P l e a s e H e l p


nathalie_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title P l e a s e H e l p
Synopsis Richard receives a surprise visit from a slightly nerve wracked cousin.
Date June 14, 2019

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office: Richard's Office

Normally the idea of Praxis getting taken down a peg wouldn't bother Nathalie at all. It might even be a touch satisfying. But not this time. Since the list of projects was cracked and since the hacker has proven willing to publish details about those projects, she's been more than a little on edge.

OBELISK is on that list.

Which is what brings her to Richard's office. She's been led in to wait, and she does so curled up in her chair with her knees to her chest. Like if she hid well enough, this would go away on its own.

Historically that hasn't proven to be true, not in the long run.

At first, she was told that Richard wasn’t available, although when he was called to see when he would be, he immediately became available. It may be that family has its privileges.

It takes a little while before he shows up, leaving her in the office alone for a half hour before the door opens and Richard steps in, and the reason for his absence becomes more noticeable. He’s dressed down, a pair of black slacks and a buttoned shirt, a cane held in hand as he walks carefully inside. He looks like hell, every inch of skin visible reddened and with unpleasant blistering.

“Sorry for making you wait,” he rasps out as he walks towards the desk carefully, “Don’t worry, it looks worse than it is, just… widespread second degree burns. Hurts like a motherfucker, though.”

Nathalie gets to her feet the moment she sees him. And feels everything wrong. "Don't worry about it," she says, although distractedly. "Damn. What happened to you? You should have called me." Because family has its privileges from her as well. She comes toward him, to offer support first, but she looks up at him after a beat. "Let me take care of it," she says, although it is more of a question than a demand. So far anyway. She isn't sure how far her willingness to let people decide if they get healed or not will go in this case.

It could be seen as a silver lining, though, that his condition gives her something else to think about. Instead of obsessing over her own problem.

“I can’t go calling you every time I get hurt, Nat,” Richard replies with a grimace as he stops near her when she approaches, “I’ve known enough healers to know— you all deserve better than to just be healing batteries from a video game.” There’s a beat, and then he admits a bit sheepishly, “Not going to say no, though. This is really uncomfortable.”

A breath’s slowly drawn in, exhaled, “I got— well, I was jumped by fucking Mazdak operatives in the middle of the Safe Zone, if you can believe that. They dropped a flashbang.”

"Well don't come to me for a papercut, but this qualifies as an okay time to call me. I appreciate the thought, though." And she does. It is one of Nat's biggest fears, when people find out and decide it's her job to take care of everything. She moves her hand to his, gently since she doesn't want to hurt him any more than he already is, and he can feel himself healing up even as they stand there.

"Hell of a flashbang," she says, blue eyes peeking up at him under a lifted eyebrow.

“Oh, right…” A rueful smile, lips tugging up at one corner stretching burnt skin, “You don’t know yet.”

His hand closes against hers gently, and he breathes out a sigh, eyes closing as he feels that rush of healing. It’s been a long time, but it’s a sensation that’s impossible to forget. How many times did Abigail, did Deckard save him? He can’t even count the number, can’t remember.

“When… Uluru, or Awonawilona, or the Dragon, Entity, whatever you want to call it,” he murmurs, “When it tried to tear its way through in New Mexico, the red lightning was leaping everywhere. It was burning the unevolved to ash. A branch struck me, and— well. I guess it restored what I’d lost.”

It doesn't take long, the healing. A few minutes and he's as good as new. She gives his hand a squeeze before she lets go.

She might have thoughts about retaking her seat, but his news stops her from doing that, too. "I hadn't heard that," she says, blinking away her surprise. A smile follows, though. "Congratulations; that was a stroke of luck." Considering what it could have done instead. "And the flashbang makes a lot more sense. Did they know or did they just get lucky?" She still isn't entirely sure of her place in this mess with the entity, but she isn't against the idea that it might accidentally give them a few good things. Whatever its actual goal might be.

She ends up back at her chair eventually, but instead of sitting, she braces her hands against the back. "It shouldn't surprise me that Mazdak is making moves here, too."

