...Of A Copy


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Scene Title …Of a Copy
Synopsis In an urban séance, Richard Ray communes with the living and the dead.
Date April 8, 2021

The city is bathed in neon and smoke.

From the window of his Yamagato Lapis, Richard Ray views the streets through tinted glass. The neon-lit landscape of Yamagato Park is dulled behind that partition, but the significance of this night isn’t. In spite of the thick smoke choking the sky from the Ohio River Fire there are people out on the streets, enjoying the warmer—if wetter—weather.

The Grand Ryokan looks like a pillar candle in the distance. The well-lit exterior of this brick and wood hotel blooms in the smoke haze. The golden lights outside cast long, dark shadows, ones Richard feels reaching out toward him as his vehicle pulls up to the front doors on the roundabout. The hotel’s bellhop wears a respirator mask and opens the door with a muffled, “Welcome to the Grand Ryokan.”

As Richard slides out of the car, the metal tip of his cane clicks against the concrete underfoot. One gloved hand grips the wolf’s head at the top, thumb unconsciously sliding along the faint scar on the wolf’s brow.

Grand Ryokan Hotel
Yamagato Park

April 8th
7:12 pm

Far beyond the lobby, beyond the glass walls partitioning the communal indoor baths surrounded by lush trees and abundant foliage, there is a VIP lounge. Escorted by an employee of the hotel, Richard is led to the black lacquered double doors at the end of the hall where music pulses out from beyond. The gold-leaf trimmed windows remind Richard, ever so subtly, of the black doors gating off Hayate Kawahara’s office.

But Hayate Kawahara is not behind these doors.

The music rises in volume as Richard steps into the dimly lit lounge on the other side of the doors. The bar is untended and a man in a sleek black suit with his hands folded in front of himself carefully watches Richard enter. Two more men on the other side of the room sit at round tables, jackets unbuttoned, straps from underarm holsters visible. Their suits are kevlar weave with carbon nanofiber reinforcement. Cutting edge.

Past the tables there are four circular booth seats nested together like honeycombs. Richard sees who he’s waiting for seated at one of the red upholstered booths bathed in purple and blue neon light. She’s blonde, severe-looking, pale eyes and hair. Dressed in the same lethal corporate chic as her bodyguards. Her eyes have a predatory, steely quality. But at the same time, on seeing her, Richard can’t help but feel they’ve met somewhere before.

“Hold on there compadre,” Richard is drawn away from the blonde by a square-jawed slick-smiled man that interposes himself between them. He flashes Richard a predatory smile and makes an arms out gesture, prepared to pat Richard down for a gun or a knife.

Hunter.” The blonde at the table beckons. Hunter turns around, squaring a look at Cecilia. She rolls her eyes, unimpressed, and waves him off. Hunter gives Richard a look, then a once over up and down, and clicks his tongue before stalking off.

Cecilia Weiss motions for Richard to join her in the booth. She’s already ordered a drink for him: A glass of brandy.

As he's halted en route to the table for a security check, Richard just gives the man - Hunter -an amused look, a single eyebrow raising above the edge of the dark glasses that he wears. Once the attack dog is called off, he walks past the man with just the edge of a chuckle audible to the departing bodyguard.

He's brought none of his own. Confidence, foolishness, or somewhere between?

"Your bodyguards seem to be used to a rather different sort of meeting, Ms Weiss," he observes ever so casually, the smile never fading as he slides into the booth across from her, "Although maybe I'm just unfamiliar with German business etiquette these days."

The cane's lain neatly upon his lap, and his hands lift to rest in view upon the table, folding as neatly together as origami. "But regardless… what brings you to my side of the pond?" The drink remains untouched for the moment, his eyes on the woman across from him as if he could decipher her intentions through simply gazing upon her.

Or perhaps he's instead trying to figure out where he recognizes her from.

“Metsamaa, in Savimäe. Võru maakond, Estonia.” The old man beside Richard answers for him. “That’s where I first met Yvette.”


Kazimir Volken sits forward, looking at the glass of Brandy. “She knows I’m something of a teetotaller, as a matter of caution.” He says to Richard, looking from the glass to the conduit-bearer. “But every night after dinner, I would have her pour me a glass of Brandy. I’d breathe in the smell; sweet, aromatic. Remember what it tasted like.”

“When she was a young woman,” Kazimir continues, looking at Cecilia, “I’d let her have a sip. Brandy is a sweet drink, suitable for youngsters. As she got older,” he says, pantomiming passing the glass to her, “I’d give the whole thing to her at the end of our meal.”

