RP TERMINAL - How the Sausage Is Made - I

Quirbles

on smoke break, bother somebody else
Staff member

"HOW THE SAUSAGE IS MADE"
MIRA BALTIMORE BRANCH HEADQUARTERS - 1800 HOURS

Senior Analyst Julianne Cho did not want to spend her evening in a laboratory, but sacrifices came with the territory, she supposed.

The conference room within sublevel YELLOW had been reserved for the occasion, and her presentation had been prepared. Additionally, precautions had been taken for the arrival of a certain Analyst; while her knowledge of "Elixir" was relatively limited, she had heard rumors of his life before MIRA and certainly didn't want to find out if the rumors were true, God forbid. The other PMPD Analyst-- the one they called "Ghoul"-- she knew a bit more of. It was a veritable freakshow, but again-- it came with the territory. The last thing any of them needed was to waste time over petty squabbles, and she'd interacted with every Agent across the spectrum of PMPD manifestation. Eating brains was certainly at the top of the list, though not decisively at the apex. That was owed to a man in Kansas whose excrement and vomit could eat through sewage piping.

She did not miss her days as a Junior Analyst.

"I'm aware, Sub-Director. Yes. Mhm. Goodbye." She replied, setting down her phone upon the conference room table and adjusting her laptop out of habit-- aligning the base to be parallel with the edge of the table. She adjusted her glasses, next, and then her coat. It was important to be professional within the Agency-- and, barring that, to appear professional. Time would only tell what this assorted group of individuals would be like, and what camp they fell into. She'd requested a team for the lead, and what did the Sub-Director do? Three random inidividuals from nearby branches. Something about resources spread thin. She would've loved to be a fly on the wall, for that conversation.

Regardless, she was at least professional enough to keep from bitching to anyone that mattered. She just-- needed to make her case that this wasn't a dead lead. Get a solid bit of evidence, figure out where to go from collected intelligence, and go from there. It was a matter of when, and not if.

She hoped.

 
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"Morning, Julianne."

Emily Atelier moved into the room, taking the first seat to the right of the door. Some of the PMPDs got tetchy about wanting to sit where they could see the door, so she usually took one of the seats where her back was to it. That way they were more comfortable, she could keep an eye on them, and really, what was she going to do if someone burst in through the door to murder them all anyway?

She set her laptop bag on the chair for a moment, taking out the sealed container of very strong tea that was hopefully going to get her through the evening - or at least this meeting - and setting it on the table, then taking out the laptop and getting it set up and started up as well. At least it was an evening meeting and not a morning one, so she didn't have to worry about MIRA having decided to run a stealth systems update overnight that she'd then have to download and install before she could actually use it.

Lowering herself carefully into the chair, Emily hooked her cane over its arm where it would be out of the way, running through what limited information she had about this meeting in her mind. Julianne didn't look too happy about it, which wasn't a good start. She'd already squared all her devices, which meant she was nervous. Emily had worked with her enough to be able to pick up a few of those little tells. It was hard to believe Julianne had been here - what, five or six years now? Maybe seven. Long enough that Emily generally trusted her to have a good sense of things, anyway.

"So." An auspicious beginning to a sentence, if there ever was one. Emily reached for her tea, popping the lid and taking a sip, which filled her mouth with the taste of orange and cinnamon, hopefully enough to chase away whatever bad taste this meeting was going to imbue. "How bad is it, if they're bringing in Contaminant?"

Oh, he had a new name now, Em was well aware, just like she was well aware of what it was and that MIRA found him very useful, thank-you-very-much. She'd read the dossiers. She'd also read the news, when he'd murdered a couple dozen people. It hadn't been in the mid-Atlantic region, which had meant it had been someone else's problem, but she'd heard plenty of discussion about it at the time. She didn't know if she was really all that pleased with how it had been resolved, but it had been over a decade ago, and hadn't been her decision.

It still wasn't, and she would deal with it professionally, because she was too committed to MIRA at this point to do anything else. She just didn't have to like it. She brought the container closer again, one more tiny sip that was all she could allow herself if it was going to last her through this evening.

The other one was a bit of a wildcard. Ghoul, no horrifying records of mass murder, some very disturbing sounding abilities. Young enough that she was either going to be brazen about them or somewhat abashed, depending on how her personality took her. The abilities didn't really bother Em, it was more of a question of whether they bothered Ghoul.

Lizica. She was a person.

Most of them were. That was what made things difficult.

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Drug case reassignment, no further information. "Synthesis of compound possible" = slight possibility that you might have fun, if the drug in question is any good. Equal possibility that you might throw up 2lbs of charcoal briquettes. Expect a PowerPoint regardless.

He was in the right hallway. He had checked.

The conference room wasn't too far from his temporary office, but it was far enough to make the surrounding floor mostly unfamiliar. Gaz had probably had a few meetings in here over the years, but they were too sparse for him to have really mapped out the labyrinth. The New York branch was easier to navigate. Less corners, less branching paths- either that, or more familiarity. There were maps, of course, but the difference in clearance and security levels meant that the maps were scattered- hard to locate, as well as navigate. His preference for physical media likely didn't help. If it weren't for the fact that he could easily dispose of the evidence, it would be considered an unnecessary risk.

He came to a stop next to the door, leaning against the wall for a moment. His coffee was unfinished, still, and he knew the people he was working with wouldn't be too enthused about him breaching safety protocol inside the room to drink it. So, he did what he often did- stood outside, made eye contact with the nearest security camera, and unhooked the mask to finish his coffee. It would be a waste to pour it out, after all.

