Richard And The Looking Glass

Participants:

ray_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Richard and the Looking Glass
Synopsis Richard seeks help in making sense of an excess of options for what might be 'real'. Who better than someone with an official certificate of sanity?
Date March 30 2018

Raytech Industries - CEO's Office

A large double-window along one wall of Richard Ray's office allows natural light to spill in throughout the office and provides an excellent view of the green roof on the lower floor of the building, the flowered garden spreading out between rows of solar panels.

The walls of the office are in slate grey, the carpeting on the floor matching, and the furniture is all in black glass, metal, and leather - but the modern starkness is offset by the tall potted plants that grow along the side of the room opposite the window. The CEO's desk is a broad affair in black glass with a video feed and touch-screen built into the surface of the desk itself, the non-interactive portions of the desk decorated sparsely with a plastic 'in' and 'out' box, a framed picture of Elisabeth Harrison, and an old onyx chess king set beside it like reminders of times long past.


The days of covert meetings and secret gatherings are gone - at least, one hopes - so when Ygraine reached out, Richard invited her to stop by the Raytech facility and had a badge left at the desk for her.

When she arrives, he's standing beside his desk in a nice black suit, sans tie, holding a cylinder of burnished metal in hand that he's… using to project a small red dot on the floor and moving it around. The dot is pursued by a small, reddish floof of a kitten that wriggles his hindquarters and then tries to pounce, only to find it moving away again.

Richard's visitor has made an effort for this meeting: though she has a pack with her, it's carried in one hand rather than over her shoulders. She's in a dark blue three-piece suit (with tie, in her case), with her hip-length braid of her falling down her back. It's dyed in her now-customary style: deep black, with the last 18" or a rich blue. She's even wearing make-up.

Pausing as she steps through the door, she grins, laughing softly in surprised delight. "Hello, you two."

"Ygraine." Richard looks up, a grin curving to his lips as he turns away from the kitten - who has promptly stopped to stare at the newcomer. "You're looking well. Look at you, all business and shit." He's one to talk.

A glance to the kitten, then back, "Hope you're not allergic to cats? I can put him in his box if you are; didn't want to leave him alone in my suite."

Laughing, Ygraine shakes her head. "My suit might be," she says, flashing a grin at Richard even as she sinks smoothly into a crouch, holding out her hands to the little feline, in case he finds the courage to come over to investigate her. "And yeah… I own a few things to wear for formal occasions. Mostly, I'm stomping around in black, with good boots for running around on rubble and walls. But I figured that I should probably try to reflect well upon my host, today."

The tiny little kitten grows curious after a few moments and pads over, leaning up to sniff at extended fingers and then lap at one with a raspy little tongue.

"I make no promises about you not finding hair on your suit later," Richard admits with a chuckle, glancing down at himself then and spreading his hands, "Ah, well, I'd rather be in black with boots too, but what can you do. Kaylee would throttle me if she came in here and I was in civvies. Glad you escaped the corporate trap and are still running around out there."

Ygraine looks up, cocking her head. "There was only one corporation I was at all tempted to work for," she says softly. "And… it seemed like Liberty had a role to play that a for-profit organisation couldn't." Looking back to the kitten, she slowly and carefully ruffles its ears. "That's probably just my megalomania talking, of course. Or a justification for using other people's money to fight my own demons. But I like to think we manage to help someone every now and then, in ways that corporations simply can't. At least not openly. But I admire what you've built here." She lifts her gaze again, offering another smile. "I'm glad you're here."

"We can't all sit here in ivory towers planning," says Richard with a shake of his head, "Some of us have to be out there… and I'm glad you are." He grins, "Not that I wouldn't like you here, but you need to go where you think you can do the most good."

