...and Charybdis


hull2_icon.gif richard5_icon.gif

Scene Title …and Charybdis
Synopsis Richard meets up with the hacker Scylla.
Date April 7, 2021

There’s a list that doesn’t exist anywhere except within Richard Ray’s mind, a list of things that need to be taken care of before he leaves the timeline. Secrets that will need to be passed on, matters that need to be seen to, responsibilities to assign others to.

He’d just finished sending off the orders for Noel’s continued security detail and setting up a trust fund for her, and he was going over the list as he leaned back in his office chair, turning it to look out over the slowly-changing view of Raytech’s campus beneath the morning sky. When he’d first looked out the window, he’d only seen ruins.

Now, he saw the potential of a brighter future, a future that was in danger.

But it wasn’t the first time someone named Ray had taken a leap of faith through space and time to change what was coming. This was the anniversary of one of those days.

His gaze shifted from the view to his phone, and his thumb tapped over the keyboard as he brought up the email program.

To: Scylla
From: RedKing
Subj: Transceiver

Have important information for you. Respond ASAP.`

It’s communication like this that reminds Richard that not all technopaths have the presence of S.Attva. From the time he sends that email nearly the entire day goes by in a blur of meetings, the sun tracking its way across the sky, and the weather turning from sunny to rainy as the day grew long. Sometime just shy of happy hour his phone buzzes with a reply.

From: Scylla
To: RedKing
Subj: Re: Transceiver
Hey, sorry, just got into a place with internet. If this is about where Transceiver’s been I don’t know either. He’s been MIA since the hit on Praxis, but that isn’t too weird. Not a lot of internet access points out west.

I don’t know how much help I’ll be, I haven’t headed back yet. Is everything okay?

It isn’t as if Richard doesn’t have plenty to do, of course; there were many things that needed preparation before the mission, not to mention all the usual day-to-day business that needed handling. There was even time for lunch with his kids, while his wife was at work.

There’s a scotch in his hand when the reply comes through, and he’s swift to send off a return response.

To: Scylla
From: RedKing
Subj: Re: Re: Transceiver

No problem. It’s not an immediate issue, but I’m going on an operation soon that’s risky. I have information about him that someone who cares about him needs to know, in case things go south.
It’s stuff that one day he’ll need to know. When he’s ready to know it.

The time between Richard’s response and Scylla’s is far shorter this time.

To: Red King
From: Scylla
Subj: Re: Re: Re: Transceiver

Lay it on me, I’ll make sure he finds it. BTDubs there might be some shit brewing back west. I managed to get a line out to the Guardians and Cyrus has been MIA for like 6 months. Heard some folks say there was some shit going on over the other side of the mountains, too. East Washington, Militia territory.

I’m in the Safe Zone right now. Are you in Detroit or something? We should talk.

Not wanting to lose her while he’s got her, Richard taps out his response promptly upon receipt.

To: Scylla
From: RedKing
Subj: Re: Re: Re: Re: Transceiver

I’m in the Zone. We could meet up if you wanted to?
That’s worrying news, re: Cyrus. He tends to turn up in the weirdest places, though; hell, he was in the Zone just last year, got in the middle of some complicated shit. Hopefully he pops up sooner rather than later.

To: Red King
From: Scylla
Subj: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Transceiver
Hah, yeah. Funny that.
Let’s meet at Dirty Pool in Sheepshead in an hour.
See you then.

Charming name for a bar, hopefully it isn’t a dive.

Dirty Pool
Sheepshead Bay

7:18 pm

It’s absolutely a dive.

That’s the first thing Richard is struck by when he enters the dimly-lit and sticker-adorned bar. The bar itself is full of patrons hunched on stool primarily drinking draft beers on tap. A jukebox busts out the best hits of the mid 2000’s because like someone who peaked in High School, a good chunk of the United States’ music taste atrophied about a decade ago.

A sharp whistle is the non-discreet attention grab that Clover Hull chooses to get Richard’s attention. She’s at a table by the front window, one hand raised and two fingers waving in the air. She already has a pint in front of her, one that’s halfway done.

It is a dive, and the part of Richard that still - and always - lives back on Staten Island relaxes a bit to find that out. He’s adapted to corporate life, but they say that you can take the criminal out of the neighborhood… but never the neighborhood out of the man.

He’s dressed in a t-shirt with a worn print logo on the front that’s essentially unreadable now and a pair of worn blue jeans, looking the part of the blue-collar worker as he walks into the bar. The whistle brings his attention over, and a smile finds his expression as he heads over. Pulling out the opposite chair, he drops down to sit.

“Haven’t seen you since that shit-show in Detroit. How’ve you been?”

“Not great.” Hull says, tipping back a swig of her beer. “Down in Providence for a while, fire caught up to us. Got sent away during the firefighting, heard there was a fuck ton of robots marching with the fire…” She says with a distant look in her eyes, lips downturned into a frown. “Been staying at my… friend Chess’ place in Red Hook for a bit.”

There’s clearly a time skip in there, but Hull doesn’t seem overly eager to delve into it. Blinking her attention up from her drink, she looks across the table to Richard. “So what’s got you all bent?”

