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Scene Title Hot/Cold
Synopsis A mixed-temperature reception becomes an unexpected partnership when Byrne returns to Providence asking certain questions.
Date February 13, 2021

Kara wasn't anywhere to be found on Byrne's first trip back to Providence. Turns out she had personal business in the Safe Zone she was away attending to. Still, despite the lack of content, his wasn't a wasted trip. He was able to provide needed sundry goods that would help families whose livelihoods were threatened by the burning of precious ground, able to bring several gallons of gas down at premium prices— peace gifts from an outsider who had helped before, and ones much more easily received when they were given without a certain four-letter word sewn to his back.

The Corral isn't a place the munitions chaplain often stopped at, but it was a waystation currently for those looking to give or receive help. The drinks for those between moments were just an added bonus. The man tending bar doubletakes when he catches sight of Kara some days later, waving her over quickly.

"Hey, someone was looking for you earlier," he says, and she's not immediately on guard. Her eyes widen slightly once she puts the pieces together after he describes her caller.

"Yeah, I remember him…" she clarifies slowly. "You said he left a number to call? Mind if I borrow your phone?"

Left alone with the bulky satphone, Kara frowns to herself in consideration of the attempt to reach out— the potential reasons behind it. Remembering his heroics leads her to finally shake her head and dial the number.

"Hey," she says into the receiver after it quits chirping with rings. "It's Clara. You were looking to talk to me?"

Several Days Later

The Corral


A paper mask sits on the edge of the circular bar table Kara finds herself at, perched more at a lean than a sit on a tall stool. She has a hand wrapped around a bottled beer, but doesn't slip into the thousand-eyed stare of the musing and waiting. Instead, she's all eyes on the young woman who's joined her while she does said waiting.

"Yi-Min's doing better now," she assures gruffly. "After Yamagato botched her surgery, Raytech helped set her up with this— exoskeleton that helps her get around. She can't see color still, but she's doing so much better now." At the time the wildfires had encroached on the edges of Providence, Kara had been away until just days before, sitting beside what what had nearly been her partner's deathbed. She'd reappeared in a daze, drowning herself in the work of helping the community prepare— mostly in offering physical labor rather than logistics, given that— and had gone again a day after the blaze rolled through and the damage was noted, the missing marked.

"Our homestead went up, though. The place me and her had been working on since last year. It… it was outside the firebreak. Too far outside town to fall anywhere protected." Kara relates this impressively, but follows it with a drink.

Byrne opens and closes the door quickly but not forcefully as he enters from the haze outside. Dressed in casual clothing, he’s tried to look as little like he’s on official business as possible. He removes a handkerchief from his face barely used in the space between his car and here.

He drops the hood of his well-worn winter coat, looking around the room before approaching the bar. He unzips his coat to retrieve a glass bottle from an inner pocket. He deposits it on the bartop and slides it toward the proprietor, a thanks for helping to arrange this meet-up. Bourbon, something priced reasonably where it’s available, a gift and not a statement.

Business attended, he turns back toward the building’s patrons, nodding in recognition to Kara. He waits for an indication that he’ll not be intruding on a private conversation before heading toward her.

A thick scarf of gray and silver hangs loosely over small shoulders, making the long falls of violent green curls all the more stark. Unlike her companion, The Corral is but a periphery existence to Sophie as she leans into the small table between herself and Kara. "I don't need to tell you that woman is a warrior. This is just another battle, hun. But, the battlefield ain't forever." She gives a little nod that bobs her curls and tips back a deep draught of her drink.

Oh, youthful optimism. Books always have closure, the wars end, the adventurers put down their swords. So why should life be any different? Perhaps all this newfound family life in Providence, burning though the world may be, has gone to her head. Or, maybe surviving robot armies and gods, has that effect.

Kara gives Sophie a flicker of a smile for her assertion that Yi-Min will be just fine. She lifts her drink in cheers for that, and while drinking catches sight of Byrne at the bar. "Ah," she says with a dry throat after setting aside her glass. "Here he comes."

