You Have 2 New Messages


alia_icon.gif cardinal_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title You Have 2 New Messages
Synopsis Cardinal decides to check his voicemail, only to find one or two of those messages a bit more talky than he'd expected.
Date November 15, 2011

Motel 6, Somewhere East of Seattle

Fifteen to Midnight

The harsh lights of the parking lot filter through the blinds of the hotel room as slivers of illumination cutting across the bed, falling across Richard Cardinal’s bare chest. The number ‘35’ stands out starkly beneath the kiss of those lights, the tattoo inked over his left pectoral muscle bisected by one of those streaks. One arm folded behind his head, he stares up at the ceiling of the hotel room without seeing it, lost in his thoughts as he has been for hours.

Sleep simply refused to come.

Abruptly he rolls over to one side of the bed, stretching out a hand to grab the handset of the phone from the bedside table. He punches in the number for an outside line, and then dials the line for his voicemail, tapping in the PIN afterwards.

Rolling onto his back again, he sets the handset against his ear and closes his eyes, familiar voices coming over the line with messages of concern, with questions about what to do.

Questions he doesn’t have any answers for.

“I’m sorry,” he tells those voices quietly, knowing they can’t hear.

“You could called. Let us know still breathing” Alia’s voice is surprisingly clear and not digitized, which means she's putting on the effort physically after hijacking Richard’s call.
“Been trying to keep things on forward momentum. Can’t sleep either?” Sympathy, insomnia, and a lot of words, for the technopath.

As those words are answered by a voice that's decidedly not recorded, Richard Cardinal sits up with a jerk— and then relaxes, falling back with a grunt to the mattress as the voice is recognized.

"…Alia." A mirthless chuckle, "Should've known. Sorry. Lost my phone. Just got back to civilization. Such as it is."

Silence for a moment, "…good to hear from you, though. Glad you're alive."

“Alive, San Fran didn't go Hiroshima, factory disabled, sharing a cat drone with ferry replicator….” Alia focuses on the positives. “Russo finally came through…and glad you made it too.” This is being wordy for Alia. “Anything you need ready for you here?”

Ferry replicator… ah. Brian. Of course. "You already got the report from up here, I assume?" Richard keeps his voice carefully steady as he asks that. It'd be easier if he didn't have to tell her. If he didn't have to admit it out loud again.

“Second hand.” Alia states with understanding. “Was not exactly in any shape to hear it in person. Other me, sociopath if being polite. Still got a headache when in my head.”
Also might explain Alia being verbal. Maybe she's trying to be a shoulder to lean on.

"Sorry. I would've called sooner, but my phone doesn't exist anymore." A slow breath's drawn in, exhaled long and ragged before Richard murmurs into the receiver, "Wanted people to hear it from me personally, but, news moves at the speed of Brian these days."

There's another long beat before he asks perhaps the worst question for his mental well-being.

"I saw the news. Casualty report?"

“When you get here. Or on a secure call.” Alia is making an excuse… which she relents on slightly, “and neither of us are in a good place for it anyway.”

"You made this line secure the second you tapped into it," is Richard's observation, a touch of bitterness seeping into his tone, "I don't need to be protected, Alia. Nobody's ever in a good place to get a casualty report. I…"

Silence for a few moments, "…fine. At least tell me if Kaylee made it out alive."

“Secure on my end. Can't secure analog end. She is alive…” Alia speaks rapidly now, clipped sounding. “It… it is a long list.” Alia admits, “and going to get longer before it gets better.” Alia is not one for fuzzy happy illusions either, “but…but it is going to be worth it. I promised that…” Alia is nearly babbling and likely frustrated with the details in her head that are refusing to become words. “Promised her.” She finishes lamely… and not quite sniffling.

There's no answer to her words from Cardinal for what seems like a very long time. He breathes, slowly, steadily as he tries to keep tears from his eyes and force down that lump rising in his throat. "That's…"

A deep breath again, "…that's something." He's sitting on the side of the bed now, slouched forward, one hand rubbing over the side of his face, "And I know. I know. I did too, I— look, you've done the best you could. She'd be proud, I'm sure."

Alia hesitates. Then speaks, somewhat clipped and choppy of phrase. “Colin Verse ‘quit’. Disabled other me. Put that thing. Rabid guard dog. Backdoor to NORAD and nuke systems. Black king’s gambit. Not sure if skilled, or skilled and dumb.” She pauses again… “we all do. We all can. No resigning the board.” there is fire still in that voice. Determination even now.

