Awkward Family Reunions


berlin_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title Awkward Family Reunions
Synopsis Richard and Berlin discuss her situation, their situation, and the origins of all.
Date November 15, 2018

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

Last time Berlin was in Raytech, it didn't end up being the best of meetings. And it's likely she wouldn't have tried again so soon without Avi's interference. Without the knowledge that fell into his lap. But she is here, visitor pass on and sitting in the conference room she's been escorted to. She's nervous, not because their first meeting didn't go well, but because he knows and she's not entirely sure what his reaction has been. She's nervous, but she does good work at covering it and looking bored instead as she leans with her elbow on the table and drums her fingers against the surface.

She’s not kept waiting long before the door to the conference room swings open to admit the executive himself. It might help her nerves if she realized how nervous he was, but unfortunately he’s had decades of experience now at hiding that sort of thing. The lack of sleep, though, he can’t really hide. It’s been a hell of a few months.

Just inside, Richard stops and closes the door behind himself, hesitating as he looks at her in her chair. “Alia,” he says then, “Stop all security recordings to this room, please.”

He walks to the table, hooking a chair with one foot and pulling it out before dropping himself into it, leaning back a bit and regarding her with a faint, rueful smile tugging up at the corner of his lips. “We can talk freely now. I don’t think we got off on the right foot last time. Sorry about that.”

Perhaps later, Berlin will teach Richard her makeup tips, because that is how the young woman is hiding her own weariness that seems to have stretched out over the last few months.

She straightens up when he enters, watching his expression and his hesitation like she has been expecting them. But when he speaks— that she was perhaps not expecting. "Me too. I wasn't the best interviewer that day." Odds are she hasn't improved, but then, she isn't here for that. "Avi said I should talk to you." The man's name is said with a mix of affection and annoyance that he seems to be an expert at inspiring. "But to tell you the truth, I'm not sure what to say." There's a sigh there, letting some of her guard down as she runs her hands back through her hair.

“I don’t either, to be honest,” admits Richard, bringing a hand up to scratch at the curve of his jaw, “So… well, I don’t know how much Pentacles told you, and obviously you didn’t get a good dossier when you first got sent over here, so I guess I can start with a proper introduction.”

He spreads his hands slightly, “Richard Ezekiel Cardinal Ray, ex-convict, ex-resistance leader; I’ve got credentials on file as both a CIA agent and with the Company, neither of which are strictly true but were occasionally useful back in the day. I spent most of the pre-war days as a primary intel and strategy source, which is why I was getting a little pissy that Wolfhound wasn’t telling me what they were up to.”

A shrug, “Also, I’m your second cousin, it turns out. Which makes sense.” A grin, “Nobody can piss someone off like family.”

Berlin seems to relax when he also admits his own uncertainty. And he's not wrong that she didn't know some of what he lists, but some she did, which is why her smile turns a bit wry. "Berlin Beckett, also known as Nathalie LeRoux, I hold two conduits, I was an orphan and ex-Institute lab rat. Which is why I panicked at our last meeting. I don't meet a lot of people who know what you know, and when I do, they're usually… not the good guys. So I think we can call that one even?" She nods when he mentions their connection, although she can't quite rise to a grin. Instead, she rises to her feet to pace a few feet back and forth.

"Avi told me that part. Showed me a picture of our mothers together. He told me she— claims he's my father. But he doesn't believe it." Her gaze drops— it isn't the first time someone hasn't wanted her, but it is the first time they said it to her face. She isn't sure yet if that made it better or worse. "He says I should trust you," she says, turning back to look at him again.

“Wait, he— “ Richard’s brow knits a little as he straightens up, “He has a picture? He didn’t tell me that…”

After a moment he shakes his head to brush away those cobwebs, leaning back and admitting, “Avi’s skeptical about everything, but he’s a good man, deep down. Just absolute shit with family. Don’t judge him too harshly there, he’s never done great with anything that looks like family before.”

“I like to think I’m one of the good guys,” he finally says, watching her, the smile turning a bit wan, “Some people disagree, and always have, but… I do what I can, what I need to, to try and make the world a little better. I owe it that much. Decide for yourself if you can trust me, though, don’t take his word for it. Trust shouldn’t be an easy thing.”

