Hounds Assemble


avi_icon.gif devon2_icon.gif francois_icon.gif nathalie_icon.gif rue_icon.gif

Scene Title Hounds Assemble
Synopsis The Hounds begin to rally when one of their family makes a return with grim news.
Date May 4, 2019

The Bunker - Common Area.

The Bunker seems quiet in the time following Operation Hercules. The attrition rate alone accounts for it, but the Sword of Damocles seems to be hanging over the heads of one of the remaining Hounds. Devon Clendaniel’s situation is unique, to put it kindly, and concerning, to put it in practical terms. Still, he’s one of theirs, no matter what may have transpired at Sunstone and following.

There’s a spread of food out on the counter in the common area. Sloppy joes, potato chips, dips, a veggie platter and a punch bowl. There’s also a bottle of vodka next to the ubiquitous red solo cups. Even though it’s a serious discussion they need to have, Rue felt this would all be easier if there was food and drink to be had. Give people an excuse for thoughtful silences.

Those present and invited to this gathering include Devon himself, of course, Avi, Francois, and Nathalie. The people that Devon feels closest to and safe confiding in. Rue is seated already with a plate of food on the low table in front of her seat, and a cup of spiked punch in one hand. Her knees are pulled up to her chest, socked feet resting on the cushion of the armchair she’s perched in.

Francois arrives dressed in the clothes he might be inclined to train in, all greys and blacks, and as comfortable and informal as the spread of food that Rue has set out before them, which he enters eyeing a little doubtfully. This is a look he sharpens on her in accusation, but of the good-humoured kind, brow crinkling at the centre. Maybe if she added an ice cream cake, it would complete the aesthetic, it seems to suggest.

Which is something he is— not actually too polite to say, because he is ever happy to lean into Snooty European for the amusement of his colleagues, but the mood has been fucking strange! lately! so he just shuffles in between her and table as he steals up a celery stick or three.

Upon sitting, he takes up the vodka too. It's to Devon that he kind of offers it with a silent tip of the bottle.

Returning to the Bunker was an intentionally quiet affair. Devon had arrived sometime the night before, prearranged to stay the weekend and allow his teammates to see him in a more relaxed environment. There’s something more real about recovery when it’s witnessed outside of the sterility of hospital walls. He didn’t want a big homecoming, just the simplicity of close friends.

Which is at odds with the requested meeting.

And at greater odds with his anxious demeanor.

It’s a rare thing to see Dev worked up about anything. Rarer still is to see him troubled to the point of restlessness. He’s seated beside Rue, with his arms folded against his chest, but there’s something fidgety about him. He’s declined food thus far, and he even shakes his head at Francois’ offer — after a moment’s consideration. He could probably use a drink, but likely later.

No,” a familiar voice coming from down the concrete-lined hallway, “you’re just going to have to deal with me. I don’t care what you two verbally fucking agreed to, because she’s— on sabbatical. So you’re dealing with me, or you’re dealing with my partner and I can sure as fuck tell you he’s French and way less pleasant than I am.” Avi Epstein is a liar.

But that’s the least of everyone’s concerns right now.

As Avi comes strolling into the common area, it becomes abundantly clear that he is strolling. There’s a swagger to his gait that is both unusual and unlike him, both because he is a man who left his swagger in the dirt of Madagascar but also because he lost mobility in most of his right leg in the drainage trench outside of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Neither of those things seem true anymore.

Avi walks into the common area without his leg brace on, tucking his cell phone into the pocket of his old brown pilot’s jacket. He stops, looking around at the gathered hounds, and slowly removes his sunglasses to tuck them into an opposite pocket.

Avi Epstein has his eye back.

Nathalie comes in behind Avi, listening to his side of the conversation with a single, arched brow. She heads for the food, picking up carrots and the punch before she comes over to sit with the others. It might be obvious— if anyone was paying attention to her and not to Avi— that she's not surprised by his restoration.

Instead, she reaches a hand over to Devon, giving his arm a squeeze. It's meant to help reassure him. Whatever is worrying him, he's among friends now. "It's good to see you, Dev," she says, greeting him with a gentle smile.

To Rue, she lifts her glass before drinking, a silent thanks for the goodies. Her gaze lands on Francois last, but there's a warmth in her eyes. It's all the greeting he gets, but she seems to think it's enough.

It takes a moment for everything that's wrong with this picture to register. Rue makes eye contact with Nathalie, raising her glass in silent toast in return. It's when she's begun to drink that everything clicks into place. There's a surprised gasp, followed by choking coughs as the woman hurries to set her drink down on the coffee table. She thumps a fist in the center of her chest as she pushes to her feet.

"Aviators, what the fuck?" There's astonishment written outwardly on her features as she slowly weaves her way through the furniture and to the wider room to intercept Avi. There's an undercurrent of distrust as well. He's not supposed to be hale and whole. Is anyone else freaked out by this? Apparently 'Lin — Nat — isn't.

