A Predisposition To Megalomania


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Scene Title A Predisposition to Megalomania
Synopsis Richard Ray meets Donald Kenner to discuss the future.
Date December 21, 2018

The accommodations for the SLC-Expressive Services Agency New York branch are nothing short of iconic. From the moment one sets foot on Governor’s Island, they’re presented with the juxtaposition of modern architecture against old colonial style. Cobblestone paved walkways intersect with asphalt roads buzzing. Immaculately tended lawns and towering oak trees create a verdant pass up through a collection of two-story office spaces belonging to individual agents and United Nations observers.

But up on the hill overlooking the entirety of what was once New York City is Fort Jay, a star-shaped former army post upon which the SESA offices are perched. Up the old stone steps growing with tall stands of dry grass in early March weather, the building represents the attitude that SESA presents to the world: the new, built atop the foundations of the old. For Richard Ray, the walk up the front steps of this building is an affirmation that this is not the world they left behind, the past they shattered into pieces. He would never have walked into the offices of the Department of Evolved Affairs. Times have changed, and so have the people in it.

Key card entry, pleasant entry security, stale coffee, brief wait, unpleasant office admin in one Dirk Dickson. Richard’s path to his ultimate destination is fraught with familiar levels of bureaucracy against an office atmosphere that isn’t sure whether it wants to be a Crate and Barrel advertisement or an Etsy Store. Glass walls, wood paneling, everyone has a plant on their desk. SESA’s offices are designed to feel welcoming, even if they crib a bit of style from 1970s couture.

Fort Jay

The New York City Safe Zone

December 21st

At exactly 9:15 eastern standard time, Richard is invited into the offices of Executive Director Donald R. Kenner, head of SESA’s New York branch. Though well-connected, Richard hasn't had direct face time with Kenner since SESA’s instatement. Few people have, as he’s the single highest administrator of this government branch on the east coast. That isn't to say Richard is unfamiliar with the Executive Director’s reputation, however. Richard’s done his research. Prior to the war, Kenner held leadership positions in the Counterterrorism Division of the FBI, the National Security Branch, and the Washington Field Office, and also served as the FBI’s associate deputy director from 2009 to 2011 when he stepped down after the SLC-E reproduction legislation was passed.

Somehow Kenner survived the war and wound up here, sitting behind a sleek black desk with an avocado-colored lamp and a bonsai tree sitting across from one-another. Kenner is alone in his office, save for the large framed photograph of President Praeger behind his desk, staring appraisingly at the room. Another sign of how far things have come.

“Mr. Ray, I’m happy you could make it today. I’m sorry about the wait, but this is something I couldn’t righly delegate to Deputy-Director Choi.” Donald motions for Richard to take a seat seat, and unlocks a drawer on his desk from which he pulls a paper file folder with several levels of classification stamped across it.


“I suppose this meeting is a long time coming.”

"I suppose it is, Director Kenner," Richard replies with a smile, if a somewhat-weary one, as he steps over to the desk; smoothing out the lapels of his suit before easing himself down into the chair, "We've both been busy men, however; the rebuilding of our country's no easy feat, and we all have our roles to play in it."

He sinks back into the chair, elbows resting on its arms and hands folding atop his stomach to make himself comfortable. The folder's noted with a twitch of his lips, and he admits, "I only wish it were under better circumstances. The course of history had other things in mind, however." One finger flicks a bit in the direction of the files, "Interesting reading, I assume."

“Nightmare inducing,” is the way Kenner describes the file. “This 327-page folder comprises everything the US Government officially knows about the operations of the Commonwealth Institute, and less than ten people have ever had eyes on this file.” Kenner squares the folder with the edge of his desk, then looks up to Richard. “But some of us lived it,” is directed at Richard.

“I’ve read this over… six or seven times.” Kenner admits with a tap of his fingers to the folder’s corner. “Each time I’m left wondering how something like this could have ever been allowed to happen, how something so corrupt and so horrific could have been perpetrated in secret from even the highest levels of the government. Mitchell didn’t actually know what was going on here, he thought it was a bioweapons research division. Nathan— god fucking knows what he thought while he was still alive. If Sylar knew about it, every single person inside would’ve been on his dinner menu.”

Kenner looks up from the folder, brows furrowed, and then leans to the side to retrieve another file from the top drawer of his desk. He sets it on top of the Commonwealth Institute’s file.


“So, I’ve read this one too,” Kenner says as he carefully squares the corners of that file with the one below it. “Your testimony from Albany is in here, cross-references with information to corroborate some of the… seemingly outlandish claims. Psychological assessments include a predisposition to megalomania.” Leaning back in his seat, Kenner folds his hands in his lap. “When I ask myself, how could the Institute have risen, I have to remember the contents of this file.” He reaches out to touch the file on Richard himself. “I have to remember that — while the man at the head of the Institute wasn’t you — science is still divided on the weight of nature versus nurture.”

Kenner’s hand moves away from the file. “While it says a lot about you in here, and it also says a lot about how well you keep secrets. So,” he brings his hands back to his lap, “you can imagine my surprise when Agent Mustang had a debriefing with Choi over your, uh, conference. You can imagine my surprise when you wanted to set up this meeting.”

