Beyond The Pale


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Scene Title Beyond the Pale
Synopsis During the World's Fair, a business meeting puts Richard Ray in an unusual position.
Date May 22, 2019

The World’s Fair has been nothing short of a major boon to Raytech. The attention the event has garnered across the United States and beyond has put Raytech back in the eye of international markets. Their civilian robotics, quality of life technology, and greenhouse tech has drawn attention from prospective investors for weeks. It has left Richard feeling somewhat threadbare, however, given the state of his precarious juggling act of professional and personal life and the hazards that both entail.

On the site of the World’s Fair, rows of executive conference centers temporarily constructed for the event are the site of backroom deals and initial negotiations between technological giants. These trailer buildings are the backlot of the showcases, behind the revolving platforms of Yamagato Industries’ retro-futuristic automobile fleet, behind the displays of the burly new Praxis Heavy Industries phones, behind the Mantis, these rows of soundproofed trailers are both a place of respite and a place of research.

In the early evening hours, these trailers are a dimly lit respite from something else entirely, the noise of the World’s Fair. It’s rare that Richard has to be here, but when it comes to business operations — especially since Kaylee’s retirement — he’s been forced more into the forefront of the company to handle face to face negotiations. Today, the trailer isn’t a place of respite, but instead a conference room.

Seated at one end of his table, Richard stares down at the business card for Illuminate Incorporated, the world’s leading supplier of solar cell technology, based out of Luxembourg. With the proliferation of solar technology in post-war America and the growing need for the materials right here in the Safe Zone, a business partnership between Raytech and Illuminate Incorporated could mean the difference between maintaining a competitive business foothold in the United States, or being edged out by the titans like Praxis and Yamagato.

No matter where he looks, Richard’s fighting one battle or another.

Governor’s Island

World’s Fair Ground

May 22nd


Noise from the convention outside spills into the trailer as a Raytech security officer opens the door. “Mr. Ray, the representative from Illuminate is here whenever you’re ready.”

As the door’s open, Richard looks abruptly up from his notes - paper of all things, which he still prefers - on the company in question, one corner of which he’s doodled a small pyramid with a cartoony eyeball on it.

“Of course, send them in,” he requests, sliding the notes back into a manila folder and setting it to one side as he straightens up, hands folding on the table, “No sense in keeping them waiting, after all.”

While he’d rather be out and about on the floor looking at the exhibits, duty does call, and more these days than ever. And with so many other companies encroaching on the country, they need all the edge they can get. Hopefully this solar power company he’s dealing with isn’t actually a front for the Bavarian Illuminati.

Given the path of his life, he wouldn’t be surprised.

A pair of people are issued in to the meeting, one of whom is a middle-aged Nordic-looking gentleman with thinning blonde hair and a stout midsection. His suit speaks of old money, as does the assessing way in which he looks over Richard and the backlot conference room. The other man with him is taller, younger, more wiry, and a bit wide-eyed. He has hawkish features, high cheekbones and a stern brow, but none of the force of personality that would make those features imposing.

Guten abend, Mr. Ray,” the blonde older gentleman says in greeting, his German accent thick as syrup. He’s quite evidently Johan Möller, the CFO of Illuminate. Richard’s seen photographs of him before in tech periodicals, but he was ten years younger then. The man with him is unfamiliar. “I hope you do not mind, but I brought along someone I thought you should meet. An acquaintance, professionally-minded, I made here at the fair.”

Möller’s guest offers a sheepish smile and inclines his head to the side, quickly moving over to a seat at the table. “Mr. Ray,” he says in a small voice, “it’s an honor to meet you. I’ve— read quite a lot about you.” He averts his eyes to the tabletop as Möller comes to sit down.

“Good show, the ah,” Möller waves a hand in the air, “Mantis. I was also able to receive a tour of your aeroponics facility, courtesy of our mutual friends at Yamagato Industries. I will admit, Mr. Ray, all very forward-thinking designs.” It’s only then that Möller realizes he hasn’t introduced his guest. “This is Thomas Nowak, chief engineer of Latimer, Inc.” For a moment the name doesn’t register with Richard, but when it does…

Latimer, Inc. They’re building an extrasolar spacecraft.

