Kites IV


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Scene Title Kites IV
Synopsis Gabriella decides to trust Nicole when she has to reckon with the terrible cost of prescience.
Date March 11, 2021


Reading the headline alone made Nicole Miller’s blood run cold. She’d called around and called around. Who else? Who else? Who else? There were wounded. There were more dead. She needed names, and she didn’t give a fuck if next of kin had been notified yet. She wasn’t about to spill the beans to anyone else. She just needed one name.

Answer me. Please answer me. Please tell me you’re okay.
- Nicole Miller

Asami said Gabriella Milos knew about them. Had the story. Was going to break the news to everyone. She had to be okay. Nicole had to confirm this wasn’t a targeted attack on her. Wendy’s death was bad enough. The Linderman Group CEO put her head in her hands at her desk and cried. The stress and fear finally began to make her crack.

“None of this is real,” she whispered to herself. Why cry over spilled pixels? Maybe because Wendy Hunter was dead in the real world as well, whatever qualifies for real anymore. Maybe because she’s afraid of losing what few allies she has here. Gabby qualified, she was certain.

Gabby stares at the notification on her phone for a long moment, considering how to answer it. She’s not at work and not at home, but sitting on a park bench far from either, unsure what to do next. She had doubted Asami — nothing felt different after her meeting with the woman, the fugitive. Nothing was different.

Until everything was.

She starts to type a response, backspaces, then stares into the distance again. She should be dead, not Wendy Hunter. She feels no relief. Guilt looms on the horizon, but right now she’s wrapped in a blanket of numbness and confusion.

After ten minutes, she looks down at the phone again, swiping it to wake up the screen. She types again:

Alive. Not remotely ok.

While Gabriella won't be able to find relief, Nicole does when she snaps up her phone the moment it buzzes on her desk and finds the message is from the only person she wants to hear from at the moment.

Where are you? I know about your last meeting and I can help you.

Gabriella chews on her lower lip for a long minute. A dozen scenarios flicker through her mind like a choose-your-own-adventure book on speed. What if it’s not Nicole? What if it’s whoever is trying to kill her or stop the truth from getting out, whoever’s hacked her phone?

There are too many “what ifs” to consider. And she’s all alone.

High Line Park, at the northern point. I don’t trust this phone though, so if I’m not there, something spooked me and I’ll call you. If I don’t call, then something else happened, and you should run.

As she pushes send, Gabriella realizes those are the most ominous words she’s ever written — quite a feat for a professional writer.

Nicole’s breath catches in her throat when she reads the message in full. When she forces it to begin again, deep and even, she waits the space of two before she types her simple response:


From the armoire, she pulls on her coat and produces her purse, hooking her arm through its straps. A hard case is draw from the bag and flipped open, its contents – a pair of designer sunglasses – and shuts the thing with a hollow thwack! before dropping it back inside and donning her prize.

With every ounce of confidence she can hold, Nicole carries herself from her office and across the floor toward the elevator. Smoothly, she explains something came up that she has to handle off-campus. No calls. Clear her entire calendar and re-schedule everything. She doesn’t even wait for the usual protest as she disappears behind the sliding doors of the elevator.

Highline Park
Northern Point

At the northern end of the elevated park, Gabriella stands at a spot where she can see the pedestrians and bicyclists coming from both north and south. Her back is to the guardrail, her hands balled into fists deep in the pockets of her coat. Now and then she pulls out her cell phone, checking to see if there are any new messages — or if anything else has ceased to exist.

Or to check for the fiftieth time that the video she took is still missing.

Sunglasses cover the blotchiness of her eyes, but her nose is red at the tip and around the nostrils and dried tear stains can be seen on her cheeks, having cut through her contoured foundation.

Much as she might like to, Nicole doesn't take off at a job when she spots the woman she came to find. Instead, she moves along unhurried, her thumbs hooked on the edges of her coat pockets, leaving her hands out and while visible as she makes her approach.

“Gabby.” She keeps her voice low, though her inflection implies the exclamation point to follow the name. “Hey…” She keeps things conversational for now, glancing around herself. “I… God, I'm so sorry.” Whether she believes any of this is real or not, it’s the only reality they have. “Can I get you out of here?”

