The Frozen Mask, Part II


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Scene Title The Frozen Mask, Part II
Synopsis with Isis in control of Tracy's body, Brian leads her into a meeting with the brainchild of FRONTLINE, General Sebastian Autumn.
Date August 13, 2009

Washington D.C.

The Pentagon

It's one of the weirdest silences in the world.

One of those periods of time where no one is talking because no one has anything to say. They're not interested in each other, they just want to think about the trivial details of their lives and perhaps a little about the thing they're about to do. But this is not one of those silences.

Despite himself, his heart is pounding against his chest. How could no one else hear it? So much could be riding on this, Isis' very life might be at stake. How could he have done this? Brought an untrained girl into a meeting in the pentagon? Second thoughts, doubts, swim around madly in his mind. Almost deafening. The internal workings of Brian Winters are a cyclone of screaming fiery madness.

His sunglasses are placed back over his ears, a condescending look being delivered to the man that opens for the door for he and Tracy. He smoothly slides out of the vehicle, taking a step forward, turning and waiting for Tracy. His 'client'. Cool and calm, not a thing on the man betrays him. No sweat, no irregular breathing. Just another day at the office, so to speak. "We're here, Miss Strauss."

The trip for Isis is spent raging a very different battle - there was something different in this body, something cold. She hated the cold. It nipped at the tips of her fingers when her mind drifted towards how greatly everything relied on her and she could not rein in her anxiety quickly enough.

Her countenance, Tracy's countenance, shows nothing of the internal battle, however, directed with a serious gaze to the blank space of the seatback in front of her. Until she's directed out from the vehicle. She unfolds with a calculated grace, smoothing her hands over the smooth lay of Tracy's dress and offering a simple nod to Brian. "Thank you," she offers to both him and the individual that had opened their door.

The Pentagon is an absolutely sprawling military complex, and as the head of the Department of Defense, it is no surprise that both security and surveillance is high. Having passed three security checkpoints just to get a vehicle up to VIP parking, Tracy Strauss' identification and that of her new security have been checked too many times for good comfort. Thankfully, penetrating deep into the Pentagon isn't the goal here, but rather skimming its labyrinthine surface.

Headed across the parking lot and up the concrete steps towards one of several major entrances to the structure, Tracy Strauss' possessed figure alongside her erstwhile bodyguard proceed thorugh a fourth security checkpoint at the door where their IDs are checked again, through metal detectors and past dozens of cameras into what is known as the E-Ring, the external ring of offices for senior DOD officials, where the office of one General Sebastian Autumn is located.

Just in the immense, marble-floored lobby, the sense of being small is hard to shake off. Cameras swirl and pivot in the direction of miss Strauss and her bodyguard, security personnel and military officials pass by corridors and halls, emerge from elevators. It's hard not to feel like a tiny cog in a far greater machine here.

Brian's lips are pulled into a tight line. He's never seen anything so grand, so complex. Yet he puts on a good front of making it seem like this is nothing out of the normal. He takes trips to the Pentagon all the time! Leaning in, he murmurs to her softly. "You're doing wonderfully." Before straightening back up.

Hands clasped in front of his hands, his bespectacled gaze grazes over those milling by as they near General Autumn's office. Stopping short, he awaits to be directed. He is after all, a servant in these circumstances.

Oh my god. Oh my god. Oh - my - god. Never in her life had Isis seen anything like this. It showed for a moment, in the lingering of her gaze from side to another. Small. Tiny. Insignificant. Yes, the lobby is quite successful at instilling such thoughts, which of course only lead the power girl's mind to those of being squashed under the government's large 'boot'. Should something go amiss… Thankfully, Brian's encouragement directs her thoughts back to the current reality and the possibility of hope.

She clears Tracy's throat with a reserved little sound and makes a considerably delicate gesture of rapping her tiny knuckles on the office door. A sidelong glance to Brian before parting the door and stepping inside.

After a cursory knock on that glass door, Tracy's body and Brian's best impression of James Bond come into a spacious, white-painted room with a priminent flag hanging at the back wall and photographs of several administrations of President lined up around it, with a large portrait of President Nathan Petrelli featured at the center of them. In the room, however, is not a five star general, but rather a humble looking and mousy woman in her late twenties seated behind a desk. There's a fond smile that comes over her lips as she rises up from her desk, putting down a plastic coffee cooler. "Miss Strauss!" The receptionist chirps out, adjusting her glasses with one hand as she slips out from behind the desk.

"Ah it's great to see you again. The General's waiting for you, but," she turns with an awkward jerk and reaches down to snatch up a thin book from her desk, offering it out to Tracy. "Thank you so much for lending me this." The book held out towards Tracy is entitled The Assertive Woman by Lynn Bloom. "I'm about to go on my break, but please— " she motions to an oaken door marked with a bronze plaque across the room, "Go right on in. He's been waiting for you."

