The Great And Terrible Oz


cardinal_icon.gif clara3_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif julien_icon.gif julien2_icon.gif julien4_icon.gif sabine_icon.gif sarisa_icon.gif

Scene Title The Great and Terrible Oz
Synopsis Do not look behind the curtain, unless you are absolutely certain you're prepared for what you will find.
Date August 13, 2010

Gray and Sons

Of all the places in New York City…

Situated in the heart of downtown Brooklyn in a neighborhood that has seen a modest amount of growth since the bomb, Gray & Sons is one of many abandoned storefronts in the tightly packed and high-crime neighborhood. The boarded-up storefront looks as derelict as any other building on this street, mercifully untagged by graffiti. But it isn't the front of the store that is the important point to reference, but rather and entrance around the side of the old, forgotten business.

Down a narrow alley of crumbling brick and stagnant puddles of water, a steaming sewer grate belches out a fine fog into the alley's middle, wafting trails of steam intermittantly obscuring a red-painted Stanley steel door propped open by a cinderblock. It's in this alley where Richard Cardinal and Elisabeth Harrison were told they would see a red door, in this alley where these two were told they could find Sarisa Kershner for an important meeting.

What she's doing at an abandoned watch shop, however — especially this watch shop — is anybody's guess.

"This… now this is more what I'm comfortable with." A whispered comment from beneath the stirring threads of steam and across the pools of dirty water in the alleyway, breeding grounds for all manner of bacteria that never touch the shadow that moves over them. Cardinal glides up the wall, shifting into the shape of a man's silhouette walking along towards the red door, "Dirty alleyways, abandoned buildings for meeting places, never quite sure who's waiting on the other side…"

This, he understands. Time travel and politics, he's beginning to, but he doesn't have to like it.

"The woman has a finely tuned sense of the macabre," Elisabeth mutters as walks. Her black cargo pants and boots are not precisely out of place but they aren't exactly inconspicuous either. Thankfully most people are either busy with their commute to wherever they're going or glued to their televisions for the latest breaking news on what just went down in Staten Island — which right now seems to be a plane crashing into the University Hospital, though speculation abounds on whether it was some kind of Evo attack or something. It's right out of a fucking horror movie in spite of the fact that it's full daylight and all. Alert and wary of trouble, Elisabeth is listening ahead, seeking out any sound that seems out of the ordinary.

The interior of the building that Cardinal is first to enter looks nothing like the facade does. Boarded up windows conceal a very slick and minimalist operation going on inside of the building entirely. Right thorugh the door a narrow hallway with wood flooring leads into an open living space where a glass-topped desk is set with three desktop workstations, computer monitors displaying satellite maps of New York City's five boroughs. Spooled cabling runs in corrugated plastic hose across the floor, some lengths of networking CAT-5 cable is stapled along the corners where wall meets floor.

Leather furniture is arranged on a far wall away from the computers, smooth and black with a sofa and two overstuffed armchairs surrounding a glass coffee table. Work benches and display cases that once held clocks and watches are empty further in, but the presence of people here trumps sight-seeing the decour.

A blonde gentleman familiar to Richard is standing stooped over one computer, one hand resting on the back of a chair where an identical blonde man with hair swept forward in a different haircut sits, typing ona keyboard.

A third and matching man is headed from the room towards the door Richard has come through, his olive-drab jacket open, revealing the black tanktop beneath. Boots clunk along the floor, and as the mysterious gentleman that Cardinal met at the deli in the Bronx offers him a flashed smile, one piece of a very elaborate puzzle is snapped into place.

"Cardinal, Harrison," the stubbled blonde notes with a toothy smile, "welcome to the nerve center. Why don't you come on in an' I'll get you familiarized with the team. Kershner's on her way."

The door's opened from the alley, not from that side, but from within as Cardinal steps free of the shadows beside the door to ever-so-chivalrously invite his partner and lover into the nerve center of Kershner's black ops group, from the looks of it.

A smirk just-tugs up at the corner of his lips as he steps forward, offering a hand to the man who approaches him, the edge of his jacket's sleeve pulling back to show a hint of tattooing along his wrist in the process.

"Julien Dumont, I presume," he greets casually, "Unfortunately, you weren't being kept in the hospital."

The corner of one eyebrow arches in Cardinal's direction as she follows him into the building, and then she pauses for a split second. The man inside — or men, rather — is not familiar to her, and that makes her wary. But they are where they're supposed to be, clearly. For a second she almost shoves her hands into her pockets to keep them from fidgeting, but instead she briefly smooths them down the outside of her pants and nods to the man greeting them, offering her own hand as well once the men are done. "Interesting place you have here," she comments quietly.

