The Mute Oracle


aria2_icon.gif edward_icon.gif kathleen_icon.gif

Also Featuring:

cardinal_icon.gif monica_icon.gif

Scene Title The Mute Oracle
Synopsis The newest member of the Institute arrives to replace her predecessor and makes a startling discovery.
Date October 18, 2011

"Kathleen Brooks," chirps a synthetic voice from a small speaker beside a card reader. "Provisional Black-Level Security Clearance." There's a hum, followed by a pop, and a magnetic lock disengages. Hydraulics in a seven hundred pound steel door whine and hiss as it swings open on a mechanized hinge, revealing a glass-walled elevator overlooking a massive underground structure. Kathleen Brooks isn't the only person entering the elevator. She's joined by a white-jacketed lab technician with the nametag Harris, her handler. As she arrives in the elevator, however, Harris might as well be a thousand miles away. Pressing her hands to the glass wall, Kathleen looks down seven stories into a sprawling subterranean complex of tiered apartments, leading to a forested garden and park with a resplendent fountain. Her breath fogs up the glass, eyes wide and a look of exasperated wonder on her face.

"Everyone does that," Harris notes with a kind amusement. "The park's the best part. The rest of it's a bit submarine-like, if not quite so claustrophobic." Pressing a button on the elevator, Harris looks back to where Kathleen looms, unable to tear her eyes away from the structure. "Orientation is tomorrow, but — did you have any questions before — "

"Hundreds," Kathleen breathlessly admits, turning around to look wide-eyed at Harris. "I… the professor I spoke to told me this internship was for the Department of Evolved Affairs, something about dream research? But this," she looks back to the glass wall and the arcology park through it as the elevator begins its descent. "This is unbelievable. What — what is this place?"

Harris bobs his head from side to side at the question. "Well, that's complicated. Some of the stuff here is highly classified, even from me. But, what I can tell you," he goes to join her by the far side of the elevator to watch the descent together. "It's a generational think-tank. Sort of like… one of those old fallout shelters from the fifties?" He gives Kathleen an askance look, smiling faintly before returning his attention to the approaching park. "It's also a rehabilitation center. There's Evolved here with… massive behavioral issues. We have a full staff of psychologists and psychiatrists who are working to help them better control and understand their powers, and also to… you know… rehabilitate for criminal activity." Harris' smile fades some, noticing the look Kathleen offers. "This facility is partly run by the DoEA, but it's not extensively overseen. We take in some special cases, work to improve their lives. Some folks are beyond our help, but this facility is the most secure detention center for them, given their… well, their relative danger."

It's with reluctance that Kathleen nods, but she understands, even if in a way she doesn't want to. "I'm… glad these people are getting help. How many Evolved are on staff, if I can ask that?"

"Honestly, I'm not sure. I'm fairly certain that's classified, but specifically your predecessor is. That'll come up in orientation, the nature of the work we need you to do." Nodding, Kathleen eagerly listens as Harris explains the overall situation. Then, as the park approaches, she asks one last question.

"Was the pitch relevant? I mean — dream study?"

"Oh, yeah." Harris confirms with a lopsided and knowing smile, "it's relevant." The doors swish open as the elevator comes to a stop at a stone plaza near the white fountain at the park's center. A jogger runs by, pony-tail dashing back and forth, nearly colliding with Kathleen as she emerges from the life. "There's about fifteen hundred staff here. The orientation video will break that all down, but it's good to know just how busy this place is. Like you were told topside, this is a live-in assignment. We're in A-Ring right now, where you'll be living." Harris motions up to the apartments surrounding the park. "But you'll be working downstairs in B-Ring where the really bleeding-edge science is done."

At that, Kathleen offers Harris an askance look. "So, orientation aside, what do you know about the project I'll be working on?" Harris tucks his hands into his jacket pockets as he walks, leading Kathleen through the arcology park.

