It Has To Get Worse


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Scene Title It Has To Get Worse
Synopsis …before it gets better.
Date February 18, 2011

The Commonwealth Arcology

An organization with its roots in the future.

A father that he has never knows.

An arcology filled with technology that seems born of his own dreams and inspirations.

The life of Warren Ray has never been more complicated than it is now.

Down in the infirmary ward of the C-Ring's medical level, Doctor Simon Broome had given Warren and his father as much time together as they needed. Though while their reunion was a bittersweet one, it need not be their only meeting. No longer does Edward Ray exist as merely a name to Warren, he exists as a person as flawed and human as Warren himself.

Solemn silence has been what has kept Warren company since leaving his father's bedside. Escorted by Doctor Broome back towards the administrative offices of the medical wing, promises of meeting the man in charge of the institute have undoubtedly caused all manner of questions to come through Warren's mind. Questions about himself, about the future, about the Institute; questions of identity.

By the time he's staring at the door to the office that they had been outside of earlier, Simon is knocking on the door's exterior, turning to look back to Warren with one expressive brow arched high on his wrinkled forehead. "Remember," Doctor Broome asserts to the machinist, "when you meet the Director, that he comes from a time far from ours. Hear him out, and keep an open mind. The world as you know it, is far stranger than you might imagine."

And one time, not long ago, Warren Ray could imagine many strange things.

"I'll keep an open mind. One day we'll have to discuss the Clockwork World, but that's for another time." Warren states with a friendly smile to the older man, then faces the door, waiting for whoever may open it. Thanks to an earlier phone discussion, he's possibly expecting an older looking Cardinal to answer. "Guess it's time to see if my mind can be blown open any further."

Things in the Institute are never quite what they seem, today's meeting is no different.

But Warren's expectations are, at least, half right.

While Broome considers the implications of what a clockwork world could possibly mean, the door to the medical office slides open with a noisy hydraulic hiss into the wall, revealing a sparsely decorated and spacious office. A sleek glass-topped desk with a similar virtual surface to Edward's medical room rests in the middle of the office, white chairs of ergonomic design situated on either side of the chair, and a chrome armature lamp shines down on the reflective surface.

Standing at the far side of the room, a tall and dark-haired man in a charcoal black suit with dull red pinstriping stands with ihs back to the door, looking out over a simulated cityscape vista fashioned of a matte painting and halogen lamps designed to evoke a feeling of being above ground, even while living below. Turning to face the man coming in to his office, Warren Ray is presented with an unfamiliar man somewhere between his twenties and thirties, clean shaven and possessed of square, strong features.

"Morti— Warren?" It sounds like a question, as if this man can't quite place who he sees in front of himself. Disbelief changes to a smile as the broad-shouldered man takes long-legged strides across the office, quickly clearing the distance between himself and the machinist, looking ready to wrap him in a hug before stopping short, grimacing, and offering out a hand in greeting.

"It's— been a long time…" likely isn't an euphamism.

"You don't look very much like Cardinal." Warren reaches to take the man's hand, saying this very casually and with a hint of furrow-browed confusion. There's no point in keeping certain things a secret, being upfront about connections instead of trying to hide them makes it far easier to hide other things. "I'd ask if we know eachother, but… I guess that's kind of obvious. As far as I know, our relationship is strained at best. Would I be out of line to ask what changes in the future?" Of course, this is the man who kills an Elisabeth… but it was the 8th, when lots of people went insane. What were the circumstances? "And why the face?" Briefly looking up and down the man, he adds, "And height."

Surprise briefly crosses the borrowed features of Tyler Case when Warren mentions the name Cardinal. There's a brief, ragged sigh and a slouch of his shoulders as his brows come up, a smile briefly crossing his lips. "Guess someone spoiled you before you got down here, then? I didn't think I'd be so free with that information, I guess I'm starting to trust you more these days."