It’s unclear that Gabby sees her coming, for she doesn’t move, and her expression remains static as Nicole approaches and speaks to her. She doesn’t move when the other woman speaks, and for a long moment that stretches awkwardly between them like the worst flavor of saltwater taffy, it may seem that the journalist has gone catatonic.

But finally she speaks — a non sequitur, though not without context.

“It was supposed to be me. I dreamt it. I thought I could change it. I did everything I could to make the day different than it was in my dreams,” Gabriella murmurs, her voice soft and oddly fragile.

“The only thing I changed was who died.”

After what’s happened, patience is a grace Nicole can easily extend to Gabriella, waiting with a placid expression in spite of her own tempestuous feelings. When it becomes clear what the other woman’s ability is — that she does have one — Nicole lifts her chin in tandem with a deep inhale and brings it down in a nod on the exhale.

She has a fairly good idea whose ability that is.

“Precognition.” Another knowing nod, and Nicole reaches out slowly to rest her hand on Gabriella’s upper arm. “I’m sorry. It’s… terrible.” She’d always thought it would be useful to know the future, but to know what can’t be averted… To know how she was manipulated by those who knew what was coming… No.

No. She could never have the heart to use that ability to manipulate others.

Yes. She could solidify her grip on the heart of the city with that ability.

Blinking hard, Nicole sucks in a breath. She has to remember what’s her and what’s real.

“We should get you out of here.”

That she’s so readily believed is a clear surprise to Gabriella, who simply stares with those wide green eyes at Nicole. “You believe me?”

The amazement turns to narrow-eyed suspicion, and Gabriella almost visibly retreats a little deeper into herself, pulling her emotions in and throwing a wall up.

“Someone hacked my phone, erased everything I had on what’s going on. I tried to share it but they knew, somehow, and erased it all.” The words tumble out of her mouth, low, and she takes another step backward.

“How do I know I can trust you? How do I know…?”

The wall cracks, and with it her voice. Trembling hands reach up to cover her mouth before she can sob. “Did she give you a… whatever, a super power. God, that sounds so fucking stupid. I’d like to give mine back, thanks. Is there a return policy?” Her voice gets a little higher with each phrase, her eyes a little wider.

Yes,” Nicole says immediately when she’s asked if she believes her friend. “It’s okay. I’m not surprised it happened, that they took it. That they’re trying to keep it quiet.” Not surprised, but no less shaken up about it. If evidence of what they’re trying to do here is being flat out erased, then something may be even more wrong than she had already told herself it was.

This time, reaches out and grasps the blonde’s shoulders firmly, but not tightly. She’s not trying to keep her from moving, just trying to get her attention. “Gabby. Focus on me. Yes, I have a power. I have memory— I can remember everything.” Nicole grapples with that for a moment. There’s not enough emphasis there, but there’s not enough emphasis in this world to convey what her ability does and what it has done to her. “Everything. Everything I see, I can recall with perfect clarity. And I’ve seen some shit on the subway I wish I could unsee.” She hopes the quip will help break through the panic.

“I need you to breathe, Gabby. I need you to keep it together. I’m here. I’m not going to let anything happen.” Nicole draws in a step closer. “Please trust me,” she begs. “You’re not alone here. We need to stick together, and you have to look as calm as you can manage. I’m going to get you somewhere safe, and we can talk about it.”

A tear slides down Nicole’s cheek. “Gabby, I’m sorry. I’m so sorry you got this power. I’d trade with you in a heartbeat if I could. Please trust me. You’ve always been my ally in the press. My fucking champion. Please, let me give you return on that investment.”

Nicole can feel the taller woman shaking when she puts her hands on Gabby’s shoulders. The reporter’s green eyes are a little wild, like a rampant stallion’s, and she breathes in deeply, nostrils flaring.

“Prove it. Prove… what’s, um.” She tries to think of some random fact or memory she knows that she’s shared with Nicole, that no one would ever remember without cause to, without looking it up. She shakes her head, coming up blank, but then suddenly snaps her fingers.
“At the campaign rally last summer, I had a summer intern from NYU shadowing me for the day. What was their name?” Does she remember their name? Her nose wrinkles for a moment as she pulls it up from memory.

The young man was completely immemorable, with boring clothes, a boring face, a boring name that would never stand out to someone without perfect recall. Gabby only remembers because she met the student on multiple occasions, and got his name wrong most of the time only to be corrected with increasing irritation on behalf of the intern.