"It's a fancy little home away from home," is the response to Elisabeth's commentary about the converted watch shop. "I figured I might not be there," Julien admits to Cardinal with a crook of his head to the side and no attempt to dismiss his identity now that he and Elisabeth have seen his face— faces.

Jerking his head towards the interior, Julien turns around and tucks his hands into the pockets of his camouflage pants, treading noisily across the floor. "C'mon in, get yourselves comfortable. The boss was supposed to be here sooner, but something must have tied her up. Or, you know, the other way around… you know how it is, yeah?" Into the main office of the converted storefront, a makeshift tactical center is the immeidate visual impression the place affords.

Computer screens are turned off as Cardinal and Liz come in, and the two other Juliens stand up straight and offer a thoughtfullook to the pair, then each other, before one of them offers a wordless wave of one hand and moves towards the sofa. Dressed in business casual attire of a blazer, dress shirt and jeans he almost looks like an entirely different person from the military-chic style that the first Julien wears.

"I need to head back to the others," the third Julien notes, adjusting the red tie worn in contrast to his ink black suit, hair swept to one side in a neat coif. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Miss Harrison, Mister Cardinal." His attitude seems entirely different as well, notably possessing a faint Austrailian accent on top of all of the other differences.

"I've got to hand it to her, she's got quite the sense of irony in her choice of headquarters…" It's something that Cardinal can appreciate. He certainly was using a touch of irony when he took over the library. As the third Julien rises to leave, he offers over an easy nod, "Have a good one. See you around…"

Oh, he's seeing him around now! Or, well, his duplicates, even if they're individualized.

A chair's taken, and he drops himself down into it, sprawling back in his seat and leaning back with a clasp of both hands upon his chest. "Last night was a little loud. I imagine she's busy."

Drily, Liz retorts, "It wasn't as loud as it could have been." The image of making a full team of men scream their heads off as she permanently and deliberately deafened them flashes across her mind's eye. Whatever. Shoving a hand through her hair, loosened to facilitate (she hopes) a release of tension from the headache she's sporting, Elisabeth walks to another nearby chair and slumps into it. "So… I take it you know this gentleman," she observes to Cardinal. "What the hell's going on in this place?" Because this is not where she expected to meet Kershner. Really.

"We were warned in advance of what you were doing," the Julien on the couch notes with a dismissive wave of his hand and an affable smile, "our operations procedure was to run interference against the National Guard and Institute. We diverted a squad of Retrievers that were supposed to show up on site and neutralized them before they could radio back for assistance." There's a fond smile from that particular Julient o Elisabeth. "You're lucky you let Sarisa know up front about your plans so she could give us advance warning."

"Oh, we have guests? I didn't hear we were having guests, Julien why didn't you tell me we were having guests?" It isn't Sarisa's voice that comes from the hallway behind Elisabeth and Cardinal, but it is another woman. Austrailian accent much stronger than the Julien clone that subtly professed nationality. Standing there in the mouth of the hall at the edge of the room, a tall and dark-haired woman with a classic profile and sharp eyebrows watches curiously the unfamiliar pair.

"Sabinem darling," the camouflage-dressed Julien states as he motions towards her with one hand, "This is Richard Cardinal and Elisabeth Harrison, the ah… the people that Kershner told you about?" Sabine's expression turns from curious to incredulous as she offers an askance look to the pair, folding her arms across her chest and settling her weight to one foor more so than the other.

"That's Cardinal?" She asks with a tilt of her head to one side, "Huh." As she steps further into the room, Sabine looks clearly dressed in the same military attire Julien is. Olive-drab pants and an unzippered jacket, black tanktop undershirt and a Baretta 9mm holstered on her hip. The uniform looks remarkably similar to that of a National Guardsman.

"Cardinal," the camouflage-clad Julien notes with a tip of his head, "Harrison," blue eyes then track to the brunette. "This is Sabine Hazel, Ex-Company operative like myself," there's a brush of one hand to his own chest, "and one of your guardian angels."

"I suppose we'll find out when the Queen of Cups makes her dramatic appearance…" Cardinal makes himself at home, since he was invited to, legs streching out and one foot resting over the other ankle. A smile crooks to his lips as the woman comes in from down the hall, brows raising a bit over the edge of his shades.

"I know," he deadpans, "Everyone tells me they thought I'd be taller in person."

There's a slant of a glance at the Julien that gave her the cute face. Elisabeth doesn't seem quite ready to take any of them at face value, and the sound of another female voice brings her blonde head around to assess the newcomer. She notes the woman's incredulity with the same cool blue eyes that noted the expression on the Juliens faces. "Ma'am," she greets 'Sabine' politely, trying not to snicker at Cardinal's smart mouth.