Looking down to the floor, the Richard Cardinal of another time turns away from Warren, headed towards the white, leather-upholstered seat behind the desk. One hand strokes along the high back of the chair, turning it around. "My predicament's… unfortunate. I'll explain, though, you deserve at the least that much."

Settling down into the chair, leather creaks in protest of Richard's movements, and the chair is rolled in close, hands folded and rested down on the glass desktop. "The body you're seeing bleongs to someone who's a close frienfd of mine, Tyler Case. You— you might have heard about him before, he's led a difficult life. Before I was in this body," Cardinal spreads his hands apart, "I was in my own. I came back to here, to the year 1961 following… an incident. Right up until the day I was murdered by a serial killer, Samson Gray, Gabriel's father. He killed me, took my ability, and— for a time— I was little more than a brain in a jar, collecting dust on a shelf somewhere."

Looking down at his own muted, unfamiliar expression in the mirror, Cardinal exhales a sigh. "The Company got a hold of the brain, held on to it in a vault for decades while the handful who knew of me were feverishly searching for a way to bring me back. A few decades and an unbelievable combination of resources and personnel later… they aspire to bring me back from the dead."

Cardinal's hands fold together again, elbows resting on the desk and fingers lacing in front of his mouth. "There was an accident in the process, and instead of my consciousness being transferred into a fresh, new body, it wound up over-writing Tyler's. Tyler… wound up in the body that was designed for me. I'm… trying to figure out a way to set things right, and put us back where we belong."

"When people said that the Institute is up to mad science, I was of the opinion that it was a figure of speech." is Warren's responds to all of that, straightening his gloves as he continues to stand where he is. "So, details on the brain in a jar aside, I can only assume that you know me far better than I can imagine. The fact that I've told you what I heard from present-Cardinal means that you've probably made a few guesses on what he could possibly have told me."

He begins to approach the desk, staring down at the digital interface with a hint of cluelessness, though he's still fascinated by it. "I'll more than admit that I have my concerns, but betraying the Institute would not be in my best interests. Elle Bishop, present-Cardinal, my sisters, father, Milena Daley, and Elisabeth Harrison. These are the people I want to protect, to make sure that no one has too much power over anyone else. My motive is balance and equality. Can you agree with that sentiment?"

"I can," Cardinal notes agreeably, "we've had a similar conversation before. Different names, different— " Cardinal unfolds his hands and gestures around the room, "different setting, but this is a conversation we had. I do know you, Warren, and I know you well enough to have called you a friend. We've— we had been through a lot, together, and I learned from you what true dedication can mean." Reclining back int his chair, Cardinal folds his hands in his lap.

Wringing those hands together, Cardinal looks anxious, before finally looking up to Warren again. "There's a lot to explain, Warren, but— I figure you have more questions than answers at this point. Simon told me he was going to talk to you about some things, but I imagine you still have more you want to know. Is there any place in specific you'd like to begin?"

Warren takes a few more steps forward, then carefully takes a seat in the chair on the opposite side of the desk. "I'm not even sure if it's appropriate to ask most of my questions. Broome said I have no children or anything, which probably means I should work a little harder at getting Elle out of that dome."

He crosses his arms and leans back against the chair, getting comfortable. "Alright, so tell me, what exactly am I doing in the future? What's my life like? I know they're dangerous questions, but I have no shame in asking them."

Breathing in deeply, Cardinal holds that inahalation before letting it out as a sigh. "I'll be honest, Warren, things… they get really dark, really soon. The world I come from is nothing like this one. Hope is a dream of the mad, and oppression seems like a simple thing. I can't even use words to describe just how bleak it is, how dark a future we're discussing. But…" Cardinal's dark eyes avert from Warren for a moment as his brows furrow.

"In my time, you were working for the Institute before I took it over. In the timeline I came from, I obviously had never gone back to the past. The Institute, you see, it rose up anyway. Time has a certain inertia to it, some events are destined to happen without dramatic attempts to change them. A few years from now, I took control of the Institute and insinuated my own people into it."

