Rabbit Holes


bob_icon.gif veronica3_icon.gif

Scene Title Rabbit Holes
Synopsis Veronica is sniffing around the edge of one.
Date February 3, 2010

Fort Hero — Bishop's Office

It's clear that Robert Bishop hasn't been operating out of this office for very long. Much of the office is clean but lacks a sense of refurbishing, and hasn't quite shaken the musty basement smell that much of the facility has. The old wooden desk and tile floor at least have wiped down and some of the director's personal effects strewn about the room, even if the office's furnishings look old and worn. Bookshelves stacked with cardboard boxes for paper documents are labeled cleanly with black marker by last name and a serial number. Atop Bob's desk is an old monochrome screened IBM PC desktop that looks as outdated as its tan plastic case and cathode-ray tube monitor indicates. While, adjacent to Bob's desk, is an aged and weathered portrait of Ronald Regan - clearly not everything has been brought up to date yet at the facility.

Having spent the last hour or so perusing the various files available to her Level-Three Clearance, all Agent Veronica Sawyer has come up with are more questions and dead-ends. Clearly, her mystery caller has either purposely sent her on a wild-goose chase or doesn't know that she's just not that high up on the proverbial totem pole. Or perhaps both. It's time to take it to someone a bit higher up. Normally she would have gone to Len Denton, but it seems she's outlasted yet another boss.

So it is that Veronica walks down, holding the few files she was able to garner, to Bob Bishop's office. Having seen him earlier in the hallway, she knew he was around. She taps on the door, waiting politely for the senior agent to welcome her into his lair.

Lair is a good word for Bishop's office. It's dark, dimly-lit and still smells vaguely like mildew — he doesn't spend a lot of time down here or even at Fort Hero, so Veronica is perhaps fortunate that she chose today to go digging. When he admits her inside, she finds him sitting behind his desk in the process of wiping down his glasses with a handkerchief he keeps in the front pocket of his coat draped over the back of his chair, leaving the supervisor in a dress shirt, dark sweater and business slacks that have been professionally tailored to accommodate his middle.

He's put on a few pounds since Veronica saw him last.

"Agent Sawyer," he greets, offering the brunette a tight, tentative sort of smile. "Please, sit down. What can I do for you this afternoon?"

She couldn't be more of his antithesis — planning to go look for Mortimer Jack after the morning spent on research, Sawyer is dressed in black motorcycle boots, tight jeans, and a black leather motorcycle jacket. "Pardon the get-up. Sort of undercover," she says with a smile as she slips into the seat across from Bishop. She glances around the office. She's at Fort Hero rather rarely herself, but her Spartanesque office has a clean minimalist look and smells clean, if sometimes dusty. "I like what you've done with the place," she adds, before stacking her files on his desk. Time to get to the point.

"I had an unusual phone call the other day. Untraceable — went back to a disposable cell phone, bought with cash in New Jersey. The caller asked the whereabouts of this list of men, and I can't get much on them at my clearance level. Looks like it's a bit over my head, so after checking it out, I figured I should alert the higher ups." She nods toward him, and then hands him a slip of papers.

The names on the list: Hector Steel, Lewis Zimmerman, Dmitri Gregor, and Elijah "Doc" Carpenter.

"I know some on Steel, of course," she says, "And Carpenter. Zimmerman's beyond my clearance level, and there's nothing about Gregor, though I know he was involved in Madagascar."

"Madagascar." The word leaves Bishop's list with no small amount of disdain. He places his glasses back on the bridge of his nose, uses the tip of his right index finger to push them all the way up, then squints behind his lenses as he begins shuffling through the paperwork, mindful not to nick his thumb on its edge. If he had just one penny for every paper cut he received while in service of the Company—

"You're aware," he says, "that our arrangement with the government isn't one of full disclosure." He rumples his brow, exhales a sigh through his nostrils and leans forward in his seat, resting his elbows on his desk to take some of the strain off his back. "I don't know what to tell you about Steel or Gregor. Everything that I know about Carpenter is right here. As for Zimmerman…"

Bishop makes a low gravelly sound in the back of his throat before clearing it. "Have you ever heard of a place called Coyote Sands?"

