The Lies We Tell


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title The Lies We Tell
Synopsis "All warfare is based on deception." — Sun Tzu
Date February 13, 2020

The Kensei sword is a storied relic, but not widely known. But to those aware of the history of Takezo Kensei, the blade is unmistakable, as is the symbol it bears.

For the last hour, Alice Shaw has had little to do other than stare at the sword, seated in an armchair in the lounge below the Director’s Office. The lush greenery of hanging plants and tiered planters offsets the Brutalist interior design, reminds Alice of government buildings, of black sites, and dark memories.

She stares unfocused at the sword, lost in recollection of events over fifty years passed. Only the sound of the lounge door opening can draw her from her torpor, bringing her mind back into focus. Alice looks over her shoulder, watching as Adam Monroe enters from the hall and shuts the door behind himself, activating the magnetic lock.

“This wasn’t how it was supposed to be,” is Adam’s frustrated greeting. But Alice, wordlessly, disagrees.

This was always the desired outcome.

Director’s Lounge
Praxis Ziggurat
Praxia, California Safe Zone

February 13th
2:17 pm Local Time

“You were supposed to stay at SESA indefinitely,” Adam says with a clipped tension in his voice. “I had Garza go after Claudia to keep her safe not sunder the Deveaux Society.” There is no familial reunion behind closed doors. Adam’s frustration manifests in a vein bulging at his brow. Alice, as always, is his calm mirror.

“You’re overthinking things,” Alice says with a motion for Adam to join her in the sitting area, as if this were her space. Adam resists, obstinately. “It was only a matter of time before I was found out. We were fortunate our allies in Mazdak were able to secret Alphonse away before—”

“Yes,” Adam snaps, “let’s talk about our allies in Mazdak.” He approaches the sitting area, crossing his arms over his chest. He does not, however, take a seat. Instead, Adam looms behind the sofa with all the energy of a frustrated parent. “How long have they been co-opting Lanhua for missions without clearing them with me?”

Alice looks away and lifts her brows. “Unclear. Lines of communication with Mazdak have always been unreliable. She’s been receiving medical treatment under their supervision since the Sunstone facility imploded, so she has the best line of communication with them.”

“She antagonized the Malagasy representative to the US. Huruma’s son.” Adam snaps back again. “And now I’m hearing that Damian is back in the field? Loaned out to Yamagato?” His eyes narrow. “You are supposed to keep me informed Alice.”

Alice lifts her hands in a gesture of defensiveness. “Things have been happening fast,” is her small excuse. “I can’t profess to know what Claudia was thinking there, perhaps you should ask her?”

“I did.” Adam says, which Alice wasn’t expecting. “She said you authorized Damian’s assistance. You told me he disappeared after Natazhat and that we didn’t know where he was. How long have you been keeping that from me.”

“Adam,” Alice says with a slow spread of her hands, “I think you’re being irrational. You know we all have our secrets to— ”

Zhao is dead, Alice.” Adam says sharply, a flush of anger behind his words. “I finally got a copy of the Liberty Island report, no thanks to you.” His lips press together in a thin line. “Lanhua killed him. Killed Zhao. I need to know why.”

Taking in a slow breath, Alice folds her hands in her lap and focuses on a distant point in space far away from the conversation. “I will admit I have failed you in recent months,” she says quietly. “I know I owe you my life, after what happened at Coyote Sands. But you know I am — and have always been — loyal to the cause. It’s been challenging to operate, Aria has been suspicious of— ”

“What happened to Caspar?” Adam asks suddenly. Alice stiffens her shoulders at the question. “I had two assets on him,. We were well ahead of Wolfhound. How the fuck did we lose him?”

Alice’s expression flattens, blue eyes averted to her feet, one brow raised.

She wasn’t expecting that question.

Two Years Ago…

Hope, Arkansas
November 26th


Through the stands of narrow trees and tall reeds, there is a sunlit clearing of waist high grass roughly two acres across. A dirt road leads out from the property in a northerly direction and a beat up brown pickup truck is parked on the road in front of a double wide trailer with a cheap satellite television dish mounted on top. Plastic lawn furniture, a barbecue, old tires, stacks of cordwood and other ephemera litter the backyard.

Behind the trailer there’s a red-painted shipping container surrounded by a chickenwire fence. The shipping container is streaked with rust where the paint has worn away. Barbed wire winds around fence posts surrounding it.

Sitting on the rickety back steps of his trailer, Caspar Abraham stares out across the overgrown field behind his house, one obscuring landmines seeded through the grass. He is tired, dark circles around his eyes and a thin sheen of sweat across his brow. Wearily, Caspar grabs the wooden railing and pulls himself to his feet. But as he starts to turn, the presence of someone in his peripheral vision makes Caspar tense, then jerkily reach for his shotgun leaned up against the trailer door.

Staring down the double-barreled shotgun’s iron sights, he sees the figure of Alice Shaw standing amid the tall grass, looking anxiously into the distance before she fixes a look on her old compatriot. Caspar slowly lowers the shotgun, looking as confused as he is shocked.

“I know you’ve probably booby-trapped this whole thing,” Alice calls out from the other side of the barbed wire fence. “Can we talk, Caspar?”

