Sign Of The Times



Scene Title Sign of the Times
Synopsis In the wake of the attack on Liberty Island, Agent Diaz takes part in the investigation and finds pieces of a disturbing turn in events.
Date December 27, 2019

Liberty Island Detention Center

December 27, 2019 7:23 AM EST

By now, President Praeger has made his address to condemn the attack. By now, the rest of the Safe Zone and the world will be watching to see how the federal and state agencies respond to the act of terrorism wreaked upon them. He really thought they would have had the resources and knowledge to anticipate such an attack.

By now.

Agent Cesar Diaz stands alone, an unmoving statue in the sea of agents and staff swirling in proceduralized chaos around him. The freezing Atlantic breeze whips at his upturned coat lapels, and kicks up the snow to further obscure the dozen or so footprints and half-frozen drippings of blood trailing from the cell block doors to the central courtyard. Bright crime scene tape rings the area. Small, enumerated pyramid shaped markers dot the ground where forensics have methodically documented the evidence, all to be uploaded and awaiting processing.

As do the dozen-plus body bags waiting for transport, laid out neatly beside the coroner’s equipment.

The fires caused by burst lines have been put out, but there’s more than smoke rising from the damaged buildings. Cesar sucks in a breath, hoping the cold would cool the fires of his anger. It only stings him more on the inside.

The crunch of approaching boots on snow interrupts along with a quiet clearing of a dry throat. “Security cams came in from Tech. None of the feeds were interrupted, so we got full facials. All the way up here. Looks like they didn’t try to hide a damn thing. Killed LeMay. And Zhao.”

He turns to face his colleague, expression schooled to as neutral a stony grimace as he can manage.

“So, who do we have?”

Cesar receives the printouts extended to him, flipping through the pages of still shots taken from the security feeds. Prisoners leaving down the concrete and cinderblock halls of the detention area. Angles of those responsible for the attack. Allegedly, Cesar has to remind himself.

“We’re pretty sure those not found in their cells were targets of extraction, all successfully retrieved.” The pronouncement is grim. “And have positive IDs on all the agents and staff present during the attack.” The other agent doesn’t need to add that some were only identified by their security badges because their heads were crushed. “The suspects,” she continues, “Baruti Naidu. International arms dealer, been on DHS and Interpol records for years, fell off grid back in 2010 and we stopped chasing. The other’s fresher… Francesca Lang. She’s registered in the system as a kinetic manipulator, which might explain how…” Breath hitching, the agent steels herself. “She went to Central Security first. Then she Darth fucking Vader’d her way through the holding cells, along with Naidu.”

Cesar stops flipping and stares down at the still of the second attacker. He knows that face. He’s seen her photo many times recently, some in a dossier, a few of them via personal text from Tokyo Disneyland not even six months ago. But he narrows his focus to a particular feature on the photo before him: her golden eyes.

The same as Zhao’s in the warehouse on Staten Island. The coldness in them numbs his insides worse than the weather.

After taking out the one photo of the golden-eyed Chess and flipping the folder closed, Cesar hands the file back to the other agent with a singular nod of thanks. He swallows down a thick knot in his throat, jaw working, teeth gritting at the back molars. “Voss and Choi?” he asks after a pause to recompose.

The agent hesitates. “Still working the press, I assume. Doubt they’ll be coming down with the shitstorm they’ve got on their hands now.”

He nods understandingly, not envying the responsibilities those higher up have in their positions. “Yeah,” he agrees distractedly.

“Going to catch the next boat out. What about you?” asks the agent, her arms crossed over in front for warmth and a touch of self-comfort.

Cesar starts to answer, but his pocket starts to vibrate with a silenced phone. “I’ll catch up,” he tells the agent, turning and heading away to a less exposed side of the statue grounds.

At the feet of Lady Liberty, he pulls out his phone and swipes to answer. Before he gets a word out, a chatter of two voices assaults his ear in a stream of nigh unintelligible amalgam of French and Spanish before one voice wins out in a strong shush. “Look Mami, please, see? Of course he’s alive. He answered the phone, okay? Cesar? Cesar, can you hear me?”

“Yeah Asea,” Cesar answers evenly, shaking his head. Family. “I hear you.”

Ay, gracias Dios, ay gracias a Señor! My son is alive!” exclaims an older woman in the background, followed by a rustling over the speakers.

“Ay Mami, please let go. You gotta go stir, the soup’s going to burn. Go on. I’ll talk to him.” Cesar’s sister audibly nudges their mother off. Asea’s sigh of relief carries more stress out than she’d let on. “Hey hermano. How’s it hanging?”

The slightest wavering in her voice gives her true worry away, but Cesar humors her. “Sorry but that’s classified,” he teases, ignoring the indignant huff on the other end before adding, “I’m okay. Really.”

“We heard the news about the attack, and you know Mom. She worries about you.”

“I know. How’d Dad take it?”

“Oh him? A stoic, masculine wreck. I think he’s taking it out on the tostones.”

“Jesus. You gotta save them. Save the platanos, Asea, save the world.”

“Oh my fucking God, Cesar.”

Cesar stifled an urge to laugh, noting the sound would be unbecoming of the surroundings now. But it was either that, or worse. “Hey do me a favor,” he speaks into the phone, seriousness returning.

“What’s that?”

“Make sure his badge is shined up?”

The scoff on the other end is only mock-offended at the implications suggested. “You know it is already. She does it every morning.”

“I know,” Cesar replies soothingly as he sees an approaching US Coast Guard patrol boat cutting through calm waters. “I know. Listen, I gotta go. Kiss Mamá on the cheek for me, alright?”

“Alright. Talk to you later. Say hi to Monica for us. And don’t be a weirdo, Agent Diaz.”

“You know I already am.”

The sudden silence on the other end of the phone joins the curtain of darkness falling over the man as he makes his way to the dock.

The broken statue looms behind him, its destroyed glory casting its long shadow down the monument steps once the sun breaks through the clouds in the gloomy morning sky.

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