The 7th Day


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title The 7th Day
Synopsis Seven years after he was told to rest, Richard Ray goes seeking answers.
Date August 7, 2018

The neighborhood of Red Hook used to be a clustered nightmare of industrial parks and warehouses. Prior to the war, it was an urban sprawl that was home to the headquarters of FRONTLINE and little else. In the aftermath of the war, much of Red Hook remained standing as its buildings weren’t strategic targets. This left the majority of the Safe Zone’s oldest structures as remodeled remnants of the old industrial sprawl.

Now a marketplace sits where a law-enforcement headquarters once stood, and a whitewashed building capped with a clocktower where an old mill building once resided. The structure located on the northern harbor is a monument to successful conspiracy, the offices of the Deveaux Society. On their surface, a charitable organization pre-dating the war that has continued its philanthropic mission in a post-war world. But below the surface, its roots go back a generation and its machinations equally as far.

The Clocktower Building

Red Hook, Safe Zone

August 7th, 2018

6:13 pm

Inside the lobby of the Clocktower Building, Richard Ray is greeted by where the machinations of the past and future collide with one-another. The tiled floor, tall glass windows, and eggshell white walls are reminiscent of the Institute’s sterile environment, broken up by tall ferns and decorative trees. A sole receptionist sits at the front desk, an old corded landline phone clutched between shoulder and ear.

“Of course, I’ll have her call you back as soon as she’s back from her trip.” The receptionist scribbles down a note and threads a lock of red hair behind one ear. “Mnhmm, of course Madame Secretary. You too.” As she hangs up the phone, blue eyes raise to level on Richard as he comes through the front doors. There’s a quick look to something on her desk in her peripheral vision, and as she hangs up the phone she discreetly presses a button on the receiver.

“Good evening,” the receptionist notes, a small brass nametag on her cardigan reading Mira. “Do you have an appointment?”

Claudia will explain more when she gets back from Virginia, was a promise made nearly six and a half years ago, and sealed with the curve of Alice Shaw's smile.

One could say it was an appointment that's still waiting to be fulfilled.

"Good evening," Richard Ray offers as he walks casually through the lobby, dressed to impress in a black suit with a cardinal red shirt beneath dark lapels, a black tie cutting down the center. He clasps both hands behind his back, head lifting to look across the walls and windows as if appraising the room's decor.

Stopping in front of the desk, he offers the receptionist an easy smile. "Richard Ray," he offers, "I'm here to speak with Claudia Zimmerman, please."

Mira’s attention lingers on Richard a moment longer than is comfortable before the redhead blinks her attention down to a notepad beside the rotary phone. She flips through the notes, then looks at a piece of paper taped to the incoming mail box. The blue ink is faded and the note looks considerably old. Plucking it off from where it hangs, Mira looks at it closer, then up to Richard.

“You… seem to have a standing appointment.” Mira says in a hushed tone of voice, reaching for the phone and bringing it to her ear again. “One moment.” She dials a three digit extension and pivots her chair slightly away from Richard. After a moment, someone on the other end picks up. “Good Evening, there’s a Richard Ray who says he’s here to see you? I have a note here about a Richard Car— ” Mira pauses, brows furrowing. “Ah, I see. Of course. Should I— ” Mira clears her throat. “Of course, I’ll have him sent right up.”

As Mira turns back to Richard and hangs up the phone, she raises one thin brow and motions to the elevators. “Penthouse level. Miss Zimmerman is expecting you.” Apparently, goes unsaid.

The mention of a standing appointment brings Richard's lips up at one corner in a crookedly amused smile. Of course he does. He's patient while Mira talks on the phone, one hand coming up to scratch briefly at the curve of his jaw— freshly clean-shaven from a visit to the Cambria salon, the lack of stubble still something he's getting used to.

It'll grow back in a day. It always does.

The phone's hung up, and he inclines his head in gratitude. "Thank you. I'll see myself up, then," he allows, heading for the elevator, which he's fairly certain will be of an older style. Everything analog, it seems. Smart of them.

The elevator doors open before Richard quite reaches them, and as the brass-finished doors part, there is a ghost standing on the other side of them, looking just as surprised to see Richard as Richard is surprised to see Niklaus Zimmerman. The German’s eyes widen after the second it takes to recognize an old face, and immediately his posture tenses and hands clench at his side. Metal doors vibrate, and Niklaus takes one step out of the elevator and toward Richard.