"He does now," Berlin says, hands spreading. "He's been digging, I think. It might have surfaced." But, they both know he could have had it in his back pocket all along, too. "Judging him comes and goes. He did try to be nice about it. In his way. If my mother was as maniacal as he says she is, I don't blame him for not taking it at face value. You know, rationally speaking." As opposed to emotionally, which is where it stings.

"Good and bad are complicated," she notes, "I don't expect anyone to be an angel." She nods, though, in understanding of his motivations. And that they seem to be on the same page as far as the trust issue goes. Enough that she sits back down. "I don't expect blanket trust, either. I know what I'm holding onto and I know it makes people… nervous. Rightfully nervous. I'm doing what I can to keep a handle on it. Them. All of them," she says with a wave of her hand behind her, as if the previous vessels might be in an orderly line behind her. "But I suspect that's only something that can be proven with time."

As she specifies rationally, Richard’s lips twitch up a bit at one corner in a rueful understanding. He knows that one well. “Sarisa… played games,” he admits, “I don’t think she never saw it all as anything other than a game, and that’s… well. That’s what bit her in the ass, in the end.”

He leans back forward, arms folding on the table’s edge as he watches her, admitting, “I’ve been rather… curious about that. I’m assuming the old man gave up the ghost in Antarctica, since you aren’t quoting Shakespeare at me. Is— he in there, somewhere? I don’t have a lot of experience with the Ahayu’da outside of the hosts I’m most familiar with, so I don’t know how that— works.”

"Someday, I might ask you about her. When it doesn't… feel so heavy." If a time like that ever comes. Berlin can't help but be curious about this woman, but she is still holding onto a hope that whatever paperwork there is to prove her lineage turns out to be faked or wrong somehow. Even if she knows rationally that it isn't likely to be the case.

"It isn't clear," she says, "when exactly it left him. Not to me. He's… yes, he's here. I don't know how it has been for others, but he isn't pressing on me the way some people think he would. Or should." Depending on who they are. "He's one of many. I get impressions or flashes of memory. Somethings feel familiar and routine that I never had any experience with. It has its upsides. But not… a lot." Her hands brush along the table while she tries to find her thoughts. A young girl with no one to confide in is somewhere inside Berlin, too. Even if she's not always sure which parts are really her. "Some things go back so far I can barely hold onto them. Volken— I'm not sure if he had a hold on it or if it has a hold on him. It can be hard to find where the lines are. And as far as I can tell, there isn't much difference between the two of them. Their effect on the world, sure, but them. The thing itself." She looks up at him, her head tilting and her brows furrowing. "I'm sorry. Did I answer your question?"

“Probably as well as you can. I’m sorry, I’m sure it’s weird as hell for you…” Richard rubs two fingers between his eyes, a rueful half-smile there, “Probably for the best that he’s not— awake like he used to be, in the previous hosts. I think he realized his mistake in the end. Which doesn’t explain what it is, the either of them…”

The smile fades, “Were you briefed at all on the Entity?”

“I’ve mostly gotten used to it. The passive parts, that’s been there since I was a kid. I hardly remember it being a different way. When the memories decide to pop up, that’s very weird, yeah.” Berlin smiles back at him, just a hint at the corner of her mouth. “Yes, I have to agree that it’s better that he’s… dormant. Pretty firmly dormant. His daughter tried to draw him out.”

That’s how she’ll describe that encounter.

“The— no,” she says at his question, her head tilted. Curiosity and worry together. “I haven’t heard that name you gave them, either. Ahayu’da?”

“I tried to spread the word, I made sure to invite some of Wolfhound’s agents to the briefing…” Richard grimaces briefly, “Maybe they haven’t taken me seriously. I don’t know.”