“Chad,” Nicole responds without a moment of hesitation. “Could not get my coffee order right when he went on that fetch quest for us.” She laughs nervously. It drags her away from her tears just enough for now. “Do you remember that? I just joked that he should get one for me, too, because I was standing nearby, and he snapped to. He was so eager.” More laughter, this edging a bit more into comfortable territory. “But he was so bad at it.”

A little sympathy plays out on her face, but mostly it’s just a sense of unkind amusement at his hopelessness. “Do you think he ever improved?” It’s a conversational question, but she’s starting to loop one arm with one of Gabriella’s. Did she pass the test?

“Chad,” confirms Gabriella, looking relieved. She lets Nicole steer her now and she leans into the other woman; the weight seems heavy, heavier than Gabby seems she would feel, but it’s exhaustion, grief, fear that drags down the both of them.

“Chad Smith, the most boring intern to ever intern, and he only got it because he was the nephew of the general manager. He never wrote anything besides a few briefs. He’ll be perfect for the Des Moines Register or something of that caliber, I’m sure.”

It’s a positive sign that her snark has returned. But Gabby hasn’t forgotten why they’re there. “What the fuck are we going to do, Nicole?”

Nicole laughs quietly, where it’s appropriate. “He was that, wasn’t he? The Des Moines Register will be lucky to have him.” Her posture and approach change as they begin to move, recognizing Gabriella’s need for someone else to be strong in the moment. There’s no question about whether she’ll play that part for her. Instead of arm and arm, Nicole shifts her arm around the other woman’s waist. “It’s okay,” she says in a hush. “I’ve got you.”

The question posed is an important one, and while the bigger answer to it is one Nicole needs to mull over, she has the immediate covered. “First, we’re going to get you somewhere safe. I have a place. If you need anything from yours that can’t be replaced, I’ll get it for you. You don’t go home now.”

With a quick squeeze around Gabby’s waist, Nicole cuts in before she can say or do anything else. “Breathe,” she instructs. “I don’t know what you know, but there are more of us. We need to get together to talk about what’s happening and what we do next. We’re all in this… tangled mess together, and we have to at least try to decide together.”

Nicole takes a deep breath of her own. “How does that sound, Gabs?”

“Fucking nuts,” is Gabriella’s answer, and she shakes her head. Her laugh is a nervous thing, a little too high to be borne of amusement. She’s barely keeping it together.

“It sounds fucking nuts, all of this, and I don’t know that it’s a good thing that there are more of us in this situation — it’s nice not to be alone in the world, but it’s also a fucking terrible place to be that I would only wish on a few assholes, and my guess is they’re not the ones who are in this predicament.”

Her grip tightens on Nicole’s arm. “But yeah, let’s go. Why the fuck am I here? I hate this park.” Her nervous laugh rings out again. “My fight or flight mind apparently chose the least likely place, up here with the soccer moms and hipsters.”

“The assholes are not the ones in this predicament,” Nicole confirms. Excepting herself, maybe. “But that’s to our benefit. We don’t want to leave our fate in the hands of assholes. That’s what politics is for.” See? Asshole. Never mind what aspersions that just cast on her former ward/employer.

Giving a glance around the park, Nicole gives her shoulders a little shrug. “Maybe you decided to go somewhere people wouldn’t think to look for you. We do… weird things when we’re rattled.” She’s certainly seen enough of it in her line of work. Not the public facing one.

There’s one more smile of reassurance. “It’s going to work out. Just stick with me, Gabby.” As they descend the stairs from the gentrified conversion of the old railway, Nicole sneaks a glance upward to the underside of the bridge and its stairwell. For all the sanitization, there’s still faded graffiti that she tells herself she doesn’t recognize, worried she’s seeing things in ink blots that aren’t there. Focuses instead on all the other blemishes on the metal supports. The initials between which enduring love is proclaimed. The names of those who’ve been here before.

There’s always something beneath the surface.

From beneath, it all looks the same
Gum covered and rusted
The neon burns a hole in the night
And the freon burns a hole in the sky
You can find my kind living right on the fault line
Eyes on the seaside, lives on the B-side
Kites on the powerlines

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