Ygraine gently runs fingers around the curve of the kitten's skull, before scritching lightly at the base of his neck. "What's his name?", she asks quietly. "And thank you. Sincerely. I… feel more than a little Quixotic, much of the time. And I know that there are a good few people out there - especially ones with power and influence - who wish I'd go away. While others'd happily see my head on a pike. But I hope that I can still make a difference for the better, every now and then. Even on a basic level…." She shakes her head, lips twisting wryly. "Jackson Heights is a shit-hole, bluntly. I'm hoping that I can help to stabilise it a little."

"Richelieu." Richard watches as she scritches the kitten, who happily pushes into her touches, tumbling over now and then in the process. He's very young still, although weaned. "Ingrid fucking Ryans came by, basically handed me a kitten and left saying it was 'fate' or something," he chuckles, "I couldn't just throw him away or something, so…"

He turns his head, looking to the window and out over the crumbling streets of Jackson Heights visible. "It is. Valerie's whole purpose of putting us here was, I think, to try and help with that too." Wry, "I would've preferred somewhere with better utilities."

Ygraine blinks, then laughs as she looks up at Richard, though her hands continue to gently play with the little fluffball. "The most infamous cardinal of them all, hmm? I like it. But yeah. We're within easy walking distance of each other, but even I'd be a little wary of doing it at night. And some bits of the district are far worse. But hopefully we can help to improve things."

"Yeah. If you need any help or support for your efforts in the district, well— " Richard tips his head in an easy nod her way, "You know who to ask. I'd be more than happy to help any way I can." He grins, then, "Yeah. Cardinal Richelieu - it's a double wordplay, see, 'cause Cardinal, also Richard…"

Laughing, Ygraine shakes her head again. "I hadn't thought of the Richard-Richelieu connection, I admit. Not that I can recall quite what his given name actually was: something very fancy, aristocratic, and French, I think. But… thank you. Very much. I'm hoping to get ourselves a steady set-up, so that any extra help we get can be dedicated entirely to some special projects. Rather than us having to rely on special assistance just to keep our heads above water. But any and all help will be welcome, honestly."

"I'm a New Yorker." Cardinal shrugs one shoulder, an easy smile on his lips, "I want to see my city get back on its feet again. We've got some people working on a hydroponics concept to make the Safe Zone more self-sufficient as well, although it won't help with the current shortage - infrastructure projects are slower than I'd like to admit."

"Have you considered airponics?", Ygraine asks, instantly falling into nerd-mode when given a suitable prompt. "More technically complex to set up, as I recall, but I saw something about it becoming quite popular in Tokyo. Something about 'vertical farms' in inner-city skyscrapers. The less water you need to pump up - and up and up - the less it costs, and the lower the structural requirements are to support it all. Also, the lower the demands are on the relevant city's water supply, for both quantity and purification. But… I'm wittering. I apologise. But the offer cuts both ways: if there's anything at all that I can bring to the table for you…"

Richard laughs, holding both hands up palm-forward. "I surrender, I surrender, no more tech-talk — I'll toss the word downstairs and see what they say," he admits, "I'm not exactly a technical expert here. I don't think ''technically complex'' is an issue, though, what with Warren on the payroll." His hands drop, and he nods over, "Of course. I mean, short-term if you run into any Evolved looking for work, we can find a use for most abilities."

"Basically, instead of having plants swimming in pools of water, you have the roots in open air, and spray them with nutrient-rich solutions. Growth-rates are faster, yields are higher, and the quantity of supplies used is lower," Ygraine explains. "But… the tech for hydroponics is better-known and easier to run, I believe. And requires fewer humans to run it day to day. I dread to think how many robotic systems Warren would decide were absolutely required to replace human workers. But… yeah. I'm dimly remembering something from a decade ago. If you can tap, say, Singapore as well as Japan for research into self-sufficiency for modern cities, then you could pick up a lot more."

She shrugs amiably. "Don't worry. There isn't another boss I'd recommend over you, for anyone who's not into Liberty's odd fields of activity."

