Writing Desk


cardinal_icon.gif valerie_icon.gif

Scene Title Writing Desk
Synopsis A projection of the youngest Ray comes to Cardinal in an hour of confusion. Valerie needed help, but it seems Cardinal has crises of his own.
Date October 27, 2010

Redbird Security: Basement

At the bottom of the stairs there's a sturdy metal-reinforced door, locked not with an electronic mechanism but with an old-fashioned mechanical combination lock. A bright yellow biohazard sign is hung up on the door.

Once through the door, the basement is mostly open space interspersed with support columns of grey brick. A thick layer of grey latex paint covers the walls and floor, the ceiling overhead tiled with squares of sound-suppressing foam. A few filing cabinets are pushed up against the near wall, and a single computer desk, the box unconnected to anything except for power, sits between some of those cabinets. The rest of the front part of the roomis an area with folding chairs around a table and a pull-down screen across from a podium with a projector sitting on top of it, evidently for meetings. Deeper in the room, two dozen free-standing posts with sand-filled bases are scattered about, with strings and lines of yarn of all manner of colours connecting them. Post-it notes and photographs have been attached here and there with little pieces of tape. The far wall, behind the string map, bears the legend in stark white block letters upon the grey that stretches across most of the wall and from floor to ceiling: 'FIGHT THE FUTURE'.

The right third of the room has been divided from the rest by a wall of bulletproof glass and metal framing, accessed by a simple glass door near the main entrance of the basement. Inside, three locked gun cabinets sit against the wall, and the rest of that section of the room has been turned into two shooting lanes. Cheap pulley assemblies on the ceiling attached to electric motors hold target posters.

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

That, oddly, is the question that Richard Cardinal ponders as he sits in the basement of Redbird Security, in the inner sanctum of that small yet influential conspiracy known as Endgame. Every other one of the flourescent light fixtures are off, leaving the room illuminated but dimly. One of the chairs has been dragged away from the meeting table and set in front of the time web, and it's there that he's seated himself, leaning forward with forearms resting on his thighs, absently passing a battered zippo lighter from hand to hand. There's an unopened pack of cigarettes on one knee, despite the fact that he hasn't smoked since his resurrection.

Maybe it's time to start again.

The card he's given her had an address, but it took a lot longer than she thought to find it than she might have wanted— luckily there's a few minds within the distance she needs to project off of, while she examines the building as quietly as possible— which is quietly, and through the walls more than anything else— If there's one thing Valerie likes more than anything else, it's buildings. The shape, the sides, the interior, the way it looks from all angles— and all angles that she can see.

In the ceiling of the basement, when offices turned up empty, and before she risks an apartment search, a bit of blonde hair briefly appears through the surface, a nose and a set of blue eyes. The dim light takes a few moments, but— she sees him. And moves her anchor.

And herself. There's no footsteps to herald her. No sound of doors opening. Just a sudden voice from behind him, "Richard Cardinal? I need your help."

As there's a voice behind him, Cardinal sits up rather sharply in his chair - a motion that sends the pack of cigaretes tumbling off his knee and sliding into the web, ending up somewhere beneath Peyton Whitney's timeline where it stretches across the mass of colourful strings and dangling pictures and notes.

He doesn't look back, though, just closing his eyes for a moment. Of course. Someone needs his help. "Not so sure you've come to the right place," he says quietly, "Whoever you are."

"It's me, Valerie," she says, looking at the strings for a moment, before looking back down at him. "Kaylee's sister— she's missing. I can't find her anywhere and I know she's not in the city. She might be time travelling again, but I'm worried that the Institute might have grabbed her again, they did before, and they still have our dad…"

But the man she thought was 'her only hope' seems to have issues of his own. "Kaylee said you were one of the people I could trust if anything happened to her…"

Of course it would be a Ray. Who else would show up here, today of all days?

