Nina paced up and down in her office while she waited for the broadcast to start, not even trying for calm. She knew herself better than that, she knew that while she kept thinking of the soft fabric of Lee's coat or the way his hair tickled her cheek or how he smelled faintly of shampoo and aftershave, while she was thinking of that and trying to burn him into her brain she couldn't think of anything else. And she couldn't calm down. She had the horrible feeling that she wasn't going to see him again.
Which was only half stupid. The reality of it was that Rosen was going to go play a really dirty trick on the government, and they'd be pissed. The way everyone got pissed when you secretly videotaped them doing nasty things in dark corners and she dug her palms into her eyes.
"God, did you have to think of it like that?"
"Think of what like what?" Cameron leaned in the doorway, calm, like always. He had this kind of zen blankness to him, like nothing could touch him. One of the things she liked about being with him after Gary and Bill on hair triggers.
Nina shook her head, though. She didn't want to get into the merits and flaws of the government, especially their hidden police forces, with an ex-Army guy. "I just... thinking of this whole, Dr. Rosen filming everyone on the committee without them knowing it. Kind of like filming someone's dirty little secrets."
"But that's what we're doing, right? Filming them talking about all their dirty little secrets?" he came into the room and towards her, concerned. She appreciated the concern but if he tried to hold her and go all protective on her now she'd fall apart from tension.
She gave him a crooked smile as she stepped away, instead. "Yeah, but I was thinking of a different kind of dirty little secret."
It took him a second to catch up to her meaning, then he groaned. Turned and leaned his forehead against the wall. "I take it back. Can I take it back, knowing that?" Nina laughed.
"Hey, you asked."
"Yeah, and now I really regret it."
She laughed. Okay, so that had distracted her for a few minutes, and that was a good thing. But once that bit of fun was over she couldn't focus on anything but wondering how the hearing was going, and she needed something to do. "I'm, uh." She moved past Cameron and towards the door. "I'm going to go check on Gary."
As an excuse to get away it was a little better than going to wash her hair, not as funny as going to the non-existent pool on the roof. Gary didn't need much checking up on right now, he was elbows deep in technological problems with getting Dr. Rosen's hidden camera online, getting everything broadcasting. Not that you'd know it from the way he looked here and there, head jerking, eyes moving back and forth so fast she could barely keep up. She wondered what the data streams looked like to him. Pools of light, sound waves, a general aura that filled the whole room and just got brighter or darker in certain places? Did he get full audio and visual or did he just sort of know what was going on the way you just knew where you feet and arms were. Well, the way most people just knew where parts of their body were.
Gary treated the electronic signals like a part of him, sometimes. He got cranky when the signals were glitchy, more passive and at peace when they were flowing. Nina leaned in the doorway and tucked her hands under her arms and watched him.
"I have, I have a lot of work to do, Nina." Gary's fingers danced. "You should, um, go, yeah, go and make sure Bill is getting everything set up for the hearing."
"Aren't you worried about him?" When she said it she realized what a dumb question that was, of course Gary was worried about him. But Gary didn't process other people's emotions and expressions like the rest of them did, he might not be aware that he was worried or he might not call it that out loud. Which was also a blessing because it meant he would take her question at face value and not as a dig against him.
"Dr. Rosen will, will be fine. He's Dr. Rosen." Of course Gary would think that. "He's really smart and, and he knows a lot of things. And he's in charge of us. They won't hurt him."
Nina tilted her head sideways and squinted a bit at him. "Are you saying that because you think it's true, or because..." He wouldn't say it to make her feel better. She thought. He might say it because he believed it was true, or because he wanted to believe it. Sometimes she couldn't tell if he knew about fooling himself.
"Dr. Rosen really is in charge of us," Gary frowned, turning his face towards her. His eyes didn't focus on her, he was still in the digital world. "You're worried. About him."
She sighed. "Yeah, Gary, I am."
"You're worried. I can tell, because, because you didn't put on more lipstick. You always put on more lipstick after you eat something because, um, it gets all over the straw..."
Oh Gary. "That's right, because it does. But that doesn't mean I'm worried."
"You don't, you only ever don't put on your makeup because you're worried or upset. You're very pretty," he added, though she didn't know if he meant it. He probably didn't mean it that way, anyway. They were just talking about makeup.
