Knocking on the Door


avi3_icon.gif eileen_icon.gif ryans3_icon.gif

Scene Title Knocking on the Door
Synopsis Special Activities searches for a solution to the Lancaster Problem.
Date December 15, 2011

Pollepel Island, Bannerman's Castle

There are more than two hundred and fifty people huddled inside the walls of Bannerman’s Castle, crowded together in close quarters like a large family of rats — which is exactly how the soldiers on the other side of the river have come to view the Ferrymen.

In need of extermination.

The battlements are one of the only places left to conduct meetings in private; accessible only by a steep stone staircase provides adequate protection against eavesdroppers, and it’s rare that anyone except the organization’s watch is stationed at the lookout point. A potential downside is that anyone in the courtyard below can see what’s happening and speculate over the topic of conversation based on the identities of the individuals present. Fortunately for the three gathered at the edge today, this is exactly what one of them wants.

Rue Lancaster is a double-agent working for the Department of Evolved Affairs under her aunt’s command.

Amtullah died of natural causes and the Council is using her death to scare people so they’re easier to control. Eileen Ruskin stabbed Kaylee Thatcher to help craft their narrative.

Rue did stab Kaylee, but it was because of a lover’s quarrel, not because she’s a traitor.

Eileen thinks that last version of events is a little odd, but there’s very little to do on the island except wait. She understands why some people might be leaning too hard on their imagination to keep themselves occupied and distract from the very real threat across the river.

She leans on the battlements, one arm hanging over the edge, a lit cigarette dangling from her fingers. Her hair is loose and cascades down her shoulders and back, weighed down by its natural oils, which give her curls the unhealthy sheen of a crow’s feathers. The dark circles under her eyes make her look as much like a corpse as poor Amtullah, whose body she helped wrap in linens and bury in the graveyard with the rest.

Her perfume covers any smells absorbed by her clothes since the siege started, and she’s due for a hot bath after this meeting is over. She’s been waiting a long time for her turn.

“You smell like liquor,” Avi grouses as he comes up the steps to the battlements, nose rankling and brows furrowed. Then, as he reaches the second to last step he cracks a smile casually, “nah, I’m just funnin’, that’s me.” He looks back over his shoulder, down the stairs, and then turns back to Eileen before finishing his trek the rest of the way up.

“Stab any kids in the face today?” Avi adds with a raise of his brows, the amusement in his voice fading notably. It’s the first time since Staten Island that his barbs haven’t been blunted.

“Epstein.” The name is rumbled out as a warning, in a familiar bass, from Benjamin Ryans. While he doesn’t like the events that happened, doesn’t mean, he has the mind to listen to people make off-color jokes either. “Lay off it.” Boots crunch on the stone of the battlement as he finishes his ascent.

He approaches the pair with a certain caution, not without reason really. Fingers curl and uncurl on his one remaining hand; he’s resisting to urge to scratch at the healing limb. It’s a kind of torture in its own way. It also doesn’t help with his mood, which has been on edge since the stabbing of Kaylee Thatcher; made worse with Rue’s capture.

Despite the storm behind those eyes, his face is neutral… expressionless as he finishes closing the distance.

“Robyn’s pushing thirty,” Eileen snaps back at Epstein. “She doesn’t need you to make excuses for her.” She taps ash off the tip of her cigarette and watches, who knows from where, as it floats down into the courtyard below like a solitary cluster of snow.

Outside the forcefield, there’s more of the real stuff packed into the trees and blanketed on the river’s surface, which has mostly frozen over during the past week. Pockets of open water churn sluggishly where the current is too strong for ice to have taken hold.

It’s early to be thinking about the best way to evacuate the island, but the ice might present a problem if it doesn’t break apart and open up a path for their boats.

“I can’t let Lancaster go,” Eileen says, “even if she is innocent. This person— or persons will do whatever is necessary to protect themselves. Amtullah and Kaylee were the beginning. At least this way no one else has to die.”

Lips curling into a snarl, Avi regards Ryans the way someone might a particularly unlocked housepet; contempt but also still required to clean up its shit. He draws in a deep breath and limps closer to Eileen. The makeshift brace his right leg is in does nothing to afford him any dignity.

