kravid2_icon.gif rich_icon.gif

Scene Title Chicane
Synopsis Erica Kravid and Richard Schwenkman discuss their future.
Date August 25, 2018


The dull buzz of fluorescent lights forms a nearly invisible white noise along with the hum of air vents and power conduits.

Richard Schwenkman has seen better days, beard unkept and hair a tangled mess. The cafeteria he's found himself in used to be filled with workers, back when this facility was an active Institute installation. Now, its empty and unplugged vending machines promise ice cold Slusho that can't be delivered on. Under the desaturating fluorescent light, he pokes at a paper cup of instant ramen with a plastic spoon, watching the nearly cardboard peas and carrots float to the top when he depresses the almost styrofoam noodles. A security camera in the corner of the cafeteria still records the comings and goings here, even though the now skeleton crew is made up of almost entirely executive staff.

The door nearest to Rich swings open, and as Erica Kravid strides in it's clear that she's seen better days too. Her hair isn't as neat and prim as it used to be, makeup has been almost entirely forsaken — likely she ran out years ago. She comes in with a paper cup with a teabag inside and walks over to the hot water bubbler, leaning over to fill up.

"You sleep last night?" Rich asks as he pushes his disgusting breakfast aside. Kravid straightens a little, looking over her shoulder. She doesn't say anything, just goes back to filling her cup with hot water, then slowly makes her way over to Rich.

"A little," Kravid admits, taking up a spot on the bench seat across from Rich. She cradles the tea between her hands, an errant lock of brown hair streaked with gray falling loose from the bun it was tied into. "Still no word from Dunlap, Pete's operating on the assumption that she's been compromised."

Rich blows out a heavy sigh, folding his hands in front of himself and shaking his head. "Jesus, there's hardly anyone left now." He looks aside to the cup of noodles, then up to Erica. "I've got to imagine if they didn't kill Gilmore, she's got to be nearly dead by now anyway without the stabilizing injections…" A troubled look hangs over him at the thought.

"Horrible way to go," Erica mumbles, staring down into her tea. "Pete wants me to keep this from Doctor Allen as long as we can. We're nearly done with the final stage research, I imagine… he'll probably just have her killed once all is said and done."

Rich lifts up a hand and scrubs it over his mouth. "Do we have any assurance that's not going to happen to us all? The Director… has he talked about an exit plan? We can't stay here in the states. One of these days Wolfhound is going to figure out where we are, and our backs are up against a fucking wall here." Erica shakes her head in response, picking up her teabag by the paper tag marked with a rose, dunking it up and down slowly.

"No assurances," is a quick answer from Erica, and one that belies how much she's thought about that very question. "I've asked Pete what our plan is, but he's…"

"Yeah." Rich says to fill in the elipses.

"Yeah." Kravid agrees.

"What's Cardinal's status?" Rich asks, reluctantly dragging his cup of noodles back over and stirring it defiantly, as if that will somehow make it taste less like wet, salty cardboard. Erica shakes her head again, bringing the tea up to her mouth to breathe in the steam.

"They're in Louisiana," she explains, "it's apparently pretty rough out in that part of the country. Environmental and man-made disasters. We're looking at… probably another month or two before they can close in on where the target is." Tentatively, Kravid takes a sip of her tea, then sets it down after determining it's too hot. "Frank tried to get in touch with me," she says with a look up to Rich.

"Jesus." Rich blurts out. "He's still alive?"

Kravid closes her eyes and shrugs with one shoulder, then looks over at the lightless Slusho machine. "He was no one of importance. But he knows where Price is, which means if we can leverage that information with the Director, it might be of some use in saving our own hides."

"Speaking of," Rich interjects. "I poured through everything we've got, and I don't think we're going to be able to make even a small-scale replica of Looking Glass here. We don't have even a fraction of the resources we'd need to do that, and Pete's repeatedly said that the Director isn't interested in revisiting the Looking Glass project." Rich levels a suspicious look at Erica, who lets her brows rise slowly, and then fall just as quickly.

"Look," Rich continues, "maybe if we can find LeRoux. Odds are, given what she is, she's still alive out there. I doubt this much time has gone by without her using her ability and showing up on someone's radar. It worked in Ojas Amargos with Joy."

Erica shakes her head. "LeRoux isn't important," isn't her usual stance on this matter. "If we don't have the technology, we need to consider looking for Mateo Ruiz again. I'm going to divert Cardinal on to that task once he's done on his current assignment." Rich shakes his head and drops his spoon into his cup of noodles.

