These People Are Suspect


corbin_icon.gif marlowe_icon.gif zelda_icon.gif

Scene Title These People Are Suspect
Synopsis Marlowe meets with SESA Agent Corbin Ayers and Yamagato's SESA liaison Zelda Falkenrath to discuss some findings in the continued investigations of the power outages.
Date September 28, 2018

Yamagato Building, Zelda's Office

Amidst internal investigations of Yamagato Industries in to the possibilities of sabotage, Marlowe Terrell has been one busy senior engineer. Her usual job title has expanded into the reading not just of blueprints and reports, but of personnel files. Having contacted Corbin and Zelda, she brings with her a black, encased tablet to the office of the Yamagato liaison to SESA, one that doesn’t readily appear on the common shared devices that are readily accessible to the network. Some security measures having been implemented to ensure the integrity of the investigation. And Marlowe, having experienced the effects of the outages much more personally now than a mere project overseer behind a desk would, is taking all the precautions to ensure that the information she has in her hands is not about to alert anybody who might be a suspect.

Marlowe’s dressed in the usual futuristic looking black and grey with white and golden-yellow trimmings jumpsuit of the engineering department when she appears. That said, her presence in near the legal offices isn’t unheard of, but still seldom enough that her appearance turns a few pairs of eyes and heads. “Miss Falkenrath, Agent Ayers, I hope you haven’t been waiting too long,” she greets the pair with a short bowing of her head as customary around the campus culture.

As soon as the woman appears, Corbin stands from his seat in front of the desk, so he can give a return bow of respect. His may have been a little deeper, but that could just be from not being used to bowing too much. It isn’t something he does often, these days, though he’s found himself doing it a lot more in his visits to this mini-city and the office. He has not taken the tea that Zelda offered this time, instead sipping from a styrofoam coffee cup he’d gotten downstairs on his way there.

“Not very long, no. Thank you for meeting with us, Ms Terrell,” he says after he straightens again, waiting for her to sit before he will sit himself. Against the chair he’d stood from, a bag that could pass as a briefcase rests. He’s dressed professionally, but his choice of color seems to be different than the usual crisp suits found within Yamagato itself. It’s also slightly rumpled, as if he hadn’t ironed it.

As Marlowe makes her way in, Zelda stands as well, offering her own little bow — and perhaps a small smile to Marlowe, considering their initial meeting a few months back. “Not at all,” she agrees with Corbin, nodding slowly, before she seats herself at her desk — a meticulously organized workspace that just so happens to have an entire tea set at one end. “Tea?” She appears to have a rather large selection of loose leaf teas to choose from.

She has her own files upon the desk, with one particular opened and positioned at front and center, labeled simply, ‘Power Outages’ upon the top. “Have a seat,” she adds, gesturing to the free chair in front of her desk. She herself wears a well-tailored rose-colored business suit, ever the consummate professional.

Marlowe semi-waves off the thanks with a short motion of her hand, finding her way to Zelda’s desk side and a chair on the visitor’s side of it. The woman sits albeit a little gingerly, like she’s got a few sore muscles giving protest and likely to demand a soak later. “I’d love some,” she replies to Zelda’s offer with a grateful nod and leaving the choice up to her, turning then to aim a curious eye at the files on the liaison’s desk. “What I hope, with what I’ve got here,” she says with a lift of her tablet, “is that none of these names need further looking in to. But what I expect is no less than SESA and our own internal investigations giving these files their due diligence.”

Her fingers tap at several spots on the tablet screen, then with a quick swipe of her hand across the screen, explodes the files into existence on the photoreactive air particles. Three names in their kanji character forms, then romaji pronunciation show up:

稲葉 久寿雄 橋田 まりこ 勢子 直治

“I’ve been combing through the personnel ever since it was made known to the senior leads that these outages were possibly…” She trails at the last word, not wanting to explicitly speak such a notion into existence. Marlowe looks disturbed by it, even, and deeper down, kind of pissed off. The audacity. “So, how do you want to go through? One by one? Side by side?”

There’s a nod from Corbin as he recognizes most of the names. “We had seen those three as well.” Probably using the same methods, but he can’t help but wonder if they each had different reasons for it. Maybe he should have been CCing this woman into the emails they had sent back and forth about it, eliminating others until they had decided those three had the most potential as suspects.