He leans back in the chair again, drawing in a breath briefly and exhaling it in a slow sigh before he explains, “If you delve into mythology, you can find parallels to certain factual things about us, about our abilities, our history— snippets and pieces lost in narrative. Not so long ago I was searching for a precognitive painter, and found some things…”

A phone’s pulled from his jacket, and he brings up a picture of a painting. A stylized black and red serpent, curving in an S-shape with two wings left and two right. Like a half-helix. “This is Kolowisi, the Guardian of the Water. This symbol shows up… time and time again in regard to the Evolved, and nobody seems to know why. It’s like we recognize it instinctively and use it…”

Thumb slides to the next picture. It depicts a vibrant eclipse of gold leaf paint on a field of black. On either side of the eclipse are two golden humanoid silhouettes with their arms raised over their heads. The entire painting is highly stylized with sharp lines and delicate curves, traditional in the Zuni art style. “Awonawilona, the sun, creator of all things. Those are the warrior twins of the creator, the Ahayu’da.” Flick. A stylized warrior figure in black on beige, filled with diamond-shaped whorls. “Ahaiyuta, and…” Flick. Another figure, the color scheme reversed. “Matsailema.”

“The Zuni and Japanese are believed by some researchers to have strong ties; Buddhist monks in the fourteenth century may have reached them. Japan moved on, however, and a great deal of myth and history was muddled, while the Zuni remained fairly isolated… “ He taps a finger on the phone, “I believe that these myths are about what we call the Conduits, and the Entity.”

There's no comment as to how seriously Wolfhound's leadership is or isn't taking anything. Mostly because she doesn't know and could never predict Hana's feelings on these sorts of things.

Also, she did distract them for a bit. That she also leaves unspoken.

But as he explains, she listens. And nods. It makes sense that some of the expressives in the past would hide behind myth and legend, that people seeing abilities would try to explain them away. People were still doing that not too long ago, even if they had changed the explanation. She leans in to look at the paintings, pulling out her own phone to make notes. Just as diligently as she would if they weren't talking about legends. She has good reason to be interested, after all. But at the end, she leans back again and looks at him, eyes wider, expression failing at remaining stony. "The creator of all things and her warrior twins? The Entity and the Conduits. Okay. I'm following." Following, but with concern. "What's— Why're they— What's the real world parallel for this creator deity?"

“It…” Richard grimaces, “The Company, you know about them, they found something they couldn’t handle. It was back in the… eighties, we can’t pin down a specific date. Adam Monroe claimed it was the first of us, the one from which we all came. It could manipulate genetics like you or I could write on a piece of paper, create and take away abilities and worse. It had telepathic abilities, it was memetic— I don’t even think it had a body. It moved from person to person, host to host, much like…” A motion of his hand towards her, “But with greater purpose and intent.”

“Monroe also said it was the devil.”

At first, there is a long stretch of silence. The worst meme ever, this entity. But eventually, she blinks and refocuses on Richard. “Yvette Volken said they had their messiah. That’s the word she used, messiah.” If they had this creator being in place of her conduits… “Oh this is bad. And it’s, what? A thought virus?”

And the mention of Adam doesn’t help Berlin settle any; in fact, his name makes her visibly agitated. “If it’s the devil, he could be looking to make a deal with it. If you’re obsessed with wiping out the non-expressive, there is a good option there. Sure, you could kill them, or you can give them abilities, too.” There’s a puzzle there that she needs to find all the pieces to before she can even start to solve it. “He wants me to join him. Or, well. He wants the conduits to join him.” It’s a fine distinction, but an important one to her.

Yvette Volken?” Richard looks startled, “Christ, she’s alive, and… in the States? Fuck. The Vanguard is on the move, I’m going to need to update their threat assessment… how could…” A frown as he looks to the side, then back to her, “They probably mean Eileen. The one from another timeline. She brought a different black conduit back with her.”

“Adam…” He drums his fingers on the table, “We know that he took the Entity’s side the first time, or I believe he did. The information I have there is— fragmentary. They had to wipe their memories of the incident, and unless I can find Caspar Abraham, there’s just breadcrumbs to go by. Adam wanting you— that makes sense, and strengthens my theory about the mythological tie. If it was the first, the conduits may have been the second.”

