What Else?


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Scene Title What Else?
Synopsis Kenner and Nicole are pulled into a decades-old conspiracy surrounding the CIA's Special Activities division known as The Royals.
Date March 19, 2021

It’s dark. It’s raining.

Donald Kenner has sat in abject silence for what feels like an eternity. His stare is a vacant one, focused on a point in space somewhere beyond now. He hasn’t slept in 28 hours. The sound of the rain outside should be soothing, except it’s not. Nothing is.

The dining room lights up as the screen on Kenner’s phone flares to life. He blinks out of his fugue, looking down to the screen with a tightness in his chest.

7:12 pm

Don’s jaw tenses. He slides his tongue across his teeth and reaches to flip his phone over. But a second text comes in.

Blocked Caller
7:12 pm
do it

Don’s right eye twitches. His jaw shifts from side to side, and his hand trembles over his phone. With a shaky breath he slowly rises to his feet and picks up his keys and his phone in one sweeping motion.


Forty-Seven Minutes Later

Bay Ridge
The Vault

March 19th
7:59 pm

A black Yamagato Altum rolls to a stop out front of a quaint second-hand store in downtown Bay Ridge. Inside the car, Kenner watches rainwater roll in sheets down the windshield, gathering in icy puddles with the scraps of dirty snowbanks on the curb.

He doesn’t honk, but he does flash his headlights.

Nicole glances left and right, then lifts her cell phone, the flashlight on, shining it at the windshield of the car to watch for movement inside that would suggest anyone besides Don is waiting inside for her. Satisfied with what she sees, she taps the screen to turn off the light, taps the button on the side to kill the screen and makes her staggering away toward the car.

The door is thrown open, she’s pointing her gun, eyes wide and terrified. Her breath is visible in puffs in front of her, juddery little things that give away her emotional state further. “Say something only we know. Anything. I don’t care. Prove you’re you.

Jesus Christ,” is not one of those things but it’s the first thing out of Kenner’s mouth. “The—fucking—smoke break. I told you your house was bugged.” He isn’t sure if that’s what she wants. She can see his breath from the cold air filling the car. She can also see a gun in the center console between the seats.

Nicole nods her head slowly, pushes the back of her hand to her nose and comes away with more blood. “Okay.” She nods again, taking in a shaky, wet breath. “Okay.” She lowers her weapon, turning it in her hand to hold it by the barrel when she leans in and sets it on the dash. A wary look is cast Kenner’s way before she grabs the frame of the vehicle and lowers herself down to sit, then closes the door behind her.

“Anywhere but here,” she asks. “Not my house. Preferably not wherever Voss is waiting to put a bullet in my head either, huh?” She tries to laugh self-deprecatingly at her own joke but winds up curling in on herself and crying instead.

“I trusted you.” A whisper is all her straining voice can manage against the tightness of her throat. “I thought of everyone I knew in the organization, everyone I could have gone to, I thought you were the one.” The heart breaking in her chest hurts worse than the icepick behind her eye or the blood and bile she can taste in the back of her throat. Her vision is so badly blurred, the blind spot that roams around and never talks about has solidified itself in her left eye. She isn’t sure she could have hit Kenner even from this distance. Did he see her hands shaking?

“I thought you were there for me.” Instead, he was there because he was listening to her woes, all the things she opened up to him about that Nicole wouldn’t tell anyone else, and reporting back. Painting a clearer picture of her to be exploited.

“I thought you were my friend.”

Kenner looks about to say something a couple of times, but ultimately he chooses silence. Shifting the car into drive, he pulls away from the curb and into the rain.

“I know somewhere.”

A Short Time Later

The Memorial Wall

The wind is bitterly cold coming off the water. There is no one out tonight at the memorial wall, no candles lit, no vigils held. Just the weathered photographs and keepsakes of the dead and missing. The rain has stopped, changed over to light flurries.

“Voss doesn’t want to kill you. No one in SESA does.” Kenner’s voice is tight from the cold, but also from the sense of guilt at his naked betrayal. “They’re scared, Miller. Something you dug up in that fucking tomb,” he says with a gesture toward Manhattan, “has Voss rattled.”

Hunching his shoulders forward against the cold, Kenner breathes warm air into his gloved hands. “I didn’t have a choice. Voss was fast-tracking Mary’s mom for treatment, trying to find a healer. My career was—” He stops. Maybe that’s not the save he thinks it is.

You could have told me.” That’s the part that hurts the most. Nicole would have understood the position between the rock and the hard place. She would have done what she could to help. She could have played along.

But maybe the friendship was only real to her.

