To Miss The Forest For The Trees


emily_icon.gif lance_icon.gif liza_icon.gif nicole_icon.gif

Guest Starring:


Scene Title To Miss the Forest for the Trees
Synopsis SESA seeks to arrest Dr. Marten (Menard) for his crimes against Expressives, as well as find evidence toward the case of the girls being turned into trees.
Date February 15, 2020

“I was able to find Company files on him. Edwin Menard,” Corbin had said in the meeting that morning, handing over a warrant for the arrest of the man now known as Edwin C. Marten. “Your memory is pretty good, Liza. He did work with Rossling before he retired from the Company in 2006, just after Arthur Petrelli ‘died’.” They all knew that Arthur hadn’t actually died, so they could practically hear the air-quotes in his voice. “I actually remember him too, a little. He had been a scientist in the Company, though, and I did find partially redacted reports mentioning involvement in a project known as the Garden of Eden.”

Corbin had had a pretty high-security clearance, being in Archives for so long, but he had found out that that didn’t make him privy to a lot. He still couldn’t find any files about his mother. Menard hadn’t been redacted to the same level.

“It appears that his current identity was fabricated when he left the Company, but he still had some dealings with the Company afterward, since he worked at Columbia University as a Professor until it closed. I was able to find him consulting on a few cases.” The warrant was shown, which didn’t even cover the crime they wanted to investigate. It was for falsifying federal records and a subpoena for questioning on his past actions with the Company. As far as the system was concerned, he had dodged the Albany Trials.

“You can use this to confiscate his files, take him in for questioning, and gather evidence. We’re being allowed to handle this particular arrest because we suspect we might find evidence tying him to these crimes. Now— as far as the Company Files indicated, he was not an Expressive, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an accomplice running an experiment using others abilities.”

That was textbook Company. And Institute, and who knows what else. If this man was involved in the things they thought, Corbin Ayers was very glad that the Institute hadn’t found him.

“Good luck and be careful. You’re in charge of this, Liza. Handle it how you see fit, but be careful.”

Brooklyn College: Science Building

There’s classes running all day, lectures, labs and the like. The halls aren’t busy, though, not this morning. A few twenty-somethings sit around at sitting areas where they read books, work on laptops, or sleep. There’s one young man laying on a couch with his bag under his head, full on snoozing. The office that had been indicated 304 sits in the hallway alight with flickering fluorescents. The door sits ajar, and a distinct voice can be heard addressing someone from inside. Edwin Marten always had had a distinct voice.

The student, a young brunette, looks almost in tears, and it sounds like she was attempting to ask him if she could retake a test, saying that she only missed it because her grandma had just died and it was horrible, she was so upset.


“… grandparents always seem to die around test time, Miss Baker. I’m afraid I can’t allow you to retake it. I advise you either drop the class before the deadline, or accept a likely failing grade at the end of the semester. That test was a third of your grade.” She keeps crying, full blown dramatic sobs.

The pale man seems unmoved from behind his desk.

Emily winces at the sound of the poor girl crying. She'd always thought Marten to be curt at times when she was taking his classes last semester, but this seemed downright cruel. It was strange to her— she'd never had a problem with him directly, so learning that he was a suspect in the case came as such a shock to her.

Well… in some ways. On the other hand, she knew very few people as passionate about trees, or inspiring of that passion in others.

His behavior makes it easy to put her past history with him at a mental arms-length. She looks back to the agents with her and steps ahead first to the office, pulling the door open more fully and knocking lightly against the frame. "Doctor Marten?" Emily voices, a polite apology to it. She looks from him to the student and back again. "Do you have a moment?"

As Agent Varlane makes her way down the hallway with her fellows, she lists to one side and gently brushes her fingers against the wall as she moves, until they settle on the plate of a light switch. While her feet continue to carry her forward that arm outstretched ahead of her stays put, lingering on the conduit until that arm is stretched out behind her instead and her hand eventually falls away.

Coincidentally, the lights seemed to dim for that scant couple of seconds, then resume shining at their full brightness. The grid is so fickle.

Nicole stands back when they reach the correct office door, preferring to let Liza and Emily take the lead on this one. She and Lance can cut taller figures in the back for now. Her hand drifts to the badge at her belt, prepared to inform the professor that he will be making time if he doesn’t seem to have it at the moment.

While usually full of pep and smiles, Liza's exuberance is tempered by the gravity of the situation. She's still pep and smiles, they're just in a muted form. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar after all. So when she approaches the doorway behind Emily, she's still charming as ever. She lets Emily do the speaking, however, because she's doing the watching.