Blisters shrink and disappear, skin red and glistening from burning fading to the paler pink of health, and he sighs again in relief, hand dropping free of hers. “Thank you,” Richard murmurs in honest gratefulness, flashing her a smile before walking towards the desk with considerably more ease, “And it was just luck, they were trying to kill— anyone in the building. I wasn’t their target, but unfortunately I’ve lost track of him. Martin Pines, codename Melchior…”

He drops down to sit in his seat, leaning back with a slow stretch and appreciating the lack of pain, “Mmf. Why the fuck is Mazdak in the Safe Zone?”

"You're welcome," Nathalie says, her smile warm for a few moments. Only a few, because the more he explains, the more puzzled she looks. Mazdak isn't her area of expertise, although it might have to end up that way. "The radio guy?" She vaguely remembers an article in the paper about him, but the details have slipped away over the past year or so. "He's Mazdak? Or he's who they're after? Either way… what?"

Her only answer for his question is a shake of her head. Because she doesn't know. "We'd better find out. With them here, Vanguard in the Pine Barrens and Adam, like, everywhere, we have a lot of work ahead of us."

“You forgot Adam’s Triad buddies over in Staten, the Ghost Shadows,” Richard adds in rueful tones, “And… yeah, the radio guy is who they were after. If you people get wind of him, please, do what you can to rescue him and let me know immediately.”

A slow breath, and he breathes out, flashing a smile as he leans forward, “Fuck, I feel so much better. Thank you. So what brings you by, before I distract you with all the ten thousand things on my mind?”

"How could I forget," Nat says at the mention of the triad, her hand sweeping as if to take in the whole Safe Zone. "If we find him, we'll help him. And call you."

She sighs heavily when he brings them back around to her reason for being here at all. She was much more comfortable talking about all the other problems, which probably says a lot about her. "I'm… freaking out," she says, although her tone is distinctly calm and matter of fact. "This Praxis hack, they put out one of the projects today. And my project is on that list. The one they did on me— Obelisk, that's me. It's all about to come out and I don't know what to do. If I should get ahead of it or if I should go into hiding again or— I don't know." That's when she sits, dropping in a heap in the chair. "I shouldn't have joined Wolfhound. I'm about to destroy the organization's credibility." Of course, years ago, she didn't think there was a chance of any of this coming out.

At the revelation that Project Obelisk was her, Richard’s eyes widen in surprise… and then he exhales a sigh at her reactions, one hand coming up to rub at his eyes as his other holds out palm forward. “Alright, first of all chill the fuck out— why does everyone always go straight to ‘everything is ruined forever’ in your side of the family? Yes, I’m casting shade on Epsteins, deal with it.”

“First of all, the fact that mad scientists experimented on you is not exactly a hit to Wolfhound’s credibility,” he observes more dryly, hands dropping to the desk, “You were a victim, Nat, not a volunteer. Secondly, if we can get in contact with this technopath we may be able to convince him to redact your name from it.”

"Because everything is ruined forever, Richard." Nathalie spreads her hands, as if this is a given. "Obviously."

It's an attempt at a joke, although perhaps she believes it a little too much to make it work. "I can't promise I'll chill out," she says, running a hand through her hair, "but I can try." Chances are not good, really. "It isn't just that I was an experiment. It's why I was. There are details about the Conduits, about the fact that I have both of them. There are pictures—" She stops there, her head tilting as her eyes squeeze shut. She can't erase those pictures from her mind, or the memories they stirred up with them. All hers, for once. "Even if my name isn't on it, they'll know someone is out there with both the Conduits."

It's the latter part that actually seems to make her come around to the idea that maybe everything isn't ruined forever, though. "Do you think we might be able to convince them to just let go of that one? Like, I'm all for sticking it to Praxis, but they aren't the only ones who are involved in these projects." And for the unwilling participants, it's salt in the wound, really.

“Hopefully,” Richard grimaces, spreading his hands out, “They’ve gotten the attention of the right people now, continuing the public revelations isn’t going to do any good, especially if the public start to realize the implications of some of the things in there… I mean, fuck, technically revealing Tarterus on that scale could theoretically doom the world.”

Fun, optimistic ideas!

“I’m trying to make contact now. Hana’d have better luck, though— I’m actually surprised she hasn’t,” he admits, brow knitting, “Have you talked to her about this?”.

