The Worth Of An Agent


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Scene Title The Worth of an Agent
Synopsis Agent Cooper comes to Director Choi with a grievance.
Date May 2, 2019

Pacing a short distance from the Director Choi’s door, Thomas Cooper was nervous about what he was about to do. You got this. He was in the middle of a mental pep talk. You can do this, Coop. He had seen her go in, had checked with Dirk if she had any appointments soon.

He had been working up the courage to have this conversation with Kenner, when he was passed up multiple times for cases. Nights spent wondered if it was due to his failure on the evo trafficking ring after months and months of not being able to get people to open up to him or really talk to him. When Choi had taken over, he had hoped for a clean slate and that she’d see the cop under it all. They had done some work together, but…


When he had heard that his buddy Cesar had been assigned the new drug case, it had felt like a snub. Thomas Cooper knew his worth, but so far, since coming back to the Safe Zone… since joining SESA, he hadn’t been able to show it. No one was giving him a chance on the big cases. The one case he had, didn’t even feel like a case and it ended exactly how he thought it would. The railguns back into the hands of the bad guys. It didn’t feel like a win either.

The pacing stops and Thomas takes a deep breath. Okay. We are doing this. A few long strides took him up to Director’s door, which he politely knocks on.

Thomas bled blue and always would.

Seven Years Earlier…


December 15th


Blood spatters in starburst patterns on pale concrete.

The sound of rushing, panicked people crowds into the narrow alley, pushing one wounded woman up against a rough brick wall to allow them to pass. They are frightened, some injured and moving in spite of it. Blood stains most of their clothes, faces, hands, but most of it isn’t theirs. The blood belongs to people who can’t move, people who died in a storm of violence and chaos. There’s children, too, carried by those fleeing into the alley, others running and trying to keep up on their own.

Madeline Choi spots one at the rear of the group and snatches her up by the arm, cradling the six or seven year old against her chest as she turns to sprint at the tail of the fleeing civilians. Two uniformed NYPD officers fall in line behind her, each of them carrying assault rifles that would look more at home in a warzone. But based on the sounds of gunfire on the street behind them, based on the chop of helicopter rotors, based on the screams… it is.

Keep moving!” One of the officers behind Choi shouts, pivoting on her heel and looking up overhead as a black helicopter roars over them from west to east. The aircraft comes to a full stop, turns, and then erupts in a hail of automatic gunfire angled down toward the street the civilians are fleeing from. Brass shell casings fall like rain into the alleyway, and Officer Willa Sadowsky raises her assault rifle and stares down her iron sights at the gunner in the door. Just when she has a bead on the shooter, her arm is jerked down and away by the other officer.

Sadowsky! Come on!” Willa shoots a sharp-eyed look at him, then notices how far ahead Choi and the civilians are. “Another. Time.” Willa sucks in a sharp breath and hustles to catch up to Choi, who is shouting instructions at the crowd of scrambling people, telling them to turn left at the T-junction up ahead, but not all of them listen.

As Choi reaches the intersection, she skids to a stop. To the left, the maze of alleyways through the heart of Chinatown continues, but to the left it empties back out onto the main street. Those fleeing in that direction are cut down by a line of automatic gunfire. Choi claps one hand to her mouth in horror, turns herself so the child she’s carrying can’t see it. She’s frozen in place, frozen in dread, frozen in terror.

Choi!” Willa shouts, grabbing Choi by the shoulders.


Present Day

Come in.

Director Choi looks exhausted when her office door is opened. Her eyes are partway lidded, lips downturned into a frown and brows creased. There’s physical paperwork in front of her, but none of it is really done. She looks up on seeing Agent Cooper slide his head in, and just a touch of her expression softens. There was an unspoken camaraderie between them, both former NYPD, both saving lives during the war, both — in their own ways — heroes.

“Agent Cooper,” Choi says, adjusting the stack of paperwork to look neater, “what can I do for you?”

For a brief second, Cooper’s determination for this chat flags upon seeing her sitting there looking like the whole world was on her shoulders. A finger taps on the door with his indecision, before he slips into the office, and shuts the door behind him. “Hey, hi… Uh… Director.” He swallows hard and stands there for an awkward second.

Taking a deep breath, he stands a bit straighter and brushes down his tie. If you don’t do this now, you never will.

“So, funny thing.” Not really, Cooper’s tone is a touch sarcastic. “I just heard from Linda — who by the way, loves to rub things like this in my face — that Diaz scored a potentially big drug case.” Even Cooper had heard the rumors on the new drug hitting the streets. “I mean, not to sound like a whiny prick,” but he’s going to anyhow, “but why Diaz?”

Almost as soon as he asks, Thomas’ hands go up to stall any comment, with a look pleading for her to listen. He really didn’t want to lose this courage.

“Don’t get me wrong,” he says is a burst of words, stepping further into the office. “The man is amazing and I’ll have his back any damn day. But I didn’t slap my name down lightly when I heard about Zietgeist. I was narcotics in Jersey before I moved to the NYPD homicide.” Which was a big move for him. “Even then, I busted Refrain rings for them. I’ve got the background, I’ve got the skills for it and — office pranks aside — I’ve got the passion to do this job… IF someone would just freakin’ give me a chance.”

