If There Is An After


avi_icon.gif colette_icon.gif hana_icon.gif

Scene Title If There Is An After
Synopsis After the attack on Liberty Island, Avi and Colette are confronted by Major Gitelman.
Date November 8, 2017

A howling wind spirals through an open grassy field surrounded by dense tree cover on all sides. Starlight gleams above, broken by the black silhouette of a jet screaming toward the ground. Ducted turbines thrown down hurricane-force winds that blow the grass out in circular patterns, kicking up green blades of it against the warm night air. Fireflies scattered long ago, and as the wheels of the X52-ROOK touch down on grassy soil, the engines kick off and the vehicle’s weight settles down with a creak against the hydraulics.

Lights on the wingtips flicker still, and there is no one for at least a half mile in any direction. A moment later, the rear hatch of the vehicle cracks open and whines downward until it touches the field. “ — out of your entire fucking mind!?” An argument spills out even as the door is still on its way down. “You could’ve gotten yourself killed!” Avi Epstein storms off of the descending plank and drops down onto the grass, wheeling around to point an accusatory finger at the dark haired woman limping along behind him with a hand at her side.

You would’ve been dead.” Colette Demsky spares no punch on that, pulling her hand away to look at the wetness on her glove. She walks on shaky legs, then settles down to sit with a clunk on the ramp. “Nnh… I wouldn’t have had to be there if you hadn’t murdered a SESA agent!” Blind eyes narrow accusingly, and Avi turns around and storms over to her with a finger pointed down at her sternly.

You aren’t responsible for my fucking mistakes!” Avi screams down at her, and Colette — even after all this time — still flinches when a man raises his voice to her. It also builds a bile of resentment in the back of her throat, makes her skin crawl. “You told me this wasn’t authorized! Do you have any idea what she’s going to do to you — to the both of us when she gets here!?”

Colette’s lips downturn into a frown, teeth clenched together. “The pack stays together,” she spits his words back at him through pain-clenched teeth. “Something was wrong, I could feel it. I just— fucking knew it!” Avi throws his hands in the air, starting to walk away. “Was I fucking wrong!?

3 miles west of Montrose, Pennsylvania, 0330 HOURS

November 8th, 2017

It is too. goddamned. early for this shit.

Not that there would ever be an actually good time.

The first Hana knew of the morning's events was when the Tlanuwa's systems lit up. More precisely, Tenzin noticed, took stock of the surrounding clamor at the DHS facility, and jolted Hana herself into unhappy wakefulness. Where unhappy is the understatement of the millennium.

The one bright side of this ungodly hour is that no one else is on the road. No civilians. No police. Even the deer are bedded down until nearer dawn. There are no obstacles of any kind to the motorcycle that tears down the highway at well beyond any posted limits. Hana Gitelman took off from the Bunker only moments after the Tlanuwa lifted, leaving Scott with directions to bring the truck and a tank — enough fuel to get the craft back to base, because in none of their permuted calculations was ever it going to make the full distance.

Even making it halfway was a minor miracle.

For all that, it's still not until an hour and a half after the Tlanuwa lifted that Hana Gitelman finally catches up with it — just off one of those two-lane highways that wind interminably through the hinterlands, bare seconds south of a township that isn't much more than a speck on any map, the surrounding hills a patchwork of cleared farmland and densely thicketed woodlots. The motorcycle skids off pavement and onto graveled shoulder, its halt controlled but only just; dismounting, Hana doesn't bother stowing her helmet, discarding it by simple expedient of dropping it to roll aside on the ground.

She has far more important considerations to focus on.

There is nothing subtle about the way Hana stalks onto the scene, ground-eating strides carrying her out of screening brush and into the grassy open, course unerringly set for the resting bird… for the woman sitting on its exit ramp. Avi is seen in the wan light, noted, dismissed; he's not Hana's primary target. Rather, the full force of her ire is focused upon Colette — fury she cannot even put into words at first, voicing only a formless snarl as she knots hands in the operative's uniform and hauls her up, eye to blazing eye.

"Tell me," Hana spits out, "give me one good reason why I shouldn't fucking shoot you right now."

I don't need your shit either!” Is perhaps the pain talking when Colette lets out a whip-crack response to Hana, one hand still clutching her side as she’s hauled to her feet. A beat later she's realized what exactly she said, immediately looks at the ground in a wide-eyed stare, then tightly clenches her jaws, face red with anger and embarrassment.

Epstein tries to play diplomat, moving closer with a limping step. “I was about five minutes away from an extrajudicial execution,” Epstein calls at Hana’s back. “Not that she fucking knew that.” He realizes his own actions are on question here as well, but he considers this his one payback to her.

Colette is dead silent, brows knit together, head bowed and simmering. She doesn't defend herself, just recoils from her previous fiery retort.

That was not a 'good reason'.

"My shit, is it?" Hana growls, releasing Colette roughly — if only so she can deliver an open-palmed slap across the younger woman's face, one backed by the full force of both the Israeli's wiry frame and her incandescent rage. "My shit?"