"Hana is… on… hiatus," Nathalie says, in the sort of careful tone that lets him know this is just an official answer. "I haven't heard from her in months. I don't know if Avi or Francois have actually been able to get in contact with her, but it's been a while. But officially, she's taking a break." Until the Hounds hear otherwise, likely. "But she would probably have this handled if she was around."

She isn't. So.

"If you can manage it, I'd appreciate it. I'm sure the other Hounds would too." Mostly because she has no chill at the moment.

“Hana is…” Richard trails off, staring at her, “Hana’s gone AWOL? Jesus Christ, no wonder you’re saying hiatus, with her power…” He covers his face in both hands, leaning back in his chair, “Nnngh, okay. Okay. Hana’s missing, ON1 is back in Asia somewhere, probably rendezvousing with… anyway. I’ll get D.Crypt on trying to make contact with the hacker, and I’ll see if maybe I can coax Malice out of hiding, I haven’t seen that sonuvabitch in a decade but he owes me big time. Whatever body he’s hiding in, I don’t bet anyone’s managed to squash that particular digital cockroach. God knows where our timeline’s Reed is— “ He breaks off, hands dropping as he chuckles, “Sorry. Sorry, thinking out loud. Now you know what it sounds like being in my head.”

“I’ll do what I can,” he promises, “I’m already trying, but knowing that Obelisk is about you…”

A shake of his head, “Well, I’ll just have to succeed.”

Nathalie spreads her hands in a helpless gesture. Whatever's going on with Hana, she's not privy to the details. "I'm hoping there's a mission the rest of us just aren't allowed to know about." And hoping that it's a good mission. Because who knows.

When he trails off into voicing his inner monologue, she can't help a hint of a smile. "Believe me, I am the last person who would criticize what the inside of someone's head sounds like. Mine's a mess." She lets out a sigh, perhaps a bit comforted by his promise, even if it's hard to shake her nerves around the subject. "Thank you. It means a lot that you'll help. If it doesn't— if we don't succeed— well, just be sure that I'll be grateful for the help, however it works out." Clearly, contingencies will be running through her head, possibly forever. She can't help it.

Of course she can’t. It’s a family trait, after all.

Richard’s brow knits a little at a thought triggered by something she says, and he watches her in silence for a moment before asking quietly, “How is that going? All…” A vague motion of his hand at his head, “…that. Have you managed to make contact with Rouen at all, is Kazimir giving you any issues…?”

‘Issues’. As if he would go play protector by beating up a deceased memory imprint bullying his cousin.

"Kazimir has been quiet," Nathalie says, giving him a gentle nod, "I see his memories sometimes, but he's been dormant." That's the best way she can explain it. The difference between his memories and him. "I did get to talk to Rouen. Between her, Francois, and Gabriel… I think I have a few things figured out as far as how to keep things under control." And she seems confident enough about that, but only time will tell. She's more aware of that than most.

"There was a man in her time, Rouen's. A priest named Antoine Boulle. He had the White. She said he was the monster. I think I need to do some research on him." She hasn't yet, mostly because he makes her more than a little nervous. "She told me that opening myself up that way could let anyone in, so I think I need to do it the old fashioned way. But. I'm curious if I can find out which of them all Adam had contact with. More than just Kazimir, I know that. If I can figure out whose memories I need to reach for, maybe I can find something out. It might be worth the risk."

“I’m not surprised. One of the most heartless men I’ve ever known was a healer…” Richard gives his head a slight shake, “It’s the sort of ability that one can easily get the whole ‘I decide who lives and dies’ complex over. So I can see this Boulle guy getting like that, especially given how the church was back then…”

He pauses, “Be careful, though. We know that they’re connected to the Entity in some way, you don’t want to accidentally… make contact with it.”

"Yeah, that's what I said, too," Nathalie says. "It's a weird thing to try to balance. I've been told that it's up to me to heal everyone and that's just— it's a lot. But then the question becomes how do I decide who to heal and who not to? And why is it up to me at all?" Of course, she knows that it is up to her, if only because it landed in her lap. "The other one is weirdly easier to know when to use it and when not to," she adds, dryly.

At the mention of the Entity, for a few moments she can only nod. She doesn't particularly want to make contact with it, but part of her feels like some sort of confrontation is inevitable. Still. Something to be avoided if she can. "I'll be as careful as I can be."

