The Bearer Of Bad News

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Scene Title The Bearer of Bad News
Synopsis After years on the run, Tyler Case catches up with an old friend.
Date April 8, 2018

Jackson Heights


The Sunday morning following the Yamagato Fellowship gala is a clear and sunny day. Construction is temporarily halted on Sundays in Jackson Heights, leaving the sparsely populated neighborhood quiet save for the sound of wind and birds. A few stray cats have taken up residence in the parking lot, huddled atop Richard Ray’s automobile and soaking up the warmth of the sun. Two of them are curled up on the hood, one on the roof, and one just lounging in the sun on the warm asphalt, cleaning itself.

Richard had only needed to briefly stop at the Raytech offices to check a few emails and make sure Hana hadn’t yet reached out. Security is as tight as ever inside, which is why Richard is being assaulted in the parking lot instead. Or at least, that’s what appears to be about to happen.

Richard.” A tall man in a thigh-length brown leather jacket, collar flipped up against the back of his neck, sunglasses on steps out from behind a Raytech van. Short brown hair is cropped close to the sides of his head, he has a familiar muscle mass and urgency in his voice.

Ezekiel’s face stares back.

No.

Not Ezekiel.

“It’s Tyler.”

"I swear to God, I adopt one cat and they all know somehow," Richard mutters under his breath as he approaches his car - a slick, black, tricked out sedan that's been heavily modified by his brother.

Then he had several completely different technicians take most of the weapons and deathtraps out. Warren probably thought that he was being helpful at the time, bless his heart.

The sudden appearance of a large man in trenchcoat and sunglasses is, needless to say, something that puts his every defensive instinct on alert; he drops back a step, a hand sliding beneath his jacket. Then he stops dead as recognition kicks in, first fear and anger, then— well, then he's not sure how he's feeling, but he's feeling it a lot.

"Ez— Tyler? Is that…" Slowly his hand drops away from the unseen weapon, his complexion a hint paler than before, brow furrowing in uncertainty and hope, "Is that really you, man?" He's been fooled before.

The lunge is fast, Tyler closes the distance between he and Richard and embraces the former shadowmorph in a tight hug, lifting Richard off of the ground and swinging him around. Tyler has, apparently, gained about one hundred pounds of muscle since the last time they’ve seen one another. Setting Richard down on the ground, he grins broadly from ear to ear. “Hey, sorry I haven’t been in touch, man. War, and stuff. You know how it is.” As if he can dismiss nearly a decade so easily, but at the same time there’s no anger or resentment, which one might expect from his previous situation.

“So do you like, make phones or something now?” Tyler asks with one brow kicked up, looking at the Raytech building. “Lasers?” His eyes narrow slowly. “Laser… phones?” He looks back, lips downturned into a frown. He hasn’t been keeping up with the news, or much of anything really.

“What the hell, man,” Richard is complaining even as he’s swing around, stumbling a bit before regaining his footing, reaching out to clap a hand on the larger man’s shoulder, “I thought you were fucking dead, Jesus Christ, the reports out of the Ark weren’t— I mean— shit, it’s good to see you. I’ve had every fucking person this side of the Mississippi looking for you, do you realize that?”

He’s not angry he’s just exasperated that after all this time, Tyler just showed up in his damn parking lot.

“We make— a lot of things,” he says, gesturing back to the building, “C’mon, let’s go inside. I’ll get you a coffee, you can tell me where the hell you’ve been. Are you okay? Is Libby okay?” Honest concern there, for both of them.

Aaahhh,” Tyler slowly raises his hands, “No offense but last time I was in one of your buildings I had a really bad day. Not like— it’s nothing personal I just try and stay out of science places. Your cats are cool, though,” he says, slanting a look to one cleaning its butthole on the hood of Richard’s car. “They’re… really comfortable with you.”

Clearing his throat, Tyler looks around and steps a little closer to Richard. “Libby’s uh, she’s good. You know, she’s had a lot to deal with since… everything. I’ve had a lot of hands too.” A beat. “A lot on my hands. A lot on my hands.” Tyler grimaces awkwardly, scrubbing a hand at the back of his head.

