Serving In A Series Of Somewheres



Scene Title Serving In A Series Of Somewheres
Synopsis Only months remain, instead of years, in Zachery's sentence. But they aren't without their challenges.
Date May 18, 2018

6 AM

… Somewhere

Waking up feels much like it always has.

Noises not at home in dreams filter in too sharp and foreign.

A background din of activity — in this case, people.

The moment Zachery opens his eyes is the moment things cease to feel right. He sits up to look out blearily out into a room of neutral colours, a sea of bunkbeds with their occupants slowly stirring in the bright, pale fluorescent light. Those who need to be in the kitchen for breakfast duty start to make their ways out, wandering by a singular guard keeping watch from his position near the only exit.

Zachery does not yet need to be up. He sits, expression unchanging, watching more and more of the room wake up as the minutes tick by. His attention drifts over to different people as they rise, one after the other, familiar faces and strangers both. When one looks back at him long enough, he reaches back and - careful not to dislodge the books wedged between his pillow and the metal bar curved along the back of it - he snatches up his shirt hanging off the side of his flimsy mattress. Time to go.


Another institution, another dining hall.

Zachery's early arrival after working in the mail room permits him plenty of choice for where to sit, and he moves wordlessly past a few others in stark white t-shirts just like his own, talking amongst themselves, to the spot he's taken to sit for the past week. It hasn't gotten him in trouble yet.

His tray is set down in front of him, lunch — adequate, as it is. The sparse sandwich in the middle of it is treated to a stare that might be better suited to a particularly baffling crossword puzzle. Zachery's just given up on trying to solve the problem of appetite - leaning back in his weak-backed chair and letting his head loll to aim his stare at the ceiling - when a nearby voice has him angle his head to the side, instead.

"This seat taken?" is a sound by his side for only a moment. Then what remains of it, and the person it belongs to, meanders around the side of the table. Without waiting for a reply, a freckled man invites himself to sit down on one of the empty plastic-seated chairs opposite Zachery, his own tray placed down quietly but without undue concern shown for its contents. It's hardly enough to be called a meal, after all.

Zachery's lunch partner sits with hunched posture fit for fitting in, shoulders slouched, head tilted slightly forward… his eyes are the only part of him that's alive, and it's with vigor they comb over Zachery's being. He sniffs to clear perfectly clear airways, face scrunching with the action. It’s an expression that might pass for friendly, if it stayed around long enough.

Zachery's gaze lands ahead of him with almost no change to his face, his eyes finding and then remaining keenly trained on the new arrival. He sits forward, slowly, hesitating just for a moment before sliding both arms onto the table and curling one elbow around the side of his tray. A habit that predates this place, but not by much.

His own expression does not pass for friendly by any stretch of the imagination, but neither is it the opposite. He's calm, but — searching. "No." He finally says, before nodding toward the far end of the table without breaking eye contact and adding with an upward trending tone of inquiry, "But neither were those." So…

Now the other man’s expression changes with a quiet huff of amusement, a flash of a grin present for just a moment. He seems to take the comment as a sign of humor, maybe even good humor, and becomes more at ease. His sad excuse for a sandwich is taken in hand with all the indications of someone who means to eat, and yet he doesn’t. “Can’t say I’ve seen you before,” he remarks quietly, gaze gliding past Zachery to observe other tables in the cafeteria as more bodies pile in for lunch. “You not been here long?”

Zachery’s not been anywhere very long for a seemingly indeterminate period of time now. Depending on when his testimony was needed, he’d be moved closer to Albany, and then when it wasn’t— away again. The goal of keeping him separate from the persons he’d be testifying against lead to him being temporarily housed in places like… here.

Wherever the hell ‘here’ happened to be.

“Name’s Harry,” his table partner asides without looking back at Zachery. “You?” Now his gaze flits back, elbow on the table, food yet untouched.


Only once the attention is off of him does Zachery look away, as well. "I was—" He starts with full confidence, even if it seems to leave him after just those two words, with a wrinkling of his nose and a squaring of his shoulders.

Let's try that again. Pulling his tray closer, he answers, "I was processed last— Friday? Transferred. Something about — dates, convenience." A quick but all too rough scrub past his brow and over his eyes signifies a little more than frustration. The first few times had been fine. But he's tired. And every move, his face shows it more. "Why would they give us the details, right?"

Right, the name. Just for a moment his right shoulder lifts like he's about to extend his arm, but he picks up the cup from his tray instead, to sniff the tepid liquid someone may once have believed to be coffee. He lifts it to take a sip, but not before casually offering, "It's Miller, by the way."

Again, his eyes dart up, back to that face, over the rim of his cup.

Harry's freckled face breaks into another reserved grin at Zachery's quip, a muted hmph of amusement barely audible between them both. His tousled hair runs lengthy on top, shifting as he goes back to looking at the others in the room, those lively eyes of his sharp in their needling of others' features.

But then he catches someone looking back at them and resumes looking cowed as soon as possible, eyes falling to the tray before him instead.

"Miller, huh," he says down into his food. "Yeah… I hear you about being shoved around. Ever since they started up that business in Albany, they've been shifting people left and right. Usually they keep good enough track of them, but…"

Harry glances up from his food. "Some people, they just get lost in the shuffle."

"That, Harry, sounds an awful lot like a threat." Zachery's reply comes too quickly, too crisply, too clean for the way he's taken to leaning over his lunch as if it'll get away from him otherwise, and for how stiffly his coffee comes back down. His fingertips settle idly against the edge of his tray.

As if a joke occurs to him, then, he laughs - brief, and with more anxiety than the rest of him has shown so far. "Or," He eyes Harry, amusement still present on his face even if genuine doubt slants his eyebrows, "do I seem lost to you already?"

He might be on yet unfamiliar ground, visibly strung out from poor sleep and stress, but if the last two years among tax evaders and crooked bookies have taught him anything, it's that it pays to keep calm and to keep talking. He can only hope it'll help with Harry, here.

A low hum comes from Harry in reply at first, accompanied by a thoughtful rotation of sandwich before him. There's a measured care to the pause before he speaks again, one that was previously missing. "Not a threat," he confirms first, and easily. The rest takes a bit of thought. "Consider it a warning, though." It's only now he takes a healthy bite of the sandwich, looking up to Zachery while he chews, taking his time.

He gestures loosely with what's left of his food when he speaks again. "Because you do— look lost, that is." Harry reaches across himself to pick up a cracked, clear plastic glass to take a drink of whatever kind of overly processed juice comes from the machine at the end of the cafeteria line. He says into his cup before he drinks, "A little lost, a little…" something only his brows are left to articulate.

Zachery sits back in an attempt to relax in his seat. He drinks the rest of his coffee and pulls his arm away from the tray as if he's promptly decided he might be done with the whole thing once his cup hits the plastic.

The unfinished sentence knits his brow, curiosity narrowing his eyes as his hands fall into his lap. "A little what? A little like someone who needs a warning in order to know he stands out?" He smirks, humourlessly.