"Much obliged," she comments to the Julian who's doing the talking. "5 to 1 odds was about all I really wanted to deal with." Their team had already lost half of their numbers when they hit the squad of over twenty guys — if these people ran interference for another squad, Liz is grateful. She doesn't mention that if she hadn't informed

There's a slant of a glance at the Julien that gave her the cute face. Elisabeth doesn't seem quite ready to take any of them at face value, and the sound of another female voice brings her blonde head around to assess the newcomer. She notes the woman's incredulity with the same cool blue eyes that noted the expression on the Juliens faces. "Ma'am," she greets 'Sabine' politely, trying not to snicker at Cardinal's smart mouth.

"Much obliged," she comments to the Julian who's doing the talking. "5 to 1 odds was about all I really wanted to deal with." Their team had already lost half of their numbers when they hit the squad of over twenty guys — if these people ran interference for another squad, Liz is grateful. She doesn't mention that if she hadn't informed Kershner, there'd have been likely hell to pay. But whatever.

"Queen of what?" asks a woman sitting right next to Cardinal on the arm of the chair just outside of his peripheral vision where she most certainly was not sitting a moment ago. The black suit she wears is slimming, one leg crossed over the other, powder blue dress shirt beneath unbuttoned down to her collar. Blonde hair is tied back into a loose ponytail and both of her hands are occupied by an open box of Chinese takeout, the other chopsticks and tare pulling noodles of beef lo-mein out.

The Julien on the couch startles with a jump when the blonde makes her abrupt appearance, slurping up noodles with both brows raised in innocent and curious fashion. "Jesus Christ, don't— do that." Julien slaps a hand over his heart and furrows his brows, breathing exasperatedly as he looks with an embarrassed and askance glance to Elisabeth.

The camouflage-clad Julien just rolls his eyes at his duplicate's demeanor, then walks down past Sabine, resting a hand on her shoulder in passing before treading towards the hallway that leads to the back door. He's never gotten in the custom of saying goodbye when one of him is still in the room, perceptions of departure less strict in Julien's mind.

"Clara," Sabine states with strained smile, slowly walking to stand by the others at the sofa, "I thought you were on assignment?" One black brow raises slowly, "With Epstein?" Clara turns to regard Sabine, her head cocked to the side and tongue pressing to the inside of her cheek.

"Oh, yeah I was. I really wanted lunch though," seems unusually dismissive as the blonde looks back to Cardinal, then Elisabeth, all smiles and peppy attitude. An awkward silence hangs in the air, Julien reaching up to rub at his forehead in it, Sabine rolling her eyes to the ceiling.

"So," Clara offers in hushed, conversational tone, "I heard you're nuke-proof?" Correction, Sabine rolls her eyes twice.

To Cardinal's credit, he only jerks a little bit in surprise as the young woman appears perched on the arm of his chair, his hand only twitching an inch towards where the pistol's holstered under his arm.

"Clara, I take it?" One brow arches as he regards her, giving her a slow once-over as he exhales a breath that'd caught momentarily in his throat, "You're working with Avi, too? S'pose I shouldn't be surprised."

His lips twitch in a bit of a smirk, then, and he leans a little closer to the quantum accelerator, "…mmhm. There's a trick to it."

"Don't die."

The blonde's appearance next to Cardinal would have startled Elisabeth badly in the first place — she's a little tense. The fact that the Julien on the couch jumps a mile sends Liz bolting upright with a hand to the front of her waist where her weapon resides in an innerpants holster that is mostly invisible against the black of her T-shirt until she's reaching for it. "FUCK," she grits tightly. The gun never clears the holster, though she remains a bit pale as she slumps back down into the chair. "Kindly do not jump out of nowhere like that around me," she demands — and it's not exactly a request, more like an order. "It's been a tough night." Christ… it's been a tough year.

Elisabeth does, however, glare at Cardinal. "Pot, kettle," she comments.

Nose wrinkling and brows furrowed at Cardinal, Clara arches one brow slowly when she's recognized by her name and tricks. "That's totally the trick to it, in'nit?" Offering out the box of lo-mein to Cardinal, Clara arches out brow expectantly as she answers his question without hesitation. "Yeah, I work with Avi. I was runnin' around trying to pull away some of the injured that had lost consciousness out in the field. It uh, I— I got a couple people to safety but most've them weren't just unconscious… or, yeah." Shaking her head to toss an errant lock of blonde hair behind one ear, Clara looks over to Elisabeth.

"Sorry, I forget when my power's on half the time. Unless somebody's looking at me, and even then it's kinda hard to notice when things are moving or not," isn't really an explanation at all, but mostly just a confusing jumble of words.