Once the mug was drained, he gave a thumbs-up to the camera and pulled the mask back on. They could check for air quality later, if they were paranoid about it. They wouldn't find anything. Why would they find anything?

Julianne Cho. Senior Analyst. The type to notice if the mask's on properly (it is). Also the type to notice if the tie's on properly (it's not).

He adjusted his tie with one hand, swirling the dregs around the bottom of the mug with the other. It was blue this time- the tie, not the liquid. One of the cheaper ones from his drawer; probably from Primark, if memory serves. If he did end up vomiting those briquettes, it wouldn't be over anything nice. Sometimes, they didn't bother giving him one of those MIRA-branded hazmat suits, given that he didn't really need one. It was only for particularly hazardous materials, ones that would spread to others if he walked by with them staining his clothes, that he was offered the chance to wear one. He reckoned it was because they didn't like sterilising the insides as thoroughly as the outsides. Or because it was one less thing to clean. Or burn. Or make, the tight bastards.

Admittedly, it did feel nice not having to wear one when everyone else was protected. Not only did he not sweat as much, but he could actually breathe when he was working with familiar materials- bossman said the mask was meant to protect the unprotected, so Gaz rarely bothered wearing it when they protected themselves.

He'd keep it on for the conference, of course. Couldn't get too ahead of himself here.

Emily Atelier. Analyst. Alias is apparently some banter between her staff- AVOID. Officially cleared to see through the bullshit- not much to do about that.

The room was soundproof- whatever conversation they were having in there, he couldn't hear. Nosey as he tended to be, he wasn't standing by the door to eavesdrop- just to rest, and to enjoy the last few moments of calm before the inevitable tension he always tried his best to dissuade. Maybe it would've been a better path, he thought, to lean into his reputation rather than hide it, but he doubted that would have gotten him much further. Doctor Oleander, respectable MIRA employee, was a much easier option.

Garth was a remarkably boring man with something subtly and seriously wrong with him. You didn't need clearance to know that; just glasses.

Lizica Pitch. PMPD Analyst. "Novella", but people call her "Ghoul"- doesn't seem the type to correct them, or really be listened to if she did. Rowan's... partner?

He liked to read dossiers before meetings. He assumed other people did the same, though his own had so many chunks missing, it might as well have been a business card. Hello, my name is Fake- not that most were cleared to know that. It was interesting, seeing who other people were on paper, and how that compared to who they were in the flesh. Part of him wished the same opportunity could be given to the subject of the jobs as well, but he understood why those in particular were kept under wraps. Maybe if he knew what chemical he'd be ingesting today, he'd have called in sick, as if they'd fucking believe him. Call it a flare-up in his arm. Or his back. He could probably even stretch it to his leg.

But he was here now.

With a filtered sigh, he knocked on the door, then pushed it open with the back of his hand.

"G'morning." He said as he made his way towards his seat, "What's all this about, then?"
 
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Oh boy, first day on the job at a new location. What could be more important! More thrilling! More worthy of not showing up hungover!

Almost anything. Obviously.

"Afternoon," Pitch declared, pushing through the door after Gaz--shoulders hunched, suit professionally rumpled, hair frizzy. Her head felt like a slur. "What are we doing today?"

Hi, Gaz. Hi, Em. We've met, haven't we? How's the family? Dead? Right. Sorry to hear that. Not dead? Great! So glad. And Cho; who the fuck are you, then?

Another lovely morning in MiRA.
 


With Emily having entered first, Julianne gave the analyst a tired look-- somewhat masked by the circle-frame glasses perched upon an otherwise mousy-looking face, had it not been for the high cheekbones and darkened circles beneath the eyes. Cho almost regretted not getting a third cup of coffee before coming into the labs, but it was too late to go out and get herself one, now. That, and outside food and drink wasn't allowed in these sorts of spaces.

"I don't know, yet." She muttered, pushing the frames of her glasses up a bit. "This was all the resources I've been approved for, so MIRA doesn't seem to think it's much of an issue, at present." Which was far, far different from it actually being a non-issue, though Atelier would have known that from years of working in the Agency. MIRA followed the empiricist and largely reactive doctrine that had founded it, and that was that. "What I do know is that he'll be of use." A pause, at that. "For better or for worse."

And then there was silence. Julianne stood and moved her laptop to the edge of the table, connecting wirelessly to the conference television at the far wall of the room; a minute or so passed before Elixir entered, followed by Ghoul, who was late. She'd read over each of their files. Emily was competent and reliable; Elixir was a reformed convict with a useful mutation; Ghoul was an asocial and abrasive personality that had a remarkably unphotogenic power. But she was quite good at her job, which was what mattered to Cho, at the present moment.

"Evening. Thank you all for coming in." Cho muttered flatly, clearly preoccupied with setting up her presentation and filling the dead air with a boilerplate greeting. "Somebody get the door." A click of the remote upon the table, and the blinds over the glass windows of the conference room shuttered, leaving the four of them closed off from any prying eyes. Hardly an issue, in most cases, but a fine precaution to take. Julianne straightened her laptop upon the podium, a moment, and then gave a soft breath. The familiar sigil of MIRA appeared in the top-left corner of the slide, with the standard Agency presentation format.

CASE C-3998-DX; "AMBROSIA" STREET DRUG.

"I'll get to the point."