“Guten abend, Mr. Möller,” Richard replies warmly as he pushes himself up to his feet to greet his guests (the greeting, briefly, stirring a pang of memory of his last German friend), offering a hand across the table, “It’s good to meet you in person, of course, and— no, I don’t mind at all. Networking is most of the point of the Fair, I suspect, despite all the glitz and glamour going on out there.”

As the others claim chairs, he eases back down to sit as well, flashing a smile at the praise, “I’m glad you appreciate them. We’re doing our best to push the technological envelope while helping recovery at the same time. Why aim for what we had, when we can aim for more?”

The other man is looked to then at the introduction, brows raising slightly, “Well, I’d say the honor’s mine, Mr. Nowak— I’ve heard a lot about your Itinerant Dawn project, and I’ll confess, I’m deeply fascinated by the idea.”

Möller seems a little nervous, adjusting his tie with thick fingers and offering a nervous look to the door behind him before he finally starts to settle in. Nowak, however, is an even bigger ball of nerves. He’s constantly adjusting the ring on his right hand — not a wedding band, but just a decorative antique ring — and looking at Mr. Möller. “It’s— I mean, the Itinerant Dawn is my baby, but it’s not my project.” He looks at Möller who leans back and scratches the side of his face, listening intently. “It’s— the CEO of Latimer, Inc. It’s his brain-child.”

Nowak continues to talk, rambling. “Houston Latimer, our CEO— he’s a descendant of Lewis Howard Latimer, the inventor.” Nowak smiles, a twitchy little thing, “Lewis Latimer was from here, actually,” he points at the table. “Queens, I mean. Up in Flushing. Famous, overshadowed, you know the kind of story. There’s actually a — was — a little museum up— ”

Möller clears his throat, and Nowak grimaces and dips his head into a nod, growing quiet. “I’m not here to talk solar cells, Mr. Ray,” Möller is quick to explain. “We can have that conversation over the phone, tomorrow, or the month after. It’s not important.” To Möller. “I’m here on behalf of Mr. Nowak.” Who shrinks like a violet at the mention. But Möller looks at Nowak, one brow raised. Realizing that now he’s gotten quiet.

“Go on,” Möller says with a motion toward Richard. “Tell him.”

Wringing his hands together, Nowak offers Richard an apologetic smile. “You’re the only person from the Ferrymen,” uhhhh, “who went into a corporate sphere. I don’t have connections to— the uh, financial or personal— ” Möller exhales a sigh as he listens to Nowak trying to explain his situation. Nowak, scrubbing the back of his neck, looks between Möller and Richard anxiously. “You have a reputation, even overseas in the UK. You’re a good person. Your testimony during the Albany Trials, all of that it…”

Nowak trails off, leaving Möller to pinch the bridge of his nose beneath his glasses. “Mr. Nowak is in a spot of trouble, Mr. Ray. I’ve offered to lend a hand to him, in exchange for some future favors. Purely transactional, you see.” Möller eyes Nowak, who is smiling sheepishly. “All I promised is that I’d get him in the room. Discreetly.”

Neither of them seem willing to actually say what they want.

Richard wasn’t - technically - with the Ferrymen at all, but as Endgame has evaded the eye of history he’s not about to correct them on that particular matter. Some things don’t need to be known, and it’s close enough to the truth. As the two men talk, he looks back and forth between them, an eyebrow arching high on his face.

Clearing his throat, he leans forward slightly, “Well, you’re in the room, Mr. Nowak, and I’m listening - and I appreciate the flattery, trust me, I do. But what is it, exactly, that I can do for you?”

Somehow he doubts the man is looking for a date.

“Someone is trying to kill me,” Nowak finally says, because of course they are.

Of course.

