Too Late for Damage Control


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Scene Title Too Late for Damage Control
Synopsis It may be too late to get ahead of it, but representatives of the Department of the Exterior lay out their plan for avoiding further damage.
Date December 1, 2020

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

“Thank you,” Toussaint says once he’s let into the conference room, moving to one of the chairs that faces the door. He folds his coat and places it over the back of another chair before settling in. In his well-fitting charcoal-gray suit, the young man doesn’t look out of place in such a place as this — a conference room of a successful business.

But the two agents’ business here today has nothing to do with the business of technology — only the most recent news buzzing from everyone’s lips in the industry.

“Should’ve brought Em and Bea to watch the front and back doors,” he quips to Castle.

“I can lock down the room, or the whole building if we need to,” Castle responds quietly, not really bragging, just stating the truth. “And Emmie might end up breaking someone’s wrist and I’m not sure that’s the signal we’re trying to send yet.” Or at least, they hope it’s not. They might be frustrated and disappointed, but, well, they were only human right? Instead of sitting properly in their chair, Castle twists theirs around and sits in it backwards so they can rest their arms over the back of the chair.

While they definitely don’t sit like a proper agent, at least Castle is mostly dressed as one, wearing a dark suit and slacks and a tie— that’s bright pink…

But at least it’s a suit. And proper shoes this time too.

They’re only left waiting a few minutes before the door opens again to admit the woman they’ve come to see. Dr. Ourania Pride flashes a smile as she closes the door behind her quietly. “Gent—” She catches herself after taking a second to assess Castle. Her head tilts slightly, eyes narrowing just faintly. “Agents,” she corrects the greeting.

It isn’t hard to see that she’s tense. It shows in the way she carries herself from the entry to the conference table, even if she hopes she’s masking her hesitance with the way she leans onto her cane. “It’s nice to see you again, Castle.” And it is actually, even if these circumstances are far from ideal and her nerves are frayed. Even with her lab coat left at her workstation, Pride’s still a little monochromatic today. The lanyard her work ID hangs from is patterned with black and white chevrons, her kitten heels are black and white zebra striped, sheer stockings black, even her long-sleeved, high-necked dress is black. Only the flash of copper from the penny hanging from her neck adds any sort of color.

“I could guess what this is about,” the scientist muses as she pulls out a chair and sits down, smoothing her dress behind her as she lowers to the seat. “But why don’t you tell me anyway?”

“Valid point,” Toussaint says, then turns as he hears the door open. He rises, leaning across the table to offer his hand to Ourania, as if to make good on the greeting started and discarded.

“I see you’ve met. Agent Castle does tend to mix and mingle a bit more than I do socially,” he says, taking a seat again. “I’m Marlon Toussaint. Agent Toussaint, Marlon, Mr. T, whatever you wish to call me.” It might be an effort at making her a little more comfortable, but his dark eyes are a little too intent on hers to do that, most likely.

“I’m afraid it’s a little unpleasant. We’ve come to talk to you about the leak from Kansas City University, and what we can do to ensure that nothing else like that happens in regards to this case,” he says, his southern drawl slow but smooth. “It’s quite vital for many reasons, not the least of which is the safety of the survivors.”

As “Dr. Pride” enters, Agent Castle raises one hand to give a finger wave in response to the narrowing of eyes. With fewer people around, it’s easier to pinpoint the blending of emotional states within the Agent, making them easier to pinpoint. It’s as if there’s two distinct sets of emotions coming off of them. The closest she’s felt to that before might be Richard with the conduits, but it’s still not quite the same, because these two seem to be meshed together more thoroughly.

A plurality. It’s only the fact that they seem to be a little at odds emotionally that makes them easier to pinpoint this time. Before they had not been. Part of them is most strongly disappointed, despite the smiles— while the other half— seems a little more laid back about the whole situation, calmer.

“Oh, yes, we met ‘Doctor Pride.’ Not here. She works part time as a lounge singer over on Staten. I went there to ask about an appearance by Mas that had been reported,” they explain to ‘Mr T.’ “And I met her again at the Gala, briefly. She was dressed as the Opera Singer from Phantom of the Opera. First time I’ve seen her without her Phantom, though.”