Kazimir looks back to Richard, his hands folded in mirror on the tabletop. “The drink is a test. To see if you are me, or if you understand me. However you react will undoubtedly color your interactions.”

But Kazimir is not there, if he ever was. For as long as that moment of insight felt like it took, Cecilia Weiss does not react as though any time had passed.

“Mr. Hunter is actually from New York,” she says to Richard, watching him carefully. “He knows how dangerous this city is, but he’s being overly cautious. I don’t think I have anything to fear from you, do I?”

This close, Richard can tell her eyes are a soft shade of pink. She smells like lilac and cigar smoke. Nostalgic scents, and yet at the same time, not.

Ah. Richard’s gaze briefly flickers to the side to where the old man wasn’t, hidden by the dark lenses over his eyes, and then returns to the woman across from him to see her in an entirely new light. He’d never met her, but he knows of her, of course. He’d still been in prison when she was in New York the first time around.

“Well, I don’t know, Ms. Weiss…” He reaches out, curling his hand around the snifter glass of brandy and raising it up, inhaling the scent of the drink slowly. His eyes close as he savours the aroma, opening again as he eases the glass back down to the table, “…do you? And in turn, do I have anything to fear from you?”

Leaning back once more, both eyebrows lift a little into view, “Your… organization doesn’t have the best reputation here in America, after all, and your invitation came with little to explain the purpose of this meeting.” Leaving it open to interpretation as to which organization he’s speaking about.

Cecilia’s eyes follow the motion of the drink, lingering on the glass. “Ms. Weiss died of an opioid overdose in Paris in 2011. Her mother had been dead for a year. I had her father—a despicable worm of a man—killed in such a way to look like an accident, coroners were paid off.” She levels that pink-eyed stare at Richard. “I stepped into her life, and prevented the British government from getting their hands on cutting edge negation technology that was going to be deployed overseas. Here, during the war.”

Hunter is not far away while Cecilia talks, lingering on the periphery of the conversation and close enough to hear. Whatever his relation to her, she trusts him enough to know her secrets.

“That’s why the British deployed,” Cecilia says, looking down to the glass again, “why they agreed to aid the Resistance. They were going to deploy a sterilizing neurotoxin into Resistance camps and broker with the Mitchell administration. The biological weapons never arrived.” She blinks a look from glass to sunglasses. “They kept their mask on, and the war was soon over.”

Threading a lock of platinum blonde hair behind one ear, Cecilia says, “We needn’t do the same.”

As she speaks so frankly about her true entity, Richard brings one eyebrow high above the edge of dark glasses. “All the cards on the table so early, then? And here I was getting ready for a long game,” he murmurs, fingertips drumming lightly against the table’s surface.

“I appreciate your assistance during the war, then, and it seems we owe you a debt for it,” he admits, “But I have to ask— why? That sort of weapon is exactly what you would have wanted, a few years before.”

He leans forward slightly, voice pitched low and serious, “What changed your mind, Frau Volken?”

“Kazimir.” Cecilia says, knowing now by his answer it isn’t him. “He helped me escape from the George Washington before it disembarked for Antarctica,” she says quietly, regarding the glass of brandy on the table. “He imparted considerable insights to me, about… second chances.”

A memory hits Richard as if it were one of his own.

What are you doing?

"Fixing my mistakes…" Kazimir offers with a croak of his voice and a tightness in his throat. The darkly dressed man squeezes those thin, delicate fingers behind his gloves. The feeling of the pin-prickling tingle of his ability through that intermediary is so familiar to her, like a comforting scent of a mother's cooking or the sound of a father's voice; such as is the distortion of their family unit. "A great many things have happened in the last year, Yvette. My world has changed, and I have seen everything that I thought was built on a foundation of righteousness turned into something disgusting."

His fingers squeeze hers more tightly now, breathing out a shuddering exhalation of emotion so rare to find in his typically stony countenance. The syringe is offered through the bars like a dirty secret. "I'm cleaning up my mistake, and I'm setting you free…" swallowing dryly, Kazimir nods his head once, slowly.

"I can't— won't— allow you to die for my mistakes. I have taken so much from you, and given you so little in return. Take this," he urges the capped syringe closer, "take this and wait for Eileen." Eileen, not Munin. Eileen who turned on him, Eileen who helped kill him.

"She's going to help get you off of this ship," Kazimir's words are hushed in clandestine tones, "help get you away from these people, and away from danger. I— " he slows down, finally, all his haste fading away as breathing regulates. "I am not deserving of your love."

