Chasing Shadows


bob_icon.gif cardinal_icon.gif veronica3_icon.gif

Scene Title Chasing Shadows
Synopsis Requesting a piece of sensitive information from the Company, Richard Cardinal unexpectedly finds himself involved in a conspiracy to hide the secrets of the Formula in a most unusual way…
Date June 30, 2010


The sun is only the threat of blue on the eastern horizon, where plumes of white smoke rise up from factories and plants set amidst pre-dawn industrial skyline. Graffiti marks the walls of an eight story parking garage on the corner of 85th street and 5th ave in the southeastern end of Brooklyn, just three short miles from Red Hook.

On the fifth floor of this parking garage, a black Lexus is parked facing the southern view of 85th street, where the horizon fades from soft hints of blue to night black, stars still faintly clinging to the canvas of the heavens between wisps of high cirrus clouds. In the driver's seat of that car sits agent Veronica Sawyer, a young agent of the Company whom has found herself dragged deeper and deeper into a web of conspiracies and espionage ever since she was a young girl. It is the man in the seat adjacent to her that has her out here in these early dawn hours. Robert Bishop is many things, but that he is the operations director of the entirety of the Company is what he will perhaps be known for after he is gone. Situated in his lap is a bright red folder, black stickers ear-marking it a clearance level 5 Company dossier.

Glasses in his hands, Bob quietly cleans a fingerprint off one of his lenses with the inside of his dress shirt, awkwardly silent and tense in the quiet of the car, watching the sun rise to chase away the night. It isn't just the sunrise these two Company figures are here for, however. They've come to catch a shadow in these dawn hours, as ephemeral as the ones on the street below, but so much more dangerous.

Silence isn't always awkward, but the minutes Veronica has spent alone with Bob Bishop could be counted, if not on two hands, easily enough by a five-year-old who can count to 100 or less. And all of those minutes have been in one of a few offices or possibly the coffee room of the Company, whether in the Primatech building or Fort Hero's facilities. She glances at the blue LED lights on the dashboard alerting hem to the time, as well as the temperature outside and inside of the car and the direction the vehicle points in.

"He should be here soon," Veronica says with a nod at the clock and then her dark eyes drop to the folder, before moving up to Bob's face. "If he's not already lurking in the car listening," she adds, a slight smile curving her lips that doesn't make it into her dark, wary eyes.

"Of course I'm already in the car listening," observes the wry whisper of disembodied voice from the back seat, "I don't feel like waking up with some little black marks on my neck in the morning, after all… paranoia's not just a bad habit, you know, Sawyer." Vee…

Darkness wells up in the rear-view mirror like a yawning abyss behind the pair, and then Richard Cardinal is there, an arm draping over the edge of each seat as he looks over their shoulders with a tired little smile, a hint of sleepless shadow showing beneath the edge of his shades. "Mister Bishop. I'd say good to see you again but I was just reminded last night how many people died in Midtown."

To his credit, Bob doesn't manage to startle at the voice behind him. The momentary tightness in his throat is the only tell that he tensed for just a moment. Lifting his attention up to the rear-view mirror, Bob slides his glasses on and furrows his brows, the corners of his mouth downturning into a frown. "I think that's just the beginning, Richard. We're due for a resurgence in Humanis First violence, given how long it's been since their Manhattan cells were stopped."

Twisting in his seat to look over his shoulder at Cardinal, Bob's fingers drum on the folder in his lap, brows furrowed and the wrinkles in his high forehead seem deeper today than before. "I'd apologize for calling you out here so early in the morning, but if you're anything like the last shadow-morph I'd seen than I think this is the end of your day-cycle."

Apparently expecting Cardinal, Veronica just turns to arch a brow at the shadowy entrance. She frowns at his words — the news of the bomb yesterday not at all welcome, yet Humanis First is not in her caseload. "Unfortunately, the current political climate also seems to encourage such attitudes, if not the actions. Gives the ignorant the feeling that they're infallible," she says with a shake of her head. She doesn't know that it was Cardinal who already ensured at least two of them — bomber not part of the equation of course — did fall for their crimes.