What,” Niklaus asks in a rougher voice than Richard recalls his being, and less German-accented, “are you doing here, Richard?” It seems time has not healed all old wounds, even those that were only indirectly served.

There’s a sharp contrast of initial reactions, because even as anger sparks in the German’s eyes there’s a slight widening of a smile from Richard… but the former snuffs the latter with the sound of metal subtly rattling against itself. One hand comes up, rubbing against the side of his neck briefly as he stops in his tracks.

“Niklaus,” he offers simply, “Good to see you. I ask your sisters about you from time to time, but they don’t see you much either— I’m here to see Claudia, that’s all.” The hand sweeps in a gesture that indicates the room in general, a wordless obviously of his own. “I see you’re still upset.”

An understatement, likely.

Throat momentarily tightening, Niklaus closes his eyes and takes in a deep breath. “I send cards on holidays,” is about as much as Niklaus has to say about his sisters, “to two of them, at any rate.” That Tracy had betrayed her kind to Colonel Heller is a well-known shame among the Zimmerman sisters, and it seems Niklaus wasn’t willing to let that go either. Richard is beginning to see this as a trend.

“I’m, fortunately, on my way to the airport,” Niklaus notes as he takes a step around Richard. “Do try not to accidentally imprison my mother while I’m away. I’d hate for history to repeat itself.” Not even recognizing that the only reason Claudia is alive is because of Richard’s intervention. It seems as though some wounds are just deep, and some men more stubborn than others.

Though as Niklaus passes Richard, he pauses and takes a short breath. “It’s good to see you well,” seems to have been difficult to say, but it’s the most conversation Niklaus seems willing to part with.

At the mention of accidentally imprisoning his mother, Richard actually rolls his eyes at the overdramatics of the statement — of course, Niklaus was always a man for dramatics. He seems ready to let the other man pass, but at that pause, he pauses as well, one hand lifting a bit to catch his attention.

Quietly, he offers, “There wasn’t even a body left when I was done with him, Niklaus. If it matters at all.” There’s more than a hint of regret in the faint, rueful smile offered the German, and then he’s stepping to the elevator to let his old friend depart.

Niklaus says nothing as he continues walking. It doesn’t.

As the elevator doors close, Richard is left with his thoughts on its silent ascent up to the penthouse level of the Clocktower Building. The elevator seems to only head to that level, and is an express lift to the roost of the Deveaux Society’s matriarchs. In the brass-burnished doors, Richard can see his muted reflection, hazy thanks to the texture of the metal, like an indistinct shadow of a man. It reminds him of what he’s, personally, lost.

When the elevator comes to a slow stop and the doors open, a spacious modern interpretation of industrial design sprawls out before him. Hardwood floors, white walls and black trim, spacious and minimalistic in all of its design choices. Waiting for Richard at the door is Claudia Zimmerman, garbed in a carnation red dress and burgundy jacket, hair styled just so, and not looking a day older than the day he rescued her from a certain death in Hartsdale, New York.

Richard,” Claudia croons, “you’re looking well.” She literally hasn’t aged a day.

There was so much lost thanks to his mad twin, thanks to that other version of himself that swept in from future to past and forward again; friendships, trust, lives, and even his ability stripped from him and traded for nothing more than fading sparks of scarlet light. And yet in other ways, Richard still stands in the man’s shadow — some speaking of Ezekiel’s accomplishments as his, and yet he on his own has only accomplished a sliver of what the other man had in his timeline.

This is neither the worst, nor the best timeline; it’s simply the one where Edward’s family lives on. That was the whole plan, right?

Pensive thought is swept to the dusty corners of Richard’s mind as the doors open, and he walks out with no sign of it, a smile upon his lips and hazel eyes sweeping over the woman before him. “Claudia,” he greets, stepping over to her side, “Well, you haven’t aged a day. You’re looking wonderful. It’s— “ A hint of dry humor, here, “— been far too long.”

“It's in my genes,” is Claudia’s way of making the truth a joke. She's quick to they're from the elevator door, brushing a ghost of a hand against the small of Richard's back as she slips past him. “I suppose I can be thankful for that much. I have my health, my children,” the ones that matter, “and I haven't felt the threat of a boot on my neck in nearly a decade.”

