Ozymandias, Part II


hana_icon.gif pierce_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title Ozymandias, Part II
Synopsis Hana and Vincent learn the truth about the Liberty Island Incident and the fate of an old adversary…
Date May 24, 2018

In Egypt's sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
"I am great OZYMANDIAS," saith the stone,
"The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
"The wonders of my hand."— The City's gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.

We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro' the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.

— Horace Smith's "Ozymandias"

There is an intentional gallows humor in the setting that Jason Pierce now finds himself confined to.

Seated behind a metal table, bolted to the floor, his hands are bound in cuffs that run through a metal loop on the tabletop. His ankles, too, restrained and the bright gleam of the steel cuffs clashing against the hunter orange jumpsuit he now finds himself dressed in. The mirror at his side gives a full view of his own sallow reflection, sunken cheeks, deep-set eyes ringed by dark circles, and the prodigious yellow-purple bruise spread across one side of his face.

He’s been watching his reflection for a while now, under the careful hum of the security camera in the opposite corner of the room. It’s hard for other people to see it, but Pierce can see the window is shattered and not whole — at least in his recollection of it. There is a body on the floor, gunshot to the chest. This is the room Avi Epstein was ultimately liberated from six months ago. This is where Jason Pierce’s long story has finally come to a close.

Liberty Island Detention Center

NYC Safe Zone

9:32 am

Inside the dimly lit room behind the mirror, Vincent Lazzaro has been given a clear look at Pierce for a long while. His personal file is spread out on the table, organized by year and notworthiness. US Army Lieutenant with a tour of duty in the first Gulf war, returned in 2003 during Operation Enduring Freedom and eventually leapt up the chain to work in DHS Counterterrorism, landing his position just days before a nuclear explosion changed the world. Mother passed away in that explosion, father spiraled into depression and is still alive in a nursing home in Topeka, Kansas. Siblings, both estranged, living in Georgia and South Carolina.

Pierce’s more recent history is a shadow cast across each bureau he worked for. Pierce never had ties to Humanis First, even during the deep scrub of data following the war his name never raised a red flag when colleagues were being dragged out of their offices and the infection rooted out. An operative of the Mitchell administration, though, with considerable blood on his hands. His name was signed on the security detail reports coming out of Summer Meadows, his name was signed on countless interrogation reports and detention documents sending ostensible terrorists to life-long sentences in places like the Moab Federal Penitentiary. Jason Pierce is the personification of “just following orders.” Pierce should have been the acting secretary of DHS in 2010 when Matthew Parkman was sidelined due to mental health issues, but the administration favored known Humanis First member Gregory Armond for reasons that now seem abundantly clear.

For all the damage Pierce has caused, he’s always been another person’s instrument. He’s a grotesque funhouse mirror of the person Vincent could have become had he not veered so far afield before the start of the war, had he not had a daughter, had he not made different choices. Pierce’s bruised countenance under stark lights are a cautionary tale.

In the days since his arrest, DHS has tried to pry information out of Pierce through the proper channels. SESA sent in Agent Bluthner to read his history, and pulled back a laundry list of terrifying names directly tied to Pierce’s personal history. Worst upon the list is a boogey man from the cellar of Vincent’s past. Someone that Pierce had contact with, directly, between the onset of the war and its conclusion. Someone who fell off the face of the earth, presumably back to the hell she came from.

Georgia Mayes.

There’s only so much studying one can do, when the information available is virtually without limit, resources flung far and wide to haul in everything there is to know about Jason Pierce. Behind the mirror, Vincent drops a ream of hard copy transcripts like the brick of paper it is, coffee in hand.


He’s been here since five, unable to sleep, driven out of his house and into the dark before dawn with a briefcase and a thermos. Reviewing video, reading, retreading the background that raised no new red flags. Sometimes just watching quietly through the glass — squeezing at the pulse of the battered thing in his talons.

There’s no indication of exhaustion in the clean sweep of his profile or the sharp lines of his suit — stubble shaved down to a severe minimum, shoes polished bright, not a smudge on his glasses. One of his agents opens the door for him; he feels around after the tuck of his shirt as he crosses out into the hall.

