A Daze Of Futures Past


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Scene Title A Daze of Futures Past
Synopsis Hiro Nakamura comes looking for something that no longer exists, and Richard Cardinal asks questions to which there are no good answers.
Date January 17, 2011

Redbird Security

Monday, January 17th is a notable calendar day in the present year. It is the date of observation of the triumphs and life of one Doctor Martin Luther King Jr, a civil-rights activist — quite possibly the most famous in American history — who helped shape the face and voice of an oppressed people in an age that would be seen by future generations as one of ignorance, giving way to enlightenment and understanding.

Doctor King once said, "All progress is precarious, and the solution of one problem brings us face to face with another problem." While the CEO of the private security consulting company Redbird Security Solutions may not have been alive in the same time as Doctor King, the resonance of his message reverberates through history and from one struggle of civil rights to the next. Doctor King's era mirrors this one in so many ways, but through that mirror, darkly. Rights being taken away, instead of sought for. Champions of oppression rather than liberation.

Beneath the lobby of the Redbird Security Solutions building, Richard Cardinal once mapped out the future. Here, strings and pictures once hung in a tangled mix of past and present, futures both living and 'dead' so that a road map could be maintained and created.

It wasn't his original idea though, nor did Edward Ray come up with the concept. All roads, or perhaps all strings lead to one map that started it all.

One man.

"Wakarimasen…" Hiro Nakamura is an intruder here, searching the basement of Redbird Security Solutions for something that no longer exists. Darkly dressed and stalking through the basement, the sword-wieldng time traveler casts dark eyes to where strings once hung, one hand raised to stroke at the tiny patch of hair beneath his lower lip.

All progress is precarious, Doctor King said.

Hiro Nakamura and Richard Cardinal know that to be true.

"Mister Cardinal? We have an intruder in the building…"

Those words were all that Richard Cardinal needed to hear before he was out of his office in quite the reverse of a flash.

"Nakamura." The words echo in the expanse of the basement, the silhouette of a man spreading up the length of the wall before pulling outwards, forwards, and the fedora-clad murderer of futures steps into the open. A scowl traces the length of his lips, eyes hard behind sunglasses of opaque black, "I have an appointment secretary if you wanted to see me, you realize."

Dark eyes swivel up from a blank spot on the wall where a mounting bracket still hangs. Gloved fingers sweep down the wall as if inspecting for dust, and that Hiro actually scrutinizes the leather-clad fingertips that pull away seems ridiculous. He looks up to the ceiling, then over towards the shadowy silhouette. "Why did you take this down?" It's accusatory, if nothing else. Expectant, more so.

Turning away from the wall, Hiro's booted feet stride quietly across the floor, and his focus wavers from Cardinal's silhouette, moving to the glass wall partitioning off the shooting range, brows furrowed and lips downturned to a frown. When he looks back to the shadow, there's obvious disconcertment in the time-traveler's expression.

"When did you take it down?" Perhaps the more important question.

Dark eyes swivel up from a blank spot on the wall where a mounting bracket still hangs. Gloved fingers sweep down the wall as if inspecting for dust, and that Hiro actually scrutinizes the leather-clad fingertips that pull away seems ridiculous. He looks up to the ceiling, then over towards the shadowy silhouette. "Why did you take this down?" It's accusatory, if nothing else. Expectant, more so.

Turning away from the wall, Hiro's booted feet stride quietly across the floor, and his focus wavers from Cardinal's silhouette, moving to the glass wall partitioning off the shooting range, brows furrowed and lips downturned to a frown. When he looks back to the shadow, there's obvious disconcertment in the time-traveler's expression.

"When did you take it down?" Perhaps the more important question. ««<RE»»>

The time traveler isn't the only one with questions.

"Where," Cardinal responds without answering Hiro's own inquiry, his voice quiet and sharp like the blade of a knife as he regards the figure opposite him with that same hard expression, "Is Francois Allègre? You took him. Right in front of us. But he didn't return, Nakamura. We've had to send someone after him."

Dark eyes narrow, slowly. Hiro considers Cardinal's assertion and the implications that it carries with it, his throat tightening at the notion that there's someone else fucking with history — because clearly that's his job.

