Game Changer


alia_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif russo2_icon.gif

Scene Title Game Changer
Synopsis The Red Queen's game isn't really chess — unless it's battle chess.
Date Apr 24, 2011

On the Internet

The sound of a computer whirring… electricty humming… the background was purposefully covered in sheets behind the high-grade webcam (Had to have good quality) along with a non-obtrusive bluetooth headset to get sound to and from Liz, for whom Alia had set up a comfterable chair. The technopath had purposefully done some trickery to make the servers of the video-conferencing servers think the 'video call' was starting from the Las Vegas area.

Which wasn't true, of course. It was actually a skinny brickfront, with Alia stealing bandwidth from a neighboring wifi connection, a laptop, and a cantenna. The destination of the call WAS accurate however. A computer account set up specificly for Russo and his studio crew, which Alia had emailed the details of, along with the names of the two interviewees that D.Crypt was providing services for… namely, one Elisabeth Harrison, who by now had a reputation. And one Alia Chavez, who claims to have been held without trial by the DoEA. The digital ring on Russo's side just waits for someone to 'pick up' and the conversation to begin.

There had been much hesitation on the part of The Advocate's host. Bradley Russo had been given strict instructions to behave. Very strict instructions. But the word itself had been enough to prompt him to take the call based on an email from a random stranger he'd never met, wouldn't know, and likely would never hear from again. It'd all been very cloak and dagger.

Yet even with the secrecy and the oddity of the secrecy, Russo had maintained his policy; they check out every lead— even if it takes them to the desert, leads to the death of several military officers, and lands him several days in prison. Yeah. He 'likes' leads.

He'd set up the meeting just the same, and dressed for the occasion in the event that the footage would actually become something the show could use; but he didn't intend to hold his breath. Anything could happen. The Armani suit in which he's dressed is one of his favourites, a lucky one that he'd become convinced had ties to interviewing success.

Clearly his throat, and adjusting his green tie (with which he'd become so incredibly attached), he reaches forward and prompts the technology to accept the video conference while he issues the screen a tight smile. "Hello, Bradley Russo here…" if it's a prank, it's freakishly elaborate and warrants at least credit for its elaborations. He manages a genuine grin into the camera, an easy, boyish smile that he's perfected through years of practice.

Elisabeth Harrison is a known face, so at least that much wasn't a prank. It takes her a moment to suddenly suck in a breath. The last time she laid eyes on him was in a dream. A dream where there were robots and drone planes and … Shaking that off, the blonde offers a faint smile. She looks much as she always has — her hair's pulled back and pinned up in that style she'd come to favor on the job, her blue eyes are direct on him. The forest green pullover with its modest V-neck is flattering enough. "Good afternoon, Mr. Russo. Thank you for taking the call," she says calmly to the man.

Well that was unexpected. Blinking rather blankly for several seconds, Brad manages to regain some semblance of his composure while his blue eyes narrow considerably at the image on the other side; he hadn't really expected the video conference to be real. "Ms. Harrison?" he actually asks before shaking his head, "Pleasure to see you, Ms. Harrison." There's a pause as his eyebrows arch upwards somewhat. For theatrical purposes and his own general likability he adds, "Call me Brad."

His head tilts to the side as his jaw tightens some, "This is quite the risk you're taking, isn't it? Calling us here? I mean, even if the call is untraceable, isn't there some semblance of risk?" He swallows hard again while his blue eyes narrow slightly, "You've become quite the person of interest lately— " there's a pause. "It's good to see you well."

"Living is a risk, Brad," Elisabeth replies. Her tone is quiet. "Especially these days." Considering the mood of the country. "I had thought about simply sending out a statement, but we all know how that can be quashed or falsified. I thought maybe talking to you in person might be a more trustworthy route. Give you the opportunity to actually ask me the questions people want answers to. If you're interested."

"Life has always been risk," Russo replies casually, but he understands her meaning more than he'll let on. "You've been on the run for awhile Ms. Harrison— what prompted you to take a pause?" His eyebrows knit together some while his head cants to the side slowly, "The media's painted you to be something of a traitor, Ms. Harrison? By all rights, I shouldn't be taking this interview— " especially because he likes his head where it is. Attached to his neck.

