The Devil You Know


cardinal_icon.gif broome_icon.gif

Scene Title The Devil You Know
Synopsis The game changes.
Date October 27, 2010

Central Park

Better the devil you know, than the angel you don't.

— Hama Tuma

Central Park is ablaze, not with the atomic fire that turned the park's southern edge into a charred and barren patch of broken concrete and burned soil, but with the fiery colors of autumn. Goldenrod, pumpkin orange, and brilliant shades of red all driven by a strong, chill wind create a rustling appearance of fiery leaves when dim light passes through them.

Though the breeze if crisp and cool the weather itself is unseasonably warm, even with the overcast skies being a blanket of slate gray that turns sunlight dim and diffuse. Against all this gray and desaturated color, the vibrant shades of autumn stand out so sharply. It's as though nature itself is trying to send a warning, send a message or a signal that something terrible is coming, that the fires are ready to be lit and everything is going to burn.

Beneath the shingle-roofed shelter of one of the chess pavillions, a tired old man sits in quiet solace in a one-sided game of chess. The matte black of Doctor Simon Broome's peacoat is befitting of fall, buttoned up to the throat with the back of the collar raised, as if he were expecting a storm.

The game set out in front of Simon looks like it's been ongoing for some time now, though there's no one else in the opposite seat. With all of the black pieces on Simon's side, the white end of the board is arranged as though in mid-play, pieces moved and missing, though as always the black side is missing its king.

Folded beside Simon on the concrete table is a copy of today's issue of the New York Times, folded back to the personals section, where his correspondance with Richard Cardinal is circled in red marker.

They have some catching up to do.

The breeze stirs through Richard Cardinal's hair as he walks through the part, mussing the short locks even worse than they usually are. A leather flight jacket wards off the breeze's touch, with the logos of Chicago Air and Redbird Security on the shoulders, while its open front leaves the simple black t-shirt beneath visible to keep himself from growing too warm given the weather. Perhaps the world is trying to make up for the extended chill of the previous winter, a heat to balance the cold.

The Lord knows that balance is the one thing the city doesn't have anymore, tilting wildly this way and that like some gambler's game of roulette. 'Round and 'round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows. But they can try to weigh the odds in their favor. That's why he's here today, after all.

A faint smile crooks to his lips at the sight of Doctor Broome, and he steps beneath the pavillllion where he's seated, walking slowly over towards the table and easing himself down to sit opposite him.

Not a word is spoken at first, not until he's drawn the cracked king from a pocket and leaned over to replace it properly on the board.


Weathered fingers move a black knight across the board, taking a queen's side bishop and moving it off the board and into Simon's palm. "Richard," is offered quietly as dark eyes sweep across the chess board to the replaced king. Simon's thumb brushes over the top of the bishop before he sets it down, reluctantly looking up with a furrow of his brows. "It's good to see you again, old friend."

With the white bishop set aside, Simon leans back on the bench seat, his hands folding in his lap and expression becoming more inquisitive as he searches Richard's expression for something. In that silent assessment, Simon's features betray nothing that the lack of a wheelchair doesn't already; Richard is dealing with another borrowed replicant. Doc Carpenter's hands have been busy.

"I was surprised when I saw your posting, it's been some time since you and I shared correspondance like that. I take it that the you I am speaking to has already had our encounter in 1992?" One of Simon's brows lifts at that, expectantly.

"Ninety-two, yes," admits Cardinal as he surveys the board with the casual eye of someone who's been working on learning the game, hands clasping on the table's edge in a subtle lean forward, "I wasn't sure if you knew who I was at the beginning. Not until you quoted Edward. I hadn't known that you knew him… should've figured you did, though."

A raise of his eyes regards Broome over the edge of his shades, then, watching him for a moment. "I still hold to what I said then. Survival's an insufficient goal on its own."

"People change," Simon explains quietly, looking up to Cardinal as he looms there over the table. A quick assessment of the game in play is that it's much a stalemate, though how Simon was playing without the king piece is uncertain. Then again, it makes it very hard for your opponent to win if they don't have a clear idea of what their goal for victory is in mind. Perhaps it's one of those subtle lessons.

