Falling Down


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Scene Title Falling Down
Synopsis Benjamin Ryans must help a father protect his daughter from the inevitable.
Date July 2, 2010

The Company has a divided power structure, that is how it has operated for nearly five decades. The east coast is the administrative branch where the founders congregated and where policy was established. The west coast was operations and activities assignment, a hub upon which all major Company activities were planned and orchestrated across the nation. In the Great Lakes region is the Company's training facilities, the Chicago offices and agent education centers. On the Mexican border there is the Odessa storage facilities, where some of the Company's greatest secrets are kept.

This semblance of order has lasted fifty years, and now that the structure of the Company is finlly coming apart at the seams, it's like watching a proud old battleship slowly taking on water and all the sailors trying to bail it out with buckets. Like Veronica sawyer said, there's a finger in the dam to stop the leak, but it won't hold for long.

"I'm… sorry you had to be called out here under false pretenses, Benjamin." A crack in that dam is standing in front of Assistant Director Benjamin Ryans at this very moment. One hand on the back of his office chair, eyes focused on the windows viewing Seattle's distinctive skyline. White-haired and dignified to the end, Alfred Balfour has always been a man to follow Company protocol to the letter. A stern and strict man who has been forced to make hard decision after hard decision in his career for the betterment of the Company and the Seattle branch that depends on him.

"I… realize how this must look, coming to you after…" his dark brows crease, and Balfour's head ducks down ito a shameful dip. "I know I voted for your discharge, after the incident in '89. The… evidence, against you having somehow aided and abetted Winslow was circumstantial, but— " Balfour's choices are catching up to him. "I was only doing my job."

Dark and tired eyes look up to where Ryans stands across Balfour's desk, his accomplice here in this clandestine meeting — Corbin Ayers — occupying himself with looking into the cover-story of an archive security breach in the Seatte branch, while Ryans handles the true matter at hand.

"I need your help, because I… don't know who else to turn to in order to protect my family." Up until the Company founders started getting killed off last year, no one even knew that Alfred Balfour had a daughter.

Funny how the tables are turned now.

Company Operations Center

Seattle, Washington

Three floors up, Howard Lemay is being stalled by Director Balfour. Three floors up is proof positive that the Company no longer has any authority, even within its own walls. According to all official records, Benjamin Ryans left two hours ago with Corbin Ayers on a flight back to New York City. According to official records, Benjamin Ryans isn't crouched beside a closed and locked door with a keyring belonging to Director Balfour. According to official records, Ryans was never down on the detention level.

According to official records, this is bullshit.

Behind this blue-painted door, Sophie Barton, Balfour's illigetimate daughter sleeps in preparation for the inevitable arrival of the Institute to snatch her up and take her away. But the shadow skulking about in the third basement level of the Seattle Branch headquarters is no mere specter. Benjamin Ryans may be old, but he's a lot more experienced than he looks these days.

Unlocking the door to Sophie's room and creeping inside, Ryans finds the dimly let bedroom unfurnished, save for a wall-mounted cot that the young girl is sleeping on. Curled up on her side with her back to the door, she's unaware of the man stalking into her room, or the threat just three floors up.

Ryans won't be taking her up, however. An escape like this will have he and Sophie going down. This won't be easy, it won't be plesant, and it most certainly will be dangerous. But if there's one thing that can motivate Benjamin Ryans to do the unexpected, it's children.

"Water under the bridge." The words only a touch flat, as he brushes off the mention of things long past, but that tone is fairly normal for Benjamin Ryans. The cast was thankfully shed a few days before he was called down. It felt good to be able to lean forward and grip the back of the chair in front of him. His fingers squeak slightly on the brown leather of the smaller chair as he considers the other man. "Time does funny things."

Like many of the agents he's run into since coming out of retirement, the years have changed them so much between them. The strain of the job showing on them both.

Looking down at the chair, eyes narrow in thought a heavy sigh exhaled heavily through his nose. "You realize what your asking? With everything going on in New York?" His head shifts to the side a bit, so Ryans can look at the other man out of the corner of his eyes. That sharp gaze watching him. "They have us by the throat and you want me to risk the very Company to protect your daughter?"

Something in Ryans tone sounds resigned, as he uses his hands pushing him straight again, he steps away from the chair. When it really comes down to it… Balfour used one thing against him…


Benjamin Ryans can only think of his own daughters and know he'd do the same for them. "I'll do what I can." There is a complete lack of emotions in those words, under it all there is a fear for the whole situation.

What he's doing is so bad, he knows this. The fate of the Company is teetering on this moment. One slip up and the whole thing could come crashing around his ears.