“Christ. How many of those fucking things did Mayes have built? I didn’t think there were that many left,” Richard says with a grimace, one hand coming up to rub over his face, “And the government glares at me any time I even suggest making any serious defense technologies. Even after Detroit. What I wouldn’t give for Yamagato’s extraterritoriality.”

His chin dips in a nod, “I know Chess.” Slightly, at least. He doesn’t delve into the time skip - it’s not his business.

Leaning forward, he folds both arms on the table and gives her a serious look, “Anyway. Right. To business. Has April ever told you much about where she— came from?”

“Two robo-wrongs don’t make a robo-right,” Hull opines in a less than serious manner before taking a sip from her beer. She looks over the brim of her bottle for a moment, then down into it in thought. Whatever the reason, it feels as if it’s a question she takes seriously, especially when it comes to divulging just how much she knows.

“Sorta’.” Hull eventually answers. “She never told me directly, but Snoqualmie’s a small place and rumors spread fast. I know she was Ex-Company, lotta folks there were. But…” She sets down her beer. “I figure you’re talking about the whole from the future part, yeah? I’ve heard rumors, but I…” Hull shrugs. “I almost don’t wanna believe ‘em, y’know? Changes the whole fucking world. Claire always said they were true, she seemed pretty certain of it when I asked her. And… she wouldn’t bullshit me.”

Hull blinks a look up to Richard, wringing her hands around her beer. “What’s any of this got t’do with anything?”

“It all…” Richard makes a vague circling motion with a finger,

Ezekiel’s eyes are that of a madman, stolen from Cardinal’s friend. “Welcome to the new beginning, Richard.”

“…comes back around, trust me, I’m going somewhere. This has to do with Malice, the kid’s old mentor, but it’s— he’ll need to know one of these days.”

He smiles faintly, “The rumors’re true, although the future’s the past now. Once upon a time, the Company took over the entire country under the leadership of a prick named Arthur Petrelli. A lot of Evolved ended up in a black site prison in Moab… and then there was a jailbreak.”

“This is the anniversary, actually. April seventh, two thousand nineteen. Of course, it never happened from our point of view.”

Looking down at his hands, he explains, “They had someone who could travel through time, and they came back to change things. Malice was one of them. He was a technopath, had gotten killed but managed to hop into a computer before his consciousness went. Most technopaths can do that, by the way, in case you ever find yourself bleeding to death near a wi-fi signal.”

Life pro tips for technopaths.

As Richard talks, Hull slowly sits forward and sinks onto her elbows. She rolls her beer bottle between her palms, eyes tracking side to side as she considers everything Richard says. Her brows knit together, lips downturn into a frown, and she sighs.

“I heard he went by the name Robin Hood during the war,” Hull says of Reed’s mentor. “I wasn’t with the Guardians then, never knew him. But Reed talks about him like a father. I know he died trying to stop the nuke that hit Oregon. Everyone else’d given up and Reed—the way he says it he jumped from the targeting satellite directly to the nuke, tried to disarm it onboard.” Hull shrugs and spreads her hands. “Didn’t work out.”

Sighing, Hull blows an errant lock of dark hair from her face and looks up at Richard. “I always wondered if something happened while Reed was in the machine, like… if he’d go all Ghost in the Shell on it.” Her brows knit together, a smile threatens her lips, but then fades. “Our powers are really different. I dunno if it’d work the same for me. But—” She closes her eyes. “I guess immortality sounds… neat.”

Shaking off the dour mood, Hull pushes her beer aside and folds her hands in front of herself. “So was that what you wanted to tell him? About Robin Hood—Malice. About what he could be if—if something happened to him?”

“Yeah. Yeah, that sounds like him…” Richard grimaced a little, one hand coming up to rub against the nape of his neck, “He tried. Maybe things— would’ve gone worse if he hadn’t. No way of knowing.”

“Anyway. Malice came back to kill the people who fucked up his life. The people who killed him. Make sure his past self would have a happy life. He succeeded, grabbed a body, went off into the sunset.”

He dropped his hand again, shaking his head, “See, Malice’s— well, like you said, your powers are different, every technopath’s are. But what Malice could do— he could take over another technopath’s body. Hollow out their mind from the inside and make it theirs. Like a virus. Probably our best weapon against crazy technopaths, back in the day.”

“And Taylor Reed being in danger is the only thing that would have brought him back after he’d settled into a new body, because he was Reed.”

Hull isn’t even sure what to say to that. She exhales a sharp sigh through her nose and looks down at her beer. “Jesus,” is about the best she can muster. Her eyes scan from side to side and her dark brows crease together as the weight of that sort of power weighs on her conscience. When she looks up to Richard, it’s clear it’s scared her.

“I don’t think he knows.” Hull says, as if that were in doubt. “There’s no way he… would’ve kept something like that from me. So—so what do I even do with that?” She asks, shaking her head in disbelief. Her tone is a touch accusatory, as if she hadn’t wanted to be burdened with this kind of knowledge, but knows there’s no going back now. “How do you… even tell somebody that they’re some kind of—of—I don’t even know.”