Motioning to Richard, Kenner raises one brow. “I’m going to disregard what this folder says about you, for now.” His attention fixes on the man across from him. “Tell me why you wanted to meet. Make me need to update the psychological profile in this dossier.” His brows furrow. “Because I’d like to think it has blind spots.”

"I certainly hope that I wouldn't be judged by the actions of my alternate," is Richard's first dry observation, brows lifting upwards, "I'm sure that you wouldn't, Director, were our positions reversed right now."

Then he leans forward, hands sliding to rest between his knees and arms on his thighs as he regards the man across from him steadily, "I have a lot of secrets, yes. I know things that weren't in that file, that nobody who knows will ever speak of, and trust me that they're secrets best forgotten when we're all dead. None of us will ever sleep without nightmares again, Director, and knowing that it was a version of myself that set all this madness in motion doesn't help one goddamned iota."

Back again, slumping into the seat, his hands spread to either side. "I kept secrets and worked in the shadows before the war because the administration was corrupt to its very heart, and— let's be honest— we all participated in a lot of illegal activities back then while fighting that administration. I'm told that things are different now, and I choose to believe that. That we don't need to work in the dark to save the world this time. That the government can be trusted."

He meets Kenner's gaze, a brow lifting, "Am I right to believe that, Director? Because the fate of the entire damn world may well hang in the balance, so I certainly hope I am."

“Your name may not be on the door here, but you did help build this.” Kenner says, quickly dismissing a twitch in his brow when Richard brings up his alternate. “We get what we put into this country, whether that’s with the poetic watering the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants, or something less poetic like planting the goddamn tree.” Kenner spreads his hands. “You’re here, I’m here, and we’re talking. The cloaks and daggers are best kept in the closets these days.”

Moving the two files aside in a symbolic gesture, Kenner leans forward and folds his hands on the surface of his desk. “Plain words, Richard. You called this meeting, and I don’t think for a minute it was to discuss personnel dossiers. Is this about the visions?” It has to be something weird.

"Partially," Richard admits, turning his head to look at the window with a brief frown before returning his attention to the other man, "You mentioned Mustang's debriefing, so I'm assuming you've read it and I can skip the song and dance about superstrings and alternate timelines. What we're experiencing right now is a Coronal Overlay Event. The strings are pulling closer, and people are— seeing and hearing the lives of their alternate selves, for lack of a better way of explaining it. Once the solar wind stops bombarding the planet, it should pass…"

There's a pause, and he grimaces, "Unfortunately, I don't have the facilities to properly analyse this. If HAARP were still active and I had access, maybe, but— regardless."

His hands clasp back together, and he leans in slightly, "Our precognitives and probability analysis has pinpointed a likely string breach on Christmas, at the top of the old Deveaux Building. I need access to the Exclusion Zone for my people and equipment to be there so we can be certain that… the thing that lives in the nothing between worlds doesn't escape, and to make sure we don't have another Horsemen incident. I'll be happy to allow observers, of course."

“Observers,” Kenner says, steepling his hands at his mouth. The whole of the explanation was more Strange Tales than Kenner had been expecting, but at this point he’s not sure why he expected any less. Closing his eyes and nodding, Kenner leans back into his seat and keeps his hands folded in his lap.

“This situation,” Kenner indicates with a small gesture, “is causing global concern. We’re fortunate that the sample size of the visions is less than one fraction of a percent, but it’s still receiving wide media coverage. How we handle this and publicly address it all aside,” he says with a slow movement of his hands as if separating boxcars from a toy train set, “situations like this are precisely what SESA was created to address directly. I will concede that you have a valuable team of experts, and the government isn’t a stranger to outsourcing its data analysis… and that’s even truer today.”

Breathing in deeply, Kenner presses his hands together. “So, I’m not going to be the guy in the opening of Day After Tomorrow who dismisses the scientist with the doomsday data. That’s not going to be me.” He brings his hands down, pressing his fingertips against his desk. “But I need active-duty agents on site for this, whether or not you’re given permission, because this is a matter of national security.”

Scrubbing a hand over his mouth, Kenner looks for a moment lost in thought, but then quickly motions to Richard. “This Horsemen thing— Lang, Danko, Rameirez— all that. This is why we need to be running the show. But I’m seeing…” he motions toward Richard, “without need of a crystal ball, that you aren’t here just to warn me that another wave of interdimensional boogeymen might be coming over.” He’ll circle back to that nightmare-scenario. “What’s your personal stake in this, why do you need to have your tech and people there?”

There's silence for a long moment from Richard, who looks down at folded hands for the length of that moment before looking back up, his gaze tired and expression open as he regards the Director across the desk.

"Elisabeth Harrison did not die at Natazhat, as we thought," he says quietly, honestly, "She was lost out there, in the— endless possibilities, on the shores of the never-was. If the string breach isn't anchored properly on this end when she attempts to get home, she'll likely be lost. She was pregnant with my daughter during that mission. She didn't tell me. Aurora's— seven, now."

