Marked as Defective


richard3_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Marked as Defective
Synopsis Zachery comes back to work, and finds that he's given exactly what he asks for. Right?
Date November 18, 2019

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

Somewhere, parked diagonally in the dirt aside a quiet road that runs from the edges of the New York Safe Zone and into less densely inhabited areas, stands a 1967 Cadillac hearse, flame decals only partially visible under sprays of dried dirt.

Boots up on the dashboard, right hand covered in a mess of loosely applied bandaging, Zachery Miller looks out at the cloud-covered sky overhead and throws a phone with a cracked front onto the passenger seat next to him. Its speakers hum a patient note while he jams half of a burrito into his mouth.

Elsewhere, at a Raytech reception desk, a phone rings. A number not in their database.

In that glass-walled facade there is a drama in miniature playing out, whereby one feline has bested one human for what might be the seventh or eighth time this month. “No, Mr. Richlieu!” Sera Lang scolds as she carries a cat that was once just an adorable kitten down the corridor toward the front office, “you aren't supposed to be in Mr. Ray’s office when he isn't in it because you ate all the cords last time and he got night mad!”


Mr. Richlieu disagrees, vehemently

“Oh, the phone!” Sera helps, finally hearing it ringing at her desk. She drops Richlieu, or rather he squirms enough so she has no choice but to drop him, and scrambles over to the desk while Richlieu scrambles back down the hall like the inquisitive feline he is. Sera settles back down at her desk, hastily putting on her headset and answering.

«You've reached Raytech Industries. We’re leading the way to tomorrow. How can I direct your call?»

Sera’s familiar voice emits through Zachery’s phone.


Is called back at the phone, through a bite of burrito that hasn't quite made it down yet. A few near-choking noises and a thwap of fist hitting diaphragm later, there is a second attempt.

"Sera!" Zachery clears his throat, grin both on his face and in his voice, as he leans back in his seat and drags a hand past still bruised cheekbone. He continues in rattled sing-song, "It's Dr. Miller! Returning from vacation! What an absolute joy to hear your voice. Direct me to no one, how has your day been?"

«“Oh! Doctor Hhh— Miller!» Sera controls herself. «<I’d wondered where you’d gone, Mr. Ray gets so mad whenever anyone mentions you and starts muttering like he does, you know how it goes. Muttering and arts and crafts in his crafting closet!» There’s a bubble of laughter that follows.

«My day’s been wonderful, except Mr. Richelieu doesn’t listen to me about where he is and isn’t supposed to be in the building. But he’s so adorable! I actually got a leash for him last week and have tried to take him on walks,» she says barely breathing between words, «but I mean let’s be real it’s more like he’s walking me, right? But then, anyway, I started thinking about all the stray cats in the city and how many live in Jackson Heights and then I was like, does the SPCA still exist? Or was that blown up in the war too? I— »

"— That's great!" Zachery loudly pipes up in the middle of it all with the tone of someone who's gotten a little too bored watching the clouds in the last 30 seconds, only if that tone was also coated in artificial sweetener.

Leaving no room for reply, he continues with a near cloyingly pleasant rattling of his own: "Listen, sweetheart, we should meet. Actually, here's an idea! Is Richard in? Something tells me my card's going to give me a bit of a problem on the way into the building, and sorting it out takes a bit of time - you know, bureaucracy - but I just must see this…" he pauses, previously discarded context clues floating around in his brain as he puts his arms up and then folds them behind his head.

"… Cat…" Yes, that's it. Right? "And your utterly, enchantingly charming self, naturally, adorable as always." This is the most sincere thing he's said so far, even if the particular way his grin pulls to one side implies it's not necessarily good intentions that motivate him to say it. "What time's good for you that the bossman's also in?"

«Richard’s on lunch right now actually. Or he's at a launch?» There's an audible pause on the other end. «I can't read this Post-It note. Anyway, he’ll either be back from a lunch or a launch at 2:30 pm. He has a 3:30 meeting, so you'd probably be able to catch him then. That's when he likes to take a nap, or skulk. He's a skulker, all around the office. Always muttering and thinking. He's a very busy man, especially since he’s a Mormon and has all those wives. I just don't know how he finds the time in the day to take care of— »


The words leave Zachery a little louder than intended, while he's twisted halfway around to grab something from behind the front end of the vehicle. Once he lands himself heavily back onto the driver's seat with a defeated fwooph of leather, he inhales deeply, plants one hand on the steering wheel, and aims his attention on his retrieved prize: a vaguely orb-shaped mess of metal and clear plastic held in the light that streams through the windshield. What remains of a lens at the top has been blown clear open, its insides blackened.

