Date: December 19th, 2009
You think you know a person…
Nathan Petrelli's Offices
New York City
Sitting at the front desk in his paisley jacket, Brayden (or Nathan Petrelli to everyone not in his own head) is reading some of Nathan's old files on the computer. Unfortunately, Brayden knows little about computers and hasn't figured out how to open anything. His legs can be seen underneath the desk exposing two hideously ugly socks and his — one with FROSTY the other with SANTA.
He grumbles unhappily towards the machine, murmuring expletives under his breath while shaking his head. Finally he kicks it lightly. "C'mon! Why won't you work…"
Nearby, a door creaks open, admitting a late-working Tracy Strauss, aka Linda Johnson, into the office proper. While Tracy may not be having the best of days — or weeks or, for that matter, months — she's continuing to make a concerted effort to do her job; thus, here she is. She's been hiding away since getting in today, but now, she strides to the front desk from behind, a plain, manila folder in one hand; dull against the bright yellow of her blouse, which in turn is a vivid contrast to the narrow, black pencil skirt beneath. "Having trouble?" she asks casually as she comes up behind the desk's chair, looking past Nathan to the computer screen.
Brayden looks up from the computer with a frustrated sigh. "I hate to admit it, but I can't remember how to use one of these beasts." He growls lowly as he kicks the CPU again with a frown. "Apparently I used to use this particular one — just had them set it up here until we hire a permanent receptionist. I hate people not having someone greet them." He glowers at the computer once more before shaking his head. "I'm trying to get to Nat — MY old files. Can you… please… help?"
Tracy smiles a touch at Nathan's — "Brayden's" — obvious frustration and cluelessness. It is rather unfortunate, but helping him out is hardly out of her way. "Sure, shouldn't be a problem." She steps in beside the chair, holding the folder to her — it contains important documents, don't you know — with one hand while the other reaches past to steal the mouse. She works somewhat over his shoulder as she does so — close quarters, but she makes nothing of it, her eyes wholly on the screen. Immediately, she clicks out of wherever Brayden managed to get into. Wrong way, Petrelli. "You should be able to access them from here… that looks like everything. I hope you didn't set a password."
That would be the point at which the door opens, and a young blonde girl walks in. She tucks her hair back behind an ear; a nervous gesture of sorts, perhaps, and then looks over at the desk. Her eyes take in both the participants there, and her lips curl up in a smile. "Nathan Petrelli and Niki Sanders. It does get better and better."
"Tha —" Brayden begins as she enters his space. Woah. And then something strange: a tinge of familiarity. His expression turns to pure dejavu. He swallows as he turns to look at her after she helps There's an awkward moment of silence as he stares at her before he forces a chuckle, "Yes. That would be unfortunate." And then a question, "Ms. Johnson, have we… have we met before?" He arches an eyebrow. "I mean before I met you the other day… when you came to my office that first time…" He stares at her somewhat incredulously.
And then Stephanie enters the office so Tracy's off the hook, "Do I… do I know you?"
Tracy is just starting to look over at Brayden, beginning to realize their close quarters while he asks the question, poised to answer, when the young woman enters and address them … or rather, addresses Nathan and her very much non-present sister. She stands up straight, her ready-to-speak expression turning from confusion to the politician to confusion to Stephanie before she gives the girl a very suspicious stare, turning her head just so as blue eyes narrow. "I'm sorry?" she voices skeptically, defiant.
Stephanie takes a few steps closer. "I was hoping to find you. Either of you. Finding both of you at once, that's just icing on the oh-so-tasty cake. Sit down, Ms. Sanders." She nods to one of Nathan's chairs.
An eyebrow is arched at Tracy's reaction and then the other at Stephanie's words. "What? Have we met before?" Finally Brayden shakes his head. "I'm sorry, I have no recollection… besides this is Ms. Johnson. Not Ms. Sanders." Yes, he covers for his employee, even though Sanders could be her real name for all he knows. He looks to Tracy for help, but she looks how he feels. "Do you have business you need to discuss with us?"
"What he said. My name isn't Niki," Tracy is quick to retort, a snap to her voice as well as a definite tone of questioning for this woman who seems so ready to boss her around. She remains precisely where she is, standing tall just next to Brayden. Studying the wholly unfamiliar blonde, she's very much on edge, which is not a good thing where the ice queen is concerned. "I think I'll stay where I am."
Stephanie narrows her eyes a little. "It really wasn't a request. And yes, we have some business to discuss. Let's call it a friendly little game of fill in the blank. I'll name-drop, and you two both tell me anything that just pops into your head about them." There's a smile, but it's not really a friendly one. "Daniel Linderman. Primatech Paper."
A glance is given to Tracy. Should Brayden remember these things? Finally after moistening his lips he stares at her curiously, "Yes, I'm Nathan Petrelli, but I don't remember anything you're talking about. I'm not sure if you read my interview in the times, but… I'm suffering from amnesia…"
Tracy's stare is not a blank one. No, it's filled with that same, suspicious criticism that has only been growing ever since this girl stepped through the office doors. The fact is, however, she shows absolutely zero flashes of recognition with either of the names Stephanie drops. A glance is traded with Brayden, unaware as he is, even without the excuse of amnesia. "I'm … sorry, I think you're mistaken," she says insincerely, red lips twisting up in a smile that has no sentiment behind it; it's pure courtesy, saccharine under the circumstances. "I have no idea what you're talking about." Clearly, Niki would — but Tracy is reluctant to even speak of her sister, given that Linda Johnson isn't supposed to have one. Then again, Tracy wasn't supposed to have one, either. "Obviously Mr. Petrelli can't help you in his condition… maybe you should just tell us who you are and why you're here."
