A Preference For Tea


luther_icon.gif niles_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title A Preference For Tea
Synopsis For the second time, someone tries to recruit a Niles for Team Ray. The temptation of coffee isn't quite enough.
Date March 10, 2018

Somewhere in Northern Brooklyn…

Despite the best efforts of industrious Safe Zone settlers, a lot of the landscape still looks like the post-apocalyptic hellscape it is. Niles finds an odd sort of comfort in these ruined places. They are more familiar to him in many ways than a settlement or a city before the war.

He's on a small hilltop in an area that used to be a park that hasn't yet been fully reclaimed, though the ruins have long since been picked clean of anything useful. He's sitting side-saddle on the remains of a horse that used to perch on an industrial spring and bob back and forth. There's a dusty and road-worn hiking pack leaning against a twisted garbage can. He's smoking the stub of a hand-rolled cigarette and looking out at nothing in particular.

He hasn't exactly tried to hide his return to New York. Not that he's the most notorious person to come out of the city, and in the grand scheme of things, the exploits of his time travelling future self seem almost like a quaint footnote. Still, his duplicates are visually distinctive, and some people do remember the manhunt all those years ago. If he has a dupe out, it's not immediately obvious, but the fact that the damned things can fly and travel wickedly fast makes them hard to spot.

In the distance, a cloud of dust rises up as a building collapses, construction machinery distantly visible around the site. The ruins of old New York are being reclaimed, even if it's just one building at a time, but it will be a long time before it returns to its former glory.

If there's one thing that New Yorkers are, though, it's stubborn as hell about their home.

"Sometimes I wonder about the asbestos," is the casual observation from the lips of one Richard Ray as he walks slowly up the hill in the park, hands tucked into the pockets of an old beat-up flight jacket. He's set aside the suit for more casual clothes; BDUs, a sweatshirt under the jacket, old combat boots. Hazel eyes sweep off towards the cloud of dust, "I mean, a lot of these old buildings weren't exactly up to code."

Chances are, Niles noticed him approaching, but he hasn't been trying to hide his movements. It was something of a search pattern; whether it was for Niles or something or someone else remains to be seen.

Part of the reason that Niles chose the hilltop for reflection is for strategic reasons. It's hard to sneak up on him, even with debris, even without the possibility of a spying duplicate. He exhales slowly and looks over at Ray. "I think asbestos is the least of this city's problem. I'd be more concerned with collapsed sewage and industrial waste. Not that I'm an engineer." His accent is a Geordie sing-song - typical of a native of Newcastle, England - but watered down and spackled over from years Stateside.

He flicks his cigarette and stands up off the plastic horse. His long leather duster is full of wear and tear. His clothes in general looks like they've been his only set for quite awhile. "Who are you, then? I'm guessing you've come to talk, because if you came to kill me, you would've come in hot."

"Heh." Richard's lips crook up at one corner in a smile, and he stops near the edge of the over-grown gravel near the features that children once played on happily. Hands appear from his pockets, empty, and he brings one up to rub against the nape of his neck. "I'm not in the killing business these days," he admits, which by elimination suggests he used to be, "If you ask me, there's been enough of that over the last few years."

He watches the dispersing dust cloud for a few more moments, then looks over, "Name's Richard. I believe you knew my…" He trails off. Girlfriend? Lover? "…my partner. Elisabeth Harrison."

Niles pulls fingers up and through his hair, but he doesn't get very far before his fingers encounter knots. He tugs his hand out and squints at Ray, as if trying to place his face. The name brings a slow nod. "Yeah. She helped me out a long time ago. The last time I was in New York, in fact. But I have a feeling you knew that."

"Knowing things," admits Richard, "It's kind of what I do. It's less fun than you might thing, though, secrets weigh an awful lot." He takes a deep breath, then exhales it, offering, "She's… gone. Dead. She fell on November eighth, twenty-eleven, taking down the Commonwealth Institute once and for all."

It still hurts to say, after all this time.

He grimaces, "Just wanted to get that out there first."

"I heard," says Niles. "I was sorry to." The second is added only a beat after. "I have been travelling in Ferry and Ferry-adjacent circles the last few years. I've had occasion to ask after the people who helped me out, and then sometimes news would get back to me." He takes a moment to size up the other man a little more. "Sometimes I envy those who fell in noble battles before things got really bad. They got to go out feeling they made a real difference."