Damn his weaknesses.

Eyeing Sophie, he knows there is no easy way to wake up another person in an intense situation as this, Ryans frowns a bit, glancing over his shoulder at the door. He slips over to the bed and crouches down, his leather shoes creaking softly in protest as the angles it's being force. After a small moment, there is a small grimace of regret, then he leans forward to clamp a hand over her mouth — women always seem to scream when you wake them — as soon as she wakes up tho, the older agent is whispering reassurance.

"Shhh… Sophie. It's Ben." It's better to keep his name short and simple, Ben is less scary then Benjamin. "Friend of your father's, remember?" He doesn't have time to wait for her to remember, instead he pushes on, his words gentle and calm. "You're in danger and I'm here to get you out of here safe." He also makes sure not to hide behind that cold mask, he isn't trying to be intimidating, but comforting. He allows her to see the concern and worry for their situation. "We are going to get you to people that will help you."

Dark eyes close and Balfour nods shallowly, fingers gliding over the leather back of his chair as he steps around behind it and to the side of his desk. "Her name is Sophie…" Alfred explains, attention settled at a picture on his desk of a much younger self and a dark-haired woman in a plum colored suit, skin the color of mocha. He smiles, faintly, then looks up to Ryans.

"When Paula Gramble retired from the Company… she and I had— Donovan had just passed away and she was lonely, we'd always been close. I never… intended for things to go the way they did. Paula wanted to keep the child, wanted to…" Balfour exhales a heavy sigh, rubbing one hand over his face. "She wanted to start over a new life with a family, and since she'd left the Company to start it we just— we were supposed to sever all ties."

Running a hand through his hair, Balfour shakes his head slowly. "Company Severance plan, when a senior agent or higher retires, they're given a new life and identity and an optional memory wipe and reconstruction. Paula opted to keep everything, she took up a new name, took Sophie… I…"

Balfour pushes back his chair, sinks down slowly into it and rests his elbows on the desk, hands folded together and mouth resting against the backs of his hands. "After Monroe murdered her last year… Sophie was a material witness. Director Bishop sent agent Sawyer and Lu out to question her, and it just— I had to come clean. I broke protocol by remaining in contact with Paula, by trying to be an absentee father to Sophie."

Dark eyes drift from the photograph to Ryans. "Now the Institute wants to say my daughter is potentially dangerous, they performed a test of her ability and discovered that she can turn into more types of vapor than just smoke. Different— types of airborne toxins and gasses. She can mimic any gas she's come in contact with. I think— I'm afraid they're going to try and take her away from me, Ben."

Dark eyes go wide as Sophie jolts up from sleep, whipping around the face the source of the voice, dark eyes wide and brown hair plastered to one side of her cheek. Sucking in a sharp breath, she sits up straight and looks around the room, past Ryans to the doorway, then back to him again. She looks scared — terrified — but given the situation she knows she's in, understandably so. When her blanket comes off, she's fully dressed, jeans and sneakers already worn, a pink hooded sweatshirt zipped up as she puts her feet down on the tiled floor.

Maybe she wasn't sure there was a plan, but in the short time she's been able to know her father, she knows he's a man who always plans for something, even if it's cut down to the last minute. "How're we getting out of here?" Sophie asks in a sharply hushed voice, crawling down off of the bed to crouch beside RYans, her small hands trembling.

"I'm ready to go— I'm ready." Nervousness flits through her as Sophie looks away from Ryans to the doorway again, her shoulders squaring and back straightening.

"Good girl." Ryans says, a touch of surprise in his hushed voiced. One thing is assured, she is born from Company blood… he's seen the same in his girls. The Company chooses it's people well… sometimes the old man can't help but wonder if they do that on purpose.

There is a very brief moment he studies her, before he reaches down to take one of her trembling hands into his steady one, giving it a brief squeeze, before slowly standing, his brown canvas duster has been ditched, left with Corbin, as well as the Fedora. He wears a leather jacket for this, keeping his weapon ready, though… he'd rather not shoot any of his own. "We are headed to the tunnels… Not pleasant, but that is where we'll make our escape. One of my own men has arranged for you to meet some people who will hide you and keep you safe."

Ryans takes a deep breath and lets it out heavily through that prominent nose of his. The question is rumbled softly, "You ready for this?" Whether or not she is, they are leaving. "Before we go… If things get bad, you get out of there while the getting is good, through the sewers. There is an old truck stop off the I-5 south of here, might have to travel a bit. That is a fall back point. Okay?"