This is hardly his first allnighter.

He’s empty-handed when he sweeps in through the door at the far side of the interview room — the same one he watched a killer robot meet its end through however many days prior. The door closes after him. No robots, this morning. No introductions, either.

Just the screech of the steel chair Vincent draws out for himself opposite Pierce, and the cracking complaint of the Secretary's right knee as he takes a seat. His eyes are black under the prison light, his expression inscrutable, one elbow rested lazy across a table designed as an anchor against fight or flight.

“May I ask why?”

Shadowed eyes greet Vincent from the chair, along with a stillness he’s come to recognize from people who are trained to resist interrogation. It isn’t rigidity, though, Pierce has been in this seat before, just long enough ago to make him uncomfortable. He eyes the door, once, and looks back to Vincent when it closes behind the Secretary. Pierce doesn’t immediately answer, either, just offers a long and lingering stare with dark eyes up to Vincent’s narrow silhouette.

The buzzing lamp overhead produces a subtle white noise to fill that silence, reminiscent of the sound of flies buzzing over an open grave. Vincent’s question is a good one, though. Why does someone with no presumed predisposition against the Evolved turn so hard into where he is now. Pierce’s answer is expectedly unhelpful.

“I can’t say.”

It’s the answer he’s given for everything since he was hauled in off the street. It leaves no silhouette of obfuscation by which to attempt to estimate the truth. But it also lacks the belligerence of some other Humanis First operatives who have come and gone in the past, doing something as pretentious as citing name, rank, and serial number. Pierce swallows dryly, palms flat on the table.

“Do the beatings start now, or later?” Pierce isn’t expecting any particular answer, he just wants to make it readily apparent he believes he knows where this is going.

He can’t say.

There’s a span of shared silence beneath the buzzing of the light, underscored by a sandpapery scuff as Vincent hooks one hand up under his jaw after an itch.

“Well,” he hikes his brows, shoulders slouched back into a more comfortable lean. “I can certainly see how a beating might appeal more than having one of our telepaths come in to vivisect your motivations manually.”

Vincent keeps his jaw perched up in the crook of his thumb, index finger pushed up under the frame of his glasses — as attentive a one man audience as Pierce could hope for, in this zoo exhibit of a cell. There’s an old scar that starts under the bone of his wrist, looped in shallow reflection of a similar crescent carved in over his ear on the same side. Not scars from the war, but from a run in with another expressive, years before.

“The only question I can think of that remains is what there is to be gained by you forcing us to that point. Is it an ideological victory you’re after?” His interest is genuine, questions posed on the level. Conversational.

“‘They got what they wanted but had to resort to something ethically unconscionable to do it?’”

“Self preservation,” is Pierce’s short answer, again. It is an ideological talking point to Humanis First. That the SLC-Expressives would commit genocide and wipe out their kind, so they had to act first. The deafness in Pierce’s eyes says nothing about how far he believes in that ideology, though he parrots their talking points well enough.

“If you've got a telepath to bring in, I suppose that's your prerogative.” Pierce adds after a moment of prolonged silence. Hands still flat on the table, he breathes in slowly and exhales an equally steady breath. The only thing about him that isn't still is his right heel, nervously beating up and down in steady rhythm.

“…Self-preservation is why you fell in with them, or why you won’t give me a straight answer.”

Just to clarify.

Vincent’s interest in the answer is impersonal at best, no real effort made to build rapport beyond frank address and mild manners. Strange how easy it is to feel at home in a room like this when you're not the one in orange. He’s laid back as a cat in a stripe of sunlit floor opposite flat hands and steady breathing, the stillness between them metered only by trace evidence of Jason’s heel bouncing beneath the table.

“I’d prefer to respect your comfort zone and adhere to more traditional methodology to the extent that I can,” he adds, reassurance in eye contact bleak at a nod. Pierce needn’t worry.

They will absolutely give physical abuse a whirl before they subject him to an invasive ability.

The languid movement of Pierce’s eyes from table to Vincent’s face feels like something you'd see in an animatronic president show, a deliberate and purposefully delayed motion. “I can't say,” Pierce delivers again with the same measured tone, expression drained from his face and mouth slack down into a near frown.