"He didn't belong here, it was a mistake and one I sought to rectify. He never should have brought him here, to this time. I was putting things back where they belonged, Francois Allegre lived too long already…"

There's the briefest of pauses, a twitch at the corner of Hiro's mouth as he turns to the side and begins approaching the bullet-proof glass wall, his wn reflection beginning to appear mutedly in the surface. "It wasn't personal, but it needed to happen. I didn't hurt him," Hiro admits as he looks back over his shoulder to Cardinal, eyes averted to the floor. "He's getting to live out a full life, where he was meant to."

Turning back to the glass wall, Hiro leans in and lifts up one gloved hand, touching his face gently as he stares at his reflection. "Why did you take down the map, Richard?"

"It was necessary," Cardinal repeats softly, approaching with a slow and even step that has his own reflection slowly fading into coherence beside Hiro's own, "He didn't belong here."

It isn't until he gets too close for safety that the son of Kaito Nakamura can read the expression on his sometime ally's face. A look of fury.

One gloved hand reaches out to grab for Hiro's shoulder to try and turn him violently around and thrust him back against the wall, Richard's lips curling up at one corner in a snarl, "He didn't belong here? Him? And you did nothing about me?" As the question's all but shouted at the timeweaver, his other hand is coming in fast with the aim of breaking a japanese nose.

Hiro hits the wall, sluggish in the advance of Cardinal on himself, but only in that he wasn't expecting the shadowmorph to do that. One gloved hand swiftly snaps up to Cardinal's wrist, twists it off of where it has grabbed his vest and grasps at his elbow with his other hand, twisting Cardinal around to press belly-first against the wall.

"You have never given me cause to." Is Hiro's hissing retort, one arm wrapped around Cardinal's midsection in the Akido-form joint lock. But like trying to grab at smoke, Hiro knows how ephemeral his grip on Cardinal is. That they're both playing fair is something of an unspoken honor.

Hiro still has that much left in him.

"What has gotten into you? Why did you take down your map, why did you stop working? What is going on?" Desperation and what might be heard as fear laces the undercurrent of Hiro's voice, a tremor of uncertainty in a person who should have nothing but certainty.

A sharp grunt escapes Cardinal as he's slammed into the wall, his cheek pressed up against it as he glares back sidelong over his shoulder. "Then you're as blind as anyone, you arrogant… sonuvabitch," he spits out, not even trying to pull away from the lock that he's being held in at the moment, "Twenty years from now. Maybe thirty. I go back. To the seventies. I founded the Commonwealth Institute, and you didn't lift a goddamn finger to stop me!"

Hiro lets go, as if Cardinal were suddenly on fire.

Brown eyes grow wide, confused, and dark brows furrow. "What— " disbelief paints itself across Hiro's face, brows twitch and his stare becomes distant and longing for a time he could know the ins and outs of. A huffed breath escapes his parted lips, and the time-traveler takes one step back, then another, and then shifts his eyes to the side to look where the map was, then back to Cardinal.

"The boy— Rhys— he would have noticed," Hiro asserts confidently, as if trying to shoot holes in some hypothetical theory. "If what you say is true, he would have felt what happened. Felt the ripples and the major distortions in history… if you came back and started changing things like that, there— it would have made waves." Hiro has a conveniently distant way of speaking of Rhys, impersonal and hesitant, as if he doesn't know him well.

The last Richard Cardinal knew, they worked together.

"You're a fucking idiot, Nakamura," Cardinal casts back into the other man's teeth as he whirls back away from the transparent wall, sweeping one gloved hand in the direction where the time web used to be, "It would've made waves, if I had made waves. I know string theory — I've got a fragile grasp on it now, but twenty, thirty years down the road I imagine I'll know it pretty goddman well. I knew how to cover my tracks. How to hide what I'd done where Rhys couldn't fucking see it."

He's seething as he glares back at him, "You let me beat you, Nakamura. He's been keeping the timeline purposefully on course — stopping me from steering away from the timeline we're on now, protecting the future. Where have you been?"

"Occupied," sounds like a challenge, though the whisper thin scar of a sharp blade across Hiro's throat seems to imply that the spaces between moments haven't been without their share of dangers. Whoever it is that could sneak up on him in such a lethal manner brings to mind only a handful of individuals, all of them likely to have motive. Fewer, though, to have the will.

