Inclusion Zone


bf_kara_icon.gif nicole3_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Inclusion Zone
Synopsis Against her instincts, Nicole reaches out to her friends to assemble a team to accompany her to the Manhattan Exclusion Zone.
Date July 31, 2020

It’s well past dinnertime when Nicole finally gets into her car and heads over to Raytech’s corporate housing building. She’d managed to ascertain through idle chit chat at the dinner table that Yi-Min had been at work today, so that saves her from having to make the drive to Providence. Thankfully.

The drive across the Safe Zone from Bay Ridge to Jackson Heights gives Nicole time to think about how she’s going to pitch this. It’s likely not going to be a hard sell, but…

Fingers tap restlessly against the steering wheel even after the vehicle is shut off. Nicole takes a moment to herself before she finally steps out and heads into the building. In the vestibule, she presses the button on the callbox that she knows belongs to Yi-Min’s apartment unit.

When the buzzer is answered, leans in. “It’s me. Can I come up?”

"You had me at 'it's me,'" Yi-Min's voice crackles over the intercom, which shuts off immediately afterwards.

A lower-toned electronic 'bzzzz' from a different spot by Nicole a moment later affirms her freedom to come up whenever she pleases.

Yi-Min's Residence, Raytech Industries Corporate Housing

When Nicole pushes open the unlocked door to Yi-Min's apartment, she steps into a sunlit domain of architectural beauty— a cultivated swathe of gold and green. Wide windows simultaneously open out onto a magnificent view of the Raytech campus and bathe the ample, atrium-like space in bright light. Different leafy plants and bookshelves take up most of the central wall, fully floor to ceiling in the case of the latter.

Yi-Min had always had a green thumb, and being able to tailor this place to her tastes (and Kara’s, in the case of the books) must have been a dream come true, in its own little way.

It's not just one familiar face Nicole finds when she arrives, but two. Yi-Min and Kara are both there, with Yi-Min herself reclining on one side of a white chaise lounge in the center of the floor like a reposing cat. She stirs as soon as she perceives Nicole’s approach, an implicit smile written somewhere into the warmth of her expression. There is concern in her eyes, too: she hadn't been able to gauge Nicole's tone from that single sentence over the intercom.

"Is everything alright?"

Kara looks up from her book when Nicole lets herself in, thumb holding her place as she closes it up in her lap. She takes one look at the SESA leader and decides she sees something. Something that drives her, especially if she hadn't even called ahead.

It didn't read like marriage troubles. Instead, it looked like something else.

"Out with it," Kara suggests in gruff contrast to Yi-Min's show of concern.

Nicole takes a quiet moment to admire Yi-Min’s apartment as she closes the door behind her and hooks her thumbs through the belt loops of her faded grey jeans. She offers a faint smile first to Yi-Min, then a nod to Kara. “Good. Saves me a drive,” she murmurs. That she doesn’t waste time on greetings, pleasantries, or small talk is a sign that things may not actually be alright.

Kara’s to-the-point direction sees Nicole nodding her head to herself three or four times. “Short version, then,” she decides. “I need to go to the Manhattan Exclusion Zone, and I was hoping you’d both come with me.”

They are all good enough friends to not have to engage in the banality of small talk, but Nicole's urge to skip past it is alarming all the same. "Sit," Yi-Min directs with a firm motion of a hand towards their welcoming arrangement of lounge chairs. She is already settling subtly back onto the previous comfort of her chaise lounge, eyes never leaving Nicole.


Unmoving at first, Kara slowly arches one eyebrow. The Exclusion Zone? There was nothing out there worth seeing, in her estimation of things. Nothing good, at least. And largely, nothing living. So what did…?

Her thumb slowly slides out of its place in the book as she sets it aside on an end-table next to the couch. Then, she's coming to her feet, hands slipping into the pockets of the slacks she wears, her look of concern only growing. Whatever this is, if Nicole had been intent on looping in her from the beginning, it was off the books.

And Kara can't decide if that's a good or a bad thing in this instance.

Nicole does as she’s bidden, stepping into the apartment and around one of the chairs to sink down into it. There’s nothing particularly heavy about the way in which she does this, but whatever’s on her mind does weigh on her. That much they can see.