Unable to reach his brow, the sweat at Pierce's hairline rolls down in a thin line across his temple and to his jaw. The corners of his mouth raise in a slow and steady motion, a belated twitch of a smile or grimace. “Tradition is important,” he agrees about traditional methods of information-gathering.

Pinging with 1500 bytes of data:
Reply from bytes=1500 time=68ms TTL=52
Ping statistics for
Packets: Sent =1, Received =1, Lost = 0 (0% loss),
Approximate round trip times in milli-seconds:

Minimum = 68ms, Maximum = 68ms, Average = 68ms

The noise is sudden and loud to Hana, behind that window partition. A burst of data coming from Pierce from a wireless transmitter active for a fraction of a second before disappearing again. Like a port that is both active and inactive in nearly the same breath. The IP address is pinged through several active military satellites and traces back to a DoD Network Information Center.

Pierce emitted a ping test in a single-packet burst, not enough to truly evaluate network statuses, but enough to see if a network connection existed at all. Pierce outwardly showed no signs of realizing this happened.

Vincent watches the creep of sweat through Pierce’s sideburn in more of the same quiet, obsidian opacity chipped by a flicker of skepticism when he looks back into the other man’s eyes. Christ. They’re just talking.

His watch buzzes.

He turns his wrist up to peer at it, and judgmental eye contact stays broken off for the beat it takes him to scrape his chair back and stand.

“I’ll be right back,” he says, as he crosses for the door. “Don’t go anywhere.”

With tension visible at the corners of his eyes, Pierce flashes the faintest ghost of a smile and flicks his attention briefly to the door and then back again. “Don't let me hold you up,” has all of the comfortable tone of someone trying to pretend the spicy food they ordered isn't too hot for their taste. Masked discomfort bleeding out through the cracks in a stony facade.

Outside the door, Hana is waiting — off to the side, where no glimpse of her might be seen by the man left behind in the room. She hasn't been waiting long, but there's a thread of tension coiled in her posture, energy focused and controlled. "He has an implant. It sent a connection-check ping," the technopath supplies, terse and impassive.

"Whatever it is, I can't access it unless it powers up again. I did trace what it contacted." Her gaze remains centered on Vincent. "Former DoD data center in Arizona. Systems live, no digital security worth the word. Structure seems abandoned."

Operational electronics in a Dead Zone — and nobody there to tend them? Just as curious as the sudden development that revealed it.

“He’s sweating like a Colombian drug mule.”

Something isn’t adding up, conveyed to Hana with a hard glance once the door has been closed behind him.

“I’d say we could pull it out for a closer look, but the last one I saw was — inside. The brain.” Deliberate emphasis on the inside. Neurosurgery, second-knuckle-deep in there. Vincent gestures dryly at his own ear. “That’s, what, the temporal lobe? Anyone know if that one’s important?”

One of the agents on guard is unsure how to answer.


Vincent ignores him. Arms folded, chin tucked, he looks to the blank slate of the door beside them, and back up to Hana.

“It might work like a shock collar. Some kind of punitive device, or inhibitor. I get the sense it’s not me he’s worried about.” Intimidating as he is, 5’8” with his snappy tie and black glasses. Who fucking knows. “Any indication of the time between pings?”

Short, at the moment, it would seem. Another burst of information is fired out from whatever it is that is transmitting from Pierce. This time it isn't a ping-test, though. This time Hana can feel the wireless port activate and begin transmitting several hundred KB of raw text data. Specifically, and horrifyingly, a speech-to-text transliteration of Pierce and Vincent’s entire conversation thus far.

There are other things Hana would have said, but she finds herself with no time.

"Now," is all the answer she can spare for Vincent, the technopath all but unthinkingly leaning back against the wall and closing her eyes.

She listens to the transmitted data long enough to capture its routing instructions and part of the content, recording both for her own later investigation. In that same snapshot of time, T.Amas reaches for the source of the offending signal. There is nothing tentative or probing about the digital entity's intrusion, as it swoops own upon that fleetingly-opened port and the system behind it with the intent to take control, be it by cleverness, force, or simple fact of memory overflow.

