richard_icon.gif sera_icon.gif

Scene Title Mondays
Synopsis Richard Ray receives an unusual delivery that requires an ancient piece of technology.
Date February 19, 2018

Raytech Offices

A video feed streams beneath the surface of black glass that makes up Richard Ray’s desk, although a shadow cast by polished shoes falls across the display where the man’s feet are resting up on the surface.

You can give a man the title of ‘CEO’ but a part of Richard will never fully embrace corporate formality, as evinced by the fact that he’s leaning back in a leather chair with his feet kicked up in a casual way that contrasts his suit, a tablet in hand that he’s casually swiping through as he reviews personnel files and reports.

Perhaps surprising to those who’ve known the man a long time - or perhaps not to those who know him closely - there’s a lot of natural light in the office from the large window along one wall, overlooking the plants growing on the eco-friendly rooftop of the largest portion of the building and the solar panels surrounding them in glistening black. The walls of the office are in slate grey, the carpet on the floor matching, and the furniture is all in black glass, metal, and leather - but they’re contrasted by the tall potted plants that grow along the sides of the room. The desk itself is mostly bare since the computer is built in to the surface, but a plastic ‘in’ and ‘out’ box with some documents is set to one side, there’s a framed picture of Elisabeth beside it, and an old onyx chess king sits in the shadow there.

It’s a unique sort of office, for a unique sort of man.

“Do I have any meetings today,” he asks of the air, craning his neck around the tablet to listen for a response. It comes a few moments later, a cheerful chirp from the desk, “No, sir, not currently. I’ll let you know if that changes!”

“Thanks,” he calls back casually, going back to the tablet. He misses paper.

For twenty blissful minutes, Richard’s office is silent save for the hum of a computer idiling nearby. Outside, the muffled noise of construction equipment reverberates through thick glass. A wrecking ball is tearing down a building across the street, bulldozers and backhoes tear at walls adjacent to it, and dump trucks are pulling away mountains of broken concrete and bricks. There’s still so much to do in the Safe Zone, it might be decades before it looks like anything other than a third-world country.

Then, there’s a two-tone knock on the frosted glass door to Richard’s office, followed by the soft click of its opening. “Sorry sir,” comes an apologetic voice from the doorway. Sera Lang looks tired — as always — when she ducks her head in. Dark circles around red-trimmed eyes, blonde hair is messy and uncombed. “You got a package,” she explains, swiftly moving across the floor in a worn pair of sneakers in lieu of having appropriate office footwear.

Sera brings the yellow paper package over, one end already opened for security purposes. As she walks around the desk, Sera sets it down and pulls out the contents. “I… I’m honestly not sure what you’re going to do with this.” This, being a VHS casette. It’s a black brick of the past, spooled all the way to one side to show that it’s fully rewound. The blank label glued to the front has a handwritten note on it in blue ball-point pen that says: Carefully Weighed Choices.

Teeth drawing across her chapped bottom lip, Sera flicks blue eyes down at the VHS cassette and then up to Richard. “Do… you want me to see if there’s a VCR, uh, anywhere?” One brow raises helplessly. “On earth?”

The knock brings Richard's head up from where he - to be entirely honest - has stopped reading actual reports and started playing Candy Crush. He hurriedly pulls his legs down from the desk as if he's gotten caught doing something, rolling the chair forward and tossing the tablet to clack onto the desk. The gleaming surface of the device dimly reflects an onyx chess-piece, chipped and worn, sitting on the desk's surface.

"No need to apologize, c'mon in. You need to get some sleep, woman," he points out as she draws closer, a single brow lifting a bit, "Or at least less decaf." He might be about to ask if everything's all right with her, but then she's pulling out the cassette, and he's leaning forward to look at it.

Carefully he reaches out, lifting the cassette, reading the note. It's been years since he'd gotten a mysterious package like this, and as he reads the note there's a sudden welling up of old fears and hopes and other emotions he hasn't felt since just before the war. Silent for long moments to her query before finally he nods once, curtly.

"Yes. Check, ah— check Ms. Chavez's workspace, she has a lot of older tech sitting around in it," he says, very carefully setting the cassette down so the receptionist doesn't notice that his hands are ever so slightly shaking.

It wouldn't do to show vulnerability in front of the staff, and after all - maybe it's just nothing.

Sera affords Richard with a momentary, silent look. It’s a weird look, the kind she’s prone to giving. Normally people give it when they don’t understand something, or can’t comprehend it. It’s a long stillness and steady-eyed stare. Then, after a moment she just switches to a cheerful smile and straightens up. “I’ll go do that, I’ll be right back!”

Circling behind the desk, Sera makes the most roundabout exit from Richard’s office possible, and navigates her way back through his office door, gingerly tugging it shut after she departs. The cassette tape left behind is something of an oddity, the tab on the back has been popped out to ensure it isn’t recorded over — not without slapping a piece of tape over the opening, at least — and the handwriting is sloppy in the way a child’s might be, not an adult’s.

The envelope it was mailed in, surprisingly, has a return address on it. 162 Cardinal Way, San Antonio, TX 78253. There’s no name associated with it. But… that has to be a fake address, right?
The door closed, and Richard says aloud, "Computer, memo. Make sure Ms. Lang is scheduled for a physical soon? She looks like hell." A soft chime from the desk says that it's taken his note. Voice commands, the greatest blessing for the technologically ill-inclined at heart.

