Fairest Of Them All


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Scene Title Fairest of Them All
Synopsis Elaine and Rhett turn to Claudia Zimmerman for answers regarding the mirror in Yamagato Industries' possession.
Date January 21, 2020

Situated on the northwestern edge of Red Hook in the shadow of the Queensboro Bridge’s shattered span, the Clocktower Building is an iconic piece of old New York architecture that managed to survive the war. From the outside, especially at dusk, the pristine white of the building takes on a shadowy bluish glow, contrasting against the warm yellow light spilling out from its street-facing windows and the face of its eponymous clocktower. For most residents of the Safe Zone it is a representation of pre-war money, and exclusive highrise owned by a prestigious charitable organization.

The Deveaux Society, owners of the Clocktower Building, are a widely known philanthropic organization that staunchly supported the current presidential administration. Their charitable efforts are solely focused on the reconstruction and sustaining of post-war America and the charity’s heads — Sabra Dalton, Claudia Zimmerman, and Alice Shaw — all have hands at various levels of state and federal government. But no one outside of their personal affiliations ever sees the heads of the Deveaux Society. They make few public appearances and accept even fewer guests.

Which makes this visit all the more unusual.

The Clocktower Building, Lobby
Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone
January 21st
6:16 pm

Inside the lobby of the Clocktower Building, Elaine Darrow and Rhett Thorne are greeted by a place where the machinations of the past and future collide with one-another. The tiled floor, tall glass windows, and eggshell white walls are a stark, modern design broken up by tall ferns and decorative trees. Brass panels on the wall display Art Deco designs of sculpted figures working levers and holding sledgehammers as they look to the horizon. A sole receptionist sits at the front desk, an old corded landline phone clutched between shoulder and ear.

“Sure, I’ll have her call you, soon’s she’s back-around from her trip.” The receptionist scribbles down a note and bobs her head subtly to music entering her other ear from a white earbud with its cord dangling down her shoulder. “Mnhmm, of course. Yep. B’bye.” As she hangs up the phone, blue eyes raise to level on Elaine and Rhett as they come through the front doors. There’s a quick look to something on her desk in her peripheral vision, and as she hangs up the phone she discreetly presses a button on the receiver.

“Good evening,” the receptionist notes, a small brass nametag on her blazer reading Joanne. “D’you have an appointment?”

Elaine takes half-a-moment to look around as she enters the lobby. It’s certainly a place to be admired and not one she’s ever seen up close despite having passed it plenty of times. She is, however, fully focused once that initial look around is done. She walks to the desk, stopping shortly before it. She’s dressed like she usually would be for any official Yamagato business—a comfortable knee-length black skirt, a ruffled white blouse, and heels. A professional look.

She peers at the nametag. “Ah, yes, hello Joanne.” She briefly glances at the desk, then back up to the woman behind it. “Ms. Nakamura called ahead to arrange something, my name is Elaine Darrow. I work as the Head Curator of the Yamagato Fellowship.”

"We have an appointment at six-thirty with Ms. Claudia Zimmerman," Rhett Thorne provides, coming up with Elaine, moving around and to her left as they arrive at the front desk. Rhett is cleanly dressed today - a maroon button up, slacks - (with help from Ms. Darrow; this is not his default setting), though he doesn't come across as a businessman. His posture and attire more lean to suggesting something like a bodyguard of some stripe: his hands are too rough, his skin tanned from something outdoors.

Still, Rhett's clean-shaven, his hair trimmed and cleanly swept back, which means it is reflecting more warm gold from the overhead lighting than it would have prior to the nice trim and styling from being so sun-bleached. It gives an aspect to Rhett as a sort of sunny lion. He gives Elaine a warm smile sideways, attention moving back to the receptionist, only showing his usual calm, reserved manner.

The woman behind the desk, Joanne, squints when she finally looks up to the pair. Her attention swivels from Elaine to Rhett so fast it seems like he’d said something inappropriate. “No fuckin’ way,” she whispers under her breath, tugging the earbud out to fall with a click-clack on her desk. “Rhett? Fucking Rhett Thorne?

It takes a moment for the face and the voice to click into place for Rhett, given that she isn’t covered in engine grease or ducking gunfire. But the secretary at the front desk is a hazy shadow from his past, Joanne Dair, a former smuggler for the Ferrymen who’d occasionally been in orbital proximity of Rhett’s life during the war. They were never close, never knew one-another well, but survivors of the war often find kinship in the simplest of associations.

“Fuckin’ right,” Joanne whispers, “I pegged you for bein’ flat dead.” She’s entirely forgotten herself in the moment, forgotten Elaine, forgotten that she’s working. “Fuck mate, when was the last time we bumped inta’ one-another? Fuckin’— some sewer or another yeah?”