Ray brings one hand up to rub against his lower face, admitting, "I feel that way sometimes myself. Maybe it's just that the rest of us still have a difference to be made…" He shrugs one shoulder, "All of us who were fighting back then— we all have blood on our hands. Mistakes we made. Or our families."

After a moment he says, "My name is Richard Ray. I'm pretty sure you've heard of my… father."

"That sounds way too tied to fate for me. And I'm not someone who likes to put any stock in fate." Because fate told Niles he'd end up a mass murderer and an Evolved supremacist.
His expression changes at the mention of the name. It's very difficult to read, in part because he's not sure what he's feeling. He searches the other man's face and steps a little closer. It's not intentionally threatening, but given his ability and reputation, he would be forgiven for reading it that way. "Oh, I've more than heard of him."

Richard can't help but smile at the statement about fate. "Me either, but then…" He looks upwards, even knowing this leaves him vulnerable to any attack from the other man, "I've made a career out of cutting destiny's throat. I've got a whole room full of prophecies that never happened. We choose our own paths, in the end, whatever fate's plan might be."

He spreads his hands to either side, and lets them fall back to his sides, chin dropping again to regard the other man's approach. "The man that brought you future self back into this world was a sonuvabitch," he says simply, "He endangered… more people than I can even think about, you amongst them. He killed the only friend I had from my childhood. I shot him myself, but it didn't take. He died on a roof-top not long after, but that doesn't fix what he did. Any of it."

"He also broke me out of prison. And if he hadn't, I would be dead. Or worse - I would have become like that other version of myself. But I was also a pawn in something I still don't understand." So, needless to say, Niles has a complicated view of one Edward Ray. "I don't believe for a second that any version of him interfering in my life did so for my own benefit. Maybe for someone else's, but not mine."

Though he arrived at the same time as Ray, Luther has stayed back to play the silent entourage, to not spook the conversation into silence - because there seems to be a tendency for Luther to step into things without realizing the situation first. The man has waited behind Ray until it seems like the pair has reached a sense of friendliness, and only now starts an approach. He doesn't come right up, though, pausing half way and to a side, readily visible within both men's fields of vision. Luther waits, looking mainly to Ray for a signal to complete the approach if needed.

"No." Richard shakes his head, "It wasn't for yours. It was for mine, and my brother's, and my sisters'." He looks to Niles, "Edward… everything he did was to protect us. His children. Everyone else was just a pawn to him. We didn't know, not until… much later."

He turns a bit as he notices the movement, lifting up a permissive hand. Everything's fine! Probably!

Back to Niles, "Just because we didn't know doesn't mean we don't feel guilty about all of that shit. So I owe you for what he did."

"Are you sure about that?" says Niles with eyebrows arching. How can you be sure of the motives of a man who had multiple versions and who ran roughshod over the threads of fate? "Honestly, I'd be rather disappointed if that was his game. I'd rather hoped it would be something grander, like preventing the destruction of humanity or saving one line so that someone one day would be born who would build the technology capable of getting us off this rock and into the galaxy so humanity wouldn't be extinguished when the sun starts to cool. That at least, might have actually justified it all."

A fanciful theory, but he's had a lot of time alone.

Suspicious eyes turn to the approaching man. A rough chuckle emerges. "Smart. If you know anything about me, you know it would've been stupid to come without backup." Even though he has been fighting the good fight for awhile. There's still the lingering danger that use of his power might be corrupting his mind.

Only when gestured forward does Luther close the distance. Sure he's large and in a somewhat nicer shirt than the usual custodial outfit he'd wear, but that's all that really sets him apart from just another dude. Hopefully. "All ok, Mr. Ray?" he asks after a moment's glance over Niles. Just checking.

A quiet chuckle, and Richard shakes his head. "You still have us outnumbered, to be fair," he quips, crooking a brow up at Niles, "And it was Liz that knew you. You don't know me from Adam. Couldn't know how you'd react… yeah, everything's fine, Luther. Niles, this is Luther Bellamy. Luther, this is Niles Wright. Liz helped him out, once, a long time ago. Got him into the Ferry and away."