"Something like that," Harry replies just as humorlessly, eyes in his drink until he sets it back down. Then he pays mind to his food. "Though, who knows if the warning will do you any good. If you've already been noticed…"

He seems thoughtful for a moment before he leans back into his chair. His voice is quieter, something in his demeanor shifted. He worries less about looking a certain way now. "They tell you why they keep moving you around?" Harry looks at Zachery out of the top of his eyes, gesturing vaguely with his sandwich. "With specifics," he clarifies. "Not just overtures regarding convenience."

There is something more controlled about Zachery, now - a pause in his breathing, face frozen as his gaze drops back to his abandoned food. Maybe he'll get to it yet.

Right now. Right now he's just got to stay quiet. Deflect. Say something boring, stay guarded. People have secrets in here, it's normal to be vague! A few more months of not saying anything out of the ordinary, then freedom.

"I just keep stabbing people," Zachery hears himself joke, quietly, one eyelid twitching upward in more of a swallowed-back grimace than anything else before continuing with a shrug: "But, you know — white, male, America's favouri—"

That sentence WOULD have an end except for the fact that he then quickly leans forward and shoves half his sandwich into his mouth.

Harry doesn’t look as surprised as he ought to by such a surprising statement, or such a surprising cutoff. It doesn’t stop him from grinning where Zachery grimaces, waiting patiently for the man opposite him to be less of a self-imposed choking hazard. In the meantime, he finishes the remainder of his own sandwich. Then he leans forward, forearms on knees.

“I’d work on your ability to tell a lie, Miller.” The suggestion is punctuated by him standing, leaving behind the lunch tray and the half-finished plastic glass. Harry offers another small smile before heading back where he came from — into Zachery’s blind spot. The steps he takes are soft and light, unburdened with the state of his reality, or by anything Stabbery Miller has shared with him.

He doesn’t come back for his tray.

Zachery laughs again, anxiety slipping away to make room for self-aware recognition of the fact that Harry is, in fact, right. He lifts a hand to scrub it over his face, dragging it down over brow and cheekbones before staring somewhat blankly ahead of him through his fingers.

"With a little preparation, I'm fine," he concludes when his hand drops back down again. Frustrations rings clearly in his words even if genuine confidence joins it when he says, "I'm brilliant. You should see it in court. It's quite fun, actually. Or maybe— not. Anyway, thanks for the new record, Harry, that's the quickest my reputation's gone down the drain yet."

He turns to aim too clean of a smile at where he last saw Harry go, to make sure the fucker's gone. Talking to himself would be preferable, at this point.

Maybe there really are mercies occasionally granted by a universe otherwise uncaring, because Harry is nowhere in sight.

The cafeteria continues its business, the tables half-filled, guards chatting idly near the room’s center, where they could have eyes on both entrances if they weren’t otherwise engaged. They’re talking about some show showing its season premiere in a few weeks. It’s that one about the Civil War that was just fought. It’s the loudest conversation in the room for sure, and the most animated. There’s a lot of meat to that subject, anyway.

The remaining conversations are quiet, business as usual in this place that doesn’t broker much room for friendships and friendly discussion. When Zachery turns back, on his left he can see someone else was looking his way. The blonde man seated at a table of three seems interested in whatever Zachery’s doing, especially given he’s talking to himself, but doesn’t let his stare linger and goes back to his meal.

Because talking to himself is definitely Zachery’s problem, not his.

Zachery's smile slips away just as easily as it came - his eyes still too alert for it to have been truly convincing anyway.

He's had better introductions, but worse ones too. Maybe it's fine.

"A matter of months now, not years," he quietly tells his tray when he turns back around again, staring hard into the second half of the sandwich he does not actually want to eat. The chatter around him continues without his contribution, and he'll be glad to blend back into the invisibility that unremarkableness permits him. Has always permitted him. He just needs to sit and be quiet a little while longer.

Months, not years.

6 AM

Somewhere else

Waking up feels much like it always has.

Except… there are fewer people around, this time.

This morning, Zachery Miller does not wake in a bunk. He wakes in a cell - almost too close to a bedroom to be called that, really. With a small desk, an almost decent bed, a chair, and a small desk. There's even a personal locker he could use for personal effects. As it stands, it stands empty.

By the time the morning alarm rings out in the hall and the door set in the thick wire fence wall clicks open, he's not lying down but sitting on his bed, with his back against a cold, white wall, dressed in this prison's drab browns.

Since the last prison, he's been in two busses, three cars, spoke in one court case, and said nothing apart from what he was required to.

He was processed in here four days ago, and has said very little since. They didn't assign him a job, either, and that's probably telling. It's a shame, too, because not all minimum security prisons are created equal, and this one is the closest to a hotel he's seen yet. Despite the presence of the metal sink and toilet in the corner.

When the door's lock clicks open, he lifts his head until it hits the wall and stares toward the exit to the hall.

The murmur of distant talking turns into conversations of people walking past, casting shadows into the cell as they make their way to get their first meal of the day.

Still seated, Zachery inhales deeply, then sighs the air out from between gritted teeth and pushes himself away from the wall and to his feet to grab around for his shoes on the floor.

"Another place, another chance."

The footsteps all seem to finish trailing past, the hall quieting. Even the telltale click of a guard's boot echoes as they turn away and leave without waiting for Zachery.

Forgotten for a job, and now, forgotten for breakfast, seemingly.

A single set of footsteps abruptly, softly pad the polished, chilled concrete from a cell further down from Zachery's. They leave the cell, heading at first away… then back in Zachery's direction while he works his shoes on. The other stray walks with a determined pace for the end of the hall, casting a shadow before presenting the person it belongs to.

Another prisoner stops in front of his cell, turning to get a better look at him. "Well, well," says a vaguely familiar voice, belonging to a clean-cut man with a well-trimmed fade. It's the bright grin on his freckled face that gives Harry away despite his slightly changed appearance, despite his different prison garb. He leans against his forearm, arm braced at shoulder level against the bars of the open cell door. "Look who it is."

The lack of other signals, so to speak, make it easier to get a better-than-skin-deep read on him this time. Harry is a man who's been in a few fights and gone through various strains, not that his well-maintained skin has aught to show for it. The curve of his flawless nose hides once-broken bone, and the arm he carelessly leans against secrets within it a mended Colles fracture. The oblique angle of it stands out as relatively recent, something that should have required pins and extended treatment, and certainly shouldn't be comfortable to lean against… and yet here he is, bone knit back together, without any signs of metal in him, and without a scar surgery would have bequeathed him.

A quick glance down the hall proves them to still be alone before Harry looks back to Zachery, neither entering his cell nor exactly allowing him to leave it. "Imagine seeing you here."

There isn't an immediate response from Zachery. There's acknowledgement of the movements near his cell in the way his eyes dart toward the exit, but he finishes slipping his assigned shoes on and pulling the slightly-too-big shirt away from his front before he even rises to his feet and has a proper look at what's blocking his light. Only then he does he realise who's come to visit just as he's addressed, and stares back, dumbfounded, in turn.

So much for that chance.

His response is not immediate, with so much to process in so little time. He stands - slackjawed until a lopsided grin pushes its way onto his face through the discomfort. It's not a pleasant thing, but there is something funny about all of this. Even if he's gone awfully tense with his shoulders squaring.

Last time they met, he seemed to want to make himself smaller. This time, it's with his arms going wide that he starts to saunter forward and asks, "Missed me?"

