is swimming, heart in her throat, pulse throbbing like the bass-beat at Rapture on a Friday night.


A carrot rolls off the kitchen island, rolls across the tile floor, and hits her on the ankle.


This time, just the sound. The all-too-loud crack of a chef’s knife through a fresh carrot. That’s when she sees him. In her home. White-haired, apron-clad. Alive.



“Get up.”

For a moment, her head feels like it is buzzing like it should be, with the thrum of electricity inside of her, fueling her to life. Except she still feels cold, except for where the appliance kicks out hot air against the skin of her lower back where her shirt has ridden up. The world comes into focus. Sort of. Did she have too much to drink at the party? No, that was just a dream, wasn’t it? The most pleasant dream she’s had since last November, admittedly, but still a dream. No, she always feels like shit. She has since… Well, the last three-hundred-fifty-nine days. But who’s counting?

The slice of carrot catches her periphery, rolling into view from where it drops out of the place her blind spot has decided to settle for the time being. She leans forward at first with the intent to pick it up when her brain finally shifts into gear and she realizes veg doesn’t just independently jump from countertops. She looks up and expects to find her husband.

The first words out of Nicole’s mouth are nearly am I dead? That, however, is an asinine question to ask of a dead man. Or a live one. This is not River Styx — in either sense, if there’s any mercy left in the world — and he is not Charon.

There are no words for this moment at first, as many times as she told herself she knew just what she’d say if she had another chance to see him. So, she climbs to her feet, straightens herself out, and makes her slow approach.

“You’re a little late for your 10:30,” she informs him. It’s as good a start as any. At least, it’s not as bad as any.

“If I was here for a smart mouth I wouldn’t be talking to you,” Linderman says as blood rushes in Nicole’s ears, joining the rhythmic beat of her pulse. “I’ve chopped the ends off these carrots and peeled them, now I need you to shred them.” He motions to an aluminum shredder next to the cutting board the carrots are on. “We’re making gâteau aux carottes—carrot cake—so they need to be fine. The flavor of carrots with as little of the bite as possible.”

Linderman busies himself with scooping out two-thirds of a cup of flour into a small bowl while he talks. “Cooking is one of the essential skills of life, Ms. Nichols. But baking is an essential skill for personal happiness. You bake yourself a dessert, there’s a sense of accomplishment and self-satisfaction that comes with it.” He reaches for a pair of eggs, cracking them into a separate bowl. “Do keep up.”

Nicole stares at what’s out in front of her and feels a sense of ill and dread. “Daniel, I don’t remember—” Her voice catches in her throat and she shakes her head. She can take instruction. What she doesn’t remember, he can teach, just like he did before, so she picks up the tool and a carrot.

The back of her wrist is pressed against her forehead as her eyes squinch shut against the pounding in her ears and behind her eyes. The absurdity and impossibility of all this is not lost on her, but she’s too stunned to rail against whatever this is, whether it’s another dream, some other hallucination or if this is what she sees as she passes into death.

And Daniel Linderman’s presence has always been a commanding one, no matter their closeness. Maybe magnified by it.

She does a test swipe to check the resistance, a second to check consistency. After a few repetitions, she glances up. “Is this what you’re looking for?” No sense carrying on with what she thinks consists of fine grating — which she thinks she’s achieved — if it’s going to be all wrong. She remembers a gentler tone telling her it won’t do to waste ingredients.

Linderman only glances at her work before replying, “Yes.” He has faith in her to perform the task as requested, but he also knows that she needs the reassurance of his approval to not overthink it. She nods, and continues.

“This should take roughly thirty minutes to prep,” Linderman goes on to say, looking across the island to Nicole. This isn’t the kitchen at the Corinthian and—why—does it feel like she’s been there before? There’s a strange sense of deja vu in this moment. Echoes of another memory of

"If you could get me a knife, dear," Daniel says, an aside as he sets a rolling pin down and dusts off his hands with still more flour. While he might have thoroughly washed them before handling the dough, it gets warm quickly, and so does he. "What I'd like for you, John, Kain and Kelly to do is keep an eye on d'Sarthe's operation. Preferably without drawing attention to yourselves. I need to know what his intentions are for the immediate future."