Swiping a hand under her nose reveals only what a person would expect to find in this kind of cold. Nicole lets out a stream of breath, visible relief in the water vapor cloud that issues from her lips. “Your fucking career.” She shakes her head slowly. “I get it, Don. I do. That’s… That’s a lot.” His mother-in-law’s condition is enough to explain his choice, but that doesn’t mean she has to accept what he’s done with open arms.

“I can’t trust anyone anymore. Do you understand that?” Nicole looks at Kenner, wounded creature that she is, but one that trusts he isn’t going to make her wounds worse. She isn’t backed into a corner waiting to snap. Not at the moment, anyway.

Kenner doesn’t say anything to his defense this time. “You could have just taken a vacation,” he says instead. “Nobody knows a goddamn thing about what happened to you, your kids, your husband.” He looks down at his feet rather than meet her gaze. “Everyone is worried for you, and you go off half-cocked digging through god knows what in Manhattan and…”

Kenner sighs through his nose and scrubs his hands over his face. “You wind up overturning the den of a fucking serial killer, Nicole. Do you have any idea how high up on the food chain people who want him in chains or dead goes? The kinds of people that make Voss look like a fucking tadpole who would feed you to the wolves for a shot at Gray?”

Shaking his head, Kenner exhales a sigh through his nose. “The fuck were you doing at a pawn shop? Why’re you out here?

Apparently there wasn’t enough bribery to keep her excursion the secret it was meant to be. Maybe she should have risked the trek north to the gap in the fence at Harlem instead of walking out the gates. But after everything…

“Why does anybody know about what I did in Manhattan? Where I went?” If she can get an answer to that question… Nicole isn’t sure what it will change, beyond adding a piece to the gargantuan puzzle in her mind with all its other missing pieces.

“I don’t know how Voss knows.” Kenner admits. “He told me. But whatever it is, it’s a powder keg. You going there? It set something off. It’s like you found a piece of fucking plutonium or something. Voss is the one who knew the place belonged to Gray, I don’t know how he was on that either. But they’re afraid of what he knows, but nobody’s told me fuck-all of what that is.”

Rubbing his hands together, Kenner looks over at the memorial wall. “I know Voss sent people back out there. He didn’t tell me as much, but I pieced it together from some off-clock work agents close to him were doing. Nothing of this has been above-board.” He admits. “Not setting me to spy on you, not Voss sending people into Manhattan, none of it.”

Kenner turns back to face Nicole. His lips press together tightly, like he wants to say something, but can’t bring himself to. He opens his mouth and then nothing comes out as he changes his mind.

Instead, he asks a question. “Did you really kill that man in Michigan?”

Every step of the way, every morsel of information Nicole has managed to learn, it’s all told her one thing:

Protecting Noah Bennet as her source has been the right thing to do.

Obviously someone knows he knew something. She didn’t catch a tail until after she tossed his place. But whatever just happened back at the Vault… Whoever that was, they didn’t know.

And that, Nicole decides, is how she knows all of that was real. Nicole’s fear was that when she lied about the anonymous tip that she would have been called out or set upon there and then. If all of that had been in her head, it would have happened. Her subconscious has never been one to throw her a bone.

Shaking her head, Nicole answers his question as simply as possible: “No.”

“Guess I was wrong about that.” A sandpapery man’s voice croons from nearby. Kenner isn’t surprised by the interjection, which is alarming in and of itself. Because the interjection comes from Samson Gray himself.


“Agent Miller,” Samson says as a greeting with a pearl-white smile. He stands not as an aggressor but with his hands tucked into the pockets of his black wool peacoat, collar flipped up against the back of his neck. He looks practically radiant compared to the last photograph they had of him in Fort Jay, bald and dying of cancer.

“You son of a bitch,” Nicole hisses at Kenner, too angry to be afraid.

“Don’t be mad at Donald, he didn’t have much of a choice in the matter here.” Samson says with a nod in Kenner’s direction. “That said you might find it nice to know he nearly died trying to save you from some very unsavory people who were quite upset with his choice of extracurricular work.”

Calmly, Nicole turns to face the man whose lair she disturbed. She spares only a fleeting glance toward Don, confusion passing briefly behind her eyes. Her mouth is tight by the time she gives her focus back to Gray. “Leave him alone. What do you want from me?” She unconsciously moves to put herself between the two men. For all the good that would even do.

He looks fantastic for a dying man. It was too much to hope that he’d done like a dog and crawled off somewhere to quietly pass. Slowly, one by one, fear is beginning to sink claws into her. It requires concentration to keep her breathing even.

“How long have you been stalking me?”