Despite Clara's out-of-context commentary, Elisabeth can hear the heels clicking on the pavement of the alley outside long before Cardinal hears them on the hardwood floor. When the shark-gray suited frame of Sarisa Kershner steps in from the mouth of the hall into the room, it comes with a salute from Sabine and a curt nod of the brunette's head.

"Sir," Sabine addresses Sarisa, stepping aside to allow the blonde to pass by. Sarisa offers a demure smile to the former agent, then lifts up a hand to adjust the gauzy canary yellow silk scarf around her neck before waving to Elisabeth and Cardinal.

"Sorry I'm late, I was interrupted by a phone call from the new operations director of Homeland so he could screech at me. I have to admit," Sarisa appreciatively offers with a wry smile, "you all have done a remarkable job of putting every single government agency on high alert. Bravo."

Hey. Lo Mein. Cardinal brings a gloved hand up to accept the box offered to him, a smile crooking up a bit at one corner of his lips. "Thanks… and shut up, Liz. You'd think you'd be used to people appearing from nowhere by now, God knows I do it to you enough," he murmurs wryly, rooting around in the box with the chopsticks.

Then he looks up, brows listing, "Hey, Sari. Glad you appreciate our work - we do try our best." A bunch of noodles is shoved into his mouth, and he chews, swallows, offers it out, "Lo mein?"

Elisabeth's retort is to kick Cardinal in the ankle. Just because. "Ma'am," she greets Kershner without getting up. In fact, she drops her head back on the back of the chair she's sitting in and looks up at her boss with every evidence of insousciance — and a cheeky smile. "It went well enough," she quips. If everything that happened can be call 'well'.

"It went better than well enough, I heard that they pulled Desmong Harper out of a meeting at Langley into a closed-door meeting about how severely the Institute dropped the ball on the entire hospital's security and internal structure." Walking further into the room, Sarisa folds her hands behind her back and comes to stand at the head of that glass-topped coffee table, in clear view of both armchairs and the sofa. Sabine moves behind Sarisa, taking up the last occupied chair and looking discomforted by how deeply she sinks into the overstuffed upholstry.

"Why're we all here, Sarisa?" Julien asks with one hand smoothing his hair flat self-consciously between stealing looks at Elisabeth, "This isn't exactly normal protocol, if you know what I mean?" Sarisa offers a cold look to Julien, then a dip of her head into a nod before moving her attention around the room.

"I thought it would be good for you all to meet, given that we may be working closer together in the future than I'd expected. I think that everyone here in this room shares a common enemy with the Institute, and I wanted to clear the air to make it absolutely certain that what happened last night was not a mistake, a miscalculation or something punishable. It was a necessary and effective strike against an organization I absolutely cannot trust."

Blue eyes divert to Cardinal, one brow slowly raised. "You're nominally in charge of your particular group, yes?"

A smile twitches to Cardinal's lips at Kershner's words, his head tilting slightly in a nod as if she'd passed some sort of test. "A point-" Then he's kicked, and winces slightly, "-for the Queen of Cups. I'm glad to hear that, Sarisa. To tell the truth, I wasn't sure which side of the line you were really standing on. And after what I saw in that building last night, if you were on the other side, you'd be dead on the floor right now."

The lo mein's passed back to Clara, and he wipes his mouth with the back of his hand, "I am. What's your next move?"

Elisabeth chooses to simply shut up and listen at this point, using the time to familiarize herself with everyone else in the room. Taking stock of accents, features, attitudes.

"Nothing," Sarisa flatly explains, "at least nothing either of you need to know. Julien and Sabine are handling intelligence gathering on the Institute's operations in the city now that the hospital is gone. They'll need to set up a new base of operations and I fully plan on figuring out where it was and napalm, rinse, repeat." A playful smile crosses Kershner's lips, echoed by the smile Sabine offers in reaction to the word napalm.

"Francis and Epstein are handling some more sensitive matters for me, and that leaves you and yours to… lay low." Both of Sarisa's brows lift slowly as she folds her hands behind her back and adopts a distinctly at-ease posture. "What I'd like to know is what your next move is, because this is a very reactionary position we've been put in, and I'd like to be kept abreast of what's going on."

In all of that Sarisa never really did clarify which side of the line she's on. The answer is quite likely, her own.

She quite firmly placed herself on the other side of that line from the Institute, however, and for the moment… that's all that Cardinal cares about. After all, he's on his own side too.

At the question, he nods ever so slightly, admitting, "The same thing I always do. I watch, I listen, I learn. I get my company up and running. I've got some irons in the fire towards taking over the New York underworld, you know, so I don't get bored and start considering world conquest."

"I wouldn't want to end up some kind've James Bond villain, after all. I'm allergic to cats."