"Do you have any goddamned idea what you've done?"

She heard Epstein, of course, but — she'll deal with him after.

Colette’s face is hot with emotion and stinging from the slap. “I did the exact same fucking thing I would have done if it was you in there! I saved my commanding officer’s life,” she spits back, “I got our jet back,” blind eyes finally track to Hana, teary only in the natural reaction to a slap. “I trusted my fucking gut and I was right.” She's trembling in Hana’s grip.

Epstein is nearby, about arms reach and slightly behind Hana in the event that this gets out of hand and he has to separate the two, but he knows better than to interject or interfere one way or the other. Instead, he just makes sure Hana knows where he is.

Ask him,” Colette snarls back, trying to drag Avi into this. “I found him in a cell with a dead agent. They had a fucking Hunter robot on-site.” Literally none of which she knew in advance, none of which changes her insubordination or the hell likely to crash down on her and Wolfhound now.


Hana steps away from Colette, stalks a tight circle off the ramp and into the grass and back again, breath a rumbling growl. She continues to give Avi no more acknowledgment than a glance as she paces by, sliding around his stationary form as if it were a rock in the tide.

She refuses to be baited, to be shifted from her focus by even an iota.

"You attacked a facility belonging to the legitimate government in time of peace," Hana snaps as she comes back around to face Colette. "You instigated the escape of an alleged murderer and stole impounded property. You, yourself, murdered — how many? — federal employees." No report was tendered while she was listening, and if it's been said on the airwaves since, Tenzin knows better than to supply the number unasked.

It doesn't actually matter. Even one would have been too many.

Hana stops in front of Colette, posture taut, jaw set, stare unblinking. One hand snaps out, two fingers and thumb framing Colette's jaw with painful pressure, holding her gaze fixed upon Hana's own.

"What you have done, Demsky, is very possibly torpedoed the entire unit."

Colette doesn't have a response for that. There's emotion in her eyes, hands clenched into fists at her side, not feeling the pain of her injuries at the moment. Rage is a hell of an anesthetic. She tenses under the grip at her jaw, swallows hard. She doesn't have any facts to combat what Hana’s saying.

Avi remains steadfast, picking neither side in the argument nor contradicting his superior officer’s orders. Epstein has decades of service under his belt to know what to do in these situations. He stays the line.

“A government,” Colette’s words are growled through clenched teeth, “that tries to execute someone without due process,” she's trembling again, “in a time of peace isn't legitimate.” There's fire in her eyes, the same kind of blind passion she had as a Ferrymen, except the times are different. Things have changed.

It isn't anything new to Hana, either. Colette had complained of having a bad feeling about Avi’s arrest for weeks. Tried to incite action. She pointed out the confiscation of the Rook as unusual. Tried to make a case, but tried to make it based on emotion and fear. In whatever ways she may have been right, it was all guesswork.

At the end of the day, she went in blind. She also went in alone, because she knew what she was doing was wrong. She could have convinced Rue to help, could have convinced Adel. She approached no one.

“I did what I thought was right. Not what was lawful.” Colette admits with a brief quaver to her voice. It's all she has.

"Was that the government?" Hana counters promptly. "Or was that their equivalent of you?" Going off half-cocked, without sanction, and creating a bloody mess.

At the last, letting her hand fall away, the major straightens, lifts her chin. "Yes, you did," she says. There's no fire in those words, now, no heat; it's not that Hana is any less furious, but she gathers that anger in, tempering steel instead of raging unbound. There's recognition in her tone, and the bitter taste of ash.

"The whole situation was shady as fuck," Hana allows; she's said that before, both in those very words and with a great deal more elaboration. "But that does not even begin to make what you did right." She turns, takes a step away, two. Her gaze rests on Avi a moment, recognizing that yes, if Colette had not acted, he would not be there — would not, so far as she can guess, be among the living at all. That still doesn't make her actions right.

Hana looks over her shoulder at Colette, her profile faintly silhouetted by moonlight.

"After this," she says, tone quiet but the very antithesis of soft, "Homeland has excuse to take in any and all of us." Poor excuse, in the case of the rank and file, but if the government were as shady as Colette seems to think, it would be enough. "They have excuse to arrest me, as your superior, on the suspicion that I gave you orders for that assault. To revoke our privileges. To freeze our accounts. To seize our records and intel. To let every name still on our list continue running free."

The major turns, facing Colette squarely. "You didn't even think about those consequences," she hisses. "That tells me, Demsky, that you are not fit to lead."

Epstein flinches at that before Colette does. It's the difference between watching someone be shot and being shot yourself. The shock blunts it. When Epstein breathes in deeply and looks down to the ground, Colette lurches forward in a way that hurts more than the gunshot that partially penetrated her vest, more than a slap and a clench of her jaw. The cold bite of disappointing someone whose opinion matters. The cold bite of loss.

