The Slippery Slope


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title The Slippery Slope
Synopsis Richard Cardinal, working in cooperation with the Company, is partnered up with an unexpected agent to protect the Zimmerman family from an assassin sent through time to kill them. What Cardinal uncovers in the past, however, may well be laying groundwork for major events in the future.
Date February 14, 2010

Rubber wipers streak a rhythmic path across the windshield of a parked sedan. With its engine turned off, the car blends in to hundreds of others in the suburban landscape of Staten Island. Rows and rows of cookie-cutter houses litter this middle class neighborhood on Staten Island's northeastern edge.

Four blocks away is the harbor, and where this car now sits, parked on the side of the street in clear view of several of these single-story houses will eventually become known as The Rookery in the future. But before the bomb, before the exodus from Staten Island, the Rookery was once a nice, urbane place to live. A mailbox two houses down from where this sedan is parked has a name stenciled on the side, Zimmerman.

Stakeouts are never easy, but the unique pairing of Evolved agents of the Company in that sedan provide possibly the best surveillance and intelligence team that can be assembled on such short notice. Their objective, admittedly, is relatively simple. Keep tabs on the Zimmerman home while Jonas is in transit from his office at Primatech Paper in Port Ivory and hope that his predictable movements draw the assassins out into the open.

With enough agents positioned across Staten Island, surely it has to work?

"So, you are from the Chicago branch?" Leaning back in the driver's seat of the car, a darkly dressed Japanese man offers an askance look over to the gentleman seated in the passenger's seat of the car next to him. Dark eyes track back to the house two buildings down from where they're parked, a smile tugging up on the corners of his lips. "I will admit, this is an unusual pairing, Agent Cranston. But Charles tells me that you know this area well, and he also tells me you have a higher clearance than me." One dark brow goes up, and Akado Ichihara's lips crack into a thin smile.

"Is that why I have never heard of you before?"

Staten Island, New York

February 14, 1992


"Hm?" Agent Cranson was - it seems - distracted by something, the dark sunglasses that he's wearing hiding his gaze as he looked out over the neighborhood. A turn of his head towards the driver, a faint smile tugging up at one corner of his lips - one hand lifting in a 'what can you do' sort of gesture, "Probably. I'm one of those guys who doesn't exist… you know how it is. Just so happened that I was reporting to Deveaux when this came up."

The lie passes easily through Richard Cardinal's lips, his hand dropping back to rest on the dashboard as he looks back to the house, "It's been a little while since I've been here, though… man. The difference a few years can make."

"I agree," Akado notes with an anxious roll of his shoulders, "every year I look at my little girl," he reaches out to point towards a photograph wedged into a seam on his dashboard, a small picture of a willowy young girl with ink black hair and a bright smile in a colorful yellow sundress. "Hokuto," he says with pride, tapping the picture with two fingers. "She was thirteen in that picture, now, she is like a woman. It is unbelievable how fast children grow up…" Looking to Cardinal, there's a warm smile across Akado's face.

"Maybe one day, when you have children," there's an inclination of Akado's head towards agent Cranston, "you will truly know what it is like, to see them as little more than a tiny, fragile creature… and then the next moment, they are like adult— "

Headlights up ahead cut Akado off from his moment of parental blidd, brows furrowing as he spots a brown station wagon heading down the road, headlights on in the rain as it pulls up the driveway to the house. The headlights shine bright on the closed garage door, and stepping out of the car, the door swings shut with a slam and Jonas Zimmerman steps out into the rain, shouting at the top of his lungs and waving one hand towards the garage. It's impossible to know what exactly it is he's saying, but it's undoubtedly words to his son, hiding out in their old house.

"We're on," Akado explains, closing his eyes. "I am going to connect to Jonas' mind and view the world through him. I will not be able to hear you, if you see something before I do," Akado states with a furrow of his brows. "Shake me."

Cardinal's gaze lingers on the photograph as Akado goes on about his daughter, and he can't help but see in the picture the lovely woman he met in the bookstore and half-considered asking out. The woman that killed so many people without realizing it. So many children. He's just about to say something, when the headlights flash across the street.

"Got it," he says tightly, reaching into his jacket for his pistol so it's ready just in case - resting in his lap. A flash of white paper, briefly, his hand sliding to brace to the seat's edge as he pushes himself up into a straighter posture, keeping an eye on the neighborhood.

