t1_icon.gif richard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Erinyes
Synopsis Richard Ray receives a mysterious missive and an unexpected visitor.
Date April 22, 2021

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

In Richard Ray’s life it is not so unusual to receive courier packages with no return address or other indication from where it came. Given his status, of course, this one has been run through just about every detector possible and been deemed unconventional, but no threat. When he looks inside the box they came in, the objects are so vastly ordinary.

A pair of glasses – smart glasses, actually – and an old brick of a cell phone. The electronics are accompanied by a note. It’s been typed on business card stock like one might find accompanying a bouquet of flowers.

Put these on and dial 81*
— A Friend

Richard’s been frowning at the box sitting on his desk for about ten minutes now, absently waggling a cat toy off the side of the chair that Richelieu’s been chasing around. Finally he drops it - the cat pounces - and he reaches out for the smartglasses.

“I swear, if these hypnotize me or something…” A low mutter under his breath as he slips them on and activates them, picking up the cell phone and dialing the indicated number.

A heads-up display — predictably enough — comes to life when Richard dons the glasses. Being as it isn’t connected to his equipment, it doesn’t display any of his personally connected accounts. No e-mail, intraoffice messenger or the like. There’s a simple welcome, including his first name, then only the typical things one might find on a new smartphone. The weather, local news, an icon to indicate that the device is connected to the ghostnet, and the time.

Incidentally, it’s a dual clock displayed – international. New York Safe Zone time and Tokyo.

Hello, Richard Ray. I am T1SIPHONE, or T1 if you prefer.

The words appear on the screen of their own accord. They hold for a moment, long enough to be read before fading again.

I understand this is an awkward way to meet, but my options are few. If you speak to me, I will hear it and be able to respond, thanks to the device you’re wearing.
Speaking of which, please allow me to make an adjustment for you, Mr. Ray.

The world begins to darken. More accurately, the lenses take on a tint to shield Richard’s eyes from the light. Whoever is contacting him knows about his sensitivity. Not that it takes too much to guess at.

As I was saying, you may speak to me and I will respond to you this way. So long as you keep that device on you — the phone I sent — we can communicate.

“You could have just called,” quips Richard first-off, “I do have a rather secure phone.”

And now you have two.

There’s a further moment of silence following the sass in the text before he inquires, “So, what can I help you with? Your chosen alias suggests you’re after revenge or justice of some sort, hopefully not directed against me.”

Wryly, “Although I suppose it could be. I’ve no end of people who I’ve pissed off over the years.”

I’ve no quarrel against you, Mr. Ray. You and I are allies, even if you do not realize it yet.

“I can always use more allies,” is the casual response, “So what cause in common do we have, then?”

Patience, Mr. Ray. All of your questions will be answered soon.

In the lower left of Richard’s periphery, he can briefly see the semi-opaque ascii image of a woman. Just as soon as he recognizes the Mona Lisa smile, she’s gone again. Not immediately known to him, the apparition stubbornly doesn’t stay visible long enough to be studied.

I realize you are a man of secrets who doesn’t appreciate them in kind. Before I can answer you question, I am hoping you’ll be able to answer one of mine.

For several seconds, there’s nothing forthcoming. Just long enough to make one wonder if the mysterious contact had disconnected entirely. Then, a notification pops up in the corner of the heads-up display.

3 New Messages

Message unable to be retrieved.
There appears to be some sort of interference. Routing to another node.
Message unable to be retrieved.

There’s another ‘quiet’ beat before more words appear, now in real time.

My apologies. The Safe Zone networks still experience difficulties with outages and Raytech Industries’ internal protections can create difficulties when establishing a new connection.
Please rest assured that no attempt is being made to bypass your security measures.

“I’m confident in our security measures to let me know if you were,” is Richard’s wry response, “Take your time.”

Despite his words, he taps the surface of his desk a few times to bring up a current security scan for the outside-facing network. Just to make sure there isn’t any weird activity popping up.

Upon inspection, there are no markers to suggest intrusion. Either their — her? — word is good, or those infiltration skills are excellent.

The connection appears to be stable. Your patience has been appreciated.
I understand you have an association with Cecilia Weiss. I’m contacting you because I wish to know something about her.

“I don’t know if I’d call it an association, but we’re acquainted,” replies Richard curiously, “You can ask, of course, I can’t guarantee I’ll be willing to answer, given all the cloak and dagger going on.”

Do you trust her?

“A loaded question,” Richard’s answer comes, dry, “And one without context. The answer changes based on what you’re asking I trust her with.”

A judicious answer. What would you trust her with, Mr. Ray?

“The details of our shared interests,” Richard answers, cautiously, “What do you want to know if you can trust her with, Ms. T1?”

Just T1, please. Ms. T1 is my mother.

Oh, good. It has a sense of humor.

I believe your shared interests may be my own as well.
What is your opinion of your partnership with Yamagato Industries since the change in leadership?

“Another dangerous question, since I don’t know where you stand in all of this,” observes Richard, pausing, “I can say that I preferred the previous leadership.”

河原迅風 has drastically altered the course of Yamagato Industries’ interests. It doesn’t seem to be a stretch to assume these interests are no longer in alignment with Raytech Industries’ values.

The kanji lettering reshapes itself after a moment into the alphabet Richard is familiar with. Hayate Kawahara.

If this is the case, then I believe our interests are aligned.

“Well, he made me divert half of the food production project to biofuel to sell, so I can tell you our financial priorities aren’t exactly aligned…” Richard leans forward, not that he has anyone to lean forward at, but it’s a habit, “…but I don’t know what your interests and priorities are, just yet, so I’m a little hesitant to confide anything in you. For all I know you’re a Yamagato intelligence agent.”

