Save the Cheerleader


chris_icon.gif dumortier_icon.gif elisa_icon.gif finn_icon.gif kara_icon.gif sophie_icon.gif

Scene Title Save the Cheerleader
Synopsis An unlikely pair, far from home, arrive in Providence on a mission…
Date February 11, 2020

In the New Jersey Pine Barrens, the remote community of Providence is bound together by two competing desires: the want to survive, and the need for independence. Out on the new frontier of post-war America, settlements like Providence go on with little to no government oversight, and Providence falls squarely in the no category. The sparse population density of the region combined with the overall harsh seasonal extremes makes it an undesirable location when the Safe Zone is a closer, safer, more rebuilt alternative.

Within Providence, valuable commodities like electricity are in short supply. While solar paneling and generators allow for power, it’s either personal property or for emergency utilization. That leaves more conventional and bespoke means by which people find entertainment. Battery powered or hand-crank radios work in a pinch, but WSZR is the only station broadcasting on a bandwidth strong enough to pick up in such a remote area. That leaves places like the Corral to fill in the gaps.

The Corral is a bar by the loosest definition that the building used to be a biker bar and presently serves locally-brewed alcohol. It has neither electricity nor running water, and what it also lacks in having a floor that isn’t dirt it makes up for in being remote and the only other bar in twenty miles.

“Rack ‘em up.”

It also has a pool table that’s mostly intact.

The Corral
Providence Outskirts, New Jersey Pine Barrens
February 11th
4:43 pm

Tonight it’s a busy night of pool, cheap beer, and canned music coming from a crank-powered radio that’s the best entertainment in Providence. “No cheating this time, Chris. I see you.” Elisa Zolotov is a regular at the corral, a sharp-tempered young woman with a Russian accent thick enough to feel like it might be a joke, except it most certainly isn’t. She’s notoriously bad at pool, in spite of loving the game, and is a recent transplant to Providence in the last couple months.

“You never see me cheating, fuck.” Chris deadpans a response and rolls his eyes at Elisa. Cheating, that’s a dirty word and not one that’s ever easily associated with him. Except maybe at cards, which is why most people won’t play with him anymore. At least not when currency is involved. Fucking cowards. What’s the point of playing for shots if you’re afraid to lose? Someone’s got to be the Old Maid after all, and it sure as hell isn’t going to be him. Ever.

Pool, though. That’s a real game. Better than Poker or Go Fish or whatever the hell the locals feel like bitching about. It’s only in the last couple of months that it’s really become his game which isn’t nearly long enough to claim any kind of shark title.

Even if he has figured out how to cheat.

He takes his time setting the balls into the rack. Just to be an ass since Elisa had to go and call him a cheater. He lines up stripes and solids, all numbers facing up and the right way, eyes going from the task to the woman waiting. “You know what I think,” he starts, without care for if she does wonder what he thinks. See, he could do this all day, even if it shouldn’t take more than a minute or two. “I think you’re jealous. Fucking can’t keep up with the big leagues so you’ve gotta go and spread dirty lies about me.”

Whether or not Elisa knows Finn can easily cheat at the likes of pool or not, Finn tends not to in places like The Corral or Providence in general. In places like this, where people are truly struggling to get by, he doesn’t hustle. Ever. Some of that might be chalked up to being a good human being. Some of it might be chalked up to common sense — given his ability, while not well known and even less understood, he’d rather not have to field the accusations like the one Chris is fielding at the moment — good natured or not. So whether or not he’s prone to cheat, he doesn’t often play.

Instead, he’s there to have a drink and maybe play color commentator of the pool game taking shape. “Jesus Christ, kid, you’re racking the balls, not painting the Sistine Chapel. You prolonging your inevitable loss?” he asks, a grin over at Elisa as he puts himself in her cheering section.

"Maybe he just likes fondling them." Dumortier always manages to find a place in this little gallery, and at the moment it's in a wooden chair tilted back on two legs, one bootheel on the edge of a table, gently balancing with idle energy. "Or maybe he's flirting, I can't tell."

He also happens to be a few drinks in, a glass still in his hand and coat tossed haphazardly in the seat next over. Between one comment and another he still puts on that mask of good humor. But again, he's been here a lot more than usual, of late. "Remember I looove you, Christopherrr~."

"And this one is foorrrr-…" Glass half extended towards Dumortier, Sophie suddenly turns and offers the beer out to Finn instead. She keeps a bright smile on their little ray of Sunshine. "Down boy. Pace yourself." Is she referring to his rate of indulgence for booze or other topics entirely? Yes. Wink. The small woman adjusts one of her three loosely slung belts and continues around the pool table, delivering mismatched mugs and glasses to Elisa, Chris, and finally Kara.

