Somebody Knows


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Scene Title Somebody Knows
Synopsis Two of the Sundered put their heads together and come to one conclusion…
Date August 7, 2020

Bay Ridge: The Miller Residence

It's a bright and shining day, and Isaac Faulkner hates it.

Granted, being able to see is… a step up from where he was for awhile, but Isaac's still in a foul mood. Everything about this situation absolutely sucks, and so far he's accomplished exactly zero in terms of doing anything about it.

He feels powerless. And without power… well, what does that leave him? What does it matter what he thinks, or feels, or believes, if he lacks the power to do anything about any of it? He takes a deep breath. Maybe, just maybe, what he's doing here today will help to make up that shortfall… or at least get him started moving in the right direction, towards solving this problem.

Even if it doesn't, it beats staring at the walls all day.

Letting out a slow breath, he raises his hand and knocks on the door in front of him. Hopefully he's got the right address.

The door swings open after the sound of the deadbolt sliding back with a dull metallic thunk. Nicole Miller stands there in a dark grey sweatshirt emblazoned with a crown and Columbia University in white lettering and dark acid wash jeans. Her brows lift at the sight of the man on her doorstep.

“Mr. Faulkner,” Nicole murmurs in surprise. After a beat of silence, she steps back, pulling the door open wider. “Why don’t you come inside?” As he makes his way into the entryway, a small blonde head peers out from the hallway on the far end of the living room on his right. Mrs. Miller either hasn’t yet noticed the little girl, or doesn’t mind her spying. “Can I get you something to drink?”

"Mrs. Miller," Isaac says, after only a moment's hesitation. He knows that she's got rank in SESA, but he's not exactly sure what her title is… or, more importantly, how it plays with the 'time off' that he's been told she's taking. Mrs. is probably the safest bet.

"Thank you," he says, moving to follow as she opens the door for him. He's wearing a dark grey hoodie and black jeans, with black tennis shoes; as he steps inside, his hands slip back into the pockets of his hoodie. He notices the girl, but opts not to say anything. "Water, please," he says, following after her at a distance.

“Sure.” Nicole turns around to head from the foyer, past the dining table, and to the cupboards to retrieve a glass, which she brings to the fridge to dispense some water. “Pippa,” she raises her voice enough to be heard in the other room, tone mild, “you either come out and introduce yourself to our guest, or you go to your room and play. We don’t eavesdrop.”

The little girl ducks her head back around the corner with a gasp. Then, she makes her way into the living room. There’s no hesitation in the young girl’s steps — apparently shyness wasn’t her reason for hanging back — when she comes to a stop at the nebulous line between living space and dining room. “Hello,” she greets in a strong voice, like introductions are a thing she’s practiced a great deal. “I’m Phillipa Allyn Ryans.” Just like her mother taught her. “But I go by Pippa.”

Large blue eyes stare up at Faulkner, and it’s almost as if he’s being sized up by an eight-year-old girl. Maybe he is.

Nicole sets the tall glass of water on the kitchen island that divides prep space from eating space. “Now, I want you to go to your room. You can play or color or listen to music or watch movies on your Awasu, but shut the door, okay?” Her voice is gentle, but she’s not open to negotiations on this. “I need to talk to Mr. Faulkner, and we’re going to respect his privacy. Do you need anything before you go?”

The blonde shifts her gaze to her mother at first when she’s given instruction, but comes back to Faulkner when he’s mentioned. She is definitely scrutinizing him now. After a faint narrowing of her eyes, she looks back to Nicole. “Chocolate milk?”

The girl’s mother tips her head toward the fridge. “Help yourself. Just remember the rules — you don’t have drinks near your tablet.”

Pippa sighs dramatically and rolls her eyes as she trudges toward the fridge, pulling open one of the french doors and grabbing a small, colorful bottle off the interior shelf before closing it up again. “I know, Mom.”

There’s an incredulous look given to the child, a curl of lip. Rather than scold her, she delivers a warning: “I’m going to be in to talk to you after Mr. Faulkner leaves.” Nicole is going to find out what the root of that sassy tone is. “Now march.”

Another sigh, this one more in line with the weary kid who knows a lecture is forthcoming. “Yes, Mom.” Before she exits the kitchen, she offers an awkward smile to her mother’s guest. “Nice to meet you, Mr. Faulkner.”

The only sign of anything Isaac gives during all of this is a faint upward quirking of one corner of his mouth; it is a… charmingly domestic scene. The way she's sizing him up, though… reminds him not a little of the way he'd size up his uncle's visitors. That ghost of a smile flickers an iota brighter… though only that, and nothing more.