My interest lies in seeing the least amount of harm come to innocent people.
It’s naïvety to believe all harm can be prevented.

“Huh.” Richard leans back again, the chair creaking a bit, “‘I want to save innocent people’. That’s a new one I have to- AGH CLAWS– ”

Having leaned back, Richelieu decided it was time to jump into his master’s lap and knead, apparently, and his claws haven’t been trimmed in a bit.

“Uhh, Mister Ray?”

The voice doesn’t come from the phone he was given, nor the glasses. Instead, it comes from the phone on his desk, the voice belonging to whoever’s playing backup for Sera today. “A- Are you alright?”

Yes. Very novel.

“Yes, yes, I’m fine– Richelieu let go, come on kitty, let– oof, damn it.” Cat claws on hardwood scuttle away, and Richard clears his throat, “Just, you know, cat. Wait, why are you on speaker?”

There’s a moment of what must be stunned silence. It’s not hard to imagine floundering. Not everyone can roll with the punches like Ms Lang. “Uh… Right! Because there’s someone here to see you. Something about a…” Confusion grows thick in the young woman’s voice. “…game of poker?”

“Today is getting stranger by the minute,” Richard mutters, “One moment, T1.”

Take your time.

He slips off the glasses and sets it down, “A game of poker? I haven’t played poker in years, who is it? Names are usually required at the desk, you know.”

“I think she said her name was Tiffany? I had to ask her three times. She said you’d be expecting her.” There’s a softly uttered lament that she probably doesn’t realize is being picked up by the receiver. “I hate covering front desk.” Taking a deep breath, she more helpfully adds, “Blonde? Short hair. Maybe about as tall as Sera? I… think I’ve seen her on TV.”

“Hold on.”

Richard picks the glasses back up and slips them on, asking, “Are you in my lobby by any chance? Two mysterious contacts in one day seems too coincidental.”

The digitized woman from earlier appears in the center of Richard’s vision this time. It’s not stable. It glitches here and there, as though plagued by static on a weak signal. Still, he can see that smile, crinkles at the corners of the eyes clearly showing mirth. Being made up of shades of grey, it’s difficult to know much about her appearance beyond what’s implied by the shape of the characters that comprise her. Hair — what passes for it anyway — wafts in an artificial breeze.

You should answer your door, Mr. Ray. It isn’t polite to keep guests waiting.

The woman’s mouth doesn’t move, nor does her expression change, except to blink. Then she and the words that displayed over the top of her as though she wasn’t there all fade away.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Richard sighs, turning off the glasses and setting them to one side before bringing one hand up to rub between his eyes, “Is this what it’s like dealing with me? This is karma, isn’t it?”

Nobody’s listening, Richard. Well, that’s not true. The receptionist is.

“…give her a guest pass and have her sent up to my office, then, Ms. Kravitz. Thank you. Also, in the future, ask for ID.”

He reaches over and turns off the speakerphone. It really is hard to get good help these days.

The wait for his visitor isn’t long, but it isn’t a mysterious stranger that ultimately steps through the door of Richard’s office. Not some dame with legs for days whose perfume smells of trouble.

Well, she’s all those things, but she’s at least not unfamiliar.


The visitor’s badge reads Tiffany Case, but that is definitely Kaydence Lee Damaris. “I’m about a decade late, but I was hoping you could still deal me in.”

Richard lifts an eyebrow a little as the woman walks into the room, and he leans back in his chair, motioning a bit with one hand in the woman’s direction.

“So what were you wearing,” he asks, apropos of apparently nothing, “At that last poker game, Damaris?”

“Knowing me, and knowing the beat I was working then? Maybe the turquoise thing with the sequins? Fishnets. Heels.” She tilts her head, considering. “No, definitely red. I was on brand ahead of my time. And I remember the bomber jacket. Mister Magnes J. Varlane was very concerned that I keep it zipped up.”

Kay chuckles quietly and closes the door behind her softly, moving the rest of the way inside. Converse to those days, she’s dressed in a pair of grey skinny jeans and a Winslow-Crawford Academy sweatshirt. It’s a far departure from every other time he’s seen her since she emerged in New York again as the Director of Public Relations for Yamagato. “Satisfied?”

“Relatively,” is Richard’s casual reply, hands spreading a bit, “I’m pretty sure that your doppleganger wouldn’t know that particular outfit. I mean, I remember it, of course, and it looked a hell of a lot better without the bomber jacket zipped up.”

A smile crooks up at the corner of his lips, “I was actually planning on looking you up, after you recovered from your… you know.” A vague motion of his hand, “Kidnapping.”

There’s another brief moment of laughter; both for mention of how her attire best presented and that recovery of hers. “I’ve been a busy bee,” she offers as absolution to any and all sins resulting in a lack of communication.

“My double is no longer an issue, but I’m pleased you still check.” Resting her hands on the back of the chair she should eventually occupy, she leans forward a little. “Who’s a girl got to blow away to get a drink around here?”

"I've had bad experiences with doubles in the past," Richard observes a bit deadpan. Bad experiences is an understatement, after all. He smiles all the same, then twists in his chair and leans down to open a small cabinet in the back of his desk. A bottle of scotch thumps onto its black glass top, followed by a pair of highball glasses.

"Me," he quips, lifting the bottle to unscrew the cap and tilting it to fill each glass in turn, "But I'll pass on the 'away' part." It gets Kaydence to bark a quick hah! of laughter.

"So before I go in on everything I need to tell you, what specifically brings you by? What has you interested in Cecilia?"

“What?” Kay asks mildly, finally moving around to have that seat, now that there’ll be a drink in it for her. “You don’t trust me after all these years?” It isn’t as though they were close associates, but that isn’t going to stop her from leaning on familiarity.

