Pink Slip


byrne_icon.gif dowe_icon.gif

Scene Title Pink Slip
Synopsis Vice President-Elect Dowe makes a tactical maneuver with her most valuable asset.
Date December 30, 2020

“No, I need you to get in touch with Hesser’s office.”

The period of time between a successful election and taking office is plainly known as a transition period. That mundane, beige-hued term makes the process sound like something clinical. A signing of documents, a rubber stamp, and then it’s all said and done. The reality of the situation is, it’s more like childbirth: messy, painful, there’s screaming, people are getting slapped. The transition phase of a presidential team is no less taxing in the aftermath of a Civil War, either.

“I understand. But perhaps you could tell him the President would like to circle back to the cabinet discussion?”

The Harding administration's transition team headquarters is located on the 10th floor of the Kansas City Power and Light Building in the middle of what has become the heart of Washington, KC. The nation’s new post-war capitol. For all that Kansas City survived the war, it was not without harm. Its infrastructure is sound, but a wave of poverty, joblessness, and strife teems at the city’s edges. Problems the first post-war administration was unable to solve.

“Tomorrow would be perfect. Will he be in town?”

Christine Dowe prefers to handle some of the more delicate work of the Harding administration with her own hands. Specific negotiations, specific phone calls. She is a meticulous planner and fully aware of her desire to control every aspect of her life and her role within the administration. The additional pressures of being the first female Vice President in the country is no small burden to be added atop that pile.

“But I need to go, my 9 o’clock just showed up.”

Sitting on the corner of her desk, phone pressed to her ear, Christine waves in the man standing on the other side of the frosted glass door. By the time it’s opening, she’s terminated the call and laid her cell phone face down on her desk. She slips down onto her feet, standing to greet Zachariah Byrne as he steps in from the noisy office floor outside.

“Come on in.”

Dowe motions to the seat across from her desk.

“Let’s chat.”

Harding Transition Office
KC Power & Light Building
Washington, KC

December 30th
9:01 am

Zachariah looks back into the bustling office of the transition team as he steps in and closes the door behind him. He scans the egress points out of habit, looks for placement of UDOs. It’s not his department, but cursory security examinations are muscle memory. Especially when he is going to have his back to a glass wall. He greets the vice president elect professionally, “Madam,” accompanied by a nod.

He takes the offered chair, but doesn’t volunteer any chatter. The message he’d received, telling him to be here in half an hour, was brief and context-free. That’s not too unusual. Their history of communication was always short and to the point, if friendly. Even together, off the clock, they had been more likely to enjoy a comfortable silence than talk about the weather.

Which makes let’s chat sound far more business-like than it would to someone else.

“You’re being transitioned out of your secret service detail,” Dowe says rather matter-of-factly, walking to the nearby wall where she has a makeshift sideboard set up with a bottle of gin and a hotel-quality bucket of ice. Beggars, in this circumstance, cannot be choosers.

“My decision, not Harding’s.” Dowe indicates, upending a glass and picking out two ice cubes with her fingers for lack of tongs. “Completely unrelated to performance. It’s actually something of a lateral promotion opportunity for you. One that comes with a choice of placement.”

Dowe pours herself two fingers of gin and nothing else. She looks back over her shoulder, one brow raised. “I don’t have any lime. Or tonic.” But it’s an invitation.

Byrne, apparently not Special Agent Byrne, isn’t sure where to begin in addressing the nature of his ‘lateral promotion’. He starts with a shake of his head at the idea of liquid brunch. “I’m more of a whiskey in the evenings guy,” he says.

“With all due respect,” he continues, “This is what I’m good at and you personally asked for me to be assigned to this detail. If not my performance, then what factors necessitate my ouster that weren’t just as pressing before I followed you around on your book tour?” Protected you on your presidential campaign tour. His tone is more perplexed than angry.

“I feel like this is beyond somebody becoming aware that we used to collaborate on investigations on occasion. Are there optics that I’m not aware of?”

“It’s not optics.” Dowe says matter of factly, taking a sip of her drink on the way back to her desk. “It’s purely strategy. I didn’t hire you for a security detail, that’s the part of this that you were purposefully kept unaware of.”