Tap. The first slide was a simple photograph of what appeared to be an evidence locker; on it was a faintly-red, tranluscent crystalline powder. "Around two weeks ago, MIRA Southeast's Miami narcotics team busted a shipment of around 200 kilos of cocaine. The Incident Report filed said that the suspects had mutations, and some of them were acting extremely erratically. Further investigation of the shipment revealed that they were also carrying around... five or so kilos of this."

She gestured to the graphic on the slide. "Never seen meth, coke, crack, heroin, or any other narcotic that looked like this. They bounced this up to me from Southeast because they're already swamped with some shit going on in the Everglades, so that's why you're all here."

Because they were the only people the Mid-Atlantic division had to spare, apparently. Tap. A graphic photograph of a dead body came up, a moment later. Taken at the same raid. "Now, normally, we'd just ship this off to an independent research lab or let MPD take care of it, but-- one body in particular was of interest to us. Marco Robinson." She gestured behind her, to the body. Both of his arms were shredded at the wrists; no hands. "Our national PMPD database had him tracked as a YLW-1. Could shoot sparks out of his fingertips. Something to do with iron deposits in the fingertips, some sort of mutation to the fingers. MIRA Southeast's report said his hands nearly took out their lead Agent when they blew up. Shock killed him near-instantly. No reports or markers to ever suggest that; his last meeting at a PMPD Center was a month ago. Baseline. Trace amounts of an unknown substance in his system, and a bit of the five kilos of the mystery substance were broken into."

At that, she shrugged. Tap. Another close-up of the man's throat-- bruised. Reddened, discolored. "Autopsy report shows a grossly-enlarged and sclerosed thyroid. I think the red crystal shit has something to do with it. There are reports of some sort of street drug on the market in the south, and it's nothing good."

 

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So, it was pretty bad, then. Julianne wasn't any happier about the team composition than Em was, and Em was self-aware enough to know that Julianne's discontent included herself. She tried not to let it bother her - she was good at her job, and she knew it, but she worked best indoors, behind a desk.

The others entered, Contaminant with a quiet greeting and the sort of softened British accent that came from being out of Britain for several years. He went immediately towards a seat, evidently having picked one out, and Em wondered at his selection criteria. Their last team member was a bit behind him and looked like she'd very much rather have been sleeping for another hour, or possibly another week.

Unfortunately for her, Julianne was the sort to get things started. The request to close the door came, and Em wasn't feeling a particularly strong urge to stand up again. "Ms. Pitch, would you please?" First responder training said that if you wanted something done, you directed someone specific to do it rather than a general request that everyone would mill around ignoring. Em hadn't let the training lapse. The request was polite, softly spoken, and yet there was an undertone to it that made it very much a direction and not a question. It was a tone that got things done, and Em was willing to deploy it as often as necessary.

She returned her attention to Julianne, leaving the expectation that Ms. Pitch was going to do the right thing with the obligatory door closing, and let the meeting get started, taking careful notes as the slides progressed. She would get a copy of the presentation, of course, but it was good to have her initial thoughts written down as well.

Her first thought was that whatever was going on in the Everglades was apparently worse than MIRA was trying to present it as, if they were that short-handed. She made a note to look into that, and find out what was happening down there. If MIRA's people weren't forthcoming, there were always people in Water Management she could talk to. It was an oddly helpful network, full of conscientious individuals who'd be happy to help, especially if they were helping someone who had both read and understood their papers. If Em's life had gone differently, she probably would have been one of them - not necessarily in Florida, but somewhere.

She didn't dwell on that. Spending all your time thinking about a life you could have had was a good way to miss out on the one you were actually having.

The images presented were fairly brutal, but Em studied them anyway. She'd seen worse. The dead man with no hands was worth a few notes - while it was possible that he'd died of-

Em frowned slightly, raising a fingertip.

"Shock, medical? Or shock, electrical?" Those were two very different situations, after all, and either was capable of causing death. If it were the latter she might have expected to see electrical burn damage, but it was possible that Mr. Robinson's PMPD presentation prevented that. Medical shock could also be at play, given the trauma, but people could certainly survive losing limbs.

It certainly wasn't pleasant, but it was survivable. Sometimes.

What it came down to, really, was that she wasn't as convinced by the cause of death report as whoever had done the autopsy apparently was. "Can we get access to the full autopsy report? I'd also like to interview whoever performed it." Her eyes moved around the room, looking at her apparent team and considering their rather errant abilities, lingering, for a moment, on Ms. Pitch.

"And do they still have the body?"

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Gaz leaned back in the chair, and wondered whether the creak came from its spine or his. It was hard to tell with new buildings like this- with new rooms like this. He supposed it was just another thing he'd have to figure out as it happened.

He was right, though. There was a PowerPoint.

Mutations. Erraticism- enough to be of note to a team who probably think of that word as a punchline.

It didn't look much like any drug he had seen before, either. He had taken a few himself, of course, in low enough doses to avoid lethality or addiction- what surely would be a horrible fate, considering any high would be physically impossible to obtain after that first exposure.

Likely not derivative. Novel. Possibly...

He leaned forwards as the corpse was shown on screen; a movement which, immediately, he scanned as suspicious. Odd as it may seem to someone who knew his prior experience, he hoped they'd also know of his poor eyesight. Though his glasses were up to date, the habit of drawing closer was one he found hard to kick. Their eyes wouldn't be on him, though- they'd be on... this.

