alia_icon.gif ff_chel_icon.gif elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Fianchetto
Synopsis In chess, the fianchetto is a pattern of development wherein a bishop follows the knight.
Date January 4, 2020

Raytech-Yamagato Greenhouse

Michelle Cranston's Office

Michelle's office is maybe not the place to do this, but it's also Michelle's home ground. And Elisabeth has a feeling that the woman is going to need at least that much by the time this conversation is over. With Alia at her heels, she knocks at Michelle's door and, once again, she doesn't wait for invitation to enter. It's maybe a bad habit she needs to break. The expression on her face is very carefully neutral.

"Chel, I'm sorry to bother you. This is … important." She doesn't use the word urgent, because this is not going to be a sprint, it's going to be a marathon. One that might just break the woman in front of her.

The fact that Alia is followed by three SPOTs who dutifully sit outside the door like very well trained guard dogs likely didn't escape notice. But Alia let's Liz set the pacing of the conversation. No folders in her hands, just a tablet and the look of someone who's both had tears recently and is spooked currently. On her back is her backpack, which for any who know Alia knows this means she's feeling the need to be ready for things going rotten fast.

Michelle was hard to reach having been in the basement of the aeroponics building the first few times anyone tried to call her. She’d gone up to her office in preparation of Elisabeth and Alia’s arrival, but without any real expectation of what was going on except that the entire aeroponics building was operating on heightened security for reasons she wasn’t made aware of. It’s no surprise that Chel isn’t sitting when they arrive, standing by the glass wall of windows in her office overlooking the snowy streets outside.

She doesn’t ask anything, but rather turns to look expectantly at the two. There’s a moment where Chel regards Alia, brows furrowed, then looks past her to the idle robots in the hall just outside her door, then up and back to Elisabeth. Chel turns fully from the window, cradling a steaming white mug of coffee in both hands. Nothing about this situation feels good.

It isn't Elisabeth's usual demeanor — when she comes to see Chel, she's usually a bit deferential, trying not to push her mother-in-law too hard and overwhelm her. This is … the careful face of wary cop bringing 'not good news.' She pulls in a breath and says quietly, "I need to talk to you about the heightened security. Sit down, please?" Her tone is softer than might be expected but it's not 'someone is dead' tone either.

"We had a breach in the main building that's going to require you to have a bodyguard detail full time." She meets Michelle's gaze. There's a fine line between beating around the bush and softening a blow — Telling the hyperintelligent woman what happened in succinct terms is always best, but this is also the woman's worst nightmare again. "Richard was taken, Michelle," she finally says gently. She doesn't try to give additional information until Chel has a moment to process.

If Liz has the face of wary cop, Alia is wearing an expression that is a mix of frustration, self-directed anger, and sorrow. The technopath though doesn't say a thing, not yet. She's here mostly as support for the pair, and to answer at least some of the questions she knows are coming. As the person who first discovered the breach, well, as the saying sometimes goes: "You found it, it is yours."

Thus Alia is preparing to try answering this without being cruel. It's what she can do right now.

Michelle doesn’t sit. In quite the opposite, she becomes remarkably still. Cradling that cup of coffee under her chin, she stares at a downward angle to the floor, eyes partway lidded and lips downturned into a frown at the corners. She doesn’t blink, doesn’t speak, doesn’t even look like she so much as takes in a breath. Elisabeth and Alia can hear her swallow the room is so quiet.

Taking one breath, Michelle sips from her cup of coffee, then blinks a look up to Alia and then sweeps her stare over to Elisabeth. “By?” Is the monosyllabic question she has for Elisabeth, expecting an equally succinct answer.

"We don't know yet. I'm working on it, Chel." She meets her mother-in-law's eyes. Although Elisabeth seems calm, Michelle all too easily recognizes in her daughter-in-law the same ferocious intensity and steel-willed determination that she had when they first met. "I will find him. And I will make sure you're kept in the loop."