“Since you started stalking me,” Samson says with a slow spread of his hands. “An animal always knows when its den has been disturbed.” He adds with a flash of a smile. “Now, I don’t much care that you did. Because, fact of the matter is, you might have shaken something loose for me that I’ve been looking for. I just don’t know what that something is.”

Samson makes a small left-to-right gesture with his hands. “Something you pulled out of that storage locker was the kryptonite I didn’t realize I had. But I’m not sure what you took, versus what they took. So you can see my dilemma. You solved a puzzle, but I don’t know which piece you did it with.”

Kenner stares down at his feet the whole time, and only once earns a side-long look from Samson.

“That said, if you’re debating who to trust in this? Your agency had an assassin following you with orders to make sure you died of a stroke if you sniffed too deeply. I don’t want to hurt a hair on your head.” Samson explains with a slow spread of his hands. “Pick your poison.”

“I never stalked you. I stumbled into that. I wasn’t looking for you at all. I wasn’t looking for—” Nicole holds up a hand and takes a breath. “I’m just organizing my thoughts. Please give me a moment.”

That placating palm closes slowly into a loose fist while she thinks. While she processes everything Samson has to say. Somehow, she doesn’t once think he’s lying to her. What does he have to gain there? If he wanted something… There’s other methods he could be using right now. He wouldn’t spin a web.

“I can help you.” Nicole acquiesces. “I just need the answer to one question to figure out what part of what I took was relevant.” She turns to Kenner. “That man, Irwin Croft. Did someone kill him? Or did the agency think I made it look like a suicide?”

“Honest to god I don’t know,” Kenner says with his arms spread wide. “I knew you went to Michigan, I’d been—Voss had me keeping a close eye on your movements. I had a few people up there looking out for me. But I didn’t know what happened. I—I went looking and… I led some people straight to Croft’s house.”

“And I was following them,” Samson notes with a finger in the air. “That’s how I met Mr. Kenner here. An Enemy of my Enemy, and all that.”

“There’s an agency, deep black stuff, called the Office of External Investigations.” Kenner explains, glancing at Samson as he does. “They go back all the way to the 1940s, project Blue Book, Icarus, old school. Predate the Company by forty years. Didn’t always go by that name, but they did the same black-ops research.”

Kenner exhales a slow breath. “Voss is one of them. Far as I know he’s actually their Deputy Director under leadership I don’t know. Bluthner is too. Two of their agents, an old guy named Duvall and Rhys’ boyfriend Nolan showed up at Croft’s and blindsided me. I think they thought I was… I don’t know. They seemed pretty intent on killing me and you once they pieced together why I was there.”

“Duvall is dead.” Samson says flatly. “The other one got away. Teleportation, on top of a synthetic ability he appears to have gained from a medical procedure called Gemini.” Samson looks side-long at Nicole, then raises his thick brows.

“So.” Samson looks her up and down. “My question?”

Nicole’s brows slope with her contained anger for as long as her eyes stay on Kenner. Did he know there was an assassin assigned to follow her and still chose to say nothing? The anger hides how absolutely sick she feels.

Her whole fucking life is falling apart, and the person she’s choosing to trust right now — who has currently given her no reason to distrust him — is Samson fucking Gray.

Jesus Christ.

She throws one last look at her fellow agent. “Fuck you, Don.” It’s quiet, resigned. It’s all she has in the tank right now.

That delivered, her gaze goes back to Samson. “Thank you. I hope between the two of us, we manage to kill them all. I almost went to town on them with a fucking baseball bat last week…” Nicole shakes her head, trying to use the motion to clear it and come back to the matter at hand. “I took a video tape. Tango delta dash zero three seven dash hotel.” TD-037-H is burned into her mind. “Under a label originally marked Antipathy. It depicted, ah… A series of tests conducted on Erica Kravid. In the Seventies.”

Nicole’s posture has stiffened in the time it takes her to explain any of that. “According to her, she was from… maybe a couple of years in our current future and was slingshot back through time through means unknown to her. But she had a degenerative condition. I suspect from the Gemini process, because she had abilities. Plural.” Swallowing uneasily, she continues to recount, “And they ran horrible experiments on her. Experiments that eventually killed her. At the behest of the CIA, overseen by their Royals. I’m going to assume you know what that means.”

Shaking her head quickly, she forestalls any interjection. “Kravid had something to say before her mind was gone. She said the world had ended. A HELE, a solar flare so strong it wiped out everything on the planet’s surface. Only people in underground facilities, like Erica, survived.”

An inhale. A hard exhale. Nicole watches Samson’s reaction very closely.

