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Scene Title Familiar
Synopsis Claudius Kellar speaks truth to power.
Date August 10, 2019

The smell of fresh-baked bread and hints of wine accompany the sounds of soft conversation and the gentle collisions of forks to plates and glasses to tables.

Chez Roux is one of the solitary upper-class restaurants in the entirety of the New York City Safe Zone, nestled within the same building complex as the Brooklyn Municipal Building that serves as the heart of the Safe Zone’s administration. The restaurant is known for its quality French cuisine, high prices — even considering the dramatic post-war inflation — and its high-profile clientele, often including politicians meeting with Mayor Short. President Praeger is renowned to have eaten here with the mayor once, though they had the entire establishment to themselves.

Today it is populated by roughly nine other visitors. A well-dressed couple by the windows, leaning in across their small table to chat with each other. An old white man in a suit anxiously checking his phone and barely touching his crème caramel. Government staffers on lunch. There’s even an administrative assistant from Fort Jay sitting by herself with a salad and a glass of wine, reading her phone. It feels very terrestrial, very lived-in. The moment feels so mundane and also in ways alienating for people outside of this economic bracket, of which 90% or more of the Safe Zone squarely fit into.

It makes Nathalie LeRoux’s arrival all the more uncomfortable.

Chez Roux

Red Hook, NYC Safe Zone

August 10th

6:12 pm

Across the restaurant in a reserved booth on the far opposite of the street-facing windows, Claudius Kellar sits with a dignified posture. His navy blue suit makes his chalk white hair pop loudly in contrast. Slivers of gold are visible beneath partly-lidded eyes, scanning the menu while taking a look down at his wristwatch.

Nathalie put on a blazer for this occasion. She doesn't necessarily want to stand out among the clientele. She lingers for a moment at the door— she's not a fan of places like this, especially not sitting in the midst of the Safe Zone as it claws its way back toward civilization. She has fond memories of French food tucked away somewhere, but in those memories the food comes with an undeniable warmth, cooked and eaten in thanks or consolation. It's handed over from war-riddled boulangeries and passed along in the name of kindness to those in need.

It isn't this.

She sighs before she heads in, not looking at the nearby roof where her friend and fellow Hound is waiting, but comforted in knowing she's there. It isn't hard to find Kellar once she's in— she did some research on who she was going to sit down with, after all— and she slides into the booth opposite him.

"Mr. Kellar," she greets, simply.

"I still almost think you should have went with the dress."

The sound of bread being chewed can be heard in Nathalie's ear before Lucille Ryans swallows and presses her forehead harder into the binoculars she's got held up from across the street. "Blazer is fresh though, slick." The tall woman tosses the bread roll into her bag that sits at her knees and she readjusts herself. Peering over at Kellar as her friend makes her way over to his booth to greet him.

His hair and eye color were shocking to see as a combo and Lucille thought of her own eyes when she looked at this man. She'd only met a few with golden eyes. Her neck rolls and then she's in position and settled into not moving while crouching there at the lip of the roof. Those golden eyes of hers hidden behind the binoculars and a pair of mirrored sunglasses are perched on her head, loose strands of her short cut auburn hair.

Did she really think she would need to use the sniper rifle laying at her feet? Here? Well no, but she was never not prepared for the worst. Her biotic senses do the work of scanning the world behind her as far as he range allows though the door leading up and out onto the roof has been closed and the door handle tied with some sort of cable. Not that hard for Lucille to cut through if need be but harder for someone to just bang said door open and surprise her as she keeps her eyesight forward and through those lenses.

"I'm here. You got this."

Is said simply as Nathalie makes contact and Lucille falls silent to listen to the pair's interactions.

Back inside the restaurant, Kellar looks up from the menu and flashes a broad smile to Nathalie. “Ms. LeRoux, you look well. Quite well. I love your hair.” He speaks in a voice much richer than it sounded over the phone, clipped and fast paced like he can’t wait to get to the next word in the sentence. Menu set aside, he reaches out across the table with an open palm.