"Yes, his daughter," Berlin says, but it's only a few beats later that she realizes that her words were unclear earlier. "She's with Sharrow. And obviously they have eyes and intel, because they found me. I wouldn't be surprised to find them in our backyard, not just in the States." She shakes her head, though, as if trying to process. It's a lot, really. "I don't think it's Eileen. I know about her conduit, but she purged Volken from it. He's not there for them to bring out in her. I can— tell." An ugh nearly follows her words, because she isn't a huge fan of accepting facts without proof herself, and while the odd sense she and Eileen have of each other is proof to her, she knows it sounds more like mysticism than evidence.

"He's going after the Institute leftovers. He showed me some project files, things they did to him." Her eyes close for a long moment, her fingers raking back through her hair. "Talk to Avi. Wolfhound is making a move on him."

“If they’re throwing in with Adam, we’re really in a lot of trouble…” The man’s lips purse briefly, and then he’s giving her a curious look, “Really, did he? Was it Project Hydra? That one was going on since World War II… the last iteration, as far as I know, was meant to immunize people against the Entity’s ability to control genetics. I guess the idea is that your cells would revert to their original form after she used her power, or something, I’m— not a scientist.”

Richard nods a little, “I’ll talk to Avi. I think they might be getting in a bit deep if they’re acting this soon, but— maybe they know more than I do.”

"Yeah. Hydra. I passed those up the chain, so that would also be a good reason to talk to Avi. They were prodding at Monroe, at how his ability works. His cells work like a virus. Making other people more like him, I guess. So maybe… whatever they were trying to create, they created in him. Or from him." Berlin sets her phone down, because there are just some things she doesn't need to take notes on to remember.

"What? Oh, no sorry," she says, with a sheepish laugh escaping on an exhale, "I'm tripping over myself. On Abraham. We were able to find a last known location on him. Monroe is, of course, on our plate, but we're just getting started."

“Okay.” Richard’s hands are both over his face now as he leans back in his chair, eyes closing behind the spread of his fingers, “We… all really need to work on intel-sharing, I can see. Abraham isn’t going to lead you to Monroe, but— well. I need to get to him, he may still recognize my authorization. It might make your job a lot easier if he did, since you won’t have to taze him or anything.”

Berlin can’t help it, his first words bring out a laugh. Just a little one, but definitely present. “Oh my god, that must drive you crazy.” Scattered intel. Things coming in bits and pieces. “I don’t think he’s a direct link to Monroe, no. But to other Institute people? That’s more likely. But that’s not my op. I can’t confirm any of the details for you, unfortunately. And I’m sort of benched for the moment, so I’m not sure my word would get you in. But I can try. At least to get you face to face if they’ve already picked him up.”

Her smile returns at his last words— his company built their weapons after all. “I mean, it isn’t tazing, really.”

“You have no idea,” Richard admits ruefully, shaking his head, “It drives me goddamn nuts. I’ll talk to— well, I guess I’ll talk to Avi again. I’m going to have to tie him to a chair at this rate, although I may need to do that anyway to make him talk to his goddamn daughter.”

He probably doesn’t mean Berlin.

Then he crooks a brow, “So what do you want me to call you, anyway? You’ve got two names, and all.”

“Buy him some whiskey. I think he needs it. And it might make cornering him a little easier.” It’s a tease, mostly. Although there is little doubt the Commander needs a drink pretty much any time these days. Berlin tries not to react to the mention of Avi’s actual daughter, just a glance downward as she picks her phone up again. But the dip in her mood is hard to miss, especially as she goes on.

“I’m sticking with Berlin for now. I think,” she says, sighing gently, “I’m not sure I want to take on Sarisa’s name just yet. Or ever.”

“If there’s anyone who understands that particular dilemma… it’s me,” admits Richard, “I was Cardinal for a long time before I came to terms with my adoptive father, took his name… anyway, anyway.” He waves a hand vaguely, “I was telling you about the Entity. Sorry. Wandered.”

His nose wrinkles, “Anyway, they managed to— trap it, somehow. They banished it into the void between superstrings, between one possibility and the next. And it worked, at least until recently. Now it seems like it’s scratching at the walls of its prison, and— “

Eyes roll to look upwards, “Well. You’ve seen the aurora.”

Berlin’s expression softens when he explains his own complicated name history, and she nods— not something too many people have to deal with, but it’s good someone understands.

