Bad Pies and Juicy Lies

June 19, 2018:

The Retro Café

A small café in New Jersey, overlooking the Hudson. The coffee’s terrible. The pie is worse.

Characters

NPCs: Bernadine Nakato (Genet-X Scientist, NPC'd by Emma Frost)

Mentions: Danny Rand

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

It started as a voicemail on Lois’s voicemail at the Daily Planet about a week after Danny Rand held his press conference to denounce registration. A warm but timid voice belonging to a woman named Bernadine Nakato, explaining that she worked for a small company presently doing business as Genet-X. She was in the R&D department, working as one of its lead researchers.

She wanted to talk.

But she wanted to talk in person. Somewhere private. Somewhere safe.

And she’s not easy to pin down with her schedule. She’s chickened out more than once, changing the date and time to something later. Changing the place.

But eventually, eventually, the appointed hour and place remain unchanged.

A small café in New Jersey, overlooking the Hudson. The coffee’s terrible. The pie is worse. But its 50s styling— the red and white gingham curtains, bright red laminate tables, and wood paneled walls—are quaint. Bernadine, a striking black woman in forties, is slowly choking her way through a serving of both in a poorly lit corner booth. She’s dressed simply in a rust-hued boatneck shirt, her hair coiffed in a tapered style that keeps her hair shorter in back but allows tight curls to fall over her forehead in burgundy-tipped spirals. Her short and unpainted nails tap along the the tabletop, muted somewhat by the soft pads of her fingers.

She waits, glancing often across the café to look out the large plate glass window in the front of the restaurant.

Paranoia strikes all in the right environment. There was a little understanding there when it comes to working with a source. These things were delicate; not to say that it took a womans touch to get someone to talk but it certainly didn’t hurt nor hinder the situation. Especially with what was at stake.

The world was quite possibly in an uproar. Change was on the horizon. The future, in all it’s glory (or hell, depending on the viewer) depending on this moment and quite possibly the words of a scientist no matter which side she decides to lean.

Lois took precautions.

Spy trade would have been a perfect occupation for Lois; all avenues were checked before she herself went into the cafe. Blocks were circled, her car was parked miles away, no disguises but she did manage to try to keep a low profile with a pair of jeans, leather jacket, high ponytail which made her look years young.
It’s a wonder what a pair of rimmed horn glasses could do.

Oversized tote stuck beneath her arm which was shifted as she entered into the establishment; and previous conversations allowed her to know just where to sit. Which was right in front of the mocha skinned woman, a smile put on as if she were a friend for life.

“Please tell me that the coffee is at least good enough to make a dent in an already long day.” Lois says with exasperation. Friend to a friend, right?

“Wish I could,” Bernadine tells her with a smirk, her soft voice barely audible over the clinks and clatter of thick white ceramic plates and mugs behind the glass counter. “But if you’re looking for mud, you’ll be happy enough.”

The woman lifts her own mug to take another sip of the swill, dazzling white teeth bared a moment later as she struggles to get it down.

“I don’t plan to stay here long,” she tells the reporter in her disguise. “But I needed to say something. It’s not right that Rand gets in front of a gaggle of pressmembers, and he gets to look like he’s been some kind of friend to the oppressed.” She exhales sharply—the start of a laugh that never fully finds the air. “If there’s something I can’t stand, it’s a liar.”

Another sip of her coffee, down the hatch. “Good night,” she muses, “this is awful.”

“Sometimes I think bad coffee is akin to..” Lois stalls for a moment, her eyes immediately lifting as she settles in as she does, bouncing here and there within her chair to find a good fit. “..oh who the hell knows.”

But there was a look of understanding that passes from one woman to the next; her head nodding in agreement. This wasn’t some hole in the wall that was a hidden treasured gem. If the mans apron was greasy it wasn’t because he cooked his food with a song, love and a dance. It was because he just didn’t give a damn, and it showed.

However, the conversation moves and Lois gives a clear nod. The recorder was on, yes, but it was clear that the woman would remain anonymous. Lois was, after all, a keeper of her promises.