“It’s an intense pleasure to meet you in person.” Kellar posits, upturning his palm for her to shake his hand. Given her ability, that’s a considerable amount of trust. Or foolishness. “I thought this might be a more suitable place to talk business rather than some… you know, ruin. Also you can try the clafoutis, it’s heavenly.”

Lucille should like the blazer. It was taken out of her closet. Nathalie can't respond, obviously, but she straightens the jacket in a silent acknowledgment of her wardrobe choices.

When Kellar addresses her, she smiles softly, her fingers brushing against her hair when it's mentioned. It's almost like she doesn't quite know what to do with the compliment. But she follows up by taking his hand and proving that she hasn't lured him here to try to do him harm, as her ability is kept at bay. "The pleasure is mine," she says, "I'm glad we could do this. And this is a beautiful spot, I agree. I can't say I've had occasion to come before." Her gaze flicks to the menu, but she spends little enough time on it to imply she's going to take his suggestion rather than attempt to navigate it herself.

“Few have, but when you own the kind of company I do… the people who have standing reservations to places like this tend to listen.” Kellar’s features are so very disarming, from his cat-yellow eyes to his broad smile, his shock of white hair and his probably fake tan. Everything about him feels like a facade pulled on by someone attempting to approximate the appearance and presence of a person.

“So, Nathalie,” Kellar says as he motions to her menu, indicating she should consider ordering something, “here’s my proposition for you. It’s a good one, because I thought you and I have a lot in common. We’re both independent people, we have our own motivations, aspirations.” Kellar places a hand to his chest. “I say my aspirations each morning in front of a mirror to remind myself of where the day needs to go.” His smile widens. “This morning I looked into that mirror, I looked right at myself and I said,” he points with one hand at Nathalie as if she were his reflection, “don’t fuck this up, Claudius. You’re a winner, and winner’s get the prize.

Slowly, Kellar leans back and takes his napkin up from the table, unfolding it and draping it over his lap. “You really should try the clafoutis.”

It is hard not to just look at him, really. It's intriguing to Nathalie, to see a mask so carefully built. She understands, in a way. She's still working out which parts of her are real and which aren't.

Which is part of why she's sitting at this table in the first place.

She rests her hands on the table and looks back over at him. Curiosity perks up her posture, just a subtle shift and a gentle lift in her eyebrows. There's a hint of a smile at the corner of her lips as he echoes his pep talk for her. "It obviously works for you," she notes, since he is, after all, a powerful figure. "What is the prize, in this case?"

“My company?” Kellar jokes with a rise of his dark brows, contrasting so sharply to the white of his hair. “Ah, no, but seriously, do you want to— ”

Whatever Kellar was going to say is interrupted by the wait staff’s arrival, offering a fond smile to the two at the table. “Can I get you two started with drinks?” He asks, looking between Kellar and Nathalie.

“I’ll take a neat Scotch, the lady will have a mild white,” Kellar just— orders for Nathalie. As the waiter begins to open his mouth to say something, Kellar picks up the menu and sets it down next to him. “And I’ll have the toulousain and the lady will have just the clafoutis.” He starts to pick up Nathalie’s menu too, without even so much a look in her eyes.

"Did he just-" Lucille leans in closer as if that helps when she's using the binoculars and she looks between the two. Assessing the body language. "You're gonna flip that hair like you're Farrah Fawcett in the Spring Ad campaign." She forgets that Nathalie might be too young to know who that is, but Lucille thought she was a goddess growing up. Radiant. "Maybe a blush, you're a sad, vulnerable girl with just so much power in her hands she don't know what to do with it."

Claudius obviously liked power. The appearance of it at least. He was… immaculately put together. Probably spent more time in the mirror then Luce herself did nowadays.

"Maybe he's here out of his own agenda and wanting to win, not Adam's." Tiny insight as the older man orders for her friend. She knows the type, Lucille can't help but find herself wondering what exactly is underneath this man's facade.

And whether they'll ever see it.

