Not A Small Thing


emily4_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Not A Small Thing
Synopsis Concerned by a lack of contact, Emily reaches out to Richard in the hopes of ascertaining Devon's whereabouts.
Date October 1, 2018

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

Sept 29 11:45 pm

Emily's gaze flits to the time in the top right corner of her screen, settling on the 13:19 in comparison. She involuntarily rocks back and forth in her seat as the bus rounds the corner roughly, probably faster than it needed to, but the drivers were pressed to keep a tight schedule and these roads were the smoothest in Jackson Heights. She does her part to wreck their progress in regaining lost ground by thumbing the stop button, the color of the LCD screens inverting from their previous state, the next stop of 'Raytech NYC' standing out more brightly than before.

Devon had responded to her first text, from an unknown number, within minutes. It was pushing two days, and two follow-up texts later, and there was still nothing but silence. Sure, they'd not exactly left things off best of buds the last time they'd seen each other, but ghosting her didn't line up with what Devon had said and done previously. He seemed the sort to at least say he was busy and he'd reach out later. Something just didn't feel right, so here she was, doing what was probably the most far-fetched thing she'd ever done in her life.

"Hi." Emily says as she rolls up to the secretary's desk inside the Raytech building. "I'm looking for Richard Ray?"

While she might not be expected, she at least doesn't look like someone who should be wheeled in the opposite direction immediately. She's wearing a beige sweater, the stitching on the torso patterned in a diagonal, creating the illusion it's not one piece and more like a wrap. There are two large, dark wooden buttons detailing the 'seam' that accentuate that. Her hair is swept back, and there are silver clasps worn on her ears. Knee-high leather riding boots are worn over black stovepipe pants. There were good impressions that needed made here, after all.

A small house of cards has been built upon the desk, and the secretary holds up a single finger for patience before setting the final in place. It sits there for a moment, then she brings a hand down to collapse it all before finally looking up with a bright smile.

“Oh, sure,” she replies, as if Emily’d just given her request, and then she’s reaching over to press a button, “Someone here to see you, Mister Ray?”

After a moment, a response, “…who, exactly?”

“Some girl in a wheelchair!”

“…can you get a name, please?”

She looks back up, “Oh, right, and who are you?”

What the… she wonders to herself, looking over the cards with a blank expression. Was there nothing better to be up to on a Monday afternoon? Weren't Mondays busy … business days, or whatever? When she's finally done and has brought the whole thing down, Emily can't resist staring at her with a raised eyebrow. No, think this one just lives in her own world.

Well, that was easier than anticipated, as the secretary's already pinging him directly. Great! The plan to somehow bypass an entire company and come in contact straight with its CEO was off to a fabulous start.

Then, her name. "I'm—" she pauses briefly, hitched into indecision. Just how much had Devon told him about her? Probably too much. Her lips purse together. "It's Emily Epstein."

“Sure!” The secretary reaches back to her cards and starts to shuffle them again, then she pauses, “Wait, I was supposed to do something.”

She leans over, then taps the phone again, “It’s Emily Epstein!”

There’s a long pause this time, before the response comes, “I’ll be right out.”

“He’ll be right out, I guess,” she replies, before going back to building another card castle.

At this point, Emily's beginning to wonder if the plan would have gone just the same if she'd showed up in her pajamas. Or a Halloween costume.

"Thanks." she lilts in response, then turns away from the desk to wander the lobby. She wouldn't want to keep the secretary from the incredibly important business she was undertaking, after all. Emily's eyes drift eventually toward the glass walls, watching the nearby construction. For all the bitching that guy in the paper had done, Yamagato seemed to have been hard at work out here for a while. Her teeth click off the inside of her cheek at that sour thought, hands folding in her lap.

It doesn’t take very long at all for Richard Ray to make his appearance, although by that time the secretary has managed to get a rather impressive card structure precariously balanced on her desk. The CEO - in a black suit, red shirt, black tie - just sighs at the sight of it, reaching behind the desk’s edge to pull out a guard lanyard. He steps along over to offer it out, a smile crooked up at one corner of his lips.

“Welcome to Raytech, Ms. Epstein,” he greets, “Good to see you again.”

