Hotseat, Part I


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Scene Title Hotseat, Part I
Synopsis Tasked with a job, Gabriella seeks a set of answers.
Date March 18, 2021

Petrelli Mansion

Few have seen Gabriella as casual as she was earlier in the day in jeans and hoodie — fewer yet have seen her with no makeup, wet hair, and a borrowed pair of yoga pants and a t-shirt while her one outfit she’s brought with her gets run through the washing machine.

The good thing about being wine-drunk is it tends to fade quickly. A shower helps, but it doesn’t disguise the tightness around her eyes brought on by the headache left in the wake of the wine. Gabby holds a bottle of water in one hand, and a notepad in the other, as she sets off in search of Nicole with a list of questions and the fire in her belly lit by Isaac’s motivational speech.

Just kidding. All she has are the questions. This is not her style.

Nicole is found slumped forward in an armchair in front of a fireplace, her head in her hands. In this unguarded moment, she looks a far cry from the take-charge woman who came to fetch her from the park and set her up in a safehouse. She looks defeated. With the lighting in the room, it’d make a hell of a photo for an article about the loss of the congressional race.

But everything’s a loss now, isn’t it?

Mrs. Miller lifts her head when she seems to sense herself being lost. “Oh,” she remarks blandly, but not in a way that’s meant to sound dismissive or unwelcoming. “I was expecting Isaac. He’s about due to come up on me like a hurricane, I think.” She smiles wanly. A look of resigned realization comes over her. “Is that what you’re here for?” In this group, Nicole is considered the traitor. Resting against her knee, one wrist turns out like a shrug, accompanied by a minute shake of her head. Apparently accepting whatever ire she suspects may be coming her way.

“No, just li’l ol’ me, no one so important,” Gabriella says with faux humility, dropping into the chair opposite Nicole. Catlike green eyes study the other woman, and she shakes her head a moment later. “I’m not mad at you, Nicole. Can’t speak for everyone else, but I believe you are acting in our best interest, or at least what you believe our best interest to be.”

She tugs the pen from the notepad’s metal spiral, and taps it against the cardboard cover of the pad itself. “I wanted to maybe ask some questions about the real world, you know? I’m still… trying to wrap my head around it. I want to believe, and I do believe you believe it.” The wording there, like in the comment a moment before, is honest but telling.

Belief and Reality are two different things entirely.

“Do you mind? If I ask you some easy questions about life in that world?” Gabby asks.

Nicole rolls her eyes at Gabriella’s self-deprecation, a wave of her hand dismissing it with a good-natured face pulled besides. Just her, sure. The other assurance sees a brief but grateful smile emerge.

With the journalist coming to join her, Nicole sits up straighter, leaving one elbow resting on the arm of the chair, her fingers drumming restlessly against her thigh in a way Gabby hasn’t seen since the first time she interviewed her. She’s anxious, but who could blame her?

And she understands the nuance in the request posed to her. Gabriella accepts Nicole believes what she says, and her intentions, but hasn’t accepted it as truth yet. “Ask away. I’ll answer what I can.”

Gabby’s still riding the red wine buzz from her time in the wine cellar — she can walk in a straight line and maybe even say her alphabet backwards, but her blood alcohol level is probably past the legal limit. Still, she’s sober enough for this. It’s not like she has to type up a coherent story under deadline pressure, after all.

Something she probably will never do again, she realizes.

“Let’s start small. Who’s the president of the United States? What’s New York City like? Are there flying cars yet, or at least are we off gasoline like we should be by now?” she asks, pen poised to jot down the answers as if she were going to type this up into a real article and publish it in the New York fucking Times.

“Don’t lie to me to make me feel better about giving up this world, in case you feel like that’s what I need to hear. Just the truth,” she adds, in case Nicole was planning to spin the truth like she does for Isaac Faulkner’s campaign for her campaign to get them all to Las Vegas.

Nicole smiles thinly. “Those aren’t as small of questions as they should be, I’m afraid.” She drags a hand through her hair, raking her nails over her scalp as she goes and leaving a mess of brunette waves in the action’s wake. “I can tell you who was the president, presuming now is… now.” She grimaces faintly. “His name is Raymond Praeger. I can only hope he remains — I helped run his campaign for election.” Then she looks down to her restless hand, jaw worked to one side. “Not the… original campaign, though.” While that ultimately won’t matter to Gabriella, it does to her, because it’s part of what’s about to paint the tableau of New York City.

“No flying cars, but there are a few electric options now. People by and large favor old gas guzzlers, though. Myself included, I’m afraid.” There’s an apologetic little shrug. “New York City is… It’s in shambles. Manhattan’s an exclusion zone. Only parts of Brooklyn and Queens are currently equipped with mostly steady power and running water. We’re mending after what’s called the Second American Civil War. The short version of that is that people like us, with abilities, fought back against the fascist government that would have been happy to wipe us out.”