Moving away from the elevator, Claudia makes her way into the open-concept kitchen to the left, walking to the center island where a few bottles of liquor and glasses sit on a silver tray. “Are you a Manhattan drinker? I have a new bottle of vermouth I've been meaning to open.” She starts upending glasses, assuming Richard will drink something.

“I could do with a Manhattan,” admits Richard as he walks in, offering her a slightly crooked smile in passing as she steps past him; looking around the penthouse with appreciation for the modern-industrial design, “And I’m glad to hear things are going well for you…”

A quiet chuckle as he looks into that kitchen where she’s gathering glasses, “It seems working in insurance has been good to you.”

“It's been good to everyone,” Claudia corrects lightly, removing the cork from the bottle of vermouth with a soft pop. “We’re sitting on a net about-face for human rights in this country. As Madame Secretary is fond of saying, the tree of liberty is fed by the blood of tyrants.” Two fingers of vermouth are poured into each glass, the bottle set back and cork returned to the neck.

“Not that tyrants were the only ones bleeding,” Claudia adds, reaching for the bottle of whiskey. “But we all knew where this was going, some of us more so than others,” is noted with a nod to Richard, “but I'd like to think the way this all landed was better than all the alternatives.” Claudia next unstoppers a square bottle of whiskey, adding a finger of that to the vermouth. “You and I had a much different conversation the last time we spoke, admittedly.”

Next, Claudia adds a dash of simple syrup to each glass, and then retreats to the refrigerator, still in line of sight. “But times change us, each and every one, and no one came out of that war the same way they went in.” She comes back with a pair of frozen stones from the freezer, dropping one inch-diameter sphere into the glasses, then picks both glasses up and brings them to Richard.

“I like to think it was,” Richard admits, reaching out to accept one of the glasses, “I know too much about the alternatives to really say any of them were better… although I know some who’d disagree.”

The stones rattle lightly in his glass as he swirls it around a little, adding, “The bleeding isn’t finished yet either, especially if you ask Gitelman. You’re right, though, that at least most of it isn’t ours.”

Then, more quietly, “For now.”

Wolfhound is doing good work, mostly. Though it seems even their clusterfucks wind up striking gold, so I can't say I fault their operation much. They're a natural outgrowth of what we started,” and Claudia isn't using the Royal We, she's including Richard in that sentiment.

Moving away from the kitchen, Claudia leads Richard to the sitting room, where white leather armchairs and a sofa sit around a square, glass table. “Given that you and I haven't spoken in several years, and that you've kept yourself busy with legitimate projects during that time, I have to imagine Aria delivered our message successfully before she completed her time with us.” There's a knowing glance to Richard at that, and then slowly the blonde settles down into one of the armchairs.

“Which means that now you're here, and it's after the 7th day.” Her eyes alight up to Richard, amusement in them. “So what's on your agenda?”

“They’re a good outfit,” Richard agrees with an easy nod. Of course, a third of their operatives used to be his, so he’d be insulting himself to say otherwise. He walks along into the sitting room, easing himself into the other arm-chair and leaning forward a bit, glass cradled between his knees as he looks to her with a hint of amusement himself.

“Seven days, seven years… close enough, I suppose,” he admits wryly, “Time enough to rest, I suppose.”

He brings the glass up for a sip, then motions with it towards her, “And time enough for the sins of the past to come back to haunt us. What do you know about string theory, Claudia? Because for a fringe science— “ A twitch of his lips, though there’s little humor in his eyes, “— it’s suddenly very important.”

“I had a telepath from a future we avoided working for me,” Claudia admits with a raise of her brows, leaning back into her chair and taking a slow sip of her Manhattan. “So I know enough to be dangerous,” especially if your name is Hiro Nakamura. “But I’d prefer it if you talk plainly with me, Richard. I'm too old for the time of sniffing each other's asses. We've been in this game long enough now.”

A wolfish grin briefly flashes across Richard’s expression. “You’re ruining my fun,” he teases, though the amusement fades away a moment later. “The Horsemen are from another timeline,” he says then, “Eileen, Iago, Danko, Lang. This iteration of Eileen is in possession of Kazimir’s ability,” he sums up, “In addition, our quantum radio receiver recently caught a broadcast from another iteration of myself — from a similar timeline to where my Institute self came from. He was dead, message was sent posthumously. He was warning that his Mayes was building a Looking Glass to travel to here and conquer another world. Provided partial schematics for a satellite to detect superstring overlays and breaches.”

