Truth And Betrayal


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Scene Title Truth and Betrayal
Synopsis Looking to satisfy her curiosity about the future, Elisabeth Harrison goes to the one man who would know it better than any precognitive. The answers to the questions she asks are not ones she expects at all.
Date January 30, 2011

Commonwealth Institute

The offices of the Commonwealth Institute of Massachusetts are sleek and streamlined in the way that an Apple store tends to look. Every desk and table has a smooth, glass surface and shiny chromed metal accents bracketing it in place. What isn't glass and chrome is matte white and sterile looking.

Adding to the futurism aspect of the Institute's architecture is the application of virtual surfaces on many visible areas. From the front check in desk to navigation panes set into the walls, these tablet-sized touch screens are designed for ease of use and connectivity, designed to make the Commonwealth Institute seem bleeding edge. Appearances are all this cuting edge dog and pony show are for, because Elisabeth Harrison knows that there security really matters, where the Institute has its nerve center, these networked computers are nowhere to be seen. Too vulnerable, too exposed, too much.

Unfortunately for Elisabeth Harrison, after her brief flight out from JFK Airport to Logan International in Boston, her arrival at the Commonwealth Institute has not been met with a journey down to those more 'Spartan' levels of the facility. This time, when wishing for a meeting with her time-spanned love, she has been afforded a private office on the third floor of the Commonwealth Institute's above-ground facility, an office that — according to the name plate on the desk — belongs to one 'Roger Goodman'. It seems he's out of the office today.

That she's been told to make herself comfortable isn't an easy request. Everything in here is cold, smooth and shiny. A black, leather upolstered chair, chromed framework, a smooth glass-topped desk containing a virtual keyboard surface and whisper thin monitor that ten years ago would have been a respectable size for a television.

Out the angular windows of this sharp corner office, the cloudy skies of Cambridge and the campus of MIT keep Elisabeth company, a snowy vista only just recovered from the last winter storm to hit it, with yet another on the way.

Waiting here for the inevitable meeting isn't comfortable at all.

It's nerve-wracking.

It would have been nerve-wracking even if the visit weren't as personal as this one. Elisabeth is dressed… nicely. Mostly casually, but she made the effort to look good. A boot-length hunter-green skirt meets the tops of a pair of high-heeled knee boots. Her gray wool coat is draped over one of the chairs, and she's walking slowly around the office with her arms crossed over the cream-colored cashmere sweater that skims her form to her hips. She stands near the window looking out over the snowy landscape, lost in her own thoughts. The coffee that was brought in for her at her request is still sitting on the desk, cooling slowly. She's not entirely sure the man will even see her.

He will, just not in the way she's expecting him to.

There's a brief tap of knuckles on the door of the office before the silhouette of a sleekly dressed secretary in matte black steps in to the office. Jet black hair is tied back into a tight ponytail, blue eyes sweep across the room to Elisabeth, and her jaw squares subtly as she offers an askance look to the former police officer.

"Miss Harrison?" One brow arches, and as the secretary steps in, there's an uncertainty to her posture and poise. "I'm sorry for the wait, if you could take a seat behind the desk I'll get things set up for you." On giving that request, the secretary makes headway over to the desk, carrying a slim tablet PC with her under one arm. It's withdrawn as she approaches the desk, and with a few touches to her tablet, the desk's computer hums to life and the display monitor turns on. A small green light also reveals the presence of a tastefully obscured webcam beneath the monitor.

Turning to look toward the door, Elisabeth nods slightly in confirmation. And when the secretary moves to bring the cameras to life, the blonde smiles faintly. She walks over toward the seat, waiting until the equipment is set up to seat herself with a graceful slip of her hand beneath the skirt to smooth it as she settles into the chair. "Thank you," she says to the other woman calmly, reaching over to bring her cooling coffee closer. Her demeanor is calm, even …. well, relaxed isn't the right word. But she's not tensed up. More like… pensive. A faint line between her brows gives it away to anyone who knows her well enough. She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear in a characteristic gesture, and then leans back in her chair to wait for the conference call to go live.

It doesn't take much, a few windows rise and fall, a login and password typed in from the tablet, and then a video synchronization screen. As the status bar begins to fill, the secretary steps away from the desk, threading an errant lock of dark hair behind one ear. "The video feed will go live momentarily, if you have any complications, please don't hesitate to come out and get me. I'll be right outside at my desk." Dipping her head down into a curt nod, the secretary turns for the door, leaving Elisabeth to watch the slowly growing green progress bar and a spinning helix of DNA rotating endlessly in the middle of the screen.

Eventually, the video feed connects, and a somewhat stuttering stream of video shows a white-walled room with no windows and a concrete ceiling. Centered on the screen is the lantern-jawed countenance of Tyler Case, and behind those dark eyes lies the darker soul of the man she professes to love. One of him, at any rate.

