All Expenses Paid

Participants:

cardinal_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif niklaus_icon.gif

Scene Title All Expenses Paid
Synopsis Richard Cardinal, you may have won one of many fabulous prizes!!!
Date July 7, 2010

Dorchester Towers


So this is a little weird.

"Oh, ja sie liebt dich…" Richard Cardinal has found himself in some situations that most people wouldn't believe, up to and including being chased through a jungle by a gigantic, robot panther. This though, is a level of surreal that hits more close to home. Elisabeth Harrison's home to be specific. "Sie liebt dich! Sie liebt dich! Denn mit dir allein, kann sie nur gl├╝cklich sein…"

The smell of raisins and cinnamon and fresh baked bread lingers in the apartment's hall before they even get to the door. With Harrison having been on-site at the Factory for the last few nights, she'd yet to become face-to-face acquainted with her new flat-mate. But today's introduction isn't going anywhere near like Richard has planned.

The music and English lyrics of the Beatles hit "She loves you" is reverberating through Elisabeth's door, and when keys tumble in the locks and the door opens, the volume is twice that of what it is in the hall. It smells like a bakery inside the apartment, and while Niklaus Zimmerman may be a hardened criminal and quite likely a sociopath, he is at least someone who knows how to channel their anxiety into more constructive endeavors.

The clunk of a pan comes from the island in the kitchen where a metal tray with a freshly risen loaf of cinnamon-raisin bread cools is just audible over the bespectacled Niklaus singing in German to an English pop song, femenine looking oven mitts covering his hands and a pop in his step.

"Du musst jetzt zu ihr gehen, Entschuldigst dich bei ihr!" Richard Cardinal's been in a lot of surreal situations, but this one is totally his fault.

It is, that's for certain, and Cardinal can't deny that it's his fault this time. Still, when you've been flying on a giant mechanical crab, you learn to roll with this sort of thing.

He's perched on a stool just across the breakfast bar, going through the latest files that he's laid his hands on - printouts, they look like - as the other man bakes. A bemused sort of look is slanted across the bar now and then, regarding the baking magnetokinetic and then shaking his head.

Then there's keys in the door, and he looks up, "Liz?"

The sound of music at that volume coming from her apartment is something of a surprise. Stepping inside brings still other surprises, like the incredible smell of cinnamon raisin bread. Oh dear God, it might be heaven. The blonde closes the door behind her, setting her keys on the small foyer table, and walks toward the breakfast bar. How the hell he heard anything over the volume of music blasting through the place is anyone's guess, but Elisabeth is more than a little amused. She stops behind the stool and slides an arm easily around Cardinal's shoulder, leaning up to kiss his cheek — proximity lets her mute out the ridiculously loud Beatles and say mildly, "Well… now you can't complain that I'm the only one trying to fatten you up."

From that casual pose, her crystal blue eyes slide over to the man making himself at home in her kitchen. Her gase is wary, assessing. Not welcoming, but not hostile either — at best, she's neutral for now. She's wearing the all-black cargo pants and short-sleeved T-shirt that serve as "assassin casual" (AKA FRONTLINE everyday wear) over at the base, her hair loose from the braid she customarily wears in uniform these days. Her hair's getting long enough to force her to actually pin it up, recovering from the forced cut that was required after being shot in the head. "So this is him?"

Squinting at the stereo, there's a warping noise of the speakers distorting and then the volume quickly lowers as the metallic internal components are manipulated. Offering a dip of his head and a smile to Elisabeth, Niklaus steps out from around the island and offers out a hand towards the blonde. "Guten morgen, Elisabeth. It's a pleasure to meet you finally, Richard speaks very highly of you. Your generosity in accomodations is highly appreciated." It most certainly is a step up from a hospital bed with a tube shoved up his nose.

"I apologize if I was a bit forward with my appropriation of your kitchen, fraulein." Niklaus' lips creep up into a hesitant smile. "But I assure you that when the crullers are done you will forget any misjudgement on my behalf. I hand made the sugar glaze."