There’s a tremor of uncertainty that runs through Caspar before he turns around and opens the door to the trailer. Caspar doesn’t go inside, so much as lean in and flip a switch by the door connected to uninsulated wires running out of the house and into the grass.

“Stick to the fence, hug the trailer wall.” Caspar calls out, and Alice does as requested after she steps over the low fence. Trudging through the tall grass up to the trailer, Alice dabs sweat from her brow with a floral print kerchief. “Why’re you here Alice?”

Alice doesn’t answer as she continues her approach, watching Caspar the way one might an unfamiliar stray dog. It isn’t until she reaches the steps to the trailer, looking up at Caspar, that she says anything. “You’re a tough man to find,” she says in jest. “Can I come in?”

Caspar makes a face, then looks out to the treeline, then opens the door to his trailer again and steps inside, holding the door open for her. The trailer smells of sweat and spoiled food; stacks of old newspapers are piled up by the door, dishes piled up in the sink of the small kitchen. She struggles to maintain a neutral facade in the face of everything.

“Why’re you lookin’ for me, Alice?” Caspar asks, not going farther than his kitchen. “I’m out. Done. No more pennies, no more memories. Cancer’s rottin’ me from the inside out,” he says with a shaky voice. “I got it okay out here, got a lifeline, got myself. My dog.”

Alice smiles, bit it isn’t an honest one. “It was bold of you to betray Adam like that. Stealing a discarded Hydra test subject… fleeing into the night.” There’s a hint of appreciation in her tone. “This isn’t about Adam, or your freedoms.” Caspar’s brows furrow in confusion. “This is about the past.”

Caspar angles his head to the side, still not quite getting it.

“Dark is the hour before the sun rises.” Alice says, and Caspar’s throat tightens in a nervous swallow. “I received word from the Prophets. The point of conjunction is rapidly approaching.”

“I didn’t…” Caspar starts to say, but he fails to finish the sentence. Now, Alice smiles honestly. But it’s a smug, self-satisfied thing.

“You never had a strong faith,” Alice admits with a small shrug. “It’s nearly complete, though. The work you did back then… none of this would have been possible without you.”

Caspar sets his shotgun on the counter, then turns to look back at Alice. “That was decades ago, Alice. I was young, resentful. I don’t care about any of that now. It all feels like a horrible dream.” His face contorts into an expression of regret. “All that ability overuse, it damaged my brain. I can’t go back to that.” He reiterates his stance. The personal stakes. “Whatever you came here for, it ain’t happening.”

Alice nods, checking her watch, then walking deeper into the trailer. “Like I said, you did your part.” She makes a noise in the back of her throat, one of uncertainty and doubt. “Adam is coming for you,” she says carefully. Though she’s certain Caspar suspects it.

“He’s welcome to try,” Caspar says, turning to the cabinets in his kitchen, fishing around in one. “I ain’t pulling any more memories off them pennies,” he says, picking up a jar from inside the cabinet. A jar of pennies. As he turns to face Alice again, he is shocked to see that she’s closed the distance and has a gun.

Alice— ” Caspar says in a high pitched tone of voice before she shoots him in the side of the head at near point-blank range. Caspar jerks, drops the jar and it shatters on the floor. He falls backwards, smearing blood down the wall before he collapses onto the floor.

At first, Alice is calm about the execution, though as she sees Caspar still breathing there’s a hitch in the back of her throat. “Goddamnit,” Alice whispers to herself, training the gun back on Caspar a moment before the back door bursts open.

Alice wheels around, firing a shot without even looking. It strikes the trailer wall next to David Cardinal’s head. “Fuck!” David yelps, ducking into the trailer as Alice realizes she’s been seen. She fires blindly twice more and then scrambles for the front of the trailer.

David ducks into the kitchen, first seeing Caspar and all the blood, then the shotgun on the counter. He grabs that weapon and turns, but Alice has already burst out the front door, running as fast as she can toward the opposite treeline. Kyla Renautas comes in next, one hand clapped over her mouth and eyes wide.

Fuck,” David hisses, “fuck, fuck!”

Present Day

“I don’t know,” is the lie Alice tells Adam. “Wolfhound never determined who killed Caspar. We may never know. He could have gotten up to anything, made any number of enemies. My working theory is that people who buy in to the Pure Earth ideology may have sniffed him out.” But Alice doesn’t sound convinced.

“I’d offer to look more deeply into Caspar’s death,” Alice suggests with a hint of a smile. “But that may be hard, now.”

Adam finally moves to the sofa, accepting her explanation with a slow and weary nod. It’s like once Alice told him she didn’t know, he aged a decade. It’s all perceptual, but it’s like he took on a burden when she said that. Alice doesn’t know what to make of it.

“It’s too late,” Adam says with a shake of his head. “It doesn’t matter. Nothing will matter soon enough.”

Alice’s eyes narrow imperceptibly. “What’s the next step of the plan?” She asks. “How can I serve?”

Adam drags his hands down his face, looking up at Alice. He seems tired, more so than she’s ever seen him. He is silent for an awkward amount of time, just watching Alice and considering how to answer.

“It’s like I always said,” Adam suggests as he closes his eyes, “this world is sick, and I am the cure.”

It’s precisely what Alice wanted to hear.

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