What Do We Call You?


avi_icon.gif berlin_icon.gif hana_icon.gif

Scene Title What Do We Call You?
Synopsis After a night of revelations, the harsh light of day.
Date October 4th, 2018

Since returning from Jersey, Berlin's taken the time to look more together. Showered. Changed. But there's only so much that a shower can do. It didn't fix the way she stares into the middle distance or how still she sits at the conference room table. Since the moment the Major and Commander showed up at the cabin door, she has been waiting for the other shoe to drop. Even before that. Since Volken's daughter found her. Since Eileen found her. Sitting here now, it seems inevitable that it all come pouring out, even though at the time she was confident it never would.

When the door to the conference room opens and Avi Epstein is the first person through, Berlin sees none of the creature comforts she enjoyed have found their way to him. He's still in the same clothes he was ten hours ago, looks like he hasn't showered or slept. The drive back was long enough, but whatever transpired between he and the major since then hasn't done him any favors.

It's with a deep sigh that Avi enters the room, a palpable air of resignation hanging over him that he does nothing to hide. He pulls out a chair across from Berlin and from under one arm produces the stack of files from the cabin. All Avi does is scrub a hand down his mouth, sighing again as he does, then turns to look at the conference room door expectantly.

The woman who walks through that door looks anything but ragged; of the three, she's the most put-together by far, at least at surface level. Hair bound back, dressed in black mandarin-collared suit, there is an almost incongruously formal air to Hana's entrance and her taking of the seat beside Avi.

Folding her hands on the table, the major regards Berlin levelly. "You were," she says quietly, "in another state, pursuing intel related to Wolfhound operations on personal time, without backup or support." Adam Monroe categorically does not qualify. "And as a result, if I am not mistaken, not one but two people are dead."

Hana lifts her chin slightly. "I respect everyone's personal business — right up until it affects the unit. You've crossed that line."

"What did you think you were doing?"

Berlin glances toward the door when Avi enters and while her gaze follows him to his seat, she doesn't say anything to him. She does her best not to pay attention to the files when they appear, turning her attention to the door, instead. And then the Major. Her hand pushes back through her hair when the events of the incident are spelled out. She doesn't say anything to that, either, since it is an accurate summary of what happened.

"I wasn't sure the intel was accurate. It happens sometimes, when the source is skittish or questionable. He came looking for me, to lure me out there. I was going to check it out and report in if it was something we needed to handle. But I thought, at the time, that it was about me, not actual institute remnants." That's when she glances toward the files, just a quick look and then away again. "I didn't want to drag a team into anything that was about my… past." That's the word she settles on, although it seems a difficult concept for her to address.

Perhaps because she's been doing anything but addressing it for years.

Sliding his tongue over his teeth, Avi’s head bobs in a few short nods. “Yeah,” sounds non-committal to an outside ear, maybe even cynical. But to two people who know Avi’s body language and his mannerisms like Berlin and Hana do, it says more about his investment than may be apparent. Silence is Avi’s weapon, conversationally and — when he was younger — professionally. Any vocalization is commitment to engage, although the outcome of that engagement may be murky.

Sighing again, Avi sits forward and rests his elbows on the table and scrubs his face with both hands. “We got lucky,” is his assessment of the situation, not yet addressing the elephant in the room. “Pine Barrens don’t have any law enforcement, sparse population, lots of people wind up dead there still. Crimes, predation.” Then, tongue against the inside of his cheek, Avi tugs out the file labeled Obelisk from the stack.

“There’s a lot that could’ve been done better,” Avi admits, tiredly. “We can’t keep making it on luck, though. But I don’t think there’s a fucking person in this room who isn’t painfully aware of that right now. So…” He slouches back in his chair, scrubbing one hand up the side of his face. “This isn’t about justifying anything, or… any of that.” He briefly looks at Hana, then back down to the file. “It’s about where we go from here, and… fuck…”

Avi’s silent for a moment, one hand at his temple. “I think it’s about time we put this fucking jigsaw together before it cuts us in half.” It’s a double entendre, jigsaw, because it’s both a puzzle and a saw. Avi’s too tired to explain it.