She turns at the sound of the footfalls, taking Richard in at a glance — bright, nontraditional red shirt catching her attention. Though when you're a CEO, she supposes you can wear whatever you want. She rotates her chair with a spin of one wheel, grabbing the guest card between her index and middle finger. "You always just let people waltz right in and ask for you directly?" she asks with legitimate curiosity. A glance over at the secretary indicates she supposes it's not entirely his fault.

"I'm not complaining, obviously." she's quick to point out, threading the lanyard over her head.

“Certain people,” Richard replies, hands spreading slightly, “I’m not going to lie, Epstein does carry some weight around here, even if— “ He pauses, “I’d understand why you might not want to advertise it.”

He turns to lead the way down a hallway, and she may or may not notice that everything is made to be wheelchair-friendly in the facility. “This way, if you could.”

Emily sighs without deflating in the slightest. "Yeah." is her nonchalant deflection. As she turns to follow after, checking for unexpected steps is second nature, but finding none isn't a surprise — yet. She's only seen the lobby, after all. "After you." she indicates, glancing at everything they go past.

An elevator’s reached, opening as they approach to let her in — no gap worth mentioning between its edge and the floor — and he holds the door for her before stepping in. His own lanyard’s card is used as a pass to get the lift to obey, and he taps a button on it.

Richard’s head turns to regard her for a moment as the elevator lifts, and he asks, “You’d be Avi’s daughter, then, I take it?”

Out of habit, the wheelchair is given an extra nudge of energy in anticipation of more of a ledge she would have to bump over to enter the elevator. The smoothness of the entry, and the width of the lift as it allows her to rotate and turn back toward the door, is definitely noted. She lets out a hrm as she reaches for her phone by her side, checking its positioning between her and the side of the chair. Her chin inclines at the question, her posture still otherwise squared.

"Correct." she replies evenly, seeing no reason or way to avoid addressing it. "We don't speak, though, if you were going to ask after him. He was too busy saving the world to stay in touch, and didn't bother coming back home even after the war ended."

Her eyes are only for the doors directly ahead. Hopefully it wasn't that long a ride.

“I know.” Richard shakes his head slightly, “No, I know how to get in touch with him if I need to. I know he’s…. estranged from his family.”

It’s an understatement, really.

“And he knows it’s his own fault, so— anyway, sorry,” he brushes the subject aside, “I imagine you’re not here to talk about him.”


The doors slide open, and he steps out, holding the door for her as well.

Emily stays in the lift several moments longer than necessary, still looking straight ahead. She might even be considering heading back to the lobby and leaving entirely. He's right — she didn't come here to talk about her father, and she's not sure how comfortable she is knowing she's run into another acquaintance of his.

Cat burglar, CEO, has Avi Epstein's contact information. Seemed like Richard and everyone else she met lately had layer after layer to them, and an annoyingly tangled web of relationships.

"It's about Devon, actually." she says belatedly, rolling from the lift to follow after him.

Down the hall, Richard stops at a door and brings up his card again on its extending cord to tap to a black panel beside the door. It unlocks, and he steps inside with a shake of his head, “What’s up with the kid?”

A large double-window along one wall of Richard Ray's office allows natural light to spill in throughout the office and provides an excellent view of the green roof on the lower floor of the building, the flowered garden spreading out between rows of solar panels.

The walls of the office are in slate grey, the carpeting on the floor matching, and the furniture is all in black glass, metal, and leather - but the modern starkness is offset by the tall potted plants that grow along the side of the room opposite the window. The CEO's desk is a broad affair in black glass with a video feed and touch-screen built into the surface of the desk itself, the non-interactive portions of the desk decorated sparsely with a plastic 'in' and 'out' box, a framed picture of Elisabeth Harrison, and an old onyx chess king set beside it like reminders of times long past. A chess set is set off to one side of the desk, stopped in mid-game. On the floor half-behind the desk is a box lined with soft fabrics, a stray cat toy on the floor beside it.

Her attention's drawn toward the window first by habit, the sheer amount of green visible unexpected. She nears it enough to get a good appreciation for the stark contrast of green against the crumbling-or-under-construction city blocks surrounding them, but is quick to turn away, not caring at all for the sunlight reflecting off the solar panels.