Kara accepts her drink with an ever so slight shake of her head at the antics, at the whole damn situation unfolding around the table before drowning any commentary of her own in a drink through the top of the excessive foam on the beer. "Listen," she inputs after smacking her lips. "I don't care what it is, I just know it needs to hurry up. Finn owes me a rematch and it's at least six months overdue at this rate."

She side-eyes Finn in particular, remarking offhandedly, "But if we're betting, I'm betting on the kid."

And why wouldn't she? He cheats.

“Your mother,” Elisa says over the din of conversation to Chris, “she must be very disappointed in you. Cheating a poor immigrant out of her last pack of cigarettes. For shame.” She looks askance to Sophie, picking up her mug with one hand and a wordlessly mouthed thank you before tipping back a modest sip and setting the mug down on the edge of the pool table, where it absolutely doesn't belong.

“You don't see Kara cheating,” Elisa continues with a look over to the older blonde. “She whip my ass without needing to,” and then with one corner of her mouth creeping up as she reaches for the nub of chalk that's left for her pool cue adds in a stage whisper, “though if rumors true, she whip Doctor Yeh’s ass harder.” But she can't quite maintain a straight face and breaks out laughing.

“There’s a lot more for my mother to be disappointed about than cheating your cheap ass.” Chris looks up at Finn while he replies to Elisa, and he intentionally goes even slower. Look, that 14 ball has a spot on it. Now he has to take ten thousand years to clean it off. “But she isn’t even alive, so the fuck do I care if I disappoint her?”

The only response Rene gets is a finger. A single finger. That one right in the middle. He doesn’t even get a look to go with it. “Just making sure all you fuckers get your jollies in now, since we all know you can’t get them anywhere else.”

After only a million hours, Chris finishes racking. He pulls the wooden triangle off the table and slides a look in Kara’s direction. “Kara doesn’t cheat. And I doubt she’d whip your ass in any way you’d find enjoyable. I hear she likes it rough and tough, and whatever fucking rumors you hear are fucking outright lies. You’ve been drinking too much. Get your glass off the table and let's play.”

“Have I told you lately that I love you?” says Finn with a broad smile for Sophie when she hands him the glass, and lifts it in a little salute of sorts before taking a swig. Never mind he still has some in the other hand. He sets one down, and smirks at Rene. “Is that flirting? It’s good he’s good at pool because he sure don’t got game.

This is how Providence does, show their affection for one another through insults.

Kara’s call for a rematch draws his attention her way. “You’re sure? Because I don’t like to ruin a person’s night more than once a year.” He grins as he finishes the first glass, sliding it away. “And for the record, I’m getting plenty a jolly.” He doesn’t go too much in detail into that one — that he’s dating a Wolfhound agent probably isn’t going to earn him any points with this crew.

"Heeey." Rene grouses as Sophie pivots out of his bubble, still holding his glass but at the same time completely expecting her to leave him a little more. Between Elisa's aside and Chris flipping him off, the small blonde throws his head back, seat wobbling as he just cackles.

Of course, being half in the bag, Dumortier latches onto one thing floating past his ears and breaks into a sweet song, made just a touch more brusque by the state of— everything. Still, he sounds great despite the moonshine.

"Have I told you lately that I love you? Have I told you there's no one else above you? Fill my heart with gladness, take away all my sadness, Ease my troubles, that's what you do—"

Having made her deliveries and set her own on the nearest wobbly barstool, Sophie turns on the group. “Hey now.” Arms out to either side, she points one dexterous little finger at Finn and the other at the serenading Rene. “Watch it with all that mushy stuff. Can’t have you two getting soft on me.” Her pointing digits adjust ever so slightly at either party. Downard. The slinky little woman plucks up her beer and raises it out ahead of her, dark brows arched, before taking a sip to hide the edging grin and the bubble of laughter in her glass.

Kara's good humor vanishes with a lowering of the mug of beer as Elisa makes her crude pass. Her eyes darken, and her mood improves none when Chris's comment comes on the tail of hers, despite his attempt at intervention. The line's still been crossed, visible in the tension in her jaw, and the weight her mug hits the bartop.

She's drawing lines— all the who told who that must have happened for a newcomer like Elisa to get such rumors into her head, much less for them to come back out again. She's too angry to even make a shitty comment about Finn's lovelife, for all that she doesn't approve of the match between him and his White Rose.