"Ruiz, man." Rich swallows, dryly. "I haven't thought of him in a long time. You ever wonder what was up with him?" He looks up to Erica, who takes a sip of her tea in silence and then flicks an inscrutable stare up to Rich.

"Explain," is all she says.

"The other Ruiz," Rich clarifies. "The one that… came out of nowhere?"

Erica looks away, to the Slusho machine again, paper cup of tea cradled in her hands by her mouth. Her eyes are half-lidded when she levels a dark look back at Rich. "Sometimes. That was a long time ago." That seems to be all that has to be said on the topic, at least for a little while. Rich takes a tentative bite of his noodles and finally abandons the entire cup to the side of the table with a slow shove.

"I've been going over the Oracle log," Rich segues, somewhat. "There's so much data it's… it'd take a thousand lifetimes to sort it all out."

Erica smiles faintly, not looking up from her tea. "Better man have gone mad trying, Rich."

Though he scoffs and delivers a glib, "Thanks," Rich considers her response with some small measure of curiosity. No one else had looked at that data but him. "But seriously," Rich presses the issue. "All that data we dumped out of Ray. The timeline map, all the notes. A fraction of what Melchior had."

"Where is this going, Rich?" Erica asks flatly, looking up from the tea. "I'm tired, it's been a long day." Maybe she hasn't slept as much as she claims to have.

"I'm just wondering…" Rich trails off for a second, ruefully considering his breakfast. "Did he know what we were doing to him? Out of all the data we were able to peel out of his head, we got just enough of Looking Glass to— "

"Don't." Erica snaps. Rich looks up at the sudden change of tone.

"Don't what?"

"Don't try and make this all his doing somehow. He was just one man." Erica says with a growing frustration. "A man in a coma."

"Erica." Rich isn't having any of that dismissive tone. "We both know that's a lie. Look at everything we— "

"Rich." Kravid, likewise, isn't playing. "I am not going to sit here and have you dictate the specifics of free will with me. I don't know where that Ruiz came from. I don't understand his story. I don't want to talk about it."

All Rich offers in return is a deep, slow sigh. Then, after a moment of thought he adds, "You've changed." Erica sits in silence at that, cradling her tea close to her chest. "The Erica I know wouldn't be afraid of the unknown. You were the most insatiably curious of all of us. I was inspired by you."

"People change, Rich." Erica says, voice smaller than before.

"It's…" There's a hesitance in Rich at where he's leading this conversation. "It's not just that."

Kravid can feel it. "What the hell does that mean?" She asks defensively.

"Seattle," is Rich's one word answer. Another cold silence comes over Erica. "How did you survive that attack?" He breaks the silence like glass with a hammer. "The army was practically on top of you."

Slowly getting up from the table, Erica closes her eyes and shakes her head. "I'm too tired for this. I'm going to bed."

"I'm sorry." Rich mumbles, running one hand through his hair.

Erica is already halfway across the room when she fires back with, "No you're not."

Much Later

Los Angeles looks like a ghost town from these low hills. Lightless buildings are black shadows against the bright night sky. A full moon hangs low overhead, filling the wooded lot behind a decaying mansion with pale light. Erica walks across the overgrown grass, past rusting hulks of supply trucks and luxury automobiles. The fire-gutted husk of the stone mansion behind her is a remnant of the old world, the California before the war.

Reaching the perimeter of the overgrown yard and the treeline of a small forest, she pulls a remote device out of her pocket and keys in a six digit code. Sensors around the perimeter go dark one by one, and Erica slips away in the moonlight into the forest. Her shoes crunch dead leaves underfoot, carry her up through the warm summer air to a slightly higher elevation overlooking the mansion's forest-surrounded grounds. Here, someone is waiting for her, at the specified rendezvous site.


"When will water stop running down hill?" The question comes from a woman less than half Kravid's age, sitting on a broken log that was once a fallen tree. Her pink hair is bright like cotton candy in the moonlight, taking on a faintly lavender hue in shadow. Her dark eyes square on Erica, and await her response.

"When it reaches the bottom," Erica replies, and the girl with the pink hair nods.

"Code confirmed." She disappears in a rippling heat mirage, then re-appears a moment later with another, more severe woman exactly Kravid's age standing beside her. The pink-haired girl takes a step back, folds her hands behind her back, and the older woman takes a step forward, lips downturned into a frown.

They are like two sides of a mirror, looking into each other's eyes.

"Erica." She says with a slow raise of one brow.

"The Director wants to see you."


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