The Ware Opening


cardinal_icon.gif matt_icon.gif

Scene Title The Ware Opening
Synopsis The Ware Opening attacks the B5 square and threatens to bring the King's Rook into the game.
Date September 1, 2010

Dorchester Towers: Matt's Apartment

It's already late when Matt Parkman arrives at his apartment, and if it weren't for the buzz of activity at the regional office, he might have slept on the couch. His own office back in D.C. actually has a pull-out couch for that very reason. It's hard for a man like Parkman to get away from his work, especially when it follows him home like it so often does.

So when the late news anchors take over for the prime time personalities to rehash the same information that has been broadcast all day, Matt Parkman is sitting at his dining room table with a several files spread before him and a ceramic mug. The television chitters with third rate commentators in the living room, but the open design of the apartment allows the static-like hum to flow through the space.

His suit jacket and shoulder holster are draped over the back of the dining chair, and his tie is loose around his neck, his collar unbuttoned. He pours over the paper files - files that are too important to be put in digital form for tricksy technopaths to snag, occasionally making notes on a legal pad. With a sigh, he runs his hand across his wrinkled forehead and through his iron-gray hair.

Of course, tonight is one of those nights that his work followed him home.

Don't freak out on me or anything, alright? I didn't want to get spotted by whatever eyes are on your apartment, is the strong thought from the kitchen, the assumption being made that the words will be 'heard' if they're thought loud enough in the agent's direction.

Then the soft sound of footsteps come from the kitchen, and Richard Cardinal emerges into the living room. There's a bottle of Guinness in either hand, one of them raised so he can read the label through his sunglasses. "Thought you could use a beer," he says aloud, then, "You probably had an even crazier day than I did."

The thought, despite it's intention, still gives Parkman a bit of a shock. His apartments, whether here or in D.C., are the only places where he has anything close to silence in regard to the pervasive ocean of mental slop that pollutes the sea of telepathy. Still, Parkman does pretty well for a man strung so tightly. He tenses, bracing himself against the table while straightening his spine, but when Cardinal steps into view, he only relaxes minutely.

He doesn't have to tell Cardinal what he's been doing all day - the news on the television behind the second-story man is doing that job for him. So instead he leans back, one hand resting on the seat of the chair, and surveys the vigilante burglar. "You sure you want to tell me what you've been up to?" he asks, one eyebrow quirking slightly upward. He nods to the chair across from him in a silent indication that Cardinal should sit.

The chair's taken, Cardinal's backside dropping down to sit on the edge of it and leaning out to offer the still-sealed bottle of Guinness over towards the telepath. "Hey, I'm legitimate these days," he observes in wry tones, "Redbird Security. That's my company. We're working alongside Stillwater over on Staten Island, I'm sure you saw that in one of those fifteen billion reports you've had to read in the past week…"

Whether or not the bottle's taken, he leans back in return, twisting the cap off his own with a sharp motion and giving it a flick to clatter on the table. A swig's taken, and he looks back at Matt through his shades, saying quietly, "We've both come a long way since the first time we met, haven't we?"

Parkman twists the cap off the proffered bottle once he has it in hand and lifts the beer before taking a swing right along with Cardinal. "But you're still sneaking into my home," he points out wryly, the ghost of a smile on his tired face. The name Redbird Security rings a bell, and he nods. His world is a flurry of information. Someday he'll get an administrative assistant worth their weight in gold to help keep track of it all.

"So how's business?" the telepath asks, giving Cardinal the chance to answer on his own. Delving into the man's man - anyone's mind - when he's not on the clock isn't Parkman's idea of a relaxing evening at home.

"Yeah, well, I figured you've probably got a security detail and at least two different spies whose job it is to follow you at all times, so… figured you wouldn't want to answer questions about what you're talking to me," Cardinal admits, one shoulder lifting in a shrug as he gestures with the bottle, "I've got a frequency jammer on me, so they should just be getting static. I hope you're not expecting any phone calls or anything, either."

A swig's taken, and he swirls the contents around in the bottle, looking down to it. "Business is alright. World hasn't ended yet. Nobody I care about's died in the past month. I'm paying the bills. You know how it goes." Dark eyes flicker up and over the edge of his shades, "You?"

Parkman lifts his arms in a general gesture to himself and the position Cardinal found him in. He doesn't say anything about the security detail. Guarding Matt Parkman isn't exactly the most difficult job, but isn't the Secretary of Agriculture either. "I couldn't say it better." He could probably say more, but he doesn't.

Parkman studies the man he met on a mission for a moment in silence, then leans forward to set the beer on the table, careful to keep it away from the files - files on now wanted Company Agents. It's the task at hand, despite the multitude of other issues that weigh heavily on the man's shoulders. "You have a reason for coming to see me other than beer, Richard?" As much respect as Parkman may have for him, they aren't exactly on equal ground.