"Best watch your mouth, sciolist, or you'll learn just how effortlessly I'll whip you right out of this bar," she warns Elisa in a growl.

“You’re welcome to try, love,” Elisa comments over her shoulder with a wink before slapping her pool cue against the side of the table. “Glass is good luck!” She barks at Chris, then leans forward over the table and starts lining up her shot to break.

As the crack of the cue striking the racked balls echoes through the bar, the front doors open to the diminishing light of a late winter’s afternoon. It isn’t often people from out of town pass through this late in the day, but the old pickup truck outside isn’t a familiar one. It looks like a father-daughter pair that enters, judging from their respective ages. The father looks out of his element, tall and old with wisps of gray starting to threaten his receding light-brown hairline. Horn-rimmed glasses aren’t really fashion these days, nor is his patched up puffy blue winter coat.

The young woman behind him looks uncertain of herself in these environments. Maybe she’s twenty? Maybe a little older, but certainly not any older than Elisa who might not be of legal drinking age. The girl’s hair is mostly brown but there’s streaks of teal and aqua in it and her clothes at least look from the right decade. She sticks close to the tall older man, talking too quiet to be heard by the other bar patrons.

It’s only when he catches sight of Finn that he starts making a more direct movement across the floor and the young woman in tow hustles to keep up. “Excuse me,” he says on closing the distance to Finn, and what Finn finds looming in his general direction is a big slice of the Pacific Northwest that just came lumbering back into Finn’s life.


Noah Bennet was one of the few people from the Snoqualmie area that openly traded and met with the people out east in the Sedro-Wooley colony. But it doesn’t seem like Noah recognizes Finn the same way. “I’m looking for someone,” Noah asks without a hint of recognition while the young woman behind him scans the bar. “Name of Cyrus Karr… he came out this way a few months ago.”

At the mention of Cyrus Karr — one of the Guardians — Sophie can’t help but direct her attention over to the voice and finds Noah fucking Bennet standing six feet from her. The woman behind Noah notices Sophie first and lets out a sudden shout. “Bennet!” She says with a slap on Noah’s back before rushing past him and practically leaping at Sophie with her arms out.


Smokes! What the fuck are you doing out here!?” Clover Hull spent nearly her entire life out with the Guardians in Washington State, and while she and Sophie never knew each other that well, Hull knew Sophie by reputation and had — probably still has — a little idol worship.

What either of them were doing three thousand miles from home is anyone’s guess.

Going soft isn't the only problem you'll have with those two,” Chris calls over to Sophie. Elisa gets a rare shit-eating grin when Kara calls the woman out. If it's any wonder how he cheats, it could very well be by distraction, baiting with nearly slanderous comments and claims. Which is how he talks to pretty much everyone so it's the perfect cover.

He starts to lean a hip against the table, turned away like he couldn't give two shits about what happens on the game or if his look was even noticed. “Might want to take her seriously,” he starts with. Barely a look is afforded to the two arrivals. Strangers, by the look of them.

Cat-like he returns to his game and party, a slow and languid tilt of his head to regard the table. “Fuck. You sure you know how to hit balls?” He's not impressed, obviously. And he's got a strong opinion that gets sidelined when those strangers start butting in.

“The fuck…” Chris shakes his head at the approach. “Fucking yuppies stinking up the… Hey!” That's when the girl breaks through and fucking leaps at Sophie. “Fucking… Don't touch it, Sophie, you don't know where it's been. Fuck.”

“Everyone knows I’m a fucking teddy bear. I can’t help it,” Finn says with a grin to Sophie, but turns his head to regard the newcomers entering the little dive. His head tips, almost comically. Hey, that almost looks like —

“Bennet,” he says, reaching to clasp the other man by the shoulder. “The hell you doing out east?” The fact Noah doesn’t seem to recognize him draws a slight frown, but it’s pushed aside for now; it’s been a while and the light isn’t all that great, and maybe Finn’s more clean shaven than he was last Noah saw him. “Cyrus — Guardian, right? I hadn’t heard that he was in town, but the ladies here might know.”

He turns his green eyes to Sophie and Kara, brows lifting. “Grab ‘em a drink too, on me,” he adds to Sophie, finishing his off and tapping the rim to indicate one for himself as well.

"Aw yeah, Chris, you're right! Going hard is my other problem."

Song and dance forgotten, Dumortier lets out a sudden, jesting 'ooo' at Kara's teeth baring at Elisa; he sets his chair down with a thunk. There's no time to field that, however. Drink and comfort make sure that Rene takes his time staring intensely away at the girl who slams up to Sophie, only peripherally registering the man who stalked in with her.