She shrugs. “Cecilia Weiss walked away with a Yamagato subsidiary. She’s not exactly a well-liked entity around the executive office, if you hadn’t suspected as much.” The blonde seems noncommittal about it, save for a smile like she’s tasted something sour. “I’m also given to understand her company is responsible for my kidnapping. So, I need to know if and why she should continue to be suffered.”

“You’ve definitely come to the right place, then,” says Richard, two fingers pressing to the edge of one of the highball glasses to slide it across the desk, “You’ve been given misinformation.”

He picks up his own and leans back in his chair with a subtle creak, raising the glass to her in a casual toast before observing, “Yamagato was responsible for your kidnapping.”

Kay murmurs her thanks as she reaches out to meet Richard halfway and slide her glass the rest of the way toward her. She leaves it on the desktop, fingertips resting delicately on its surface. Head tilting at the claim he makes, she waits.

Richard leans back and she responds with a subtle smirk, beginning to shift in the small ways required to bear aloft her glass to return his toast. There’s not more than a half an inch of lift before the glass slips from her grasp weakened by shock, landing with a heavy thunk of crystal back on the desk. Not a drop spilled.

“You want to run that one by me again, Cardinal?” The slip is unintentional, it speaks to how rattled Kay Damaris really is. Still, her voice remains even. “That is a very serious accusation to make.”

There’s no answer until Richard’s taken a drink and lowered the glass again, cradling it in his hand on the arm of the chair and looking across to her with a serious expression. “The left hand doesn’t always know what the right hand’s doing, until the left hand wakes up dead,” he says, and it’s not a joke.

“Your kidnapping and insertion into Structure was ordered by two men - Lucien Crane of Renautus, and Claudius Kellar of INSight Corporate Services. Both men are currently on the run and off the radar after the Wolfhound raid on the Toronto facility - and Weiss’s acquisition of Renautus - and are known associates of Mazdak. You were specifically targeted to acquire information regarding internal security and black ops - and one other thing, but I’ll come around to that in a bit.”

“A second associate of Mazdak,” he continues, “Is a man named Charles Sharrow - an old man, former SS, former Vanguard, he’s followed loathsome philosophies all his life so it shouldn’t be a surprise he’s found a new one. What may be a surprise is the surveillance photos showing him with a man named Hayate Kawahara.”

An eyebrow lifts, “They had you replaced with a shapeshifter - a mercenary, I’m told. Did you ever wonder how they were able to duplicate your security credentials on top of everything else? Or the coincidence that Kimiko was also taken, her for the Galatea Project, which Crane’s emails indicate he was also involved in?”

“Hayate made a deal with the devil that removed all obstacles from the board, stepped in, and took the throne.”

Kay remains silent for the entirety of the explanation. Not once does she even so much as shift in her seat as an indication that she might consider interrupting. Merely, her gaze is pointed over Richard’s right shoulder, drinking in the skyline beyond the windows of his office.

Even when he finishes speaking, her gaze remains there, steady, save for the faintest of glimmers in her eyes. It takes less time to work through it all than she thought it would. There should be more points of frustration, more numbers that don’t add up, more junctures where she can say wait a second, that isn’t true. Instead, she finds the core of sense in the senseless damage done to her life.

“Alright.” The word comes from a sandpaper dry tongue. “So Crane likely used knowledge from Nakamura to have me grabbed, leaving her unprotected…” And that led to a disaster that causes her guts to churn from guilt, even if the mask of a calculating woman stays in place. Kay takes a deep breath and finally brings her visual attention back to Richard. “I don’t understand, though. Why didn’t he demote me for my own good? Sack me. He shitcanned Eizen the moment I was returned.”

The blonde frowns and shakes her head. “I thought he’d be buried in Yonkers…” Her breath hitches. For all the stoicism she’s been able to show thus far, she’s always had tells at the table.

“That’s because there’s still something they want from you, and it’s the one thing that doesn’t make sense to me yet…”

Richard taps a finger a few times on the edge of his glass, then leans forward with his brow furrowed, “…what connection did you have to Daniel Linderman?”

There’s a hint of flint and steel when he asks that final question, but it isn’t something Kay’s quick to leap on or lash out toward. Instead, she calmly reclaims her glass and brings it to her lips for a drink, mulling all of it over while she lets the burn of the alcohol complement the smokiness of the flavor profile.

“That doesn’t make sense,” Kay asserts. “They were going to hand me off to whatever was left of Praxis before they found out—” The gate snapped shut ahead of a secret that can never be untold once it’s been seen in the light of day. The momentary hesitation is covered with a small cough into the crook of her elbow. “—that Nakamura was vulnerable. Excuse me.” Another seemingly uncertain moment is spent with her face tucked down into her arm like a shielding wing.

Satisfied, she re-centers. “They meant to kill me. They got whatever they wanted from me, and were content to let those pricks at Praxia cut me into little pieces. They’re done with me. So if Kawahara was behind this whole thing, why am I still alive? I don’t fit in with Yamagato’s corporate structure, the way he’s configuring it. I know I’m good in front of the cameras, but…”

“Kellar was also involved with Praxis,” says Richard with a shake of his head, “And Weiss severed Structure’s budget to shut them down, which means he was just… moving you somewhere else more in his power. There was a piece of very specific information that the two of them were determined to get out of you.”

He leans in slightly, eyebrows lifting, “They may hope to change tactics with you being ‘free’. Maybe hoping that you’ll lead them to what they’re looking for.”

While looking across the desk to Richard, Kay feels increasingly uncomfortable. Not because of him, but because he knows more about what happened to her than she thinks he ought to. More than she knows. “You have me at a disadvantage,” she finally admits with a put-on nonchalance.

