International Incident


emily_icon.gif indira_icon.gif farah_icon.gif veronica_icon.gif

Scene Title International Incident
Synopsis On her return from the UK, Emily Epstein faces SESA leadership and a representative from the United Nations.
Date April 20, 2021

There’s a level of anxiety that turns into gut-wrenching nausea. Even during the Civil War, Emily Epstein never truly experienced this level of stress. But in the wake of the CIA-backed run on Whitehearth in the UK, it has felt like her body has been trying to overthrow her mind.

Ever since returning to the States, Emily and the other members of the operation have been detained at Fort Jay pending an investigation. Arriving in the US with dozens of international refugees seeking asylum raised so many alarms and sent up so many flares that she has heard the President is staying directly involved in the matter. It's both so near and far a thing for her that Kansas City might as well be another world. Everyone who's anyone seems to have come to New York to see all this for themselves, after all.

Though in spite of the chaos her world has turned into, SESA agents have been sure to keep Emily up-to-date on the status of Agent Gutierrez, Agent-Trainee Gerken, and Doctor Miller who were moved to Fournier-Bianco Memorial Hospital. Stable but not out of the woods yet is a blanket status she’s heard for all three.

They were home now. The people at Fournier-Bianco were some of the best in the world. So she had to believe, so she had to hope, trying to not remember the nearly cartoonish way Zachery's chest was expelling blood from his wound the last time she clearly remembers seeing him. How his eyes wouldn't open.

Short briefings, tension-filled conversations with CIA brass, and sporadic naps all feel like a vibrating echo in the back of Emily’s mind in the face of those recurring worries, and reflections that go back even further than that. It’s only now, some fifteen hours later, that the aggressive cycle of those thoughts spawning anxiety attacks are starting to abate and the gaps in her memory from arriving at the Brick House and being here at Fort Jay are starting to fill themselves back in from external context clues.

What keeps nagging at the back of Emily’s mind is the footage on her confiscated camera. Footage of the horrors on display at Whitehearth. The inhuman truth of the British sectioning program.

Truth that cries out to be seen.

Fort Jay
Governors’ Island
NYC Safe Zone

April 20th
3:47 pm

Emily hasn't left the conference room she's been placed in for hours. She's not touched the last of the coffee brought for her; a burger someone ferried her near noon sits cold with only a bite taken from it before it was rewrapped again. Only now does she feel like she's not likely to vomit unceremoniously, and has had a handful of cold fries.

It's back to pacing now, though, hand on the back of her neck. Blood staining the bottom of the lavender sweater-vest she'd been wearing since London is a thing she's still yet to notice. Patently, she doesn't matter here. What matters is the others pull through. What matters is the refugees are accepted and not sent back to the UK. What matters is…

What matters is that the world comes to know what they uncovered. That what's happening there come to light, so it never is allowed to happen again.

The Vault is one of the most secure rooms in Fort Jay. Insulated from wireless signals, insulated against infrasound and listening devices. Once sealed, conversations within typically tend to stay within, and those contained inside are cut off from news of the outside world. It makes it feel like being in a submarine at times, if a submarine could have wood paneling walls, a decorative bookshelf, and track lighting.

When the green light over the door turns red, it means the seal is broken. The door opens a moment later and two equally important people in the hierarchy of SESA walk through with incredibly serious expressions. Director Farah-Nazan Gutierrez is perhaps at a bit of an awkward position here, given that her husband was involved in the operation that landed Emily in this room. But Senior Agent Veronica Sawyer is a whole other matter entirely, one of the most well-known and well-respected members of SESA, the woman known as the face of the resistance during the Cambridge Massacre.

Behind these two follows a woman that Emily has never met before, but her guest badge identifies clearly. Indira Laghani, UN representative from the Department of Genocide Prevention. Farah closes the door behind Indira when she enters, and waits for the red light to turn green before talking.

“How are you doing, Emily?” Farah asks with genuine compassion as Indira moves to take a seat at the conference table.