"3 o' clock, it's a date. Oh, and Sera?" He pauses, twisting the metal corpse just to watch its four spindly legs lifelessly dangle around his bandaged hand. "'Dr. Handsome' is fine."

3:10 (probably)
Richard's office (probably)

The mangled remains of what was once a Spyball are thrust into Richard's desk, Zachery's bandaged hand pushing down on it for good measure. Hair mussed, bits of grass and leaves littering the black wool of his half undone peacoat, eye fixed on what he assumes to be his previous employer.

Crisply, loudly, and with too wide of a grin for the eager displeasure that's got his eye fixed on Richard's face, he announces, "Hello! I'd like to return one of your products!"

Richard Ray hasn’t said anything since the good doctor walked into his office, his chair tilted back slightly and fingers steepled upon his chest as he regards Zachery through midnight-darkened shades without much to his expression to give his feelings about the man away.

Slowly, he leans forward with a creak of the chair, reaching out to lay his hand on the twisted metal and plastic of the device set upon the desk. The casing of it slowly darkens as if someone had shifted light away from it, a crawling shadow that spreads over its uselessly-draped legs until—

— it breaks apart into wisps of shadow that vanish into the light with a sweep of his hand, like someone cleaning dust off a table. Utterly annihilated, as if it had never been there.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replies mildly as he leans back just as slowly in his chair, “How’s Isis, Doctor Miller? She wasn’t willing to let us treat her here, and there aren’t many places that have access to the correct facilities to fix what you’d done to her.”

Zachery's mouth opens when the shadows begin to do their thing, but no words manage to escape on the breath that leaves him.

He stares at the spot where the evidence of espionage had been, until his eye swings back up to Richard's face and he finds some words again: "I don't know, Cardinal, HOW IS SHE? I left her with you! And you let her fucking walk?!"

The crispness is gone from his voice, expression as genuine as Richard's seen it, furious for several reasons all at once behind the mask of multicoloured bruises.

“You might be surprised, given your lack of respect for the law and other peoples’ rights,” says Richard rather flatly, “But we have no legal right to just lock someone in a lab if they aren’t willing to stay there. She insisted on leaving rather than receive treatment, so yes, we let her walk.”

His hands spread slightly, “Maybe if you’d stayed here to help rather than fucking off to Providence to shack up with Nicole, you could’ve convinced her otherwise. But you’re good at running away from your responsibilities, I see.”

Zachery turns abruptly, beginning to pace in a small circle with laugh that sounds like it's born from equal amounts of amusement and disbelief. Both of his hands get smacked onto on his face as his lungs empty, fingers dragging down over his cheeks.

When he faces Richard again, still walking, the fury definitely remains but entertainment wins over in how his grin refuses to die down. "Listen. Isis made a choice. I upheld my end of the bargain. Her choice made her sick. That's it." And if it's not, he'll continue talking ANYWAY, arms going up and out at his sides. "This all makes perfect sense now! The robot? You knowing where I'd been?! You pretending to be on my side? For what?!"

“I was absolutely on your side, Miller,” replies Richard with a brow’s sharp arch upwards, “I gave you the chance nobody else would. I gave you your own lab, projects to work on, a voice in the company. I even chose to ignore telepathic evidence that you were here for some ulterior reason, to give you the benefit of the doubt. You repaid me by stealing from me and running off to live with the people who massacred half of my security force back in New Mexico.”

He leans slightly forward, “Are you really going to stand there and claim that I was in the wrong to keep you under light surveillance, given that?”

Pacing, still, Zachery scoffs. Somewhat out of breath, fighting not to mock Richard as he's talking. Until - suddenly he comes to a halt, turning on a heel to look toward the desk again and narrowing real and fake eye both.

There may have been some new information in there.

"'Light surveillance'," he mutters passively, before any other thoughts manage to reach their conclusions. When he finally speaks up loud enough for Richard to hear, the anger has gone from his voice but the careful tone he adopts still carries with it an a roiling unevenness of racing thoughts. "… What did you think I stole, exactly?"

“Miller.” Richard brings one hand, finger sliding up the bridge of his nose and rubbing there under his glasses, “The fabric of reality is starting to tear apart, Praxis is on the verge of setting half the world on fucking fire and I still don’t quite know why, I’m having to explain to people that a decade or so of their lives were redacted by the Company and what they’ve forgotten, and we both know that you stole Devon’s tissue sample and probably used it in whatever you did to Isis.”

