Digging Through The Ashes


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Scene Title Digging Through The Ashes
Synopsis Agents Diaz and Gerken pay a visit to one of the Ashen serving time on Rikers Island in the hopes of learning more about Evran Foster and Roman Santos' histories and present alike.
Date June 14, 2021

Rikers Island Prison

The prison cafeteria is empty at this time of day, even if its kitchen is at work prepping for the eventual lunch rush. There's an occasional distant clatter of metal on metal that doesn't echo much at all, thanks to sound-dampening panels running down the length of the long, well-lit room. Suzanne Osbourn, upon being escorted through double doors leading into the cafeteria, knows it to not entirely be void of persons by the sheer nature of the fact she's being lead here for a visit.

Her long hair sits partly over her shoulder, catching yellow-orange in the morning rays of sunlight. It's frizzy without product to help keep it smooth, a thought she's mindful of as she tosses her head to keep it out of her eyes. For a moment, the blue of them shine with hope as she looks across the cafeteria–

Then lose their light with a sag of her shoulders as she realizes her visitor is visitors plural, and neither one of them the boy she was hoping to see. She doesn't know the visitors have had to wait nearly a week in order to secure this visit.

Suzie shakes her head to steel herself, makes her way to the circular lunch table that Cesar Diaz and Lance Gerken are already waiting for her at, knowing neither of them. Her hands remain cuffed in front of her as she sits, the corrections officer who escorted her lingering at a respectable distance from the conversation. The young woman looks tired, but on the whole more healthy than the years-dated photo of her from the evidence file the agents know her from. "So," she sighs as she sets her hands on the table so they remain visible. It's an annoying routine, but one she doesn't neglect. She looks between both of them who've come to see her, eyes first on Lance and then on Cesar. "What's…" Her hands lift slightly to gesture in a circle. "All this about, then."

“We just have some questions for you, is all,” Lance offers her an easy smile, dressed in a neat suit, everything in place but his manner more casual as he leans back in his chair, motioning to the other chair, “Make yourself comfortable. Hope things haven’t been too hard in here for you…” He glances over to Cesar, an eyebrow lifting as he lets the senior agent take the lead.

He must be the proverbial good cop.

Thus deemed the proverbial "bad" cop by virtue of seniority, Cesar nods to Suzie in short greeting. "Good morning, Miss Osbourn. I'm Agent Diaz, this is Agent Gerken," he starts off with an added nod in Lance's direction, "and we're here on behalf of SESA to ask those questions."

Cesar focuses on the young woman, looking her over and mentally comparing with the photo from before. "It pertains to a few faces that might seem familiar to you. We recognize that you might be worried if this will affect your sentence here at Rikers. It won't." Without further ado, he reaches into an inner pocket to draw out a folded piece of paper. He unfolds it, revealing a photocopy of the four person photo retrieved from their case files. Smoothing the page down, Cesar turns it so the picture faces Suzie. He doesn't say more, but watches her face.

Suzie's nose wrinkles at the assertion that what she says won't affect her sentence. She doubts that, in some ways, and figures it in others. On the whole, she settles back from her seat and sighs as she gets ready to answer whatever questions come her way. Comfortable as she's getting, which leads her to side-eye Lance in a blunt reply of, "Well, I'm still only in here because I acted to defend someone I care about, someone I can't even see in here, so…"

A distinctly teenaged sneer follows that in an air of whatever. She's sure Lance doesn't really care either way.

The production of the photo piques her interest enough that she cranes her head forward just slightly to see it. There's at first only study, then a slow pulling together of brows as recognition dawns. She starts to form a thought aloud but catches herself and tries to shut down her reaction as she looks back up. "I'm not hearing a question yet," Suzie points out.

Lance’s hands come up a bit at the mention of why she’s there, and he observes with a wry smile, “Not our case.” They drop down again, and he leans a bit to rest a folded arm on the table’s edge, glancing to the photograph and then back up to her face, eyebrows raising.

“It won’t extend your stay, but it never looks poorly to the judge when you’ve been cooperative,” he notes, not promising anything of course, “Why don’t we start with names?”

Suzie's expression grows more serious, looking from junior agent to senior. "Okay, but like, why?" she questions with genuine and blunt curiosity. "They're just some kids I hung out with back before I got out of foster care." Though, the fact she's been here as long as she has could speak to why she seems so honest in that admission. Her arrest took place before the first case. "I haven't seen them in…"

She trails off, torn between thinking seriously about that question or writing it off out on principle.