“We need to discuss a larger issue at hand in the interim,” Linderman says quietly. “And I do hate to drop this information on you like this, but—”

But this isn’t Chambéry Restaurant at the Corinthian, this is her kitchen. And Daniel Linderman is over a decade—

Linderman reaches for a dishrag, wiping his hands between thoughts. “I’m dying.”


The movements are more… mechanical than memory. Methodical, but stilted in a way. Nicole both knows and does not know what she’s doing as she continues the prep work for this dessert dish. Her hands keep moving while her mind starts reeling. A memory forgotten, now resurfacing? His voice almost doesn’t manage to cut through the tinnitus whine in her ears, but the subject matter is much too grave not to.

Ha. Grave.

Nicole looks up, her mouth hooked up ever so slightly at one corner in an unbidden smirk at the choice of words and thought her own mind slants to her. It’s gone by the time she meets the eyes across the island from her. “Considering your Lazarus act…” Askance at first, she softens after a moment. “Where have you been?”

And she wants to turn that question into a shout. Where the fuck has he been?! How could he leave her all those years to mourn? But that’s ridiculous, isn’t it? All of it. And isn’t her life better for having not had him in it?


“Alright,” she relents with a soft sigh of resignation, shaking her head. He’s off the hook for that last question — not that she expected any kind of honest response to it anyway. Stepping back into an old role is like stepping into a broken-in pair of shoes. “What do you need?”

“If you’re trying to make light of my legal woes,” Linderman says with a rise of his brows, “I find no humor in it. Times are changing, Ms. Nichols, and the newly-appointed district attorney of New York City is not the friend the previous was. The ties that bind are perilously loose.”

Linderman stops what he was doing and turns to look at Nicole with a hint of exasperation in his expression. “I mean this in the most literal way, I’m dying.” He then turns his attention back to a bag of flour, peeling at the top of the papery bag until it opens along a seam. “It might strike you as ironic, but there is nothing I can do for my condition. It’s a neuroblastoma. It won’t be quick, and it will rob me of my self before it robs me of my life.” It’s only then Nicole notices a subtle tremor in Linderman’s once-steady hands.

Nevertheless he opens the bag of flour, pouring out a few cups—measured by eye—into a sifter. “Before that time comes, I need you to take on an additional responsibility within the Linderman Group. One I cannot entrust anyone else with.”

The breath in Nicole’s lungs is held in her chest like when she was in college (or spending time with certain friends atop the roof of the Corinthian) and trying to make the most of the smoke she’s been inhaling. She waits until it burns before releasing it in a slow, invisible stream.

She knows all of this. Why doesn’t he?

What year is it? she wants to ask him. Calling her Ms Nichols isn’t enough to convince her that there’s any discrepancy. She expects she’ll always be Ms. Nichols, Nicole to him.

No. Not always will be. Always was.

Instead of asking all those questions, Nicole nods her head, solemn. It’s easy to make the promises, because she knows what she’s already done.

“Whatever you need, Daniel. I’ll be by your side. Through all of it.” Her throat and her chest feel tight then, even if she keeps the worst of that emotional response off her face. Until her fingers were finally peeled at, she held his hand and faced the encroaching dark.

“It’s a matter of Inheritance.” Linderman says as he shakes the sifter over the bowl, evenly distributing flour. “The Linderman Group will not survive my passing. The vultures are already circling, even within my inner circle, and they will not wait until my carcass is cold to pick the meat from the bones.”

Setting the sifter aside, Linderman looks across the counter space to Nicole. “You’re the only one I can trust with this, because of your unique skills and previous experience within the Group. But also because of who you are as a person… and that I know you, above all others, appreciate the importance of family.

"Inheritance," Nicole repeats under her breath. Puzzling over that — Daniel had (has?) no next of kin — doesn't distract her from the rest of what he has to say, but nor does it elucidate it. "Well, that's a given," she murmurs softly, acknowledging the cutthroat nature of her colleagues. Of herself now, if not then. She had no desire to take over then, because she was in denial about the man she idolized, conceptualized as legend, and loved, could ever die.

