De Oppresso Liber


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Scene Title De Oppresso Liber
Synopsis Rupert Carmichael tests the waters by pushing a powerful and wealthy philanthropist further than his morals are willing to take him, and Renard Delacroix finds himself in Rupert Carmichael's sights.
Date August 11, 2010

Carmichael Manor

An invitation to the austere Carmichael Manor usually comes for one of two reasons, a favor owed or a favor requested.

Situated on Manhattan's Upper West Side, the estate of the Carmichael family rests as a gated bastion of wealth among wealthy neighbors. Old money flows like oil beneath the surface of this well tended manor's grounds, and from the moment he set foor inside, the matter of //business/ has loomed like a scythe over Renard Delacroix' head.

On any other day or under any other circumstances, a visit to the Carmichael manor would mean a fundraiser to attend or a cocktail party to sip drinks at and discuss heated political situations. If there is one thing that Rupert Carmichael has in spades, it's political opinions and most of them maverick in nature.

"Welcome, mister Delacroix," is the measured and monotone greeting from a demure blonde woman that those who know Rupert well recognize as his aide de camp, Christa. A clean cut and perpetually blaise blonde woman who's expression always seem to be bordering on lethargic or disinterested. It isn't to say that she's not attentive, however, but that her very nature seems defined by rigidity and temperance.

From the marble-floored and white-walled foyer of the Carmichael Manor's ground floor, Renard Delacroix is afforded the familiar sights of a home he has been in on more heavily populated occasions. With just he and Christa sharing the foyer space, it feels downright vacant.

Though the presence of Rupert in his home is affirmed not by his physical presence, but by the sound of piano music softly tinkling from a pair of closed, cherry-wood doors just off of the foyer. An avid pianist though not on professional level, Rupert's dabbling — and affection — for music is a well-known tidbit among his social circles.

"Mister Carmichael and mister Knight are expecting you," Christa notes with a slow bob of her head into a nod and a gesture with one manicured hand towards the double doors, "do you require anything before we proceed with the meeting?"

Renard steps into the vacant halls of the manor, sure to keep his expression neutral when confronted with the austere nature of the nearly deserted home. He wears his tailored suit like armor, and his slim briefcase at his side is as a waiting lance. His head tilts, ever so slightly, at the sound of the piano music, placing it mentally.

"I do not, thank you." He speaks in a polite tone, his voice softened by the accent of his native France. "If you would be so kind as to show me in?"

Christa's response is a subtle nod that disturbs one lock of blonde hair to spill down her forehead from its place tucked behind one ear. The darkly dressed blonde turns sharply and folds her hands behind her back, the trim line of her charcoal gray suit giving her narrow frame an even slimmer silhouette. Her hard-soled flats clack across the marble floor on approach to the doors, opening one side and allowing the noise of the piano playing to carry on out into the foyer.

Three swift knocks on the closed half of the door arrest the piano's music, and Christa's voice immediately fills the gap. "Mister Renard Delacroix, to see you sirs." Only then on announcement does Christa open the other half of the doors, revealing to Renard the warmly decorated sitting room beyond. It's a wing of the manor most public meetings never make it to, so seeing the red fabric on high-backed armchairs, darkly stained wood and partly drawn velvet curtains bound with gold rope is a little like peeking behind the curtain to see who the Wizard of Oz is.

In this case, two very unassuming and powerful men.

Daniel Warrington Knight, the Board Chairman of the Maxwell Development Corporation stands beside a baby grand paino, his blonde hair streaked with gray and combed to one side, wire-framed glasses perched on the bridge of his nose, ink black suit immaculately crisp and posture cardboard stiff.

To his contrast, Rupert Carmichael is every bit as eccentric as he always has seemed. Suit jacket eschewed for only his white dress shirt beneath, sleeves rolled up to his elbows, black tie loosened and fedora perched jauntily atop his head, his bearded countenance looks much as Renard last saw him.

"Mister Delacroix," Rupert notes with a wavering timbre, rising up from his seat at the piano bench, waving one hand in excitedly. "C'mon, c'mon… come on in, pull up a seat. You want something stiff to drink?" Ever the atypical socialite.

Renard shifts his weight slightly, so that he may turn to fully face the double doors. When it has been opened to him, he crosses the marble foyer silently, his custom made shoes luxurious and stealthy. His right hand, unoccupied with his briefcase, passes down his lapel in a wave of minute perfectionism, adjusting buttons and the lay of the fabric. He steps into the room, in full confidence.

Dressed in his immaculate gray suit, fine accessories, and vibrant hair, Renard may have just stepped off the cover of GQ. What really catches the eye, however, is his almost liquid animal charisma, famed for extracting dollars in the name of charity. He has his own power, and he uses it to back his aristocratic airs.