She lifts her hand to acknowledge the polite distance he's otherwise keeping, and waits for him to approach before nodding to the woman at her side. "Soph, this is Zachariah Byrne. He's with SESA, but he came down and stayed to help with the fire, so…"

Clearly, that's a strong mark in his favor. Enough she's returned his call and stayed in town away from Yi-Min long enough to be here.

"What can I do for you, Byrne?" Kara asks.

Byrne walks forward, greeting Sophie with a nod and a, “Ma’am.” He approaches the table while suppressing the urge to present his ID folio. “Thank you for returning my call,” he directs to Clara.

“I’ve been given an assignment here in town,” he says, gesturing to a chair for permission to sit. “Considering the Agency’s onsite reputation I thought it best not to jump in without rattling a community pillar or two first.”

Kara tips her head in a cant, a small smile managed. "A wise idea," she acknowledges, reluctantly pushing back from the table to right her posture slightly. "If it's something you're better off not pursuing, best to be told by someone politely rather than at the business end of someone else's shotgun. After what you did… I'll do the best I can to help."

She lets out a long sigh regardless, pre-emptive for whatever governmental headache is about to fall on them. If he's being cautious before pursuing it, it's sure to be something, after all.

"What'd they ask you do to?" Kara asks invitationally.

Agent Byrne spreads his hands, where to begin? He knows there’s a sliver of a window for cooperation here. “I’ve been tasked with finding a member of the group known as the Vanguard,” he says, crooking an eyebrow at the incredulity. “A man whom I have never met.” The lack of specificity seems particularly important, more so than the name of his quarry. Not Joshua Lang.

“Elderly gentleman,” he clarifies. “May have been stirred up along with the dust kicked up by the recent fire.” He leaves the question in the air, making a subtle gesture toward the nearest chair rather than sit without direct invitation.

Try as Kara might to keep a poker face, there's a certain tightness to her expression— a tension at the corners of her eyes— over the mention of the Vanguard. A man doesn't help her, either, as there were faces familiar to her that weren't to him. The tightness travels down to the set of her jaw, and she considers the drink before her.

It takes a moment for her to speak, even after the final clarification is made. Like she's thinking, trying to put the pieces together, like she doesn't know exactly who he's talking about. "You must be looking for Sharrow," she surmises. "Him and his kept to their own, and largely didn't interfere with any of us. Tried to proselytize for a while, turn people over to his beliefs— but that was before his health turned. There's bets as to whether he's even still alive, truthfully. A little over a year ago, I was set to meet with him, and his son came instead, acting on his behalf, taking actions in his stead…"

The tension in her jaw eases as she finally glances back up. "They don't call themselves Vanguard anymore, either. They go by Sentinel now. My money's that Sharrow's dead, either of old age or by his son's hand, and 'Freyr' has taken the reins fully." She lets out a long, slow breath just short of a sigh, saying on the end of the exhale, "And you're right about the dustup with the fire. Sentinel parked themselves in our backyard overnight two years ago only to vanish just the same way. If it hadn't been in the middle of a community emergency, we might've been able to spare the resources to find out which way they went when they picked up camp."

Kara looks uncomfortable, flitting a look to Sophie and then back to Byrne. She's not entirely comfortable talking this much about the affairs of Providence, even if it's regarding people she despises. Guardedness lives in her eyes for as much as there's openness in the frame of her shoulders.

Byrne waits patiently for Kara to puzzle out his admittedly unhelpful description. “Does the timing of Sentinel's exit from the community strike people as suspicious?” he asks, emphasizing his correction. “Or is it not unlike them to vanish for periods of time?”

“I understand that this line of questioning might put you in an awkward position with your fellow residents,” he clarifies. “I assure you my interest here is strictly dedicated to the intersection of Sentinel's operations and this latest crisis. I understand an anti-robot fence of some make appears to have failed or was disabled.” He makes no movement for a notepad to scribe answers to his questions.