Cardinal looks to the lamp beside him, then back to Warren. "You were a contractor, developing machines for the government— weapons. I brought you in, and put you on a new project while you continued to work on weapons for the government. You— became obsessed with your research. You backslid…"

Silence falls over Cardinal for a time, hands wring together. "You started calling yourself Mortimer again. Eventually you— started questioning your own humanity. You never met your father, Edward, he died in his coma. Maybe that made you… resentful? I don't know. But you started to augment yourself as your research progressd. You became addicted to a drug that heightened your power, made your world more clear. Eventually, you stopped interacting with people entirely."

Cardinal's expression goes distamt, guilt-ridden. "You started working only through proxy machines that you controlled through cerebral implants. You locked yourself away in one of our research facilities and…" Closing his eyes, Cardinal shakes his head.

"The man I called my friend died, it's as simple as that. The world changed us, made us compromise our morals for the sake of survival. We all did things we weren't proud of… and— " Cardinal looks down to the desk, at his own reflection; wrong. "We paid for our sins."

"Christ. Since Elle left, I've been locked in my factory for months, I rarely come out anymore… And I was augmented once, that's how I saw the Clockwork World, a grand design that can never realistically be built, but it inspired me to try and change things." Warren holds his hand up, removing his glove to reveal his silvery mirror-like digits to the man, much like his eyes often are when his ability is in use.

"The reason I requested this arm not be capable of feeling is because I wanted to establish that this hand is just a tool, I want to get my real arm back one day. But… I can't even imagine." He seems to be in utter shock by what the man says, lowering his forehead into that silvery palm. "I don't want to become that. I want to have a family, I want children, friends, I don't want my work to consume me."

"I don't intend on letting that happen," Cardinal promises, tension in his voice. "I might ask that you do some difficult things, though, but I'll never ask you to become the monster that life made you. I know— I know how difficult things were, and I'm… I'm glad that you still have feelings for Elle. She was important to you, even if things didn't… work out, because of the dark place you were going to." Wetting his lips, Cardinal carefully addresses the situation, leaning forward to settle his elbows on the desk again, unable to sit still for too long.

"Elle's safe now, though, with— with me, I suppose you could say. I will need her help with something in the near future, however. She has a singularly unique ability, one that will be able to do us a great service. But I know not to rush it, right now she needs time to figure out herself, and time for some old wounds to heal. I tried to keep her from having to work with us again, for her own sake, but it didn't pan out like I'd hoped."

Looking up to Warren, Cardinal considers that mechanical hand thoughtfully. "I know a way… that we could get your arm back, potentially. But it's too dangerous to consider right now, not until the person with that ability more clearly understands how it works, otherwise you might just— find yourself without an arm again one day."

Laughing a bit ruefully, Cardinal reflexively rubs one hand across his throat, then looks down to the desk's shiny glass surface, awkwardly silent.

"I'm patient. This new arm is far better than my old one. Despite the color, another choice to remind me that this is just a tool, the latex actually makes this feel naturally comfortable. I don't have to take it off to sleep and it's fairly light weight." Warren's watching Cardinal carefully when he starts talking about Elle. When one is willing to strap a drill to a tank in order to save someone, how far they'll go is fairly telling.

"I don't want her hurt, no matter what you do, just don't hurt her." But now there are other things to address, such as, "So what is it that you need her for? And when will she have her old ability back?"

"I need her electricity, specifically, to power a machine we've created in a research facility that… requires an improbable amount of energy to run. Unfortunately we don't have a nuclear reactor to utilize, so Elle Bishop is the next best thing. Ideally we'll find a way to handle this without— without hurting her." Cardinal closes his eyes, straining out a sigh through his nose. "No— we will find a way to do it without hurting her. I— I have to remind myself sometimes that some changes are for the better."

As those dark, borrowed eyes open, Richard settles his attention back on Warren. "Right now that's all I can say about the device, until I can be more certain of our own plans. It… is something you designed, however, decades into the future. The means to create it were one of the few things I salvaged from my time before I arrived in this one. You'll get to see it, soon, but not quite yet."

