Logical Composition


alia_icon.gif ff_chel_icon.gif devi_icon.gif

Scene Title Logical Composition
Synopsis Devi and Alia seek out Michelle Cardinal for assistance on a project.
Date May 2, 2019

This isn’t where Devi Ezell expected to wind up.

Pushing a long fern frond away from her face with one hand, she can feel the crisp dampness of mist in the air. The vegetation is nine feet high in most places, thankfully constrained to tightly packed walls like hedgerows, but before new growths are trimmed they tend to hang like undergrowth in a jungle across the walkways. The air smells of wet earth, fresh cut grass, and fertilizer.

Moving between the rows of plants, Devi sees what she’s been looking for at the end of a long concrete-floored path, through an arched trellis crawling with ivy and blooming with colorful subtropical flowers. Through the arch isn’t a garden, but rather a laboratory partitioned off by vertical plastic shutters, like a curtain. Through their semi-transparent form, she can see banks of computers and illuminated monitors, spools of cabling and wires, and a single wheeled desk chair sliding from one end of the cramped lab space to the next, a blurry silhouette of someone dressed in white on the other side.

It’s like Henry Morton Stanley finding Doctor Livingstone.

Raytech-Yamagato Greenhouse

Jackson Heights, NYCSZ

May 2nd


Michelle Cranston, as her identification badge declares, squints at a monitor reporting nitrogen levels in soil samples. She wrinkles her nose, looking over to another monitor and examines the line graph showing nitrogen levels in soil over a two year timetable. As she makes a noise in the back of her throat, the sound of rustling plastic behind her makes her turn. Michelle picots in her desk chair, sneakered feet scuffing on the concrete floor as she rolls back to her computer.

Michelle’s stare is a piercing, evaluating one; expectant in the way a parent can be. Pale blue eyes pop against the desaturated fringe of gray-blonde hair. Her white lab coat is smudged with soil stains and the sleeves are wet at the ends from the humidifiers. She has dirt under her nails, hair partly tied back in a messy bun. She seems at peace, right up until Devi steps through that curtain.

Irises nearly black meet Michele’s cutting and perceptive gaze. For a moment they are two women suspended in the silent act of considering the one opposite. It’s only the matter of a heart beat or two before Devi’s lips, a blazing crimson today, pitch to the right in a half-smile.

“Mama Bird, I presume?”

The tall, raven-haired woman’s voice is husky but quieter than she had intended. The sound of it seems to break the suspended moment and has her stepping deeper into the lab, broad boots scuffing over new concrete while a surplus of gold bangles on her wrists emit a quiet chiming.

Chel’s stare lingers on Devi a moment longer, then breaks when she exhales a flutter of a laugh and a shake of her head. “Jesus Christ,” she whispers, turning toward her computer. “You know if you say stuff like that in mixed company you might get arrested for treason.” For as serious as the topic is it sounds, at least, a little sarcastic.

“If you're here about the hydroponics,” Chel says without looking back over her shoulder, “I think I've isolated the blockage to floor 2, pipeline C.” She clicks a few keys and exhales a long sigh, brushing an errant lock of hair behind one ear. “And you're welcome to call me Doctor Cranstron,” is an afterthought, “or Michelle or… anything except mama bird.

“Well, that’d be cool to add to the list.” Treason, that is, but she’s not keen enough on the idea to repeat it further. The biker moves deeper into the lab, wagging a tattooed finger at Chel in a lazy manner. “Fine, I’ll try and come up with somethin’ right proper - I told Toots I’d be on my best behavior, after all.” It’s unclear if this truly is her best quiet yet.

“I’m flattered be included in your gibberish, but actually I’m here ‘bout something else.” Easy, long-legged steps bring her up to an empty rolling stool. Devi invites herself to a seat, resting her forearms upon her thighs and lacing her tattooed digits together. “And, while that is intriguing an’ all - I actually just couldn’t pass up the chance ta meet you.” Devi’s dark gaze swivels back to Doctor Cranston. Something about her tilted smile softens, mischief replaced by a more sincere and disarming quality.

Sliding her tongue over the inside of her cheek, Michelle looks down at her keyboard, then exhales a sigh and pivots in her office chair to look back at Devi. Once more Devi is under Michelle’s scrutiny, eyes narrowed and creases of age at the corners of her eyes. She sets her hands on her knees and then slowly rises up to stand, brushing some dirt off of her knees as she does.

“Why's that?” Is Michelle’s curious response. “You don't seem too interested in hydroponics. Did you attend some of my lectures at NYU before the war?” Again, the sarcasm. But also the act, the person that Chel has been told she needs to be, her cover story. “Or has my son gone and told you something that could get you and him both put in prison?”