“I think one at a time is a good idea. “Let’s go through each of them one at a time. Kusuo Inaba… he’s the one who probably has no upward mobility anymore, after his profound project failure led to him being demoted.” He actually says the name correctly, too, as if he has a little more familiarity with Japanese pronunciation that most those who came from the outside.

Immediately, Zelda reaches over, clicking the hot water kettle on and going about preparing a cup of oolong for Marlow. It’s her favorite, so she tends to distribute it rather generously — might as well spread the love, right? Two scoops of tea are placed into a small manatee figure, which is placed into a mug before the now-hot water is poured over it.

Zelda’s brown eyes skip over the names, nodding in response to Corbin’s statement. “It is good to know that we’ve uncovered the same results,” she replies, turning her gaze to Corbin, then to Marlowe. “I echo Corbin’s sentiments.” Then, she’s pulling out a file of her own, opening it up to reveal her information on the suspects.

“Mister Inaba has some rather unexceptional financial affairs — if it is him, he has no monetary motivations, and it is likely revenge for his demotion and lack of upward momentum.” She glances up to the other two.

That bit of proper pronunciation of the name does get a curious arched brow and an appreciative smile from Marlowe. “Have you studied Japanese, Agent Ayers? Your pronunciation is really impressive.” Nodding to the SESA agent’s request, she then taps the air rather than the tablet and the profile of Kusuo Inaba particle-explodes outwards to reformulate to the company photograph of the man, age 51, his employee file number and certain other facts such as his tenure at the company and hometown in Japan. “Mr. Inaba’s kind of a loner. He doesn’t come out to the bars with us if at all… but I had assumed he just doesn’t like us when we get a little rowdy.” Her mouth twitches into a faint smile, then it fades back to business. “His work ethic leaves something to be desired as well,” observes the engineer as she scrolls through what looks like a performance record’s marks visualized into a red-yellow-green format. The literal ‘color commentary’ of the low-level engineer falls between red and yellow often. “And yes, we know he’s viewed his demotion and relocation to the Safe Zone here to be unfair and extreme as a response. He’s probably quite bitter, but, I don’t really see what he stands to gain even if it is only revenge he’s looking for.”

Marlowe glances from the large profile picture to the pair, adding, “He has two daughters in Japan but neither of them work for us.” With the implication that both daughters are grown, an easily researchable note that they’re both in their twenties. “If he’s trying to get back to Japan to see them, getting fired by Yamagato is bound to not look good on him. And his prospects for employment once back there.” Still, the woman shrugs and, once the tea is finished steeping, accepts with another grateful nod.

When his manner with Japanese is brought up, Corbin scratches at the skin behind his ear for a moment as if embarrassed. Though he knew that the Ichiharas, all of them, had had a lot to do with it. He never would have learned any Japanese without them, and he had taken the time to learn the syllables correctly. But it still looked like he might have been expecting that to be a tease. He gets teased enough by the woman who he cohabitates with. “That’s pretty much what we had noticed too. Such a revenge plot is possible, as the personal shame of demotion may be enough to cause him to plot against the employer who he believes wronged him or treated him harshly.”

Even then, it sounded like he didn’t think Inaba sounded like their best suspect, but he definitely deserved looking into. “I’ve already sent in a request to question them. SESA has no jurisdiction within Yamagato without approval, after all, and normally we would need a warrant for… how we want to question them.” The use of an SLC-E ability, which he glances at Zelda as if she might fill Marlowe in on that bit. It wasn’t his to say.

The former barrister listens to Marlowe’s explanation, leaning back in her chair to thoughtfully contemplate the offered information. A glance is cast toward Corbin for a moment as he speaks, before Zelda offers a small smile and leans forward, resting her elbows on her desk and clasping her hands before her.

“Ah, yes…as to the questioning,” she pipes in, a bit of a sheepish smile forming across her features. “It seems like I have finally manifested my ability. To make it short and sweet,” she murmurs, reaching for her own tea and lifting it to her lips, blowing gently at the steam on the surface, “I am a walking lie detector. I can’t tell degrees of lies, but…” She smiles. “Well, I have a physical reaction to any sort of falsehood, it appears. It only seems to work when I can see and hear a person, whether in their presence or on a television screen, but it has so far proven rather…foolproof.”

