For Your Approval


nicole_icon.gif voss_icon.gif

Scene Title For Your Approval
Synopsis Nicole presents Voss with her list of candidates and her opinions on the upcoming operation overseas.
Date February 2, 2021

Fort Jay

By the end of the day.

Nicole Miller does one better and knocks on the door to Kristopher Voss’ office at only a quarter to two in the afternoon with a tidy stack of files and a book of notes tucked between her arm and her body. Her list of viable candidates for this excursion to the UK. The possible incursion.

When she hears the tone of acknowledgement, she pushes down the handle and swings the door inward. “I’ve got those recommendations for you,” she offers without preamble. “Is now a good time?” She’s already closing the door behind her.

It’s surprising to see Voss not at his desk, but rather, standing behind. He’s looking out one of his office’s windows that overlooks the river between Governor’s Island and the open canker sore of a landmass that is Manhattan. He looks over his shoulder at Nicole, eyes momentarily pensive, and waves her in.

“Now’s as good a time as any,” Voss says quietly, turning from the window to return to his desk. It’s as clean and organized as ever, though there’s a half-finished cup of herbal tea sitting in the middle of the desk and a little spill that Voss hasn’t yet wiped up, which might as well be blood stains and a fucking corpse for how clean he usually keeps his workspace.

Rather than set her things out on the visiting side of the desk, Nicole sets them down on the second chair. Behind her dark sunglasses, it’s the knit of brows that conveys her concern. “Kris, is everything alright?” That things are this far off from what she’s come to expect from him has her feeling unsettled now.

“I can come back,” she offers, not having taken her seat just yet, though she stands in front of it, poised to lower herself to the seat. “Or… I can listen?” Sometimes that’s all anybody needs. Especially around here, dealing with the things they deal with day in and day out.

Voss looks down at his desk, to the spill, then up to Nicole. His answer at first is a quiet sigh, followed by getting a square of paper towel out of a drawer and fastidiously cleaning up the spilled tea and throwing the paper towel away.

“Kirsten has cancer.” Voss almost never speaks of his ex-wife, but Nicole knows through office gossip they only recently divorced, shortly before he took his assignment here to New York. “Hodgkin's lymphoma,” he elaborates, picking up the mug and moving it aside, then gets another square of paper towel out to clean the bottom of the mug and the small ring it left on the desk, and finishes off by spraying the desk down with a mist of disinfectant. “She called to tell me this morning.”

Voss settles down at his desk, moving a tablet aside. “This is a welcome distraction.”

“Oh, god,” Nicole whispers with all the pain and empathy from someone who’s gotten that news more than twice. “I know people always say this,” from experience, “but I mean it when I say if there’s anything I can do for you, just say the word. This… Going through it alone is hell.” She shakes her head, eyes cast down to give him the privacy he needs to clean his space and likely to organize his thoughts. “Meals, errands, rides, an ear… Let me know any way I can help.”

But for now, he’s told her what he needs, so once he’s wiped away the spray, she lifts her folders and sets them on the edge of the desk. “Normally,” Nicole gets right down to it, “I would say this assignment has Zachariah Byrne’s name written all over it.” She cants her head to one side as she means to start listing the reasons why. “It’s in the wheelhouse of his skillset. Remaining unobtrusive and blending into the background, being overlooked so he hears things he isn’t necessarily meant to hear… Not to mention he’s good in a scrap and he’s not the type to leave someone out to dry.”

There’s a but in here.

“However,” is just a synonym, “I—” She’d been about to point out how her old friend had given up a home in KC, left a position that seemed to suit him perfectly, and took the pay cut of the century to take this job where he has no authority to speak of. Everything he’s earned over the years means so very little in this transfer of his. Respect doesn’t pay the bills. Either Zach Byrne had one hell of a fall from favor with Christine Dowe, or he’s not here because he believes in SESA’s mission.

But people in this business don’t necessarily endear themselves to anyone by accusing friends of duplicity. Besides, all evidence seems to suggest to Nicole that Voss is as much a ladder climber as she is. There’s no way he hasn’t considered what she’d nearly suggested.

“I think it’s too early to send him on something so delicate,” Nicole concludes instead. “The last time we sent a rookie in on an important op, it didn’t work out terribly well for anyone involved. We don’t need another Rochester on our hands.”

Voss’ jaw works for a minute as if he’s chewing over everything Nicole said. The look in his eyes is a thankful one, even if he doesn’t bring voice to the notion. Instead, he scoots closer to his desk and folds his hands in front of himself.

“It’s a smart call, keeping Byrne here. For all the reasons you said.” Voss agrees, then motions with one hand to Nicole. “But I didn’t ask for a list of denials, I want recommendations. So,” he sweeps his hand across his desk, indicating how empty the surface is. “Lay it on me. What do you have?” Voss is nothing if not adept at compartmentalizing his pain. He and Nicole share that very mundane super power.

Nicole nods her head. “With his track record, I felt it worth addressing.” Plus, it seemed as good a place to start after that opener. What she does instead is slide the first file across the desk.

Epstein, Emily

“I know she’s been through a lot, and she’s still comparatively inexperienced, but I really think Emily has what it takes. She’s smart, knows when to exercise discretion, she’s dedicated to constant improvement in this role.” Nicole shrugs her shoulders. “And she’s entirely unassuming. She’s young, she’s slight of frame, she’s blonde… Stereotypes can play well for us here. It’s in our best interests for her to be underestimated and not taken seriously.”

Voss takes in a deep breath, sitting back in his chair with a hand delicately moving over his mouth as he thinks. “Who would you pair her with?” He asks, because it’s not a matter of if she needs a partner, but who.

