Of Wine and Whine


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Scene Title Of Wine and Whine
Synopsis Faulkner joins Gabriella in the Petrelli wine cellar to discuss the state of things over some very expensive wine.
Date March 18, 2021

Wine Cellar - Petrelli Mansion

It’s probably not the most comfortable spot in the wine cellar. Of course, wine cellars aren’t generally comfortable, made more to house the wives than people. Stone floors and shelves from floor to ceiling of wine bottles are pleasant to look at. The air is cool and pleasant, just the right temperature for storing wine.

There’s a table for tastings, but that’s not where Gabriella’s planted herself. Instead, she sits in a corner, her long legs stretched out in front of her and crossed at the ankle. Her head is tipped back, resting against the wall of bottles behind her. Sunglasses cover her eyes stil. It might be easy to imagine she’s sleeping — or even passed out — but a half-full glass of expensive red wine rests on one knee, kept balanced and in place by one hand. The bottle sits next to her — a Rothschild Bordeaux of a particularly fine year.

Step. Step. Step.

The sound of expensive shoes clicking against hard floor means it's not hard to hear Isaac Faulkner as he makes his approach. When at last he finds the nook Gabriella has planted herself in, he nearly overlooks the blonde… but a second glance spots what the first had missed.

Faulkner steps forward, studying her for a moment, debating what tactic he wants to take with this meeting… then he smiles faintly. "Comfortable?" he asks drily.

She doesn’t move, either as the tapping footfalls near or when they stop. When he speaks, there’s no indication that she’s heard him for a long moment that stretches out into an awkward one, but finally Gabriella answers.

“Not particularly. The floor’s cold, and I can’t feel my butt anymore,” she tells him, her tone flat. Her hand lifts the wine glass for a sip — it’s precise enough to let him know she’s not drunk. It lowers again, but this time she places the glass a little farther away. Her ankles uncross and she pulls her knees up, her arms wrapping around them. She tips her head slightly, the angle shifting so it’s likely she’s looking at him, though her eyes are still shielded by the dark glasses.

“Any news? Or did you want some of this bottle? Pretty sure we can open anything we want. Drink down all this expensive binary code. Is computer code binary? I don’t even know. You know what I mean.”

"It is," Isaac answers the last question first. "Binary, I mean. Computers aren't my main expertise, but someone I used to trust taught me a few things about them. Computers are a tool that everyone uses; it made sense to learn at least a bit about what makes them tick," he says.

"I'll pass on the wine — for the moment, at least. I have a great many things to do in very short order. Planning for the Great Vegas Road Trip and such. Which, coincidentally, Nicole seems very concerned about you fleeing the country and missing out on," he says, a hint of a sardonic grin touching his lips.

Then he falls silent, regarding her for a moment. "I'm curious, though. What's your take on all of this?"

The small joke earns a snort from her, and she leans back again so she’s no longer tipping her face up in his direction. She reaches for the wine bottle to pour more of the rich red liquid into her glass. “From my understanding,” she says, “there’s no other country I can flee to, even if I wanted to. It’s here or Vegas.”

That strikes her as funny, and she laughs aloud. “If this isn’t a virtual simulation of some sort where our consciousness have been uploaded into fucking Tron or whatever, then surely it’s hell — if those are the only two places in the world we can go. Who the hell designed this place?”

As for her take on it, she lifts her shoulders. “It’s all impossible. Nothing makes sense. So I guess we go with the nonsense that has a chance of maybe saving us, because if we don’t, well. I don’t know. I’m rarely unsure of what I think, rarely at a loss for ideas, but this situation? I can’t pretend to wrap my head around it.”

She lifts the glass to her lips for another sip — though this sip is more of a swallow. “You? You doing okay?”

"No," Faulkner answers frankly, settling down across from her. "No, I am most assuredly not. My life is currently on fire in multiple directions, federal agents are inventorying my paper clips, and the people I thought I could count on…" he trails off, shaking his head.

"Also people keep flying through windows and telling me I'm in a shitty knock-off version of The Matrix," he says, giving a brief sidelong grin.

The grin fades into a more thoughtful expression. "If you don't mind me asking… how'd you get pulled into this, anyway? Did Asami kick down your door and tell you she needed your brain, or…?"

Gabriella finishes the glass she’s just poured in a couple of swallows, but at least she doesn’t pour another. For now.

“I saw myself die about sixty different times in my dreams, and tried to stop it by changing things the next day, and got someone else killed in my place, so, you know, I feel that,” she says wryly. “Turns out they don’t actually exist, I guess, or at least they’re not an actual mind in this place but somehow just some code, so I guess that doesn’t matter.”

