The Devil Has A Name


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Scene Title The Devil Has A Name
Synopsis Following her visit with Cindy, Nia and her granddaughter bring a crucial piece of information into Asi's hands.
Date June 27, 2021

A soot-stinking oily rain falls across the Safe Zone.

Clogged gutters run dark with black rain, flooding the streets as a result of the supernatural rain keeping the Ohio River Fire under control. Nia Dawson’s once-yellow umbrella is stained with dark streaks from her wait on the stoop of a tenement building in eastern Phoenix Heights. Stepping into the lobby, she apologizes for the black footprints she’s tracking across filthy tile.

There’s people Asi Tetsuyama would have expected to help with the situation she and the other plane crash survivors are experiencing. Nia Dawson wasn’t at the top of that list. And yet, here she is against all odds.

“I had to meet you somewhere else,” Nia explains with a small shake of her head, folding her umbrella closed and shaking more of the grimy rainwater from it. “Monica’s sweet, but she gives too much of herself out. She has so much to worry about and—and I just don’t know if this is even going to go anywhere.”

Nia carries a cloth grocery bag in her other hand, containing an old Magnavox combo VCR and DVD player. “I didn’t know what else to do. But I haven’t been able to stop thinking about you poor people and…” She snorts, derisively.

“I made a choice.”

Phoenix Heights
NYC Safe Zone

June 27th
9:33 pm

Nia follows Asi up through the lobby to the floor her apartment is on, the whole while looking torn between confidence and guilt.

Asi isn't unfamiliar with such a look, such a feeling. She keeps her quiet for the most part, having taken in the sight of what Nia's brought with her with surprise and humility both. The manners (not-literally) beaten into her as a young girl finally find themself manifest as she directs Nia up to the second floor, hand slipping into her pocket to retrieve the simple keyring for the apartment door.

She gets as far as drawing them, key halfway extended to the lock… before seemingly on a gut feeling, reaches for the knob instead and pushes the door in on an empty apartment.

Well. Mostly empty.

Only mostly. A desk chair turns as the two women enter, and Monica sits, one eyebrow lifted. "Why hello, Nana," she says, pausing for effect. It isn't every day she gets to catch her grandmother sneaking around and it's very clear that she's savoring the moment.

But also, it isn't without a small thread of worry. Why Nia would go to her friend for something and not to her is a puzzle with a missing piece. She couldn't fit it all together. She has been trying to keep her mind on Best Case Scenarios.

"What's up?" she asks, casual words spoken in a less than casual tone.

Nia’s expression first registers as surprise, then mild frustration. It’s like finding a stray cat in your garage that you were pretty sure you’d kept out. But it’s a really good cat, and you love it, so you tolerate all their hijinks.

“Girl, I am eighty-eight years old…” Nia says in a not-at-all honest tongue-in-cheek tone. “But don’t think for a moment I won’t shimmy my way over there and—” She presses her lips together, sighs the rest of her thought out her nose and deflates just a little. “At least let me sit down before you give me those eyes.”

Nia sets the bag with the VCR down by the door, then makes her way over to a nearby stool with a relieved sigh. “I was trying to respect your girl’s privacy,” she says with a motion to Asi, “but if you two don’t mind being up in each other’s personal business I’m not going to stop you.” There’s a briefly worried look Nia gives Asi, followed by a subtle frown. It’s hard to say what it’s for.

"I'm used to, by now, turning up information we think are leads that lead to… nothing, Nana Dawson," Asi answers, somehow apologetic. She doesn't mean to imply Nia's information will turn out to be useless, perhaps. "So like you said, perhaps it turns out to be nothing."

Looking to Monica, she lifts a hand in silent hello before closing and deadbolting the door behind them. "As for my privacy, I don't get any of that where Moni's concerned." She sounds amused even if she can't summon a smile— too much on her mind at the moment. She slips off her rainjacket and leaves it hanging on a hook by the door. "When you're parkour buddies, there's not a lot of room for space between you."

Besides, it's Asi who reached out to Monica in the first place. The call out of the blue had driven concern something was wrong with Monica, or Nia, rather than believing it had anything to do with her.

Seeing the bag be set down, she wastes no time in claiming it and bringing it closer to the television to begin pulling out the VCR and wires to fix it to the television.

"Eighty-eight and still troublesome," Monica says, although it's hard to say that she disapproves. She aims to still be troublesome when she reaches her grandmother's age. Aspirational, you might say.

She smirks at the completely unfounded accusations about her respect for other people's privacy. And since she has no intention of outing Asi's call to her about Nana's behavior, she just spreads her hands in a helpless gesture. "What's a little nosiness between friends, yeah? And family?" Her smile softens, though. Parkour buddies is a very elite inner circle for Monica. And while maybe most people don't find nostalgia in life-threatening situations, Monica does. "You found something, Nana?"

