Do You Have...?


nicole_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Do You Have…?
Synopsis Richard makes inquiries regarding the whereabouts of his walkabout scientist.
Date August 21, 2019

Providence, Safe Zone

“Hey, Nicole,” started the message, left in her voicemail box in the familiar voice of Richard Ray, “Give me a call when you can? I understand you’re out of town, but I’m sure you’ll get this sooner rather than later - you’re resourceful. Talk to you soon.”

It was left in Nicole’s voicemail about a day after the arrival of one Zachery Miller in Providence.

It probably wasn’t a surprise.

Not one to waste time, Nicole - several days after the message was left - made sure to return the call first thing on her list of call-backs. Sitting in the butter yellow pick-up truck on the side of the road, she dials up Richard’s number and listens to the phone ring.

This? Is going to suck.

The phone’s picked up, the number being called recognized as one that’s in Richard’s own rolodex, and there’s a friendly voice on the other end. “Hey, Nicole,” he accidentally echoes his earlier message, “How’s life treating you out there?”

Niceties before business, of course.

“Oh, you know,” Nicole replies casually, leaning back in her seat and staring out the windshield at the clouds. “To what do I owe the pleasure of your call? Tell me my little sister isn’t in trouble again.” She knows that’s not what it’s about, but she can play dumb with the best of them.

“No, no,” Richard admits, “One of her team-mates isn’t doing so well, though— did you ever meet Devon? Nice kid. Liz and her father’ve adopted him, I think, he spends as much time on our couches eating out of our fridge as any teenager. And here I thought I had at least ten years until I had to deal with a kid that age…”

“I hear you got married,” is Nicole’s response to that, rather than to confirm or deny knowledge of Devon Clendaniel’s existence. Although she immediately curses herself, since where would she have heard that bit of news about Richard’s personal life anyway? “The grapevine has a way of finding me even all the way out here. Congratulations.”

“Thank you,” Richard replies, sounding legitimately grateful for the congratulations, “It’s kind of weird getting used to, admittedly, but… that’s my life, these days. Weird. Anyway, do you have my evil biologist?”

There’s a beat of silence that follows that question.

“I was under the impression,” Nicole begins flatly, “that your evil biologist went to prison for war crimes.”

“That was my evil biochemist,” says Richard a bit dryly, “Fortunately, I found a biologist who’d just gotten out of prison for war crimes who was looking for work. Then he stole one of Devon’s genetic samples, injected it into this poor woman that’s now suffering from progressive necrosis, and ran off to Providence.”

“I’m sensing a theme in your hiring practices.” Nicole glances up at the ceiling of the truck and runs her tongue over her teeth while she processes the information that’s been dropped in her lap. “Is she going to be okay?” There’s genuine concern there. Necrosis sounds like a terrible thing to be afflicted with. A terrible way to die. And she’s still avoiding the question.

“Honestly? I don’t know, but I doubt it. She refused assistance from us, and refused to go to the hospital,” admits Richard, his voice quiet but serious, “It was— bad. I think she was trying to make herself immortal or something insane like that, because Devon’d been helped by Monroe’s blood at some point. It isn’t going well, but without Miller to examine her without touching her… her evolved ability is likely to lash out at anyone who tries, just out of survival instinct. She’s a body-hopper. You can see the problem there, I’m sure.”

“Jesus,” Nicole breathes out. Her hand reaches out and settles on the key in the ignition, then withdraws again. “That’s awful. I hope someone can assist her…” She sighs heavily. “I don’t, as it happens, have your biologist. But if I find him, I’ll— ” kick his ass “ —send him back to you.”

“Mnm. Appreciated.” There’s a long pause, and Richard sighs, “I’m trying to give your boyfriend a chance at a normal life, a normal job, but if he keeps pulling this shit he’s going to send up in PI-SEC with Mohinder, Odessa, and the others. I can only pull so many strings and give so many second chances. I mean, God knows I’m into rehabilitation for ex-Institute employees, but I’m not Mother-goddamn-Theresa over here.”

Wryly, he notes, “Maybe he’d be better-behaved if he knew the new boss was almost the same as the old boss.”

“I get it, Richard.” There’s a terseness to Nicole’s voice that has nothing to do with Richard and everything to do with Zachery. She pinches the bridge of her nose between the fingers of her free hand. “If you want to continue to maintain your separation from that man, I wouldn’t.” She knows he isn’t serious, but she has her own bad memories of the other Richard Cardinal.

“Listen… I’m no stranger to…” Silence falls on Nicole’s end of the line while she thinks better of what she was about to say, or maybe how to say it. “You know, Yamagato might have someone on the payroll that could help you with your body jumping problem. I can’t guarantee they’d go for it, but they’re big on the humanitarian angle. You might be able to appeal to their hearts. Or at least their PR director.”

“Hah, yeah, and I do. God knows enough other people don’t… and it’s not my problem anymore, she refused assistance from us and I wasn’t about to keep her locked up,” Richard admits, “Because I’m not him. Hopefully Miller can do something for her.”

He sighs into the phone, “Anyway. Sorry for bothering you like this, wish it could’ve been a social call, but I don’t seem to get to make many of those these days. Back to the old world-saving grind I guess.”

“It’s fine, really.” And Nicole is somewhat surprised with herself when she realizes that it is. (Fine.) “Any time I can help, you reach out. It’s not like I can just — go back to being a secretary. Not after…” She waves her hand in the air in front of her face for her own benefit while she fishes for the right word. “The war,” is all-encompassing and yet not quite enough to explain everything the two of them have been through together and separately.

“Take care of yourself, okay? One of these days we’ll get together just for coffee. Maybe after we’re done saving the world again.”

“That’d be nice, actually,” Richard admits with a quiet chuckle, “Good luck on your end of world saving. Maybe we should get together to compare notes on that, too, when you’re back in the city.”

“Take care of yourself, Nicole.”

“I’d like that,” Nicole confirms. The small smile that lights on her face can be heard in her voice on the other end of the line. “Thanks, Richard. Talk to you again, soon as I can.”

Tapping the red circle on her phone’s face, Nicole sighs after she sees the time elapsed flash three times, signaling the call’s end. Seems like nothing can ever go quite right where her personal life is concerned. She’s already involved, whether or not she’d like to be. The question remains how long she’s willing to continue.

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