"I fully expect now that we'll see towers of glass and plants, filled with robotic spiders spraying nutrients programmed to eviscerate all intruders and use them as fertilizer…" It's dryly said by Richard, although not entirely jokingly. "We tend to have to reverse-engineer some of the things he sends up so we can make sure they don't have a secret lethal secondary function. We have a crate in storage labeled 'raptor receptionist' that I'm honestly afraid to open."

Ygraine winces… shaking her head and laughing ruefully. "Sadly, I can quite believe that. I never encountered any of his, ahh, more 'imaginative' creations first-hand… but I've heard about them. And about things like The Armour Incident. Still… I mentioned the airponics partly because it occurred to me that it might be a way to give some extra people jobs. I don't know how skilled the root-spraying techs need to be, but… something to check out, perhaps. Alongside Warren's robot-death-spider-farmer options."

"Oh, absolutely," Richard grins, "We'll need techs, farmers, people to drive the food around, all that. It's a long-term project but I think it'll bring a lot of jobs to the community and make it less vulnerable to food shortages…" He shrugs, "It wasn't my idea, but it's a pretty good one, I think."

"And 'growing food for the starving city' should make even a very menial role more acceptable, and feel less like a charity hand-out. Even if giving jobs to the poor is part of the reason behind it," Ygraine agrees, still absent-mindedly fussing over Richelieu. "I'm afraid that I'm just a curious dabbler in anything like this. But if you ever want to bounce projects or ideas off me, and see what random stuff I might once have read an article on…"

Richelieu, for his part, is ecstatic about the attention and bats at her fingers happily. Tiny claws might occasionally catch, but only by accident.

"I always appreciate the insight," Richard admits, shaking his head a little, "I… honestly, I prefer talking about this sort of thing, because too many of my conversations lately haven't been anywhere near as hopeful about shit."

Ygraine winces sympathetically. "Sadly, I can imagine. If you want to bring me aboard, officially or unofficially, we can figure something out. Heck, we're close enough to manage pretty much daily meet-ups, if you want. For commiserations and crazy ideas alike."

Ray crooks a smile, admitting, "Probably can't do daily but it wouldn't hurt to sit down regularly." He rakes a hand back through his hair, "There's a lot of weird shit going on lately, I'm starting to get worried, honestly."

"Then daily might be a good idea," Ygraine dryly points out, before wincing slightly and shooting Richelieu a look as he scores with several claws at once. "But, honestly… you're one of the two people who gave me a purpose in life, and a lot of trust with it. I'm happy to return the latter, and to help you with your own efforts here. As well as investigating the weird shit. We know there are all sorts of problems still out there, after all, quite apart from any new ones people are actively cooking up. I felt that way even before the food crisis. I feel it all the more strongly now."

Richelieu looks back up at Ygraine with wide eyes and a feline smile, and mews proudly.

"Careful," Richard chuckles then, shaking his head ever so slightly, "Keep talking like that and I'll start putting you on planes and sending you to poke into things in various places, and you'll never have time to do your work."

Ygraine lifts her brows, then laughs. "Well, if you can justify it as a formal involvement of Liberty in some capacity, then I can certainly justify quite a lot. We're here to help, and can take money for doing so. And it would be good to work with you again."

"I don't know what I could justify as Liberty related work, unfortunately," admits Richard with a chuckle, "Civil liberties are at an all-time high for us, at least as far as the past few decades and the rest of the world are showing."

"Missing persons, investigation of events in the war, gathering data regarding the war, tracing survivors or records on them to help us assemble a better picture of things…." Ygraine shrugs broadly. "But if need be, I can take it on as a COM-registered Evolved and make whatever I earn a personal charitable gift to Liberty."

"Records…" Richard tilts his head back, gaze lifting to the ceiling for a long moment as he considers something. Then he looks back at her, starting to say something, pausing a moment before asking more seriously, "Could I get you to pay a visit to the University of Kansas to check in their records for a particular person? I could lend you Alia for it, even."