His hands slip out of his pockets when Pippa acknowledges him, and he offers a faint smile. "Pleased to meet you as well, Pippa," he says. One hand rises, weakly, palm up, before falling back to his side again.

As she takes her leave, Faulkner's attention has already shifted back to Nicole. "Thank you for inviting me in. It had been my intention to visit you at work, but I was informed you had taken some time off," Faulkner says. He doesn't go further than that, just yet — he wants to make sure Pippa is clear.

“Of course.” His discretion is appreciated, if the nod of Nicole’s head is any indication. She too waits to further respond until she hears the telltale click of her daughter’s door shutting. “Yes, I… I’m on vacation for some time.” It isn’t hard for him to guess why that might be. He can judge well enough from her tone that it wasn’t entirely her choice.

She pours herself a glass of pink grapefruit juice before she sits down at the middle seat of the island. “How can I help you?” She leans in slightly, drawing Faulkner into this conspiracy they’re sharing now. Nicole’s head cants to one side, and she’s expecting a slight mirroring of her own posture. “May I call you Isaac?” she asks with a slight lift of her brows, the curve of the smile on her lips like a secret passed between them.

That moment's hesitation in her talk of vacation fits with the impression Isaac had gotten from his earlier inquiries. His hand reaches out and curls around the glass of water, and he settles down at the outside stool of the island.

Her slight lean forward and faint smile draws a faint smile from him, as well, and a subtle lean of his own. "Isaac is fine," he says smoothly. "I'll cut to the chase, Mrs. Miller. I was wondering about the progress of the investigation. That's why I wanted to speak with you, specifically."

He gets the distinct impression that he’s being appraised as she lifts her head just so and starts to lean back again to retrieve her own glass from the counter. Also, he can see where Pippa gets that look. “May I be frank with you?” Nicole immediately huffs a breath of laughter and waves away whatever answer he may have been prepared to give to that question. “Of course, or you wouldn’t be here.”

He wouldn’t ask the question of her instead of any other agent he might have been able to get in touch with if he wasn’t looking for straight answers. “Me the fuck too,” Nicole admits with a shake of her head. She sighs. “Someone’s supposed to call me if anything comes up.” Being as how she can’t merely stand over shoulders and clear her throat loudly until someone gives her the time of day right now. “But the last I heard, there’s just… nothing. There’s no answers at all. I’ve even talked to my people with the CIA and Interpol.”

Nicole drags her fingers through her hair, at a loss. “Nobody knows what the fuck happened to us.”

Isaac takes a drink of his water rather than respond immediately; he nods. "I see," he says. "I was afraid you were going to have news along those lines."

"But," he says, staring at something beyond the glass of water he's holding between his hands. "While it's not my intention to be pedantic, there is something I'd like to point out. I hope you won't mind if I'm frank, as well, Mrs. Miller."

Now he turns to look at Nicole. "You said that nobody knows what the fuck happened to us. I disagree. Somebody knows exactly what the fuck happened to us; they have to, because they're the ones that did it. It's just a matter of finding what dark, slimy hole they've crawled down, and dragging them out into the light," he says evenly, his face empty of any expression.

Then, and only then, does he turn back to look at his water. "That, admittedly, being the hard part," he sighs.

“On that matter,” Nicole assures her guest, “you and I are on the same page. Somebody knows, just not anyone who’s able or willing to give us answers.” Whether that means the threat to them is one from within, she doesn’t know. She hopes this isn’t some act perpetrated by their own government. She’d really rather not have to help organize another revolution.

“Unfortunately, all my leads are coming to dead ends.” It’s a hard admission for her to make. “My husband, Zachery, he’s been… doing his best to monitor our situation medically, but none of that is turning up any useful data.” As far as she understands it, anyway. Nicole is not a doctor. “I don’t know what to make of it. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around this whole thing, but I can’t find a connection. I can’t find a tie that binds us Effected other than this damned city.” At one point of another, every one of them had lived here.

"Which seems a rather thin thread to hang all of us by," Isaac comments dryly. "In my case, at least, I only arrived back in the city fairly recently." He pauses, then frowns. "Hm. That might be something to look into. Figuring out when we were all in the city…"

He mulls it over for a moment, then grimaces. "Which still seems like a rather thin thread to hang us all by," he admits. "Gah."

“It does, but it’s… literally all I’ve got to go on.” And Nicole isn’t a fan of that, judging by the frustrated growl that follows that thought. “Daphne Millbrook hasn’t lived here since… 2011? She wasn’t even in the city when we were all abducted. It doesn’t add up.”

