The Same Useless Circles


richard3_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title The Same Useless Circles
Synopsis Richard requests an update from Zachery, and offers some advice.
Date October 7, 2020

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office


Richard’s knuckles rap against the doorframe of the laboratory after he’s stepped into the room, which can probably be forgiven since he owns the room itself. And the lab. And the building.

He rarely comes down into the labs where the science is happening, though, because he knows better than to get in the way. The suit probably doesn’t mix very well with PPE in general after all.

Zachery is seated on a stool at one of the long counters that line the wall near the entrance, just stuffing the last of his sandwich into his mouth as he's looking into the microscope that stands in front of him. He straightens with a start, in his more appropriate lab coat, one hand still holding the pencil with which he insists on taking notes, eschewing digital alternatives.

The surprise is clear on his face in the brief silence that follows, his stare unblinking until he says flatly and past an unchewed mouthful of his lunch, "Sure is my name, isn't it.”

“I should hope so. It’s the name we keep sending the paychecks to.”

The quip’s casually spoken as Richard makes his way into the lab, eyebrows raising slightly as he looks the lab over before looking back to the man eating his lunch. “Good. You’re not busy,” he notes, walking over, “I was wondering if you’d made any progress regarding what happened to you and the other abductees.”

Annoyance flickering its way into Zachery's brow at the words 'not busy' is short-lived, dissipating upon hearing the next sentence. He lays the pencil down on paper as he swallows his food down, and kicks a leg out against a metal bar to swivel on the stool, and to face Richard fully with an elbow still resting on the counter beside him.

"Not as such," he admits, with a narrowing of his eyes, studying Richard's face. "Not as cleanly as that, anyway."

“I suppose it was too much to hope that you’d come to some amazing breakthrough,” Richard admits ruefully, glancing at the sandwich’s remnants before looking back to Zachery. He comes to a halt near the counter, asking, “So what have you found so far?”

Zachery's answer comes somewhat delayed, though he holds eye contact as he watches Richard approach, jaw momentarily setting with a sigh.

"Believe me," he starts again, and when he continues it's with a slightly more casual rhythm to his words - less rehearsed for the quiet frustration threaded through. "I'm desperate for amazing breakthroughs, but whoever's behind this? They're good at covering their tracks, even if part of what happened to us was probably unintentional. What's happened is still a little…"

He makes a noncommittal noise in the back of his throat, shrugging one shoulder up with a wrinkling of his nose. Fuck knows, really. "But what's happening, now there's something." His words leave him faster now, with a careful measure of enthusiasm. "Because apparently, according to some repeated testing I've done over the last month, with Jac? I may very well be asleep right now."

“I… what?” Whatever Richard was expecting the other man to say, that definitely was not it.

One hand comes up to rub at the back of his neck, his brow furrowing in confusion, “Alright, that’s a weird one. Think you can go ahead and…”

He waves his fingers vaguely through the air, “Explain that one for me?”

"Gladly," is the last thing that leaves Zachery's mouth before he cracks a self-satisfied grin, sitting back and visibly relaxing in his seat as his fingers rap an idle pattern against the counter at his side.

"So - our brains aren't scannable, right? That's what we thought. It looked a bit hopeless, I'll admit, and with me lacking—" He stops, darts a glance off to the side before his attention lands back on Richard's face before he continues undeterred. "Except, EEGs proved viable enough, and what research we did told us that both Jac and I are, according to our brainwaves, dreaming while we're awake. Not only that, but when she fell asleep," he puts up both hands for emphasis, "and I watched this happen — that process stopped. And still, we have dreams."

His hands come back down again in an exaggerated gesture of exasperation. It's the most animated Richard has seen him short of moments of sheer panic, which he looks far too pleased to be experiencing at the moment. "Like a… flipped circuit, except no one's thought to tell the circuit."