She pauses, sipping at her own tea. “That being said, I would still like to know everything I can about these people before I speak to them — assuming our bosses don’t mind as much.” She gets the feeling that Yamagato is going to be utilizing her quite a bit.

A sweep of Marlowe’s hand gesture in the air shrinks Inaba’s profile picture, returning it into a neat folder icon with his name. “SESA might not have jurisdiction, but the power outages affect everyone in the Safe Zone,” the engineer remarks, her faint frown reflecting on the disturbing things she’s seen people do in the name of desperation and frustration. She’s felt it plain as a punch to her face - because that’s what had happened recently. It’s like Zelda had seen the paperwork cross her desk about the Evolved engineer’s involvement with altercations with other Safe Zone citizens. There’d been powers involved.

Still, Marlowe presses on as Zelda reveals her ability. Brows twitch up, instantly curious, and her head nods slowly and once. Sympathetically, she adds, “I don’t recommend watching River Styx if you’re physically reactive to falsehood.” One can only guess at what that BBC made pack of stories could produce. After a short clearing of her throat, Marlowe glances back to Corbin as his presence reminds her of the task at hand. Back to the floating folders, she taps the second of Mariko Hashida.

“Marie’s kind of, mm, how would you say,” Marlowe ponders aloud as she stares up at the enlarged photograph of the young 27-year-old woman who comes from the technicians. “I appreciate that she’s into minority rights. And I’ve heard she’s taken on interest when it came to the Ferry and those in it, especially its more prominent leaders. Though to be honest, I don’t know her very well either. She also doesn’t come out to be social much, yet goes out to the Safe Zone, and leaves her work phone back here in the apartments.” That’s probably easy tracking from their standpoint given that the Safe Zone doesn’t have much phone service at all. “I get the feeling she’s got a side hustle somewhere, but I don’t have that kind of proof.”

At the mention of the River Styx, Corbin can’t help but chuckle a little, as if he agrees with that perception. While he’s not sure acting alone would be considered a lie, technically, it could be deceptive, especially with something that claimed to be ‘Based on Actual Events’. “Definitely avoid any reality television, either way,” he grins with a sympathetic glance toward the poor woman, since he knew that her ability caused her pain. If her ability even worked on such things, he did not know yet. Some abilities required physical presence, after all. It would be worth testing, at some point, especially as she wanted to get herself a COM status.

As Marlowe continues to the next person, he looks thoughtful. “I hadn’t seen mention of her being interested in the Ferry.” It had not been included in his notes, at least. He picks up his folder, which had been sitting on the desk and flipped through it to her section, all the while wishing that he had as advanced a system as the other woman. His was old school. Folders, notes, little tabs for sorting. “My notes say she clashed with her superiors and had showed a poor fit with the workplace culture.”

And she left her phone behind, too. Curious. If the cellphone service in the Safe Zone had been better it would be even more suspicious, but as it is… maybe she didn’t use her cell phone for non work related things. “And from what we gathered too, she had potential to be poached by the competition.” But they too had no proof on that.

The woman can’t help but laugh softly. “I’ve been avoiding television for the most part — I watched a political commercial and felt awful for about an hour after.” She doesn’t mention the politician — those all lie, as far as she’s concerned. “It doesn’t work with print, thankfully. So I’ve been filling my need for entertainment with books. It really hasn’t been too horrible, all things considered.” She chuckles softly, before her attention is turned back to the business at hand.

As Marlowe explains Marie, the woman lifts her mug and sips it thoughtfully, watching the photograph enlarge itself. “I do appreciate that, as well — I was unaware of her interest in the Ferrymen.” Zelda was not entirely immersed in the goings on of the United States prior to accepting a job here, but she has done her fair share of research.

“I’m also told that there are circumstantial indications that miss Marie may be living beyond her financial means, though I don’t have much explicit evidence to that effect.” She takes another sip of tea, before setting her mug down. “And the notes that Corbin and I have also indicate that she might not have the best chances at moving upward in the company. Between her finances and her lack of momentum, I had my eyes on her — pending any discussions, of course.”