"I'm thinking about other things than makeup right now," she told him, moving out of the doorway and back into the hall.
Bill was on the phone with his wife, trying to reassure her that he wasn't coming home on time because there was something he had to review with his team. "No, I promise, it's nothing like that. It's just some video we need to look at, it's taking longer than we thought, that's all. I'll be home before morning, yes." Nina ducked her head and then turned to pretend to inspect something in the empty office she stood next to, to keep from smiling directly at Bill's tone. His wife was making sarcastic comments, had to be.
She turned back around when she heard him get off the phone, still fighting the smile.
"What?" He didn't believe that innocent look, nor should he, really.
"Nothing. Reviewing video?"
Bill shrugged. "That's what we're doing, isn't it? We're all set up in there, just have to wait for his turn to come around."
"Shouldn't be too much longer..." Then she did ask the question that had been burning in her brain since she'd hugged Dr. Rosen good-bye, or at least, one of them. "Do you really think we'll be able to get away with this?"
He sighed hard, shook his head. Not a no, just a kind of a fidget. "I don't know. I mean, on the one hand, anything they do to him is going to end up happening in the public eye. We can make sure of that, Gary can, or the press will. With everything broadcast out to anyone with a screen, people will want to know what's going on with these Alpha things, this secret prison..."
"We're not things," Nina said. Sharply, too.
"Yeah, but they don't know that. He's not exactly going to have time to lay out a vocabulary list before he starts talking, you know? People will hear some words they don't understand. They'll also hear some words they do understand, like civil rights. Secrets. Abuse, violence. Dr. Rosen's a smart guy, and he's a good talker."
"Yeah, I know," Nina smiled a little, thinking back. He was a good talker, he'd talked her off a metaphorical ledge before she'd gone and climbed out on a literal one. "I know, but that doesn't mean the government isn't going to get away with it. Look at what they're doing already..."
"One thing at a time, okay, Rachel?" Bill held up a hand, cut her off before she could start in on a long ramble, and maybe that was for the best. "First let's get through this. After that, we also have to deal with what happens when people learn that their best friends, their family, their husbands..."
Nina's head came up. She'd forgotten about that. It was a lot easier to forget when you didn't have much in the way of family connections, but Cameron had his kid, Rachel had her family. Gary had his Mom, who thought his quirks were just part of his disability, but Bill had his wife.
"... aren't what they thought they were. That they've been keeping this really big secret."
"You ever had someone, uh, come out to you?"
Bill and Nina turned. Rachel's shoulders were drawn up and her hands were clasped in front of her, but her chin was up too and she looked at both of them with determination. Bill didn't understand what she was getting at, shook his head. "No..."
"You ever see the X-Men movie?" Nina looked over at him with maybe a third of a smile, and not one with any humor in it. "Have you ever tried not being a mutant?"
"Have you ever tried not being gay?" Rachel echoed. "People ... I mean, sometimes you can be gay and come out to your family and have it all be all right, and they hug you and tell you they love you anyway. And sometimes they yell at you or kick you out of the house or send you to, to Bible camp and then kick you out of the house because you're sick and perverted and they don't want anything to do with you."
Cameron had come out of his office by this point and was filling a doorway, listening. Nina tucked her hands back under her arms. She couldn't really argue with that.
"Not everyone will be like that, Rachel..."
"No, but some will. And some will be looking, maybe some people will be looking at their friends and family members who are just a little bit different even if they're not Alphas. And they'll be wondering..."
"Rachel, you sound like we shouldn't be doing this," Nina interrupted. She had enough bad feelings over this that she needed to know they were doing the right thing. Hearing Rachel talk about how many people their broadcast about the Alphas could hurt, that didn't make her feel any better. And okay, maybe it shouldn't, but right now she just wanted to feel better.
"No..." She shook her head. "No, that's not what I'm saying, I think we should be doing this. I think this might be the only thing we can do to stop Binghamton and stop the government from building other places like it."
Silence permeated the hallway from the top down, punctuated by the soft thuds of Gary's feet as he moved around his office. No one had any other ideas, or answers, or comments that they felt like sharing in public. Loaded topic, and the minutes ticked down till they would all crowd around the television and watch Gary's broadcast of Dr. Rosen's testimony and now they all were having second thoughts. They had to be. Binghamton was bad.