Matching him for posture, Kay leans in herself. She doesn’t cut the imposing figure he could if he really wanted to right now. It’s harder to look like someone not to be trifled with when she’s not in one of her suits, but Richard is a parent — he probably knows better than to fuck with anyone on the PTA. “What made you ask about that old fossil of all people?”

“Because the question that they were digging around in that admittedly lovely noggin of yours,” Richard replies, a smile tugging up at the corner of his lips just enough to be noticeable, “Regarded that old sonuvabitch.”

He leans back again, lifting the glass in a casual gesture, “So I’m curious where this puzzle piece fits in the larger scheme of things.”

“Why do you know so much about all of this?” Kay asks with a furrow to her brow. She snorts, leaning back again and taking a healthy swallow of scotch, like she might a cheaper whiskey or a beer. “If you weren’t an old…” A hand is waved in the air nebulously between them as if to suffice for whatever word describes their relationship, past or present, “I might think you’d been in on it.”

Now her brows lift. “Disabuse me.”

Richard actually grins briefly at that, free hand coming up to scratch at his cheek. “Fair enough,” he admits, “And I could give you a glib - if entirely accurate - answer like ‘I make it my business to know things’ but that probably wouldn’t assuage your worries very much. Jesus. I use words like ‘assuage’ now? I’ve been off the streets for too long…”

He brings the glass back for another swig of it, then motions with it across the desk, “Anyway– in this case? My association with Ms. Weiss, in combination with corporate espionage. She contacted me with the evidence regarding Hayate, which I later confirmed when certain hard drives from Renautus fell into my lap. You know how that part works, from what I understand.

“The part involving you was unexpected, honestly.”

The first of the hairline cracks begin to form in the mask Kay wears that swears to all that she is perfectly fine. Rather than allow those cracks to spider out or widen, she drops it away entirely. She looks tired then, like maybe the mom of a high school student on the cusp of graduation should.

Like someone in a job like hers should.

The last of the metaphorical stage make-up is dissolved with a sigh. “You remember Kain Zarek?” she asks, but it isn’t really a question. She knows the circles he ran in, even if he wasn’t aware of hers. That much was by design, and there’s a certain amount of pride to be taken in the fact that someone like him still doesn’t know. The truth is probably closer to the notion that he hasn’t cared or has had no reason to know.

“Ka— Zarek and I, we used to run interference for Linderman. Kain’d offer the bribes, help make people disappear. I, uh, generally helped it look like some rookie misfiled evidence, covering up the fact that I’d make like Copperfield and cause it vanish. Or hit a crime scene before it’s called in, so nothin’s ever found in the first place. Every once in a while I’d get to say I’d find that something had been tampered with, meanin’ some real damning stuff would have to be thrown out.” Kay looks down at the desk, her hand around the glass, at her lap — anything but Richard, so she cannot see him see her wearing her shame plainly. “Linderman’s people would get away and they wouldn’t be offered plea deals to testify against him. And when that wasn’t in the cards…”

Kay’s hands spread out in front of her like she’s fanning those cards out on the table. “I generally left the witness intimidation to Redd.” Her honeyed brown eyes lift to Richard’s now. “My hands were real dirty, but I tried not to let them get bloody.”

It isn’t really a question, but it’s one that has Richard looking away; out to the window, staring out at the view of the area as she speaks, an ear to her words but another to whatever inner thoughts. He remembers Kain Zarek, and there’s definitely some emotion there as well.

“Redd’s hands were. Still are. He’s working for d’Sarthe these days,” he says after a moment, looking back to her with a faint, bitter smile, “Kain’s– well. You know. One of his alternates is here, though. From the timeline where the Vanguard released the virus. Liz says he’s a good guy, but– ”

He grimaces, looking down to his glass, “It’s hard, talking to a dead man you used to know.”

Kay winces as though she’s been slapped. “Yeah… He told me he wasn’t who I thought he was.” She smiles tightly, without any humor or amusement. “He found me at the Falls. I don’t do… Memorials for…” The last of the drink is swallowed down and the glass is nudged back in Richard’s direction, silently seeking a refill.

“I go to Niagara Falls every year on November 8th. Last one was ten years since I first said I’d meet him there.” A bubble of laughter escapes, because this is absurd and it deserves at least that much acknowledgement. “Imagine my fucking surprise when there he was.” The glass-less hand sweeps out from one side to the other, inviting Richard to do just that. Imagine.

“If it helps at all…” Richard sets his glass down, reaching out for the bottle and bringing it up to tilt towards hers, filling it in a wash of liquor, “…Liz says this him is a good guy. One of the few people she trusted with Aurora when she couldn’t be around. Of course, she did marry me, so– “

A quick flash of a grin, “— her character judgement is suspect.”

The bottle set down, “I can imagine that’d be a hell of a shock, though. God knows I felt it when I laid eyes on him.”

“Hah.” Kay lets her face fall and takes her refreshed glass. “Yeah, well…” Her head shakes, she takes a drink. She doesn’t know what she’s really responding to, other than to say a couple nothing words to fill space.

The glass clunks heavily on the desk again and the PR director sighs. “I don’t know about what it was like where he came from, maybe Liz does — and her deductive reasoning is flawless, as we both know well — but here…” The tumbler is lifted again but a moment is taken, a second spent to decide against drinking, and she simply keeps it held level to her collarbone as she leans back in the chair so that it feels like her head is just left to limply hang from the column of her neck. Like a sunflower grown too heavy for its stalk.

