Summary Judgment


bella_icon.gif martin_icon.gif thompson_icon.gif

Scene Title Summary Judgment
Synopsis Doctor Bella Sheridan faces Eric Thompson and Martin Crowley over the topic of her research.
Date March 1, 2010

Fort Hero, Conference Room

Bella really wants to be looking at Sabra Dalton right now. Or, if she's smart, if she knows the faces she's looking at instead, this is what would be true. Chairs have been set aside to make way for her bulky thing of wheels, metal and leather, pressed up to the table edge. The TV off that way is switched off, blank, and the only lights shining are the squarish insets of the ceiling lamps above them, the rest muted blind and lending shadows to the corners of the conference room.

Thompson is standing, with his back leaning against the opposite wall, his hands tucked into the pockets of his suit jacket, a sensible navy over a shirt of off-shirt, the silver of his tie near matching the silver of his hair. Usually, a smile of some kind, an inner joke or overt amusement or an attempt to ease off tension, can be seen on his lined features. Not at the moment, eyeing Bella with all the distrust of—

Well. Of a flat foot field agent gone silver, presented with a doctor.

"The floor's yours, Sheridan."

The starched collar, pressed suit and juxtapositioning of shoulder-length hair and a grizzled beard make Thompson's company in this meeting a disquieting one. Interim Assistant Director Martin Crowley is a notorious figure among the Company directive, having spent the entirety of his Company service behind a desk in their Internal Affairs department, it has always been Crowley's job to find misappropriations and poor management in Company operations, as well as corruption and misuse of authority and resources. Here at the seat just shy of the head of the table, he has a stack of carnation red and manilla folders layered in front of himself, hands folded beside them and brows lifted inspectingly at Bella's wheeled in presence.

"Mn— yes, by all means miss— ah, Doctor Sheridan." Martin's glib British accent makes that sound more condescending than it is, "I'm looking forward t'hearing a bit more about what you've, ah, done with the funding we've given you? Also about that, er, traffic accident on the Queensboro?" The smile he gives is so quick it might well be considered a nervous twitch.

Bella is thankful doubly for the warm buzz of the pain medication that crackles inside her skull, turning her discomfort into fuzzy disregard. First and foremost, it keeps back the pain of post-op, which would be, she is sure, quite intense. Secondly, it makes what is happening here seem sort of unreal, keeping her anxiety at arm's length, to be examined, considered, consulted, but set aside when it's not useful. At least for now.

The good doctor's legs are covered in a plaid blanket, sort of grandmotherly, hiding the hospital whites she still wears on her lower half. Her upper half, the operable and significant half of her, is dressed appropriately, in a slate grey suit jacket and forest green silk blouse. Her hair doesn't look half bad, either, for someone who was just wheeled out of the hospital. She keeps her hands folded in her lap, making a point of keeping her gaze focused, not wanting to hint at any serious impairment due to the medication. She's fine, she swears. Better for it, in fact.

"First, let me register my apologies for showing up like this," Bella says, smiling with a expertly worn mask of the mildest contrition, "It was unwise of me to try and continue my normal duties before the project's affairs and aftermath were put in order. I am, as you can see, paying for that oversight." She pauses for a moment, for dramatic effect, and so that she can shuffle through the index cards in her mind, compensating through patience for a reduction in mental dexterity.

"The project had an unfortunate and abrupt end, and I take, of course, full responsibility. I admit, I've never had such a considerable organizational task to handle, and I feel that, had a more experienced administrator been present, things might have gone differently, better even. But that is the price I pay for the free reign you gave me, along with the unofficial status of the project itself," a crisp smile this time, crisp like fall air, just a touch chilly, "In the future, I'd request for more involvement and oversight by our organization, to compensate for my own shortcomings."

Bella is taken by a brief series of coughs, another delay to help her consolidate her thoughts. It doesn't take long. "Despite the losses, both of equipment and personnel, I believe the project was a success. A full report is pending, but I believe I forwarded the most relevant details. First, the amphetamine/Refrain cocktail, which induces a lucid state of recollection that can be guided by stimuli. Its applications could be very diverse, not least as an interrogation aid. Second, the discovery of the Refrain/suppressor neurotoxin interaction, which resulted in one subject's dramatic increase in Evolved power." She delivers this as her coup de grace, with a certain flourish and gravitas.

"I don't think I need to overstate the potentials to you, gentlemen."