Chel slowly raises one brow, interested in Devi’s response.

“Neither.” Devi’s reply is as easy as it is short. “Well, not in any way that relates to you specifically,” she elaborates on the prison-worthy knowledge, a hand coming up in a vague gesture towards the doctor’s person. So, why then…

“Your son’s pretty amazing,” she manages in a offhanded way, throwing in a shrug of one slender shoulder for good measure. “From my experience, mothers generally have something to do with that one way or the other.” Something about the set of her shoulders, huncheded as she is in way she’s chosen to sit, eases subtly at the mention of mothers. She matches Chel’s expression raised brow for brow, but her cherry-painted lips hold fast to a smile.

Devi gives a shrug and leans back. As a casually voiced aside she offers a alternate path, an emergency fire exit in the conversation, as much for Chel’s benefit as her own: “Toots sent me to talk about some plans. Some uniserve-in-the-balance level shit. Like a radar detector on crack.”

Michelle’s jaw sets, her hand that was on her desk scoops up a pencil and squeezes it for dear life before tucking it into the pocket of her jacket. “Don’t call him that,” is the first thing she manages to say, slowly rising up from her chair. “First, don’t call him my son in public. If he’s gone off the deep end enough to tell anyone that I’m his mother the least he could do is tell them that it’s a federal crime for anyone to discuss that.”

Secondly,” and the ire in Chel’s voice is palpable, “Richard is a talented man. But whatever good he has, whatever it is that’s caught you like a moth to a lightbulb, I didn’t have anything to do with. The last time I saw Richard, he wasn’t even a year old. Then,” she snaps her fingers, “he’s an adult. And I missed out on every single thing in his life between birth and now. So if you came down here to talk about family, you can turn your overly familiar ass right around and walk back out that door…”

But then, Chel looks down at her feet and clenches her jaw. She draws in a slow breath, exhales it through her nose. “If you’re here to talk something… practical. Try to use your words.”

A drawn, pronounced brow lifts into a subtle arc at Michelle’s vehement reply. Noting that she had only referred to the man in the same way the doctor had seems a pointless endeavour, and certainly not one to earn her any points. Besides, it is nothing compared to the venom that coats the second pointed, barb of truth that heads Devi’s way.

Something about the way Chel broils so carefully actually puts the biker only further at ease. Her husky tones soften, no in so much as to be considered caring, but one of simple, easy fact. “If I may, ma’am, as a mother - any mother - you have everything to do with it.” She holds her tattooed hands up in an easy, surrendering fashion. Her views on motherhood are simple and golden, nothing said could discolor them otherwise.

“Practical - right. Well, I’m not sure what’s practical about interdimensional travel, Ma’am,-” it seems this rare term of respect is going to stick, “- but that is what I’ve come to talk ‘bout. I got a peek at some plans for the satellite - a breach detector or whatever…” She holds her hand to either side, straightening in her seat. “I may not be what you’d expect him to send ‘home’, ma’am, but between Loo-Warren and I, and the others, I think we can make this thing a reality… with your help.” Somehow the towering, raven-haired woman looks smaller, seated and subdued looking up to Michelle patiently.

Chel finds no comfort in the notion that she had anything to do with Richard’s life, in the way he grew as a person. But it’s hard to discern why, because it doesn’t seem to be out of a lack of care for her son. That troubled look she has only remains when Devi begins discussing the practical, and Chel slowly settles back down in her chair with a creak of the metal, resting her elbow on the padded arm and her chin in her palm.

“Ah,” is the small response Chel musters. “I… “ Words fail her, for the first time since Devi arrived. “I work with plants now, plant— technology. Greenhouse hardware.” There’s no real conviction behind that assertion, however. Devi’s heard the tone in other contexts, in people who gave up their search for a fulfilling career to work in retail back before the war. It’s the tone of begrudging resignation.

But still, Chel flicks a worried look up to Devi. One small piece of all of that managed to lift her out of her deflated posture. “Whose plans?”

“Plants, yeah - I can see that.” Devi relieves the motherly woman of her dark gaze to look over the greenhouse laboratory. “Everyone needs a hobby,” the raven queen comments on an even, casual keel. That seems to be the theme for the moment - casual - keeping these at an easy pace, tone, and mood. “That’s a good question. I’m kinda curious, too…”

“My friend says something bout corrupted signatures from one Richard Cardinal, but not the like one I’ve come to know, Ma’am.” She rubs the tip of her sharp nose with a tattooed thumb and finally brings her attention back around. “It’s been kinda messy to wrap my head ‘round.” Up until recently she’s stayed as far away from the alternate dimension clusterfuck as humanly possible.