The altercation in the driveway escalates when the garage door opens and a young man carrying a bass guitar steps out into the rain, shouting with his father. Doctor Zimmerman rests both hands on Niklaus' shoulder, head shaking from side to side slowly, and Niklaus' face runs pale. He's stunned, silent, completely taken aback by the moment.

Akado is as still as a corpse in his seat, hands folded in his lap and shoulders square, chin tilted up and eyes closed. His breathing is steady and rhythmic, as if in some sort of meditative trance. From the sedan, the scene at the Zimmerman house seems to be playing itself out as it did years ago, without interference.

With Akado focused on the Zimmermans, Cardinal notices something closer to where he is parked, two houses back from the Zimmerman's. There is a distortion in the rain, the falling droplets of water bubbling out and away from something at least ten feet across, then bursting to reveal a hunched and weary old man in a brown windbreaker with an oxygen tank on wheels held in one hand, a breathing tube under his nose. At his side, is a woman…

Long, dark hair is already being soaked by the rain and partly obscuring an eye patch over her left eye, and her long black leather jacket ends in mud-stained black faux-fur trim. A double-barrel shotgun is held in one hand, and as she flips her jacket open, it's clear she's wearing body armor. The old man lays a liver-spotted hand on her shoulder, then slowly takes it away as he points in the direction of the Zimmerman's house.

There's something about the old man that looks familiar too, but Cardinal can't quite place it.

A moment after he notices the pair, Cardinal's hand is on Akado's shoulder — gloved fingertips squeezing firmly against it, shaking twice sharply. A heartbeat of a pause is given before he assumes his senses are back where they belong. "There, between the two houses," he reports tightly, "The old man teleported them in. The girl's the assassin."

Those are the only words he gives before he melts away, drifting into a shadow in the vehicle that spills through the cracks in the door, a darkness bleeding over the rain-soaked pavement of the street.

Two houses down, Jonas is urging Niklaus into the station wagon and the rain has picked up, hammering down on Staten Island as a distant rumble of thunder in the direction of New Jersey crack loud across the heavens, a flash of lightning in the sky barely showing the difference between Cardinals form of living shadow and the grass he's slithering across. Jolting awake in the car, Akado Ichihara looks up and aroud, seeing the passenger's side door open as he pushes the driver's side door open, withdrawing his Company-issue firearm from inside of his suit jacket.

The Zimmerman's station wagon pulls down onto the street, turns away from where Akado's car is parked, tail lights glowing bright red against the storm's driving rain. Cardinal's direct approach towards the assassin comes as the old man simply ceases to exist, disappearing from the shadow of the house he was standing beside, leaving Kira St.Croix to march out onto the front lawn in the dark of night, jaundiced yellow illumination from a distant street lamp barely lighting up the lawn's grass.

She raises her shotgun towards the retreating car, but a shout catches her off-guard. "Drop the gun!" Bellows from Akado in the rain, and Kira wheels around, leveling the shotgun at the agent before he dives for cover behind his car. The gun reports in the same moment thunder claps through the heavens and the shotgun blows out the passenger's side window.

Hissing, Kira begins marching towards the car, crossing right in the path of Cardinal's shadowy self with booted feet.

There have been many times before that Cardinal's shadowy form has been tread upon in the past. It doesn't bother him at all, since he can't feel it except in the vaguest of sensory fashions. Normally, he lets it go without even really noticing, unless he's looking up the skirt of someone attractive.

Not tonight, however.

Tonight, as Kira's booted foot comes down in a marching step across the pavement, the shadow ripples to either side as a pair of black-gloved hands push out of the darkness to grab onto her foot and jerk her backwards in mid-step.

Caught off-guard by the grab of her ankles and the shove, Kira falls forward through the air, but like some sort of cat she twists in mid-air, lands on her shoulder and turns around with enough precision reaction-time to angle her shotgun down to the shadow and pull the trigger in one fluidic motion. Clumps of dirt and grass fly up into the air, the shadow unharmed by her assault. Kira's one good eye grows wide in shock, and she throws the double-barrel shotgun down to the ground, reaching inside of her jacket and taking out a Desert Eagle .50 caliber handgun in a double-handed grip as she rises up to stand straight.