Looking briefly to Möller, Nowak grows silent, but the broad blonde man merely nods and motions to Richard. It emboldens Nowak, even if just a little. “I live in an EUSR-compliant country, Mr. Ray. People with abilities — people like me — we aren’t treated fairly there. I’ve f-fff— falsified my registration,” and that much is almost a whisper, “indicated that I’m not Evolved.” The term Expressive isn’t as prolific overseas. “But I am, and— and my ability is essential to getting the Itinerant Dawn to function properly. But— I can’t tell my government, or I’d be sectioned because— because of how dangerous they’d think it is.”

Möller breathes in deeply, then exhales a slow sigh and crosses his arms over his chest. Nowak, looking briefly at Möller, seems to calm down some now that the biggest hurdle is out of the way. “I can’t go to the authorities, b— because— because the group after me is— it’s Pure Earth.”

Of course.

“I don’t know if they actually know I’m Evolved,” Nowak says shakily, “or if they want to kill me because I’m an outspoken proponent. Because I’m a— because I believe in our rights and hire Evolved to work on the project. I…” Nowak wrings his hands. “Mr. Ray… if I go back to Europe I’m as good as dead. Either by Pure Earth’s hands, or in a sectioning camp.”

Möller chimes in, “Mr. Nowak cannot apply for asylum, as I suggested, because he would be unable to legally do business with Latimer Inc once it was revealed he had eluded Registration, and it would further put a bullseye on Latimer itself. Did they know? Didn’t they?” Möller shrugs slowly. “It’s an ugly business over there right now, Mr. Ray. But not all Europeans are so bigoted.”

Nowak nods once to Möller, then looks back to Richard. “I… I don’t know what to do. You were the only person I could think of to reach out to while I was away on business.”

Oh boy.

Richard rests both elbows on the table, fingers lacing together in front of his mouth as he leans forward and listens to this story; earlier warmth and friendliness reserved in favor of a more serious expression, brow knitting in deep lines.

“I’m not unfamiliar with existing in a government opposed to your existence, as you know,” he admits, speaking slowly and carefully - thoughtfully, “And obviously I’m rather pro-Evolved myself, most of my family are Expressive.” He, of course, is largely believed to have burnt out his power during the events before or during the war. Which was true up until a few months before.

“I’m not a fan of Pure Earth, or racists in general, either. Alright, two important questions— one, does Latimer know? Do you have Houston’s support and backing despite your— situation? And two, what is this ability that they’re so afraid of?”

Nowak looks to Möller for guidance, but the older man just helplessly shrugs. Not his house, not his monkeys.

“My company knows,” Nowak explains with a slow bob of his head. “Mr. Latimer knows, it’s— partly— tangled up in the entire Itinerant Dawn project. We… we met when I was applying for a position as an aerospace engineer, we talked, I— I may have had too much to drink and…” Nowak grimaces. “I’m very lucky Mr. Latimer is so forgiving. Progressive.” Scooting forward, Nowak lays his hands flat on the table and looks at Richard with a worried expression. “Houston Latimer believes in me. Believes in our vision. But without me?” Nowak looks down to the space on the table between his hands, “without me Itinerant Dawn is a failure.”

Looking at Möller, Nowak seems a bit hesitant. Richard’s second question goes unanswered, and Möller sighs deeply. “I need to piss,” he says flatly, pushing his chair back and rising up to stand. “I will be five minutes,” Möller explains, helpfully. “Then, I will return and we will perhaps speak business?” Nowak smiles, a small and nervous smile, and Möller offers a momentary look to Richard before excusing himself from the trailer.

Only once Möller is gone does Nowak look back to Richard. “I can fold space,” Nowak explains, smiling anxiously. He hopes he doesn’t need to explain it more than that.

“Of course,” Richard tips his head in a bit of a nod to Möller as he rises to depart, and then he looks back to Nowak, the man’s revelation bringing one brow even higher than before. “I see,” he murmurs, “So the Dawn… you are its engine, essentially? It isn’t some new technology that could take us to other worlds so swiftly, but your personal ability to do so?”

One hand comes up to rub between his eyes, “I see. That… I can see why you wouldn’t want that to get out.”

