To Start An Avalanche


cardinal_icon.gif niklaus_icon.gif

Scene Title To Start an Avalanche
Synopsis Niklaus Zimmerman comes to contact Richard Cardinal under suspicious circumstances…
Date December 9, 2010

The Esplanade

Most people aren't aware that the Esplanade park that runs up and down the coast of Battery Park City is built on a landfill. Thousands of square feet of garbage once littered this shoreline, converted decades ago into the coastal park that now views out over the Hudson River. At night in the winter months, frost glitters off of the black metal railings glittering with frozen sea spray. Snow dusts some of the brick underfoot on the walkways, and the homeless have wandered away for warmer and less exposed shelters.

The plaza fountain is one of the most scenic locations in the Esplanade, facing south towards the illuminated Statue of Liberty, it is little changed over the years. From here, at the benches surrounding the lit fountain — now little more than an abstract piece of icy metal artwork with the fountains turned off and drained for the winter — it hardly looks like time has passed at all.

The cold air and the windy conditions of the evening have kept most park strollers at home. One visitor, however, sits patiently on a bench with his back to the lit fountain, staring out across the expanse of rippling water towards the green silhouette of lady Liberty. Niklaus Zimmerman isn't a free man, legally, but his actions persist in such a manner as though he is pretending valiantly to be one.

His glasses rest perched on the bridge of his nose, reflecting Liberty in each lens. The yellow, green, red and brown striped scarf he wears wrapped several times around his neck hangs loose down the front of his brown winter jacket, a very Tom Baker Doctor Who vibe, save that Niklaus' hair is far less wild and unkempt.

Here, in the presence of the distant Statue of Liberty, Niklaus Zimmerman is making a statement. Perhaps not a bold one, given that he is alone, but a statement never the less. One that cites despite all odds, that any man can be free, even in the face of evidence to the contrary.

But Niklaus isn't here just to make statements. He's here to fulfill a promise to someone.

A half hour has passed where the man seated upon the bench has been watched by another who has no eyes to watch with, silent as the living shadow coiled through the Esplanade to ensure that there wasn't some manner of ambush planned.

Lately, Cardinal's begun to realize that he can't trust anyone but himself. And perhaps he can trust himself least of all.

After that lengthy surveillance, one of the trees of the park is suddenly darkened by a spill of shadow up its trunk. Richard Cardinal - dressed in his black BDU's and Redbird Security jacket, shades, and a black fedora that oddly works with the rest of the outfit - emerges from it, pulling himself violently into three dimensions and striding for the fountain. The observant may notice that he's being careful with one arm, but with the jacket's thick sleeve, it's hard to identify the injury that's caused it.

"Niklaus," he says in quiet tones as he approaches, "How's Dalton?"

The unconventional entrance has Niklaus tensing in the brief time it takes to recognize Cardinal's voice. Confusion sets in across his face at the comment, surprise in the recognition of that name, and then admittedly a sheepish smile. "Old, and grandmotherly," which is to say not much has changed at all in the long-run.

Rising up off of the bench, Niklaus turns towards Cardinal with brows furrowed thoughtfully. "I'm sorry I disappeared, Richard. There have been…" he searches for the right words, a see-saw motion of one gloved hand wavering uncertainly in the air. "Complications? No, that is not right…" Blue eyes look out towards the statue of Liberty, then back to Cardinal in slow fashion.

"I am perhaps not supposed to be having this meeting with you, just yet, but I was not explicitely told not to…" Niklaus' lips creep up into the twist of a smile. "I did not want you thinking something unfortunate had happened to me, given all of our… ah, enemies? But apparantly, Herr Cardinal, I have you to thank for my disappearance. Even if, indirectly?"

"I didn't know who Dalton was working for… still don't. I know that she's not with— the Institute," Cardinal says with a slow shake of his head, "I've had my agents searching for her, and you, but… they're not as reliable as I wish they were." A bitter twist to the voice there, his lips pulling in a grimace.

"It's good to see you're in good health, and not being dissected somewhere, though. I admit, I was a little worried about that," he says, a brow lifting slightly over his shades, "And how's that? I've never even met Dalton."

"Dalton isn't the one who took me," Niklaus admits with a raise of his brows and a quirk of a smile. "My mother did." In that one revelation, the blocks do indeed start to fall on the Cardinal's fault side of this conversational Tetris game. "What we did in the past seems to have created more ripples than you or I realized on coming back here, to our present. Whatever it was you convinced Charles Deveaux of, it had… it had an impact."

