The Ninth Circle


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Scene Title The Ninth Circle
Synopsis In the Divine Comedy, the Ninth Circle is ringed by classical and Biblical giants, who perhaps symbolise the pride and other spiritual flaws lying behind acts of treachery. — After an encounter with Elle, Dante Lupinetti comes to renegotiate the terms of his arrangement with Desmond Harper, not having realized just who he made that deal with.
Date August 18, 2010

Fort Hero

Off-hours in Fort Hero makes the subterranean features of this former military installation seem abandoned. With only minimal lighting on, the shadowed concrete corridors all begin to look the same, each straight and squared passageway labyrinthine and artificially cold. Down by the recreation room, in the hours when off-duty agents aren't utilizing the several different rooms work of weight training and exercise equipment or the lounge, it has all of the charms of a hospital after visiting hours.

It is at this auspicious time of night when Desmond Harper has chosen to meet with one of his clandestine operatives about sensitive information pertaining to assignments. Situated in the games room, standing between a ping-pong table and in the glow of a vending machine's lighted signage, agent Harper looks relatively good for a man who had his jaw broken by Martin Crowley just over a week ago. The Institute's medical plan must be out of this world.

Hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks, Crowley paces around the table, head down and his ubiquitous bluetooth headset tucked in his right ear, presumably not in the middle of a call, given what he intends to discuss in the here and now, as soon as his late-night rendezvous actually arrives.

There's not much better for medical plans than Evolved healers, are there? … Does the Company even have any of those, these days? That'll be something to look into. More importantly, do they do dental?

That aforementioned clandestine operative arrives more-or-less on time when Agent Dante Lupinetti cracks open the door to the meeting room, quietly peeking in. Spotting Harper, the hawk-faced man gives a curt nod and steps in, quietly closing the door behind him. His head tilts, ear perked and listening for just a moment as he steps forward to hold out a hand to Harper. "Sir," is all the greeting the tense operative gives. This whole situation will warrant plenty of tension, by the time talks are through.

"I'm not entirely sure what's going on," Harper begins, shoulders slacking as he lifts a wrinkled dollar bill from his pocket and turns towards the vending machine, "so I'm going to work the creases out of this dollar so I can get myself something to drink, and you're going to explain to me exactly what's going on."

Lifting ihs other hand out of his pocket, Harper takes the dollar bill by each end, and begins running it along the corner of the vending machine, trying to smooth out the creases.

"I wouldn't skimp on the details, either," he adds with a raise of one brow.

Dante frowns, slipping that offered hand into his pocket, and the tension in his shoulders ratchets up another notch. Not a good start.

"A lot's been going on lately, sir. You may have to be a bit more specific." A ballsy remark to make, for sure. Quietly, he watches Harper start to work out those creases before going over to stand beside him, pulling his own wallet out of his back pocket. "I may have a newer bill in here I can trade to you. Anyways, I doubt this is about why I came to see you, unless Flora really did manage to get a message to you. Is it about one of the operations? Or about my Registration?" There's a tightening of his words to that last point, hinting that's something he'd really not want to talk about right now.

"Bishop," is all Harper adds in explanation, shaking out that dollar bill and turning to look over at Dante, one brow experimentally raised as though he were trying to study the other man about something. "I'm here to talk about Bishop and I'm here to talk about the assignment I gave both you and Dawson and the continuance of that work."

Offering out the old and wrinkled dollar bill, Harper keeps that brow kicked up. "You're either with us, Lupinetti, or you're not. If the latter is the case, I'd like to find out why someone as bright as you is taking such active steps to murder his own career." There's an undercurrent there that implies Harper may not just be speaking about the longevity of Dante's career itself.

That one brow pushes up both of Dante's, his spine straightening like Harper had flicked a spring loose up his back. He tugs that bill of his out, hastily snagging Harper's bill out of his fingers and offering out a newer, crisper oner. "Sir. I have no intention of murdering my career. However, I'm a little concerned about whose careers Bishop might end up murdering. What have you heard about her behavior so far, since you tried to bring her into the fold?"

"Not a single complaint, yet," which Harper implies has entirely to do with this conversation, taking the bill between two fingers and inspecting it in a moment of feigned scrutiny before lookingback to Dante. "She's had discretion and self-control right up until your complaint hit my ears. Needless to say, it couldn't have come at a worst time. I'm flying out to Russia for some field-work for the CIA tomorrow morning, so I want this off my shoulders before I lay down to sleep tonight."

Turning towards the vending machine, Harper slides the dollar bill inside with a whirr of the internal motor, then crouches down to inspect the plastic buttons for the soft-drinks inside. "If Bishop is at fault, than I'd like to call her in and give her a stern talking to, rather than have you go off the reservation. I don't know how upset you are about what happened, Lupinetti, but I'd rather resolve this peacefully between my agents rather than lose one."

Depressing one of the buttons, there's a rumble, a clunk, and then a clatter as a can bounces around inside the machine and is dispensed out the front. "Specifically, I want to know just how much she acted out of line, and if anyone beside you is aware of that." Reaching down to take the orange can of Crush out from the tray it landed in, Harper slowly straightens and stands up, turning to look over his shoulder to Dante. "Details, Lupinetti, the Devil's in them."

Dante watches Harper inspect the dollar bill, putting on an expression of injured innocence. "If there's any traces of cocaine on that bill, sir, it's a complete surprise to me, I swear," he deadpans. As the topic turns directly to Bishop and her issues, he manages to get a little control over that tension in his body.