“It’s both,” Nowak says sheepishly, “after a fashion. See, I— my background isn’t in aerospace. It’s in neuroscience. I’ve developed a technology that would allow me to interface with a navigation system, to help break through the physical limitations of range on my ability to…” Nowak spreads his hands apart, “broaden horizons. The Itinerant Dawn is still a spacecraft, still capable of doing the things a spacecraft does… but it— it’s so much more than that now. I can be the bridge,” he says with trembling hands, “to— to other worlds. Eventually. There’s still range limitations, and space is…” He whistles sharply. “It’s kind of big.”

“But— but without me?” Nowak claps his hands together. “Boom. No Itinerant Dawn, no folding space, no extrasolar mission.” His brows crease together, and there’s an earnest pleading in his eyes. “I don’t like it here. Earth. I’ve got to hope that it— that maybe— maybe it’s better somewhere else, you know? Wouldn’t you want to know?”

“‘Kind of big’,” Richard chuckles quietly at that, “You have a talent for understatement, Mr. Novak.”

He leans back, then, hands sliding to rest flat on the table, “And of course I’d want to know. I wouldn’t hold out hope that there’s some magical utopia out there, but I’d be an idiot if I didn’t realize that space travel like this would be revolutionary on any number of levels. Even if it only lasted for your lifetime, the potential gains… so.”

Lips purse, “You can’t go back to Europe. The obvious question becomes— could Latimer bring the project here, to the United States?”

Nowak shakes his head. “Everything is set for Italy, Latimer’s deal with the ISA, the spaceport. There is no infrastructure in America for the launching or fabrication process,” he says with a disappointed look to the floor. “The Itinerant Dawn is nearly complete, it is being assembled at a dry dock in Rome. All of my work now has been on the navigation interface,” he explains, “which I can do anywhere.” Wringing his hands together again, Nowak looks to one of the trailer windows, then back to Richard.

“Eventually, eventually, I’ll need to go back to Europe, for the launch.” Nowak explains, “but that is scheduled for October— maybe November, so there’s time. To— I don’t know. I’ve been staying up for days trying to figure out what to do, to not alert the EU, to not draw fire on Latimer, to…” He tosses his hands up in the air. “I’m so close Mr. Ray. I’m so close.”

“So you just need— five months? Outside the EU, and you can do your work from anywhere,” Richard patiently lays out, nodding a bit to himself, “Alright. Let me propose this, then— lay down a cover story that there’s some portion of your work on the navigation interface that you need something we’ve invented with, say that you’re collaborating for a few months with one of our engineers. I’ll set you up with an office and workspace at our facility, you can work there until it’s time to return for the launch.”

His lips twitch a bit as he tries not to smile, “If you just needed a couch to crash on, Mr. Nowak, you should’ve just said so.”

It’s clear from his expression that this is what Nowak wanted, but lacked the courage to ask for. “Yes, this— this will work! I can contact Mr. Latimer tonight when I return to my hotel room, we can draft up a legitimate business proposal. If— if you have any research on mind-machine interfaces, we can use that coverage to pat the seams, make it all seem… legitimate.” Nowak slouches back in his seat, cupping his face in his hands and laughing. “You Americans, you’re all— yes. So much very yes, if I was not meant for somewhere far from here, I would absolutely live here. I— ”

The door to the trailer opens, and Mr. Möller shows himself back in. Nowak smiles, his relief evident on his face, and that seems to relieve Möller as well. “Good, so you sorted that all out?” He nods, ambling back over to the table. “Maybe now we can talk solar cells, now that Mr. Nowak is done having a treasonous meltdown?” There’s a faint smirk from Möller to Nowak at that.

“We do, as a point of fact, you might find it interesting— and ah, yes, Mr. Möller,” Richard offers an easy smile to the man as he returns, “I believe we’ve worked everything out, and there shouldn’t be further danger to the our genius friend here. So yes— now that we’re done talking about Mr. Nowak’s passions, we can return to solar energy and what we can do for one another in that arena.”

It’ll be, he suspects, a less interesting talk.

But at least there won’t be an undercurrent of Mr. Möller wanting to live in his destined place on the sun.

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