"Edward and I have tangentally known each other for many years now. He attended a lecture on the pioneering fronteir of cerebral sciences here at Columbia when he was in his first year at MIT. We spoke after the lecture, he was an exceptionally brilliant and driven young man. College educated by the time he was a teenager…"

Trailing off, Broome looks back down to the chess board, brows furrowed. "Did you come here to re-state old stances, or did you want to discuss something?" There is some weariness in Doctor Broome that wasn't there the last time that Richard saw him. Admittedly over a decade has passed for Simon since those times, so perhaps the old man has good reason to look more tired.

"You're right there," admits Cardinal as he regards the pieces for a few moments more, then shakes his head slowly, "People do change. God knows that I have."

There's silence for a few long moments of time, and then he points out, "There's only a little more than a week left until November eighth. Do you people seriously want that vision to come through? You know what'll happen if it does as well as I do, Simon. The blood in the streets here will just be a prologue to something worse."

"The riots that Project Delphi revealed was the warning signs, it is just the beginning of the storm that's coming. I told you once, Richard, that when man seeks to alter history they invariably change it for the worse. Being able to see a sandstorm coming doesn't mean that a man in the desert should stand in front of it and wave his arms, it means that he has warning enough to seek shelter and survive, so that there is a future left to build from."

The metaphor of Richard and Broome is not merely a visual one, seated at opposite ends of a chess board from one another. These two individuals sit on diametrically opposed ends of a moral spectrum as well, one that is at times difficult to tell which is operating in the best interests of humanity. "The Institute has the power necessary to stop the riots, but not the information. Had project Delphi not been a failure… perhaps a case could have been made to stop this from transpiring. But we are not armed with the necessary tools or information to prevent this catastrophe, let alone the motivation."

Simon's eyes narrow slowly as he considers Richard, once more seeming thoughtful of him. "You and I both know well that the government is orchestrating these events, in the hopes of using them in some sort of twisted justification of the destruction of our kind," our kind, not yours. "Give a man enough rope, and eventually they will hang themselves with it. Unfortunately there will be others on the gallows before the guilty party…"

"You don't seem to have any problem with accepting Mitchell's funding," Cardinal observes with an eyebrow's slight raise, leaning back a little from the table and easing up on the sharpness there with an admission, "Although I suppose I can't really fault you for taking advantage of him… and feeding him rope."

"There's another option, though, for that man in the desert," he says then, head cocking a little to one side, a single eyebrow raising over the edge of the shades, "He can move a mountain between his loved ones and the storm… or turn the desert into a garden. Miracles happen, Simon, they just take work."

A breath's taken in, then exhaled, one hand lifting up to pull the shades from his face and the other rubbing between his eyes. "On the eighth, the president's broadcast is going to be interrupted by a message. That message will trigger persuasion-induced insanity in everyone that Rupert Carmichael had the chance to implant it in, as well as God knows what other orders and plans he'd implanted in people. There'll be rioting, mass murder in the streets, it'll just… be horrible. If the broadcast can be stopped, we could stop the event from occuring."

"Do you think that will be enough?" One of Simon's brows lift slowly. "If you stop the broadcast, what comes next? You know what will happen if the riots come, you have something you can prepare for because you know the terrain ahead. If you change paths now, so close to the fork in the road, and without a map by which to travel… you're running blind into that very mountain you moved."

"Actually," is an interjection from the direction of the brick building that houses the bathrooms, "there's a middle ground that neither of you may have really considered." It's a familiar enough voice to make Richard's heart leap up into his throat and jump out to say a bloody hello. Approaching from the direction of the men's room, Tyler Case walks as a free man. A dark, pinstriped suit and slacks makes him look all the more business chic than he ever has before. It doesn't really fit.

Standing a fair distance from the shelter that Broome and Cardinal are beneath, Tyler tucks his hands into his slacks and rolls his shoulders slowly. "You're in my seat, too…" is politely noted to Cardinal as Tyler offers a tilt of his head towards the concrete table and where Richard stands opposite of Broome.

