Loose Lips Sink Ships


huruma_icon.gif lance_icon.gif niki_icon.gif

Scene Title Loose Lips Sink Ships
Synopsis Trying to track down any sign of his father's survival, Lance reaches out to two very different people who might have known him - and lets something slip in the process.
Date November 7, 2019

Red Hook Market

Past the open market stalls, past the hawkers and scavengers, past the crafters and the not-so-subtle prostitutes, one can find the Red Hook Tavern. The only bar in the underground warren filled with the bustle of the marketplace, at all hours there are people there - from boisterous drinking and cheer at night to those meeting a friend or date during the day.

It’s day now, and one of the tables is occupied by a single tall young man, long legs kicked up onto the table letting the thigh-length tan coat he’s wearing spill down towards the floor. Black slacks and a white button-up shirt with a tie draped down from the neck finish off the look, and he’s wearing a fedora tipped down to put his face in dramatic shadow.

His name is Lance Gerken, and he’s solving a mystery.

Reaching over, he picks up his glass of chocolate milk and sips from the straw, bubbles gurgling within the drinking vessel as he waits for the two women he’d separately asked to meet.

A blonde woman enters the tavern, glancing around the room as she makes her way to the bar. At this hour, it’s not quite so busy as to make it difficult to discern who she’s here to meet. She puts in her drink order and lets her gaze sweep the space once more before they land on the lanky frame of the suit-clad young man.

Well, if he’s not a SESA agent, he’s certainly playing the part. Maybe she’ll recognize him once she actually gets a look at his face without the brim of his hat obscuring it.

Once she has her bloody mary in hand, Niki Zimmerman makes her way to Lance’s table and stands behind one of the empty seats. “Junior agent?”

When it comes to meetings, the Tavern certainly seems to be a hotspot. Public. Cozied up tables. A crowd, or less of one. Huruma asks people here often enough, and so the other way around earns no second thoughts. It's a touch new, getting a summons of this kind.

She doesn't care to show herself right away. She lingers in the market. She decides to be fashionably late, knowing what lies ahead. Something very curious.

Huruma passes the bar counter by without ducking aside for a drink, gaze sharp when it immediately finds Lance from across the tavern. Without a skip, it hones onto Niki's turned back second; moments after, the soft clack of her bootheels come to a halt. A glint of yellow metal at her neck catches the eye against the dark of skin and deep red fabric.

As Niki approaches, Lance brings a hand up to tilt his hat out of the way - a smile curving to his lips, feet sliding off the table as he sits up, that oh-so-mature drink of his set to one side. “Ms. Zimmerman. Thanks for coming,” he greets her, “Sorry for the sudden invitation, I just… ah, there she is.”

He leans over a bit, one hand raising towards Huruma. She stands out. Being a giant dark-skinned warrior-woman, and all.

An easy smile is aborted as Niki blinks and turns to look at what — rather, who has caught Lance’s attention. “Ah,” she intones, congenial for all outward appearances. Inside, she’s putting together a photograph that’s been faded by more than a decade and torn into pieces.

There’s no blowing bubbles through her straw when Niki brings her drink to her lips. Gin was a good choice. The warmth of alcohol wards off the ice that’s trying to creep into her veins. For now, at least. Not one to let the conclusions she’s jumping to dictate her actions, she pulls out the chair she’s been standing behind and takes a seat, setting her glass on the table. Lifting her brows in an expression of polite inquiry, she regards the young agent. “How can I help you?”

Yes, stop waving, she sees you. Huruma gives Lance a blink in reply to his boyishness. He'll never lose that, at least to her. She can see it. But she can see the growth in him too.

As she moves over to the table, one hand rests atop a chair to tip it out for herself; Niki's puzzle pieces seem to draw her eye, or at least the feeling of doing just that. Perhaps she can tell either way. Long sleeves and a knee-length skirt give her a more professional air; her coy smile and hooded eyes are anything but.

"Long time no see." Of course Huruma remembers Niki, photographs less piecemeal, less faded. Her voice sounds like a familiar purr. The tall woman coils down into the seat, crossing legs at the knee and turning chin to Lance. "And here I thought you just missed me."