“I’ve seen it.” Samson says without giving away much. “So you took that tape…” he muses, eyes wandering to the side. “I know the place they had her in, used to be a boarding school. They had a few people there back in the day.” Samson’s jaw sets at a crooked angle and he looks at Kenner, then Nicole.

“Whatever reason you have for wanting to put these people down, that’s your business,” Samson says with a gesture to Nicole, “but in the moment that’s what I like to call common interests. Now, if they’re panicking about that tape they either know what’s on it, or they aren’t sure what’s on it. I haven’t been to the building that was on the tape, but that’s the rub… I don’t think anyone has in a long time.”

Kenner shrugs. “What’s that matter? That’s like fifty years ago. It’s probably a Denny’s now.”

Samson shakes his head. “No. No, no, no. See, the Seventies weren’t good to these people. Everything fell apart, broke up. Crumbled.” He makes a vague gesture with his hand. “The Company came to power, wiped memories and killed people. Hid everything. But the Company was sloppy. As long as nobody was looking they didn’t care if something sat and rotted. They were twelve people trying to police the whole goddamn world. Shit fell through the cracks.”

“Now, the Royals who oversaw that program?” Samson shrugs. “Way I see it is they probably all got dead thanks to the Company. So maybe there’s still something there in Virginia. Maybe it’s nothing.” Samson blinks a look over to Nicole. “If you’re interested in a bludgeon, I’d look there.”

“Isn’t this your bullshit?” Kenner interjects, gesturing to Samson.

“It is.” Samson agrees. “But I’ve got a lot of bullshit, and this seems more your speed. Trust me, the other stuff requires bigger toolboxes than what either of you bring to the table.”

“They’re not all dead.” Nicole says firmly. “The Company tried, but one of them slipped through the cracks. You’re right, they were sloppy. Croft was a contractor, and they missed him in their redactions. He was able to give me the code name which put me on to the Royals in the first place. And I have their names. I have all of their names.”

She smiles now, laughing with a mixture of triumph and nervous fucking energy. “And I didn’t get them from you and your little nest.” Nicole is elated with this find of hers. “And they can’t possibly fucking know—”

Her face falls. She turns to Kenner.

The look on Nicole’s face telegraphs clearly that whatever this is, it’s his fault. “Byrne. We have history from KC.” Her tongue wedges between her teeth and her cheek for a moment. Fingers curl into fists. “He has a digital copy of the information, and I told him not to tell me where.”

Nicole tips her head forward, heels of her palms digging against her eye sockets as she groans frustratedly. “God,” she mutters, “the only person I can trust in this fucking town is the serial killer.”

With a sharp inhale between her teeth, Nicole lifts her head again and settles her gaze on Samson once more. “Alright. I want in. Let’s do it. I’ve got the address of the juvie facility. Detrick is rubble. Fort Hero is… Well.” That covers the three locations from her research. “I can bludgeon,” she agrees, “but I have more than that.” In spite of herself, she wears a little smirk. He has to feel like she has some control of her situation, and information is where she has it right now.

“I’m going to smoke,” Nicole announces before reaching into her coat for her cigarettes. She offers one to Kenner before she closes the pack and lights up. She doesn’t imagine the man who somehow cheated cancer wants to partake, but she doesn’t put the methols away either. “The names, the Royals. Everyone of them has a son or a grandson who had a prominent position in this turning point in our history. I don’t think that's a coincidence.”

Samson reaches up with two fingers and snaps the cigarette in half from a distance. “Take my advice,” he says with a little squint, “those’ll kill you. And not in the way you might decide to do for yourself one day.”

Shit!” Nicole curses as the embering stick breaks in half between her fingers. It’s dropped and she brushes her hand down her sleeve, her boots scraping on the ground as she dances back a step. She slides the pack back into her pocket slow as she retrieved it, like she might do a weapon. The lighter is relegated to the opposite pocket. Trigger mechanism separate.

Kenner fixes Samson with a dry look, then sighs and rolls his shoulders. “The last people I knew with those identities were Kershner, Harper, Raith, Lancaster, and Epstein.” He says, counting on his fingers. “Kershner and Harper are dead, not sure what happened to Lancaster or Raith but they probably didn’t make it out of the war in one piece, and Epstein is up running Wolfhound.”

“Ms. Miller means one of the former Royals,” Samson corrects Kenner’s assumption, blinking a look to her. “Who’s the one who survived the Company’s game of whack-a-mole?”

The calm Nicole had been carefully cultivating is disrupted enough that a tremor runs through her frame as she exchanges a glance with Kenner while he’s speaking. With a roll of her shoulders, she banishes the urge to turn that singular moment into continuing tremors. Just the dark blue eyes move to Samson first, then she turns her head, one corner of her mouth quirking up.