Dryly, “My mother invented the Looking Glass originally, if you didn’t know. Company fucked up and got her killed the day she activated it. Most of the Company’s records of that incident were covered up, although I imagine Sabra’s aware.”

Now Claudia is quiet, sipping from her glass and swirling it around to make a thoughtful rhythm of round stone rolling around the bottom of the glass. Eyes half lidded, she stares at the enormous clock face by the sitting area, then past it to the faint city lights beyond. The only noise she makes is a small one in the back of her throat, then moves to set her glass down on a square, slate coaster.

Looking Glass was sanitized by the Company in ways they never have before. I know the term, but almost nothing about it. Charles personally altered the memories of every single person involved with the incident, and had a field agent named Caspar Abraham — the Company’s top secret archivist — archive what he could into… pennies?” Claudia raises a brow. “I never met Mr. Abraham, to the best of my recollection,” she notes carefully, “but he has some sort of memory modification power that includes the ability to psychometrically imprint memories into objects.”

Claudia reaches inside of her jacket and withdraws a pack of cigarettes and a lighter. “Abraham was essentially put out to pasture when the Company came into custody of Rene after an operation in Haiti. Rene had a finer control of memory redaction and didn't need to store what he erased. So Caspar was given severens and, from time to time, was called in for special assignments. But t was rare.”

“The Institute swallowed Abraham up when it captured the Company’s assets. Now, Sabra cut the physical archives, but there's no telling what they got from Caspar. He worked out of their San Francisco branch, under the leadership of Pete Varlane, an almost-ran that the Company opted not to hire back in the 70s.” Tugging a cigarette out of the pack, Claudia ticks it between her lips and lights it, then looks across the way to Richard with a raised brow.

“So, you're saying that Looking Glass was lateral movements through time, rather than forward and backward. A door to… possibilities?” Claudia takes a drag on the cigarette, then leans forward and leaves the pack and the lighter on the table — she imagines Richard might need one too. “And your… quantum radio? That picked all this up.”

Sighing, Claudia cracks a smile. “The Devil’s hands’ve been busy.”

“Tell me about it,” allows Richard in dry tones, swirling the glass around a bit before taking a swig of it and leaning back in the arm-chair to shift into a more comfortable position, “And yes, although unfortunately we can only pick up active broadcasts between strings, and even then only periods of extreme solar activity. Something about the universal frequencies, I’m not sure of the physics— only the applications.”

He nods then, just a little, “Yes. That’s why they sanitized it so thoroughly… because it didn’t look through time at all. It looked through the endless forking paths of reality, the shores of the never was…”

“And it allowed movement between them, if you tuned it correctly. Which, obviously…” A finger spirals a bit in the air, “…someone, somewhere, has. One of my agents reported that during a Wolfhound investigation they ran into a Gen Three or even Four Hunter. They were never built by the Institute, they’d just begun work on the Twos and as far as I know only one prototype even survived.”

“Abraham’s the key, but…” His hands spread, “While I’m sure he’d recognize my authority to access his archive, finding him’s the real problem. Him and his jar of fucking pennies. Until then, I’m working on getting all the intel I can about the situation, and developing technology to detect breaches so we can respond.”

“The robot may be a separate, but altogether less immediate, problem. Our Georgia Mayes was very alive and well, and given that Wolfhound and the entirety of the US Government served her a pink slip on the end of a fucking missile, I'd like to imagine she's an even less immediate problem.” Claudia dithers after that, switching her cigarette for her drink and taking a sip. Her attention levels on Richard, then the clock again.

For a moment or two, Claudia is thoughtfully quiet as she sits in her chair, considering the weight of all these things. Then, Claudia rises from her seat and makes a one moment gesture, disappearing out of sight into a small, partitioned office. When she returns, it's with a traditional paper file, stamped with SESA and CONFIDENTIAL, CLASS-X. Coming to Richard’s chair, Claudia offers the file down to him.

You need to talk to Ben Ryans about his too-early retirement.” Claudia raises one brow and looks from the file to Richard. “Back in March, Alia had the ruins of the Company’s Bronx facility exhumed. We sent a postcognitive down with Mr. Ryans to collect some data. Data I think you'll find interesting.”