“Given our family history I’m not going to say ‘don't run off to be a martyr’ because we tend to do that,” Richard says, tongue only partly in cheek, “But please let us know first we so we can provide fire support or help you plan whatever you intend to do before you do it.”

He knows the Cardinals and Epsteins both well enough to know what they’re like.

Then there’s silence for a moment, and he starts to say something— grimaces, as if he’s about to not go down that path— and then he shakes his head. “I— ah, this is awkward but— do you mind talking about something more personal? I…” He leans forward, arms folding on the desk, “I don’t really have anyone to talk to about it, I don’t want to worry Liz— and you’d be one of the few that understands, I think.”

"I'll keep everyone in the loop before I do something outlandish. At the very least, so we don't mess up each other's plans." And Nathalie knows, if things go wrong on her end, she'll need people prepared to stop her. But she doesn't feel the need to voice that. Everyone who knows knows that's a danger.

There's no promising that she won't put herself on the line. Which she knows he understands.

She tilts her head when he goes on, but there's no hesitation in her nod. "Of course. Whatever you need to talk about. I'm all ears." Her tone is more gentle, but she has to work to keep concern out of it.

“Do you, ah…?” Richard’s lips twist in another grimace as he picks up a coffee cup from the desk’s surface, “Do you know what my ability is? What I can do, I mean— I’m sure the old Endgamers in Wolfhound have told you some stories, but, what it actually is?”

"I would have said yes a minute ago, but I assume there's more to it," Nathalie says, shifting in her seat to lean her arms on his desk. "You become a shadow, that much I know." If she's being honest— with herself at least— she can't be sure where she learned that. From her coworkers or from some memory in her head. Either way, she's light on the details.

“A shadow is an absence of light,” says Richard with a shake of his head, “That’s not scientifically possible, even within the realm of the crazy magic bullshit we can all do. No, I honestly don’t know what the hell I turn into— thinking of getting some of the eggheads in on figuring it out. I…”

His gaze drops to the cup, “I couldn’t turn back physical when Mazdak attacked us, Nat. No armor, just my walking-around sidearm.” Of course he has a walking-around sidearm, don’t they all? “They trained a fucking tear gas launcher on the roof, so I just tried to get in the guy’s eyes, keep him from seeing. Then one of them panicked, fumbled a flashbang, and…” He tries to continue, can’t figure out words for it, finally falls silent.

His fingers briefly curl into nothing but blackness, twisting through the ceramic as if it weren’t there. The coffee mug falls a few inches to the desk’s surface with a solid thud, twisted ceramic looking for all the world like someone had grabbed a handful of it and pulled it away before it dried from clay. As if his touch had just destroyed wherever it was.

Nathalie is quiet while he explains, even when his hand passes through the mug and takes a piece out of it. She understands the implication. And the weight that comes with a power that can do that kind of damage. She reaches over, finger sliding over the new shape of the mug. Then she looks up at him.

"It might give you some peace of mind, if you get some help figuring it out. I wish I could tell you that knowing that very few things could actually get to you would make you feel safe, but you know it doesn't." Her arms fold again and she lets out a quiet sigh. She can sometimes get caught up in an invincibility complex— it's hard not to— but what her mind lingers on more is how easily she could hurt anyone around her. "We mess up like anyone does. It's just when we do, the fallout is worse. Rouen told me she used her ability mathematically. A little here and there, only taking what she needed. Francois told me that he handled it by having a code he lived by. A line he wouldn't cross. Gabriel said to control the urge to do the worst you can do. What I think is important, though, is to remember that your mistakes are not who you are."

“I’m not upset I killed the guy, not really— he was a murdering piece of shit, and God knows I’ve killed before,” Richard admits, “Just… usually with a gun or something, you know? The flashbang hit and I— panicked…” He looks down at the cup, saying more quietly, “And then the entire front of his head was gone.”

He looks back at her, “I always thought of my ability as… defensive, as utility, you know? I started to realize there was something more to it when I— well. Just before Alaska. And then I didn’t have it, so it didn’t matter…”

A shake of his head, “And now I’m a weapon, too. Yeah. I think— studying it, understanding what the hell I am, what I can do, might work. You’re right.” Unsure what he wants to hear, or even why he’s saying it— an uncomfortable place for someone who normally has a plan.