There's a gunshot from behind, and Kira moves with startling reaction, leaning to the side as the bullet fired from Akado's gun whips through her hair. The brunette follows through with the momentum, spinning around on the toe of one booted foot, turning her gun towards Akado and firing the moment both feet are firmly planted on the ground. Akado is hit square in the hcest, sending him up and off of his feet and down onto his back, skidding across the road.

Kira scowls, finding Akado out of line of sight, and looks back down to the grass accusingly before making the start to clear the distance between he and the car again, unaware that she didnt' just trip.

The hands were gone by the time the shotgun fired at the soil, but just barely, the superhuman reflexes of the woman taking the shadowman by surprise. He keeps a low profile for a few moments until she's turning back towards Akado, and then the shadow is following her again, slithering over the dirt and between the blades of grass as if it were her own, just waiting for a chance…

…because if Akado Ichihara died, well, that could rather complicate the timeline too.

On her way over to the car, Kira flicks a glance in the direction of the now vanished tail lights of the Zimmerman's car, her lips downturnign into a frown. Circling around in front of the parked sedan, Kira levels her gun on where Akado Ichihara was, but from Cardinal's lower vantage point, he can see the truth of the matter.

Akado has scrambled around the back of the car, his vest having saved his life, even if a few cracked ribs will put him out of comission once this assignment is over. Thunder crackles and blasts in the heavens, tracing lightning thorugh the skies and flashing too bright for Cardinal's liking. The very presence of lightning is anathema to his own existance, the sudden flash is like needles in his umbral form.

When Akado pops out from behind the car and fires at Kira, the assassin springs up onto the hood of the car, bullets hitting only the long trail of her leather coat as she turns to fire down at Akado from her perch on the hood. Akado furrows his brows, jaws clenched and a vein bulging on the side of his head as he stares down the barrel of Kira's gun.

She doesn't fire.

Kira stands there, her gun trained down on Akado, while agent Ichihara's eyes have glassed over, his expression slack and body slouching forward to lean against the car, as if the mere sight of the gun had somehow struck him dead.

Kira blinks, lifts one eye up to her eyepatch to touch it with her fingertips, then slowly hops down off of the car, turning her gun around and holding it by the barrel, out towards thin air.

"Cranston," Kira states with a soft Midwestern accent, "can you take her gun? I'm not sure how long I can hold this. There's handcuffs on my belt."

"I've got it… got it…"

The shadows wash upwards like a geyser of darkness that forms into a man, light and colour slowly returning to the solidifying form that pulls itself out of the darkness, the pinprick pain of the lightning's flashes in the sky fading away to a dull headache. Richard's gloved hands reach out for the gun, his thumb first sliding the safety on before he takes it from her hands. He steps around the car, then, reaching to collect the handcuffs from Akado's belt. "She's quick… agile, I'm not sure if the cuffs'll hold her. You got a taser, tranqs, anything?"

"No, no I don't…" Akado explains from Kira's body, folding her hands behind her back as he kneels her down in the rain beside the car. Cardinal does, however, find two pairs of handcuffs, enough to shackle the assassin's arms and legs at the ankles. No matter how agile she is, that's not an easy binding to run anywhere fast in.

"We will have to be cautious," is said in Kira's voice and accent but at the behest of a mind controling her, "I'm still new at this… aspect of my ability, I haven't even formally notified anyone yet." There's a crease of Akado's brows as Kira's crease, showing a subtle disconnect. "Hurry… I'm— she has a remarkably strong will for someone her age, for not even being telepathic."

Kneeling on the grass, Kira keeps her wrists crossed behind her back, toes of her boots on the grass to raise her ankles up enough for access to the cuffs. "Once she is restrained, we can radio in that we have completed the mission. That's… a handy ability you have, what's it called?"

A wrist to an ankle, a wrist to the other ankle, the chains crossed diagonally and looped around each other once to bind her effectively. Cardinal's knelt beside her as he clicks the last cuff tightly around her wrist. "Obtenesomething Transubstantiation," he offers quietly as he works, "At least that's what a girl entirely too smart for her own good told me it was classified as, once…"

Then he's patting the girl down, looking for a wallet, for ID so he can figure out who their enemy had sent after them. "I've got her. Check on Jonas and Niklaus."