"Normally," Cardinal admits with a slight shake of his head, "It was a… long night. I was there." The last words are a bit tight as he leans back a little in the seat, one hand coming up to rub gloved fingertips against his forehead, "They made a mistake, though, that's exploitable. Suicide bombers in New York? I don't think they're going to have very strong recruitment drives this year…"

He shakes his head, brushing it away, "Anyway. We're not here to talk about Humanis, are we."

"No… no we're not." Bob reluctantly admits with a nod of his head, reaching down to his lap for the folder. There's a heaviness in his hand as he holds the document, reluctance to let something so heavily classified just slip from his fingertips. "What I'm about to show you both hasn't been seen by eyes outside of the Company, hasn't been seen by anyone except the founders. There are two files on the man you asked me about, one that is a public records Company dossier with redacted information, and this," to which Bob drums his fingers on the folder to emphasize his words.

"Before I hand this over to you, I want to know how you found out about Niklaus, how he came up…. everything." Shifting awkwardly in his seat, Bob offers a look to Veronica, thoughtful yet silent, then settles his attention back on Cardinal. "The Company has gone to great lengths to see that information about this man does not see light of day, that not even Arthur's spy Roger was able to get his hands on it is a blessing for all of us."

"I'm sorry," Veronica murmurs to Cardinal, in regards to him being there, before turning her attention to Bob. She swallows tightly and glances from the file again to Bob, to Cardinal, then inclines her head to the latter to speak. She only knows the names he has told her to look into, so the answer needs to come from the shadow in the back seat. Her jaw tightens at the mention of Roger Goodman, and she glances to the view outside of the windshield.

"I have… some clearance with the Agency," Cardinal replies, his gaze drifting to the file, "I was doing some digging on Zimmerman, since he's currently employed by the Institute and I was hoping to find something useful, and one of my sources came back with a mention of a Company file on his son." He smirks just a bit, "Of course, I'm not a complete idiot, if it's this classified they're probably trying to get their hands on him themselves. So conveniently, I've failed to come up with any sort of information on it if she ever asks."

A lift of his gaze to Bob, "If there's one thing I can hold onto, Bishop, it's a secret."

Lifting up the folder, Bob hands it to Cardinal and seems reluctant to let go of it at first, before finally relinquishing his grasp on the file. "If the Institute had any idea what was in that folder, we wouldn't be having this conversation right now I fear. If everything I've heard about their activities is true, then their research into the Pandora's Box we opened with the Formula isn't going to be closed any time soon." Fnally dropping his hand from where it had hung in the air behind the folder, Bob's brows crease and his head shakes slowly, eyes casting out towards the windshield, then Veronica, and finally back to Cardinal again.

"Niklaus Zimmerman is one of four children of Jonas Zimmerman. He's Jonas' only biological child, a naturally born Evolved with an extremely powerful ability to manipulate magnetic waves. It isn't Niklaus' ability that makes him special, though. In the 1970s the Company's research into the Formula brought Zimmerman into our fold. As you may already know, he's the son of a German scientist named Rudolph Zimmerman, who was involved with the original Project Icarus back in the 1940s. Jonas' continuation of that research was picked up by the American government in the 1950 and 60s during the Project Paperclip era that imported Nazi scientists in exchange for immunity for war crimes. While Jonas wasn't a member of the Nazi party, his connection to his deceased father gave him incredible knowledge and access. He was, for all intents and purposes, his father's understudy."

Swallowing tensely, Bob's head shakes and his eyes divert down to the file folder. "Jonas' research into the Formula continued after the collapse of Coyote Sands, where a young Chandra Suresh was his apprentice. We co-opted Jonas into the Company in the 1970s before Primatech had even been established as a cover. His son was never a part of his research, not initially. But it's what Doctor Zimmerman left inside his son that made him a valuable asset and a danger to everyone."