Tracy's faithful lapdog, he remains on her toes. A precursory glance given to the room. Wow. Then the woman is studied intently. His eyes dart to the receptionists desk. He watches her stoically as she approaches the woman he usually calls Isis. Taking a step forward he puts his hand out, "I'll carry that for you, Miss Strauss." He offers, taking The Assertive Woman in one hand, he tucks it under his arm. As he leans in, his head turns slightly. Mouthing the name he read off the desk. 'Felicia'. Stepping behind Tracy he waits for her to go in first.

Isis barely manages to fight the instinct to cringe, keeping Tracy's features not only composed, but manages to draw them into an artfully arranged, fake smile for the overjoyed woman making her way forward. God, she'd actually have to thank her mother for all of this bullshit later. Assuming she made it out of here alive, of course.

"Oh!" Tracy's higher, more melodic tones ring more brightly than Isis had thought humanly possible. She glances toward Brian's hands reaching for the text. "I am so glad you enjoyed it, really." Not a lie. Not a lie. People should enjoy books more often, in her opinion. She keeps the quick exchange carefully void of any comments that might trip of her honest virtue, though. "Of course, of course. I hope he has not been waiting long. Do take care, Felicia." The first renewed step is a bit awkward - heels, an evil creation - but is collected into a renewed fluidity as Tracy's lips bare a last quick smile for the receptionist before she pushes through the indicated door.

"…and I told you, when you get me a confirmation on where Gray is I want you to tell me, not just go off on your own and try to deal with the problem on by yourself." General Sebastian Autumn has a deep, commanding voice, but outwardly he's a short, portly, bald little man who looks more like a kindly uncle than a military commander, the cognitive dissonance is somewhat refreshing. "I'm sorry, I've got to go, my nine o'clock is here." Setting the phone he was on down, General Autumn waves Tracy on in, giving a side-long look to the man at her heels.

"I thought we had an agreement that our meetings would be confidential?" Sebastian's eyes flick to Brian, narrow, and then divert back to Tracy. "At the very least you could have had the decency to call ahead and let me know you were bringing someone else." His lips purse together, the leather of his chair creaks as he reclines back into it and steeples his fingers. "Who the hell is he?"

Stepping in after Tracy. Brian's brows surprisingly stay level at the words he overhears. Gray. Gabriel Gray. Confirmation of where he was. Going after him by himself. Could that be connected to Gillian's attacker? He keeps himself steady. He doesn't know Gillian, the name 'Gray' means nothing to him. He is here for Tracy's security and nothing else.

Apparently unphased by Autumn's anger directed at his personage, he glances at Tracy. Should she talk Autumn into keeping him here, or dismiss him, he will obey instantly. He is after all, Tracy's employee.

For Isis the last tidbit of the phone exchange does indeed mean absolutely nothing. Tracy looks back over her shoulder. "Oh!" She faces back about. A few anxious blinks could easily be misconstrued as a girlish batting of Tracy's velvet lashes. "He is so good at his job I almost forgot he was there. I do apologize. This is my bodyguard, Mister Andrew Fox. As equally trustworthy as I am, I assure you." God bless the fickleness of truth. "Of course, if you'd prefer he can wait outside," she offers in an amicable tone, made subtly high and sweet by the soft tension gripping her vocals. She makes a tentative gesture towards the door before adjusting the strap of her purse around the stolen body's delicate shoulder.

There's a grumbling old-man sigh from Autumn, but he's reaching for a cigar not buzzing for security, so everything seems to have gone well enough. "No, no…" he takes the cigar cutter in the other hand, snipping off one end before turning it around and setting it between his lips, fishing around on his desk for his lighter. "If you're vetting him he's fine, I know you of all people won't hang yourself with your own noose…" With the lighter found, a click-flick of the flint sends a tongue of flame lapping over the head of the cigar, and Autumn breathes in a deep breath before exhaling smoke through his nostrils in twin jets.

"Alright," he reaches down to close a folder on his desk and toss it aside, looking up to Tracy. "Let's hear it." Blue eyes upturn expectantly towards the Presidential aide, both thin brows raised as he takes another thoughtful puff on his cigar.

Hear what? Oh god.

Brian's heart busts through bones melts through the flesh and flies out of his chest. It flops on the ground and withers and dies. Or at least, that's what it feels like. If only he was in Tracy's body, he could possibly fanagle something, mix around words to something passable. Jump around the points and maybe just maybe get him to say what they came here for. But he's not in Tracy's body. Isis is. And he has no idea what she's going to come up with. So Brian does something he hasn't done in a long time…

He prays…

That and searches the room for cameras. Just in case he should have to end this meeting violently.

