#DIV/0! Part I


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Scene Title #DIV/0! Part I
Synopsis With time running out, Wright asks Colette for help chasing down a lead.
Date February 5, 2021

This isn’t where Elliot thought he would end up in his quest to find a criminal, though there is a sort of symmetry to it.

The Watchtower
Red Hook

February 5, 2021
11:45 AM

There are certainly criminals here, but none of them is the one Elliot needs to get his hands on. In fact, he’s not actually here to find the criminal directly. Most of Elliot’s contacts in the criminal underworld went through the same sort of personnel churn that every other industry suffered following nuclear detonations and civil war. This investigation is down to knows a guy who knows a guy. Knows a woman who knows a woman who might know somebody who knows a guy, anyway.

As a Wolfhound officer he’s spent more time in the Watchtower than he’d expected in recent months. He’s on the clock now, but with this cooperative agreement functioning mostly in an on-call capacity he’s got all the time in the world. Setting up this conversation does take a touch of subtlety, as if this investigation is anything, it’s not aboveboard.

Engineering a moment he can have a casual conversation with Colette has had a few false starts. Nobody needs to overhear ‘Can you tell me how to get in touch with your ex-criminal sister? It’s the crime part that’s important.’ That’s why Elliot is on standby, leaving Wright to handle the conversation in the emptying women’s locker room.

Tracy,” Colette says without turning around, stuffing an AEGIS vest inside the locker. Colette pauses on retrieving what she’d intended to, turning to look over her shoulder at Wright, a vestigial thing but necessarily performative so people don’t feel uncomfortable with the cataract-covered eyes.

“Thought I saw you haunting this place a couple times,” Colette says, angling her locker door partly shut while raising one brow. “Tell me you’re here because Ames turned to a life of child-crime and not because the old man’s got you back up on the horse.”

She ignores the question about her sister.

Wright laughs, abandoning the pantomime of retrieving something from her backpack. “There’s a terrifying thought,” she says. She’s used to observing things without looking, but understands the impulse to preserve other people’s comfort regarding it. Elliot is not streaming currently, that would be well beyond the boundaries of propriety. “The Baby Ames, tiny career criminal.”

She shakes her head at the second idea as she closes and locks her locker. “And all of Elliot’s alleged crime-doing was during our pre-reunion Ferry days. The only crime we get up to these days is your run of the mill international black-ops variety.”

“How’s the wives?”

“Still unmarried,” Colette says with a crooked smile, shutting the locker door and turning around. “But they’re good. Tasha’s got a private practice now, does a lot of pro-bono advocacy work. Tamara tried the detective biz for a bit, but it stuck about as long as would be expected. She’s…” Colette waves a hand in the air, flippantly. “In the wind right now, knocking over dominoes.”

Colette’s blind eyes divert to the floor. “We adopted,” she says with a furrow of her brows. “Do you… remember the thing we did up in Vermont? Those fucking survivalists who blew up their house?” She slides her tongue over her teeth. “One of the kids survived, manifested in the blast. He was… it’s a long story. Hugo.” She takes in a deep breath and exhales a sigh. “Shit’s gotten very suburban.”

“Oof,” Wright says, remembering the details of the op. “Glad somebody made it out of there. What an absolute shit-show.” She shakes her head, settling on the wooden bench between rows of lockers.

She marvels at Colette’s transformation. Out of the loop for so long it really shouldn’t be surprising, but everyone from the old days didn’t make it to today the same person. “You mind if I ask why you left Wolfhound? I didn’t pry and nobody volunteered. Been a lot of overturn, apparently.”

Colette huffs out a sigh through her nose, then leans back against the lockers. “Mental health,” she eventually says after a heavy pause. “I uh—there’s a lot of unprocessed shit I went through in Utah toward the end of the war, shit I never told anybody. Going into the field is… it’s really triggering. I did one last call for the old man when they hit Praxis last year, but even that was just…” Colette shakes her head.