Stephanie looks back at Nathan. "Oh, yes, I read it. It's a lovely excuse to get away from all your bad history, and I don't believe it a lick." And then her attention is back to Tracy. "Wonderful. You've decided to get ANOTHER person in your head now? At least this one isn't a stripper. Come on, red. Let Niki out to play."
Brayden sighs as Stephanie tries to call him out. "Believe it or not, I don't remember anything before a year and a half ago. I didn't even know my own name until Congressman Dawson recognized me." He sighs a bit as he glances at Tracy and then back to Stephanie. "Unfortunately Ms. — we're going to have to have more information. Neither myself nor Ms. Johnson know what you're talking about. Clearly you're familiar with me… and I believe Linda just has 'one of those faces'…" Once again, he makes efforts to cover for his employee.
A what. To her credit, Stephanie has managed to shock the standoffish advisor into speechlessness. Tracy is, at first, taken aback — gaping incredulously, she looks to Brayden, who — admirably — defends her. "A— aa-h…"
Regardless, enough is enough, and Tracy isn't feeling as diplomatic as Mr. Petrelli here.
Abruptly, she sets the folder she still held against her chest down upon the desk in front of Brayden and gives the stranger an incredulous, superior stare with a glint of something more threatening. Tracy winds around the desk, but it is definitely not to sit down like Stephanie ordered. She approaches the young woman instead. "I get it. You think," she starts off, brows lifting to match her authoritative — and now impatient — voice. "That I'm … Niki, but I'm not her. I look… like her. I wouldn't do something like that, 'n'— I assure you, there's only one person in my head." What the hell was that supposed to mean anyway? "Whatever your business is, its place isn't here."
The blonde looks back at the redhead, and the senator. As Tracy starts to come closer to her, there's a narrowing of her eyes. "If you want to be any good to yourself…ever again…I'd stop there, red." There doesn't seem to be anything dangerous about her, but there's something in her expression that suggests it isn't an idle threat. "Niki Sanders was an MPD. Niki. Jessica. And now this one. Linda, is it?" She looks from Tracy to Nathan. "And I'm the one who's getting the information here."
"There's no information to be had on our end," Brayden quips with a smirk. "My brain is empty, you're obviously confused about my colleague's identity, and we don't play nice with people who don't play nice with us." He crosses his arms over his chest as he glances at Tracy and then back to Stephanie. "Neither of us are who you think we are. I'm Nathan, just not the Nathan you knew… and this is Linda Johnson. As far as I know I've never met anyone by the name of Niki Sanders," although on his tongue it feels familiar.
Tracy stops, but it may be past the imaginary line Stephanie has drawn, a few paces away. It's from here that she stares the young woman down. "…What?" Her brow instantly furrows into confusion and her eyes narrow suspiciously at the statements coming from the girl, though given her considering expression, she doesn't dismiss them offhand. She looks over to Brayden for an instant, thankful, but there's a growing tension in Tracy's expression that wasn't there before. She folds her arms and studies Stephanie's every move, trying to figure out her game.
"Well I'm not her. And good luck finding her," Tracy answers, brusque. "I've been down this road, alright. We're two different people." There's a pause as she considers Stephanie's point of view. "Literally," she clarifies. "I don't know what you want from us, but if it's revenge, you've clearly come to the wrong place."
The blonde girl looks at both. "That depends on whether I actually believe either of you." And the room…starts to get dark? No…it's the view outside. It's darkening, as if night were falling, only really quickly. "Let's say…just for a moment…that I actually believe you." There are a few screams from outside, sporadic, and increasing. "There was a company that was going to make things happen. Primatech." A roaring sound, now. Wind. And heat. "And a man who had a plan with it. Daniel Linderman. At least, until Niki Sanders and her husband managed to kill that man. And now the company seems to have fallen right off the face of the planet. I want answers." The heat and roaring are coming closer and louder, a cacophony of both from outside. "And you two were involved with both. You're going to get me my answers." Her eyes seem to be glowing faintly red.
Brayden sideglances Tracy and stands from his desk. "Look. I've told you once and I'll tell you again. You don't play nice with us, we don't play nice with you." And then the room starts darkening. He stares at the blonde. "I know nothing of Linderman or this company." But Ma. Ma knows, she mentioned the Company. Noah worked for the Company. "I know someone who does." He takes a step towards Tracy again. "I don't know what things Primatech wanted to happen."
At the first sign of it getting dark — darker — Tracy looks sharply to the windows, but it's not until the noises approach and become a cacophony that she truly starts to worry. She instinctively takes a step back to stand nearer to Brayden, who — for once throughout this exchange — seems to know more than she does. There are other instincts at work, however, flight versus fight, and her hands curl more tightly over her upper arms, over the yellow fabric of her blouse. Cold, but not visibly. Yet. "What's happening," she says, low-voiced. Another sharp glance to the window.
Stephanie's lips curl faintly. "I'm sharing a vision. I'm showing you what would have been." She says, looking back to both. The light hits first. Blindingly bright, washing out everything in harsh, unyielding white. "You two are going to get answers for me. And you're going to have them the next time I come calling." The heat is next. It arrives like a physical entity, lighting papers and curtains ablaze, as wood begins to smoulder, and skin burn. "Otherwise, there are worse things I can share with you." And then the shockwave hits. It's enough to blow human beings easily off their feet, to splinter wood and crack stone…and then it's gone, as suddenly as it began. And so's the blonde. No sign of the agonizing experience, save a memory.