As he waits, Richard reaches over to pick up the envelope, to look for clues. The address is considered for a long moment, and he breathes out a sigh, one hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose.

"Subtle," he mutters aloud, shaking the envelope to make sure there's nothing else hidden within, "You are not."

Nothing. No card, no letter, just an empty yellow shipping envelope with bubble wrap inside. The address is likewise written in remarkably poor handwriting, like that of a child. Richard is left to think about the possibilities, who could have sent it to these offices and why, as Sera is gone for several minutes. Outside, another wall topples from the ruined building across the street. A backhoe pushes a pile of crumbling bricks into an enormous heap. The old world is being torn down to make way for the new.

When Sera does finally return, she has a steaming mug of coffee in her hand and a boxy electronic in the other. She makes her way over to the desk and sets the VCR down atop the corner beside the chess piece, then rests the coffee in front of Richard. Taking a knee, Sera plugs the power cord into the surge protector below his desk, then she smoothly stands back up and picks up the tape. Sera’s eyes flick from side to side, tongue presses against the inside of her cheek.

“Fuck.” She whispers, then sets the VCR on top of the player and hustles out of the office again. Because there’s no TV. Or Cables.


She leaves without any further instructions than that whispered curse, and Richard is left to stare at the VHS deck and the tape on top of it. Carefully he reaches out, picks up the tape, and tries to push it inside.

Click. Click.

He frowns for a moment, then tries again slightly harder.


"Oh," he chuckles, setting the tape aside and hitting Eject. A tape smoothly comes out, the label on it 'RSS O/D Z4 11/13/10'. It's an old Redbird Security tape from the Outer District project. The old tape is set to one side, and then he pushes in the 'new' tape, the childlike scrawl of a label slowly pulling into the machine and disappearing.

He waits for a few moments, peering at his desk display. "Maybe I need a… new driver," he mutters questioningly, tapping at the screen aimlessly as he tries to make it play on something it’s not even connected to. Of all the days that Alia has off!

The grinding sound that comes from the VCR is distinctly bad. The tape makes a loud clicking sound, followed by a popping and a clacking, and then is pushed back out the door at an angle subtly different than the one it entered from. Sera is coming back in with a small flatscreen television under one arm and she has one brow raised at the noise. Her eyes widen, and she looks down at the VCR and calmly sets the monitor down, along with a spool of HDMI cables.

Crouching, Sera looks at the back of the VCR and wrinkles her nose. Then stands upright and leans over from the back side of the desk, taking the tape out. She jostles it around in one hand, noticing black ribbons of tape having spooled out from inside. Her expression shifts into a grimace, and she looks down at the VCR and then more closely inspects the tape.

“Mister Ray,” Sera’s blue eyes flick back up to Richard. “I’ve— admittedly never used one of these before,” she notes with a look down to the generationally inappropriate cables. “But I’m culturally aware enough to realize that this may be a, uh,” she rubs one hand at the side of her neck. “Boondongle?” The tape is set on its side and she taps her finger along something stamped on the spine. U-MATIC.

With a quick motion she steals Richard’s tablet and stares at it for a moment, looks up over the top of the tablet to Richard, back down to the game he was playing. Sera narrows her eyes, and minimizes the game and makes a series of rapid taps on the screen. Her lips purse to the side, teeth draw over her bottom lip, and she lays the tablet down and slides it over to Richard.

“U-matic is an analogue recording videocassette format first shown by Sony in prototype in blah, blah, blah.” Sera is quoting wikipedia. “I didn’t see a U-Matic player down in Alia’s lab.” Blue eyes sweep the desk, and Sera looks back to Richard, one brow raised expectantly.

“Should I get you a list of pawn shops?”

"…oh, what the hell," Richard expels in frustration as he reads the article, pushing the tablet back away to slide across the desk and falling back in his chair, both hands coming up to rub over his face. "If I have to have Warren invent a tape deck I'm going to be so… so annoyed."

A deep breath, exhaled as a sigh, and his hands drop.

"Sure. Get me a list, I'll call around, ah," he looks down at the tape balefully, "Maybe check online auction sites, see if there're any up for sale."

"I really hope this is worth the effort."

“In my experience?” Sera looks down at the tape, then back up to Richard. “They’re usually more trouble than they’re worth.” Then, as she starts to turn, Sera comes to a stop and looks momentarily thoughtful. She looks down to the floor, then to an old and battered ring on her hand. Then, back over to Richard.

“The Vault.” Sera says flatly, as if it has meaning. Then, realizing it’s a weird segue she clarifies. “The second-hand, uh, store?” Her head lists to the side, an errant lock of blonde hair covering half of her face. “I walk by it going to work. It… might have what you want?”

Then, with a tip of her head away, Sera turns and just walks to the door with hands folded behind her back.

"The Vault, hm?" Richard's fingers drum loosely at the edge of his desk as he regards the tape with all the suspicion of a person presented with a 10,000 piece puzzle in blank white, unsure if it's worth the effort to put together. "Maybe. If we're really, really lucky, they might. I guess I can…"

He trails off, then, gaze flickering up from the tape to Sera's back. "What do you mean by that, Ms. Lang? What's more trouble than it's worth, in your experience?"

Sera stops in the doorway, head tilting to the side again. “The past,” is stated rather matter-of-factly with a motion to the cassette tape. Then, with a somewhat befuddled expression she ducks out of the office and quietly closes the door behind herself.

Except a split second later she pops her head back in and says. “Oh, and— it’s lunch time, sir,” and closes the door again.


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