“Here, we were in love, I think. Fuckin’ terrible at it. Being in it, maintaining it, acting like it…” Kay nudges the toe of her shoe against the desk and lets the chair swivel around in a slow circle. “That’s the first time I’ve admitted that out loud to anyone. ‘Cepting him. Surprised I haven’t been struck by lightning.”

A shuddering breath sees the air leave her chest with a grimace. “Sorry. You’re not here to play therapist — and I really do fuckin’ not want you to — but you seemed to know everything else already, so. There’s that.


Richard’s gaze drops down to the glass beside him, and he’s silent for a few moments before sweeping it up - and finishing off the contents, the glass quickly thumping back down onto the desk. He wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, pushing on quickly.

“Yeah. So. Liz is who you should talk to if you wanna– know more there,” he says, and doesn’t really wait for a response before continuing, “So these guys, they were looking for something very - and weirdly - specific.”

He points a finger at her, “They think you know something about the old man’s will.”

He can’t mean the ‘legal’ one. Not only was it public record, it was nullified by the courts after his numerous crimes came to light.

Grateful for the chance to move on from the grave she was starting to dig for herself unintentionally alongside the lonely highway known colloquially as Memory Lane, Kay lifts her head again, catching herself again with that toe against the desk to halt her circuit. First it’s confusion that clouds her expression, a bemusement that gives itself away to sourness that gives way to bitter laughter.

“Oh, sugar. That man promised to look after us when my husband was murdered. And it was all right there in black and goddamn white, but because of the red all over part, my daughter never saw a dime of that money he promised us.” It takes a moment of care to stop herself from slamming the glass down. Thankfully for everyone opposed to broken drinkware and alcohol abuse alike, it’s set down with only the softest of sounds. Her lip has curled upward in a sneer. “If I knew a damn thing about his will and how to wring blood from that dead man’s bones, I’d do it.”

“Interesting.” Richard leans forward with a creak of his chair, arms folding onto the black glass of the tabletop and his brow furrowing slightly, “Whatever this ‘will’ is… Mazdak had a pretty solid belief that you know something about it. Is it possible that whatever it was has been… you know…”

He motions a bit with a hand towards his head, “…locked away? I know he had telepaths that he worked with– did you ever meet Charles Deveaux when he was alive?” He asks it in that dubious way that suggests that she might not remember if she did.

“You mean forgot it? Some kind of hocus pocus?” A hand forestalls any kind of correction to that descriptor and it remains there until she finishes with a inhale and its accompanying exhale. When she’s finished, and that hand comes down to curl around her drink again, she seems to give the matter more consideration, brow furrowed and gaze distant, angled vaguely downward in that way people do when they’re thinking hard and avoiding visual stimuli.

She’s pulled from that reverie by the reflection of the folded glasses lighting up briefly against the darkened glass of Richard’s desktop. Kay’s brown knits momentarily, but she shakes it off and returns to their conversation. “Philanthropist, right? I might’ve met ‘im once at some officer’s fundraiser. I mean, hell, in New York back then? Those affairs were a Who’s Who, and I was a who? Detective Damaris, and his wife,” for this, Kay slips into her best impression of the ignorant, passive-aggressive soccer moms she eats for breakfast these days, “Mrs. Oh! You’re Also on the Force?” With the way her nose wrinkles after she says, it like she’s smelled something foul, it’s not hard to imagine that the follow-up question was often something like how long have you been on traffic duty now?

There is a defense that can be mounted regarding the fact the Damarises were both detectives, but it’s a very slim one.

Again, Kay shakes her head, unconvinced. “Nah. I was a nobody. Nobody he’d remember meeting, if we’d even met.”

“Just like Daniel Linderman,” says Richard a bit wryly, “Charles was one of the original Founders of the Company. He was also perhaps the most powerful telepath I’ve ever heard of– the shit that man could do would give you nightmares if you thought about it too much. He…” His fingers toy with the glass on the desk, and he shakes his head, “…rewrote some peoples’ entire lives. Decades changed. Just to cover up their secrets. If Daniel wanted something hidden in your head there, he would have had Charles do it, and you’d never know.”

He looks at her for a long moment before asking, “Have you spoken to Kimiko yet?”

An odd question, given that Kimiko Nakamura is supposed to be dead.

A grimace is all that’s needed to communicate that Kay knew about Deveaux’s Founder status too. She occupies herself with a series of short sips while Richard writes out for her the things she’s known but chosen to ignore, the dots she’s chosen not to connect.

The last of those sips is left to linger on her tongue while she works her jaw side to side, until it all burns to the point that she can call it well enough to swallow and respond. “Have you? She doesn’t speak real plain these days.”


Richard shakes his head ever so slightly. “I know that she’s been asking questions about something called the Inheritance, though, and… that seems awfully coincidental when they were probing your memories for something about Danny-boy’s will.”

He smiles, faintly. “I don’t believe in coincidences anymore.”

“I’m paid not to believe in them.” Kay lifts her brows and takes another drink. This time, she sets the glass back down and nudges it off to the side so she can lean forward, like she’s ready to start digging into the meat of the current case. Ready to start talking theories.

“I don’t know what that was, but it spoke to me with Kimiko’s voice filtered through a cassette that’s been recorded over too damn many times, played seven minutes in heaven with a magnet, and then played back on my daughter’s old TalkBoy.

Distorted. The succinct descriptor Kay is looking for here is distorted.

“I don’t remember a lot of what she said. It was nonsense.” Kay’s shoulders hunch as she leans in further, like they’re two old detectives staring at folders of old wounds on dot matrix and photo paper laid open between them. “The one thing that stuck in my craw, though, was ‘the dictionary hides a gun.’” There’s a vulnerability in her eyes that’s been gradually led away from view and replaced by a doggedness to find answers. “That mean anything to you?”