“S-so… this— isn’t a social call. Uh, I’ve been… honestly, we’ve been laying low for years. But, we… we ran into a friend of yours back during the war. Um,” Tyler looks down a the ground. “Doctor Luis?” Slowly, he looks back up with a nervous expression. “He was running a triage center in New Orleans, patching up people, you know… doctor stuff? He left with us when we headed west after the war. Hid out in Texas. He…” Tyler rakes a hand through his short hair.

“Somebody murdered him,” Tyler says with a haunted look in his eyes. “Last week, maybe the week before.”

At the mention of one of his buildings, Richard gives Tyler a look. “Those weren’t my buildings, and you know it,” he replies a bit dryly, “They were that— fucking— alternate— you know what, nevermind.”

It’s always hard trying to sort all that out, conversationally.

When he mentions that it isn’t a social call, his warm expression turns into one more guarded, worried— and that expression is justified moments later. “I knew he was dead. He was… supposed to be in touch,” he says quietly, “I guess in a way he was. Fuck. Murdered, though? I wish I could say I was surprised, I…”

He draws in a breath, gathering his wits. Business, Ray. Business. Fixing his old friend with a steady look, “What happened? Tell me everything.”

Breathing in deeply, Tyler looks around suspiciously, as if it were still 2009 and people were hunting for him. “Um, yeah… but after that I— uh— yeah.” Brown eyes flick away, and Tyler paces a few steps as he tries to figure out how best to explain everything.

“Luis lived alone. By choice. He… he was sick, toward the end. Um,” Tyler narrows his eyes, thinking. “Parkinsons, I think. He refused help, said he… I don't know.” Exhaling a deep sigh, Tyler scrubs a hand over his mouth and looks down to the ground.

Quiet for a moment, Tyler looks back to the cats laying in the sun. “Libby and I took turns visiting him, he was only about a half hour away from us. We… I know he was sending you mail for the past few years.” Wait, what? “I know you never really responded much so he just… kept sending what he could. I don’t know what he was into — he didn’t want me involved — he was digging into stuff on the Institute, on the Company. I dunno what else he got into but… I think it's what got him killed.”

Finally, wearily, Tyler looks back up to Richard. “Somebody stabbed him in his own bed. Painted some fucking symbol on the wall in his blood… He could barely walk anymore, why— why the fuck would…” Apparently, unspoken, they'd been close.

"Damn it. I told him to stay, I told him that I could protect him…" Richard rubs a hand over his face, exhaling a heavy sigh, "And… I never responded because I didn't get any of his mail, Tyler. I just got my hands on it two weeks ago, he'd been mailing it all to this poor bastard upstate." How can anyone be that bad at mail? How could he accidentally keep mailing Walt Stockton?

"If I'd known, if I knew where he was, that he was sick, I would've been there in a heartbeat," he says, his tone pained at the knowledge the man was trying to reach out and - for whatever reason - had failed. Another ounce of guilt to carry, even if it's not his fault. The last revelation is what has his eyes widening in horror, though.

"Stabbed— a symbol? Jesus Christ, poor Luis. What— what symbol was it?"

There's a look on Tyler’s face, one of sudden realization and nervousness. Of course he didn't know if he'd never gotten the mail. “Oh. Oh god he— ” A sudden wave of nausea comes over Tyler. “He was protecting you Richard. That's the reason he… why he stayed in hiding for so long, why Libby and I helped keep him safe.”

Tyler’s eyes dart about the parking lot, then settle on Richard again. “You never found out how we escaped from Cambridge, did you?” Haunted eyes scan Richard as Tyler looks down to the ground.

But Tyler hesitates on answering, on explaining in more detail. “The symbol, it was like… a backwards S with some like,” before he even forks his fingers out into twin prongs, Richard already knows what symbol it is. “Like… half a helix?”

"No! I don't know anything— I thought you were all dead," Richard reminds the man in exasperation, spreading his hands to either side, "After everything went to hell in the Ark, nobody saw you again - and I didn't need protecting — how the hell could he be protecting me getting sick in a damn hovel somewhere!? I told him to get in touch, I told him I could protect him!" There's anger there, and frustration, and upset that all this was going on and he didn't know. He may be getting a little loud in the parking lot, but not loud enough that the guards over at the building are going to come running.

Yet, anyway.