Tucking his hands back into the pockets of his jacket, Niklaus moves to slowly close the distance to Richard. "My mother has been in their safe keeping for some time now, Miss Dalton is… an organizer? There are others, and it is complicated. But I know I am allowed to say that we have been waiting for the appropriate time to make contact and…" Niklaus' eyes narrow subtly. "It is approaching."

Lifting his hand out of his pocket, a business card is offered out to Cardinal. Gray, red and white with a stylized golden flourish on the page and white lettering. "It isn't much," Niklaus admits in a quiet tone of voice, "but it is something that I think everyone may be in need of at the moment." He looks down to the card, then up to Richard. "A little bit of hope?"


The other man's words are listened to without interruption or expression, Cardinal's head canting just a little to one side as he works through the implications of the hints and stray words spoken. Then he reaches out to take the card with his good hand, turning it over and looking at it, the ghost of a smile touching to his lips. "Charles," he murmurs, "Wish I'd've gotten to know you better. Heh. 'EVO'. Cute."

Those tired eyes flicker up from over the edge of his shades, his head still lowered from where he was reading the card, "I think it's Elisabeth you're looking for, though, not me. I don't think I've got it in me to believe in hope anymore. All my gardens are full of weeds and parasites, and I haven't seen a flower in a long time."

"Flowers are for pussies," Niklaus admits with a dismissive wave of one hand, "my hope comes in the form of cordite and gasoline, but perhaps we are not all made from the same cloth, yes?" One of the German's brows raise slowly as he looks from Cardinal, then turns to face the Statue of Liberty on the southern horizon. "I am unfortunately going to inform you that you are the hope, as it were, to this generation. You… others who will fight for that hope."

Niklaus' brows furrow subtly. "What I have shown you, it is just a support group?" Not quite the right words, but a start. "People capable of nudging, angling, pointing things in the right direction. Safeguarding? If it were any more, maybe we would not have had the riots… the losses." Lifting a hand to scratch beneath his chin, Niklaus' head shakes slowly.

"Charles set aside money prior to his death in 2006, set up a foundation and a charity in the name of his daughter Simone. What you told him, about the Company being discovered— ended. It knew his name would not be well enough, but that of his late daughter… one who history believes died in the fires of Midtown," Niklaus shrugs slowly, "it is a good enough name."

Pacing a few steps away, Niklaus' eyes wander to the ground, then back up to Richard. "We aren't ready yet, to… offer support? But perhaps when the time comes, a helping hand can come when least expected and most needed. But you… and people like you," Niklaus arches one brow slowly. "You're the ones who we need. No dusty closet full of old women is going to change the world."

"It's a good name." Quiet agreement from Cardinal as he makes the card disappear into a pocket, lifting the brim of his hat momentarily so he can scratch at an itch before he lets it fall down to rest on his crown, "I wish you all luck. God knows you're going to need it… so are we. We all are, especially if he gets his way." A dark note at the mention of him - after recent events, any sympathy that he had for his future self has been obliterated entirely.

"It's a ripple, but I doubt it'll be enough on its own. Still. Hey. It's something." He turns a bit, gaze lifting to the Statue of Liberty, its torch lifted at a different angle from all the postcards. The damage caused by Norman White lingers there. Scars of conflicts that could have been worse than they were. Perhaps should have been worse. All his meddling has just made things worse in the end, or so it seems to him tonight.

"You sound like the kicked puppy," Niklaus admits with a sly smirk as he tucks his hands into his pockets. "Understandable, with… everything going on. Niklaus exhales a breathy sigh thorugh his nose, then looks back over to Cardinal thoughtfully, over the frames of his glasses. "Do you need me to keep an eye out for anything? Find something? The Society has… some convenient ties for information gathering, at the very least. I know you are often the man who has already found everything, but— " Niklaus raises one shoulder slowly, "I owe you for what you did for my family."

On asking that question, Niklaus reaches down inside of his jacket and produces a slim pack of menthol cigarettes, sliding one out for himself to stick between chapped lips, then offers the package out to Cardinal with a single brow raised in query.

"If you kick a puppy enough times," Cardinal replies quietly, turning slightly and reaching out to take a cigarette from the package, "It grows up to be a very violent dog." He was supposed to have quit; the addiction was gone when he was reconsituted by Peter Petrelli. He's picked the habit back up since the 8th. The cigarette's considered for a moment, and then he lifts a brow at Niklaus. "Methols?" Seriously?