A breath's drawn in, and exhaled as Cardinal pushes himself up to his feet, tucking the lighter away inside his jacket. "Sorry," he says, faking a smile for her, "I just…"

Hey. Wait a minute. "…wait, how'd you get down here?" The door's still closed and locked!

The first response comes with a hint of a shrug, one that doesn't quite look right in the way her clothes movie. Valerie knows buildings, but she's not always good with details. "My sister has an ability, my dad has an ability… I have one too. That's not why I came, though." She didn't even know the door was locked, cause she didn't use the door—

"I just need help finding my sister— her and my dad are the only family I know, and they're both gone." And she hasn't met her brother yet. "But you look like you got other worries, too…"

"I've always got worries," Cardinal claims, his head shaking ever so slightly and one hand raising to rub against the side of his face for a moment, breath spilling over his palm in a sigh. "They're just a little more unusual than some people's… alright. Kaylee, missing, got it. I have someone on staff that can determine if she's still in this timeline or not, at least, and if she is might be able to tell you where."

"Do you wanna talk about it?" Asks the person who is displaced in both time and now body. Valerie has some oddities of her own, as she steps closer a bit. Steps visibly, at least, though it would be difficult to tell if he's not looking. "I'm not exactly a world expert, but I'm a good listener."

"I don't even know what to think about it, let alone know what to say to talk about it…" Cardinal turns slightly to look back towards the maze of strings and notes that takes up a sizeable section of the basement, his lips pursing in a tight line, "…your father once told me that you could change the future if you were willing to move mountains."

"I just wish he'd told me more about which mountains to move."

"He once told me that small changes are easier to make, but they have the least impact on the world," Valerie says quietly, drifting a bit closer, seeming to slide across the floor visually. "I guess he'd say that moving one string is easier than moving all of them— it just only has an affect on the people that string touches…" Apparently her father did teach her a little about changing events…

A little. "I guess after I… died…. he tried to aspire to change bigger things."

"Maybe so." Cardinal's lips purse in a grimace, "The problem is, what if it's one thread that's tangled up in a lot of others… he told me that the future has inertia and I've seen proof of that. You change things a little to avert it, but it happens anyway, just in a different way…"

He closes his eyes, a sigh whispering past his lips, "…anyway. I'm just— babbling."

"I wonder if that's cause of me," Valerie says, not really minding his babbling, but looking a little curious. "I was supposed to die before I was born, but he saved me— and after that he saved me again. I didn't die that way, but things kept happening that would have hurt me another way. So he kept fixing it. And fixing it— It sounds like he even tried to steer Kaylee toward saving me by going back in time."

This is one of the reasons she knows about his small changes— all the ones she knew about just happened to be her.

"Maybe he wants you to decide what mountain to move."

"Just like that… yeah. You know, I always hated those Final Destination flicks," Cardinal mutters ruefully under his breath, gesturing with the lighter still in his hand, "I've never liked the idea that something is… predestined. That we don't have free will of our own. Probably from all the Catholic I got shoved in my head as a kid."

"I like to think that I'm not destined to die no matter what," Valerie says with a shrug of her shoulders, before she's leaning forward to watch him with more scruitiny. And all the wrong shadows on her face. Not nearly enough for the low light in the room. "If you had to choose what mountain, what mountain would you choose to move?"

"That's… the thing…" Cardinal reaches out to pluck at one of the strings with the tip of his finger, watching the way the vibrations carry all throughout the rest of the web, "…I don't even know what mountains they are anymore. And I sure as hell don't know what's behind them."

"Either he intended to tell you later— or he knew that telling you would make you miss it. Maybe he just wanted you to trust your instincts," Valerie says with a friendly smile, one that seems both quiet and polite. "It seems like there's a lot of mountains in the last four years. I don't even know the half of them. But maybe you'll figure it out. If my dad trusted you to do this, then you must be the only one who can figure it out— or you're the one who will help other people figure it out."