Kara narrows her eyes slowly and thoughtfully at the breadcrumbs Byrne is leaving out, leading her to make connections. It puts enough of a sour taste in her mouth she reaches for her drink before replying. "They stayed camped out on that farmland they took over and kept a permanent presence— even reaching an agreement with some of the leadership that's no longer around, regarding security." She tips her head and scoffs quietly, "This was shortly after the explosion at the wildlife center. Everything was… crazy, for a while, after that. I wasn't here, or I'd have objected, loudly."

Grouse complete, she settles, hackles only slightly less raised. "At any rate, when the fire came, we all thought everything was done for. It seemed an impossible, cliff-sheer battle to save as much as we did. So that they left doesn't strike me as odd."

Her brow begins to furrow. "I don't know about the hole in the fence, though. I've not seen the wreck in person myself to make the call what might've done it." In that, there's a self-awareness— a keenness that she's not done all she should as a community leader by not knowing more.

"We could go take a look," Kara suggests. "If you think that'll help."

“I’d appreciate the tour,” Byrne says. He isn’t familiar with advanced tech, but sabotage can be obvious regardless. “We can take my SUV if that works; I’ve found their off-road capabilities to be surprisingly robust.”

Kara takes another, last drink from her glass and smiles aside to Sophie. "It was good catching up for a bit. I might be back later." She taps her fingertips twice on the table as she rises, then nods for the door. "Let's see this vehicle of yours, then."

North of Providence

It's the second time Kara's been in a like vehicle, and she's impressed with the sturdy luxury much more now that it's not stuffed to the brim with supplies, and the surrounding world isn't on fire. There are signs of it here, though— forest made ash, grassland crisped beyond recognition.

There used to be flowers here. It's not spring, and there's time yet for them to grow again, but it doesn't change the way she feels now— like there's still the chance nothing might come.

The thin tower that once stood here simply fell over from its base, the machinery strapped along its middle and top bent and broken in the collision as it hit the ground. What didn't break was burned, valuable circuits sending mysterious messages fried away. Kara nudges one of the scraps of the boxes with her for, looking the scene up and down.

"It went down as one piece. Doesn't look like the 'bots were emboldened and took it down themselves." She jogs steps closer to bent base, looking the structure over with a frown. "I'm not seeing any clean cuts, either. No sabotage to the supports. Just…"

Kara lets out a long breath.

“Shoddy workmanship?” Byrne asks, musing over the collapse. This isn’t something as archaic as a phone pole or a fire hydrant, but both those both rely on roots. “I’m assuming that if the locals were to plant something this complex—assuming the current local citizenry were involved—they’d at least have a post-holer to provide some stability.”

His eyes scan across the horizon, looking for anything in the treeline that may skew out of place. “Any known telekineticists in town?” he asks. Still feels odd on occasion, all these years later, to ask that as an honest question. He doesn’t ask for names, just spit-balling at this point. “Things just fall over a lot easier in reach of kinetics.”

Jaw setting, Kara turns her eyes to the charred remnants of a tree. Byrne's point about the tower not being well-enough rooted strikes a chord, even if it's an unpleasant one. "This one—" she says in a tight voice, "One of our agrokinetics helped brace this one. He moved a tree, had it wrap itself around the tower as a support." She gestures with one hand to where it bent at the base where it grows from the concrete base just like a tree itself.

"The others weren't like this, just this one. It makes me inclined to believe the tree fell, took the tower down with it." The realization is a heavy one, makes her shoulder sink as she looks up to the place the tower should be standing. "Rene didn't— we didn't ever expect something like this to happen."

Kara shakes her head as she looks to the here and now instead, turning to Byrne. "That's one answer," she asides before moving on to asking bluntly: "Did you have other questions? Ones you didn't want anyone else in town knowing you were asking?" She sets a hand on her hip, cocking an eyebrow.

Byrne looks solemn for a moment, nodding his head slowly. “I’m sorry for your loss. I heard about his sacrifice,” he says seriously. “Not a lot of people could have done what he did.”