"Absolutely. An excuse to visit Adelaide would be welcome. If you can cover the expense of flights there and back, I should certainly be able to justify it." Ygraine smiles encouragingly, then gives Richelieu a tummy-scritch. "I can also check our own databases for mention of them, if they were alive any time around the War. We've been putting a lot of effort into trying to track people through witness testimonies and the documents we've uncovered."

"Cover the expense?" Richard flashes a grin, "Hell, Ygraine, I can do you one better. I can have you flown out there myself - corporate life hath its privledges, and private jets is one of those." The smile fades, then, and he shakes his head, "No, they— she died in the eighties, actually. But just about all I know about her is that she was working at or attended the U of K, and she died in the early eighties. June eighteenth, nineteen-eighty-two, to be precise."

Ygraine frowns, nodding slowly. "Family?", she asks quietly, having spoken to enough war-survivors to venture a guess at what might lie behind the sudden awkwardness and change of mood. "I can certainly help. Though if Alia's coming along, I might just be the 'face' to deal with people so that she can run a quick search. But, honestly. Anything like this - feel free to ask."

Ray's chin dips in a slight nod. "Michelle Cardinal," he says, hands spreading a little, "It's a personal thing, obviously, not some big save-the-world plan, but…"

"Buuut… she's linked to multiple people involved in such things," Ygraine dryly points out, before continuing in a gentler tone of voice. "I'd do it for your personally, even without that sort of connection. But it sounds as if this doubles up saving the world with helping one of the few people in it whom I actually trust."

Ray's hands spread in a gesture of surrender again. "Fair enough," he admits wryly, "And I'll be honest, she might be linked even more than I know. I've…" He glances back to the desk, then to her, "I've got conflicting information about her. Stuff that can't all be true because it contradicts itself. But I need to know." He grimaces, "Whoever my parents were, I need to know who they were."

A distinct wince precedes Ygraine nodding sympathetically. "That… ouch. Yeah, I can believe it. But ouch. Edward playing games. His friends and associates playing games. His enemies and rivals playing games…." She sighs. "I can wholly believe that even people who didn't wind up with a pivotal role in things have wound up with… strangeness in their lives."

"Tell me about it," Richard admits, rubbing a hand at the nape of his neck, "Supposedly, Edward was a good friend of my— of Michelle and David's. I don't even know if that's true, although I do have photographs of the three of them together. I can get you a few copies so you can compare if you find any pictures."

Ygraine silently studies Richard for a few seconds, before sighing quietly. "You're not sure they are your parents any more, are you? That… Christ, Richard. I'm so sorry. Whatever you've come across…." She shakes her head again. "I'll help, however I can. I'm no specialist manhunter, but I can certainly help Alia to poke around in records. And look over whatever you have already, if you're willing to share it."

Ray grimaces at the observation, and he shakes his head. "I'm not sure of anything, Ygraine," he admits, "And the war destroyed a lot of records I could've tried… Kansas was pretty untouched, though, and I have photos of her with a U of K sweatshirt. It's my only lead right now."

"And universities, especially in the US, have a strong interest in keeping track of alumni," Ygraine muses. "Okay. Even if she wore it because David Cardinal bought it for her, or something, it's a strong lead. And we can see what we can turn up. I can easily enough find reasons to spend time around a university anyway. I'll gladly see what I can turn up for you. Especially if there's a chance of it giving you some certainty."

"Thank you." Richard offers a tired smile, "I can give you what I have, I just…" He glances back at the desk, then to her, "Here. Let me show you something, the one thing that's driving me nuts about this…" He steps along round the desk again, over to his chair.

Richelieu has decided to wander away from the visitor, and is currently stalking one of the potted plants.

Ygraine rises to her feet, sparing a momentary smile for the little cat, before moving to join Richard - behind the desk, unless directed to stay on the visitor's side of it.

