Current Affairs


praeger_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title Current Affairs
Synopsis In which there's plenty of information to disseminate but very little peace of mind.
Date March 22, 2010

Praeger's Office

The office is about as pristinely clean as one can imagine Raymond Praeger's office to be. What sun that manages to struggle through the windows gleams easily off a polished desk and the shining faces of framed photographs, a heavy emphasis on places over people save for one pepper-haired woman, a recurring character facing inwards towards the currently empty office chair. A small set of golf clubs are displayed just over there. Vincent Lazzaro has been waiting for about five minutes now, and the day isn't getting any younger.

This is a little like waiting in the principal's office. The silence seems static.

It's about when the sky starts shaking down snow flurries that might make everyone's stomachs sink at this promise that winter weather isn't going to be letting up today that he's no longer alone. The door creaks open and the Secretary of the Department of Evolved Affairs briskly sweeps on in, clutching his coat over an arm and headed to hang it up. "Good afternoon, Agent Lazzaro," he says, voice slightly harassed but smile pleasant. "I'm so sorry for being late, the traffic in this weather is, as ever, capricious. I hope I haven't kept you long."

It's been a while since Vincent's been to the principal's office. Second grade. Told another kid Santa Clause didn't exist after he wouldn't shut up about his new bike.

Parade rest natural despite the lack of anyone immediately around to impress, he's a master of 'look but don't touch,' pitch black eyes swept in an unforgiving pass across the desk that marks a familiar face among places he's never been and will probably never bother to see. His expression isn't one of criticism, naturally, or even judgment. More like a quiet calculation of contamination. Compromise. Risk.

The kid's name was Frank Pacelli. A ginger 'Pacelli' with freckles and a sunburn.

In retrospect he should've told him he was adopted.

Praeger's brisk entry takes the faraway look out've his eye faster than he can blink to catch up, and for a split second he's caught hanging off guard. Then, like a roller coaster car tipping just over the edge of the first lift, he plunges neatly on into business.

"Afternoon, Mister Secretary and — not at all." Long enough that he has a file folder poised and and waiting in hand for him to take though, manila retrieved from behind the flat of his back without flourish. "Updates. We're up one escaped, undead convict and down a few vaccines. We already knew The Institute was staffed by insane people so it almost seems redundant to get into the latest bout of elaboration while we're both here."

Praeger hangs up his coat before even looking at a folder, straightening out the hang of expensive wool and collecting a slender little cellphone from a pocket before turning back to his desk. The device is tossed at a slightly impatient clatter onto the polished wood before Praeger is reaching nimble fingers for manila cardboard to draw close and open, glasses winking light down at the updates handed to him. "And they're getting all of their information from the girl— " A quick glance at the file contents. "Liette, and this technopathic entity? That's interesting."

Around his desk, he nudges his chair to wing around enough for him to sit down, clearing his throat as he lays pages down upon unscratched mahogany. "Talk to me, Agent," is a request, even as he picks through the pages in front of him.

Right. Talk to him. Having been around long enough working in fields where words matter to know that it's sometimes best to think before speaking, Lazzaro takes a moment to do so. He looks a little tired, but not terrible; every line in the dusky grey of his suit is pressed sharp. Headaches are a natural and expected side-effect of once having your skull split by a chain link fence. Also, of working for the government.

"This is the first time I've personally encountered something like this evidently sanctioned…as acceptable. I mean you hear about human rights violations behind closed doors, particularly in regard to the Patriot Act, but jesus. We're talking American civilians, here, Raymond. Kids." Vincent's disgust is genuine, latent skepticism skewed wearily into the cant of his brows and droned through an otherwise flat affect. Then, for all that he never goes quite so far as to suggest that doing 'nothing' is probably not a morally acceptable proposition, there is a turgid silence wherein he fails to suggest much of anything else, either.

But hey. He's well trained enough not to sigh once it's passed.

Moving on.

"…Doctor Brennan remains wholly cooperative. So far as I can tell he is funneling information to me as soon as he's able to put it in my hands after he receives it, with some efforts made to protect at least a few of the people helping him. Others, like Mr. Cardinal and Mr. Jack, appear to be fair game once their usefulness has run out. It seems likely that he'll sell us down the same river if we are unable to maintain our value to him." As per usual with these debriefings, he discusses human interaction with all the fervor of someone outlining the number of envelopes they successfully stuffed in the last week. With occasional pauses for breath. Like this one, where he frowns slightly at fresh snow.