Emily looks up when the door is unsealed, blue eyes flicking sharply in that direction as she stops midpace. While there's not a sense that anyone coming through is going to harm her, necessarily, she wonders who's next in this great parade of strangers.

Surprisingly, familiar faces.

"Director," she breathes out. "Agent Sawyer." It's good to see them both. "I'm fine," she answers with all the dismissive tone of a poorly-concealed lie. "I'm alive, I'm home, we got out as many people as we could once we realized what was going on." Her eyes flit to the indication of privacy in the room, studying the green light briefly. They're rimmed in red from lack of sleep and other stresses.

Next she turns to consider Indira, dissecting her attire, her manner. "You don't look CIA," she notes aloud before alighting on the symbol on her badge. Emily arches an eyebrow slowly. Don't say something stupid, Em.

"Ah… pleasure to meet you," the young Epstein greets her awkwardly. She doesn't near the table or unfold her arms, save for to briefly lift a hand to thread several wisps of blonde hair that have escaped the tired bun on the back of her head behind her ear. The pleasantry of a handshake is out, then.

Her head shakes once as she looks to Veronica. "I've been in here for… hours. Is there any update? Any news?" Her eyes flit to Farah next indicatively. Maybe she'd have better news on the status of those at the hospital.

Veronica offers her own compassionate look to Emily when she enters. It’s not hard to draw parallels between Cambridge and Whitehearth. She might envy the anonymity of the younger woman’s footage, should it be released, as her own life’s path after 2011 was limited by the unwanted recognition that came with freeing the people in the Arcology.

The question draws her eyes over to the director instead, sharing a grim look, and Sawyer sighs softly, pulling out a seat across from Emily and lowering herself into it. Her hands fold on top of it, and she studies them for a moment, before she looks up again.

“The UK released a statement that the facility was bombed, killing the rest of the detainees and employees at Whitehearth,” she says, her voice schooled into a quiet, neutral tone. “Hawthorne claims that they have evidence that the aircraft was recently in Iraq, one that was taken from the Russian military by Mazdak forces in Syria in 2013.”

The word claims is a loaded one, at times.

Veronica unfolds her hands, refolds them again. They seem small and dainty for someone who has fired so many weapons herself.

“Parliament is discussing whether or not to go to war with Iraq now,” she says finally, before glancing back at Farah, clearly ceding the floor back to her.

Emily's features go slack when she hears the news, something beyond surprise and nearing despair entering her expression when she realizes the blame is being shifted for a massacre. She doesn't believe the supposed story of it for a second. It takes only a moment for the shock to pass to indignation, for her to come stand behind her chair with one hand on its back.

“We are in very treacherous political waters right now,” Farah explains with a brief glance across the table to Indira. “Obviously what you and the others did at Agent Gutierrez’s request was the morally-right choice in the matter, and of that there is absolutely no question. That said, there is an issue of legality within the boundaries of international law that could—if the UK so decided—give them cause to declare what you and the others did was an act of war against their country.”

Threading a lock of hair behind one ear, Farah glances over at Veronica, then back to Emily. “I want to let you know that you have the full support of SESA all the way up to Secretary Choi and the President in what happened. But any attempt to publicly tie our operation to what happened in Whitehearth could have long-lasting and disastrous consequences for our country. Especially if what the UK is alleging happened isn’t true.”

“Ms. Laghani,” Farah says with a gesture to Indira, “is here on behalf of the United Nations Office of Genocide Prevention, and she has been provided with a copy of the footage you recorded while in Whitehearth that will be presented to select members of her office within the week as an anonymous source without any associated audio track or exif data that could trace it back to you or that operation.”

The despair that registers on Emily’s face draws another sympathetic look from Veronica, and she’s quiet as Farah speaks. At the next lull in the conversation, though, she leans forward, to look Emily in the eyes across the table.