"Because you haven't had a visitor in how many months?" Cesar answers the curious question with an equally curious observation that tacks on to the tail end of her musing. "There's really nobody out there," he says with a glance askance to the cafeteria windows and back, "you'd want to get in touch with and let them know how you're doing? Even that person you acted to defend hasn't come forth to defend you?" Cesar moves a hand back to the top of the photocopy.

Suzie just frowns. For some reason, she finds offense with what Cesar's said. "Listen, back when I didn't have anybody, they were there for me. We looked out for each other. Our own little war orphans club." She lets out a scoff. "But I went and got adopted, and they didn't. We fell out of touch."

Her hands are already close to each other by design, leaving them free to clasp together in front of her. "But even before that, I liked being one of the Children of the Ashes because it felt nice having people who knew what I was going through. I didn't like the…"

Again, Suzie hesitates, looks uncomfortable. She comes to an internal decision that if these two are here, giving this to her, they must know some of this already. "I didn't like the idea of following in our parents' footsteps." She grimaced as she stresses, "I know that sounds really fucking hypocritical given I'm sitting where I am, but I was glad I got adopted, glad I got out of all that, because I don't want to see the world burn for what it did to us, all right?" Now the words are just flowing whether she wants them to or not. "And that's where all that was going. I didn't want any part of it."

"The shit with the SESA girl– I swear on like, the Bible, or whatever sacred crap you want, all that had nothing to do with the Ashen." She looks between Cesar and Lance plaintively. "My adoptive dad lost work to a mutie who came in and did his position better than he could, and he couldn't get any help for that, and I got mad at the system– bought into Alissa saying we should scare the SESA girl and rough her up. That's– unrelated."

Or at least, as much as it can be.

Suzie hesitates, then wonders, "… Did something happen with them?" Her eyes land on Lance. "Why else are you showing me this picture?"

At the moniker the Children of the Ashes, Lance raises an eyebrow a little bit but that’s his only reaction.

“We’re looking for them,” he explains simply, head canting a bit to the photograph, “Like you just said– you didn’t want to see the world burn, but that’s where it was going. Lot of fires lately, Suzie.”

Careful not to actually say anything. Just implying.

Cesar, hand on the top of the photo print, taps at the page as Suzie goes on to reveal her background with the relationship to the characters in it. He cuts a glance sideways to Lance when the junior agent explains they're looking for the people in the photo, but doesn't undercut Lance's statement.

"You've heard the news I'm sure," Cesar says instead, motioning at the cafeteria windows to indicate the outside world. "The Ohio River fire's getting closer each day no matter what the NYFD and volunteers try. And then to top off, innocent people all over the Safe Zone are getting displaced, separated, and hurt. Expressive, Non-Expressive. Fire burns all the same, and leaves everyone choking on what's left in the ashes." The waxing philosophical cuts off.

Rotating the photo so he can see the faces right side up, Cesar considers. "Your family - your adopted family - hasn't come to see you? Alissa? None of these friends of yours? Evran, Cady, Roman or Roxie?" The names are spoken clearly, intended to gauge a reaction from the young woman.

The drawing of lines between proverbial and literal fires takes a long time to click. Between Lance and Cesar's comments, it eventually happens, and Suzie even looks like her hair is raising on end. It's the last question her way that draws an eyebrow up from her, breaking past the numbed expression that had otherwise taken her over. "Roxie?" is spoken in confusion. Suzie looks back down again at the image, counts the number of them in the photo. That's too many. She has to blink several times before she recalls uncomfortably, "Oh. Evran would call Roman that whenever he wanted to make him mad, I think. It– he had a twin, right? She ran away from the foster home they were in before…" She shakes her head once. "I never met her."

She looks up at Cesar again, reconsidering the rest of what he's said, the needling. Her brow tightens together, her discomfort just the same as before but on a different level. "I don't think who's come to see me is really any of your business. And if it is, you can find that out anyway, I'm sure." Suzie sighs through her nose, looking down at the photo again. "But like I said, I didn't keep up with any of them after I got adopted."

"They were really…" She breathes out through her teeth and lifts both hands to scrub her face. "Roman's parents were, like, famous before the war. And then famous during it. And famous after it, during the Trials. Evran's parents weren't, but they were really into the cause, too. Like, Roman had seen some shit and even he wasn't a hundred percent sold, but Evran rallied us all. Said we would be each other's family, that we owed it to ourselves to make our best possible life out of the ashes. But I could see where it was going even before the rest of them started saying the quiet part out loud again." Despite herself, there's a rueful smile that comes over her. "I mean… we were all raised how we were raised. It was only a matter of time."