Francois serves himself, then, a neat helping of vodka before his attention pricks up at Avi's not-so-subtle register carrying into the room. Maybe if he was in the room, he might be prying the device out of Epstein's hand as diplomatically as possible, but seated here, with corn-based snacks and vodka and spiritual laziness, he just tips his head in agreement. It is true, he is definitely French, and not as nice as expected, if you ask the right people.

He isn't really paying much more attention than that as Rue stands up, exclaims. He gives Avi a long look, sharply analytical, one that switches then to Berlin. An eyebrow raised in query. A subtle smile follows, as he reaches again for the vodka.

He goes ahead and pours a couple more drinks of liquor, anticipatory of their usefulness to more than just he.

The voice is familiar, but the cadence of footfalls is not. Devon looks up about when Rue does, a puzzled look directed at Avi. And Berlin. But mostly it’s Avi who’s getting the half frowning, what sort of twilight zone world is this now look. Not just at Avi’s working leg, but also the eye. It totally squashes the nerves he’d been feeling.

The hand on his arm distracts for a second. He looks up at Berlin, then drags that look over to Francois. There’s got to be an explanation somewhere. Instead of looking too hard — or waiting for Avi to explain — he follows Rue’s example.

“What the fuck happened to your face?” It’s not very classy, but surprise does things that often aren’t. Today it makes Devon swear.

“Yeah I know,” Epstein says to both Devon and Rue’s inquiries, running a hand through his hair. “I got a haircut, fuckin’ amazing huh?” He did not, in fact, get a haircut. But it's with raised brows that he looks past Rue and over to Francois, patting the phone tucked into her breast pocket.

“It was Gepetto's,” Avi remarks as to who he was shouting at. The pizza place Wolfhound orders from. “They said they needed payment info from Hana’s card or whatever but they wouldn't let me run it. No big deal.” It was not, in fact, the pizza place.

Avi turns a look over at Nathalie, then back up to Francois and over to Devon. “And what the fuck’s wrong with your face,” he says, headed over to where snacks are laid out. “Someone catch me up to speed on what the fuck we’re celebrating here? Is this a celebration?”

Nat answers Francois with a quick nod. Not that she really needed to confirm, but she does. But given that Avi seems content to skip over explaining to the group, she doesn't extend her answer to the others. "Well," she says to Avi's question, "there's food, there's drinks. We're either celebrating or mourning. Or it's a Tuesday." Given Wolfhound's collective attraction to alcohol.

She looks over at Rue, then to Devon. "Is this a celebration?" They do have a reason to, with Devon returning to them. Even if it's under mysterious circumstances.

The look on Rue’s face is all incredulity as she continues to follow Avi with her gaze. She does not, to her credit, again ask what the fuck? Despite the fact that she clearly wants to. Instead, she draws in a deep breath and schools her features back into something like neutrality. This isn’t about Avi anyway. If he thinks she’ll let go easily, however, he has another thing coming.

“Well, I think having Devon back home,” at the Bunker, “is worth celebrating. But I think Devon wanted us to gather so we can have a discussion about…” Rue trails off and turns her attention back to Devon. She’ll let him explain why he wanted this group together. She’s merely the facilitator.

Francois sets a drink down where Nathalie can reach for it, quietly satisfied with the developments that have just walked through the door. Well, not about the 'pizza place', Francois giving Avi a look of really? when it comes to what constitutes 'no big deal', and their finances, and the people doing the financing. What he says instead is, "You are just in time to find out." He doesn't know why he is here either, especially — an actual celebration for Devon's return should go a little more grand than this spread. Hot food, beer, more of a turn out, some music.

Write it off as a business expense, especially now that he gets to make budgetary decisions. On Rue's cue, Francois scissors off a bite of celery before he looks to Devon. "The floor is yours."

There's still some connections Devon’s trying to make. He stares at Avi, mouth hinged on the verge of saying something. That expression remains for a longer moment while he looks at each of the other Hounds in turn. Except for Rue, no one else seems remarkably surprised, and even then Rue seems to know something. Whatever it is…

He pushes himself from his seat on the couch with a shake of his head. There's a reason he's here, and a reason Rue had called the group together. “Yeah,” It can be a celebration. “I guess sort of, it is.” His eyes fall to the unclaimed but filled red solo cups. A drink might be useful. He still doesn't indulge, he eases himself some half dozen steps away and turns to face his teammates.

“I… have some answers.” Dev’s arms fold against his chest, drawn tight like armor as he continues. “I died last month. And it was Adam Monroe who found me. He's got …Doctor Cong? doing experiments.” On him doesn't need to be said.

