Hold The Line


elisabeth_icon.gif emerson2_icon.gif

Scene Title Hold the Line
Synopsis The Director of FRONTLINE gets read in. It's not what she thought it was at all.
Date October 16, 2011

A Diner

Diners are an amazing tool of the trade when you're a fugitive. Although Elisabeth doesn't use the Nite Owl anymore, there are tons of diners throughout the city that cater to the all-night crowds. Granted, most are now closed all night due to curfews and what have you, but it's still workable. Elisabeth is very good these days at appearing different from the fugitive ex-Director of FRONTLINE. She's been six months on the run, after all. She's sitting in the diner looking for all the world like a down-on-her-luck person in Manhattan — there are plenty these days. A ratty old coat, a scarf, a hat to hide her blonde hair. A cup of coffee and nothing else sitting in front of her. She leans on the table, blue eyes warily observing everyone who enters as she waits for the woman she's come to meet.

The diner is busy enough that few women come and go before before a particularly tall redhead pushes open the door. Hannah Emerson looks tired, like someone who might perfectly blend in at this sort of diner, and thankfully her face hasn't circulated in the public enough yet for anyone to recognize her despite her current position.

With a heavy sigh, she scans the patrons. She knows who she's looking for, but she doens't know who she's looking for. Her former boss was nothing if not smarter than that.

All it takes is a whisper under her breath, shaped and sent on a straight-line vector to the redhead's ear. "«Back corner on the left.»" When Emerson comes down to join her at the table nearest the kitchen door, Elisabeth shoots the other woman a small smile. "It's really good to see you, Hannah." Her gaze flickers to the doorway, but she doesn't ask if the other woman was careful — it's a given. And Elisabeth's being careful to monitor her own surroundings, trusting in her backup to let her know if there's a problem that she doesn't catch.

Emerson can't help but perk up when the voice reaches her ears, her suspicions confirmed. It was that that led her here tonight, looking like just another patron in need of a warm cup of black coffee. The fact that she's tired alone is remarkable, given her particular ability, and it's a testament to how the last few days have gone, both before and after the weekend's revelations.

She offers a tired smile back to Elisabeth, a hand on the table. "It's good to see you too," she offers, opting not to name the woman she's meeting with just in case. Her hand curls into a fist, knuckles rapping on the table twice before she moves to sit down. "Your sense of timing hasn't faded since you left," she offers. "I wasn't expecting you to reach out to me," is said a bit more seriously, though without concern or malice.

"Yeah, well… I wasn't exactly expecting you to get nailed with an Executive Order that authorizes the team to use lethal force on civilians," Elisabeth points out quietly. She waits for the waitress to come by and fill their coffee cups to the top before enclosing them in a full silence bubble for safety. "They can't hear us," she murmurs to Emerson, though they can still hear what's happening outside the bubble — Elisabeth still struggles with being too muffled.

"How are you guys holding up?" she asks, her blue eyes searching the weary face. "I keep my ear to the ground, but so far things seem… at least what passes for 'normal' for you."

"It's been as quiet as it ever gets," Emerson offers back with a small nod. "Until this weekend. The order came out of nowhere, and everyone is scrambling to make sense of it. To figure out how to handle all of this… nonsense." The disdain is pretty clear in her voice. "They gave me your job," she adds, with just a hint of mirth. "So I blame you for the fact that I've managed to get tired."

The corners of her lip curl into a smile just briefly, before she leans back. "Other than that, business as usual. Gavyn's back from assignment, so we have as much of the team together as we're going to. I'm going to brief them on how to handle the coming days tomorrow."

Elisabeth is vaguely amused by the fact that Emerson got her job. "I'm just grateful that it was you and not Heller," she admits to the redhead. That Gavyn is back makes her thoughtful. She's quiet for a long moment, sipping from her cup.

"So… do you remember that conversation about following your conscience?" she asks quietly. Liz's blue eyes flicker up to Emerson's and she tells the other woman, "Given what's coming, I don't think I have the luxury of keeping you guys out of it any longer." Especially given that JJ is here for a particular reason. "You need to know what's coming so you can make the best choices possible. And …. I need you to trust JJ. Gavyn… was already asking a lot of the same questions you were before she was pulled for temp duty, so… feel her out a little, but I think he'll have your back too. I do not know which way Dooley will go."

Emerson gives a slow nod, her posture relaxing slightly as she eyes Elisabeth. "Leon Heller?" There's a sour look on her face. She doesn't know the man, but he has a… reputation. "Things certainly would be different if he were in my shoes now." Emerson probably wouldn't be here, for one.