Hana shifts her head in a way that isn't quite a glance at Epstein, doesn't quite divorce her regard from Berlin. Yet it says something that her attention shifts at all.

"Wolfhound doesn't begin and end with the teams," Hana remarks, tone neutral but nothing like gentle. "Before we get to Epstein's jigsaw," she continues, acerbic but not actually disagreeing, "I want to make one thing clear."

Her attention refocuses with full intensity on Berlin. "I expect better," she states, stern as steel. "I expect you to trust me to support you before the shit hits the fan. I expect you to think of the larger picture you're part of. And I expect you to not put me in the position of sacrificing you to save the unit. Which situation," she adds, with another non-glance towards Epstein that recalls his prior statement, "we are very fucking lucky this isn't."

Yet, at least.

There's a momentary pause, and then: "I'm taking you out of the field," the major states. "In eight weeks, if you can convince me your 'ability issue' is not an issue— " Because there's that factor, too. "— you can resume ops. Until then, you'll work your intel from a desk."

Berlin meets Hana's look, but she flicks her gaze away after a a few moments. But she listens, and she accepts the reprimand with a nod. She can't argue with any of that, really. Her eyes close a moment when the consequences are handed out, but that also gets a nod. "Understood," she says as she looks across the table again. Her hands fold on the table, fingers lacing together methodically. It's almost like a calming gesture, something to steady her as her attention turns to the folder.

The jigsaw is a complicated one, moreso than she's comfortable with.

"That file— " She starts, then stops, because she's really not certain how to approach it. Anger is the easiest, something she's been burying for years, and something she has no intention of giving into here. No matter how it tenses her muscles and flattens her expression. Pushing her chair back, she gets to her feet to start a slow pace the length of the table. "Nathalie LeRoux— ," she says, looking over toward them but not quite at them, "I was a thing in a box."

“I know,” Avi clarifies with a resigned sigh, scrubbing one hand over his mouth. “Or… I do now, anyway.” He gestures to the file. Nothing is said with regards to Hana’s disciplining, they appear to be of one mind as far as that is concerned.

“The jigsaw isn't that.” Avi continues, running a hand through his hair and slouching back into his chair. “The jigsaw is that… it doesn't start or end there, and that involves us. Me. You.” He avoids a mom joke. “Hana.” Taking a moment to pinch at the bridge of his nose, Avi makes a faint grumbling sound in the back of his throat before continuing. “According to those papers, you've got an ability that's the chocolate and peanut butter of Volken and Beauchamp’s powers. Somehow.”

Avi’s somehow rings in the air, an unresolved point he circles like a hawk. “Ojas Amargos, the attack, that's all in here. And I was in the Ark, I remember… us getting split up. You making it back to Pollepel with Gillian somehow. Handing you off to Robyn in the siege…” and to that he raises one finger, “Robyn who has been searching for you for years.” There's a look Avi gives, mildly chastising.

“All that bullshit’s yours to own. But what’s bothering me — our jigsaw — is one, why Eileen put your name on a kill list and wanted you dead when none of Sawyer’s intel told us what power you really had.” He doesn't pad that hard truth. “Two, how Adam fucking Monroe had this file and knew exactly who you were. Because he's a genocidal lunatic, and that's business.”

“The major might have some different numbers.” Avi admits, slanting a look to Hana.

"Volken's ability is business," Hana remarks almost absently, gaze directed nowhere in particular, "inasmuch as I understand Volken himself tends to come with it." She focuses on Berlin, tone going dust-dry. "But so long as you aren't suffering from megalomaniacal delusions of genocide, we can consider that tabled."

Her gaze flicks sideways to Epstein, mirror of his own glance. "Eileen, we can't answer now," she remarks. "Monroe?" Hana looks again to Berlin; there's no accusation in that regard, at least. "Monroe… is a problem. Monroe with a line on Hound secrets? Even — especially — personal ones?" A beat. "That could be a serious problem."

When it comes down to it, her numbers aren't all that different. Just distinctly weighted.