"Gentleman, greetings." Renard intones, with a perfectly measured amount of civility and good grace.

Renard enters the room proper, allowing the doors to be closed behind him as he approaches to a properly social distance. Wavering between intimacy and coolness, he uses one hand to gesture politely in refusal for emphasis. "I am afraid I must refuse. I'll want to keep up with the both of you." He puts on a small smile to go with the flattery as he finds a seat in which to join the others.

"You'd best tip one back then if you plan on keeping up with Rupert," Knight notes with a sarcastic tone of voice, motioning to the empty snifter of Brandy seated atop the closed piano nearby to where Rupert was sitting a moment ago. Rupert's brows furrow, thoughtfully, as he slants an askance look to Knight before side-stepping the board chairman and moving in an intercepting path to Renard, offering out a quick hand in greeting with a handshake before motioning to the high-backed plush armchairs set in a triangle around a low, circular coffee table.

"Over here, much more comfortable than standing around, especially for creaking old men," Rupert opines with a smirk offered to Knight, who seems the type to be able to dish out a little sarcasm but less able to take it back. Noisily clearing his throat, the eldest of the three gentlemen in the room moves to take one of the chairs, slowly settling down into it and crossing one leg over the other, hands folded at the back of one knee.

"Christa, could you…" Rupert requests, trailing off as he motions to the blonde. He watches her only for a moment before she nods wordlessly and step back, bringing both double doors closed. "I'll admit I wasn't entirely forthcoming with why I wanted to get you here to talk to you today, mister Delacroix…" Not yet seared until he's sure his guests are both sitting, Rupert hovers the conversational area like a buzzard.

Renard does a little dodging, the youngest of the three, he is lightest on his feat. Hands are shaken, smiles are given, and all in all he appears very genuine. He follows along with the invitation to sit, keeping a cunning look. "Certainly. Let us all take a seat then?"

The young mogul settles into a vacant chair with well-practiced poise, awaiting Rupert to join them. He situates himself just so, projecting an elegance honed in European living. The briefcase finds a home beside him. "Not entirely?" He asks, coolly, seemingly unsurprised. One eyebrow arcs inquisitively as he directs his gaze to the eccentric host.

"I can't speak for Rupert, but my intentions here are entirely business-minded. I'd like to solicit you for a charitable donation to Maxwell Corporation's Midtown relief fund, money that would go to the reconstruction of the bomb-damaged portions of Manhattan. Now, I konw that this isn't just about the charity and the tax writeoff isn't that much of an enciting figure, especially since your construction company is in competition with Maxwell." Knight reaches into his jacket, withdrawing a metal case that he quietly flips open, revealing a row of cigars.

"In return for the financial assistance, Maxwell Corporation would be willing to offer a partnership to Bastion Construction." As he talks, Knight withdraws a cigar cutter from the case, snipping off the end of the cigar to begin his next sentence. "The size and term of the partnership comparable to the size of your donation, naturally. It's a competitive business market out there right now, and that arm of your family's empire may find themselves in tight squeezes in the future. There's some business maneuvering I'm planning for Maxwell that could drastically increase the company's value and market-share, and…" he rolls one shoulder, "it's better to have allies when making risky business ventures than enemies."

All the while on this end of the conversation, Rupert has been settling into his seat, though when Knight starts clipping cigars he holds out a hand for silent request of one. Knight obliges, but Rupert only tucks the cigar behind his ear, eliciting a raised brow from the board chairman. Glancing away from Rupert and to renard, Knight offers a cigar out to the younger man as well out of politeness.

Renard listens politely, leaning forward slightly in his seat to show he is paying attention. His lips are a line, helping to form a serious expression. He politely turns down the offered cigar. "I do not indulge in tobacco, thank you. I may indulge in this deal, however. If I find the particulars to support an alliance, and not an exploitation." The young man carefully selects his words and tone, to be polite but assertive.

With a response given, the younger man turns his attention to the host, fingers meeting in a steeple. "Might one enquire as to your motivation for calling me here, then? I am eager to discover your true intention." He lets a wry smile appear in part, as if expecting a jest from Rupert. He waits, intently.

"You're on the Registry," is Rupert's blunt notion as he delicately pokes the tip of his cigar up to more comfortably rest behind his ear, "and while most people may not have privvy access to all of the Registry's details, we all know that enough money can grease any wheel. I've been searching, for a while, for someone with your particular skill sets that I could put to my own personal employ… with certain stipulations." Slouching to the side in his chair, Rupert laces his fingers together, then steeples them in front of his mouth.