It's a prompt, and she glances over at the VCR curiously. She doesn't jump up to help Asi, though. She knows better than to intrude between her and her electronics, even now.

“Maybe.” Nia says with a furtive look to the VCR as Asi begins setting it up. “Ever since the plane crash I’ve been thinking about what happened to Asi here, about how with all our resources we haven’t been able to lend a hand. But that’s what we do, that’s what the Deveaux Society’s all about. Helping people.” She looks down to her lap, and Monica recognizes the expression of guilt in her grandmother’s eyes, even if she isn’t responsible for what happened in Canada.

“Then something came to me. I remembered that meeting we had at Mr. Cambria’s house,” Nia explains, looking at Monica. “Where we met—or, I suppose were reunited with Mr. Renautas.” There’s a brief look of apology to Asi for all the inside baseball talk going on. “I thought a lot about Cindy, what she could do, what we saw about her in the past. I know… I know I knew her. In my bones I know. I might not be able to remember, but there was a part of me that hoped she’d remember me.

Noa motions to the VHS cassette along with the player while looking to Asi. “Cindy is an old ward of the Company, she’s a remote-viewer. A seer. One of the most powerful in the world, by the way people talked about her. But her power was so much more than that. She could imprint what she saw into the…” Her eyes dip down, searching for an explanation. “I don’t really know how it works. The science of it. But she could imprint her visions onto VHS tapes. What she saw, experienced. Sometimes they were dreamlike, other times… less.”

Nia breathes in deeply and shakes her head. “I went to her—to Cindy—at the Clocktower. I brought her a tape and, and I know she isn’t well.” Nia says with a hitch in her voice. More of that guilt, though this time it was deserved. “I intended to explain what I needed from her. About her… her daughter, how she’s caught up in all of this. I hoped maybe…”

Nia wrings one hand around the other. “It’s like she knew.” Nia says in a whisper, looking up to Monica. “Cindy grabbed my hand, and I saw it. I saw—flashes. Faces, people. I was going to ask her to show me who was responsible for what happened to you all, and that’s what she did. What I hope’s on that tape. I can barely remember it all. But I know I saw a man.” Her jaw clenches. “An evil man.”

Calmly leaning beside the television to plug in the power for the VCR, Asi calmly points out, "A lot of evil men were involved with this. Creeps from Humanis First as much as Mazdak, if all the information we found out recently can be believed…" And she believes it can be. She tugs the AV wires and pulls them around to the back of the television to slot them into place.

"We've got our pick of bad men to choose from," she says as she turns over the cassette, looking for signs of unusual markings on it before she pushes it into the player. "Let's just hope it's one we recognize, one we can put a finger to."

Or a gun, preferably, Asi thinks but doesn't say. She stands back from the television to give the remote enough 'space' to work with and turns it on.

"Nana, I know you guys have a history—erased or not, but you know I don't want people going in there using her power like that," Monica says, her hand running through her hair. It's gentle, but it is still a chiding. And both Monica and Nia know— it would be a much harsher one for anyone else. She'll have to do what she can to make sure Cindy did understand and wanted to help, or make it right if she didn't. Monica runs her hand down her face, then looks over at Asi.

This whole thing with her responsibilities overlapping and clashing with each other is not a comfortable place.

She lets out a sigh and nods to her friend. "We just need a foothold. A loose thread we can yank on." With a gun, yes. "Then we'll get this figured out. Evil men and all." But she sits back then, pulling her legs up to her chest as she turns her attention to the video.

Nia has no rebuttal for her granddaughter. Monica is the one in the right, and stubborn as Nia is, she knows when she’s crossed a line. It’s something she hadn’t done in so many years, but it’s like the mere memory of Charles Deveaux brings out something in her she’d repressed for a long time. What if, Nia wonders, that’s why she wanted to forget it all?

Nia’s attention is drawn from her thoughts when the video tape begins to play. It’s distorted noise at first, the kind of banding you’d expect from a magnetic tape that was demagnetized and no longer readable. But then it cuts to static, then a black screen with horizontal banding across it, and then warped analogue noise. Nia frowns, curling her hands into fists at the notion this may not have worked at all.

But then, then, she sees him.

A caucasian man with a long, wrinkled face appears on the television screen. He’s staring out of the television as if he can see everyone in the room. His eyes track from left to right, but as he speaks he—mercifully—isn’t addressing anyone in Asi’s apartment.