Cardinal exhales a rough snort of breath at that. "I wish I had your faith in him. He's not omniscient…" A look back to her, one brow lifting up over one eye, "…and that's exactly the problem. I know that I can't trust my instincts on this one. I need to… fuck. I don't even know." He glances down to the pack of cigarettes, frowning at its distance.

"Well, he spent my whole life saving me, so I have a bit different perspective," Valerie admits, knowing that she's seen different sides of her father than… almost anyone else, probably. "Course, I messed it up a few times. What he told me changed cause I didn't do something he told me to do. The only thing he can't predict is choices. So we do have that free will thing. He told me I would meet my sister, but he wanted me to go to her campus, as me, and— I sent my projection instead, and I couldn't find her, which meant I wasn't where I was supposed to be."

A pause. Projection? Ah. That's how she got down here. Cardinal shakes his head slowly, admitting in wry tones, "…and Hiro fixed the rest, eh? Good thing for you that he likes Kaylee, then…."

His gaze rakes back towards the 'map' that stretches like a colourful octopus throughout the room, "…christ, the things Nakamura misses. Mm. See, I know that I'm going to fuck up. That there's something I'm doing that's wrong. I just… don't know what."

"You really are in a fix. That's another thing dad used to say— trying to fight against the future is like trying to swim upstream. It's tiring and difficult, and even if salmon do it all the time, it's harder for people," Valerie says, reaching out to touch at his arm, but he can't feel it, even if it looks like she should be— and even if her fingers are kind of inside him. "He always liked to talk about strange things, but— whatever path he put you on isn't easy. I hope that you have a lot of people who can help you figure out what you're doing wrong. There's a lot of strings up there."

The contact point where her incorporeal fingers slide through his arm is watched for a silent moment, and then Cardinal's gaze lifts back to her face. "I put myself on this path," he says quietly, in… contradiction to all the evidence, "I can't blame him for it. And yeah…" He looks back to the map, "…there are a lot of strings out there, aren't there?"

"A lot, and you need another for me!" Valerie suddenly says, raising her hand in excitment, as if that matters. "Make it green, like a clover— I was born on Saint Patrick's Day." Prematurely, but still. She talk like her dad, but she's still a teenager.

A quiet chuckle causes Cardinal's shoulders to shake a bit at her excitement. "Green, hm? I'll keep it in mind… if I even bother with this…" He follows a few lines and knots with his gaze, eyes half-lidding, "…maybe I should just start over."

"Starting over would be a start, at least," Valerie says, still smiling, even if besides one brief meeting, the assurances that he would be someone to go to, and the knowledge that her dad was his employer— she doesn't really know him enough to be much encouragement. But that might just be enough. "Sorry if I wandered into your secret base, but it looks like you needed someone to talk to as much as I need someone to help me find my sister."

"Right. I'll get Peyton on it in the morning…" Cardinal turns back to her with a faint smile, but it's a little more genuine than before, "…sorry for all of my…" He waves one hand vaguely through the air in dismissal, "…babbling. Just got a lot on my mind. I'll let you know what she comes up with."

"I'll try to check in tomorrow and see if you've found anything. Or you can stop by Kaylee's place, too." It's where Valerie's staying, after all. "I should get back— I got a limit on how long I can keep this up, and I don't really want to pay the consequences again." There are, after all, consequences. There are with a lot of powers that are overstretched. "Try not to stress too much about fate and all that stuff— I really do think people have a choice. Even if they sometimes make the wrong ones. Sometimes they make the right ones too."

With that said, Valerie's image seems to start fading, becoming transparent, before vanishing all together.

There are always consequences. "I just have to make a different choice than the ones I made," Cardinal says, confusingly, looking back over to the strings, "Thanks for… listening, anyway. Talk to you tomorrow." Silence reigns in the basement once more as she vanishes, and he regards the awkwardly-built map of what's to come. What might come.

Why is a raven like a writing desk?

Three pounds of flax.

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