"The threat 'Liette' currently represents is severe. Not only to National Security on a broad scale, but to any mind in possession of private or otherwise confidential information that she gets near enough to pry through. I have asked the Doctor to limit her contact with influences that may further increase her current unmanagability, but if she gets the drop on him before he's able to negate her, I think we're all shit out of luck, to be frank. At this point in time I've decided — for obvious reasons — that the risk of meeting her personally vastly outweighs the potential benefit, and so cannot accurately judge if or when she will move to escape. Were I obligated to guess, I'd give it a month at the very most before something breaks and we lose our advantage. More likely anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks."

For the most part, Praeger keeps up with Vincent's debrief, before he's eventually leaning back in his chair with an elbow set to the plastic arm, chin cradle in the hook of fingers and a gaze slicing up over the frameless glasses perched on his face. Once the agent finishes, there's that same kind of measuring silence that Vincent indulged in before he began, Praeger switching a blue eyed gaze towards the wide windows staring out at Manhattan's Financial District and the snow pelting down in spirals.

"The Institute likes to pride themselves on being unreachable," Praeger eventually states. "And arrogant enough to think that no one would try." Fingers search up to rub beneath his eyesockets before he's pulling off his glasses to deliver a prim gesture at Vincent. "Liette needs to remain where she is. Hidden. What information she leaks is frankly the problem of the Institute, not mine, and until I know exactly what we're dealing with, I refuse to go to Harper about this."

Inspecting his glasses for flecks of meltwater snow, Praeger slides them back on, hand going down to adjust his tie. "You worry too much, Vincent, but I don't intend to let things remain as they are for much longer, but time is of the essence — and that doesn't mean we must hurry hurry hurry. I have faith in Dr. Brennan. It sounds as though he has the girl's faith too."

"Actually, sir, I believe I'm paid to worry just the right amount." Enough for them both, and maybe the rest of the Department to boot. Vincent is looking at Praeger the way fathers look at their sons when they confess they've decided to major in 'art,' only with a hell of a lot less solid ground to stand on to argue with. Mouth slightly open, dark eyes inscrutable.


And it hasn't even really started yet, has it?

"Liette will remain where and how she is. I'll keep up contact as I have been. Everything else is moving along at pace. The age manipulator kicked it yesterday, although not before giving that prick Ryans the facial of a lifetime. Campbell's been spotted in Summer Meadows. And the 'Smoke Man' remains at large. If you'd like lamb's blood to paint your door with I'll send an intern down to Chinatown."

The lines at Praeger's eyes and around his mouth all deepen with a smile that communicates he knows how much worry Vincent is required to have, and isn't being quick to alleviate it. He nods once in confirmation of Lazzaro's maintained contact — that doesn't have to be said, on his end — and lifts his chin as he listens to the shorter updates being reeled past him. Another pause, before he sets his fingertips against the desk. "Keep an eye on Campbell's movements in Summer Meadows, at least until this weekend for the evacuation. If we can collect him into custody during the sweep, we'll probably buy ourselves some time before Homeland Security has a chance to step in.

"Speaking of which, I'd like you to propose to Harve Brennan that he assist us in the next stage. Being a physician, with his work at the Suresh Centre and his support of the Summer Meadows projects should lend him some credibility. You said he's been exceptionally cooperative with our department, is that correct?" It's not quite a question, as he closes up the folder in front of him.

"His current situation with Liette being what it is, he may not be enthusiastic about putting himself out there, but I can certainly suggest," Vincent tips his attention down after an imaginary rough spot on his sleeve, "that he encourage compliance in the interest of public health and safety."

Mild on that account, he's successfully blanked distinct features of any doubt by the time he looks up again to size up Praeger and his Really Clean Desk.

"Everything else of interest is in writing. I went ahead and included a map so you have a basic idea of what we're looking at. Just — a few pages printed off Bing with some red ink here and there." Blah blah blah boring stuff Raymond can read about on the can later. Lazzaro scuffs at the bridge of his nose and glances to the window again (still snowing) then to the file folder in all its plain manila glory.

"Thank you very much, Vincent," Praeger says, with no shortage of sincerity. "I'm sure we can both understand Dr. Brennan's situation, and make sure he knows that." And what other measure of diplomacy needed to make someone come around to your way of seeing things. "If there was nothing else, I'll let you get going. Try not to freeze to death out there."

"I'm sure," agreed with the kind of vacancy of enthusiasm that can be easily overlooked at the tail end of a conversation like this one, Vincent nods once to his imminent dismissal. "I'm one of few people in New York fortunate enough to have 'freezing to death' low on my list of immediate concerns. Take it easy, sir." And then, because this is an office setting for serious business and because he is actually capable of walking, he crosses the room for the door to collect his coat off the door and swish out whole and corporeal.

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