"Sounds like a Resort and Spa," Veronica quips, but she has a feel that it's anything but. She glances at her note pad, her hurried scrawls she scribbled down when the anonymous caller spoke. "The caller seems to suggest that these people have something in common — that maybe they are in the same place, and he wanted to know why no one has thought to look into where they are. That the future might depend on it. I figured I'd check it out to make sure that it wasn't just a prank call, but it's looking like someone knows something, and needs our help in it."

Bishop gives a slow shake of his head. He lays the papers down flat on his desk and laces his fingers together, hands loosely clasped. There's a tension in his neck and shoulders that wasn't there before, and a certain sort of tightness around his jaw that suggests he's clamping down on whatever his first instinct is to say. "His real name is Jonas, and while it's possible that he's tumbled down whatever rabbit hole Gregor and the others have found themselves at the bottom of—"

He hesitates, then, watery blue eyes moving from his hands to Veronica's face, which he studies for several long moments of protracted silence before continuing. "What I'm about to say does not leave this office. Do you understand?"

Veronica frowns as she notices Bishop growing more and more tense, her own posture growing stiffer and her brow knitting as she waits for him to speak. Her whiskey-brown eyes meet his watery blue gaze, her expression appropriately solemn and professional. At the question he finally asks, she gives a single nod. One more secret to file away in Agent Sawyer, one more reason for her memory to be obliterated by the Haitian one day.

Of course, she does not speak this fear aloud, but instead adds to her silent nod, ""Yes, Sir. I understand."

"Jonas," Bishop says of Zimmerman, "used to work for our organization, but when Arthur Petrelli formed Pinehearst and began development of a formula designed to trigger the manifestation of latent Evolved abilities, he was taken from us and coerced into cooperating with Petrelli's people. We sent a team of agents to recover what we could from their headquarters after it was destroyed last July, but they were unable to locate a body or any evidence to suggest that he was ever there at all.

"I'd like to believe that he was able to escape and has since gone into hiding, but Mrs. Petrelli and I no longer feel as though this is a possibility."

"So you're saying… whatever he's doing, it's against his will?" Veronica asks, a frown as she glances down at her note pad of names and notes. "Do you see a connection with those other names? Were any of the others linked with Pinehearst? I don't see the connection between them except Gregor and Steel, except the obvious — they're all doctors except for Steel, as far as I know, and he's scary enough without giving him a scalpel." She frowns. "If they're trying to create that formula, I wouldn't put it past Steel to find a way to ensure it gets into the general population with some gizmo or another. Are any of them tagged with isotopes? I would guess at least Doc is, having been to Moab — with the new tracking system, it shouldn't be impossible to figure out his locale, should it?"

"What I'm saying, Agent Sawyer, is that I need you to be exceedingly careful. You don't know who was on the other end of that line, or what their real motivation for contacting you might be. The Company has used similar tactics to lure targets out into the open where they can be neutralized — I don't want to receive a report that you've gone off the radar, too." Bishop lifts one hand from his desk to rub its heel over the back of his neck in what is undoubtedly an attempt to loosen a knot there. "The only Moab detainees that received tracking isotopes are the ones we bagged-and-tagged prior to Midtown going nuclear," he says with a wince. "Carpenter was not among them."

"I appreciate the concern, sir," Veronica says quietly. The thought occurred to her as well. "Though to be honest, I have no idea where I'd go to look for these people. It's not like they lead in any clear direction. They could be anywhere, and I don't have the resources to narrow it down even if I wanted to, which is why I'm bringing it to you." She stacks the file folders, straightening their edges, then stacks them again against the desk. "But obviously if these men are working together, with their cumulative talents, for want of a better word, and abilities…" Her brows furrow as she studies the list of names on her steno pad. "Really, it's rather terrifying, when you put them all together, isn't it? What could they accomplish, if working together? And who would have brought them together?"

There's a beat, as an idea occurs to her. "Please tell me it isn't us."