Then there's that description of the symbol, and his expression falters. "Godsend," he mutters, suddenly grabbing for his phone and sliding through a few pictures. He brings one up - the sword of Takezo Kensei, the crest upon it. "This?"

Tyler swallows audibly when he sees the symbol and nods slowly. “Yeah.” Looking over to the cats, Tyler tenses and then settles his attention back on Richard. “Luis was scared he'd bring heat on you. There's somebody… going around and killing off all the old Institute brass.” Wolfhound is a logical leap, but that isn't what Tyler is talking about.

“His name is Adam Monroe,” might as well be a bucket of ice water over Richard’s head. “When we… were escaping Cambridge, we were with Eve. There was a car crash, bad. Eve… I mean, Eve died. Libby was pretty badly hurt too. We were trapped in the wreckage, and this… Adam rescued us.”

Tyler looks aside, brows furrowed. “He had a man named Zhang with him. Leader of the Ghost Shadows triad. I… maybe remembered him from back in the day when I got into trouble on the regular.” Tyler breathes deeply and exhales a slow sigh. “Long story short he blackmailed me. Said he could save Libby’s life if I helped him. He had some paramilitary people with him, one of them was a teleporter. Took us to some boat out off the coast with that nice French lady you left us with the first time.”

Siobhan.

“We… we were with Adam for months, all across the country. He told me we were going to get revenge on the Institute. So, I mean… We owed him.” Tyler looks ashamed. “We both wanted revenge…” But from the tone of his voice, it's clear something changed.

“Adam sent us to kill Luis. Told us about all the experiments he did, how he was the one who helped put you— er— the other you back together. That's when we met Luis in Louisiana.” Tyler scrubs a hand at the back of his neck, anxiously. “He wasn't the monster we thought he was. He told us about who Adam was, how dangerous he is… and we fled together. Went into hiding.”

Then, sighing, Tyler admits. “That's where we were until Luis died and Mr. Rasmussen stumbled onto us. He said he knew you? Archie? He wanted me to say hello.”

"Monroe." Richard's jaw tightens at the mention of the name, of the memory of the man. "I know Monroe, yes. We… worked together, once upon a time." Then he betrayed the immortal and never once looked back. "He's a snake, through and through, and— he's very convincing. I don't blame you two for falling in with him… Christ."

He nods a little at the next part, "I appreciate you two looking out for him for the… time he had left. Look, I— "

Then he trails off, staring at the other man in abject horror. "Ar— Ras— where did you see this man, Tyler? Why was he there, he doesn't just— doesn't just stumble anywhere."

There's a momentary look of nervousness from Tyler, as if he'd somehow said something wrong. “Uh, he… his car broke down outside of our house. I guess Libby let him in. He's like seventy! Anyway he was just waiting for a tow truck, said a friend of his gave him bad directions and he would go at our place instead of where he needed to be.”

Squinting at Richard, Tyler looks uncertain as he continues. “We uh, I came home after finding Luis. And… it was my birthday.” Of course it was. Of course Tyler found Luis’ corpse on his birthday. “I was upset, he was… understanding? We talked for a bit, and I said that we had to head back yo New York to warn you and… you know, he recognized your name. He drove up with us!”

“Is— was that… bad? He said he was going to visit Eve, I didn't even know she was alive!” Tyler throws his hands into the air. “So, uh. I'm— a little out of the loop. But, uh, RIGHT,” Tyler reaches into his pocket and pulls out two things. One, a crumpled mailing slip with the Raytech NYC address on it. The other, a heat-warped VHS tape. VHS, not some even more ancient media source.

“These were on the table. I think Adam opened the package which— which means he knows Luis was sending stuff here.”

Richard brings a hand up, pinching the bridge of his nose, his eyes closed. "No, Tyler, it's fine," he says quietly, "Me and Archie have a… very long history, is all." They go way back. Before he was born, even! "It's nothing you need to worry about— I'm glad you two and he got along so well."

The alternative, after all, is horrific to think about.

"Shit." He reaches out for the tape, grimacing at it, "Not sure if it's recoverable, but I can have my techs look at it… do you think Monroe might show up here, then?" A glance back up to Tyler, "Hell, do you know what his beef with the Institute even was? As far as I know, he never dealt with any of those people directly, except the ones who used to be Company."