Opening his eyes and coming to life, Akado breathes in deeply and sharply, as if only just then breathing for the first time. Kira comes to looking completely confused. She tries to jolt up to her feet, only to let out a howl of pain before falling onto her side in the wet grass. Akado watches her, warily, but that Richard is armed is enough to put his mind at ease.

"I'll be right back," agent Ichihara intones as his pupils swim to wide dilation and his eyes stare distantly, checking in on Jonas and Niklaus. As this happens, Kira looks up to Cardinal with her brows furrowed, spitting at his shoes. "You— you don't know what you're doing!" There's a shrieking quality to the assassin's voice, all snarling and teeth like an animal that does not want o be restrained.

"Let me— let me go! Let me go!" Her voice raises, lights across the street are already on, people are probably calling the police right now. The notion of police in the Rookery is unimaginable in Cardinal's day and age, but this quainte neighborhood hadn't become the hive of scum and villainy that it will some many years down the line.

"They're going to find me, and when they do— " Kira's throat tightens as she breathes out a deep growl, "so help me— I'll cut your fucking throat out! You— you can't force everyone to live in this shit hole world! We'll make a better one! I— " she struggles against her restraints, metal biting into Kira's flesh, "Let me go!"

She's like a rabid dog.

The hammer of the Desert Eagle's drawn back with an audible click, and Cardinal — still knelt beside her — levels the barrel towards her head as she glares at him with that one good eye and struggles against the restraints hard enough that there'll probably be blood slicking them soon.

"You say that like I don't understand," he says in casual, conversational tones as if he wasn't pointing a fifty caliber pistol at the woman's skull, "I do. Honestly, I do. This isn't the way to do it, though, girl."

"Who sent you?"

"Samuel Sullivan" is surprisingly forthright, either because she's completely bugfuck crazy, or because she's confident in her victory here at all odds. Likely a mix of both. That the name Sullivan rings several bells for Cardinal is perhaps not entirely outstriped by the fact that a Sullivan was listed in Edward's package of people that needed to die by a certain date and time. However, at Richard Cardinal's last count…

Samuel Sullivan was dead.

"They were attacked!" Akado suddenly stirs to life, looking around wild-eyed. "They— they were on the bridge crossing in to New Jersey," the agent jumps up to his feet, looking around in the rain and then rushing to the open passenger-side door of the car, sliding inside and reaching for the CB radio in the center console. "It— it was Company agents, they were attacked by a team, I— I didn't recognize any of them men, they got away though, but I— " Akado presses the receiver down.

"This is Agent Ichihara," oh the days before cellular phones, "I'm requesting a clean up team at the Zimmerman household, memory modifications will be necessary. We have a prisoner for detention, additional agents requested in the direction of the Outerbridge Crossing. Niklaus Zimmerman and Jonas Zimmerman last sighted, were agents authorized to use force?"

Richard Cardinal's heart drops sharply at the sudden shout about the Zimmermans being attacked, but when it's mentioned that it was the Company after them…

Well, that's what was supposed to happen.

As he reaches into the car to grab for the CB, though, Cardinal's up, leaving their prisoner on the grass as he all but lunges through the door and over the other man to cover the reciever with his hand, to try and wrest it away before he can say anything more. "No," he hisses out, "Don't— you're going to make yourself a target, Akado."

Brown eyes go wide when the CB receiver is taken, and Akado stares up wide-eyed at Cardinal. "Target," there's a confused expression on agent Ichihara's face as he tries to discern some meaning from Cardinal's words. Looking back to Kira, Akado tenses, then straightens his back and begins to slack his grip on the CB, only to hear a female voice squawk back a response.

«Copy that, agent Ichihara, cleanup crew en-route…..» There's a heavy pause, followed by a hesitant query of, «Come again with that last part? Repeat everything after Outerboro bridge, I didn't catch it. Over.//»

Akado's dark eyes stay fixed on Cardinal, brows knit together and lips downturned into a frown. "Is… that an order?" Somehow, Akado is drawing the wrong conclusions, but at the same time they're ones that lever Cardinal the most likelihood of getting out of this with history intact. From Akado Ichihara's perspective, this looks like it was a kill squad operation, a clean up of Zimmerman and his family, with Cardinal orchestrating it while running interference with a bag and tag.

It's not the truth, but it is convenient.