For a moment, Elisabeth has a blank expression. And ultimately she simply reaches up and rubs her forehead. "At this juncture, ma'am, laying low seems to include going back to work. I'm pretty certain Commander Spalding's frothing at the mouth." Her tone is mild and quietly facetious. Because honestly, dealing with Michael Spalding's annoyance isn't particularly high on her list of things I want to do this summer. But it needs doing.

"Good, good…" Sarisa's brows furrow, blue eyes divert around the team gathered and then finally settle on Cardinal again. "I'm working on getting as much information as I can on the Institute, and my intention is to forward it along to you to do exactly what you did with the last intel on them you received, turn it into a bludgeon. Right now I'm attempting to ascertain the identities of all of the members of Frontline's black-ops Unit Zero, which was reconstituted to serve as the Institute's private security sector."

At that, Sabine finally steps forward and speaks up. "From our assessments, we're aware of the identities of two men. One Desmond Harper, classified with Sense Projection, and Lucas Eldridge, classfied as Teleportation. We believe that they may have at least a negator and possibly a memory manipulator on their unit, but it is unconfirmed."

"Furthermore," Sabine adds, "we can confirm that they are operating with a prototype of the Horizon MkII based on eye-witness accounts. We believe that General Autumn may have had more information on this, but his untimely death leaves that knowledge well outside of our hands. Even Miss Kershner's clearance seems to not cover Unit Zero's particulars."

From the sofa, Julien chimes in with, "We've got a good bead on how their network operates though. The white-suits are called Retreivers. They're out-sourced PMC types that work like a terrorist cell, if y'fucking believe it. They have their own private operation centers and work on-call through encoded communications sent by the Institute. Far as we can tell, they're using some kind of non-standard data transfer frequency, highly encrypted stuff. No two Retreiver squads ever know what the others are doing, their gear is shipped in by requisition, and as far as I know they never make face-to-face contact with the Institute itself. They have drop sites arranged for each capture."

"Very well organized, difficult to disarm entirely." Sabine further adds, "With our intel source, we're hoping to discover where the Institute sets up their workshop next before they can build another site like the Staten Island Hospital. So far, all is silent."

"I have operatives attempting to gather intel themselves, although I'm not at liberty to reveal who or how just yet," Richard Cardinal says, his voice suddenly quiet and serious as he leans forward, forearms resting on his thighs and hands clasping between his knees, "If you can intercept the frequency, Julien, I have someone who can decrypt it. My own personal ENIGMA machine, you might say."

A look up to Sarisa, and he arches a brow, "Can you get Harper - or Eldridge - into a public space? Some sort of event or ball or something?"

Elisabeth parses through the information that's been given, her brow furrowing together. "Why the hell…… never mind," she says quietly. Propping her elbow on the arm of her chair, two fingers holding her head upright at the temple, the blonde FRONTLINE officer considers what she wants to contribute here. Ultimately she once again remains silent. In general, it's always better to only have one person peppering the crazy lady with questions. She gets less pissy.

A brief flick of attention is offered from Sarisa to Liz and then back to Cardinal "Possibly," is her cautious answer, "but if you're thinking of putting a bullet in either of them that won't be a good solution to our problems, they'll just get replaced. If it's for another reason I can probably inform you when he's making a public appearance, but he and Eldridge both don't seem much the type. Furthermore…" Sarisa unfolds her hands from behind her back, one lifting to brush back her bangs from her face.

"We've determined that several of the senior officials in the Department of Homeland Security have Institute connections. Former Company agent Howard Lemay, the CDC liaison that Claire Bennet nearly murdered in his home is one of them, he's been appointed to the position of Assistant Director beneath Parkman. As far as I know, Parkman himself seems clean of the Institute."

Looking over to Elisabeth, briefly, Sarisa pinches her brows together, then looks back to Richard. "I'll consider the ramifications of giving you the frequency they use to deliver information. My concern would be that if they discover it's been compromised too soon, we may lose our edge. But, if I can trust you to handle the information with measured results… maybe then."

At the accusation of assassination plans, Cardinal's eyes roll behind his shades. "I'm hardly that unsubtle, Sarisa. I just need him somewhere that he can be seen, line of sight. If you want to know what's going on inside the Institute - trust me, here. I know what I'm doing. As for the frequency - I'm capable of making Churchill's decision if I need to."

The tips of his fingers drum against his knee for a moment as he considers the other words… and then he nods, slowly, "Parkman… if he's not with the Institute, do we know where his loyalties are? I haven't - talked to him in over a year."

The line of Elisabeth's brows when Sarisa's eyes fall on her gives the impression of studied innocence. If the Shark is looking to Elisabeth to keep Richard Cardinal under control, one hopes that she's prepared for disappointment. Liz may exert a certain amount of control on the man, but only when it suits his purposes to allow himself to be reined in. None of that, of course, is stated aloud.