"Salut beauté." The slim blonde lifts his hand in a finger-wiggling wave, tossing the young woman a grin. Still as gaming as he ever is. "If you are giving out hugs, I'll take one please."

Sophie watches Kara over the rim over her glass. A level gaze that begins to slide towards- "Noah? What the f-?!…" The fan-girl shout of a long lost nickname makes her flinch. Eyes wide, the tiny woman raises her mug out and away from her, the other hand swiveling forward. It's too little too late. GLOMP! Sudsy beer foam slops on the ground beside her boots. "Oh no, it's got me!" Sophie calls out to Chris in good humor, though there's a nervous twitter about her laugh. Come to think of it: do people touch Sophie? Perhaps not that anyone here can recall.

Springy fading-green locks clash almost playfully against Clover's teal tones as Sophie gives an awkward pat-pat and slinks free with a serpentine wriggle of her shoulders. "Look at that! Bennet brought someone fun!" She cracks a crescent of a grin beneath a wink of her septum piercing. "How you doin', Ping?" She doesn't even give Finn a hard time for the drink order, simply heading that way. She does, however, give Rene's boot a quick kick in passing. "Have you no shame?" Snort! Beers, foamy and only as cool as the winter atmosphere can make it, are delivered in short order. Finn's delivered with a little extra oomph that sets it sloshing. "Oops." She smiles innocently and turns back to Hull. "Cyrus? What's he doing out this way? So far East?" It's an echo of the question Kara had asked her only eight months and one world ago, bearing the same silent heavy implications under polite conversation: Is there some business going on out this way?

Kara isn't so far gone the door opening doesn't immediately draw her attention, perhaps mercifully stalling out any furthered increase in tensions. She blinks her double take at the familiar faces that come through the door, losing her sense of when and where she is for a dizzying breath. It's Elisa's presence of all things that serves to right her again, bringing the moment of vertigo to pass quickly.

Her sour mood leads to foul language, or at least more coarse than she tends toward. "The hell are you doing East, Snoqualmie?" Kara snipes in Bennet's direction. She squints at Cyrus' name and that they're searching for him, leaving her beer on the bar. With a touch more concern to her brusque manner, she asks, "Trouble in paradise?"

Curious study of Bennet and Hull both is interrupted with Rene's attempt to be flirtatious. She turns to him, tone filled with a more amiable warning than it had a half minute earlier, if only just. "Hey hey," she cautions Dumortier. "C'est just une fille, ami." Her French is bastardized shit, but her intentions are pure. Clover might be older now, and so is Sophie, but she remembers them as the girls they were, needing protection and guidance from the war and the world.

It’s moments like this where Noah feels old. The number of familiar faces in such close proximity when he was looking for one is jarring. Sucking in a slow breath through his teeth, Bennet angles a look over to Finn. “I don’t drink— ”

I do,” Hull interjects, disentangling one arm from around Sophie and leaving the other one slung over her shoulder, “so you can get me one.” She then angles a look over at Dumortier with both brows raised and a flush of color to her cheeks that steals her voice.

Noah’s long-suffering sigh is accompanied by a slow pinch of the bridge of his nose. Three thousand some odd miles of that.

“I was looking for Cyrus, but…” Noah says to Kara, then looks around the rest of the room. “Something happened back home,” he feels is appropriate to deliver, given the surroundings. “My… my daughter, Claire, was kidnapped. Most of the Guardians have gone south to handle something going on in California, and I didn’t know who else to turn to.” Noah’s relationship with Kara was a primarily transactional one, on the surface, but a man who spent his life knowing things about people never really stops. It’s her reputation that Noah knows, and that alone speaks volumes. What she did during the war speaks volumes. Even if she may keep questionable company since its end.

Hull’s expression sags when Noah explains what’s going on, and she slips a hand from around Sophie’s shoulder with a gentle tap on her shoulder, then walks to rejoin Noah by Kara and Finn. “We think a woman named Lanhua Chen is responsible. She’s the same person who attacked Liberty Island recently and… blamed it on a woman named Francesca Lang. They’re—” Hull grimaces, “twins.” Simpler, easier to digest.

Noah blinks a look over to Hull, a little judging, then looks back to Kara and Finn. “I was hoping Cyrus might be able to connect me with whoever he’s been working with out here. Whatever people help solve those kinds of problems these days.” He isn’t talking about the government, either. He wouldn’t have come to Providence if he wanted government help.