Alone, out of the eyesight of others, Harry doesn't restrain his own grin in return. It widens to one side with a flash of canine. "Oh, who doesn't love seeing a familiar face," he teases, laying on his well-meaningness with it just a bit too thickly to be sincere. His head tilts as he takes in the way Zachery's composed himself, sizing him up with barely a flick of his glance.

No, he almost aggressively holds eye contact, a little too strongly, a little too long.

"You?" Harry asks lightly, a healthy pause elapsing enough that it could be considered an echo of Zachery's own question back at him. But then he tags on: "Seen any other familiar faces lately?"

"None that I would mourn the loss of," Zachery replies easily, finding the distance in the cell between him and Harry all too quickly grown too small. He stops an arm's length away, his own gaze steady, eye contact returned with stubborn determination.

His voice dips a little lower, then, chin lifting as the amusement leaves his eyes. It's still on his words, albeit forced, when he continues with, "This blocking thing is cute, but I'm sort of peckish, so if you'd like to ask me on a breakfast date can you hurry it along?"

A faint laugh comes from Harry, one that doesn't carry as he leans a little harder into his arm. He shakes his head at Zachery's initial reply, looking sidelong down the hall one more time. "I don't mean to keep you," he insists, and lets his arm slide away, taking a step back to prove his point. But neither does he move to follow.

"T'be honest, I guess I shouldn't be surprised by that kind of response. Almost might be concerning if there were someone getting actually friendly with you." Harry cuts a look back at Zachery again, laconic in act even if he isn't in word. There's a pride in him that seems impossible to how he was before— like there's no way he could stop from being this, even temporarily. One brow arches. "We're not in one place long, people like you and me. Hard to get ties. Hard to want to."

Zachery's expression drops, sincerity worming its way back into his mannerisms as the words 'you and me' are spoken.

There's brief surprise, then consideration, then a tired, single shake of his head as he starts to move past the new opening created, choosing simply to reply, "All right."

His head dips back down, and after barely a heartbeat he adds, "So, what did you get transferred for, then? Maybe I can help."

It's that offer for help that finally throws Harry's smooth, sharp demeanor. His grin falters as he stays in place, canines covered over by lip. A healthy beat passes before he lets out a quiet 'heh' that might pass for a laugh. Whatever he expected from Zachery… it certainly wasn't to be looked out for.

"Don't you…" he says, another smileless huff of a laugh coming from him. One hand moves at his side to find a non-existent pocket on the drab sweats he's wearing, only a small tick of a drawback of his hand to his hip showing that had been his intention at all before he settles for resting his palm there. His surprise fades into something more knowing, more pointed— more like himself. "Have enough to worry about right now?"

"Probably." Zachery, upon exiting his cell, does not seem terribly interested in waiting around and starts to move away immediately toward the noise of gathering bodies. Calmly, footfalls unworried - unlike the way his eyes dart around his environs, fingers of one hand pressing idly into a palm as he walks as if by ways of grounding himself. Keeping up an act takes focus. "And…"

By the time he looks over his shoulder to see if Harry's following, he manages a grin that's at least halfway sincere. "If you really think we're anything alike, definitely. But I like to keep busy."

The way Zachery's dancing gaze gives away his nerves is missed entirely by Harry as he stays where he is, but this time, he's at least not vanished without a trace. When Zachery casts a look over his shoulder, Harry puts on a slim smile. He doesn't seem to have an intention of following, until he does. His posture sinks, the process of easing into that defeated-looking slouch he wore when they first met a work in progress. Even so, he lifts his chin, gesturing to Zachery with it. "How long have you been at this, now?" he asks. "How long do you have left?"

As he walks, keeping a brisk pace, Zachery lifts a hand to rub it over his jawline. His voice is tired right along with the rest of him. "Nearly two years. Only a wink, compared to… you know." Most, here. "With a handful of months left, if I behave."

He doesn't sound particularly glad about this, distracted by some other prisoners who are lingering in front of the doorway to their destination up ahead and aiming. "Part of that is getting along, right." The words leave him flatly, a little absentminded, followed shortly by, "Not showing up in someone's cell looking to cause trouble."

His eyebrows tick up, ever so slightly, even if his gaze stays where it is.

Harry's attention remains forward on those others, too, shoulders hunched. His hands want for pockets, but there aren't any on him. To mind his expression, he looks inconvenienced rather than uncomfortable by this, but the eyes at the end of the hall looking down at them as they approach are more focused on the entire being of both Harry and Zachery.

A brief lapse happens in both conversations, and then all three heads are looking at once as the two of them pass.

It's only once they're on the other side of the door that Harry lifts his voice again, albeit quietly. "Yeah," he responds belatedly, eyes lifting to mind the ceiling, mind the cameras in the common area they've entered into. "That's a good start." The corners of his eyes pull back in the beginning of a narrow before the tension eases.

While Harry's attention is on cameras, Zachery's is elsewhere. He continues walking, head angling as he makes his way past a number of occupied tables. Past the long line of men waiting to collect their food from the stainless steel counter that stretches half of a wall, past their banter and conversations that seem all the louder for being in a room of only hard surfaces and impatience.

Zachery gives the area a quick scan before finding the end of the queue on the far end of the room. Someone causing a ruckus over oatmeal near the slid open shutter to the kitchen is causing a hold up, but that's not what he's paying attention to as he starts to make his way to where he's expected to go.

Being locked up has been good for few things. Not none, but few. Among them, has been constant fodder for practice when it comes to using his ability more often. It's the reason he knows Harry is still following behind, even if he can't tell exactly how far.

It's the telltale signature of adrenaline, coursing through the other man like a marker with every heartbeat sending more. Zachery's expression relaxes into something a little more content with the new information to focus on as it blips into his brain like a fun new background ditty he can feel.

"So." He starts again, stubbornly, "What did they transfer you for?"

"I just couldn't quit stabbing people." Harry replies in a smooth canter and with the briefest flash of canine. His eyes are flitting across the room in quiet observation, ignoring those ahead of them, including the one hoisting complaint about the plainness of the oatmeal. "But— lucky for me— white, male… America's favorite blind spot."

"I just keep slipping through the cracks." he continues, absent-minded as he is thoughtful. Harry draws in a breath and sighs it away as he looks down at his shirt, pinching it away from him between his thumb and index with the beginnings of a scowl. Terrible fashion, this was. "Prison isn't a good color on me. I'll be glad when this is all over."

It isn't until he's shoved forward by someone behind him that Zachery realises that he's supposed to be moving forward in line — too surprised by his own words being used against him that he just stood there like an idiot, staring at Harry.

He steps forward, offering a glimpse of surprise and delight both neatly contained in the chuckle that still manages to escape him before he scrubs of a hand over his face and clears his throat. Pfhokay.

"Do you have a plan?" The question is blurted out as if to distract from his own amusement and get this conversation back on track. "For when you get out. Employment and residence, help with negotiating the conditions of your parole — you'd be surprised how often minor or technical violations can land parolees right back in, whoop, here." He pauses to reach out and grab an empty tray from over the counter, flips it up upright and gestures with it to Harry. "… Set up counseling - should you need it - do you need it?"