At the sudden interruption of Richard and Simon's philosophical argument the former's head lifts… and he pushes himself up to his feet in a single swift movement, eyes widening behind the near-opaque lenses of his glasses. "Tyler…? Jesus, everyone's been worried…"

A startled glance to Broome - surprised, no doubt, that he'd give Tyler such a short leash as to let him out here in the open, then back to his friend — stepping over and reaching out to clasp the man by the shoulders, "Damn, it's good to see you."

There's a moment of awkward tension, a flinch when Cardinal's hand comes up to Tyler's shoulder, but there's no recognition from the Cardinal's old friend. Instead, there's just an apologetic and guilty expression and the slow shake of his head. "Richard…" is Broome's attempt to wrangle things back under control as he rises up from his seat, one hand holding the corner of the concrete table as he does, "this isn't how I expected the two of you to meet, but explanations are in order."

"It's alright, Simon," Tyler explains with a raise of one hand, turning to look back to Cardinal. "I'm… not Tyler Case." In everything but name, it would seem, given that his appearance and voice is exactly what would have been expected. Though the posture is all wrong, there's much more confidence in this man wearing Tyler like a suit than there was in Cardinal's old friend.

"Tyler was participating in an experiment at the Commonwealth Institute and there was an accident. Tyler's fine," is the immediate reassurance, for as much cold-comfort as it is. "However his ability and several others in play had an averse side-effect that the researchers in charge hadn't forseen. Tyler is currently occupying another body, and I've been moved into his. We're— he's where I was supposed to be, and we're working on a way to get everyone back to where they belong without harm."

Still moving out from beneath the shelter, Simon doesn't seem to want to leave it at that. "I'm sorry, Richard. Tyler was working with us of his own volition, however. We were not forcing him to help us, but… we're doing everything in our power to find a way to put things right again."

"Wait, what…?" At the first claim that it's not Tyler, Cardinal's hands drop down from his shoulders— and he drops back a step, his forehead lining sharply as he looks between the two men. The mention of an accident sees his jaw tightening, hands curling into fists by his side. "Of course they had unforeseen effects, you fucking people never think about what you're doing before you do it, and then I have to clean up your fucking messes."

"…and you expect me to believe that he was working for you willingly? You kidnapped him, his sister, Delphine…" Gloved fingers twitch as if tempted to reach for his gun — but all he'd kill is his friend's body, and that'd be the opposite of constructive. He's silent for a few moments, anger clear in every twitch of his body language, and then he finally bites off, "Fine. Then who the fuck are you, asshole?"

One of Tyler's brows arch slowly, watching Richard as his ire boils and the question is asked. "I'm not sure it's a good idea to tell you that, just yet; one problem at a time. Tyler isn't going anywhere, Libby is perfectly safe and Delphine is receiving the best medical care possible. I think you have a much more pressing concern with the November 8th riots impending."

Hanging back just a little, Simon's expression is of obvious uneasiness with the two meeting like this, especially with Richard's frustrations taken into account. Tyler, however, tucks his hands into the pockets of his slacks and shifts his weight to one foot casually. "You're armed with the resources, right now, to properly diminish the impact of the riots but not negate them entirely. That's well within your capabilities to handle given the people you have under your employ."

Tyler lifts one brow slowly. "Why don't you do that? Tactically save what can be saved, while allowing the people responsible for orchestrating this to tie a noose around their own necks. You try and stretch out too far, make too many grand and sweeping changes, and you're going to wind up hurting the people closest to you. Save what you can, but realize that you're not Edward Ray. None of us are, and we can't fight battles the way he tried to."

"I could." Cardinal's voice turns cold at that last statement, chin raising up slightly, "If I was willing to be ruthless enough… I could. I have his instructions. It's not too late to follow them… don't make me regret setting them aside."

"I'm already doing that anyway," he admits grudgingly after a pause, arms folding over his chest as he glares through the Ray Bans at 'Tyler', "I could save a lot more people with your help, but I suppose you're too busy sitting around in your labs causing worse and worse accidents and sending your bully squad out to pick up anyone you want. Our kind, Simon?"