"He did, too," Cardinal observes in wry tones as he leans back, his head tilting to accept that kiss to his cheek, one arm reaching out to loosely drape itself around Elisabeth's waist, "It's amazing, really. I'm starting to wonder if he's your long-lost brother or something, actually, it's almost like watching you cook. You'll probably want to exchange recipes or something…"

A gesture, "Niklaus Zimmerman, Elisabeth Harrison."

Reaching out to take the proffered hand, Elisabeth offers a smile at Niklaus. "Herr Zimmerman, please by all means feel free to make use of the kitchen as you see fit." The only time she gets to use it lately is either when she's stress-baking or the occasional nights home for dinner. She nudges Cardinal with her hip when he taunts her about the baking thing. "Cooking is a simple method to keep your hands and mind busy when everything else is out of control," she retorts good-naturedly. It's clearly a tease that's happened before between them.

"I look forward to the crullers, Herr," Liz offers easily. And then she glances at Cardinal. "So… fill me in? This sounds like an entertaining story." She doesn't seem inclined to remove herself from that casual arm around her waist.

There's something of a mild look to Elisabeth from Niklaus, but it accompanies a subtle nod of his head as he turns back to the kitchen, picking up a towel on his way and obsessively wiping off his hands and fingers. "It is not as amusing a story as you would think, in fact it is quite depressing." Throwing the towel down onto the counter, Zimmerman makes his way over to the stove, pulling the front open and making sure he's taken everything out, then turn shis attention to the oil boiling in a pan on the stovetop and over to the freshly twisted cruller dough laying on wax paper beside.

"I appreciate your hospitality, but I do have personal obligations that must be fulfilled." A hand is lifted up, and a low resonant hum vibrates thorugh the kitchen as a pair of metal tongs rattle off of a hook and fly to Niklaus' hand. "Eventually, I am going to need to leave, und by then I would hope you have brought me this… mystery sister."

Turning his attention back to cooking, Niklaus picks up the rolled dough with the tongs and dips it down into the boiling cooking oil with a sizzling pop. At this rate Cardinal is going to die of congestive heart failure.

"We were running recon on the building, and Messiah decided to crash the party… fortunately, Gabriel trusts me enough to assume that that I know what I'm doing, and gave us a way out," Cardinal says with a slow shake of his head at Elisabeth's words, explaining, "We pretty much got out've it by the skin of our teeth. Varlane was there too, he gave us some backup slowing down the others."

A frown's swept back across the breakfast bar, considering the stove, "This wasn't even one of the black budget groups like the Institute, and they were still keeping Evolved in medicated comas there. I hope some of the others got out; we couldn't afford to stop for them too."

He pauses for a moment, noting, "It's a pretty dangerous world to be going it alone in, Niklaus. And there's a lot more money that can be made outside of the occasional bank job — trust me…" A rueful chuckle, "I spent a few years in Riker's for burglary myself, I know the difference. We could probably help you with those debts of yours."

Elisabeth's ease is only skin-deep at this juncture, truth be told. The hand Cardinal has at her waist will be able to discern easily the tension that has her muscles taut. Zimmerman is a stranger, he's possibly psychopathic, and he's been allowed into the one place that she considers 'safe'. It's a little stressful. But she keeps her voice and her expression carefully laid back and easygoing in spite of the slight jump when utensils come flying off the wall.

As she listens to the explanation, Liz is considering what's being said. "To whom do you owe money?" she wonders, though it's not really her business. Her attention then shifts to the situation at hand. "So…. you told me you had a recon run, and we all know how often those actually turn out to be recon with us," she says in a wry tone. Anyone remember the fucking Russians? "So I can see where it went south fast enough — Herr Zimmerman is the one you were sent in there to look for?" she queries Cardinal. "And to what end?" Because he hasn't really told her much up to now.

She does glance at Niklaus, though, and add, "And I've left a message for your sister. She'll be here as soon as her gatekeeper personality sees fit."

"Fucking Russians," Niklaus mimes Eliabeth's tone of voice with a lopsided smile, watching the cruller fry int he oil. "Russian mafia, specifically Oscar Tselikova. I owe six-hundred and eighty-thousand Euros." Niklaus' brows furrow together, shoulders hunching forward as he turns the cruller over int he pan, then looks back over his shoulder to Elisabeth and Cardinal.