Looking to Veronica, Bob's brows furrow and his head shakes slowly, attention turned back to Cardinal over the back of his seat. "Before Jonas' research on the Formula ended, before Arthur destroyed all his research Jonas did something remarkable. Are you familiar with the concept of steganography?"

"What he left in his son…" Veronica echoes, peering at the man and glancing at the folder now in Cardinal's hands. "Steganography — encrypted messages, more or less, though concealed in a way that they're not obviously encrypted," she murmurs, eyes wide at the implications of Bob's word. "What you're saying, then," she says, glancing back at Cardinal, then to Bob, "is that Niklaus himself has the information regarding his father's research somehow inside of him? Is he aware of this?"

"I know what steganography is," Cardinal mutters as he opens the folder carefully, paging through it slowly, "It's what Rebel codes their 'press releases' with when they feel like being clever." A flicker of his gaze up, over his shades, brows furrowing together, "Oh you're fucking kidding me. What did he do to his son?"

"In World War II a method of information encryption called a microdot was used by German spies to transfer information. It involves encoding messages in one milimeter dots that can later be expanded to full-resolution images. Jonas pioneered a technique that we believe encoded microdot messages inside of Niklaus' DNA. Making him, effectively, a living and breathing record of all of Jonas' research on the Formula. Absolutely everything Jonas discovered, likely including the full diagram and documentation on the Formula itself and whatever information about the Catalyst was lost with Ishi's death."

Bob's brows furrow and his head shakes slowly. "There was an incident in the Company in 1992 where Jonas' wife died, we believe now that Arthur may have killed her to silence her about something she discovered, but it pushed Jonas over the edge. He was… already having difficulties with our projects, and this caused him to go off the reservation. He was able to get hs son out of Company custody and his one remaining daughter that he had with him was likewise sent off. We managed to capture Jonas to prevent him from fleeing with Company secrets, and Maury Parkman was able to perform some memory alterations on him in order to render him… less dangerous."

Guilt is painted across Bob's face as he looks down to his lap, head shaking slowly. "We found notes later in Jonas' lab that indicated he may have encoded messages and secret information about a great number of things in his son's DNA using the microdot technique. But Niklaus was never marked with a radio tracking isotope and has been on the run ever since. He recently popped back up on the radar just a year ago, DHS and the CIA had been chasing him, along with Interpol, for a series of high-profile bank robberies across Europe."

Sliding his tongue across his lips, Bob's brows furrow. "We believe he may have been apprehended here in the States, and if my sources are correct he's being detained at a government facility called Building 26 in Washington DC awaiting extradition to Sweden… No one has any idea what he has inside of him. If the Institute did, they'd have already grabbed him from DHS. Goodman nearly lifted that very file from our archives, but Sabra Dalton managed to intercept him."

"His… DNA…" Veronica manages, shaking her head at the very concept. A child of scientists, the fact that a scientist would manipulate his child's very genetical being to hide secrets is one she can't wrap her head around. "Christ, what kind of world is this… I'm starting to think I should have gotten mindwiped while I still could have," she says, reaching up to rub her forehead.

"So what's better — to let him get out of the country and hope the Institute doesn't figure this out, or to try to … intercept him and protect him?" Or destroy him. That option isn't one she's willing to voice.

"Jesus Fucking Christ."

That about sums up the terribly cyberpunk story that Cardinal's just been told, staring at Bob for a moment, then looking down to the file, gloved fingertips paging through it as he checks on the other man's words. Surely this is some sort of joke, right? He's being Punk'd? Ashton Kutcher is hiding in the back of the Lexus somewhere?

Unfortunately, the file seems to agree with him.

He leans back once more, hand lifting to rub against his forehead, "If I found out about this file, then… word's gotten out, somehow. I don't trust my source to be discreet on this matter. We need to get him the fuck out of there before Broome's people crash the party."

Looking fornlorn about the situation, Bob's head dips down into a slow, steady nod. "I'd like to hope for the best and assume that no one knows the exact contents of that folder, but Roger knew it existed because of Arthur, and there's no telling how much of what Arthur knew has been circulated since the collapse of Pinehearst and the seizing of much of their assets by the US Government." Wringing his hands together, Bob's head shakes lsowly, eyes cast to the side towards his reflection in the side-view mirror out the passenger's window, then back over his shoulder to Cardinal.