Bishop huffs out a short snort through his nostrils at Veronica's suggestion. "I could," he says. "Whether or not you believe me is up to you." His focus has settled on the agent's hands as she works to straighten the papers, finding it easier to concentrate on the long, slender lengths of her fingers rather than the hard lines of her youthful face. He's getting old. Every subordinate under thirty that comes to visit him is a painful reminder of the arthritis in his left knee, his deteriorating vision and the hemorrhoids that are making this conversation more uncomfortable than it probably has to be.

He lets his own hand drift back to the desk's polished surface. "I believe you're familiar with a woman named Sarisa Kershner."

"Given your worry for Zimmerman, I trust you." To an extent, of course. "Or I wouldn't be here, right?" Veronica asks. To his question, she gives a nod. "Not well, but in passing. I understand she's heading up FRONTLINE, and it seems she is the one who … negotiated with the group of volunteers that weren't government provided in regards to their … compensation." Never say that she doesn't have a future in bureaucracy or diplomacy. "What about her?"

"If anyone knows what happened to Steel and Gregor after Apollo, it's Kershner," says Bishop. "Not that I'd recommend approaching her about it unless you want her waggling her silver tongue in your face." He lifts both his eyebrows at the woman sitting across from him. "You want permission to pursue this? I can't give it to you, but off the record— watch her like a goddamn hawk."

The younger agent listens then nods slowly, fingers curling around the top of the manila folders. "I'm not sure I want to pursue it without resources or back up. This stuff goes deeper than what I'm aware of on a lot of levels," she murmurs, husky voice a touch uncertain rather than her usual confident tone. "I wouldn't even know who Steel or Gregor were if I hadn't been a part of Apollo, though I'm guessing that whoever my informant is knows that I was." Her eyes lift from her files to his once more. "Are you saying the Company isn't going to put anyone on this officially, or is there an investigation going on I'm not aware of?"

"Until you can provide me with more information about your mystery caller and their identity, there's nothing I can do on this side of my desk. Unoffically, I'm willing to look the other way if you want to start your own investigation. Ryans might be interested — I'm under the impression that Ms. Dalton's introduced the two of you already." Bishop runs his tongue over the front of his teeth behind his lip. "Start with the informant. Get us a name. Where we go from there is entirely dependent on what else you turn up."

"Not sure I can get a name unless he chooses to call me again, Sir. I'd doubt he's still using that phone, but I'll see what I can do," she says, stacking the file once more, then bringing it to her lap. "Since it's unofficial… non conventional methods — if we ever had any conventional methods — might need to be used." She takes a deep breath. "If Kershner's involved, it means FRONTLINE is involved… if this is government sanctioned, is there … anything that can be done?"

The look in Bishop's eyes darkens some at Veronica's question, his brows growing heavy. "Let's take this one step at a time," he says, and his tone is suddenly sounding very subdued.

That's probably not a good sign.

Veronica's eyes drop, brows knitting together and she gives a shake of her head. She is in over her head, being encouraged to do unofficial business — business that might potentially bring the agent up against another governmental entity. She's used to competing with the FBI or the local law enforcement agencies, both here in New York and back home in California, but a military organization full of Evolved with a bunch of madman working together in some mysterious project is something else altogether. Down the rabbit hole, indeed. She nods. "One step at a time. I'll see what I can do regarding the informant, and I'll see what I can do as to getting another one, closer to Kershner."

Sawyer tilts her head. "Do you want me to update you along the way or … don't ask, don't tell?"

"You're sharp today," Bishop observes, finally taking his weight off the desk so he can rise to his feet, vertebrae crackling loudly in protest. Another wince, and he lets out the breath he'd been holding as his hands take a more relaxed position at his sides before he slides them into the pockets of his slacks and moves around the side of his desk as if intending to see Veronica to the door. "Contact me only if there's an emergency."

The most likely emergency is her body floating in the Hudson river, Sawyer thinks wryly to herself. To Bishop, she smiles, dimples showing for the first time in the conversation. "Thanks for your time, Sir. I appreciate it." She stands, heading out of the dank little lair and into the brighter lighting of the hallway, blinking a little at the contrast. She heads to her own office to dig deeper where she isn't sure she should be digging, though at least now she has more pieces to the puzzle.

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