"You have spoken of something twice now in my presence, and I am unfamiliar. This, ah, Messiah? I know whom it was with that red scarf, the one who helped us escape, and he is the man from the television, this much I know. But you speak of them as if they are not cooperative people with you. If you were there to rescue me from my captivity…"

There's a prolonged pause as Niklaus pulls the first sizzling hot cruller out from the oil and lays it down on a paper-towel covered cookie sheet. "What were they there for?"

"That's… workable," Cardinal admits, one hand raising up to scratch against his chin contemplatively, "That's not a completely unworkable amount of a debt, and I have some people I can talk to about it, if you're interested." Of course, such help almost certainly comes with a price.

"Messiah is… complicated." His chin rests down against his hand in a slouch against the bar, his brow furrowing, "We were both trying to get you out, honestly, I'm sure. We're technically allies, in that we're both working towards roughly the same goals and ee're on good terms with most of their operatives - we've worked together in the past. The complicated part comes in that we disagree on methodology and strategy - they favor the brute force approach, whereas I'm a proponent of a bit more finesse - but also I have reason to believe their leader is actually mind controlling them into working for him."

Wryly, he notes, "I don't think Niki would've appreciated it if I let her brother be brainwashed."

Leaning back, his hands slide on the bar's surface, glancing back to Liz, "If Kershner knew about him, it's only a matter of time before the Institute finds out, too. I wasn't about to just let them walk in and transfer him out of there."

"I'm not sure Niki's appreciation is the biggest factor here. It's Jessica you better worry about. She still hasn't been convinced that Tracy is her sister, much less the woman I saw the picture of in California." Elisabeth takes up where Cardinal left off. "There are a great many details that we're going to need to get you up to speed on, I'm sure, but at this moment my primary question is why you are so important that we'd be sent to spring you. Either you know something or there's something in your genetics that make you in particular of interest to the Institute — or so I would assume."

"I prefer to settle my debts myself," Niklaus admits in a reluctant tone of voice as he dips the next uncooked cruller into the boiling oil. "Otherwise I am often finding my debts increasing in size. I will work, for payment but I will not accept favors from people, even if they seem genuine enough. I have lived long enough to lose my sense of trust as well as my sense of security, mister Cardinal."

Turning to look away from the pan as the cruller inside sizzles, Niklaus' brows crease together in a furrow. "You still have not explained to me why you care who I am, aside that you know who my father is and who my sister… sisters, are." There's still some hint of dubious tone there. "I will believe the latter part as I see it."

Shrugging, Niklaus glances back to the stove. "I do not know why I am wanted by anyone, and if the Institute wanted me they would have just as easily been able to take me. I worked for them, some time now… perhaps you were not told?" A look exchanges from Cardinal to Liz from the German. "They had me robbing cryonics labs in Europe and the states, searching for frozen heads. They paid well. I do not think they wanted me for anything, other than mein talents."

There is an ever-so-subtle kick against the side of Elisabeth's shin on their side of the breakfast bar, although Cardinal's expression never changes to hint at the motion.

"Fair enough," he admits with a tilt of his head towards Niklaus, "I doubt you'd believe that part of it is… altruistic. Either that, or you'd think me a fool for it." One hand lifts off the counter, scratching at the unshaven scruff upon his chin in a rasp of short nails, "I care because of who your father is, Niklaus, for one thing. In the hands of the Institute, you could be leverage against him. Your ability would be extremely useful to them, too. I'm in the habit of depriving my enemies of their weapons and tools as much as possible."

"And it hasn't escaped my notice that you'd also be extremely helpful when it comes time to rip into their facilities and get my people out. Aside from an audiokinetic, I'm short on elementalists at the moment, and people like you are unmatched when it comes to causing some real havoc. Not to mention your experience in such matters."

Liz wasn't told exactly what was up with this guy. All Cardinal had said was that there was recon to be done and a man who needed to be sprung, but Liz was standing in the middle of FRONTLINE territory and couldn't exactly be filled entirely in via phone. Her eyebrows go upward. "Really." It's all she says as she assimilates this information into her schema and doesn't give away that she just got nudged under the counter. "Interesting." She slants a brief glance at the man who has his arm around her waist, and she purses her lips slightly. "Apparently I've been out of the loop longer than I realized; my apologies, Herr Zimmerman." And she clams up, merely peeking at the cruller that he pulled out of the oil recently.