Settling down on the corner of her desk, one leg crossed over the other, it becomes clear that Dowe is forsaking any sort of professional formality here between a day-drink and her choice of perch. “Essential during the election cycle, obviously. But this wasn’t the end-point I envisioned for you. This presidency is in its infancy, it is the first presidency since the war where the office was not held by a wartime leader. This is going to be an administration that is forced to make new inroads.”

Sipping her drink again, Dowe considers something with a look that Byrne has come to know well. She’s deciding how to tell the truth. Which sounds like there should be only one way, but when it comes to Christine Dowe there are many ways in which to couch facts.

“The previous presidency was upheld and supported by an organization known as the Deveaux Society. Raymond Praeger was, in essence, given the presidency thanks to that organization’s manipulations. The leaders of the organization — Sabra Dalton, Claudia Zimmerman, and Alice Shaw — all either died or in Dalton’s case vanished within the last year. Leadership within the Society changed hands. We don’t know them well.” Dowe’s explanation comes with all of the crisp attention to detail someone with an origin in the intelligence business would have. Meticulous, point-driven.

“The Deveaux Society also had a direct hand in the formation of two critical pillars of the new United States. The SLC-Expressive Services Agency, and NYPD-SCOUT. Two heavily expressive-focused branches of law-enforcement.” Dowe takes another sip of her drink, then looks over the brim to Byrne. “Claudia Zimmerman basically gave herself control of SESA by way of Raymond Praeger. With her death administration has shifted, but it was always something of a closed circuit. The same goes for the NYPD.”

Dowe sets down her drink on her desk and rests the heels of her palms on the edge, leaning forward toward Byrne. “I only have one of you, unfortunately. I’d like to have someone I trust within one of those agencies as we… transition to the new administration. I don’t want Harding blindsided by any conspiracies or extrajudicial secret societies that literally tore this country down once already.”

Byrne looks over Dowe as he processes all of this new information. He looks away and spends a moment in careful consideration. Investigations were a large part of his earlier life, less so with the secret service than the marshals. Both SESA and SCOUT have a lot of reach, though SESA certainly has more authority.

“This has a clandestine feel to it. I’m assuming that I’m not operating in an administrative liaison capacity?” Not future tense, he already thinks of it as his new assignment. No point grousing about it.

“Also am I actively investigating or just passing along anything fishy that happens to come my way?” He’s still looking away as he puts the pieces together in his head.

“There’s two answers.” Dowe explains, reaching for her drink again. “The first is that the moment you show up on either doorstep, they’re going to know you came from my recommendation. That’s purposeful. You and I have a history, that earmarks you as someone who would report back to me…”

Letting that thought hang in the air for a moment, Dowe takes another sip of her gin. “Now, if you step close to someone and they pucker, you’ll know it’s because they’re up to something they don’t want getting back to me or this office. That’s good information.” She indicates, motioning to Byrne with the brim of her glass.

“The second side of this is, yes, investigating.” Dowe looks down into her glass, watching the ice crack and settle. “With discretion, obviously. But I want to know what’s going on in either of those offices that isn’t getting floated up to this office. I won’t be hamstrung by the loyalists to a past administration who may not have the nation’s best interests at heart.”

Taking another sip of her gin before setting it down once more, Dowe looks up to Byrne. “That said, which side of the fence do you want to be on? Federal, or local?”

Byrne nods as Christine unspools her plan, and starts mulling over some of the pros and cons. “While they describe themselves as a non-combat-oriented force, SCOUT in the end wouldn’t be much different than the SOG days in the Marshals Service. Not ‘deploy and destroy,’ but definitely deploy. And there’d be front-facing investigations, which I’ve always had a soft spot for.”

He’s talking to himself as much as Dowe, open to their old style of brainstorming. “SESA seems like the easier target for bad actors though. Large, bureaucratic, plenty of non-agent positions which could be packed with relative ease. Also opportunities for field work and investigations, lighter on the tactical ops which, I have no allusions as to how many more years of breach and clear I have left in me.”

There’s a quite huff of laughter and a smirk before his mind spins to some of the more logistical implications of either placement. “SCOUT seems self-explanatory, but which branch of SESA do you think most begs infiltration?”