“Always.” A quick, boyish (!) smile from Lance, before he grows more serious; clearing his throat and sitting up, “Miss Zimmerman, Miss Dunsimi— “ The fact that he didn’t call her any form of ‘Aunt’ or ‘Stork’ suggests he’s trying to be very serious, in fact. “— first of all, I have to let you know that this isn’t anything, ah, official from SESA. I’m not operating as a Junior or any kind of Agent right now, this is just me. Lance Gerken of the Lighthouse.”

“Secondly, I… know what I’m asking about is going to be kind of— well, it’s not a comfortable subject? So don’t feel like you need to answer, or anything, uh,” he clears his throat, “But I have to ask about it. I’m looking for someone and one of you may have known them, a long time ago. Or know someone who might.”

“On Level Five.”

Huruma may be the cat-like one, but it’s Niki who bristles like an agitated feline. She shoots a glance to the taller woman out of the corner of her eye before her attention returns to Lance and his preamble. Her lips purse and her spine goes rigid at the last two words to fall out of his mouth.

The nerve has been struck.

“Listen, I—” Niki swallows back a wave of misplaced anger and takes a moment to consider her words. “I’m not sure how much help I can be to you. That was another life. One I’ve tried to leave buried where it belongs.”

Her assumption is that this is going to be about Monroe. It feels like everything is these days.

Huruma does leave the bristling to her counterpart. It is not a sore spot for her like it is for Niki. Those words do not mean as much. White eyes angle the way of the other woman, glimmering as they study an invisible wall. She will allow Lance some palpable disappointment from the councilwoman before taking her turn at him.

"Known is a misnomer." The dark woman turns her gaze back to the junior agent, eyes hooded and one brow arched. If he wishes to make this business, she can oblige and treat it as such. "I was on Level Five for approximately two days. At most. I do, however, have memories. Less about life there… more of trying to get out. And actually getting out."

"Or," Huruma glances at Niki, faintly amused. "Rather, being unintentionally sprung."

“Look, I— “ Lance leans forward, trying to keep a hint of desperation out of his voice and not //quite/ succeeding, “I know they’re not— good memories, Eric didn’t like talking about it but what I know of the place must have been pretty horrible, but…”

He cuts himself off, grimacing slightly, “You were the only people alive on the list I saw that I can talk to, who might know, or who might have known…”

Trailing off, he leans back and takes a breath, “Okay. So, I got a look at some of the old files because of a case I’m working. I found out that my father was in there. They faked his death and locked him away and I’m trying to find out if he’s still alive. If he got out when you did.”

The Company? Fake someone’s death so they can lock them up? Niki is shocked. See, her shocked face?

Her expression remains completely neutral as Lance gives his explanation of why he wants to dig into such a sore subject. She draws in a deep breath and everything about her countenance seems to soften on the exhale. “What was his—”


The breath leaves Niki’s lungs again in an astonished whoosh of air, her eyes widening with realization. “You’re Gerard’s son.”

Some of those who managed to escape in the prison break, Huruma recalls better than others. She knows Lance's surname, and it doesn't seem to ring any bells given her furrowed look, deepening in thought as Niki, on the other hand, stumbles over the memory.

"'Gerard'…? That was the skinny one, right?" Perhaps rhetorical, as she seems to settle on it. Still a touch far-eyed, Huruma partly angles her face to Niki, eyes narrowing and roaming back to Lance. Squinting, this time.

"He… did, yes." Her hesitance shows.

At the name, Lance’s eyes widen in surprise— and a sudden, desperate hope. “You knew him? Yes, that was— that’s his name, I have a picture— “ He fumbles in his coat to pull out an old photograph, sliding it over the table, showing the man in question smiling easily at the camera, “This is him. Did you know him? Do you know what might have happened to him?”

The photograph is slid the rest of the way across the table and plucked up between Niki’s thumb and forefinger so as to better scrutinize it. Some memories are less hazy than others, and Gerard Gerken’s story is one she remembers.