“Right. Briefing.” She doesn’t quite get her professional face back on, but she is more serious as he goes on. “I did see the lights. That’s our creator’s doing? Not helped, I guess, by the people who already found their way through the dimensional… wall.” That’ll do, even if it isn’t entirely accurate. “But we don’t want it coming through, because it isn’t exactly a loving mother. But maybe Monroe is working with it. And also, the more we know about it the more powerful it gets.”

A beat.

“Seems like we’re going to be busy.”

At those last words, Richard can’t help but grin, even if there’s no real humor in it. Yeah, they’re related.

“Seems so. There might be some answers in those things inside your head, but fuck if I have any idea how to access that information without it getting dangerous,” he admits, “Let me know if anything pops up, though. Right now, we know that Adam wants you— wants them— so that’s a start. Next step is going to be finding Abraham and Monroe, and getting some more answers…”

A beat of his own.

“And hopefully keep the eschaton at bay.”

“I’m working on that. Getting them to talk to me,” Berlin says, although that’s not the part that makes it the most difficult, “without Volken getting any ideas.” She likes being the one in the driver’s seat. “I will let you know if anything useful comes out of it. Anything actionable.” That’s the trick, finding something they can work with. The dreams she has of burning at the stake and memories of people coming for her with bats are less helpful. “Be careful if you start seeing a bunch of cats around. I think he’s got a feline telepath or something along those lines working for him. I’m pretty sure that’s how he’s been following me.”

How he knew.

“I’ll keep it in mind,” says Richard, brow furrowing a little, “A feline telepath… well. Hopefully he doesn’t get into my cat’s head.” It’s only half-joking. He motions a bit with one hand towards her, though, “Honestly, I don’t think you need to worry about Volken taking control. By the end, he was… a different man. He’d realized his mistakes.”

He admits ruefully, “I didn’t believe that until he sacrificed himself, mind you.”

Berlin chuckles a little, because it strikes her as a funny thing: worrying about who knows that you have a cat. Sometimes the reality of their lives is weird. When she stops to think about it. “I bet your sister could vet your cat, just in case.”

Also only half a joke.

“I agree. He’s different. But, I don’t trust his new leaf enough to lay myself down on the chopping block to check. If that makes sense? But if I thought I was in real danger, I wouldn’t be trying.” It’s only a worry she’s been going over in her mind for years. Ultimately, the cost-benefit analysis points to it being a risk worth taking.

“I don’t blame you one bit,” Richard admits with a shrug of one shoulder, “I never trusted him further than I could see him, even during Apollo… I’d be wary too if he were lurking somewhere in the back of my brain. Just be careful, right?”

One brow lifts a little, “If you can find something out, good, but don’t risk yourself too much. And if the old man gives you shit, remind him that I trusted him once in Argentina, and again in Antarctica… and he’d better not prove me wrong all these years later.”

"I'll be careful. I've got people watching out for me— and for any strange changes. No one's going to need to do anything drastic, I promise." As much as she can promise, anyway. Berlin smiles at his last words, an amused, but crooked expression, "He remembers you. And I won't let him forget."

“Good. And you’ve got one more, now,” says Richard with a crooked smile of his own, one brow lifting, “I take family seriously. You run into any problems, just let me know… and unlike our friends over at Wolfhound I tend to be a little more flexible with solutions.” Deadpan, “Don’t tell Hana.”

"Thank you. That means a lot. Especially since we didn't get off on the right foot. I'm not sure I'm any good at family," Berlin admits with a heavy sigh, "but I'll do my best. And, you know, I'm not bad at the parts of my job that include shooting stuff and investigation, so if you need some help… well, the phones work in Rochester." Especially in the Bunker. But that is one of the reasons his deadpan gets a wider grin. Because Hana. "Your secret is safe with me," she says, like she's pretty sure Hana will know what she wants to know either way.

“Shit, neither am I,” Richard admits with a shrug, “Doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try… and I’ll keep that in mind. Given all the shit going on, there’s every chance that I might.” He grins, then, moving to push himself up to his feet, “Anyway. You have lunch yet? I think they got some steak down in the kitchen.”

It’s a better meeting than their first one, at least.

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