"It's…" she starts to say, gaze sweeping the rest of the office she can see from this angle. Emily presses her lips into a firm line as she looks back to her host, wondering how to frame this, or if she should bother trying at all.

"We saw each other again earlier this month. He helped me out, and I agreed to not throw his number away. We've not talked much since then, but —" she breaks off, gaze slightly off to his left before she continues. "I reached out two days ago, and he's not responded since."

She stops just short of saying 'I'm worried about him.' out loud. It'd be silly to say that, after all. "Have you talked to him lately?" she asks instead.

“Hn.” A thoughtful sound as Richard steps around the desk, dropping back into his chair and leaning back with a subtle creak of leather, “No, but… that’s not unusual. Wolfhound tends to deploy suddenly sometimes, and their operations can take a few days.”

Hopefully he’s told her what he does for a living.

Emily's initial response is to run a hand back through her hair, biting back a retort. Obviously, that was a possibility. A likely possibility, even.

"Sure." she acknowledges noncommittally, her attention wandering to the chessboard. She's quiet for a moment, torn between thanking him for his time or pressing on. Her head shakes involuntarily at a passing thought. "Sure, that could be it." Her tone and the look in her eye indicates she doesn't entirely buy it, but isn't sure how to phrase that just yet.

“You don’t think that’s it,” Richard observes the obvious, arms folding behind his head as he watches her from across the desk, “Why, exactly…? You should always follow your instincts, but there’s got to be something that made you think something was wrong.”

"He's…" she starts to say, remembering the blind, wholehearted trust he had for her. It's left quite the image. "He's naive." Emily looks back to Richard with a helpless shrug and a shake of her head. She knows it's not a lot to go off of.

"He's too nice for his own good, and I just wanted to check in on him. Not hearing back after that has made me wonder."

Her suddenly pensive look breaks and she lifts a hand to rub her forehead briefly. "I don't know." she mutters. "It's none of my business, I suppose, but enough time has passed I thought it might be good to reach out to someone else who knows him to check in."

Richard can’t help but grin a bit. “He is, a little,” he admits, “Less than you might think, but— his experience in the world of dating is pretty much negative. He’s a good kid, but we…”

The smile fades, and he shakes his head, “We didn’t need well-adjusted good kids back then. We needed soldiers, and we got them. He came away with fewer scars than most, thank god.”

He lifts a hand, “I can check in on him, make sure there’s nothing untoward going on— he’s probably either deployed, or pissed off Hana and he’s peeling ten thousand potatoes, but I’ll find out.”

A skeptical eyebrow arches at the mention of dating. She couldn't imagine poor Devon on a date. Everything would either go perfectly because every good he tried to do would come off exactly in the right light… or disastrously awful, and he didn't have the best of luck. She questions the relevance of bringing dating up right then, though.

"That'd be great." she says with a nod. The thought of Devon stuck somewhere peeling ten thousand potatoes is amusing, and lines up perfectly with the mental image she has of him. Hopefully, it was something that small keeping him from reaching back out.

She notes the box on the floor behind his desk suddenly. "Are you back in the cat burglar business or something?" she asks abruptly.

The skeptical look makes Richard smile, shaking his head at it. “I’ll find out what— hm?”

He looks down, then, and laughs. “Half right,” he allows, leaning down and reaching into the box— coming up with a sleepy-eyed ginger kitten in his hand, no more than a few months old, latching onto his fingers and chewing on a knuckle. “This is Richelieu.”

Emily's around the side of the desk in better eyeshot of the kitten almost before she realizes she's moved, her expression stern. Either hand remains tentatively over its respective wheel on her chair.

That is a fucking cute kitten, though.

The skeptical look returns as he affirms she's only 'half' right, accompanied with a glance out of the top of her eye, before she reaches out to touch the kitten's tiny forehead with the tip of her index finger, scratching gently. She shakes her head thoughtfully. "I interrupted." she apologizes without saying as much, still looking down at the cat. "You'll find out? How long will that take?"

There’s a sleepy little yawn, showing off little kitten teeth, and then the red-furred kitten rubs his face against Emily’s fingers affectionately.