“For the most part, he seemed to keep to himself. Didn’t raise hell like some of us. He was… defeated, you know?” Niki frowns, her gaze unfocusing and seeming to look through the picture, into the past. “I remember a couple times when he did try to speak up and the guards would…”

Red painted lips form a thin line, upset with the memory. “They’d remind him that the reason he was in there with the rest of us was that he’d killed his whole family. His little kids.” Being a mother herself, Gerken’s story stuck with her. The grief of losing her son had been immense. Still is. It’s the sort of commonality that binds two strangers. “You and your sister…”

They’d been alive all this time, and Gerard Gerken suffered under the belief that he had killed them. If Niki still had her ability, the drink in her hand would be boiling right now. “I don’t know what happened to him after the breakout. I’m sorry.”

A distinct lack of commentary out of Huruma gives Niki the undivided attention of the young man across the table. She does lean back in her seat, arms crossing loosely as she sneaks a look of the photograph. The other woman was there longer, and it shows from inside and out. From what she knows of Huruma there's no doubt of the empath's passive listening in on her turmoil.

Gerard Gerken's story is a sad one, and made moreso by Lance's simple presence. The dark woman frowns to herself as Niki finishes speaking, a hand moving out to silently beg the photo from her. A better look. To make sure.

"Him. He was a walking quagmire of guilt." Huruma corroborates, voice low. Her eyes lift with a slight sharpness. "I may have an idea," Of what happened to him. There's always a catch, and of course it comes next. "I believe he stayed in contact with Adam for a time. Perhaps it was just the need for something familiar, who can tell…?"

“They told him…?” Lance’s eyes widen slightly with the realization of why he didn’t look for him and his twin after the breakout, slumping back in his chair and bringing one hand up to rub over his face. “Fuck,” he mutters in pained tones, “That— he wouldn’t’ve known that I manifested, that I protected us. No wonder…”

Then he looks up, brows raising in hope at Huruma’s words. “Adam…? Wait, not— “ He glances between the two, “Monroe? Squeaks’ dad?”

Maybe he wasn’t supposed to share that last part.

The photograph is relinquished without a second thought as Niki takes a moment to drown her thoughts with more tomato juice and gin. She stares down at the tabletop, scraping one nail gently over the surface. Not to cause any damage, but just to provide a little resistance. Her eyes don’t lift, but her gaze does drift from one side of the table to the other as Huruma and Lance exchange words.

Until that last from Gerken.

Grey-blue gaze searches Lance’s face for some sign that he’s making this up, or doesn’t really know what he’s talking about. An almost accusing glance is shot Huruma’s way for bringing everything back around to Adam Monroe, just like she feared in the first place. But, again, she recognizes her annoyance is misplaced and doesn’t give a voice to it.

“Squeaks? You mean Jacelyn… Childs?” The fact that Monroe may be the girl’s father twists her guts. “That… can’t be.” Somebody please tell her this is a joke.

Where Huruma didn't blink before when Lance mentioned questions about Level Five, it is this next development which has her looking up from setting the photograph down; her eyes feel like daggers, and even Lance, in his thinking that he knows her well, has never seen that look aimed at him before.

Given the reaction, there were only so many Adams associated with Level Five. Just one.

Daggers are joined by the razor of shadows down her face as she purses her mouth. One hand still rests on the table, fingertips pressured against the surface. As far as she knows, Squeaks is still missing- - and Lance pulling something like this out of his back pocket is far too disquieting to be made up.

Huruma would know if he was full of it.

"No," Huruma's eyes close for a moment, a paleness ghosting over dark skin, passing by in a blink. Yet, there lingers a distinctive sense of disgust in her voice, something angrier held back. "It… could be. He… was not a free man."

And this is the Company they are talking about. Better case, the Institute.


Lance freezes for a moment as he realizes that they latched onto that piece of information, which he probably shouldn’t have said. Hey, he was excited by the prospect of information about his father!