"I'd like to hire you out on a case-by-case basis for memory alterations. No questions asked, just deal delt and hands shaken, payment received on performance." Parting his hands to stroke one over his beard, Rupert slowly arches one brow. "The enticing part of that offer is that you get to name your price… whether it's in money, hardware or favors," the latter of which can at times be more valuable than any one single currency.

"You're that valuable of an asset to me, and this would be strictly off of any books and entirely confidential on all our ends." Which seems to subtly imply that Mr.Knight has interests in Rupert aquiring these services himself, though he's remaining tactfully quiet on the matter.

Renard nods his head to the first part. He is indeed on the Registry, though not as happy and compliant member. He frowns slightly, just a bit, to demonstrate a level of disapproval at the subject of bribery. Hypocrisy not withstanding. As Rupert continues, Renard's face becomes more concerned. His brows furrow somewhat, as he focuses closely on Carmichael with an intense concentration.

He allows the man to drone on, dividing his attention between the present, and the past. Tendrils of his Ability, invisible, undetectable, caress at the men across from him. Seeking to relive the most relevant memory at hand - the manner and exact nature of the information they claim to possess about his ability. It would take but an instant to sift through a few memories, to discover what they know and how they know it.

The young executive makes a thoughtful hum in his throat, stalling for a few fractions. "A very interesting proposal. Very intriguing. I wonder, Mr. Carmichael, if you know anything about the history of my family? My ancestral heritage?" Skillfully, he deflects the line of inquiry to another topic. A legitimate one, perhaps, as he is genuine European aristocracy.

Images, voices, names and places flash across the fore of Renard's mind as he plumbs through Rupert's. It's like watching a television show on fast-forward with subtitles, but being able to pick it all up. Moments that snap into place begin somewhere around the Frontline Inaugriation Gala held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2009 where Renard was introduced to Frontline's operations director Sarisa Kershner.

Rupert was present in a closed-doors meeting in the Oval office with Sarisa Kershner, Vice President Andrew Mitchell, and a man he is not directly familiar with until Rupert's memories fill in the blanks. Tall, old, with short-cripped gray hair, a distinctively large nose and ears. Rupert knows him as Doctor Simon Broome of the Commonwealth Institute.

Information was shared at that meeting, Evolved of "special interest" that Sarisa picked up information on by way of her psychometry. All this trouble from a handshake. Five other people are mentioned by name: Pastor Joseph Sumter, Gillian Childs, Delphine Kuhr, Tyler Case and Niklaus Zimmerman.

None of them ring a bell, not did they to Rupert at that time.

But Renard Delacroix' name was on that list, and who the other five people are must somehow be related to what it is Rupert is trying to work on here. This certainly wasn't information from the Registry it was some black government operation.

"I don't think we're here to discuss— " Knight's dismissal of the topic is likewise dismissed by Rupert when the historian leaps at the opportunity to discuss something in his field of personal expertise. Aside from, it seems, being in bed with the United States Government's upper echelon?

"I actually haven't delved into your family history at all, and I'd be thrilled to discuss your geneaology at some point. You obviously know my teaching background and the history buff angle," Rupert offers in explanation with a lopsided smile. "But let's try to keep our heads on business. You know what I put out there for information, and there's a lot more that you might benefit from in the long run if you agree to the offer."

Renard uses a motion of his hand to decisively take control of the conversation. "My family history is in fact very much a relevant issue. As you may or may not know, my family has been nobility in France since before the Crusades. Our history is long, our members are numerous, and our history is rich. In this dense tapestry there are many characters, but none as black as a Hugh. He is upheld as an object lesson for all of us because of his deeds."

Renard launches into a short but engaging story, one told to him as a child, a long-practiced narrative both gripping and brief. Apparently his ancestor, Hugh, had forsaken his principles and ethics, and by doing so doomed the defense of that region, leading to many deaths and ruin. The story is an excellent cover for a bit more memory digging, as well.

When the tale ends, Renard brings closure. "So you see, principles are most valuable when they are tested. I bring this up because, as you will recall when the subject of Registration was debated, I noted that the gathering of reams of information about the Evolved would result in their exploitation by the government or powerful private forces such as yourself. It does not surprise me that you would have used your position and wealth to access information the government assured me would be kept in the upmost confidence." Renard remands, polite, almost cheerful as he makes his verbal jabs and cuts.