He brings one shoulder up in a shrug,motioning with his hand, "A bit anticlimactic, maybe, but it's a very… human motivation. I guess I take a bit of comfort in that fact. Even the most powerful of us is still just a man."

"Wight," Niles corrects, but in the manner of someone who is quite used to making that correction and isn't particularly offended by it. "No offense, Ray the Younger, but even if there were a dozen of you, you'd still be outgunned, if not outnumbered." He says that matter-of-factly, but there is a small edge of boast there.

He looks over at Luther, then back to Richard. "Yes, Mister Ray here was just getting to the point of this meeting, now that we're done reminiscing about the past and futures that did not come to pass."

There's a wink of light off and to the left. One of his electric duplicates - a silhouette of him painted in blue energy makes itself known about twenty feet away.

Just a man, so he says. But Luther takes a small comfort in the notion, glancing back and forth between the men. The topics of conversation, now that he's actually heard them, pulls at the corners of his mouth in a frown with the mention of Liz. The summary of talk about timelines from Niles makes his brow furrow deeper. Then the sudden appearance of an electrical duplicate, the change in energy, makes Luther tense along a shoulder and down his back. He feels the tug, but resists an immediate twitch to look. "You're an electric user?" he asks Niles, sounding… curious.

"I feel like this is where I show off some flashy power and say 'ah, but that's where you're wrong'," Richard observes with a grin to Niles, "But my ability was ripped out of me like the last kleenex in a box a long time ago, so… yeah, basically. If you wanted to fry me, you could. But Liz said you were a good person, deep down, and she's a better judge of character than I am."

He shrugs, then, "To the point, then? Like I said, I feel like I owe you. Back in the day, Liz and I ran a bunch of conspirators and freedom fighters out of a half-ruined library. Not a lot to offer, admittedly. These days, I've got a billion dollar company."

"Thought you might be looking for a job."

"Ahh, so daddy's fiddling with fate to make sure his family was set up as billionaires on the backs of the fates of millions worked out, did it?" Niles can't really keep the bite out of his words. It might be just a little bit reflexive. It's easier to keep people at a distance when you're prickly. He looks over at Luther, and then tilts his head a little. "In a manner of speaking."

In the blink of an eye, the blue duplicate disappears from its spot and appears just behind Niles' shoulder. Close up, it really is a detailed silhouette, complete with clear facial features and a mirroring of the clothes he wears. There's a crackling in the air, and the duplicate steps in to the human Niles. The two merge back into one with a snap of electricity. He sucks in a deep breath.

Now that the little show is over, he turns his attention to the question Richard asked. "A job?" A soft chuckle. "Doing what, praytell? Customer service?"

With Ray's casual confession of his loss of power, Luther shoots the man a worried look. Especially with the if you wanted to fry me part. Grey eyes flick back to Niles, and he blinks with the sudden appearance of a second electrical clone. Luther lifts a hand to shield his eyes a little from the brightness of the electricity, but also in a way to shield the energy from himself as well. He swallows down, adding in comment, "You could help Sera with the phones." Because she's really good at them. Maybe. Supposedly.

There's no refutation of it, and no sting; it's nothing that Richard hasn't said to himself a thousand times over. He just nods slightly in a way that allows the jab, and moves on. "God knows she needs the help," he mutters aside to Luther, before shaking his head, "No, you don't really seem like the customer service sort, Niles, no offense. I mean I'd be shit at that job too."

"No, but you could sure as hell check a building like that— " He gestures off to the still-fading dust cloud in the distance where a construction company just levelled an old building, "— for squatters far faster than a team of people on foot could. You could react to a building intrusion and locate the intruder pretty damn fast as well. Help out with search and rescue if something goes wrong without worrying about any barriers. Hell, if we set things up right you could probably do arc welding without the need of a power supply."

"So you sought me out for purely pragmatic, business reasons?" says Niles, chin tilting upwards a little in clear disbelief. "Or is this some combination of guilt for your father's part in my fate, and to continue what Elizabeth did to try and keep me off that dark and twisty path?"

He watches Luther's reactions both before and after his clone reintegrates, but he doesn't comment directly.