The young girl Richard sees in that memory, face covered by a scarf, wide-eyed, and frightened is not the woman sitting across the table from him today. Any more than the Kazimir Volken that released her is the man who rose from the dead over a hundred years ago.

"We are going to Antarctica," Kazimir murmurs in a hushed tone of voice, "Mikhail is there, and…" his words are carefully chosen, "I have to stop him."

He squeezes her hand again, and Kazimir's eyes downturn to the floor. Not for a moment does he ever let go of her hand, break that contact. But when he looks up, there is a sadness behind those blue eyes. "This will likely be the last time I see you. I… do not expect to survive my encounter with Wagner." His dark brows tense, creasing that scar across his brow. Gently, his gloved thumb strokes across the back of one of her knuckles, leaving that tingling sensation in its wake. "At least this time, I have the chance to say goodbye."

“I took what I was taught, and I imparted it on a man I trusted dearly, and that knowledge drove him mad.” Cecilia says with a look from the glass of brandy to Richard. “So I took my leave of the Vanguard’s survivors and decided to… for the first time, forge my own path.”

Her fingers tighten around the curve of the syringe as the drug begins to take effect, not hard enough to threaten its integrity but turning pale knuckles whiter nonetheless. Eyes nearly closed, the muscles of her frame going taut, Yvette carries the fire's weight almost in silence; the stifled hiss of breath escaping her throat carries not beyond the boundaries of her cell. But as Kazimir's fingers brush against hers, she unclenches her fist, relinquishing the needle to his grasp; she retains that awareness.

Also the capacity to hear and comprehend his words, even if their meaning remains a mystery. Yvette is too young, too sheltered, to carry as many regrets as the far older soul she calls father — to even quite understand what that means for him, for his choice of actions. She lifts her gaze to meet his, a film of water still covering her eyes; eyes that smile where lips cannot as her fingers squeeze his hand, the intangible caress of faithful love made more than a mere impression by power reawakening within the girl.

No, she signs, one-handed, unwilling to relinquish his hand now even for sake of the concrete words her ability cannot convey. Not goodbye.

“But I always had faith,” Cecilia goes on to say, voice low, “that one day he would return. Not as Charles Sharrow believed, but faith nonetheless. When Nathalie LeRoux appeared, I had thought perhaps… but I was mistaken.”

Blinking back that mirrored emotion, Kazimir looks down to his feet, teeth stilling his lower lip as his eyes are forced to avert from her countenance and the thoughts it brings. He breathes, loudly, and a gloved hand is raised to wipe with forefingers and thumbs at his eyes. With a noisy motion of his throat, Kazimir swallows back emotion to confront this as best as he can. He can't bring himself to crush that hope in her, to crush that fleeting presence of emotion that has bound them together for so long. A hand reaches through the bars, leather reaching to caress the side of her face, a face that Kazimir has come to never turn away from the way others do. His thumb strokes gently over her cheekbone, beneath one pink eye.

"Shakespeare had lines for this," Kazimir admits with a tightness in his voice, "on parting and sweet sorrows." The gloved hand falls away, his arm slithers back through the bars, and he forces himself to wall back the overflowing tide of conflicting emotions inside of him. "For once, even the Bard's words fail to convey everything I want to."

Stepping back from the bars, Kazimir leaves one hand lingering on a cross-bar support, blue eyes matched against pink ones, the creak of the ship's depths their background noise. "Then, not goodbye…" Kazimir reluctantly admits, words hitching in the back of his throat. "I will see you again," he utters with great difficulty, "in another life."

“You are not him.” Cecilia says with an aversion of her eyes into her lap, partly lidded by pale lashes. “No one is.”

She lets his hand go only reluctantly, but does bow to the inevitable; hard not to, when the bars pen her in. Yvette nods to him, eyes again glinting in the wan light but no tears falling from them. I don't want you to go, she admits, letting words frame the sentiment rather than the more delicate channel of emotion's plucked strings; the Leading to her power's Gleipnir, that difference holding it to an admission and not a plea. If the expression in her eyes mingles bittersweet sorrow and loving warmth, she shares none of the former with Kazimir.

“It was a child’s dream…”

I will be waiting, Father, Volken's daughter promises.

“…and I am no longer a child.” Cecilia says with quiet, heartbroken resolution.

There’s silence from Richard as she speaks - and as he remembers, as clearly and crisply as if he had been there that day. He supposes a part of him had been, now. After her words, there’s silence for another few moments, his fingers brushing the edge of the glass of brandy as he tries to decide how to phrase his thoughts.