"So." Richard sweeps his hand over the black glass of the desk, and it lights up into a computer display. He taps the glass to bring up a file, a gallery of images, and taps one. "So here's a photograph of David and Michelle that I got recently."

It's a photo of David and Michelle standing out front of a movie theater. The marquee reads E. T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL OPENING NIGHT. They are holding hands hands and smiling broadly. It must be summer, because Michelle is in a skinny blue sundress and sandals and David is in a Motorhead t-shirt and cutoff jean shorts, wearing a pair of doc martens. They are both holding lit cigarettes.

Ygraine studies it quite intently. "Oookay. So, it can presumably be dated precisely, if you know what town it is. And almost precisely if you can confirm what country it is. I don't think that film releases were simultaneous either side of the Pond, back then. But… I'm clearly missing some significance here, I'm afraid."

"Right." Cardinal brings his fingers together to shrink the image, slides his hands over and opens a series of other images. A handful of pictures of David and Michelle, these showing Michelle pregnant, one of them showing off their wedding bands. "I also got these, years ago, from Edward's family photo album."

Ygraine peers, nodding again. "Okaay…. Hrmmm. Given that you've said that things don't make sense, or can't both be true… do the dates not line up?" She's clearly taking something of a stab in the dark, brows lifting quizzically.

Ray snaps his fingers and points at Ygraine. "Mhm. So, obviously in the first picture…" He taps a finger on the photo, of Michelle in that skinny sundress, "She is not pregnant, or at least not enough to show, like she is in the other photos. E.T. released here in the U.S. on June eleventh, nineteen eighty-two." He looks up to her, brows raising, "One week before my date of birth, and when my parents supposedly died."

"…ouch." Ygraine looks from Richard to the screen and back again, before her gaze unfocuses, disappearing into the middle distance across the desk. "Mrrm. So. Any… unusual family inclinations, such as home births and delayed cooperation with the authorities? Not that such things seem to fit with going to see ET, admittedly, but…. Foreign travel to somewhere that had a later release date would seem unlikely, unless their 'death' is short-hand for 'went on a trip, on they died', perhaps." A slight pause, then she looks back to Richard. "Or a trip from which they didn't return. It would not surprise me in the slightest if dead parents were considered a far tidier story to tell both authorities and any children involved, than missing ones. Whether or not anyone knew what had actually happened."

"According to the nuns?" Richard spreads his hands, "They were crooks, David died in a shoot-out with cops, Michelle died in childbirth due to complicates due to being shot." He gives her a wry look, "Kain Zarek - if you remember him - ran an in-depth background check on me once. He came up with bugger-all. Concluded my entire history was probably a lie."

"I once saw him get into a fight with a couple of women he'd brought as his dates to a grand Halloween party. I think they might have been hookers…." A quick shake of her head helps to draw Ygraine's thoughts back to the present. "Sorry. I never knew the man, but was vaguely aware of him. One of the people I suspected of arranging the death of my friend Dani, until I was told categorically that it was our friends in the Vanguard who did that, and not the mob organisation she was investigating. She was a journalist…. Ahh-hrrm. Sorry. Tangents, yet again. Ummm. Hrmmm. Honestly? I doubt that your whole history would be a lie. If you're building something to last long-term - and Edward presumably was, with whatever he created regarding you - then you want to have foundations in the truth wherever you can make use of it. Still… another question would be where this lot comes from."

She gestures to the screen. "Stories have sources, authors, editors, and readers. All can change quite what the story actually is. A supposition here is that the story you were told was authored by Edward, and edited by the nuns. That's not certain, but it's the simplest version. Now, you're being offered a different version - but who's writing or editing it for you?"

"That's a good question," Richard says, looking down at the screen again and the pictures there, "The latest photos got mailed to me anonymously. I want to cut through the bullshit, Ygraine. I want to know who the fuck… "

The pictures dismissed with a sweep of his arm, leaving the desk black, "…I actually am."