“And, sorry for being obtuse,” he says, flexing his hands open. “The agency’s reputation down here is supremely low, and I’d prefer to not ruffle any more feathers than I have to. Don’t want to give whatever remnant of Sentinel may be lingering a reason to start burning evidence. Or my bosses any reason to believe that I mislead them about the fate of Joshua Lang.”

For a moment, Kara can't say anything in response to Byrne's condolences. Quietly, she inputs, "We were blessed with multiple people willing to sacrifice themselves so everyone else could escape. There's not a strong-enough way to honor them."

She looks back to the agent with a lift of her brows afterward. He lied to his superiors about things that happened during the wildfire? People who died? The shape of her eyes change with gratitude as much as suspicion. "Why did you tell them something other than what you saw…? What reason do you have to look out for us and what we have going here?"

“I informed my superiors of what I overheard that someone else saw in a way that didn’t directly conflict with what I otherwise suspected,” he says, a deflection in its own right. There’s no good time to tell a suspicious stranger that he wouldn’t trust Voss with a gun deep in the man’s back.

He draws his winter coat closer, zipping it higher against a sudden wind. “Nobody here would be better served by flashing lights and black suits frog-marching a town leader out and off to Riker’s, or worse,” he explains. “Goodwill is worth more to me, and serves my interests. I see a place where there’s right to be done by people who haven’t had help meaningfully offered in years.”

“I realize that you don’t have much reason to trust me,” he admits. He doesn’t grandstand on what he’s done so far, that was just the right thing to do at the time it needed doing. “I mean to work toward changing that. If the agency gets better footing to provide its services to your expressive population at some point in the future, that’s great. Right now my official focus is on making sure that Sentinel isn’t responsible for any of this—” he gestures to the fence, the devastation, “And that it isn’t planning anything else I can help prevent.”

“I volunteered for this,” he says, keeping steady eye contact with Kara. “So if there are ways I can help that don’t officially align with the agency’s stated purpose, I will do what I can regardless.”

The status quo serves his interests, too, he says, and Kara trusts that. She lets out a slow sigh, her eyes not leaving him all the while. Trusting what he says is still a far cry from trusting him fully. But she knows enough to know she's interested in filling him in, at least more than he already is.

"I can't begin to tell you how much I wish I knew what the Sentinel's game is," she admits plainly. "When Sharrow arrived, he spoke as though he'd turned over a new leaf, a complete one-eighty from what you'd expect to hear from someone who'd been close to Vanguard leadership. He claimed he'd been wrong, and understood now that the Evolved are the future, and that he was still walking in Kazimir's path despite that. That— the old wolf had changed at the end, and that he wasn't too prideful not to consider the same."

Her head cants, tongue against jaw before she goes on, "He came here, looking for a successor to chase the heels of and devote himself to." Dancing around what drew him specifically and which of their number he'd had his eye on is avoided, presently. "He had alliances outside of Providence as well. There was this group— Shedda-Dinu— who would reward those who worked for them by granting them abilities. Sharrow and his son both went looking for people to run errands on their behalf."

Kara doesn't mince or avoid what as she looks off. "Dangerous, life-changing errands. To go after… enemies or assets of theirs, in the name of receiving power. Either you did them favors now, or you wrote them a blank check for later. I don't— to tell you the truth, I don't know if anyone took them up on the offer."

"I do know that too good to be true turned out to be too good, though," she says as she looks back to Byrne. "I ran into someone who was manipulated by them, forcibly given a power they didn't ask for, only for it to cause their body to begin to degrade." She takes in a deep breath, one that clouds its way from her as she uncertainly exhales it out. "But the Sentinel, if they all truly believe in what Sharrow came to, see the Evolved as the next stage of evolution, as potential living gods at whom us mere humans should lie at the feet of, as though we were pets."

She knows Byrne has an ability. That's a detail she skims past rather than call attention to. It's just another tool he has at his disposal, no matter how useful and fantastic it is.

