You Knew This


nowak_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif

Scene Title You Knew This
Synopsis Richard and Nowak have a heart to heart before the Dawn's launch.
Date September 27, 2019

A fire alarm blares through the halls, sprinkler systems have not yet deployed due to the lack of ambient temperature increase. But technicians and workers are scrambling away from the yawning doorway billowing with plumes of black smoke. Coughing and swatting the smoke away from her face, Sera Lang stumbles out of the corridor, looking back over her shoulder to the silhouette of a lone figure emerging from the source of this carnage.

Is okay!

A voice calls from the smoke. “Is all okay! No fire!” Stinking of smoke and one hand laden with an oven mitt, Thomas Nowak exits the smoke from the break room with a blackened and charred toaster strudel he’d forgotten about held aloft like some sort of hunting trophy. “I found the em, the fire! Is out! Is all okay!”

His reassurances are drowned out by the riotous noise of the sirens.

“Everybody, back to work, yeah?”

Thirty Minutes Later

Richard Ray’s Office

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

September 27th

1:03 pm

The door to Richard’s office slowly opens, and Nowak slowly sticks his head into the room with an awkward smile. “Ah, hello Mr. Ray,” he says with a crease of his brows and a bob of his head. Richard can still smell the burned strudel on his clothes and hair from across the room. “How is your afternoon?” He asks, slipping in and shutting the door behind himself. “You wanted to, em, speak to me?”

Richard’s sitting at his desk, one hand rubbing over the side of his face as Nowak enters the room. “Mister Nowak,” he greets, voice muffled by his palm for a moment before his hand falls back down and he sweeps a gesture to the chair, “Have a seat, have a seat. I don’t know what you did to make that sort of smoke, but I think that brand of strudel needs to be recalled. Or else we might need to classify our toaster as anomalous technology.”

He’s only half joking.

“Ah, yes, the strudel,” Nowak says as he pushes the door shut behind himself and creeps across the room to the pair of chairs opposite of Richard at his desk. “There were four,” he clarifies helpfully, making little toaster insert motions with his hands, “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” he adds as if that somehow makes it better. Even though the incident happened at lunchtime. It’s unclear exactly what kind of schedule Nowak is keeping.

Pulling one of the chairs back, Nowak takes a seat and crosses one leg awkwardly over the other. “Is ehm, this about kitchen damages?” He asks with a grimace. “I am sorry, the smell it is… uh, terrible, yes? Perhaps we repaint?”

“What? No, no, we have— we have maintenance staff for that,” Richard waves off, trying - and not quite succeeding - to suppress a smile at the man’s verbal antics, “I’m sure they’ll get it cleaned up. That, or we’ll have a mad painting robot leaving paint everywhere, honestly I’d say it’s about fifty-fifty. Eighty-twenty if Warren gets down there.”

Clearing his throat, “No, actually I was hoping to hear how your work was going, Mister Nowak. Aside from the - ah - ocean water incident I haven’t heard much from you on how the project’s proceeding. Do you think you’ll have it ready for the launch?”

“Oh,” Nowak seems surprised that this isn’t actually about the strudel. Directly. “Oh,” and his eyes light up at the notion. “Oh, yes, smooth as butter,” is as good an idiom as any from him. “Everything is going well. The expansion system, she is perfect. We do outdoors tests now, less hazards, drive out to empty field, test in open space. There was, ehm, some birds did not make it. But we figured out targeting issues. We opened door from outside Safe Zone to low Earth orbit above Prague.”

Nowak’s mouth twitches in a near smile.

“Was supposed to be Prague. The park is gone.” Nowak looks to the side, then flashes a smile and shakes his head. “Anyway, is no worry. You see, limitations of targeting system means straight line,” he says as he draws his two index fingers apart. “Earth is curved, however, so system not so good at getting from place to place on sphere. But that is fine,” Nowak suggests with a shrug, “space is very big. Straight lines are perfect. Less birds, also.”

The park is gone brings a long, steady look from Richard before he brings a hand up, fingers sliding under his shades to rub at his eyes. “I seem to recall something about space being curved actually, but I’m going to assume that you have that figured out,” he says, voice partially muffled by his palm before his hand falls again.

“I’m glad to hear you’re making progress. I have some questions, though, for one…” He pauses, “How the hell are you modifying your ability with technology? Literally nobody else has figured out how to do that, with the possible exception of some drugs, if you count those.”