“I’ve got a family now, y’know? It was different when I was a kid, when it was a war and there wasn’t nowhere safe t’go. But now, I’ve got a choice. M’fuckin’ lucky Tasha’s still alive, an’ she worries every time I was out on an op. I can’t keep putting her through that, ‘specially not when we have a kid at home now.” Crossing her arms over her chest, Colette looks up to Wright with an affectation of eye contact.

“Y’know,” Colette says with a kick of one brow up, “if you an’ Elliot are up for it, I do a veterans meeting every Thursday in Elmhurst. Good people. You don’t even have to share if you don’t want to. Sometimes it’s nice t’listen.”

Wright nods in understanding at Colette’s explanation. Sees the sense in it, even if she herself made the opposite choice. To get back into Wolfhound’s characteristic violence despite having a family. A kid at home.

“I’d like that, actually,” she says to the idea of a meeting, thinking it might be useful to have an outlet for the war trauma outside of the Wolfhound perspective. The ‘Remember when we were traumatized and pretended that we weren’t for all the intervening time up to and including now’ brand of… coping.

“Jesus,” she thinks, quirking an eyebrow as she’s only just thinking of this now. “We should get together for dinner sometime. Family get-together of some sort.”

“I know Tasha’d like that,” Colette admits with a gentle smile. “We don’t really get out like we used to, hardly see anyone from the good old days, let alone the war. She’s doing a lot better these days too, so something social might really be nice. I’m off-duty every other weekend, so my schedule’s pretty easy.”

Running a hand through her hair, Colette looks Wright up and down for a moment. “I thought you retired?” She asks, knowingly. “After… y’know, surviving all the bullshit we did, when you’n Elliot got out I figured it was for keeps. What changed?”

“It’d be great to have you over. We could probably draft Elliot into cooking for us,” Wright says.

“As for retirement,” she shrugs. “Things kept costing money and our war crime savings were thinning out.” Though that’s far from everything. “Bad shit kept happening and we thought we could make a difference. The Praxis hack turned up a lead we couldn’t chase on our own resources. Related to this ask,” she gestures at them and the room.

Colette’s posture shifts subtly. Wright’s known her for enough years to recognize the forward lean and the angle of her head, it’s that tell she gets when she expects something she isn’t going to like. It used to be a back-footed stance before the war—back on Bannerman’s—ready to startle and leap. But gradually it shifted forward, from flight to fight.

“If it’s about the data, I know where t’find the hacker,” Colette says in an attempt to get ahead of the ask. “If it’s not, then lemme hear it.”

“I work with the hacker. I need to talk to Nicole,” Wright says, checking Elliot’s feed to ensure nobody is entering the locker room. “She’s the only person we know who would still have the contacts Elliot needs. Preferably not at work, where there would be a paper trail involved. This is very off-book.” She stands from the bench again to lean against a locker.

Colette’s expression is one of doubt, but then also guarded uncertainty. “She shouldn’t be at work,” comes a little quick and hot from behind Colette’s teeth. “I don’t know if—Nicole has a lot going on in her life right now, I don’t know if this is…” Wise? Smart? Safe? A number of possibilities hang in the air in front of Colette’s mouth with equal weight. But the one she goes with is, “good timing.

“Do you… know about the plane crash?” Colette asks, lowering her voice as she does. “All the—the medical issues the survivors have been having?” It’s only now that Colette realizes she’s so out of the loop with regards to what’s going on in Wolfhound, they could be actively investigating it and she wouldn’t even know.

"Yeah," Wright says. "We work with one of the survivors. Friends with another. We're helping where we can."

She sighs and leans forward. "I wish there was more we could do. But as for this, Elliot's time to pursue this lead is running out. He's got an assignment coming up with…" She trails off. With no guarantee he can ever come home/.

"We don't know how long he'll be on assignment," she finishes with an edge of nervousness in her voice.