Why does she continue to do people favors and why is she always only half informed!? Isis bites down on the insides of Tracy's cheeks to keep from gawking, screaming, crying, and/or looking back to Brian. Her voice is a strained, anxious whisper as she begins. "Well, you see…" She clears Tracy's throat and looks down to the blackberry at risk of cracking beneath her white knuckles. Her fingertips are cold again, and a quick glance reveals glossy lines of frost beginning to form in the swirling patterns of Tracy's fingerprints.

She lifts to press the back of her hand to her forehead. "Apologies; my mind does not want to cooperate. Such is the curse of the overworked and lacking sleep." Too true. She fidgets with stuffing the blackberry in Tracy's purse if just to snag a few more moments. When she speaks again, her voice is crisp and icy - It's all or nothing. All or the entire Pentagon falling on their heads, actually.

"I'm sorry, but I'd appreciate it if we might bypass the normal, polite and political veil today, if just to save what is left of my sanity. I came to discuss Frontline…"

Rolling his tongue over the inside of his cheek, Autumn bites down on his cigar and leans forward, folding his hands on his desktop as he stares up at Tracy as if she had six heads and one of them happened to be singing in Italian. "You know I've seen you have bad days before, Miss Strauss, but I'll admit this one particularly takes the cake." The cigar is switched to the other side of his mouth, back straightening as he reaches up to pluck it from his lips and motion towards her with one hand, trailing a line of smoke from the tip of the cigar as he does.

"You need to get your priorities in order, because that sort've embarrassing stumbling isn't going to win you a whole lot of private opinion in the President's court. Now I god damned well know you came here to talk about Frontline, you told me you had questions you wanted to ask about Unit-01 and the objectives we were going to be putting out for the first six months…" The cigar is slipped back into Autumn's mouth, a deep breath drawn in as he exhales smoke again, like some short, slightly overweight, bald dragon. Te analogy isn't very fitting, save for the booming quality of his voice and that Texas twang. "Now, if you need to come back later after you've composed yourself I might be able to squeeze you in sometime next week. But otherwise I expect you to have all your ducks in a row when you come through my door, am I understood?"

Leaping over the desk in one swift motion, his hands place themselves firmly around the tubby man's head and cleanly snaps the General's neck. His body falling slack onto the desk.

The fantasy plays out before Brian's eyes, there's nothing else for him to do, but to daydream. Daydream about this succeeding. About getting out of here with information, and their skins. But then Autumn gives him pause.

Thus far Isis had been forced to trudge forward. Now Autumn has given her an opening a way out. And an opening what door will she take? The madness of uncertainty screams inside of him. His body submitting to utter chaos. Outwardly..

His finger twitches.

Tracy's shoulders snap back, her icy blues coming to level with the stout government official. The reapplication of composure smooths back into place over each slender, feminine limb. "Of course. Forgive me - I greatly appreciate you taking time to talk see me."

Indeed, the presented door to freedom beckoned all the brighter for the darkness of danger looming around her. But, just as equally the grunted words had offered prospect, a glimmer of vision in the blindness with which Isis had entered.

Clip clip. Tracy's heels steal two elegant steps forward, presenting the lady's frame nearer to the large desk. "I do not wish to waste my time or yours," she says decisively. "These first six months are, of course, crucial. People are already uneasy." She turns her visage to casually peruse the lay of the room, a contemplative demeanor that is true to the gears whirring wildly in her thoughts. "Some minor details on the upcoming objectives would be a great assistance in preparing for any concerns that are sure to arrise thereafter." She lofts a brow, turning statement to query, and draws on a polite smile to turn back upon Autumn. On Tracy's features it is strong, on the inside Isis worries about the risk of actually doing something girly - fainting.

Relaxing a touch, Autumn dips his head down into a slow nod as he draws another lungful of smoke, holding it for a moment before exhaling slowly. "Well, Operation Lantern is our primary objective. Special Agent Kershner is heading both that — in coalition with Chicago Air — and acting as the administrative head for Unit-01." Tapping some ashes down into a glass dish next to his desk lamp, Autumn turns his eyes up to Tracy again. "We're planning on moving on Staten Island in that six month window. Operation Lantern is designed to soften the ground, as it were, for our primary offensive. The first few months are going to be low-to-ground intel gathering on the Island outside of what has already been provided to us by Chicago Air. During this time, Unit-01 will protect and serve against violent Evolved when they're called in by local law enforcement. They're not police, and we're emphasizing that point. They are a sugrical instrument to be utilized by law-enforcement to defuse dangerous situations that SCOUT, frankly, is not cut out for."