"Sharrow didn't change," Kara asserts gruffly. "He just exchanged one form of extremism for another, and his retinue are more likely than not gone to be among more like-minded people… or are out performing favors on their behalf." Her brow knits upward. "I wish I could put you on their trail. Really, I do. Your country's suffered enough at the hands of extremists. It doesn't need any more of it."

Byrne listens to Kara attentively. “That’s quite the racket,” he says. “Lots of desperate people could be run through a meat grinder for the chance at getting an ability, regardless of it being a clearly bad deal.” Leaving alone the implications that each person who’s gifted an ability receives it at the cost of the death of another.

He sighs, then nods his head back toward the SUV. Might as well get out of the wind. “And a radical shift in allegiances isn’t unusual for a fascist maniac. They use whatever’s at hand to rile up a support base to get what all fascists want: control. When’s the last time anybody saw Sharrow?”

Kara's steps grind in the post-fire grit as she makes her way back to the vehicle. "If I could somehow get to every person they try to swindle to tell them, don't trust, Gemini will kill you, I would." She says over the hood more grimly, "But my own situation means keeping my head down, so it's not like I'm likely to reach out to any media outlets."

Pulling the door open and hauling herself back into the car, she's careful to unseat her rifle off her shoulder first and keep the barrel of it pointed away from either of them as she seats herself. "As far as the last time anyone saw Sharrow Senior, it's been… months, at least." She turns her head only slightly to the left to bring Byrne into her periphery better. "Back in later 2019, right when that explosion happened, he got himself injured. Bad hip break, as I understand it, and his ability to get around got a lot less. To tell you the truth, I'm not sure he ever recovered. Freyr only showed up early 2020, though. Late January, early February kinds of early."

Adjusting the butt of the gun against the floor panel, she adds, "You might have better luck chasing the son." She thinks about it a moment longer, thinks about how everyone needed to move quickly to get ahead of the fire, and narrows her eyes in thought. Warily, she suggests, "I can show you where they stayed."

“That would be great,” Byrne replies, buckling his seatbelt. He starts the vehicle and puts it in drive, checking his mirrors out of habit. He doesn’t expect traffic but worse has come out of these woods. “Hopefully we can find something on the son wherever they were staying.” He doesn’t press for details of why Kara keeps a low profile.

She nods distractedly, a thought bothering her. The first of her directions begin with a gesture back where they came. "We'll hang a right when we get back to the road."

Sentinel Compound ruins

Eastern outskirts of Providence

"You've got to be kidding me," Kara swears as they come up the winding drive.

The dried, dead trees on either side of the driveway are still standing, but the house at the end is not. She leans forward in her seat, brow knit together. "The fires didn't even…" Now she doubts, turning to examine the grounds. "Did they?"

When the vehicle pulls to a stop, Kara already has a foot on the ground, gun held in one hand as she strides toward the remains of the farmhouse. She scans the surrounding area around the home with a furrow of her brow. "This is… extensive." Spindly fingers of charred wood are all that still stand, looking much the same as the rest of what burned at Providences northern and western edges.

A more pronounced swear is quietly frowned away, and she announces aloud with no shortage of being disgruntled, "There goes our plans to look for anything left behind."

Byrne keeps a wary eye on the treeline, gun holstered but jacket raised for easy access. He sighs in frustration, though he shouldn’t be surprised. His boots crunch on the cold ground as he makes his unhurried way toward what little is left of the structure.

“Maybe we get lucky,” he says with a shrug. “Purposeful or not, fire doesn’t always do a good job getting into the corners. Either way stay on the lookout for traps. Wouldn’t put it past such exemplars of the greater good to leave going-away presents.”

Kara lets out a disgruntled note of agreement as she approaches the house. Something that stands out to her immediately is that two of those house corners are particularly burned. Circling around, she eyes the cinders from afar and spots a metal canister crisped and turned on its side. "Likely purposeful," she pronounces, too cynical as to see it as anything but that.