Half ready to reach for snacks, Avi realizes he's dramatically misread this situation. He withdraws his hand, expression turning to a horrified grimace as he flashes a look to Francois, then Rue, then back to Devon. He nearly says something into the awkward silence, but it comes out as a breathy his.

Bullshit,” is the first thing Avi manages to actually say. “Bao-Wei Cong is— ” Dead? Suddenly Avi’s knee-jerk response doesn't feel as legitimate. He’d survived an exploding building before. Exhaling a ragged sigh, he sweeps his hair back from his face and looks down at the ground. “Fucking… Adam Monroe?” Avi looks up to Nathalie, the haunted expression there growing by the moment. What he levels at Francois is less harrowed and more guilty. A cat that covered up another cat eating a canary. The metaphor is muddied. The cat is Nathalie, the bird is a corpse.

“Fuck,” Avi sputters. “Fuck, fuck. Did you invite Huruma?” Avi asks, looking around with a sudden urgency.

Nathalie looks over to Avi first, as Devon confirms what she was dreading. Her eyes squeeze closed for a long moment and once they open again, she reaches for the drink Francois set out for her.

And she drinks.

"He gave you his blood," she says. It is not a question. Her fingers rub at her eyes. She read the files, the research. She knew he would land in their radar sooner or later. She was hoping for later. She looks over at Avi again, her elbows resting on her knees. Her expression is a questioning one. She just recently got yelled at for talking about this very thing to the wrong people, so this time she waits for Avi's opinion on it.

“Apparently not as dead as we’d like him to be.” But maybe you have to take the living assholes with the people you’re glad are living. When Devon gave Rue the barebones version of his story, she insisted he return to the Bunker with her and that he talk to others. The ones he was ready to talk to. “No. I mean” Rue shakes her head, cutting herself off. “No. He We didn’t invite Huruma.”

Maybe they should have, but it was Devon’s call. Rue makes her way back to where she was sitting but doesn’t reclaim her seat. Her cup, however, she reclaims. Down the hatch goes the punch, then she’s wandering back toward the bowl and the bottle for more.

“So, it’s fucky,” is the mild way of putting it, “but you’re here. Alive. And we can… We’ll deal with whatever the fallout is. Together.”

There's a lot of reacting going on. Francois doesn't really look to Avi as he starts up on fuck fuck fuck and such, though there is a quick glance that catches some trace of guilt he can't quite interpret. The name Adam Monroe means less to him than most people in the room, he can tell, which is one of those personal pet peeves, but the only thing stopping him from calling time out for some fucking clarity around here is the word that means more: experiments.

Because that sounds like a nightmare.

So his attention is maintained on Devon, worry stitched into his expression as he awaits more elaboration, before a glimmer of impatience shadows beneath it for the room as he says, "Let him tell us what he wants to tell us for now, yeah? And worry about who is alive and dead after."

“I had Kaylee Sumter look for locked memories. What she found…” Devon shakes his head. Getting personal, troubling information out of him has always been like pulling teeth. And the less he wanted to talk about it, the more shut down he became. Instinct demands he circle into that habit now, even though he’s come this far to share. Even though he knows his team has every right to know what happened also.

He takes a breath, lets it out slowly. Francois and Rue are given looks of thanks before he begins again.

“I know that Doctor Cong is alive and had been experimenting on me.” That’s aimed mostly at Avi’s denials about the fact. “I know that I died in California and it was Adam Monroe who brought me back.” A glance is shot to Berlin as he confirms her statement. “Adam said I was proving a hypothesis, and planned a second round of…” Something, he doesn’t know.

“They’re in a submarine.” Which means in the ocean somewhere. And also could explain how Devon ended up on the beach where he was found. “There’s an ally on the inside, someone named Joy. She helped me escape, but she’s also the one who cut out everything I don’t remember.”

“Jesus Christ,” Avi says into his hand as he scrubs it down his mouth. Snacks are out. “Okay, so… one thing at a time. There’s a lot of variables here, the how and why of him knowing to grab you. We can circle back to that, maybe with Huruma. She knew him. Adam. Maybe she… knows something she hasn’t volunteered.” Taking a few steps over to Devon, Avi lays a hand on his shoulder and looks…


It’s weird.

It’s a weird thing.

“Hey,” Avi says quietly, “we’re here for you. This ain’t a briefing and we aren’t in the conference room, so…” Avi glances around at everyone else, “this is off the clock.” That much is also offered for Nathalie. It’s honesty hour. “I think— other than the fact that we’re all fuckin’ grateful that you’re still with us, is that… apparently this guy has a submarine and— we— need to report that up the chain. That’s an I guess I’ll call Secretary Lazzaro sort of thing.”

Avi lets his hand gently fall away from Devon’s shoulder. “More importantly, how’re you feeling?

It’s really weird.

The cup slips from Nathalie's hand. It hits the floor with a splash, soaking the leg of her jeans.