“Well, that’s something…” Richard’s hand comes to rest on the counter, fingertips tapping against the counter lightly a few times, “…and that, that’s something we can work with. Okay. So your brains think that you’re dreaming, but when you’re asleep your brains aren’t working like you are…”

He pauses, “Does the cerebellum have anything to do with dreaming? I’m not familiar with the parts of the brain.”

"Absolutely," Zachery answers with a lift of his chin, grin pulling slightly further to one side than the other. "And it's something I've been reading up on for quite a while now. Unfortunately, the… electromagnetic field and the limitations it sets means I keep hitting my stupidly hard head on artificially created walls when it comes to figuring out that part of the puzzle, but!"

Impatience only just manages to creep back into his voice, and into the way his hands ball into fists before he forces them open again. "In a few weeks, I'm swinging by the hospital for another and possibly last biopsy for now - for which I've taken the day off already, so that's all settled. That might tell us more about this particular subject."

“Three thoughts. One, have we considered invasive surgery to see if there’ve been alterations done directly to the cerebellum of one of the victims?” Richard’s ticking the points off on his fingers, “Two, have we checked any of the abductees against a Compass to see if the EM field registers at all?”

That one’s hard, since they’re super illegal.

“Three, have you considered seeing if an oneirokinetic can access this ‘waking dream state’ that you seem to be in?”

"One," starts Zachery, in suddenly a much flatter tone, "have you met me. A biopsy can only do so much, but it's all they'd let me sign up for so I figured…"

He clicks his tongue, and lets the rest of that sentence disappear into the tension that enters his shoulders, his grin waning. Moving on. A little more curtly. "Two, not that I'm aware of, I'm only barely familiar with the tech, myself. And three, again, yes, of course, but-"

His words catch on something that steals the remainder of his grin away, replacing it with a grimace instead. "It would certainly - but I don't know any…" As if of its own accord, a hand finds itself onto his face, palm scrubbing over fake and real eye with an intensity that only suggests further frustration as he admits, through gritted teeth and poorly hidden loathing, "I suppose I hadn't thought to ask."

“Miller.” This time his name isn’t a greeting, but reproach as Richard looks back at the other man, “One of the advantages of working for me is access to a ludicrously large network of contacts and the availability of research materials you can’t get anywhere else. If you need something like that, please tell me, and I’ll be happy to assist.”

He shakes his head, “The second, we can take care of here in the facility, just to see if this EM field shows up to a Compass. As for the other — you don’t even need me. Just ask your wife to get you in touch with Delia.”

Zachery scrubs his face with both hands now, until he hunches forward and they find themselves clasped together under his chin when he fixes a new stare on Richard, with a thin and forced smile to accompany whatever flavour of stress he's fighting back now. "If I'd known she knew someone like that, I'd have done that a week ago—" He pauses for a beat, brow creasing. "Though maybe she did tell me and… mh."

His gaze unfocuses with a sharp exhale, voice lowering. "Christ, I knew I wasn't well, but I've been going in the same, useless fucking circles for…"

He attempts to unfold himself, recomposes halfway toward the microscope again and picking up the pencil as if that by itself will give him something to do other than to be saying what he was. It's taptapped against the notes underneath it, restlessly. "Alright, yes, let's… I'm getting together with the other abductees on Saturday. If they don't have any more answers, we can go the Compass direction and then you can crack my head open yourself, for all I care. We'll make a day of it."

“I mean, we have one downstairs, but if you want to wait, sure,” says Richard with a slight nod, “Go talk to the others, come back with anything new. I’m here to help you all any way you need, any resources, any contacts you need…”

He clears his throat, “That said, when was the last time you talked to your wife? You’ve been burning the midnight oil. Go home to your family, Miller. If you burn yourself out you won’t do anyone any good.”

Zachery stills, as if simply waiting for Richard to be done talking. But the word 'family' plunges him right back into the conversation, focus snapping back to his employer's face.