“Because according to all Company records?” Slowly, one of Claudia's brows raise, “Adam Monroe was imprisoned in Level-5 in 1977. So why don't you tell me how he could've known about that.”

The file’s taken in hand, and Richard opens it to start reading - commenting almost absently, “Cancer. That’s why he retired, he’s come to terms with it and wants to go quietly. Surprised me, really, he always seemed like an ‘out with a bang’ sort…”

His brow furrows then, glancing up to her, “No. No, that can’t be right, Claudia— Adam was there in nineteen eighty-two, during the overlay incident. He teleported in with someone named ‘Joy’. Charles showed me that memory. If he was in Level 5 since nineteen-seventy-seven… that doesn’t make sense.”

Claudia's eyes close, she takes in a deep breath, half of which is from her cigarette when she remembers its presence in her off-hand. “Back up,” she says as she paces away from Richard’s seat. “Firstly, Ben has cancer and he hasn't…” There's a look in her eyes, a flattening of her lips, and a we’ll address that later expression that is the picture of frustration.

“Second,” Claudia gestures to Richard with her cigarette, “Charles, and I'm going to assume you mean Deveaux did what and when?” One of Claudia's eyes narrow. “The only recorded meeting I know of is the one Niklaus was present for. So if that isn't the case, I'd like a full run down of what you're talking about.”

“Furthermore,” Claudia says between puffs of her cigarette, “you said Adam was active in 82? That would explain why he had to have memories redacted and why he was talking to Arthur. But…” there's a troubled look in Claudia’s eyes. “I knew Adam as a prisoner only, in 77. We…” her eyes flick from side to side, and suddenly she wonders aloud. “How many of us did Charles modify? And why?

“You didn’t know? I knew he hadn’t told his family, but…” Richard gives Claudia a querulous look, a single brow lifting, “Well— don’t tell him I spilled the beans. He’s obviously gone to the doctor, use that excuse.” Casually offering an alibi, the hallmark of a true spy, one who’s probably going to hell.

Maybe he’ll see himself there.

“And… yes,” he says in troubled tones, “At the overlay incident, it was Thompson that fucked up the situation— Charles showed up to contain and clean up the issue. Then Adam teleported in with that Joy woman, whoever she was, she seemed to have some spatial ability. Never seen her before. They all seemed rather casual about it, as if this were something completely normal.”

The pad of his thumb taps against the side of his glass, “It’s a good question, isn’t it? How much of what any of you know is the truth…? Between Charles, Abraham, Rene— how much information did they redact from everyone’s mind, in how many different ways?”

“Joy?” Claudia squints, eyes flicking to the side, trying to put a name to a face. “Odessa Price?” There's a look back to Richard. “She's the only person I'm aware of who goes by that name, and as far as I know not since her time in Moab. But that isn't the case, nor is it the right woman.

“Adam had a small circle of confidants, all of whom are dead now. I don't recall anyone back then named Joy, which means…” Claudia brushes an errant lock of hair from her face with her cigarette-laden hand, “that either Charles ordered knowledge of her redacted, or someone with access to Caspar did.” Neither possibility sits well with Claudia.

After taking another drag from her cigarette, Claudia adds, “Adam is still on the loose, to the best of our knowledge.” But that isn't all she knows. “He's been primarily operating out of China, and though we can't prove it we believe he has influence within Praxis Heavy Industries and is supplying Mazdak with military-grade hardware. We’re fortunate that they've only remained active overseas… and in our current political climate I don't think we’re their first priority anymore.”

Thoughtfully, Claudia looks down to her lap and takes another drag off of her cigarette. “We’re pulling at the edges of something, Richard. I feel like Looking Glass is just one corner of something much, much larger.” As terrifying as that is to consider.

“We are,” says Richard with a sigh, leaning his head back as a briefly haunted expression crosses his face, “We are. Speaking of— Adam, by the way, is building an Evolved Supremacist movement, before I forget— speaking of Odessa Price, there’s more.”

“One of the memories locked away inside Odessa’s head,” he says quietly, still watching the ceiling as he speaks, “Is of her childhood. She was fostered somewhere, her and another child, a boy. There were agents in the building. They were dead. Every last one.”