"For one thing," he says, offering it out for a light, "Go visit your goddamn sisters, if you haven't already. I don't think Barbara believes that I actually know you. And if you see Niki, tell her I'm still waiting for that goddamn paperwork I sent her after. She could at least give it to Liz."

He shakes his head slowly, then, admitting, "There's too much I wish I knew. What Humanis is up to. Where the actual Nathan Petrelli was. Some kind've… solid evidence tying Mitchell to Humanis First. How to put a lost dreamwalker back in her head…" A snort of breath, "How to get John Logan to leave me the fuck alone. All these assassins following me around is starting to get tiring."

Looking back to the Statue, he purses his lips. "If they can find me someone with agrogenesis, that'd be cool too. Tell me something, though, Nik. Did Sabra tell you why you were so important?"

It looks like Cardinal has a very big Christmas list, fortunately for him Santa is German.

"I'll see what I can do," is admitted with a dip of Niklaus' eyes down to the ground at his feet, then out to the pack of cigarettes. "It is an aquired taste," is all Niklaus does to defend his choice of carconogens, tucking the pack back into his jacket and replacing the spot in his hand with a battered old zippo lighter.

"I do not know where to find either of them," Niklaus admits as he spins the wheel on the lighter, illuminating his face with the dancing flame and the glow of fire. "Nor… do I have phone numbers for them. If you could tell them where to find me, that would perhaps cut out the middle man. I have been gifted with an apartment at the location on that business card, apartment A-3."

Drawing in the first lung-full of smoke has Niklaus closing his eyes, snaping the zippo closed and then exhaling the menthol smoke out his nostrils. "As for miss Dalton… no. She and I have talked little about mein— about myself," he corrects awkwardly. "more so about the Society and what they do."

Niklaus' brows furrow as he offers Cardinal a more pointed look. "Why?"

A slow drag on the menthol flares the tip of the cigarette in Cardinal's mouth to orange, burning paper and tobacco and tar away to ash before he breathes out a cloud in a plume upwards. "A-3," he murmurs into the smoke, "Got it."

The cigarette's dropped down to his side, hanging from between two fingers, and he turns to regard Niklaus for a long moment. His first instinct is to keep the secret, of course. But that wouldn't change anything. A quote from Asimov slithers up from somewhere in his memory: It pays to be obvious, especially if you have a reputation for subtlety.

"According to Company records," he explains casually, tilting his chin to the German, "Your father encoded the Formula somewhere in your genetics. They didn't know where in your DNA, or how, but it's in there. There was a lot of technobabble I didn't understand. I'm sure Sabra could explain in more detail - she should've had access to the file as easily as Robert did."

Surprise paints itself across Niklaus face at that revelation, surprise and confusion. The term Formula isn't entirely lost on him, especially not in that it is something that deserves capitalization when written down. Throat tightening, Niklaus looks askance to the bench he was ocupying earlier, if only so he can collect his thoughts.

"What…" Niklaus' words are stolen by a gust of cold air that subsequentially steals Niklaus' breath. When he catches it, when he finds his eyes tracking back to Cardinal, there is visible worry in them. "What does that even mean? I am— I do not know what to make of this. Are you saying that I am— that he put information inside of me?" It sounds dubious, and for something without a science background it undoubtedly seems so.

"To what end?" Niklaus has to wonder aloud.

"Hell if I know," Cardinal murmurs around the cigarette, "I'll ask your father if I ever meet him. We keep just missing each other. Maybe to preserve his work? Hell, for all I know he lied to the Company and it's not true at all… but that's what your file says. It has one've the highest classifications of any document I've ever gotten my hands on."

Niklaus' brows furrow, eyes avert to the floor and one of the electric lamps behind Cardinal flickers intermittantly from an electromagnetic disturbance. Running one hand over his chin, Niklaus looks down to his feet as he considers what Cardinal has revealed, what it could mean for him and why the Society has taken the lengths it has to bring him in.

"Hopefully," Niklaus offers, "we will be able to ask him together." That much has an emotional tremor running through Niklaus' words, stiffening the young man's back and causing him to turn slowly and offer a nervous look to Cardinal, then down to the ground again. "Thank you for telling me, though… I wish you had sooner, it might have made me more cautious around Dalton."