"If you know so much about your counterpart why haven't you handled the situation yourself?" One dark brow rises on Hiro's forehead. "Surely a man with all of your wealth and influence and knowledge isn't hamstrung by this situation? I took care of my personal problem," sounds a bit foreboding, "I am not your keeper too."

"And you took care of Franois Allègre," Cardinal retorts, a verbal riposte as he leans back against the wall of bullet-proof plastic, arms folding over his chest as he scowls back at the time traveller, "You're either the police of time, or you're not. You don't get it both ways, and you god-damn well know that."

There's a silent moment of glaring, and then he says quietly, "You have no idea what he's been doing, do you? Does the name Mallett mean anything to you, Hiro?"

There's a squint offered at the name, a look of scrutiny, then recognition and— pause. "Not in… no." Hesitance colors Hiro's words, a look down to the floor thoughtfully, then back to Cardinal as the swordsman paces tracks in the floor, booted feet quietly treading over the smooth surface. "Allegre was my own mistake, after… a fashion. That was my responsibility, and mine alone. You?" One of Hiro's brows lift again. "That is another matter entirely."

Crossing his arms over his chest and looking to the middle of the floor, Hiro stares vacantly, then looks back up to Cardinal. "You are avoiding my question, which means you are either afraid to answer it or ashamed." There's no love lost here, just bitterness. "Which is it?"

"He's building a machine, Hiro," Cardinal replies roughly to the first words, pushing off the wall and walking away from it, from the man, pacing slowly into the empty space where the web of strings used to be, "A machine to communicate backwards in time… and it works. He'll fix his every mistake as he goes, throw the timeline into a blender and hit frappe…"

He moves with an oddly careful, as if remembering where every string was, navigating a map that doesn't exist. If he were a poet, he might find a certain symmetry between this and the way he lives his life. "What would you suggest I do? He knows every plan I've made. Every ally I have. Yes, I'm afraid." Quietly, not looking at the time traveller, he adds, "Wouldn't you be?"

"I was," Hiro concedes, "for a time. But perhaps I can give you a certain level of perspective on this situation, seeing as how I have exercised my own personal demons." This would be where Hiro would offer an introspective journey through time, a visual lesson in the past, present and future by way of his own ability. That Hiro no longer exists, not in the way he once did. Temperance has won out.

Out of necessity.

"He is not you, any more than you are him. It is that simple. You from two or three decades in the future is a different man from the one that is here and now," Hiro explains, pointing towards Cardinal with one gloved finger. "His presence in this timeline for as long as he has been present indicates that whatever effects he has had have altered your own course. You are not, presumably, living the same life he has lived by merit of your knowledge of his actions. Do not give in to the conceit that your future is written in stone, or that you have grown to become anything like him."

Hiro raises one brow, thoughtfully. "To wit, important questions: How did he get here, because you do not have the ability to traverse time and presumably I did not send him here. Secondly, did he willingly tip his hand to you and reveal himself, or did you discover him through your own actions? Consider the source of your information if he offered it willingly. I may not know you, Richard Cardinal," which is a curious thing to admit, "but someone who thinks very much like me did, and he seemed to trust you. Would you trust yourself?"

"I don't know how, exactly," Cardinal admits quietly, pausing near where the center of the map was; the riots. His fingers reach out as if to brush threads long gone to ash, "He said there was an accident. Something like what happened at Moab, maybe…" A snort of breath, "Maybe Peter exploded again. I wouldn't be surprised."

"He came forward himself… after they brought him back to life, put him in the body of a friend of mine," he murmurs, thinking the questions through, "And I would only trust myself like he did if I…"

He pauses.

"If I wanted me to stop myself. At some level."

"Your mentor had an affection for chess," Hiro admits, without the bitterness that should be there. "If that passed on to you or your Other, I believe you can begin to see where this might look suspect. But without knowing the exact circumstances of your meeting or… knowing you better, I can only make estimates. What I do know is that the future has changed, and through no action of my own." Hiro looks back to where Cardinal's stare had been directed only a moment earlier.

"I had come here looking for help with something, but…" Hiro's gaze darkens and one hand lifts to stroke at his soul patch. "It seems that something has set you on a different course than I had last seen." Then, as Hiro looks up, he narrows his eyes in scrutiny to Cardinal. "Are you well?"