Handing over the cassette, Tyler shakes his head. “I dunno. If you burned a bridge with him I might start looking over your shoulder. He's… I think he's on the warpath. I don't know if he'd come here, but I wouldn't put it past him. I overheard some stuff while I was on the boat that scared the shit out of me. Just… it sounded like he's got people all over the world. Like he's doing stuff all over the world.”

Nervously, Tyler shifts his weight around and looks back to the car, for lack of anything else to focus on. “He talked about the Institute like it was Humanis First. Like… he talked about Us a lot. Used it to define people with abilities. He… I don't think he liked Libby. Or, hell, anyone without a power.”

Making a noise in the back of his throat, Tyler never seems to shake his nervousness. “Whatever he's doing, Card, it's big.” Still Cardinal to Tyler, perhaps always. “Big and fucking scary.”

"Great," Richard breathes out a heavy sigh, turning the tape over in his hands, "That's all we need, that immortal sonuvabitch starting up an Evolved Supremacy movement. That's just… that's just great."

He looks up from the tape, his voice serious, "Things are moving again, Tyler. Like they were— like they were ten years ago. I don't know what's coming, not exactly, but I can tell it's going to be bad." A brief grimace crosses his expression, "And here I thought I was out of the world-saving business."

“I don't think it ever stop needing saving,” Tyler offers with a nervous smile. But at that he's looking over Richard’s shoulder and his eyes are widening just a little. He thinks he's being subtle, but Tyler’s slow head shaking and frowning lips indicate he's trying to — badly — give a subtle signal to someone.

“A man can hope, can’t he? I figured I could… just… Tyler, what are you doing?” Richard gives the man a steady look for a few moments, and then he just turns around to see who his friend’s trying to signal.

Oh, it's just Tyler eating a chili dog.

Wait.

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Beans and sauce smeared over his mouth, another Tyler Case in an entirely different outfit of sensible early spring clothes stares at his counterpart. “Whuf?” He mushnmuths, spitting chili dog everywhere. “Uh fouf weh wuh mutung hurr!!

The Tyler that Ray had been speaking to covers his face with one hand and exasperatedly sighs.

Richard blinks once, slowly, then turns and regards the first Tyler.

Then he turns back and considers the second Tyler. He blinks again, slowly.

Back to the first, then back to the second. Two. Two Tyler Cases.

The reports that he received back from the fall of the Ark were spotty, but he did get some reports, filled with horror and shock, and there's enough evidence for him to put forth a theory at least. He clears his throat.

"Ah… Julian Dumont?" The first Tyler gets a questioning look, both brows raising upwards.

Yeeeeah,” Tyler mumbles, while the other one with the chili dog just turns around and slowly starts walking away as though he wasn't spotted. “So, this is just an aside but… there's a reason they used them like husks? Each one sequentially gets more…” Tyler wrinkles his nose. “I mean, I'm three. That's seven. So,” his shoulders rise and fall.

“On the plus side, there's more of me?” Grimacing, Tyler has a tone as though he hadn't just told Richard an old acquaintance had died and Adam Monroe was consolidating power around the world. You know, Sunday things.

"You have at least half a dozen clones," says Richard slowly as he stares at Tyler^3, his hands spreading to either side to encompass the both of them, "And you couldn't send one of you to let me know you were okay?"

One hand points sharply up at the RAYTECH INDUSTRIES sign on the side of the building. "I'm not hard to find, Tyler!"

“I knew where you were,” Tyler’s answer isn’t exactly the most flattering. “I mean… you were in Chicago before this went up, you were on the news and stuff. But I just… I dunno, man. I had some bad feelings that aren’t fair to you, and I didn’t want to take them out on you, y’know?” Brows furrowed, Tyler jams his hands into the pockets of his jacket.

“I know it wasn’t you, but he talked like you, looked like me, and… it’s just… it’s a lot, you know?” Frowning, Tyler watches one of his clones continue walking away and scrubs one hand at his forehead. “Plus, I bailed on Adam. Last thing I wanted to do was paint a bullseye on your back and your family’s back by coming to you. I figured… you were safer off not being on his shit-list.”