Alia approaches with the look of someone who has been shorting herself sleep. Her own name badge is on place, and she's carrying printed papers, hiding inside a plain manilla envelope… one that's had tamper evident wax put on the closure. There are times being read into a NDA thing are good, and times out sucks.

This is not exactly how she wanted to meet this person, that's for sure. Still…she gives a nod towards Devi and then Michelle. "Running late, sorry."

Lifting a hand up to her brow, Michelle closes her eyes and sighs. “Well, it was quiet down here…” she says in a small voice to herself before moving that hand to thread a lock of graying hair behind one ear. It’s then that she really looks at Alia and notices her for who she is. “I remember you,” Michelle starts to say, before remembering that only two out of three people in the room are supposed to know where they’ve met before and why. Instead, Michelle’s attention diverts down to the paperwork under Alia’s arm.

“Doctor Cranston,” Chel introduces herself with a hand out to Alia. “I’m the chief engineer here. You’re… Alia Chavez, right? I thought you were in information security, but I might be misremembering. Things were…” Michelle glances back briefly at Devi, then to Alia. “Life was a bit hectic when we first met. Were you looking for Ms. Ezell, or…” She’s hoping what comes after the ellipses isn’t her own name.

Devi watches Michelle, head tilted like a curious aviane creature, as she explains the appeal of this place - the quiet. Alia’s arrival makes it only a little less so, though. The raven-haired woman leans back in her seat and inclines her chin in casual greeting. “Alia is the brains behind our project here,” Devi answers, making an open palmed gesture towards Alia’s person as an easy smile tips up the right corner of her painted lips. “Only myself, Alia, and Warren have been given clearance and well…” That open hand is brought around to Chel.

"Programmer, electronics. Brains…ehhhhhh." Alia offers as she shakes the offered hand. "Chieftain Info Tech…and only tech in the discloseable. Devi technically cleared, already knew about… that." Alia pauses. "Somewhat, anyway. Best somewhere either less open or less quiet?"

Alia it seems doesn't want to break that agreement either. To be fair, she wishes this whole thing wasn't a worry at all, but, life isn't made of wishes already fulfilled: you have to do that yourself.

“Technically.” Michelle reiterates that word, trying to get the bitter taste of it off of her tongue. “Well, technically it’s a pleasure to be invited to be involved,” she says with a raise of her brows,slipping away from both women back over to her computer terminal. The machine itself isn’t cutting edge, it’s a bit of a beat up machine, but one intended to run in the humidity and damp air of the greenhouse. There, Michelle picks up an aluminum coffee thermos and straightens once more.

“If we’re going to talk… whatever it is you’ve got your heads set on,” Michelle says with a motion of her cup through the slatted plastic curtains leading out of her small office, “why don’t you come with me upstairs where it’s a little less green and a little less public.” She doesn’t precisely wait for agreement, either, but rather elides her way between the two women and then through a part in the curtain out into the aeroponics lab floor. “You can explain to me exactly what it is you’re trying to build while we walk…”

As Michelle cuts between them and moves onward, Devi catches Alia’s gaze with her own wide eyed expression and heaving breath - the universal body languages for ‘Awwkwwaarrrdd’. The cracks the tension with a brief grin before turning after the doctor, boots beating on a thuddy echo to Chel’s own.

Once they’ve put a little distance between themselves and the unprotected, muggy, and open atmosphere of the lab, Devi gives her lamens run-down of the project. “An early warning alarm for baddies breaking into a our personal little slice of time and space.” She idly scratches the raven-tattooed front of her throat. “A satellite detection of temporal breaches,” she ultimately adds. Hours studying alongside Alia have given her more than the ‘gut feeling’ and mental images that her general intuitive ability provides, thankfully. For once she sounds like she knows what the fuck she’s talking about!

Alia gives a noncommittal shrug about the awkward non verbalization. Because this is about her average it seems on things this heavy. “Superstring Incursion Detector, satellite based. Thinking naming White Knight. Wonderland jokes.” She pauses a bit. “There’s… reasons to be worried about more… ‘guests’” Alia leaves it at that.

Skepticism paints itself across Chel’s face as she walks. “Unlikely,” she admits in a conversational tone as they step into the humid rows of twelve foot tall white ceramic cylinders sprouting with green vegetation from openings along their lengths. “The atmospheric conditions required for the Looking Glass technology to function was, no pun intended, astronomical.” She weaves between two of these aeroponic pillars, then starts into a brisk stride down the damp concrete floor.