But for all that the rest of this conversation feels like a rehash of words spoken in a different kitchen, at a different stage in both their lives, something niggles at the back of her brain. This conversation happened… earlier, didn't it?

She remembers an offer — an assignment. A gift. Tears. I can't do this.

"Yes," Nicole agrees, rather than voice any of her thoughts or anxieties out loud. She wants to see if she's been down this road before, and if she still remembers the way. "I do." Family can mean many different things. For Nicole Nichols, it only meant Colette.

For Nicole Miller, it means more. So much more it twists in her guts.

“I have a son,” Linderman says as if discussing the weather. “I have kept his life a secret from nearly everyone within my inner circle. Even the boy’s mother does not know who the father is…” It’s that last part that itches in the back of Nicole’s mind. The improbability.

Linderman steps around the kitchen counter, approaching Nicole. “I need to entrust you to take care of his well-being, ensure that he is placed into the proper care, and then — much as you did for me as Ms. Caiati — I then need you to forget.

As Linderman reaches Nicole he gently sets a hand on her arm. “Will you do this for me? Give me peace, before the end comes?”

Nicole’s shoulders sag slowly in tandem with her eyes going wide. You what? doesn’t get further than the back of her throat. There’s almost offense at knowing something so important was kept secret from her. From her.

But pride has no place here in this revelation. Nicole has no illusions about Daniel Linderman’s enemies, and what kind of danger his son would be in. Anyone who knew of his existence would be an additional liability. That includes herself, as much as she’d like to lie to herself and believe otherwise.

Her brow begins to knit as she realizes the layers of deception involved in secreting this boy away, but the notion of the child’s own mother being unaware makes her stomach twist in a way that makes her feel vaguely ill.

As a young woman, she would have blindly believed in the wisdom of his methods. Accepted that it was what had to be. What was best for everyone involved. As a young woman, merely his hand on her arm would chase away all her doubts. It doesn’t anymore, but it does still cause her breath to catch in her throat. As a young woman, Nicole craved his approval, his praise, his affection. Now, she finds as much as she still wants all those things, she has had years to learn to stand on her own and understand that it isn’t what she needs. Now, she sees the manipulation for what it is.

“But once you’re gone… What happens to the boy? Who looks out for him then?” Her peace will be immaterial. She’ll lose her memory of it all and never know the difference.

“How many times have we done this before, Daniel?”

He doesn’t verbally answer that last question. Instead, Linderman merely looks at Nicole for a prolonged time. It’s as much of a confirmation as she needs.

“My son, Isaac, will be raised by a volunteer family. They will not know who he is and believe they are adopting an ordinary, Evolved child.” And it is with that casual ease that Linderman reveals his son is — unsurprisingly — special. “They should never know who he is, nor should my son ever be burdened with the truth.”

Linderman rests one hand on the corner of the counter, looking momentarily weary. “He is the most important thing, Nicole. Beyond all the paintings, all the money, it’s Isaac.” Of this, Daniel seems adamant. “Can you do this? Can I trust you to do one last job for me, before all is done?”

Nicole closes her eyes, forcing back the pain and regret. They’ve done this numerous times before, then. Always, she says yes, and always, she forgets that she has. Each time is like the first. Love makes an idiot out of otherwise intelligent people.

Her eyes come up again, settling on her mentor, brow knotted with concern and sympathy. Yes, she understands better than most the importance of family. Nicole holds that reasoning as the backdrop to her processing of what it really will mean to do this for him.

“Leave him with me,” his protégé insists. “Can anyone execute your wishes better than I can?” In her mind, it’s why he’s asking her, rather than Manny or Muldoon. “I don’t even need to know he’s yours when it’s said and done. You know I’ll move heaven and earth for my family.”

It’s just that sometimes she moves that earth on top of her family. Metaphorically speaking anyway.

Linderman shakes his head slowly. “The boy can do whatever he wants with his life, it isn’t him that I’m worried about. He’s his own person. What I’m worried about is his— ”

“ —blood? Nicole? Nicole!?