She had, after all, recognized him—the question to her was, would he recognize her? While ordinarily she would have waved off the idea of someone from her days at the Company recognizing the young blonde who mostly ended up fetching coffee and following around Rossling, it appeared that "Marten" had a thing for blondes. So she comes to a halt just behind Emily, visible and smiling, but not intrusive.

“Baker, Baker…” Lance has his phone out and he’s checking the obituaries online, because now he’s curious if the grandmother really died or not. He’s standing back with Nicole as he does so, keeping an eye up and on the door.

The junior agent lets the girls up front take the lead, lingering back for the moment — and extending a sound isolation bubble through the office and hallway, to prevent any ruckus from being overheard.

The sobbing stops with a hiccup and a startled choke and Miss Baker turns to look at the group with red eyes. For a moment her mouth works, like she wants to say something, but then the Professor leans forward, pushing a tissue holder over, and says, “Of course, Miss Epstein. You might as well go, Miss Baker, no amount of water works are going to change my syllabus. No make up exams.” The brunette sobs again softly, but also glares a little at Emily for a second, as if she thought a few more minutes and he might crumble. She grabs the tissues and hurries out, heading in the direction of the bathroom on this floor.

The immediate search turns up no Bakers in the Safe Zone being listed as recently deceased, but it could also be a grandmother who lived outside, so the search could always continue on. But maybe that hint of a resentful glare might be an indication that she was milking it more than necessary.

“Have you decided to take another one of my classes next semester, Miss Epstein.” He always did like calling people by their last names, even when they told him not to. He looked as if he were about to continue the question, when he notices Liza just behind her. He pauses for a moment, canting his head to the side for a moment, before looking back at Emily once again. The lights in the room flicker some. A painting behind him catches the light, and possibly their attention.

A large tree.

Bare limbs reaching against a backdrop of a setting (or perhaps rising) sun. The splash of colors red and orange behind it, making it cast a long shadow.

“It seems you have brought a friend.” The corner of his mouth tugs into a smile, just a little on the toothy side.

If there were a chance of Emily smiling cordially in return, it vanished into smoke the moment she heard the sound of her surname. Her shoulder turns just enough to make room for the other student when she brusquely moves on, and then she slips just inside the doorframe, staying in its shadow. She only lifts her head slightly in acknowledgement when he eyes Liza behind her.

"This is Agent Liza Messer with the SLC-Expressive Services Agency," the young woman clarifies evenly, leaving his question to her entirely aside. "She wanted to speak with you." Emily lifts one hand to brush the long sweep of her bangs back from her face, threading locks of blonde hair behind an ear as she looks to Liza to explain the nature of their business.

Nicole leans over, ostensibly to get a better look at Lance’s phone while he does the most Zillenial thing possible to try and help out a pretty girl in tears. Tears she wasn’t buying either, frankly. Lifting a hand to her face her mouth is covered as she murmurs low to the junior agent, “Glad I charged my taser.”

She’s probably joking. If she were prone to joke about things like this. Is she? It’s not always easy to tell with Varlane.

Still, the professor gives her the creeps, and she made a living of smiling pleasantly in the face of sociopaths.

Liza's smile is perky and peppy as ever, though it lacks the usual warmth. This is the kind of pep that few get to see and even fewer experience unscathed. "Ah, Doctor M…" The letter is held for a half-second, her gaze fully upon the professor. "..arten. That was it, wasn't it? How silly of me to forget. I tend to have a very good memory. Must have slipped my mind." She steps forward a bit, but stays squarely near Emily, venturing no further. But she doesn't slip instantly into business. Instead, she points to the painting behind him.

"Oh, that's lovely. Did you create that yourself? What do you call it?" Her line of questioning is measured, just gentle enough to appear as if she has genuine interest.

Lance taps a few things into the phone, tilting it towards Nicole - an unsent text message, since he doesn’t need to send it, just show it to her. ‘Field is up, nobody outside this area can hear us’.

He erases the message, then tucks his phone back into his pocket. A low murmur back, “I don’t think you need to tase that girl, Agent Varlane.”

He’s also probably joking.

From the way that smile continues to pull on his skin, making him look even more gaunt for a moment, the older man might know a little of what Ms. Messer might be hinting at her having forgotten his name. “It’s a common problem, I assure you Ms. Messer. Thinking memory is always reliable.” Yes, that very much sounded like the man she remembered meeting. Polite and well spoken, with just a hint of insult. He had also been very preachy, even if his religion had seemed to be science and the nature that it supported.

After a moment, he glances behind him, shifting his chair enough to make it easier and keep them in the corner of his eyes, back firmly against his desk chair. “I believe it was a gift at some point, but I don’t know who painted it, or what it might be called. A tree in winter is both haunting and beautiful. It looks the same as a dead tree, but no, it’s just waiting to come back in the spring, to grow its leaves once again and start all over.” Then he shifts back, facing them once again, his hands folding on the desk in front of him.