Breathing in a deep breath, Autumn lay his cigar in the ashtray, folding his hands across his stomach. "Between you, me, and your wall over there," he cracks a smile, "SCOUT is being dissolved. The project was a good idea, but I've heard talk from the Justice department that FRONTLINE is going to be filling its niche. While I don't know what the NYPD is going to put together in its place, I know several members of SCOUT are being considered for advancement into FRONTLINE in the future."

Lacing his fingers together, Autumn glances over at Brian, then back to Tracy again. "The move on Staten Island isn't going to be publicized, not until it's already started. The idea is to roll in and take control of the Rookery and pave the way for federal agents and NYPD to start rounding up known criminals and wanted fugitives hiding in the area. Special Agent Kershner has been gathering intelligence with her agents in the area for months now, and we're pretty sure we have a solid idea where some human trafficking is going on, and we're going to need to put that down. But this isn't going to be clear-cutting. Legitimate residents and law-abiding citizens will have nothing to fear, we just want to route the criminal element, and FRONTLINE is going to be the Federal Government's sledgehammer for that when the FBI comes in."

A gospel choir suddenly has found its way into Brian's head, and hallelujah is ringing out in several different octaves in harmony. An old fashioned organ even found its way into the mix as the beautiful ballad skirts its way around Brian's consciousness. A rainbow even sprouts out over his brain, and from it rains unicorns and happiness in little buckets. A tiny little man does a dance in the corner of Brian's mind.

Meanwhile, in the van, Brian is furiously typing down everything he hears and sees. Everything is typed out, "Come on Isis. A little more. Milk him." He murmurs back to himself.

Back in the pentagon, Brian's lips crack into a small smirk in response to the 'wall' comment. Or maybe it's because he just hit a goldmine of glee.

You getting all this back there? God, was she going to let Brian have it if they made it out alive. She suddenly wonders if such a thing is an issue for the replicator - lucky for her the furrow of Tracy's soft brows and contemplative expression are fitting for the absorption of information. Such things as mortality do tip the balance in an operation such as this. No time to doubt the only individual that could help you, though.

The general's visage focuses back into her attentions. "I see…" Isis puppeteers Tracy's body to face about, stealing a few steps that are meant to appear thoughtful without breaking into the realm of worried pacing. She risks a glance to Brian. What more might he need? Where. When. How. She turns back slowly, cocking her head gently to the side in a curious and casual posture, embellishing the curve of her Tracy's slender neck on the halo background of the woman's golden locks, lifting a hand to draw her fingers along the glossy pearls strung around Tracy's throat. "The intel collected to date - what manner of Evolved are we talking about here? And, should all go accordingly, what do you plan to do with them?"

Autumn's brows furrow together, "I don't have the details here in front of me, Miss Strauss, that's entirely Special Agent Kershner's department, but they've surveiled evolved members of the Chinese mafia on the island, as well as those under private employ in the rookery. Enough to be dangerous. As for what's done with them, well that isn't the military's problem, now is it?" His eyes track Tracy sidelong, "We're not just after the Evolved like some goddamned witch hunt, we're just conflict neutralization. Whatever's done with them is up to the NYPD or the Department of Homeland Security, depending on jurisdiction."

Eyeing his cigar with a considerate stare, Autumn's focus comes back to Tracy. "Miss Strauss, you're off your game more so than usual. Let me give you a friendly piece of advice: Don't forsake on sleep to set appointments too early for you. I recommend you head back to your hotel and get a few more hours of sleep before you embarrass yourself in front of the Vice-President this afternoon."

This afternoon.

One side of Tracy's smile waves ever so subtly before pulling back up in a notably plastic expression. Being embarrassed, even in someone else's form, was never a pleasant experience. "Thank you for your concern. I think I'll take your advice." Tracy's tones deliver smoothly. "And your time. I greatly appreciate it." She dips her head at a polite angle in gratitude and farewell to the general before turning back around.

"Shall we then, Mister Fox?" She says in a teasing lilt and makes a gesture towards the door before picking back up that determined step that carries her through the door, and even through the room beyond with only a little wave and a quickly chirruped, "Good to see you, Felicia," just to assure she's not bothered any further by the bubbly woman. She just wants out!!!

On the way out of Autumn's office, the General just slouches down into his chair and looks across his office at a sideboard stocked with alcohol, while Felicia rises up from her desk and waves cheerily as they make their way out into the hall of the E-Ring offices. By the time they curtly brisk their way down halls, past offices, through metal detectors and back out through security checkpoints to the motorpool, there's something relieving about seeing the clear blue skies and feeling the hot sting of sun on their cheeks.

They made it out.

It worked.

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