Venn Diagram


byrne_icon.gif farah_icon.gif voss_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

dowe_icon.gif jones_icon.gif

Scene Title Venn Diagram
Synopsis A Venn diagram is an illustration that uses circles to show the relationships among things or finite groups of things.
Date February 1, 2021

It’s a dreary day outside. Rain hammers down so hard on the roof of Fort Jay that it sounds like hail. But the weather is just warm enough for the precipitation to come down wet rather than frozen.

Inside Kristopher Voss’ corner office, the wintry chill is replaced by a palpable aura of anxiety. Voss sits at his desk, scrolling through something on his laptop with a perpetually-worried look in his eyes. Nearby, Director Farah Nazan-Gutierrez stands at the window overlooking the walled ruins of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone, arms crossed over her chest.

When the door to Voss’ office opens, he looks up first to the arrival of Agent Byrne, then to Director Nazan-Gutierrez. Farah turns, making a steady eye contact with Byrne, before motioning to the chair across from Voss.

“Take a seat, Agent Byrne,” Farah says with a sigh punctuating her sentence. “We need to talk.”

Deputy-Director Voss’ Office
Fort Jay
Governor’s Island

February 1st
7:12 am

“The Director has reviewed your report on the events in Providence and fast-tracked it to her contacts in Washington.” Voss says as he closes his laptop. “It’s troubling stuff. Supremely troubling.”

Farah comes to stand beside Voss’ desk, angling a look at Byrne. “I want to hear the unfiltered version.”

Byrne takes a seat and leans back, putting a few things in order. The specifics are in the report, so he doesn’t see a need in repeating himself. “When I arrived I was assigned to the firebreak crew, seemed the most likely place to run into people developing heat stress. There was a party at the burn line, cutting down and dragging out trees in a few trouble areas a mile north of us.”

He shuffles in his seat a bit. “A third team was to the east where the plan was to disassemble a problem barn. One truck with three occupants headed that way when I went west. From what I could gather, the barn was still standing, two others of that crew were missing. The new arrivals found bullet casings in the barn, bullet holes in the ceiling. One of them got spooked and they ran for the truck, and an octobot brought the barn down and began chasing them toward the firebreak.”

“At our location there was a trench collapse and injury of a local,” he says. “Got him on a helicopter, hadn’t made it back to the trench when people started sprinting toward us from the burn line, chased by Hunters and a Sentinel. All DoEA, all in bad shape but looking recently repaired. It was grim. Locals put up a fight, some were armed, some Expressive. I took out the Sentinel as heat wasn’t its friend. Another Hunter. There were still a couple hunters left by the time the barn crew led the octobot to us. It got worse.”

“People were trampled by the squid, severely injured or killed by the Hunters. A terrakinetic managed to turn part of the firebreak into quicksand and slowed down the octobot. Then there was a detonation in the woods. We felt the pressure wave from a mile away, a robot of some kind blew up. A local agrokinetic, Rene Dumortier, gave his life filling it with enough foreign matter to grind it to a halt. If he hadn’t done that the carnage at the trenches would have been significantly worse.”

“The octobot wasn’t going to stop until the terrakinetic Rory Karrington sacrificed his life to pull the bot deep into the earth, taking himself along with it.” He mulls over what he’s said to make sure he’s covered the basics at least. Then he gets to the interesting part.

“After the confusion, we were able to determine that at least two people went MIA in the confusion. They were in the woods, no signs of conflict that accounted for them. They just didn’t come back to town. Townsfolk also said that known Sentinel operatives were nowhere to be found during or after the event.”

“I’m confident that this was an attack, or distraction, with unconfirmed perpetrators.”

At some point during that briefing, Voss lowered his head into one hand, pushed his glasses up off of his face, and gently massaged his fingers at the bridge of his nose. He only stops when Byrne’s recounting of events does, looking across the desk at the field agent with a thousand-yard stare.

Voss raises one finger, then pulls open a drawer in his desk, proceeding to take out two lowball glasses and a square bottle of Scotch. He pours a finger in each, then pushes one of the glasses across the table to Byrne. “Welcome to the New York office,” he says with a pump of his brows before knocking back his own glass in a single swallow.

“Firstly,” Voss says with a glance to his door to make sure it’s closed, “it sounds like I’m lucky you’re sitting across from me in one piece. Secondly, that’s a lot of hardware to converge on one town.” But there isn’t surprise in Voss’ voice, so much as resignation. “The machines you saw—the ah, octobot aside—did they look like war-era machines or something newer?”