The corpse, with its hands having exploded from the inside out, was not the typical picture of overdose- and you didn't need someone like Gaz to tell you that. The damage was as violent as it was localised, leaving nothing identifiable behind. Julianne named the man, and Gaz frowned. She described his PMPD diagnosis, and his brow furrowed so tightly it was a wonder his own skin didn't split from the strain. She mentioned the condition of his thyroid, and that tightness moved inwards, towards his stomach.

Hands- sparks, combustion, perhaps the capacity for explosives, if- I don't think 'overclocked' should be the term. Too informal. Inflammation of thyroid, as well.

"These mutants, have any of them been taken into custody?"

There was another creak as he sat up in the chair, no longer comfortable leaning against it.

"Given its possible effects, I'd rather not go sticking it into anyone new," Gaz continued, "'specially not anyone here. I mean, exploding hands from a bloke whose hands were already mutated, localised alteration to the thyroid- I don't need to say what I'm thinking here, right?"

He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose- the part sticking up over the mask.

"You said we have five kilos already. I suggest we make that last until we've got more data; half-life, lethal dose, any permanent effects, that sorta thing."

Em had the right idea, about caution. About the body.

"I'd also like to see the autopsy, as well as any tests done on living users. Those should be a good place to start."

Because we are not fucking starting with me.
 
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The door? Oh. The door. She'd not noticed she'd left it open. Honestly, we've got remote-controlled windows, but no automatic door-hinges?

And Atelia, taking it on herself to relay Cho's command to one of the peons. Irritating. What a morning for office politics. No, please, shut up; do not start a fight over this. We're being nice. Just close the fucking door. Take solace in knowing she'll probably be going in for a hip replacement surgery or something this time next year. And when we're her age, we'll look exactly the same as we do now. Assuming we haven't mutated into some kind of hell beast.

Swoosh. Click. Door closed. Wonderful. And now, to your seat, Ms. Pitch.

Gaaahhhh.

What's on the projector, then? Beyond a truly awful amount of white light, you mean? Ooh. Super-drugs. Cooool.

"Failing Mrs. Atelia's--Ms.? I don't know; whatever--failing her suggestion; failing 'access to the complete cadaver,' do we have samples on hand?"

Or am I here as decoration? Or to invalidate the team's claim to a senior operative bonus?

"And has anyone on the team taste-tested the drug, yet? Non-PMPD personnel, I mean? Do we know what it does to people who don't have powers?" And if I close my eyes and rest my head on the table, can we all assume I'm still paying attention? Probably not. Maybe once they knew each other, and were all besties. Or at least once they'd covered the bits of this she could actually help with. Besides, she was trying to be nice. Which I've already fucked that up. What? When? Oh.

"Um. Sorry. Headache. Bad night. Didn't mean to say that bit out loud." Mumble mumble mumble, etc.
 


Questions. Good-- questions were good. Atelier, Oleander, and Pitch all rose valid inquiries, and she gave them the space to do so. Better to have a dialogue than nothing at all. Cho adjusted her glasses again-- she really needed to get these damned things refitted-- and nodded, looking to Atelier first.

"Firstly-- medical shock. No operatives on-site were electrokinetics, and no discharges were observed. Just the shock of his arms being blown off, predictably." She stated. "Secondly-- as much as it would help this case to have access to the illicit substance, my next point was addressing the fact that the five kilos were stolen." Tap. There was an overview of the evidence log for the MPD, a report detailing the disappearance of the drugs in question, and a photo of the evidence locker it was taken from. "Or misplaced. MIRA Narcotics handed it over to the relevant division within the MPD, and two days after, it was reported missing. We don't have any on-hand samples, no testing procedures, nothing. MIRA Southeast is trying to track it down as we speak, but it's come up empty." She pinched the bridge of her nose, and nodded once.

"Which brings me to my third point-- the autopsy. It's our best lead, given the circumstances-- as well as specializations within this team." She looked to Ms. Pitch, at that. "We haven't gotten approval to have the body transferred up to Mid-Atlantic, yet. Would require a trip down to Miami, especially if we want to interview the coroner." She shrugged, at that, and closed her laptop. "Also might be worthwhile to interview the Northeast agents that responded to the case to begin with. Beyond Robinson, all the other suspects managed to get away or were also killed in the ensuing firefight. Most suspects had outstanding warrants or were undocumented, so nothing out of the ordinary as far as who was involved in the transport. You'll all be compensated for travel and we can make living arrangements for the duration of the assignment, but I doubt we'll be there more than a week. Primary objective should be finding out what the hell the drug, or... substance, even is-- secondary would be tracking it down. Are we clear on all of this? Any other angles to consider?"

 
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Contaminant had a very rational thought process. This wasn't particularly surprising - the sorts of terrorism he'd performed were the thinking ahead variety. It meant he'd be easy to work with - she vastly preferred working with people who could put things together without all the handholding some of them required. At least, he'd be easy to work with if she could trust him.

She should probably stop thinking of him as Contaminant.

He'd already traced the invisible line to am I going to be expected to eat that stuff? just like Em had, and didn't sound thrilled with the idea. Em was also not thrilled with the idea, though probably for vastly different reasons. "I'm also opposed to having Mr. Oleander eat the stuff, should we happen to come across some of it." There, she'd used his new name and everything. If she didn't mention that she didn't want him eating it because if it didn't kill him, he'd be able to synthesize it, well, he was probably drawing that line in his head already anyway, but they could both be polite about it since they seemed to be on the same side for this one.