Now is not the time to wonder who Farrah Fawcett is or why she is known for flipping her hair around, but luckily Nathalie gets the gist of what her odd Cyrano is trying to tell her. So there's a soft laugh and while Kellar takes care of ordering for them, Nathalie flips her hair over one shoulder. There's a sense of youthful nervousness to it, but her smile lingers long enough to imply she might not mind feeling a bit nervous.

Later, she might have to shake Lucille a little.

"It seems like I have the prize already then," she says, also not seeming to mind that the waiter is there. Not for this part anyway. She gives the waiter a warm smile and a quiet thank you, but anyone paying attention can see that her focus doesn't actually drift from Kellar for long.

“Now now,” Kellar says as he moves his glass of water precisely center in front of himself, “don’t get fucking smart with me.” He brushes the rim of the glass with his thumb, then looks up with those yellow-gold eyes to Nathalie. The waiter caught a little bit of that, offering Kellar an uncomfortable and frankly upset look before pushing it down and smiling as he continues to walk away with their orders.

“So,” Kellar picks his glass up to take one sip, then sets it down and squares it right back where it was. “If you were asked to kill Adam Monroe,” Kellar says with a rise of his brows once the waiter is out of earshot, attention drifting down to the surface of his unstilled water, “on a scale of one to ten,” then he looks back up to Nathalie, “how on board would you be?”

Lucille was in the process of reaching blindly for the bread roll in her bag when Kellar goes in that direction and she pauses, leans back from staring in their direction and looks up to the sky.

Rubbing her forehead, she leans back in speaking as she goes: "Don't give a yes or no… probe him like he's going for a coup. Maybe it's real." The older woman considers and Lucille chews on her bottom lip. He did just say don't get smart with him, well Nathalie was pretty fucking smart so she didn't think they could get much smarter than now. "Maybe say you wouldn't after though… fuck."

He isn't serious.

At first, Nathalie laughs, as if she can't imagine there's any seriousness to his words. But as he goes on, that shifts. By the time Adam Monroe's name comes up, she's not laughing anymore.

Lucille panics in her ear, but Nathalie doesn't share her worry. Instead, she takes the question and does something she wasn't planning on doing this whole meeting. She's honest.

"I need Adam Monroe," she says, "he knows more about me and what I am than anyone else I'm aware of." Her arms fold on the table as she leans forward as if their conversation isn't private enough already. "I'm afraid I would feel obligated to keep him alive, under this hypothetical. Not that it would be easy to kill him otherwise. Although I am confident that I could manage to kill just about anyone I had decided to."

That's not a brag, in fact she seems almost ashamed to admit it. It isn't something she's quite embraced about the Conduits.

Keller exhales a breath those his nose and makes a very performative ffff noise with his mouth. “There are more things in heaven or earth, Natty, than are dreamt of in Adam’s delusions of grandeur. You want to know something?” Kellar leans forward, “I know more than he does.” About what, Kellar doesn’t specify. Instead, he leans back and spreads his hands, looking over Nathalie’s shoulder as the waiter comes back with a glass of scotch for Kellar and a glass of white wine for Nathalie. He smiles, awkwardly, and makes his departure quickly.

“You don’t need Adam.” Kellar is confident of that much. “Nobody does. That’s the first lie he sells you. He’s old he’s seen things.” Kellar picks up his glass of scotch and takes a sip, then motions with it toward Nathalie’s wine. “Whatever you think you need him for, you can do it as well on your own. If not better.”

"This is quite the opener," Nathalie says, her head tilting curiously over at him. She reaches for her glass, but just to rest her fingers against the stem. "Is this a mutiny, then? Pull down one leader and install another?" She steps tentatively in this direction, but at least seems open to discussing the possibility.

But there is something that makes her shake her head, looking down at her wine. Easier to address the wine. "I'm not sure that's true. The steps I've taken on my own feel… clumsy." She glances up at that, to regard him for a long moment. "Dr. Clark proved that." And she doesn't mean in his work, but rather in the manner of his death.