"Can't a man stop by to visit an old friend?" It's wryly murmured against the neck of Richard's beer. Of course, it'd be a stretch to say that they are, or ever were, friends. Maybe in another future… but only time will tell which way the pendlum will swing in the future that's yet to come.

Another swig is taken, and then he sets it down, his hand lifting to rake back through his hair, scruffing at the back of his head. "You didn't really trust me, back when we dealt with Abigail's kidnapping, Matt. And you didn't trust me when I came to you about Pinehearst." He looks at the telepath seriously, "Do you trust me now?"

Trust is relative.

The thought is projected for not other reason than Matt doesn't want to say the words aloud. He watches Cardinal carefully, then closes his eyes for a blink that lasts as long as three. There are few people in his life he would trust with his life. He can count them on one hand. Even fewer he trusts with his secrets, his true believes and fears.

"You want me to trust you," he says when he opens his eyes, leveling his dark gaze on the man across the small table. "Is there a reason why I shouldn't?" There were plenty in the past, after all. "You're a legitimate business man, but you still sneak into my home when you want to have a sit-down. It's not really a mark in your favor, not matter how good your beer selection is."

"Yeah, well…" A smile tugs up at the corner of Cardinal's lips, his head shaking a little bit, "…legitimacy is a matter of semantics. It was legitimate to fund the Contras until we got caught. Legitimate to fund the Taliban before they started killing Americans…"

The hand drops down to rest on the table, fingertips drumming there lightly. "I've never lied to you, Matt. I've always played it straight with you. You're a telepath, there's no fuckin' point to do otherwise," he admits, his tone rather dry. A breath's drawn in, exhaled, and he closes his eyes for a moment himself.

You didn't believe me when I came to you about Pinehearst. I hope you'll believe me this time.

What makes you think you're going to tell me something I don't already know?

Matt furrows his eyebrows as if he'd asked the question rather than simply posed it in his mind. He even tilts his head to one side. But his eyes narrow a bit further, and he focuses in on Cardinal's own thoughts to pick out whatever bit of information the man is reluctant to spill. It's a tactic motivated by impatience alone, but he does try to mask the intrusion with an expression of suspicion.

You might. A wry admission, Cardinal's own gaze returning to the other man's face, silent for a moment as he tries to figure out what to say next. Of course, it doesn't matter, as the telepath's own power is already shuffling through his thoughts. Thoughts that he finds are very close to the surface. And very dangerous.

Rubbing one hand over her chin, Sarisa shakes her head slowly. "Trust me, Richard, when that pillar falls I am going to be very glad I'm not standing in the growing shadow waiting to be crushed. The Institute is largely out of my hands, in terms of dictation. President Petrelli's given Mitchell carte blanche to run it how he sees fit, and Mitchell just cares about results, and Broome? well, you can see how this goes."

Another memory stirs, larger and more urgent against the glass surface of his mind.

"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?"

"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?"

The shadowman brings a hand up, rubbing against the side of his face slowly, his eyes closing as he says in quiet tones, "I don't know what side you're on, Matt, but I know you're a good man. I've got to believe you're not part've all this, and you're too powerful a 'path to've been mentally compromised. I don't even think Nathan's the one pulling the strings anymore. The whole - the whole government's been compromised, and I don't know if Mitchell's the puppet or puppetmaster."

I look at the future and all I see is blood, and I don't know how to stop it. Help me.

I wish I could.

Parkman's stony mask has crumbled away to show a face wracked with stress and confusion. All he can do for a moment is hold his jaws tightly shut and breathe in and out through his nose. It's a moment of truth, but it's also one filled with enormous risk. "My hands are tied, Rich," he nearly whispers, his eyes staring into the middle distance. Sarisa's involvement is news, but it doesn't surprise him. "You've got good contacts. I wouldn't jeopardize them," is all he says on that matter. He can do what he can to protect Sarisa, but her being outside of his department will make it difficult. And bringing her into DHS might hinder her access.

"You're one of the most powerful people in the world, Matt," Cardinal's voice is quiet, that usual sly and knowing facade cracking a bit as the strain bleeds through, "One of these days, you're going to realize it."

He reaches over for the beer, his gaze dropping and his head shaking a bit, "I trust you. I trust you, or I wouldn't be here. We've had our - differences of opinion, but we both want the same thing, I think."

Just — if you find out anything, if you hear anything… you're the closest to the enemy we've got, Matt. You can see where this is going. They have us building our own camps for Christ's sake.