But how they met wasn’t really the topic of discussion, as Toussaint gets into right away. “Leaks are unfortunate. And unfortunately since no one contacted us about it, we weren't able to contain it before prying eyes got their hands on it. Disinformation circles are doing their thing, trying to discredit it, but there’s only so much they can do…”

Weirdly, Ourania can tell it’s not the side that’s disappointed doing most of the talking.

“Agent Toussaint, then.” Ourania settles on the form of address as she shakes the hand offered to her. His name is spoken with a French inflection. “Yes,” she goes on to clarify and corroborate the other agent’s story. “We don’t know each other well at all, but we’ve made introductions.” She smiles faintly, letting a genuine sort of amusement seep in. “My partner,” her Phantom, “greatly appreciates your sense of fashion.” She adds after a beat, “I like the tie.”

But there’s no amount of compliments that are going to defuse this situation entirely. None of it can completely ease her tension. The pair of them dive right into it and Pride starts to tense again, in spite of Toussaint’s best intentions. Does he know his eyes do that? His presentation is impeccable, so surely he’s seen his own reflection.

Uncomfortably, she shifts in her seat. “I had nothing to do with the leak,” she’s quick to put out there. “I had no idea that anyone involved in this process would do something so stupid.” If there isn’t a lawsuit to come from this it will only be because Raytech decided it would lend too much credibility to the leaked information. When you’re trying to discredit something like that, you don’t bring a suit. “I don’t know if that person hoped to make the break of their career with this, but that’s not my style. I don’t publish.” Which is odd for someone in her field. “I’m not looking to make a splash in the scientific community. I’m perfectly content with where I’m at.”

Blue eyes shift to the table’s surface, where her hands are folded together. “Everyone was asking me about those images last night and what they meant, but… I couldn’t say a thing, because I had no idea.” What she doesn’t say is that she received those results this morning.

Catching herself before she can spiral any further in her worry, she shifts her gaze to Castle, then Toussaint. “I’m just as mad as you are about this. This was a huge violation. And they’ve got–” ten “–more samples to process.” And Dr. Pride needs those results.

“Interesting,” Toussaint asides to Castle in regards to Ourania’s side hustle. He then quiets, tipping his head slightly as Ourania begins laying out her defense. He is hard to read, at least at the moment, even with her empathy ability. He isn’t just good at keeping his emotions hidden under that smooth surface — he simply isn’t very emotional, at least at the moment, unlike his disappointed friend.

He nods as she finishes. “No one thinks you did it deliberately,” he says, lifting a hand as if to calm those worries as one might calm a horse. “But even doing work here opens you up to someone leaking the information, quickly adding before she can argue, “Everyone trusts their staffs until given reason not to. No one ever leaked classified information because they were hired for being shady or suspicious.”

He shifts, leaning forward and crossing his arms on the edge of the table. “As for the ten other samples, I wouldn’t wait on those. We’ll share with you what we have, of course.”

“Yeah, we weren’t accusing you, or anyone here. It was obviously an overzealous scientist who saw something they weren’t supposed to and knew nothing about and thought it looked cool and wanted clout on twitter..” While Toussaint is good at keeping his emotions in check, Castle is a contradiction of emotions. There are two distinct emotions in play and they are not in agreement this time like they had been most of the times they had been around her before. Before it had been a blending, a dance, now it almost felt like a fight.

But neither side was actually winning. “I mean it did look pretty cool. Those nanites they got in them, scary looking little bastards, aren’t they?” There’s a laugh and they shake their head again, before twisting in the chair. “We’re glad that you understand the gravity of the situation, though, but thankfully it was such an unbelievable picture that most people in the scientific community already decided it was a hoax before our spin doctors got behind it. As long as nothing more leaks besides the pictures, I think we can control it. But— “

Now this is when those pale eyes that seem to change color depending on how the light hits them settle on Ourania firmly and for the moment those two halves seem to come to an agreement, a firmness, “If you had informed us we could have controlled it far more easily before the leak occurred.”

There is a sense of relief that comes from the assurance that they know she didn’t compromise this project, but it’s a short-lived thing, replaced by disbelief and anger. “No! No, no, no, you can’t— You can’t do that!” Ourania sends a pleading look to Castle, then shifts back to even-tempered Toussaint. “This is my research! I— You can’t just take it!” Somehow, she doesn’t trust them to share everything they will learn with her.