To Broome, then, "Your little organization treats the registry like a restaurant menu. How do you expect me to think your motivations are in any way honorable?"

"We are protecting a select group of individuals, saving them from the disaster to come. Did it not occur to you, Richard, that most everyone on our list that we have been taking off the streets has in some way been connected to you on a personal level?" One of Simon's brows lift, and at that assessment Tyler takes a step away, looking to Simon, then down to his feet as he paces across the paved walkway. "Eve, Angelina, Gillian… I am trying to do what you are not yet capable of doing, because you are not ready to do it yet. We were too late to find Angelina, and we made too many assumptions about Doctor Luis' ability to keep Dmitri Gregor under control, which put Gillian in considerable danger. But our intentions were always to protect those closest to you Richard."

Simon's chin tilts upward, assessing Cardinal again. "We have taken some dangerous people away as well, as part of our arrangement with the government, but only so much as it is required to keep up appearances. Like you had said, we are taking their funding while supplying them with a noose by which to hang themselves. I grew up in Germany, Richard, my mother was a Jew during the holocaust and the only reason she survived is because of my father Otto. While he may have been a dispicable man, I would not be if it were not for him. But I remember the ghettos, I remember the rumors of the concentration camps. I was too young to know the full gravity of it all, but I know just how close I came to being one of those people with a serial number tattooed on their forearm."

Tyler looks up to Simon when that story is brought out, his brows furrowing and head hanging. But he remains quiet, ceding the floor to the elder in this conversation. "I do not do what I do without a heavy heart, without a weight on my conscience, but you and I both know what it means to make sacrifices for the greater good. That sometimes in order to do good things, good people sometimes get hurt. But we cannot sustain this constant struggle against the future, Richard. We must learn, as a people, to endure."

Obviously, that idea didn't occur to Richard Cardinal whatsoever… because the revelation that people were being taken off the street because of their connections to him earns the pair a rather startled look. One hand comes up, reaching back to scratch against the nape of his neck as he listens, his lips pursing in the tight line of a frown.

"We can't just endure, though, Simon," he argues in return, "Yes… we need to endure, to survive, but if we don't struggle to make things better then we might as well be helping make things worse. We need my way as much as we need the Ferry's way. Just like your people needed the Allies to put an end to those ghettos, to those camps. There's got to be a better future out there, Simon. One we can nurture, while killing off the weeds…"

"And— " He hesitates, "— why me? Seriously, what the hell do you care about me so much that you're trying to protect people I care about? How did you even know about Angel?"

"You and I go back much further than you're yet aware, Richard. What you experienced and saw in 1992 is only the beginning of a story that, with any luck, you will never need to know the beginning of. You helped me through a very difficult time in my life, and for it I will always owe you. But you are not yet the man you were then, and if I have any say in the matter you won't have to become that man." Simon's choice of words is careful, deliberate, cautious.

That he speaks with caution is also reflected in his posture, a bit more stiff and uneasy than he normally is around Richard. Perhaps it's his new company that has him a touch on edge. "I'm not saying that we need to remain isolationist, Richard." Getting the conversation back on track and away from more sensitive topics seems to be Simon's goal. "We need to — " and here comes Tyler, circling back into the conversation and interjecting over Simon.

"Then fight, if that's what makes you feel better. But fight with a plan. Going from catastrophe to catastrophe and trying to change the future without knowing where it's going to go is only going to be the goddamned death of you." Suddenly Tyler is the one filled with fire. That much, judging from his expression, surprises Simon more than anything.

"Until we can fix Edward's mind and be certain that he's being reliable and not working on his own agenda, we can't play the game you're wanting to. Murdering the future is going to do just that, it's going to murder the future and we're going to have nothing left to build from. The Institute is our Ark, if — when things finally fall apart, they'll be the bastion of our people."

With brows furrowed, Tyler then adds, "Did you know they survived Munin?" One dark brow raises, slowly. "In that future, the Institute survived the flood, started bringing back civilization to the remnants of the world. It was an extreme situation, but it worked. Are we better off having stopped that from happening? Maybe. But we have no way of knowing for certain."