"Elisabeth," is Richard Cardinal's quiet greeting, his gloved hands folding beneath his jaw as he leans towards the screen, elbows resting on the desk. "I'm sorry you came all the way out here expecting a face-to-face meeting, but unlike Simon I can't be in more than one place at a time. I didn't want to turn you down, however, and this was the most secure alternative I had…"

As the receptionist leaves, she takes the opportunity to take in a deep breath and let it out slowly. A sip of her coffee and she's set the cup down and relaxed back into the chair just in time for it to go live. Elisabeth smiles slightly. "It's all right. In all honesty, I wasn't sure what to expect," she replies in a quiet tone. "I wasn't sure I was even going to come. But Eve wanted to see Simon, so the visit is not entirely a loss, either."

There's a pause and she studies his face. "You claimed the door would always be open… and I have questions," Elisabeth admits. "Some… maybe you can't answer. Some… " She shrugs slightly. "Maybe you won't want to. I'd prefer if I ask one of those that you can't or won't answer, you just say so. You know how I feel about spin." Her faint smile is rueful.

"Do you remember when we came back from Apollo?" It's a jarring interjection, as the video stutters and Richard slouches back in his uncomfortable looking metal chair. "You were wrapped up in FRONTLINE, and I was… trapped in my own shadow. Do you remember the conversation we had, at your apartment in Dorchester? It was during the storm…" Cardinal's borrowed eyes focus distantly on a spot beyond the camera, and a wistful sigh escapes his lips.

"I remember it like it was yesterday," he admits thoughtfully, shaking his head. "I apologized to you, for not being able to help. Help you stop Dreyfus, help you live your life… help be your partner." Dark brows furrow, and Richard lifts a gloved hand to his cheek, rubbing there lightly. "You said something to me that day, something that's stuck with me all these years."

Squaring his eyes on the camera, Richard furrows his brows and seems tense. "You said you wanted it over. You were lamenting how it felt like the only option you had was to die for everything to end, for everything to be made right again. For Dreyfus to stop."

Sliding his tongue across the inside of his cheek, Cardinal leans forward again, resting his chin on his hands. "Do you still feel like you're spitting in the wind?"

She was supposed to be the one asking the questions.

Resting her head back against the chair's high back, her blue eyes trail along the windows of the office to the steel-gray sky. She doesn't jump right into an answer, giving her own mindset some thought. And when she finally looks back at him, Elisabeth says quietly, "No. Because apparently I went and did that and it didn't stop a goddamn thing." Her arms are resting on the armrests and she smiles a little. This kind of talking is, in some ways, so much easier. It reminds her of any number of nights that they sat in the dark and just talked. "What happened to us?" she asks softly. "Since the moment I walked out of here the last time, I've thought about everything you said to me…. the things I don't want to know, the things I maybe shouldn't know… and the ones I want to know. I don't know if I even have the right questions yet."

The question isn't an easy one, and the easy answer is to just dismiss Elisabeth's question the way so many other problems can be dismissed; with misdirection. It's important, though, and in the sigh Cardinal gives it's clear he doesn't intend to entirely dodge the question. "We drifted apart," is a murmured regret. "The stress you had back then, back during the storm, roles were reversed. I was in charge of the Institute after what we pulled off. We finally had the power, the influence and the ability to change the world. Nigh unlimited resources, vast information… and all of that for nothing."

Bitterness replaces emotion, a mask of anger conceals his regrets in partial cover. "It wasn't enough, it wasn't soon enough. The War broke out before anyone could even realize what had happened, and we just…" Swallowing, Cardinal closes his eyes and fights off a wash of painful memories. "It was one of those moments in time, one of those events that we just— we couldn't change. I was so focused on leading the Institute and trying to ensure that there was a country— a world worth surviving through when the war ended, that we just— "

Cardinal's eyes narrow and he looks away from the camera. "We drifted. I had to make compromises, ones I'm not proud of. Sacrifices we didn't see eye to eye on. I— tried to make amends… for our son's sake. I just— I didn't want him to grow up in the world we were living in. I didn't— "

Voice hitching in the back of his throat, Cardinal exhales a sigh and tilts his head back, staring up at the ceiling. "Do you remember the story that the people who came back from 2019 used to tell? About how all the world's precognitives saw nothing but darkness in the days prior to… to the time travelers going home?" Richard's throat works up and down in a swallow, those words leaving a bitter taste in his mouth.

"It got so bad, Liz… that I didn't have any other choice. When you found out what I was going to do— what it was going to do to our future." There's a thin, weak smile that cuts across Cardinal's lips. "It isn't so easy to say you're in the business of murdering futures… when it's your own."

His voice cracks, eyes crinkling crows feet at the corners. "When it's your son's future."

As she listens, those blue eyes never leave his face. Elisabeth gives him the courtesy of her entire attention without wandering. Her expression remains pensive and by the time he gets to the end of it, all she can do is grimace just a little. "If it got so bad, why are you so damn determined to stay this course?" she asks softly. "Why are attacking the very people who could help you if you'd just fuckin' well talk to us, babe?"