“Funny thing about that. The common denominator on both those lists is Raith.” With a tilt of her head toward Don and no other indication of a shift of her attention, Nicole asides to him, “Jensen’s retired.” Her brows lift, regaining some of her confidence here. She apparently knows something Gray doesn’t know. That helps shore up the footing to something above sub-basement level to her. “Your ghost Marcus, though… Don’t you think he looked remarkably good on that video tape for a man who died in the 50s?”

He said he’s seen it, after all.

Nicole shook her head back and forth slowly. “Now, I’ve seen how Raiths age. No way in hell did Jensen’s granddad do it that gracefully over a nearly three decade time period.” The chuckle isn’t at Samson’s expense, it’s just because this all is insane. “Didn’t age a day from that Project Icarus photograph on your memory board, either. But you knew that much.”

Samson glances down at the ground, his expression sagging. There’s a subtle narrowing of his eyes, a grit of his teeth together. Sliding his tongue against the inside of his cheek, Samson looks like he was just handed a shit sandwich and told to chew a big mouthful. He looks at Kenner who sees that expression and tenses. But he doesn’t say anything. Instead he blinks his attention over to Nicole and some of that sour face softens.

Thank you,” Samson says with a sandpapery croon. “I suppose that’s as much confirmation as I could’ve hoped to get. So let me put a button on this for you.” Samson looks between Kenner and Nicole. “If the surviving Royal is long-lived snake Marcus Raith? Then that’s who is at the head of all this. Whatever internal bullshit you’re dealing with. Your shit, my shit, it’s all the same shit.”

“Good. That’s a lot handier than just running along until our interests diverge.” Splitting at a fork in the revenge road from Samson Gray sounds like a great way for Nicole to end up as dead as she’s sometimes sought to be. Funny how having a goal like this — where it might fit the missing pieces in her larger goal of either getting her children back or avenging them — makes all the difference in that mindset.

Staring not at either of the men, but at the wall of memorials instead — at least directionally — her lips twist into a wry expression. “What did they tell you to do if I got amorous, Don?”

She’s not stupid. Nicole knows how this works and she knows her reputation. Having made an honest go at building a life with her husband means nothing when faced with how public her personal life — in her twenties — was before the war. When she returned victorious, and with a three-year-old on her hip.

Her tongue runs along the masticating ridge of her molars behind closed lips, jaw working to one side as she exhales visibly, pushing lungs through a chest that feels too tight suddenly. She’s angry and embarrassed. Betrayed. She reins it all in, because it doesn’t serve her. It won’t. It can’t. The only thing she can do is work with the answer he gives her.

No.” Kenner says with a withering look at Nicole. Even Samson has a brow raised at that line of questioning. But he doesn’t bother to stick around to hear the answer. Instead, he just takes a few steps backwards and simply isn’t there anymore.

Sighing, Kenner scrubs his hands down his face, trying to move past that question. “Whatever you think,” he says with a quaver in his voice, “whatever he thinks,” is added with a gesture to where Samsom was a moment ago, “the—the system still works. SESA still works.” He takes a step toward Nicole, voice lowered and jaw clenched.

“You cannot seriously be taking him at his word right now.” Kenner says through his teeth. “Yes, the things he said happened, but the only context I have is—is the word of a serial killer. Miller.” He puts a hand on her shoulder. “Do not just—don’t take this because it fucking validates you. Stay objective for me. Please.”

There’s only a parting half-smirk flashed to the killer before he steps away and disappears. Yes, she has the bone he’s thrown her, and she’ll know when and where to gnaw at it.

“They’re trying to kill me, Don.” Nicole lets his hand stay on her shoulder, but she reaches up to hold his face in both of hers. It isn’t that soft way that she does with those she’s affectionate toward. It’s the way a person holds someone when they don’t want them to look away. Her eyes stay on his. “They’re literally driving me insane and hoping I’ll just drop dead.

Her lip curls, “Is that a system that works?” She’s angry, but not with him. He just needs to understand. “What am I supposed to do? Go to Farah and hope that OEI doesn’t intervene — hope that she isn’t OEI?”

Nicole gives Kenner a rueful smile and shakes her head. “After what I found out? The serial killer isn’t the one who wants me dead.”

Pressing his lips together tightly, Kenner looks at Nicole with sternly silent eyes. He looks away, disappointment evident in his eyes as he turns. “Come on,” he says without any ability or desire to fight anymore. “Let’s head back to the car. It’s fucking freezing out here…”

“…and we have a long drive ahead of us.”

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