Having forgotten about the game of pool, Elisa moves around the table to come up beside Chris. “Who is old man Kara is talking to?” She wonders, giving Chris a quick side-eye before turning her attention back to the conversation she’s eavesdropping on.

Finn raises a brow when Clover claims the drink, but he doesn’t protest. Anyone old enough to travel from the west coast to Providence can take care of themselves in his book. He finishes off the liquid in his own glass, listening to Bennet and Clover explain why they’re here.

“Well, shit.” That about sums up the situation. It’s clear he doesn’t have the answers Noah is seeking, but he’s empathetic enough to feel the despair and desperation coming from the father.

He turns his green eyes on Kara, raising a brow. “You hear anything about Cyrus being in these parts?” he asks, before glancing back at Noah. “I can put some feelers out, both here and in the city.”

“That's Noneya,” Chris answers without looking at Elisa. “The other’s Biznis. They're from out of state.” That's all the explanation he's going to give, because fuck her for being a spy. Still not looking at the woman, he gives her face a push toward the door. Time for the yokels to clear out.

“Bar’s closed, go home.” That's directed at the few others lingering about. As well as Elisa. “Come back tomorrow. Don't complain or I'll throw you out.” He will too, don't fucking test him.

Kara might get Rene's respect, but he can still be a little shit sometimes. He just tuts and shrugs his shoulders at her, giving Sophie and Clover a grin while G.I. Mom isn't looking.

Dumortier's experience with the man in the glasses is rather limited, kin to Kara's familiarity if not less. He knows that the old man has a reputation, though, and the general idea of what that is. If someone gets on the bad side of someone like that, Rene knows how it goes down. Bennet's not looking so hot these days, is he? Retirement does that.

Cyrus, however, he knows. "The fuck's he supposed to be out here for…?" Rene murmurs, more to himself. He tips his head to watch some of the locals filter out, by and large listening to the shooing. One hand still holding onto the remnants of his drink, both eyes narrow up at Chris. "Nngh. When was this our problem, exactly?" Is anyone asking this question other than him? Probably not.

"I might know someone worth asking. Staten's nice this time of year." Dumortier tacks on as Finn finishes speaking. "But we'd probably need some spare change to get somewhere."

Something about Sophie's face is different. Sure, it's a smile. It's just… kinda… stuck. At least so long as Hull's arm remains looped around her shoulders. As they melt back into the conversation, with Clover's arm slipping away in favor of beer, she shoves the beer that had been meant for Noah at Rene instead. Somehow little golden boy always wins out, huh?

Sophie perks up like a little meerkat. "Well, if you were looking for Cyrus to set you up with some connections, you've cut out the middle man." She rocks forward in her scuffed black combat boots, jutting a thumb out and giving it a hang-ten waggle in the general vicinity of those around. "Whatever people help solve those kinds of problems these days? Looks a little different than the ol' days, I suppose." That's right, she's volunteering this gaggle of fuckers… less the poor townie Chris is face-shoving out the side door. Sophie grins proudly and looks to Hull, belatedly giving her a pat on the shoulder. Sure, any one of them could bow out, but who wants to be stuck behind drinking alone? With Elisa?

It wasn't like Kara's mood had that far it could fall, but it bottoms out on hearing what brings Noah East. Tension leaves her expression entirely as she shifts her weight to better face him. A dark look slowly comes over her after, one that deepens when Clover invokes the name Lanhua Chen.

Oh, of all the people she'd not regret shooting.

"Haven't heard anything about Cyrus," she replies to Finn's query, first, then juts her chin in Noah's direction. "How long ago was this? Chen has a teleporter friend, so she could be just about anywhere."

That thought lasts for only a moment, her brow lifting, look turning rueful. "But with the business out in California— maybe she was kidnapped as collateral. A threat to back off." She shifts a look briefly at Clover in particular. For her, with Chen's involvement, it seems easy enough to draw the lines. "What are they doing out that way, anyway? What're you doing poking the bear's nest?"

Hull levels a knowing look at Noah who patently ignores her concern. Something about Sophie and Kara’s presence here — familiar faces — has him acting with more confidence than he has any right to. “I was minding my own business,” Noah says flatly, “retired with a capital R. Claire too. We stayed out of the Guardians way, so I don't know what they're doing.” Noah looks over his shoulder to Hull, who hides her face partly behind her beer.