“Yes,” he finally says softly, “He’s dead, and has no desire to change that, as he did so many times before. There is a… memory of him here, that speaks to me at times, but only that. I suppose one day there’ll be one of me speaking to someone else.”

He removes his hand from the glass, arms folding on the table’s edge as he leans forward just a bit, “I— understand that feeling. I spent most of my life convinced my mother was dead, and when I found out otherwise, I would have moved worlds to find her.”

And he did, in a way.

“I was there, in Antarctica. You’re right, in that he had… a change of heart,” he admits quietly, “I found a man I could respect, there in the end, against Wagner. I know a little of what it’s like to fight the monsters you created yourself.”

“I hope one day you never will.” Cecilia admits with her eyes focused on that glass. Whatever she feels for the memory of Kazimir that speaks to Richard is guarded behind those pale pink eyes.

“I came here to cooperate with you, Mister Ray.” Cecilia says, returning to the matter of business. “Because you and I have a common enemy in this moment, and a common fear.” Glancing at Hunter, Cecilia motions him over to the table. Hunter complies, taking out a small manilla folder from his blazer’s inside pocket. From within, Hunter produces photographs of brutally murdered people in backdrops that are either Japan or Yamagato Park, judging from the signage, clothing, and ethnicity of the victims.

“Hayate Kawahara is a dangerous man.” Cecilia says. “But you may not realize how dangerous.”

The final picture removed from the envelope is shot with a telephoto lens with blurry foliage in the foreground. A covert photograph of Hayate standing on the deck of a villa, shaking hands with an elderly caucasian man with chalk white hair dressed in dark colors.

“This,” Cecilia says, pointing to the stranger in the photograph, “is Charles Sharrow.” A man she mentioned in passing earlier. “He is the head of an organization called the Sentinel. Those who walk in the shadow of the Vanguard and carry the torch of Kazimir Volken’s legacy.”

Beside Richard, Kazimir sits forward as if to look more closely at the photograph. “Charles was a boy when I met him. Fifteen years old. He was my assistant when I worked in the Schutzstaffel.”

The SS.

“Charles didn’t agree with Nazi Party ideology. Like myself he was painfully indifferent to the atrocities committed under our eye.” Kazimir lifts a weathered hand to rub across his mouth and chin. “He was one of the first members of what would become the Vanguard, my personal aide-de-camp, and later my money-handler. Sharrow commanded our finances,” Kazimir explains, looking over to Richard. “But he had a more important role as well.”

“Should the Vanguard have succeeded at flooding the world, Sharrow would have led the final extermination of the Evolved, even those loyal to the Vanguard. The Vanguard’s final purpose would have been served, and Sharrow would have taken over the organization born from its ashes, the Sentinel. Their role was to ensure the Evolved never rose again, and would keep them down if they did.” It is with a cold, even detachment that Kazimir discusses the intricacies of his own personal genocidal agenda.

It is only after a moment that he pauses, removes his glasses and massages the bridge of his nose. In this momentary silence, he seems to be centering himself.

“I’m not sure what became of Charles after I died. But I imagine Yvette might.” Kazimir says, before fading into the background like so much ambient noise.

As the photographs are produced, Richard lifts a single eyebrow at the death presented upon them. Nothing he hasn’t seen before, although it’s never pleasant. The last photograph, however, thins his lips into a tight line as he reaches out to take it.

He’s silent as he listens - both to the woman and the memory of her adoptive father - before setting the photograph down and draws in a slow breath, eyes closing.

“There was someone named Sharrow recently reported near Providence, this… things are falling into place, and I don’t like the picture that they’re forming. Not one bit,” he murmurs, the edge of his thumb brushing the photo, “I thought he was just a capitalist but this— this…”

He trails off, looking up to the woman across from him, “This isn’t what the Sentinel was supposed to be, Yvette. What happened to Sharrow after Antarctica? What’s his agenda now?”

I happened,” Cecilia says with only the slightest flinch at the name Yvette. “When I was freed from the George Washington, I returned to Turkey where Sharrow and his cell were in metaphorical hibernation. I was… angry, grief-stricken.” She looks down to the table, eyes unfocused and distant.

“I told him what Kazimir told me, about being wrong. Sharrow didn’t believe me, so he had his pet psychometrist Michael Lowell read me. When he saw that I was telling the truth, it broke Sharrow’s world-view. For months he was… I don’t know. Ruined.”