"I was worried it'd be anonymous," Ygraine grumbles. "Okay. I'm with you. Someone is, or has been, playing games. Possibly multiple games. But… let's see. Basic lesson in historiography: when a story of some sort is created, creating it requires an active choice on the part of its creator. It will have an intended purpose, too. Everyone whose hands it passes through thereafter can also change it, to suit their own purposes. And what the readers do with it is then another set of interactions. It can wind up with the wrong readers, or the right ones might not understand the intended message, or they might read it at the wrong time, or…." She shrugs expansively. "The whole thing can be as simple as someone saying 'I want people in future to have an honest account of what happened here', but it's usually got rather more nuance than that. And these stories of your life… they certainly seem to have a specific audience and some particular desired effects. Edward has certainly had a role in at least one version… but whether he actually created anything from the start, we don't yet know. However, I'll gladly try to help you figure out as much as we can. Including trying to confirm who you are."

"Let me throw a wrench in this for you," Richard offers, giving her a wry look, "One of the projects Michelle was involved with involved parallel realities."

BECAUSE OF COURSE IT DID.

Ygraine blinks, stares in silence for some moments… then groans quietly. "Was Edward also involved? And David, for that matter?"

"Edward was," admits Richard, "I don't know about David. I know that, years later, the Company picked up the research for something called Looking Glass, but I don't know how far that connection goes."

Nodding slowly as her brow furrows, Ygraine again purses her lips. "An appropriate enough name… but a somewhat troubling one. I have spoken of my own problems with, ahh, madness as a mirror: of seeing the world in one that's been fractured. Most of the pieces I can see are things that other people see, but I have at times struggled to understand the, umm, arrangement and alignment of them. I bring it up because, quite separately, Tamara talks of her ability as a mirror - sometimes herself, or her perspective to be perhaps more precise. When my mind broke, I saw endless chaos and felt I had no way to make a coherent picture out of the fragments. Tamara's mirror instead gives her an array of possibilities. When she acts to direct things, she's choosing a particular set of potential outcomes I believe. Ones that she can see in her particular looking glass."

"Yes…" Richard's smile is a bit sad, there, "It does. I don't envy her that ability for anything, although she's come to a— acceptance of it. Edward's wasn't that different, although he calculated the probabilities instead of seeing the other strings directly." His hands lift, "So who the fuck knows. One of those sets of photos could be from a whole different fucking timeline."

Ygraine nods again. "If… logically, it's my paranoia talking. But I can't help but wonder if it might not all tie together. The notion of a multiverse expanding through decisions made is an old one: that each time an event goes one way or another, a version of 'reality' carries on for each such course. If what Tamara sees is that branching pathway - the roads ahead of us, as it were - and the government and others were finding ways to peek into or communicate with or cross over between parts of the network, then it could all at root be the same thing."

"As for envy? Hah. When I was in the asylum, I'd often have given just about anything for some certainty. But I think I was effectively on the other side of the mirror to Tamara. I was in chaos: she's in endless potential certainties. I was just crazy, not preternaturally gifted. But I can understand her more easily than most people because I've experienced some of what she has as a constant fact of life. I know what it did to me. That she's able to cope with it remotely as well as she does…. Yet another reason to admire her."

"I have nothing but admiration for her," admits Richard, "I've had to make decisions… hard ones… about the future. She has to make those every day." A chuckle, then, and he leans back, "Anyway. I'll talk to Alia, get her the photos and have her get in touch with you. Hopefully— you can find something. Anything."

Ygraine nods quickly, expression turning apologetic. "Sorry. I've been rambling off onto my tangents again. I believe you have a cafeteria to show me, and lunch to provide as well. We can try to talk about lighter things, for a bit. Airponics and death-spider farming robots, for example!"

Ray laughs, moving to push himself to his feet. "That's right. Let me put Richelieu in his box, and then I'll give you the ten dollar tour, as it were…"


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