Harry is calm, nonplussed, even if he's disapproving of the state of prisonwear. He picks up his tray, a fork, spoon, and knife clattering quietly onto the plastic as he pushes it down the line. He's looking finally at what options there are before him, head downcast, eyes on the cantaloupe — really, who enjoys that stuff? — that's being offered with a few bulbs of grapes to offset how awful it is.

Then Zachery's shoved.

Harry's pupils pinpoint, hand turning into a fist which grasps the fork on his tray. He freezes in place, not moving past that intent of a strike, still hunched over the sneezeguard that hovers over the chilled-but-warming fruit. When it's clear the incident behind him is just a shove and nothing more, Harry flits another look out of the corner of his eye toward the camera in the corner of the room without lifting his head.

He lets go of the fork, reaching for that side dish of fruit. He moves on in a shuffle down the line. Zachery seems to have moved on. So should he. And so his heartrate calms.

"—You live a past life as a social worker, or you just speaking from experience?" Harry asks casually as he moves on, sliding a less-than-full bowl of the much-talked-about oatmeal onto his tray as he moves his way down the line toward refreshments. He smirches his tongue off the roof of his mouth. "After this, though…" Not being honest is a thought he appears to consider before he shrugs. "No concrete plans at the moment. Still unclear what kind of world we're living in now. Even now, the powers that be are still shifting and taking shape." His voice is lower now. "No matter the final structure, though, I will climb it as soon as it takes shape. I will find my place… and seize my moment…"

As though he's caught himself and his darkening tone, he smiles down at the cheerfully-colored plastic coffee mugs as he takes one, using his knuckle to depress the dispense button on the Nescafe machine. "You know," Harry adds more lightly. "Wherever that happens to be."

If there's any part of Zachery that seems ill at ease with his environment - or the people within it - he's not showing it. His focus is on staying out of people's ways and listening. Letting the words pass over him as he tends to his own tray on autopilot while his thoughts race. Missing, maybe, some integral moments just off to the side.

A project. It's just what he needs to keep him busy.

"Harry," he says once the other man goes quiet, reaching to shove as much cantaloupe onto a plate as he can get away with and leaving the grapes behind, "You're going to be just fine. But you will need some plans-" he pauses to slide his tray along and to grab a mug of his own, peering down the emptiness of it to make sure it's clean. "I'd be a piss-poor social worker, and would never have made a great lawyer, but I've passed enough tests to give either a run for their money. If…"

He peers to the side. "You'd like the help."

It's at this point that Harry leaves Zachery standing there.

He's done, after all, with his business in the line, so why not.

There's no indication he's giving what Zachery's said any thought, either, making his way to a circular cafeteria table with round stools attached to its frame. He sets his tray down, uninterested in the food before him. One arm folds against the side of the table while he loops his fingers around the coffee cup, sipping idly from it. Black's a terrible taste for this machine concoction, but sweetener wasn't like to make it better.

He doesn't look to see if Zachery joins him.

"Oh." Zachery tells himself, apparently, when he can't find Harry where he thought the man was standing, before instead looking at an unfamiliar prisoner behind him who's waiting for him to hurry the fuck up with the least kind expression Zachery has ever laid eyes on.

When he finds his potential project buddy again, he walks up to the seat in front of where Harry is seated and drops his tray onto the table with a clatter of cheap cutlery. "Sorry. Forgot where I was for a moment. Thought you might have, you know—"

Still not actually sitting, he stabs a particularly large chunk of cantaloupe with a fork before shoving it into his mouth and and finishes, judgmentally past a mouthful of melon, "— M'nn'rs."

When Harry's eyes leap up from his cup to Zachery, there's a sharpness in them he'd previously reserved only for others. His adrenaline spikes again as the clatter of noise, body tensing. "And here I thought you might have sense," he hisses low and just over the top of his cup. "to not draw attention to yourself." His palm on the table turns face up in a small gesture while he tilts his head ever so slightly, the nature of his expressions hard to pick up if one wasn't already watching.

"But here we are." Harry remarks with a sunny quiet.

His eyes lower back to his drink as soon as he's done speaking, punctuating the statement with another sip rather than doing anything that could further call attention to them. He almost leaves it at that, but as he lowers his cup, he sees fit to add in the same tone as before, "You want to help me, Miller? Make yourself a smaller target."

Zachery sits down into the opposite chair with more force than is required, setting his coffee down but holding onto the mug with a white-knuckled grip. "Smaller targets are still targets. I'm not really interested in that, are you?"

Without waiting for an answer, he humourlessly studies Harry over his tray and adds with no small amount of impatient frustration, "How long have you been incarcerated, Harry? You came from higher security, surely, then moved down, judging by… all of that," he lifts a hand to gesture vaguely toward, apparently, Harry's whole person, "which is a good sign."

Pushy though he might be, he lets his shoulders drop as he stares over the table. He's not a threat, so much as eager. "You may want to consider that danger isn't everywhere."

Zachery's passing guess at his story renders Harry with surprise even he wasn't anticipating. His clean-shaven jaw works for a moment as he returns the look thrown his way, far less excited than Zachery is almost as a rule. A scoff of a breath escapes him, brow lifting— and it seems like the seal on who he is and what his deal is might be broken…

Except he opts to buy himself a moment of thought by spooning a bite of that plain oatmeal. Bad call. His arched brow twists together in a shudder as he fights through the terrible taste of it, displeasure eminent. He reaches for his coffee to cleanse his palette, remarking in a pained voice down to his bowl, "How the fuck does anyone stand to eat this?"

Maybe he now, finally, has the slightest bit of empathy for the man who had been complaining the oatmeal had nothing in the way of flavor that could be added.

Swirling the grit of his from his mouth, Harry closes his eyes before swallowing, and speaks with them so. "It's my ever so humble opinion maybe you should consider it is," he suggests in a calm. "And that some targets can never be scrubbed away." Eyes open again only for the sake of emphasising his point, however futile it might be, no matter how he might be disagreed with. "I'm not saying assume everyone is out to either use you or worse…"

Harry's brow quirks. "But."

"It's a popular pastime any which way you look at it." Zachery crisply agrees, dragging his tray closer and straightening up as he stabs a fork down into another chunk of melon and then points it forward, "But Harry, here's where I come in. Because while I will absolutely use you, I'll tell you I'm doing it straight to your face. Far as company goes, there's far worse than me."

The bit of cantaloupe gets swirled around in a semicircle, "Besides, I don't see anyone else fighting to sit with either of us, do you? So come on, you get your legal situation sorted, and I get some points for good behaviour for however long we're both in the same place." He shoves the chunk of cantaloupe - fork still attached - in his mouth both and extends his now free hand across the table in offer. "'S p'rf'ct."

A twinge comes across Harry's expression as Zachery goes on. Maybe he finds this all regretfully endearing, or maybe he's horrified at the thought of physical touch. He regards Zachery's outstretched hand with a long look regardless, and a sigh which causes a drop in his shoulders. His own hands drop to his lap beneath the table before he can get himself into any situation worse than he's already in.

"I can't accept," he states plainly, rather than crafting a long-winded excuse. "My legal situation— I'm content with it as it is, Miller. Existing under the radar." Harry pushes himself to his feet, and noticing he's barely touched his food, pops a grape in his mouth before picking up the tray. "What you have— this energy— it's admirable. Really." He flits a look back down to Zachery. "Hopefully you find something better to use it on in your next life, eh?"

