Mother May I?


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Scene Title Mother May I?
Synopsis Frank calls for help to protect Odessa from anyone who would bring her harm…
Date April 2, 2018

Frank contacted Kravid not long ago, stating that he needed to talk to her about something very important. He sits in a rundown diner, wearing his oversized black coat, sipping at a cup of coffee while they prepare his food. Kravid has always been someone he felt safe with, felt would keep him from the dangers of this harsh world that they live in. His parents did much the same, but… they weren't present, not like Kravid.

Driven into a rather remote Institute facility, Francis Cornelius Witchenstein is only 16 years old. He's escorted to an interview room that looks a hell of a lot like an interrogation room. He wears a well-fitting black suit, and takes a seat in a chair, offered a coffee.

He was told that he'll be meeting a woman named Erica Kravid for this internship interview. He's been in college for only around a year, but his intense studies and speculative papers he's begun to write about the Suresh Linkage Complex has gotten the Institute's attention, at least as far as his future education goes.

And, well, some other buried things about his… tendencies are also of interest to an organization such as this.

Kravid has been given access to a psychological profile. While he seems to have impulse control issues, as well as issues with emotional expression and empathy, he seems to respond very favorably to nurturing. These are likely the things that stand out most.

The sounds of the diner are soft and reassuring, simple noises. Spoons clink in coffee cups, meat sizzles on a distant grill, conversation is a minimum and kept to the bar area, and the music piped in through ceiling-mounted speakers acts as a comfortable white noise. If only Frank hadn't needed to travel more than five hours to get here.

Situated in a secluded valley in the Adirondacks, a day’s drive north from the Safe Zone, the Nite Owl Diner rests on the border of the sleepy town of Tupper Lake. It is the only place remote and secluded enough for Frank to make contact since the start of the war when Kravid went dark and disappeared. Alone, but not forgotten.

The young blonde woman who sits in Frank’s booth is his contact, is the woman he's looking for in enough ways to matter. The young woman he knows only as Kyla is roughly his age, pale as a ghost with platinum blonde hair and haunting blue eyes. She's bundled against the rain, thick scarf around the slender column of her throat, collar of her jacket upturned to the back of her neck.

She smiles to Frank, like old friends should, and her eyes momentarily roll back in her head. When her eyes normalize again, her body posture and mannerisms change from Kyla to someone else. “Frank,” is heavily stated, and Kyla’s hands reach out and are offered palm up to Frank across the table. “There you are.” Thousands of miles apart, but Frank still hears Kravid’s cadence relayed by Kyla’s ability.

“You wanted to talk.”

Sunstone Manor is about as remote from the Institute as it can get. An entire country’s length away, it is nestled in the California hills and surrounded by palm trees and basked in vivid sunlight. It feels like an academy one might see in comics — a mansion full of young students — more Westchester than anything else.

But in the office of Erica Kravid, Frank finds himself in a column of shadow between two tall windows overlooking the hills. Tall curtains frame the windows, hardwood floors reflect them, and Kravid’s desk looks like it might be as old as the mansion. Nearby, a wall-sized fish tank bubbles with water and gorgeously colored saltwater fish in blissful ignorance of their captivity.

The door behind Frank opens, and a dark-haired woman in a cream-colored suit strides in with a tablet computer under one arm and a metered click-clack of heels loudly reporting her brisk pace. “Mister Witchenstein,” she calls before finishing clearing the distance, eyes assessing and smile measured.

Offering one hand to Frank in his seat, she is backlit by the tall windows and the glare of the sun rests directly behind her head, highlighting the wisps of flyaway hair not swept up in her manicured bob. “Deputy Director Kravid,” she introduces smoothly. “But please, call me Erica.”

"Erica." Frank says, more comfortable with using her name now that she's here, in person, sort of. He reaches out to take her hand, the tempo of his heart beginning to relax. "There's a woman I need you to protect. I… she makes me feel things, real things. I can't explain them, but I can't live without those things. She's… on the run. She used to work with us. Doctor Price. I don't want her to die, or go to jail, or be hurt, I just want her safe… please. I'll do anything you want. You can contact her with the name Alice Ayers."