“The clocktopus was labelled Department of Evolved Affairs,” he says, reaching across the desk for the offered drink. With the Director looming over him he doesn’t drink it quite yet. “Got a front row view of that one. Antique, as far as I could tell. And yes sir, I came within a hair of it a couple times.”

“Everybody seemed surprised to see the robots, as though it were a problem from the recent past that shouldn’t be able to affect them anymore. I heard several comments that a Fence must have been down. I’m assuming not of the white-picket variety.”

He absentmindedly swirls the liquor in the glass while reducing its temperature. He always enjoys the way the water blossoms into tiny crystals like a snowstorm. He makes a short motion of thanks with his glass and takes a sip, then sets the glass back down on the desk.

Voss makes a sound in the back of his throat, reclining back against his chair with a scrub of one hand over his mouth. His eyes divert from Byrne down to the surface of his desk, track from side to side as he considers the details in full. Voss’ attention blinks back up to Byrne, and it feels as though that stare might burn a hole through him in that silent moment.

“That lines up with some uncorroborated reports we’d had kicked up to us by Homeland.” Voss finally says, letting his hand fall away from his mouth. “Firefighters tackling the blaze down in Pennsylvania reported sightings of machines in the vicinity of the fire. No hard evidence, just ghost stories.” Ghost stories that Byrne has now dragged screaming into the light.

“The US is a dark hallway,” Voss opines, slowly standing up from his desk to pace away nervous energy. “We shine a flashlight into some corners, but the beam only goes so far. Not even considering the intelligence blind-spot that is the Dead Zone, we just don’t have enough of a telecommunications grid and manpower to effectively know what’s going on right under our noses.”

Voss approaches the windows while Farah, who had remains silent through much of this conversation, walks past Voss toward Byrne. “We’ve been handling the Providence situation with a white glove,” she explains. “It is so far outside of our ability to police and—up until now—so well-defended by its insular population we’d need a military escort to make any arrests down there. There’s a nest of vipers in the settlement, hiding behind human shields of people just trying to make a living.”

“Vipers who, from the sound of things, may have left before the fire swept in.” Voss says, glancing out the window toward the Manhattan Exclusion Zone. He looks at Farah, who then retrieves a folder from a drawer in Voss’ desk and opens it in front of Byrne.

“Did you see any of these people while you were there?” Farah asks, fanning out a series of photographs.

One of them is a middle aged man with wisps of white hair, photographed from a long distance away in tactical gear. Based on the cars on the street it doesn’t look recent, but maybe in the last ten years.

“Emile Danko,” Farah says.

The next photograph is of a bearded man with long, wavy hair. He has a piercing expression with a sort of quiet intensity behind dark eyes.

“Iago Ramirez,” Farah continues.

The next at first doesn’t look familiar to Byrne. The man with a shaved head and sleeveless vest looks like some paramilitary thug, but there’s something about the eyes. Lose ten pounds of muscle, add some hair and it’s—

“Joshua Lang,” Farah notes. Byrne already knew, though, he’d seen him. Stood within a few feet of him.

“We have reason to believe these four led a militia out of the PNW Dead Zone and took root in Providence,” Voss explains, turning his back to the window. “Ramirez and Lang worked for the Vanguard back before the war, Danko was a member of Humanis First. We have reason to believe they are or were working together in the vicinity of Providence.”

“They certainly keep to themselves,” Byrne agrees. “I got some respect from a small few of them after the event, but I figure I’d be on thinner ice if I went back.” Not that respect was his primary motivator. He remembers what it was like to trust the government to do the right thing one time too many.

Byrne gives the last photo a moment before offering anything. “Nothing on the first two,” he says, then taps on the photo of Lang. “Wouldn’t have pieced that one together. He was on the barn team, from what I heard he went into the octobot’s mouth on the chase from there to the fire break. From the way the locals spoke of him he seemed to be a respected leadership figure.”

It’s slightly less than truthful. Byrne knows the residents of Providence trust Lang a lot more than himself. If he needs to go back to follow up on this investigation it’ll be a lot easier if SESA and a military escort hasn’t made a circus out of trying to bring him in. Lang didn’t seem like the type to orchestrate his own partial mastication by a bot to continue playing a long con on the locals.

