ArchivedLogs:Quid Pro Quo
|Quid Pro Quo|
Wednesday, 11 March, 2020
"Not them. Us. He can hack /us/." (Part of Future Past TP.)
<NYC> Greenwich Village
A rather bohemian neighborhood and the East Coast birthplace of the Beat movement, Greenwich is the residential counterpart to its more punk east sibling. The Village has been a historical center for the important political movements-- landmarks such as the Stonewall Inn on Christopher street were here during the GLBT rights movement, and the Weather Underground had safehouses here during the radical anti-war movement as well. Historically a place for artists and hippies to flock, gentrification has driven up prices in the locale, causing Greenwich to now trend less bohemian and more yuppie, though the stereotype remains.
It isn't yet curfew. It's getting there, though, the sky long since dark and the streets starting to empty. It's a mild evening, at least, cool but not bitter -- starting to feel almost springlike. Starting to smell springlike, almost, /things/ beginning to think about growing again, the starts of buds on the trees.
Outside one high brick wall in the Village (it has a fading mural painted on it, a vividly coloured fantastical underwater garden full of unearthly plants and strange sea creatures, a dragonfly tag at its top long fading as well) Lucien is returning -- home. Shopping, perhaps, given the canvas grocery bag heavy-laden and slung over his arm.
Somewhere overhead there's a droning; there always is, around this time. It doesn't make him look up from the phone in his other hand, composing an email while he lingers outside his yard, shoulder leaned up against the wall. His clothes are plain -- black leather jacket, green button-down, jeans -- but look as neatly-tailored as ever.
Only after the droning has passed into quiet is Lucien's solitude in the nighttime street interrupted. A ripple in the darkness, shivering down from a building nearby. Flicker has a bag of his own. Also laden. Not with food. His clothes are in considerably worse repair, tattered sweatshirt, fading jeans. No jacket, /that's/ been misplaced five years in the past. His eyes jump first to the sky and then to Lucien before moving to a manhole cover nearby. Another short-hop has him near it -- before he's kind of doing a double-take. Looking at Lucien again as if -- not /entirely/ sure of what he's seeing.
Leaning on walls is what all the cool kids are doing these days. At least, after a moment of surprised arm-flailing, Micah is lucky enough to find himself doing so. The other options would be even less favourable considering the redhead finds himself mussed-haired and pajama-clad: blue slipper sock and navy henley with cotton pants on which tiny TARDISes tumble through space, one leg of which is tied off around where one would typically expect a knee. He has a worn thrift shop backpack barely hanging from one arm. Clinging to the wall, his eyes dart around wildly, breath coming short and rapid. Even just having /dreams/ of those droning sounds has put a deep-ingrained associated fear into him.
In the darkness, Isra's slate gray skin, mottled with a sort of aquatic blue that looks evolved rather than invented, blends in remarkably with asphalt. As such, her shape might not immediately register as anything remotely humanoid to most eyes as she emerges from the narrow confines of a fire alley. She wears a many-layered wrap dress in the same shade of sapphire blue as her talons and horns, and has a courier bag slung in front of her, its strap clipped across her back between massive wings currently pulled in close. Two long strides bring her to Micah's side, one hand out to steady him and one wing arched over him protectively. Her eyes, however, snap from Flicker to Lucien. One bare eyebrow ridge arches in silent query.
The droning is never gone for /long/. Not in the middle of Manhattan, /certainly/ not at or near curfew. Kind of a low hum in the background that is -- probably getting closer. Maybe getting closer.
It's Micah's rapid breathing that gets Lucien looking up and away from his phone, eyes narrowing in the dim light. Narrowing, and then widening. The press of his fingertips to the hollows of his eyes is -- slow. A pinched squeeze. Then a confused /frown/ as he looks down over Micah -- back up over Isra. "... /what/." Short and clipped, at the moment it is about all he manages.
"/Ksssh/." The hiss of breath from Flicker comes out nearly like a curse. "Oh, /no/, not /here/ --" His eyes lift to the sky -- then return to Micah and Isra and Lucien. He hitches his own bag higher on his shoulders, flitting back to the sidewalk in a heartbeat. "They're going to come back, we need to get. Underground. /Now/. -- Oh my g-- is it really -- I thought you must be dead." The long tentacle of his arm is extending towards Micah, but it's Lucien's face his eyes have fixed on.