"We have a patient here. Evolved, former mathematician. He's been in a coma for…" Harris' brows furrow, "Honestly, I'm not sure. More than a year? I've never seen his file." Nodding to himself as he continues to walk, Harris offers a look over to Kathleen. "His ability is some form of precognition. Facility staff have been trying to see if they can reach out to him while he's in his coma. Your predecessor, Aria Baumgartner, was a telepath. She'd been working with the patient since his arrival, but basically hit a brick wall. Once we found out about your ability, senior staff thought it might be good to bring in some new eyes on the subject."

"Will I have a chance to meet my predecessor?" Kathleen asks with one brow raised, to which Harris offers a reassuring nod.

"That's where we're headed now. Senior staff wants her to debrief you before she departs today, she's heading to another facility to join a new project. Sharing notes seems… relevant. Your direct supervisor on this will be Doctor Jean-Martin Luis. He's a neuroscience — "

"Oh, know of Doctor Luis. He's a pioneer in brain-machine interfaces. I wrote a paper about him four years ago!" Trying to hide her starstruck nature, Kathleen eases back some of her enthusiasm. "It's… I mean, it'll be amazing to work with Doctor Luis on this. Is there a brain-machine interface as part of this dream study?" Harris nods, but then second guesses himself and instead directs Kathleen to take a side path through the park.

"Honestly? I'm not sure. I work with the medical sciences division on viral research. We're working on a cure for H5N10, so I rarely interact with Luis' department." Though Harris' mention of work on viruses catches Kathleen's attention, he's quick to change the subject. "One thing," he comes to a stop and gestures for Kathleen to as well. "You really need to know this going in, and I don't know if anyone told you. Your background?" One of Harris' brows raise. "The informant stuff, what you did for the DoEA? That's how you got on our radar. Most people on staff here know you were a mole, but I don't know if any of the patients do. Some of them, they might hold a grudge about that, right?"

The enthusiasm in Kathleen's expression fades some, posture tenses. But, nevertheless, she nods. "I understand. I mean, I don't plan on needing to interact with patients beyond my own and they sound… sedate. I'll — Thank you for the warning, Doctor Harris." Sighing softly, Harris manages a reluctantly smile and motions for the two of them to continue walking. It takes roughly ten minutes to travel from the entrance of A-Ring to the conference room where Kathleen will receive her first look at what the Commonwealth Institute is really about. As she navigates the corridors, the minimal presence of armed security puts her at ease. A low proliferation of weapons means low danger, by simple inference. It's something of a mislead, but only just.

By the time they reach the A-Ring conference rooms, Kathleen's seen a good two thirds of what A-Ring has to offer. On entering the conference room, she's greeted by a tall blonde woman in a sleek black skirt and blazer. "Miss Brooks, it's a pleasure." Aria Baumgartner is many things, never all at once, and often times not seemingly in the same order. Taking Kathleen's hand, Aria gives it a gentle shake and then offers Harris a deferential smile before the handler shows himself out. "Please, come, have a seat."

The two move to sit at one end of a long conference table, and as Aria pulls out her chair, she turns on a nearby monitor with a gesture against the conference table's glass surface. "Miss Brooks, I'm Aria Baumgartner and I'll be sharing my experiences on our coma interlocution program with you." Kathleen settles down into a seat across from Aria, hands folding in her lap and posture straight. "I know this is a bit of an information overload," Aria begins, quickly checking her watch, "but trust me this information exchange is important." Double-tapping an icon on the tabletop, Aria brings up an image of a bespectacled man in his mid-forties, receding brown hair. "This will be your patient. Professor Edward Ray, MIT physics and mathematics."

Leaning forward in her seat, Kathleen scrutinizes the picture. Then, after a moment, looks at Aria with a knowing stare. Aria changes the image on the screen, now depicting an unconscious man in a full back and neck brace with a halo support. It's clearly Edward, though he appears to have suffered a severe accident, breathing through intubation only and hooked up to not only an IV, but an artificial kidney. "You recognize him," Aria states matter-of-factly, looking up from her display on the glass table to Kathleen.

"I — when I was acting as a mole, he…" Kathleen hesitates, brows furrowed together and eyes darting about the room. She knew Edward Ray, has spoken to Edward Ray, albeit briefly. This was something all-together different.