"I don't know, doctor," Thompson says, unmoving from his spot against the wall and leveling a pale eyed stare down at the woman. "Because it sounds to me that this thing you discovered had better be worth its weight in gold. It had want to be ambrosia handed down by the gods, because what I'm looking at, Doctor Sheridan, is a massive breach in security. More than a dozen of your test patients— unwillingly apprehended— are currently walking around New York City, without tracers, without memory wipes, without anything."

This is all spoken very evenly, his voice kept at a sedate and polite volume, but there's an edge to it, and a set to his jaw as he addresses her. "But all in the name of science, isn't that right? How long before you hired private security to man the place?"

Clearing his throat awkwardly, Martin flips open one of the folders and looks down at the paperwork inside. There's an uncertain drumming of the fingers of one hand on the table, followed by a pawing at his chin as he looks over the frames of his glasses to Mr.Thompson, then over across the table to Bella. "Ah, yes I see. Well, Doctor Sheridan, questions of said security team aside, I'm— not entirely certain that you understand exactly what full responsibility entails for the, ah— entire length and breadth of what your, nnhh— clinical trials?" The word is rolled around awkwardly in his mouth. "What your clinical trials have ah, accomplished."

Loosening his tie just a little, Martin closes the folded and just takes a moment to focus and breathe, both hands smoothing out the front of his shirt before fingers lace together and he gives a somewhat disbelieving look across the table to the redheaded doctor. "I— " a look is flashed to Thompson, "and I apologize if you two were on the same page about this already— " then back to Bella, "But I was jus' wondering exactly when in your ah— " his hands drum on the folder, "in your request to former assistant director Denton that you implied that you would be performing abductions for your procedures, coupled with, ah, what does this say here…" The folder is flipped open and Martin underlines a sentence with his finger. "Ah yes— minimal security."

Looking up with both brows raised, Martin seems rather expectant. "Doctor Sheridan, I don't know exactly what you were expecting to get from this meeting, but… we're not so much here to judge whether your research was a success so much as call into question your judgement, misappropriation of Company funds, and— honestly— absentee moral consideration for your…" He moves to aonther folder, needing to check words and terms written in the reports. "Test subjects?"

Looking back up to Bella, Martin lingers a long, silent gaze on her in somewhat awkward fashion. "Now I know that former," he loves emphasizing that, "assistant director Denton gave you something of a carte blanche with this, but I don't think he really expected you to— you know— " Martin's hands open in a blossom of fingers, "go all Mengele on us?" There's that nervous smile spread across his face again. "Why'd y'go all Mengele on us, Doctor Sheridan? Couldn't you 'ave bloody well spent the money you blew in a security team on— I don't know— volunteers?"

Bella receives these words with an equanimity that, frankly, can't do much to dispel concerns as to her moral and ethical substance. In truth, she's still just far enough away from the searing criticisms for it not to more than slightly irritate her. And irritation is one of the first things a therapist learns to conceal. She doesn't even fidget, her hands remaining planted very firmly atop the blanket in her lap. But Mengele, gracious me. Not just a Nazi, but a /bad/ scientist. Bella breathes in and out slowly, and when she speaks, her tone is level.

"On the first point, Mr. Thompson, the subjects never had access to any information regarding the nature of their captivity, had no contact with anyone save myself and my assistant, and in all other respects represent little in the way of a security breach; none of them even saw my face or heard my voice unaltered. As to the individuals responsible for the /full scale attack/ on the facility, it is my strong suspicion that they are already well aware of our organization, and of my identity, since before this project even began. If you will recall my own abduction, the first time I received an injury like this," she points, unnecessarily, at her leg, "It was by an individual not uninvolved with what appears to be a particularly malignant and military paramilitary cell, which same cell attacked the facility. The existence of such cell is, I think, /more/ than adequate justification for the security measures I employed."

At this she turns to look at Martin, fixing him with a very steady gaze; in truth, she's looking at a point behind his head, the man himself quite out of focus, "Which brings me to the matter of funding. On the first point, I was operating under the loose guidelines given me on the outset of the project, which project was /explicitly/ kept outside our organization's official auspices. Had I been provided with appropriate facilities and staff, had I been able to work closely with other administrators, had I, in short, been given more than cart blanche and the command 'go forth, Dr. Sheridan', I'm sure you would have less to censure me over. But I was working with what I was given, and with what I had. All of which would have, in fact, been sufficient, had there not been the security problem of the aforementioned militant cell roaming free, next to whom, I promise you, my subjects are a matter of little note."

