Not The Best News


elisabeth2_icon.gif warren_icon.gif

Scene Title Not the Best News
Synopsis Warren gets hold of Liz to show her something — it turns into an interesting conversation.
Date Jan 5, 2011

Shalegate Factory

It's around 7PM when Elisabeth finally arrives at Shalegate Machine Factory, having been picked up at Dorchester in a black car with tinted windows. Said car rolls into one of the warehouse garages, and Elisabeth is shown to an elevator, and allowed to find her way to Warren's office.

The large metallic door with his Warren Ray nameplate opens to reveal his ever-changing office, currently still covered in blueprints for the mind-machine interface, but right now he seems to be working on something else entirely. There's a four foot tall clockwork humanoid laying across his desk with no outer casing, simply filled with thousands of gears and parts, and entirely missing a head. He works on it with those silvery reflective eyes very meticulously, though it is a somewhat odd sight.

When she met the car, Elisabeth was not wearing her usual gear. Well, she was — a pair of blue jeans, white sneakers, and a heavy winter jacket. But she'd also pulled a knitted ski hat over her head to cover her hair and wrapped a scarf around her neck to muffle her jaw. It's perfectly reasonable winter clothing, even for stepping from the front door to the car. She doesn't take it off even in the car. Not until she's walking through the factory to see Warren.

When she steps into his office, she tilts her head and says, "You rang?" Her tone is very dry. How cloak and dagger of us.

Warren looks up, only wearing his usual suit himself, minus the jacket and tie. "Well, I have entirely horrible news and I have no real way of spinning this into something that we can turn in our favor." He doesn't seem to be acknowledging his little project, instead opening his desk drawer and first pulling out what seems to be a regular compass, then he lifts a slightly larger more Clockwork compass that seems to be set over a small vial of blood. "I'm guessing the fact that Hector Steel is superior to my engineering skill in every way, batshit insane, and building giant Evolved detecting robots is bad, correct?"

Elisabeth raises a single eyebrow. "Yes, that would be an understatement. ….. Why?" she asks warily.

"Because that is exactly the situation." Warren nods to the compass in each hand, holding them out for her to take a closer look at. "The smaller one is the original, I'm not sure where it's from, the larger one is an improved Hector Steel version. He says it can only detect Evolved within fifty feet, unless it has a blood sample. I'm supposed to fix it. This man is absolutely insane, I'd hate to think I was anything like him. He made this giant… camel llama thing go on a small rampage where it was housed, then they arrested him."

Alarm colors her features as he shows her the compass. Oh God…. Blue eyes seek his face. "You're not going to do it, are you?"

"I'm not entirely sure how it works yet, despite how small these things are, they're incredibly complex, but I can make the argument that I can't do it, even if I do figure this out. But there is something I want to do with these…" Warren sits the smaller of the two thing, focusing on the one with the vial of blood under it. "At first glance, knowing the basic functions of this thing, I think it might be possible to track down individuals, Evolved or not. This is technology that we can use for our own purposes. The problem is that eventually Steel will figure out how to improve the compass on his own, I'm only assigned to work with him because they want this all done faster. He doesn't even want to work with me. Can you believe he uses an iPhone for a remote? He considers the fact that these robots' controls can be hijacked by technopaths to be a matter of 'trial and error'."

He shakes his head, sitting the remaining compass down to pull out his own plain black remote, one with around fifty small metallic buttons. "An iPhone." Ridiculous!

Elisabeth scowls and says, "Warren! Focus. You're sounding quite egotistical enough, thank you. Tell me what you're thinking as a plan, here. I get that they'll work it out on their own. You're talking about snaking it right out from under them. But how? And to what end?" This is why she's a field general and not the mastermind.

"I was simply going to build a new one to study, and give these back, because I had no real alternative idea. But now… I have a perfect idea, thanks to you. Snaking it right out from under them! It's perfect!" Warren's suddenly walking around after picking the smaller compass up, heading over to her with a bit too much enthusiasm. "I have no idea if these are the only ones they have, they're probably not, but if these disappear, it'll probably set back their research while I figure out how to sabotage this entire idea."