Exhaling a sigh through his nose, Voss looks over at Farah. She fishes around in the file and pulls out one final photograph, this one of a tall old man with a long, dour face and chalk white hair. “Did you see this man?”

Farah slides the photograph over to Byrne, but the elderly man depicted in the photograph is unfamiliar to him. “His name is Charles Sharrow, codename Njord, one of the last surviving members of the Vanguard’s inner circle. We have reason to believe that Sharrow may be residing somewhere in Providence as well, and would have access to paramilitary-level hardware.”

“The fire may have flushed him out,” Voss interjects, looking from the photograph to Byrne. “Either in the moment, or perhaps later. If he and his paramilitary group fled Providence, they may have left something behind. Sharrow had a direct line into the CIA for several years, an operative named Michael Lowell who was turned by Sharrow during Operation Apollo. We believe Lowell was sharing government secrets up to and through the Civil War, and after, until he was unexpectedly killed here in the Safe Zone.”

“We’d like you to follow up with the people of Providence, see if you can find anything out about the robots—where they might have come from—and if there’s any connection to the surviving Vanguard members in the settlement. Sharrow’s been extremely careful for years now, so if we have a chance to catch him being sloppy… leaving a trail?” Farah shakes her head and stands up straight, crossing her arms over her chest. “I want him.”

Byrne shakes his head at the offered photo. He checks his watch as his superiors lay out the rest of it. He starts putting together a mental list for things to procure and bring with him. Peace offerings for a population nearly crushed by bad luck, wind and fire. Or bad luck, wind, and the purposeful release of napalm-happy robots.

“I can head back today,” he says. “If there’s anything else you can give me as a primer I’ll dig into that first.” Don’t tell them you’re with SESA, maybe. Known associates of his persons of interest at the very least.

“We’ll get you our full dossier on Sharrow. But not today,” Farah says as she steps away from the desk, but that’s all she offers, setting Voss up to continue.

“No, there’s a separate matter that—” Voss starts to say, glancing at Farah, then back to Byrne, “that we’d like to align with this investigation. It’s a separate matter that we’ve been trying to come at from a few different angles, none of which have worked.

Voss opens a locked drawer in his desk with a thumbprint verification, pulling out a thick folder with a red sticker on it that reads OEI RED. Voss offers a look at Farah, who walks past Byrne’s chair.

“Voss will fill you in on the rest, I need to be on a call with Washington shortly.” Farah says as she excuses herself from the office. Voss’ attention turns back to Byrne as he opens the file, thumbing through a stack of paperwork, photographs, and typewritten reports.

“How familiar are you with the attack on Detroit last year?” Voss asks, glancing up from the file to Byrne.

“I had box seats to most of the reporting on it sir,” Byrne says with a quirked eyebrow. “From the secure sites beneath K.C. as the jets were scrambling. But that was all just live news. By the time the speculating and investigating started I’d moved with my protectee elsewhere.”

With the idea of immediate travel seemingly dispelled, Byrne takes up the glass again. He cools it absent-mindedly. Not showing off, just bringing it to exactly where he wants it. He tastes it again, not drinking for the effect. “After that it was mostly As Seen on TV,” he continues. “Monroe, biological terrorism, jets, Ms. Mas’s traffic violation.” He’s probably seen a bit more than all that. Heard clips and whispers. But his record wouldn’t indicate him being near enough to the truth of it to apply here.

He doesn’t make any moves toward the folder. Expects it to make its way to him if and only when whatever criteria the boss has set is met. Decades of Top Secret clearance only applies situationally. Nobody shows you into the Secrets Room when you get your TS/SCI. As awesome as a place with that name would be in this world. He’s comfortable waiting for Voss’s follow-up.

Voss nods, slowly retrieving a file from the folder. It’s a dossier, attached to which is a candid photograph of a teenage girl with coppery hair. Voss turns the file around and slides it across the table to Byrne. The name at the top reads:


“This is the other matter I wanted to pull you in on,” Voss explains, sitting back in his chair with a creak of leather. “Ms. Childs is a former agent-trainee here at SESA. She’s the adopted daughter of the ex-Ferryman Gillian Childs. Notably, and you’ll see this on the red-tapped page, she was part of an experiment when she was still in-utero, one performed by elements of the Company that altered her on a genetic level. She was an artificially-inseminated child, born from samples taken from Adam Monroe himself, and a mosaic SLC-Expressive known only as ‘Joy.’”