Julianne was answering the questions as they came, providing more background information for whatever this assignment was shaping up to be. Ms. Pitch decided to throw in some analysis of her own, and Em's offering of "Ms." at the inquisition didn't interrupt the flow of her thoughts - which were actually pretty interesting thoughts, though she seemed somewhat abashed by them. Interesting.

"I actually think that's a really good question - I think finding out what it does to non-PMPDs is definitely an angle we should look at. I think first we see if we can get some interviews on the street with people who might have tried it and see if they've got any intel - maybe it's just another high that they're chasing, and what it does to PMPDs is just a side effect."

She shifted in the suddenly uncomfortable chair, frowning a little. "My concern is that it's an attempt to push a mutation through on those who don't have one already. Or wake latents, perhaps." If someone had developed that sort of drug, then that was pretty much a one way ticket to a private army, in the wrong hands.

Em took another drink of tea, because she was about to do something she was going to regret. "And we need to know that, so we know what we're dealing with, and we need that information in the hands of MIRA and not some outside agency. Fine. If we find some and we can confirm it won't be instant death, I'll try the forbidden snack." It might kill her anyway, or have horrible side effects, but Em spent most of her life waiting for more horrible side effects to show up. What was one more thing? As much as she didn't necessarily like it on a personal level, she was as good a candidate as anyone: older, no spouse or children, not a combatant, already exposed to radiation and probably going to develop some sort of horrible cancer and die of it at some point in the future.

So, from that perspective, a little personalized experimental drug trial wasn't really something to worry about.

"I suppose we're going to Miami. When do you want to leave?"

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No dice re. subjects. Wouldn't be the first time the Boy Scouts fucked us over like this. Narcotics, as well- why send all of the samples away at once? If substance could affect PMPD manifestation, why not handle it internally? Why not keep any? Any at all?

"Mhm."

Gaz narrowed his eyes at the bad news, looking a little too annoyed for someone just told they wouldn't have to take a potentially lethal mystery substance, or watch it explode another person's hands. One of those outcomes, he didn't mind. Both mean that he was in the dark regarding this whole thing, and that wasn't a position he was particularly comfortable with, especially when the substance was out of their hands.

At least Em was on his side, to some extent- and at least they'd get what they wanted on that front, though calling him Mr. wasn't a good sign of motivation. He let himself relax a little, reflexively rubbing his hand over the brace on his unexploded wrist. Of course, Gaz wasn't completely opposed to trying it. There was very little he was completely opposed to processing- and, given his current trajectory with MIRA, that list would only get shorter. His only real conceit was knowing if it would kill him before he could use it. Considering what it appeared to target, that was a worrying possibility.

"I'd like to have a chat with whoever in Narcotics decided it would be a good idea to hand over our entire supply to an external group." He frowned, "I'll say- they better have a bloody good reason for it, given its supposed properties. Call me a pessimist if you want, but tracking it down would be my first priority here. It would at least make the rest of our job a lot easier."

He sighed, pushing the glasses up his face- an idle habit, rather than one of necessity. They fit perfectly well.

"Still, that's probably a bit out of reach at the moment. I'm fine focusing on what we can do for the time being, of course, but I need confidence that I'll be able to put a word in regarding the... mishandling of all this."

Whether or not you'll be listened to- that's another story.

Liz's- Lizica's point about mundane subjects was agreeable; but, again, they didn't have any to work with at the moment. He'd be interested to see how the effects developed in a body that wasn't his own, be they PMPD or not, but leaning towards the not did seem like a better place to start.

Although, when Em so quickly put herself forward for the task-

"There... shouldn't be a need for that, Em."

-his tune changed before he could catch it. Volunteering to take an unknown, potentially harmful substance like this, when she didn't gain anything out of it besides knowledge? It was... well, it wasn't good. Gaz, even when he landed himself in hospital, at least got a new party trick out of lethal chemical exposure- but that didn't make it fun. Was... was she alright? Were either of them alright? Liz-ica, she mentioned having a bad night as well. It wasn't his business, nor his current job to worry about the emotional wellbeing of his coworkers, but...

Fuck, if the happiest guy on the job was the one hired to eat the exploding death-rocks, then Gaz didn't know what to think.

"The interviews, though- I agree. I'm fine to fly out as well- our first port of call should be with people who know more about this than we do." He nodded, "I'd like to take a few in for testing, as well- monitoring long-term changes, withdrawal effects, that sort of thing. I don't mind handling the living, if Liz don't mind handling the dead."

He gestured to her with a jerk of the head.

It's Lizica. Full name.

Oops.
 
Liz. Take us back to Ms. Pitch, please. Thanks.

"Yeah, of course," she said, head dipping towards to the table. Nope. Her arms slid up onto the table; she steepled her fingers, which would hopefully make it look a little less like she'd almost faceplanted. "Love talking to dead people. It's my favourite thing. Where exactly would we be staying, in Miami, and who would know we were in the area?"
 


"Narcotics' claim was that they didn't hand it over; it was moreso a lack of attention to the potential significance. They thought it was another street drug, and let law enforcement handle it. We're in the business of security, not... drug analysis." She gave the slightest wince at using the word business to describe a security agency, and rolled her shoulders. "Not until we find out they involve PMPD in some way. Which we found only began investigating and hypothesizing after the drugs had gone missing. You want to put in a word, though, be my guess." Sisyphean. His hill to die on, though, and Cho wasn't about to lecture him. She was far too tired for that.