"The havoc I am capable of causing is something Interpol could tell you of, yes…" Niklaus quietly pulls the next crullet out of the oil, laying it down beside the first and picking up another to dip down into the boiling pan. "What I do is not entirely magnetics," the German notes with a raise of his brows. "It is fine electromagnetic manipulation. The Company tried to come for me once, in Paris… they say the EMP I released covered a nine city block area." Snorting out a laugh, Niklaus looks over his shoulder to Cardinal. "That was not even trying."

There's something in Niklaus' voice that implies he enjoyed that as well, the smile and the crease of wrinkles at the corner of his mouth showing his age a little bit beter now. "I owe you a favor, for saving me from that unfortunate circumstance, but after this… I will work on a strictly contractual nature, you understand?" There's a look from the fried dough to Cardinal, then Liz and back to Cardinal. "I do not mean to be rude, only pragmatic."

Oh, the hidden message in those words sings loud and clear to Cardinal's ears, and he inwardly winces. Yeah, he's going to get chewed out for this one, but he probably deserves it. Still, better to get yelled at by his lover than risk someone overhearing something over a probably secure line.

"I used to make a living as a burglar, Niklaus," he observes in wry tones, "I know how the game's played… and I understand entirely. I'm more than happy to ensure you proper payment for your services; god knows we've had enough trouble with the Russians as it is. They don't tend to let a grudge go."

There's a faint smile as Niklaus lays out his terms. Those, at least, Elisabeth understands. And she can identify with the idea of really enjoying being able to create widescale destruction. Some part of her thoroughly and absolutely loved smashing the Pinehearst building into little shards of glass. Glancing at the man at the stove, Liz considers and then asks, "Out of curiosity… what were you actually being held for?" Because he was 'liberated' from a government facility, after all. "Not that it matters much, I just wondered what pretense they used for bringing you in."

"Armed robbery, I presume?" Niklaus notes with a little giggle at the end of his words, pulling the second to last cruller out of the oil and adding the last down in. "I was breaking into a cryonics lab in Nevada when I found myself surrounded by federal agents. Presumably they had figured out my pattern or… any number of mis-steps on my behalf. Normally this would not have been a problem, but they were aware of who they were dealing with and minimized the presence of ferrous metals…"

Grimacing, Niklaus tilts his head to the side. "Rubber bullets hurt," he admits with a wave of his hands. "I was apprehended and sedated… then the next thing I remember is awakening in that building you found me in. I can only imagine that they were waiting on extradition so that I could be send back overseas for trial for what I'd done."

Eyeing the cruller sizzling away, Niklaus' brows furrow. "They will not be so lucky next time."

"I doubt you ever would've made it to extradition…" Cardinal scratches under his chin a bit, grimacing, "…more severed heads? Were you working for the Institute still, then?"

Leaning on the counter next to Cardinal, listening more intently now, Elisabeth considers. "Sounds more to me like you were set up, if you were still working the cryonics angle," she observes mildly. "Someone had to know exactly when you'd be where." She reaches out for the first cruller that came out of the pan — it should be cool enough to pick at now — and drops the warm fried dough on the countertop in front of her with a hiss of breath. She was wrong. It's still hotter than the sun.

"Da," Niklaus notes as he pulls the final cruller out of the oil, smiling fondly as he lays it down on the stove, then smacks the back of Elisabeth's hand with his free hand as she reaches for one of the cooling crullers. "I have not even done the icing yet," comes thorugh clenched teeth and a furrowed brow. Niklaus is very serious about his confectionates.

Breathing in a slow, claming breath, the German turns to look back at Cardinal with a warning glance to Elisabeth. It's hard to tell if he's being totally serious or just has a great poker-face.

"The Institute was the ones whom wished for me to retrieve the heads. There were four at this lab, it was the first American laboratory I had hit, and, as it would seem the last. After my capture I doubt that they wish to work with me any further… liability, and the like."

As the german's hand smacks down against his lover's, Cardinal can't help a grin - remembering, perhaps, Liz's own protectiveness of her culinary experimentation. The grin fades for a more serious expression then as he leans forward against folded arms on the counter, asking of the other man, "Were you under an alias when you were working with them, or did they know you by your full name?"