She wipes her cheek when a single tear slides down from beneath her sunglasses. “Feels like it matters, though.”

The question about how Asami pulled her in draws a shrug and a scoff from the woman. “She said she’d give me an interview, explain her side of the story. I didn’t think anything happened, just thought she was a nut job, until it turns out I can dream the future. That’ll teach me for always trying to get that exclusive interview, right? All this time…”

She laughs, and shakes her head. “It feels like all this time — my whole life, right? College and being a cub reporter and working my way up to features for one of the best papers in the world, but it’s been… what, a few months, I guess, if what Nicole says is true about our real lives? But it feels like a lifetime, working for this, the long hours and sacrifices. I guess it’s less sad to give it all up if we realize we didn’t actually do any of it.”

Her head tilts back toward him. “You think about that, yet? That we have this fake memory of all this hard fucking work we’ve done — all the things you gave up to get where you were? All the hard times, all the hours put in at the job… it’s not real? How does it feel so real?

Her voice cracks on the last word. She swallows and continues. “Maybe real life doesn’t feel like this. We have no idea how it feels. Our entire perception is fabricated. It’s fucking mindblowing, and I’m both fascinated and want to throw up at the same time.”

Faulkner's eyes slip off into the distance. "I have, Ms. Milos," he says quietly, and there's an edge of something haunted to his voice. "Oh yes, you may be certain that I have. The hard work. The sacrifices. The choices I've made, the things I've done. My career. The future I'd planned. The world that I wanted to build…" he trails off, his gaze still far off in the distance.

Then, after a moment, he sighs. "That the world we lived in was not what we thought it was… I think that's inarguable, now," he admits, and that truth costs him something to give up. "Maybe it's the Matrix — certainly what we've been hearing tends to lean towards that. Or… maybe it's something else," he shrugs. "We'll find out, I suppose."

He's silent for a moment. "What do you think about Asami's plan? Do you trust her?"

The reporter is quiet for a long moment, then murmurs, “I’m sorry. For what you’ve lost. For what it’s worth. I don’t have as much as most people do to lose. Just the binary code bits that I thought were friends, I guess.”

The question draws another pause, and finally Gabby shrugs. “I don’t not trust her. I don’t think she’s misleading us or planning to betray us — she might be wrong about how to end this, but if she is, I think she thinks she’s right. If that makes sense.”

Her fingers tap against the rim of her wine glass before she continues. “She can do what we all can do — so she’s probably our best bet of getting out of this, you know? So sure. I guess I trust her. Or at least I don’t distrust her, and that’s about all I think I can give anyone — my not-distrust, you know?”

Isaac sighs heavily. "I appreciate that. But what's past — what I've lost — pales in comparison to what yet lies in the balance." He leans forward, regarding Gabriella with an intent gaze. "And you've hit upon the crux of it, Ms. Milos. She thinks she's right."

"That — in and of itself — isn't necessarily a bad thing. With conviction, it's possible to change the world. But when you refuse to consider, or even listen to any opposing point of view… that's a problem," Faulkner says. "You're a reporter; I'm sure you've seen some things. I don't have to tell you that blind conviction can lead to all manner of disaster," he says, giving Gabriella a rueful look.

"But Asami isn't listening to anybody. I've tried — multiple times — to try to get her to engage in honest discussion of… any of this. All she ever says is this is not up for discussion, goodbye, and then flies off to take the next step on her agenda."

"And make no mistake. She calls for cooperation now, but her past methods show that if push comes to shove, she will not hesitate to force us by whatever means are at her disposal. Ask Ms. Yeh. Or Mr. Shaw."

Faulkner sighs heavily, and seems to slouch a bit. "Or me."

Gabriella listens, running her fingertips over the lip of the glass until the crystal suddenly rings out and she realizes what she was doing. She sets it aside again, and looks up at him again — or seems to, as the black sunglasses still shield her eyes.

“Her methods might be problematic — subterfuge and force aren’t really what I usually look for in a leader, I admit. But I certainly don’t know what to do, where to go — how to get to the real world, if this isn’t it. And from what we’ve seen, I don’t think she’s lying about that. The things we’ve seen are…”

She shakes her head. There aren’t words to describe them.

“Daphne told me she’s tried to leave New York, and that it’s like the world is missing pieces of it. Places she’s been in the past, in her life — they aren’t really there. They’re not finished somehow. And I don’t see Daphne as the type to lie — the look on her face when she talks about it, or when we talk about leaving the people we think we have here. Her husband and son.”