"You guys, you guys," Gary came rocking out of the office. "You guys, he's, he's about to testify."
They crowded in with him. Nina pulled the chair out from the table and let Rachel take it, she was too fidgety and Rachel looked like she was going to fall against the nearest solid surface. Bill loomed behind them in some kind of bodyguard or big bad agent posture, which she guessed was because it made him feel as though he had some kind of power over what was going on here. Cameron didn't come near the group, he stayed over by the window, arms folded, leaning against the pillar, and when everyone was in the room he reached out and hit the blinds control to close them.
Lee would already be speaking. Gary fiddled with his device, then with the streams or beams or whatever they were. Then the picture came up, and his voice. "...both rely all too frequently on violence and secrecy, abuses that can only thrive in the dark."
Nina thought it would relax her, when the broadcast hit and she could see him, see that nothing happened to him. It didn't relax her, it just made things worse. She felt the middle of her back knotting at the edges of her shoulder blades.
"Son of a bitch, he's actually going through with it." Bill didn't sound surprised, though. She could have told him he would. Lee had that kind of conviction about some things, about what he believed in, that came in one in maybe a hundred people. The kind of faith in his ideals that you couldn't shake, no matter what.
"And by sharing this truth, it will become evident that it's time for everyone to open their eyes, to open their minds, and to open thei--"
The signal cut off.
A minute or so later, after they had all stood or sat exactly as they were, stock still, the phone rang.
Rachel squeaked as she jumped in her seat. Nina stared at the phone, knowing that she shouldn't be in the least surprised that Clay or someone else would want to know what the hell was going on, right the hell now. Bill didn't help at all, he turned and started walking the length of the room. Cameron looked over at her.
"What should we do?"
"Should we answer it?" Rachel looked up at her, too. Nina tried to push a coherent thought through her head.
"I d--" Another phone rang. The first one cut off as the second one kept going. Then a third phone started up, Gary's cell phone. Then Bill's.
Neither of them answered. Both of them stared at her as though she knew what she was doing, and shaking her head didn't convince them otherwise. "I don't... Gary, turn them off. Turn them all off." Her cell phone started to ring, too, and she didn't have the faintest idea who the hell could be calling her right now. "Turn them off!"
"Shut them off, please, Gary."
Cameron thudded softly off the wall and back to his feet again, and she hadn't seen him leap. Everyone stared at the newcomer in his smooth blue suit with the immaculately combed gold-brown hair, lightly sprinkled with silver. Not a new agent, then. Maybe not even government, he didn't have that broad stance and ready attitude that Bill and Clay shared, and every other agent she'd come across. He was just a guy in a suit, tall, well spoken, pleasantly deep voice without being too deep and with a bit of a rasp to it. She had never, ever met him before, she was sure, and it didn't look like any of the others had either.
"I don't know you," Gary said. "I don't know you, I don't have to do what people I don't know tell me to do, who are you. I don't know you, Nina, tell, tell him I don't have to do what he tells me to do. Who, who are you."
"Shut them off, please, Gary," Nina told him. Even though for the last minute and a half she hadn't heard any phones at all. Gary's fingers danced.
Then the silence became even more acute and they still stared at the newcomer.
"I can't say how much longer this place will be safe," he looked around at all of them, spread his hands apologetically. "You'd better come with me, for the time being. Once I get in touch with..."
"We don't have to go anywhere with you," Nina interrupted.
"I'm sorry," he nodded, acknowledging her but still looking around the room, making eye contact with each of them in turn. "I truly am sorry to spring this on you, but we need to go quickly. They'll be coming, and I can't promise that you'll be able to handle them all, Nina, Bill. Cameron."
Cameron smiled his I-don't-actually-like-you smile.
"How are we supposed to trust you?" Bill demanded. "You walk in here, somehow, you know who we all are, you know our abilities and you know our names but we don't know a damn thing about you."
He smiled. He had a warm smile, a little soft, a little shy, strange in a government agent. At least, Nina assumed he worked for the government until he said what he did next. "My name is David Sheridan. Lee sent me."