Holding up a hand to forestall any counterarguments to be mounted against her, Dr. Pride takes in a deep breath and lets it out in a sigh, pushing down her knee-jerk anger and upset. “I’m sorry. I just… I’ve put a lot of work into this. A lot of time and effort and thinking outside of the box.” Pressing her lips together to fight against the sadness at this resignation, she figures she may as well explain herself. “Ms. Thatcher wanted this kept quiet. Being as how I ran this project at her behest… I honored that request.”

Ourania held up her end of that promise. It isn’t her fault some overeager fuckwit decided to put her work out on the internet for everybody to see.

But something Castle said grabs her attention and pulls her back to the enigmatic them. “The nanites aren’t doing anything, is the thing. They’re just… basically drifting along in the bloodstream like it’s some kind of lazy fricking river.”

Toussaint raises his brows, letting her appeal to them, then glances over at Castle to see how they’re reacting to the plea — being the more emotional of the two agents. His expression remains calm, stoic, though a tinge of exasperation colors his emotional aura.

The more emotional of the two seems to be having mixed emotions because on the one hand Castle looks amused by the outburst, but also still radiates that disappointment that they’d had earlier. What’s shown on their face isn’t quite the same as what they are feeling, but then again, what they feel isn’t the same as what they’re feeling isn’t in complete agreement, either.

“You took it outside your own labs where you couldn’t control what happened to it, Ms. Pride. I’m sure you have other samples you can continue to work with, or possibly access to more. We only ask that you don’t bring it to anyone else without our okay,” Toussaint says, reaching within his coat for one of his cards. This he slides across the table to her. “Do contact us if you need to request anything else in the future.”

Folding his hands once more on the table, Toussaint continues. “I’ll see if we can return the samples to you for your in-house research, but I can’t make any promises there. With the consent of each of the subjects, of course.”

When Castle speaks, their accent is crisper than usual, almost reminiscent of Reeves and Sommerfield. More British than their usual Irish or American tones. “If you wanted your research to stay under your control, you shouldn't have let it out of your sight. It sounds like we need to talk to Ms. Thatcher to clear this up, and reiterate with her once again that she can trust us…” They hesitate for a moment, then stand up from the chair, smoothing the suit.

The emotions they give off seem more and more feminine by the moment, and more and more serious. And firm. “But perhaps she was trying to protect you.” There’s a pause, and then they say, “Odessa Price.”

Instead of the “name” they had all been using so far.

“Yes, we know who you are. And we don’t care. All we care about right now is the safety and wellbeing of the survivors of the plane crash, and taking these samples outside of a lab that you or we personally control, puts them at risk. You don’t have the equipment to test the samples in-house properly. We do. We will put in a request to see if it is possible that you can use equipment that we control rather than go outside if you and Ms. Thatcher makes requests via us in the future.”

The mixture of emotions coming off of Castle is a bit of a roller coaster for the empath, especially when compounded by Toussaint’s exasperation. It leaves her at a loss for what she should be feeling herself. Disappointment seems to be winning the day, however, because the pair of them is ultimately right. Foolish her for having trusted anyone off the Raytech campus to handle her research. But with all the paperwork Kaylee had insisted on, surely, Pride had thought, they would be covered. But there’s a saying about pride, isn’t there?

She’s halfway to sliding the proffered card into her pocket when Castle drops that revelation on her.


Odessa’s eyes snap up and her posture shifts slowly. Shoulders back, long spine, head up. Just the way Ace had encouraged her to go out when she surrendered all those months ago, only without the mask of anxious politesse. Now, she knows exactly what to feel, because that cold knot of fear in the pit of her stomach is stronger than anything else the others in the room could put off. The placid marble of her expression can’t hide that, between the way the pace of her breath picks up, the tightness at the corners of her mouth and the intensity of her blue eyes. Compound that with just how very pale she’s suddenly gotten…

“Please,” Odessa’s voice is small, almost a tremulous thing at first. Get your shit together, Price. That blonde head tips toward one shoulder and there’s a shift behind her eyes, like someone’s flipped a switch. “By all means, dazzle me. Let the government use my research to do something good for a change.”