She reaches for the wine bottle again, this time just taking a swig straight from the $1400 bottle.

“I guess for once it’s lucky I don’t have anyone I care that much about here. It’s easier for me to leave it behind,” Gabby mutters, then offers him the bottle. “So what are you proposing?”

Isaac hesitates a moment, then takes it and takes a hefty slug; this is not the typical way one enjoys thousand dollar wine, but desperate times, et al.

"What I am proposing — all that I am proposing — is that you keep your eyes open. What Asami's talking about entails the destruction of this world, and that is something we have to be certain about before we pull the trigger," he says sternly.

Then his expression softens. "You're a reporter for the New York Times, and the New York Times is the New York Times, in this world or any other. There has to be some degree of realism there, and if that's the case then the skills you've acquired over your career remain valid. So investigate. Everything we know about this other world… it comes from this Violette. Violette, who none of us have seen. Violette, who only speaks through Asami… who she infected with some kind of… virus that has made her attack people, which Asami has never and would never have done before this."

Faulkner takes another slug of wine. "We know nothing about the other world… but maybe you could change that. Maybe you could help us make sure we make the right call. And if that is what Asami says…" Faulkner trails off for a moment, taking another slug of wine; his gaze falls to the floor as he thinks.

"If that is what Asami says, then so be it," Faulkner says grimly. He takes a deep breath, then looks back to Gabriella. "This is the biggest story of your career, Ms. Milos. Maybe you'll get no Pulitzer from it, but you don't end up at the New York Times unless you love the job… am I right?" he asks, raising an eyebrow and offering the bottle back to Gabriella.

Gabriella finally takes off her sunglasses, tucking them into the neck of her hoodie. It’s dim in here, and hard to see, especially when the alcohol flowing through her veins begins to take effect.

“We don’t know any of that. This is the only world we know. Maybe there’s no New York Times in the other world. Maybe the other me writes the obituaries for a birdcage liner and just wished she had the education or ambition to make it big. But even if the skills I have here translate, how do I figure out what’s in that other world?” Her cat-like eyes narrow on him before she closes them to take another swig of the Rothschild. She wipes her lips and sets the bottle down beside her.

“I can’t just call someone up on the other side. Nicole’s memories are the closest thing we have to that. Asami’s, too, I guess. You want me to interview them, compare their memories, see if there’s holes in the stories? That’s about all I can think of. I don’t have sources over on Earth 1.0, just this one, Senator.”

"Seems like a good starting point to me," Isaac responds. "Between the two of them, you might be able to get a picture of what that other world is like… and maybe you'll be able to get enough of what Asami believes to do a critical analysis," he suggests, shrugging. "Maybe you'll be able to get further talking with them than I have. I know Nicole considers you a friend, at least."

He shrugs… and, with a regretful sigh, comes to his feet. "There are a lot of things I don't know. What I do know is that something — be it Violette or otherwise — seems to be trying to move us along while also keeping us in the dark. What I hope is that you'll be able to uncover something that I can't," he admits frankly.

Gabriella tips her head to meet his gaze when he rises. “I’ll see what I can do, but I’m not an investigative reporter for a reason, you know. I like words. I don’t like research. The investigative sorts, they like the news. They like digging. They like finding out all the secrets and exposing them. But,” her brows lift, “they aren’t always good writers. Newswriting can be taught. That investigative shit — that takes something innate that I never had.”

She lifts her shoulders and lifts the bottle again, glass abandoned. “I’ll do my best.”

Faulkner smiles at that; there's something rueful in it, but it's genuine, even so. "That's all I could ask for, Ms. Milos. That's all any of us can do — do our best, and hope it's enough," he sighs.

He lets that sit for a moment — just a moment — then sighs. "Speaking of which… I've got to make the rounds and see about coordinating this little field trip," he says, with an air of regret. "Thank you for sharing the wine, and for your time." Faulkner smiles and inclines his head before turning and starting on the way back.

Maybe Gabriella Milos will turn out to have the investigative chops she doesn't seem to think she does. Certainly Nicole seems to think highly of her; to Faulkner's mind, that suggests the presence of a talent beyond mere wordplay.

Or maybe Nicole has other reasons for that high appraisal, and maybe Gabriella's self-assessment is entirely correct. This, too, is possible. But whichever case turns out to be true — if he's been able to inspire someone to think instead of simply following, this has been a worthwhile investment of his time.

Now all that's left to him is to do what he's asking Gabriella to do — his best.

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