That isn't small-talk.

"Are any of us?" Cardinal turns once more, the heated anger of earlier having seemingly burnt itself cold, turning a focused gaze upon the other man as he cracks a humorless smile, "Of course I'm not well, Hiro. A year ago yesterday, I was ripped apart by a nuclear fucking weapon, and I've got an evil fucking doppleganger that seems to want us all sitting in camps behind barbed wire walls, patrolled by fucking robots. No, I'm not well."

His hands lift to either side, then fall to his thighs with a slap, and he shakes his head, "I'm not well, but I'm not crazy either. Not yet. What did you want with the map? I was never very good at it anyway, you know. I had to teach myself."

"I meant, are you sick?" Hiro, finally arresting his incessant pacing, turns towards Cardinal directly and begins advancing on him. "Runny nose, coughs, shakes?" Dark brows pinch together as the swordsman sizes Cardinal up, having cleared some of the distance between the two of them. This close and not engaged in fisticuffs this time, the distinctive hilt emblem of the Takezo Kensei sword is visible over Hiro's shoulder, gleaming black and gold.

"The machines came," Hiro admits unhelpfully, "but not without incident. I've seen enough to know that we might have a chance at preventing the— " he resists the urge to call them Sentinels, and only just, "these hunters from becoming dominant. That's why I was here," and to that Hiro motions to the string map, then looks back to Cardinal expectantly.

"Three questions now. Why did you get rid of the map? When? And have you been feeling ill?" It's like playing twenty questions with a wall.

"No…" It's a rather insistent question, and it's one that has Cardinal's brow furrowing in sudden worry, "…another disease? The H5N10 came and went, it was pretty… terrifying, but it seems to've gone away like any seasonal flu."

He brings one hand up to rub against the nape of his neck slowly, answering the others, "I burnt it on the eighth. We reached the heart of it, the riot, and… I hadn't been able to stop it. I don't know how to build one from scratch. It was all I could do to guess on how to adjust Edward's map."

Hiro turns away, looking with suspicion at that glass wall again. As he puts some distance between himself and Cardinal, the time-traveler strokes one hand across his chin thoughtfully, twisting the short hairs of his soul patch between gloved fingers as he does. "H5N10 didn't go away, there will be another outbreak, and soon. Thousands will die, more will follow. I protected someone important from the virus, but only for the last strain. Innoculations only last so long, the virus is adaptable, dangerous. I don't know… enough— much. I've spent too much time dwelling on the past." Not that he has any intention of stopping.

"A map is only as good as the destination it is leading to," Hiro admits with hesitance on giving the advice. "The only reason Edward made those maps is because he was able to see the possibilities of action. The only reason he even made those maps is because he found mine. Edward isn't the only precognitive, I am not the only time traveler," or so Cardinal's insinuation about Francois implied.

"Now it's just a matter of motivation. But— " Hiro's brows furrow and his head cants to the side, "if you're unwilling to help, I can try and turn elsewhere. But you of all people I would imagine have a vested interest in seeing these machines stopped."

"He's taken the best of my precognitives," Cardinal admits with a slow shake of his head, "Others have… gone to ground. There are still more out there, though…" There's a frown creasing his lips as he looks back over the empty part of the room, "…I could do my best to start over. I don't suppose you can tell me how to avoid the outbreak — or bring back a vial've vaccine from after it happens, eh?"

He's already shaking his head, believing the time traveler won't, "I never said I wouldn't help, Hiro. What do you need?"

"Time," sounds like an ironic answer, it's not. "I'm dying," Hiro admits with a slowly exhaled sigh. "Slower than my counterpart, but… my life has an expiration date on it." At that revelation, Hiro looks down to the floor, introspectively. "As all do, I suppose," is his conceit towards mortality.

When he looks back up to Cardinal, Hiro has lost that antagonistic edge he had prior. "If I knew how to stop the virus I would, but it isn't as simple as stopping a man or a place. The first outbreak was engineered, this much I'm fairly certain of. But the storm that happened, it allowed the virus to propogate, likely outside of the expectations of whoever created it. Now it's loose, in the wild. It is as much a force of nature as the storm was…"

Hiro looks up to Cardinal, then away to the empty bracket on the wall. "I need you to start researching the machines, collecting information on their creation… everything that is happening with them or may yet happen. I'll return when you've completed it, but…" Hiro looks back, thoughtful.