"Parkman has alternative ties that may prove…. interesting in all of this if they still hold," Elisabeth comments mildly. She has a distinct memory of Rickham and Parkman in the library nearly two years ago now… and wonders if perhaps Messiah is already tapping that line of intel or if it's closed to them. Parkman has always been something of a shadowy figure with his own agenda to her mind. She looks between the two of them, though, curious as to Kershner's intel on the matter … and whether she'll bother to share.

"Parkman is in Petrelli's back pocket, I don't know if Petrelli has something on Parkman or if he actually drinks the Petrelli Kool-Aid, but spinning him to another side would be a Herculean effort." Shifting her weight more to her right foot, Sarisa crosses her arms over her chest and tips her head down into a slow nod to Elisabeth. "Mister Parkman did have strong connections with Phoenix two years ago, but I'm not sure how that center has been holding up in the intervening time. His work has done a number on him, and if you do try to make contact be aware that he is still the single-most powerful recorded telepath known to be living."

One blonde brow rises at that, and Sarisa exhales a steady sigh. "I'll have Julien forward you information regarding the Institute frequency that we know of, and if we discover any more that have stability of use I'll let you know." Noting the Churchhill Decision seems to have earned favor with Sarisa.

"Outside of that, I just wanted you to meet some of my operatives face to face so we're all on the same page. You've done your best at keeping me informed, so I thought I'd share the same respects." But then, Sarisa does narrow her eyes. "However, there is one last issue I want to ask you about." Blue eyes level rather pointedly on Cardinal.

"What the hell is wrong with Claire Bennet?"

Oh, that.

Oh, that indeed. There's a wince at the query about Claire and a vague scowl. Liz is apparently not thrilled with that situation either. She'll let Richard field that one, but she delivers what may or may not be the beginnings of a bombshell in a mild tone. "Actually, I was referring more to ties with the former duly elected President who was replaced by Petrelli," Elisabeth admits.

"His ties with Phoenix have always been sketchy, at best. He tries to be a straight arrow, but I also know that the bottom line for him is the safety of his daughter. It's powerful leverage and I wouldn't presume to approach him, but I do wonder if Messiah has tried already, given their leadership."

"I have a history with Matt," Cardinal says quietly, bringing a hand up, sliding it beneath his shades to rub at the bridge of his nose, "It's not… the time yet, but I think I might be able to sway him when that time comes."

He shakes his head, then, "No. There's no way that Messiah would ever approach Matt, and that— that right there's the reason why." He points at Sarisa, his expression turning grave, "Messiah thinks that Peter Petrelli's the one leading them. He's not. They're all being lied to. It's a time-bomb waiting to explode, and I don't know what the trigger is yet."

One of Sarisa's brows lifts slowly, and her answer is the expected one: "Elaborate." Whatever else is going on behind Kershner's eyes isn't offered with any kind of explanation or tells, no smiles, no twitches, it's like all of the sudden she's someone else and it's very much the way Jessica and Niki seem to swap out. It isn't that Sarisa Kershner has a personality disorder, but more than the affable mask she often wears is just that… a mask.

"I sent Claire in to infiltrate Messiah," says Cardinal, his own casual and joking facade entirely gone now, serious gaze on hers over the edge of his shades, "She had history with some of its members, and she volunteered. I didn't hear from her again until after the… suicide bombing in the Capital. She gave me this line of bullshit about how Autumn had 'ruined our lives' by sending us on Apollo - making, just… no sense whatsoever."

He shakes his head slowly, "Their real leader, though, is the supposed 'tactical advisor' of the group. A guy named Rupert Carmichael. Ever heard of him?"

That confuses the ever-loving hell out of Sarisa and it shows in a fleeing look of bewilderment on her face. "I've— met Rupert on several occasions. He's— he has ties through most levels of the government. His brother Jonathan Carmichael was the first prototyper of the original Horizon Alpha armor and leader of the first Frontline Unit Zero. He's the only government official to ever capture Sylar, and was then— promptly murdered by him along with the rest of Unit Zero."

Sarisa's brows furrow, blue eyes narrow. "Rupert Carmichael has connections at all levels of state and federal government, money that dates back older than most of the buildings in the city. He's exceptionally well-respected and a close personal friend of Vice-President Mitchell. In fact, Rupert has been a guest of honor at the White House on two occasions for functions and dinners. You… you're absolutely sure that he has a connection to Messiah?"

Blue eyes flick from side to side, and Sarisa looks back up to Cardinal. "We brain-washed Magnes Varlane," is— kind— of abrupt. "Parkman and I. Magnes was going to try and go public about Messiah before the government was really ready to move on them. He had some… intelligence we could use against them, but we needed more. Parkman put some suggestions in Varlane's head to try and recover more intelligence on them and remain with the group so that when we were ready we could pluck Varlane out and see what was in his head."