Cooper is on a roll now, his frustrations from over the years tumbling out. Standing behind one of the chairs, fingers gripping the back to hide the shaking. It was tough doing something like this. “I know I’ve failed at what little I’ve been given, but I am literally only human. I can’t conjure up the answers in a blink of an eye.”

The words stumble here as he inadvertently invokes Cassandra’s memory. A hand moves to rest on his hip, the other pinches the bridge of his nose. Her death had weighed heavier then he lets on to anyone. The young agent had been his own daughter’s age.

“Sorry,” Cooper says a touch gruffly, before clearing his throat and continuing. “Look. When I joined SESA, I told my daughter, I was going to make this world better for her. That I was going to help others, like her, and work to make sure what we had to see in Eville never happens again.” His hand drops away, giving Choi his own tired look. “But, who needs good old detective work when you have people with abilities and younger blood.”

Thomas knew he was among the older agents and it was was worried about being obsolete.

There were no joke, no goofy smile, just an agent and a father making a plea to his boss. “I know what people say and what my HR file looks like, but seriously… I can do this job. Law enforcement is my life.”
Cooper literally couldn’t picture his lift without it, he’s always been a cop.

Choi slowly leans back in her seat, folding her hands in her lap and considering Cooper with one raised brow. “Cesar doesn’t have family,” is the most unusual answer Choi could have given. “Zeitgeist is being pushed by the Ghost Shadows, and historically they’ve killed more law enforcement officers than anything short of the war.” Scooting forward, Choi rests her elbows on her desk and clasps her hands together. “Deputy Director Voss chose Agent Diaz for this job because of his successful role in investigating paramilitary forces in the Dead Zone.” But she’s quick to raise a hand to stifle disagreement. “That isn’t to say your work on Staten Island worked against you.”

Tiredly, Choi reaches up to scrub her fingers over her eyes. “You said it yourself, you busted Refrain rings. You were a smuggler for the Resistance during the war, you have more underground contacts than nearly any agent in this office. Which is exactly why I don’t need you doing something as stupid as stripping at a nightclub to get close to a Zeitgeist demonstration for VIPs.” Sighing, Choi moves one hand across her jaw.

“Thomas,” Choi says with a motion to the seat across from her, “you and Agent Diaz have different strengths. You’re a people person. You’re an investigator. The work you did tracking down those weapons was outstanding. But your undercover work has always been secondary to your greatest talents.” Choi allows herself a moment, looking out her office window to the skyline of the Safe Zone in the distance. It gives Cooper time to think about her assessment.

“What? It’s not a bad cover. I could strip. I work out. I mean… I do have to get my daughter through college. Why not a twofer and I hear it tips good?” Yeah, that was a joke delivered with a straight face and a bruised pride. Sometimes, he can’t help himself.

While he gets it — to a point — Thomas’ lips are still pressed tight in disapproval. Not completely buying the reasoning, but… he gets it. A heavy sigh escapes the agent and shoulders sag. Stepping around the chair to sit across from her, Cooper can admit that much. “I understand and appreciate you watching after me and my family, but I also took an oath each time I took up a badge. Protect and serve. That means taking all the risks that come with it.”

Pale eyes study the woman on the other side of the desk, Cooper’s boss… But someone he also worked next too for a long time. “Madeline…” He corrects himself quickly, “Director… I don’t want you or Voss to be afraid to put me out there or give me the risky or dangerous cases. Been doing this since I left high school. Besides, Ellen is a grown woman.” As much as he likes to deny it. “She’s a Cooper. We might look pretty, but we are tough.”

Did he just say he was pretty? Yes. Yes he did.

That goofy grin breaks out on Cooper’s face, again. “Come on, Director. I’m a peacock. Gotta let me fly.” He’s probably been waiting to use that one for a bit….. A bit.

Closing her eyes and leaning back in her chair with a creak of the leather, Choi lifts one hand and massages the bridge of her nose. “You paid attention to the wrong thing, Thomas.” Thomas, not Cooper. When Choi lowers her hand and fixes a look back up at him, her brows are furrowed and stare level. “I said those things, not because they’re reasons why you shouldn’t have been given that assignment, but for reasons why that assignment is a waste of your talent.”

Opening a drawer of her desk, Choi pulls out a thin tablet and sets it down in her lap and begins scrolling through something. “You worked the human trafficking case last year,” she says thoughtfully, “you went undercover on Staten Island, looking for answers. Well, we’ve had some developments since then.” Choi spins the tablet around and slides it across the table to Cooper. There’s a copper-haired young woman staring back up at him from her Registry file. One of the newest interns. Squeaks.

“Jacelyn Childs.” Choi says pointedly. “She was kidnapped by a human trafficker on August 19th last year, wound up escaping her kidnapper and survived long enough on Staten Island to make her way back to her family. This is the second young person under Gillian Childs’ care that was nearly abducted. First Hailey Gerken,” and Cooper remembers talking to her about her encounter, “now Jacelyn. We’ve had an eight percent increase in SLC-Expressive kidnappings in the last year alone, all centered on Staten Island.”