Elaine is momentarily concerned that they’d done something wrong, which she was certain that they hadn’t, but the receptionist’s reaction to Rhett has her entirely confused. She looks between the two of them, letting the context slowly pencil in the details. While they are there on business, she pauses for the moment, not rushing what sounds like war memories.

Those aren’t things to be rushed.

It actually takes more than just a moment for Rhett to figure out who it is that's suddenly announcing his name super loudly. He didn't GIVE his name, so obviously she has to recognize him on sight alone. He automatically drew his hand back off the counter, defensive but not backing off.

"Dair," Rhett identifies, then, though, and a brief wry smile flows out onto one side of his mouth. He's an opposite to Joanne's behavior, at least at a glance: Rhett is cool and relaxed, very calm and collected. "Come on now, I'm unkillable, you know that," Rhett reminds her in a calm deadpan. Rhett's notoriety, other than being the man to see about the sewers being functional for smuggling purposes, also had to do with his neck scars (or what they represented) - unkillable.

There's an easy confidence there, as Rhett returns not one hand but both to the surface of the desk, a subtle body language move of engagement even if his manner remains very reserved otherwise. He doesn't forget Elaine, he gives her a brief little sideways look that informs that things are just fine, and replies to Joanne's question, "How long? Try — a decade ago, literally?" Rhett suggests, with a slight snort. "Sewer? I doubt it, didn't you hate my sewers?" Rhett flicks his fingers towards her head. "I like the hair, too. Growing it out suits you."

Joanne snorts, cracking a lopsided smile. “Your sewers were shit,” is a joke that is just as bad now as it was then. But it’s in that moment that she remembers that she isn’t in a sewer anymore, or sharing war stories with friends down at the market. She has to at least affect professionalism, for all that the environment seems to demand it. Clearing her throat, Joanne shifts forward in her seat and clicks a few keys, glancing down to the monitor in front of her before looking back up at Elaine.

“Secretary Zimmerman’s expecting you, she left a note for you to head straight up to the penthouse once you arrived.” As Joanne says that, she moves to tap a button beside the old cord phone, which elicits a metallic clack sound from one of the two brass-plated elevators at her back. “Right elevator, direct to the Penthouse.”

Flicking a look back from Elaine to Rhett, Joanne kicks up a brow. “We should chat sometime, if you’re still workin’.” But she also means not here, and not now. That kind of business is rarely done in front of security cameras.

Elaine can’t help but smile at the playful banter, the smile not fading even as Joanne tends to business. “Thank you so much, I appreciate the help,” she offers, taking a few steps over towards the elevator. She pauses, waiting for Rhett to finish up his side of things, letting him have the time to return to her side before she steers herself in the proper direction again.

“Guess we get to see the penthouse,” she remarks as she steps past the doors and inside. “That’s not something a lot of people get to see.”

"Different jobs, these days," Rhett says, calm, without any inflection either way on his tone: which may suggest that Rhett has, in fact, cleaned up from the smuggling jobs of the past. Then again, Rhett never really did anything too severe; he was more a supplies sort of smuggler, keeping starving people fed. "Tell you what - here," Rhett says, pulling his phone back out, and flipping it to contacts. "Let's chat later regardless," he suggests, with a prompting lift of fingers and phone, expectant to get contact information.

Once that's done, Rhett gives Joanne a brief wave, and heads up by Elaine's side to the penthouse, giving the elevator a skeptical look but not actively resisting it. Too many bad experiences with shoddy electricity and elevators to not give it an uncertain once-over. "I wonder why not," Rhett asks.

Joanne swivels in her chair to regard Rhett over her shoulder as he walks away, a smirk still spread across her lips. As the elevator doors come to a close, there’s only a pair of buttons to control its movement, one marked Lobby and the other marked Penthouse. A simple black dome camera in the ceiling surveils Rhett and Elaine as they enter and select the floor, bringing the brass-plated doors shut with a subtle metallic clatter.

The ascent is swift, only a few floors up, and when the doors open it is into an open-concept penthouse situated directly within the clock of the clocktower. The mechanisms for the clock rest above the elevator, with four beams extending out to the clock face to turn the gears. The raised platform outside of the elevator is paneled with wood as are the rest of the floor in the penthouse. Rhett and Elaine can easily see three-fourths of the space from where they emerge; a lounge to their right and a kitchen to their left. Waiting for them outside of the elevator, however, is a woman somewhere in her mid-thirties in a matching blazer and pencil skirt, curly blonde hair swept behind her ears..

“Ms. Darrow, Mr. Thorne,” she greets, stepping forward and offering a hand out to Elaine, “I’m Secretary Zimmerman’s assistant, Aria Baumgartner. Madame Secretary will be joining us shortly, would you like to take a seat in the lounge? I can get you a drink while you wait.”