Still, the expression she gives Liz is a mixed one. "My conscience is going to get a work out, it seems like," she grumbles. "Lethal force? They've lost their minds." She doesn't raise her voice, but it's plenty clear she wants to. Elisabeth's assessment of her team brings a hand to her chin. "I trust JJ. He's smart, thinks things through, approaches situations intelligently. He has a good head on her shoulders." Dooley and Gavyn she doesn't know as well enough, but the knowledge that Gavyn has been questioning is actually comforting. "If no one was questioning, I'd be worried. Orders are orders, unfortunately, but if you never question them then that speaks more about you than orders ever will."

She taps a finger on the table, narrowing her eyes at Elisabeth. "What have you been keeping us out of, Elisabeth?" Her voice is a bit more flat - lacking in accusation but also lacking in pleasantness. "My goal is to keep people safe and alive. I know yours is too, but…"

Elisabeth is watching Emerson carefully. "Some of the story goes back a long time and you wouldn't believe me if I told you. So… the short-short version looks basically like this: Precogs have been warning some of us for years about the situation you're seeing play out right now. The DoEA and Homeland Security are being headed up by high-ranking members of Humanis First. Eltingville and the places like it are just the first steps. They've seen all-out war, Hannah." She wishes there were an easier way to say this. "You know as well as I do that it's coming — people are not going to just pack up their things and meekly walk into concentration camps." Her tone is sad.

"I've worked with people for several years now collating data and trying to put together a way to stop the worst parts from happening. But… it's a little harder than it seems because … we live in a world where people can actually time travel." Elisabeth rolls her eyes. "And all the horror stories you've ever heard about what happens when you fuck with the past? They're all true. Knowing the future has got to be the worst fucking superpower ever, except MAYBE for time travel." She sighs, her hands cradling her cup.

"We couldn't do anything until certain information came our way pointing to a place we might be able to head off the worst of it. The Commonwealth Institute is run by a man who believes that he can… change what's happening now by doing some really bad things, Hannah. And we have to stop him." She bites her lip. "I can't ask you to jump into that. What I am asking you to do is… protect everyone you can, whatever way you can manage. And… if JJ goes missing? I need you to cover for him. He's working with my team."

Emerson purses her lips, taking in what Elisabeth has to say with the occasional, slow and measured nod. The occasional hand balling into a fist. A moment of surprise worn on her face, despite how she may try to hide it. Taking it all in, Hannah purses her lips. She has never encountered a time traveller. She's hardly ever met a precog or a postcog. This is a place where a gap in her knowledge exists.

That makes this that much more bitter.

"I've seen war," Emerson practically snarls out. The more present, literal kind. "Of course that's where this is heading. Does anyone think otherwise?" She doesn't mean to seem too aggressive, but Liz has struck a bit of a nerve. "You don't need a time traveller to tell you this isn't going to end well, and I plan to tell the team that much tomorrow."

She stares at Elisabeth for a long moment. "The reason I joined FRONTLINE was to protect innocents. Evolved, and otherwise. To protect my sister," she offers to Elisabeth. "Of course I trust JJ. And I trust you, so if he's working with you… I'll cover for him." With that, she leans back in her seat, crossing her arms.

"Read me in, Liz. Tell me what you can. I'm going to go out there, and keep people alive. But I need to know exactly what I'm getting into if I'm going to help them." There's a hesitant pause. "And if I'm going to help you." She trusts her former CO more than the government she's pledged her life to, it seems. The last few months have been wearing at her, but the Executive Order was the last straw.

If it was what Elisabeth was hoping for, most assuredly it isn't something she wants — these people are perhaps not her friends, but they were her responsibility. And they are good people. There's a kind of gratitude and relief that shows in Liz's blue eyes.

"The guy up at the Commonwealth is a time traveler himself," Liz begins. "From about 20 years in the future. In his own time, he tried to create a device that could essentially communicate backward in time. It went horridly wrong, and in the ensuing explosion and chaos, he was thrown back. And instead of learning his lesson, he decided he knew what went wrong in his own future… and so he built the machine SOONER in our timeline. It requires… essentially human batteries to run. People hooked into it. He's playing God, deciding who he's going to save and who is of use in this whole attempt."

She pauses, making sure Emerson's following. "The people I work with are planning a two-pronged attack on facilities — one that houses the machine itself, so we can destroy it, and one that is being used to contain people he's had taken off the streets and put in his gilded birdcage. He built that facility in some misguided notion that it would hold up against the time shift if his machine succeeded. So he and they would still remember this timeline even when it was gone."

Shaking her head slightly, Elisabeth says softly, "He's working with the DoEA. So the Institute's facilities have Horizon armored teams, the prototype drones, the robots that run through Midtown… all at their disposal. If things go sideways…." And here she pauses and sighs heavily. "Hell, who am I kidding? When things go pear-shaped… you're going to have to make some hard decisions, Hannah. They've already given the order to execute people who might fight back… I don't know where they'll draw their line. Whether they might basically tell you to turn Eltingville into Auschwitz. And that's not what I trained all of you for. It's not what any of you signed up to do. It's not who you are." Which likely explains why she's coming to Emerson now — because all hell is about to break loose.