It takes her a moment to notice.

"Shit, sorry," she says, hopping up to her feet to try to clean it up. It gives her a few moments to not have to deal with what is going on in the room. Just a few, though. When she turns back to the others, she doesn't sit again, apparently preferring to be on her feet.

"I had a run in with Monroe, too," she says, her voice suddenly sharp and clipped. Very much like a briefing, really. "He has doubles. Clones, maybe. Face changers. I'm not sure how he's pulling it off. He talked about getting rid of non-expressives altogether, and given that he's doing experiments of his own, I think we can assume it's more than just talk. He has something cooking." She looks over at Avi, hands bracing on the back of her chair. Honesty hour is not her best thing. It's definitely not her most comfortable thing. She seems to make some sort of decision, because she doesn't say more before she looks back to Devon. "I'm sorry you're going through this. I'm sorry we couldn't spare you that."

Rue is swift to arrive at Nathalie’s side with a roll of paper towels, ducking down to the floor with them to mop up the mess and offer a wad out to the woman to tend to her clothes. “I got this,” she murmurs, letting the other Hound focus on the story she needs to tell.

Ginger brows hike up at mention of clones and face changers. It wouldn’t be the first time she’s heard about situations like that - she was present for the raid on the Ark, after all.

Francois sets down his cup of vodka and whatever over-sugared liquid was in there to steal away its taste. Despite reassurances of informality. He settles back, arms folded, listening and keeping his expression this side of neutral, although that he does not love the circumstances in which he is receiving some of this information is still telegraphed, subtly, in the frown that is taking its time to settle.

His attention lingers on Berlin, but. One story at a time. To Devon, again; "What kind of experiments?"

Fort Daedalus



"You and I… are going to have a very long time to become acquainted with one another." The tall and thin doctor traces a horizontal cut across the previous one, then plunges two gloved fingers inside of the young man's abdomen, one gray brow rising on a bald forehead. "I never thought I'd see you again."

And so far, nothing.

Sweat creates a sheen on the face of Kazimir's patient, bright beneath the lights, wild eyes of green staring sightlessly up. His mouth parts as another scream is drawn from him, ragged at the edges, when Kazimir plunges his fingers inside the surgical wound. Leather of medical restraints creaks in protest as his body surges impotently against him, dark hair plastered to his forehead.

Thunk. Francois lifts his head only to bring it sharply back down against the table, a grunt eliciting from the self-imposed impact, as if he were trying to knock the pain away and sense back in. "Volken," he rasps out. He doesn't see the faces of people through the windows, not when a blurry gaze is trying to land on the familiar face of the man above him. "Volken, you must listen to me. You— you would gain more from— "

Saltwater, tears mixed with sweat, make greasy smears at Francois' temples, hands curling into fists. His voice carries a hysterical edge, a plea that bounces off the walls; "Please!"

The narrow face of the weathered old man turns somewhat hawkish at the plea coming from Francois. "Have mercy?" The tone is entirely light-hearted as the bloodied scalpel and finger are removed, leaving blood to pulse and run down the sides of his patient's waist. "Please, Francois, you know exactly how this story ends. How many times have you and I had this conversation, Francois? How many?" Conversationally, the grim German lays down his scalpel in a steel tray, spattering the metal with blood as he paces around the table where the considerably younger man is restrained by leather straps.

The rhetoric is short lived, however, as a gloved hand brushes across Francois' forehead. "We banter back and forth, you prostelyze to one choir and I another. I find it tiresome, my boy."

"We've been around this caged conversation, you and I, for how many decades now?" One gray brow rises up in whimsical speculation, "too many, Francois, too many." Tugging off his black rubber gloves, the elbow-length garments are draped one by one over a metal sink, wrinkled fingers flexed once free. "The time for you and I to talk philosophy is over, my boy. Nietzsche to Plato and back again, it has grown somewhat tiresome, you must understand." Blue eyes drift up and down the prone and shirtless man's form. "Well… there's really only one way to test the limits of your ability. I'm curious to see how — "

Present Day

Francois’ question has such weight. Nathalie feels it in the pit of her stomach. The horror is in what Nathalie knows about Project Hydra.

It may not be that far off.

The hand might be overlooked. Even with the mystery surrounding Avi’s sudden sprig of health. The hand on his shoulder could probably be taken in stride. But the reassurance? Devon stares at Avi, half frowning and jaw half opened but searching for something to say. He looks at Francois, Rue, Berlin, searching each of them. Are they seeing this too?

“I don’t know.” There’s a couple of questions that answer could fit, and he doesn’t elaborate which one it is. His bewildered look centers on Avi again, but this time it’s followed with a shaking head.

Which starts off slowly and slowly gains in insistence.

