Cross-Dimensional Favors


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Scene Title Cross-Dimensional Favors
Synopsis Agents reach out to a nanotechnology expert in the hopes of securing their help in analyzing a mystery based in an entirely different timeline.
Date February 5, 2021

The world's a changing place, rapidly changing more than ever.

Emily Raith's eyes begin to burn from staring up at the sky too long, thinking about the invisible changes that are being wrought overhead silently, slowly, but far faster than should be possible. Finally her eyes water and she blinks away the afterimage of the bright sky, both longing for and cursing the desire for a cigarette. She never should have tried one of Julie's the time she caught her smoking on the apartment balcony and was told don't tell Liette. She gets it now, how hard it is to quit the stress-coping habit.

But if she had to choose one to deal with the knowledge of the upcoming end of the world, she could have picked a worse one.

Still squinting one eye when her teammate approaches her on the sidewalk, Emily shakes her head at him. "I'll go," she offers. "Keep you from sticking your foot in your mouth on accident and making the situation harder to control."

Arms spreading wide, the man in the suit gapes at her with an offended scoff. When she reaches for one of the to-go coffee cups in his hand, he jerks it back. She's being very rude, after all.

"What?" she challenges him with an arch of an eyebrow. "You're gonna stand out here double-fisting coffee like an idiot? C'mon."

His expression flattens, the suggestion that's worming its way into his mind souring his mood none less. "That's a dick move, Emily," he counters, well-aware of her wiles and the way they're hooking into him. Emotionally, he's always been a little more aware than most, and he catches the second-hand embarrassment she tries to place in him right away. But he offers her the coffee he'd brought for her in the end anyway.

She grimaces an insincere grin of apology. "Had to make sure everything was still working right before heading in," Emily sings with her hand on the door.

"Sure you did," he replies over the top of his own coffee.

He finds his eyes drifting skyward soon enough, too.

Pinehearst Tower

In the intervening years following the Lonestar File being brought into the public eye, Pinehearst Corporation seemed prepared to collapse like a house of cards. An empire cut off at the head, the maggots that spilled forth from the rotten body of the corporation had so much to answer for, as did those in the blackest parts of the government that worked arm in arm with them. Slowly, infection was cut from each necessary body. The government was sewn shut and left to heal.

Pinehearst was rescued in a buyout from Yamagato Industries for a mere fraction of its worth before its fall from grace.

And those who are left behind continue to push the world forward, helping to produce change and stay ahead of the curve— this time for the better.

Inside the green-glass building, in the time it takes for Emily to check in as a visitor and wait for her person she's here to visit to be phoned and notified of her presence, she's drained half of her coffee. Her hair is worn down and swept over one shoulder, resting over the folded lapel of a light brown jacket, paired with a high-necked white blouse. A flattened facade of a rose-gold flower with an outer layer of black petals is studded through her ears, framing the friendly smile she awards to Francesca Lang when she comes into view.

When she extends her right hand for a shake, a thin silver band with a trio of diamonds clustered on it catches the light. "It's a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Lang. I've heard so much about you. Thank you for taking the time to meet with me."

A white lab coat doesn’t entirely cover up the attention to detail and sense for fashion the young nanoengineer exhibits as she strides forward to take the proffered hand. Francesca wears a cobalt blue dress, cinched together with a bronze belt, the secondary color picked by a pair of bronze-brown ankle boots. Her long, dark brown hair is pulled off her face in a fishtail braid. The lab coat probably helps people remember that she works here, though the badge lanyard should serve that purpose as well.

“Hi,” she says warmly, her grip strong but not aggressively so. She doesn’t seem too worried that she’s in trouble by any means — whatever Emily Raith is here for, Francesca seems to have a clear conscience, despite Pinehearst’s storied past.

“I hope it was all good, but if not, then someone clearly lied, and I apologize on their behalf,” she adds, the former Evo Co poster child’s smile bright as any of the ads she starred in during her college years.

Emily chuckles at the comment, shaking her head. "No lies, that I could tell. At least, I'm hoping there's no lie." Bringing her hand back to herself, she settles her cup of coffee into the flat of her palm. "What I'm hearing is that you're talented in your field, Ms. Lang. Nanotechnology is a fascinating area of science, one I'm admittedly curious about. Not least about how, in particular, it could be used in the field of medicine."