Colette doesn’t need to see the details to see them. She nods, brows furrowed in sympathetic worry. “Nicole’s going through a lot right now. I…” she cuts herself off, closing her eyes and taking a breath to calm herself. “Her mental health isn’t—good. Right now. Pippa’s staying with us, Zachery’s…” she raises her hands in a I have no patience for that man gesture.

“I haven’t been able to get through to her, and I’m worried if—” Colette swallows audibly. “If she gets obsessed with something, or if whatever you need her for is—it’s just—” She stops herself again. It would figure, old Wolfhound associates and the topic of her sister brings back the stammering she worked so hard to overcome. “I can give you her number,” Colette says slowly and carefully, “but you need to be careful with her. Please.”

Wright sighs as she listens. "I'm sorry," she says. She knows that Elliot will be saddened to hear that, but it changes nothing. He only has so much time. "We're only after a direction to be pointed in. He'll keep it simple."

Colette turns, opening the locker behind her and takes out her phone. She unfolds the Awasu, swipes a notification from Tasha up and off the screen, then pulls up her contacts and thumbs through it until she finds Nicole’s number. She unfolds the phone again, tablet-sized now so the text is large and clear, then hands it over to Wright.

“What’s he want to ask her about?” Colette can’t help but ask, blind eyes angled toward the locker door, then back to Wright.

Wright looks at the phone number and commits it to memory. Elliot will have to pick up a burner if he wants to avoid a paper trail. She gives Colette a silent thumbs up. "He's just trying to track down somebody who might have some answers about what happened to him in the Ark," she says. "They weren't big on informed consent."

Colette’s expression changes, first surprise, then anger. But not anger toward Wright, anger toward the situation, the past, the Institute. It takes her a minute to work past the old anger, the old scars. She reflexively reaches up to the heart-rate tattoo on her neck, the one that covers up a long scar over her carotid artery. Her voice is quieter when she speaks up again.

“I dunno if you talked to Avi about any of this,” or want to, Colette’s tone implies, “but Hana picked up a bunch of intel from the Ross Dam when we hit it a bunch’a years back.” The same intel that started Elliot down this rabbit hole. “Deveaux Society might have some more, but I don’t know how t’contact them outside of public numbers, and I think Dawson is out of the country right now or something, so I don’t even know who you’d talk to.”

Colette moves her hand from the tattoo on her throat to rub her fingers over the back of her neck. Now it makes sense why Wright is asking after Nicole, and Colette exhales a soft sigh as the pieces come together. “I hope it works out.”

“Thanks,” Wright says softly. “Sorry to dig that shit back up for you. Does your veterans group have an ‘I survived the Commonwealth Institute’ day? I feel like Elliot could stand to go to one of those.” She laughs quietly, not expecting an answer to that.

“It’s good to talk to you,” she says, just now realizing that it is. “I just realized it’s mostly been chat about the weather when we’ve collided here over the past few months. Let me know if you have any inclinations on that hypothetical dinner. I’d love to carry on somewhere that doesn’t have a faint yet pervasive scent of unwashed bath towel.”

Colette snorts, shaking her head. She doesn’t pick up the thread about the Institute, much as Wright assumed, and as she brushes her bangs from her face her tone is warm, if distracted. “I’ll talk to Tasha, and assuming we can get someone to watch the gremlin, it sounds like a plan. I don’t think we’d survive him and Ames teaming up. But we’ll do it.”

Leaning away from her locker, Colette starts to walk past Wright, then stops and turns to look back at her. “And, for what it’s worth, I hope Elliot finds what he’s looking for. And if it’s a person—” her brow twitches as she restrains her expression, “—well, some bounties aren’t worth cashing in.”

Wright pushes herself away from her locker and nods. “Yeah,” she says, more to herself than Colette. It might be hard to get that person before Wolfhound decides it’s time to cash that check. But they have to try. People don’t need to overhear the questions Elliot has to ask. They certainly don’t need to hear the answers.

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