Without warning, Matt's apartment fades away, leaving Cardinal sitting not on a chair at the Secretary's small dining room table, but on one of the red, gold, and cream striped couches of the Oval Office. It's morning, and the morning song of the birds that dart from tree to tree across the lawn can be heard outside the tall windows. Matt sits on the couch opposite Cardinal, his head in his hands, his fingers curled into his short, iron-gray hair.

Another, much more composed Matt Parkman stands behind the insignia between the two blue and cream striped chairs that help make up the circle of seats that face the resolute desk. But he isn't the only one in the room.

"Messiah's a false flag operation," comes out like smooth silk from Mitchell's lips. "You know how hard it was to get Registration authorized across the board in this country, you know how hard it's been to get the non-evolved registry. We've had to make some sacrifices, as a nation, and getting the populace to agree to the necessary legislation to handle the situation presented by people with abilities has been an uphill battle. When PARIAH was out blowing up buildings, we had funding coming out our eyeballs…"

Which is to say, when PARIAH went down, Mitchell's funding and the government's special aquisitions department didn't have anything to work with in regards to the Evolved. "We wouldn't have the DoEA if it weren't for the Narrows going down in New York. So, we engineered a measured crisis in order to develop the results we needed in a timeley fashion so that we can more properly contain this situation. We aren't talking about civil rights here, we're talking about living, breathing weapons."

By now Mitchell stands beside the sofa, his hands squarely on his hips, attention settled on Matt. "I need you to steer away from the Messiah investigation, at least, steer away from Rupert Carmichael."

Parkman is left with his eyes slightly wide beneath furrowed brows, but he nods slowly as he watches his superior, knowing that too many questions could more than just his own safety at risk. The implications of that are hard to swallow, but even so, Parkman bends. "Understood, sir," he says after letting it all sink in for a moment.

"Good. Just so you'll sleep better at night, Matthew, I want you to know that everything we've fed Rupert to have his little organization to go after has been a carefully calculated endeavor." Mitchell's dark eyes sweep across the floor in a slow look to the closed doors of the office. "The Pharmatech building in Montana, the CDC building in Chicago, both understaffed and dressed up to look like legitimate targets, but all of the sensative personnel and equipment had been moved out of them, just some token hired guns from a PMC that we put on-site. Acceptable losses. Company databases… you know," but of course mitchell doesn't explain the attack on Building 26 or the Biodynamics building, save for a token addition of, "the only time they're a threat is when Carmichael colors outside of the lines."

Offering an approving look to Matt's acceptance, Mitchell dips his head down into a slow nod. "Their other leader, Petrelli? He was hand-picked by us after he came through Apollo. We had Rupert work him over with his ability for over a week after we picked him up. His desire for minimized civilian casualties have given this the perfect spin for us, and will keep doing so. When Varlane came knocking on your door, I wanted you to keep him quiet and I wanted to see what the agency could pick up on their own."

Mitchell rolls his shoulders and walks around the sofa to stand in front of Matt. "You found out more than I anticipated. So, I'm asking you to lay off… at least until we're ready to make a spectacle out of all of this. Once we're done with Messiah, there will be zero oppisition to the future plans for the… SLC-expressive." The political friendly term is so carefully chosen.

"Mary Mother of God…" A whisper from Cardinal's lips as he watches the scene unfold, the cold and clinical confessions of the Vice President draining the colour from the man's face. He suspected, of course, something like this. He even voiced it in meetings, as a possibility, as a danger. But suspecting and knowing something are two very, very different things. "…Matt. Jesus. Matt."

It becomes painfully obvious that had he the notion to, Matt could easily blow the whistle on Mitchell and his motives with Messiah. He could expose them all, but it would be at the risk of the safety of those he holds the most dear. The scene fades, and the pair are back in Matt's apartment, drab in comparison to the executive splendor.

"You have people you protect," Matt says in a dry whisper, his head still framed by his two clutching fingers, his eyes tightly shut. "So do I. I…I'm just trying not to get burned." But that's hard to do when you're pressed against the breast of a dragon. "You understand." He has to understand. "One wrong move…" and it's all over.

"I do." I do. A breath's drawn in slowly, exhaled just as slowly, and Cardinal tilts the beer bottle back to finish it off. The glass is dropped down to thump solidly to the table, gloved fingers skimming slowly over it to the edge. "There'll come a time that we'll have to make that move, though, Matt. You know that. I know that. I just hope it's the right one." A brittle, faint smile, "I'm not the chessplayer that Edward was. But I'll try my best."

Matt remains silent and still for a few minutes longer. When he does lower his hands and straighten his back, it's with stiff, perhaps painful movements. He's getting older, and the strain of his position doesn't help matters. But he settles a level gaze on Cardinal, the lines on his face somewhat deeper than they were when the man first arrived.

"Every opponent has a weakness, Richard," he says calmly. "You find yours, and you protect it.

"Then you go after his."

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