“How is he lying? Why would he make such a public statement if he knew that others were well aware of such?” She wasn’t ignoring the grossness of the coffee, but a smile towards a passing waitress and a point to the cup and nod, at least signaled that she’ll be having one as well.

They’re in this together.


“Because they’re not well aware,” Bernadine states simply. Quietly, from the large brown sack purse beside her, she pulls out some sheets of paper. “So. I don’t know how much you know about me, but I’ve been working for Juno for nearly ten years. They scouted me out from a research gig in Texas. The pay was good, the title was right, and the project seemed like it could do a lot of good. And it was all about how to identify the X-Gene faster.”

The woman’s dark fingers toy with the edge of the folded papers, even as she tucks them under her plate.

“I mean, imagine the benefits. A test that could be done in a hospital setting, results in an hour or less, and that could mean identifying whether or not someone is going to melt off the table or turn to stone if they get the wrong drugs. A chance to give doctors the heads up they need to be more cautious because standard medical protocols could yield non-standard results. Get it to under twenty minutes, and you have ER possibilities.”

Nakato draws silent, barely looking at the waitress as another coffee is set down before Lois. It’s not burnt, but the smell is strong and acrid. It’s old; oil sheening softly on the top.

“A benefit to both the human and the meta race. We would know how to treat them if they are injured. Know what not to give them or put in their bodies, etcetera. It would quite possibly give everyone a chance to learn and come to terms. Possibly?”

The coffee was sat down, Lois wrinkled her brow and reached for a napkin, though a smile soon perks up as she nods away the waitress. The napkin was dabbled along the top of the hot liquid, attempting to pick off the film as she reaches for the sugar and the creme there after.

“And yet, there is a but..” Lois says, waiting for Bernadine to finish. All the while dressing her coffee up obscenely with creme and sugar; probably with enough sugar to cause a diabetic to go into shock.


“Yeah, there’s a ‘but’.”

The woman slides across the paper, delivering it across to the reporters plate.

“‘But the company is a for-profit that isn’t content to let an opportunity for profit go by. Now, we have ourselves an environment where registration is on the table. Where police departments and prisons might start buying a test like that in bulk to comply with booking procedure. For intake.”

The woman now can’t look at Lois in the eyes anymore, so she doesn’t try. She stabs at her cherry pie, decimating its rubbery crust with her fork as best she can. “So you rebrand, to garner brand trust in a product: Genet-X. And you start thinking out contingencies for how to keep that profit margin if registration doesn’t go the way you hope. Because… yeah, there’s some hoping going on.”

Should Lois unfold those papers, she’ll find for herself a set of internal memos. “We’re a small lab,” Bernadine mutters. “With only a couple of printers. Stuff gets left on there sometimes by accident.”

The memos detail Bernadine’s words, and more. A corporate policy on keeping particularly quiet in public on the registration front, and announcing a new internal database to begin processing and storing test results.

Asking for managers to begin—as they always should—keeping an eye towards possible future markets. Parental notification programs, for example. Or public health departments. There’s a monetary incentive attached in the form of a VISA gift card for every new idea not already on the board’s list. A list, it may be noted, that is not shared.

Lois says nothing. All she could do was allow the woman to speak her truth as she tries to get into the goodness.. Or terribleness of the coffee. A sip. A wrinkler of her nose. A false smile because she feels eyes on them, the papers taken from her plate and looked through with a discerning eye.

Being a reporter, or anyone getting information, requires you to read quickly and commit as much to memory as you can, sort and suss out the rest later. Be horrified later. Be -biased- later and in private.

“And where does Rand come in?”

—-

“So. Juno is a Rand subsidiary.”

Crossing her arms and abandoning the cherry-pie-cum-Jello with its brown lumps that look like they MAY have been cherries in a past life that she was trying to eat, she then leans forward onto those crossed arms and pushes the plate out of the way. “When I took this project, it was to help people. I don’t expect to overhear conversations about people self-identifying. About the ways that can kind of information can be marketed. People looking to help their kids, testing and screening. Inadvertently putting crosshairs on ‘em, because there they are: an identified minority that someone has private rights to. Is storing and cataloguing. I overheard my boss talking to someone about it. Sounded like there were some directives coming down from Rand. Next thing I know, I’m asked to think about how soon the test could be reliable. Think: prenatally soon.”