Choi leans back in her chair, brows furrowed. “In August, after the transition of power to the NYPD, the Military Police are going to roll into Staten Island in an attempt to set up a stabilizing presence. But what that’s going to do is spook every single trafficker to go deeper underground. Right now they’re brazen, out in the open, and snatching people off the street. They’re cocky, they’re making mistakes.” Exhaling a breath through her nose, Choi looks at the tablet, then back to Cooper.

“Ellen’s Expressive,” is the knifepoint that Choi chooses to level at Cooper. “I could put someone else on this,” she says with a motion to the tablet, “or I could keep you off the Zeitgeist case and give you something you have a personal, vested interest in.” Her expression is flat, like a parent trying to explain patience to their excited child. “Just let me know which you’d prefer.”

It takes a moment for Cooper to remove his foot from his mouth; giving Choi a sheepish grin and ducking his head. “Sorry, boss.”

The fact that Squeaks was kidnapped was news for him, brows furrow as he picks up the tablet. “Gillian didn’t tell me about this. But, it makes sense that it was another child in her care. The woman and her brother raised most of the expressive orphans. In fact, I helped smuggle a bunch at one point.” There is a fondness when he talks about Gillian.

He looks up at the Director, Cooper’s expression a touch surprised. “You’re sending me back out?” He brightens a but, straightening a little. “I felt I was so close last time when it all but dried up and I hit the wall.” He looks at the tablet again and flips through a few pages of the report. “Three months is not much of a window, “ Thomas isn’t complaining, only stating a fact. “Took me six months to get what I have.”

Setting the tablet back down, Cooper pushes it back towards her, “Thank you. Really. The trafficking case has been haunting me since I got back.” Not a lie either. “Been going over everything trying to see what I missed or where I might have gone wrong. You would not believe how hard it is to get near the Arrowoods. If I could just get close,” he sighs out that last bit.

“You’ll have your opportunity,” Choi notes with a spread of her hands, “we believe the Arrowoods are the ones who grabbed Jacelyn as well, and I’d like you to talk to her about that and see if you can pick up any additional information from her that she might not have mentioned the first time around.” Choi looks over to her office window, back to that skyline of the Safe Zone, and seems to be subtly pushed down into her chair by the weight of it.

Folding her hands and sitting forward, Choi levels a serious look at Cooper. “But there’s one question I want to ask you, Thomas. About something you said, regarding all of this…” she motions with one hand out to him. “Does it make sense?” It’s hard to tell if that’s her question or just a segue at first.

“Does it make sense that out of all of the kidnappings, Gillian Childs’ wards were targets twice?” Choi lifts a brow and tilts her head to the side. “It might be worthwhile to check in with Gillian again. You two have a good relationship, it might be worthwhile for you to see if there’s anything she hasn’t said. Anything else that may have come up in the intervening months. Because I’m suspicious that this may not be isolated incidents, it could well be someone targeting Ms. Childs for any number of reasons.”

There isn’t an answer or anything right away, Cooper’s thoughts are turned inward taking in what she says. Was there a connection? Brows pull together, as a frown appears. “I mean, you can’t spit without hitting one of her orphans.” He jerks a thumb over his shoulder. “Our Lance is one too, not just Sq— Jaq.” He trails off brows coming up again, “But you’ve got a good point. I’ll talk to her when I talk to the girl.” Since Squeaks was a minor after all.

“Ah… One more thing.” Thomas reluctantly starts, focusing on Director across from him. “If it is okay, depending on what I find.. I’d like to bring Lance into it.” Possible bait maybe? Hailey was going to kill him with monkeys and Gillian will help her, but… it would be worth the risk. “He’s one of Gillian’s, but also an adult.” Though he was still wrapping his mind around that last bit. They all looked like kids to him.

Choi holds up one hand, the universal sign for Cooper stop talking. “Lance is one of our interns,” is how she chooses to frame it. She flicks a quick look at the clock by her desk, then back to Cooper. “You’re free to use the intern assets in whatever manner you feel is appropriate and doesn’t put them at undue risk.” Undue risk. She knows who she’s talking to.

“I have a 9:30 meeting, Agent Cooper,” Choi explains with a motion to the clock that reads 9:28. “I think I’ve given you enough to think about,” she says with one brow raised. “Yes?”

“Okay, so no signs that says ‘Attention Smugglers! Take me!’” Cooper climbs to his feet with a glance to the clock, “And return the red paint for the target on his back.” Was Thomas joking?

He probably thought about it very briefly.

Stepping back behind the chair, he offers Choi a serious look. “I will say though, that desk fits you. I’m glad it’s one of us…” He starts to open the door and stops, realizing how that just sounded. Crap. He turns back with a worried look, his hands out. “A cop… not… us. I meant NYPD.” Maybe he was making it worse…

So he ducks out of the office as fast as he can, before he shoves his foot any further into his mouth.

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