"This is bad," Micah reports in a rough whisper to Isra, thoughts likely in the same place as Flicker's. "We need to hide." He clings to the gargoyle-woman, glad for something both stable and /mobile/ to help keep him up. The heavy bag gets hitched up onto his shoulder with a shrug, not exactly helping the balance situation. "Where?" His eyes shift between Flicker and Lucien, seeking any indication.
Though she seems unperturbed by the sound of the patrols, Isra's ears and tails twitch simultaneously at the mention of going underground. Still, she begins casting about for ingress to the sewers without questioning the instruction. "I cannot fathom why they should have brought us here, but process of elimination says we have business with Mister Tessier." She has found a manhole cover and, indicating it with a tilt of her head, starts to help Micah toward it. "So," this to Lucien with a nod, "you can decide for yourself whether you would like to see what thereat is and this mystery explore."
The droning is definitely getting louder. And louder, resolving into a pair of huge robotic shapes dropping down from the sky -- directly flanking the manhole Isra is aiming for. "Be advised that curfew begins in -- twenty-three -- minutes," oddly pleasant computerized voices announce. And with the same polite tone, first addressing Flicker while the other one starts to scan the street: "You are in a prohibited area. By federal law you must come with us."
Lucien's lips press together thinly, his head shaking just once. "Why /who/ brought you here? You should not be here. Gods only know why you are even still /in/ this city --" His voice is hard -- rather clipped, still. "I am quite sure I have no business with you."
At least until the machines come thumping down. His jaw tightens; there's a stiffening to his shoulders, a tension tightening his eyes. He glances back to the nearby door back into his garden -- and then at the others around him.
For one beat and then another he is silent -- kind of still. /Eying/ the door -- before finally stepping forward in to the front of the group. One of his hands is moving to Flicker's wrist, his other to brush against one of Isra's wings -- resting there with just a light touch. Small. "Thank you, but that will be unnecessary," is what he tells the Sentinels. "This is my house only just here. We were getting inside. Well before curfew."
Flicker's hand drops back to his side; there's a quiet mechanical noise as his tentacle arm /starts/ to shift -- then stops. His breathing is -- too fast. Eyes too wide. He shifts to stand mooore in front of Isra -- watching Lucien and the Sentinels with a mix of fear and perplexion. Muscles still tensed, though, like he is ready to grab the others and -- flee.
"That seems likely," Micah agrees, tone still hushed. "Wouldn't've minded a place I could sit an' have a second t'get a leg on. Just. For future reference." A small, unhappy sound catches in his throat as the robots approach. Micah's clinging to Isra might be just a little tighter than necessary, but it isn't like he has a whole lot of options. His breath goes from too-quick to /stopped/ as the others each seem to move on a different plan, silently pleading for any one of them to be effective.
Isra lowers her center of gravity at the Sentinels' approach, a low growl rising in her throat. Her wings begin to mantle out, but stop when Lucien steps in front of them. She does not hold her breath, but her arm tightens around Micah, ready to hurl them both into the air at a moment's notice. She watches the machines, unblinking, waiting with tremendous evident difficulty.
There's a moment of silence from the Sentinels. Conferring with each other, perhaps. But the telltale redlight scanning turns off, one of the robots responding to Lucien after a small delay with: "Thank you for your compliance. Be advised that curfew begins in -- twenty-two -- minutes. Have a safe evening."
The hum starts up again as they lift back into the air to continue on their patrol.
The tension in Lucien's expression has not faded. Small though his touch against the others is, he does not shift it until the Sentinels are out of sight and earshot both. His lips are still thin, his shoulders tight; he pulls back, shifting his bag up on his shoulder again and turning sharply for his door. "You all need to be gone."
The reach of Flicker's tentacle is startlingly long -- a good deal longer than his /arm/ can manage; it expands outward to coil-clamp down around Lucien's bicep. Probably harder than is strictly necessary. "/What/ did you just --" He might still be catching his breath, a little bit. It doesn't stop /his/ voice from taking on a harder edge as well. "No -- no, I'm /pretty/ damn sure we do have business with you. You can't just -- /Jedi mind-trick/ the gorram Sentinels."