"An extreme solution? So was the holocaust," Cardinal responds in verbal riposte, his voice fierce as he defends his position, "I'm not in the business of organizing apocalypses anymore. I made that decision on the rooftop of the Pinehearst building, parasite." Apparently, not-Tyler's earned the same epithet as Ghost, in his book. Body thieves.

"I don't work without a plan anymore, either," he adds flatly, "You might think I'm just out there flailing around with a hammer, but not everything I do is destructive. And if you're playing the role of Noah— " A point to Broome, "— and God— " A point to Tyler, "— then prove to me that you aren't the bad guys. Let me see my people."

"You have, and you will." Simon states flatly, "consider it a promise already fulfilled. But not yet, and not now. But you have, and will, see your people. You are satisfied with their living conditions and with the progress Eve has made especially. There are no bad guys in this world, Richard, there is only a measure of what level of sacrifice you are willing to palette for a desired outcome."

Of course, Tyler has a wholly different attitude on the matter. "Your plan sucks," is flatly stated by the parasite, "it fails, and thousands of people die because of it. Go back to the drawing board and start again because from where I'm standing right now, I have the perspectivw. You've already put too many things into motion that I can't hope to stop now, which means it's practically an inevitability that Daniel's going down, that every crime family from the Marcettos to the drug runners from South America are going to start carving up the city like a Thanksgiving turkey."

Tyler steps in past Broome, brows furrowed together and shoulders squared. "You want proof that we're not the bad guys?"

Tyler's eyes narrow, jaw squares. "Why don't you try looking in a mirror?" Simon turns away, eyes shutting slowly.

"How do you think I know so much about you?" Birds scatter from the trees around the chess pavillion, take to their wings in a crowing explosion.

"Seventy-seven was a bad year for us."

What can someone say to that? A heavy silence hangs over the chess pavillion for long heartbeats as Richard Cardinal regards the alleged result of his future - his past - or both, or neither depending on how one looks at it.

"We have met the enemy," he mutters under his breath, the first thing that comes to mind, "And he is us."

He looks away, fingers pushing back through his hair to try and comb it back into place. "…and you expect me to just… believe that? Even if it is true…" A sharp flicker of his gaze back to the pair, "…you'd know that the last person I trust is myself."

"Believe what you want, I'm not going to rattle off details of our lives." Tyler explains with a tilt of his head to the side. "But that you don't even trust yourself says a lot about you," but apparently from his use of pronouns not himself. "Why do you think Simon has been so invested in your life, trying to make contact with you, make nice with you? Why do you think the Institute seems to know what's going to happen before it even does?"

Looking up, slowly, Simon exhales a sigh and folds his hands behind his back. "You are the leader of the Commonwealth Institute, Richard. You created it, you were the brainchild of the entire organization. You came to me following my mother's death and planted the seeds of the Institute in my mind, you helped me design the way it would operate. We were going to build a better future, together, and then you died."

Tyler's head tilts to the side slowly. "You don't have to trust me to know that this is the truth. You don't need evidence, because maybe you had this sinking suspicion all along. I'm here, now, and after all this time I'm putting the Institute back on the proper course. You can do what you want, do what you need, but at the end of the day you have to realize that you will eventually become me."

Simon looks apologetic at that, lips downturning into a frown. "I wanted you to find out in a different way, Richard. But everything he says is true. The Company had your brain preserved for years in a vault in Odessa, Texas. They had no idea what they had, they had no idea who they had. We spent years since the founding of the Institute scrambling to get the pieces of the puzzle together that could rebuild you, that could bring back the dead."

Suddenly Simon's first meeting with Cardinal and all subsequent ones is put into perspective.

Suddenly the game changes.

"No," Cardinal counters sharply, lifting one hand as if to ward off not-Tyler's words or press the truth of the matter away, "I won't become you… it's impossible, actually, you've changed enough already. You've changed me and that means I'll never be you. Just like Edward'll never become that butcher that came back from Arthur's future."

It's true enough, but it's unimportant to the discussion. Perhaps it's important to him, though, to separate himself a step from the convoluted tesseract that his timeline's become. It's one that even Hiro can't resolve anymore, not without altering the timeline more than his ethics allow.