Colette opens her mouth, almost says something, but either can't or chooses not to. Epstein’s glad for either, it doesn't matter which it is. When she closes her mouth, a belabored process, she turns her head away and works hard to keep her mouth shut. Not from any sort of fiery invective she might want to launch, but from the undignified sounds of a sob that so desperately want to break free.

Instead, she swallows that all down. One hand comes up to her face, trembling, her shoulders lose their square. She’d tried to outlast Hana’s fury, but the Major knew where to hit her harder than anyone else, the vulnerable spots family and friends can find like knives between plates of armor. She hides her face behind her hand, can't muster anything else other than that intense feeling of anger, shame, and embarrassment.

“Truck.” Epstein calls out like a mercy drawing attention away from Colette’s reaction. Headlights are sweeping into the treeline, moving partway across the field with a jostling gait before coming to a stop a few hundred feet away. Scott Harkness can drive recklessly too, when he needs to. Just not as well or as fast as Hana.

Somewhere in the interim, Colette folded down to sit on the ground, still clutching her face with one hand and remaining silent. Hana has made her point.

There's no triumph in seeing Colette reduced to a heap before her, no sense of victory; only disappointment, loss, and regret beneath the surface of — driving — that anger. Hana looks down at her for a long moment, unspeaking, then turns nearly towards the newly-arrived vehicle, looking at nothing and no one.

"By rights," she says, still in that same quiet, steely tone, "I should dump you both back on Homeland's doorstep." By implication, she won't. That implication is made clear in a following breath. "We'll get the Tlanuwa refueled and return to base. You're both confined to quarters for the day, until I find out what the feds want."

That statement unfolds into a set of hints all its own — that Hana has reason to suspect return the criminals will not be the first and only thing she hears from a DHS official's mouth. But she fails to provide any reasoning, does not share the shady as fuck intel Wireless overheard… the call for a cleaner.

That detail, neither Avi nor Colette have need to know.

Hana sets off for the truck, final biting statement cast over one shoulder: "We'll address the rest of your consequences after, if we have an after."

“Understood,” Epstein curtly acknowledges in the absence of Colette being able to say anything at all. As Hana stalks off to meet Harkness, Avi turns back to look at Colette with anxious eyes. He breathes in deeply, brings up a hand so scrub at the back of his neck, and takes a few paces away from her when it sounds like she might finally be cracking. It's a dignity that he can at least afford her as repayment for saving his life.

Moving a few more feet away, Epstein pads a hand at the blood drying in his shirt, blood from a long night. He feels up, across his chest, and finds what he was looking for tucked into the right pocket of his shirt.

Handcuffed to an interrogation table, Avi Epstein stares up at the man silhouette by the overhead lights. The interrogation has been going on for nearly an hour now. “This hasn't gone the way I expected,” his interrogator admits. “But it's been helpful nonetheless. Unfortunately,” the darkly dressed agent opens his jacket and takes out a pistol from an underarm holster. Avi’s eyes widen. “You tried to take me gun.”

Seeing where this is going now, Epstein’s back tenses and his fingers curl against his palm. He clenches his mouth tightly closed, then leads with distraction. “You think that by lockling me up in here, asking me all this shit, you think it changes anything? It doesn't. Because somewhere out there you didn't survive the fucking riots, somewhere out there you're rotting in the ground.

The agent brings out his gun, close range, the powder burns should show a struggle. He places the barrel to Avi’s cheek. “I suppose that's possible. I also suppose we’ll never find out.” Avi Epstein has been interrogated before, by worse people, under worse conditions. That he didn't flinch when he dislocated his own hand is practice. The way he pops it back into place so he can break the agent’s wrist with one hand is a life-learned skill. The way he muffles his scream by drawing him in to his shoulder with the other hand is muscle memory.

”But you know what happens here?” Avi whispers sharply into the top of the agent’s head. “Now?” Avi presses the barrel of the stolen gun into the agent’s eye socket, firmly. “You know what I was told, when I liberated the kids from the Ark? This blonde girl walks up to me, looks me dead in the fucking eyes.

The sent struggles, paws at Avi’s shoulders, feels the bite of the handcuff at Avi’s other hand into his throat, feels the vice of his forearm and bicep. Feels himself getting dizzy. Somewhere else in the facility, Avi hears automatic gunfire. His hands tremble, adrenaline pounds behind his eyes. “She looks me dead in the fucking eyes and she tells me, Whatever happened, happened.”

As soon as the next burst of automatic fire echoes in the distance, Avi fires once. The bullet enters through the agent’s right eye socket, exits out the top of his head over Avi’s shoulder. Not an instantly fatal wound, but a message. As the agent slumps over, convulsing, Avi follows him to the ground and begins searching his pockets. Nothing. Spots something else, though, tugging it off of the agent’s right hand.

Epstein fishes a wedding band out of his right breast pocket, turns it around in his palm, looks at the inscription inside. He eyes Colette in his periphery, then Hana’s silhouette against the truck’s headlights. The ring gets tucked back in the pocket. He’ll address that after, just like Hana said.

If there is an after.

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