Micah gapes for a moment as the Sentinels leave, finally drawing breath in again open-mouthed. "How did you just...when did you go all Jedi?" It may not fully register that Flicker has much the same thing to say. "How?" he finally decides is the more important question. "Luci, we gotta. There's a...it's really hard t'explain but Isra an' I got pulled here from the /past/ an' if we're /here/ it's world-shatterin'ly important that we talk t'you, /please/." His jaw tenses, weight shifting in its lean against Isra. "Really could use a not on the street place right now. Just for a minute."
"Not them," Isra says softly, catching Flicker's eye and glancing to down at Lucien's hand as it leaves her wing, "us. He can hack /us/." She turns her unblinking gaze to his face. "Which is why we desperately need to speak with you, and why Hive brought us here across the gulf of five years." She pauses, ears pressing back against her skull. "Please."
Lucien's eyes shift away from the others. To figures moving behind curtained windows in a house across the street, to the headlights of a taxi crossing a nearby intersection. To the dragonfly tag in the corner of the dirty mural on his wall. "The world," he answers Micah, "is already fairly well shattered." The small hiss he finally pushes out through his teeth sounds almost disgusted -- but he unlocks the door to his garden, gesturing for the others to enter. "I would have thought Hive long dead by now. The psis were the first to get -- and gods know he isn't one they'd like to leave out there."
"Don't think there's any /like/ about it." Flicker's arm pulls back. He is within the wall in a blink. Something still tense and wary in his posture, looking around the barren end-of-winter garden like /it/ might attack him. "It's been hell keeping him alive. Safe and in one piece and you -- what, you're still just carrying on in this swank house like nothing's /happened/? When you can do /that/?" His mechanical arm flicks in a sharp gesture towards the sky, in the direction the disappearing Sentinels left. "The lives you could be saving --"
"We're tryin' t'/stop/ it," Micah explains with no small dose of urgency behind the words. "It's takin' all /kindsa/ powerful abilities workin' t'gether t'pull this off, but they're bringin' us in from /before/ evry'thin went t'hell, Luci. When there's still time t'stop all this from happenin'." He winces, using Isra as a crutch to proceed forward. "Past-me did /not/ have time t'collect enough XP for this level," comes out in a barely-audible bitter murmur.
Isra remains stoic, keeping her stance low to support Micah and folding her wings in as they follow Lucien into the garden. "I admit I have severe doubts about the workability of this headache-inducing scheme, but Hive has committed to this course in both our timeline and yours, so..." She shrugs, stops at Lucien's back door to wait for him, her ears swiveling to scan the skies. "And the key to it lies with gathering intelligence."
"Yes?" Lucien's brows lift to Flicker as he locks the garden door behind himself, quickly. "The lives I could be saving -- what? Are more valuable than mine? Please, tell me just what an easy ride you imagine the past years have been for me." He crosses the garden to usher them into his house proper; not the door into the main house but down a few steps into the basement apartment. A small sitting room, an adjacent bedroom. "You are seriously telling me that you have travelled here -- from the /past/ -- to -- what?" His tone is somewhat skeptical. "I wasn't aware Hive /had/ such abilities."
To this, Flicker is quiet. His teeth grit. Grinding together in a small creak as he follows after Lucien, slipping into the house. "Hive doesn't. The pair he's working with do. And yes. That's exactly what they're telling you. We've been trying -- they've been trying. To get a message back, to get /something/ back that could stop all this. And if you can get people past the Sentinels --" He stops, here, looking around the small apartment with a frown. "Where are your --" He cuts himself off here, though. With a small glance to Lucien and then down at the floor. "... no. I don't know. What it's been like for you. But all of it, that's what we're trying to change."
Once inside, Micah takes a seat whether invitation is given or not, setting his bag on the floor and rooting through it to pull out his spare mechanical prosthesis, smaller and foldable enough to /fit/ in the bag to keep on hand. He unties the pajama-pants leg, rolling it up to work on donning liners followed by the prosthesis. Priorities. When he has what he needs from the bag, he zips it and pushes it toward Flicker.