He looks back to her, regarding her with a dead serious expression, “They were all killed using different abilities; it was the sort of scene I’d expect from Sylar or Samson on a rampage. Bodies burnt, warped, frozen. It wasn’t them, though - it was her, somehow. Even though she doesn’t have mosaic abilities, it was her. Something was— using her, I think. There’s something out there, between the worlds. Something with golden eyes. Something that wants out. Something that everyone’s forgotten, and I suspect for the same reason you don’t remember Joy, or Adam being free, or the details of the Looking Glass incident..”

The drink’s brought up (and his hand is shaking just a little from remembering the ordeal in Odessa’s mind, though he’d deny it), and he takes a long draw from it, eyes closing as he swallows. “Ever since someone opened the Looking Glass again, she’s been having dreams and— visions of her alternate selves. At one point she temporarily switched places with one of her alternate selves, although a few weeks later she switched back. Whatever’s going on, she’s one of the keys to finding out, Claudia.”

“I need her.”

Claudia finishes her cigarette, a process that takes a solid minute before it's snubbed out in the marble ashtray at her side. She's silent all that while, taking a sip of her Manhattan afterward and keeping it cradled in one hand.

“You'll want to talk to Secretary Lazzaro about Odessa’s legal problems. SESA loses jurisdiction when it comes to treason, though we have oversight with regards to making sure due process is being observed. Honestly,” her throws raise, “she should just go on trial. I know it sounds harsh, but I don't think the punishment would be. With the right representation she could potentially walk free.” Claudia swirls her glass again. “I'm not saying whether or not that's justice, but it's your desired outcome.”

Setting down her glass in its coaster, Claudia looks slowly up to Richard. “Odessa is an enigma to us. We have some incomplete paperwork on her time with the Company, but not enough. Some things were lost when the Institute culled our officers, others were lost through conspiracy. But I do know this,” Claudia levels a steady look at Richard. “Odessa Price was Arthur Petrelli’s favorite pet. It's… funny you should mention Samson Gray in the same breath too.”

Again, Claudia gets up. “We’re going to need to start having our conversations in the archive.” With another one moment gesture she returns to her office, and this time comes back with a dog-eared, water-stained and old file nearly an inch thick. Claudia lays it down on the table in front of Richard, then opens it to an old assignment tracker document dated 7/1/79, and attached is a photograph of a young Samson Gray. Except the name on the file is listed as Martin Black.

“I found that while reviewing our files during the war. Intentionally misleading agent dossier for a man that is clearly Samson Gray, authorized for field duty in 1977 by Arthur Petrelli. Kill squad, a wetworks team Arthur secretly put together to cover up our indiscretions.” Claudia’s eyes narrow, “The file is incomplete, but turn to the blue-tabbed page.”

There, at the indicated marker, is an expense report form for a hotel room, coffee, breakfast, and gas. Claudia points to the hotel receipt.

Motel One
2925 E Business Loop 20, Odessa, TX 79761
1 Night Stay $35
April 7, 1984
6:33 pm
Enjoy your stay!

Claudia says nothing, save for the sadness and frustration her eyes offer.

“Wait…” Richard’s brow knits as he reads that stub, “…Odessa? This— you mean to tell me Arthur sent that sonuvabitch on purpose?” Hazel eyes widen, anger and confusion there as he looks back to her, “Why? What could he possibly’ve gained from that?

His attention returns to the file, and he frowns deeply, breathing out, “How deep does this even go… and does anyone alive even still have the answers?” A rhetorical question, at best. If any answers remain, they may well be found in a jar of pennies.

He looks back up to her, “Were her parents any threat to him, somehow?”

“I don't know,” is Claudia's unfortunate answer. “I've looked into her parents before. Rianna Price is an unremarkable case, a nurse at a local hospital in Odessa — the one she died in. Struggled through school, ordinary parents. Her husband Colin…”

“He was a doctor,” Claudia notes with an incline of her head to the side, “worked for the Company, though that wasn't commonly known. It's certainly not in retained records. He was a Hartsdale employee, and worked under Paula Gramble on the initial Formula tests that brought my daughters into the world.”

There's a darkening look in Claudia’s eyes, something troubled as she averts them from Richard. “He retired in 1981. Kept his secret, as far as I know, and took it to his grave. I wouldn't be surprised if Arthur had him killed for the same reason he had the entire Hartsdale team purged. Containment.”