A moment, and he adds, "And do you have the address of this lab?"

Ow! Elisabeth looks suitably chastened and lets him have the cruller back. With a little pout and a batting of blue eyes at him. "They smell divine, though… I couldn't resist!" Of course she couldn't — they're that good! "And again, it sounds to me like someone over here wanted … better access to your abilities or your knowledge. Or just to you personally, perhaps to lean on your father," she comments. "This being your first American job, let me point out that…. well, we have good law enforcement, but no one is that good without a tip ahead of time to know that a job's going down." She'd know.

"You are the only people to know my real name," Niklaus points out with a raise of his brows, "I have made it a point to never go by any recognizable alias or derivative of my natural name. The Institute knew me simple as the German." Turning off the heat to the pan, Niklaus seems content for now to leave his baking as-is and get to work on the icing later, perhaps just to teach Elisabeth a lesson in patience as well, that sounds decidedly German of him.

Turning to lean on the kitchen side of the island that Cardinal is seated at, Niklaus' brows furrow. "The lab was in Laughlin, Nevada. Cryosphere Incorporated. Old company, from my research, started their cryonics work in the 80s…" there's a pause, and Niklaus' brows furrow. "Actually, most of the companies I hit were old. No newer research or containment facilities."

"They must have found out," Cardinal observes with a frown, his brow furrowing in fine lines, "The bed that you were being kept in, the clip-board had your full name on it. I'd wager a thousand to one that's exactly why you were picked up… they discovered that you weren't only a useful resource, but someone they'd been looking for."

He tips a hand towards him, suggesting, "Can you take it as even if I pick up some new identity documentation? No debt, just me taking an extra step to keep you from falling into their hands."

That just basically feeds into Liz's thought that they knew exactly who they were after and where he'd be. But she doesn't comment on it again. Instead, she walks around the island to put a pot of coffee on — without touching Niklaus's baking!! — and helps herself to a blueberry muffin frozen in the freezer to pop into the microwave. She hasn't eaten since this morning and the cinnamon raisin bread and the crullers are making her stomach growl. There's a mental note that the frozen casseroles are about gone and the baked goods are down to almost nothing as well, but she hasn't had the time lately to cook a whole lot.

"Fair enough," Niklaus admits with a shrug of his shoulders, "it would be best to have papers for traveling here. I have heard on the television about the curfew in the city and the amount of law-enforcement, I would like to go without incident as long as— " The sound of a loud knock against Elisabeth's apartment door comes with a look of Niklaus' eyes to both of his hosts, brows creased together.

"UPS, I got a package for Lamont Cranston?" echoes thorugh the door, followed by another few knocks. Nodding his head, Niklaus knows when he's not needed to be seen, and stepping around Elisabeth he looks to be headed to stand just out of sight in the kitchen near the refrigerator, but then pauses and whispers to Liz. "The bread is done, help yourself," in a delighted tone before moving out of direct line of sight from the doorway.

As there's a sharp knock at the door, Cardinal looks up from his conversation… and his brow furrows slightly. The call through the door only deepens the lines acros shis forehead, and he pushes himself up to his feet, moving to step around the counter and heading for the door proper. A look through the peep-hole's taken, and if there's no sign of anyone that looks particularly threatening, he'll open the door.

"Yes…?"

Elisabeth slants the German man a look that's part amused smirk and part annoyed woman — cuz yes, she knows she's been played! — but the knock on the door has her complete attention, too. A frown creases her brows. The only person she knows of who really uses the Cranston alias is Sarisa Kershner. But it's testament to her paranoia… or perhaps to the past few months of her life… that Liz's response is a bit more militant.

She's armed because she can be and she doesn't go through the city without a firearm. The inner-pants holster is all but invisible against the black on black of her 'uniform', but there is suddenly a nasty-looking pistol in her hands as she stands in the kitchen just out of sight of the door. If it is UPS, they won't see her. If it's not, Cardinal will go shadow and Liz will simply step around the corner and start shooting. Simple, and done with an economy of motion that may give away to the German just how comfortable she is with this line of work.