“Who the fuck are you.” It must be something weird. Devon backs up several steps, and turns that look onto the others. Is this all for real? There’s a prickle of panic that it isn’t, just for an instant, an even stranger sort of worry that he nearly laughs at. He does laugh, a single bark that cuts off when he turns to just walk out of the common room.

“Your boss,” is Avi’s glib response, “and your girlfriend’s dad.” He flashes a smile, subtly threatening. He looks from Avi to Francois and then over to Nathalie.

“I… might have an idea about the experiments,” Avi says hesitantly, giving Nathalie a supportive nod.

Nathalie needs a moment. She has to focus on loosening her grip on the chair and trying not to shake. "He didn't want Clark dead because he was Institute," she says, to Avi, "he wanted him dead so he could work on project Hydra himself. I'm such an idiot."

That last part is to herself, spoken in a whisper of self-admonishment. But she takes in a breath and turns back to the group.

"There's something different about Monroe's blood. It'll heal someone else, yes, but the Institute found that it was like… viral. It changes things about the people it touches. On a molecular level. I didn't understand all the science." And she was a little distracted at the time. She glances over to Francois then comes over to put a hand on his shoulder in a show of support there, too. "I don't know that I can fix that," she says before she looks to Francois, "do you think I could fix that?"

“Devon, Devon, Devon!” Rue’s back up on her feet again and bee-lining for her friend. She wraps an arm around his shoulders and steers him back toward the group. Her forehead rests at his temple for a moment so she can whisper some sort of assurance to him. She doesn’t glance at anyone or anything in particular to give away what it might be.

“We’re all here to help you,” Rue says out loud as she pulls away, giving Devon’s shoulders a squeeze. “We’re Hounds, Dev’. We don’t run from shit.” She guides him back to his seat and gives her attention back to Nathalie, though she glances at Avi periodically. Maybe he’s been replaced by the worst Skrull ever.

Francois, in this moment, misses Hana Gitelman.

They were not friends before they were colleagues, and not during, very much. But they had certainly respected one another, and Francois her particular talent for synthesising information down into a narrow steel blade of decisive action, and following where it pointed. Maybe he has been playing soldier too long, but this is what he thinks of, as Rue corralls Devon back to the group, as Berlin and Avi speak names he doesn't recognise, and his question goes unanswered.

And there are already a lot of feelings flying around and so Francois takes his and locks it in a vault, with only concern tracking Devon's path to and back again — not quite understanding the specific trigger, honestly, but perhaps a group setting is too much for someone made recently aware of their own captivity, he doesn't know — and then to Avi and Nathalie. Neutral, responsive, interested, but when Berlin puts her hand on his shoulder, it barely moves.

"Viral?" he repeats. "Non. Well— " Because he has to concede, there's a lot he does not know. Tempting as it is to speak plainly, Francois just says, "Not in my experience," and hopes she understands. "And what is Project Hydra?"

Devon is more than willing to let the problem lie, allow the other hounds to puzzle over it so he can escape whatever strangeness is afoot. But he allows himself to be stopped and turned around, returned to the group. His face is a mask, whatever is said to him isn’t shown. Even his uneasiness toward Avi’s strange behavior is buried deep.

It leaves him with a sense of detachment. That he sits because he’s directed to, that he’s quietly listening since someone else is speaking.

He drags his hands through his hair as Berlin’s words, Francois also, sink in. He has no idea the specifics of whatever shared experience they’re discussing, what Hydra is. But viral and changes on a molecular level are harbingers. Of what, there’s no answer to yet.

“I don’t know what sort of experiment,” Devon offers finally, slowly answering Francois’ earlier question and expanding on his own report. “Joy said it had to do with saving the world. They… I think, tried it on others and it… or they — the others — failed.” He turns his head, casting a worried look around to the other Hounds, ending on Avi.

Scrubbing a hand over his face, Avi paces a little and looks momentarily over to Francois, then to the others before he just finds a seat and sits down heavily. “I can tell what I know. What Hana and I knew, after— we got some intel. Berl— ” he stops himself, grimaces, runs a hand through his hair again. “Nat,” baby steps, “was approached by Monroe, or someone wearing his face, or a fucking clone, or god knows fucking what because we live inside a funhouse mirror…” Losing his track, he belatedly finds it.

“Monroe tried to recruit Nat to do a targeted killing, ex Institute scientist, laid a sob story on her about the damage the scientist had done and got away with. Guy was let go after the trials, because he made a plea bargain to sell bigger fish up the river.” Avi draws in a deep breath, then exhales a slow sigh. “Nat tracks him down, tries to find out the rest of the story, things go sideways and the scientist and Monroe are both killed. Nat panics, calls the Major and I, and we help…” Avi spreads his hands, “cover it up.”