Byrne's review of the treeline leads him to note that a particular tree has a bundle of shifted dirt underneath it. Whatever was disturbed there, or more likely buried there wasn't done recently. Scraps of hibernating grass patch the slightly raised mound. There's nothing else on the perimeter that looks like it— nothing to suggest the house has been ringed with mines the likes that were scattered across the Pine Barrens back during the war and brought to explode by the encroaching fires.

Over by the house's remains, Kara sighs, visibly considering venturing in to poke around. Her eyes trace for a safe path.

Byrne remains cautious as he meanders toward the treeline. His eyes shift from footstep to footstep, occasionally looking up into the treeline again. He views the earth mound from a distance at first, assuring himself it isn’t fresh. He checks over his shoulder to check Kara’s progress before walking up to examine it closely.

The grass is patchiest around the edges of what has all the right proportions of a grave for an adult human. There are no markers of any kind, not even signs of a temporary marker lost to the elements and time. He doesn’t disturb the earth, returning to the farmhouse with a less-cautious step. “Found a likely candidate for a grave near the treeline,” he calls to Kara on his return.

She turns back from the house at that, brow furrowing upward. "A grave?" Kara wonders quietly, meeting Byrne partway. Her head follows a trail back to where he's been, frowning when she finds it. The shifted earth will tell a story when turned once more. "God," she murmurs. "It doesn't look… fresh, either."

Couldn't be someone from the explosion— it sounded like all those were left dead where they'd lain. So who else?

As any given character in Star Wars would stay, she has a bad feeling about this. Her eyes linger on the grave a moment longer before she comes back to the moment.

"Is this one of those 'call it in so it's official' moments since this deals with your investigation, or…?"

“This is somewhere between official and on the down-low,” Byrne responds, walking back in the direction of the SUV. “As such, I have shovels in my vehicle. Hopefully this ground isn’t too frozen to take a look. Not a lot of ambient heat but I might be able to get around that if I flash freeze a tree or two.”

He unlocks the SUV with the keyfob in his pocket, wasting no time grabbing a shovel and a pickaxe. Things he wouldn’t normally keep in the car at all times, but handy for the occasional emergency firebreak. “I’ll radio it in after I make sure it isn’t the family pet.”

Kara only lets out a huff of amusement, accepting an offered shovel before she heads back in the direction of the mound. Things feel quieter over here, somehow. Her head lifts, looking for signs of birds on the treeline. They might be there, but they've all hushed. She begins to frown.

It takes only a pair of stabs down into the dirt to determine it's not terribly difficult to dig— not to the point that Kara feels it's worth killing the tree over the grave. She leans down into the earth, clods of it tossed aside in heavy turns of the space. Her breath clouds in front of her as she sifts through the earth, looking for signs of anything buried.

Down the shovel goes again, into something softer and ending in a scrape. Kara immediately looks offput, hair on the back of her neck standing on end. A distasteful whisper of breath leaves her as she gingerly extracts the shovel and pushes dirt aside more carefully to avoid repeating her gaffe again. A damp shroud is uncovered, pale save for the spot Kara accidentally sliced into what lies underneath. Feet-end, and it continues up toward the base of the tree.

"Not a pet," she grunts as she spears the shovel nearby the grave and turns away to take a moment for herself, pressing the back of her hand to her mouth briefly before she simply stares off into the trees.

Byrne shovels in silence at the head of the mound, only speaking up when he hears the wrong shovel noise from Kara's end. "I suppose I should be thankful they didn't spring for the full six feet," Byrne says, walking down and scraping away more dirt from the exposed corpse.

He grimaces, scratching at his jaw before punching his spade into the earth upright. "I'm going to radio this in," he says. "I'll keep it small and have them head directly here to avoid any unpleasantries in town." Assuming this isn't a mass grave.

Kara nods her complicity from where she stands, letting out a slow sigh. Her eyes lift up through the treeline, minding the birds there for a beat before she turns away. "I'll need to head back that way, let them know to steer clear and let your people do what they need to here. The Sentinel weren't and aren't friends, and the last thing I want is for SESA to get anything but that exact impression."