There’s a scoffing breath of laughter as she presses the tip of her tongue to the pointed edge of one canine. “How long have you known, Agent Castle? Or should it be Castles?” Her brows lift briefly. Fine, you wanna play? I know something about you too.

The smooth surface of Toussaint’s emotions blips again, this time with some amusement at Ourania’s — Odessa’s — rejoinder to his partner.

“Oh, well, this is getting entertaining,” he says, leaning back in his chair and stretching out his legs — like it might be a while before he plans to participate again in the conversation. He’s not surprised by the pluralization of Castle’s name, that much is clear. Whatever’s going on with the eccentric, dual-natured Agent Castle, Agent Toussaint seems to be privy to it.

“I might,” Toussaint says, brows arching as he looks at Ourania, “remind you that we haven’t put in this request yet, and Agent Castle’s recommendation is asking for more leniency and allowance than mine, but, please.”

He gestures in the air with an open palm. “Continue.”

“Oh, and how do you know that?” Castle asks with a grin, but the same London-toned accent that they were sporting for the moment. There was still that feminine energy about them, but now she seemed more amused than they had a moment before. Chaotic would be a good way to describe this agent, which was definitely something that the lady in front of them might be able to relate to a little. She had lived quite the chaotic life as well.

“It really depends on the bosses, but I did say we would ask.” And they did mean the Castles would ask, probably. “They might say no to you actually assisting in the work, but we will do what we can to share what we find with Ms Thatcher as we had promised her before. We just can’t allow this kind of information to run amok in the world. I’m sure you understand. There’s people out there who would use your friends for nefarious gains to try and replicate the technology for themselves. We really are trying to protect them.”

Again, Odessa finds herself holding her hands up a short way from the desk in a brief show of surrender. “Alright, alright. I believe you,” she all but purrs in response to Toussaint. “I know if your agency had really wanted to snatch this from my hands and intimidate me, they would have sent Agent Gates.” There’s no sense at all in pretending that he hadn’t unnerved her. If that wasn’t on record somewhere, then someone isn’t doing their damn job. Even the Department of Evolved Affairs had their shit together enough for that, and from where she’s been seated on the other sides of these tables, the Exterior isn’t just an arm of a vindictive dictatorship.

It takes much less diligence to destroy lives than it does to save them. As a surgeon, she knows that well.

When she shifts her attention back to the London-accented agent, there’s a light in the blonde’s eyes. She’s having fun with them. “You aren’t the only plurality in this room, Agent Castle.” Odessa chuckles and shakes her head. “No one sane enough to hold your job is that erratic.” Her stare narrows faintly, considering. “Or do they keep you on a leash like they did me?”

She doesn’t expect an answer to that question. Instead, Ms Price waves a hand as if to dismiss the whole notion. She isn’t really looking to antagonize. “I can’t stop you from taking my research.” Slowly, that ease and confidence she’s been displaying ebbs away and when the last vestiges of it are washed away like ice floes on a river in spring, they’re left with that pale face and the fear. “I want to help them. Kaylee’s done so much for me. Isabelle and Shaw… Jac.”

Odessa looks down at her hands, which have folded together again on the table. “I’ll do whatever it takes, even if that means keeping my hands off the work and just… being available to parse and explain the data you provide to Kaylee.” Lifting her head once more, her gaze drifts between Castle and Toussaint, begging, “You have to help them. Please. Look at the comparisons to the synthetic blood from InVerse. Either someone affiliated with them is trying to make a breakthrough in their technology, or one of their competitors is looking to destroy them.”

She feels so helpless and so small. “I’m pretty sure whatever happened on November 8… They’re the treatment, and the others are the control.” Odessa draws in a deep breath and shakes her head. “I get it if you won’t let me close to this, especially in your own facilities, but I hope you will. I— I have insights. This is a live experiment. Whoever’s behind this is playing with their lives, and I want to help stop them.

“Please… Please just tell your bosses I just want to help.”