“First off,” Hull says raising one hand in feigned surrender, “I'm support, not administration with the Guardians. April keeps that close to her chest. All I know is they suspected Praxis was up to something thanks to the data I hauled off their servers and have been building up to something big. Cyrus got all tinfoil hat and we came out east for a bit over the summer, rescued an old Company asset from Mazdak. But that shouldn't have pissed in Praxis’ Cheerios.”

Noah eyes Hull for a moment, then pushes his glasses up and punches the bridge of his nose with one hand. “Almost a week ago,” Noah explains.

“Which is to say we hauled ass out here,” Hull clarifies before taking a sip of her beer with both brows raised. “Twelve hours of driving a day,” she mumbles into the glass. Noah only briefly looks at her, then blinks a look past Kara to the unfamiliar blonde — Dumortier.

“Staten Island,” Noah echoes. “Who’s your source out there?”

On the periphery of the conversation, Chris has been shooing the patrons out with reasonable success save for one bent nail in the form of Elisa. “You know I am not snitch,” she says, walking backwards toward the door with a beer in one hand and the other pointed at Chris’ chest. “I hear things, helpful things, maybe can help old man and girl too?” She kicks up a brow and delays her departure as much as she can. “I think you're just afraid to finish game,” she adds in a hushed taunt.

Those who've known Chris for a while would know that he's not having any such nonsense from Elisa. Her passes have been thoroughly ignored as he's ushered every other fucking patron out of the bar. This bitch is just being too damn stubborn to know when to fuck off. He sighs in such long suffering notes. He's worked with mules who are less stubborn than this girl. Fuck.

When she taunts him again he turns the whole of his focus to her. Really? Really? You suck at pool, lady, and you're the ugliest fucking drunk. They only reason you’re allowed in the settlement at all is because it's frowned upon to chase free people off with a felling axe. If he'd had his way…

Shoving internal dialog aside, Chris leans in real close. He's still backing her up toward the door, but he's pressing himself in intimately close. “I know you want to help,” he murmurs, face barely inches from Elisa’s. “I want your help so very much.” He pauses, head tilting toward the woman’s by a fraction, breath grazing against her ear. “I want you to go hear things, all the helpful things. That's why you need to fucking leave.” That last sentence isn't so seductively spoken. It's not yelled exactly, either. It's also followed with an underscoring nudge through the door which is punctuatively closed.

“Some people’s kids, I swear. Fuck.”

Finn listens, then lifts his hand to about mid chest to indicate a person a foot and some change shorter than him. “Claire’s the little tough girl, right?” He only knows the Bennets from a few brief interactions; Cyrus by name and reputation.

He looks to Rene, adding his own nod for Staten to the other’s offer. “I know some people around the Crucible,” he adds, with a quick wink thrown over to Kara for the charming memory that’ll dredge up. “But I wouldn’t bet on them knowing too much about Praxis or Chen over there.”

Hull draws the Shepherd’s gaze next and he nods slowly, thoughtfully. “I remember hearing about that on the news. So there’s two of them? That’s terrifying.”

Lifting his glass to Noah, not so much as to toast him but because he’s still holding it and using the same hand to gesture, Finn adds, “What d’you think the motive is? She got a power that’s useful to them? Information? Can’t think it’s just to piss you off. I mean, I wouldn’t want to meet you in a dark alley, but that’s a long way to go just to rile someone up.”

Chris and his badger impression has to take a backseat, even if Dumortier always finds it amusing. Instead he has to face down the shine of horn-rimmed glasses. Boots find the floor and for now his little hoard of glasses is forgotten, but of course the emboldened haze remains. He isn't sure if he'll get to enjoy the rest now, anyway.

"Maybe not the fighters, Finny. But the bankrollers? Tch." Whatever Rene's second thought may have been, it is masked by a shrug of shoulder and a soured up leer from Finn back to Noah. "Triad has a setup on Staten. Since we're talking Chinese. Met some of them through the course of things. D'Sarthe's out there too, but…"

A drunken twitch moves over his face and the tensing of shoulders. He'd rather not.

"I have street contacts, though. For hire types. Runners. It's easy to make friends if you know how… and I'm pretty charming." With a flash of a grin, Dumortier finally decides to reach out and finish the remnants of one of his leftover glasses. May as well.

For her part, Sophie remains a quiet observer now - dark gaze slipping side-to-side over the bridge of her beer glass as she watches the conversation bounce this way and that. Inquiry. Offer. Obscurity. Inquiry. Snark. Offer. Her attention slips to the hushed exchange between Chris and Elisa, the effect of which is an uncomfortable little shiver before she hurries her focus back to the remaining group.