She glances back to the grave they started to uncover, resisting a frown. A look later to Byrne and she begins walking back in the direction of the car to give him space to make his call.

Several Days Later

Sheepshead Beans and Bagels

NYC Safe Zone

Clara Kent sits at a middle table in the busy morning hours of the café's operation, guiltless about whatever midterm-fretting student she's keeping from having a seat. She doesn't plan to be here long.

Thick-rimmed glasses frame her face, and she's dressed a shade more city-chic than Providence warmth, but the coat on the back of her chair is the same. She's midsip of her coffee— which she has to admit is getting better in quality with each passing year out here— when she notes Byrne's figure in the window, then the door.

"Zach," she calls out, lifting her hand just slightly enough to be seen. She's gotten him a coffee as well, if the second cup on the table on what would be his side can be judged. It doesn't explain the third by her, though. "Over here. Thanks."

For coming, naturally. Or at least for humoring her. She's hoping he will.

"Did they find out anything?" she wonders once he's within polite speaking range. "Who was it?" She'd certainly not lingered long enough to see.

Agent Byrne smiles when Kara gets his attention, though his eyes move on to the people gathered in the cafe. He sizes the place up out of deep-rooted habit, then pulls back a chair at the table.

“Good to see you,” he says in greeting as he sits down. Since she’s cut past the need for further pleasantries he answers her question directly. “While we couldn’t get a positive ID due to purposeful disfiguration—and the fact that our DNA archive is toast—we know it was a man, eighty-five to ninety years old, who suffered from a broken pelvis which never properly healed.”

He picks up the coffee that was procured for him, raises it in a toast of wordless thanks. His eyes stray to the third cup, but he seems content to leave that mystery alone for now. He takes a quick sip before returning to the overview. “It appears he was given a lethal injection, likely because he was suffering from an infection in his bone marrow which made evacuation with the others untenable.”

Kara's eyes slim in a moment of recognition for Byrne's habit before he sits down, but the former Marine averts her gaze to sip from her drink again. As he launches into it, her head lifts back up, swallow slow. "It's Sharrow," she interjects briefly once she's done that, tongue between her lips as she reflects on the bittersweet taste of being right.

"Hip injury and age match, at least. Not to mention location. But that's…" Thinking over it, her eyes narrow. "Cold, to have done that to him. If it'd been my own father…"

She shifts, leaning back in her seat only to shake her head. "I don't know. We wouldn't have left any of our own like that, even without the familial bonds. And why try to hide who he was, when everyone who's anyone knew they were out on that farm anyway?" Kara frowns as she stacks everything up. "I can't decide if it was a sloppy job to cover his death had happened at all … or if it was something more than that. Worse than that."

"I don't presume to know what men like him hold inside their heads, though. Maybe it's best to not try." Dithering, she thumbs the side of her cup once, twice, and then glances back to Byrne. "Any luck in finding their trail?" she wonders, hope tinged in it for all she tries to pass as aloof.

“My guess is that he asked to make the sacrifice for the cause,” Byrne says, “though I wouldn’t put it past them having done it for kicks. Our current theory is that they expected the fire to do most of the heavy lifting on evidence removal, only to have the fire pass them by.”

“Equipment left behind suggests ties to Masdak,” he adds. “Pre-civil war military gear taken back to the states from Iraq. Some plant matter found in crates suggest other activity in the Dead Zone. So there are avenues to explore on the official side.”

He takes a sip from his coffee, then draws a bit of heat out of a table leg to transfer into the cup. “How are things in Providence?”

Kara begins to arch an eyebrow. "Mazdak?" she wonders before she can stop herself. "Not…" Now her brow comes together in a furrow. She looks off for a moment, picking up her drink to swirl it around inside the cup. "I mean, maybe I shouldn't be surprised. Shedda-Dinu might've been small, just an offshoot of them, and now they're connected to the larger…"

But that's frownworthy on its own.