Gesturing with her cup very generally in the area of the elevators, she asks with a lift of her brows, "I was hoping you could tell me what you know— Show me a little bit of what you're working on?" When Emily's eyes meet Francesca's, a smile plays at her lips again. She's earnest in her desire to learn, and that carries over well— along with the understanding that if she's impressed, maybe this simple inquiry could turn into something else.

“Well, that’s nice to hear,” Francesca says, as if she hasn’t been published a few notable times in the few years since graduating college. She sounds modest enough, though it might be an act. “There are so many fascinating uses for it, really, but I admit medicine and environmental usage are the top of my list. It’s mighty but powerful tech and I want it to help more than it ever harms.”

She talks as she leads Emily through a corridor, eventually entering a lab. Every available wall or table seems to be covered with some form of machinery or equipment, and a few scientists can be seen absorbed in their work, most in white lab coats but a few covered from head to toe in white jumpsuits with head coverings, masks, and face shields.

“Our newest project, ready for manufacture, is a wearable device that can collect and test for levels of certain biofluids such as sodium or glucose but can also administer medication, if worn in the mouth or by the tear duct,” she says, moving toward one lab station and pulling down the lens of a nearby magnifier so that Emily can look at a the tiny device sitting on a glass tray. While Emily looks, Francesca taps a computer display to bring up an artist’s rendering of the small object, which looks like a small piece of jewelry, a piercing at the corner of the eye.

“We’ve already got patches, but through the nano- to micro-steel ports on this, we can actually probe at the cellular level to deliver molecular drugs in a much more efficient way than we currently do,” she explains. “This could be worn by the mouth, the eye, or near the base of the tongue depending on what sort of monitoring and medication needs to be administered. The patches have a broader application, of course.”

When Emily lifts her head up from the magnifier, she brushes a lock of hair behind her ear to keep her hair from falling in a sheet around her face. The artist's rendition helps to bring it all to life, and it's clear she finds this interesting. So much could be programmed into so little. The leaps and bounds technology has made is absolutely incredible.

And yet…

"Speaking of monitoring and managing," she chimes more quietly, words for Francesca alone rather than any of her coworkers. "I don't suppose there's been discussion into more internal methods of monitoring? Putting nanites directly into the bloodstream, or say… the brain?"

There's a notable lack of reaching in the question Emily asks. She doesn't seem to think this to be an impossibility, some science fiction she hopes to see come to life, but rather… she seeks confirmation if it's a topic within the other woman's wheelhouse.

“A ton,” comes in a matter-of-fact tone from the nanoengineer. “There are a lot of potential applications for nanotech that’s being studied already, for both blood and brain. So far, most of it’s still being tested at the animal level or in a petri dish on extracted cells, and of course development of delivery systems and the like is, well, a big problem. And a tiny one.”

That’s a joke that’s been before, but she smiles anyway.

“For example,” Francesca says, “one area that’s been of interest lately has been the development of nanoscale electrodes for mapping neuron activity. The micro arrays we currently use can’t record intracellular signals and the data they provide us is limited. But nano arrays would be able to detect those signals, and maybe even stimulate individual neurons.”

She smiles a little wryly. “Not my project or Pinehearst’s, though. Last I read, they were still just studying it on cardiac muscle cells, not actual brains, and definitely not humans. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if the average person has nanotech in his body by maybe 2027. And that soon only because the federal government’s dragging its feet on a lot of the testing and authorization. But understandably so — safety first and all that.”

Leaning against the counter, she tucks her hands in the pockets of the lab coat. “Long-term monitoring has its challenges. Nanotech so far is better for delivery, really, as the cIrculatory system in the human body usually clears nanobots pretty efficiently. There have been strides made in this, but we’re still under 24 hours unless someone’s not publishing their findings,” she explains. “Not to say it’s not possible, but…”

Francesca looks around her lab, then back to Emily. “We’re not doing it here. If that’s at all your worry.” They may have a reputation.

Emily manages a small smile when Francesca says the limits of where they're currently testing nanotech when it comes to something so invasive. Of course. Here, maybe, that might actually be true, even.