The chocolate brown uniform of a UPS serviceman is entirely innocuous, as is the manilla folder the is held up. "Mister Cranston?" The deliveryman asks with a momentary look into the apartment before turning around the digital signing pad. "Just sign here, and you're all set," he rather simply explains on handing over the parcel.

From his vantage point, the German watches all of this with brows raised, glasses gleaming in reflection of the ambient light. The UPS delivery man seems wholly normal, from his sleight stature and slender build and round, young face. What isn't ordinary is the return address that Cardinal can see on the envelope as its handed out to him.

MIT Building 36, 50 Vassar St., Cambridge MA, 02139-4307.

Watching Elisabeth's gun drawn and posture, he can't help but smile. Crossing his arms over his chest, the German watches to see just how this plays out, because right now he's liking how this pair operates.

"That's me." The pad's taken, and Cardinal's gaze trails down it… and his eyes pause on the return address, his heart pausing for half a beat. Then slowly he scrawls his fake, practiced signature and hands it over, reaching to accept the envelope. "Thanks." It's oddly flat.

The door's closed behind the worker, locks turned slowly before he steps back towards the counter without a word, sliding to sit on the stool. "This is… impossible," he murmurs as he stares at the envelope in his hands, "It was mailed out yesterday. He's still in custody… maybe he left someone behind with instructions— fuck it." The mental conflict's resolved as he tears the envelope open.

As soon as the door is closed and the locks reset, the pistol is gone from Elisabeth's hand as quickly as it appeared. She walks around the island, an eyebrow raised in query, but she stops with one hand on the high counter. "What is it?" she asks quietly, her tone carefully neutral in its modulation.

Then the envelope is torn open, the first thing Cardinal notices is that it is full of strings, loose and tangled strings. Some of them are yarn, others are twined thread, some are tiny little lengths of chain or colorful ribbon, each one unique. Photographs, newspaper clippings, plastic baggies and all sorts of odds and ends are everywhere within the manilla folder, just like the contents of the Slush-O stand on Coney Island, but crammed down into a single envelope.

Notably, however, there is a single sheet of paper with an MIT letterhead, the only full-sized document in the entire jumbled mess, behind that is a folded piece of paper that looks like stereo instructions on how bracket "A" fits into socket "B", and right then Cardinal notices all of the little scraps of paper and baggies are itemized with numbers and letters.

This is going to be a nightmare.

"Did you win anything nice?" The German notes with a broad smile, leaning to the side as he steps up behind Elisabeth to peer over her shoulder and past her to Cardinal. "Perhaps a cruise?" His sarcasm is considerable.

The tangle of strings is regarded for long moments with an unreadable expression; somewhere between anxious and excited and terrified, all at once. The tips of Cardinal's fingers close around the piece of paper, and he pulls it slowly from the envelope, shaking off a clinging string, and he unfolds the letter to read through it without a word to either of them until he's through."

A sigh spills from his lips, then, and he folds the top half over, his eyes closing. "No, no cruise," he replies in quiet, wry tones, one hand coming up to rub against his forehead, "I've already had my cruise, with a friend that I've failed twice now. We're going to need a very big basement, Liz. I've got a lot of work to do."

Niklaus's presence at her back makes Elisabeth sidle sideways — he's a man she doesn't know, doesn't exactly trust, and he's in her space. It's too close. Enough to make her uneasy. She moves forward to take the letter from Cardinal if he allows so as to see what's been said in it. "Antarctica's not a cruise," she retorts in a deceptively casual tone.

Smiling faintly, Niklaus looks back and forth between Cardinal and Elisabeth, turns towards the kitchen with a shrug of his shoulders. "I will make my icing then," he says with a flippant wave of one hand, "there is nothing that a freshly iced cruller cannot solve, and if there is it is likely something that need be shot in the back of the head."

With that cheerful assessment made, Niklaus begins rooting through cabinets for sugar, leaving Cardinal sifting through the envelope's myriad contents. Something he finds in his finger-shifting search stands out, however, a small color photograph of a man with round, wire-framed glasses sitting with his back slouched up against a concrete wall. At the bottom of the picture is written in red wax pencil: Niklaus Zimmerman and on the back Kill by November 8, 2010

No, Richard Cardinal didn't win anything.

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