The After


colette_icon.gif hana_icon.gif

Scene Title The After
Synopsis Colette comes to Hana with a dangerous request.
Date June 3, 2018

A long motorcycle zips through the quiet streets of a crumbling urban neighborhood. Factories and warehouses blur past, defaced with graffiti. The sky above is a field of slate, drizzling rain collects on the visor of the driver’s blacked out helmet. As she veers off onto a side street, she ratchets the accelerator back and the bike’s engine lets out a high-pitched roar, a tail of rainwater kicked up by the rear tire.

A looming concrete structure with three narrow smoke stacks rising from its roof is rapidly drawing nearer as the driver cuts down another street, the rear tire of her motorcycle fishtailing out behind her. She steadies again, revving the accelerator a second time as she zips across multiple lanes of a quiet street, then hooks the bike sideways, skidding to a stop across asphalt outside of a closed chain link fence. Turning her helmeted visage up to the security camera, Colette Demsky flips up her visor and looks square into the camera lens with blinded eyes.

She’s not scheduled to be here today.

The Bunker

Wolfhound HQ

Rochester, NY

3:12 pm

There is a drizzled trail of rainwater across the floor leading from the entrance of the Bunker, up to the office of Major Hana Gitelman. Helmet under one arm, Colette Demsky takes long-legged strides across the building, boots clomping as she walks. With her free hand she unzips her leather jacket, raking fingers through rain-dampened hair afterward. As she makes her way to Hana’s office, it’s clear she’s going over their potential conversation in her head, teeth drawing at her lower lip, brow furrowed.

Needless to say, that looks spells trouble. The only question is, in what form?

In the time it takes Colette to make her way through the gate, Tenzin offers a wager; not surprisingly, Hana declines. She also gives her resident purusha the digital semblance of an askance look, though the are you taking up betting, now? conversation will have to wait until later. It's only a matter of minutes, at most, before Demsky darkens her door.

Forewarned, the major spends those minutes bringing her current task to a pause. By the time Colette appears at the entrance of her office, Hana has settled with her hands folded on the desk and no other work in sight, expression impassive. "Demsky," is not really a greeting, not in the sense of social salutation. "Close the door behind you."

She can tell it's going to be that kind of meeting.

The slowness with which the door is closed helps inform the tone of that meeting. It's not a slam, it isn't left agape in fitful ignorance. It's patiently shut, and regarded for a moment before the leather-clad young woman makes her way over to Hana, helmet in hand.

“Sasha Koszlow got in touch with me early this morning,” is an unusual occurrence. Outside of an entanglement near a decade ago where he saved Tasha’s life, the two had rarely crossed paths. But in that same notion, they nevertheless remained in one another's orbits. “John isn't on vacation.”

There's no need for Colette to clarify which John she's talking about.

“I came up here as soon as I could,” as opposed to texting, which implies more than enough. “Way I was told, he was grabbed at the gala. Human traffickers masquerading as medics, drugged and kidnapped him. I talked to some contacts in the city and they said there was a case down by the river that night but they didn't see between who. Yamagato had to send out a wrecker to haul back some electric car. I think they might've tried to intervene, but then… stopped?”

The nervous energy in Colette’s shoulders is visible even with her heavy jacket on. An abducted friend or family member is a familiar trigger, and its clear her exercising of restraint in the face of such adversity is a newfound challenge.

“I figured we should talk.” Colette indicates, drumming her fingers against the helmet held in her hand.

That impassive expression remains in place as Colette begins to talk her way around her purpose for being here — begins with Sasha Koszlow, of all people. It's not so surprising, given that start, that her story segues to Logan in short order. The words Hana might say — as simple as no, he's not — remain caged behind unmoving lips, Hana silent as Colette continues speaking.

His disappearance was never something so simple, so mundane, as a vacation. But just as Hana did not share that realization when it occurred to her, she does not voice any affirmation now.

Instead, the woman behind the desk rises to her feet in fluid motion, stepping around the furniture. "Yamagato did have its own problems, not long after," she allows neutrally, referencing the bombs that decapitated the company's administration.

Hana proceeds to lean against the wall, implicitly shedding the rigid confines of the office, the role associated with it — though in truth she is never free of that. "Let's talk, then," she prompts, regarding Colette steadily.