"Do you know what his ability is?" Aria asks pointedly, flicking her thumb on the table to bring up a slide depicting the Pinehearst building in New Jersey, head tilting to the side subtly. Kathleen looks at the picture with no familiarity, shaking her head slowly. Now, the hands folded in her lap tense. Fingers curl into the fabric of her pants. Nervousness replaces excitement. "Edward has a form of mathematical precognition classified as probability prediction. He can foresee potential future outcomes based on the likelihood of any one action happening in any one sequence." Suddenly, Kathleen feels more targeted than she'd been before. Not selected, like a well-achieving student would be. But targeted, like an animal captured for study.

"Ms. Baumgartner, I — "

"I need to show you something." Aria states, rising up from her chair. Kathleen looks up to the older woman, uncertain of what to expect. Aria doesn't move to open another slide, but instead comes to sit on the side of the table next to Kathleen, offering out a hand instead. Her eyes square on the younger woman's, urgency in her posture and stare. Kathleen hesitates, looks at the photograph of Edward, then Aria. Finally, and questioningly, she reaches up and takes the older woman's hand to —

Commonwealth Institute of Massachusetts

December 1, 2010

Within a cluttered work environment of rolling whiteboards littered with Post-It notes, a chalkboard dominates one wall filled with a mad-man's scrawl of mathematical notations. On one large table in the middle of the office, cluttered paperwork rests in presumably organized stacks interspersed with colored folders, city maps and electrical schematics. Amidst all of this, a four foot high and one foot wide cylinder of metal pipes and black plastic rings stands like some sort of abstract art piece, the ribbons of cabling coming from it spill down onto the floor and slither across the floor to where a young looking blonde woman is hunched over a computer with an old CRT monitor shedding dim light on her face.

Muddy green eyes peer up over the monitor to Cardinal, and despite the dirty blonde ringlets of hair, there's something familiar about the woman looking up at him, but for the life of him he can't quite place it. "Good morning, ah, Professor Mallet's in a loo," there's a quirk of her lips into a faint smile, "s'there something I can do for you?"

As she steps out from behind the computer, a plastic badge dangling on a lariat around her neck reads: Baumgartner, Aria. over the logo for the Commonwealth Institute of Massachusetts.

Given that they were walking into at least an allegedly formal situation, Cardinal made certain to throw on one of his suits today; a nice off-the-rack number, his tie a little loosely knotted and just a touch of rumpling to it. He doesn't take excellent care of his formal-wear. The Oakleys hide his own eyes as he flashes the blonde a smile.

"Good morning," he offers in affable tones, glancing to her nametag, "…Miss Baumgartner. No, I need to talk to Professor Mallett, if you don't mind us waiting? He should have been expecting me to stop by sometime."

Monica, on the other hand, is wearing some of Peyton's clothes. Which means she is at least out of the all black look she generally sports! And even looks fashionable. It's a rare thing, really. While Cardinal takes on the socializing, she hangs out at his side, her attention more on the room itself. It's fascinating, really, how they work. And while she doesn't touch anything (she knows better than that, at least), she is checking things out. And really it's that cylinder that ends up with her attention, if only because it seems to be the current project.

"Oh well, if he's expecting you," Aria murmurs with a wave of one hand towards the chairs seated around the table. "Take a seat but don't touch anything, Robert would probably have a stroke if even one of those lasers got knocked out of alignment." Brows furrowing together, Aria sidesteps back behind her computer. "I'd offer you coffee," she comments out of hand, "but the machine's been broken for months…" While Aria does motion towards a corner of the office, while presumably there might be a coffee pot back there, the mountain of paperwork and electroic parts seems to be camouflaging it.

Pausing mid-click on the keyboard, Aria's eyes flick up to Monica, then track to Cardinal in sudden scrutiny. A quick look to check that they both have guest badges hanging around their necks, which checks out easily enough, then a look back to Cardinal with her brows furrowed together.

"Have you come here before?" Aria's eyes narrow for a moment, "there's something really familiar about you."

"I've never actually been to MIT…" Cardinal steps along over to one of the closer whiteboards, hands clasping behind his back as if to demonstrate he's not touching anything, his head cocking to one side as he tries to make sense of the scribbling to absolutely no avail. Anything past pre-algebra is a pain in the ass for him, and this is a little more advanced than that. "…I'm told I've got one've those faces, though. Unless you've spent a lot've time in New York City."