For a moment, he just studies the expression ahead of him in a similar way to how one might try to gauge a height from which they need to jump down. Debating the risk of it. "The talking to isn't the issue," he finally commits, words clipped as though they don't quite seem to want to get spoken aloud. "It's the with of it. Even if she were home right now, which she isn't, she'd…"

He pauses, something tightening his jaw as accusation slips into his voice. "You know her. If she doesn't want to talk about something, even if she needs to, she won't. Everyone I meet, they inevitably ask me, how's Nicole? And I don't even know the answer beyond, I suppose, that she's not even grieving. She's just… grief."

“I do know Nicole. And yeah, you’re right. But.” Richard points a finger at the man, eyebrows raising slightly, “I’m not married to her. You need to communicate, both of you, right now more than ever. And you can’t say you’ve been trying, because I track your hours.”

There’s a pause, then, as something the doctor said sinks in, “Wait, where is she?”

"I don't know," Zachery answers casually, though the way he holds eye contact is less so. "At work, maybe. Or out to eat with a friend. Spelunking in some sewers, in the Exclusion Zone, or - who knows - possibly back in Sweden in the year 1586, fighting goat demons, or she could be at a lovely workshop learning how to make some macramé." He rises from his seat, shrugging his coat away from his shoulders so he can take it off. "That you think she tells me so I don't drink myself to sleep every time she falls off the face of the planet, sometimes for days, is…"

He turns his head and removes a slide from the microscope with a click of metal and of glass leaving its confines. "But no, you're right, of course," he continues while cleanly slotting the slide into a wooden box, next to dozens of other slides with identical, pale red smears between them. "I need to come home."

Richard brings one hand up, fingers sliding under his dark glasses to rub at his eyes beneath. “Jesus Christ,” he mutters under his breath, “Of course she is. I really hope she’s not actually in fifteen-eighty-six though, time travel is a pain in the ass. The timeline adjustments are always a nightmare to figure out afterwards.”

He waves a hand vaguely towards Zachery, “I’m not a relationship counselor, but maybe the two of you should get one. Especially considering the current situation. I’ll give her a call and yell at her, too.”

At least he’s an equal opportunity meddler.

When the year is mentioned again, Zachery makes some wry, humourless noise in lieu of a chuckle. It was definitely some year, but fuck if he can remember the exact one, if he was told at all. He fights not to scoff at the mention of therapy, and it shows.

"Don't yell at her." He sounds certain about this, at least, shooting Richard a pointed look before shoving his coat onto the countertop. "At least not any more than— a friend would do, I guess? Do friends do that?"

He rolls his jaw in thought, then adds in a flat tone, "Look at us, having a fairly normal conversation without me knocking over the furniture like a spooked horse that's accidentally wandered into a pub. And all it took was more trauma."

“Oh, absolutely. I mean, her and I first met when I was blackmailing her, so…” Richard shrugs one shoulder as if that’s perfectly normal, “We have a historically contentious relationship. There’s a lot of yelling sometimes.”

Then his lips twitch in a slight, crooked smile. “And I’ve been having normal conversations with you for awhile, Miller. You just kept parsing them in the worst possible light.”

Again, Zachery's head dips, in what is as much a nod as it is relenting. Fine. Maybe a bit of yelling. As for the other thing… "I mean, to be fair to be me, here, you've got that whole shadow thing going on." He pauses, but not long enough, lips pulling to a thin line. "Get it. Because- because of the worst light? Yeah? Yeah."

He takes a deep breath, and a step to the side. "I'm leaving now."

“I get the joke, yes,” Richard’s smile widens a bit, and he chuckles, waving his hand, “Go. If Nicole’s not home, do something to relax. You’re going to give yourself an ulcer. After your meeting, get back to me on what I can do to help.”

When that's all the response he gets, Zachery can't help but freeze, just for a moment, in place. Jokes are a poor defense mechanism, and he shakes it in favour of just… looking Richard in the eye for a moment.

"Alright. Yes. Let's-" Resolve comes to him in bits, but whatever thoughts are still fighting it have him rub a hand over his face as he turns and finally walks out the door. "I'll let you know."

He leaves no room for a reply to the last thing he says before turning a corner, out of sight.

"Thank you."

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