While normally Elaine appreciates the class and quality of the Cresting Wave apartments, seeing something like a penthouse of this sort reminds her just how luxurious things can get. It’s not, however, the penthouse itself that draws her attention but to the clock. It’s a piece of beauty and not the kind of thing that can easily be replicated. She resists the urge to nudge Rhett and point at it, instead stepping in and taking the offered hand with a gentle shake.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Baumgartner. A glass of water would be great, if you don’t mind.” She lets Aria direct things, as is her job, and turns her attention towards the lounge side of things.

Elaine doesn't need to nudge him - Rhett's the one nudging her a little with an elbow, but he doesn't point; he just uses his gaze to take in the clock, wondering at the functionality of it — at least, until they're joined by the assistant. "Hello," Rhett says softly, greeting her as well, and offering a handshake once Elaine's is complete. "I'd appreciate the same." A glass of water, that is.

Rhett follows to the lounge, surveying it in his quiet way before taking a seat with Elaine.

Aria offers a polite smile as she takes a step down off the landing and gestures to the simple white furnishings of the lounge; two armchairs and a loveseat, all low-backed and modern in style, set around a glass-topped coffee table. A tall fern sits at one of the corners between armchair and sofa, adding a splash of green to the otherwise white and wood hues. Aria doesn’t direct more than that though as she returns to the landing and disappears just slightly out of sight into the kitchen.

The penthouse doesn’t look designed to live in. It’s a business space, a space for hosting guests and events. Nothing resembling a bedroom can be seen from the lounge, though as they settle in to the furnishings Elaine and Rhett notice a dining room with a long, black table with a glossy finish surrounded by a dozen or so chairs. The penthouse isn’t entirely silent, either, a sound system discreet enough not to be immediately obvious plays a soft and arrhythmic jazz piano melody.

Aria returns only a few moments later with a pair of lowball glasses with ice and water, setting them down on cocktail napkins on the glass table in front of Elaine and Rhett. “Secretary Zimmerman filled me in a little on the nature of your meeting,” she says casually, coming to sit on the arm of one of the armchairs, crossing one leg over the other and folding her hands on her knee. “This is in regards to a mirror in possession of the Yamagato Fellowship?”

During the time that Aria was away, Rhett offered his hand across to the vicinity of Elaine's knee: palm up, with a signal for her to put her hand in his for the moment, to let him give it a squeeze and a pass of his thumb over the back of it. It's a quiet offer of support, but not interference: and he'll follow her lead with signals if she prefers to drop hands as Aria returns to them.

Elaine settles herself on the loveseat, hooking one ankle behind the other as she makes herself comfortable. Her gaze moves to Rhett’s hand, then to Rhett himself, her hand resting atop his for a moment or two while they’re alone. It’s only then, when the water is delivered, that she releases his hand in favor of picking up her glass. The glass is sipped from before it is returned to the table.

"Ah, yes, that is correct. Ms. Nakamura has asked that I do some investigating as to its history, as it seems to be lacking a bit in paperwork. I'm hoping that Secretary Zimmerman can help," she offers a simple smile. "Or perhaps give some guidance as to where else to look."

Rhett accepts his water as well with an appreciative nod and thank-you motion, though he otherwise remains silent. The history of the mirror is a topic that Elaine will need to cover, Rhett just listens and takes in the information.

“Claudia briefed me, a little, on the nature of your meeting.” Aria explains, folding her hands in her lap. “I took the liberty of preparing an archival search for her, regarding items possibly once in the possession of either the Deveaux Society or the late Kaito Nakamura. We have a… considerable amount of informational resources of that nature at our disposal.” The sound of a door opening elsewhere in the suite comes from out of sight, somewhere on the opposite side of the penthouse. It momentarily attracts Aria’s attention, but only briefly.

“To that end,” Aria continues, “I can confirm record of the mirror not only being in Kaito Nakamura’s possession but that it was not an auction piece as Yamagato Industries’ records they forwarded to us indicated. The mirror was an acquisition of the Company during its extra-judicial activities in the mid to late 1980s, the precise date is unclear.”

Footsteps carry across the hardwood floor at the sound of someone approaching from the other side of the penthouse. A moment later, woman comes around the corner carrying a steaming cup of tea in one hand. Claudia Zimmerman is neither a publicly recognizable face or name outside of people deeply invested in American politics. To the public, she is the Secretary of the SLC-Expressive Services Agency and the organizations founder, though her day-to-day involvement within the agency is either minimal or kept behind the screen of public affairs.

Claudia’s presence is one of matronly austerity, her attire consisting of sleek lines of loose carnation red pants and a button-down white blouse over which she wears a matching red blazer. A brass pin on her lapel depicts a Maori hei-matau — resembling a stylized fish hook — the symbol of the Deveaux Society. Aria stands when Claudia enters the room, inclining her head to her in a subtle and deferential nod. “Miss Darrow, Mr. Thorne,” is her simple greeting that carries a level of familiarity to it that makes her presence feel less formal, even if her roles and titles might imply otherwise.