Richard watches with a smile, then glances back up to her, “Could be a few days— depends, really, on what’s going on. If they’re in the middle of an op, they wouldn’t exactly be there to take calls, and the secretary won’t tell me where they are.”

Oh no. It's yawning. Emily's serious countenance threatens to break as the kitten settles in and nuzzles her. Her hand cups carefully around its tiny face, fingertips rubbing under its chin and around its ears. "That'd be answer enough, honestly. If they're out and not responding? It's probably Wolfhound business." And that was what it was. His fellows would look after him, if that was the case.

Yeah, you can't go worrying every time you don't get a response to a text, though. she chastises herself. That'd just be a reality associated with that acquaintanceship they were building.

“I understand the worry,” Richard says quietly as he watches her love on the kitten, smile lingering, “He has a— dangerous job. I worked with most of them over the years, though, they were my people once. Dev included. They’re solid, they’re all the best at what they do.”

A brow lifts, “I’d say ‘there’s no need to worry’ but I’d be lying. But I’d put good odds that he’ll be home and fine soon, and probably blowing up your phone with apologies.”

“Once he’s somewhere with service anyway.”

'Blowing up her phone with apologies' causes her to let out a quiet laugh under her breath, sitting back upright to look Richard over. Yeah, that did sound like Devon. Her head quirks to the side slightly, and she lays her palms face up on her lap in a small indication she'll take the kitten if it's offered.

"What do you mean by 'your' people?" she asks, before challenging herself to think more deeply about it. Her gaze shifts back and forward as she draws out several guesses. "Were you with the Ferry?"

Richelieu is handed over, exploring the lap curiously with a little sniffing and spreading of paws. He’s a curious little kitten, if still a bit sleepy-eyed from his nap.

“No.” Richard leans back in his chair, shaking his head, “We— worked with them regularly, but we weren’t part of the Ferry. They were focused on survival, on getting people to safety, on smuggling Evolved away from the worst abuses of power. I mean, there was Special Activities, but they were an exception.”

A faint smile, “No, we took a more strategic view of things. You won’t find any of us in the history books, mostly because the government would have to explain it in a way that wouldn’t leave them sounding like idiots.”

Having the kitten in her lap causes her eyes to soften, her attention going down to it as it paws at her. She was wary its little claws might pull at the fabric of her pants, but it wasn't something she planned to fault it for until it actually happened. Emily's fingers curl around its body, cradling the kitten affectionately while rubbing its side with the side of her thumb.

Richard's explanation is another layer on the onion his person was turning into, this one only half-peeled. The information was useful enough, but he didn't exactly leave a name for the activities to be associated with. Maybe that was the point. "So you're not actually family, just former comrades in arms?" She doesn't mean to sound as callous as that sounds, so she glances up to explain further, "Devon said you were his uncle."

“He calls me that…” Richard chuckles, one hand rubbing at his jawline, “Always makes me feel old. He was one of the younger of us, and well— like I said, they were my people. I was in charge.”

His gaze drifts to the picture, and he reaches out to brush a finger against the edge, a wistful look in his eyes, “Me and Elisabeth. We moved mountains, and we murdered futures. Whatever we had to, to save the world. Sometimes it was worth it.”

Then he looks back to her, admitting, “Sometimes it wasn’t.”

Her eyes dart to the photo of the unfamiliar woman, then back to Richard to study his reaction to it. Why was he telling her this? The mention of 'murdering futures' causes her to pause, wondering about the aborted end of the world where her family was together and she walked without mobility aids. It wasn't something she'd planned on thinking about again, but here she was, face to face with someone who claimed to have put a stop to it.

A world-saver. She starts to speak again but weighs the words carefully before getting them out. She takes a moment to brush her thumb over the top of the kitten's head, even as it grabs out onto her hand with both of its tiny, clawed paws. She'd broken the cardinal rule of doting on cats — never look away. "How exactly do you know my father?" she asks, letting the kitten bite her for the time being. It was a good distraction.