Furrowing her brows, Sarisa tilts her head to the side. "From the looks of it he isn't affiliated with them any further, which does nothing to help us."

"Oh, fuck. Fuck, fuck… fuck!"

Apparently, Richard doesn't like the news he just got regarding the connections that Rupert has in the government. A fist slams down on the arm of the chair - the one that Clara isn't sitting on - and he pushes himself up to his feet, pacing a few strides away, rubbing at his head, "'I am Oz, the Great and Terrible'," he mutters under his breath, "He's been playing all of us."

He turns back to regard Kershner with a sharp look, "Rupert Carmichael is a Persuader, Sarisa. He previously ran a terrorist organization that killed prominent Evolved, framing them to look like Humanis kills. The man was at the planning session for the attack on the hospital. He's brainwashed Clare Bennet, Peter Petrelli, and God knows how many other members of Messiah with his ability… and now you're telling me he has access to everyone in the Executive branch?"

Clara starts when Cardinal slams a fist down on to the arm of the chair, and her dark eyes flick from the shadowmorph to Sarisa and back again. Julien seems entertained by all of this, rubbing his calloused fingers over a stubbled chin while Sabnine stands in stiff and rigid posture, watching Cardinal's outburst with intent scrutiny.

"He's a what?" Blue eyes go wide and Sarisa takes a step back with a twitch of her brows. "Wait— wait just a minute, Rupert Carmichael is a Registered Non-Evolved as of a few weeks ago. He was at the Presidential signing and one of the guests of honor to put his name down. His SLC tests came up negative, there's— " Sarisa's brows twitch together and her teeth draw over her bottom lip, eyes shifting from side to side.

There's a faint snort from Elisabeth's chair. Yeah…. so'd Nathan Petrelli's and we all know that is a lie too. Christ, Sarisa, does this really shock you so much? Her blue eyes study the Shark thoughtfully. But she very carefully just bites her tongue and watches the conversation. This is the kind of shit where Richard shines and Elisabeth is simply a soldier. She'll make her own speculations in private if need be.

"This could work to our advantage," Sarisa notes with an optimistic quirk of her brow. "Being as anti-government as Messiah is, we could potentially use them and whatever Rupert's plan is to springboard the overthrow of Nathan Petrelli," one hand comes to Sarisa's chin, fingers brushing slowly, eyes shifting to the side. "If he's used a persuasion ability to get himself in this deep, but hasn't just persuaded Petrelli to — I don't know — shoot himself, that means he might not be able to have full control over someone. Persuasion is finicky, and this— " Sarisa wags a finger in the air, "this could be what I've been looking for."

"You're assuming that they're really anti-government, Sarisa," Cardinal observes with a sharp gesture of one hand through the air, "The shit that they're doing - openly, publically hitting government targets with little regard for collateral damage - what if they're exactly the opposite? What if they're an excuse for Mitchell to tighten the noose around the Evolved? After we took down the Vanguard, there wasn't any major threat to the people or the government - what if they decided to invent one?"

"Why would…" Sarisa's head cants to the side, one brow raised. "If Rupert's Evolved why would he do that? What could he possibly have to gain from making his own situation worse? How could he even keep that a secret?" Sarisa lifts one hand to rub at her forehead, breathing a frustrated sigh into her palm as she turns around, hand moving to the back of her neck and fingers scrubbing there, pacing around her office.

"False Flag confrontations have been done the world over, ma'am," Sabine chimes in finally, one brow raised. "It isn't surprising that the suggestion sounds plausible, but the actual manner in which it would be implemented is difficult to ascertain. One factual hole in what you've stated is the concern for casualties," Sabine notes as she looks back to Cardinal, brows furrowed thoughtfully.

"In my assessment of Messiah's activities, I have noticed a distinct tendency to minimize civilian casualties in practice, despite reports from mass media sources. The Pharmatech building in Chicago Illinois was a Company facility targeted during off-hours where private security was minimal and loss of life was kept low. The CDC building in Chicago was rendered destroyed by means of a controlled demolition that did not damage adjacent buildings. I cannot confirm internal casualties with my minimal intel on that, but they could have destroyed the building from the outside, presumably. And without such precision. Likewise to the attack on the Biomere building in New York, equally minimal casualties. They have been operating with surgical precision, which indicates either a discomfort with loss of life, or… unknown variables."

"She does that," Julien chimes in sarcastically, "next time just give her a good shove an' she'll stop the rambling. Sabine can get lost in numbers and figures and forget to breathe."