Like this were a consultancy, and they were all just temp workers here for a job before moving on.

Discerning that context is for later, apparently, because off Harry goes at a brisk pace, finding a spot in a pocket of men who are also returning their trays. Unlike before, he doesn't just disappear— he can be seen walking away with them.

But he's nowhere to be seen the rest of the day, or even the next.

It's like he was never there at all.

Time keeps ticking.

For Zachery, little changes. He's been turned down before and he'll doubtlessly be turned down again. But the next mealtimes see him quieter for Harry's absence, eating by himself, shoulders up and arm curled around his tray once more.

It wasn't too long ago that most of his time belonged to the Institute. Mundane and background-tier as his position was, they had a tight ship to run. It was a schedule, and there's comfort to find in that sort of thing. It meant he didn't have to think about what he's supposed to be doing all of the time, and made prison a surprisingly easy thing to get used to.

But. Minimum security also means plenty of free time, and that's a little harder to cope with when your hobbies previously consisted of drinking and medical research — both hard things to come by in prison.

Some days the lack of the former stings harder, other days the latter.

Free time three days later finds the yard brimming with activity. Men running through patchy, long grass in strange stretches of loops around a poorly kept-up area to get some energy out and keep their stamina up, with a soundtrack of basketballs and soles hitting pavement off somewhere near a set of crowded picnic tables solidly affixed to the ground.

The sun is out in full force, almost helping the dull brown of the prison garb seen a little more cheerful on those gathered outside just to enjoy a bit of fresh air.

But even here, Zachery - looking a little scruffy in the face today - has elected a shady corner outside the grey, joyless building that keeps him most of his hours. Out of the way, 'Miller' sits hunched on a wooden bench near a staff entry door, back to the brickwork and his eyes on a thick book held open against one of his knees. When a dark-framed pair of glasses start to slide slowly down his nose, he adjusts them and his posture both, back straightening.

When he lifts his head and looks into the brightness ahead, he squints.

Someone's coming this way.

And at the same time, across the yard space, a scuffle is starting. Something's gone afoul with the game. One man shoves another, and voices climb.

But the person before him is probably his first interest. It's not like people seek Zachery out normally. Looking up through the sunlight, the face is only vaguely familiar, as any of these faces are. But the brown of them stand out, flecked with gray— one of the men who'd been loitering at the end of the hall three days ago before breakfast. Roughly six feet tall, built like someone who's been here a while, dotted with tattoos there'd not been enough time to examine with any care. He'd delivered a cold look to Zachery as he'd walked past…

And it's a cold look he wears now.

He walks with purpose, not so much as glancing in the direction of the scuffle, which grows. Insults are thrown, and so are fists. It turns into a brawl, and merits immediate attention by all the guards standing outside, whose voices raise demanding that the incident be broken up.

"Doctor Zachery Miller," the man says as he closes in. In the curve of his hand, a piece of metal sharpened to a frightening edge is clutched, prevented from any glint by how it lives in the shadow of him. "Your friends send their regards."


He likely doesn't need to arc his arm above his head to gain the momentum he needs to pierce skin, but he does it anyway. The metal dives down into the meat of Zachery's chest, just below the clavicle. Maybe he was aiming for the heart, but he's just slightly off. The shiv is pulled free, fabric tearing, and in again it goes, this time lower on his chest, near his esophagus. And this time, the man leans into it.

The full name was worrying. The 'Doctor' part so much moreso. Zachery has barely had enough time to clap the book shut in one hand before he hears it tumbling to the ground with a flutter of pages.

Breathing becomes secondary in a flash, expression stuck on disbelief. His eyes locked on his assailant's, he sits frozen all the way up until the second stab, when the weapon pierces cartilage and his brain finally catches on to let pain from both stabs suddenly hit him like a bullet.

Instinct takes over with a jolt of adrenaline, his arms shooting up to slam themselves against that of his attacker, one hand grabbing messily but desperately for the wrist and to aim the shiv elsewhere, while the other grabs for elbow and yanks to try and force the arm to bend any way it usually does not.

The conflict in movement— wrist away, elbow in— elicits a grunt of pain from the attacker. The wound to the lower body doesn't sink in with all the force he'd have liked it to, cutting a short gash across Zachery's stomach. Pain would dictate that he let go of his weapon, but he's determined. His eyes bulge as he suddenly pulls his arm back, trying to create room, get a fresh swing in, but…

But wrenching his arm free, his arm goes swiping behind him instead. His eyes continue to bulge, even moreso. A red line appears around his neck, caused by a wire that certainly wasn't there when his stabbery began. Wire which is held by hands that definitely… definitely hadn't…

The wire cuts in deeper on the attacker's neck, a hiss of a breath coming from his attacker as the wire is cinched all the tighter, cutting off air, cutting into skin. The man with the shiv swings his arm back once more and the metal sinks into his assailant's thigh before he drops to a knee, finally letting it go. The man wielding the wire loosens his grasp none. Harry has his eyes down on the back of the man's head, teeth bared in a predatory growl as the wire slices through skin and the man tries and fails to find purchase to free himself from it.

"Finally." Harry breathes out into the man's scalp, sounding elated. "And here I'd thought you also wouldn't have the fucking balls to do it, you hypocritical, opportunistic piece of filth." The man tries to wrestle Harry back a step and loose his grip, but he holds on tightly, scowl curling up oddly like a grin. "They didn't pay me enough to make your death beautiful. Just a," He tugs the loop of wire tighter as a noose. "—sudden cane coming from stage left will have to do for you."

The man's hand grabs Harry's wrist, the impulse to shove him away insistent if futile. He holds on with fast-fading strength, the blue-black hairline lettering HF visible on the side of his forearm. It's only then that Harry looks up to Zachery, giving him a wide, cutting smile despite the sharp metal object in his thigh, despite everything else about the moment.

The shouts of the fight drown out the man's gurgling attempt at crying out for help.

It's still a good five or ten seconds before Zachery even seems to snap back to reality, brow knitting as he sits with a hand over the two punctures on his chest, warmth and red escaping between his fingertips and into fabric. His other hand clamps onto the bench beside him.

His face lifts to Harry's, but his gaze flicks back down without any real thought behind it, back to the second set of eyes before him. The punctures hurt, for sure, but now that he's breathing again, and his attacker is not?

The veritable rainbow of distress that Zachery is uniquely privy to — a body not his own trying to no avail to keep itself alive, and all that comes with its failing — all alarms and involuntary reactions — to witness a man dying from this perspective is not good or bad.

It's distracting.

If Zachery weren't still doing mental somersaults to try and catch up from being so awfully ignorant, he might even be able to enjoy some fascination. As it stands, it's all he can do to look back up to that other face. "Harry," he offers a shaky greeting, a precursor to him clearing his throat with a wince, and hoarsely adding, "That's going to be a tricky self-defense plea."

Harry laughs, head tossing back while the last signs of fight, the last signs of life from his victim bleed down around his knuckles and onto the would-be assassin's shirt. "You know, Miller," he sighs wistfully. "I might even miss you." His eyes flutter closed as he takes a moment to enjoy further what he's done.