"Miss Kra— Erica." Frank smiles, but it's forced, he's not good at smiling in a way that isn't kind of weird. He was better at charismatic things when he was a little younger, but it's gradually worn thin with age. "I don't understand why I'm here. I haven't done anything special. I've only written about things I want to do." he points out before awkwardly taking her hand, going through the motions of shaking it. These basic human things seem difficult, even after all this time.

Kyla is still for a moment, her head tilting to the side as if listening for something. Her fingers curl tighter around Frank’s, gentle and reassuring. Kravid’s words come out of her mouth again after a moment. “Odessa Price?” Haunting blue eyes square on Frank, the subtle movement of her brows an affectation of Kravid’s, not Kyla. “Odessa Price is alive?” Her eyes avert, thoughtful in silence. Then, after they flick back to Frank. “What, or whom, does she require protection from?”

Erica manages a mild smile at that comment and comes around to sit against the corner of her desk in front of Frank, one leg crossed over the other and tablet held in her lap unregarded. “Science is about intentions, Frank. It isn't always about results, but about ideas.” She lets go of the tablet with one hand to motion to Frank. “Just like Doctor Suresh has his idea about the linkage-complex that expresses Evolved abilities. He hasn’t found it yet, but he has the idea. He wants to. He believes.” Brows raised, Erica offers Frank a gentler smile. “Sometimes, all a brilliant mind needs is one bold idea to change the world.”

"Yes, and she needs protection from going to jail, and I don't know, probably from being killed. She seems very afraid, but I think she's mostly afraid of the government. You know what the trials were like, you kept me from having to go through that, I always had plausible deniability." Frank's emotional reactions aren't as cold as they usually are, he's less intense. Erica was always good at making him less intense, making him relax. "I want to help her. I'll do whatever you want. I want to know her, I want to know what these feelings mean. It's something new to research…"

"I want an Evolved ability, I want to know what it's like to experience more than I do now. Life is so… dead." Frank admits, his previous plastic smile returning to an empty, deadpan expression. "Doctor Suresh's book gave me hope. Maybe I can find a way to get a specific Evolved ability, one that makes me feel normally, and belong with other people."

“You're not alone,” Kyla relay’s Kravid’s reassurances with another squeeze of his hands. “I want to understand Doctor Price too. She's a very special woman who had a very unique ability.” It would seem that Kravid is wholly unaware of Odessa’s current situation, and perhaps in that the issue is not so immediate and urgent.

“We can keep her safe. Just like we kept you safe, Frank. But there's so many people looking for us. We may need your help.” Purposefully, Kyla relaxes her grip on Frank’s hands as if to indicate she would let go. “Will you help me?” He had already agreed to, but this was all a part of the tactic.

”You and many others are curious about that very thing.” Kravid shifts subtly where she leans against her desk. “You're a bright young man, with an incredible gift all your own. It may not be an ability like the Sureshs’ call it, but your brilliance is nonetheless a part of your genetics.”

Sliding off the desk, Kravid comes to stand beside Frank and rests a hand on his shoulder. “We didn't fly you all the way out here because you're not special.” A squeeze. “You might well help us break the code of what makes Evolved the way they are, of not only that… but where it all began.” Kravid slowly raises a brow.

”Wouldn't that be an accomplishment? Finding the origin of species?” Kravid cracks a fond smile. “Maybe someday, with our help, history books will teach about Suresh and Witchenstein right alongside Darwin.”

"Of course I'll help!" Frank quickly tightens his hands around hers when she loosens her grip, his eyes almost pleading. His emotions are all over the place with Erica, almost like a trained animal. "If she'll be safe, I'll do anything. I just don't want to hurt her. No one else makes me feel that kind of emotion… it's so pure, like Billy Idol's Eyes Without A Face."

Frank looks down at her hand, his heart skipping a beat when she squeezes. He doesn't know how to react, so he stares up at her. "I'd like that… I have a hypothesis that perhaps all abilities are linked to an alpha ability. That they can be stringed together, one ability that evolved from another, until you get down to a single ability that explains them all. A missing link."