That said, he glances to the cylinder that Monica's checking out, "That his latest attempt at a time machine?"

"Oh boy, another for the harem," Monica murmurs for Cardinal's benefit, a bit of a smirk on her face. But for Aria, she lifts her hands, if only to show she's not near touching anything, and then slides them into her back pockets.

Just about the time Cardinal inquires about the machine, Monica pipes up, too. "Lasers?" And she peers at the contraption with a little more active interest. She's read enough comic books to suspect a death laser, but has a firm enough hold in the real world not to voice that thought.

Brows lift and Aria glances to the whiteboard, then Cardinal. "Oh, no it's not so much…" she waves a hand in front of her face, then furrows her brows and shakes her head, chosing to drop the topic in favor of the one that has garnered Monica's attention. Dismissing prior words with a smile, Aria taps a key on the keyboard and rings of red lights illuminate inside of the black plastic, aimed towards one another.

"Something like that," Aira admits with a tip of her head to the side. "It's a scale model of Professor Mallett's ring laser design. It's proof of concept, mostly, for his paper on the physics of time travel. Professor Mallet believes that by using a powerful enough laser ring to bend space in on itself, a pinhole into the past that could send back and forth particles could be created."

Aria's muddy green eyes look up and down at the cylinder, then to Monica. "It's not a functioning prototype though, it's just a model. In all practicality the amoutn of energy you'd need would be astronomical in order to power lasers strong enough to bend space at the amount required. It's all theory, but it's fascinating. Fascinating and also full of lasers, saying that usually gets the kids' attention."

"I'm going to pretend that any of that made any sense to me," Cardinal says with a low chuckle, his shoulders shaking a bit with that hint of humor, "I'm not exactly a big science guy. I'm sure some've my subordinates would be fascinated, though." He brings a hand up to rub against his chin as he watches the lasers whirl, "A lot of power, eh? So, like, that thing they're doing up at CERN level of power? Miles and miles of tunnels and shit?"

"I guess I can't argue that point much, since the lasers got my attention." Monica straightens up some, though. "It is fascinating, though. I don't have a background in science, either, but the idea of time travel actually being a functioning bit of tech — that's like the holy grail of science, yeah?"

"Sort of, I guess. It's more Professor Mallett's personal dream… more so than anything else, at least." One curious look then goes from Aria to Cardinal at the not a big science guy, which elicits Aria doing a look around the room to indeed make certain she's still in a professor's office at MIT and not a Kentucky Fried Chicken. After a moment of improperly timed laughter, Aria threads a lock of hair behind one ear, then finally sits down at the computer. "LHC-levels of power is about right. yeah. This is something that we're probably a good ten… maybe twenty years off or more from even having the appropriate level of technology to build."

The door to the office creaks open just a touch more, and a new voice joins Aria's. "I wouldn't sell the model of human innovation short, miss Baumgartnet." Standing in the doorway with a paper tray-box containing two coffees and a raspberry danish is the most unassuming professor since Doctor Edward Ray defined meek and mild-mannered. Professor Ronald Mallett is going gray, his short, dark hair taking silver hues at his temples. Dark skin and a stocky build layered in a festive red and green Christmas sweater makes him look more like Monica's uncle Roy rather than a particule physicist.

"But if you're here about my recent paper, I don't much have time to discuss it with you…" Walking through the office, Professor Mallett carrier the coffees over to Aria, letting her take one out of the tray, along with the danish with a crinkle of its wax-paper cover.

"They said you were expecting them?" One of Aria's brows lift slowly, and Ronald looks for all his worth like he has no idea what she's talking about as he goes thorugh the process of extricating his coffee cup from the cardboard container.

See? Cardinal knew something about science! Of course, that's because he read an article that was saying the world was going to be destroyed by the LHC, but give him his moment of pride, okay?

Just as he's about to respond to Aria, the door opens and in comes the professor. He's given a once-over as he talks, and then he flashes a winning smile over to him. "Professor Mallett. I'm Richard Cardinal."