"But I don't think they'll try this twice. This is a good enough warning to stay the fuck away from you." Harry's eyes open and he looks back down to Zachery, so lost in the act and the poetry that he doesn't notice that a guard has turned away from the brawl to do a headcount on the yard and noticed the odd painting the three of them make. He's missed the shout of Hey! that's thrown their way, dismissing it as background noise.

The crack of a gun fired into the air draws his attention, though. Even if it's only a side-eyed glance as he steadies the dead man with one hand so he doesn't fall immediately while unwrapping that sharp wire from around his bleeding neck. "Keep on singing, little songbird," Harry conveys with a smaller smile as he looks back to Zachery. "Not much longer now and you'll fly the cage."

Winding the wire around one fist, he lets his victim slump to the right in a pile, brow popping. "Maybe— this even helps you with your case." Wire secured around his offhand, he yanks the shiv planted in his thigh free with a flare of his nostrils, eyes flashing. Harry refuses to let this ruin his good mood, though. Breathing in through his nose, the distraction of his pain becomes muddled for Zachery to read. One second it's there, and then in parts, it's gone despite his continued, visible presence.

"Drop the weapon or I'll fucking shoot," the guard is carrying on in the background, a drone which Harry supposes he should deign to pay attention to. He opts to do so not by dropping either weapon in his hands, instead stepping back and away and revealing the dark streaks of the other man's blood on the brown of his pants all the more clearly. His first steps are tentative, the pain in his leg spiking, but he pushes through it

and makes his way for the fence.

"I said stay where you are!" the guard repeats only to say he's warned him, for he opens fire. Having had this long to line up his shot, at least one of them should hit. The crack of the sidearm sounds multiple times in the air. But Harry keeps going, jogging for the fence— and then straight through it.

Once clear, he turns back to issue a smug look toward Zachery, a joke visible on the curve of his grin. Slipping through the cracks. Then he looks forward again, and his form seems to swipe left out of existence with his next step.

The shooting stops, given there's no one to shoot at. "Who was that?" one guard shouts to the other. "Who the fuck was that?"

"I didn't see who it was," another calls back, looking over the mess of men face down on the ground with hands behind their heads. He uses them as a checklist through all the faces he can recognize, and comes up without any missing.

The staff door by Zachery's bench opens abruptly to let out two more of the prison staff. Seeing the scene closely but without context, they reach instantly for handcuffs. "Hands high and empty," the woman in the pair barks at Zachery, steel in her being. "Right the fuck now."

"It wasn't him," the guard with his gun calls in frustration as he comes closer. "We've got a runner."

It's then the female guard notes that Zachery is bleeding too, brow popping high as she begins to reassess the situation. The other guard with her takes one look at the dead, bleeding prisoner and decides to leave him where he lies. He pulls out his radio instead, murmuring into it.

Fallen book still open at his feet, Zachery sits where he's been seated this whole time since his reading was interrupted.

The role of innocent bystander victim is one he slips into all too easily. Lifting his open hands calmly up to just over shoulder height, one streaked with fresh blood, he stares off a while longer in the direction Harry disappeared off to. Some strange amusement shows on eyelids and crow's feet but nowhere else.

"I-I'm, ah—" When he starts to address the guards now nearby, forced uncertainty is so thick on his words he may as well have just woken up from a dream. He bends slowly forward, head dipping down, hands remaining where they are with fingers curled gently inward in anticipation for whatever happens next, handcuffs or no. He'll comply, like he has. Like he will, for a few more months. "I'm not sure what happened. Wh… who… is—?"

But in the theatrics of it all, his attention downwards, he suddenly notices exactly where the shiv pierced flesh, from the blood now flowing freely down his stomach. How close to something a lot more awful this could have been. With that, he goes quiet.

Months, not years.

"What the hell was going on out here?" the female guard is asking now, eyes narrowing as she sees the subdued remnants of the basketball court fight, then looks back to the guard with the gun in his hand. He frowns. He licks his lips, gesturing with his offhand back toward the court as he starts to explain herself, only for her to snap, "Put your fucking gun away."

He complies, albeit bristling. She's hooked onto something odd here, and he's aware of the scrutiny, of how careful and precise he needs to be in the reply. "A fight broke out on the court," he explains. "We were splitting them up. Greg— took stock of the rest of the yard and saw this… attack," He glances to Zachery for just a moment, rather than the dead man on the ground. "The runner wasn't listening to orders, so I fired a warning shot. Then he took off for the fence, and…"

The woman turns to the chainlink fence, eyes narrowing with a tug of her brow before she looks back to the guard. He explains with no small frustration, "He ran through it and disappeared."

"What do you mean disappear—"
"He just fucking—"
"I mean which way did he run off in, Vince?"
"I'm telling you, he disappeared on the spot, Lieutenan—"
"All right, I've heard enough."

All the meanwhile, Zachery bleeds.

"Get him in cuffs and get him to the fucking hospital," the woman dismisses his state with a wave of her hand, heading for the court. "And figure out what exactly the fuck happened by the next time you speak to me." She snaps her fingers for the other guard who'd been with her to join her, and off he goes with her.

Leaving just the guard who'd been holding the gun, the one she'd called Vince. With frustration, he produces a set of handcuffs, looking down at Zachery fixatedly, minding the injury he's taken. He scowls at it, his elevated blood pressure and other signs of frustration an annoying distraction difficult to ignore at this closeness. Vince grabs Zachery by one of his held-aloft wrists, lacing the first cuff down. "You tell me, then, Miller," he asks, sarcasm and irony in one. "What happened over here? Who the hell was it that just ran off?" The second wrist is caught in the cuff as well and cinched down uncomfortably, but his arms are at least in front of him rather than being yanked behind.

"I didn't ask for a name," Zachery answers coldly the moment his arms are pulled out of position, head still down and looking askance at the cooling body down on the ground. The more words that leave him the more unsettled he sounds, even if he keeps his voice at an even, reasonable volume.

"I was busy getting stabbed by a Humanis First shithead, twice, and then watching a murder happen. I didn't really think to disturb him for an introduction while he was…"

Whether it's the pain, or shock, or the helplessness of his current situation - when he starts to rise slowly to his feet and looks to the guard, it's clear that he'd really rather not stay here.

"… While he was saving my life."

There's a tic in the guard's expression as he looks down at Zachery, frustration eminent. He plainly finds the answer to be bullshit, teeth grinding. When Zachery starts to rise to his feet without being directed to, he finds himself being shoved back down to a seat.

Maybe helplessness is what he wants Zachery to feel.

Vince leans over him, hand pressing down into his shoulder. "Sounds to me like you're pretty damn lucky this isn't worse than it is." he points out in crisp annoyance, indifferent to how he's jostling injuries which are clearly continuing to bleed, even if he doesn't have an exact idea of their severity. "So don't make it worse on yourself."

"You don't have a problem naming names, from what I understand. You're pretty good at it. So spit it out, and then you can go." His hand tightens around Zachery's shoulder — on the side of the body he'd just been stabbed in.

The way Zachery lands back down implies that the shove did not come entirely unexpected. But. Sitting back down with torn muscle - small as the tears might be on the surface - is still not pleasant. If it's discomfort the guard wants, Zachery shows it clear enough when his head angles up with a hiss of pain ending in what sounds suspiciously like a stifled chuckle.