"As for when Elle will get her ability back," Cardinak's lips pull back into a grimace. "I— can't honestly be certain of that. Three months is the usual turn-around time, but there have been outliers in longer duration. We… have to just wait and see on that. Fortunately I imagine I'm— your Richard is watching over her in safe keeping."

Warren almost says something about the 'ideally' part, but before his mouth completely opens, Cardinal is already correcting himself. "I've heard more about my future than I'll ever need to know, and we seem to be on the same page about protecting the people I care about, but I need to know just how bad we have to let things get before they get better."

Then, starting to slide his gloves on again, he lets out a slight sigh. "And I know you know that I associate with Redbird. It's important that we establish that this won't be a problem as long as I don't go spilling a bunch of Institute secrets. Meaning Elisabeth and my sisters will probably come around to my factory, and I'll probably go to their facility. Is this alright?"

Rubbing his palms together, Cardinal stares down with borrowed eyes to the reflective surface on the desk, then leaces his fingers together and rests his chin on his knuckles, elbows propped up on the edge of the desktop. "Things have to get worse, before they can get beter. We need the government to put its neck out, turn its head to expose its throat, and get blood on its hands enough for everyone to see before we decapitate the beast. We have to make it obvious who the enemy is, make it transparent. Otherwise there will be enough shadow of doubt, to black out everything we do."

Sighing on consideration of Elisabeth, Cardinal's eyes fall shut and his hands squeeze together. It's an understandabe question Warren is asking, one that is notably dangerous in the context of approvals. "Do what you need to do," is the delicate way of not inspiring too much confidence, or giving too much approval. "Provided you aren't giving away information that could damage the Institute, and I haven't given you any yet, we'll be fine. Elisabeth knows about this place, so I have no qualms with you mentioning it."

Dark eyes wander across the desk, finding the glowing spot of light from the lamp and squinting against it's glow. "Family is important," Cardinal admits with a reluctant smile. "I don't think I have any problems with your plans."

"So for now it looks like we're on the same page. And there is one thing I learned that I wasn't completely sure of. I thought the government was interchangeable with the Institute, but seeing as it's not, you might want to know something I've been working on." Warren reaches into his jacket, pulling out a Blackberry instead of his iPhone so he can slide it across the table.

"I've been patenting things almost every month, and buying up small factories so I can gradually start my business. My intentions were to expand my contracts into the government itself, until my technology was within nearly every aspect of government life." He taps a few buttons, until he's on a fairly organized patent list. Things ranging from security to kitchen appliances. "The intention wasn't to overthrow the government, but to have leverage whenever the government tried to pull anything shady. I'd use a proxy in my place to keep the government in line, and when they fail to do that, my technology raises all sorts of hell on everything they do."

Cardinal's brows rise, dark eyes lowering to the blackberry, reaching over to slide it atop a hot-spot on the desk. When the Blackberry sets there, a large screen displays inside of the glass, showing the touch screen of the blackberry at a higher resolution. Touching the desktop, Cardinal pages through the information, one brow rising slowly.

"Interesting…" Those chocolate brown eyes narrow, another quick sweep through the data, and then the Blackberry is moved from the hotspot and the desk goes dark again. The phone is turned around and slid back towards Warren. "Mention this to m— to Cardinal." Brows furrow, and the notion of differentiating two iterations of one's self is complex and strenuous.

"Run it by him, the plan, everything. Redbird Security Solutions could use a strong financial partnership, and with Shalegate being an independant contracting service, therre is no conflicts with working with the Commonwealth Institute on paper. In fact, it makes your business look more viable." Running one hand over his chin, Cardinal's eyes narrow, considering something Warren had said.

"Just have a backup plan, Warren. The Department of Evolved Affairs has Hector Steel, as you know. If there was anyone capable of spotting inconsistencies in your designs, or an engineered trap, it would be Steel. Do not underestimate him."