"It's a different sort of feeling," Nat says with a nod. "I'm not exactly upset about who I've hurt, for the most part. But how it happens sometimes settles… wrong with me." That's how she decides to explain that. But she's pretty sure he'll get it. It isn't long, though, before she's on her feet and coming around the desk to take his hands in hers. One thing she knows she needed when people have found out about how destructive she can be is proof that they weren't afraid. And even though he certainly can do some damage, she knows he won't. And she proves it as concretely as possible.

"You're still you. And it's still yours. You get to decide how you use it. And, you know, it's still a utility. I mean, if it can do this to a face and a mug, then probably not much can hold up if you don't want it to. It means you still get to do what you always do. Save people. Stop bad guys." Her hands tighten on his, like she might be able to make her point through the gesture. "If that's what you want to do."

There’s no fear or hesitation in Richard’s acceptance of her hands, fingers squeezing against hers lightly as he offers her a faint, rueful smile. “There isn’t anything that’s going to make me stop that, cuz,” he admits, “We can rest when we’re done. Someone needs to be the failsafe contingency for this whole bullshit world of ours…”

“Yea, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, I shall fear no evil,” he quotes, then modifies in half-joking tones, “For I guess I am that fucking shadow.”

"It isn't gonna look after itself, that's for sure." Trouble always seems to be lurking. Put one down, two more pop up like a hydra of villains. "Just remember you don't have to do it all alone." That is as much a reminder for herself as it is for him. But a moment later, Nat can't help but laugh a little. "I guess you are. I figure whatever evil we might be scared of, it's gotta be scared of us, too."

“Same,” Richard says firmly, bringing both brows upwards, “We can do all this shit together. Which, speaking of together, do you know where the fuck I can find Gabriel’s lazy ass at? You said you’d talked to him, so I’m guessing you’ve got some idea.”

Okay, vulnerable self-image time over, back to snarking at absent ‘friends’ and allies.

"He's in hiding in Providence. That's where I found him, anyway." Nathalie gives Richard a knowing look, because e v e r y b o d y knows why he'd be there. "He didn't actually ask me to keep it quiet, but I imagine he wants it to be quiet. No one there seems to know it's actually him who's there. I've stayed there on and off for a while." And she didn't know. Until she did. "You know about how Eileen is not the other Eileen anymore? Emily said she was there when Avi got put in the hospital. I haven't seen her since, but— I'm worried about her." For many reasons.

“Great.” Richard grimaces, “I can’t exactly go walking around down there, I’d be shot in the face pretty damn quickly. Someone needs to let them know what’s going on, I mean, if they’re still working for Praxis they’re basically part of Monroe’s army. On top of that, I can’t… nngh. The only way I can think to find Pines is— well, it’s not like Samson would oblige.”

“Assuming he hasn’t died yet.”

"If Emily hasn't let them know already, I'll head down there and see who I can corner." Nathalie looks a little troubled, just for a passing moment or two. "I need to go down there anyway. If I can get my two dads to agree to let me." Her two dads, her two bosses, what's the difference. "Sharrow is down there. I know that Sharrow is in touch with Yvette. And I know Yvette has a mind to get her dad back. The other Eileen had Kazimir banished, but I'm not sure how far that will stretch. And this Eileen isn't the same Eileen that managed that. So." There's trouble in Providence, potentially.

“Everything you just said makes my head hurt,” Richard says to that, pressing a finger between his eyes and closing them, “Why are there Vanguard in Providence are they having a family reunion or something?”

"I'm sharing my headache." Nathalie says with a slight, but amused smile. It doesn't last long, but it's there. "I'm not sure why they're there. But I heard they're claiming pro-evolved this time. Which— to me— I mean, I don't want to say I think the worst case scenario is likely, but it kinda sounds like they might be with Adam, too. I have wondered if Adam was their new messiah," she says, although the word sounds like she hates having to say it. "Yvette told me they have one. But I worry what they might do planning for Eileen. And through Eileen, all the people there."

“Okay. Okay, I’ll add it to my files,” Richard leans back in his chair again, wrinkling his nose, “The man’s influence is pernicious, and mine is threadbare. I wish he’d just fucking talk to us about this bullshit, neither of us want Awonawilona coming out on top. Even his damn girlfriend doesn’t agree with his plan, whatever it is.”