"There's supplies in there. What I could fit 'round the leg. Mostly nonperishable foodstuffs, water purifiers, batteries, dif'rent kinds of small tool an' repair kits. Figure y'can get it t'folks in hidin'." These missions completed, he looks back over to Lucien. "Pretty sure it's had to've been horrific an' then some. We been gettin' dreams for some time now, givin' us visions of what happens in your time. It ain't... We need t'keep this from happenin'. Folks here been passin' us information like a timeline for major events. Westchester explodin'. The President bein' assassinated. The Sentinels. Hive wants us t'figure out as much as we can...how these things happened. Investigate the government, Osborn. See if we can get enough information loaded up t'give us the advantage so we ain't blind-sided by it all like y'all've been. Turn the course of events away from /this/. Meanwhile, we're just," he nods to the backpack, "tryin' t'help folks here get by an' keep fightin'."
Isra helps ease Micah down, but does not herself sit. "If suffering is a competition, it surely has no winners." This dryly, without vehemence or sarcasm. "Let us say I doubted Hive's hypothesis in the extreme, but according to him that it has already come to pass, on a smaller scales--that even the history you remember /now/ has come to pass in part due to the information already conveyed to the past by this project. Take that as you will." She unclips her bag and passes it to Flicker as well; it does not weigh a great deal. "Medicines, mostly," she explains, settling her wings primly across her shoulders.
In the tiny kitchen, Lucien is unloading food. /Fresh/ food, kohlrabi and asparagus, strawberries and bananas and oranges, milk, cranberry juice, butter, bread, a container of beans, a whole uncooked chicken. "And once you have this information, what will you do with it? Change this world? Change our world? Who is to say what on earth you would transform it /into/? You just -- come in here, screw with everyone's lives, our histories, our entire reality, and we should all just trust that it will work out for the best?" He gets a cutting board out, stopping to turn and look towards the living room at the others. "Even if I /did/ believe you," his tone does not quite imply that this is yet the case, "you," with a small nod towards Isra, "claim they have already changed the world. Already tampered with our time. Which means this world we are living in was, in at least some part, created /by/ these machinations. Which -- well. Take a look around. They haven't exactly been doing a good job of steering." He ignores Flicker's aborted question -- sort of. It does put a shudder in his shoulders. An added stiffness to his posture.
"Oh -- thank god," Flicker breathes out, first at the donations of food and medicine -- the fresh /produce/ coming from Lucien's bag leads to an actual /whine/. Caught in his throat, small and briefly keening. His arm twitches at his side. He looks away towards the wall. Anywhere but at the food. "There's not really any guarantees we can give you. There's not really -- anything. I'm just keeping them alive as long as I can and hoping --" He shakes his head. "But there's no guarantee. I just -- /take a look around/. How much worse could it get?"
"In all honesty, d'you really think tryin' t'keep /this/ from happenin's at all likely t'come up with a worse result than...this? Than the genocide an' the internment camps an' the murder-bots an' the martial law an' the heaps an' heaps of dead /family/...?" Micah's teeth catch his lower lip, biting back further description of the horrors he's been through just in brief spurts of what this future life /is/. "We need t'know how t'stop it. At the very least, knowin' how it is that you're keepin' folks from bein' detected is /useful/. If we could...somehow reproduce that effect? An' start doin' it from /our/ time. That'd be a huge help."
"By action or inaction, we constantly create our futures, and never know in advance the full consequences, time travel or no." Isra curls one vast wing around Flicker, the gesture itself tender even if her voice registers no emotion. "I can indeed imagine realities worse than what little I have seen of this one, and we cannot offer guarantees of changing things for the better, even if I felt confident in our capacity to evaluate entire such matters." She looks back at Lucien, her expression blank and eyes unblinking. "However, given that this project will almost assuredly move forward whether you--or anyone present--participate or not, would you prefer to leave the steering to someone else?"
"I think you have very little imagination if you think it couldn't get worse than this. I think you only need look around at the example many other nations have set to realize just how easily it could be pushed for the worse and not the better." Lucien turns back aside to pick up the bag of oranges, tossing it out of the room towards Flicker. Then returns to shed his jacket, put the rest of the food away, wash his hands, begin preparations for cooking.
"It sounds to me like it would take very /little/ for this project to fail, actually. How many different people does it depend on? Lose any one of them and --" His fingers curl into a loose fist, expanding again to flick empty-open hand up towards the ceiling.