“A colleague of mine — my partner when I was undercover in Providence — has been avoiding me for months. I finally got fed up and cornered him today to get some answers.” She promised the short version, so Nicole doesn’t delve into those details. To them, they’re immaterial anyway. “He gave me a note with an address and I gave him a bloody nose.”

She wishes the latter had been more satisfying. “The address is for an old storage building in Lower Manhattan. He said he was looking out for me. Or… that somebody was. I’m assuming he meant himself. I’ve been told I need to take a vacation. So, as of this afternoon… I’m on vacation. I can take off, and no one will be the wiser.”

Shrugging then, she admits, “I don’t know if what I’m going to find there is going to have… anything to do with what happened to us.” She looks to Yi-Min when she says this, expression apologetic. “Maybe it won’t… I didn’t have the luxury of asking what I should be looking for. I expect it’s one of those I’ll know it when I see it situations. I was going to leave this afternoon, but… Zachery caught me before I could go.”

At least she seems to have the good grace to look guilty for that, the fact that she was set to disappear without telling him. “He made me promise I wouldn’t go alone. But I haven’t told him who I intend to bring with. Means he won’t come knocking down your door about it.”

"Noah," Yi-Min murmurs out, even though Nicole hadn't explicitly said the name. There is enough information there for her to piece that together. She expels a breath of air through her nostrils at hearing about the bloody nose, concealing a faint laugh. "I have no idea if he deserved this at all, but I can commiserate with this urge to want to hit someone for answers."

Such a rare allusion to violence is an odd thing to hear from Yi-Min, but her eyes are sharp and light and wry. Almost delicately, she leans further into the upper armrest of her chaise lounge, the rest of her half-coiling along its length. Her cheek rests atop her small hand as she stares at Nicole more thoughtfully.

"It is alright. I am unfortunately familiar with the necessity of being pressed into a task without having the answers I want. I cannot speak for Kara, but you have my support, at least. I am glad Zachery did not let you do this utterly foolish thing of going by yourself."

That might be the first wholesale support she had offered for anything Zachery had ever done. Yi-Min can only give her head a slight shake, muted with that disapproving concern.

Kara only arches an eyebrow, slow, at hearing the strange behavior Noah Bennet demonstrated. The clue, delivered without context, bothers her.

For her, it sounds out of character for him. Deceptive in a way she wouldn't ascribe to him. Like it's behavior better-suited to the false Noah that had been standing in his shoes the months leading up to February. But then again, she's only ever known him under a certain context.

And she lacks other context here.

With a shake of her head, she indicates, "You didn't save a trip. It's not like I bring the armory with me. I'll need to drive down and back to be as armed as I'd like for any trip beyond those walls."

Kara pauses then, to better refocus on Nicole. "Just how are you planning on getting past the wall?" There's only the slightest bit of tact to her as she follows that with, "Have you thought that far ahead yet?"

Kara isn’t wrong. While Nicole expects anyone from a Company bent to be cryptic about literally anything — and that goes double for Noah Bennet — she isn’t sure who she was dealing with was actually Noah. She just also believes Peter Petrelli would have engineered a situation for them to get close to one another and share information without drawing suspicion. Now, she wonders if Noah specifically provoked her into snapping this way.

Ultimately, the set-up doesn’t change the result. She still has an address and still has a need to investigate.

“Wouldn’t be the stupidest thing I’ve ever attempted to do on my own,” Nicole comments in an amused aside to Yi-Min of her foolishness. At least she isn’t trying to storm a paramilitary compound solo, while six months pregnant. Never mind that she should be a month further along than that right now. But if she were, she wouldn’t be entertaining the notion of putting her babies at risk.

“I know there’s a gap or two in the wall up on the Harlem side of things…” Which is a shitty plan without details more concrete than that, but it’s where she had fallen in her haste. “Absolute worst case scenario, I’m not fired. My absence is voluntary, and I retain my good standing. I could use my credentials to get through the checkpoint. My clearance would make it easy.” But it would put Nicole on the radar for having done it. It would expose her.

Which is why that’s the absolute last resort. It falls somewhere behind build my own trebuchet and launch myself across the river and over the walls.

“I’ve got access to Ryans’ cache. We can stock up here,” Nicole tells Kara. “Save you the trouble.” But she shrugs, relenting. If Kara is more comfortable with her own equipment — and she’s bound to be — then that’s what she should have.