“I imagine there was some brain damage in the process,” Richard grimaces, “She was probably physically dead by the time– anyway. Anyway.”

His brow furrows then as he focuses on the words that were spoken, and he brings one hand up to rub against his jawline. “That specific phrase? No. But it puts me in the mind of Rupert Carmichael. The asshole behind Messiah. He could implant post-hypnotic suggestions. Made sleeper agents. The right trigger word, and– “

He snaps his fingers, “Magnes turned his power in on himself and turned into a fucking singularity.”

“I suspect any strong enough telepath could do the same thing. She could be referring to someone’s - maybe yours, maybe someone else’s - trigger words. ‘The dictionary hides a gun’.”

The visitor’s head slowly tips to one side. She’s one of the few who’s managed to stay on the fringes of everything fucked up, but knows just enough to keep up and adapt as she goes. Names she knows. Academically, she has an understanding of those things that have happened.

“She asked me about the inheritance. If it was safe, if I had protected it. I don’t know what it is to protect it, but I know… I know Lucien Crane asked me about—”

Kay’s voice dies in her throat, choked out by her own upset feelings. A breath is sucked in as a quick, sharp gasp. It’s only because the office isn’t hers that she doesn’t reach for the glass to throw it across the room. Instead, she beats her fist on the desk twice, trying to keep herself together. Or at least from falling apart anymore than she already has.

“They stole so much from me, and I don’t even know…” Kay draws a breath in between the two emphasized words, giving them further impact. “I don’t even know what it was. How the fuck do I reconcile that?” She stares at Richard across the desk, mouth small, eyes a storm of negative emotion. “You know more about what happened to me than I do,” she reiterates. “And you say it was—”

With a suddenness, Kay leans back in her chair hard enough for it to creak, her tempestuous gaze turned to the windows as she retreats somewhere into her mind.

“I’m going to kill him.”

Richard leans forward slowly as she leans back, his forearms resting on the black glass of its surface and his hands clasping together as he looks at her with a serious expression and the slightest of smiles. There’s no warmth to that smile - it would fit better in the arctic.

“Good. Even beyond what he did to you, he– knows too much, and what he’s planning on doing with that information cannot be permitted.”

After a beat, he continues: “You can trust Marlowe Terrell, and she’s aware of some of this bastard’s plans and history. If you need any other contacts or resources, I’d be happy to assist for– “ Hesitation, a glance to the clock, “— so long as I’m available. After June you’ll have to deal with– probably Valerie will be in charge, I can’t put Kaylee back in the driver’s seat given her situation.”

He doesn’t even need to mention Warren. He loves his brother. But no.

One side of Kay’s mouth hooks upward into a wry smirk when he responds to her murderous intent with good. “Glad to know Marlowe hasn’t thrown in with the new regime.” If she’s honest, that’s an avenue she wants to pursue, but wasn’t sure she could.

Sighing, she brings her hand up to her face, fingers massaging her forehead and thumb anchored just below her cheekbone. “I have to be smart about it, though. He can’t just bite it, or I’m sure some failsafe or other will trigger. After the reception I received, I’m sure I’d be a top suspect.”

With a sneer, she looks across the desk to Richard. “It’s vexin’.

“I think Marlowe would’ve been willing to kill him just based on him demanding we cut back on food production for the Zone because it’s not profitable enough,” Richard observes dryly, shaking his head, “She’s entirely on our side here.”

She gets a sympathetic look, then, “I know the feeling. You’ll have to be smart here, but– you’ve never just been a pretty face, Kay.”

That draws a stronger grin, amused. “Damn right,” she affirms, letting her hand drift back to the desk, and her drink. “I already know how I’m going to do it. I just have to… wait for the opportune moment, I suppose.” She shrugs. “I trust you aren’t going to testify against me on any of that.” Chuckling against the side of her glass, she reasons, “S’pose if I do it after June, you won’t be available anyway, huh?”

If Richard says he won’t be around, Kay knows that means in a very real, tangible way. Richard seems to pride himself on being accessible in a crisis.

“The order is going to come down to me,” Kay says quietly, working her jaw from one side to the other. “Kawahara’s going to want Weiss eliminated. You’re absolutely certain about her?”

“My intel on Weiss is as solid as it can possibly be, and even with that I’ve cross-confirmed everything she’s told me before,” Richard assures her, “She’s one hundred percent on our side, and… if it wasn’t for her, we may not have won the Civil War. Not that that will ever show up in the history books, but…”

A faint chuckle, “Will any of us?”

Kay takes her drink and shakes her head, a quiet hum passing between them. “I certainly hope not. You will, maybe. The rich and famous usually do, don’t they?” The teasing is sardonic in nature. It suits her as well as that dress Richard envisions her wearing still after all these years.

“I’ll see what I can do. But I won’t jeopardize my own life or ‘Ella’s for your…” Rather than try to find a word to describe Cecilia Weiss, the former detective chooses to polish off her drink instead. Her gaze lowers along with the glass, fixing on the desk while she mulls something over.

Fuck,” she hisses, frustrated. “They were going to hand me over to Mazdak. Maybe I should just be going to the feds with this.” It might destroy her life, if everything were to be dragged into the light, but could that be better in the end?

“Kaydence.” Richard arches a single eyebrow upwards, his tone mildly chiding, “The feds? Think about it– if this all got brought to light, chances are things would go down just like they did with Praxis. Now, on a personal level that puts me in a great position, but realistically…”

He lifts his glass, tilting it slightly her way, “We both know that having Yamagato around can be good for the Zone, and for everyone. We just need to excise the cancer. A scalpel, not a flamethrower.”

“And don’t worry too much about Weiss. She hasn’t survived this long by dying easily.”