Hopefully it can do so more quickly than any suicide program might execute.


Vincent stops talking.

This might be the most important thing he can do, under the circumstances. He stands still and is quiet, eyes cut wary to the others on guard. They’re all too well-behaved to need shushing.

If Jason Pierce is aware of the intrusion into the transmitting device, he doesn’t show it. In the realm of digital life, however, T.Amas discovers something otherwise familiar behind that open port. There is no internal technopathic intrusion countermeasures, not beyond an electronic kill-switch that prevents the wireless port from being powered except in short bursts. More noticeable, however, is what remains powered on when the port is deactivated: the device itself is a thought-to-text translator, likely surgically implanted somewhere in Pierce’s frontal lobe. There are literal digital signatures in the software, commented code belonging to Warren Ray of all people. But there is also differently compiled code from a different author on new subsystems. None of which are comforting.

Hana is fed information from T.Amas indicating that the thought-to-text implant is designed to turn Pierce’s spoken words and speech he hears into digital information, transmitted to a receiving station in what is now the Dead Zone. The software also has a much more literal kill switch, that searches Pierce’s dialogue for specific keywords: Georgia Mayes, Mayes, Fort Irwin, Implant, Cranial Implant, Cranial Bomb, and a litany of more specific variations. The latter words help define the second component to this device, what the trigger words are designed to set off:

A very small chemical-switch explosive, attached to the implant, wherever it is inside of Pierce’s skull.

The lack of anti-technotampering measures is — a distinct surprise, and a gratifying one. Hana busies herself with collecting everything out of the implant's files and memory, such as it is, while T.Amas studies its functionality and makes judicious edits to the underlying code. Sever all links to the kill switch. Nix the speech-to-text software. Finally, in the moment before they withdraw, sabotage both CPU and wireless driver so it can't be accessed again — not short of a very different flavor of technopath.

Doing all of that is overkill… but better safe than sorry.

"More like a self-destruct," Hana says. Only after does she release a long exhale and open her eyes to look over at Vincent; she nods once, curtly. "Disabled and inaccessible now."

Vincent looks back to Hana at the sound of her voice, hardly having moved in the time she needed to make the necessary adjustments, save to coil into himself. Tension has crept up into the core of his spine, bit into his shoulders and the back of his neck, but there’s an off-handed bafflement to the twitch of his brows for what she’s said.


He doesn’t actually ask.

If she’s said it, she’s serious.

“That would make sense,” he hears himself say, sounding more certain than he feels. Would it really? Doubt turned inward is slow to dissipate, tipped off the tray of his thoughts after a beat’s delay. By supervillain logic, sure.

He opens his hand out to the door in invitation. Like they’re going to a show, and not about to try turning a man inside out. “Care to join me?”

Watching the hints of reaction work their way through Vincent's expression, Hana breathes out a faint huff. She doesn't elaborate, however, just inclines her head at the invite. "I would," she replies, expression as nonchalant as the question, save for the glint in her eyes that is anything but casual.

And on into the interview room they go, one after the other reflected in the mirror across the way. Vincent keeps to his feet.

“Hana happened to be in the neighborhood,” he tells Pierce.

“I hope you don’t mind.”

The look on Jason Pierce’s face when he sees Hana Gitelman walk in the door goes from stoicly sweaty to wide-eyed panic with remarkable quickness. Pierce jolts back, the restraints looped through the bolt on the table clattering noisily, as do the fetters at his ankles. He lets out a noise in the back of his throat, a grunt of frustration and confusion before settling down. His breathing is hastened now, sweat rolls down the side of his face and neck.

Only after looking like a startled animal does Pierce settle back down in his seat, watching Hana the way someone might watch a stranger brandishing a knife. The fear in his eyes all things considered, seems both palpable and understandable. But as before, he says nothing, trying to regulate his breathing, nostrils flaring as he does. The side of his neck throbs with a jackhammer heart rate that he is not able to keep under control. On a purely superficial level, Hana can understand Pierce’s fear. If she weren’t as talented as she is, she could accidentally set off his implant. Likewise, if she lives up to the reputation she’s cultivated over the years of living between the government’s margins, she’s just as likely to intentionally set it off.