Only in that moment does Avi look at Rue, in that same I guess I’m back on my bullshit kind of expression that he’s known for. Leaning back into the chair he’d settled in, Avi claps his hands on his knees. “So, like I said, a clone or a crash test dummy, or a fucking martian copy of Monroe. I don’t know. Before he got himself killed, Monroe passed some Institute files on to Nat. The Major and I kept them under lock and key, they’re in her office.” Which he’s been too uncomfortable to so much as set foot in since her disappearance. “In that dossier was Project Hydra, a literal Nazi research program where they wanted to see if Monroe could be cut up like clippings of a fucking geranium.”

“Hana was checking out the science of it,” Avi says half-heartedly, “but I don’t think she got very far. It changed hands, Nazis to the US Government, to the Company, to Pinehearst, to the Institute. He gave her the basics on it. Some of the stuff I read… it’s grisly. There was research on Julien Dumont, the replicator half of the Institute was using as a golf cart, I saw stuff on Claire in the file too… from back when Pinehearst was active.”

But Avi isn’t a scientist, and he throws his hands into the air. “Hana didn’t think it was relevant to what was going on right now, all of it seemed firmly rooted in the past.” Until it wasn’t, Avi’s expression practically screams. “SESA called, before Rue and Huruma got back from Israel, asking about this shit. I gave them a basic breakdown, sounds like they’ve been looking for Monroe for a long fucking time too.”

But when Avi looks back to Devon, there’s tension in his expression. “If this really was Bao-Wei Cong, then that fuckcicle survived the collapse of the Ark. He was on our side then. I don’t…” He’d hoped to talk himself into an answer, for something to help Devon to just sublimate out of the conversation. It didn’t.

“I don’t know how any of this helps you,” Avi finally admits to Devon.

Nathalie watches Avi as he gives a summary of what happened with her and Adam Monroe. She doesn't add her own thoughts on the matter, because explaining why she suspected it wasn't Adam requires a lot of backstory. So she just lets out a sigh and sits on the arm of a chair.

"He's not on our side now," Nat says, opting to talk about Dr. Cong instead, "and obviously we have a lot of work to do now. We don't even know how much we don't know."

Her attention turns to Devon, her expression dimming. "We'll find answers." It's as close to a promise as she feels comfortable giving. There's a glance to Rue, since intel is her forte. "We just need a place to start." When she looks back to Devon, she puts her hands on her legs and leans forward a touch. "What did Joy look like?"

“Jesus fucking Christ,” Rue mutters under her breath. She’d had hope that once they took down Sunstone, this kind of bullshit would be over. But the vipers weren’t wiped out with the nest, it seems. “If you can give me a description,” she confirms, “I can start asking around. See if anyone’s seen her. Then I can work from there.”

Already, she’s forming a plan, albeit only in parts. More will come together when she manages to dig up a lead. Rue spares a glance toward Avi with lifted brows. Buddy.

As Epstein says the words rooted in the past, Francois allows himself a near-laugh — just the barest hint, modifying his next breath out, a grim half-smile breaking the neutrality he is otherwise settled into. Settles back into, as seems the most helpful thing to do for him right now. Maybe, of all of them, it's Berlin that notes he is specifically governing himself — it is an easy fucking path, memory lane.

There is nothing much he can say, in this moment of time, as Epstein gives his summary. Nothing he can say that Berlin hasn't dreamed of. Nothing Epstein hasn't read, back from their Apollo days.

Francois sits perfectly still, save for green eyes that flick to Rue as she starts forming plans — a silent appeal for patience. It is to Avi that he says, "Of the people we have arrested, who would have knowledge of the Hydra project? If Monroe is making use of Institute research. Personnel, at least, evidently. The past never just stays rooted. It grows."

Devon's attention stays on Avi, taking the information being offered as one full lump. He’ll work through it later, sort through with a fine-toothed comb, and begin solidifying plans of his own. One such is likely getting his hands on those files to see if he can disseminate the relevance to anything. His gaze flicks to Berlin once, brows raised in question as their commander corrects himself and calls her Nat. It's a query for later.

“Joy’s got dark hair,” he supplies. It takes him a moment to go on, likely reflecting on what he remembers. He holds a hand near his shoulder. “About to here. Asian descent, I think. Few inches shorter than me. She’s a mosaic.” Just FYI, there's that surprise too. “Last time I saw her was on the sub.”

Turning his head, Dev looks at Francois for a long moment. “Any of them might,” he decides slowly. There's an unspoken but in his tone, and he looks from one commander to the other. “What if… what if we gave Adam back the experiment he'd started. A willing subject might get us answers for what he's doing and a way to stop him.”

“How about you go fuck yourself, instead?” Avi asks of Devon with a rather matter-of-fact tone of voice. “They’re just as likely to pick you apart like a fucking boiled chicken breast to see what worked and what didn’t. That’s an idiot’s move.” There’s no kid gloves with that assessment, and all the while Avi has his phone out, composing a series of terse text messages as he talks.