“The Company, I see…” Elaine absorbs the information, certainly not fully surprised but her wariness about the acquisition of the mirror seems fairly evident. “That at least gives us some background on it, even if we lack an official papertrail.” She’s fairly certain that Kimiko would be understanding of that based on its origins. Her thoughts, however, are reigned in tightly when Claudia enters. She straightens up, although the nods towards them keep her from standing.

“Secretary Zimmerman, thank you so much for meeting with us. It’s very much appreciated.”

Rhett did a similar shift of weight in expectation of standing when Aria does so, but takes a hint from Elaine's posture instead and doesn't fully make it up out of his seat. There's an attentive, curious expression to Rhett's otherwise reserved countenance, but a polite quality there as well.

"It's nice to meet you, Secretary," Rhett says, supportive to Elaine's statement. "We know how valuable and rare your time is."

“I make time for people who made time for others,” is Claudia’s smooth response as she takes a seat across from Elaine and Rhett. “Your reputation precedes you, Mr. Thorne. Most people in your position could have cut their losses during the war and left the States, but you stayed behind and did what you could for the right people. It’s a mix of pragmatism and concern that I personally appreciate.” Then, looking to Elaine, Claudia just offers a mild smile. “And we all know your story of survival, Ms. Darrow.”

Folding her hands in her lap, Claudia briefly looks up to Aria and there is a brief but wordless exchange between the two wherein Aria silently dismisses herself to the kitchen. “So, mirrors.” Claudia shifts her weight to one side in the chair, looking between Rhett and Elaine. “I have some information for you on the piece, which I believe Aria filled you in on a little. But, before I go into the details, I’d be curious to know more about your interest in this particular item.”

“I guess my story’s fairly common knowledge at this point,” Elaine says, perhaps the slightest bit surprised at how information seems to spread. She glances to Rhett, just to check in that he’s still comfortable with everything. Her attention quickly turns back to Claudia, leaning forward just slightly in interest. “Well, Ms. Nakamura said the mirror’s been there for quite some time and that she had been meaning to have me look into the history of it. I believe there’s a bit of a personal connection as well.”

Her eyes flick over to Rhett and back. “Some time ago Ms. Nakamura gave me her father’s address book from his days in the Company. It had my mother’s name on it, and I discovered she had a link to the Company in the 1980s, which I was unaware of until that point. She suggested the mirror might have a link to the Company, which makes me personally curious aside from getting the information for Ms. Nakamura.”

Rhett promptly looks uncomfortable and confused. He did not expect to be known to this person: he expected to just be a somewhat random entity - how do these people know so much? Unsettled but masking it well, Rhett stays quiet, and takes in the conversation, at least until he has something to add.

He catches Elaine's glance of eye and merely wore a relaxed smile: he got her subtle message.

Claudia’s doesn’t notice Rhett’s discomfort, passing his silence off as something more akin to disinterest. Her focus seems, for the moment, to be Elaine. “This is a bit of a sensitive topic, but given that Kimiko has gone to the lengths of informing you of part of it I’d like to continue apace, get ahead of this before it gets to… the newspapers, or worse.” She glances to Rhett, calculating something.

“Aria,” Claudia calls into the kitchen, “can you print off copies of the Crossing documentation?” There’s a nonverbal chirp of a mnhmm from the kitchen, after which Claudia returns her attention to Elaine and Rhett.

“What you’ve stumbled onto is something of a piece of national security at the moment. Information that, if released to the public or a foreign government, could not only threaten the entire country, but all of our lives as well. Now I want to help, and I’m going to, but before you leave this building I will need you to sign documentation indicating that you will not disclose anything that you hear about today publicly. Not to your employers, not to law enforcement, not to anyone without written authorization.” Claudia sits back in her chair, the leather upholstery gently squeaking in the movement. “I know this isn’t how you expected this conversation to go, and for that I apologize. But the enormity of the situation you’ve found yourselves in is… considerable.”

"Ah," Elaine says. The sound she makes is one that sounds worried, more than anything. "Actually, I'm afraid this is the direction I was hoping the conversation wouldn't go. Although I didn't know what it was called, I'm already aware of the nature of the Crossing because a particularly wily individual who I do believe did not sign the NDA decided to tell me almost immediately due to concerns that something related to it might affect me."

She pauses a bit. "While I haven't been fully filled in on all the details of 'the Crossing', I know of its nature and some of what happened involving it. I also discovered that the nature of my mother's connection to the Company had to do with Project Looking Glass. The information I haven't shared with you is particularly what caused us to start the investigation. Rhett and I were the sole witnesses to an incident with the mirror."