The name Michael Lowell bounces around in the back of Richard’s mind. A man who had been hunting Sibyl, a man Avi killed in cold blood, which set into motion Avi’s imprisonment at Liberty Island, his escape back to Wolfhound, the entire journey to the Dead Zone. Suddenly, Richard can see the strings clearer than he ever has.

Cecilia looks up to Richard. “Lowell was a mole within the US Government, CIA. He would feed us intelligence in dead drops. We learned of what you did in Antarctica, and we also learned that Volken lived on in Francois Allegre. Sharrow changed, he became…” Cecilia waves a hand in the air, “zealous.

With a sigh, Cecilia folds her hands in front of herself. “Sharrow believes that Volken was a messenger of the divine, that people like you and I are pieces of the divine. That we were meant to rule and that the mundanity of humanity is the past and that we are…” she rolls her eyes, “Children of the Eclipse.

Hunter snorts out a laugh nearby. “I think I saw that movie in the 80s.”

Cecilia doesn’t dignify that with a response.

“Sharrow sent his two children to gather information and follow Allegre.” Cecilia says, taking out two more photographs from the folder. When she turns them around, Richard’s heart sinks into the pit of his stomach.

“Gregory and Sofia Sharrow.”

A psychiatrist to Wolfhound, member of the Safe Zone Cooperative, and Ingrid Ryans’ wife.

“When Francois and Flint Deckard destroyed Volken’s ability with the aid of Teodoro Laudani, Sharrow fell into depression.” Cecilia explains, leaving the photos out to haunt Richard. “But eventually we came to learn from our spies that it may have survived, points of evidence gathering together. Deaths popping up during the war, men reduced to blackened ashes. Institute scientists murdered in their homes reduced to dust and bones…”

Cecilia looks up at Richard. “Sharrow was obsessed. It was Volken’s second coming.”

“Let me see if I can fill in what happened next,” says Richard quietly, his dark eyes looking up from the photographs before him over the edge of his shades, his fingers lingering on the edges of photos that he’d shifted about in examination.

There had long been gaps in his map of events, missing strings, missing connections, and now they were being filled in.

He didn’t much like the picture that the puzzle was forming.

“The obsessed bastard spent months, years hunting for her before finally finding her… and realizing she’s not what he was looking for. Of course, when did that ever dissuade a fanatic?” Words quiet, dry, tight as a cord around his neck, “If he was already calling us the Children of the Eclipse then they’d probably gotten their claws into him before he ever found her, with their own messiah and their own promises and prophecies..”


Cecilia raises one brow, then looks down to the table. “Close.”

“Sharrow never found Nathalie.” Her pale brows furrow together. “I did.

But then, Richard remembers.

"He's not coming," Nathalie says, every word forced out. Because of the pain or for emphasis, it's hard to say. But, her hand moves to cover the stranger's, pressing it against her harder. At the same moment, her eyes open— once brown, but now bright blue— and her mouth twists into a snarl.

"It isn't yours," she says, her ability reaching out to the stranger.

"It isn't his." But not to harm. Instead, she starts to knit her back together, bit by bit.

"It's mine."

“She wasn’t what I expected to find,” Cecilia says with a slow shake of her head.

Yvette’s hands move, then stop in mid-gesture. "You hold them both," she says aloud instead; even with the absent affect of artificial voice, it's not a question.

As soon as Yvette pulls away, the healing cuts off. Nathalie lets out a shaky breath as the woman's influence leaves her in turn. But a moment later, she draws herself up, straightening shoulders and meeting that gaze steadily. She's been in hiding so long, both her name and her power, she has to fight the kneejerk reaction to lie. Because it's pointless to do so now.

"And I've been holding them all back," she says, hands running back through her hair in a way that looks more like clutching her head, "for years.” Her hands move to help her pull herself back up to her feet, where they dust off grass and dirt from her skin.

"If you're trying to draw Volken out, you're gonna have to do more than just pain. And you need to understand that he's not the only one in here. He may have held it the longest, but it existed before him. It isn't him. I am not him." Planting her hands on her hips, she levels a flat look over at Yvette.

"I think you should go."

“She was far less pleased to see me,” Cecilia adds with a hint of regret in her voice.

"It may please you to know Njord has found his messiah in another," Yvette says; distance and angle and proxy speaker all conspire to mask any nuance, any emotional subtlety or underlying second meaning, that those words might otherwise hold. "He will not follow your trail to its end. At least for now."

