Harkness' Gambit


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Scene Title Harkness' Gambit
Synopsis When Megan Young relays terrible news from Doctor Brennan, Scott Harkness feels compelled to make a difficult suggestion.
Date April 23, 2010

The Hangar

The sleet has finally stopped, though travel through the city is treacherous at best. Even the streets that have been plowed are slick with just over an inch of ice on them, and the temperature — which never even got near zero degrees today — has begun to drop again as the day wanes. It's dinner time, but Megan hasn't taken the time to stop for that. It took well over twice the usual time to get from Suresh to the Hangar, and she's not entirely sure what the below-freezing temperatures will do to the packages she carries with her. Refrigeration is called for, not freezing solid. They're well wrapped inside the backpack she wears over her heavy winter gear, and Megan resembles the Michelin Man wrapped as she is in so many layers.

Climbing the stairs into the brownstone that is the Hangar, she slips and has to catch herself on the railing. So by the time the door is opened for her, the redhead is grumbling under her breath about damn slick stairs. "You need to put out some cat litter," she informs the young man at the door. "I about killed myself on the steps."

Pulling the hat from her head makes a layer of her copper hair stand up around her head, though most of it is caught back in its customary braid. She peels off her gloves as well. "I need to talk to him. And this," she says as she slips the backpack off her back and hands it over to the other young man guarding the door, "needs to get couriered to someone to analyze as quickly as possible."

"What've you got there?" Comes the voice from the top of the stairs by the door, familiar in ints grumbling qualities. Scott Harkness' descent from the second floor comes with the clomping of boots, dark-clad legs wearily carrying the old soldier down the steps even as a faint blue-white glow comes around one of his hands. A latticework of light forms from the glow into a large rectangular framework that Scott grips his fingers around as a bag of calcium and salt mixture designed for melting ice materializes.

Coming down the last Step, scott slings the bag out with a little extra oomph into the young man's arms, causing him to stumble back a step, cradling the sack like a baby against his chest so that Scott can be the one to take the cooler Megan is carrying. "You bring me dinner?" Scott's mood seems to have improved over the last few days, at least.

Megan is nothing if not surprised at Scott's mood. It's been a long while since she's seen the man smile, much less tease. The corners of her mouth quirk upward ruefully. "Next time," she promises smoothly. "Steak and baked potatoes suit? But this… needs a good lab. It's the vaccine Brennan brought back with him. Before it's used, it needs to be checked to be sure it's not laced with something. Both of us felt Suresh was not the best place for that to be done; I know we've got a couple of techs at St. Luke's who could slip it through, though."

Glancing at the boys — and they are just boys to her — at the door, blue eyes return to Scott and she says mildly, "Do you have a few minutes to talk?" Though her tone is casual, he knows her well enough to see that it's probably not going to be good news. When it is, she's far more exuberant.

Immediately Scott's throat hitches and not even the promise of meat and potatoes to a meat and potatoes man can halt the feeling of his stomach turning upside down. Faster than he'd acted with the calcium, Scott holds up and hand as a long and thin rectangular object forms out of a swirling latticework of blue light, materializing what looks like a long black plastic baton. "Do— not move." Scott insists, lifting the baton out and depressing a button with his thumb.

There's a crackling whine from the device as he brings it up and down Megan's form, stopping at one of her pockets as he pulls out her cell phone. The wand's waved over that and it makes a noisy squeal to indicate that — yes — it's transmitting. Tossing the phone to his side to land on an armchair just past the doorway, Scott sweeps over the box again and then nods his head in a sigh of relief.

"At least there's nothing transmitting…" Scott murmurs, offering a dark-eyed stare up to Megan before releasing the wand to disappear in a patterning of that light again. "Where the hell did he gets this?"

Oh for God's sake. Megan's expression takes on the tolerant one of a woman who it merely accepting certain quirks of personality that the man in front of her is evidencing. She even holds her arms out and away from her body so he can waggle his baton around and wave it over her whole form just in case. Though she does not manage to keep her tart tongue silent. "Well, damn, Scott," she drawls at him mildly. "Want me to strip down so you get a better reading?" But she doesn't give him too much shit for it — he has every right to be paranoid. And frankly, very much should be. "C'mon," she says, nodding toward the parlor. "We need to talk."

She slants a glance at the kid who got pegged with the bag full of grit and murmurs, "I recommend you move quickly." Because Scott's mood is most likely going to take a real fast turn for the southern climes. She lets Scott keep the backpack cooler full of vaccine and walks through to the sitting room off the front foyer, waiting for him to join her before closing the doors behind them. "Guess you haven't been listening to your own grapevine," she observes. "You want the full version or the short-short one?"