“Pete Varlane was operations director, he’d have it all. SESA’s more than likely pumped him for the lion’s share of that intel, so if we can make a case to share information they might let us in on that. We could probably leverage Robyn, have her give us an inside angle. We need to loop Huruma in on this too, she knows Monroe. Knew.” And yet Avi still trusts her, in spite of all of that.

“There was that doctor we picked up too, Adrienne Allen,” Avi looks down briefly at his phone when it buzzes, then back up to the others. “She was the chief researcher on all of the Institute’s projects post-war. I know her trial is coming up soon, but Hana had this whole… package of information to deliver to the DoJ trying to get her a light sentence. She wasn’t a willing participant, and for whatever reason the Major felt compelled to lend her some legal aid.”

Finished with whoever he was texting, Avi tucks his phone in his jacket and looks over to Francois. “Logistically we’re on a shoestring right now. We’ve got enough operational collateral to keep us afloat for a couple years if we don’t take in any additional paying contracts, but we’ve already got the NYPD support contract to honor… we could probably invest some of our intelligence assets on tracking leads on this down.” Avi explains, offering a quick look to Rue and then back to Francois. “NYPD wants us as a fucking hammer anyway, and not all of our folks are kitted out for that work.”

At first, Joy's description doesn't get much of a response. Lots of dark haired, Asian women could be named Joy. It doesn't have to mean anything. But when he adds that she's mosaic… well that changes things. She runs a hand over her face, taking in a breath and trying not to give away too much.

But there are implications she can't help dwell on.

"I think I know her. Knew her. When I was a kid." She looks over at Avi, brow furrowing as she regards him for a long moment. "She could be why Monroe knew to come to me. She was at the Arc." After that, though, she diverts her attention back to Devon. "If you mean give him back you, we're not doing that. We'll find a safer way. Plus, I don't want to give him anything he's after."

Rue grabs a notebook out of her back pocket and begins jotting down notes. “Yeah, no. Fuck all of that. Giving Monroe what he wants is the opposite of a plan,” she agrees. “Unless your plan is to go and get yourself killed for real,” she mutters as she scribbles down notes on Joy’s description.

Her head lifts from the pad of paper in her hand when Nathalie says she thinks she knew Joy. “Great.” That’s both sincere and a little sarcastic at the same time. “So we have to figure out how to find her. I need to check in with Robyn about having a chat with Kyla Renautas anyway. I’ll just see about getting some face time with Varlane, too. I can shake both trees and see what falls out.”

Rue glances around the gathered for objections, further insights or commentary.

Plink. Francois sets a drink down in front of Devon.

"I'm sure it feels very personal to you right now," he says, as he does so, a little bit underneath some of the talk flying around. "But we have lost you already, and are unwilling to lose you again. We have plenty of avenues we can explore before we start getting desperate."

Because Francois, at least, only just got here. He fidgets with a stalk of celery, not eating it — just leveraging off strips with idle hands. He nods to Avi, of hammers and finer tools, and looks to Rue. "I will go with you," he says, presently.

Brooking no protest. "And— all of you," he says, "this must be approached with caution and subtlety. We need to cooperate with other agencies, as well, they could have already done the work for us with regard to intel on people of interest, and we need to avoid chasing off the prey into the bushes. We know longer have Hana, who could invisibly ghost into people's lives and give us a target.

"Avi is right, this is not a contract. If we go in on this like fucking cowboys, no one is going to work with us." The swearing is not aggressive, just a touch wry — there's a lot of talk of past cover ups, secret assassinations, volunteering for suicidal bait tactics, and snap-quick assertions of next moves that deserve it.

And he did hear this thing about Joy — Berlin might have felt his attention on her as she spoke, a puzzled silence about how these things could connect, but in the interest of focus, does not divert the conversation into his own priority.

“They didn’t when they had the chance,” Dev points out quietly, speculating over his own reckless idea. “Whatever they were testing… doing. They were determined to keep me alive.” Some part of him believes that’s still true, though he’s not sure he could explain why well enough to convince anyone, even himself, that it wasn’t in part a suicide mission.

His eyes drop to the cup that’s placed in front of him, then lift to Francois. It is personal, the shift and set of his expression says as much. The strings of what he knows are unraveling from him as plans are made which is an overwhelming feeling. His hand wraps around the thin red and white plastic and, instead of worrying about the uncertainties and lack of answers, he tips back the cup and gulps down the entire drink.

The cup is lowered, and Devon twists around to find himself another drink. Putting off the fuzzy, numb feeling is at an end, it seems. “Can I see those files?” He grasps the vodka and tips a more-than-healthy serving into his cup. “Maybe I can make heads or tails of what Hana was reading.” He takes two large swallows of his fresh drink before turning around. The bottle comes with him. “I can contact Robyn. Maybe our Studio K days mean something still.”