Nowak smiles, toothily, and leans back in his seat with his hands folded in his lap. “Ah, yes, common mistake. They come at it from,” and he makes a little pantomime of a walking person with his fingers, “the wrong direction, yes?” Slowly, Nowak stands up and smooths down the front of his shirt. “Interfacing with biology is hard, not my kind of science either. Messy, prone to infections.” He wrinkles his nose. “No, Galileo does not plug into brain or body, but ehm,” Nowak creases his brows, “it grows it. My power, not meat.”

No, he did not design a machine that grows meat.

“Ehm, imagine balloon,” Nowak says with a smile, cupping his hands into a sphere. “My ability is like balloon, sort of. Expanding, yes? But can only blow into it with one lungful,” and he proceeds to huff and puff and make himself lightheaded for this analogy. “But ehm,” he wobbles a little, “Galileo makes more air? Blows up balloon bigger, reinforces sides so no pop, makes it possible for balloon to be huge.” At that, Nowak spreads his arms out. “I designed it work with me specifically, work with how I bend space, prototype is very small. Full one built in space,” he says pointing to the ceiling, “takes lots of power.”

“Hrn. Fascinating,” Richard cocks his head a bit to one side, “I hadn’t tried to think about it that way… do you think those same principles could be applied to other abilities? I mean, if we could augment an agrokinetic that way we could reforest entire areas left wasteland by the war…”

A shake of his head, “I mean— Nowak, I know you’re focused on space, but I don’t know if you realized just how amazing the concept behind Galileo is, potentially.”

Nowak’s head tilts to the side, brows furrowed. “Ehm,” the noise scrapes in the back of his throat, and for a minute it isn’t clear to Richard whether he understood what was asked. But then, it seems more like he’s just confused by it. “Maybe? Other than temporally and spatially, the bits and pieces that have similar physics reactions, yes? Those make sense. Plant things? I do not know, would need to research how… what is that, telepathy with salad? Works?”

But whatever is confusing Nowak isn’t the science of it all. It takes him a moment, one of looking around the room slowly, before he finally addresses something that’s been gnawing at him for a long time. “You knew this,” he says with a questioning squint, “no? This talk, we had before — many times — on the phone. When I made you the towers, yes?”

A stone sinks deep into Richard’s stomach.

There’s a long moment of silence as Richard looks back at the man across the table… and then he draws in a slow breath, eyes closing as he suppresses all his initial panicked reactions. Refocus, count to five, recover. Don’t panic the man, he’s twitchy enough.

“It’s been awhile,” he says evenly once he’s found his mental footing and stopped screaming in the back of his head, “Can you run through how the towers work for me one more time?”

Nowak’s lips press into a flat line, brows furrowed. “The, ehm, resonance columns.” He makes a little goalpost shape with his fingers. “Mr. Ray, you practically funded my early research. You came to me with this… belief? Yes, belief. You believed in me, knew I could make things when no one else had confidence. You sent businessmen from America, paid for my services, and I made you those towers. For the Ferrymen.” Or so Nowak was led to believe.

Slowly tilting his head to the side, Nowak looks as though he’s trying to pass some sort of test he didn’t know was today. “Ehm, harmonic resonance pylons. The Sirens. To protect against ehm, translocation? Teleportation.”

Suddenly, Richard remembers.

"What the fuck are those?" Perched atop a rocky outcropping surrounded by a field of snow as far as the eye can see, Howard Phillips looks out of place in his olive-drab jacket and no shirt worn beneath. Waves of steam radiate up off of his body, and the air around him is palpably warm. Howard's focus, however, isn't on the concrete building in the crater valley below the ridgeline, but the recently constructed concrete obelisks surrounding its perimeter. A look is offered to Ryans, who inspects the site with a pair of digital binoculars. Ryans shakes his head, brows furrowed, handing the binoculars off to Howard. "Those weren't there in our time…"


"Alright then. You know your orders." Ryans looks up to Mary-Anne. "Let's start moving people inside, two by two. No need to push yourself." Mary-Anne nods, reaching out for two of the Brians. Her hand grips on their shoulders. "I'll be right back," Mary-Anne notes, and with a rush of air and a whirl of snow she and two Brians are gone. Ryans turns, looking to the Natazhat compound, when something horrible happens.