“I think there are some maps of the old tunnels running under the city. I’m going to track down someone who was working on them and see if I can get ahold of some copies. That should offer us a better route inside.” Nicole shrugs her shoulders, then leans to her right in the chair, elbow propped on the arm and her chin resting in her palm.

“I don’t know what this is, but whatever it is… It has to be big if he wouldn’t be seen willingly giving me the time of day.”

"Well, stop it. This doing of stupid things alone and risking yourself." Yi-Min's steely rebuke, along with shorter glimpses of the bedrock of gentleness that it rests on, continues in another shake of her head. That being said, she listens carefully to the rest of what Nicole has to say.

It is a rather rough plan. Not even a plan yet, really. Just an outline, the holes in it badly duct-taped by hope.

But it could get there.

Her gaze slides sideways to Kara at the topic of making preparations from the armory in Providence, and then back to Nicole, meditative. She could use at least a few days to prepare possibly helpful supplies from her lab, as well.

"How soon are you planning on making this trip?"

Kara shoots a look back to Yi-Min after hearing the poorly formed setup to Nicole's plan, not hearing anything impossible to it, but certainly not preferable. When she looks back to Nicole, her demeanor doesn't pull any punches.

"You need at least a day to scout your entry point. And if we're going under instead of over, we'll need to pack accordingly."

Her eyes narrow and she slides one hand back from her pocket so she can drag it back through her hair thoughtfully, through her half-up, half-down hairstyle. "Your husband could use the reassurance you're doing this a well-planned way. Unless you don't think you'll get up the nerve to get moving again, you should go home— do whatever preparations you need to there or at this cache."

And here she can't help mask her curiosity. "Just… what sort of cache is this, anyway?" Kara wonders, arching an eyebrow.

Nicole chuckles to herself, a short sound like a bubble reaching the surface and popping just as quickly as it appears. For all that she’d been a strategist for the latter portion of the war, it’s hard to tell it right now. But the stakes then were bigger than her. It felt easier to remain objective. But she also wasn’t alone then. She never had to call all the shots herself without having someone to bounce plans off of. Which is why she’s here now.

“What, Ryans’?” Nicole shakes her head. “Man had a good stock of weaponry. He was prepared for… Well, just about anything.” It makes her miss him terribly in this moment. “As for when, the sooner the better, as far as I’m concerned. I can get the maps tomorrow morning, I think, and scout out options after that. I can get supplies, too. I’ll get rebreathers, for sure.”

"And, ah. How reliable is this contact of yours, with the maps?" That might be one of the first concerns they should look over, prior to anything else. Yi-Min is familiar with enough contested zones the world over to know that surveying any extensive underground network is a feat in and of itself— and there was no telling what additional complications there might be for a place as dangerous as the Manhattan Exclusion Zone.

A single, unmarked pitfall inside such structurally unsound tunnels could easily spell their doom.

“Reliable enough,” Nicole assures with a small shrug of her shoulders. She doesn’t have references to back up her assertion, but this whole venture is based on trust anyway.

The look Yi-Min sends back at Kara before she settles it back on Nicole isn't wildly enthused either, despite her verbal declaration of support. But there is a keenness in her gaze, and it is analytic. Having sight of all the things that could go wrong is inclining her towards a new approach: cautious creativity, rather than just doubt.

At least Kara would probably be happy about the weaponry.

Happy might be a strong word, but appreciative certainly does it. Using the cache left behind by the deceased would mean resources she'd not have to draw from Providence's stores— from the Remnant's stores— for this personal endeavor.

"We're already looking better than we were ten minutes ago. This plan might be rudimentary for now, but it's headed in a good direction," she assures, because perhaps Nicole needs to hear that her wild-hair idea is indeed possible and she shouldn't back down from it just because they needed to plan further. "Let's review those maps once you have them, and we'll go from there."

Nicole nods. “Sounds like a start to me,” she offers with a smile of encouragement.

Kara has a bad gut feeling at the use of the words tunnels and rebreathers so close in proximity, but that too is nothing they can't overcome. Even if they ended up traipsing through sewers… it'd been over half a decade since there had been use for them.

Surely they couldn't still be that bad.

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