“Sasha’s got information on where he's being held, apparently there's already a plan to get him back.” A plan that doesn't sound like it involves law enforcement. “I know he's on Staten Island, which— of fucking course he is.” Colette’s lack of surprise there is more bitter than anything else.

“What I've heard isn't good, either. Nobody's sure what condition he's in. It sounds like Sasha and his friends are going old-school on this.” That much, Hana infers, is more the kind of old school Colette grew up around, rather than the kind Hana might be more familiar with. “I'm worried he's going to get his ass shot off. Apparently my sister is going in on this, off the books.” There's something to be said for apples and trees, and while Hana never had the displeasure of knowing either of Colette’s biological parents, there must be some genetic disposition towards insubordination and recklessness.

“I want to talk options,” Colette finally gets to, with all that laid out. “Sasha aside it doesn't sound like they're rolling with people trained in this sort of thing.” The kind of unprofessional associations that wind up with a lot of collateral damage.

Hana takes in the situation Colette describes with that same measured, controlled calm. She doesn't seem particularly surprised by the inherent extralegal implications, and mention of Colette's sister is met with only a raised brow. She's quiet after, pensive, gaze going to a point apart from Colette that isn't itself important. The figurative gears can almost be seen to spin.

"Mustering Wolfhound," Hana states at last, returning her regard to Colette, "is not an option." Her tone is level, devoid of inflection — not repressive, not forbidding, simply declarative. "That includes off the books," follows shortly after and is in contrast distinctly dry, delivered with a narrow-eyed look.

No rules-lawyering allowed on that account.

"I take it you're joining your sister," she continues after another brief pause. The words are not in any way a question, and come layered with multiple meanings. Participating in the plan. Doing so off the books. And a tacit acknowledgment that cannot quite be said to be anything so approbational as permission.

“I’d like to,” is her diplomatic response. “But people also know me on Staten Island. I have contacts there, I have a reputation there, and depending on how this shakes out it could burn a lot of resources I can use for Wolfhound. I know you said not to involve Wolfhound, and…” there’s a momentary reluctance, “I… agree, that’s not something we can do. But I was thinking about what it is I do for Wolfhound.” Other than draw in trouble.

Raking a hand through her hair to pull her bangs from her face, Colette paces the room. “I wanted to offer logistical support. Eyes on the ground. I can see farther than most people, literally tell them what’s around the bend, stay out of sight while I do it. The problem I’m running into is how close I have to be to do that.” Then, comes the ask. “There’s no cell network on Staten Island. Short-range radio transmissions can be intercepted… “ her blind eyes track the room, then square on Hana. “We tend to work better as a team.” On the books and off.

Both of the major's eyebrows raise as Colette explains her rationale. As the phrase I agree falls out of her mouth, swiftly followed by I was thinking. If Hana were given to piety, she might wonder if Hell, at least the Christian version of it, had just frozen over.

"Good," she remarks, the curt word wry yet an actual token of approval nonetheless. That moment passes promptly, however, as Colette continues, as strategic considerations segue into her petition.

Hana's first, automatic impulse is visibly no. But she doesn't say the word. A whisper in the back of her mind offers an alternative. It, too, is neither accepted nor denied. She simply looks at Colette for a long, long moment — and then looks away.

Hana does not pace. She wants to. She wants to walk out the calculus of information, reputation, rumor weighted by the sort of people involved, the unit's standing and to what extent she trusts assurances made by a government representative. The line between Wireless and Nambiza is a thin fiction; releasing T.Amas' name into the wild thusly is… fraught in entirely different way. 'No' is undoubtedly the wise answer.

"Wireless," is what she says instead, gaze remaining fixed on the opposite wall for a moment after. "Is that all you wanted for options?" is what's accompanied by the refocusing of her regard on Colette, brusque query only half a step shy of dismissal in the style that is a distinctly Hana tell.

“I'm not a greedy person,” isn't entirely truthful, but Colette frames it as such. “But I'm not gonna lie, I'll take whatever you're willing to put on the table. The way I see it, though,” she starts to pace again, still holding that helmet in her hand, “is that nobody really knows exactly what they're walking into. If we can discreetly offer them recon and intelligence, we can increase the likelihood that nobody winds up dead.” A beat, then, “I mean, nobody we don't want winding up that way.”