Deadpan, Keller says, “I don't know who that is and I don't really care to learn.” Reaching for his glass again, Keller opts to nurse it in one hand, using the other to accent his conversation with peppered and pointed gestures.

“No, a coup implies there's something worth taking over. This has nothing to do with that, my sweet angel of death. This has everything to do with — I mean, am I sitting here trying to convince you on the merits of killing a Nazi?” Keller tips back his drink, one eye twitching shut. “This shouldn't be complicated math, Nathalie. Adam’s time’s up, the world's moving on, our kind are moving on.”

Against his better judgment, Keller sets down his drink. “I mean this isn't even math,” he bemoans with a whole-handed gesture at Nathalie. “It's just common sense. Right?”

"No, I understand the merits," Nathalie says, sitting back in her chair and bringing her glass with her for a drink. "You understand how this looks like a trap, right? A test, at least. I called Praxis— Adam's company— and I get you. But you're not… Adam's man? Whose man are you, then?" Setting the glass back down, she taps a finger against the glass as she works through her own thoughts. And carefully chooses her words when she proceeds. "You must know there's more than one of him. Finding the original, finding them all, would be a challenge."

Not an impossibility, just a challenge.

"If you know what he knows, if you know more than him, what are you willing to share today?" Her intention is clear: she needs proof this isn't a set up. She needs to know that something he is saying is true.

Kellar's smile is, frankly, enormous. He makes no effort to answer questions of his allegiance or what he gets out of the deal. His yellow eyes are alight with amusement and delight. “Why, it's Christmas Day then, Miss Leroux.” With a pump of his brows Kellar adds, “Because I know how to kill him.”

Kellar leans in, gripping the sides of the table. “All of him.” And with a snap of his fingers, Kellar is slowly sitting back in his chair, satisfied enough. “For good.”

He has Nathalie's attention, that's clear in her lingering stare and the lift of an eyebrow as she listens. She's quiet for a long moment, slowly spinning her glass in place. "Mieux vaut prévenir que guérir," she says, softly enough that it might be for her ears alone. It is better to prevent than to heal.

She shifts, standing to her feet next to the table with her fingers splayed over the surface. "Obviously, you know I can do this or we wouldn't be here. But I can't just take you at your word and let you point me at him like a gun. I need to know what I'm getting into. And who I'm getting into it with. If you're able to speak to that, I'm listening." By her position, the alternative is an abrupt end to this meeting.

"Don't let him talk in vague off hand terms, he needs to be direct. Lean in. You're doing amazing." Lucille whispers over their private line. Head still tilted as she scribbles absently in her little red notebook.

Awesome. As Nathalie stands, Luce nods from afar. Yes girl. Yes.

"He's not speaking to his real goal or anything. Adam's time is up, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to know that." A roll of her eyes and Lucille rolls her neck along with it. The Hounds are in agreement from how Nathalie is directing the meeting now and so Lucille finally grabs the bread roll again from her bag and tears a chunk off as she watches.

“You’re not getting in with anyone,” Kellar says with a twitch of a smile, “in fact, this partnership needn’t go any further than this table. All I came here to do, in truth, is tell you how to kill him forever… and then, you know, what you choose to do with that information and who you choose to give it to rests squarely on your young but capable shoulders.” Scratching at the side of his neck, Kellar looks down to his drink and takes another sip from it.

“I’m just giving you the gun. If we’re going to move forward with that metaphor. Arming you,” Kellar makes a finger-gun gesture and points it at a random diner, “telling you where the bullets are,” he cocks his thumb back, “and showing you exactly where you need to shoot.” He makes a ka-pow sound with his mouth as his thumb-hammer comes down, then brings the fingergun up to his lips to blow imaginary smoke from the barrel. “I mean, if you’re interested in some information, that is.”

For a moment, it's hard to tell if Nathalie is interested or not. She teeters on the verge of walking away, breathing in and breathing out before she sits back in her seat.

"Alright," she says, picking up her wine glass for a drink, "I'm listening."