"As for where we're staying-- MIRA Southeast's campus has visitor lodgings for sojourning agents and analysts. You can stay there. Or book a hotel, but stipends will only be 200 weekly." She closed her laptop, at that, and looked to Emily-- then to Elixir. "And we are not testing people-- most of all our own agents. I appreciate the apathy, Emily, but I'm decently sure we'd lose our jobs if you decided to smoke a crack pipe in the office. Doubly so for pulling people off the street-- keep it to simple interviews and internal investigation, at the moment. My advice would be to talk with the MPD and our own Miami team. I'll pull the files on who has a narcotics specialty, point you in their direction."

She adjusted her glasses a final time and packed up her laptop, moving towards the door. "Get the earliest flight out to Miami, if you can. Or drive. Either way, I expect you on-campus by Monday." Given that it was Friday, there would be plenty of time over the weekend to get there. "My apologies to your weekend plans, but if I'm being perfectly candid, something tells me that we all don't have much going on."

And then she was out the door, opening and closing it with a brisk departure. Probably to go grab a cup of coffee-- or snort a line. She was practically about to fall asleep.

 

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'I appreciate the apathy' - that was one for the books, for sure. The words better me than some kid who doesn't know what they're getting into were on the tip of her tongue, but arguing with her fellow Baltimore personnel in front of the others wasn't a good look. Em held the sentence back and took notes for later, because there were definitely a few things in what Julianne had to say that were concerning.

Julianne's parting shot was met with an eye roll, which was not precisely arguing, and a coolly professional: "Thanks, Julianne" as the woman was leaving, with just a little bit of I am not arguing, look at me here not arguing in the tone - though maybe that was just what Em was thinking and none of it would make it into the intonation at all. She could only hope.

The door clicked shut, which meant that Em didn't have to debate the issue of getting up to close it versus asking Ms. Pitch to do it again. She sighed, and leaned back in her chair, surveying the room.

Well. At least this part she was good at. Better than Julianne, anyway. Em hit a few keys on her laptop, pulling up options.

"Miami is about sixteen hours from here. I can't drive a standard car; neither of you is licensed to drive mine. If you both need to head back to New York, that'll add travel time. MIRA's Amway can take us from either DC or New York as far as Atlanta, but it's a ten hour drive to Miami from there, or a two hour flight, but pretty inexpensive because no one flies out of Atlanta. Flights from Baltimore or New York direct are a few hundred more, but it's only two and a half hours flight from here, no transits. Worth it, I think. The two hundred stipend is going to be an issue; Miami's cost of living is pretty high and that won't cover food. I'll talk to some people about that and see if we can get an adjustment, or at least a meal expense budget in addition."

She could probably get that to pass through; she knew the right people for it. Setting up the getting people to where they were going had always been a big part of her job, and she traveled a lot as well. Certainly more than Julianne did, anyway.

Em leaned forward a little, raking her fingers through her hair. She really did not relish the idea of putting Contaminant back on a plane. She'd have to make sure there was a MIRA agent on board with him with some very specific instructions about it. Maybe they'd just have to fly out together, from DC. A few more taps of the keys brought up the option. "Hm. If you two take Amway from New York to DC headquarters, we can meet there and take a direct flight from BWI or Reagan International. That saves the issue of having to adjust for differing flight times."

That was a very good reason, and didn't bring up the and if we're putting Contaminant on a plane, we need to watch him situation, because Em was trying to be better about that. And stop thinking about him as Contaminant.

"If we're going to be working together, how do you both prefer to be addressed? Em is fine with me. Or Ms. Atelier, I suppose." She preferred Em, but she'd thrown the surname in deliberately, because no one ever knew how to pronounce it. People thought it was French and tried to rhyme it with yay, but if Em had ever had any French ancestors, they were far enough back that the pronunciation was strictly Americanized by now: emphasis on the second syllable, rhymed with carrier, a-TELL-i-er.

It made things challenging, but they couldn't all have a surname like Pitch. Or Farlow.

Oleander.

Sure. That.

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Spontaneous metahuman death, the substance was clearly nothing like anything we've seen before, there were five bloody kilos of it-

"Right."

He brought his hand over the brace on his wrist, pressing it further into his skin. By now, his forward lean had taken him over the edge of the desk, and he had to prop his head up on the back of his knuckles. He gave a terse frown, visible through the window of the mask- and, if not that, through the stare he gave the analyst in the moments before he caught himself.

"I'll send them an e-mail." He said- because if it were a face to face, he'd fucking kill them.

An unknown substance in large quantities, tied to the sudden death of a metahuman who was already on the database- death by exploding hands, no less, where his mutation was known to be localised. Not only that, but the resources were supposedly spread so thin that this was the only team they could manage to pull together. Odd. Either this was a display of the most flagrant incompetency Gaz had ever witnessed, or it was a case that MIRA didn't actually want to be solved. Gaz couldn't tell which was worse; malice and idiocy present the same symptoms.

The door shut, and Gaz returned his eyes to the table. No human testing, either- presumably that would change if they managed to get their hands on the substance, but he knew that idea was particularly optimistic. It was one of the things he truly despised about the organisation, all this red tape. Several times, he had been forced to wait until something had gone wrong before his team was cleared to stop it- and, by then, it was often too late to do anything but clean up.

Unfortunately, given his background, this complaint was one he could never actually express.

So, he did as he always did, and resigned himself to their initial plans. Alright. Fine. They'll take a survey before pulling any addicts in for treatment, that was fine by him. At least if they didn't find anything noteworthy doing this, he could use it to push for more clearance. Then, maybe, he could get something done.