His eyes are still that silver color, and his general demeanor does seem a bit more flighty when he's using his ability, but at least he's not murdering and changing his name. "So far my current idea involves using the Ferrymen. A few months ago I invented an EMP to destroy a satellite, long story, but if I manufacture enough of these, we could use the Ferry to completely destroy these machines. They could also attack my factory and wipe out what I have, well, anything from Hector Steel at least. But to get rid of these compasses? Simple! It'll be what leads to the Ferry getting my EMP technology."

Sitting the compass back on to his desk, he's pointing below them, perhaps meaning the basement. "I coordinate with someone in the Ferry, tell them what and how to attack in my factory. They destroy what bit of Hector's technology I already have, take the EMP weapons I've built for them, making it both a clever sabotage and an exchange at the same time. Then they start calculated attacks when I figure out more factories these things are being built in."

Elisabeth looks absolutely confused. "Wait, wait, wait," she insists. She needs some time to process. "Okay, look. My brain is not as fast as yours on this." She remembers the watch Abby had that detected Evos. "First…. you're telling me there are more of these, and that the Institute is working on… having them mass produced by Hector Steel?" she asks.

"Second… I know about the EMP thing, I'm assuming you're talking about the satellite Rebel wanted taken down before November 8. What you're proposing is….. what?" She reaches out to take the smaller compass from him to inspect it. "To put word out to the Ferrymen that you need this location raided? So that in the scuffle, all this tech is lost, right? But … if you *do* that, the Institute will potentially start actively hunting the Ferrymen, and I don't want that."

She pauses. "If that's what you're suggesting, I could propose an alternate plan. Put the word out through some channels that the place is a Humanis operation and let FRONTLINE take it down with extreme prejudice."

She adds, "Get the tech you actually want to keep out of here well ahead of time, of course."

"The plan would be to have them absolutely destroy the technology, but steal the EMP weapons, more or less. And while your plan certainly works, this factory is a part of my business, it'd probably do more damage to me than the Institute. The reason I suggest the Ferry is because there's no real harm if a group considered terrorists attacks my factory. Humanis operation is a hell of a PR nightmare." Warren crosses his arms, outright sitting on the desk now in deep thought. "This is more complicated than I thought. I want to proceed with my original plan, which would have resulted in the complete eradication of the Institute, but I never counted on Evolved detection. I didn't even know this was possible with a… compass. I'm an engineer, and while I like to consider myself a strategist, I think this problem is even beyond me."

Looking up at her now, very serious as the silver in his eyes receed to reveal his more natural blue eyes. "The only question I really have now, is who we ask for help. My plan to raid warehouses, at best, is a short term plan, They'd eventually regroup, and we have no way of stopping this technology without just stopping the Institute. My 'Master Plan', which currently you do not know, won't work without giving them the upperhand in some way, and now that I know Hector Steel is working on this, I'm not entirely confident in that plan either. His ability is lightyears beyond mine. Right now we're in 'completely screwed' territory without a proper strategist."

Elisabeth nods slightly, following the logic. "Unfortuantely, there is harm," she continues to object. "If the Ferrymen draw anymore attention, Warren, it will sic either the Institute on them because they've stolen things the Institute wants you working on or it will sic FRONTLINE actively on them. And FRONTLINE OS out on Staten is more likely to get the orders, which will mean that they will be sending butchers after them." She clenches her jaw. "But if you want word taken to them that you want a meet, I'll send word by courier."

When he looks more normal and asks her opinion, Elisabeth admits quietly, "I've seen one before. I knew there would be more eventually." She doesn't mention where. And she smiles faintly. "We're not without a strategist, Warren. We've got the best strategist around." The man who's working to thwart himself.

"Since you've brought me down here, why don't you tell me the outline of your whole plan here," Elisabeth says quietly. "We can't keep working at cross-purposes. I need to know what's going on so I don't get my ass in a sling. I've already gotten my own technopath trapped by the DoEA." She grimaces. "Some technopath called 'Verse' has her trapped in the fucking droid. Or maybe out of it in a secure terminal by now, I don't know. But they're keeping her indefinitely."

"Sorry about your technopath." Warren undoes the top two buttons of his shirt, hunching with a look of minor frustration. But finally he simply nods in agreement. "You already know I've been trying to repair the city, that's why I've been putting this group together. Not all of them know my deeper purpose, but I've been building things for the government so I can infiltrate them with technology. Not just the Institute, but the entire thing. I have no interest in running the country or any cliche like that."