But that doesn't stop him or dissuade his current line of questioning; it's not live, the team can edit as needed. "You had a long way to fall. It's all very odd." He stretches his neck as he lets his head drop to his shoulder, "How did it happen? Good graces one day, traitor the next?"

Elisabeth's chin comes up a hair, and she works to keep her voice level. "I'm not a traitor. I took oaths to protect and defend the Constitution against all enemies, Mr. Russo. Foreign and domestic. The current political climate is what I would consider a domestic threat — holding American citizens without due process is what I'd consider a pretty serious violation of the principles that I swore to uphold." She smiles faintly. "In point of fact, I was actually given my job specifically because of government-sanctioned actions that I've taken both in and out of uniform."

"Uh-huh," there's a skeptical narrowing of Russo's eyes while his hand raises to his chin. But such is his form on camera. "All due respect, Ms. Harrison, I think our prisons are full of people who would willingly tell me on camera that they aren't terrorists, traitors, murderers, or rapists. What makes you different?" The question has it's own weight as he cranes his neck to the side.

"According to law, due process isn't necessary in issues of terrorism to collectively sweep away any semblance of national threat." His throat clears as his hands rest in the table in front of him. "Besides which, how can a democratically elected government be found a domestic threat? Doesn't the essence of being elected mean that they operate for the majority of the people?"

"How am I different?" Elisabeth asks thoughtfully. "For the record, being terrorist, by definition, means taking actions in order to create panic and fear in the population. I will lay claim to being a freedom fighter, maybe…. a rebel most assuredly. But not a terrorist. I have never deliberately taken an action intended to kill innocents in order to make a statement. I've spent my entire adult life in uniform. I spent nearly 10 years as an NYPD cop on the ground during 9/11, during the Midtown Bomb in which I lost my own mother, and after a hiatus where I tried to decide whether to register my ability or not, as a member of NYPD's SCOUT team. Everyone's heard of the Vanguard by now, I would assume… and during the time I was part of SCOUT, they tried several times to attack this city. And many people helped defend it — people both in and out of uniforms. It was because of my actions against the Vanguard that I was given a position on the FRONTLINE team… the words at the time were that I had 'urban combat experience' that suited them. And both as a member of FRONTLINE and as its director, I used every bit of that experience and my knowledge of this city to keep its people safe. From both Evolved and non-Evolved threats."

She pauses. "I'd say that's what makes me different — but every member of FRONTLINE that I ever personally worked with felt the same way about protecting people from threats."

Elisabeth considers. "What makes me different from a terrorist? I suppose in all honesty the only thing that makes me different is that I'm not a threat to the nation. If my lawmakers have nothing to hide, they wouldn't feel like I'm a threat when I started asking questions, would they?"

"Questions are part of the democratic process," Russo concedes as he adjusts in his seat and clasps his hands in front of him. "Are you suggesting that any freedom of expression is quickly squelched by the government itself?" His lips thin as he watches her image carefully. "And what particularly isn't askable? What things aren't permitted as real questions?" His eyebrows arch, "Every terrorist refers to themselves as freedom fighters. Everyone fights for something." There's a pause, "Who do you propose as the enemy here?"

"The enemy in this case isn't a who — it's a mindset," Elisabeth tells him quietly. "All of these regulations being put in place on people with Evolved powers are simply an expression of fear. Interestingly, the government has known about Evos since the 1960s. They even had a base out at Coyote Sands, New Mexico, where they were doing testing on Evos. They don't want anyone to know that they've known about the so-called threat that long. But think about this — if you ask the questions about Coyote Sands, what happens then? Do you know?" There's a glint in her blue eyes, as if she may know the answer to that. "If what destroyed the base out there wasn't an Evo child that they tortured into an explosive jailbreak, then why won't they tell anyone what it was?" she asks.