Kara takes the information in adopting a pensive silence, glancing to Finn for a long moment while she considers his question. It's a good one. She takes another drink from the beer to aid the thought process. "That's Praxis's MO. Take whatever they want as it suits their needs, especially if it hurts Yamagato, especially if it makes them stronger." She shifts a look back to Noah. "They came knocking here about six months back, interested in stripping Evo-hunting robots that have come to the area, and taking by force other things they didn't own."

She lifts her brow, echoing Finn's inquiry: "What would be so special about her they'd hunt her down?" To say she's less interested in tracking down Karr is an understatement. There's only so many missing persons Kara can care about at a time.

Robots?” Hull is quick to ask, eyes wide as she whips around to look squarely at Kara. In spite of her interest, Noah isn’t the least bit intrigued by that topic and steamrolls past her in the conversation.

“I don’t know why they want Claire,” Noah says with a momentary quaver to his voice. “It might be as simple as revenge. Chen wasn’t alone, though, there was another woman with her. I didn’t recognize her, though, and she didn’t give a name. Asian, mid to late thirties maybe? Blue eyes.” Exhaling a sharp breath through his nose, Noah looks down to the floor and then over to Hull, who has retreated behind the brim of her drink, absently watching Chris finish shoving Elisa out the door.

Noah returns his focus over to Dumortier. “I know the name d’Sarthe, the Ferrymen had… loose affiliations with him — smuggling lanes — after Linderman’s group collapsed. I’ve been out of the game a long time, though, I don’t know who to trust out here and who not to.” But that’s when he settles his attention on Sophie again. “Except for some folks.”

“Claire had friends out here,” Hull explains, “maybe not in Providence, but in the city. Wolfhound, the rich guy with the robots.”

“Richard Ray,” Noah clarifies with a look to Hull, “and I’m not sure I trust him entirely. Claire did, but…” Making a sound in the back of his throat, Noah looks over to Kara. “Clover and I could use a place to stay that isn’t sleeping in a truck, is there anywhere safe around here we could sink our heels in? I need to put some feelers out, find out who knows what, and I suppose…” he looks over to Finn, then Dumortier, and back to Sophie and Kara, “call in some favors.”

Hull finishes her beer, setting the empty glass down on the unoccupied pool table now that Elisa has been ejected from the building. “I’m gonna need some internet access too,” she says with a little gasp after her swallow, “satellite, landline, whatever. Wherever the closest connection is, and I can start making logistical queries outside of our local area.”

Noah smiles, fondly. “Technopath,” he says as if Hull doesn’t mind being outed. She flicks a dagger-eyed look up to Noah who just deflects it with a smile. “I can’t seem to get away from them.”

Finn’s resting friendly face hardens into something a lot less so at the mention of Richard Ray. He’s squarely on the side of not trusting him. Or technopaths, given the sidelong wide-eyed glance he gives Hull, along with a slight canting of his body in the opposite direction.

But then he grins and ruins the effect.

“I’ve got a connection with Wolfound if you need it,” he says, finding a spot on the knee of his jeans — rusty hued, it could be a bit of blood or paint — to scratch at. Maybe to avoid dirty looks from Kara. “Not sure if she knew your Claire or not. Just say the word.” It’s not something Finn will do without the okay, given Noah came to them and not Wolfhound first.

“We got some sat connections. I can hook you up,” Finn adds to Hull, before glancing to Kara. “Factory’s got room?” He’s chosen a little cabin a bit farther out for himself so he’s not on the up-and-up on the vacancy rate in the building.

“By connection he means…” Chris makes a crude gesture with his hands as he rejoins Kara and the others. Clearly he's implying sexual relations. “It's like listening to screamer monkeys and a Klingon mating ritual.” Further detail is left up to their own imaginations, his job at explaining is done.

As for the other requests, he folds his arms over his chest when the factory is offered. Normally he'd let Kara make the final decision, but tonight isn't normal.

“Factory’s got tents and the bonfires are warm.” At least that much hospitality is offered. “I wouldn't put it past Kara to have some kind of internet connection hidden up her sleeve. Probably got some ham radios laying around too, if the sat phones are fucked when you try them.”

"Beggars can't be choosers." is Dumortier's only response to not knowing who to trust. Noah doesn't have a lot of options here, and both of them know it. He passes a less hedgy look between the unfamiliar technopath girl and Bennet, a contrast to Finn's own trepidation.