“I’m not trying to manipulate you for some greater plan, or gain power, or— “ He shakes his head, lips twisting tightly, “Any of that. Right now, today, I’m just a father trying to bring his family back together and make the world a safer place for his kids to grow up in. That’s all, Kenner. That’s all.”

Some of the tension in Kenner’s shoulders fades at Richard’s explanation. Some of the formality and posture eases too, and he seems to relax back into his chair in a way he hadn’t been able to before. “I’m a father too,” he admits, looking down to his folded hands. “Got a son about your age, actually. Good kid, fought in the war on our side. There were a few weeks— he was out in Oakland— when Mitchell ordered a bombing run on the San-Fran valley.” Swallowing audibly, Kenner wrings his hands together. “I didn’t hear from him for weeks. We finally met up in Kansas City about a month later, just before the nukes were launched…”

Looking up to Richard, Kenner’s expression softens and he looks just a little older for it. “I would do anything for my family, whether it meant breaking my vow to this entire nation or not. So, I understand where you’re coming from.” Leaning forward, Kenner clasps his hands together. “I just wish you’d just come to us sooner. We have resources you don’t, scientists, field agents. I know…” Kenner breathes in deeply. “I get it. Trauma. Falling back on old ways, it’s just— ” Kenner shakes his head. “We won, Richard. The war isn’t between us anymore.”

“So you’ll have your tech, your team. But it’ll be above board. This will be a SESA operation, and you’ll respect the authority of our field agents. But we’ll work with you as consultants and specialists. You’re the experts on the science, and we’ll be the experts on public safety. That’s how it works.” Kenner looks to his bonsai tree, briefly, then back to Richard. “How’s that sound?”

“Would you’ve believed me,” Richard asks, his tone dubious even as he nods his chin up towards the ceiling, “Before all this? I don’t know if I would’ve believed me, most of the evidence I had was unreproducible or could only be understood through inference— as soon as I had enough solid information I held that conference, and I made certain to invite your representatives to it.”

His hands spread to either side, the black markings on one seeming to drink in the light, and nods. “That sounds fair and acceptable to me. I’ll get you the details of what my team needs and the timeline… and we’ll work from there. After that— “

A faint smile, one brow raising, “If you’re willing to listen to me, and believe me, there’s quite a lot of work I think we can do together. A lot of things out there I’m worried about but don’t have the resources to deal with.”

“Richard.” Kenner presses his hands together. “I have satellite photos of an entire mountaintop in Alaska that ceased to exist. I have security camera footage of a robot army in the Institute’s apocalypse bunker, I have the interrogation records of a Hiro Nakamura that I’m pretty sure went back to a different timeline.” He spreads his hands. “That’s not even getting into the Moab Federal Penitentiary’s re-appearance.”

Exhaling a sigh, Kenner just laughs awkwardly. “My boss, Claudia Zimmerman,” he waves in a random direction, as if she’s off that way, “was saved from an assassination attempt by you in the past.” That awkward laughter comes back again. “Trust me, my suspension of disbelief is a fucking bridge at this point.”

At that, Richard can’t help but laugh. “I didn’t realize Claudia’d told anyone about that,” he admits, one hand coming up to rub over the side of his face, “I kept that a secret for a very long time, it’s the only way it would’ve worked… she must trust you quite a bit.”

Fingers curl in a fist against his mouth for a moment, regarding the other man, and then he says more seriously, “There really is— a lot. The Company found something it couldn’t handle, once, and I have a feeling it’s coming back… and I think Adam Monroe is hoping for it.”

His hand sweeps a bit towards the window, “He’s out there controlling Praxis Heavy, selling war machines to anti-Evolved countries while simultaneously raising a private army of Evolved supremacists… I’m pretty sure that if we got a technopath near one of those things they’d find some interesting programming. And if that— thing escapes, I’m not sure how to stop it.”

“I read the memo from your fever-dream meeting,” is all Kenner has to say about that. “Look, one nightmare at a time. Let’s see what we can do to rescue some people stranded somewhere they shouldn’t be, and then circle back around about Adam Monroe.” Kenner pushes his chair back as he stands, smoothing down the front of his suit. Stepping around the desk, he looks to the portrait of Praeger, then back to Richard.

“There is one other thing I wanted to touch on,” Kenner says, offering a hand out to Richard. “Briefly.”

Richard accepts that hand in a firm clasp as he rises up to his feet, a hand coming up to adjust his tie. He didn’t tie it himself today, so it’s actually tied correctly. Which means it feels unnatural to him.

“Oh,” he asks, a brow raising, “What is it?”

“If you happen to know anyone who can get word to Odessa Price,” Kenner steps in to the handshake, maintaining it. “I’d take it as a personal favor if you could let her know that the longer she waits to come in, the harder it’s going to be. We can only do so much without her stepping up to the plate.” He raises his brows to Richard. “You know… if you know anyone who might know how to contact her.”

“I’ll see what I can do,” Richard replies with a wry smile, shaking his head slightly even as he grips the other man’s hand heartily for a moment, “To round up an Odessa.”

His smile twitches a little wider. “Maybe two.”

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