The audiokinetic has a hard time reading both her own mother and Michelle — they are the strongest women she knows, each in their own ways, and they're adapting (with difficulty) to this world. But this situation isn't just about worlds. "I'm hoping this is a simple misunderstanding, but I'll have better information by tonight. Can you hold tight that long?" Because Elisabeth isn't stupid — Michelle isn't a complete hermit, and Liz has no idea with whom the genius may have built relationships over the past year.

Alia meanwhile offers, quietly, "We will find him." And then she stiffens, just a little, and frowns, She turns on her tablet, and makes a face at what she sees. Then she sets the tablet down, still on. The image is of cell phone, on a chessboard. There's just enough traces of snow that one can guess this picture was taken semi recently… and given Alia's timing, -very- recently. "Found his phone. Leave there for PD, or have SPOT bring home?" Alia asks carefully.

Michelle’s brows knit together again and she turns away from Alia and Elisabeth, one hand up and fingers pressed to her forehead. She comes to stop by the window, tongue sliding across her teeth and her other arm wrapped around her waist. Elisabeth can hear beyond the normal spectrum a hissing sound in the back of Michelle’s throat that is a barely restrained growl of frustration. The sound fades, but Michelle doesn't move from her spot by the window.

“Then— why don't you— ” Michelle slowly lowers her hand from her brow, “come back when you— know something.” She turns, looking over her shoulder to the door and then back to Elisabeth. “Because it— sounds like you don't have a fucking thing for me.” Michelle’s voice doesn't raise, it just becomes knife-sharp and cracks at the end. Her jaw tenses, neck muscles flex, and she flicks a look at the door and then back again.

Elisabeth nods slightly, her blue eyes on Michelle. If she hadn't come, her mother-in-law would have probably kicked her ass, but this is actually a better response than she might have hoped for. "I'll be back as soon as I have anything." She's worried but standing here isn't going to reassure Chel in the slightest.

Turning on a heel, she tells Alia, "Retrieve it." They'll deal with what needs to be done with it after she talks to Avi or Francois, which is her next stop.

She casts a brief look over her shoulder at Chel, but she can't say anything else for now. On their way out of the building, though, she murmurs to Alia, "Coordinate with Kaylee and Barazani — keep an eye on Chel, all right? I need to know she's holding up." Not that she doubts it; she just wants to take care of their family.

Alia offers a nod of sympathy, as the pair exit the room…though Alia lets one of the SPOTs inside even before Liz asks her to keep an eye on the genius who's likely freaking out. The robot, perhaps surprisingly, just sits near Michelle, like a dog worried about its human.

Alia saves her own freak out for later, as she nods. "Eyes on everyone." She offers softly. "And will pull phones data without touching." She adds, at a more normal volume.

"We will find him, Liz. We only have one world to dig through."

Two Hours Later

Behind a curtain of slatted plastic, just beyond the humidity of climate-controlled hydroponics systems, Michelle Cardinal sits in a small concrete alcove stuffed with old, grimy computers. Coils of cables run along the floor and up into the back of the computer cases, monitors flicker softly in the dull glow of fluorescent lights. Down here, in the hydroponics maintenance floor on the first basement level of the Raytech-Yamagato Greenhouse, she has a moment of peace and isolation.

Security has been on her like flies on honey — both Raytech and Yamagato Industries. Cameras swivel and pitch in every direction, capturing her every movement, making certain that an event like what happened to Richard doesn’t happen to her. Sitting in the wheeled swivel chair in her fortress of solitude, Chel shakily lights a cigarette and exhales a plume of smoke out her nostrils. With a free hand she reaches into the pocket of her lab coat, retrieving a faded piece of lined paper folded several times over and torn on one edge.

Unfolding the paper, Michelle looks down to the pencil-scribbled address in someone else’s handwriting. She’s been holding on to the note for almost a year. But now, perhaps, it's time to call in a long-standing favor.

25-04 Broadway
Jackson Heights, NYC Safe Zone, NY 11106

“Edward,” Chel whispers.

Just this once.

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