"That's not my worry at all," she reassures back. With a pause, the same quietness as before. "Rather, I suppose I'd be curious to know if you'd have an … interest in that realm of research. Like you said, the government is taking its time with these sorts of things and— well— there's room for experts at the table to weigh in on these things." Her eyes flit to Francesca's, coffee cup held delicately between both hands with just her fingertips. "To provide warning as much as guidance— to clear a path to answers on certain questions various parties might have."

"You understand," Emily says in a tone filled with apologetic implication. That she can't discuss more at the moment. But she'd like to.

Her brow lifts with a silent echo of her earlier question. If. Because this all rides on that rather important conditional.

Francesca’s brows lift, and she cants her head, dark eyes flitting left to right as if she might be able to read in Emily’s eyes what isn’t being said.

“I’m very interested in how nanotech can be used to improve lives. There’s studies showing that it can repair broken neural connections, which has tremendous potential for people with neurological problems, as you can imagine,” she says, and it’s clear that there is a passion there, a desire at her core to do good in the world.

She pauses, taking the time to tap the monitor back into sleep mode to pick her words carefully. “It will be in our bodies at some point, and I’m currently researching how to make that effective and safe, so it is my field of research now. But I’m not interested in creating tech that will be used against people, if that’s what you’re asking — for Pinehearst or anyone else, if that’s what you’re getting at.”

Her expression shifts from appraising and thoughtful to a little rueful. “Some might say creating any nanotech is opening the door for it to be used in a dangerous way. And they’re right, unfortunately, but it’s true of all technology. It all has the potential to do good and to do harm, but that doesn’t mean we should try.”

By the time Emily realizes she's left things just a little too vague, there's no room to kick herself mentally, just to react. "To be clear," she cuts in as soon as there's a good moment for it. "The type of research I hope to gain your help with would only do good." She sounds earnest and certain in this regard. "And it heartens me to hear you have the outlook you do. If anything, it lets me know you're the right type of person for this, Ms. Lang."

"But the project I'd hope to have you on is… sensitive. Secrecy will be key, but for the good of the world. To keep that kind of information from falling into the wrong hands." Emily's gift weaves itself silently into her voice, her eyes seeming to bare her soul and implore for Francesca's understanding.

And silence.

"Is this a project that might interest you? Something worthwhile enough to borrow part of your time over the next few months?"

The dubious narrowing of Francesca’s eyes relents a bit as Emily speaks, and she tucks her hands back into the pockets of her coat.

“So long as it’s not anything in direct competition with our projects at Pinehearst and wouldn’t be given to any of our competitors, it should be fine,” she says, still a little cautiously as she regards the younger woman.

“My contract is fairly strict as to what I can and cannot do in my spare time — as if that concept isn’t a figment of imagination.” She huffs a soft laugh at that. “But I’d be happy to help, if it’s something so important the government is requesting my help. Be a little dumb not to, I think.”

Emily smiles warmly with Francesca's acquiescence, such as it is. There's time yet for being more direct, to lay all the cards on the table about the issue the nanotech engineer is being asked to consult on— that's not here, though, not today where others can hear. This agreement, however, is a step in the right direction.

"We'll be sure to do everything we can to respect your contract. I or my teammate will reach out to you soon to set up a briefing session to bring you up to speed on the topic, and we can go from there."

"Thank you so much for your time, Ms. Lang."

A short time later

When Emily steps back out onto the street, her teammate relegated to waiting for her leans off of the glass wall he was propped waiting against. "Well? How'd it go?"

"It went well, we should have enough time to get her relatively spun up before the next Exchange," she affirms as she walks at an angle to him, tossing her empty coffee cup in a trashcan before moving closer. "No thanks to you signing yourself up for something you needed me to do for you…" She pulls her sunglasses out to slide them back over her face, smiling as she begins walking.

The look he gives her is reproving as he matches her pace. "You know, if you're so put out by this, I could just go ahead and…" He leans forward, making a snatching gesture of some invisible object out of thin air. "Take care of it myself after all."

Emily turns her head his way, smiling shifting instead to something more challenging. "Really? You think you could successfully pull this off?"

"Hey," he cautions her, posture opening in an easy shrug.

"I've held weirder abilities before."


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