Once more, he found himself grateful that Em was as competent as she was. It made for a nice change from the rest of the meeting- and, fuck, from a lot of the analysts back in New York, as well. It was nice having someone who was able to sort things out, especially internal issues, and it was nice that this particular someone shared many of the same complaints that he did. It was a shame some of those complaints were about him- even moreso that they were legitimate. Otherwise, they'd probably get along quite well.

"An extra meal budget would be fantastic, considering my requirements." He said, "Don't fancy eating charcoal the whole time just to keep myself off the floor- you can cite me if they ask for any legitimate reason behind the expense."

Because they will ask, the tight bastards. The tight, American bastards.

And then, of course, the topic of transport. As soon as the request to travel was brought up, Gaz was already preparing to offer to drive himself, given Em's justifiable concerns- and Lizica's, as well. I mean, it was also on the east coast, wasn't it? How long could a drive down there take- four hours? Five?

Geography was never his strong suit. Turns out, the answer was ten- and that was not happening.

So, they'd put him on a plane. Gaz looked up at Em, giving as reassuring of a nod as he could, considering the thing he was reassuring her about was 'I will not attempt to crash the plane this time'. It was true. He wouldn't. Most likely, he'd be sitting there with the braces on, and his standard-issue mask replaced by a conventional-looking respirator- a precaution he already had to take when on public transport. He had a respiratory issue, was the claim. The fact that the issue in question was the ability and past willingness to exhale cyanide gas wasn't something that needed to be mentioned.

"Fine by me." He nodded, "I'd rather do that than drive- gives me enough time to look into a few things before we leave."

Rehab clinics, local hospitals- ask staff if they've noticed anything unusual. If you can't put these people under the knife, then it's better to talk to someone who already has- if they already have.

He glanced over to Lizica, shrugging a little as he did so.

"We can meet at the main gate, if you want to take the Amway together."

Considering how late she was for this meeting, it seemed like a sensible offer- he'd set their meeting time early, and make sure that they got to the airport on time. Planes weren't something you could afford to be late for, and Gaz was particularly concerned about anything going wrong at the airport. His new identity with MIRA meant that he could bypass most of the security measures that would prevent him from boarding, but there was always the worry that it wouldn't.

Besides, Lizica... didn't seem well. Less well than usual, somehow. He'd like to talk to her about that, outside of a bloody conference room- or, y'know, talk to her at all in any other context. Gaz worried about people quite easily. Showing up to work late and hungover would be enough to make anyone concerned.

"Right, names."

He smiled tightly.

"It's Gaz, if you wanna be familiar; Garth, if you don't; Doctor Oleander, if you really don't."

That's Doctor, yeah? Not Mister. I didn't retake my bloody doctorate to be called Mister.

I retook it because it was part of my probation contract, but still.
 
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No unauthorized human testing. Which, yeah, of course. She was still getting angry emails about the broken-arm thing. If they were going to do testing, they'd want it to be under observation. With medical professionals on standby in case the the subject's head exploded. Like hers was doing. Right now. Oof.

"I'm Pitch. No honorifics, please; thank you," Pitch said. "You don't need to budget food for me." She could go a little longer than most people without food, and also, if need be, she could scavenge for food a lot more safely. Not that dumpster-diving would be pleasant, but she'd take privacy over good food any day of the week.

"I also don't need to stop back in at New York. I'm about as packed as I ever am." She'd need to stop off at a locker on-site, but presumably Em wasn't carrying her whole life with her either. "So unless you want the company, Garth...?"

She saw what Em was doing, but as far as she was concerned, there wasn't much difference between putting a lonely psycho-terrorist on a plane vs. putting him on a train. And she sure as hell wasn't up for babysitting right now. So she wasn't going to force herself on him unless he wanted somebody along.
 

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Em did not - quite - snicker at 'I'll send them an email'.

The trouble with Contaminant - Mr.-Dr.-Oleander, she was discovering, was that she could have really liked him, under different circumstances. Circumstances where he had not, in fact, murdered a couple dozen people, which was a fairly differentiating circumstance. Still, she could recognize the lurking irritation in the tone behind that particular line, the frustration at what seemed like a fairly monumental screw-up, and the feeling of keeping things impersonal because if they got personal, they were going to get very personal.

The difference, of course, was that if Em said If I have to talk to those idiots face-to-face, I might kill someone, it would be a dramatic falsehood. With him? She didn't know. MIRA said he'd changed. The official line was that he'd turned over a new leaf, the rehabilitation programs worked, et cetera. That was why, officially, she could work with him in the first place.

Em just didn't think she could trust him, and so that was why she was a little bit disturbed to find herself liking him.

Pitch - who apparently did not care for honorifics or her personal name, noted - spoke up about requirements, and Em gave her the sort of look she reserved for junior personnel who were being too helpful about sacrificing their own needs for what they thought was the good of MIRA. Everyone needed to do their part, of course, but if they were going to do their best for MIRA, then MIRA needed to put in its part as well.

"We will be budgeting food for you, Pitch. Just because you can survive on air and sunshine and he can survive on wood chips and pencil shavings doesn't mean that you have to. Take time to eat normal things. It'll remind you that you're human." Some of them definitely needed the reminder. Em had noticed that too much of that I have PMPD and am therefore Different mentality got people thinking along the wrong tracks, tracks where they weren't actually the same as humans after all, and those tracks tended to lead to murdering a plane full of people, just as a random example.