Eileen’s change of tone from what he'd heard about the at the trial, it anyone’s even calling it that, cools his head some. “Okay,” Avi smooths a hand over his mouth, scratching at stubble soon after. “What if we executed her?” One brow raises, and— what.

“Not like, okay. Let me back that up,” Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat, holds one hand to the side of his head. “We get uh, the fuck’s her name,” Avi gestures to Ryans. “Your terrifying wife, uh— Huruma,” he snaps his fingers at that. “We park her center-middle at a public execution. Everybody present.”

Listing his head to the side slowly, Avi lets the idea float for a second. “We fake it, but sell it. Huruma feels out for anyone who is the most relieved, and we hit them over the fucking head and lock every last one of them in a hole until this is over.”
Avi looks from Ryans to Eileen and back again. “Right? I mean — that's the obvious answer if we’re down our mind-readers?” Since Rue is off the chopping-block at the moment, he’ll make sure she stays off.

Never has a look been flatter from Ryans. Really, Epstein? He is thinking it, but doesn’t say it out loud.

Instead, he presses his fingers against the bridge of his nose, eyes closing; he signs. Arm sits kinda comical against his hip. “I agree,” he finally starts, “We cannot afford to let Miss Lancaster go. Whether she did it or not, she is safer where she is.” It was hard for him to admit that. With the way the telepath and guard were was attacked, Ryans wasn’t completely convinced she could do it by herself.

The fingers drop from his nose, blue-eyes move to give Avi the merest glance. “Epstein, that is a terrible idea.” Good god, man. ”Though I appreciate what you’re trying to do.”

“One thing,” he shakes a thoughtful finger at the man, moving to stand on the other side of Eileen, “Huruma…. I think she will be our best bet.” He watches the councilwoman as he continues, “You know how the rumor mill goes around this place.” Case in point the rumors of him and the resident empath.

Brows lift a little, glancing over the woman’s head to Avi, “So we start a rumor,” gesturing at the people milling about — socializing – below them, “and wait for it to take its course. Huruma can sniff out suspects and then we can go from there.”

“You don’t think they haven’t already thought of that?” Eileen asks, but her tone is genuine; she would trust either of the men present with her life, and if she didn’t seek their counsel there would be no reason for them to hold the positions that they do.
“I worry we’re putting anyone with an ability even remotely useful to this investigation in danger if we can’t convince them that we’ve found our rat.”

Her fingers drum against the barrier. “Whatever we do needs to be convincing. Benjamin is right. It’s too risky to stage the execution, but what if all we did was hand down the sentence and set a date? Huruma can do her work and Heller’s inside man, assuming it isn’t Lancaster, has no reason to target her.”

“Well, that's less dramatic but I suppose it could work,” Avi tilts his head from one side to the other. He turns, then just settles to sit down on the stairs, his braced leg extended. “This reminds me, fuck you for having this at the top of a flight of fucking stairs.” He looks down to the courtyard, sniffing the air, then casually flips off a young man looking up.

“So,” Avi looks aside, brows furrowed. “Here's the thing. What if this isn't a mole situation?” Looking over to Eileen, Avi’s lips purse to the side. “Susan wasn't a mole. She just fucking hated Eileen.” Pausing to rummage in a pocket, Avi withdraw a small orange pill bottle and unscrews the cap.

“What I'm thinking is this, yeah, benefits Heller right? But what if it's about jealousy or power. You can't rationalize with that the same way.” Avi pops a pill in his mouth and starts screwing the cap down. “I'm gonna point out the obvious, but there's a lot of Ferrymen old-timers who don't take liking to an ex-Vanguard, ex-CIA, and ex-Company being council.

Stuffing the pill bottle back in his pocket, Avi stares off vacantly as he continues. “Might just be someone fed up with our brand of bullshit. This happened right after we got the kids out. For all we know it could be anybody. But…” dithering, Avi coughs into a closed fist.