He draws in a breath, then exhales it in a sigh, motioning across the table, “So if you could stop trying to spin things or lie for like five minutes I’d appreciate it. I have a lot on my table and you’re a pretty small corner of it, and I’m not in the mood for games.”

Zachery shifts his weight, unsure for a moment, recently reset nose wrinkling with a twitch of his lips in what is almost but not quite entirely a sneer. He inhales sharply, glancing once to the door before throwing a glare back in Richard's direction and approaching the desk one more time.

"Alright." He straightens his back, still slightly wild-eyed, reaching up to run his fingers through his hair in some frantic habit. Okay. Calm. Totally calm. No more games. That's fine. "One - absolutely you should have knocked her lights out if that's what it would take to keep Isis alive. Two - I'm good, you know I'm good, and if I'm not here, I'll be somewhere else. Two days a week, heavier surveillance if you like but nothing that follows me the fuck home."

His voice is grim. Until, suddenly, it's not. He lifts his chin and tone of voice both, airily offering, "See you next Monday?"


Mister Richelieu no!

Outside the office door, a small drama plays out. Richlieu wants the appointed CEO lap time in chair and Sera is futilely trying to reason with the cat.

“That depends on three things,” Richard replies with a slight raise of brows over the edge of those sunglasses, “Two of them are questions, and the answers thereof. The other is a conversation with someone and how it turns out.”

Leaning forward, he adds sharply, “And if you lie to me, Miller, I will have them revoke your plea bargain, because I am tired of playing games with you. And yes. I can do that. And yes, if you lie to me, I will find out. I want to help you, but I’m only willing to give you so much rope before I decide you’re turning it into a noose.”

The chair creaks as he leans back once more, raising a single finger. “One. Why did you go to Providence?”

Shit. It's never easy, and Zachery's lack of movement upon things not quite going his way shows that he is at least starting to learn this.

There is no agreement that comes from him, finally quiet as he watches Richard in the same way that one might watch a bird that looks ready to swoop. Not quite a threat, but certainly more than an annoyance.

The noises coming from out in the hallway and offices beyond seem to grow louder in the absence of an answer, and loose bandages are pulled even looser as Zachery curls both hands into fists by his side. Then, slowly, relaxes them again.


"I have a clinic there, now. Legitimate." Once more, his tone has changed. Tired, clipped and controlled. Impatient. "It was meant to be a part-time thing, starting anew where I would only know one or two people. Somewhere I thought would be… quieter. I was wrong. When Isis fell ill, really ill…" he pauses to run his tongue over his molars, eye darting ever so slightly to the distance behind Richard before it finds its way back. Flatly, he finally says, "I. Got scared. So once I thought a solution had been found, I removed myself from the equation."


Richard doesn’t comment on the answer he’s given, a second finger rising to join the first and an eyebrow making its appearance again from behind his shades. The man may not have answered for all the reaction his response gets. His expression never wavers once.

“What exactly were you hoping to do with Devon’s genetic sample to Isis,” he asks dryly, “And what on Earth gave you the idea to do it, or that it’d work?”

"So — I'm still here." Putting one hand up as if to pause this conversation, Zachery makes an idle observation. "Providence or no, I feel like that if you really wanted me behind bars, you'd have sorted that out by now. Unless…" His hand comes back down, and so does his voice, an exaggeration of concern dragging it down while he takes a slow step back from whence he came.

"Unless you wanted to handle things yourself. In which case I'm just… monumentally fucked. And I mean that in the sense of, ah - they'll raise statues in my honour." He half turns, as if to an invisible statue, and raises an arm toward it. While also reaching his other hand, much less ostentatiously, to try the door that shut itself behind him earlier.

But nevermind all that, look at this imaginary statue! Ooh! Aah! "Behold! The man who walked into the lion's den of his own volition! Many times! Many, ah- many different lions, too, if I'm honest. Getting a bit tiring."

“I’m sure it is, Doctor Miller,” Richard observes, that eyebrow remaining raised, “You might even be able to take a lesson out of it regarding pissing off lions.”

“However, despite that fascinating chain of consciousness you in no way have answered my question,” he points out, “So I’m still waiting.”

Finding the door not budging - Zachery's arm comes back down. For a few seconds, as he's straightening up and shifting his weight to angle a look at Richard more openly, he looks like the person who walked in here when Lisa had first sent him over. Uncertain as to what mask to wear, or why he walked in here in the first place.