He doesn't look up at her the entire time, he just keeps talking, his silvery right hand tapping his knee. "What I want is to have influence, have my mark on every part of everyday life, and also have that hint of intimidation that if politicians try to pull things like what we're dealing with now, I can actually do something about it. That's also why I've been filing so many patents and buying warehouses, expanding my business so that I can become a household name and improve the world as a whole with my technology. It's an elaborate tactic using technology and psychology together."

Then, finally looking up at her, he adds the part she's likely most curious about. "The robots I've been designing, like I said, they have a failsafe, But the failsafe wasn't built for the safety of the people using it, it was built so I could take control of the robots once they built a large amount of them. I intended to have a false terrorist organization created, give them the means of controlling these robots, then have the Institute and everyone in charge, quite literally, obliterated from the face of the planet."

Absolutely flabbergasted. That's…. there are no words. Elisabeth has never struck another person in her life the way she slaps him, upside the back of his head with a solid *thwack*. "Clearly you were overtaken by insanity. Very obviously you did not just fucking say to me that you were planning Arma-fucking-geddon!" The last word is practically a screech and for the first time in two months, Elisabeth's audiokinetic ability reacts to her emotional state, shunting both volume and reverb into her voice when she shouts it. It sends a sharp, shooting feeling through her skull when it happens and she jerks backward, her hand shooting to her nose to staunch the blood flow there, her eyes clouding with pain. And yet, her adrenaline has skyrocketed so high here that she can't stop what's happening. "THAT is your plan, Ray?! Sorta like the fuckin' StayPuft Marshmallow Man of 2011??? Jesus CHRIST!" Pure fury is diluted by the agony. She's seeing halos and her nosebleed is not stopping.

"I wasn't going to destroy the world, I was going to destroy the Institute. Then I'd disband the false terrorist group after they're blamed for the Institute attacks, and force the robots to destroy themselves. I'd say I managed to come up with a way to destroy them, and our problem would be solved." Warren rubs the back of his head, sighing as he pulls a napkin from his pocket and offers it to her. "They're robots, it's nothing I didn't think I could stop. But it won't even work now. If I kept designing the robots this way, eventually Steel would see through the designs and realize what I'm doing. And it's not as if I was trying to keep this from you, I just wasn't sure I could trust you. And right now, I do trust you, if that means anything."

There's a pause, and he's eyeing her nosebleed again. "What's wrong with you?" He motions to the blood, not entirely sure. "Having a tumor, I'm not the most easy around nosebleeds."

She reaches out to take the napkin, struggling to quell the adrenaline surge. Elisabeth puts the napkin to her nose and tips her head back, her eyes teary as she lowers herself to sit cross-legged on the ground. "I blew out my fucking power on November eighth," she admits to him, muffled by the cloth. "It's taken weeks to regain minimal use of it, and then I thought I pretty much negated all progress Christmas Eve. Apparently not." She clenches her jaw.

For a long moment, Elisabeth is silent, and then she pries her blue eyes open to glare at him. "You don't trust me. That's goddamn rich, Warren. Considering who and what I am and what I've done for the past two years, I really ought to stand up and deck you for that. I have put my life on the line, risked losing everything including my life at every turn. I helped stop the Vanguard the night ConEd went down, I helped stop them from blowing every bridge INTO this city, I took a bullet in the head last year that obliterated a massive chunk of my brain and wiped out ten fucking years of my life that I survived by the grace of sheer dumb-ass luck and someone's healing ability in the nick of time, and then I still went out there and saved the fucking world from the Vanguard again, this time losing the man I loved to a fucking nuclear weapon. I have been through more shit in the last two years than you will ever see, and you don't know if you can trust me???"

Elisabeth is rigid and shaking with rage, the shards of glass in her brain right now keeping her from literally exploding into a sound-based fury.