“That said…still want to stab him.” She grumbles.

"Is he looking for a new job," Cardinal quips about Verse. It's a glimpse of the smirking Red King from the grave he's been digging himself, although it doesn't last long.
He draws in a breath, unsure how to answer her determination when his own has bled away, but then—

"Wait, did you say nukes?"

“Black king had three spun up from Wyoming. System is gone now, wipe and scramble. Backdoors in systems they should not been near.” She pauses. “Any you at a computer with launch codes…” Someone's antipathy for technology is well enough known that a little teasing just fits.

"Nukes. He was trying to— that psychotic motherfucker," Cardinal spits out, stalking away from the bed sharply. Which means the handset gets dragged off the bed-side table with a jangling and he has to lunge back and fumble it into place, during which she only hears fragments of what he's saying. All of it profanity.

Finally he's back, voice tight with bitter anger, "…good job stopping those. Fuck. I didn't— he really didn't believe anything here mattered, did he? Just— he was going to wipe it all away and start clean, Noah in his Ark."

“Drop tactical warheads on San Fran. As a -distraction-. And Colin, installed ALIA on the system without looking what system was.” Alia grumbles, then gives a distracted sound, as the sound of another handset going live on the line can be heard. “Here, someone better with word to report then me.” Alia gives as explanation as she hooks Ygraine into the call.

"Verse is a wage slave. He does what he's told, he's not exactly an independent think— wait, who?" Richard's brow furrows as he waits for someone else to be hooked into the call, hearing the faint click and change of background noise, "Hello?"

“Wuh….? Fuck. Hi? Richard?” The voice is sleep-blurred, but a distinctly educated and British alto. “Apparently this is a conference call?”

“Alia still here, yes.” She offers. “Time zones and insomnia are bitch?” The skipping of some words is so Alia. But her tone is… well, it’s at least faux cheerful. “Line is not secure. Analog on Richard’s end.” Alia gives as the best apology and explanation of shortcomings she can.

"Nobody is going to be tapping the phones at some random-ass motel that I haven't even been in for six hours," is Richard's riposte, and one can almost hear the rolling of his eyes. Then a pause, before— "Ygraine? You, ah — are all our people okay? Alia refuses to give me a casualty report."

He never lets something go.

A slight sigh precedes a rueful little laugh… then there are the sort of creaks and rustles that accompany someone moving from leaning on one elbow in bed to a rather more alert position. When she talks, Ygraine is evidently doing her best to find coherence through the receding fog of sleep.

“Here’s hoping you’re right. Though if the local sheriffs have your end bugged as a known prostitution site or something, they’ll get puzzled….

Ahh. Right. All the Endgame crew who came with me are physically in one piece. Remi’s… well, a telepath with a migraine and PTSD is not in a good place. On top of everything else, she was in someone’s head when he died. Badly. But she’s pretty much over the headache and light-sensitivity, it seems. ‘Only’ taken a week for her to make it this far.
Graeme discovered that his ability lets him recover from acute radiation poisoning. Just the two days of bleeding from the eyeballs for him. He’s almost back down to his normal appetite as well, now, though the amounts he was putting away while repairing the damage….

I broke the space-time continuum a bit. And got Evolved-nuked for the second time in my life. Which probably means there’s not much more damage it can really do, eh? It was nowhere near as bad for anyone else as it was for Graeme, thankfully. I got shot in the back, too, but the vest worked perfectly. I’ve been in by far the best shape, so I went into New York on the 10th - checked the Brickfront, then Grand Central and even had a peek in the Library on the 11th. Stopped off at the Island on the way back up.

That’s… that’s where I heard about Alaska: I met a Brian there, on the 12th. Relayed it to Alia.

But… back to my end. We met Tamara in there, underground. She collapsed as we opened the blast doors to old subway tunnels; none of us got caught up in the massacre you’ve probably seen too many times on TV by now. Graeme helped get Julie out. I took Tamara, Remi, and a scientist out underground.

The scientist’s the one rescuee we still have with us. A Doctor Luis. He’s… in a bad way Got stabbed in the back. He’s been advising us on his own treatment, but… days of travel with a fresh back injury haven’t been good for him. We should be able to stop long-term tomorrow, though.

Tamara… Tamara’s not woken up. She’s been out cold for an entire week. I’m keeping her alive and as comfortable as I can, but… getting kind of worried. She’s got one minor bullet graze, but everything else seems to be down to massively over-straining her ability.