“I doubt you have come to ask about how I decorate my office. I have tests to finish grading, so I hope you will make this short.”

Only after attention is called to the painting does Emily let her gaze wander to it as well. She'd noticed the composition of it before, and her posture settles, the light shifting in her eyes. Haunting, she thinks to herself, is a good descriptor for it. Looking at the painting, it reminds her of the tree she'd discovered on the other side of campus. Her throat tightens, and she wills patience.

They'd find answers one way or another. She just had to be patient with this process.

“Not for her,” Nicole offers in return to Lance in a quiet aside. She also nods in acknowledgement of the unsent message on his phone. Whatever might come next, they’ll at least be able to keep it under wraps for a time.

The barren tree above the desk is studied. The discussion of it brings a thin smile to her lips. It doesn’t reach her eyes. “Agent Messer just has a few questions for you,” she says evenly. “I don’t expect this will take long.” Nicole does expect he won’t be returning to his grading.

The look Liza flashes Nicole is almost a grin in a glance, tucked away just enough that only the two of them might catch it. Maybe Lance if he's paying attention enough. Agent Messer turns back towards the desk. "Yes, well, I do have a few questions." She laces her fingers together behind her back, eyes narrowed just the slightest bit. "Starting with the Garden of Eden."

She smiles. "Not the mythical one, mind you. Well, more historical, but we're getting a little technical here. As to my question… why are you trying to continue it, Menard?"

Lance rolls his eyes at the ‘not for her’ aside. Of course it’s not for her, says the expression, duh. He lets the phone in his hand drop to his side, although as he does he taps ‘record’, probably because he slept through the briefing on ‘legal and illegal recording of people’.

Or at least that’s the excuse he’d give if anyone asked.

“Ah, I thought I recognized you,” the Professor says, that gaunt face pulled into a smile once again as he shifts his hands around, almost in the gesture of a shrug. “You were Albert’s young partner. Very young.” Back then she had been, and while she still looked it, she wasn’t quite as young as she once had been. Liza could still probably pass for a college student, though.

“If you knew what the Garden of Eden project entailed, Ms. Messer, you would not be asking that question. You would be helping me. Can you imagine how much damage could be repaired in this world with the right combination of abilities? Chernobyl. Fukushima. Manhattan. The entire North West. The world would be restored, returned to its rightful order.”

There’s that preachiness. Under different circumstances, it might be beautiful.

“It might even be possible to grow a jungle in Antarctica.” He says that with a hint of irony, but continues a moment later, “That wasn’t me. I wonder which of my former colleagues was behind that.” He sounded as if he would really like to know, too. “I would have loved to have shared my research with them.”

Emily's gaze flits back to Marten with urgency when something in his tone shifts— when he so easily admits to being someone else aside from the professor she knew. The fog of grief she's been struggling with had prevented her from absorbing all of the details in Corbin's briefing aside from the strongest of the beats— so mention of the Garden of Eden project hit her like they're the very first time she's hearing them.

Her eyes widen slightly, between surprise about the nature of the project and the nature of the professor himself. Her hands come together before her, the palm of one hand closing around the balled fist of her other. "Professor," comes from her uncomfortably, disappointment at its edges. She wishes this, among so many other things, weren't true. "You're continuing that work? A project of the Company?"

Now is the time when Nicole chooses to speak up. “So you still have records. And you have names?” Her face lights up almost as much as her eyes. “That’s excellent.” She holds up a folded sheaf of papers. “We happen to have a subpoena for all records for Garden of Eden and any related projects.”


"That's Agent Messer, remember? Not so young now." Liza's smiling even while she makes the correction. With Nicole handling the mention of the records, she's simply focusing on the victims. It's clear she's considering her words carefully as she goes. "I might have a different view of the whole project if, perhaps, you were approaching things with different tactics. The ends don't always justify the means in this case, I'm afraid." She looks casually towards the painting.

"Why the blondes?"

As the mention of the blondes, Lance’s head turns a bit towards Liza— a single brow twitching up a bit in surprise that she’s being so direct about things. He manages to hold his tongue for the moment, though, instead looking over towards the professor to wait for his response to the questions being thrown his way.

And recording. Of course.

For a moment, the professor is silent, eyes shifting from one woman to the next as they speak. His lips peel back once again and after ‘Agent Messer’ asks her question, he starts to laugh.


