A Fight Worth Fighting


marlowe3_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title A Fight Worth Fighting
Synopsis A brunch meeting to spill some secrets, strengthen an alliance, and determine how to fight monsters.
Date February 26, 2021

February 26th
10:12 am

In the late morning, a text message rings to Marlowe’s phone from an unknown number, curiously enough. It might be easily dismissed as spam, but if she eventually glances at it, she might swiftly catch on to the message.

Hey, it’s 🍑🔥. Met your 👨‍💼🈺. Lunch? ㊙️

Oh no, someone’s taught Richard Ray how to use emojis.

The delay of response potentially hints that there was an initial dismissal of random texts from even more random phone numbers. Later rather than sooner, though, a response drops in a flood of small emojis characterized by the Yamagato Tech Director's style whenever he had the joy of interaction with Marlowe Terrell.

🤭🤭🤭 sry! Was 🔇🥱🤝🀄 but 🗽now 👍🏽🤎
lunch is ✨😂 or is it brunch? 🙃
bring ur 🍑🔥❤️💋

Perhaps with relief, the next messages to come from the woman are more standardly arranged in a one-click link to agree to a meeting time and location outside of Yamagato Park, at a budding Red Hook locale.

Cassandra's, Red Hook

11:28 am

Two minutes before the 11:30 meetup and already seated at one of the corner booths, Marlowe has kept herself entertained with a mobile game as she waits. Her business attire is proof of what nature of meeting she may have had within the company conference rooms this morning, but there's always a bit of shimmer to her attire somewhere. Hot tea steams off the surface of a mid-size ceramic mug, sat next to a tasty looking croissant of comparable sandwich size. She's only touched the tea, though, with the faintest kiss of plum-color lipstick gracing the glaze along the edge.

It’s not through the front door that Richard makes his appearance, but from the bathroom door; he’d parked a few blocks away for a presumably business-related reason and slipped away as a shadow at the first opportunity.

He’s being careful.

A black button-up and slacks, not a full suit today, ‘casually’ nice clothing worn as he walks over to the booth with a smile beneath the shade of his sunglasses. “Marlowe,” he greets warmly, sliding in opposite her. One hand slips from his pocket, setting a small plastic box on the table - his thumb clicking a switch before drawing it back and a faint, barely-audible hiss of noise whispering from the box.

“White noise generator,” he explains affably, “In case someone’s trying to listen in. Not foolproof, but, the best I’ve got handy.”

Marlowe's returned smile reflects back at her from the dark lenses of his sunglasses, but it's friendly too. "Hello again Richard. How are you…" she greets initially, about to start in on the pleasantries when he produces the small box. Her brows lift, gaze dropped to the hissing box until he explains its purpose. "Ah." In that case, she sets her Awasu phone down, screen visible, swipes away the mobile game - a colorful, cutesy emoji matching affair - and makes a point to establish a Privacy Mode before locking it away.

Now with both devices on the table along with her tea and snack, she settles again. Ring adorned fingers lay over each other placidly. "So, how's the family?" There's a pause as she adds a glance up and down his shirt and shades before back up to his face, "For a father of three, you still haven't deigned to let your little ones take you out for a bit of color?" An amused twist tugs at the corners of her smile.

“You know how it is, when you work for a company you’re expected to rep the colors,” Richard replies a bit playfully at that, a grin tugging up at the corner of his lips, “They’re doing alright. The twins are fine, Aurora’s finally starting to be less afraid of robots…”

“Everyone else, well, doing about as well as can be expected,” he admits, one hand coming up to scratch against his chin, “There’s been a lot of… shit going down lately, I don’t know how up to date you are. My sister was in the same event as Kimiko was, so…”

His hand lifts in a slight motion, a shrug, then drops. Not a lot to say there.

The brief disappearance of Marlowe's ease and amusement shows she's aware, enough so that his shrug brings on a tightening to her lips and a narrowing of her eyes. She reaches out to grasp her cup of tea once more, bringing it to said lips for a short sip. "I was very glad to hear that everybody else that was struck with medical emergencies recovered." The cup lowers back gently to the table top. "But circumstances with Kimiko have, I guess putting it mildly, escalated concerns."