Uhhh… otherwise? Lene has a Redbird connection, come to think of it. She made it out and to the Island. I believe our target, Julie, made it all the way there as well… though her sister and mother didn’t. ((Insert comment about meeting Luther if Yg did, at the Brickfront; he’s stuck in timewarp on the 8th still, so we’re not sure if later contact is possible!))
New York is… really bad. Boston’s bad enough: riots and a sudden giant sinkhole under their university, with the National Guard doing a bad job of ‘pacifying’ people. New York is so much worse to get in and out of. Without the ability to cheat in a significant way - me underground, or Alia telling drones to ignore her - the military perimeter’d be a huge risk to try to breach. Either of us could potentially smuggle small groups in and out, but… I wouldn’t want to make a habit of it. And the most secure routes for me are not at all pleasant, or suitable for sick or injured.

And… I think that’s all that’s coming to mind as possibly of immediate relevance. Can you think of anything to add, Alia?”

Alia is silent a few moments. “Worst on news. The gunning of the escape. Ferry got it worse. Still bad. I’m mostly staying put. Cat’s paranoia paying off… “ She grumbles. “Been keeping the brickfront clean, and watching for watchers when I do out.” Alia is still being verbose, for herself. And the slight signs of a headache in her speech might be related to that. Or might be from the backlash. “Crazy Ice Dragon, dunno if he got out. He stayed when we left the ‘ark’.” Alia falls silent.

It's a lot of information to digest all at once, but Richard's silent as he listens, dropping back down to sit on the bed's edge. One hand comes back to rake through his hair, rubbing against the back of his head as he listens to the report. Then—

"Wait. Luis? Of all people, the one we came out with was— Doctor Jean Martin Luis? That guy? Jesus… yeah, keep him there, but don't trust him further than you can throw him," he opins, rubbing two fingers into the orbit of his eye, "Tamara… you've got Tamara there?"

Actual concern in his tone, "Hopefully— well, hopefully she'll be okay. Tell her— " There's silence a moment, and he breathes out a sigh, "Tell her that hopefully we'll see spring soon so the cedars can end up where they belong."

Whatever that means.

"I saw clips. It's bad, and there's not a lot we can do about it, just… just keep safe. All of you. Alright?"

“Spring, cedars, where they belong. Got it,” Ygraine agrees, apparently perfectly willing to take cryptic (and poetic) messages wholly seriously, at least in the context of Tamara.
“And… I’ll continue being careful, though right now he’s an old, wounded man who’s suffering from the onset of sepsis. I’ve got antibiotics for that, at least. But you should know, whatever he did in the past… Luis and another scientist, Stevens I think, were down in the reactor chamber, trying to stop an overload. The ‘director’ had massacred the technicians and sent the reactor into overload, and… the two doctors were trying to stop a nuke going off under Boston, without actually having the skills for it. But they were still down there trying.

“For that, at least, I can’t blame them. Tamara had other ideas: wanted the detonation to take out the Ark, and trusted that it’d be contained by all the defences that were meant to keep nuclear shockwaves out. Turns out that was close enough to true.

“But the… the reactor core was a man.” Ygraine’s voice catches. “Out of control, and…. Yeah. Julie had been helping the doctors, absorbing as much radiation as she could, but… she was losing. And we couldn’t save him. So… I’m trying to be pleased his death permanently closed down that Hellhole.

“But you two are among the few this is worth asking: does the name Lucine mean anything to you? The… man, the reactor core, one of the few coherent things he could tell Remi was to find ‘Lucine’. I’ve not turned up anything in the Ferry on her, not that I had much chance to look. The Island’s… swamped. Part of the reason I committed to driving half-way across America with Graeme half-cooked, Remi unable to look at a light, and a girl in a coma and a stabbing victim as the others in the party. Oh, and one Great Dane. He’s healthy. But three days of driving seemed better than adding to the Island’s troubles.”

There is the sound of typing… a hard drive whirring as Alia takes in all this too. Finally, she speaks up. “Amid Halebi. Daughter’s name is Lucine. Cat had records on him.” Alia frowns. “I am in Cat’s Phoenix HQ… Safe, apartment down here. Stocked. But not big. And it’s…” Alia considers her words carefully. “Richard? If you weren’t you… be telling to stay far, far away from here. The clips… are…sanitized of the worst of it.”

She pauses, then just sighs. “No, no personal knowledge of Lucine.” Alia doesn’t say what came to mind. That’s a thought she’ll share later. Preferably with a drink in hand.