“We take that and we spin it around,” he says in a crisp British accent. “All of that destabilization can be blamed on violent Mazdak extremists that are rampant in the EU. If nothing else it’s a clarion call for further militarization. They can rage all they want, but at the end of the day…” he smiles, it’s a sickeningly sweet smile with a little huff of a laugh behind it, “we’re the ones with the money. The ones who change the policy. What happened in the States can’t happen here. The political landscape is simply too different.”

“Be that as it may…” another British man says from off-screen. He sounds harsher, even older. “We were promised a fucking product and we have nothing to show for it. Where are the workers you promised? Where is the labor factories of lobotomized freaks spinning straw into fucking gold?”

The man on camera grimaces, then twists the expression into a smile. “Just around the corner, George. Just around the corner.”

That smile looks good enough for a camera. Including Asi's.


She turns away from the television, thumbing the screen of her phone. Any emotional response to the rage-inducing message delivered with a sickly sweet smile is tabled for later. "Evil has a face now. Does evil have a name?" Her finger skips on the screen as she taps to upload the face to the internet.

"Ah," she murmurs sotto voce as she begins to pace, eyes on the small screen rather than the television. "A famous one, to boot. One I'd ruled out…"

Asi's brow furrows as she looks back to the television for a moment, like he was there directly to be addressed. "Our evil man is Morgan Atkins, CEO of InVerse Technologies. People of his worked on the manufacture of our bodies, our blood, the neural pathways required to shift our consciousness… Crito Corporate started this, as far as we've learned, but it makes… sense it's him at the center now." And a relief, to be honest. No more guesses, just information. "It's him pushing the agenda now."

Her eyes narrow as she looks back to her phone. "Spinning the story, influencing policy…" She starts typing a search for UK minister George and Google helpfully autofills the rest.

"George Nowell is the Minister for Evolved Affairs, a likely party for who he's talking to. Which means that…" Asi has to blink to fight off the strange sensation of dissonance that comes from the déjà vu this news inspires. It feels like what happened in the Steelworks all over again— the realization that the government was working on something to take away Evolved powers.

What if it was more than just coincidence?

"Are they working with Japan on this? Is this where ARM ties in?" For all the softness of that wondering, her eyes feel as though they want to blacken with the anger that won't stay quiet anymore. Her grip on her phone tightens.

Monica is certainly taking in Asi's findings, tucking names and titles away to be processed later. Right now, her hands grip onto the arms of her chair as she stares at the TV. It's the content that has captured her attention, that widens her eyes and shortens her breathing. Memories twist around her mind, and all the ideals she once fought for. How naive to feel victorious. Of course there was more to be done.

Her head tilts to one side, just a little, like a twitch. She struggles not to react too quickly, not in front of her Nana.

"We'll dig into that connection," she says, eventually. "InVerse, ARM and however many governments are connected to them. We've got resources and we'll make use of them." She does not speak the rest of her thoughts, but it's clear she's not taking it well. Her trademark humor, her wry smile, they're far from her at the moment.

The tape cuts out about there, turning to a blurry static and then just a blank blue screen at the end of the recording. Nia can’t help but wring her hands in the silence that follows, looking humbled by her own hasty actions. But she stands behind them, a moment later lifting her chin and looking over to Asi and Monica.

“Whoever did this to you, Asi…” Nia motions to the tv with a nod, “that man, that Atkins? That’s who Cindy looked for. I didn’t even… get a chance to tell her who to look for. She just did.” And that much troubles Nia some, in her lack of understanding how Cindy’s ability works. “It isn’t right what they did to you, to all those people. They need to be brought to justice for that, in whatever shape it is justice takes these days.”

"Yeah," Asi agrees blandly, looking at nothing in particular. "And if it involves bad actors from multiple governments, I'm not willing to trust any kind of justice except the vigilante kind. Those people will be protected by systems, by power, and even should we try to expose them…"

She lets out a short, callous laugh. She's seen the news, after all. "There are far too many people across the globe who could not give a damn that Evolved are being dragged from their beds and having their abilities— their bodies stripped from them. Good riddance, they might say." Externally, Asi's able to keep her calm, but the fire in her eyes as she looks to Monica is plain. It's the same look she had after she'd been betrayed in Japan, except this time she's looking to her friend instead of past her in her anger to get back at who hurt her and others.

"There's more people involved than we could possibly hope to remove from power, one way or another," she acknowledges. "But perhaps we can target the main actors. Nowell, Atkins, and whoever else is either pulling Atkins' strings or feeding him encouragement. Pull the rot out by the core and hope the rest are too afraid to act."

She's aware just how badly that backfired for Mazdak in Japan when they killed the Minister of Justice, but beside that maybe being their true end goal, she's too angry to consider that the impact might be the same in the UK.