"You're going to have to trust me here, Agent Ichihara," Cardinal says softly, regarding the other man through dark plastic lenses that at this distance provide the slightest of silhouettes of his eyes here, "Forget what you just saw there… report it directly to Deveaux if you have to, but nobody else. If… certain people know you saw what you saw…"

His gaze cuts across the street to the house, and he releases the reciever, leaving it resting on the seat as he draws back, saying apropos of everything as he does so, "…Hokuto's going to need her father."

Silence is afforded between the two men, silence and Kira's muffled laughter from where her face is planted into the grass, lips parted and a throaty giggle building up. «Agent Ichihara?» Taking the receiver, Akado continues to stare up to Richard as he lifts the receiver up to his mouth and depresses the call button.

"Disregard. Cleanup crew at Zimmerman residence only. Bag and tag procedure." There's a look angled back at Cardinal, brows furrowed and the trust that was there draining out of his face in something more stony, something more searching in his eyes.

Kira's stopped laughing.

Akado's dark eyes go wide as he bursts up from his seat and out of the car, holding on to the roof to brace himself as he stares to where Kira was laying on the ground. There's nothing, no handcuffs, no jacket, nothing. It's as if she's just disappeared into thin air entirely. "What the— where— " Akado's breath hitches in the back of his throat, eyes shooting to Cardinal.

What Akado can't see in the dark, is what fell out of Kira's pocket when she fell over, what is laying on the grass collecting beads of rainwater.

A tiny compass.

"God damn it…"

Cardinal steps over towards the place where she was laying, the grass bent and disturbed where she was, and he drops himself down to a crouch beside the body; gloved fingers brushing over the grass, moving to palm the compass like a magician's trick. Just like picking a pocket. His gaze sweeps up to look over the street, jaw setting, "…shouldn't've taken my eyes off her. They teleported her in…"

One questioning brow raises as Akado considers Cardinal for a moment, missing the entire sleight of hand involving the compass. There's a furrow of his brows as he exhales a sigh, slouching against the passenger's side seat of his car, one leg out in the rain, eyes alighted to the ceiling.

Lifting up one hand to brush across his face, Akado looks down and away, then out to the street in silence. It will be some time before the cleaning team arrives, further time taken to adjust the memories of the people who heard the gunshot, to clean the scene of involvement. Arthur's involvement, Cardinal's, it's hard to say which. The truth is being sanitized, and the Company is taking further steps towards the corruption that would eventually culminate in an atomic explosion claiming hundreds of thousands of lives.

Every slippery slope has a beginning.

Primatech Paper Warehouse

Port Ivory, Staten Island


Two hours have passed by the time Richard Cardinal is afforded dry clothes, a fresh suit and what amounted to a debriefing on the situation. Agent Lamont Cranston seems to be an official agent of the Company, operating directly under the purview of his supervisor Charles Deveaux. It's a convenient lie, willfully constructed to hide the intrusion of the future into the past.

On entering the office space in the Primatech Paper facility that sits on Staten Island's north end, Richard Cardinal is reunited with a man who looks more or less like he's had a rough night. Seated in the empty interrogation room that is currently serving as a makeshift office, Niklaus Zimmerman has a styrofoam cup of coffee held fast between both hands, head bowed and glasses perched on the bridge of his nose.

Looking up to the sound of the door opening, Niklaus lifts one brow and wonders, "Where did they find you a fedora?" There's a crack of a smile, teeth too white under the fluorescent glow of overhead lights. "Did you take a trip to nineteen thirty, perhaps?" Time travel humor is adorable.

"Mister Deveaux said he would be back shortly, he is interested in knowing when we intend on leaving." One of Niklaus' brows lift as the question is posed, as if he too would like to know that answer. Nothing is said about where he's been, what he's done.

But he's smiling.

It's enough that Cardinal knows things have been put in motion as he hoped. At the sight of the smile on the German's face, one crooks up at the corner of his in return.

"You're just jealous because I make this look good," he replies easily as he walks along into the room, hands spreading to either side of himself, "And I do."

Those hands drop back to his sides, and he glances to the door, admitting, "I presume we'll be leaving as soon as our ride shows up, which, if I don't miss my guess, will probably be before Charles gets back…"

"Agent Ichihara looked upset when I saw him earlier," Niklaus admits with a roll of his shoulders, "not that I am complaining, he is one of the agents who wind up chasing me halfway around the world, but I give him a good run for it, and in the end he does not catch me." There's a roll of his shoulders, a smug smile of satisfaction, "I do not mind much."