"The Director… Broome?" Cardinal sounds surprised, "Why would he— well. Who the fuck knows. I could never get in that man's head in any time period…"

Then he breathes out a grunt, "Amid Halebi… how do you stop an exploding man? Trick question. You don't. You made a good call there, Ygraine — the last prophecy we collected was about the island. You don't want to go anywhere near it, trust me on that one, and I don't want any of you anywhere near that abattoir. I… I can protect you that much, at least."

"I know, Alia. I know. I've got to— go rendezvous with Harmony," and the kids is unspoken, even if he thinks the line is safe, "I'm… not sure what I'm going to do from there."
For once, he sounds genuine there. He doesn't have a plan.

“Come to us,” is Ygraine’s immediate response to that - though there was a half-suppressed expletive at mention of the Island’s apparent doom.

“Not so I can try mothering you or whatever. It’s….” A slow, tight breath is clearly audible. “Gifts. Liz knew she was going into a life-threatening mess. So she prepared messages and gifts for people. Left them in the safehouse, since we’d all be returning there….

“Of course, it’s now deep behind enemy lines, and… well. I grabbed all I could find, while I was there. Also a scary amount of cash Graeme had secured, as an aside. Bills are not a short-term problem for us, if either of you….

“Sorry. What I’m meaning to say is that I have Liz’s last gift to you. Whenever you feel able to collect it. I’ll keep it till then. Some other recordings that… might best be passed to you, or I could deliver them. Your call, and it doesn’t need to be made tonight. I’ll be hand-delivering a batch of them tomorrow, when we reach our rendezvous.
“But I’ll hang onto yours for however long you need me to.”

There's dead silence for long moments from Richard's end of the line, as he stares across the hotel room at the silent television and observes his vaguely-distorted reflection within it. "Of course she did," he finally says quietly, the faintest of smiles curving to his lips. Of course she did. It's so like her.

"Just… hold onto it for now," he clears his throat, "I'll— I'll pick it up when I can."

“Me, I have some of my amateurish artwork stuffed in my sketchbook. That’d been what I thought to leave behind to show I cared. Liz… yeah. Did a rather better job of it.” Ygraine’s fond, sad smile is clearly audible in her voice.

Then she quietly clears her throat. “I’ll keep it safe, I promise. And… Alia? Thank you. If you can track down anything at all on Lucine, that’d be fantastic. But even just what you’ve said already… Remi’s not had a lot to hang onto from the Ark. A shot at finding Lucine will really help her.

“And I’ve seen some of Cat’s building designs. I hope it stays safe, but one of her places certainly gives you a good shot at it. And gives us a continued contact-point in New York. Thank you.”

“See what can be found.” Alia’s words are starting to sound… stretched. The technopath is tired, though she laughs. “I’ll manage. Try to stay in contact. Make call connections as needed?” Alia’s trying to be helpful at least.

“….and… glad mine never was needed.” Particularly as the ‘time delayed’ text messages may have instead got lost to the bit bucket with people’s phones gone….
"You two should both get some sleep. It's late as hell here, I can only imagine how late it is for the two of you…" Cardinal rubs a hand over his face, admitting, "I probably should get some sleep too. I crashed into a lake earlier. You two stay safe. Give everyone my best…"

“Christ, Richard.” There’s certainly shock in Ygraine’s voice, but rather more surprised amusement. “That’s one way to hide your ride… Ahh, most people will be at the rendezvous for some time, I think. My party should get there late tomorrow. But once we’ve got people settled in, and have checked on Jaiden’s group, then myself and Graeme… we could range a lot more freely if need be.

“Bear us in mind, okay? One or both of us can come to meet you somewhere else. Same goes for you, of course, Alia. Though as of tomorrow, we should be on a reliable net connection.

“But take care of yourselves as well. Both of you.”

“Reliable… I envy.” Alia laughs, just a little. “… Most birds do not enjoy swimming.” Alia teases Richard, just a little. “And if you need in, can try to open a path.” Alia pauses. “… SLeep well.”

It might be the first time she’s ever actually said that pair of words.

“…yes, of course. Hiding it. That’s what I was doing.” Nobody believes you, Richard. The hint of a smile touches his lips, “Goodnight, and take care of yourselves. I’m sure we’ll— talk again soon.”

And he reaches over, and hangs the phone up before falling back on the bed with a heavy exhalation of breath, staring up at the ceiling again.

“I’m sorry, Liz,” he whispers to the ceiling, “It’ll have to wait a little while longer, whatever it is.”

This time, sleep finally comes.

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