“Marie has been out a lot, to the point we think she’s most likely got a place outside the park,” Marlowe concurs with a short nod and a glance back to the profile picture. “As for money, maybe she’s got herself a—” The woman cuts herself off with a short clearing of her throat. “Sorry, I shouldn’t say something so speculative. But if she’s working for the competition? That’s something I want to know for sure.” She frowns, but then waves a hand as if clear the air of some invisible smoke, and then touches on the final profile of Naoji Seko.

Once the 43-year-old’s mid-level software engineer’s photograph expands to a better viewable size, Marlowe goes on, “Seko-san is part of the team that worked on the system that found the original bug. He’s also on the upgrade project as we gradually go back to review the program and structures in place to support the Safe Zone.” She pauses, staring at the picture in thought. “His son was injured in the main branch attack back in April,” she adds softly, her tone shifting to sympathy. “But deadlines and work kepy him from taking personal time until September 14th. I know he was rather resentful about the company not being more prepared…”

She trails off again as the memories of the attack return. Marlowe looks down, gathering herself, then clears her throat lightly and goes on, “I understand his feelings but if he’s the one behind these outages then he needs to be stopped. Even though the outages gave us a chance to review and update our systems, they do nothing to help out the people, and lead to even more bitterness and resentment. People are going to get angry, or doubtful if we can keep things going into the winter.” She leaves the profile up for now, turning back to her cup of tea for a short drink. By the engineer’s expression she looks even more determined to fix that issue.

The idea of political ads and lie detection. It still left a few possibilities to consider where her ability was concerned, but Corbin wouldn’t wonder about it too much. Most people assumed politicians were lying, after all, so one would think it would be true for at least some if that were the case. If not most. Sometimes what people want to hear isn’t the truth, after all. And those who want to be elected often say what people want to hear.

“Unfortunately part of investigation is speculative,” he admits quietly, sounding as if he really does find that unfortunate. And it’s something he believes, at least. “You often can’t find evidence if you don’t look for it. It doesn’t often just fall into your lap. And proving something not true is often just as helpful as proving it is.” He has some experience with that, no doubt. And far more than one might suspect, having been a Company Agent for as long as he had been before the Institute destroyed what they had been trying to fix.

There’s a pause as she adds more context to Seko’s leave, more than he had known, at least and he nods curiously. That’s actually a mark for him, in his book. The leave had been suspicious, but the bug and following power outages had no doubt actually delayed his trip even more. “We definitely have questions to ask when he gets back, either way.” Though he’s starting to favor the suspect that Zelda had in their initial meeting about it. “That is a consequence that you will need to work with. I have certainly heard concerns about that already. The festival might help.” He certainly hopes it will.

Zelda leans back in her chair as Marlowe speaks, quietly rubbing at her chin and nodding slowly. That adds a good deal more context to her information. “I honestly feel that that his son’s injury may make him less inclined to inflict this bug on our systems,” she murmurs, giving voice to Corbin’s thoughts. “He’s been sending money back to Japan since May, which makes sense now.” She leans forward, lifting her mug once more and taking a slow sip, savoring the last of the amber-colored liquid for a moment.

Once she’s drained the mug, she sets it down near the tea set, and sits back in her chair, crossing her legs at the ankle. “I’m no investigator, so I’m probably going out on a limb and speculating far too much, but I feel like Marie is the most suspicious of them all.” She pauses, eyes raising to the ceiling in thought.

“Remember that radio broadcast put on by Quentin Frady?” She turns to peer at Marlowe — she’s already gone over this with Corbin. “He was lying about his funding — and I feel like fingers point to Praxis possibly working against us to sully our reputation with the US Government — and with the people in the Safe Zone.” She taps the top of her desk with one finger, before moving to adjust the little sunlight-powered Link figurine on her desk, a little in-joke from Hachiro Otomo.

“Either way,” she continues, turning a small smile to Corbin and Marlowe, “we should interview the three of them, and I should probably sit in on those interviews.”

Speculations aside and sipping at the tea, Marlowe turns away from the profiles displayed in the air back to the investigators. She sets her cup down, starts to lean on the desktop but realizes it and straightens back up, staying that way upon mention of Quentin Frady. The woman's frown tells enough of her immediate impression of the man, and her suppression of opinions to express about the media host.