“Sharrow sought Eileen Ruskin, the inheritor of Kazimir’s legacy,” Cecilia explains, “which is why he went to Providence. Sharrow offered himself as an advisor to her, thought that whatever she was building there was a future that would last, was the… I don’t know, divine wisdom he was hoping to find.”

Cecilia shrugs, helplessly. “Something happened in Providence, something terrible. I heard second-hand that there was an altercation of some kind, that Sharrow was gravely injured. He was… attacked, gravely wounded. I don’t know if he’s even alive anymore, especially with the fire.”

Sighing, Cecilia shakes away any sense of attachment and looks to Richard. “I parted ways with Sharrow before this obsession took its deepest root, devoted myself to this.” She gestures around herself. “A plan I had been working on for myself for some time. Now, however, I have the resources to leverage against our enemies.”


“Tell me, Richard. What do you know of Mazdak?” Cecilia asks, one brow raised.

As she speaks, Richard’s eyes slide closed behind the tinted lenses; hearing her voice in this time and another at the same time. “I… remember,” he murmurs, his tone almost uncertain, “She wasn’t in the mood to listen. She was still afraid of it, and I don’t blame her.”

He opens his eyes, drawing in a breath and exhaling it just as slowly, “Sorry. I’m still— “ He waves it off, fingers fluttering dismissively through the air. Some things take time to get used to.

Some, you never do.

“I know that they’re more than just some bunch of terrorists working in the Middle East,” he says, pulling his thoughts to the here, the now, and the woman across from him, “They work through their subsidiary organizations, their Dinu, outside of their realm of influence. They— if they don’t worship, they at least hold in semi-religious reverence, the entity they believe imparted abilities to the Evolved.”

He grimaces, “An entity that right now is probably leading them directly.”

“I’m familiar,” is something Cecilia says that Richard couldn’t have expected.

“After the incident in Detroit, I started doing some research of my own. I’d apparently had some corners of truth right under my nose and didn’t realize it, but that’s a separate and longer conversation.” Cecilia says with a soft sigh. “From what I’ve been able to learn, Mazdak is run by a cabal of prophets, SLC-Expressive seers who orchestrate their objectives on a plan called the Skein.”

Cecilia folds her hands, leaning forward as she maintains a steady eye contact. “But this brings us to why I reached out to you, Mr. Ray.” Cecilia pulls the final photograph out from the folder and lays it face-up in front of Richard. It’s a file photo from the Institute’s security camera footage, of a medical bay somewhere inside the Ark.

It’s of a man on a table, breathing tubes down his throat, with Kaylee standing over him with a hand on his head. A timestamp on the photo reads: 11/08/11

“He didn’t die in the arcology, Richard.”

His blood turns to ice.

“Edward Ray is alive.”

The edges of Richard’s fingers brush against the edge of the photograph, seeing his sister there, seeing the man on the table. The date. The fall of the Ark, and the beginning of the end for what the United States once was.

His eyes flicker up to the woman across from him, his voice quiet and very purposefully even.

“This is the day he should have died. What proof do you have that he’s alive?”

“Nothing as sure as seeing him with my own eyes,” Cecilia says with a shake of her head. “But the remainder of that footage shows your sister departing the room, and not long after black-clad mercenaries I was able to tie to Adam Monroe come in and retrieve him. They were waiting.”

Cecilia exhales a sigh and shakes her head. “All of the men that took Edward are dead now, as far as I’ve been able to determine victims of Mazdak’s Gemini experiments. Rumors I’ve been able to pluck from the Middle-East suggest that there was a handoff, that Edward was alive at least up until 2013.”

“But I’ve seen reconnaissance photographs from 2016 indicating Mazdak moved an ACTS unit from their former base of operations in Baghdad to a location somewhere in the south. Every resource I have at my disposal suggests it may contain Mr. Ray. A man seen with the transport was identified as Ra’id Abdul-Jalil Sabbagh, a precognitive and one of Mazdak’s surviving founders.”

“God damn it.”

Richard draws in a slow breath, eyes closing, and then exhales it just as slowly. “No wonder they always seem like they’re one step ahead… they have both their intelligence network and precognitives feeding him information, probably using a telepath or— “

His eyes open, gaze flickering over to the photograph of Hayate, “A fucking SEER unit to extract the results.”

A finger taps against the table a few times anxiously, and then he looks back to the woman across the table, “You said that you have some sort of plan?”

“Of sorts,” Cecilia clarifies.