"The less I know about what you're planning the better. I didn't get this far in my life by being unable to protect myself from telepaths trying to get into my head, but there's no telling what the Institute might try and do to get that information. I don't think I need to explain to you how dangerous it would be if they got their hands on the information that Niklaus potential has in his body. Remember that if you do decide to try and eliminate Niklaus from the equation, that simply killing him won't solve anything, the information is encoded down to the molecular level. His whole body would need to be destroyed to be certain…"

"God. That means…" Veronica murmurs, "the moment anyone finds out, it wouldn't take more than finding some of his possessions, getting a piece of hair, a flake of skin, a soda can he drank from." She closes her eyes at the Herculean task of covering the trail of his DNA. "It's impossible to ensure that we could do all of that anyway… killing him is potentially pointless."

She runs a hand through her hair, closing her eyes. "This is a nightmare. Has anyone seen that file — on Company side — that you don't trust?" she asks, glancing at Bob.

"No offense, Bishop, but I don't trust you enough to tell you my plans anyway…" It's an almost absent murmur from Cardinal as he pages throught he file, pausing at the end of it - glancing to check for anything stapled to the back or the last page, his head lifts again to look at Bob as the older man glances back over his shoulder, "…I don't think I need to tell you, Vee, that we shouldn't mention this to anybody. Even if I act on this, I'm not going to tell anyone why this guy's so important. The fact that he's Zimmerman's son should be enough of a smokescreen…"

"There's no mention of Building 26 in here. You have a location, Bishop?"

"Unfortunately I don't know enough about the process Zimmerman used to know if the information is embedded in every part of Niklaus' body or just somewhere in a specific part of him…" With that one caveat given, Bob looks up to Cardinal and nods curtly, giving a fleeting look out the windows of the parked car and then back to Cardinal again. "It's located at 283 E Street Southwest, just a mile from the Capitol Building in Washington D.C. The security there is likely going to be impressive, Richard, and I have no idea what sort of condition that Niklaus is being kept in, except that it's not the Institute that's holding him."

Scratching at his ribs thorugh the thick fabric of his jacket, Bob looks down to the clock on the car's radio, then back up to the shadowmorph. "Virginia has a fast-response FRONTLINE team that services the D.C. area, teleporter and all. Whatever you do, you're going to need to be very careful how you go about this…"

"No, I won't tell anyone. Just let me know who you tell," Veronica says quietly — meaning Liz or whomever else, so if they ask her about it she knows she can trust them. The agent looks tired, turning to look out at the sky once more. "Hard to plan without knowing who's holding him," she murmurs, glancing over at Cardinal. "I don't expect you can throw him into a pocket dimension somewhere in your shadowy self and just slip through a chink in the fence," she says lightly. If only it were that easy.

"Thank you for the information," she tells Bob. "I'd suggest getting rid of anything else in your level of clearance you don't want Institute's hands on. If you think it's something we," she nods to Cardinal, "should know…" the tacit implication that he can tell her is nodded, "otherwise, destroy it. I don't know if Dalton's archiving will last long."

"I have to agree with Sawyer there…" A pause in Cardinal's voice as he notices something else in the file, his brow furrowing a bit, and then he gives his head a tight shake - and slaps it closed, looking back up with a tight frown, "…thanks for the information, Bishop."

"I'll take that under advisement," is Bob's way of implying that if there's something that the Company's remaining founders are good at, it's destroying evidence. "Don't thank me yet, Richard. I'm still not sure if giving you that information is for the best, I'm terrified to let anyone know what Niklaus has… but there comes a time when you have to start being able to trust people, when you have to start burying the hatchet and work together. Because right now I have a strong fear that if we aren't able to cooperate…"

Bob brushes a hand over his mouth, sighing as he slouches back into his seat. "I have a feeling history repeating itself will be the least of our worries."

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