His gaze resettles on the guard's face, holding eye contact even with his neck craned, with the blood saturating the waistband of his pants and front of his shirt to the point of where the first drops trickle past it and down onto the ground. His voice suddenly steady, he answers somewhat unhelpfully, "You disappointing the lieutenant is not my problem, Vince."

So much for behaving, at least right in this moment.

At least no one's here to hear the disrespect shown toward him. On the other hand, there's no one immediately here to notice if there were any additional roughness demonstrated.

Vince seriously considers it, visible in how he slowly rotates his jaw, in the pinch to Zachery's shoulder. His grip tightens again— only to haul Zachery back to his feet with the brief ripple of a barely-contained growl. He finally looks down to the dead man on the concrete, regarding him with a look of disdain… maybe even disappointment.

"Murder isn't something you want to be on the hook for, Miller," Vince airs in a deadpan tone of voice. "It's only you you're hurting here." He lets go of Zachery long enough to unhook the radio from his belt and rumble into it. Replacing it, he looks back to Zachery one last time, brows arched in silent query.

It's his call, it seems.

There is a look on Zachery's face that spells further defiance, especially now that he's standing close enough to where the guard can see the fight in his eyes, jaw set, unblinking. As if he, too, would rather take his chances and run.

And then, suddenly… his expression falls, shoulders pulling inward with a twitch and a dry swallow.

Murder is an unlikely charge, considering witnesses, prior behavior, motive.

Accessory, however…

He tears his attention away and to the side, as though, perhaps, trying to figure out how far Harry may have gone by now. Then, toward what remains of other prisoners outside. "You'll move me again, right?" The words leave him slowly, hands balling into fists with the cuffs resting around them. "If I talk."

It's the first time he's quietly hoped for a yes to that question, the fight leaving him entirely where he stands and bleeds.

One week, four days later

Somewhere else still

The benefit to having almost no personal effects means there's nothing to really leave behind. Nothing important anyway.

But the agent who comes into the interview room places down a forgotten article, the paperback flecked with a dried bloodstain. He glances up at Zachery before taking a seat across from him at the table. "That's yours," he announces, as if the unique state of the binding didn't already give that away. He unbuttons his jacket after sitting, letting out a sigh as he pulls closer the manila folder on the table and flips it open.

"You managing in your new accommodations?" he asks drily while he skims the details of the file.

The medical glue binding together Zachery's wounds itches.

"It's the dormitory. There's not much to manage but my sheets." He answers offhandedly, in the way people speak when they know the actual words won't be heard anyway.

In court, he gets to wear a suit. Crisp and clean, to match the good posture and the careful smile whatever's left of civilised society so likes to see.

Here, he got a change of shirt.

"Well, and this, now." Hunched forward in a chair, he sluggishly lifts his hands from out of sight below the tabletop. The tinny scrape of handcuffs accompanies his retrieval of the book, dragging it close enough to claim and inspect.

Nothing about his expression changes when he runs middle and ring finger over the blood now dried right across the letters that make up the book's title — Euphoria, by Savannah Burton. "Thank you very much."

He's calm. Sedate.

A single, absentminded tone serves as the agent's reply. Zachery was right in knowing that the answer mostly would be overlooked, if heard at all. The agent smooths his hand out over a summary page, glancing back up across the table only now that he's found what he was looking for.

"We've mostly concluded our investigation, but I'm interested in rehearing your version of events," he shares, keying in on Zachery in a way he wasn't before. He's actually attentive now, sitting upright in his chair. His dominant arm flares out to adjust the seat of his blazer, give him more room to work with as he picks up a pen to append to the file any notes he sees fit. "One last time, since you and I haven't spoken previously."

The agent, who still hasn't introduced himself, smiles faintly. "Tell me about Harry."

The moment focus lands on him properly, Zachery looks up to meet it. The book is abandoned on the edge of the table, for now, hands falling back into his lap as he stares.

"Well. We met in a correctional facility," he starts, engaging in the conversation with minimal energy to his voice and impatience showing in the shallow sigh that leaves him between sentences. "He has a face, two eyes, a nose, mouth, some amount of arms and legs. I could go on."

But this is an invitation to stop the farce with something that isn't considered a thinly veiled attempt to start the entrapment early.

"I'm sure you're tired of these questions," the agent sympathizes, the polite smile gone. His mood hasn't shifted much otherwise, still attentive, still … seemingly amiable. "But I assure you, this is going somewhere."

Like his health is, down the shitter, lungs blackening from cigarettes which he oddly doesn't smell of— his heart tired from the stress and the long days of which there's no end in sight.

His penhand lifts in a vague gesture. "You stated your first encounter was 3 months ago, at the PA institution. Then again, obviously, at the last institution in Oneida County, before and during the incident." The agent has his eyes off of Zachery to glance down at the details again, along with a composite sketch of 'Harry', however wrong or right it actually is. He looks back up with that vaguely amiable expression again.

"What if I told you Harry doesn't exist?" he asks suddenly, the first time someone's been open with that question.

After a beat he concedes, "Obviously, whoever this person was does exist— they're very much real, as evidenced by George Jones' death. But there wasn't a Harry registered at Oneida County with you." The agent taps a finger on the sketch. "And no Harry even vaguely matching this description at the Pennsylvania institute."

Zachery's hands find each other with a soft click of cuffs, fingers of one hand idly pressed into the palm of the other. His eyes are still on the agent's, alternating between left and right in starts.


Weight shifting back, he lifts himself halfway out of his hunched posture. His brow knits, eyes ever so slightly wider.

"I didn't imagine—" he starts, voice cracking thanks to the unexpected enthusiasm behind his words. Not a second later, he adds, fully convicted, "He was there." A nervous system, brain, bones, muscles and all.

Unless he imagined that, too? Except…

His hands come back up again, elbows plonked down on the tabletop as he fixes the agent with a lopsided grin but with intent insistence in his eyes. "There were witnesses. Someone was there."

The agent is unmoving as he watches Zachery's response, pentip still settled on the margin of the report. "Yes," he agrees easily. "Someone was there. The witnesses able to verify that are the only reason suspicion isn't falling back on you." He leans a little forward himself, unable to keep from expressing professional interest in this curiosity. "Someone— an SLC-E someone— who wasn't a prisoner at either facility, insinuated themselves for an unknown period of time into the prison body undetected. They interacted with who knows how many other prisoners besides yourself— an investigation which could take months to conclude."

The tip of his pen comes away from the page again in a type of shrug. "What gets me is… why?" He lets himself let out a small, incredulous laugh, looking back down to the file to start looking for the page that holds notes from some previous interview he wasn't apart of. "Of all the people, and all this trouble besides?" he asks midsearch. "One could argue maybe a former associate of the Commonwealth Institute might be looking out for you… but you've spent the last year and change informing on them."

"You don't keep many friends that way," the agent points out, though Zachery hardly needs reminding. He seems less incredulous that someone might have wanted to silence Zachery, and more that someone went through such lengths to stop it.

This is not surprising.