It’s a haunting sound, especially with the dead tree over his shoulder, haunting Emily with an image of that big Green Ash behind the Richkam building. It really does kind of look like it’s the profile, the more she looks at it. The background is different, but the shape is so similar, the limbs reaching to the sky in a similar way like black bones, the way the trunk had been knotted. Even the way the roots jutted out of the ground. It was so similar. And she couldn’t help but feel like she’d seen it another time before, too.

As he continues to laugh, his hand moves, going to a Rolodex on his desk, which he starts to flip through, pulling a sheet out and handing it forward. “I think I will be calling my lawyer now. I look forward to you finding out everything you have been looking for, Miss Messer.” Not Agent. “One of you should probably contact my Teacher’s Assistant, too. He’s going to have a long day.”

The laugh, the way he talks. It’s so chilling. Like he had been expecting this for years.

There's no denial, just the laughter. The sound of it creeps up Emily's spine and takes root in her skull.

Her eyes glaze over and she slinks back against the wall, intent on making room enough for both the agents to come in while simultaneously getting her that much closer to the door again. Any questions she might have had seem so, so futile now. So purposeless. All it took was asking the right question, and it was like a switch had flipped.

She's known this man for months, and she never suspected he'd be capable of anything like this. To think that he used his position, one of trust as a professor, to… It robs her of the ability to say anything at all. Emily manages to turn back in Lance's direction in her silent quest for the door, a hollow look in her eyes.

Through no fault of her own, Liza has lost control of this situation. It’s become painfully clear now that she was never going to be able to wrest control from a man who sees her as a child. Nicole allows Emily to slip past her, and moves forward to take her place. As she does so, she’s handed the legal documentation off to Lance and procured a pair of handcuffs.

“Fantastic,” Agent Varlane responds simply, a tight smile on her face. “You can do that at Fort Jay. Get your hands behind your back.” Even if she could, she wouldn’t quell the glow of her eyes right now. “I am, of course, obligated to remind you that you have the right to remain silent. However, if you would like to comply with our requests for information, we would be more than happy to hear you out.”

But that creepy son of a bitch is still getting slapped in cuffs.

His lack of denial is enough of a confession for Liza, and she lets all pleasant pretense drop as soon as she hears that laugh. She manages to keep her fists from balling as she steps fully out of the way to allow Nicole proper access to the man. It doesn't, however, stop her icy gaze in his direction. That, it seems, is going to do most of the speaking. Not all of it, though. On the other hand, there's something that gives her pause before speaking, even though she moves her mouth as if to.

I look forward to you finding out everything you have been looking for.

There was just enough in it to unsettle her. Did he want them to find him? How long had he waited? Perhaps it was something meant to unsettle them (which, of course, had worked in this case), or perhaps something else, but it was enough that Liza ends up mostly backing up and glaring and giving Nicole the honor of the cuffs.

“Well, I think he sounds like an innocent guy,” Lance deadpans sarcastically, “Don’t you?”

He doesn’t say that to anyone in particular, but then, he doesn’t actually mean it. He catches that look from Emily, moving to touch her shoulder briefly as she withdraws— a murmur that only she can hear as he gives them a moment’s privacy, “Some people hide behind their masks real well, Em.”

Then he’s moving forward in case Nicole needs any assistance with the man - his own gaze hard as he regards the professor being cuffed. A part of him really wishes he would resist.

Then he could punch the guy.

Sadly, for all involved in the arrest, Dr. Menard does not resist. He stands slowly, puts his hands behind his back, and goes without incident or any other spoken words once he has notified of his request for a lawyer. But he still seems far too amused for anyone’s taste, a smile peeling back his lips to show teeth. For a moment he looks almost eerily like a living skeleton.

The Company had hired all kinds. Liza knew this. But how much had this man been responsible for.


Fort Jay

Corbin sets down two boxes on the head table in the meeting room. One is labeled Company. The other is labeled ‘Dendrolatry’. The codename they had given this case when the investigation began. “Anything relating to his past with the Company is going here. No matter what we got him on that.”

He had missed the Albany trials. As was shown with the recent trial of many of the escaped Institute scientists and even Odessa Price, the precedence of bringing in someone who had missed the trials, but participated in crimes against the SLC-E population could be done. And they would find out what crimes he had committed between 1984 and 2006 and get him on those.

But they also wanted to find out what happened to the girls. “We’re bringing in everything from his campus office and his home in Williamsburg. We’ll also be watching his associates in case they were the Expressive used in his experiments. They are an accomplice and need to be taken in too. Anyone who is closely connected with him who tries to leave the Safe Zone will be apprehended.

“You all did good. Thank you.”

The case wasn’t closed. There was still more work to do. But they had done what they were supposed to.

And they have a man who definitely did terrible things behind bars.

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