Elisabeth pauses there and then says, "Does it not strike anyone as odd that they're using the same excuses to herd Evos up that the Nazis used to round up the Jews in Germany? We are all so afraid to question now that we watch it happen, and we remain silent. We remain silent as they make Registration mandatory because it's in the public's right to know that John down the street can make his garden grow faster than mine! Isn't it? So we'll make everyone carry registration cards to say whether they're part of the scary group. Let's ignore the fact that a large number of us went ahead and registered so as to continue working at service jobs like the military and the police and the paramedics and the doctors… jobs that keep everyone safe. But let's focus on the fact that your doctor has the ability to cause earthquakes. Has he done that? Ever? No. But he could. So let's force him to move to the Evo ghetto, because he could be a scary guy even though he never did a thing to anyone. This is what's happening all around us, Brad. And the people who do ask questions or protest… they're silenced. "One of the chief symptoms of every revolution is the sharp and sudden increase in the number of ordinary people who take an active, independent and forceful interest in politics."* And I think all citizens should take that interest. We have the right of free speech and free association. Use it. Decide for ourselves where to stand on these issues. Ask questions. Demand answers. Do not let people be dragged from their homes in the middle of the night and then held indefinitely on whatever charges are trumped up without the right to their attorney or the right to a trial by jury. That is the abuse that I could no longer turn a blind eye to… and why I did what I did."

"The Jews were an imagined threat, an easy scapegoat for the problems of the day. Our lives barely compare to Nazi Germany," Russo protests. It's hard to tell whether he's becoming indoctrinated by the DoEA or something else is afoot. "Clearly evolved people pose a certain threat to society either intentionally or accidentally. Do you not feel that these things should be addressed?" He clears his throat, "Further, Ms. Harrison, limiting power of people like us," yes, let's not forget, he's also evolved, "is for the good of the people at large. If we choose to live in peace and comply with the instructions given us, can you honestly suggest people will be limited in their ability to speak out against the practices of the government?" His eyebrows furrow considerably, "Shows like mine aim to educate the voters, to bring them forth and inform them. I've never felt pressure to comply to any government policy," he insists quietly.

"Are you making a slippery slope, Ms. Harrison? Or do you have substantial proof of what you're suggesting the government is doing? How are people silenced? Who, do you propose, is protesting? And there are associations and connections that are illegal. Organizations like Messiah need to be stopped. People need to be moved out of their beds and retaliation must be squelched… associations with such organizations must cease if law enforcement is to do their jobs— "

A digital voice overlays itself. One that Russo should recongize as D.Crypt. "Interesting choice of Organization example. There is evidence, including taped confession of Curtis Autumn, that Messiah was government-known, government-approved. A false-flag to rally against. Further, the base that their leader, Rupert Carmichael used, was owned by one Maxwell Development Corporation, who's stocks went up due to a goverment contract DAYS before the trouble. Same company that is to start work on Midtown. Cleared of wrongdoing, no formal investigation. And here's a nice picture of Rupert at a gathering with the head of said business… at a charity function held by none other than the Petrelli family." The image sends itself across in the background, opening so Russo can see it without obscuring the video." There is a pause.

Alia stands up, after deinterfacing from the computer, to step over infront of the camera, her own earpiece in. "As for who protests. I am D.Crypt. Alia Chavez. Evaded registration as civil disobdience. Held without trial for accepting contract work for FRONTLINE. I applogize for odd speech patterns. I also have Expressive Language Disorder." She pauses again, as she takes a slow breath. "Held, deal made, I work for DoEA, I am let go… Deal was broken, after work on AI for hunter drones, continuing under name 'Project ALIA', and was to be used as the 'software' for corrections facility in Delaware, permanently." Alia's tone and words might be clipped, and it is obvious she is struggling to keep herself understandable… but she keeps to the simple facts of what happened. She pauses to let Russo catch his breath to this new change.

Elisabeth's eyes flicker to where the camera is even as Alia speaks up. The blonde herself is silent on this matter, giving Alia ample room to say what she needs to say.