"Hector Steel is insane, but I'll be careful. Elisabeth told me that there are robots in Midtown, do you know anything about that?" Warren reaches out to take his blackberry back, and slide it into his jacket. "Sorry, every question seems to raise more at times. But I'm completely in the dark about some things. Steel seems crazy enough to randomly release robots…"

"There's nothing random about it, we received an informational bulletin from the Department of Evolved Affairs before it happened, urging us to keep Evolved agents away from Midtown." Tapping ofur times on the corner of his desk, Cardinal boots the virtual surface back up, revealing a larg display of digital documents that are designed to look and hebave like real paper, sliding across the desk's surface in two-dimensional view. He pages thorugh some with fingerstrokes over the glass, then pulls up one, using fuor fingers at the corners to stretch and enlarge it.

"The DoEA is doing a live field test of the machines capabilities. The mechanical designs are ours, based off of your reverse-engineering and refinement of Hector's bases, modified further by Steel as a final revision. They've been implanted with a short-range tracking device that targets and locates Evolved based on the unique electromagnetic signature our kind emit."

A satellite map of Midtown is brought up, showing the decimated buildings, broken streets and crumbling structures. "We don't know exactly where the robots are, however. We just know they're out there. I can tell you first hand, though," Cardinal sweeps the map away, looking up to Warren. "They're tenacious, resiliant, and they're only going to get stronger."

"The unfortunate thing about robots and all technology is that they're just elaborate piles of parts. There's a cannon for everything, never forget that. But this is important information, and now we can be prepared." Warren slowly stands, but doesn't step away from his chair just yet, straightening his jacket. "So what exactly does this all make me? What am I to the Institute?"

Reaching below his desk, Cardinal pulls out a plastic identification badge, tossing it across the desk with a clatter. When the badge crosses the hotspot, the magnetic strip is read by the desk and displays a photograph of the ID card. Large blue-white print mposed over a DNA helix reads: The Commonwealth Institute. Below that, Warren Ray, Research Consultant.

"On paper, you're officially an independant contractor working for the Institute. We might call on your expertise during investigations where your mechanical insight could be useful, or if we need something devised to suit one of our operations. //Off/ the record," Cardinal's lips creep up into a smile, "you're officially one of us. What that means to you, well… you're more trusted now. When we're ready to pursue things further we'll contact you. Right now you have access to the Cambridge facility and with requisition its resources, within reason. You can come and go from the Arcology, but I ask that you not bring any guests without clearing it with us first."

Leaning back into his chair, Cardinal folds his hands atop his stomach. "You're one of us now."

"The trust is appreciated, it's not a thing I get very often." Warren smiles, reaching for his card so he can dangle it in front of his eyes and get a closer look. "When my father gets better, we'll be like Walter and Peter. Though that reference is probably a bit dated for your time." He slides the card into his jacket, then offers his hand to the man. "This has been a very enlightening experience. And some time, I'd love to see the files on my past, to have an idea of what I did in the UK."

That said, he can't help but grin and ask, "I do have to wonder, did they ever get around to Ghostbusters 3?"

Cardinal stiffens when Warren says the names Walter and Peter, and though it takes him a moment to associate it with a television show. A sharp, sudden breath is exhaled, followed by a large, awkward laugh as Cardinal presses one hand to the center of his chest, a large smile crossing his face as his head shakes and eyes fall shut.

"Right— right," he splutters the words out with a grin, opening dark eyes to square on Warren again. "I think for now, Warren, you— should worry more about the present than the future, otherwise you're going to take another ten years off of my life." Pushing his chair back and coming to stand, Cardinal cracks another smile and shakes his head, laughing once more with nervous awkwardness. "I'm not sure I have any more decades left to lose."

Clearing his throat and adjusting his crisp red tie, the Richard Cardinal of another time, another future looks down to where Warren is seated at the desk, then tips his head into an approving nod.

"Welcome to the Institute, Warren."

God help them all.

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