"Then let me put your fears to rest about that, sir," he says, folding his hands in front of his stomach and leaning a shoulder against the vending machine, "I have no intention of leaving the Company or doing anything to harm anyone's career or any operation. What Bishop's behavior covers is related to that…ah… extra-occupational work you asked Dawson and I to take part in? If you recall?" Dante's eyes narrow for a moment, watching Harper carefully. His eyes flick about the hallway, up to the corners of the ceiling and the distant doors. Is anyone listening in?

"I've told no one details about it so far, not even Isabella. What she did do was ask me directly about my involvement with you. Accusing, if I'm any judge of tone. The phrase "Harper's eyes and ears" came up. Reasonably enough, I think, I didn't trust her with any honest answer about that kind of question, so I played like I didn't know what she was talking about. I don't think she actually needed an honest answer, as she segued directly into claiming that she would be spying on me, since I wouldn't answer her question." His face screws up as he says this in disgust. He's never liked playing the part of a tattletale.

"You'll be leaving the Company soon enough," is something of an ominous foreshadowing for Harper to give as he cracks the Crush open, "but not now, and not without your future career advancement in mind." Lifting the can up, Desmond takes a long, drawn out sip from it, then lowers it from his lips and looks around the break room. "When I get back from assignment I'll speak with Bishop and I can assure you that won't ever happen again. Her error in judgment won't be one that she repeats, I can assure you that."

Walking away from the vending machine, Harper's shoes scuff along the tiled floor, brows furrowed and dar eyes angled down until he clears the distance between himself and Dante. "On that note," Harper adds quietly, "I'm going to take it that you and Dawson don't have anything interesting to report, in so much as our extra-curricular activities are concerned?"

Dante's face goes completely blank at that ominous pseudo-threat from his boss. Gulp. "Do me a favor, sir? Let her know that attempting to blackmail a colleague isn't very good for team morale. I'm certain it won't happen again, sir. And I'm sorry to say, as long as Bishop is privy to information that can harm others if it gets out, Dawson and I will have to renege on the deal we made with you. For our own safety, you understand." As Harper approaches, Dante straightens up, slipping his hands in his pockets. "So, no sir. We have no information for you."

"For your own safety," Harper offers quietly, "you'll want to re-think that. You and Dawson both." Harper takes one more step closer, brows furrowed and head slowly tilted to the side as his blue eyes flick from one of Dante's to the other. "I want to make myself as absolutely clear as possible, this wasn't a fair-weather arrangement the two of you made with me. This was all-in, and Elle Bishop's mistake aside, you're all-in. If you want to back out now, if you want to throw in the towel… I can assure you that Elle Bishop's mistake will be the least dangerous thing you will find yourselves presented with."

That sounds much more clearly like a threat. "You are on a sinking ship, Lupinetti, and I'm the only man between you and a life-preserver. So if you want to back out, I'll put you back in that waist deep water and see how you sink or swim. But I'm the only chance you and Dawson have for continuing to have anything resembling a normal life in the near future."

Blue eyes narrow and Harper's jaw tenses for a moment. "You let me worry about Bishop and handle her and make absolutely certain that this doesn't have a repeat incident. You just worry about doing what I asked you to do, and keeping your head above water."

Dante's eyes narrow as Harper comes in closer, that tension tightening his spine once again. Fear and anger flicker into Dante's eyes, and his jaw tightens with the effort of tamping them down in the presence of Lupinetti's superior. "…no sir," Dante says, his voice quiet, "No new information. I'll let you know as soon as we hear something, however." A beat passes, Dante's gaze landing directly on Harper's nose, his chin tilted down just slightly. "Is that all, sir?" God, what did he get himself into?

There's a steady nod as Harper lifts up his Crush and takes another slurped sip from it, then lowers it down slowly. "No, that's everything." Though there's a moment when Harper starts to turn away, then pauses and looks over his shoulder back to Dante, one brow slowly raised before blue eyes flick around the room, then settle on Agent Lupinetti again.

"You and Dawson…" Harper offers in a hushed tone of voice, "call in sick on the 31st. Stay at home, have a good day… don't answer your phone." That orange can is lifted up again and Harper takes another slow sip from his soda, then offers a dismissive nod to the agent, and the painted quality of a feigned smile.

"See you around, Lupinetti," Harper tacks on as his farewell to the agent.

Dante continues to stand ramrod straight, his upper lip quivering a little as he watches Harper take that drink. He was a little thirsty earlier, but all thoughts of that are out the window now. His keys are clenched in a tight fist in his pocket.

When Harper steps away, Dante's lip curls into a brief snarl before he lets out a breath, pulling his hand out and fixing his eyes on the marks on his palm where the keys dug into his skin. The hushed remark from Harper has Dante looking up again, this time looking mystified. "Sir?" he says, a simple statement of his confusion, not asking for any further clarification. He nods back, though that tension doesn't leave him, this time. "Have a good evening, sir." There he stays for a moment, leaning against the wall to watch Harper go. The empty hallway with the quiet hum of the vending machine is what Dante wants, what he needs for a moment, to collect his thoughts. Being threatened by an foolishly arrogant psycho is one thing, but by your boss?

Things are not turning out according to Dante's Ten Year Plan, these days.

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