Pierce clenches his hands, sets his jaw, and braces.

Vincent stands; Hana sits herself down in one of the room's uncomfortable chairs, crossing her arms and regarding Pierce across the table like the poisonous insect he is. For all the intensity of her attention, there's no fire in it, no fury, no hate; she never knew Pierce, to engender that degree of ire. The major's cold disdain is no true improvement.

"It seems someone doesn't trust you," she observes, tone deceptively mild, as if those words were as inconsequential as the weather outside rather than weighted with the difference between life and death. "I can't say I blame them." Her head tilts slightly, one dark brow arching. "Although implanting a bomb in someone's head is a little much, don't you think?"

Hana's voice may be free of overt malice; her choice of words is decidedly not.

Just out of what a reasonable amount of experience might estimate as spatter range, Vincent settles back on the balls of his feet, hands in his pockets, eyes black. Jason’s recoil doesn’t seem to register.

“They don’t have control over it anymore,” he says, point blank. “We do.”

Open dislike chafes at the edges of Lazzaro’s patience, broadcast in braced shoulders and the incline of his jaw.

“Start talking.”

The color long ago drained from Jason Pierce’s face, but the look of abject horror remains on his face from when the word bomb was first uttered in his presence. For a moment, Pierce braces in expectation of the worst. When that doesn't come, the tiers of what classify as the worst changes, reorienting itself to the current moment at the top.

Swallowing dryly, Pierce’s expression is that sneering distaste of someone who ate something bitter. He looks to the table, then to the chains connecting his handcuffs, then up to Vincent. “Georgia Mayes had that put in my head before the war even started,” is delivered with all of the matter-of-fact certainty that Vincent recalls Pierce delivering dry briefings with back before things flipped entirely upside down.

“I'm not the only person she's done that to. Way I hear it there's worse out there too.” Pierce slides his tongue over his teeth, then looks back up to Vincent. Adrenaline down just a bit, he recalls the questions he eluded answering before. The most important one being why.

“I… am a part of the former administration’s attempt to maintain control in exile. This facility was used to ship persons of interest out to controlled sites where they could be maneuvered with more freedom. It was a revolving door for the “worthy”,” Pierce delivers that last line with a sarcastic smile. “I got pulled in by association. I don't share their… ideologies.” Not that it matters much.

"Self-preservation," Hana fills into Pierce's pause, which may or may not be an intentional echo of his prior statement. "An understandable motivation." The words are reasonable in and of themselves, even amenable; the steely tone in which they are delivered, the intensity of her gaze, are anything but. Understandable. Not forgivable.

But then, she shares a trait with the other side: commitment to ideology. Just one of very different stripe.

So Georgia Mayes is the one putting kill switches inside of people. America’s evil stepmother.

“That explains a lot, actually,” Vincent tells Hana, in mild aside.

Past that, he’s quiet while Pierce speaks, standing sentinel to hear him out, rationalizations and all. At news of Liberty Island’s use as a revolving door, a scuff marks (what would have otherwise been) a subtle turn to scorch a black look through the mirror at the side of the room.

“Where were you going when you were captured?”

Pierce’s gaze dips down to the table, impassive in expression once more and now beginning to get his profuse sweating under control. He looks up to Vincent, briefly flicking a nervous look to Hana without any challenge to her assertion — everyone in the room knows she's right.

“West,” isn't clear enough when it slips from Pierce’s lips, too many years of obfuscating the truth. He makes a subtle face, catching himself in his own misdirection, and swiftly amends. “Arizona, by way of a safe house. It's where all of the prisoners we diverted were being shipped. I had a personal point of contact in the Utah Human Supremacy militia,” a small but entrenched chapter of Humanis First that's infested the region since the war, “and he was going to deliver me to the military base in Arizona.”

Pierce’s lips press together, and when he looks to Vincent and Hana there's an patronizing cast to his otherwise stoic face. “I realize you're intending to take this to the road, but things are already moving. The attack here, last year? That sped everything up. They have a fucking army out there. While everyone’s been sitting here, rebuilding, they have too.” It isn't resentment, but resignation that burns behind Pierce's voice.