Blue eyes follow the gaze of the other man, slowly to settle on the picture. His hand moves to grip the edge of the small frame and turns it a little, that way he can see the face of the young woman that he will be risking so much for.

He told Veronica there was too much for them to risk, yet here he was taking a chance.

The mention of the institute gets a sharp look from Ryans, his brows dipping down into a deep frown. Always popping up to make their lives uncomfortable. "The Institute seems to want a lot of things." It's rumbled softly, his gaze returning to the girls father."I don't even want to think about what they could do with an ability like that."

There is another soft sigh, the mask cracking just enough for the worry to show. "It's Arthur Petrelli or even Monroe all over again, if you ask me. Especially, from the stuff I'm hearing from my Agents. I don't like this."

A hand lifts to rest on the other man's shoulder, fingers twitch to squeeze it firmly. "We'll get her safe… though I'm not completely certain on how to do that." Brows furrow a little, head dipping down a little as he shakes his head. The old man is out of the loop of a lot of things. "It's a problem, I admittedly face there in New York if I end up with this sort of thing there." Especially with Harper breathing down his neck.

Nodding worriedly, it's hard to tell if Sophie was able to take in all of that, or if she worriedly would agree to anything Ryans said to her. Wrapping her arms around herself, Sophie's attention drifts towards the dimly lit halls, not too dissimilar from Fort Hero's, but more clean, more freshly maintained, newer.

"I— " there's a hoarse croak of Sophie's voice before her attention settles back on Ryans. "Do— do I get to say goodbye to my dad first?" It's as though, now, she's just finally realized that this is goodbye, and perhaps she didn't do as much psychological preparation as she might have liked.

Turning to look back to Ryans, Sophie's wide, dark eyes are glassy with tears that threaten to fall from her lower lashes. She knows the answer that's going to come, but she needs to hear it from Ryans himself.

Brows tilt up slightly at the first shine of tears, it literally pulls at the old man's heart strings. If it was one of his girls, he pull her into a tight hug, instead he settles a gentle hand on her shoulder. His face conveys the answer, regret there. "I'm sorry. We can only hope there will come a time you will be able to safely contact him."

Not the most assuring words, but the only ones he has for the young woman.

The hand slides off her shoulder, "For now he's distracting the very people that would take you away and use you for, who knows what. Let's not waste his efforts." His brows twitch up slightly, as he pulls the bill of the baseball hat his wearing, tipping down on his forehead. It's an attempt to throw off anyone one they run into. He moves quickly to the door, leaning against the wall so that he can peek out the crack in the door, a sliver of light illuminating his face he makes sure it's clear before he pulls the door open further and glancing further. Once he knows it's safe, he'll motion her to follow him.

"Sabra told me that I could count on you for this, Ryans. I… I know I've been hard on you in the past, for breaking protocol, reading between the lines and sometimes coloring straight off the page. But… this is my little girl," and in that sentence Alfred Balfour shows more emotion in his voice and expression and Ryans has ever know him to display in the years that they've been colleagues. "I'm so sorry what happened to Mary, sorry that…" Balfour's weathered hand scrubs across his mouth tiredly. "I know what it feels like, to be in your situation now. I— I just need you to figure something out. I don't care what has to happen, I just want to know she's going to be safe."

Slouching back in his chair, Balfour crosses his arms over his chest, brows creased and dark eyes cast aside. "You've got two weeks out here, roughly, if Ayers can drag his heels long enough to draw out the investigation into the archive tampering." Something Balfour himself did to create a diversion for this.

"The Institute's representative out here is Howard…" the name seems unfamiliar at first, when Balfour mentions it. "Howard Lemay," and that earns a steeliness from Balfour and surprise from Ryans. Howard Lemay was — at one time — Alfred Balfour's partner before he retired from the Company following the midtown explosion. "He used to be one of us Benjamin, and how he's… practically dismantling us piece by piece."

Quiet in her distress at the confirmation of her worst fears, Sophie slips out into the hall behind Ryans, her sneakers squeaking on the tile floor as she walks. Brown eyes wide, she looks fleetingly towards the elevators that lead up to the higher floors, and tenses when she hears a chime and notices that one of the elevators is on its way down. It looks like the Director couldn't delay them any longer. It's only when Ryans urges her to move that Sophie manages to break from her frightened transfixion on the elevators, turning to offer her back to them as she follows the agent down the dimly lit corridor.

Their shadows are cast long behind them while Ryans and Sophie approach a brighter lit section of hall. The key ring Ryans has affords him access to maintenance tunnels below the facility, and on opening the door the distant roaring noise echoing from beyond the stairwell he unveils is a comforting sound, like rain falling on a summer night. Were it not for the ding of an elevator coming down another floor, it might even help his stress.