Marlowe angles her gaze outward to the small cafe-bakery interior, loosing a soft sigh. "Kind of makes you think there's so much going on, it's like trying to swim against a tsunami." One of the metal rings clinks against the ceramic. "But why do I have a feeling you're about to tell me that it's not just a tsunami, and that there's a kaiju behind it in the deeper waves?" Slowly, she turns back to him, worry etching in her face as she subconsciously braces.

“Oh, it’s far worse than a kaiju in those deeper waves,” says Richard, his tone a bit dry, “It’s a hardcore capitalist at the helm of Yamagato Industries.”

Fingers brush over the table’s surface absently, tapping a bit in a way that betrays his anxiety about the topic beyond his ever-casual facade. He starts to say something else, then pauses, brow furrowing a little.

“I forget who’s in the… know, and I’m not sure what all Monica’s told you, but are you aware of the Looking Glass and the interactions we’ve had with multiple timelines?”

Maybe there’s still a kaiju out there after all.

If there is one, then it's been extremely well blended into the landscape of Marlowe's sheltered life. Evidenced by the way her brows rise at the mention of Monica, followed by keywords and phrases that draw blanks, all she can do is give a slow shake of her head. She glances down to the white noise generator, considers in silence the part where she's already sitting down, and then turns back to face him.

"Kimiko was being careful. I'm sure that something was weighing on her that had to do with… whatever it was in Detroit. That it might have turned out to be her 'sum of all fears' moment. But to answer you plainly, no. I don't know what you mean by any of that."

It doesn't mean she doesn't understand. Multiple timelines, multiple universes, don't seem to be beyond Marlowe's comprehension. She's enough of a sci-fi geek that it's not what phases her. Which is reason why her short look to the dark shades on Richard's face turns serious.

"But I want you tell me."

Richard draws in a breath, and then exhales it slowly, one hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose - pushing the shades up a little in the process. “I really should just start making Powerpoints,” he murmurs, “But then the government would yell at me. I’m technically committing some sort of crime having this entire conversation probably, not that I give two shits.”

“So. Are you familiar with the theory that every decision creates a different timeline, where you made the other?”

He reaches over for a napkin, pulling it over and tugging a pen from a pocket to draw a line that splits. “The whole ‘one of you turns left, the other turns right’ thing… well, it’s not quite that easy, but there are certain— points at which the timeline split. It takes major events to cause this sort of thing, though. You need to move a mountain, not step on a butterfly.”

“The trick is knowing when something’s a mountain or a butterfly,” he admits ruefully, “So I really don’t recommend time travel unless you really know what you’re doing.”

Marlowe hooks a corner of the croissant, pulls the pastry in closer and drops her gaze down to the napkin drawing. Slowly peeling off a crusty, flaky layer, her attention appears to split, but far from it. "We're familiar enough with infinite multiverse theory, yes," she says with a thin smile, "We don't think we need to go all the way back to the future to discuss time travel and paradoxes either."

"Not during a lunch meeting, anyhow." The croissant layer gets rolled back up into a scroll-like shape. When she looks back up again, nodding to shared mutual basics, her smile twists into something more wry. "So, you're about to tell me that Looking Glass is exactly what the name implies, aren't you. Does someone have one? And is that someone, you?" Curiosity fills in place of judgment as her eyes search the dark sunglasses set on his face.

“The Looking Glass…” Richard grimaces, tapping the pen a bit against the side of his hand, “My mother invented it. Back in the eighties. It’s— unreliable and dangerous at best, and most activations have led to disaster. If something goes wrong, it can cause reality overlays to manifest— literally moving things in a wide area from one timeline to another.”

He pushes his shades back up with the end of the pen, “Frequent crossings can cause… even worse side effects. The boundary between superstrings may be permeable but it’s also subject to damage. There are places out there, mostly in the Dead Zones thank God, where the laws of physics have quietly become untrustworthy.”