“Mitchell was never their leader, his surrender didn't end the war. It was a feint… and all of this?” Pierce motions to the room with a nod of his head, “they're going to burn all of this to the ground and build something new on our bones.”

A slight inclination of her head meets Vincent's remark. Otherwise, she remains attentively intent while Pierce speaks.

"Arizona," Hana echoes into his momentary silence. That simply makes sense, given what she now knows. "You ever make your way out to California?" is given casually, but unmistakable as a leading question.

At the end, she merely smiles, grim and shadowed. "They're going to try" betokens no surprise at his presumed revelation.

“You’re really making this out to be something I should be worried about,” says Vincent, “but you’re also telling me that Georgia installed bombs in all of your heads that can be accessed wirelessly.”

He draws one hand out of his pocket to gesture to Hana.

“If they’re mustering, they’re mustering in exile. And now we have you.”

The imminent threat of Hana exploding Pierce’s brainpan must have expired with his cooperation, because Vincent takes a pair of steps closer to the table. Hana’s question is a good one — he narrows it down, closing off any gaps as the third point of this triangle.

“What’s happening at Fort Irwin?”

Pierce’s brows betray his surprise, a pinch when Irwin is mentioned. He looks to Hana, then back to Vincent again. “I’m not much for beach weather,” Pierce makes light of the California question, flashing a look between the two again. Still, he has that uncomfortable stillness and lack of emotive response, but every so often there’s a tic that belies just how much stress he’s under in this position.

“I haven’t been there, personally. But some of the security personnel I employed had been.” Pierce glances down to the table, then back up again. “The bombs were the start. Some of the men that have come out of there… the way they’re framing it,” he says with an incline of his head, as if passing off a secret discreetly, “is that they’re looking for ways to push human evolution technologically, rather than genetically. To level the playing field, so to speak, against “the enemy.”” Pierce, though restrained, does make small air-quotes with his fingers at that last notion.

“They’re building machines out there. If you brought Baumann here, you probably saw one of them.” Pierce looks away, unable to keep his focus on Vincent’s presence and it’s near-paternal level of guilt he’s able to inflict with a glance. “They have Colin Verse,” is directed to Hana, “when Wolfhound turned him over, we had him flagged and swapped out for another prisoner and sent to solitary. Verse was moved to Irwin to work with the machinist they have. I don’t know his name, but I figure you might already.”

Slouching back into his chair, Pierce looks to the space at his right where — several months ago — he dug an implant out of a dead agent’s head. When he looks back to Hana and Vincent, there’s a shift in his tone. “Whether you believe me or not, I didn’t want to be a part of their horror show. Frankly, I’m more than willing to play ball, mostly out of spite. I don’t want you to think I have any hopes of avoiding being dumped in whatever hole you put Mitchell’s corpse in.”

At the mention of Verse, Hana casts Vincent a sidelong look, dry and possessed of no end of exasperation. Your system is supposed to do better than this leavened with an equal or greater dose of of course they do.

Verse was likely the other coder on the implant. Attempting to verify as much falls to Tenzin; Hana's attention remains centered in the present, the substantial. She tips her head slightly, regarding Pierce obliquely, but doesn't comment on wants or cooperation or spite. Indeed, she doesn't say anything at all, but makes of stern regard a silent prompt.

If you're so willing to play ball, then just keep talking — more usefully.

Description of the process by which Verse was shuffled back out into the wild sees Vincent pulling his hands up onto his hips — flatfoot posture overtaking professionalism. Muscle memory, his ID badge shown loose in its clip at his belt.

Further back there’s a gun holstered in there, somewhere.

“For Christ’s sake, Jason.”

Exasperation winds in stiff between his shoulder blades ahead of the sigh he stifles out through his nose, and sticks there after it, baked in by the look he gets from Hana.

“I want every name.” He points. At the table. Where there isn’t paper or a pen to write with yet. But there will be. Every name. “I want to know how they’re moving money. And I want Georgia Mayes.” His eyes are jet black, radiating the same unpleasant heat as a fresh-fired sidearm — a little deadlier than simple disappointment. “If you want to play ball, step up to the fucking plate.”