"Still. You come here asking -- my help? My knowledge? Do you have anything /useful/ to offer in return, or just fantastical plans and implausible hopes?"
Flicker slumps into the curve of Isra's wing. There's a small tremble in his shoulders, an exhausted droop to his posture. It snaps back into tension a moment later. Though he barely has looked up, his mechanical arm snaps out to snatch the bag of oranges out of the air, other hand a little more shaky as he starts to open it. Then stops, just a small tear in its netting. Tucks it in with Micah's bag of food instead. Returns to leaning into Isra's wing.
His eyes fix back on the wall. At the end of a hard swallow, only: "-- Where's your family?"
“I didn’t say it was /impossible/ t’be worse. Just sayin’ it’s /unlikely/,” Micah corrects. “An’ it could fail. It could be that we can’t help anythin’. But…the opportunity is /here/. Ain’t it worth tryin’?” His head tilts slightly, listening to the others, finally centering in on Lucien’s questions. “Your knowledge is helpful to us, yes. What we can do for you depends on what y’need? If gen’rally workin’ toward preventin’…/this/. Is too far-fetched for you.” He fusses his fingers through his ridiculous bed-tousled hair, as if debating bringing up the next subject. “The you in our time. When I told ‘im ‘bout this? He wanted t’be involved. Wanted whatever information this project could offer. I have no idea if that’s important t’you at all.” Flicker’s inquiry quiets him again, expression clouding, some rather unpleasant assumptions already in place in his mind.
"Perhaps so, and yet it has gone on for many months. That said, I also invite you to consider that the consequences of failure in such a fashion as you suggest may amount to more than bearing those ills you have. We have no precedence for it." Isra lifts one bare eyebrow ridge fractionally; one could, with some imagination, parse the expression as curious. "As for quid pro quo, that depends in large part on what /you/ want. We have access to a world before all of this--" She gestures at the door leading up to the garden with her unoccupied wing. "--which includes people and their abilities. I cannot speak to what precisely the other participants from 2015 would agree to do for you, but since we will need to deal with the Sentinels with or without your help, I suspect most will feel inclined to accommodate you."
"Five years ago I was a very different person, Micah. Whatever my priorites /then/ have very little bearing on my life /now/." Lucien's lips press together harder. His slicing gets a little bit firmer, a little bit faster. "I sent Gaetan and Desi back to Montreal early on, in all this. Matt --" A small shake of his head. "Is gone."
There's a sizzle. The smell of onions and garlic starting to saute. "2015. At what point, then? You claim to have been transported here from the past -- can you bring others with you? Can you bring people from /here/ back /there/? Who is even doing -- all this?" And, with a small frown, "-- and if I were to help you, what exactly would you want from me?"
Flicker closes his eyes, shivering again as the smell of cooking food starts to fill the small apartment. "A man named Strange who can project his thoughts through time, and a woman with dream manipulation powers. And yes. The path is both ways. We could -- theoretically we could send people, and not just bring them." His mechanical arm curls around his chest. Wraps in tight. "We need to know how to get past the Sentinels. There's too many of them to -- if we could hide from them like you do maybe we actually have a chance. Hive -- wants to break into Oscorp. Figure out how to stop them ever being made. Maybe -- Homeland Security. Find out who set off that bomb and stop things /there/."
Micah simply nods at Lucien’s reply. “I could ask /you/…the other you…what might be helpful t’know from you, too. Time travel’s really miserable on language.” His head shakes slightly, messy hair flopping with the motion, while his fist balls up to circle over his heart at the news about Matt. “There’s entirely too much of that here.” After a single hard swallow, he continues. “We’re from exactly this point in 2015. Same date, dif’rent year. The things we’re told t’check into’ve been the Weschester bombin’ an’ the Sentinels—government an’ Oscorp bein’ named specific t’look at further. See if we can’t prevent the bombin’. Get a handle on what’s goin’ on with the Sentinels /b’fore/ they’re this ubiquitous horrible presence.” Gesturing to Flicker, Micah gives a single firm nod of agreement. “If there’s any way y’could explain how evadin’ the mutant detection works. If there’s any way folks could replicate it. That’d be good for folks here /and/ back with us.”