There's a rattle of the door behind Cardinal, the one he'd just closed a moment ago, followed by a deep voice echoing in to the room. "Gentlemen," Charles Deveaux keeps his voice down as he pushes the door shut with a soft click, stepping away from the door once it's shut, looking to Niklaus seated at the table, then over to Cardinal.

"I was assuming you both might be gone by the time I got to you. I'd like to offer my appreciation for how you've handled yourselves, and state that your suggestion," there's a firm look to Cardinal, "was handled. While you were working, I had Agent Borden in the archives pull some files for me, I thought there was something familiar about your name," that much he states to Cardinal with one brow lifted.

Under Charles' arm is a newspaper, taken out and slapped down onto the table, a personal's ad circuled in red marker. "It's from a year old issue of the New York Times, it was flagged by our agents for suspicious wording and was going to be investigated, but I have a feeling that you may well be ahead of us on that."

There, written on the personal ad, is a date and an address:

Cardinal. Central park, chess house. Noon. February 15. 1992. - Hiro

One of Charles' brows rise slowly, looking back and forth between the two. "I was curious to see if mister Nakamura had left any other footprints of his journeys, but it seems not." Charles' eyes narrow, looking at Cardinal assessingly for a moment. "I can put you both up here for the night, agent's quarters so nothing fancy, but I think that keeping a low profile is probably the best idea overall."

"…guess I do miss my guess," Cardinal admits, looking over to Niklaus with a wry expression before returning his attention to Deveaux, "Charles… good. Thank you." He steps over to the table's edge, looking over the personal ad and exhaling an amused snort, "He's even better at dramatics than I am. Alright. We can crash in comfort, and meet him tomorrow, then."

"Before you do that," Charles notes with a crease of his brows, "I'd like to ask you about something. You're well within your rights to tell me that you can't say, and I'll more than understand if you won't give me a straight answer. But from one man to another, I need to know this with full honesty. You said something about the Company falling," Charles lifts his hands to rest on his hips, one brow lifting as he regards Cardinal with a marked scrutiny. "How long do we have?"

Niklaus begins to sit up straight as Cardinal is asked that question, a look fired from one side of the room to another, then back to Charles again. Niklaus shakes his head, brows furrowed and eyes wide, a strong don't look imploring silence on the German's face.

It's a hard question to answer, especially with someone else there to serve as his conscience - the angel on his shoulder, when they began this with Niklaus as the devil. It's funny how things turn around. "I can't tell you," Cardinal admits with a slow shake of his head, "I can tell you that it's less time than you might think… and in all honesty? It needed to fall, by the time it was all done. Your ideals don't last too much longer, Deveaux."

He regards the man seriously, "There's nothing you can do to change what's going to happen. Just try and keep them honest for as long as you can."

Eyes falling shut, Charles exhales a sigh and dips his head into a slow nod. "We started out with pretty lofty ideals, Richard." No real need for aliases here. "The Company, all twelve of us. We— were supposed to be heroes, protectors of the downtrodden, we were supposed to make a difference in the world that would resonate through to the future. But it was like…" Charles' eyes narrow, "it was like the world didn't want to be saved."

Looking to Niklaus briefly, Charles' dark eyes take on a distant look. "Every disaster we'd forsee, every disaster we'd try and avert, only wound up creating an even bigger tragedy. Every time we tried to prevent a catastrophe, there would be a bigger one on the horizon. We stop the nuclear explosion at Three Mile Island, minimize the damage, and we set off a blizzard that costs billions of dollars in damage."

Lifting up one hand to the back of his neck, Charles closes his eyes and, for the first time since Cardinal and Niklaus have seen him, he looks his age. "When you start playing God, trying to sculpt the future to your own vision… everything starts falling apart beneath you. You lose sight of the small scope, and you become so lost on the big picture, that the little details slip you by. Eventually," Charles' brows furrow together, "you look back one day, you look back on your life. All you see are bodies, blood, all the terrible choices you thought made a difference along the way. All it winds up doing," Charles admits with a frown, "is making you a monster."

"I know…" Cardinal's eyes close for a moment behind those glasses, "…trust me, Charles… I know. My… employer is like that. I ignore half the directives he lays down, because all he cares about is the big picture."

