What Am I Looking At?


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Scene Title What Am I Looking At?
Synopsis Erica Kravid comes to Richard Schwenkman to check on the progress of a project, and finds herself staring into the unknown.
Date May 12, 2018


Hard heels click down the brightly lit concrete corridor. There is no one else traversing the halls at this hour of night, and under the soft hum of the air filtration systems and the buzzing of fluorescent lights, Erica Kravid's footfalls might as well be gunshots for how they cut through the white noise. Carrying a clipboard under one arm, she briskly maneuvers her way past a dozen unmarked doors to the double wide glass doors leading into the lab at the end of the hall. They open with an audible swish when she nears, and the logo of the Commonwealth Institute laser-etched in their surface disappears into the wall with them as they slide apart.

"Richard," Erica calls out, looking around the dimly-lit lab. Four parallel rows of workstations are all powered down. Equipment lining the walls is lit only by secondary lamps recessed into the walls above them, and the chairs at each station are pushed in. A few of the machines at the far end of the room are humming away idly, running overnight tests. Their screens display a slowly accumulating progress bar. It doesn't look like anyone is here. "Richard!" Erica calls out again, beginning to move down an aisle between rows of unlit workstations.

Two rows over, seated behind the sole monitor that's still powered on, Richard Schwenkman pops up like a prairie dog into view, pulling off a pair of headphones as he does. "Ah! Erica, excellent. Good. Yes, uh," he waves her over, even though she's already cutting a knife-sharp path toward him. "I've got something I wanted to show you…" he dithers, settling back down in his seat before she even arrives. Erica closes her eyes momentarily and draws in a steady breath as she reaches the end of the empty aisle and starts cutting across to where Rich sits.

"Rich," Erica starts before she even reaches him, "I need those lab results on the Hayes siblings." Rich looks up briefly, then starts fishing through paper files stacked up beside the computer he's seated at. He tugs one out, a bright red folder marked with a black . He slides it down to the empty space by the next workstation over, briefly making eye contact with Erica as he does.

"It was a blood clot," Rich says without any context, looking back to the glow of his monitor. Erica approaches, picking up the folder and laying it atop her clip board. She opens it, paging through and then looks expectantly back to Rich. "Dahlia," he adds. "The uh… I had to go through the," he motions to the file in her hand without looking, "coroner's report from the Ark facility. It wasn't an air embolism, it was a blood clot. One of the medications they had her one caused it, it uh— page seven." Rich begins typing, brows furrowed. "The process wasn't at fault, it was one of the medical technicians, more than likely. I don't think it was intentional, just incompetence."

Erica closes the file, and her eyes, then stays that way for a moment before looking back to Rich. "What about her sister?"

Rich looks up at that, lips pursed and head shaking. "No idea. Either died in the Ark or was swept up in the exodus by the Ferrymen. Either way, she's not our problem anymore."

"She is if she remembers what we were trying to do, she is." Erica takes a step closer, halfway tempted to hit Rich upside the head with the folder. "Management wants this kept a secret, and if management is unhappy, Pete fucking Varlane is unhappy and next time it'll be you he nearly kills." Rich pauses as that, leans back in his chair and folds his hands behind his head, looking up to Erica with furrowed brows. He seems to register the importance of the matter, but then closes his eyes and seems at peace with it.

"How would we find her?" Rich asks calmly. "She could be literally anywhere. Walker is dead, and the entire Vision program with her. We don't exactly have an abundance of Hunters or Retrievers to send scouting around. Maybe we could ask Wolfhound if they'd seen her?" His sarcasm elicits a strained look from Erica, and she grips the entire clipboard firmly with one hand and tenses up the muscles in her right arm. But right about when she's going to strike Rich, she catches what he's been working on out of the corner of her eye.

For a moment, it's all Erica can do to squint at the display. She turns her head fully, trying to recognize what it is she's seeing on the screen. Rich looks at her, notices her focus, and sits forward in his chair again and regards his own personal project. "Neat, isn't it?" Rich clicks a few keys and scrolls with the mouse to zoom out on the image of connected circles and lines. "I've been plugging away at the raw data cache from the neural interface they had plugged in to Edward Ray back at the Ark. There's petaflops of data, more than I could ever go through in a dozen lifetimes. But most of it is garbage, because the device was picking up and reporting every single cognitive function his brain underwent." Rich points to a couple of line connected nodes. "See all these repeating patterns? That's just autonomous functions like breathing, heart rate, and digestion. I isolated all of that with a script and removed it, and there's still just…" Rich waves a hand flippantly at the screen. "It's a mess. It wasn't meant for data extraction beyond the speech information it converted. But, it didn't have a filter for data collection. So…"

"Are you saying you have Edward Ray's thought patterns here?" Erica looks from the screen back to Rich. "Predictions?" Rich grimaces at the latter part of Erica's questions, making a see-saw hand motion.

"Not… precisely. See, the way in which Edward interpreted data wasn't… I don't know how it actually worked. Trying to convert it to something legible is a lot like trying to find meaning in alphabet soup. You can piece letters together to spell something, but is that because you wanted to spell taco or because the soup was trying to spell it for you?" Shrugging, Rich begins to mouse through some data. "There's a lot of confirmation bias in here, because what we don't have is his full declarative memory. Just whatever was actively being recalled or imagined at any one moment." Finally, Rich pulls up a diagram of parallel lines. It looks almost like music notation.

Erica squints, leaning in. "What am I looking at?" She asks in a hushed tone of voice.


"This is just a corner of data I plucked from the sea of information. The answer? I don't really know. The text down here is associated with these circles here, and I was able to assemble it into a chart. But," Rich shrugs, looking helplessly at the information. "This is the best I could do. I've been working at it for hours."

Pursing her lips, Erica looks side-long to Rich and stands up straight again. "Then don't waste any more time on it. Pete wants a timetable on the second phase success rates by the end of next week, so that he can report it up to Management when they're here next." Rich exhales a huff of breath and nods, raking his fingers through his hair. He nods, making a soft noise in his throat, and that affirmation is enough for Kravid at the moment. She takes one step back, then, regarding the file on the Hayes siblings, turns and begins to walk back toward the entrance.

Rich, in turn, looks back to the computer with a disinterested stare.


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