Sighing, that blonde head nods. “Yeah. Right. You’re right.” One manicured nail taps lightly on the desk. “I got promoted from Vice to the evo crimes task force, you know?” Kay’s brown eyed age alights on Richard's face again. “Linderman’s stuff was always pretty cut and dried. The conspiracies weren’t like these conspiracies.”

For her, it feels like a chill has run through the room suddenly. “I didn’t really get a taste of any of that until the Vanguard grabbed me.” That’s not a well-known fact, not even something Richard has come across in his study of her, though Elisabeth might have known. Kay and Felix had been partners in those days. “We didn’t know how deep that ran back then. Not really. It was just another case. Superpowered assholes trying to… play god via terrorism.”

It’s without mirth that she puts on another little grin. “Department reformed after all that. I didn’t make the cut. Whole new task force doing what I used to do, and I couldn’t keep doin’ it because I wasn’t Expressive. Like because I didn’t have an ability it meant that I couldn’t keep up or hold my own.” It’s little wonder she quit the force when that’s her perception. “Maybe I can’t,” she admits.

“How the hell do you do it?”

The glass is held up a bit, and Richard considers it for a long, silent moment after that question’s asked. Then he sets it down, his head shaking slightly. “Rickham told me something once,” he says quietly, seriously, “‘We can rest when we’re done’.

“I took it to heart.”

He leans back again, his hands spreading a little, “This isn’t– penny-ante shit we’re dealing with anymore, Kay. As much simpler as life was when I was just ogling your undercover ass in a dress six inches too short over a game of poker– these days the stakes are the lives of dozens, hundreds, thousands of people on a play. Or more. And even when the cost isn’t blood, it’s quality of life for just as many people.”

A heavy sigh, and he looks back at her, “I do it because I need to. Because if I don’t, the next time I look at the news I’ll blame myself.”

“Of course you knew the president,” Kay mutters under her breath with a roll of her eyes. It’s just another one of those things that figures when it comes to Richard Ray. There’s no upset about it, just a narrow channel of wry humor.

Ultimately, she nods her head. “Yeah. That… sounds a bit like why I joined the force originally.” Her gaze goes a little unfocused when she thinks back on it. “I was attacked when I was in college, and this handsome young man, majoring in criminal justice, came to my rescue.” This time when she smiles, it’s a genuine thing, nostalgic. “That’s how I met my husband. I decided I wanted to be someone who wouldn’t let that sort of thing happen to other people, same as him.”

The smile fades. “Well, we see how I turned out in the end.” Still, she chuckled. “I may have been undercover, but I sure belonged at that poker table, huh?” Along with the rest of the criminals.

“Yeah, well, I was a two-bit thief with delusions of grandeur,” Richard observes with a shrug of one shoulder, “No judgement from me. Like I said– those were simpler times. Now, you can’t wave your hand without catching the webs of six or seven conspiracies…”

He smiles wanly, “Although the more I learn, the more I realize nothing’s really changed. I just learned to see them better. Some of the old Company shit is still haunting the world.”

“That… That I don’t doubt.” Kay shrugs her shoulders helplessly. The world is what it is and she’s not in a position to change it.


“Alright,” she speaks like she’s relenting against something. “I’ll see what I can do to give Ms. Weiss a stay of execution.” The way her lips come together and her eyes glance aside moreover speak to her leery feelings even as she shakes her head and looks back to Richard. “Can you arrange another meeting with her? Not for me. I just… Have something that might help her.”

Reaching into the handbag she arrived with, she meets Richard’s eyes before she procures whatever it is she has inside, awaiting his confirmation.

“I can get something to her, yes,” Richard admits with a curious glance at the handbag, then back to her, “There’s something else I wanted to ask you, too, for just in case this all– works out as it should, but ask yours first.”

There’s a continued wariness to her that leaves her just staring and assessing Richard for several long seconds before her chin dips just once to show she’s decided.

A pair of smart glasses, identical to the ones Richard received earlier, and an Awasu are set on the desk between the pair of them. “Just make sure she gets these.” It’s confirmation of what he already knew, even if she still won’t speak it. “It might just save her ass.” Her bag is deposited back on the floor. “Now, what’s on your mind?”

“As good as already done,” Richard replies with an easy dip of his chin in a nod, reaching out to tap the case with a smile, “Mysterious deliveries are one of my specialties…”

He draws his hand back, then, and exhales a sigh, “So Hayate’s been waving a particular piece of technology that he’s gotten his hands on over my head like bait to try and convince me to cooperate– assuming that I’m just in this for profits like him, and that my ethics are just a public front. You know, like an idiot. The problem is, I really do want to get my hands on it. He doesn’t have the vision to use it properly, and it could be literally world-changing in its applications.”

Kay lifts her brows as Richard explains what he’s looking for. “I don’t really do the tech thing, but…” She knows when Ray’s on to something. He knows technology. Well, he knows when it’s important, at any rate. “Have you seen it?”

“I’ve seen the shell it used to be in,” Richard’s nose wrinkles a bit, “It looks a lot like the old FRONTLINE helmets, only more eyes. He mostly showed it to me to prove he had it– the real prize is what he tore out, and what he has people reverse-engineering. Pretty sure somewhere here, in the Safe Zone campus, at least.

“It’s a working quantum communicator.”

“Quantum communicator,” Kay repeats. “What does that mean, exactly? What’s it used for?” Her nose wrinkles. Communication is meant to be her thing, isn’t it? “What would you use it for? And what does he want to use it for?”