"I told you, now I do, I trust you more than anyone right now, but I'm not like you, I don't know about any of these things. I've been thrown into all of this coming down off of being some psychopath I can't even remember being, with two entirely different pasts, both possibly being complete lies. I have zero idea who I am and only the slightest idea of what I've done and who I've done it to." Warren slides from the desk so he can crouch down and face her, looking more concerned than anything else. "You don't know what it's like, with every new person you meet, thinking this could be someone you may have hurt and you have no idea. I keep expecting a bullet in the head any day now, it's hard to know who to trust because I know that in the end, who I am now is just some sort of elaborate lie. Edward Ray may not even be my father, which just makes me some sort of… Company puppet, not even a real person."

"I don't know the answer to whether Edward's your father or not, but you listen to me well, Warren. Genetics are not the sum total of who a person is. They give you hair color, eye color, maybe your power, maybe a mental illness, and maybe a predisposition toward a certain kind of temperament. And God knows, your life must have pretty much sucked anyway, considering what kind of a monster you were. You are what you make of the life you've been given. You've done shitty things. And yeah, you should pay for them. But I also get that you're trying with this sanity that someone saw fit to bequeath you to do something right." Elisabeth shakes her head. "You are not in this fight alone, and it's time we all stopped acting like it. If in the end they've put something in your brain to turn you into a zombie, I promise I'll cut your goddamn head off and make sure the rest of you gets fed to the sharks, okay? But from here on in, no more of this. It's a far, far, far bigger game that you're playing and you don't even know it."

"I need a telepath to look my mind over, to make sure I'm not some sort of ticking time bomb. You have no idea how much it worries me that I could just… disappear and be some psychopath again. People don't see me, they see who I was, I can see it every time you look at me." Warren takes a breath, before ultimately sitting on the floor with her, crossing his legs. "It would be nice to share the burden of the world, I suppose."

"Fffft," Elisabeth retorts. "If that's all you wanted, I have one of those." She pulls the napkin from her face, doing her best to clean up the residue of her nosebleed so she doesn't gross him out. Her free hand comes up to rub at the side of her forehead, then she shoves her hair back. "Look…. here's the thing. We know who the head of the Institute is. And he's made a point of running around fucking with my people. There is a plan already in motion to start — we hope — putting a serious amount of public attention on some things." She pauses and bites her lip. "Let me ask you something. Do they trust you up at the Institute? Because everything you've said to me… makes me wonder what the hell they think you're actually doing. The head of the Institute is no fool. Just for the record, your little plan to build that telepathy machine thing? We've already got someone — I hope — who can possibly get to your father. If we can get her out of the coma she's in. We're not exactly amateurs at this. And I'm not going to shun your help in spite of the fact that I worry like hell that you are some kind of Institute plant."

"The problem is that I'm sure they don't quite trust me yet. They've been gradually giving me more and more trust, otherwise I doubt they'd have let me meet Steel and that crazy Llama robot. But they're obviously keeping me at arm's length, that's why I only have an independent contract and I'm not an official part of the Institute. They don't even let me into their facilities." Warren however, shakes his head at one part of that. "The issue with the machine is that, while me and my technopath have developed a way to actually perform my plan, I won't actually see the machine myself, everything I design for them gets shipped off in the form of a blueprint, and they build it off site. My only solution is to possibly build a device capable of specifically tracking that machine once it's been built, and you all finding a way to steal it."

Elisabeth shakes her head. "Too risky for now. And after taking the time to think through your logic for Edward's whole he would know what you would be doing and so he'd have planned for that too and blahblahblah," she says, waving a hand distractedly, "He is not all-seeing. He can predict the possibility of certain outcomes given a specific set of conditions and posit alternative outcomes based on the variables he knows about. We need to be variables that aren't accounted for in the timeline. I'd rather you do with that machine and any other they put in your path in the next few weeks what you already mentioned. Make it look damn good. They'll have to build every single one of them, which takes time and resources, before they realize it won't work. And by then… I think the rest of this will be in motion and we'll have a better thought on how to integrate everyone's skills into an all-out assault." She picks up the compass, which had fallen with her when she slid to the floor, and holds it up. "In the meantime…. do you have any idea who they're actually seeking? Because they're clearly looking for particular people — their rush to get this thing modified tells us that much."

"I have no idea who they're looking for, Steel was very vague about nearly everything. In fact, I'm willing to bet he knows about as much as me, considering he's the kind of guy who sends his giant robot on a small rampage and gets arrested." Warren lifts the improved compass, then taps the little blood vial under it. "I have no idea whose blood this is, it might be a clue. You should take it for now and see what you can find out." He holds it out, nodding.