"But where is the proof? All you've provided is circumstantial," Brad counters again. "We can't continue on in this way without solid proof— without documentation. Without bodies. Without physical evidence. If you propose insurrection or a coup d'etat there needs to be more to found it on. For ages conspiracy theorists and people on the outs have said the same things." His hands are held up defensively. "I'm not going to argue that the system is perfect, but the moment we propose a coup, until we can change attitudes towards each other… the scales will just tip back and forth for years to come."

His throat clears, "The government can't and shouldn't regulate every part of an individual's life, but where's the balance. Beyond this, who is behind this conspiracy? Who is helming it all? A government that we, the people, elected?"

A chair is pulled over, which Alia sits in, as her head sinks a little… the digital voice of D.Crypt takes over. "Proofs. Alright." First, a recording starts playing, of one Curtis Autumn. Meanwhile, files begin appearing on Russo's screen. The first is a informational document on the Company, of all things, and it's foundings, and actions, including the names of some of the founders, including Angela and Arthur Petrelli and one Daniel Linderman. Recorded also are the names of some known agents, and the DHS badge numbers they used.

"To my knowledge yes, Rupert Charmichael as a government agent working to organize as many Evolved terrorists as he could, to isolate and identify threats to the government and the people represented by those willing to take actions above and beyond the law to correct percieved wrongs. It was a brilliant tactic, and it worked remarkably well. But the same damn things are said about Hitler. I didn't say I was okay with it, nor did I say it was acceptable losses. But I've seen alot of death, alot of destruction, and dealt my fare share of it Mr. Cardinal. And things could have gotten much worse than they did. Was it acceptable? No. It was not. No loss of life is acceptable. Was it within reason? That is for everyone to decide for themselves I think." The voice of Curtis Autumn's voice, along with his image, on video, plays. "Charmichael was a success, as .. despicable as it was what happened. The populace is now under stricter government control, more heavily monitored, and there's been far less random chaos and destruction since November 8th. It doesn't excuse the senseless violence and slaughter that occured on that day, but it does give reason to it."

The Files keep coming. and coming. Timing of DHS apperances and leaving, correlated to Humanis First movements. Information on, of all things, something called Project Apollo. The name "Sylar" Appears in that one, actually… Liz is also seeing what Alia is doing on her end of the screen… and might be impressed to see a slightly redacted version of the Catabase SLOWLY being pushed through the system. The only details removed are those involving the Ferry and its activities. Needless to say, this MIGHT take a while to get through. D.Crypt's digital voice speaks up once more. "How much 'circumstance' can we brush off without opening our eyes to look? How many Coyote Sands, MOABs, does it take? Do we have enough to prove it all? No. But there is enough here to make for some damn good questions. And everyone who's asked those questions, has ended up outlawed, 'terrorist'."

Elisabeth watches the massive data dump with an expression that is neutral, calm. And when the recording is over, she looks at Russo through the screen. "In addition, I can tell you that just before I officially resigned from the NYPD I was forcibly recruited to a unit that went overseas to track Vanguard members and their hideaways. I can tell you that the hunter drones loose and being tested in Midtown are directly taken from the Vanguard's own tech development stores. The government is holding one Hector Steel to build the things, and they wanted Alia's technopathic ability to run them. While on that mission, I was one of the members in Antarctica when that strange mushroom cloud erupted — watched it happen. Someone gave their life to make sure that cloud wasn't the real deal. Pulled the warhead incorporeal with his ability and literally absorbed that nuclear weapon. One of the other people on that team was a man named Emil Danko, an ex-US soldier turned Humanis First mercenary — and the man in charge of both the kidnapping and torture of then FBI agent Felix Ivanov. And this man was brought back to New York and never once questioned for those crimes even though the agent could identify the man. I have to wonder why that is, don't you?"

Russo's eyes frantically scan each of the files, missing information as more and more becomes downloaded to his computer. His lips part wordlessly while he stares at the screen, blue eyes scanning back and forth. His jaw tightens substantially while he motions for one of his staff— who is, evidently, off-screen— to hand him a piece of paper and a pen. He scribbles a few quick notes down for himself while he continues to peek through the files. His eyebrows knit together tightly as his face pales somewhat. What is he supposed to do with all of this?