Colette kneels over her sister against the sound of a smoke alarm wailing in the distance. Everything smells like charcoal and Nicole’s right hand aches with a blistered burn. “Sis? Sis come on wake up!

Nicole is on the floor of her kitchen, there is smoke billowing out of a glowing hot kettle that has been burning on her stove for god knows how long. Her unburned hand has blood on it. She’s not sure whose it is.

She’s in the kitchen!” Colette yells over her shoulder.

The front door to her house is open. There are sounds of sirens outside, everywhere. It sounds like the riots all over again.

“Letty?” Nicole’s vision is swimming more than usual. It still feels dark around the edges and there’s a big blind spot where her sister should be. If it’s her sister at all. “Where is he?” she asks in a whisper. “He was right here.”

Her brow furrows in confusion, she squints, trying to clear her vision. “What happened? Why are you here?” They’ve been estranged since Zachery dropped her daughter off on Colette’s doorstep.

“We were on the phone and you just stopped talking.” Colette says with a tremor of fear in her voice. She presses a hand to the side of her sister’s face for a moment, light welling up at one of her fingertips as she checks dilation response. Behind Colette, a tall man with a thick beard rushes in with a paramedic’s bag. Nicole hasn’t met Deeraj Modi in person, but she knows of him.


“Do you know where you are?” Colette asks Nicole as Modi takes a knee beside her, shaking her head to Colette as he does. When Colette pulls her hand away from Nicole’s face, there’s blood on it.

“We were?” Nicole’s eyelids flutter, her head is pounding more than usual. “I don’t… remember that.” Her attention shifts to the second figure in her… kitchen? “Is this…” She tries to turn her head to look for a window, to see a view.

“I’m at home, I think?” But when? “Is this Solstice?” she asks her baby sister. “Or… Or Bay Ridge?” If it’s the former, the latter is really going to freak the younger woman out.

But she is a woman. Nicole finally manages to make Colette’s face come into focus, blinking heavily. “Bay Ridge. Right.” There’s more confusion inherent in her tone and her expression when she asks, “Is that all my blood?” The question reminds her that Modi is there.

“Hemorrhaging.” Modi says plainly, calmly. “It looks like it stopped. Hospitals are full with evacuees from the fire.”

“Fort Jay was evacuated,” Colette says, hoping to ground Nicole in the moment. “You were evacuated, came home and called me.” She looks over to Modi, nodding to some unspoken plan, and Modi sets down his first-aid kit and gets out his burn treatment materials for her hand.

Colette says, squeezing Nicole’s uninjured hand. “But we’ve gotta get you taken care of and moved. Word is the fire might hit Manhattan, and if it does it’ll jump the river. Roosevelt’s already evacuating. Gonna take you to the Bastion up in Phoenix Heights. Far away from the fire as we can get. Tasha’s there with the kids,” with Nicole’s daughter. “They’re safe, waiting for you.”

“Well, at least I haven’t been shot,” Nicole jokes weakly. The meager humor fades the moment the kids are mentioned. She wants to protest and tell her that it isn’t safe, but her heart won’t let her. She aches to see Pippa, and knows the same goes for the child.

The injured hand is offered out readily to the medic, a curse hissed out nearly inaudibly. “Go bag’s where it always is,” Nicole tells Colette. “Grab Zachery’s, too. He’s probably at the Pool. Maybe work.”

Nicole has no idea.

She may not remember calling her sister or why she may have decided to reach out now, after months of not speaking, but it’s paid off. “But hey.” Colette’s hand gets squeezed in return belatedly, bidding her to stay put just a moment longer. “Thanks for not hanging up on me this time, huh?”

Colette’s brows furrow, eyes narrowing imperceptibly at that notion. She nods, nonetheless, and starts to leave to go get Nicole’s bag before hesitating, looking back at Nicole. “Zachery isn’t answering his phone. So.”

Modi looks at Colette, then Nicole. “It might be the network. Strain from…” He waves at the air. “Now, stay still. This is going to sting.” He says as he gently takes her burned hand to apply ointment.

Colette watches for a moment longer, then steps away deeper into the house.

Her heart in her stomach.

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