“Puncturing the quantum sheathe between superstrings requires ambient gamma radiation as well as a large number of excited neutrino particles and…” Chel looks to Devi, then Alia, and realizes that perhaps she’s giving too many details. “…and some secret sauce, is how she chooses to conclude that laundry list. Even then, I had to wait thirty years to find the right combination of timing in order to make a transference possible, and we still required anchors on both sides of the divide in order to open a way back to a specific dimension.”

Reaching a series of metal stairs, Chel is quick to ascend them. “That said, there is an exponential chance over time that those conditions re-align, and God knows what idiotic research someone will do that could cause an unintentional breach during those periods…” She reaches the top of the stairs and starts moving toward a pair of sliding glass doors that lead out of the greenhouse and into what more closely resembles a climate-controlled office area.

“Fortunately for us, what you’re asking we build is well within our technological and budgetary means,” Chel explains as the doors swish open for her and she steps into the air conditioned and sterile laboratory wing. She immediately looks less comfortable here, as if the humidity and grit of the aeroponics wing is more her comfort zone. “You may have noticed that the creation of a trans-dimensional bridge creates an atmospheric electromagnetic burst. Effectively, when a breach occurs the Looking Glass emits charged particles much like how a quasar does — though less likely to cause an x-ray burst that wipes out all life.”

Turning a corner, Chel steps through an open office door that leads into a small conference room with a flat screen television and a white-topped table and several chairs. “The particles ejected by the Looking Glass pass harmlessly through solid matter, like radio waves, but cause plasma turbulence in the upper atmosphere, which can accelerate electrons.” She continues to just talk at a rapid-fire pace. “These electrons collide with the F-layer neutral oxygen causing artificial optical emissions identical to natural aurora. That would be the spiral effect, that emerald corkscrew. Pumping at electron gyro-harmonic frequencies has special significance as many phenomena change their character. This alone is easily detectable.”

Alia stares a moment. “… This why _not_ the brain” She finally states and puts a hand to her forehead, after she hands the envelope with the incomplete schematics that Devi and her had worked out thus far. “So, detect giant aurora drill source.” She pauses again. Then has a momentary fit of giggles. “The Drill That Pierces The Heavens indeed.”

The left side of Devi’s face scrunches up into wrinkles of confusion. It takes the biker several seconds longer than is appropriately for anyone with this level of clearance, but it seems she ultimately gets the overall theme. “Pretty lights already signal possible breach, then. Use that to our advantage.” She holds out her hands in a gesture that is part ‘Eureka!’ and part ‘Why didn’t you just say so?’.

She points at Alia. “You have a way with words,” she says with a sly grin. “That one’s ominous as fu-” A side glance give to Chel. “‘Scuse me, Ma’am.” She clears her throat and then makes a supporting wave of her hand towards the file passed from Alia to the doctor. “Perhaps a little bit of the Sunday Crossword, for you then? Filling in the missing blank, so to speak.” Their research had been very comprehensive, but the corrupted files still seemed to leave something pivotal, a keystone, just out of their reach.

“I think you're all focusing on the wrong thing,” Chel says, though the look she briefly flicks at Alia implies whatever it is you just said. “The atmospheric conditions that allowed these events to transpire are practically one in a million,” she asserts, pulling out a chair and sitting down.

“Detecting a breach prior to it happening is statistically impossible and you'd have better luck crossing your fingers and hoping someone has a vision of it.” Chel leans back in the chair and crosses one leg over the other. “And even detecting one on a terrestrial scale is limited by our ability to analyze the upper atmosphere. Those aurora are usually very localized, or in the instance like earlier this year broad enough that we can see them anywhere.”

Chel looks down to her lap and folds her hands. “We'd need satellite's, if you wanted a proactive system. Four, ideally,” she narrows her eyes, “equidistant orbit, maintaining a constant monitoring of the magnetosphere. But I have to figure that's well outside of Raytech’s budget…” she looks between Alia and Devi, one brow raised. “So before we even consider the mechanics, why don't you bring back that concern about the logistics.”

Devi glances side long a Alia. “We have a budget?” Tattooed shoulders slump.

"Budget, yes. Figuring something to call birds so nobody asks too many questions, harder." Alia grumbles. "Can try. But given boss is boss. And his love of collecting visions and their paintings…" Alia frowns and sighs. "Will bug him about it. Then games. Man works too hard."

Carina’s expression shifts from a mild smile to one of mild amusement, threading a lock of graying hair behind one ear. “Well,” she says with a rise of her brows, “I suppose until we can resolve that issue, this whole thing can be tabled.” There’s a look from Alia to Devi and back again. “But, since I have you all here in this conference room…” right where she wants them.

“…why don’t we talk aeroponics.”

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