And then there’s the matter of the things that were taken from them. “The theft of abilities isn’t unprecedented,” Nicole grants with a shake of her head. “There are… explanations for that. But it’s another thing that ties us together. We, until our abduction, were each in possession of an Expressive ability.”

Nicole shakes her head. “I can understand having taken Ms Nakamura’s prosthetics, or even Zachery’s.” Though there was nothing technologically advanced about his acrylic eye, maybe it was a case of being thorough. “But…”

It’s like the light and life drain away from her suddenly. Nicole is looking in Faulkner’s direction, but he can tell she doesn’t see him.

"It doesn't make a lot of sense," Faulkner says, as delicately as he can. He sighs. "That… admittedly, is part of why I came looking for you, Mrs. Miller. Because, out of all of us, you have the most to get back."

He lets that one sit for a moment — just a moment — before he continues. Waiting for Nicole to come back to this conversation. "The rest of it, of course, is that you're well-placed. And apparently better connected than I realized, if you've got people in the CIA and Interpol," he adds, with a momentary hint of wry humor.

He sobers almost immediately, looking Nicole in the eye. "I've been trying to reach out to those that I think might be pursuing investigations into what happened to us. For the reasons I've mentioned, you're high on that list. I was hoping to see what progress you might have made… and offer whatever help I can."

Nicole lets out an exhale that might be a breath of broken laughter judging by the brief lift of her shoulders and the faintest twinge upward of the corners of her mouth. Her left hand flutters upward, thumb resting at the curve of her neck, fingers splayed across the opposite collarbone.

“No,” she whispers, finally bringing her focus back to him. “I may have lost the most, but… I’ll get the least back.” Nicole shakes her head, obviously deeply affected by his attempts at optimism, and how vehemently she disagrees with it. “There’s no replacing what I’ve lost.”

Her tongue tuts against the back of her teeth, lips parting a moment, then pursing. “My babies are gone.” And she says that like it’s probably the first time she’s actually admitted it out loud. Maybe it’s the first time she’s admitted it at all. This is a reality she’s suddenly accepting.

“Make no mistake, I’m going to find who did this to us.” Her jaw sets tight and she breathes in hard through her nose as though that might be enough to stave off the tears that are glistening in her eyes. “And I’m going to pull their fucking guts out with my bare hands,” Nicole spits out furiously, her voice a dangerous hiss. “If you want to help me do that, then… I don’t know. Pick up the phone if I call. And if you’re a turn the other cheek sort, or a revenge never solved anything type, a justice prevails kind… Then just stay the fuck out of my way.”

Faulkner studies Nicole for a moment longer; the way his jaw tenses signifies his disagreement at the prospect of her loss being irrevocable, but he says nothing.

Then… then her facade slips. Her hate for those who did this to her — and her contempt for those who would stand in her way — shows through, written in her voice and on her face as clearly as the light of day.

Isaac peers at her for a long moment, his expression inscrutable… then he lets out a soft chuckle. "'Turn the other cheek'…" he echoes softly, shaking his head. "I wonder, though. Is there anyone among us who could turn the other cheek? To something like this?" he asks softly. "I certainly can't."

He laughs again, and this time it's a sharper, more bitter sound. "And as to the wheels of justice grinding slow but exceedingly fine… I've been waiting, but with no offense to your agency, they've found nothing. I'm tired of sitting on my hands and hoping for someone else to get lucky."

His spine straightens, and he regards Nicole with a cool gaze. "And what I want — more than justice, more than vengeance — is answers. Because this wasn't a cheap trick — cargo planes aren't cheap, fuel isn't cheap, those coffins weren't cheap, and getting all of that stuff in secrecy sure as hell wasn't cheap," he states, holding Nicole's gaze.

"I want to know why. I want to know what the hell was worth that kind of secrecy. I want to know what they did to us, and how. And then… I want to make sure it never happens again," he says, his voice low and quiet.

"Answers are what I want, Mrs. Miller; vengeance, I leave to you. So pull all the guts you need to… but take your time with it. And leave the lungs for last. And you can bet that if my phone rings… I'll pick up."

His bitter laughter prompts a reassessment. It’s an open one, the way she sweeps her gaze over him, noting posture, gestures, the subtleties of expression that people don’t realize they wear on their faces. On her face, a grin has started to form. It shows first as a light in her eyes, a faint narrowing of them and tightness at the corners that haven’t quite become crows feet with age yet, then the uptick of one corner, followed by the other.