She glances briefly towards Rhett before her gaze returns to Claudia. "He's as deep into the middle of this as I am."

"Mmmm, we saw something that could be explained in some alternative ways," Rhett adjusts with some caution. There's caution there about revealing that the two of them know a lot, particularly after being told it's a situation of national security. He doesn't want himself or Elaine to disappear mysteriously for knowing too much. "I'm not sure how crazy what we saw really is."

Rhett’s body language is protective of Elaine; his shift forward is a bit shielding. “I’m not sure about signing things or national security level threats… We came to offer information and learn if it’s dangerous to us or those close to us. If there is something immoral here that happened with this, I don’t feel comfortable signing away my voice. We were sent to get information for her job - if she can’t do that…?.” Rhett pauses, lifting his hands. Elaine is supposed to report, yet sign an NDA to not report to her job? Rhett’s puzzled and skeptical.

Claudia’s attention shifts from Elaine to Rhett. “You misunderstand,” she says with a slow raise of her hands from her lap. “It… isn’t so much about immorality or your voice, as it is about a technology that could be turned against the United States and its people. A technology that is, I believe, inexorably linked to the history of that mirror. It isn’t so much that we want you silenced, so much as we want to protect state secrets, to be able to… manage the release of information when the time is right.”

Sitting back in her seat, Claudia purses her lips to one side. “Though it sounds like someone has already had a case of loose lips.” She briefly looks down to her lap, then over to the kitchen, and back to Elaine and Rhett. “The world is a crazy place, Mr. Thorne. I would certainly be interested to hear more about what you saw and experienced, Kimiko didn’t go into any detail there. But if you want the information we have on the mirror, and more details about what was in that journal,” she says with a look to Elaine, “I’d ask that it be something that stays between us.”

Claudia shifts her weight to the side, crossing one leg over the other. “Like it or not, Mr. Thorne, it sounds like you’ve found yourself in the midst of something much larger than you… a second time.”

Looking between Claudia and Rhett, Elaine lets out a deep breath. "Loose lips that thankfully let me know enough to recognize something I was seeing with the mirror." She reaches over to place a hand on Rhett's knee for a moment, a comforting one before she looks back to Cluadia. "I certainly don't plan on talking about this with anyone who isn't necessary to research it. My fingers are crossed that this is basically the last step in this journey to find out what exactly we're dealing with."

She doesn't think that's going to be true, but it makes her feel better at least hoping that this narrows down some possibilities. "I would ask that Kimiko is at least given relevant information in all of this. Ms. Nakamura has done me the service of letting me know of an undiscovered past of my mother, and I'd like to see that I do right by her in all of this." She smiles in Rhett's direction before she addresses the incident.

"Rhett and I experienced what we've been calling as a 'ghost'. It's sort of a mass of colored electrical energy that swarmed around in one location. Rhett has some photos of the mark it left on the wall once it dissipated. While this would have just seemed strange on its own, it was the fact that I heard my own voice coming from it. My voice, talking about something I don't remember talking about. The context, though, led me to ask someone, involved in the Crossing, if it sounded familiar to her. She confirmed it was someone who was a conversation she had with someone who was supposed to have come over during the Crossing and had died."

She frowns a little. "I linked it to the mirror only because it seemed the obvious conclusion, given mirrors as imagery. I figured it couldn't hurt to operate under that assumption and see if I could figure out where the mirror came from. Clearly that was the right direction to look in."

The comment about it being the second time for something causes a bit of a puzzled expression through Rhett's eyebrows, but he doesn't question directly. He seems to settle a little as Elaine touches his leg. Rhett isn't happy, but he does sit back, crossing his arms over his chest, in dismay but not disengaged.

A trader and barterer of both goods and information, he's adopting a more critical eye to what's going on, but he hasn't blocked Elaine, either, or stated that he won't sign anything. There's an acceptance in it, and he's smart enough to know that if he were going to decline, he's instead staying. He's chosen to back Elaine, even if he's unhappy about where things might be leading.

Any relief that may have been in Claudia’s expression seeing Rhett’s choice nonverbally made is washed away by Elaine’s story. There is a troubled look that crosses her face, one that Claudia quickly pushes down. “A ghost…” she echoes, looking down to her lap and wringing her hands together, before looking up to Elaine and Rhett.

“It sounds like both of you are aware that… last year, SESA participated in a scientific endeavor to rescue what we assumed were two people trapped in…” Claudia shakes her head, still feeling incredulous even saying this, “trapped in what we believe is a parallel reality to ours.” Even in a world of miracles, paradigm shifts like that feels monumental in impossible ways. “What we discovered is that there was a proverbial raft of refugees from other parallel versions of our world that came through with them. Refugees that were given asylum within the United States. You can imagine the complications this presents.”