A faint smile twitches to his lips, then, eyes opening to look through his shades towards the older man, hands spreading a little bit apart. "I guess that so long as I'm still worried about that, though, I'm not a monster yet. That's why Angela and Bob — that's why they showed us Coyote Sands, I think. They wanted to make sure we didn't make their same mistakes."

As Charles exhales a heavy sigh this his nose, the tall man crosses his arms over his chest, dark brows furrowing together. As he looks up to Cardinal, there's an assessing manner to the way he considers Cardinal, how he isn't ever mentioned in any of this. When Charles' eyes avert to the newspaper, his head bobs in a slow series of nods and he begins to turn away, something at the back of his mind giving him pause though.

"Your assassin," Charles offers in a quiet tone of voice, "Ichihara said she disappeared out of thin air, teleported?" It's rhetorical, of course that's what it was. "Did you get a name, anything identifiable from her? I know that you and I are seperated by quite a few years, but the Company's been at what we do for a long time now, if this assassin of yours is moving, or has moved in the past… we might know something, might have something that can help."

This time Charles offers Niklaus a look, before turning back to Cardinal. "Consider it a favor, one I might ask you to repay me in the future." Sure, Charles cracks a smile at that. Even Charles Deveaux can joke around sometimes.

"There was one name mentioned," admits Cardinal, his voice halting — hesitant — as if he's not sure what would change if he reveals it, "I'd heard it, seen it before on old records from Coyote Sands, but all my information suggested that he was dead." He frowns, lips pursing in a tight line, "Given all the meddling with time, maybe he isn't anymore."

His gaze slides back to Charles, "The name's Samuel Sullivan."

Charles' brows furrow at the mention, but there's no recognition on his face. Dipping his head into a nod, the telepath laces his fingers together and paces around the room. "If he was someone at Coyote Sands…" whatever thread that Charles was forming falls apart, followed by a slow shake of his head. "No… No I can't quite put that puzzle together. The only people who survived what happened at Coyote Sands went on to form the Company. Aside from a handful of military personnel…" squinting, Charles looks to the steam rising from Niklaus' coffee, then up to Cardinal.

"Would you permit me," there's a motion of both of Charles hands towards Cardinal's head, "to take a look at the assassin? I promise only to look at surface thoughts, you show me what you want me to see, and I'll glean what I can. There's one thing that I have a hard time with, and it's mysteries… espesicially ones going unsolved."

The admission of Charles's weakness inspires, of all things, a wry grin from Cardinal. "This whole time travel thing must be killing you, then," he says, head tilting to one side, "Having all the answers right here, but you know you can't take them…" The smile fades, as he admits, "If you did change things, they'd probably just get worse, honestly. I read somewhere that every forest needs a fire now'n then to burn it clean. Fighting this one'd probably be a bad idea.

The words are more to give him time to think than actually carrying meaning, though, and finally he nods once, hesitantly, "Alright. I'll remember her as best I can."

There's no theatrics behind what Charles does, his dark brows furrow, a look of momentary concentration in the silence of the room, and then he looks horrified. That sort of reaction is likely quite common to anyone who spends some time probing around in Richard Cardinal's mind, but this particular reaction comes with a visible level of apprehension and disbelief from Charles.

Seeing the expression, Niklaus slowly gets up from his chair, coffee held in one hand, the other hand free as he appraises the situation. The moment Charles tries to do something stupid, he'll be regretting leaving them in the room with a large metal table.

"St.Croix," is Charles not doing something stupid, but explaining his exasperation. "I know her," is an attempt at reclaiming both his dignity and his composure. As Charles' mind withdraws from Richard's, he breathes in a slow and calming breath. "Richard, I know that girl. She— hasn't aged a day since I last saw her…"

"Of course not," Cardinal gives his head a sharp shake, one hand lifting as if brushing away the lingering tendrils of telepathy that he can't feel but can imagine at the very least - anxious about someone prying in his head, as he always is. There's too many secrets there. "We're dealing with time travellers here… who is she?"