“Making it worse is that most of the timelines in our— braid of local superstrings, to use an inaccurate term, are pretty horrific. One where the Vanguard’s virus wiped out most of humanity. Once where the Civil War never started, resulting in a wasteland covered in killer Humanis robots. One where Operation Apollo faded and the ocean level rose a few hundred feet worldwide.”

He shakes his head, “The last Looking Glass activation - a rescue attempt - instantly resulted in a giant fucking octopus robot erupting into our reality from the Wasteland and trying to eat all the Evolved nearby. These aren’t technologies to be lightly played with, is what I’m saying.”

The more he goes on, the more he can see Marlowe slowly coming to grips with a small epiphany. That maybe, just maybe, what he's saying is all true. The giant octopus robots and viruses and wastelands and global flooding… and the fact that, "Back up. Did you just throw your mother under the space-time continuum bus?" He doesn't have to answer that, of course. Her head tilts this way and that, gaze bouncing between the sunglasses, the napkin, the man. "And you didn't answer the question. Are you in possession of this technology?"

Upon voicing that part, Marlowe sounds concerned. Her eyes widen with another thought and narrow again. "Is it something my company has?" Wherein if they do, she’s in for even more mindblowing revelations.

“We do,” Richard admits reluctantly, one hand rubbing at the side of his neck, “It isn’t in use for obvious reasons, but we have the technology behind it. As for your company… no. They don’t.”

There’s a silent but there that’s as loud as a gunshot.

He draws in a slow breath, then points the pen’s tip at Marlowe. “Kimiko was aware of it, however. I was coordinating with her to create a device that could identify individuals and items that were— out of place. We’ve had security issues with dopplegangers already, some messy ones, so it’s an important tech to quietly have in place, but…”

The pen drops, the tip digging into the pad, and he grimaces, “…and now Hayate knows. And that’s… not a good thing.”

Her gaze dips to the pen. Marlowe's lips thin to a somber line. "He has access, or will shortly, to Kimiko's personal files and authorizations. How much he’ll be able to glean from them, I’m not sure. But he’s got the resources to find someone - by hook or by crook - to do what he wants. He’s… an opportunist." The words barely escape audibly as her volume drops to even quieter levels, her expression revealing visible disturbance. "Tradition has its loyalties and supporters," she follows, taking a longer, steadying breath, "But that being said, it still takes time to build up trust."

The emphasis weighing on the last word accompanies a look from Marlowe, upraised brow implying the question of how much there is between her and Richard. "Has he made his intentions clear enough to you?"

“Oh. Oh yes.” Richard looks at her for a long moment, and then he breathes out a long, slow breath, head dropping with a little shake from side to side, “Very clear.”

“Kimiko and I had a meeting scheduled to discuss the technology we were developing, and— Hayate of course had it shunted to his schedule, so he started digging. He has access to some else-timeline tech that Kimiko hadn’t mentioned to me— which I’d have words with her about, if I could— “ A frown, he’s not happy about that, but there’s no sense in being angry at the dead, “— and he wants to start developing along the lines of exploiting other timelines.”

“Oh, and he’s forced us to halve the amount of food we’re producing for the Safe Zone in preference for biofuel, because it’s more profitable.” Bitterness seeps into his tone there. He’d be a much richer man if he cared that much about profitable.

When worrying revelations surface, Marlowe steels herself and her look to a singular nod. The bitterness the man's tone is taken with a sip of her tea. Silence accompanies contemplation.

"Do it," she says breaking the pause. "We can figure out a different way, with regards to supplying the Safe Zone. We need to, long enough to keep him distracted. I'll check out our files on the matter. Mindblowing revelations of the multiverse and invasion of octo-bots aside… what else do I need to know about, Mr. Ray?" A brow lifts as she regards him again in deepening worry.

“The honey pot he offered…” Richard grimaces, a fingertip tapping against the table’s surface, “He has some alternate timeline technology, from the one timeline we know of that’s ahead of us - I suspect he needs our help cracking it. Quantum communication technology.”