Claudia clears her throat. “Obviously, we’ve gone to great lengths to keep the nature of this discovery a secret, as we don’t yet understand the long-term ramifications of the technology that allowed it, or what the public reaction would be to this information. This is… on scale with the discovery of SLC-Expressive humans, and I think we both know how the world reacted to that.” Briefly looking down at her hands, Claudia grows silent for a moment.

“One of the refugees was another world’s version of you, Elaine.” As Claudia looks up and delivers that information, there’s no sense that she thinks this is a surprise to Elaine, given all that she’s already admitted. “She… disappeared during the Crossing due to an accident. It appeared as though she was dissolved into light— energy. Presumed dead. However, there was another victim also at the Crossing who we’ve discovered has survived, but now is able to exist in a state of some sort of free-floating energy. It’s… possible that this ghost is Elaine Darrow, trying to communicate to you.”

But the why of that seems uncertain, at first. Claudia takes in a deep breath and then continues. “The mirror Yamagato Industries is in possession of once belonged, as I said, to the Company. From what we know, it was purchased at an auction by the late Arthur Petrelli and intended for his home. However, it became an item of more importance in the early 1980s, when it was an initial test for a remote memory storage ability of a Company agent named Caspar Abraham. Caspar possessed the ability to remove memories from a person and encode them into objects. Up until the mid 80s, Caspar preferred to utilize mundane objects that were large and easily tracked. However, as his work became more prolific, he moved on to smaller and more easily portable ones for mass storage.”

Claudia shifts in her seat, looking out the window at her side to the scattered city lights beyond. “That mirror, as far as we are aware, contains the memories of someone who completed a journey similar to the Crossing. Except it occured in the year 1982.” She looks back to Elaine, brows creased. “I has suspicions, but I feel it may be confirmed by the contents of that journal, that your mother may have originated from another dimension entirely. One that branched off from ours, historically-speaking, prior to 1982. This of course leads to the even greater confusion of your alternate having crossed over from a fork off of our fork in history. Which… I realize sounds overly complicated.” She tries to smile, but it looks more like a grimace. “It is.”

“What I don’t know,” Claudia says with an incline of her head to Elaine, “is what information might be encoded on the mirror and how your alternate self may have been drawn to it. We understand little of the science behind both Caspar’s ability and what happened to that world’s Elaine Darrow.”

It's a lot to take in. Especially because it's a blend of personal ties along with the details of the mirror. "Yes, we went to said individual to see if her energy form compared to what we saw before. It certainly seems to be so, which means there's a very strong chance it was the Elaine that tried to transfer over. For what? Sending her a message? It's her own link to this that bothers her.

Her hand finds its way to rest stop Rhett's, mostly as she takes in the information. "Ms. Nakamura had a suggestion as to who I could speak with to determine the nature of my mother's connection to the Company. You are correct, as far as I can tell she was likely unintentionally brought here through the same means as during the Crossing." Elaine's got a lot she's sorting through. It's why the hand remains where it is.

"I suppose the mirror is relatively safe, then," Elaine murmurs. At least it physically is. "But those memories are important. They may even be my mother's." That's an option she never thought she'd have to consider.

Rhett's wearing an expression of doubt, but he keeps anything other than that to himself. People from alternate dimensions and coding memories on objects and a history of Elaine's mother being from another dimension or maybe an alien is a lot, and the amount Claudia knows about Elaine worries Rhett. And what if it's all bullshit: what if Elaine's memories were altered, instead, and this is some elaborate way to harm her? Wouldn't it be more logical that someone used a mind-stick and did a blender number on Elaine's memories, rather than accepting alternate realities and a parent from a splinter universe as real?

Rhett sits with his uncertainty, his jaw moving a little bit as he moves his teeth against the inside of his cheek: critical but just taking in what's presented. He feels wildly out of his depth, but can be there for Elaine.

"The coincidence of this being Elaine's mother's memories, and a mirror at where she works, though? I don't buy a coincidence. This feels targeted," Rhett finally gives. "And the friend that looked at the mirror didn't get memories from it," he points out.

"And wait. You know this mirror contains memories of someone that Crossed, and are leaving it in public access, maybe even to be a museum exhibit—-, but we're not supposed to talk about this? Haven't hundreds of people touched or seen it by now? How is this information a secret?"

Claudia angles a look away from Elaine, back to Rhett. “Up until Kimiko Nakamura contacted us, we didn’t know where the mirror was. Only that something like it may have at one time existed. Yamagato Industries is neither required to operate under US law, nor entirely open about their secrets and Kimiko tends to be very much like her late father, secretive and stubborn.”