“You did the right thing,” she says, repeating Farah’s sentiments. “I would have done the same thing, one hundred percent. And as much as I want everyone to know the atrocities they’re committing, I recommend leaving that decision in the hands of Ms. Laghani.” With a wry smile, she adds, “If this was America ten or fifteen years ago, I wouldn’t have told you that.”

The US government was not in the habit of defending the SLC-E community then.

“My own gut reaction would have been to release it — the truth will out, and all of that. But it will incite riots and uprisings, and the people we want to protect are going to be the ones hurt most if that happens. The UK government will use it as an excuse, as justification for what they’ve already done, and to take even more extreme measures. And we don’t have the resources to fight them, not alone, when we’re still recovering from what happened in 2011,” Veronica says, leaning back again.

Days of sleeplessness and anxiety do Emily no favors in concealing the microexpressions she cycles through when she processes the layers of what Farah is saying. Betrayal flickers in her eyes, bringing her to look to Veronica for support only to be cautioned anew. Her eyes widen in dismay.

"That's not our choice, to decide for them," she insists, trying to keep her voice steady even if it's louder than she means. Her brow furrows as she meets Veronica's look. "This is just as bad as what was going on in Cambridge. We came across it by accident, but to keep what we've found secret would be even worse. Leaving what they're doing behind closed doors will only let them continue!"

"The UK needs to know. The world needs— to know." Emily turns her plea in Indira's direction in time with her stammer. "The people need to be aware of this, not just leaders, ma'am. Clearly, leaders already know or this wouldn't have happened in the first place." Then she's cycling back to Farah again, brow knitting together. As much as she'd like to harden her gaze, she can't hide the upset in her eyes. "There's nothing saying this needs outed as an operation by the US government, but letting the UK dictate the course of the conversation will only ensure that it's their agenda that gets advanced— their lies that work their way into the global consciousness and become truth if unchallenged."

"Please," Emily implores, arms lifting away from her sides.

Indira offers a look to Farah and Veronica first, before focusing on Emily. “I understand, as a woman who also grew up in an oppressive regime, the natural reaction to distrust. What we’re saying isn’t that the UK’s crimes be kept secret indefinitely, but that we leverage time and surprise to our side. The United Nations’ leaders will review the footage and unilaterally decide what actions need to be taken next. Not if action needs to be taken, but what action.”

Indira folds her hands in front of herself and sits forward, searching Emily’s eyes as she continues. “The next steps are to determine the level of economic sanctions to level on the country, and determine which member nations of the UN are willing to commit to military action to ensure that the atrocities being carried out in the UK’s sectioning facilities end. This includes the establishing of No-Fly Zones, extradition of those associated with the sectioning program, and trial by a jury at the Hague, among other options.”

Following that, Indira passes the conversational baton to Farah with a glance. “This isn’t going to be swept under the rug,” Farah says in affirmation of Indira’s points. “Your involvement? Yes. But that this is happening? No, that has to come to light. But what we want to do is ensure that the people who could get caught in the crossfire of the social shitstorm coming from this are as protected as possible. We control the narrative right now, we have the evidence. If we rush into this and make it public immediately we run the risk of endangering even more innocent lives.”

Veronica’s eyes meet Indira’s, and she remains quiet as the other two women speak first. When Farah finishes, she nods in agreement, though her gaze is settled on Emily.

“Surprise is a powerful weapon, as noted. If we release it publicly, they know what we have, and can begin to mount their defense to discredit it before the UN can deal with them,” she says quietly, folding her hands together. “Blindsiding them is a better strategy, especially as they’re trying to shift focus to Mazdak. Meanwhile, it gives the UN time to plan, and also possibly help more people, bring refugees over potentially, without tipping our hand just yet.”

Offering a small smile to Emily, Veronica shakes her head. “Trust me when I say sometimes you have to play the long game, and trust me when I say I know it’s fucking hard to do.” This isn’t the PR director speaking, but the former field agent, and from experience. “But sometimes it’s the wiser move. Taking our time on when and how we reveal it lets us use it to our advantage, and protect as many people as we can at the same time.”