Isra has fallen silent. Her ears pressed back low at the mention of Matt, and she stares down at some point in the ground well beyond the floor. At last, after her companions have spoken, she looks back at Lucien. Somewhere along the way, she has resumed blinking, losing her countenance some small measure of its alien menace. "If you want proof by your own senses, seek out the Resistance, speak to Micah and myself--our selves of the present." She glances at Micah's legs, then her own hands. "You will find us quite unambiguously changed."
"/Break/ into Oscorp?" This earns a quiet chuckle, oddly, from Lucien; for the first time there's a hint of amusement in his voice. "I see." He is continuing with his stir-fry, sizzling noises still coming from the kitchen. He sets a pot of water on an adjacent burner to boil. "Strange? And Hive? And --? I can't imagine this is all easy. An effort like this must tax them quite a lot. How have you managed to keep them safe all this while?"
His words still come through a rather more rhythmic chopping noise. Slice. Slice-slice-slice. "Certainly, you can replicate it. If you know exactly what signals in your brain the Sentinels are scanning for and know just how to make them mimic those of a human. -- I want my sister," he adds, finally looking up and towards the other room. "Sera. That will be proof enough. If you bring her here, we can talk."
"I -- know. It's not going to be /easy/ but -- we're pretty used to difficult." Flicker's knuckles rub up against his eyes. His hand drags down over his scarred cheek, after. "Strange and Hive and Maya. And it hasn't been easy. Just kind of trying to run one step ahead of the bots every freaking day --" His head shakes. Quick. Small. "... you want them to /kidnap/ your sister? She's like -- six, this is no place. For -- well. Anyone. But."
“/Sera/?” Micah's disbelief shoots out of his mouth before he's even done processing it. “Luci. I wouldn't /never/ bring Spence here. You want us t'drag your /little/, /empathically-sensitive/ sister /here/? Seriously?” His head shakes back and forth in steady denial, but finally manages to rein in his tone. “I don't think other-you'd be on board for this, either.”
"/Mutant/-specific signals. In our brains." Only the slightest lifting of intonation in Isra's voice indicates her incredulity. "Every time I think I've finally made my peace with the outrageous nonsense of X-gene mediated biological processes." This latter with something like fatalism. Lucien's demand, on the other hand, hardly seems to faze her. "Ridiculous. Far better if you go see her. We can tell your past self, all the same, and let him sort it out. We couldn't make that decision for them even if we didn't think it massively unwise."
"Quite seriously." As water boils on the stove, Lucien drops rice noodles into it. "And other-me cannot help you past the Sentinels, yet, so you can weight his approval against mine. Believe me when I say that attempting to infiltrate Oscorp will not be easy." He stirs at his food once more, then turns the heat down, leaving it on the stove and moving to where he left his jacket. He plucks something from one of its pockets, moving to the doorway to hold up a card -- an ID badge. Oscorp logo. Lucien Tessier, it says beneath his picture. VP, Public Relations. "Not for you, at least."
He leans back slightly against the doorframe, tucking his badge into a pocket. "And I don't want to /see/ her. She will be dead before the year is out. 2015 doesn't yet /have/ a --" His lips press together again. "Cure. We, on the other hand --" His hand turns upward, fingers spreading. His head turns, eyes flicking back towards the kitchen. Then to Flicker. "I don't supposed you'd care to stay for dinner?"
"/Cure/." Flicker spits this word like a curse. "What they've done to us --" His shoulders tense. Head gives a small sharp shake. He looks to Micah and Isra. "It's not something I can control, anyway. If they want to bring her --" Shrug. He tenses harder still at the question of dinner, tongue unconsciously flicking against his lips. "... I should get back."
“This is some tinfoil hat soundin' stuff,” Micah agrees with Isra, softly. “She's right, though. If there's somethin' y'wanna say or do or offer. S'better t'bring folks t'her. To...other-you. Get it sorted. I ain't the least bit comfortable draggin' no kids here. Barely handlin' bein' here, m'self.”
"Bring the /cure/ to her, then." Isra straightens, unfurling her wings with a weary stretch. "Thank you for your hospitality--and for the save. I shall not forget it." Her lower voice engages, making the last few words sound faintly ominous as she gathers her companions gently to her. "Let us away, and good night to you, Sir."