At the reminder of his other self, Richard's frustrations all spill away, and his shoulders drop in a slump. "Yeah," he allows quietly, a hand coming up to rub at his face, "Yeah, I guess that's fair. I killed him, if you don't know. For what he did to you, to me, to— all of us, I guess." The fire taken out of him with that single reminder, smothered by the guilt he feels for his alternate's actions.

There, but for the grace of Edward Ray, go he.

His hand lifts in a vague motion, then drops down to his side, "I was just— I was just worried, is all, man. I'm glad you'n Libby are okay."

“Just barely, but… we are.” Tyler looks over to the cats again, most of whom have started wandering off. “I’m only going to be up in the city another couple days. Libby wants to head west, put some distance between us and civilization again. With Adam out there, we just… we can’t ever really be safe. Not here, not anywhere.”

Running a hand through his hair, Tyler slouches his shoulders in equal measure. “I hope whatever it was Luis was trying to send you helps. It uh — the tape? It was like that in the envelope, I think he intended to send you a melted VHS cassette. I’m— ” Tyler grimaces. “He… he was really old, Richard. I— I wouldn’t expect miracles here.”

"I'm still wondering how he mistakenly sent all those other packages to my— to Walt," Richard catches himself before saying something that isn't technically true, nose wrinkling at his slip, "But— what happened, happened."

He looks back to the man, and though he's clearly reluctant - he nods a little in understanding, "That's fair. Adam's… not someone anyone should take lightly. Don't tell me where you're going, obviously, so I can't give you away." He crooks a faint smile, "If you could send a clone to get in touch now and again to let me know you all are alive or if you need anything, though, I'd appreciate it."

Tyler squints, looking confused at something. “Mistakenly?” For a moment, Tyler looks like he’s just going to leave it there, but after everything he knows better. “Richard you… Luis wrote to you in Chicago, and you never wrote back. Not right away. We got a letter to the return address drop site that had an address upstate and an alias.”

Suddenly more wary now, Tyler’s brows furrow and jaw tenses. “You— Walt Stockton isn’t you? When the NY branch opened we just started sending stuff there, because Luis figure’d you’d…” Aghast, Tyler slides both hands out of his pockets in a helpless gesture. “Mail fraud is a serious crime! Or— at least a cop yelled that at me once.”

"Someone— someone diverted my mail to him?" Richard's brow knits in confusion, "Who the hell would've done that…? It's— it's an alias, yes, but it wasn't my alias. Who even knew that he was up there? Who would've wanted to do that?"

His eyes roll to look upwards, "I swear to God, Edward, if it was you I'll find a way to bring you back from the dead just to throttle you for torturing that poor man."

“I dunno, man. Luis is — was — ” Tyler winces, hanging his head. “He was cagey about everything.” Scrubbing a hand at the back of his neck, he looks around and exhales a weary sigh. “I’ll… try to check in, discreetly. But if I were you, I’d keep an eye out for Adam. Guy’s got a crazy hate-on right now and I think it’s lasted longer than the prescription said it would.”

The ghost of a smile creeps across Tyler’s face. “I’m… glad to see you’re doing good, man.”

"He killed Jean-Martin," Richard says simply, bluntly, "That's pretty much brought Adam back on my radar permanently."

He reaches out a hand to clap Tyler's shoulder, "Same, man. Same. Are you sure you won't come inside and get a coffee, or— I mean, we can go out somewhere and just grab a chili dog if you’re that worried about the labs downstairs." Seven can't come. Seven already ate without them, and he can think about what he did.

“I mean, shit, couldn’t you— I mean, leave a you around if you wanted? If nothing else it’d get him off the scent of, uh, Tyler Prime and Libby…”

“If I flaked off another one, it’d be worse than Twelve and he's…” Tyler closes his eyes and breathes deeply. “The rest of me is busy doing that, keeping Adam of the trail of me. I… I can maybe talk to Two or Four, see how they feel. But we’re not really a collective. It's all… it's anarchy most of the time.”

Eyeing the hand at his shoulder, Tyler’s smile turns into a frown. “I wish I'd come with better news. But… I mean if Luis’ hadn't died I probably wouldn't even be here. So…” he doesn't know how to finish that thought.

“Good luck, Richard.” Tyler lifts a hand to set on the one at his shoulder.

“I have a feeling we’re both gonna need it.”


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