“I sent a copy down to SESA, the rest are on my desk. I've been meaning to take them to Richard because I'm willing to bet he fucking knows more than he's let on.” Avi looks from Devon to Francois and offers a nod of both agreement and recognition to his orders. There's an easy give and take with Francois, an easier read than Hana, probably because he wants to be read. Avi doesn't want to imagine what Francois as a cipher looks like.

Sitting forward, Avi runs his hands through his hair. “We’re not going to solve literally any of it right now. But we need to play his careful, like French says. We go cowboy on this and they'll never trust us with the delicate work again.” He levels a knowing look at Nathalie, then looks down to the floor. “Fuck me, of all the times for Hana to flake out on us…”

"They weren't keeping you alive," Nathalie says as she straightens up, "they were making sure they didn't fail. There's a difference. If you had died, they would have added you to their corpse pile and moved on. And if they get you back, you won't get intel, you'll get tortured." Her voice strains as she struggles to keep her tone even, but she does manage it. If just barely.

Speaking of going cowboy gets her focus to shift to Avi. Speaking of files and experiments has her hackles up, but that look makes it through and she lifts her hands in assurance. As much as she might like the idea of running off and doing something about this, she's aware that that's the very impulse that gets her into trouble.

Rue nods to Francois, putting up no objections to him coming along with her for interviews. In fact, there’s a sense of relief about it. Having a second set of eyes and ears is always helpful when she can get them. She flashes a brief but grateful smile to him.

“She’s right,” Rue pipes up to back Nathalie. “You’re nothing more than an asset to them. One that can be disposed of when it’s no longer convenient. You need to steer clear of them. Especially if you’re poking around without backup.” Don’t fucking go doing that is tacit in that suggestion.

Francois' attention goes back to Devon, now that some semblance of cohesion between them all is in place. He speaks on the back of Rue's words, as if to redirect what could easily become a sentiment of being ganged up on. "What you can do for us if recount every last detail of your experiences. It is unpleasant," he says. "It will be unpleasant. But even if you do not understand the logic of the experiments done to you, we may figure it out based on their procedures.

"Perhaps not right now," he adds, with a half quirk of a smile. "This is not the best of circumstances. But later. A written report, or a tape recording." You know, tape, what we absolutely still use in 2019. "If you'd like someone to conduct an interview, even, we can arrange that." He is thinking more along the lines of a counsellor, of course, but there's a glance to Rue that suggests she might be a better choice.

First nodding to Avi, Devon looks up at the commander. “I know Richard’ll want to see it. I'll tap him to go over with me. Could probably talk him into some lab time, too. Compare notes with SESA.” The more angles examined, the easier it should be to start uncovering answers. Right?

He hopes.

His gaze shifts to Berlin and Rue next, lingering for a moment. The desire to argue is there, but he relents to their point with a nod of his head. They weren't there to experience what he did, but they're not wrong that it could be a suicide mission.

“Yeah.” His vague agreement follows, and is coupled with a look to Francois. Devon interrupts further response to drink to the suggestion — talking about what he remembers to the smallest detail is the last thing he wants to do. However. “If it'll help. Then yeah. Set something up.”

Something’s been nagging at Avi this whole time, something about what Emily said to him a few days ago, something that sunk bone-deep. “I’ve got a couple things I need to look into,” is Avi’s way of finding a way to extricate himself from the conversation. “But Dev,” he stops mid-stride, turning to look back at Devon. “I know this is fucking crazy, I know this is a lot… but you need to take it slow.”

We don’t know what they did to you goes unsaid, but the concern in Avi’s eyes is near palpable. “Talk to folks, yeah. Maybe let the cross-experimentation sit on the table for a few more weeks… don’t burn yourself out. Let’s take this as it comes, at least until we know a little bit better what we’re dealing with.”

Nathalie looks over at Avi, her head tilting lightly. There's some consideration in her gaze before she flicks her attention over to Devon. "You're not alone. Some of us went through… similar stuff," she says, "so if you want to talk." She makes a sweeping gesture, still not quite getting around to mentioning that she's one such person. But she seems to think the implication is there, because that's as far as she gets.

As uncomfortable as she might be with her own history, she does want Devon to know he's got some support that can understand.

Avi’s chewing on something and it’s obvious Rue wants a piece of it, with the way she watches his movements and moves a fraction of a step as if to follow after him. Ultimately, she knows better. Trying to pry anything out of Avi that he’s not willing to share is a fruitless endeavor that tends to end in cracked ribs. Usually only metaphorically.

“Well, don’t let the food totally go to waste.” Not that she labored over its creation. It’s all store-bought for the most part, minimal prep required, but it’s the thought that counts. In other words, she’s adjourning the meeting. “Take it easy, Dev. We’re here for you.”

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