"I've been busy," Scott asserts with a snort as he stays motionless, tracking Megan's progress into the Hangar and then follows after a delay behind her into the sitting room, "been trying to organize an effort to set up a pre-emptive drainage system at Grand Central, because when all this snow melts the whole goddamned station is going to be underwater if we don't get ahead of the curve." Looking back at the door when she shuts it, Scott's brows furrow and his eyes lift up to her with a furrow of creased brows.

"Explain," Scott tersely states, because her attitude and the manner in which this is all going down is making him nervous, back straightening and posture stiff. The old soldier has too much nervous energy to sit, and now all the stress from his argument with Melissa is hammering at the back of his mind again.

Megan simply nods. "The raid was staged by Liette's father, as we pretty much assumed at the time. The place is government run. Again as we suspected. Brennan was released with the vaccine and a message. We either cooperate and turn the girl back over to her father — and Brennan is convinced that whatever else the good doctor in charge is, he is Liette's father. He apparently loves the girls quite deeply — or they're going to bring the full force of the government to bear on every Ferry safehouse they know about." She pauses. "And the impression is that they know a good number of them."

Megan's tone remains calm, very much a soldier reporting to the CO, holding only the faintest hint of the rage she has over the fact that she took her kids to the Den. She understands the necessity of compartmentalized information, just as she's compartmentalizing her responses on the matter. "They weren't fooled by your front. In addition to the governmental response, Liette's father has sent his own message. Liette's sister is apparently the one causing the weather patterns. And if she is not returned, he has informed Brennan that he will allow an ice age to be ushered in, killing however many it takes to get his child back."

Scott says absolutely nothing, his expression sags and his eyes unfocus, distantly staring at the wall just over Megan's shoulder. Swallowing dryly, Scott slides his tongue over his lips and nods his head once, too late to actually be a normal response. The old, weary soldier swallows dryly and moves with a very slow, wandering gait over to an armchair, a weathered hand reaching out to hold one corner of the chair as he settles himself down to sit. The seat's old springs creak as much as his bones do internally, and as Scott leans back against the chair, he's rubbing one hand over his mouth, eyes up and focused on the ceiling.

"Thanks…" Scott murmurs, letting his hand slowly move away from his mouth as he speaks, "…thanks for the update, Young." Blinking a few times, Scott's eyes wander down to the Nurse and his head bobs slowly in a repeated nod again. She's never, in her career with the Ferrymen, seen Scott like this.

"You should probably…" Scott's eyes wander down to the floor as he hunches forward, elbows resting on his knees and one hand coming up to rub at his forehead. "The sleet's supposed to pick up soon, you— you should probably head out while you can."

"You're out of your fucking mind, Scott," Megan replies succinctly. "She wants to go home, if everything I've heard is true. We're having to sedate her to keep her here. And keeping her will destroy the network."

Moving forward, unzipping her coat and dropping to sit on the edge of the chair next to his, Megan speaks quietly. "And you have an unprecedented opportunity here. Because part of the whole situation is that they wanted Brennan on their staff. Which puts someone inside their organization who can report back. Sure, they'll be watching him. They already know his ties. And if they're doing something wrong, he will act on it." She rests on her elbow and looks at him. "We're not shielding this girl. I don't care what the vote said while I was out of town. We're not destroying the Ferry and potentially getting Brennan's family killed to keep this child from her parent. No matter how abhorrent we find the man and his actions personally. We are not Child Protective Services, and we have no rights here."

"Thank you." Scott states flatly to Megan, brows furrowed as his dark eyes lift up to her, all emotion drained out of them. "There'll be a meeting," Harkness notes succinctly, "it will be discussed there. End of story." Those dark eyes of his divert over to the door that she'd closed when they had come in, then back to Megan. "You should head home before the sleet comes back. We'll handle the situation, and you won't have to worry about it."

There's a look in Scott's eyes, something distant, something troubled. "Go, Megan. Please." There the briefly restrained emotion smolders in his words, he wants her to clear the vicinity before the metaphorical bomb goes off.

There's a long moment where Megan studies him. And then says quietly, "No. It's why I came in person to tell you - if you're going to blow your top, I'd rather you do it at me." They've disagreed at high volume before. In this case, it's not about disagreeing or agreeing… she's simply offering her ears and perhaps a target for his ire.

"Just go, I have a phone call to make." Scott insists weakly, reaching down into his jacket and fumbling for a phone, finding nothing and cursing under his breath as he rises to his feet. "Just— Let me put this all together in my head, Young." He only ever calls her that when he's upset, and it shows. But this reaction is different from all of the others, there's something wrong with his sunken countenance and lack of fire, he should have snapped by now.

Walking past the redhead, Scott reaches for the door and twists the knob, eyes closing as he does before he lets the knob unwind and looks back at Megan, lips downturned into a frown. "I just need some space…" he admits wearily, before his eyes avoid hers, something ike regret already in them.