Fear is a hard thing to let go of, trust an even harder thing still to come into. But Emily is flanked by people she respects, and confronted with someone representing the one global institution people should hope to have any faith in. While her feelings haven't shifted considerably, anxieties that somehow the narrative in power will still somehow drown out the truth, she finds herself conceding to— for the present— hope for better than her fears.

For safety's sake, she tells herself. To not jeopardize those she loves. And if not for that, then for the hope that all the specific sanctions Indira names might actually come to light.

She begins to shake her head but there's no sign of fight in it, only that worry she has. "Please," Emily repeats, looking to Indira and then to Farah with that hope in her eyes, and an unexpected emphasis in her voice. "Don't let me down. Don't let the victims down." She exhales after saying as much, letting her tiredness sink in.

If she can leave what happens now up to faith that Indira will help, maybe she can at last get some sleep.

"That's… all I can say, really," Emily murmurs, her arms drawing back to herself in a slow fold.

“I won’t.” Farah and Indira say simultaneously. The synchronicity of it surprises both of them, and for a moment they share a silent glance. Indira withdraws, just a touch, leaving Farah with enough space to take conversational lead.

“The world will hold us accountable, Ms. Epstein.” is how Farah frames her own conviction. “You have my word that Agent Sawyer and Ms. Laghani will help our agency see this through to the end, so that this affected can find justice with as minimal additional loss of life as possible. Our first and primary concern is the safety of the people in our custody, and then those yet to be liberated from other Sectioning facilities.”

“As well as discovering everyone who is culpable for these crimes,” Indira finally adds. “The international community will stand united against this, and…” she dithers for a moment, which gives Farah a chance to speak up.

“And if they aren’t, well…” Farah slides her tongue across the inside of her cheek. “They’ve seen what America will do. We’ll find a way.” It isn’t directly a threat to those responsible, but it’s the closest Farah will make in this situation. Given that it was her husband who initiated this entire endeavor, it seems likely they share a mind on how this should all end. And to what lengths they’re willing to go through to see it through.

“That said…” Farah exhales a sigh, not letting the previous thought have too much time to linger in the room. “Following some mandatory time off to recuperate from your ordeal, I would like to discuss your future with SESA.” Realizing how that sounds, Farah flattens one hand against the table and adds, “All good conversations.”

Veronica’s brows lift at the synced response, and she nods her own assent to Farah’s words. “You did good, kid,” she says softly. “And you’ve earned a bit of a vacation.”

Rising from her seat, Sawyer offers the younger woman a smile, then nods to Indira and Farah as she makes her way to the door to return to her own office and the pile of work she needs to do there – among them, her portion of the paperwork thrown into the SESA conference room by Cooper and Reeves.

Emily's own, quiet ping of alarm at the chorus reply lives deep inside, doesn't reflect in her eyes. She covers it over with a returned smile to Veronica as she takes her leave, and then looks back to Farah, trying to carry over that lighter sentiment in her reply.

Breathe, Em, she tells herself.

"I came back to the office saying I didn't want to work in the field again, then ended up very far afield just now," she says with self-conscious humor leveraged only gently at her own expense. "It's probably a good time to… check-in." She forces that smile back again.

"Am I… dismissed for now, then?" Emily asks cautiously. "I've not slept in…"

She doesn't even want to think about how long it's been.

“Yes, Epstein, you’re dismissed. I think we can all agree you deserve a little rest.” Farah says quietly, pushing up from her seat. Indira does the same, but without such a platitude. Instead, she offers a business card out to Emily.

“If you have any questions or concerns about the process, please, don’t hesitate to call. That’s my direct line.” Indira says, looking to Farah, then Veronica, before she turns for the door.

As Farah rises from her seat she starts to turn away, then looks back to Emily over her shoulder. “For what it’s worth, Epstein? Your father was right when he recommended you…”

“…you’re an outstanding agent.”

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