"I figured…" Sentence paused, he glances to the windows, a passing thought pulling humourlessly at a corner of his mouth. When he speaks again, it's frustration fuelling his words. "I figured if there was even the slightest chance it might benefit her in the way that she wanted - immortality - then there was no reason not to try. Even if I wasn't supposed to, and even if I knew it might end in disaster, and even if I knew it was…"

He falls silent again, eyebrows lowering and teeth gritting. Frustration makes way, if only just, for a reluctant tone of resignation. "Several degrees away from likely. Just like coming here, today, the whole thing was a mistake."

“I could have told you what was likely to happen, Doctor Miller,” says Richard, his tone tired as he brings one hand up and then lets it fall down to his lap, “Do you really think you’re the first to wonder about this? We have records of experimentation along these lines going back to World War II. A direct transfusion from Monroe’s blood will heal almost any damage to a body, yes, but it works out of the body swiftly — we only have one successful attempt at permanent infusion on record, and the result wasn’t anything like his ability. Certainly not immortality.”

Wryly, he notes, “Ironically, Isis already has a form of immortality anyway, even if she doesn’t know it. Everything we know about mental abilities suggests that if her body died while she was out of it, she’d almost certainly continue to exist in whatever body she was in. Death for people like her isn’t what they think it is.”

He fixes the other man with a long look, “All of which I could’ve told you. If you just asked. Instead of going behind my back and risking her life.”

If any of this is striking Zachery as something he hadn't already considered, he is not letting it show. The theatrics are done, it seems, and the energy has left his gestures the same way it's left his voice.

"Yes, well. It's too late for that now, isn't it. I'm of the opinion that forgiveness is fairly meaningless. So why don't we… you know. Get this over with?" His shoulders rise and fall in the barest attempt at a shrug, accompanied by a brief flash of teeth in a sneer that's more habit than anything else. "Whatever this is?"

“I suppose that’s between you and Isis, then,” says Richard with a shrug of one shoulder, “Honestly, Miller, I’ve given you so much trust and faith and you just keep throwing it back in my face. I suppose I can blame the Institute for that, though.”

The man’s regarded for a long moment, then he shakes his head. “Tell Devon what you did,” he says simply, “And after you’ve done that, send me your availability and we’ll get you working on the SOD project.”

Wait. What?

Zachery's response to the answer is… stunned silence. His expression falls, breathing stopped on the end of an inhale, and he just stares.

At least, until he hears himself laughing - which snaps him out of his stupor enough to step forward and away from that door, and back toward Richard, saying simply, "I'm not buying this." He stands a little taller, suspicion both in the way he angles a look at Richard and in the tone of his voice. "You can't possibly expect me to believe that. And," he laughs again, bitterly, "you can't be this hard up for employees."

Richard brings up a hand to rub over the side of his face. “Yes, this is all a ploy,” he says dryly, “I have someone waiting out in the hall with a cream pie to throw in your face when you step outside. I’m trying to help you, Miller.”

His hand sweeps away, “You’re a human fucking disaster and left on your own you’re going to destroy yourself before we see 2021. You might still think I’m secretly some evil overlord despite the mountain of evidence saying otherwise, but that’s not my problem. You wanted your job back. I’m accepting your terms of two days a week. Take it or leave it.”

“Your choice.”

"I'll take it." These words leave Zachery the moment Richard stops speaking, as if despite the paranoia, something in him suspects that should he wait any longer, even this chance of an opportunity might be taken away.

Just a for a moment, he glances away from Richard and to the side, as if maybe a pie will find its way in here.

“Alright.” Richard nods slightly, then motions to the door, “Now get the hell out of here before I change my mind. Talk to Devon. Let me know your availability. And we’ll discuss the details and such later.”

He leans back in his chair with a sigh, “Just… try not to fuck up that bad again this time, would you?”

"Alright." Zachery offers a quiet sort of agreement, but agreement nonetheless. It's going to take a little while for this to properly sink in, if one were to judge from the blank look still on his face.

What he does manage before turning to leave, however, is — "I suspect I'll walk myself back in here again if I do."

“Probably,” Richard replies with a faint smile, one that fades as the other man walks out — and probably into Sera, which will be an entirely different awkward encounter.

Shaking his head, he pushes the shades up on his face further and then reaches over to the chessboard sitting on the desk, sliding a bishop into position to threaten a knight.

“Now, let’s see how this round plays out.”

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