He's going to go gray again at this rate.

Hustling down the stairs with Sophie in tow, the young girl closes and locks the door behind herself as she follows. When they land down in the tunnel below the third basement floor, it looks like a well-lit counterpart ot a sewage tunnel. A brown-gray concrete tube with concrete walkways on either side of water. But the flow down here is preposterous, a rapid rushing flow that roars thorugh the tunnel. While there's not far to go, whoever's coming down isn't far off.

New York's Assistant Director only stops long enough, to make sure the girl is with him, otherwise he's on the move, the pace he keeps is brisk. They will only have so much time, from when they discover her gone and they start searching the place. Jaw clenched, he surveys the tunnel for the first time, eyes scanning their escape route, that concrete walkway.

His hand dips into his jacket, as he glances towards where they just came from, a flashlight pulled out. He came prepared for this. Ryans at times like these, wonder if he'd do better to be a more religious man and pray to God to get them out alive.

He lost that desire the day Midtown blew… so in this he's on his own. No divine intervention for him.

Benjamin Ryans's gaze drops to the girl and he reaches out to take a firm grip of her hand, before hurrying for the walkway. "Come on." Even over the roar, she can hear him. He'll continue on until he can't risk the darkness any longer… then and only then will he flip on the flash light. He'll hurry as fast as he can, without them loosing their footing on the damp concrete. He's fairly glad he wore shoes with tread.

There is a slow understanding nod as he listens, though there is a tightening of his jaw at the mention of his deceased wife. His hand slides off the other mans shoulder. "I have two of them, I know how it feels, Alfred." There is a clam to his words, complete and total understanding. "The need to protect them, no matter what. I —" The words cut off as he frowns a touch. "I — I'll think of something."

But what?

The corners of his eyes crease a touch, some of his true age peeking through. "The fact that Lemay is involved bothers me." His head shifts side to side slowly. "Too many old agents are looking at the Company like a dying animal to be circled, waiting for their chance for a piece of it."

Stepping to the window, Ryans looks out through the pane of glass, but doesn't focus on anything, he's deep in thought. After a moment he asks a simple question. "Tell me, Alfred…" He turns back to the distraught father, his voice lowers as he lays out that question. "What do you know about the group called the Ferrymen?"

Brows twitch up slightly at Balfour, curiously. With two agents that know about them and obviously hiding something when he asks… the older man can't help but be curious.

The tunnel does get dark after a ways, where the passage bends on a gradual curve. Somewhere in the dark there's a noisy hum, the roar of turbines overhead on the floor above, vibrating through the concrete. Sophie's scuffing footfalls take her hastily at Ryans' heels, never leaving his sight. She's terrified to use her ability for locomotion, especially after discovering the things she can adapt that vaporous form to, and still not understanding how to control what type of gas she becomes.

Eventually there's a light at the end of the tunnel, a round opening showing the foggy skyline of Seattle's coast where the water is expelled in roaring torrents. Not far behind Ryans, there's a clunk and a clank, a door being forced open, followed by the sound of thumping footfalls of booted feet running on the concrete. «This way, residual heat tracks on thermal.» A synthesized voice crackling through a respirator mask echoes down the tunnel over the roar of the water.

Sophie sucks in a sharp breath, hustling with Ryans the rest of the way to the end of the tunnel. Here, a narrow concrete ledge juts out from the side of a fifty foot drop towards white water. From here, the Ross Dam is only visible in periphery, with three other exhausts for water from the dam roaring out and down into the river below.

There was supposed to be a ladder here, an iron ladder Ryans was supposed to climb down. Instead, there's just rusted holes where a ladder was once fixed. Sophie is waiting for orders, looking back over her shoulder to the sound of approaching people.

Down the river, members of the Ferrymen are waiting to recieve Sophie. She can get there fine on her own from here, with the ability she has.

But Ryans…

…that's a long way down.

"Rumors…" is Balfour's worried answer, "the Ferrymen are rumors." Dark eyes alighting to Ryans as he paces about the room, the Director turns in his chair to look at the tall agent as he looms by the window. "I know they're out there, somewhere. Human traffickers or something, moving Evolved who want to stay under the radar… I don't know much more than that, to be honest. It's more of an east coast thing, from what I know, though I've heard about some of them operaring as far north as Canada."

Having put two and two together, Balfour looks down to his desk, eyes distant as he stares vacantly at the woodgrain surface. "You're… suggesting we hand her over to them?" Turning his head, Balfour's brows furrow in worried expression. "Just— give Sophie over to them and… and just hope for the best?"