"I must conserve how much I use of my ability. Traveling time in a… non-linear fashion," he cracks a smile, "it's like burning the candle at both ends. I, unfortunately, do not regenerate." He couldn't resist that one.

"I'll get what I can about the machines," Cardinal says quietly, bringing a hand up to rub against the bridge of his nose, "I can tell you that they're Hector Steel's original designs, and… Warren Ray's been funnelling technology to the government and the Institute. Kershner's aware of their existence, so it's probably part've the same government program that gave FRONTLINE that evil-looking flying manta ray robot they've got. I know they're working to adapt the compass technology into them in order to let them detect us, I don't know how far they are with that project."

He frowns up at the ceiling, "…don't suppose a supply of vaccine is a fair trade? I can't do this if my people start dropping over dead've the fucking flu, Hiro."

"If I go where there is some, I'll try to pick some up. But what you're asking me isn't as simple as a stop at a store, it's less time to do what I need to do to save us all." That much, at least — his obsession — is kept confidential. "There is a more conventional way to ensure your own survival from the disease though," conventional to when is an uneasy notion. "The Government likely has stores of the vaccine intended for its own employees, the Institute itself is not immune to the wiles and whims of nature's vengeance."

Hiro reaches up to stroke at the small patch below his lip again. "I will… talk to someone who might be able to help get you some, if nothing else point you in the proper direction. The Guardians will be needing some too, though not nearly as much as the people out here…" Hiro offers a nod to his own out-loud considerations, turning his attention back up to Cardinal after that musing.

"Hold out hope," Hiro admits in dry fashion, "we'll do this."

"So that was you," Cardinal says with a tip of his head towards the other man as the connection the media had made is solidified, "We need coordination here, Hiro, more than anything else — or communication at least. Can you leave me a way to get in touch with the Guardians?"

Wariness cris-crosses through Hiro's features at the request, and Hiro's expression sags some as he paces in a slow circle again. "I… will talk to Glade and Cyrus," the time-traveler agrees, clasping one hand around a closed fist t chest level, eyes searching from side to side the patterns of wear on the floor as he paces. "They will decide whether or not they can take the risk of making contact. Cyrus will likely be the one to make contact with you…"

Hiro looks up, only then managing a smile. "You and he have some common threads, I believe. But I will leave that to him to discuss." Starting to veer from his pacing to turn away, Hiro stops in his tracks and turns to look back up at Cardinal. "There is… one other thing."

Dark eyes thin and Hiro second-guesses himself for a moment before asking, "Do you know where I can find Niki Sanders?"

"Niki?" Cardinal's brows furrow together slightly in confusion at the request, his manner turning almost defensive at the inquiry, "Yes, I do. Why?"

A smile ghosts across Hiro's lips, one more honest than before.

"I'm going to need something broken."

"You're a bit late for that boat," Richard replies with a smirk, "My doppleganger is in Tyler's body. Currently, Niki's running around as an overgrown kitchen appliance. If you need some popcorn popped, though, I'm sure she can help you there."

One of Hiro's eyes narrows subtly, a brow quirked, frown spread across his lips and head turning away. Tyler Case is something that twists Hiro's face into a look of vague uncertainty where there should be boiling anger from what was done to him by Edward's gang from 2011. Instead, Hiro lifts up a hand to feel at the scar across his throat, then looks back to Cardinal.

"If you would be so kind, tell her I would like to meet her on Sunday the 23rd at the castle in Central Park. She and I have not made an aquaintance yet, but… we will." Hiro's expression fades some at that notion, stepping back and away from the shadowmorph. He, like so many other time travelers, never say goodbye when they depart, because there is always some expectance of meeting again.

Goodbyes are for endings.

This is just the beginning.

"So," Cardinal says to an empty room once the other man's disappeared, reaching into the pockets of his suit, "A horrible plague… robot armies… more conspiracies than you can shake a stick at, and me off to one side trying to figure out how the hell to juggle all of this."

He pulls out a single black chess-piece, a cracked king, his lips twitching in a faint smile as he looks down at it for a moment. "Well," he says quietly, "The game must go on. And all of my pieces are in position. My move."

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