"It'll remind everyone else, too. Some of them can use the reminder." She hadn't said the first part out loud, but that part she was going to. Pitch seemed like the sort to think that everything might be a problem with her, and maybe it was about time that someone told her that the problems could be with other people. It was entirely possible that Contaminant needed to hear it, as well.

"It sounds like you don't need too much preparation time. Do you want to leave in the morning? There's an eight a.m. flight from Reagan tomorrow-" Em looked up from her computer, over at Pitch, who did not look like she would be ready for an eight a.m. anything. "- There's an eleven forty. Meet at the airport at ten?"

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Em and Pitch. Those sound hard enough to get wrong.

Although, Pitch didn't seem too enthusiastic about travelling with him. She didn't seem too enthusiastic to be travelling with anyone- which, to be honest, Gaz could relate to. There was something deeply relaxing about travelling alone, and something equally frustrating about being forced to go with company. He knew this--god, he knew this--but he had to let her know it was more than a matter of convenience.

"I'd appreciate the company," He said, "Unless you have any serious objections."

There. That gave her an out, if she was forthright enough to call her objection serious- which, admittedly, he wasn't quite sure she would be. Oh, well. Considering she just volunteered to forego her own meal budget, his concerns for her wellbeing seemed justified enough to warrant perhaps even more persuasive force, but he wasn't going to make her do anything she clearly didn't want to. Just... professionally imply that travelling with him was a good idea. Yeah. That seemed reasonable.

And Em, as well, seemed to share his worry. Pitch was human, and Gaz was as well- more human than he used to be. It was advice he, admittedly, needed to hear. Since moving to the NYC branch, and especially since his time in intensive care, Gaz's diet had been... utilitarian. Charcoal for energy, then whatever else he needed for synthesis- not much room for nutrition, and even less for pleasure. His psychotherapist had suggested at least one edible meal per day, but his workload meant that wasn't always feasible. Still, if he wasn't the one paying, there was no reason to fall back on bad habits. He needed that extra budget- if not for himself, then for Pitch. A diet of woodchips and copper wire seemed almost as bad as one of quantum-vision-inducing human remains.

Almost.

"It'd do us both well to eat a sandwich once in a while." He nodded to Pitch, "Besides, it's not our dollar."

If they're sending us out blind, they can damn well pay for the privilege.

He turned back to Em, nodding at her proposal.

"Ten sounds doable." He said, "I'll leave a bit earlier- let you know if there's trouble on the Amtrak. I know it doesn't tend to have as many problems, but I've been down the London branch for six years- I know how much a transit issue can throw things off."
 
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MIRA SOUTHEAST - MIAMI HQ
1500 HOURS - SOUTH CAMPUS, ROOM 114B

"I trust that we didn't have any trouble getting over here-- good. Let's get to business."

The less time they were held here, the better. Analyst Cho adjusted her eyeglasses and looked at the trio of personnel she'd been allotted, her faith not entirely unplaced in them. These people were reliable. She had to learn to stop doing everything herself-- or thinking that she could, at the very least. "Ms. Atelier-- you've got an interview in thirty minutes with two of the Jurors that responded to the incident. One, ah... Agent Switchback, and Agent Blastcap. They're prepared to give their statement on what happened. Offer their perspectives." Whether or not Emily would take them remained to be seen. A lot of cloaks believed that their title came with a sudden enlightenment as to police procedure and investigatory work. It did not. Her gaze turned to Ms. Pitch, next.

"Ms. Pitch, the coroner will be able to see you in an hour. They've got the toxicology report for Robinson's body, as well. He'll be expecting you. He has not been briefed as to the nature of your abilities, but has been instructed to open the cranium and leave you for a private examination once you give the word." No need to speak further on that. Finally, her gaze settled on Mr. Oleander.

"Doctor-- there's a Merciful Hands Harm Reduction Facility. I'll be driving there with you and conducting some interviews and observations of my own. They're expecting us any time today; sooner, rather than later, please. Whenever you're ready, do let me know. Does anyone have any final questions before we break?"

 
The journey had been uneventful, which was something Gaz had been expecting, but might have come as somewhat of a relief to some of the others. His time on the Amtrak had been spent with his head buried in a newspaper, and his time on the plane had been spent with it buried in a crossword book- masked, both times, with minimal issue. They even let him straight through airport security this time.

He nodded as Cho explained where he'd be heading, grateful that someone read at least one of his emails. Of the facilities in the area, Merciful Hands had stuck out on the list as one of the more useful leads, owing either to its relative size or particular helpfulness when it came to co-operating with local enforcement.

No meaningful response about anything else- you'll have to chase that up in person. They can't leave that on read.

"No questions from me; I know how these things go." Said Gaz- except, he didn't. Not really.

Most of his work was done within MIRA's own facilities, away from the public. Though this wasn't the first time he had been brought on to conduct public interviews, it was the first time in a while, and there hadn't been many instances before it. He wasn't exactly gunning for the role of poster child, everyone knew he couldn't, but even being a minor representative like this felt a bit odd.

So, he retained the opaque respirator from the plane ride, as opposed to the transparent one he wore on-site. It hid his facial structure well enough to minimise any awkward recognition.

"I'm ready to go when you are." He nodded, then turned to the rest of the group, "If you find anything particularly weird, send it through on comms. I know we'll reconvene after we're done, but it'd help to stay updated in case there's a delay."
 
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