Answers,” she echoes back to him, “yes.” She’s very keen for those. “Whoever did this to us is not going to die well, but they aren’t going to be allowed to die at all until I know why and how.” Nicole wonders when she developed this vicious streak. Or maybe this is an isolated sort of thing. Grief can breed cruelty, after all. Whatever the case, she refuses to dwell on it. She does enough dwelling on the things she can’t control as it is.

Finally, she leans back in her seat, drawing in a deep breath through her nose that’s not quite unlike how Faulkner might imagine a dragon would express irritation. That irritation isn’t directed at him, however. “I’m close to hiring a freelance forensic accounting firm to try and figure out where the money came from.” But without having a point of origin…

“What’s your theory about what happened to us, Isaac?” This, Nicole is intensely curious to know.

Nicole's ruthlessness is a bit beyond what Isaac had anticipated, but for now he's not worried about it. It's… actually maybe a concern that he's not, honestly, but right now he's got the hand he's got; all he can do is play it the best he can.

The question she poses him, though, is a hairball. He grimaces.

"Given the resources we know to have been involved, and what we know happened to us…" he shakes his head. "It is very difficult to offer much aside from speculation. We can say that this was a group with access to considerable resources; if they have access to SLC abilities as well — and we have no reason to count out that possibility — that further expands the possibilities."

"What we know comes down to this. We can say with some degree of certainty that we were taken from our homes at some point, most likely early on July 6th, and taken to an unknown destination. At some point thereafter, we were placed aboard a cargo plane for transport from that unknown location to a second destination… but we never reached that destination, due to an unknown event causing the plane to crash. Lastly… we know that something happened to us, to leave us in our current states."

"What we don't know is who did it. We don't know how they pulled it off, or how they did so in such short order — there were only a handful of hours being taken and the plane crash. We don't know why they did it, we don't know what they did." Here his lips curl into a bitter smirk. "And, since we're engaging in speculation here anyway… here's a thought. We don't even know if this is the first time we've been taken." Faulkner drops that one and lets it sit for a moment. "Think about it. We have no memory of anything that occured after we were taken until we woke up at the crash site. For all we know, the state we currently find ourselves in is only a result of our abductors being interrupted by the crash. Perhaps, had that crash not occured, we would have woken up the next morning none the wiser."

He waits a moment longer, then exhales. "It is, admittedly, extremely unlikely. But then, everything about this situation is already exceedingly unlikely, wouldn't you say? I'm trying not to rule anything out… but the scope of the possibilities is vast. We're trying to put together a jigsaw and so far we don't even have a single corner piece."

Nicole mulls over Faulkner’s suppositions and hypotheses with a faintly narrowed gaze, working her jaw to one side, then the other after a time while he speaks. Finally, her brows lift and her mouth turns downward in a thoughtful frown. “Alright,” she grants, “I’m impressed.” It’s now that she seems to size him up again.

“You could make a good investigator, Isaac.” That is meant to be a compliment, rather than a tease. “You’ve got some solid foundations for method there.” Then her mouth purses and she glances away, slightly moody. “You’re right. We don’t know this is the first time we were taken. I can only assume they’re employing a teleporter or a temporal manipulator of some kind. Maybe both.” There’s no other way, by her estimations, that this feat could have been pulled off. Technology simply doesn’t exist that would allow it.

“Hopefully if we can learn more about the plane, that will serve as one of our edge pieces.” Nicole brings her gaze back to Isaac and smiles thin and weakly.

Faulkner nods, taking the compliment in the spirit in which it was offered. "I've been thinking about this a lot," he says somberly. "Trying to think of anything I can."

He nods at her comment about the plane. "Yes. If we know where the plane came from — or where it was going, or what brought it down — that'd be something," he says, grimacing — it's another reminder of how much they don't know. He considers for a moment, then sighs. "A place to start, at least. I'm honestly not sure what other approaches we could feasibly take, at the moment."

He considers for a moment, then lets out a slow breath. "Well. I'll keep thinking things over, at least. Beyond that… if any of us need any packages delivered, I can ensure they get wherever they need to in the city. I can do that much, at least, if nothing else."

“Thanks,” Nicole murmurs gratefully. “Having a secure courier in the city is honestly a huge thing.” In a world like the one she’s inhabited since her early twenties, where there are spies, moles and traitors lurking in the shadows… Having a courier that can’t be bought is a godsend.

“If you need anything, don’t hesitate to reach out. The more we stick together and communicate with one another, the better chance we’re going to have of figuring all this out.” Nicole has to believe that.

The alternative is too harrowing to consider.

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