"I do not know how my Ability, to relive and enhance the memories of willing persons in physical and eye contact, would be useful to you. Regardless, to accept your offer as stated would violate my position on exploitation vis a vis the Registry. Furthermore, I suspect that the tasks you might lay out for me would in some way violate my personal ethics and good moral standing. As a devout Christian and Humanitarian, I find it difficult to assume that you would approach me in such secrecy if you had intentions wholesome enough to be revealed to the world at large. You know me well enough, Mr. Carmichael, that you could expect me to leap at the chance to help others with my many gifts - if this were an enterprise motivated by altruism, you would not have even mentioned compensation in the degree."

"Altruism in this world is a dead language," Rupert explains with furrowed brows, "I know a thing or two about dead languages too." Looking for a bare moment to Knight, Rupert's hand raises to stroke at his beard again before his eyes flick back to Renard intently. "I'd like you to reconsider. Who or what needs their memories modified won't be explained to you, so you needn't worry about the moral or ethical choices. You just do and remain on a need-to-know basis. I think you'd find people with our standing to be more useful as your allies than your enemies, political, financial or otherwise Renard."

Sliding his tongue across his lips, Rupert slouches back slowly in his chair and laces his fingers together to rest beneath his chin. "I know this might be… a big decision, or an important one, so I can even give you a grace period of a week to think on the offer?" One of Rupert's dark brows slowly rise. "Because I think this is something you need to consider carefully."

Knight leans forward at that, uncrossing his legs and resting his hands on his knees. "I would hate to see Bastion go under in the economic tides that are coming, Mister Delecroix. The world is changing at a rapid pace and only the people able to see a little bit further down the road are going to be able to turn away before disaster hits."

Knight carefully adjusts his glasses with one hand, then leans back in his chair again. "Don't lose everything you had because of a lack of foresight. I wouldn't want to see you wind up like Leonardo Maxwell. He didn't listen to reason, and look what sort of fool accident happened to him?"

In his chair, Renard looks less and less polite. His civilized veneer seems to slowly solidify, his face as implacable as marble. He gives no response to Rupert's wheedling, except a hardening of his expression. Knight's clumsy attempts at intimidation are met with silence. For a long, uncomfortable moment there is not a sound in the sitting room.

Renard speaks, after the long pause, and when he does so his voice is as cold as ice, and sharp as a razor. "You presume above your station, to make demands of me. To think so little of my honor and self respect. I fear that your ambition far outpaces your capabilities, and is exceeded only by your ego." His posture adjusts, subtly, but it is enough to make his projection go from interested and at ease to unyielding, as a lord upon his throne. He turns his gaze to Knight, and his gaze is piercing with its intensity. "You lower yourself and prove unworthy of your surname on this day. You are a lesser son of greater sires, who I pity in their misfortune to have birthed one that would sacrifice virtue for material gain."

Suddenly he stands, in a movement fluid and graceful. The confidence is now overshadowed by an almost feral intensity, his suit as the gray coat of the panther, the silver briefcase as light from scimitar claws. "To your proposal I will refuse as I would forsake the Devil. To your clumsy threats, this promise - sow destruction, and thou shalt reap the whirlwind. I will show myself out." With that, the meeting is very much concluded. Renard goes to door, calmly.

Knight looks like he's about to get up out of his chair from hos red in the face he is with frustration, but Rupert's raised hand keeps the attack dog at bay. "You're a more educated man than I took you for, Renard," Rupert offers in thoughtful quality, one brow lifted. He watches long enough for Renard to open one side of the door, then sinks back into his seat with a movement of one hand over his mouth.

"Just remember, Mister Delacroix, a clean conscience and golden morality only makes martyrs. No good hero is admired in history until after they're long gone. The offer will stand for one week's time…"

Despite everything, Rupert seems to impress the importance of that limit, then plucks his cigar from above his ear and looks down at it thoughtfully as Renard steps out of the sitting room. Christa, across the hallway, turns to offer a soft look to Renard, then glances inside the sitting toom before turning her attention back to Renard again.

No one is following after, and Christa's simple query seems unknowingly sarcastic. "Did it go that well to already be over?"

Or, maybe she presumes how bad it really went.

The doors are opening under Renard's hand when Rupert addresses him. Deliberately, he keeps his back to Carmichael, showing the disdain he has. "You think so little of others, Mister Carmichael. That is the anchor of your downfall." He is stepping out then, the doors closing on his final words about martyrs. Renard has no time for it.

Briskly he steps across the hall, the urbane expression reestablishing itself. He even goes so far to respond to her sarcasm with a gentle smile. "Tell your master this: de oppresso liber. You have a good day." With that, he goes to his waiting car to be driven off into the sunset. As he goes, he already setting in motion the defensive measures to stymie the very shadow of threats, and offensive actions to strangle plots in the cradle.

De Oppresso Liber.

To Liberate the Oppressed.

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