He turns away, pacing across the pavillion as he tries to wrap his mind around this whole thing, one hand lifting to rub against the side of his face. The worst part is, he does believe it. It sounds very much like something that he'd do.

"Why?" A sharp look over, "Why did— why did you come back? What went so wrong that you felt the need to shake the cosmic Etch-a-Sketch and start over?"

That question Simon doesn't have an answer for, and it shows in his expression. When he turns to look back at the man who is now inhabiting Tyler Case's body, it is with expectance. Curiosity is natural, but with how little Simon genuinely knows about the future, any elucidation is welcomed. Unfortunately, Tyler doesn't look to be in the mood to share.

"We lost," is his only explanation for what happened, "game over." Finally withdrawing his hands from his pockets, Tyler rubs his fingers together, then offers a look askance to Simon before turning his dark-eyed stare back to Cardinal. "It doesn't matter what happened, because you're right, that future can't happen— won't. But I'm not going to just go about willy-nilly changing things, toppling pillars I don't have any business to. I know where my mistakes laid, I know what I need to change, what's important."

Tyler's brows furrow, lips downturn into a frown. "It doesn't matter what happened. Because it's going to be better this time. Edward had the right idea, he just went about it all wrong. We should never have stopped him, we should never have stopped Arthur. It was all a mistake, but we have to live with that now, don't we?"

"I see." Cardinal regards 'Tyler' steadily for a long moment. So that's what I'll sound like if I go insane, he thinks quietly to himself, thumb rubbing over his upper lip as he covers his mouth with one hand in a thoughtful posture. "So you know where your mistakes were, but you're not going to tell me…"

That hand drops down to his side, and he shakes his head slowly. "Well. I guess we'll see which one of us has the right idea in the end, won't we?"

"You'll come around," Tyler explains with a slow roll of his shoulders, "people always do. The Institute is your brainchild— our brainchild. Endgame is just another name for what it will eventually become. The world is full of screwed up people, you and I both know how fucked up humanity is. Yet here we are, both trying to fight to save it…" Tyler's brows furrow, dark eyes turn to Richard and then to Simon ever so briefly before focusing on his younger self again.

"I just have a few more years on you, is all. Deep down inside, we're the same person, same morality, same goals. If you look deep enough, look hard enough, you'll realize that we're willing to do anything when it comes down to it. But in the end, you know what side of the line you stand on." Both of Tyler's shoulders rise and fall, "I'll be waiting there for you when you come to your senses."

Simon's lips downturn to a frown, looking from the older incarnation of Cardinal from an unknown point in the future, over to Richard's younger self. "I think… maybe we've said enough for one day." It's a diplomatic attempt at keeping two junkyard dogs from each other's throats while things are still civil.

"People change," Richard echoes Simon's earlier statement without looking away from his 'future self' in his friend's body, his lips pursing in a tight line, "And it might not be the change you expect, Ezekiel." His Christian name. Not that he'd admit to it. Really, Ezekiel.

It gives him something to call his alleged double, though.

"Maybe so," he says quietly to Simon's words, reaching over to pluck the black king back off the table, "Maybe so." The white king is lifted off the table, too, and he turns away, tossing the pieces in his hand with a clatter of stone against stone, "I think you've forgotten about the butterflies, though."

As Cardinal turns to walk away with both of the king chess pieces, Simon exhales a tired sigh and lets his shoulders slack, turning to look up to 'Tyler' with brows furrowed. "You shouldn't have told him yet, you know he's not ready…" It isn't so much judgmental sounding as it is patient. Tyler, however, is wholly unimpressed with the notion of waiting to reveal himself when the opportunity arose.

"He'd have found out sooner or later, it's not something I would have had too much time figuring out. Better to get it out of the way now…" Tyler's stare levels down to the chess board missing both kings, brows furrowed and head turning to the side as Simon moves to start recollecting the pieces for his case.

"He'll come around," Tyler reiterates, looking back in the direction Cardinal is walking away in.

"Sooner or later."


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