Kyla’s brows furrow at that, her head tilts to the side in a way not entirely Kravid but also not entirely her. But she reaffirms her grip on his hands. Then, Kravid’s tone comes back to Kyla’s voice. “We’ll need to organize an exchange, but there is the possibility Doctor Price is trying to use you to get to us, to save herself. We have to be certain of her intentions, or… failing that,” Kyla’s blue eyes focus on a point in space, then back to Frank. “Make sure she can’t hurt anyone, whether she intends to or not.”

Kyla’s attention squares on Frank in a wordless moment. “Do you still have access to sedatives?”

Kravid’s expression becomes one of appraising certainty and kind maternal recognition. “A missing link,” she says breathlessly, reaching up to brush knuckles gently across Frank’s cheek before carefully stepping away and walking back to her desk. “And you said you hadn’t done anything,” has a gentle, chiding tone to it. “Frank, you got our attention.” Her brown eyes settle on his. “That’s the start. We’ll help you go the rest of the way.”

"I can do that, if you give me time, I can make certain of her intentions, I promise." Frank then stops, staring down at the table, thinking very carefully as she mentions sedatives. "I do…" Then, with another long pause, he adds, "If I think she's a danger to anyone, I'll sedate her, and bring her to you. But… don't hurt her if it comes to that, please? I don't think it will though, if I can build trust with her, I don't think she'll betray us."

"You can help me do something like that?" Frank asks, his eyes starting to widen after she brushes his cheek. It's as if his heart is softening, his back becoming a little less stiff. "But… what do I do from here? I'm in school already. Will I be some kind of intern? And… will I get to do any surgery? Can I practice that here too?"

Kyla is silent for a moment, looking vacant and distant, then resumes her attentiveness and squeezes Frank’s hands again. “Observe and report,” is Kravid’s tacit request. “You know the dead drops and how to contact Kyla. If you feel like her life is in immediate danger, make a call and we’ll pick her up. But if it comes to that, we may have to take you too. It might be too dangerous for you to remain in the Safe Zone. Too many eyes.” Then, quieter. “Too many hounds.”

Smiling, Kravid dips her head into a slow nod. “Absolutely,” seems remarkably affirmed. “Consider this as something of a school. You’ll intern with us, you’ll be able to work on your own research, and… there’s several people your age who live here as well.” There’s a knock at Kravid’s door, and she sits up straighter. “Speaking of…”

"I will. I'll tell her that she's safe, that as long as I'm around, she'll be protected. And I'll keep her out of trouble." Frank agrees, though given his known impulse issues, who even knows what that could mean in some circumstances. Still… he's typically reliable, especially when it comes to Erica. "As long as she doesn't get hurt."

"I've never been somewhere I could do the things I wanted without everyone wanting to lock me up, or my parents yelling at me because they have to spend money to keep me out of trouble." Frank could almost be confused for sounding bitter, if his tone wasn't often so cold. But perhaps there is bitterness, somewhere deep down inside of him, who knows. "I'm looking forward to the experience." Though, noting Erica sitting up straighter, he does so as well, and looks to the door.

“I’ll do my best to make sure that never happens,” Kravid says through her medium. The release of Frank’s hands is a slow and careful one, fingertips drawing over his palms before Kyla is allowed to sit back and straight again. She threads a lock of pale hair behind one ear, then looks out the diner window. Her head tilts to the side, and blue eyes regard Frank side-long.

”You aren’t the only one looking forward to it,” Kravid explains as the doors to her office open, and a boy no more than eighteen slowly enters, his short and curly hair cut close to his scalp with white gauze wound around his head. He has a noticeable limp, eyes averted and expression shy. Behind him is a surly-looking gray haired man with a broad build and a perpetually red face.

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”Frank,” Kravis leans away from her desk again, motioning to the new arrivals. “Meet Director Varlane and his son, Magnes.”

“I promise…” Kravid’s smooth and reassuring tone comes with Kyla slowly standing from the booth.

“Doctor Price will be in good hands.”

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