"The actual members of Messiah - aside from the psychotic ones - think they're fighting the good fight. They minimize casualties so they feel like they're only taking out bad guys… meanwhile, the media reports paint them to be a bunch of murdering monsters," Cardinal suggests, nodding over towards Sabine, "Their membership stays loyal, but they get the mass media and public response they're looking for. They didn't just volunteer to take the credit for the attack last night, they were almost eager to take credit."

He spreads his hands slightly, "Even if I'm wrong, and I could be - Carmichael has some other agenda on the line here, and I don't like it one bit. If he could be taken out of the picture, sure, then we could repurpose Messiah to our ends, but not so long as he's behind the curtain, pulling the strings." He pauses, glancing to the others, "Is there any way to… reverse what a Persuader's done? To detect it, even?"

"Not that I know of off-hand," Sarisa offers with a slow shake of her head, "Psychometric readings could view the event of persuasion taking place, but depending on how Rupert's ability works that could put me at risk of being affected as well. I've heard stories of a postcognitive viewing an area a persuader was working in once, and being stricken by the same persuasion a target was being suggested with. Clairvoyants, hell maybe even precognitives are all at risk of that. It's not something I'd personally do."

Tilting her head to the side, Sarisa reaches up to rake her fingers thorugh her hair, brows furrowed. "A telepath could probably notice something on a scan, if it's long term, but it would need to likely be deep. Persuasion — in most instances — works on the same principals as hypnotism. The subconscious is implanted with a suggestion, but the persuader's voice retoures all motor functions and cognitives processes to the enslaved subconscious. It's almost like… a psychic virus, in a way."

"Viruses can be transferred though," Clara opines with a mouthful of lo-mein, having stolen Cardinal's seat while he's up. That very notion has one of Sarisa's brows twitching, as if to suggest let's not even think about that.

"Without knowing the full extent of what the persuader could do, it could be risky to involve a telepath. I'm sure there's a better way, but not one I can think of off the top of my head."

"Wonderful." Cardinal exhales a sigh against his palm, "That's just… fucking hell. You know the funny part, I know someone who could probably reverse it. Of course, she's in Institute hands right now. If I ever get in a room with Simon Broome, he's going to eat my fucking boot, I swear to god." Well. In a room with him again. Preferably the real one.

"Eventually, there won't be an Institute," Sarisa offers as if it would give some comfort. "Unfortunately I don't know how best to proceed against Rupert, especially if he is Evolved. One wrong step, and you'll be seeing things his way rather quickly. I imagine a man of his wealth doesn't just galavant around where he's unsecure as well, especially now that he has Messiah at his disposal."

Breathing in deeply and then exhaling a sigh, Sarisa tilts her head forward and draws her teeth over her bottom lip. "Do you think Claire's been brain-washed, or do you think this is just a natural escalation of what's happened to her? She did suffer some serious mental and physical trauma in Madagascar, Richard. This might not just be as simple as someone turning on a switch and making her a killer."

"If she'd given me some sort've explaination for why she obeyed that order that made sense? Sure. She didn't, though," Cardinal shakes his head tightly, "She's not herself. And Petrelli? Sarisa, the guy was explaining to me how I needed to trust the government and the Company to handle everything, to the point of nearly burning bridges - and literally a week later he's heading up a terrorist cell."

"I'll… see what I can do about figuring out what Messiah's up to. You all focus on the Institute as much as you can. Worst case scenario, I have a sniper take him out from a few miles away, nobody ever knows who the fuck did it."

"Let me know if you decide to go that route," Sarisa explains in a hushed tone of voice with a fond smile, "it's been too long since I was behind the scope, and you probably won't find too many reliable shots better than I am." Maybe that was supposed to be reassuring, maybe it was supposed to be a bridge of the gap, but all Sarisa's offer to Cardinal reminds him of is…

There's a moment like silence in the midst of all the rioting, or at least it seems like that to Cardinal, as red blossoms across the blonde peacekeeper's forehead with a sniper's gift from a mile away, falling back in what seems like slow-motion to his eyes. Then she's gone, behind the lines of the police, and the rioters surge forward with a new roar of anger and protest, bodies physically hauling the riot cops down to the pavement.

"I'll get in touch with you about the encrypted frequency in a week or two once I know that they're still using them, following that I'll expect you to keep me abreast of what you do with that intel." Arms crossed over her chest, Sarisa arches one brow and dips her head down intoa nod. "Other than that, glad you got to meet the team and give me a nightmare for a change."

Then Julien chimes in with a crooked smile, "What she means to say is, business be done, now get out so we can get back to work." Sarisa lifts up a hand to her forehead at that, pinching her fingers at the bridge of her nose as she exhales a strained sigh.

"Thank you, Julien. For that."

There's a reason Epstein has called this team crazy.

It's just more than he knows.

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