“Necessary to effectively communicate across worlds, but… invaluable here too. For obvious reasons.”

The newest mention of Hayate's possession of a multidimensional item immediately draws Marlowe's focus. Curiosity moreso than worry covers her expression when Richard elaborates. "Obviously," echoes the engineer as she turns over various possibilities, applications, but underneath it all says the unspoken part aloud.

"Kawahara hasn't specifically called for my expertise or my head, yet," she considers, a finger tapping the edge of her napkin, "so maybe it's still early. Maybe he assumes my loyalty. Or fear." It's crossed her mind, as evidenced by her faint, troubled frown. "What is he asking of you? What did he offer you in return for the help?" She cocks her head to a side to evaluate him in his worried state. Eyes narrow slightly. "What did he threaten you with?"

“Oh, he didn’t feel a need to threaten me,” Richard exhaled with a sound that’s almost a laugh, hand coming up in a vague motion, “That would’ve ended poorly for him if he had. No, I played the idiot corporatist eager to start strip-mining other timelines for the betterment of our world… and both of our profits, of course. He doesn’t have the technology to leave this string, but he has the quantum communicator.”

He briefly looks disgusted, “I’m surprised that Kimiko let someone like him climb so high in your ranks.”

Marlowe slowly shakes her head while disturbing themes of Richard's discussion with Hayate Kawahara swirl around in mind. "He doesn't have the technology to leave," she echoes of the thought, "but he wants the tech to instantly communicate with someone in another time? Another future? The past? That's not just a butterfly's wing. That's having an angle at controlling Mothra."

His further comment brings her back from doomsday, and before she can stop herself, Marlowe huffs a sardonic laugh. "Maybe I'll ask her next time she's—" Her words cut off quickly as she realizes her slip too late. Present tense and presently tense, as it were, inner conflict churns hard while she clears her throat and reaches for the cooling tea in her cup.

"If we can get the device out of his labs, he'd need to abandon the idea, and I'd have justification to pull out of that deal…" Richard observes with a slight wave of his hand as if dismissing something, then he pauses as he catches that slip.

One eyebrow lifts, "That'd be great, but… she's dead. Yes?" Cautiously questioning, not quite sure he read that right.

Seconds tick past while Marlowe sips at her tea. Clearly shaken on something - what more could there be when discovering the truth of the multiverse and horrors of late-stage capitalism - she stalls for time, eventually meeting Richard's shades and seeing her giveaway face against the lenses.

"Yes. Well. Not exactly."

Marlowe sets her tea down, cupping the mug with her hands to keep them from shaking. It doesn't keep her voice from wavering. "I can't help but think of what Monica said before she left. Worrying about bruises on poisoned apples. Does that make me the magic mirror, or the evil queen?" The horror of the comparison pales her features. Her gaze, having dropped away from look at her distorted reflection in Richard's glasses, focuses upon the white noise generator.

"She's… Not entirely, but, she…" Marlowe can barely bring herself to say it. Her head shakes from side to side, pulling with indecision on the path to take. "She's in the system." Marlowe looks back up to the man across from her, bracing, swallowing down tightly and mustering a cooler facade. "Her consciousness was partially digitized. The exact amount, not yet quantifiable."

The other eyebrow joined the first in a raise above Richard’s shades, his lips parting briefly in shock before coming back together again. “I… she’s a purusha?” Whatever that word is supposed to indicate. “How did— “

Fingertips drum anxiously against the table’s surface as he tries to understand that statement, “Well, that body was… artificial, so I suppose there’s no reason that it wouldn’t be… uploadable?”

From confession to confusion to curiosity as morbid as it comes, Marlowe drops her gaze down to her plate. "I don't know what that means or entails," admits the engineer, "but she's conscious at a base level that is undoubtedly… Kimiko. So far, the system is able to support simple communication in a limited timeframe."