“Mazdak is in the midst of an internal crisis, from what I’ve been able to ascertain. There are fractures forming in their belief structure between the die-hards and those who are more liberal-minded with regards to the organization’s future.” Cecilia closes the folder she’d had open, handing it over to Hunter who takes it and tucks it under his arm.

“To the best of my knowledge, there were two Mazdak-aligned operatives working in Renautas Corp under Yamagato’s noses,” Cecilia explains, carefully watching Richard’s reaction as she does. “One: Claudius Kellar, a data scientist and owner of a corporate consulting company formerly based out of Texas, now based out of Shanghai. Kellar had been spotted with Adam Monroe on multiple occasions, up until the raid on Praxia that he conveniently escaped.”

“The second,” Cecilia continues, “is the former CTO of Renautas Industries, a telepath named Lucien Crane. Both disappeared from the Toronto headquarters in February shortly before a mercenary attack by Wolfhound financed by Yamagato Industries.”

Cecilia folds her hands, wringing them together. “Kellar and Crane were both working on SEER-related technology, particularly something called Structure which we believe was designed by the late Richard Schwenkman, a former compatriot of your biological mother back in the 1980s.” Based on the way Cecilia said that, it doesn’t sound like she knows Chel is alive, and here.

“I should’ve had Schwenkman killed a long time ago,” Richard mutters under his breath at the mention of Structure, his lips pursing as if he’d tasted something sour, “Before he had any chance to start working on that damn thing…”

“They had kidnapped and replaced a member of Yamagato Industries named Kaydence Lee Damaris, head of Yamagato’s secret intelligence,” Cecilia goes on to explain. “I don’t know how badly Yamagato was compromised while Ms. Damaris was replaced, but I believe it was handled by a shapeshifter mercenary. If she isn’t dead, she’s probably in Yamagato’s hands now.”

“But what has me questioning things is data I found in a recovery of deleted files on Crane’s personal server. Correspondence about a project called Galatea with a dummy email. We weren’t able to determine where the email came from, and my tech analysts believe it may have been directly corresponded by a technopath.” Cecilia says with a sigh and a shake of her head. “Apparently Mazdak is somehow bankrolling whatever this project Galatea is, and it somehow involves Structure-like technology and neural implants. Beyond this, I don’t have any further details.”

Spreading her hands, Cecilia shrugs. “My plan involves taking advantage of Mazdak’s disarray. Kellar and Crane’s hasty departure from the Toronto office, where they were keeping a wanted fugitive by the name of Erica Kravid on the research team leads me to believe we were able to cut whatever they were planning short. I intend to take advantage of that and try and gain further intelligence on Mazdak’s operations in the Middle East…”

“…and then I’m going to find their god, and kill it.”

It sounds like she skipped a few steps there.

A sudden, startled bark of laughter answers those words - not mocking, or dismissive, but surprised and amused all at once, Richard’s lips curving in a broad grin. “You sound like me, there. Shit. I didn’t really know what to expect coming to this meeting, and I really didn’t know what to expect once I realized who you were…”

He leans an arm on the table again, eyebrows going up as he looks at her and admits, “…but I definitely didn’t expect to like you.”

The smile fades swiftly though, and he’s soon shaking his head, “Galatea. I’m pretty sure I know what that’s about, and now I’m even more— pissed at these bastards than before. I’m starting to put some more pieces together there. I can even tell you who the technopath was, with about seventy percent certainty…”

“…but how, may I ask,” he inquires, a single brow lifting, “Do you plan to kill their god? I mean, we have some plans, but now I’m curious what yours is?”

“I’d be very interested in that information,” Cecilia says of the technopath’s identity.

“As for my plan…” she seems less inclined to speak to it. “I’m hesitant to share the full details, what with the vulnerability of meat,” she says with two fingers tapping at her right temple. “But there is a reason that my business has been developing non-chemical negation technology, Mr. Ray. My father,” she leaves Kazimir’s name out of her mouth, “was not entirely unlike this Entity, from the sounds of it. There was an Achilles heel to his immortality, and I’ve no doubt it is shared with this false god.”

There’s a buzzing sound that comes from nearby, and Hunter reaches inside his jacket to produce a cell phone. Not a Yamagato model, something foreign. “Ms. Weiss, you have a call.” He says with a look to Cecilia. “It’s Minister Nowell.”

Cecilia rolls her eyes, then offers an apologetic look to Richard. “I need to take this, I’ll be just a moment.” She slides out of the booth, taking the cell phone from Hunter as she does, and moves to the other side of the room to have her conversation, pacing as she does and talking in hushed tones.