Curiosity killed the cat and it's certainly bitten her in the ass once or twice before. But still, it's hard to ignore. Especially in this case. Perhaps she's just comforted enough by the assurance that this isn't putting her in anyone's pocket to listen. But either way, she's giving him the floor now to say his piece.

Or to see if he'll actually say what this plan is.

“Back during the war,” Kellar says with a flick of his brows up, “there were three companies. None of them exist today, bombed into the fucking stone age and then their carcasses divided up by more parts of the government than octopi have arms. Chevex, Poloron, and Dynatrine,” and for each name, Kellar raises a finger into the air. “They were operating under a contract for the Department of Evolved Affairs to develop a second generation of everyone’s favorite canned war crime.”

Slowly, Kellar spreads his hands. “Negation gas.”

Leaning back in his seat, Kellar takes his napkin, unfolds it, and drapes it across his lap. “Chevex and Poloron had done bioweapon work before, chemical weapons they sold to Israel back before the war. Mostly CX and other unspeakables. Dynatrine was newer, tried to break into the negation drug market but got pushed out by Biomere back when that was in fashion.” Kellar’s yellow eyes catch something in the reflection of his glass, and he looks up just as the server comes over with a wooden charcuterie board with slices of french bread, olives, and oil.

Kellar smiles her away, then continues his inappropriate for dinner conversation. “The DoEa wanted these companies to make a new aerosol negation drug that was permanent. Their plan was to crop dust the country with it, basically, and sterilize the entire population of folks like you and I of what makes us special.” Reaching across the table, Kellar takes a slice of the bread, a couple olives, and a bit of oil and adds that to a small appetizer plate in front of himself.

“They probably would have finished their research before the war even started if it wasn’t for several lawsuits filed by workers at their factory on Fort Detrick in Maryland. Turns out Dynatrine was cutting corners in ways that would make OSHA frown, and it wound up getting a bunch of their employees sick.” Kellar swabs his bread through the oil, thoughtfully. “The law suits, now, those came across my desk. Poloron took my firm on as a consultant during the original toxic tort lawsuits filed by nine of their workers…”

He only pauses to eat.

“But,” Kellar continues, mouth still partly full, “the lawsuit dragged on from 2009 to 2011. Most of the plaintiffs died in the interim from neurological failure, organ death, you know… nothing good. All of this was kept out of the public eye by the government, because development of the biological weapon was one: highly illegal, and two: secret.

“Everyone who contracted Detrick Syndrome died, on a shorter measure than not. By the time the legal dust settled the war had already started, then before they could finish development of the compound the resistance turned Fort Detrick into a crater.” Kellar picks up his napkin and daubs some of the olive oil from his lips. “But the research on what they were developing? The CDC still had a sample of it.”

Kellar laughs. “I say had. Because it was just stolen from them, nasty little pill called Gorgon. It’s a virus, tailored to target us, that destroys our minds.” Kellar says with a waggle of fingers by his temple. “Now, I have it on good word that Adam is the one responsible for the theft, and that he’s planning on, you know, repurposing it."

Lucille does the work of jotting down the names of the companies and the rough outline of what Kellar says, wow he liked to talk. Which was good for the two Hounds. This?

It didn't make Lucille feel good.

"Playing with biological warfare is how you get world ending viruses." They didn't need a fucking zombie apocalypse happening. Doesn't sound like a viable option to dispose of him but it was absolutely necessary to know what the immortal was up to.

Already firing off texts to her COs: What do you know about a GORGON? The virus, not the myth.

They were mostly funny guys she had to be exact.

"I'm pretty sure everyone gunning for Adam has been thinking about negation drugs," Nathalie says, her tone still cautious, although this time because of the gravity of what he reveals rather than being worried about a trap.

She can't eat.

"The clone of Adam I was dealing with spoke about targeting the Non-Expressive population. We know he has the capability to reverse engineer a virus. And we know he's been selling his robots to every country who'll buy them. How many ways does he need to commit genocide anyway?" It's a rhetorical question. She tilts her head as she looks over at Kellar, her expression blank. Which is a far cry from how she began this interaction. But then, the goal posts moved since then. "These are the sort of thing that make it… pointless to just go after Adam. His work will carry on with or without him. Stopping him won't stop what he's built. His network. His people."