“That all said,” Claudia continues, “there’s a reason why whoever it was you had examine the mirror didn’t find anything. As far as we’re aware, Caspar Abraham is one of the few people capable of retrieving anything from an encoded object once it’s been made so, and he died more than a year ago. It could pass through a hundred hands and go unnoticed for what it really is, and likely has done precisely that. You asked it yourself, how is this information a secret? No one has known about what happened for over thirty years, so it seems quite easily. We’re only now beginning to understand the scope of the events decades out, and even then what we know fits into a thimble.”

Sitting forward, Claudia rests her elbows on her knees and props her chin on her folded hands. “If it is targeted, then it’s Kimiko’s intentions. I’ll be honest with you, I know very little about her personally. We’ve only met and spoken face-to-face twice and neither time for very long. Beyond that, given no one else has had access to the mirror outside of Yamagato Industries for… decades, presumably, in the unlikely event it is targeted it’s coming from that side of the fence.”

“I agree with your assessment that the information encoded on the mirror could be valuable, to you personally or even to the US Government given its origins.” Claudia steeples her fingers in front of her mouth for a moment. “Unfortunately, I already asked Kimiko if she would be willing to part with it for analysis and her response was a rather firm no, which leaves us empty-handed on what to do about it, given the political and financial leverage Yamagato Industries wields here. That said, if you were willing to cooperate…” Claudia angles her head to the side, “we might be able to come up with a reciprocal arrangement. We have an asset who can access memories encoded by Caspar Abraham and we’d be willing to loan that individual’s services to you in exchange for your permission to keep a record of whatever is encoded in the mirror.”

"I will admit that the allure of seeing that information is strong. Personally, the prospect of seeing what happened with my mother is… " Elaine pauses for a moment, for a moment actually struck by the idea. "… anyway, from what I know of what happened with the Crossing, if this set of memories allows the government to understand more about how it all happened and to keep it from happening again, that is an equally tempting prospect. I don't know how that 'ghost' came to be or if it was just a warning, but it still feels to me that things are not fully resolved."

And if things aren't resolved, there's danger. She likes her life the way it is, without any other versions of people crossing over. "I understand the need for Ms. Nakamura to want to keep the mirror in her hands, but she was also interested in me investigating this as well. I imagine she wanted me to stay in this situation for a reason. I can inform Ms. Nakamura of the fact that you would like to study the mirror under my supervision, and I can also agree to a record under the understanding that if the information were harmful to Yamagato for some reason we'd have the ability to limit the usage of the record?"

She smiles after a moment. "I'm no lawyer, but Yamagato is my employer and I owe a great deal to Kimiko Nakamura. I don't exactly want to piss her off in some way."

"So essentially, you're saying the mirror part of this mirror doesn't matter, other than that it's an object that somebody mystically stored someone's memories into," Rhett says. He's going through the information in a critical way: something Elaine's seen him do on more than one other occasion. His arms are still crossed, and he looks at Elaine when she mentions the lawyer.

"If the information is very dangerous, perhaps the mirror should be destroyed."

“You might be right, Mr. Thorne,” Claudia admits with an incline of her head. “But we won’t know that until we know what’s on it. There are circumstances where that information may be helpful, much in the ways Ms. Darrow outlined. That said, I also agree that keeping Kimiko Nakamura — and by extension Yamagato Industries — pacified is the ideal route. Her corporation’s vested interest in America’s restoration is critical, and we can’t risk upsetting that arrangement.”

Claudia taps one finger against her knee, eyes darting for a moment to where Aria had disappeared to. As if on cue, Aria returns with a stack of plastic-tabbed documents indicating points of signature, which she lays down on the coffee table between Elaine and Rhett, pens set down beside it. “Did you need anything else, Madame Secretary?”

“Yes,” Claudia says to Aria, “call Niklaus and see how soon he could be back in the States, I need him for something. Then set up an appointment so that I can speak to Cassandra Cain.” Aria nods at the requests, glances briefly to Elaine and Rhett, then excuses herself from the conversation.

“I suppose how we move forward on this hinges on Ms. Nakamura’s willingness to allow us access to the mirror. But this doesn’t solve the matter of your… ghost. But I have someone who might be able to help with that, I’ll have him put in touch with you.” Claudia then looks over to Rhett.

“This is perhaps a bit off-topic, Mr. Thorne, but since we’re all becoming acquainted here…” Claudia threads an errant lock of blonde hair behind one war, “I’ll profess a modest level of selfishness in agreeing to meet with you. You have a reputation that precedes you in multiple social strata, and if I’m not mistaken you’re continuing your medical education which… must be expensive. If you find yourself looking for more long-term employment, the Deveaux Society could use someone like you. We can always talk more, at a later date, if you’re so inclined.”

"I doubt Ms. Nakamura would be very fond of a mirror inherited from her father being smashed, though perhaps there's a way to permanently remove the memories from the object. This isn't really an ability set I'm familiar with." Elaine still seems concerned about keeping things copacetic with Yamagato.