Emerson listens intently to Elisabeth, eyes closing partly about halfway through what she tells her. It certainly is a lot to take in. It sounds implausible, impossible, and unrealistic. But then, so did the idea of ghettos, among so many other things, so Emerson finds herself surprisingly willing to believe, enough to catch even herself off guard.

"No one on my team is executing anyone," she states sharply. "No one I can talk to, at least. I've spend the last half day pouring over assignments and teams, trying to weed out anyone who seems too radical either way." She narrows her eyes, sitting up straighter. "If I learned anything from you, Elisabeth, it's that FRONTLINE is here to protect. Not… this." She closes her eyes. "None of it sits well with me. Orders are orders, but…" She lets out a small sigh. "I can twist them at least. Try to play it in our favor as much as I can. Make sure no one dies." She inclines her head slightly. "But orders are orders, for now. At least until I figure out how to get Elena out of the city. Maybe further." Her sister, in case Liz doesn't remember.

"I don't know where they'll draw the line, but I know where I will draw the line, and if I have to get into a fist fight with Kershner I'll do it. We're not monsters and I refuse to let my unit be seen that way." Their unit, in a way.

Elisabeth breathes a little more freely — she knew that Emerson was a good fit, both for the team itself and for leadership. "I need you to hold that line, Hannah. To be what we trained to be. I can't do it. They wouldn't believe in me. But you can. And you must. Because what you do here and for the next few weeks? It can help turn the tide. It won't look like it at first… but do not compromise." She reaches across, urgent in that order. "Do not let them make you compromise that line. Hold it with everything you have."

Biting her lip as she releases the redhead's arm, she says very seriously, "If you're willing to trust me with her…. I'll see if I can pull a transport option for you and will text you a meeting place. You'd meet there right after curfew ends and she'll go from there." If she can pull it together. But she knows some people who are Tier 0 and have travel abilities. It's the one and only favor she'll ever ask of the man.

Emerson looks back up at Elisabeth, a look of shock on her face. That was something she certainly hadn't expected. And honestly she would wish all of her family safe. But her sister was her treasure, and it didn't even matter if she made it out of all of this as long as Elena did. She swallows audibly. "You'd do that for me, Elisabeth?" Emerson takes a deep breath. "That would certainly make all of this easier. I just— I don't want my decisions to hurt her."

Her expression tightens, becoming more stern again. "But I think I've made my choices. Or I will." She gives a small nod. "Hold the line. I think I can do that. It will be a test, but…" A flat expression. "If that is my part to play in things, then I will take it and I will make it work." She smirks. "Trust me when I say I know how to push back. And I can push for a long time."

The audiokinetic smiles faintly. "How could I not?" Elisabeth's blue eyes are serious. "I don't know what they'll do to you. It could be that you pushing back earns you jail time or something. What you're about to do could cost your life, Hannah. The least I can do is make sure the person you're trying to keep safe in all of this is hidden safely away and knows exactly what you're fighting for. My father's already out of town for the same reasons — I can't have leverage on the loose."

She blows out a slow breath. "Agent Pak was mad when I had to run — she said there was one less Good Guy on the inside. And she was right. There are so many things you might be able to do from the inside…. if the next few weeks can be gotten through to the end. They're going to need you as the face of the Evo Police. Do it right, Hannah. Make sure they see you doing it right."

There's a short, sharp nod at the redhead, the urgency conveying itself, and Elisabeth says quietly, "Tell JJ… keep his phone handy." She grins a little bit. "And … thank you. For trusting me." It means a lot to her.

Those are tough words to swallow down, but Emerson has been in situations that could cost her her life before. Had to make decisions on her own before. So, while the situation is different, the idea is the same. That's what she's telling herself at least. She offers Elisabeth a nod, giving another faint smile.

"Doing it right is the only way I know how to do anything," she offers with a bit of a cocky tone. "I know what to do, I think. How is another matter. I think, though, that I can make this go how we want. And if it doesn't… I'll face those consequences." A hand tighten into a fist again. "All eyes are going to be on us. Being seen? That won't be a problem."

Being seen doing the right thing, though. She only has so much control over that. That's what scares her the most.

Sliding to the end of the table, Emerson offers another look to Liz. "I'm going to get moving. There's no eyes on me, but I should have been back at barracks by now." And she doesn't want to raise suspicion. Not after this talk. "Be safe Elisabeth. Reach out if you find anything else to share, and I'll try and make sure you read some good news."

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