Hopefully he doesn't have to shoot Aria when he says that name. She seems like a nice girl.

There's something to be said about a dramatic pause. And Monica believes in them so much, she seems to be waiting for the reaction to the name before offering her own. Extreme curiosity, perhaps, over Cardinal's method of making this particular… appointment.

Plus, she's a little disappointed there's no lab coat. The festive sweater almost makes up for it, but it's really likely she was expecting someone closer to the googly-eyed visage on the door.

Richard's name rolls by Aria without recognition as she slurps at her coffee, danish balanced in her other hand as she steps around the computer. Professor Mallet, however, seems to recognize the name. Brows furrowed, chin lifted, Professor Mallet looks at Richard like he has two heads. "We've… met?" The suspicion in his tone is undeniable, and there's some sudden scrutiny crossing the old scientist's face as he glances to Monica, then back to Cardinal.

"I'm going to have to ask to see some credentials, sir, because I spoke with a Richard Cardinal over the phone earlier last month." When Ronald starts to get suspicious, and cagey, Aria likewise seems to notice, but her concern seems more focused on her danish than anything else. She steps around both the conversation and the people having it, peering over at Monica ever so briefly as she politely and wordlessly excuses herself from the office, headed to the door.

"Oh…" Cardinal's gaze slides over to touch upon Aria's clueless form for a moment, "…I'm sure you did. It's easy to claim to be someone over the phone, though." The fact that the man on the other end of the phone was more than likely actually Richard Cardinal doesn't change the truth of that statement.

He reaches into his suit jacket, drawing out his wallet and flipping it open to pull out his driver's license and his Redbird Security security pass. Stepping over, he offers them to the Professor, lips twitching in a faint smile. "It's not like moving mountains after all."

Ronald's brows furrow, watching Richard for a moment with a suddenly more nervous and wary expression when he sees the card. "Aria," he calls after the blonde, who stops and turns looking over her shoulder with one brow raised. "Can… can you tell Robert that I'll be late for our lunch?" There's a sheepishness to his awkward expression, and Aria's only answer is an open mouthed smile and a look back and forth between Ronald and Cardinal, then a brief look to Monica.

Her smile and nod is the last Cardinal and Monica see of Aria Baumgartner before she disappears into the hall. She's quick to slip into an adjoining room to withdraw her cell phone, hastily dialing a number from memory. Pulling the phone to her ear, she waits for the voice on the other end to respond. "Sir, it's me. Richard Cardinal has arrived at the Commonwealth Institute, he's come to see Professor Mallett." There's a pause, brows furrowed, as Aria looks over her shoulder through a window with blinds partly drawn. "No, no obstruction. He's likely here to retrieve the package. Should I stop him?" Aria sidesteps from the window, listening to the voice on the other end, nodding once. "Anything else, Sir?" Aria waits again, and then withdraws the phone and turns it off.

After a moment, taking pause to still her thoughts, Aria quickly moves out of this room and further down the hall. Pushing through a door that leads into Professor Mallett's office, Aria slips beside his desk and picks up his land-line phone and begins dialing a different number from memory. She waits, intently, and then at the sound of a voice on the other end responds. "Cardinal's got the box, Institute knows. Orders?" Brows knit, and Aria looks askance to the doorway. Then, after a moment, she hangs up the phone and goes to Mallett's computer. Opening a new browser window, she tabs through MIT student registries, then pauses as she opens another file.

Brooks, Kathleen.

The Commonwealth Arcology

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Present Day

Kathleen recoils from Aria's hand, eyes wide and a yelp escaping from the back of her throat. She's up onto her feet, frantic, and wringing her hands together. Aria stands in one slow, fluid motion, and inclines her head to the door. "Don't," is a warning of intent. She can see Kathleen's fear, read her thoughts. "Kathleen, you were chosen for a reason," Aria explains in a hushed voice as she closes in on the younger woman. "You were a mole, you've met Edward, and…" Aria presses her finger down on the table, finally bringing up the last slide depicting a hauntingly familiar young woman — her sister, Tamara.

"Listen very carefully to what I'm about to tell you."

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License