When the dust settles and he tries to focus on questions to ask. More than anything, he'll need to read. And read. And read. He swallows hard before a hand extends into the air. "Hold up." His tongue rolls over his lips while his eyes narrow at the screen, "What was at Coyote Sands, exactly?" There's another pause as he peers at the two women in front of him, "Are you.. Is one of you… the Red King?" Both eyebrows extend high on his forehead while he examines the pair of them.

"This is a lot of information… I.." his teeth toy at his bottom lip while he glances around the room. The staff consists of nothing more than two IT guys because this isn't going to air yet. Decisively, his expression changes as he grants them both the signal to leave.

D.Crypt's Voice is calm, and clear. "I am not. I am the one who took YouTube offline to keep Rupert's trigger from reaching more people. I helped make the software for the jamming devices that hindered the broadcast. As for Coyote Sands…" One of the files pulls itself to the front, this time a file from Endgame's research. "I will let Ms. Harrison field that question further."

"You could … use the appellation Red Queen if you like. The man known as the Red King is one of the unaccounted for at this moment." It's not a lie — he's just not unaccounted for at the hands of the government. "Coyote Sands Relocation Center was akin to the relocation camps that Japanese Americans were forced to live in during World War II. It was the first containment community for people with powers that the government wanted to contain and study. Like Eltingville is becoming."

"But what is it now?" Russo asks as his eyes widen, the room now void of other ears. "We went. We were threatened. We… had a conflict," in other words he killed several soldiers. "Okay, so there's all of this information, how on earth can the public even know unless we get some politico on your side? This needs to be presented in a public forum where people can't be silence. It needs to be presented to people who can make a difference; there's no way that no everyone in the ranks is dirty…" there's a pause. "Or are they?"

The digital voice pauses to consider her next words carefully. "This same packet will be released into the Wikileaks data structure in a day or two." She then sighs. "Doesn't need to be everyone. Just need the heads. General Heller. Ms. Mayes of the DoEA. Our lovely Mayor. Add a judge. I'm sure there is one." D.Crypt sounds almost cynical. "And the Petrellis? Can't say I'd trust. Or Linderman. They are good at weeding out non-loyalist, from top-down. That's why I wanted this brought to you. Freedom of the Press is still, somewhat, respected."

"Coyote Sands now is probably a development facility, though I can't say for sure. The survivors of the original tragedy that took place out there grew up and formed the Company, their attempt to keep Evos safe from government persecution. It went badly wrong, though their intent at the beginning was pure enough. Nowadays, however, it's the Humanis First issue that needs to be pressed into the public eye — and the people who are not of the same mindset must speak up."

Elisabeth's tone is soft. "Brad… there used to be an old saying, and I can't remember it exactly so I'm paraphrasing here: "First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me." That is where we're going right now. They take away our rights, put us under martial law indefinitely, and they expect us to say thank you for it because fear breeds. There is a reason that the police and the military are separate — when they are one, the people become the enemy."

"We'll be off the air in fifteen minutes flat," Brad counters quickly. "And likely shuffled out in handcuffs. It's not simple. This is a game of chess, not checkers. The media rides a finer line than you'd like to think. Yes, the public needs to learn about it, but if you actually want it to make a difference it has to come from people who can't be silenced, or who can get their message out before they are."

"That's the issue. There are legal means to fight this fight— but it needs to be covert at first." He hmmms quietly. "If the heads are the dirty ones than we need to specifically target the others and tease out where they stand. There are powerful men and women in office who still have a voice and competence." There's a pause. "Is the entire DoEA a mess? What about Praeger?"

A digital sigh is an odd sound. But that's what Russo hears over his speakers. "Being covert, is what got us this far. You do not want to know what people have gone through to get what you now have your hands on. From personal experience, being trapped outside your own body for over a month is an ordeal no human should ever be put through. If I would have been less… adept with my talent, I'd be dead instead. Technically, I WAS brain dead for.. longer then I'd like to consider." The digital voice stops as Alia shakes her head and sits upright. SHe'll let Liz handle explaining the political front.