“That depends,” Nicole admits, finally lifting her sunglasses to perch them atop her dark hair with a small wince at the change in light. She thumbs through her notes with a faint crease to her brow that suggests she’d like to frown, but refrains. “Ideally, I’d like to pair her off with Kenner. He did remarkable things undercover within Shedda Dinu.” But she knows well how her opinion of Donald Kenner is not the popular one within the office. It’s a reputation that would follow him as well, if their UK counterparts’ intelligence is any good — and it ought to be.

“But, sending a pair of Expressive agents might be seen as too aggressive. Fortunately, we have alternatives.” The next file is presented, laid alongside Emily’s.

Cooper, Thomas

“Obviously, Cooper is dealing with a great deal of trauma himself. But his limitations here… They do nothing to impede the deftness of his mind.” Here she sits, about to be the hype woman for the class clown. “He willingly put himself behind enemy lines in the Eltingville Blocks before the war.” Whatever they called it back then, that’s what it was — enemy-controlled territory. “He was brilliant on Staten Island. And if we want to go with the underestimated dream team…”

Nicole gestures to Cooper’s file. “He’ll look like Jacques Clouseau on first impression. We can spin a good narrative on this. Send a couple of supposed all-stars to make the government think we found a better lead elsewhere, and that these two drew the short straws… We’ll have them distracted by the decoys and they won’t know what hit them with Cooper and Epstein.”

A rueful smile sneaks into place as Nicole concedes, “Sorry, I still look at things like a tactician sometimes. But this is not the war, and this is not my op.” Her head tilts to the side slightly. “But I know who I’d send as the distractionary team.”

Voss slides his tongue across the inside of his cheek, looking down at Cooper’s file. “If we can get Cooper a medical assessment that clears him for field work, this has my full support.” He doesn’t even so much as broach the topic of Donald Kenner. Nicole’s assessment of Kenner’s reputation in-house appears to be accurate.

“As for the decoy suggestion, it’s a good one, if we were planning on legitimately going into the UK.” Voss admits as he leans back in his chair, folding his hands at his stomach. “But we’re not.”

Nicole nods her head slowly to both counts. She has faith Cooper can get cleared. She has more concern about the rest of it. She has more she’d like to propose on how to make that work, but it’s still not her role.

Another file hits the desk from her stack. This is her role.

Gerken, Lance

“He’s inexperienced, rash, and he’s thought for a long time that he knows better than the rest of us how to do this job,” Nicole puts forth without preamble. There’s no softball here, no sugar coating. “But part of the reason he was brought on was because he gets his fingers into every pie, so he may as well be doing it in an official capacity, playing by our rules.”

Spreading her hands out, she continues with the faintest ghost of a smirk, “If there’s one thing Gerken excels at, it’s not playing by the rules.” Which, if they’re doing this off the books… “He volunteered for this one. Normally, I’d worry he’s too much of a wild card for this, but he has personal stakes, meaning he has a vested interest in not fucking this up.” To apply appropriate emphasis to this situation. “I told him I’d put his name forward, but that this one isn’t my call. He has the skills for this, and his ability would undoubtedly prove useful. What you do with that information is up to you.”

Voss lifts a hand to his cheek, idly scratching there as he considers Lance’s file. He has a remarkable poker face when it comes to Lance. When he blinks his attention back up to Nicole, all he asks is, “Was there anyone else?”

Nicole meets Voss' gaze, unwavering. “You know I want to go.”

“Noted,” is Voss’ swift dismissal of the topic.

“This seems like an acceptable arrangement. I’ve already spoken with Director Nazan, the CIA is going to cooperate with getting our agents into the UK under assumed identities. The less Torchlight and its ilk know about our operations on their shores the better given the current climate.” Voss explains with a slow spread of his hands.

“Work with Special Agent Ayers to inform the necessary agents of their roles and…” Voss hesitates, looking back at the files. Cooper and two junior agents. His eyes narrow for a moment. “No. They shouldn’t go alone,” Voss shakes his head and looks up to Nicole.

“Get on the phone with the Washington office,” Voss says, pressing his tongue to the inside of his cheek. “Tell them to send Liza Messer back.” He blinks a look back up to Nicole. “Better safe than sorry.”

There’s only the momentary downcast of her eyes to indicate her displeasure with the response. The lack of discussion of the possibility. It’s let go of — for now — with the next exhale. She’ll methodically shred pieces of paper later.

“Agreed,” she says of the arrangement with a nod of her head. Avoiding watchful eyes and vexing a power when they’re still too fragile for more fighting is the sensible thing to do here. There’s no surprises here on her part. None of them would be here if they didn’t know the importance of prudence.

But hope works its way back into her when Voss’ eyes fall on her again, when he notes that they’ll need more than just the three names in front of him to ensure the success of this operation. Her chin lifts, her tongue pressed against the back of her front teeth in preparation of a warranted thank you.

The chair beneath her creaks faintly for how hard she grasps the seat in order to keep any of her emotion from making its way onto her face. “Yes, sir.” Nicole uncurls her fingers slowly, the stiffness having already settled in from the force of her grip. She starts to close up her notes. “Is there anything else?”

If he was expecting an argument, he may be shocked not to find it in her now.

“Good work, Miller.” Voss says quietly, looking down at a spot on his desk, then up to Nicole. “You might want to consider taking some time off, all things considered. Before Director Nazan makes you.”

The papers are stacked neatly together, tapped on the desk once to make the tops level. Nicole smiles as she comes to her feet. “Maybe after we’ve caught these bastards. I’ll think about it.”

Voss, still looking at the spot on his desk, nods. “Good day, Miller.”

She turns to head for the door, but stops partway to reaching for the handle. Nicole looks back over her shoulder. “I’ll consider taking that time off if you promise to look after yourself too.”

Voss doesn’t make any such promise.

They both know better than to lie to each other.

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