The fact that this is a human trafficking issue, a kidnapping, and wholly outside of the Military Police’s area of influence makes the rogues gallery that could be involved a particularly unsympathetic one. “The other thing is that there isn't much time to set this up. A day or two, maybe tops? Sasha wasn't sure…” her hesitation is obvious, she's walked into a topic she didn't necessarily want to approach this way. “He's not sure Logan will make it much longer if they don't act.”

Breathing in a deep breath, Colette holds it for a moment before releasing a sigh that looks at once fatigued and relieved. “But I don't want you to mistake why I'm doing this, either. John’s a good guy, mostly, and I'll gladly stick my fucking thumb in the eye of kidnappers without much provocation…” Dark brows furrow, and Colette looks at a scuff mark on her helmet. “But it's more than that.”

Colette's greediness — because that's what it is, protestations aside — draws forth a brief, mirthless smile. "And that's exactly what you'll do." Intel. Recon.

The short notice of this endeavor, when broached, is a distinct detriment. Not a surprise, though; what would have been surprising is any greater exercise of restraint on Colette's part. Hana merely inclines her head in acknowledgment. Whatever her personal, emotional take on won't make it much longer might be remains firmly out of public view. Not that that should come as a surprise, either.

"I have very few illusions, Demsky." Most merely artifacts of insufficient data, though still painful to have shatter; a very, very few held close as the lifelines they are. "But go ahead. Elaborate."

“This isn’t about us, professionally,” Colette motions between herself and Hana with one hand, still circling the room like a caged tiger, but with someone less haste than before now that it seems they’re on the same page. “But I get the entanglements, I get… that things have to be done a certain way… I get that the war’s changed,” not over, but changed. “I know I’ve been bouncing between mediocre and fuckup a lot, lately. I was worried the whole ride up my past takes on things were going to make you dig your heels in out of principle and just… I dunno, say no.”

Colette looks away from Hana, down to the floor, her grip around the chinguard of her motorcycle helmet tightening, leather glove creaking with the tension. When she blinks blind eyes back to Hana, her brows are furrowed and jaw set in that way she does when she’s made up her mind about something. “This is about family.” There’s a little motion of her free hand, a wild and aimless gesture. “You’re family, Logan’s family, and no matter what shape it takes… whatever the hell it is you two have is important to me.”

Colette draws in a breath and glances to the door, then back to Hana. “This is about affirming that, to myself, and t’you. Because I love you, and I’d walk straight into fucking hell for you if you asked me to.”

Hana observes intently as Colette paces, as she speaks. She makes no corrections, no criticisms, and no effort to soothe; for one, it is neither the time nor place, and two, being self-critical has its value. Instead, she steps forward, interrupting the younger woman's pacing; and when she's finished her address, when they stand face to face and there is nothing but silence and air between them, Hana touches the tip of one finger to the underside of Colette's chin and stares into those unseeing eyes.

"If I did dig my heels in," she says softly, a thread of darkness coiling beneath the words, "it would not be because of you. Not for our entanglements. Not even for me." She lets her hand fall away, lifting her chin slightly, her jaw firmly set. There is steel in the glint of her dark eyes, and in the rigid lines of her posture.

"I can't say I won't ask that, someday." There's a pause, a twitch of her expression, one that fails to resolve into identifiable sentiment. "Nor promise to bring you back out." That doesn't relate to Logan, doesn't relate to today's situation… but the bones of this conversation run rather deeper than that.

"The war has changed," Hana echoes some beats later, the taut intensity of her manner breaking and draining away with the breath she exhales. "But this is not part of it. Go," she says, taking half a step back. It is not precisely a blessing. "Try not to reflect badly on the unit," might be humor of painfully dry sort, or an admonishment with double meaning. Most likely, all of the above.

There's a visible emotion in Colette's eyes, a glassy quality that the last time Hana saw it was when she was holding Colette by the throat with the disaster of Liberty Island looming large over their heads. Then, Hana had a look of fiery disappointment in her eyes, and Colette withered internally from it. Today, that is different. Today, Colette flourishes.

“I won't disappoint you,” is a promise Colette has not verbally made to anyone, because it is the thing she fears being the most capable at: disappointing people. But today, that fear isn't there. Still gripping her helmet tightly in one hand, Colette steps back as Hana does, snatching what is not precisely a blessing with all her might and not letting go.

“I won't,” Colette reiterates with a flush of color and a nervous smile, “I promise.

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