Bella's hands shift now, fingers lacing together, as she moves to the final topic, "As to ethics, unless there have lately been discovered non-human animals with the Suresh linkage gene, human subjects were my only option. Which subjects were chosen for their previous histories of addiction to Refrain, in the interests of being as ethical as possible considering the goals of the project. They were cared for, kept in good health and were, ever last of them, alive as of their leaving my facility. The fact that we were, only myself and my assistant, able to keep order in the facility proper is a testament to the /lack/ of cruel or coercive tactics. That they were abducted well, as to that," she spreads her hands, "I must have missed the memo in which abduction went from acceptable tactic to breach of protocol."

One last thing: "Are the Evolved, then, Jews, in this comparison, Assistant Director? And who does that make you? Himmler? Goebbels, perhaps? I'll avoid extending the metaphor to Mr. Thompson out of respect. Please, let's avoid ad hominem."

Martin's profile is what Thompson studies, impassive, hand up to rub his knuckles beneath his chin, come down again to smooth his tie. From the silence of the silver haired Company supervisor, Martin might notice he's distinctly on his own when it comes to the tangent he's pursued. Canniness from Bella is more or less rewarded, if a tight smile from Eric Thompson Snr., can really count as a reward. He's still as frosty as the weather one floor above them.

"You left tracks," he finally states, words concrete. There's no request for debate, in his voice. "You worked with what you were given, and with what you had, and when that clearly was not enough— something you, as supervisor, were responsible for monitoring— you acted too late. Refusing to take responsibility is not a way to get out the consequences, Sheridan, it makes me inclined to make sure you're working behind a desk stacked with paperwork for the next three years."

He slides a glance to Martin. "She watered and fed them, Crowley," he says, with a greasy kind of sardonic tone that seems to make a mock of the Brit as much as it does of the doctor, "what more are you asking for? Ask her if she tucked them in at night."

"Tucked— Tucked them in that's cute sir." Martin notes with a lift of his brows and a smile that's hard to tell if it's sincere or not. "That's— you're a joker— clever." Brows furrowed and tongue wetting his lips, Martin waggles his fingers around as he slips to the next folder. "Since everyone wants to discuss security, why don't we discuss the ah— glaring late-game mistake that was made?" Martin looks back and forth between Thompson and Bella before focusing down on the folder.

"Ethically you were prohibited from requesting volunteers and instead… tasered individuals into supplication? Yes, that seems like a right way to not draw attention to your operation. I think, Doctor Sheridan, that the former assistant director may have given you a tad too much credit in terms of your ability to plan outside of the box?" Grimnacing, Martin reaches up to scratch at his beard.

You see, Doctor Sheridan, your ah— discretionary tactics nearly put us in a very difficult spot. One of your— and I use this term so very loosely— patients happened to be the, ah, baby sister of Daniel Linderman's personal assistant." There's a furrow of Martin's brows, chin tilting up as if he's trying to assess if any of that's clicking with Bella yet. "While she seems to be the one your positive test reaction for this, ah, amplification drug was generated from… her disappearance happened to fire several alarm bells in the senior Nichols, whom then confided in one of our senior agents, the late Jennifer Chesterfield."

Martin's lips downturn into a frown. "It seems that not only is she Mister Linderman's personal assistant, but the elder Nichols sister was also miss Chesterfield's campaign manager. Word trickled down, word got back to us and— well— you can see where if miss Chesterfield were still among the living we'd be in a considerably tight pinch?"

Grimacing awkwardly, Martin looks back down at the folders in front of him. "Now you've said yourself here that your judgement wasn't, ah, precice as it should have been. This leads me to wonder when, exactly, you came to that conclusion?" One dark brow raises as Martin slips a folder closed. "Was that prior to or following your request for additional funds, whereby you went about expanding this facility? Somewhere between point A and point B you realized, clearly, that you might have wanted to… oh I don't know, think this through more?"

Toying with his lower lip, Martin looks askance to Thompson, then back to Bella. "Did you realize you might be in over your head, before or after you came to Len Denton for further funding? Because from where I'm sitting right now, you… seem to have somewhat missed the mark in terms of risk versus reward." Narrowing his eyes slightly, Martin's head tilts back again as he peers at Bella through the lenses of his glasses. "I think that's, admittedly, the point both Mr.Thompson an' I are trying t'get at. Did you just— and let's be frank— " his brows crease together, "did you just not think this through? Or were you actively trying to sabotage your own research?" Sarcasm is hard to tell with that accent.