“SESA has a unique structure,” Dowe says with a glint of excitement in her eye, sliding off of her desk and snatching her drink as she circles around to sit down behind it. “The New York branch is by far the most active. It’s a powderkeg location, what with the city’s history and some of the political and social figures who choose to live there. Yamagato’s done good work with it though, so it’s not so much a third world country anymore. At least not everywhere.”

Rifling through files on her desk, Dowe finds a dog-eared folder that she lays out and spreads open while sipping her gin. “SESA’s deputy-director is a relative ghost in terms of background. Kristopher Voss, former CIA Counterintelligence Threat Analyst. He took over after the previous Deputy-Director was forced out of his position for bungling some highly-classified operation we don’t have intel on yet.”

Dowe takes another sip of her drink. “SESA’s New York branch is also stacked with old war heroes or their ilk. Noah Bennet, co-founder of the Ferrymen. Nicole Miller — formerly Nichols — who used to work hand-in-hand with the late Daniel Linderman. It’s a rogues gallery of people who have reason and potential to misappropriate government authority for their own personal crusades.”

Closing the SESA folder, Dowe sets her drink down. “I’d ask for you to be placed in as an active field agent with the potential to transition to the Yamagato Industries liaison if we think that’s a useful vector. The administration has even less eyes on that corporation, and any insight could be valuable especially after the shit-show that happened with Praxis Heavy.”

Christine then plucks a second folder from her desk, one that is newer looking and bears tags that identify it was pertaining to the NYPD. “SCOUT is a different beast. The Safe Zone’s police commissioner ran for mayor back in the 2010s, failed. He’s a Blue Line type,” she says with a look up to Byrne, then back down again, “fraternity over everything else. So far he’s kept his nose clean, but…” she considers her words carefully, “Commissioner Donovan pulled strings to get an audiokinetic — SCOUT’s lieutenant, Elisabeth Harrison — into speaking range with Harding.”

Letting that sink in, Dowe takes a sip from her gin. “I’ve done my research on Harrison from her days in FRONTLINE. She can modulate her voice to make people more susceptible to suggestion. Used to use it for crowd-control. I’m not saying she did it here, but there’s pieces that make me question coincidence.”

Dowe closes the NYPD folder and looks up to Byrne, cradling her glass in one hand. “I’m a dog with two bones, Zach. I’ve gotta bury one for the time being.”

The idea of somebody interfering with the president elect’s agency is certainly horrifying, though it seems like something that should have been addressed immediately. He’s not certain how, but Zachariah trusts Christine to disclose the important bits where necessary and at her own discretion.

SESA is certainly an unwieldy organization, and that’s before taking into consideration some of its famous clandestine movers and shakers. Long-term it seems like the more prudent placement. He’s not thrilled of having to work his way up from base pay, even modified for experience, again, to his current income. But he’s frugal, and his savings substantial. He supposes the most pressing question is what to do with the house he recently purchased in K.C.

“I’m gravitating toward SESA,” he says after a long moment of consideration. “And gin,” he adds.

Dowe motions to the sideboard with her chin in a taciturn offer of serve yourself, he missed the opportunity for hand-delivered.

“I’ll get on the phone with Director Nazan-Gutierrez today and get the ball rolling. We’ll want to move on this soon, so I suspect you’ll be in placement before the end of January.” Dowe says with her usual confidence. “That said, I’m recommending you take the intervening time off to get your affairs in order and prepare for a move to the Safe Zone. If our brief visit there was any indication, you might want to get another gun or two.”

Byrne stands slowly and moves toward the ‘bar’ ponderously. There are precious few people he knows in the NYC Safe Zone, resettling would probably take most of his time between here and a month from now. On that note he stops reaching for the gin and sighs.

“No sense waiting around to make decisions then,” he says. “I should head home and arrange for some movers. And visit the family.” It’s been a rough few months for them. Probably going to stay rough, honestly. But there’s work to be done.

Dowe finishes her gin and looks over at Byrne, then down to the folders in front of her. “I want to tell you to brace yourself and prepare for anything, but I’m not sure there’s any real way to truly prepare yourself for living in a place like the Safe Zone. There’s a lot of history there, and none of it good.”

Looking up from the files to Byrne, Dowe considers something in the silence. But, like many things between them, this too goes unsaid.

You never know who is listening.

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