She leans over the papers, taking a moment to examine them. The words are scanned over, but she takes half a second to look between Claudia and Rhett. Her expression is curious, but she doesn't interrupt the conversation.

Rhett looks like she ripped out the rug under him and he found they'd been standing on corpses. Which means, he's actually still pretty reserved, but Elaine will probably catch the subtle shift of how alarmed he is.

"….You have plumbing problems here?" Rhett asks, mild. Which of course contains the subtext of 'what would I be doing'.

Claudia Zimmerman, pragmatic and stoic as she is, barks out a sudden laugh that surprises even her. Aria is startled by the sound, rising up from her stool in the kitchen where she’d dismissed herself to, watching with raised brows as Claudia covers her mouth and smiles behind her palm. A short gasp of final laughter escapes her, followed by a slow shake of her head and a sweep of one thumb below her eye to make sure her mascara didn’t run.

Mr. Thorne,” Claudia says with a smile and a brush of her hand across her face, “we sorted out the plumbing issue.” There’s a bubble of residual laughter that comes up at that, followed by a slow shake of her head. “I’m interested in hiring you for your connections and, because there’s potential in someone with your ability. It probably deserves a longer conversation, to be fair to your time. But, as I said, if you’re interested in learning more we can talk later.”

Turning her attention to Elaine, Claudia smiles and holds back a soft laugh as she thinks about the deadpan delivery of Rhett’s plumbing delivery. She understood that subtext, but the way it was said with such flat earnesty is precisely the kind of thing that strikes her fancy. The smile she affords Elaine is one more supportive than anything else. Nice catch, her eyes imply. “Ms. Darrow,” Claudia finally composes herself, “we are all in uncharted territory these days, each and every one of us. We live in a world of miracles and impossibilities piled atop one-another, on which this current situation is now stacked.”

She rises, smoothing down the front of her blouse as she does. “But I think until we hear back from Ms. Nakamura, I’ve done all that I can do. I’ll have Cassandra Cain reach out to you once we have authorization to view the mirror, and my associate Niklaus will be in contact regarding the… ghost.” She dislikes calling it that. But, call a spade a spade. “Unless there was anything else?”

While Elaine doesn't laugh at Rhett's question, there's a warm smile at his suggestion of plumbing. She leans in slightly to give him a playful nudge, she looks back to Claudia, her smile still there before she straightens up and clears her throat slightly.

"I agree about the uncharted territory, and I think everyone is on the same page with that. Life is certainly more unexpected more quickly as time goes on." She gets to her feet following Claudia's own movement. "I'll look forward to hearing from your associates and I appreciate your time and efforts in this matter. I'm sure Ms. Nakamura will thank you as well, once all things are said and done… but I'll thank you anyway on my behalf. This has ended up more of a personal thing than I had fully anticipated."

She glances to Rhett to ensure he's ready to go. "Unless Rhett has something to add, I believe we've covered our bases."

Rhett doesn't break his deadpan at first, he's mild and serene through the laughter and amusement. There's no trace on his expression of being upset: he is very well aware he's not being laughed at, and that his joke landed.

And he's smooth enough to continue it a little bit. "No need to be embarrassed if you do; the problems can be ongoing and quite foul," Rhett says, though some teasing does enter his tone, it remains mostly reserved. Rhett is relaxed, and his manner switches into a confident one: self composed and assured. The surprise is gone. What has arrived is the silver-tongued bartering rogue that Rhett has not really shown to Elaine before, beyond when they first met. Claudia has offered a deal, and Rhett adapted very quickly. He used his joke's success to adjust the conversation.

"We did not know how long this information share about the mirror would go," Rhett says, easy and comfortable. His tone guides others to relax and be comfortable too. He's a diplomat, in the form of bargaining. And he's traded information many, many times in the past, and he's been hired for things even more times. "I have time now, but later is also fine; I know you have my contact information. Summon when it's convenient," Rhett invites. "I am considering being more than a plumber and electrician, but it is not because of money. I find a lot of things that have fallen under the ocean and been forgotten that have a lot of value. Should you need something that suits my talents and morals, we absolutely should discuss it."

Rhett is smooth and comfortable, now that he's in his element. The same as when he's in the water: his element changes him, draws out his strength.

Claudia looks between Rhett and Elaine, smiling. The interactions between them all have gone well, from her perspective, and her gamble on Rhett’s involvement seems to have, for the time being paid off. Though it isn’t clear exactly what plans she has in store for the former smuggler. “Then our business is concluded, for today. Though expect a call from my office sooner rather than later, Mr. Thorne.” Though Claudia’s eyes soon dip down to the paperwork sitting on the table between them and her smile becomes more wry than anything else.

“Before we say our goodbyes, however…” Claudia says with a motion to the table.

“I just need you to sign on the marked lines.”

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