“I didn't say I knew how to stop his organization,” Kellar says as the wait staff returns, one with a bowl set in front of Kellar full of aromatic broth rich with sliced duck and morsels of pork with white beans. In front of Nathalie is placed a cast iron dish within which is a puffy and bready casserole that resembles a thick pancake. Blueberries are mixed in with the dough and a sweet blueberry compote infused with rosemary is drizzled on top. Kellar smiles away the wait staff, then begins stirring a spoon through his Toulousain cassoulet.

“Adam made a fatal mistake in his current plan to be in a dozen places at once,” Kellar admits quietly. “All those replicated bodies are neurally linked, making them one mind spread out over many bodies. All connected by a web of consciousness. They're all Adam.” Kellar plucks a piece of duck out of his cassoulet and savors the first bite of the meal. “His regeneration is a cerebrally programmed cellular mitosis,” he says as if it isn't the first time he's explained it to someone. “In essence, his autonomous nervous system functions define the predetermined parameters of what his regeneration should be doing and in turn his regeneration.”

Kellar pauses, realizing the pieces aren't connecting for Nathalie yet. “Gorgon will not only negate Adam, but it will scramble his regeneration and cause acute neurological damage. It will in essence change the way in which his brain tells his ability to work. Since his mind it networked… you just need to infect one clone with Gorgon.”

Kellar prods at his cassoulet with a spoon. “One domino and the whole stack falls. You just need to figure out where he has the virus, and I don't know those details. Or— find a way to re-engineer it yourselves. Gorgon is an aerosol but it isn't infectious. Once it's onset Adam wouldn't be able to infect others. He'd just…” Kellar makes a melting motion with his hands.

“Plop, plop,” is the noise Kellar makes to spell out Adam’s death.

Nathalie sits back as he explains, brow furrowing as she processes the science. "I didn't realize they had a connection that went… that deep," she says, gaze darkening as she speaks. Had she known when she had him last time, perhaps she could have exploited it then. Perhaps she could have acted more purposefully.

"To get my hands on the sample, that's no small feat." However, it's easy to tell her gears are already turning. "To achieve that, I have to ask you what I had intended to from the start. Can you get me into his organization? If I was someone who wanted to do good, but was easily manipulated. Someone who tries to deny their nature, drawn in by a strong mentor figure. I can sell it if you can. And maybe we both get what we want." She knows, of course, that this wasn't an act last time. It has crossed her mind that it might not be even now. But there are risks she's willing to take.

“No,” Kellar says, dabbing his mouth with his napkin, “unfortunately you burned that bridge when you tried to kill the man holding out the olive branch. However intentional it may or may not have been. A for effort, though,” he quips with a crooked smile, moving his spoon around in his bowl.

“I don’t think there’s anyone who could get close to the virus that would trust you now,” Kellar continues, deciding instead to pick up his glass and take another sip of his drink, “and before you think to ask, if I could have gotten my hands on Gorgon this would be a different conversation. No, Adam has become increasingly paranoid. I suppose for good reason, I am trying to have him killed. But he’s less trusting of new faces now. He’d wanted me to head-hunt someone Yamagato Industries cut loose, given that vengeance is often a good motivator for betrayal, but…” he smiles, “I may have dragged my feet on purpose.”

Waving one hand in the air, Kellar sets down his glass. “Neither here nor there. Your best bet would be that the government still has a sample somewhere, or finding someone with an ability to synthesize viruses? Perhaps the First Lady?” He laughs a bit ruefully. “Otherwise you may need to steal the virus from him the old fashioned way.” Kellar folds his hands together. “With violence.”

A simple, feral smile crosses Kellar’s lips as he dips gold eyes down to the dish in front of Nathalie.

“You really should try that,” Keller says in a cooing tone, but Nathalie has lost what little appetite she'd been holding back.

“It's to die for.”

Apparently, a lot of things were.

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