Those blue eyes lift from her drumming fingers and back to her interviewer. “The truth isn’t a pretty thing. But you know that better than most people, don’t you?”

The answer is written down, and Gabby’s expression is thoughtful as she looks at her writing — a specialized shorthand that no one but her could really make sense of, at least without studying. “Honestly I like gas guzzlers myself. I’ve never owned a car, here, in my ersatz memory of a life, because I’ve always lived here, but I always sort of envisioned myself driving around in one of those sleek red convertibles from the 1960s. Tail fins and all, with a pair of sunglasses and lipstick to match.”

She sighs a little wistfully. “Not really practical in any New York, especially one in post-war shambles, I suppose.” She chews on the end of the pen for a moment as she considers the next question.

“Some easier questions, then. What kind of cell phones do people prefer? Are we on some Bizarro universe version of Blackberry over there? And what’s the big TV show everyone has to see to talk about at the water cooler — the show you watch even if you hate it just so you’re part of the conversation and not left out?”

“It suits you,” Nicole says of Gabriella’s spun fantasy of cherry red coordination. “You could definitely pull it off.”

The next questions, however, Nicole doesn’t find easier. Her head tilts to one side slightly. Something about those questions seems so oddly specific. “I’m still using a BlackBerry,” the bureaucrat asserts with a rueful smile. And I don’t watch a lot of TV, unless it’s something Pippa wants to watch.” It’s an evasive answer, but something isn’t sitting well with her. Those questions seem so specific.

“You got an answer key you’re looking to compare to…?”

The reporter shakes her head at the question posed to her. “You are the answer key,” Gabriella says with a smirk.

“Basically my thinking is, by asking you questions that you haven’t already thought about in advance, it might reveal any holes in what you perceive as your memory — like the holes in the world here that Daphne and Asami saw that they didn’t think to fill in.” She brings the pen to her mouth to chew on its cap for a second, before she points it at Nicole. “We don’t know that your memory is genuine. I’m not saying it isn’t, but I’d feel better risking our lives if I have a better sense of what’s on the other side, I guess.”

Looking down, her green eyes skim the shorthand on the notebook, and she looks up again. “To that end, neither of those answers really answered the questions. I didn’t ask what you watch or what phone you use. Your politician-hood is showing,” she says wryly.

But she lets it go. Her next question is specific. “Do you know anything about Violette or v.iris in the other world?”

“Touché.” Nicole will give credit where it’s due. That callout was masterful. She eases some, her fingers tap with less frequency. Relenting, she provides answers even if they were given up on already. “The phone,” she begins with the softest sound of resignation, “that’s all the rage right now is called the Awasu, and it’s made by Yamagato Industries. Their US headquarters is in the Safe Zone.” She catches herself, takes a moment to define. “Ah, the only habitable space in New York City. It’s Brooklyn and part of Queens. Staten Island’s a shithole owned by the mob, but at least everyone’s invested in building infrastructure.”

If she had a drink, she’d lift it in a mock toast.

“Show’s called River Styx.” If she rolled her eyes any harder, they’d probably fall out of her skull. “It’s a fictionalized account of the events leading up to the civil war. Gillian is a character and they’ve portrayed her as clone triplets. It’s all filtered through the bigoted lens of the BBC. ” Nicole sighs.. “God, I need a smoke.” But she doesn’t make any move to search for one or anywhere to ash it to if she managed to procure a nicotine delivery device from thin air.

The straightforward question at the end can’t be stalled anymore. Nicole visibly dithers on how to answer. “Colin Verse,” she says after deliberation. “A technopath. His hacker name was v.iris.” Calling it that seems like a gross simplification, but that might be what’s called for. “If he’s really an associate of Asi– Asami’s? That wouldn’t surprise me.” With a shake of her head, she answers the other part of that question. “I’ve never heard of a Violette.”

The concession to her callout draws a smirk from the tall blond, who then nods in appreciation for the actual answers to the question she’d asked.

“A clone triplet,” Gabriella echoes, with a shake of her head. “It sounds ridiculous. But then, so does all of this. Maybe, if we get free and tell our story, we can sell it to them for their next big blockbuster show, hm? May as well make some money off of all of this nonsense. Maybe I can write the screenplays and get out of my likely terrible job writing obits or something for the Village Voice – wait, that wouldn’t exist anymore, would it. What travesty.”

She scribbles down the answers in her notepad, and then snaps it shut. “Thank you, Nic. I do appreciate it. I don’t not trust you, but it’s hard to believe anything anymore. Literally everything is causing cognitive dissonance and it’s just fucking exhausting trying to navigate it all. The wine helps dull it, but I haven’t seen any cigarettes. Maybe Asami or Daphne can teleport themselves to a Duane Reade.”

Her smile is a little wry, but not insincere. “Thanks again,” she says, as she departs.

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