"Honestly?" He searches the other mans face for a moment, before Ryans glances out of the window again. "It may be the lesser of two evils." A smile threatens to twitch up a corner of him mouth, but there is in humor in it as it's reflected in the glass.

"The Institute wants to lock your daughter in a metal coffin and possibly use her in experiments." That is what happened in New York isn't it? "These Ferrymen, I hear want to help those with abilities. The trafficking it new to me." He finds himself unable to be upset with the agents that kept him in the dark.

"I think they would be the best bet in this situations." The old agent confirms softly, turning back finally, arms crossing and his face thoughtful. "I can talk to a few people and see if there is a group on the West Coast."

"Just… great." The words are growled out in irritation as he inches to the edge of the tunnel, looking down. Ryans head snaps back around at the sound of voices and he stands quickly. Watching down the tunnel, his hands reach out to snag the girl by her arms. His hands wrap around her arms firmly. "This is where we part ways, Sophie." His head turns back to her, there is a sharpness to his gaze.

One hand lets go of her arm, the other turns her to look out, as Ryans points. "Down that river, people known as the Ferrymen are waiting for you. They are good people." His head turns so he can look at her again. "You need to use your ability and get out of here." He pulls her to the edge a bit, "Now hurry. Your father risked everything to get you here." His hand lets go of her arm. "Don't waste the chance he gave you."

The old man glances at the white frothing waters, faced with a hard decision of his own… risk what waits below or turn and face the music. A small smile tugs at the corner of his lips… as Agent's go… he's defied the odds for a very long time."

Eyes wide and tense as she stares out at the raring water from the ledge, Sophie shakes her head rapidly, whipping winds tugging at dark locks. She turns, offering a wide-eyed stare up to Ryans, and then listens to the approaching sounds of booted feet coming down the corridor. Huffing an emotional breath, Sophie's lips press together then screw up in an expression on the verge of tears. The only consolation she has, is that maybe, just maybe… Ryans has a plan.

Before the senior-agent's eyes, Sophie discorporates into a foul smelling sulphourous cloud, caught on the wind and sucked out of the tunnel and down towards the water before finding her own locomotion, drifting up into the air and then sweeping along the riverbanks and out of sight into the gloomy fog.

Those approaching people are getting closer, and coming round the bend, Ryans silhouette is dark against the matte white of the cloudy sky beyond the tunnel. "Halt right there!" is a cry from down the tunnel in booming quality. All Howard Lemay can see of the man standing in the tunnel mouth is a tall, dark silhouette. The old agent squints against the gray light of the sky, one hand lifted to shield his vision, trying to make out something. Behind him, three Institute retrievers are approaching, guns drawn.

Does Benjamin Ryans have a plan? Sure.

Does he like it? Not really.

Silent for a long time, Balfour dips his head down into a slow and steady nod, eventually shielding his eyes with one hand, forefingers stroking over his brow. When he finally does look back up to Ryans, there's an anxiety and tension in his features, a nervousness that cannot hide how fearful he is for his own daughter's safety.

"If I had faith that the Company could hide her without the government knowing, I'd not have called Sabra for help…" Balfour's attention shifts towards the calendar on his desk, throat working up and down into a nervous swallow. "Director Bishop's going to be here in a few days, I'm…" Sighing, he looks up from his seat, and gives Ryans the confirmation that any agent dreads hearing.

For just a moment, the old man envy's the evolved girl, to have an ability to get out of this sort of situation. He watches the mist that is her drift away in a blink of an eye, relief flooding through him. "Good luck, kid." He murmurs softly. Then he turns his head slightly, so he can glance at the people over his shoulder, then out at the water as if they are no concern to him. Slowly, his eyes lift upwards to the sky.

There is a moment in ones life that the world comes into perfect clarity, everything slows down and fades away.

This is that moment.

He lived a good life, at least until Midtown took his wife. Never thought he'd outlive her, in his line of work. He should have died before her, with all the risks he's taken… all the danger he's put himself in to help complete his work. He's been called a crazy son of a bitch before, by many people, for some of what he's done. Seems all to true in this moment.

He's a truly crazy son of a bitch.

But it's a certain thought brings a true smile to his lips, pulling his mouth to one side. Well, Mary. Time to see if there is a heaven or a hell. His head tilts down and he glances down at the water quickly, inching towards the edge. I hope you put a good word in for me with the big guy.

"Whatever it takes, Ryans."

They get about a second or two to realize what he's going to do, before he simply steps off into the sloping rush of water.

"Do whatever it takes."

See you soon.

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