"He doesn't seem to like to talk unless it's to manipulate. You gotta trick him into thinking that he's gotten to you and then he'll talk until you wish he'd stop." Nathalie has no real grounds for believing that's the case, but she definitely believes that's the case. His last words make her stop, though, and blink. "You mean Joy?"

“Joy. Yaeko.” Richard’s hands spread a little, “Yes, her. She’s the one who helped Devon escape, because she doesn’t think that Adam is doing this correctly. Whatever his plan is. He’s got walking tanks positioned in every anti-Evolved country that can afford him, he’s made God-knows-how-many clones and quantum entangled them with himselv…”

He pauses then, brow furrowing in thought. “Clones…”

Nathalie is nodding almost as soon as he starts talking. Her hands move through her hair as she paces away for a moment, then turns back again. "I know her. If we can find a way to contact her, I can talk to her." The notion of clones gets an exasperated sigh, but she doesn't look surprised. "To be honest, I'm glad they're clones. I killed one. I was worried it might have been someone shapeshifted when they turned out not to be an immortal." She does expect Adam will be an interesting experience when she gets her hands on him. But the clone wasn't. She gets back to her chair, but props her elbows on his desk. "What've you got?"

“I— wait, you know Adam’s two-thousand year old girlfriend?” Richard blinks at her a moment, then lifts his gaze upwards, “Of course you do. Why wouldn’t you? Yeah, if you have her phone number or something that’d be useful…” A chuckle - as if it’d be that easy. “And yes, it’s— Adam’s using Hydra and Heisenburg to make these ridiculous quantum-brain clones, it’s stopping us from getting a good lock on him. But— right, there was an idea.”

He points at her, “I need you to ask Avi about Sarisa. I mean— not, like, personal shit. Cold War shit. If she was running an op and had deep cover agents, how would she get in touch with them? I think we might have some of our old agents accidentally imbedded in Adam’s organization.”

"She stumbled into the safehouse I grew up in. We were taken by the Institute together and got out together. And believe me, if I knew her number, I'd be calling it. But— what I do have is a line to Adam through Praxis. So I think I can get to her." It's tricky, but what isn't where Adam is concerned. Nathalie looks mostly annoyed about the mixture of projects— which brings her back around to why she came in the first place. And what Adam might have in mind with the research done on her.

"I'll see what he says. Sarisa would have had a backup plan," she says, and she's pretty certain about that, too. "If there are some people we need pull out— or if they want to report in— we should try."

“If you can’t, be careful… we don’t know what the implications of the conduits are, but I suspect Monroe does,” Richard says cautioningly, “I’m not going to tell you not to take the risk, just to be careful. And if you do talk to Adam— “ he rolls his eyes, “Tell him to pick up a goddamn phone or send one of his entangled clones over for a chat, for Christ’s sake, we don’t need to be dancing around each other.”

A bit of a nod, “Exactly. They may’ve gone native, but if they haven’t… we can’t just abandon them.” There’s a flicker of guilt, there.

"I will not be surprised that he does. I also won't be surprised when he tries to nudge me where he wants me again." Nat frowns, because she still doesn't like that he knew how to play her. Some of her worries that Joy might be the reason, but she hopes for another explanation. "If I talk to him, I'll try to see if he's willing to talk. He may not want to talk to me directly, though. Considering what happened last time."

At the guilt, Nat nods firmly. "We'll do what we can for them."

“Okay. Well— “ Richard pauses, then chuckles, “I think that’s all the business we have, but, do you need to run back? You could join us for dinner, meet the kids and all…?” Eyebrows lift slightly, hopeful.

"Yeah, I think that's all the bad news I have. For now," Nathalie says with a wry smile. There will probably be more later. The invitation seems to brighten her expression, though, and she smiles more genuinely. "I'd love to meet the kids. And have dinner." Maybe she can have a family meal that doesn't end in shouting.

“I’ll let Liz know we’re coming, then,” Richard says with an easy smile, reaching over to tap his hand on the black glass of the desk - the computer display built into it spreading out over the surface, “I’ll get someone to give you a tour in the meantime, or you can hit up the breakroom, I’ve still got some things to finish up here."

Their dinner will probably be no less loud, although mostly because three children make an awful racket.

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