"It's not an attack," Richard defensively clarifies, "what I did is insurance. Elisabeth, after everything I said, after everything I've told you do you still not understand?" There's strain in that question, rhetorical as it is. Richard's gloved hands scrub over his mouth, and as he scoots closer to the table in his chair, there's the noisy scruff of metal footed chair legs over concrete. "When you died— when you really died…" that he has to clarify is a harrowing thing. "Things changed. I realized— too late— what I had been doing wrong. But it was all for nothing. Edward's Legacy, the Institute, the plan…"

Running his hands across hia face, Cardinal rakes his fingers back thorugh his hair, cradling his head in his hands. "By the time I realized the error of my ways and discovered a failsafe, I had already villified myself so much that it was inevitable that I would fall, just as Pinehearst had, just as the Company had. I was never supposed to be here, Elisabeth. I was never supposed to travel back to this time."

Darkness settles into Cardinal's expression, grim and fatalistic. "By coincidence or fate, I am. But my every presence here, it creates ripples, it creates eddies and currents that I can't even imagine. I'm— I'm not Edward. If I step on the wrong butterfly, our son is never born. In trying to prevent the War that's coming, I'm damning him to non-existance. I can't— bring myself to do that, Liz. So I have to wait."

Swallowing, dryly, Cardinal breathes in a slow and steady breath. "I have to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat, at the 11th hour. It's the only way."

She closes her eyes, her brows pulling together and her lips tightening. There are many things she could say in this moment. When her eyes open, Elisabeth says calmly — and very quietly — "You need to look at the bigger picture, babe. Our son, regardless of what happened in your time, may or may not be born based on one thing and one thing only. What Richard and I do. The boy you knew? The boy that for some inexplicable reason I gave a name that I cannot fathom bestowing…. " Her expression is sad. "He can't be born. Not because you came back in time. But because I didn't die November 8th to be brought back to life and lied to."

Leaning forward to put her elbows on the desk, as if they're talking to one another through a simple window, Elisabeth looks intently at him. "I came to ask you…. to look at the bigger picture. If you know — if you really know for sure what went wrong — then let's talk about that. Tell me what needs to be done. Don't let your regrets keep you from doing what's best for everyone else. Learn from your mistakes in the past," she pleads in an urgent tone. "Secrets within secrets and plans within plans…. they only make things worse. They make me not trust your actions. And you have to know that I want to trust you. Why would I even be here if I didn't want that?"

"That I was open with you is what ruined things for us. I told you too much, and in the end you're the one who tried so hard to stop me. If it's any consolation," Cardinal's expression sags into a frown, "you succeeded." Swallowing dryly, he breathes in and exhales a slow and steady breath. "That I didn't send anyone after you on the 8th was a calculated risk on my part, Elisabeth. I'd like to think that it won't affect our son's birth," though there's a crease of something bitter in his eyes when she mentions his name, indirectly.

"I'm trying, carefully, to build a better future without changing the major movements in the dire symphone of our future. So far, Liz, we're still on the same course. We've rattled off the rails a few times, but this— everything— it's as it should be. As long as I keep things going, as long as I strive to keep our son's future alive… there's hope. Hope for reconciliation…"

Looking askance, Cardinal pushes his chair back and away from the table with a scrape of the metal feet. "This is about having it both ways, Liz. This is about keeping what I love, and destroying what I hate. I can do it, babe. You know I can. You just— you have to trust me. You have to have faith in me."

Dark eyes not Richard's, but possessing some small semblance of him in their expression linger on the camera. "I'm doing this for you, for our son, and for our future. But that may not be what's best for everyone else. But it is what's best for you."

Elisabeth tilts her head and says quietly, "Fate will find a way, I'm sure. I was supposed to have died the first time. That I didn't was entirely stupid luck and Deckard, babe." She slams the palm of her hand on the desk in front of her and throws herself back in the chair. Not in a pout, but in a fit of anger. Her blue eyes are sharp on him. "And whether you sent someone on the 8th or not, someone sure as fuck did. And it was by the grace of a friend that he didn't get to take the shot." She shrugs. "Frankly, I'm taking it all in stride by now." How many times has she tempted Fate by leaving her helmet behind? Even Dooley yells at her, and Felix hovers like a Mama Bear. Her chin jerks at him. "Tell me why I named your son that name."

"You didn't," is all Cardinal has to say on that, or anything else. Guilt criss-crosses his face as he rises up from his chair and leans forward onto the desk, one hand flat on the metal surface and the other reaching out towards a more physical keyboard than what Elisabeth has in front of her, as a pattern of keyboard shaped light on the virtual touch surface.

"But I never sent anyone to kill you on the 8th, Elisabeth. I have dangerous people to get out of the way, to ensure our future. You— were never my enemy until you made yourself one, and even now I forgive you for that. Whoever it was that was trying to kill you on the 8th wasn't one of mine."

Though as Cardinal narrows his dark eyes, it becomes clear that he intends to find out who'se it was.

"I'm glad we had this talk," sounds like goodbye, though Richard doesn't force those words. All he does is turn off the connection.

Leaving Elisabeth with plenty to think about.

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