“That’s a complicated question.” Richard tilts his head back, regarding the ceiling for a moment, “We were both there when the last surviving Founders of the Company decided it was time to tell the truth. We dug up the bodies together to find the proof of it. We were both on Operation Apollo too, and— well, he was one of the Royals. Worked with the Ferry, in the end…”

“We just ran into each other now and then on missions for the most part, although I see him more regularly these days,” he admits, tilting his head back down to regard her, “He’s…. not in great shape, admittedly. The years haven’t been easy on the guy, and he knows it’s mostly his fault.”

Richard really wasn't pulling any punches. She wonders briefly if he assumes she knew any of that previously. Hell, the words 'Operation Apollo' only meant anything to her from picking up Wolves of Valhalla, and she was still working her way through the nonfiction.

"No one's forcing him to keep doing what he is." At least to her knowledge. "Don't feel the need to make excuses for him."

It was the second time he'd said 'Avi knows it's all his fault', after all. Maybe he wasn't making an excuse for him, but there definitely was some shading going on there.

After a pause, she adds, "I had no idea he was wrapped up in… so much." She looks down at the kitten, grabbing it with one hand to reposition it. She really hadn't come to talk about her father, yet unexpectedly, here they were.

Maybe she hadn’t intended to talk to him, but it seems like the conversation had come around to there somehow. Richard shakes his head, holding up a hand.

“I’d never make excuses for him,” he says simply, “He fucked up his life, and he knows it; spent his life saving the world instead of spending time with his family. It was a shitty choice for you all— you know it, I know it, he knows it.”

Hands spread a little, and then drop back down to the arms of his chair, “The old man was involved in a lot; he was running around in the middle east overthrowing regimes for a lot of years, and then in the end he sided with the Ferry.”

He draws in a breath, “He hasn’t come back to you all not because he’s busy, Emily. I’m pretty sure it’s because he’s ashamed to face you.”

Emily's holding the kitten up by her face, looking into its wide little eyes even if it's not exactly content with being that way, and lets her know with a quiet 'mew'. She tuts at it with a silent 'sorry' mouthed as she settles it back down in her lap, avoiding looking back up at Richard for the moment by petting its back.

"He had a good excuse, at least. 'Hey, I helped save the world,' sure beats …" Well, there were a lot of ways to end that statement. She shakes her head. It wasn't the point. "He doesn't get to—" Emily starts, then bites the rest of it off before she can get going.

He doesn't get to abandon us then avoid coming back because it inconveniences him.

She lets out a slow sigh. "You're right. He fucked up. And it won't be on me to be the one to reach out." Emily's gaze is sharp as she stares off, Richard catching the edge of it as she glances to him for only a moment before directing her gaze elsewhere. "Fuck his shame. He doesn't get to reach out only when he needs validation."

There was plenty he'd have to answer for when he did have the nerve to show his face, but that was another story. And if he really was ashamed to show himself… maybe she'd not immediately run him off when he did.

“Hey, I’m not here to tell you — or him — to do anything, or judge anyone involved. Just giving some information, is all,” Richard shakes his head, “It’s your life, your father, your business.”

He sweeps his attention to the window, looking out it for a moment, “If I could give you and him one piece of advice, though— it’s that if you both try and out-stubborn each other I doubt you’ll ever get any closure. That’s on you two, though.”

Back to her, a wry smile, “God knows I have enough issues with my family, though, so maybe I shouldn’t talk.”

After so long and so many layers of issues to have to work through, she doubted closure was ever going to be in the cards. Something might work out, but there likely would never be any closing up that wound fully. Still, Richard meant well. "We've just formed a small club, you see." she offers drily. "Non-Judgmental Family-Issue-Bitching Anonymous." In all seriousness, she couldn't remember the last time she'd ended up having a halfway productive conversation involving her father. If Richard wanted to vent now in return, she'd not bat an eyelash.

"If you're still talking with him, is CEO just a side job?" Groups like Wolfhound still existed for a reason, after all. Maybe Richard's shadow thing on the side did, too. On the other hand, with a kitten living in his office, maybe he lived here, too.