Appetite all but lost and gut twisting, she latches on to Richard with a look when he mentions the artificial body. "That's what she wanted. Wants. A replacement body." Marlowe presses her lips together, sitting straighter with more of a physical indication of her determination to power through the doubts wreaking havoc in her mind. "So, you're the first to know. Outside of myself, Eizen and Hachiro. More importantly, I stress, the only one, so far. Can I trust you, Richard?"

“If we can’t trust each other, I think this conversation was ill-advised on both ends, so I certainly hope so..” Richard gives his head a slight shake, “She’s— not the first digital entity that I know of. There are others— mostly technopaths who’ve lost their bodies and exist disembodied. Purusha was the term that Drucker coined, it’s— Indian, I think, means ‘spirit’ or something along those lines.”

A deep breath, “Well. I’m glad she’s still— alive, in a sense, at least. As far as bodies go— what’s she looking for? Like— a robotic body, does she want a clone…? I might be able to provide the latter, eventually, if I can find Tyler…”

Marlowe waves off a server glancing their direction, but also to the questions he poses. "Tyler? Who— Ah well, nevermind… Please, leave that problem to me for now. But it's reassuring to know I can come to you for support," she insists, adding a vague smile through her eyes. "Truth is I'm not sure. I'm not even sure what to make of it. Not until, well, I think not until… we add some power."

Her chin comes to rest on ringed knuckles. "But, for now, we have to and do trust each other. Right? I'm really an engineer, not a general."

“I have… a lot of history with the Nakamuras,” Richard admits with a slight shrug, “Our friendship aside, I’ve always considered Kimiko and her family allies, at least… although finding out she was keeping some secrets from me is annoying— “ Wry, “ — I can’t entirely blame her for that, either.”

“I won’t say anything about her, but let me know if you - or she - needs any help.”

"Mm." A soft utterance of agreement. "You're telling me. Imagine finding out your best friend and coworker's also the corporate assassin. Actually. That maybe 90 to 95 percent of your closest coworkers have probably killed someone," Marlowe raises a brow at Richard, skeptical when considering the man's noted history.

"Maybe you'd know, then," she considers quietly with fingers tapping the tabletop. "Anything about The Inheritance?" The emphasis of its apparent importance is there, but so is her utter lack of knowledge to what said thing is. "She asked Eizen about it, first thing when she, well, came back online."

Marlowe shrugs once. "But it's not something I'm overly concerned about, now. My duty is to protect the company." Her fingers stop tapping, nervous energy stilling. "To…"

She purses her lips and considers.

"…restore order. I hope you’ll be able to help rebuild upon what was lost, Richard."

Even though she sounds not entirely convinced of the plan, Marlowe lays it down as a conceptual base between them.

“‘The Inheritance’?” Richard furrows his brow at the phrase, one hand coming up to rub over his jaw and cheek consideringly. “It doesn’t sound familiar, but— I’ll check my records. It could be something about the Nakamura legacy? Kaito had as many secrets as the other Founders, if not more than most.”

Then he smiles, faintly, and he nods in understanding, suggesting, “To save your company’s spirit — now that’s a fight worth fighting.”

A curious lift of her brows is all that Marlowe can counteroffer for theories when he replies with unfamiliarity on the inheritance, familiarity with Kaito Nakamura with the first name usage, and the capitalized F for whatever he means by the Founders. The woman draws a blissfully ignorant blank of a smile.

But his next words strike an accord with her inner thoughts. "Sou desu ne," she agrees, "making sure we're all able to continue doing what we do to help, that's a fight worth fighting. You let me know what you need, and I'll see what I can support." Her smile skews up at a corner, a much more natural and comfortable expression as she nods faintly. They are in agreement there.

Her fingers drum on the table top one more time before lifting to gesture open palm to the man across. "Now, Mr. Powerpoint," her tone turns mildly teasing once again as she reaches for her phone to poke off the privacy mode, which sets off a number of incoming notification alerts that cause the device to chirp a pleasant trill. "Are you going to order something to eat for lunch yet, or are you going to leave a girl looking like she's eating for two?"

This being an innocent and unassuming brunch meeting, after all.

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