She doesn’t want to say monster, but Richard can tell it was on the top of her tongue.

“Ideally, you don’t.” Richard motions a little with a wave of his hand as if to dismiss the idea, “If… it never comes up, it never has to come up. Reed came back specifically to make sure his younger self wouldn’t become– what he became.”

His head sinks briefly, eyes closing, “But… just in case he needs to know… someone else needs to know. I don’t think April would even think about it, and the two of us are the only ones left from that– “ A hesitation, and then he shakes his head, “That whole thing.”

Looking back up, he grimaces, “I’m sorry to put that weight on you, but– that information should be in the hands of someone who cares about the kid.”

“Do you think there’s any chance he might be able to do that without realizing it? The uh—body-snatcher thing.” Hull lowers her voice, wringing her hands around her beer again. “I mean—fuck, for my own sake, right?” It only dawns on her then that he might do it to her.

“If the kid’s got some doomsday power for technopaths tucked away and he, you know, panic-manifests it…” Hull sighs sharply and rakes a hand through her hair. “Is there *anyone* else who knows more?”

“Unless he dies, it shouldn’t come up,” observes Richard with a shake of his head, “So let’s just keep him from accidentally losing his body, neh?”

“He’s still just a kid, Hull. And he needs us, whatever his potential might be,” he says, gently stressing the fact, leaning forward on the table, “Don’t get scared of him or anything. That’s the last thing he needs. As for more– I don’t know, April might. I don’t know if her and Malice were close at all. The others are all dead, except the two of us.”

“April,” Hull murmurs, then nods. “Alright, I—I can ask around. Things have been weird since Cyrus and Candice disappeared. April’s been really guarded, everyone’s been…” She sighs, running her hands through her hair. “I told you on the phone, Reed hasn’t been in touch since the hit on Praxis. It could be no connections out there, or… I don’t know. I’m all the way out here and things are just—” She throws herself back in her seat, exhaling a sharp breath to blow an errant lock of hair out of her face.

“I don’t know when I’ll see him again,” Hull says, watching cars and a few people on horseback pass by the window at her side. “But… I’ll keep this all in mind when I do.”
“Hm.” Richard frowns a little, “So you– so there’s basically been nothing from the Guardians for awhile?” He taps a finger on the table, his own gaze following hers out the window, “Well. Shit. Maybe I should send someone out there to make contact, or something, before I go…”

“Not from leadership.” Hull says with a small shrug. “I get the impression I’m kind of on the outs after driving out here with Cyrus when I did. They needed me back home, and I just kind of…” She trails off and doesn’t finish the thought.

“I’ve talked to Levi and a few others, but Reed either didn’t want to talk or wasn’t there. I didn’t—actually ask.” Hull says with a rake of her fingers through her hair. “It’s not like—it’s not weird. He might be pissed at me for staying out here. For not going back home. We had an argument and… anyway. I’ll track him down. Cyrus… that’s another issue. Nobody’s seen him since the Praxis attack, and I’m worried. The last time he went to ground like this, well, he drove out here and did some stupid shit with me that got his ass arrested.” Hull says with a grimace. “So, if Cyrus is quiet? Something’s about to blow up somewhere.”

“Yes,” Richard remembers, one hand rubbing against his forehead, “I remember. And that little scene got Pines handed over to… who the fuck knows now, we still can’t find him. The key to like sixteen million things going on and he vanished into the custody of the least trustworthy old woman on the continent.”

But then, something clicks. “Where’re you going, anyway?” Hull asks with a tilt of her head.

Richard hesitates, then, vaguely motioning with a hand, “Somewhere– very far away. Hopefully I’ll come back. Our return contingencies are a bit slim to none, though.”

A casual way of admitting that he’s heading on a suicide mission.

Hull frowns in sympathy. She looks at her beer, having lost the taste for the rest of it. Outside, the rain has picked up and car headlights glisten across every surface. Hull unfocused her eyes, looking at her tired reflection in the bar window, then to Richard’s.

“Starting to hate the frequency they come up.” Hull admits quietly, picking at one of her nails in nervous thought. “Hey,” she says, speaking up. “Can I… ask you for a favor?”

“Speak now,” Richard quips in response, an eyebrow going upwards in query as she asks that, “Or forever hold your peace.”

He always was one for dark humor.

A lean forward against the table has him watching her face, adding, “I basically just asked you for one, after all, so it’s only fair.”

“I’m gonna do both,” Hull says as she slowly rises from her chair and pushes it out with the back of her legs. “Maybe it won’t matter, maybe it will. But… if you make it back from wherever you’re going, I’m gonna keep that favor tucked in my pocket.” She looks past Richard to the rain again. “Y’know, for another rainy day.”

Something is going on behind Hull’s eyes, but she isn’t one to open up about what it is. Instead, she gives Richard a small, tense nod and slides her jacket on and excuses herself to the rainy night street. Soon, she disappears into the downpour, leaving Richard with two things:

More questions and the tab.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License