Moving to stand up, Megan says softly, "Scott… talk to me." She lets him walk past her without stopping him, but she turns to look at him. "I don't understand what the hell is going on with this girl, and you look like I just kicked you in the head. We've hit the point where I need to know what's going on. We lost an operator because of too much compartmentalized intel. If I haven't proven to you that you can trust me yet, what the hell am I doing here?"

"We're going to put it to a vote again," Scott insists, looking at Megan with a dark-eyed stare, lips sagging into an expression of something other than just disappointment. "If they vote to hand her over, that's what we'll do." Scott's brows furrow, lips press together in a thin line, and his hand grips the doorknob tightly. "But if you think… for one second… that I am going to hand over a weapon like her to the Institute, you, and they are sadly mistaken."

The implication is clear enough.

"Sometimes you have to give people a choice," Scott states as he turns the doorknob, "and be able to make the hard decisions based on what they decide." When he opens the door, it starts to become clear why it looks as though his heart has sunken into his stomach.

Murder's never an easy thing to consider.

Jesus. It hits Megan like a ton of bricks about the time that he opens the door and Megan races over to slam it shut right out of his hands, putting her back against it. If he wants to get physical about it, he can push her or otherwise move her, but she's not letting it go at that. "Christ… Scott!" She stares up at him, horrified. "You can't be serious. You can't think that's actually any kind of fucking answer!"

The door slams shut ans Scott turns to look up at Megan. "The Ferry doesn't have anyone who manipulates memories. How long do you think that girl has been nosing around the network? She's been to Grand Central, the Garden, the Brick House, God knows where else Brennan took her. From what I heard she's even been telepathically inside of Chesterfield's head. Do you realize what she must know about our organization by now? Let's presume the Institute is bluffing about knowing where our safehouses are, or maybe they don't know where one is."

Scott leans away from the door, brows furrowed. "We made that girl our priotity the moment we took her under out wing. If we turn her over now, we are dead, we are all dead. I'm not suggesting to the Ferry that we put her down, because the network wouldn't survive that, but we have people in this organization who will do the hard thing— the right thing— to protect the lives of the people we've been entrusted."

He hates this, hates that the burden has suddenly been laid in his lap, hates this entire situation. But Scott Harkness is intimately aware of the risk now presented. "If we turn her over, the Ferry is over. We're done. I'll let a vote decide, I'll let everyone make their choice, and then if they decide against sanity I will correct the situation discretely."

"Okay, first of all," Megan replies immediately, "if you don't turn her over — and I would assume if you kill her as well — her sister will kill millions of people. Brennan's a pretty damn good judge of character, and he fully believes that this guy will do exactly as he says regarding the weather patterns. He's already apparently lied to his supervisors about his other kid being the cause, all he has to do is let her mourn without saying word one. And don't for one second assume in any way that it will end there. That kid disappears from our custody or dies in it, they will assume we killed her outright and you know what? Then we're just as fucked, and we've fucked at least the entire Eastern Seaboard as well. Jesus, Scott, think."

She reaches out and touches his arm. "You and I might disagree on a lot of things. If I thought for half a second that killing this girl would keep worse from happening, I'd shut up and let you make that call." Megan bites her lip. "No matter how much I'd hate myself for it. But what you're proposing here? It's not just about the Ferry, Scott. It's about the country. And maybe the world. Thousands of people dead of the cold, maybe millions. Certainly millions effected. And we're already in trouble. How much more cold can we take?"

"Accidents happen." Scott flatly states, "We hand over the girl, and make it look like someone else was to blame. Rebel, Humanis, I don't honestly care. I'm calling the bluff of the Institute on this, I don't think they'll let this continue, and I think if they're as smart as they aren, there's no way they don't already know who or what is responsible for this weather. They're using this situation to lever us, Megan. The moment they can't get what they want anymore, they'll shut the whole thing down, because from a tactical standpoint it becomes a no-win situation."

There's a side of Scott few people see, the military tactician, the soldier the man who killed for his country. "False Flag, Young. We pin this on something else, and we move on with our lives. The Institute won't allow themselves to be destroyed by this weather, but right now it's convenient to them to keep it going to put pressure on the Ferry to give in to their demands. It's exactly what I would do if I was in their place."

"It's already no-win." Megan looks up at this man she's worked for and with for years. "They have ten of our people, Scott. If they didn't know about all the safehouses before, they sure as fucking hell do now. And even if it were an actual accident, they will never believe it. You're gambling on the possibility that they don't already know about the safehouses — and that is one hell of a large gamble, to my mind with the operators they have in their possession and the power levels of the telepaths we have to assume they have. As soon as we kill that girl, they'll sweep us and do exactly what they did in the Armory. Only this time they'll come in with live ammo instead of rubber bullets, and they'll come in with negation gas grenades. Do you really think we're holding a winning hand in this? We haven't got any leverage at all that I can see. So if you see somewhere in here that we actually have a fighting chance, you lay it out to me. I've been in the trenches long enough to understand it."