She sets her cup back down gently to answer the question put to her. "I think the damage is mostly assessed now. The fire heavily affected the western and northern front of things. A few permanent displacements for those outside the perimeter we drew with the firebreak." Kara doesn't mention she's one of them, the home she and Yi-Min had together lost to the ashes. "Biggest concern now is repairing the electric fence. Trying to reverse engineer what was done before, since the one who built them fucked off."

They don't know each other well enough to know that that particular choice in language is unusual for her. "We'll try to work things out, get word out we need help, but Sedro is a long way from Jersey. And that's assuming…" She only can shake her head. There's history there, a disgruntlement with the decision to have come East at all. "That's assuming they won't treat this as one giant I-Told-You-So and let us hang until Providence dissolves. Or at least our part in it does."

Her eyes swivel back to Byrne. "Alternatively, it'd be music to our ears to hear the US military finally has a plan to destroy the last of them. The squid-looking ones alone… there's maybe two of them left. That we know about. Not to mention the apparent others that were lying in wait waiting for an activation signal out in the woods." Kara's frown deepens. "If there's not plans to attack them, if there's tools we can use to sense them instead of waiting for them to hunt down our Evos, that'd work just as well. Could flip the script."

"I know that's asking for a lot, though," she recognizes, and lifts her drink to sip.

“I’ll see if there’s anything I can requisition for that effort,” Byrne says. “There may be an electronics technician perfectly suited to the task, though she does have other responsibilities in the Safe Zone. It’s worth looking into, I can’t imagine the pine barrens are the only place such technology could be put to use. That might keep the Agency from immediately balking at the idea.”

He slips his phone from his jacket pocket to check the time before silently sliding it back in. “I’m not a tech person, so I’m not sure what exists for robot hunting these days, but I’ll put in a request for that as well. In the meanwhile, let me know if there’s anything I can personally do to assist in other areas of the recovery.”

To all of that, to do aught but nod graciously isn't something Kara knows how to do. Nothing's certain in these things, and Byrne's offering to do a lot. "I'll reach out if any unsavories show up, let others know to do the same. As far as recovery goes… that's a less easy ask but I'll keep it in mind."

"I appreciate you taking time out of your morning," she follows up earnestly. "I've been spread too thin lately, but this was something I wanted to be sure to follow up on."

Byrne raises a hand in a dismissive gesture of no thanks needed. “I’m happy to be your point of contact, even in an unofficial capacity,” he says, “which this technically still is.”

Despite having just warmed his coffee he nows cools it down to make it easier to take a few large sips. “Thank you for the coffee,” he says as he sets down the cup, not entirely empty. He pushes out his chair and rises to his feet. “It was good to see you.”

"Take care, Byrne," Kara says in an absent farewell, keeping to her seat for a few moments after he goes. Her eyes shift unfocused deep in thought, wondering at the strange web of choices and circumstance that lead her to be where she's sitting, rather than having been spirited away along with the rest of the Sentinel. Ones which keep her with Yi-Min now, rather than stripped unfairly from her side owing to promises made on a blank check– which surely would have been cashed in now, if not on some situation preceding this that would have made her an enemy of state.

It's unsettling how close she'd been to any of that. She knows, morally, it's better that Taylor escaped that day she nearly made the wrong choice. She hopes that the Kravid child is safe, if not doing better than just that.

Maybe one day she'll even find out. But… most likely not.

Instead, maybe– just maybe– she'd be lucky enough to learn where the Sentinel snuck away to; where they are now, and how to stop fools from entering into their and Mazdak's service for a life-changing alteration that would ultimately cost them their lives. Somehow that felt like more likely a bet.

Shaking her head to pull herself back to the moment, Kara drinks deep from her own cup and rises to toss Byrne's before picking up Yi-Min's cooling order in her other hand. She wastes no further time on pondering what can't immediately be solved this morning, hipchecking the cafe's door open to head for her truck parked on a nearby curb.

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