Lips pressed together tightly, Pierce inclines his head and furrows his brows. “There's seven of us in office in KC, that I'm aware of. That's my cell. Oliver Cobb, Daniel Sweet, Carlos Hernandez, Amanda Seig, Liam Byrne, Timothy McClair, and myself.” The names themselves are unfamiliar, less visible figures than Pierce himself, but it tracks with the information Agent Bluthner from SESA was able to pull together about Pierce’s personal social entanglements. With that and names and Bluthner’s continued cooperation, they should be able to root out the infection long-term.

“As far as money goes, that's outside of my scope. I know they have partnerships and associates at banks that survived the war, but I don't know if they're aware of what they're dealing with.” With a look to Hana, Pierce adds. “SunTrust Banks is where I've seen some checks cut from, and the finances are moving mostly above board. I think there's another cell that's been bankrolling non-existent projects and funneling resources to maintain operations outside of Irwin. But that’s somewhat conjecture.”

In the intervening time between Pierce’s explanations, T. Amas delivers an affirmative to Hana on two fronts: One, that the code in the implant corresponds to Colin Verse, but the timestamps indicate a 2011 fabrication date, likely during his time as the Institute. Two, that SunTrust has several active accounts that correspond to social security numbers belonging to people confirmed dead in the civil war that have had funds actively pushed through them. The speed at which that information was apprehended from the ether would perhaps be worrying to an outside observer.

“All of Mayes’ people's work is done on-site at Irwin. I don't know much about the current state of the location. Conjecture that it's like a fortress, lots of on-site research, prisons. I don't know who or what they might have, though.”

Then, mouth twitching in an aborted smile Pierce adds: “I'll probably need time to detail out the rest. Cell movement, failsafe plans… There was an order I put out when I realized the noose was closing in. The paper trail is likely burned, or being burned.” That much isn't a surprise, though, and DHS has been swift in following the smoke thanks to Hana’s assistance.

“If you're curious,” Pierce directs to Hana, “I don't know what they wanted with your XO.” Epstein. “They sent in an interrogator and I was ordered to facilitate as needed. They'd never done that before.”

Hana takes the information provided by her digital aide and sets it aside in a file — a report, after a fashion — to be delivered to Vincent after the interrogation has finished. Names, she says to T.Amas next, but it disagrees; Arizona, it counters, and she spares half a breath for consideration before agreeing.

The locale they have just learned of seemed decisively unoccupied, not a place prepared to receive prisoners or a cell of fleeing operatives, but perhaps it is where they will go. Or — perhaps there is another, something T.Amas can ferret out given three domains of information to intersect: financial transactions, the identities and vehicle ownership records of those who presumably have fled Missouri, and recent satellite imagery of a state now even more desolate than it used to be. It's an ambitious task even for a digital entity to pursue, and one unlikely to yield anything like rapid results… unless someone on the other side made a mistake.

Meanwhile, in the physical realm, Hana inclines her head coolly to Pierce, not particularly surprised by his admission of ignorance. There are too many secrets in that tangle, all around. She presses no further questions, leaving that direction for Vincent to set for now.

“You’ll have time,” Vincent assures him.

Copious amounts of it, the way things are going. Assuming there isn’t a second Jason Pierce under his nose planning to sweep in and pop a cap in the first one.

He’s gearing up to step back out, a glance cut to Hana to suggest she do the same, restless momentum wound up in his terrible little justice motor. He has enough to start disseminating orders. It’s sharp in his shoulders, tense in his hands. …And underpinned with a flicker of unspoken question for this late interest the organization developed in Avi Epstein in particular.

He looks back to Pierce one last time.

“Give me the odds on Mayes herself nesting at Irwin. Your professional opinion.”

There's a detached deadness in Pierce's eyes before he considers the odds Vincent asked for. He looks down to from the DHS Secretary to the table, silent for a time, and when he finally looks up there's just the slightest motion of his mouth and brows that betrays his internal turmoil and uncertainty.

"I'd wager everything on it," Pierce delivers matter-of-factly.

"Because I'm pretty sure she has."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License