“I don’t know all the math, but, imagine a way to communicate from point A to point B without transmitting anything between them,” explains Richard, “No interception. No lag time. Lossless instant communication at any range. Any range. We could change the world with the possibilities there– even if it was too expensive for mass production, you could control long-distance exploration drones in the ocean, on Mars, without any pause time or interference.”

He grimaces, “Hayate, of course, wants to use it to loot other timelines for their technology and mineral wealth, because he has all the vision of a two-week old jelly donut sitting in a break room.”

“The jelly donuts are more palatable.” Kay rankles at the notion. Of the man, not the stale pastry. (Maybe that too.) “Alright, so you want me to try to get that tech outta his hands,” she surmises. “How the hell am I going to know what I’m looking for if he tore it outta the helmet? Have you told Marlowe?”

“Marlowe’s probably your best bet for help there, yeah,” admits Richard, “And hell, I don’t even mind if Yamagato has the technology too – although it’ll be a cold day in hell before I build a goddamn portal for someone to invade another timeline with – I just want it for our own needs. I don’t trust other corporations to make judgements involving technologies that the world could use.

“No offense.”

Kay smirks, unbothered. “None taken, sug’.” A moment of thoughtful consideration follows before she speaks again. “It’s better off in your hands,” she decides. “We couldn’t even tell our own subsidiary was getting yanked out from under us.” Granted, Lucien Crane was to blame for a good amount of that, but not enough for Kay to feel entirely comfortable. “Raytech’s not so big that it can’t keep eyes on both the right and left hands.”

While she plants both feet on the floor, she doesn’t yet move to get to her feet. “Anything else we should be keepin’ each other abreast of while I’m here? This is a rare opportunity that I get to show up here in person. We may not get it again if the new boss isn’t a fan.”

“I mean, unless you want to go find a lounge, get drunk and play poker for old time’s sake…” Richard’s lips crook in a wry smile, “…there’s, well. Nothing else that I can share at the moment that would be of interest to you, really.”

He lifts an eyebrow, “Unless there are any particular subjects you have questions about that I might have intel on? I’ve got a lot of shit up here.” A fingertip taps the side of his head, “Sometimes it takes a question to remind me, and sometimes I might not know you’re interested.”

There’s amusement in her eyes. “Honey, I ain’t played poker for a decade now.” She bites her lip and shakes her head. “But maybe another time.” She might actually mean that, too. The smile fades slowly to something more serious. “Maybe… One thing for an old friend?”

Richard’s phone lights up.

1 new message from T1.

Richard would say something here, but as a man who’s gone to great lengths for the drama of the moment, he’s fully aware that he doesn’t have a leg to stand on. So he picks up his phone, an eyebrow lifting at her, then the screen as he taps the message.

Instead of text, there’s a picture that comes up. A teenage girl with dark hair in a black and white dress and a chunky pink watch on one wrist. She’s wearing one of those put-on smiles that kids wear when they’re told they have to smile for the camera.

It’s a face that can conjure memory. Spencer Damaris has been dead for going on fifteen years, and Richard Cardinal may have only seen his face a few times in his run-ins with the NYPD, but Kaydence Lee’s daughter has his eyes. And maybe his chin, too.

“That’s Coleen Marcella.” Kay’s certain he’s figured that much out by now. “Sh’likes to be called ’Ella these days.” She watches his face, catches his eyes across the desk. “She’s everything I’ve got in this world, Richard. Every… stupid, bad, and evil thing I’ve ever done has been to make sure she’ll make it without me when I’m gone.” Maybe he sympathizes. Maybe he doesn’t. She’s been a mother a lot longer than he’s been a father.

“Although I stepped away from the PD, I’m not exactly in the safest line of work anymore, and I’m sure you know that.” It was different before, wasn’t it? “I really haven’t got enough friends inside the force anymore to know that she’ll be looked after. Just Liz, mostly.” She shrugs her shoulders a bit. She’s let that friendship decay more than she’s liked. “What I’m tryin’ to get at here is that if she needs help, I’d like to be able to tell her she can come here.

“Please, Kay…” Richard shakes his head, setting the phone back down and offering her a faint, understanding smile, “As if you even need to ask? Of course she can. Hell, if worse comes to worse and I have to build an Ark to survive the end of the world – I’ll make sure she has a seat.”

It sounds like hyperbole, of course. But it’s also absolutely literal, although he doesn’t say it.

“I’ll talk to Liz and make sure she knows to keep an eye out for the kid if she comes by.”

She nods her head slowly. It’s a cold sort of comfort. “I’m going to tell her if that if she needs anything, she should come by or call and ask about an internship. So, maybe feed that to your security as a password.” Kay swallows, her throat feeling tight when she does. “That Kravid woman told me that if they’d wanted to force my compliance, they would have taken her. I don’t trust that won’t happen next time.”

“Kravid.” Richard nearly growls the name out, his expression darkening, “That bitch is the one counter-example that I have that says that evil isn’t inborn. She used her own daughter in experiments, there’s no fucking– depths she won’t sink to.”

He shakes his head, “Yeah, absolutely. Have her come by, or call, like that. I’ll have her name and that passphrase added to the security protocols. We’ll watch out for her as if she was one of ours, if she reaches out.”

There’s no relief in the shared hatred for Erica Kravid. Kay only nods her head in a couple short motions. “I appreciate that more than I can say.” Now she makes her move to stand. “That’s all from me for one day, I think.” For that, she manages to kindle at least a wry smile. “I’ll see what can be done on the Weiss front.”

“And I’ll make sure your little delivery gets handled before that,” Richard says, pushing himself to his feet, “Give me a call if you change your mind about poker, though.”

A slight smile, and he offers more seriously and warmly, “Take care of yourself, Kay.”

“You too, Richard.” Kay reaches out to shake his hand. “You too.”

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