The towers.

Mary-Anne and both Brians manifest between two of the obelisks, hundreds of feet off-target from where they were supposed to arrive. All three of them begin to convulse, stagger, and then in a shower of red on white, all three explode as though they had struck a land-mine. There's a spray of body parts and shredded clothes that litters the snow for a hundred feet in every direction. The remaining Brian clutches his head and lets out a howl of confusion and pain as the experience travels like a shockwave through his senses.

Blocking teleportation.

"Oh my fucking God!" Lucille screams, hands clasping over her mouth.

As the memory stirs, Richard feels sick to his stomach for a moment. For the Ferrymen? The realization that not only did his other self manipulate the — naive man across the table from him but used the name of the people fighting against him to do it makes a gorge stir in his belly, Mary-Anne’s fate flashing across his mind. It takes him another moment to recover from that.

Nowak wouldn’t understand, and having him panic would be the worst result of all.

“Yes, they were quite effective,” he says after a moment, clearing his throat, “Quite a lot of our data was lost in the war— do you happen to still have the information on those, by any chance? It could be useful for certain other projects we’re working on these days.”

Don’t throw up, it’d be a bad time for it, Richard.

“No, absolutely not,” Nowak says with pride, “just like you requested. All evidence destroyed after payment. You said you would keep it safe.” He smiles, folding his hands in his lap, feeling rather proud about the matter. “I knew I could trust you,” Nowak says with a smile that hurts Richard to see. “All your support, finances, I knew when I was not safe I could turn to you.”

That is why of all the people in the world, Thomas Nowak came to Richard for help at the World’s Fair. Why he mistook him for a member of the Ferrymen. Because Richard’s shadow stretches long, and its hands grasp tight even from beyond the grave.

“Good,” Richard replies with a smile that he hopes hides just how sick he’s feeling at the moment, stretching his skills of subterfuge to their utmost, “Just making sure.” It was a test, you see? Ha. Ha. Ha.

Will he ever escape his own shadow, he wonders? An irony there; every time he searches for the sun he finds it occluded by the actions of his worst self.

“Anyway, ah…” Clearing his throat, “I’d like to make sure I have a backup of your work on Galileo if that’s alright; just in case the worst happens, you know how they can be in Europe about our people sometimes, making sure you have files outside the continent seems prudent in case of the worst.”

Nowak grimaces, then hunches forward and lowers his voice. “I'm not sure the board would allow for that,” he says with a crease of his brows. “Latimer owns patents to all my work, I… I'd probably get in a lot of trouble if I gave them to a perceived competitor even if you are, ehm, helping. They want make some money off the designs, very protective of things.”

“You know that I’m not going to screw you over, Nowak, or you wouldn’t be here,” Richard observes, his tone wry, “And what are they going to do… fire you? They can’t get to space without you, and they know it. I’m not interested in making profit off any of your— patents, either. Profit isn’t my interest, although don’t tell any of my investors that.”

His hands spread a little, “Once you’re off with the Dawn, it’d be shame to have this sort of ingenious work reserved only for making money.”

Nowak makes a noise in the back of his throat, unconvinced. “I… I can’t get you in that kind of trouble, Mr. Ray. I understand, altruism, but there are always more than one way to skin cat, yes?” He smiles, apologetically. “Your angry scientist with the smoking habit,” he pantomimes puffing a cigarette with one hand, “she says this. She is very helpful at working out the kinks in things. I appreciate you, your people, but I… I can’t put you in that position.”

Angry scientist with the smoking hab— the description suddenly clicks for Richard. Mom.

“This has all been quite good, though. All of it. Very good, very… safe. You are a man of your word, Mr. Ray,” Nowak says with a fond smile. “You’re a good man, doing good things. Helping people, like always.”

“I do my best.” Richard’s lips twitch in a faint smile as he realizes who she’s talking about, and he leans back, “And I understand, completely. Is there anything else I can do to help, speaking of, anything you might need…?”

He knows who he’s calling to his office next.

“No,” Nowak says with a fond smile. “I do my best too, we all do our best. I need nothing,” is said with a confident smile. “Soon I will be in the stars,” Nowak adds with a gesture to the air, “and what more could a man want?”

“Than to be in heaven?”

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