Bella's hands fold themselves again, their motion having come around full circle, their journey brief. After her long explication she feels a little woozy, the effect of adrenaline trying to push its way into neurochemical supremacy. She fights not to turn her eyes down, not out of shame or remorse, but out of simple fatigue. She's really not in the mood for this anymore. Her mood, however, is not the matter at hand.

"I can only give a reason," the doctor says, at length, "Not an excuse. I am a psychiatrist, gentlemen, not an administrator and certain not an agent. It was a serious lapse in judgment, on my part, to tackle this project with as little support and guidance as I did. I did so, again, because that was the only option given me, but it is my failing that I thought highly of my abilities. In this case, too highly. I'm flattered but sorry that Mr. Denton shared that overestimation. Maybe an individual of your competence and stature, Mr. Thompson, could have foreseen and prevented the problems Assistant Director Martin referred to. But I was operating only with the knowledge I had on hand, with the abilities I was born with and training I have received. I know now, too late of course, that such a large task is too much for me to handle alone." All contrition so far. Maybe she burned out her fire in her last little speech.

"What could have been done and what might have happened is conjecture. I understand and accept the consequences for what did happen," here she lifts her voice up again, "And what did happen is the result of our organizations inability to effectively manage its personnel, myself and the late Agent Chesterfield included, since both of us have been connected with a group or groups who are openly hostile to us and our goals. So, at the risk of seeming as if I am deflecting blame, I would like to suggest we turn our attention to consolidating our members, /informing/ them of relevant details, overseeing their actions and more effectively /combatting/ the heavily armed, highly aggressive and totally shameless armed parties responsible for my project's ultimate end. This is a problem for all of us, one that I did not take seriously myself, a mistake for which I have paid already, and will continue to pay, as suits your tastes, gentlemen. But I will insist that it was not the five vans I sent out that night that caused the incident on the roads in Queens. It was the unchecked action of individuals bristling with weapons and, as you, Assistant Director, just informed me, connected in troubling ways to the highest echelons of our organization."

"Th' way I see it, Miss Sheridan, is that while you've produced some… I'm sure intriguing results to someone with a PhD," Martin rolls his tongue over the inside of his mouth, "my bottom line is the security of the Company and the upholding of the minutae of moral and ethical standards that we somehow manage to keep up." There's a wry crack of Martin's lips into a smile as he folds his hands in front of himself on the table. "The attackers who broad-sided your movement of supplies and personnel seem to be, to quote my dear ol' da', your own fault." One brow rises slowly, and Martin levels a rather mild look to Bella.

"There is a very clear reason why the Company no longer detains individuals, an' we've passed tha' off to the United States Government. Need I remind you what 'appened t'the Primatech facility in the Bronx? Leave the investigation of the attack up to the Agents who'll be assigned to it, right now…" Martin taps the sides of both of his hands on the files and breathes out a sigh.

"Putting aside the gross misconduct that former Assistant Director Denton practically facilitated with his handling of this, you still 'old— as you so clearly put— full responsibility for what 'appened." In and out Martin's accent fluctuates, more noticable the more excited about this proceeding he becomes.

"Misconduct, negligence, and if I could throw our particular book at you for piss-poor judgement I'd honestly do tha' as well. You painted a bloody great big bullseye on us, Doctor Sheridan, one that we'd spent the half a year since the Bronx facility's destruction tryin' t'get rid of. You 'ave single handedly made the Company a credible target again by means of this circus you ringleaded."

Leaning back in his chair, Martin snatches up a clicky pen so that his hands can be doing something, thumb snap-snap-snapping on the end of the pen. "Which leaves you, squarely, in mister Thompson's hands…" Martin notes with a nod of his head towards his superior and not for one moment envies the position Bella is now in.

A few soft steps forward carries Thompson away from the wall, the seams in the back of his suit presented to Martin as he paces a short way from the internal affairs man, hands still hidden in pockets. At the mention of said hands, he draws to a halt, looks back at the other man, before squares his attention on Bella. A flick up and down of his gaze, before it's as if he grows bored of her, and focuses somewhere above her head as he reports, "You're suspended from your duties with the Company until further notice, Doctor Sheridan, when Dalton and Bishop have had a chance to review your complete report.

"Congratulations — you found ambrosia, and that's why you're not outright fired. We're done here," he adds, to Crowley, as if preemptively silencing the Brit, and making a casual saunter around the length of the table to head for the door. There are things to reiterate, but it seems that the part of this that concerned him— something that isn't science, nor ethics, but simply the integrity of his organization— has been the dead horse lying beaten within the room.

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