“Oh. Uh, he…” He clears his throat awkwardly, “Yeah, it was— surrogate? There were experiments and stuff, uh, it’s complicated. That’s where she is now. In California with him.” A grimace, “We aren’t thrilled.”

Niki's expression is flat as she listens to the explanation. Experiments. Not the first time she's heard that one. "You know where they are?" she asks cautiously. That's information her mother would like to have. Given that Lance is an agent of SESA, she has to hope he knows, but he's also a kid from the Lighthouse. They're used to playing their cards close to the vest.

"Listen, I might still have some contacts out west. I'll put some feelers out. See if anyone's seen someone who matches Gerard's description." It's a long shot, Niki knows, but she knows how badly this kid wants his family.

Huruma would help him kill people all over again if she could. Her manner does not seem to change much as he shares that Squeaks is out there with him. California. "The Western Safe Zone." Praxia. Whatever they've called it. This is the answer Niki gets, from Huruma rather than Lance. "Correct?" She looks to him.

"Either your father kept in touch or he did not. If not, there is a fair chance he is no longer alive despite his escape." Huruma allows her steel edge to dull enough to lay out the facts for Lance; she can feel his tentative hopes, and she likes him enough to care about that. "Adam helped the others, if they wanted it. The rest hit the road."

Lance is beginning to suspect that he’s hit some sort of nerve in both individuals. “Yeah, what— she said. Out there, what used to be California,” he says with a tight shake of her head, “She claims she’s there willingly, at least that’s the message we got. We still had to stop Joe from getting all his guns and stealing a bus or something though.” Joe. Joe never changes.

“And…” He ducks his head a bit, “I know, Aunt Huruma. A lot of people died in the war. I’ve still got to try and find him.”

"Of course you do," Niki responds sympathetically. Nerve struck or no, she has empathy for his situation. "I'll look into it, and if I dig something up, I'll be in touch." She hopes she can uncover good news, but even bad news is better than knowing nothing at all.

"I should get going. I have a meeting." Her drink is slid away from her as Niki rises from the table. "Take care of yourselves. Reach out if I can be of more help."

Niki says what Huruma is thinking, and the dark woman turns her face to regard her a moment more. Something tells her that the councilwoman will give it a shot rather than make empty promises. A lot of family going around, isn't there?

"Be seeing you." Perhaps. "Good luck." Huruma watches Niki gather herself, before turning her attention fully to Lance. One hand lifts to beckon him a little closer, not quite secretive but instead coaxing. "As for you- - are you going to tell me properly about Jacelyn, or are you going to pretend you never even had beans to spill?"

“Thanks, Miss Zimmerman. I appreciate it, and thanks for talking to me…” Lance draws in a breath, then leans in as Huruma crooks her finger his way, eyebrows lifting. “What? I mean— there’s not a lot to spill. She went to see that weird Chinese guy, Zhao, I guess he works for Adam. And he brought her to California.”

Hands spread a little, “Gillian already went out that way, we haven’t heard anything since.”

"How in the world did she ever figure out he would get her there…" Huruma seems to acknowledge if not recognize the name Lance gives her, a mystery in of itself. "Gillian?" She speaks the name with concern now, brows knit as she puts things into order. There are still pieces missing, but maybe it isn't Lance that has them.

"Nothing? And nobody's gone after her either? I suppose you did stop Joseph." The idea of that boy going aimlessly west is not one she would prefer to entertain. Maybe it will be best if she just… keeps an eye on SESA's movements for now. Instead of harassing hopeful mister Gerken for it. Huruma rests her forehead against her palm, air sighing through her nose.

"I should have bought myself a drink."

"This is DJ Lancelot, and thank you for listening to WSZR. A lot of people got separated during the war, and before that with all the shady stuff going on - Humanis First, the Company, and all of that craziness that even historians are still untangling."

"That said, I have a request that I'd like to make - if anyone knows of a Gerard Gerken, please tell him that his children are alive and looking for him. We can put them back into contact."

"If you're also looking for loved ones, please put the information in the mailbox of the station and we'll put their names into the rotation as well…"

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