Sitting back up, Toussaint stretches, the languid grace in his long limbs evocative of feline energy. He manages not to yawn, but there seems to somehow be the idea of a yawn, before he glances at Castle, brows lifted. Rising from his seat, he pushes in the chair and picks up his coat from the other.

“We know you’re trying to help. We,” he gestures to Castle and himself, “are also trying to help, which is why we’re making sure those samples and images don’t end up in the wrong hands again. That your intentions were good was never doubted, Ms. Priced.” The mispronunciation of her name is emphasized, a smile punctuating it as deliberate.

Toussaint reaches out to shake her hand, his own cool and smooth, nails perfectly manicured and buffed to a shine, leaning toward her to speak in a lower voice. “Also trust that if we wanted to intimidate you, Agent Castle and I are capable of that without Gates’ help.”

He turns toward the door, before looking over his shoulder. “We’ll tell our lab guys to take a look at the blood comparisons. We’ll contact you about the samples if we get that cleared. Have a good morning, ma’am.”

“Begging is not very becoming, we already said we would ask,” Castle says, tilting their head back as if sighing a little. But Toussaint is standing and that draws their attention away and they nod and their eyes seem to brighten once again, as if the light in the room has found them, putting the color back into them, the green especially.

With a clap of their hands, they look and feel more like the excitable agent that had stepped into the Rossignol that time, with that childlike curiosity and enjoyment on their face.

“We’ll ask our bosses and do what we can, really. We are going to keep our word to the survivors and share with them what we manage to find, and if we can get you some better equipment or something to help you so you don’t risk your friends again, that will be good too. But if they say no, they say no.” It feels like they very much intend to give whatever they do find out, though.

But that chaotic emotion shifts as they step around the table and toward the door and get closer to Odessa once again and Castle smiles at her, “Always remember— these things take time.” With that, they wink. The kind of wink that gets both eyes involved.

And Odessa, multiple Odessas can’t help but feel that this person is, once again, somehow, familiar.

No, begging isn’t very becoming, but it’s certainly one skill she’s had a lot of cause to hone. There’s so much resentment that bubbles beneath Odessa’s surface, the majority of it self-directed. It’s with this in mind that she points her gaze away from either of the others in the room before her fingers turn to fists and her lips thin out. “Thank you,” she manages to say. Expressing gratitude for the promise of even scraps is something she’s had plenty of occasion to work on, too. Hopefully this proves to be everything they claim to hope to deliver on, but now the tone has shifted and it indicates that the end to this little meeting is in sight.

Her head lifts again when Toussaint makes his approach and offers his hand. There’s only a moment spared eyeing it like a wary dog that’s been kicked too many times before she accepts the handshake, meaning to return the courtesy in kind. The shift in his posture is recognized even before the lean-toward properly begins. Outwardly, the only shift is in the way Odessa’s gaze snaps to Toussaint’s darker one. Inwardly, it feels as though every muscle draws taut. Coiled like a steel trap, ready to spring if it means defending herself.

The resulting tension means the assertion is rewarded, with Odessa unable to fully suppress the tremor that runs through her body from the chill fingers of apprehension that trace down her spine. “So it would seem,” Odessa responds with a tight smile that she shifts to Castle and their own assurances when Toussaint withdraws.

Pushing to her feet, she opts to lean on the table for her stability rather than reach for her cane. “Agents,” she dips her head in the first part of her farewell. “Sorry to start this off on the wrong foot.” She even means that as her smile becomes something to properly convey apology. “May the rest of your day be more pleasant than having to deal with me first thing in the morning.”

As soon as the conference room door closes, Odessa sinks down into her chair again, elbow propped on the table and her face buried in her hand. “Did you have to do that?” she asks herself. (Herselves.) “You’re going to get me into trouble.” Again, a shudder runs through her frame. “This cannot keep happening.”

Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence.

Odessa closes her eyes tightly, lips pressed together and holding back— Even she’s not sure what the emotion is. Ironic how easy it is to identify others, but never her own. Never herself. She lets out a bitter laugh just as her phone buzzes in her pocket.

♠: I’m here.

A sigh of relief sees her entire body sag forward. She nods her head, as if the recipient might actually know it and receive the sentiment. He can’t, of course, so she types out her response.

O: I’m on my way out.

She can’t leave fast enough.

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