She trails off for a moment, hands coming back in front of her on the table. She runs the side of a nail alongside the metal of her handcuffs. "My dad was– real disappointed in me over all this, I can tell you that. It's why he hasn't come since the sentencing. He held out hope things were the way I saw them, and not the way the law did. Not the way the rest of you did. Didn't come back after the verdict came down." She tongues the back of a canine and closes her eyes. "Losing not just one, but two sets of parents … both to Humanis First, each for different reasons… sucks."

"You're right," Suzie surmises in a dismissive mutter. "Fire burns, everybody chokes on the ashes."

“It does suck,” Lance leans forward, forearms on the table, hands together and his expression genuinely sympathetic; she seems like she’d just fallen into the wrong kind of crowd, and legitimately seems to have thought better about her involvement with things. “My father got taken and brought to a secret prison, before everything went public… they told him he killed us, that we were dead. All this ‘them and us’ shit hurts everyone on both sides. We’re all just people.”

“Which– leads us to why we’re here,” he says with a shake of his head, “Can you tell us where they might be? Right now, I don’t think they’ve done anything too terrible. Like– nothing life-sentence-worthy, but that could change if they keep going the way you seem to think they’re going.”

“Help us find them.”

Suzie shifts in her seat, her head eventually shaking after a moment. Her hands ball on the table's top and remain that way until she lets out a sigh, only slightly loosening. "It's been years," she stresses in a tone that sounds more defeated than anything. "We grew up into… different people. My dad moved us down here to the Safe Zone for the opportunity, I never knew what happened to any of them after that." Her expression turns to a grimace, one that's held for a moment.

She asks without looking up, "Is that all?"

A flicker behind Cesar's eyes is the only indication of filing away the reactions from Suzie. His expression shifts, oscillating between sympathy and schooled neutrality. He doesn't interrupt as Lance shares his story as well, and looks away from Suzie to his fellow agent at the mention of a secret prison. Surprise ticks up Cesar's brow. He hadn't looked into Lance, either.

Suzie's question sees Cesar's gaze return to her, and he doesn't say anything for a long moment as he considers their lines of questioning. "That's all, Suzie. Thank you for speaking to us. Is there anything you'd like us to do, regarding your time here? If there's something we can do… within the bounds, of course." He half lifts a hand, staying an initial answer. "You don't have to say right now, no pressure. We'll leave contact info where you can reach us."

Suzie shakes her head once. "I mean… I'd be very interested in not spending the next seven years of my life here," she offers up immediately. An opportunity as good as this one to say something and have something potentially happen from it won't come twice. She pulls her hands to her lap as she swivels her legs out and then comes to her feet. "Just as interested, probably, in seeing people I used to call friend not throw their lives away on extremist bullshit."

Shoulders kicking up after she stands, she posits, "I dunno." She looks away and toward the looming guard sitting nearby. He begins to come to his feet as well. "Draw your own conclusions from that, I guess," Suzie offers up as parting words, and begins moving away before she remembers to tack on at the end in a mumble, "And have a good day or whatever."

As she walks away, her expression changes. She visibly tries to package away her unsettled state, slowly correcting her posture and neutralizing her expression to something more disaffected.

Whether or not Lance or Cesar can do anything, there's a certain reality she's still heading back to in the meantime.

Lance watches her depart, his fingertips drumming briefly against the table’s surface. “I feel bad for her,” he confesses with a glance back to Cesar, “Don’t think she’s lying, though. I think that’s all she legitimately knows about all of this.”

“What do you think?”

Cesar's overall expression remains schooled to the type of police-worthy pokerface that cannot promise anything from his position. "Keep an open line," he says with a short, acknowledging nod to Suzie's guard that their interview has concluded. "And we'll be in touch."

In the few beats that pass after Suzie is escorted away, Cesar is quiet. "I think," he breaks of his silence as he stands, "Yeah. She's most likely been out of the loop. Voluntarily? Or cut out, deliberately. Either way." He heaves a sigh, pushing up to stand and gathering the bits of photocopies they've brought. "Either way, I think we're going to need to do a lot more digging."

Tucking the folder under his arm, Cesar can't help the slight downward tug of his lip corners at the thought of a difficult investigation. The frown doesn't reach his eyes, though, as they alight with the determination of the hunt. "Let's go. We'll grab something for Emily on the way back to the fort. That girl's probably forgotten to eat something."

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