“Of course,” Richard grimaces, “He wouldn’t want his little secret getting out, after all… I don’t think we’ll ever be able to synthesize the Formula again anyway, not without starting from scratch.”

The drink’s swirled around in his glass, the level lower now as he leans back, watching her for a moment before asking carefully, “When you were looking into Odessa’s history… did you ever run across a person by the name of Kara?”

Claudia takes a moment to consider the name, then shakes her head. “It isn't familiar. But I'll be honest, the majority of my information specialization up until this point was on three things: Humanis First, the Institute, and the Vanguard.” The latter of which brings Claudia back to an earlier point.

“Iago Ramirez, Eileen Ruskin, Joshua Lang, and Emiele Danko.” She can't believe she's saying those names. “I read Wolfhound’s report on the Dead Zone that you rode along for. My concerns pertain to any advanced technology they may be in possession of, and information we may not have access to based on our timeline divergences. Do we know where they're from?”

“No,” Richard admits with a slight grimace, “We do not. They’ve been very close-mouthed about it; we know they have some sort of modified Horizon armor of an unknown make, but they seem to’ve been reliant on raiding and trading to equip their settlement in the Dead Zone. We can probably be confident that they only brought with them what they could carry. What I do have is a suspicion.”

Another sip of the drink in his hand, and he motions with it, “Danko was confirmed to have a regenerative ability by one of my agents, who got the drop on him — unfortunately Eileen showed up before he could be brought into custody. I only know of one timeline where the Formula saw widespread use, and that’s the one where Arthur succeeded.”

Wry, “It might explain why they’re so fiercely trying to wipe out the Looking Glass technology. I wouldn’t want him following me either.”

“I suspect that Arthur was also the only one stupid enough to revisit that technology. He'd probably phrase it as ambitious, but I believe you still have some of his ambition on a pair of boots.” Claudia finishes her Manhattan with a tip of the glass, then settles it down on a coaster and paces the floor.

“This is a delicate situation. Right now a SESA operative is infiltrating the Horsemen. That obviously doesn't leave this room,” Claudia notes with a pointed look to Richard. “Deep cover, long-term. We’re looking to find out the answers to the questions we share. But for now I could use another pair of eyes on that.”

Claudia crosses her arms over her chest and shifts her weight to one foot. “I'll make a friendly request: If you can get someone to gather real intel on who they really are and what they really want, I can reciprocate in some fashion.” Threading hair behind one ear, Claudia considers her empty glass. “I don't care if they're fleeing another world, I don't even care if they've come here to find a fortune or a new start. All I care about is maintaining what we've built. Anything that threatens that,” Claudia looks back to Richard. “Anyone who threatens that, those are the enemy. No matter what side they stand on.”

“Agreed,” says Richard with a slight nod, a faint smile, “I know what Eileen wants, but… that doesn’t mean that the others all share her goals. If my own people come across anything, I’ll let you know.”

The last of his drink is emptied, and he leans over to set that glass on the table - ice slowly melting at the thick glass bottom. Easing back in the chair, he offers her a wry look, “I suppose the only last thing, then, is a favor… I don’t suppose you have a good lawyer that specializes in war crimes that you could lend me?.”

Claudia looks to Richard’s empty drink, then back up to him. “I hear Secretary Lazzaro’s daughter practices law,” she says with a crook of her mouth rising at the corner. There’s more there than is implied, perhaps the implicit threat of that choice leveraged against Vincent, perhaps that Tasha Lazzaro is the best that Claudia is willing to offer for Odessa’s sake.

“Are you— “ Richard stares at her for a long moment, and then he laughs, hand coming up to rub over his face, “Jesus, you’re trying to get Lazzaro to kill me, aren’t you? The man’s not my biggest fan…” He grins despite himself, shaking his head, “Fine, we might as well make it a family affair, if you’re not willing to help there. I’ll bring in my lawyer as well, we’ll make a proper legal team. Maybe her gloves won’t fit.”

“I am helping,” Claudia insists with an impish smile and a raise of her brows, confident in her own perspective on these things. As of on cue, there is a soft chime of the 7 o’clock hour being reached. Claudia looks toward the clock face, then back to Richard. “I suppose that means our time is up,” comes with an equal amount of wry mirth. “It’s good to officially have you back in the game, Richard…”

“…welcome to the 8th day.”

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