No really she's good with the phones, Ray, honest. Luther also shouldn't be making such comments, given he's the janitor. What does he know about customer service now? He listens intently though, only a brief second take for his boss with the mention of squatters in a building. Not long ago, he resembled the remark. As for the reintegration of the clone, Luther merely lets out a quiet sigh to release the tension that's formed on his shoulders.

Ray's hands come up, palms towards the sky to either side of him as if he were weighing things. "Six of one," he admits casually, "Half dozen of the other. If there's one thing that I am, Niles, it's loyal to my people. And Liz's people are my people."

He slants a wry look to Luther, "Bellamy can tell you that much, I'm sure."

"I wouldn't exactly call myself one of her people," says Niles a bit dryly. His voice occasionally breaks and sounds a bit gravelly - perhaps from environmental damage to his throat from operations, perhaps it's just a smoker's rasp. He's quiet for a moment as he considers what's on offer. "I'd be willing to consider this on a few conditions. I do feel I owe Elizabeth for her role in keeping me out of prison all those years ago. And if you were her partner, then I suppose part of that debt has transferred to you."

"Plus, there's good coffee," contributes Luther to this business proposal. That's what this is, right? There's just a slight crease of the man's brow with the mention of Niles staying out of prison, though whatever judgment the man has stays inside him and tucked away in those folds.

"Shoot," Richard offers with a tip of his head, "What're your conditions?"

Sidelong to Luther he adds wryly, "I should hope so. I pay enough for it. The price to keep all you people awake is staggering."

Niles chuckles roughly at the mention of coffee. "Mate, I might have lived here for most of my life, but I've still got a lot of English in me. Which means I like a proper cuppa." He reaches into the pocket of his coat to pull out a beat-up cigarette case. He pops it open, but finds it empty. He snaps it closed and returns it to his pocket. "I'm not signing any contracts. I can leave whenever I please. And I can turn down missions if I'm not comfortable or if the risk on my part exceeds the reward." One might assume that he's trying to avoid being used by a Ray again or something.

With a tug of his jacket collar, Luther admits, "Can't say I've tried the tea yet." Then his eyes tint with a wry, dry humored glance between the pair. "But I suspect none of us will have it up to your standards anyway." He falls quiet again when Niles outlines his terms, but watches for Ray's reaction to them more.

"That's fair enough," Richard allows with an easy shrug of one shoulder, "I'm sure we can find individual jobs that we can hire you for, if that's what you'd prefer. The door's open if you ever change your mind, though." A smile crooks up at one corner of his lips, and he asks, "Get the feeling you aren't all up on your papers, though. You need help getting those sorted at all?"

Tea. Hmf. Give him black as midnight coffee anyday.

"That depends. Do you need me to be up on my papers?" Niles scuffs a foot against the rubble-covered ground. "Because it hasn't been high on my priority list to get my registration updated. Though it's not like my abilities are much of a secret. I haven't got much left to hide." He takes a moment to look at Luther, as if he's trying to sort the other man out. He upnods towards him. "What's your story? Why'd you sign on with him?"

"My story?" Luther scrubs a hand along his chin, glancing sidelong to Ray. "He and I met a long time ago… in Midtown." The man doesn't elaborate on what they were doing, but he continues, "Went our separate ways for a bit, but his people found me. Was on the streets, and then Mr. Ray gave me a position at his company." His words come slow, measured. "And really, didn't even need to do much for papers. If there's one thing he's good at," says Luther with a short glance to Ray, "It's getting people signed on. For a good cause."

"It took him awhile to believe that I wasn't some sort of sinister agency trying to arrest him or something," says Richard with a chuckle as he looks to Luther, "But given all the sinister agencies that actually were operating at the time, I can't entirely blame him." He shrugs one shoulder, "All I want to do is make the world a better place, Niles. For our children, and theirs. I think I owe the world that, at least." A hand slips under his jacket, emerging with a business card holder - and he snaps it open and takes one out, offering it.

"My sister's our head of personnel. If you do want to get your papers up to date, she can help you with that. If not, well, it's not ideal and technically illegal but— " He flashes a roguish grin, "I suppose we can always pay you under the table for work."

"You can understand my hesitation on giving the government too much information. It may not be the same government that summarily decided I was too dangerous to be be free and whisked me away to Moab without due process, but a government's a government." Niles takes the business card though, and slips it into a pocket of his coat after glancing at it. "I'll think on it."

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