"Well," she utters after a moment to compose herself, "it wouldn't be the first time Praxis has tried to muscle in on our projects, but I would like to believe that it's just business." A beat. "And legal."

Her exhale next is soft, a little tired even. Corbin's mention of the festival offers a brighter spot, and she smiles at that. "Oh, it's going to be good," the engineer goes on with excitement building, "We've got some ideas of activities from the engineering department's booth. I'm really hoping they let me put up a rock-climbing wall. I know it's a little 'untraditional' but…" And again she trails, realizing this is not the time to ramble.

With a short clearing of her throat and a last sip of tea, Marlowe returns to the topic at hand. "So, I take it you two will be interviewing the three of them. I hope you please keep me updated on your findings. Is there anything else either of you think we should discuss?"

“That’s the plan. You’re welcome to come with us if you wish, as well,” Corbin offers, looking over at the engineer with the knowledge that she might actually know more about it and be able to ask the correct questions. “If not, though, some questions that you think might be good to ask would be a good idea, from someone who understands the affected systems and how they were supposed to work, as well as how they were fixed.”

The tech knowhow was not something they could necessarily fake. “There are advantages both ways to being questioned by outsiders. If they are innocent it may not burn further bridges with the tech departments if they believe we were looking at them strictly from an outside perspective, and they might try to use our ignorance about things to attempt to cover their tracks if they are not.”

There was more to it, but those two points alone could work in their favor.

Almost as much as Zelda’s newfound ability being an unknown wildcard they could use to know if their questions were being answered truthfully.

“I echo Corbin’s sentiments,” Zelda replies, nodding — Marlowe would definitely be a good addition. “I feel that, working together and using my ability, we will be able to get to the bottom of this.” It might be a little exciting, solving mysteries. Also, the prospect of keeping the power on when the nights are getting colder is a good one.

The mention of the engineer department’s booth, and Marlowe’s hopes for it, prompts an amused smile. “Well, it’s probably a good thing that you’re mentioning it in the presence of the woman that has somehow found herself in charge of organizing all of this.” For a brief moment, the monumental stress and nervousness of doing this shines through in Zelda’s smile. But only for a moment. “I’ll see what can be done about the rock climbing walls. If I can get fireworks, I’m sure I can get one of those for you.”

She turns her attention back to the matter at hand. “I will be attending the interviews personally. From what I can tell, my ability works the same regardless of the severity of the lie. I have to be able to hear and see the person. As far as I have seen, I can tell if someone is lying in another language that I don’t understand.” The Japanese channels on her television have indicated that much.

“I look forward to working with you more, Marlowe.” She smiles faintly to the woman, leaning back in her seat.

Marlowe polishes off the cup of tea just as the discussion appears to be wrapping up, setting down the cup politely where Zelda will be able to get to it. She brightens briefly at Corbin’s offer, though the smile turns wry with the invitation. “Thank you for the invitation, Agent Ayers. But I do agree with you. I get the feeling if they know I’m there, our working relationships would only be further compromised. Or any investigations into others might get tipped off,” she considers aloud. “Sympathizers in the departments might try to influence that, or worse. There could be more than one saboteur and more than one project.”

Her nose wrinkles slightly at that thought. Worry her lower lip briefly, she then dismisses the notion with a short shake of her head. “I’ll get you some reports,” she tells them, nodding at Corbin. “And questions to ask that hopefully don’t sound too obvious where they’re coming from.” The faint smile returns as she notes to Zelda, “And yes, I’ll check in with you about that wall. The engineering department is eager to find out how much in hours it’s going to cost us.” Their time is valuable, after all, with all the projects Yamagato has in play.

Those notes made, she gathers up her tablet and tapping a couple points on screen, fades the projections in the air back into invisibility. “I’ll let you two discuss further. Thank you for the tea, Miss Falkenrath. And thank you for your help, Agent Ayers. Catch you both some time soon… maybe swing by and join us for a drink after hours.” The cultural traditions of drinks after close of business goes strong here in the park, and the workers of Yamagato are bound to continue it. Marlowe heads off on that note, pausing with a short bow at the doorway before walking off back towards the workshops.

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