“Fuck I dunno.” Silent for a moment, Avi looks back up to Ryans. “Does it really matter? Any of this? Maybe we have a mole, maybe it's a poorly thought out coup, maybe it's a shapeshifter, maybe it's an alternate bizarro-dimension Eileen right there,” Avi waves a hand flippantly in her direction.

“Maybe none of us made it out of that drainage ditch.” Avi’s eyes unfocus and he stares into the courtyard. “Maybe whatever happened, happened.” He might not be well.

Concern has Ryans glancing at Avi, but then to Eileen. Is she hearing this? “It matters, Epstein.” What other answer could he really give. “And I am aware of what people are saying about us…” Edgar made it clear, his past isn’t forgotten…. probably, ever. “However, I’d rather not sit around moping about the target on my back. I’d rather keep these people safe.” He looks out past the dome, “Even if the reaper is knocking on the door.

“As for risking others,” Ryans turns his full attention on Eileen, “I’m not worried about Huruma.” It might sound cold, but it is not meant to be. More of a compliment, really. Ryans knows firsthand her abilities as a fighter, even carries the scars. “Unlike Thatcher, she can - actually - take care of herself.” No guards needed. In fact, at the idea, Ben feels sorry for the other guy… if there is one.

His hand settles to rest on the stone battlement, as he watches the people below them, considering Eileen’s plan. “It is not a bad idea, sentencing her. Though helping the rumors spread about some of the council having doubts about if they have the right person… that there is a search ongoing,” he shrugs a little, “It is not implausible, since Lynette is on the warpath.” Even Ryans doubts who they have is the right one.

There is a small smile, that twitches at the corner of his lips. “So, might as well use it to our advantage. Let me see if I can ask Huruma to keep her feelers out for trouble.”

“Be discrete,” is a request from Eileen, not a command. Her voice is beginning to sound a little frayed at the edges, as though she’s beginning to unravel. If Epstein kept picking at her, he might be able to reduce her to nothing, given enough time and effort. She places a hand on his shoulder and holds it there.

Her eyes lid shut. “Benjamin, have two of your people shadow Lynette. If she’s being public about this crusade of hers, she’s going to need to protection, but don’t let her know she’s being followed; she’s too proud.”

Pot. Kettle. Black. Eileen flicks her cigarette into the open air. Where it lands doesn’t particularly matter to the Englishwoman. Of all the things to worry about, setting the island on fire is at the very bottom of her list. “I’ll sentence Rue to death by hanging in a day or two. Let Huruma compare and contrast. It’s what everyone expects Munin to do, so we might as well give the people what they want.”

“I'm not sure that's what they want,” Avi grouses as he pushes himself up from the steps, “but I guess that's what they're gonna get isn't it?” Taking in a deep breath, he looks down to the courtyard and then up to the others behind him. “I've got an idea, nothing drastic, but I'm going to keep it under my hat in case our spy is an audiokinetic, or— don't know, fucking invisible.”

Starting to limp back down the stairs, Avi looks to his side. Not really back at Ryans and Eileen, but close enough. “Find the redhead, Gillian’s— sister? I don't fucking know. I’ve seen her pull a Gabriel with more than one trick. Get her to trust you, or something.

Limping down the stairs, Avi winces. “Oh and next time? I pick the meeting spot.”

Even as he watches Epstein trundle his way down the stairs, Ryan's is nodding. “Already, on it.” As soon as he started to get wind of Lynette’s crusade, he put the word out to his people. He was determined not to have the same tragedy repeat itself.
He waits a few more moments, listening to the retreat of the other man, once he knows Avi has a head start does Ryans step away from the battlement. “I'll let you know if Huruma agrees… if not…” Ben glances at the stairs again. “I’ll take Epstein's advice in consideration.” Though having two empaths working on it…

“Get some rest, Ruskin.” More a piece of fatherly advice then an order, before he takes his leave.

She wants to.

Eileen tilts her head back and pulls in a deep breath through her nose. The problem with screaming is that everyone would hear it, so she doesn’t. Settles for a small, choked sound at the back of her throat, and smothers it with the heel of her hand so hard it makes her teeth ache instead.

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