The whole time the agent talks, Zachery sits quietly, eyes flitting downward occasionally as if to try and catch a glimpse of text where he can. His chin lifts, and he leans forward enough to find himself absently scratching at his shirt - nose wrinkling before coming to rest his hands on the stained book before him.

"Have you considered… that maybe you're just talking to the cheese?" These words leave him slowly, his grin ebbing away, shoulders sagging down. "He was paid. Not by any friends of mine, perhaps, considering I—" There are several ways to finish that sentence, but none of which make him look any shade of good. "But certainly maybe someone looking to send a message."

He points a single finger in the direction of the reports. "When I started this whole whistle-blower shite, they tested me. Does it say that in your files? What do they have to say about George Jones?"

Finally finding the paperclipped papers he was looking for, the agent shifts them to the top with another faint smile. "Trust me," he assures Zachery. "I realize you thinking the chances you know something vital is low, but even bait has its uses." Realizing he mislikes his own use of language there, the smile is quickly wiped from his face, and he seems more than willing to answer the questions posed back at him to make up for it.

"They tested you and we've got that on file for security purposes. Under the Chesterfield Act, you were also registered as SLC-U at the time." Glancing up, the agent voices, paper still in hand, "Which, by the way… traumatic events have a habit of triggering manifestation, from what I understand. Do we need to update your paperwork?"

He pauses with his main line of thought, this curiosity demanding answer first. Information about dead men clearly comes second to facts about the living.

Zachery's grin resurfaces wryly, and he looks off to the side for a moment, running his tongue over his molars.

"No." He answers. "No fireballs or bursting through walls or— or making the—" He lifts a hand in a vague gesture upward, the other hand lifting by way of necessity. "You know. Lights flicker."

He sighs out the next sentence, looking to the agent again with resignation on his face. The agent and his scorched lungs, and his occasional heart flutter, and his empty stomach, and his bad knee, and so on. "Still just…" Zachery decides, "giftedly handsome."

Unamused, the agent looks down to the papers before letting them fall to the table. He moves on.

"Jones was a self-professed militia member," read: Humanis First terrorist— "who gave up arms after the surrender at Raven Rock. A year and several civil disturbance-related charges later, a judge decided community service wouldn't cut it and rehabilitation should happen under closer supervision." The agent's brow lifts, still looking down at the papers— which are nothing more than transcripts of interviews regarding 'Harry'. He's reciting this from memory. "Submissions were made to extend his sentence based on behavior shown, actually. He wasn't getting out any time soon, the threat of a higher-security imprisonment looming. Attacking you, by all means, was a bad call on his part."

He tuts. "Even if he decided he didn't give a damn about reintegrating in a world where the SLC-E won, someone still had to put him up to this, though. We're examining his visitors he's had in the last…" Now he has to think, rubbing at the side of his face. "Five?— six months? to see if we can pinpoint this down any further, but there's no guarantee this came from one of them."

"Or?" he supposes now, looking directly at Zachery. "Maybe it did. Maybe his lawyer, because he had one— a good one who talked his sentence down initially— slipped something in during a visit. But confidentiality rules, and all." With a tsk, the agent goes, "So my gut says soon we're pulling visitor logs for anyone close to Jones, examining all the footage we can get our hands on otherwise, wasting time and money chasing straws, trying and failing to pull a rabbit out of our collective hat." His tiredness starts to show as he waxes on, "I dunno, maybe all a racist like him needed in the first place was just to know you worked for who you worked for, because despite everything the Institute did, despite the fact you turned on them in the end, they still performed Expressive-related research and you'd still worked for them."

"It's a good story, even," he admits. "Until you factor in the…" And then he glances down at the transcripts again, the words from correctional officer V. Lorenzo staring up at them both. "The phaser, or the teleporter, or whatever he was. Paid, by someone, to keep you alive." A beat elapses before the agent ventures, "Maybe by someone invested in making sure other informants weren't scared into silence? In ensuring the last bits of justice are served out…" It's an angle he hadn't fully considered before, but one that interests him now.

"So either way, I'm getting bled." Zachery's concludes, somewhat passively, expression neutral. "For information, or the old-fashioned way. Lucky me." His book is dragged toward him and into his lap. Paperwork on the table or not, he doesn't seem particularly interested in looking at it anymore. "I assume headcounts are going to be happening a lot more frequently. Not on my account, just — security."

You know. For the racists.

As if that's not an avenue he's interested in exploring with his current company, he asks with a forced airiness that is not mirrored in the way he hunches forward again, "Is there anything else I can answer for you?"

The agent's enamor with his own idea lessens when Zachery essentially calls it how it is. He settles back into his seat, pen tapping at the side of the page, leaving little blue dot-streaks across the margins. "Something like that," he supposes, then hastily clarifies in a mutter, "The security measures, not… getting stabbed again."

Though who knows how good a word that is.

He does finally write something down, just a brief note in shorthand before he picks up the transcript Zachery is clearly showing no interest in, tucking that away again. In a quieter voice, he goes on while he finishes that refiling, "Make no mistake— if there were a man who the world's better off without, it's one like George Jones. Kind of man who looks at people like you, people like my sister, only sees you for…" His brow furrows for just a moment before his expression smooths. "Something that's not the whole you."

Finishing up, he closes the file, pins the pen to the top of it like a giant paperclip holding the whole thing together. The agent glances up at Zachery. "No, I— suppose that's everything. Unless there's anything else you want to add."

But he must assume not, because he's standing up from the table.

Despite the fact that he's sagged back down in what looks to be defeat, Zachery still watches the agent's every move carefully. The mention of George Jones elicits nothing but a sharp exhale through his nose.

As for any last things that need to be said, he adopts that same tone of voice from before, of the words that aren't expected to matter. "No, just… let them know I'm good to go on the way out? Have them get my coat ready."

But then, he straightens back up — a motion which hurts, apparently, since he immediately presses a wrist lightly to his chest. "Actually, can you…" he's much more audibly invested, now, looking at the agent expectantly. "If you find more out about Harry, whoever he is, will you be able to let me know?"

The agent chuckles at Zachery's first comment, manila swept off the table and body angling toward the door. That's that, he seems to think, but he pauses midstride when he's hit with a follow-up. He turns back, earthen eyes showing idle curiosity for whatever it is that has Zachery changing his answer.

He lets out a faint breath of a laugh, looking back to the door. "No promises," he says, tapping the spine of the folder against the palm of his opposite hand. "But I'll see what I can do."

But he doesn't move on, seeing fit to throw out one last thought himself. "Also…" Looking down at Zachery, taking in him, the way he sits, the way he holds the book, minds his wound, he considers his words and then opts to proceed with them. "Speaking of security, I'll be putting in a recommendation for parole. You've been helpful," although at times difficult goes politely unsaid, "and on the offchance this was a first swing rather than a lone attempt…"


The agent looks back to the door and reaches for the handle. "So we'll see what comes of that." he supposes, pulling it open and heading out. He's due for a cigarette.

The door clicks shut behind him.

And then there was one.

The room is still.

With no one to look at, Zachery once more lets his hands drop down to the book, pressing a fingertip hard into a corner of its spine while his attention drifts slowly off to a camera fastened to the ceiling.

"A good word," he tells it, but quietly enough to where his voice barely travels. "Maybe I should get stabbed more often. At this rate, I'll be out by Christmas."

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