"Do you think, for one goddamned moment that if they had all that information, they wouldn't have done it already?" Scott lifts one brow, hands coming to rest on his hips as he looks to Megan. "Why would an organization that has had no qualms about apparent human testing, abductions and whatever score of other atrocities we can connect with them hesitate for a moment to sweep us off the board if they have the capability to? They're bluffing, Megan. Right now we have all the cards in our hands and they have scraps. The people who were at the Armory weren't long-term Ferry, they are Tien's people who he brought on specifically to set up the Armory. They were new members that Tien was testing the waters with on that project."

Scott's brows lift slowly. "Compartmentalization saved our asses there. I read the list of who's missing, I know what they were made aware of and we're not compromised yet, save for the identities of the people that were at the safehouse. I am only praying that they didn't take what Brennan knows, but if they did, even he didn't know everything."

Rolling his tongue over the inside of his cheek, Scott tilts his head to the side slowly. "Megan, if they want the girl back bad enough to hold the east coast of this country hostage, they would've knocked down our doors by now. They're trying to scare us, and it's working. I think they're not as powerful as they let themselves on to be…" There's a narrowing of Scott's eyes as he looks to the closed door, then back to Megan.

"Man behind the curtain, Young." Scott breathes in slowly, "There is no great and terrible Oz. Just a scared little man who wants his girl back. I think we're being played."

"Why would they bother?" Megan asks bluntly of his first question. "They're in it for research purposes, for money, and for what they can learn. They couldn't give a rat's ass about the few Evos that we manage to get out of the New York metropolitan area because they're probably tagging everyone with the flu vaccine. If they haven't already worked out a way to tag them with fucking tetanus boosters or whatever. Do you think the science for that doesnt' exist? A chemical that only bonds with the SLC gene through tetanus boosters or normal yearly flu shots — something they dont' have to say 'oh, only Evos should take this' kinds of stuff — if it's not already out there, it will be soon. So they really don't give a flying fuck about what we're doing out here, they want one thing from us: Her."

Megan pauses and admits quietly, "You may very well be right. That they aren't as powerful as they're letting on. But let me put this to you another way: Just how much are you willing to lose if you're wrong on this one? You were willing to let them come in to the Den and potentially kill everyone in there to get to her — you didn't nkow they'd use rubber bullets. You were willing to let them kill sick people, kids, even Melissa and me." She is quiet a moment.

"Are you really going to become that man? The one who holds the good of the few who happen to be in your personal care over the good of the many that you swore an oath to protect?" Meg's blue eyes are shuttered. "Are you really going to risk the deaths of thousands over what one child might know about the Ferry's network? And are you really going to allow this to go to a vote and then shoot her in the head in cold blood regardless? That's the single most ridiculous thing I've ever heard — and you're lying to every single operative who shows up to that meeting to vote if you do it. They will never trust you again, and your vaunted network will be in tatters anyway."

"You're wrong." Scott flatly states, "About too much you just said to clarify. There's a reason why this organization has survived for as long as it has, and if you think that this is the first time we've had to make a difficult decision for the better of the network as a whole, you're being naive. Let it go, Young. I am not handing her over to the Institute, not with what she knows, and not with what power she has. I am not giving them back a weapon like that."

Shaking his head, Scott turns the knob on the door, then pulls it open as he steps back into the room with the motion. "Go home, Young. Go home and worry about what you can change, because as it stands right now, there is no way the network would ever agree to turning her over anyway. But if they make that mistake, if they think with their hearts and not with their heads…"

Scott's eyes avert to the floor and his head shakes. "We'll cross that bridge when we come to it, torches in hand."

"You son of a bitch," Megan says quietly, shaking her head. "You do what you have to. And I'll do what I have to. Have the vaccine checked by a tech you trust. Get it to the people who need it," she says sternly, moving to scoop her hat and gloves up from the chair she dropped them on. "I'll see you at the meeting." Or not. She walks back toward the door, her steps steady and purposeful.

When Megan steps out of the sitting room, Scott's head hangs and his shoulders slack, one hand coming up to his face. He turns, spotting hsi cell phone on the beside that door, and when he reaches for it his eyes are on Megan's back as she walks across the Hangar to the foyer. Picking up the phone, Scott swallows nosily and flips it open, brows furrowed and head hung, thumb brushing across the numberpad and chin eventually lifting up, eyes to the ceiling as he paces away from the door, listening to the ringing on the other end.

It's only when the person on the other end finally picks up, that he breathes out the sigh he's been holding in. "Noah," Scott's urges with a weary quality, "I think we might need to talk…"

There is, after all, another option.

But he likes it even less.

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