Voss motions to the file. “Now, Jacelyn has been at the center of several unexpected events over the last few years. When she learned of her biological parentage, she not only found but confronted an agent of Monroe’s and demanded to be brought to him. As it turns out she got exactly what she wished for, and she was resident at Monroe’s…” Voss twirls his hand in the air, “fortress in the Cal Safe Zone up until the attack on Detroit.”

“While there, Jacelyn received a gene-therapy treatment known as Gemini,” Voss continues, “and that’s detailed in the green tabs. The Gemini treatment is something that originated back with the Pinehearst Company before the war and was co-opted by the Mazdak organization after Pinehearst’s collapse. It’s a process by which an SLC-Expressive ability can be stripped from a human being and grafted onto another, with the potential to create mosaics, like Sylar.”

Sighing, Voss folds his hands in his lap and shakes his head. “In Detroit, Childs possessed multiple SLC-Expressive abilities including teleportation and super-human strength. What’s baffling is that she showed no signs of cellular degeneration, which is common among Gemini recipients. As far as we know the process is still unstable and our intelligence we’ve gathered since the fall of Praxis Heavy Industries indicates as much. Jacelyn, we believe, was somehow special because of the circumstances of her parentage.”

Slowly sitting forward, Voss rests his elbows on his desk and folds his hands in front of his mouth. “Childs was later abducted in July of last year, directly from her home and, from what we know, wound up on an aircraft that crashed in Manitoba, Canada. Miraculously, none of the prisoners aboard were harmed. However, since then, each and every individual that was aboard that plane has shown a series of serious medical complications including simultaneous strokes. The late Kimiko Nakamura was among those captives, and we believe her death was a direct result of the medical conditions they’re all experiencing.”

“Most notably,” Voss says with a tightness in his voice, “each and every captive who possessed an SLC-Expressive ability now registers as though they were never SLC-Expressive. No latent trace of their abilities at all. Even Ms. Childs. Furthermore, Childs shows no signs of ever having undergone the Gemini process. Her medical breakdown is in the blue-tabbed section.”

Taking a deep breath, Voss pinches the bridge of his nose and pushes up his glasses. “This all comes together because we don’t know who perpetrated this kidnapping or did whatever was done to these individuals. Now, the lion’s share of this investigation is being handled by the Office of External Investigations. However, due to Ms. Childs’ nature, her former proximity to SESA, and our uncertainty as to the parties involved in her abduction, we would like this agency to keep a closer eye on her.”

Suddenly, Byrne can see how the Venn diagram overlaps.

“After some discussion with Director Nazan and Secretary Choi, we’ve made the decision that—should she be amenable—we would like to bring Ms. Childs back in as an agent-trainee with the intention of observing her and her condition. Given your background we thought you the most appropriate for this task.” Voss explains, closing the rest of the file he’d had open on the desk.

Agent Byrne listens intently while his eyes dart over the documents. This kid has definitely led an interesting life. A kidnapping case being investigated by the Office of External Investigations is the strangest part in his estimation. What could the Department of the Exterior find so interesting about this?

Byrne doesn’t seem at all put off by the assignment. He’s been teaching on and off for years, and has an eye for talent. “I assume that her proximity to Monroe was what led to the former agent-trainee status?” he asks. “Does the agency have an official reason for her sudden reinstatement in the training program?”

“She went willingly,” is Voss’ assessment of it. “This all shook out right after Secretary Zimmerman’s death, so everyone was a little… gun shy. Childs was directly involved with the leader of the organization that had kidnapped and killed Secretary Zimmerman, and while it was determined she had no criminal involvement and people way higher up the food chain decided to let her off with a sternly worded warning,” he says with a widening of his eyes in dismay, “it was too close to home.”

“In light of recent events, however,” Voss says with an angle of his head to the side, “Secretary Choi has settled in to her role and she’s in agreement that Ms. Childs is safer under our direct observation than not. That said, the gears are still moving to make this anything other than unofficial, so while we have every intent of putting this into motion, we’re looking at a three month delay on you actually being able to entreat her with any kind of offer.”

Sighing at the thought, Voss shakes his head and glances down at the desk. “Right now the OEI is putting an observer agent in the field at Raytech Industries, her current place of employment, she should be getting set up there by tomorrow morning. But Agent Hall isn’t cleared for this sort of work, and her job there is more focused on Raytech’s scientific work, less so than Ms. Childs.”