There are a lot of points in this puzzle, but Berlin doesn’t jump on any of them right away. Instead, she glances to her fingers. “I didn’t know Robyn was looking for me,” she says quietly, “I was a kid. All I knew was that she had to disappear if I was going to be safe.” Which did work. For a while.

Not forever, unfortunately.

She shifts, standing straighter as she refocuses on the pair across from her. “There’s more than that.” When she approaches the table again, she props herself up on her hands, taking a moment before she tries to explain. “Adam knows because he has resources. The Ghost Shadows were looking. They’re connected to Praxis, who were also looking. That one was special, he tried to imply they knew and were in contact with my birth father.” Her tone is clear: that’s doubtful. “They’re connected to Adam. Zhao, Praxis, Monroe.”

When she sits again, she looks over at Hana. “Volken’s daughter knows. She approached me recently. But she told me that the money guy, Sharrow, he ‘found his messiah’ and didn’t need me. So I think we might have a Vanguard problem on the rise.” Or maybe already risen. “As far as Volken goes, I have some memories sometimes, but not him. But— the other thing in this puzzle— Eileen is here. She’s not the Eileen we knew. I think she might be… part of Project Looking Glass. She has Volken’s power, too, but she’s managed to remove him from it. She offered to help me do the same if he became a problem. Given what happened, I need to take her up on it.”

Somewhere along the line Avi stopped listening for a bit, because all he could hear was the sound of blood rushing in his ears. When Berlin starts connecting dots between the Ghost Shadows triad, Praxis Heavy Industries, Adam, and for all he knows Santa Claus his expression says and he regrets not going for a second coffee.

“I thought Yvette Volken was dead,” is what Avi chooses to focus on. But then, he didn't have much other than a gut feeling to go on there. “When Dreyfus dragged his ass out of Siberia, I always assumed she got caught up in the fire. Fuck me.” But then, he clicks onto something else.

“Wait, Sharrow? I saw the paperwork on that— dead and buried. We had a deep cover special activities guy go after him back when I was still with the agency.” But then, Avi’s expression sinks again when the events of last year come back. “Fuck. Me.” He looks over to Hana. “It was Lowell. Michael fucking Lowell who filed the death certificates.” The same Michael Lowell who died trying to get his hands on Sibyl.

Avi is up and out of his seat, one hand raking fingers through his hair. “What the fuck,” he exhales breathlessly, having entirely forgotten the mystery corpse they'd literally swept up that he'd discussed with Hana. “Lowell flips, Sharrow goes dark, looking for— fucking— ” he looks at Hana again, then Berlin. “We knew about the other Ruskin. It was operating on need to know. But you're not wrong about… the particulars.”

Pacing around the table, Avi covers his mouth with one hand and limps in a slow circuit as he thinks. He's never been good at stationary thought. “So if Ruskin’s stuffed full of ancient Nazi, and Sharrow’s looking for… fuck, fuck.” He’s letting himself get distracted.

Where Epstein goes blank, Hana merely inclines her head. "We know of Zhao," she says into the quiet while Berlin returns to her seat. "And some others in Adam's pocket."

Mention of Sharrow… well, Hana doesn't offer an overt reaction there, because Epstein has that covered in spades. "That does close a loop," she remarks, watching Avi begin to pace, "or near enough." Lowell, Sharrow, Eileen. Not that Eileen.

"We've met Ruskin," Hana elaborates upon Avi's words for Berlin's benefit. Twice, on her part — once facing off over a hostage and the decayed hull of a dead boat, and once sharing tea in a thunderstorm. "We know where she came from." And why, albeit obliquely and in the woman's own words. One dark brow arches as Hana contemplates Berlin's words in turn: given what happened.

Meanwhile, Epstein is straying, in more ways than one. "Epstein," the major growls, glaring at his limping preoccupation, "take it outside or sit."

Dark eyes return to Berlin, sharp, intent. "We'll come back to the Vanguard. Monroe," she prompts. "And 'what happened'."

“Avi,” Berlin says as she watches his path around the room, “it isn’t her. Whoever they found, it isn’t her.” There’s no explanation as to why she seems sure of that, possibly because Hana refocuses them on Adam. And herself.