Elisabeth reaches out and hands him the compass she's holding to take the one he's got. "I can try," she replies. "But it would require taking the blood to a DNA lab, getting a profile, and then running it through the databases. To be frank, all of that takes a lot of time. And it may be time we just don't have." She pauses and grins ruefully. "Even I have limits."

"Alternatively, we could just use the compass and see where it takes us." Warren suggests as if the obvious solution just came to him, then raises a hand and taps the side of his head. "I'm not quite as bright when I'm not using my ability." Then, he just snickers, looking down at the compass he's given. "Please, insert an inappropriate pass there, I haven't made Cardinal want to kill me enough yet."

Glancing up, Elisabeth rolls her eyes. "You're overestimating his response to such a pass," she observes mildly. She looks at the compass, intrigued at the notion of simply activating it. "I thought you said it only worked within 50 feet," she says.

"Without a blood sample." Warren corrects, and immediately points to the vial of blood attached under the compass. "He never told me the range with a sample, but it must be significant if he felt it was a large enough difference to actually use a sample." He sits his compass down, then holds his hands out with a playfully helpless shrug, still smiling. "One day you might melt at my rapier wit and patchwork personality appeal."

She gets that Look. The one that women give men who know they're talking out their ass cuz their mouths know better. Elisabeth simply shakes her head at him. "Have you studied this thing enough to know it won't alert them that you've activated it?" she asks. "I'm game for this so long as it's not going to bring the Horizon suits down on my head. Though I suspect he probably gave you the blood sample of someone entirely innocuous just as a test case."

Warren reaches for the compass again, quickly abandoning his line of flirtatious thinking as his eyes gloss over and reflect the image of said device in them again. "Give me a few hours, I'll let you know after some tests."

"Sure," Elisabeth replies. "Just…. for God's sake, Warren, don't go running about obliterating things. You have no idea what you're dealing with." She pauses. "And if you are ever faced with Horizon armor marked 00-00…. get the fuck out. The guy behind that armor has the power to swap Evo abilities or remove them altogether. So if he suspects you're fucking with him, he could just take your ability and shift it to someone more loyal."

"Well… there's a reason to suddenly not feel safe at all." Warren sighs, shaking his head as he looks back at the small headless robot body on his desk. "When exactly are we going to kill this 00-00 guy?"

That brings an expression to Elisabeth's face that is maybe harder to decipher. Pain, resolve, anger… a little of each passes through those blue eyes before they go ice cold. "As soon as any one of the snipers I know has a clear shot, they'll take it. He's not generally out without the armor, though."

"I really need to get my hands on that armor some time, it can't be that hard to disable. From what I've seen, the armor itself could be used to kill him if it were ever hijacked." Warren walks around to take a seat in his desk, starting to look over the compass. "You should go back down to the garage, the driver will take you where you want to go."

Elisabeth tilts her head and smiles faintly. "I could meet you in mine at some point, but you just can't keep it to study it. And of course, they can trace it every time it's activated, so…. " Her tone is sardonic. It's not going to be as easy as he'd like. "There are ways to disable it. If you cut the power, the hydraulic system goes. But it's easy to jettison if you need to. And the Institute's version of it is more advanced than mine, so they may have backup systems or something too."

"I really need to invent a gravity gun. But I'd love to take a look at your armor. It'll be enough to take a look with my ability and take notes." Warren doesn't look up at her, and his tone has been a bit more distant since he started working and turned his ability on again. He seems to be zoning out. "If all else fails, bring a bigger gun than their armor."

Moving to stand up from her position on the floor, Elisabeth shakes her head a little. "Armor-piercing tank rounds or something," she mutters. It might do the trick. Maybe. "Text me when you have something, okay? I'm going to have to play it VERY carefully for a while. The DoEA is investigating me after I my technopath got sucked into the goddamn drone. So discretion in meeting is definitely the better part of valor." She carries the hat and scarf with her. She'll wear them once more when she gets back to the building. "Talk to you later, Warren."

"Or a thermite rocket gatling gun." Warren adds, sinking down even more into his work as he simply offers a half-hearted nod. "I'll see you around, Elisabeth."

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