Wringing his hands together, Voss looks up to Byrne. “My recommendation to pad out the time is to take a meeting with her mother, Gillian, and get parental consent to reinstate Jacelyn once we have authority to. But just in case all of this gets tangled up in red tape and catches on fire, I’d avoid letting Jacelyn know until it’s official.”

“Understood,” Agent Byrne responds, sliding the folder toward himself but leaving it on the desk for now. He pages through the various tabbed sections to familiarize himself with the layout. “It sounds like I have plenty of time to handle this. Can you release any other documentation from the kidnapping?”

He pulls his phone from his jacket pocket, tapping through to check his calendar. “Also, how high a priority is the Sharrow investigation?”

“I’d like Sharrow to be your priority for the time being, and once we can fold Ms. Childs into the mix you’ll need to juggle the two as equally important concerns. Everything else takes a back seat to that.” Voss says as he folds his hands in front of himself on his desk. “I’ll get you cleared with information on the kidnapping before the end of the day, it’s mostly going to be dossiers on the two suspected kidnappers, the rest of the matter is of somewhat higher classification. So, expect some redactions in the report.”

Glancing at the clock on his desk, Voss’ brows furrow together. He considers the time for a moment, then looks back at Byrne. “If I think of anything else, I’ll be sure to reach out to you. If you have any questions, I ask that you bypass the usual chain of custody and bring them directly to me. These are both extremely sensitive issues.”

Byrne slides his phone back into his jacket pocket and sits up straighter. He takes the last sip of his drink, already clear of the crystalline haze of frost, and returns the glass to the desk. “Thank you, sir,” he says, nodding to the glass.

“My TS/SCI clearance is still active, assuming it’s not,” he gestures at Ms. Childs’s file, “Classified above any tier I’m familiar with. I’ll make sure to keep you discreetly appraised as the situation unfolds.” He stands from the chair, maneuvering it back into position for a future guest to the office.

Anything that important is easy pickings for what might need to sidestep the chain of custody all the way to Dowe. Though, anything Voss feeds him could be smoke for a rat. As always, careful consideration will prevail. He assumes his dismissal and heads for the exit.

“Oh, one more thing,” Voss says as Byrne reaches the door. “If you get a chance to talk to her give Ms. Dowe my regards.”

“She and I need to catch up sometime.”


Department of the Exterior
Washington, KC

“No, Maddie, I said that—no, I said that I would be traveling next Wednesday.”

Secretary Deacon Jones exhales a long-suffering sigh into his cell phone, pacing back and forth across his 13th floor office overlooking the Washington KC skyline. “Maddie—yes. Yes I know, but the hotel reservations aren’t until next week. We can worry about where your mother is staying when—”

A knock on his office door stirs Jones from his conversation and gives him merciful reprieve from a conversation he had neither the patience nor the will for. “Maddie, I’ve got to take a meeting.” He says, edging toward the door. “I’ll call you back la—I’ll—yes. I’ll call you back later.” He’s already reaching for the doorknob.

“Yes, mnhmm,” Jones says as he opens the door, looking surprised to see the person standing on the other side. “Oh uh—no I—I love you too.” He says while making a gesture to his cell phone and mouthing the words my wife to his guest. “Okay, yep. Yeah, of course. Buh-bye.”

“Maddie?” Jones guest says with a smirk. Jones laughs and smiles, shaking his head.

“Her mother is in town and she thought I was flying out this week for the conference in Detroit, not next week.” Jones says with a bit of a bobble of his head and an awkward smile. He hustles in front of his new guest, pulling out a chair for her.

“What ah,” Jones says with a nervous smile, “to what do I owe the pleasure?”

Christine Dowe offers Jones a mild smile, then sinks down into the chair and crosses one leg over the other, looking up at Jones with an expectant expression. “I need to bring you up to speed on some new developments,” he says with a motion for him to sit down.

“Developments?” Jones says with a nervous scan of his eyes from side to side. “What developments?”

Dowe rests her elbow on the arm of the chair, brows furrowed as she watches Jones slowly sink down into his chair. “We’re going to need to open a line of communication with the European Space Agency…”

Jones brows rise over the wire frames of his glasses. "Why, exactly?"

“Are you familiar with the term HELE?

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License