“Adam was there,” she starts, fingers reaching across the table to drag her file over to her. “He wanted me to read this, get pissed off, and kill Clark. He said a lot of things about killing all the non-expressives.” She doesn’t open the file, just stares at the cover like she might be able to see the contents through it. “When I didn’t, he shot the doctor. I thought I could take a little of Adam’s… vitality and syphon it to Clark to keep him alive. That’s all it was supposed to be, just a slice. But once it started, I couldn’t control it anymore. No matter how hard I tried to pull back, it just kept going until I had drained Adam of everything he had. Which,” she says glancing back up to Hana, “was not the wellspring of an immortal regenerator. I don’t know if it was a clone or a shifter or what, but it wasn’t the real Adam.”

A man like that, especially if he had somehow lost his ability to regenerate, wouldn’t have put himself in the position to be overpowered.

“I had these visions. These memories. From the others. They felt like mine and not mine at the same time. When they stopped, Clark had me at gunpoint. He was saying that he didn’t know how I escaped the Ark. That I knew too much. That I was dangerous.” Her brow furrows together while she recalls that moment. He wasn’t wrong, in the end, but it didn’t end how she wanted it to end. Even though she’s the one who ended it. “I disarmed him, but I… couldn’t stop. I don’t know if it was me or these people in my head or the powers themselves.” She doesn’t add that she scared herself, because she is doing her best to make this a clean and clinical report. But she did. “I always thought that having both is what helped me keep them steady, that they gave me some sort of balance that the others didn’t have.”

Avi’s grown still and quiet. It isn’t clear whether it was Hana, Berlin’s story, or a combination of both. But, his blood runs a little cold now. He comes to settle back in his seat, sweeping a hand down his face as he pulls his composure back together and looks down in his lap for a few moments. “So the bones… were Adam. I’ve seen regenerators die before, seen them lose their abilities over time,” like Claire. “Part of me wants to think we got the luck of the draw and you did the whole fucking world a huge favor… but without…” Avi trails off, pinching the bridge of his nose with forefingers and thumb. “Evidence, anything. I don’t know.”

He says that a lot lately.

“At least… Adam doesn’t know what happened? If he’s still alive. How it all went down?” Avi sounds uncertain of himself when he says that. “I feel like we’ve been chasing our tails the last few months. Ever since we bagged Dunlap it’s been a brick wall. She doesn’t know where any of our targets are, one of our sources died in prison… now this.” Avi brings up his hand to slowly move down his face again, scrubbing at his stubbled mouth at the end. “Okay, so…”

Avi looks over to Hana, not really sure where to go from here. “Adam’s either dead, or we killed a decoy. Shapeshifter, imposter, whatever. This…” he looks at Berlin, then back to Hana, “seems as resolved as it can get for now. Our trail’s clear, discipline,” he eyes Berlin, “clearly understood.” Breathing in deeply, Avi slouches back against his seat and rests his hands in his lap.

“Right now, without getting some sleep and thinking about all of this,” Avi motions to the files, “I’ve only got one other question, personally.” He looks up across the table to Berlin. “What do we call you?”

The major casts Epstein a distinctly incredulous look: did those words just come out of your mouth?


Afterwards, there's a moment where she doesn't say anything, allowing Berlin to respond to his 'one question'. The one she isn't really concerned with at all. "I have more questions," Hana declares after, looking between the two. "But none that can't wait a day," she concludes, inclining her head slightly in a clear gesture of release towards Berlin.

If one more day, or even two, makes a difference at this point, they have much bigger problems.

Berlin can only spread her hands as Avi speaks. She doesn’t know that it was actually Adam. She doesn’t know what he knows. What she does know is that they really aren’t all that lucky. “Luce has a lead. And Ben.” Belatedly she adds, “Ryans.” Although it is obvious who Ben is, either way. “He has a past with Casper. Might be good to grab them both.”

There have been questions she’s avoided, ones she hasn’t wanted to answer, ones she was unhappy she did answer during this process, but Avi’s is the first that actually stumps her. She stares at him for a long moment, neither name coming easily— or ever.

When Hana dismisses her, Berlin pushes back from the table and leaves without another word.

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