On looking back up to Cardinal, however, there's a look of uncertainty in Niklaus expression. One that slowly replaces the look of frustration that was there a moment before. "One more mystery on my life," he professes. "One more— " there's a chirping noise coming from Niklaus' pocket, a generic digital alert for a cell phone. On reaching down to his pocket and pulling it out, Niklaus flips the screen open and considers the text message, looking to Cardinal accusingly, then back to the screen.

Clearing his throat, the magnetokinetic tuck the phone back into his pocket slowly. "I am, apparently, predictable." It is a lament Niklaus does not offer easily, but it does come with a meager half-smile. "One of the old ladies would like to have me tell you, that the Ferrymen came into possession of a collection of prophetic paintings in Russia." He isn't certain what to make of that news. "The old lady wishes you a Merry Christmas."

"…did they now?" Cardinal's eyes hood beneath the opaque shadow of his glasses, falling silent as he takes another slow drag on his cigarette. The menthol smoke's exhaled through his nostrils, curling up like a dragon's breath, and he murmurs, "I'll have to… talk to them… see if I can get my hands on them. Tell her thank you."

Not a map, this time. Rather, a glimpse into what his other self is planning. The head of the Institute knows how things are going to go, is working to keep them that way. Apparently, he's forgotten that he once specialized in the murder of futures.

"And I'm sorry," he admits, "I didn't tell you because I didn't want… anyone to know. The more that knew, the more danger you were in. Now… well. I suppose it doesn't matter as much anymore. Hopefully we can get our answers, though, someday."

"Someday…" Niklaus admits as he tucks his cell phone into his pocket, cigarette bobbing up and down between his lips slowly. "Maybe." Pinching the cigarette between gloved fingers, Niklaus looks across the small distance between he and Cardinal, considering the shadowmorph thoughtfully.

"Keep that close to your chest," Niklaus admits about the card, motioning to the hand Richard last had it in. "At least for the time being. I don't want anyone else to know about it until the coven of witches says otherwise." There's a crack of a smile from Niklaus as he rests his hands on his hips, slowly sliding them into the pockets of his jacket after tossing what's left of his cigarette aside.

"Just remember," Niklaus offers with his brows furrowed. "Even if it is a selfish notion, on my own behalf… you made a difference in my life, and one that I cannot begin to repay."

"It might be the only secret I keep this year," Cardinal says, a faint smile crooking to his lips, "But I'll hold onto it until your witches say that it's alright to talk about it with people. There aren't that many who'd listen to me anyway…" His head tilts back, gaze lifting to the skies as he adds more quietly, "Thank you. At least I can make a little difference, here and there."

After a few silent moments, he asks, "That C4 you made. Any chance I could get a little bit more?"

Niklaus clears his throat into one gloved fist, looking momentarily awkward

"It has been used," the German admits with a furrow of his brows, casting an askance look to the water. "In… so much as that I may have rigged my former place of employment to… ah, explode as a security precaution?" There's a nervous smile that crosses Niklaus' face.

"The ah, Oh So Sweet bakery. In the basement, I placed four bricks of C4 I made in the, ah…" Niklaus waves one hand over his head. "In the above? The rafters. You can trace the wires back to the bricks, I rigged it to a cell phone that I wired into the circuit breaker as a signal booster." Niklaus wavers one hand in see-saw motion. "Not my best work, but will make do. You can disconnect the phone and safely remove the bricks… I had not gone to do it myself."

"Oh, Jesus Christ."

Cardinal's hand rubs against his face, fingertips pushing the shades up for a moment, muttering against his palm, "I am going to be a good samaritan and forget to mention this to Abigail before I pull it out of there. You should forget that you ever did it too, since I really… don't think she'd take it well."
He flicks the cigarette away, gaze lifting once more to the Statue of Liberty out in the water as if once again remembering the events that took place atop it.

"I wonder if four bricks of C4 is enough to move a mountain."

Silent on the matter of Abigail Beauchamp, Niklaus keeps his head down and brows furrowed, much as a scolded child may. He, at least, realizes that wiring her business to be blown to flinders at the drop of a single phone call may have been over-reaction on his part, and possibly paranoia. What works in Brussels doesn't work in Brooklyn.

"No," is his reluctantly voiced comment on Cardinal's rhetorical question, however. "But I bet it would get the people at the top of it to take notice," he admits with a wry smile, not actually familiar with the mountain metaphor. Then again, that may not be a bad outcome either.

"That's okay," Cardinal's lips twitch in a faint smile, gaze not leaving the statue's crown, "I think that it'll be enough for an avalanche, at least."

Oh, Niklaus, what have you done?

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