Hunter, in Cecilia’s absence, leans forward and folds his arms on the table while giving Richard a pointed look. “You grow up around here?” He asks out of curiosity.

At the mention of the Minister’s name, Richard lifts a brow, but doesn’t comment. “Of course,” he allows; he’s no stranger to important business calls, however annoying it may be that it interrupted the conversation.

His gaze returns to Hunter, and the question brings a chuckle. “In the City? Yeah. Mostly over in Manhattan, though, and the real estate market there’s gone to hell. You? She seems to trust you pretty deeply; were you with the old man?” There’s no need to speak his name, really. Everyone here knows who’s being referred to.

Hunter laughs and shakes his head. “Nah, more of a free agent. I grew up here in New York, too. You might’ve known my sister, actually. She hung around with, you know, party people.” He pumps his brows. “Her name was Wendy. Wendy Hunter.” He looks away, straightening up. “City chewed her up and spit her out, though at the rate she was going I figure it was a race on who was gonna kill her first.”

Hunter looks over to Cecilia, watching her on the phone. “You’ve got a pretty big reputation,” he says quietly to Richard. “Ms. Weiss only knew the half of it but…” he blinks a look back to Richard, “I filled her in on the rest. Least what you hear when you keep your ear to the ground as long as I have. I think that’s why she agreed to take the meeting.”

Wendy?” Richard’s eyes widen as the girl’s named, and he lets out a brief chuff of bitter laughter, “Christ, I haven’t thought about Wendy in… years.” He looks down at the untouched glass in front of him, thumb brushing over the edge of it, old guilt stirring, “She deserved better than what happened to her. I tried to warn her, but— well. She was your sister. You know how she was, I’m sure.”

He looks back up, considering the man a moment before he nods, “I appreciate it. I think… we definitely needed to meet. And… I think we can help each other. The shit she’s wading in, it’s the same shit I’m waist deep in, and it’s not somewhere to wade alone. We all gotta stand together if we’re gonna survive what’s coming.”

“That’s the thing about shit,” Hunter says with a flick of his eyebrows up as he leans against the table, “one day—right about when it’s chin high…” To emphasize his point, Hunter taps the back of his hand under his chin, “when you’re gasping for breath and about to drown in it, you get this moment of clarity right before you slip under and you realize…”

Hunter takes a step back from the table and spreads his arms. “All that shit came from the same place.”

Somewhere along the way, Cecilia abruptly ended her call, sidling past Hunter mid-gesture. She offers him a sidelong look, then slides back into the booth and looks at Richard with an assessing stare. “My apologies for that, there are some things that can’t wait.”

Folding her hands in front of herself, Cecilia takes charge of the conversation again. “I’m only going to be in a city a couple more weeks before I return to Germany. The lower profile I keep while I’m in the States the less likely I’m going to have to answer uncomfortable questions in a windowless room to men in suits.” She says with a feigned smile that has a somewhat uncanny-valley quality to it.

“I won’t be leaving the Park, for my own safety.” Cecilia adds. “But with that in mind, what can we do to help one-another?”

“You’re not wrong,” Richard replies with the faintest of smiles to Hunter’s words, his head tipping in a nod of agreement with the other man’s conclusion.

His gaze and attention sweep back towards Cecilia as she returns, and he leans back forward, hands clasping together. “Well, if you do end up in a windowless room, do try and give me a call. I have some pull with the men in suits, although less than I’d like,” he says, only half-joking.

“Well. Anything more you find out about Galatea and Mazdak’s operations in general would be useful, and if you can narrow down a location for Edward that’d be invaluable; as for how I can help you? The technopath you’re looking for is probably Colin Verse, aka V.Iris, who has a tendency of falling into the worst hands possible over and over again— if you can find him, you can find whoever’s doing this. And…”

A pause, “I can tell you how to get around a precognitive and predictive web. It’s not easy, but Edward told me part of it, a very long time ago, and I learned the rest from watching Monroe.”

Cecilia raises one brow slowly, then settles back against the plush cushions on the bench seat. She briefly flicks a look over in Hunter’s direction, and he gives her a subtle thumbs up and takes out a small handheld mobile device—somewhere between a phone and a tablet—and starts keying in the data Richard just laid out: names, requests, and the like.

“I’ll see what I can find about Verse,” Cecilia says, then takes the empty glass of brandy for herself and downs it in a single swallow. “Now,” she continues, setting the glass down and locking eyes with Richard.

“…tell me the secret to defeat prophecy.”

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