“If you ask my sisters, sometimes I treat it like one,” Richard admits with a low chuckle, fingers scratching under his jaw briefly, “It’s not just a side job, though, I’m— well. We had to sacrifice a lot to bring the world through everything it went through. This— “

A gesture of his hand encompasses the whole of Raytech, “— is a way of giving back a bit, of trying to help build a brighter future rather than just giving up. I do keep an eye on things, though.” There’s a flicker of something behind his eyes, but it’s quickly masked, “Just in case anything… serious comes up.”

That didn't sound ominous at all. Something about the way he said it made it sound like he even found it might be likely. Why else have to keep an eye out in the first place?

"That's noble." she intones, shoving that feeling down. "It's one thing to want for things to be better, but you've gone out of your way to … you know." Make a difference? Through… technology, of some kind, judging by the advertisements. There's a brief pause as she stares off, petting the kitten. "What do you all do out here, actually?"

“Innovation, mostly. We invented most of the non-lethal weapons and the armor that Wolfhound uses,” Richard explains easily, “We do a lot with solar and other alternative power sources— we’re almost one-hundred-percent green right now at the facility, aside from some emergency generators for projects we can’t let go down if something happens. We’re building a major hydroponic facility with Yamagato’s assistance a few blocks down.”

He smiles faintly, “Not noble, though. Just want to see the Big Apple breathing again. Give back a bit of what I’ve taken. Call it karmic payback if you want.”

Emily nods in apparent sympathy, then scoops the kitten up in both hands to offer it back out to its owner. "I should let you get back to that." she suggests.

“You should meet my sister Valerie sometime,” Richard says - apropos of nothing, it seems - as he reaches out to accept the kitten with a smile, thumb rubbing up under Richelieu’s chin affectionately, “She did all the architecture around here, and in most of our facilities.”

Leaning down, he sets the kitten in his box, although he immediately miaows for food, attention, or water or something else as kittens do. “I’ll get in touch with Wolfhound and see what’s going on with the kid.”

She considers for a second outright telling him to forget about it all. The talk had been about enough, after all. Devon was likely fine — but busy. It really is tempting, especially considering …

"Don't bring my name into it, please." she conveys with a heavy sincerity to the request. "If it can't be done like that, then I'd rather just wait." A follow-up to that is mulled over, and then deemed necessary. "I told him I don't want my name being thrown around. Don't want them" read: him "knowing we're talking. You're likely the only exception, because he'd already spoken to you by that point."

She laughs faintly, realizing that might not be possible. Who knew if Richard could be trusted to keep Devon and Emily's acquaintanceship to himself? In all her worry, coming here probably blurred the lines of separation she'd really wanted to keep, and worse yet, he was reaching out to Wolfhound directly. Because of her worry. It gave her a bad feeling just thinking about it.

Looking toward him with a shake of her head, all she can say is "Try not to fuck that up for Devon."

“Never try and keep a secret under the nose of someone who ever worked in covert intel, it’s not a great idea,” Richard is chuckling as he pushes himself up to his feet, stepping around the desk with a shake of his head, “Give me your number and I’ll call you when I know something, and yes, I’ll keep your name out of it if you really want me to. Kid’ll be fine either way, though.”

"It's a good idea if you were serious about wanting me to come back and meet your sister." she says with a shrug that almost passes for nonchalant. She knows nothing lasts forever, but is intent for keeping things quiet at least for today. Her attention swivels to the desk, grabbing a pen tossed on its surface to scratch the number down on a notepad. Once done, she pushes back away from the desk, and after one last look to the adorable mewling kitten, wheels her way to the door.

It's then she notices the button adjacent to the doorframe, an eyebrow raising in curiosity. The comfortable experience on the way up was more than just a coincidence — the door-opening push panel was a sure indicator. "You said her name is Valerie?" she asks while reaching out to nudge her knuckle against the panel. The door opened out. Nice.

In the hall, she looks back after summoning the elevator. "Thank you for seeing me. Sorry to bother you over something so … small."

“That I did,” Richard replies easily as his sister’s name is repeated, “That I did. My baby sister, really, there’re four of us in all.”

As the elevator doors open, he raises a brow back at her, “Being worried about someone’s not a small thing, Emily. Comes down to it in the end, empathy’s all that separates us from them sometimes.”

A hand sweeps towards the elevator in offering, “Stop by anytime.”

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