There's a long sigh. "Some of the top positions of the New York City government right now — Mayor Sylvia Lockheart, the acting secretary of DHS Gregory Armond, Georgia Mayes who is near the top of the DoEA and headed up the incarceration of Alia Chavez, and Chief of Police Samuel Irons — are also the top echelon of Humanis First's Manhattan cell. Vice President Mitchell himself is a member. Can I prove that to you? No. But it's the truth." Elisabeth's tone is still calm. "Frankly, Russo, I wasn't sure you'd stand up and work with us. It's not like we haven't tried before — even with the proof you're looking at, even now, you're scared to death that you'll be the next one vanished." She tilts her head. "It's a hard decision to make — to do the right thing. I know. I've been where you are now. And now you understand how I fell so far. Eventually, good people do choose the right thing." She rubs her jaw a bit with another sigh. "If you won't air it, then we'll just have to go with the original plan. Viral on the Internet. Thank you for your time, Mr. Russo."

"I wouldn't put it passed the mayor," Brad quips quickly. "I saw Lockheart terrorize an unmanifested evolved adolescent into denying the very nature of what she was on my show like she'd suffer some great misfortune by manifesting." And as far as being killed is concerned, "I wouldn't say that it's not a real fear," Russo returns while his eyes turn up towards the ceiling. "And the truth is, I doubt we'll be on very long with all of this. And I wouldn't call myself scared to death, just skeptical." His lips press together tightly while his eyes turn away from the screen, "Since I've manifested, I've spent at least a week in confinement. First for the circumstances surrounding my manifestation and then for an incident that I can't get into."

He swallows hard and shakes his head, "People can't do the right thing if they aren't given the resources to do so. Yes, people can respond to this. Yes, there's important information here, but if you want this to make a difference rather than be written off as nothing more than child's play, you need in with the right people. We can figure out who these people are." He swallows hard. "And it's not that I won't air this interview at all… it needs editing. The American people can't handle all of this. Our show will be off the air in mere moments. I can make it fly, but to do it and keep any footing with what I'm doing…" he frowns lightly, "we need to limit it. Focus on the suspiciousness. The real evidence can come out later— unless you want to do the other. The choice is yours."

Alia Looks to Liz. In this, it is her call right now. Alia is just the operator on the switchboard, so to speak.

"I don't think you're as skeptical about this as you'd like to be… having been out there to Coyote Sands in the first place," Elisabeth replies. "I have one man who might be able to get the word out. If he's willing. Which he may not be." She considers. "The other option is to edit this interview such that we get a full five minutes on the air to present it…. I may be able, between Alia and someone else I know, to get you an uninterruptible signal. Are you willing to read what we've sent you and see if we can make this fly? Because I agree — it needs someone with a high profile to make it work."

A hand presses firmly to Brad's forehead as he nods. "I'll read it. It's a lot, but I'll work my way through it." He frowns lightly, "Is there a way I can get you a message?" His eyes narrow as he glances between the pair of women, "The email address — is it secure? Our files are on a secure server. Is there anything else you need from me?"

D.Crypt speaks plainly. "Email is NEVER secure. But a message sent via instant messanger to D.Crypt is… about as secure as it gets to let me know to get in touch in a secure fashion."

Elisabeth lets Alia handle the security and making sure Russo can get to them. "Good luck, Russo," she tells him quietly. "I'll wait a little while, but not forever. Get back to me when you can." And then she reaches out and presses the button that Alia said would cut the feed entirely.

She looks up at the technopath and Elisabeth's expression is weary. "I don't think we're going to get anywhere on this avenue, but we'll play it out for a short while. See where it takes us." She rubs her forehead. "Guess I need to find a way to check in on Marcus Donovan, too. Subtly." She grimaces. "On the up side, with Redbird under investigation and the lawyers handling the whole damn thing, at least his bodyguard situation should still be in place. For a while, at least." She rests her chin glumly on her hand. "I suck at this bullshit."

  • Nicolai Lenin

Previously in this storyline…

Next in this storyline…

The End of Studio K

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