"Justice takes the same shape today that it always has." Monica's tone is darker than Nia's seen it, but she knows why. Knows better than Monica does, even, has known it for longer— when people like them need justice, they have to fight for it.

Monica lets out a long, steadying breath before she looks over at Asi.

"And even if it was something people would actually judge them for… when you're rich, white, and male, there is no crime that can stick to you. Teflon assholes." Which is… an image. But she's standing behind it. "So we need to do this systematically, not rashly. If we remove the head, two more will grow in its place. We have to strip their money, their influence, their support." In the old days, she would do this in a hands-on fashion. Stealing to bombing to assassination; everything was on the table. She has more options to bring to the table now, though. "And we need to do it without a trail back to us."

She remembers how it went for Mazdak, too. But more than that— she prefers to be a shadow, when she can manage it. For as long as she can manage it.

Something about what Monica says elicits a look from Nia. She shifts in her seat a little, straightens her posture so as to look proper when she’s talking out the side of her mouth. “Now the way I remember it, there’s two ways those kinds of people get what’s coming to them. There’s street justice, which I think you girls likely already got in your heads, and then there’s that special kind of justice where they foist themselves up on their own goddamn petards.”

Nia slides off her stool, having had enough of a rest, and walks closer to Monica and Asi. “People like them? They don’t stop at one horrible crime. You find the one that makes the bigger, nastier fish angry enough? They’ll spend a lifetime trying to bite each other’s heads off.” She looks between the two. “I can’t imagine big, rich corporations like getting played by someone they were in bed with.”

It's good to have friends who think with clearer heads than you when you're consumed by short-sighted angers and petty hopes. Asi reflects on this when Monica suggests tearing apart the supports propping people like Atkins up from the shadows— a line much like what she would normally suggest here— and then again when Nia proposes setting up a scenario where infighting occurs. It's strange to find herself feeling comforted, even smiling shortly, but she can't help it in the face of having allies like this.

"Absolutely," she agrees, sounding as humbled as she is. "Disarming them, turning them against each other is… the better tack."

"No matter how much a more personal approach sounds appealing," Asi admits, smile more a grimace for the moment.

"Don't worry," Monica says to Asi with an upward tick of an eyebrow, "it'll get personal, in the end." That's a promise. "I have a few names in mind that could help. We'll meet with them and see if they're willing. Luther needs something to do anyway. And Godfrey is nothing if not adept at stirring the pot. Nana—"

She pauses. Her mouth turns in a frown as she considers her own grandmother, her flesh and blood, her sweet Nana.

"You want in?"

Which is perhaps not at all what she would like to say. She would like her grandma to be safe and sound and unaware of the dangers and darkness. But obviously she's also a Dawson and also prone to get involved rather than sit back. And maybe it's safer if she does so with them instead of on her own.

Nia crosses her arms over her chest and raises one gray brow. “Girl, you would have to have me committed to keep me out of this.” She says with a slowly growing smile. “Besides, if everything that old white ghost showed me about myself is true? This is precisely the kind of business I used to love getting into.”

That's a hell of a loaded comment, one that brings Asi's attention back to the older woman with an arch of both brows. "Okay," she says on the edge of a laugh. "First thing's first. We've got to talk about whatever that means…" she says as she crouches down to eject the finished tape from the VCR.

She holds up the tape indicatively. "And then we can get started on this."


3,400 Miles Away

TORCHLIGHT Initiative Offices
The Shard, London
United Kingdom

2:56 am

“And you’re sure?”

George Nowell casts a scowl down at the city of London from his offices high in the Shard. He stands at the edge of his office, looking out over the city like a gargoyle, cell phone held in one hand and the screen faintly illuminating his reflection in the window.

«Confirmed. We didn’t find her at her house. Her wife and son either.»

Nowell exhales a sigh through his nose and nods, turning to look down at scattered papers on his desk and photographs of a farmhouse in the English countryside. “Thoughts?”

«When we sent a second team back, they found a root cellar in the farmhouse that was concealed. Looks like multiple people had been down there, based on the footprints in the dirt floor. They may have been hiding when we arrived.»

“More than Archer and her family?” Nowell wonders, brow raised.


“And you’re sure they’re not with InVerse?”

«Positive. I’ve searched this facility top-to-bottom, Sir.»

“So either she’s run off into the night with her family, been swept up by the provocateurs from the US that came here, or…” Nowell slides his tongue against the inside of his teeth.

«Or they got to her before us.»

“Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.” Nowell says through his clenched teeth. “Be ready, Agent Jäger. The liquidation call could come any day now.”

«I will, Sir.»

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