"Town has a landline, but you can imagine how well that works. Cell reception isn't nil, but, you know, rural." A moment is spent biting the inside of cheek, blue eyes on Hull. "And yeah. Robots. A pain in the ass. But- - we do have some towers we put up for something to do with them a while back." Rene remains vague on the matter, "If that might help with the sat reception. Don't know what kind of nerd you are."

Technopaths are all different, alright?

"If the factory can't take them, I'm sure someone in town would have some good old country hospitality." Dumortier flashes a small smile, yet he's telling the truth.

Today's not normal, but nothing's been normal since Kara returned after disappearing for four months. Her word only carries as much weight as people still trust her or care to respect her. Some do, some don't. And things around here… they've changed, for all that they've stayed the same.

Such as Kara's immediate, hard glance in Finn's direction which he's familiar enough with to know to avoid. She doesn't press it for long, though, or pass comments about his connection to Wolfhound. About time it's turned into something useful, though— a thought she drinks rather than says.

"No secret, special internet connection up my sleeve, sorry to disappoint," she voices. "I can barely remember where the sat phone was left, most days." Her interest in staying connected is low, most days, after all. "We're mostly on generator power out here, though you know how that is. You'll find ways to make it work. Without touching the towers, if you don’t mind. They’re broadcasting the only thing keeping the ‘bots away from Providence.”

Her gaze shifts back to Finn for a moment, his offer to loan their resources giving her pause. In the shifting power structure, it was a bold declaration to make without consulting anyone back at the Factory first— assuming he made the offer entirely alone. But he has Chris's support, it'd seem.

… And Kara's. Maybe that'd be enough to keep the boat from rocking visibly, at least while they had their guests in town.

"The Factory has room to host you as long as you need it," she agrees. "Though with any hope we're a short stop for you. You've got places to be, people to save." Kara has to bite her tongue from offering more, at least in the immediate. She'd need to consult Yi-Min before making promises to join Noah. "In the meantime, I have a—" Her look flattens, preemptively anticipating a foul follow-up from Chris. Her tone grows more terse as a result. "connection to someone with Praxis. I'll see if they're aware of any blue-eyed women who fit your description."

“I could use some of that country hospitality, and you can find out exactly what kind of nerd I am” Hull says with a crooked smile as she sidles up to Dumortier, “if you’re offeri— ” and then is pulled backwards at the collar of her jacket by Noah. Hull puffs out her cheeks and slants a side-long look at Bennet, then exhales a huff of breath. “Sat connections work fine, even if you don’t have access I can patch myself through and nobody’ll be any the wiser… I mean I was able to break into Praxis without— ” Clearing his throat, Noah stares down at Hull, who grows quiet.

Noah turns his attention to Kara. “This’d all be wonderful, and I’ll find a way to pay you back for any inconvenience.” Noah says thankfully. “We’ll try not to draw any heat to you that you don’t already have, and then we’ll be out of your hair. But anyone who has an axe to grind with Lanhua or whoever she’s working for?” Noah adjusts his horn-rimmed glasses. “You’re welcome to come along.”

Hull crosses her arms over her chest and looks at Sophie, nodding once and making you and I need to talk eyes at her. Not even in a joking context, but for Hull a serious expression. “In the meantime,” she says with a look up at Noah, “why don’t we all take a single moment to relax, and then we’ll go kick in some proverbial doors.”

Noah levels a look down to Hull, breathing in deeply before exhaling a sigh. He knows she’s right. When he was younger there would be no sleep, no rest, nothing until Claire was safe. But he’s older now, tired, and he has no leads on where Lanhua has gone or where Claire is. He knows he can’t keep this pace up at his age. That’s something Claire helped him learn.

“I’ll have one drink.”

Everyone can change.


A winding path of dirt snakes its way through tall pine trees with sagging boughs. A low fog has gathered in the wood and concealed the direction by which Elisa left the bar on foot. Winding between tall, old trees with stickbare branches growing up between the pines she reaches inside of her jacket and retrieves a thick, blocky phone with chips and nicks in the hard plastic case. The branding SAT-COMM on the side is faded and worn and the old satellite phone looks at least a decade out of service.

Dialing a direct number, Elisa brings the phone to her ear and looks back in the direction she’d headed down the path. Her brows crease together as a voice comes over the other end of the line, and her eyes narrow. “Noah Bennet has arrived in Providence,” she says in a hushed voice, scanning her attention through the trees. “Orders?”

The voice on the other end is calm and patient, a woman who is at once familiar with the Bennet name and his capabilities. Elisa nods once, then looks back in the direction of the bar.

“As you wish, Freya.”

She has work to do.

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