Her head drops, and her soft fingers slide into her hair as she sighs. “A few weeks later, there’s that Rand statement. It… This just isn’t why I got into research. I wanted to help with genetic therapies. Identify chromosomal disorders sooner. Help people. Not help people target kids. Babies.


The papers were skimmed, expertly. Folded neatly and tucked away in her clutch. It was unsettling, but her poker face proved true as she takes another sip of her coffee. So much it was starting to become routine.

“This is disgusting.”

Whether she spoke about the coffee or the fact that Rand/Juno wishes to experiment on those with the potential of the mutant-gene in-vitro is suspect, but it could be all the same.

“When this gets out, there is no if.” Lois murmurs. “What of yourself? What are -you- going to do? Obviously this wasn’t a decision that came lightly, but is there any way at all that this can be traced back to you?”

It was horrible, and dangerous all the same. “All of this..” She gestures, obviously troubled, which lasts for a shadow of a second.. “..it seems like a big-pharma scam that is definitely GOING to go wrong..”


Bernadine shrugs her slender shoulders and chuckles as she finally looks back up to the other reporter. It’s the sort of laugh that never really does much for her general energy, but does at least soften the harshness of her features in the wake of a frown that had creeped in sidewise when she hadn’t been paying attention. “‘For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world and lose his soul?’ If they figure it out—if it gets bad, I’ll lawyer up. If it gets really bad and that doesn’t work? I’ll find another job. If I can’t find another job, well…”

She shrugs again, and finally looks up. “At least I’ll still have my dignity. And I’m sure that I’ll figure something out. Scientific method isn’t just for the laboratory. Sometimes, you gotta put it to the test of your life, you know?”

Lois wasn’t a religious person, but she understood and knew where that reference came from. It all was a sad state of affairs, something that would be used to quite possibly take down Rand and color his view to the public.

And Lois didn’t have to like it if it were the truth.

“I do know. But.. this?” She gestures towards the coffee, et al where the paper used to rest upon her plate. “Whistleblowing. It could get you killed.” Her tone was low then, and as a passerby walks on, she looks up and gives them a smile.

“Say, we should head to France. Or the Bermuda Triangle. Disappear. At least for a little while.” There was the hint. Leave the continent if at all possible. One thing that Lois was quickly finding out after five years away, mutants and money are not mixing well.

—-

Bernadine’s expression is quizzical for a long moment. This possibility, clearly, did not seem to have occurred to her. She clears her throat, sighs, and then tries to emulate the smile that Lois pastes on.

It looks transparently fake. Lies don’t suit the woman.

“My sister and nephew are here,” she finally offers. “I can’t just leave them.” Then one of those soft hands reaches out to rest lightly upon Lois’s wrist if she can. “It’ll be alright. You’ll see.”

It was a look that was born of sincerity and worry. The touch upon her wrist was met with her opposing hand crossing over the other, fingers squeezing against the side of Bernadette’s palm.

“Then take them with you. Something. Anything.”

It was a huge risk to come out with this information, but Lois resigns herself easily.

“At the first sign of trouble. You call me. You call me and get the hell out of here. You understand? It doesn’t matter what it is. If you feel funny, if something looks to be out of place, like a shoe is missing or something. You leave. Pack them up and just go.”


“Something out of place? Phew. Honey, you’ve clearly never seen a sixteen-month-old baby at work. If something’s where you left it, there’s something wrong.”

The older woman smiles encouragingly as she chuckles in amusement, and her other hand pats lightly at Lois’s fingers. Her sepia eyes are steel, belying the softness of her voice. “It’ll be alright. You just get Mister Rand and those liars to face up to what they’re doing. Sunshine is a fabulous antiseptic. And then I’ll get back to doing science that actually helps people. And everything can keep on going. Anyway. I think you’ve got what you need.”

And with that, she slips out of the contact. Out of the booth. A twenty is put down soon after.

“Look forward to seeing your work.”

And with that, Bernadine is out the door. First in, first out.

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