"Kira St.Croix…" is said with slow surprise and a long, distant stare. Lifting up a hand to rub across his mouth, Charles slowly shakes his head and looks down to the floor, then up to Niklaus and over to Cardinal. "Nineteen Seventy-Two," he murmurs in a hushed voice, "that was the last time I saw her. She was only seventeen or so when I first found out about her, girl's a mixed up kid who killed her folks, killed a highway patrolman who had the bad luck of pulling her and her boyfriend over. He got killed in the crossfire, Kira fled. We found out that she's special, has a gift. What you saw there, that acrobatics? We figure that's what she does, superhuman reflexes…"

Charles' eyes cast askance to the door of the interrogation room, then back over to Cardinal. "Robert and I were going to approach her, help her. She made some bad mistakes, got tricked into doing some things she rightly didn't want t'do. I didn't want t'let one bad mistake, big as it was, ruin the life of someone with so much potential."

Scrubbing at his mouth with one hand, Charles goes momentarily silent. It's in that time that Niklaus finally speaks up again. "You were going to recruit her, in Seventy Two?" One of Niklaus' light brows lifts, blue eyes dart to Cardinal and back to Charles. "She was going to be one of the founders, wasn't she?"

Charles' expression is a difficult to read one, but that he is somewhat shaken is evident. "She would've been… if she hadn't disappeared." Therein lies the mystery. "I tracked her down to Salt Lake City, about three years after she murdered her folks and that cop. I was going to approach her where she was working, washing dishes, squandering that gift of hers."

A sigh escapes Charles, and his hand finally moves away from his mouth as he stares down at the floor. "She was just gone one day. Like a ghost in the wind, gone."

"I guess we know where she went now…" Cardinal leans back against the table in the room, one arm across his midriff and his other lifting to rest his elbow on his forearm, fingers rubbing against his face, "…off into the winds of time."

"She's… pretty bitter," he says, his tone wry, "She was all but raving about how the world was shit and we couldn't stop them from making a new one…"

"I'll try and dig up what I can in the archives on her, everything we knew. I'll see if there's anything I can find out about this Samuel Sullivan character as well, it might take some time…" Charles flashes Cardinal a smile, "but we have all the time in the world, by the time that information reaches you, it should be as comprehensive as we can make it." In a way, there's both apprehension and relief spelled on Charles' face, a look of uncertainty as he stares into the eyes of a man that — in the future — has replaced him and the job he had set out to do, for ill or good.

"Kira is your problem now, it sounds like. But I implore you, Richard, try to remember that she's just a kid. She's made some terrible mistakes, probably even more now, but she's no different than you or I, or anyone for that matter. She just deserves a chance, to see the wrong she's done, and have a chance to make it right. Whether she takes that chance or not, that's her choice, but everyone deserves to be able to make one for themselves… not have it made for them."

That much elicits a snort from Niklaus, derisive and cold. "Big talk," the German states in bitter tone as he walks past Cardinal, long strides taking him to the door of the interrogation room, then out and into the hall, the door slamming shut behind him. His departure has Charles tense, his sigh releving some of that, but only just.

"I'll do what I can, to help you from here, Richard." Charles' voice has lost some of its boastful confidence, humbled by the impact of what the future has revealed, even if only in snippets. "It may not be much, but hopefully… it'll be enough." Hesitant at first, Charles lifts out his hand, much as he had for Cardinal on the rooftop just several hours ago now.

"You and I may never have had the chance to meet where you come from, for whatever reasons, but I'd like to think that if we were all given a second chance… you would've made a fine agent." A weary smile crosses Charles' lips. "Maybe in a different world, that would've made all the difference."

This time, Richard Cardinal reaches out to clasp the offered hand without hesitation, gloved fingers clasping the those of Charles Deveaux's own firmly as he meets the older man's gaze. "You're not the first one to tell me that," he admits, his tone wry, "I think what the Company needed was… a few more men like you, though, Charles."

"And a few less like Arthur Petrelli."

The handshake felt 'round the timestream. Charles squeezes Cardinal's hand, letting a slow nod dip down as he considers the man standing in front of him, breathing in deeply before exhaling a slow sigh through his nose one last time. "Arthur might yet surprise you," Charles utters unknowingly of Arthur's fate over a decade from now, "he's a man with a vision, even if he oversteps his own boundaries. I think, with the proper motivation, with the proper guidance, Arthur could still lead us into a bright future."

At least in that, Charles Deveaux was right. But don't let anyone tell him, that he's shaking the hand of the man who helped destroy that future.

Every slippery slope starts small.

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