Black Queen

Participants:

edward_icon.gif kathleen_icon.gif

Also Featuring

young-broome_icon.gif cardinal_icon.gif f_edward_icon.gif r_edward_icon.gif eileen2_icon.gif hiro2_icon.gif f_john_icon.gif kathleen_icon.gif libby_icon.gif sylar_icon.gif tyler_icon.gif

Scene Title Black Queen
Synopsis Kathleen Brooks uses her ability to enter the most dangerous dreamscape she's ever encountered.
Date November 1, 2011

The Commonwealth Arcology


The rhythmic pop-hiss of artificial breathing apparatuses is so much white noise when enclosed in a small room. The dimly lit containment cell belonging to Edward Ray features just one piece of furniture, an elaborate machine, partway between an ACTS unit and an iron lung. Edward is restrained inside the metal behemoth, though only just. A coma has done to him what no restraints ever truly could, render him a prisoner. His head is held up by a halo neck brace bolted to his brow and skull. A tube goes down his throat, taped in place to keep him breathing. IV tubes connect to the device, which in turn connect to his body giving him fluids and other nutrients and manage the remainder of his bodily functions.

Edward Ray never lived a normal life, he lived a burden. A burden built up on the backs of something he saw as a younger man, his first vision; the inciting incident as a novelist would call it. But after the events at the Pinehearst Headquarters two years ago, his journey came to an abrupt end. Now he lays here, a shell of a man contained within his own mind. Institute records for Edward Ray indicate failed attempts to contact his subconsciousness by means of telepathy. The skilled Aria Baumgartner was assigned to Edward at the end of 2010, and documented many failed attempts to delve into the mathematician and prophet's subconscious. They are extensive and well-written accounts of her psychic probing, and ultimately determined that there is no Edward Ray left inside that living brain. Just enough upper brainwave activity to register on an EEG, but nothing coherent, nothing that represents consciousness.

Aria Baumgartner is a liar.

One level up on A-Ring, Kathleen Brooks is the recipient of the truth behind those lies. Settling down onto her bed, Kathleen finds herself unable to truly rest. Ever since Aria confronted her on the first day of her arrival, it's been pandemonium in her subconscious. She's slept fully dressed, with her shoes laced, bag packed next to the bed. She's never carried a gun before, but now there's a handgun under her pillow, a metal lump there to remind her that the moment she entered the Commonwealth Institute she'd unknowingly signed away her soul. Sleeplessness is the only way for Kathleen to find rest now, and it's been 47 hours since she last slept. Presumably, now, she can do what was asked of her.

Kathleen lays in her bed, atop the covers, rigid as a board with her hands folded over her stomach. She wants to sleep, desperately, but fear keeps her awake. It's kept her awake for days now, send tremors down her spine. She knows the side-effects of sleep-deprivation, wrote a paper about it her Freshman year of college. Kathleen was supposed to have a normal life; inform for the police, then get out and take care of herself and her education. Now, laying in this bed, staring at the inside of her eyelids, she realizes how futile it truly was to fight against this.

Some things, are destined to be.


Elsewhere


The street lights don't shine out here, not this close to what was once the Astroland Amusement Park. Some time after the bomb, the whole park went belly up from financial troubles and evacuations due to fallout scares. Now nothing more than the rusting metallic skeletons of the amusement park rides and closed up shops along the boardwalk, what was once the neon-lit attraction of Coney Island is now just one more open sore on New York's face.

Amidst the drizzling rain that descends from patchy clouds overhead, only one person occupies the derelict boardwalk. Seated beneath a tattered awning on a bench that overlooks the sandy beaches, he watches the surf rolling in through the rain dappled lenses of his round glasses. Across his lap, a newspaper is folded, some letters, words and numbers on one of the pages marked with lime green highlighter.

There's a strange look on his face as he finishes highlighting a pair of letters, looking back over everything that's been marked. Closing his eyes, Edward Ray reaches up to push his glasses further up the bridge of his nose, just before the sound of footsteps approach along the boardwalk, clunking with each footfall. He doesn't notice Kathleen Brooks sitting on the adjacent bench, and Kathleen herself doesn't remember how she got here, only understands that she is.

Folding the newspaper over and laying it down at his side, Edward Ray rises up from the bench and begins walking towards the man approaching from across the boardwalk. "Well?" It's a rather expectant tone of voice, and as the man approaching draws closer, Edward cane make out his own facial features on the figure, though more soured and lacking his glasses. Soaked from head to toe in water, he looks as though he's been — quite literally — run through the wringer. Blinking, Kathleen sees the two men, identical in appearance — brothers? Then, with a strain against the drizzling rain to see them both, she questions herself. Her everything.

"You were right." Older, but perhaps not wiser. The senior of the now twinned Edward Rays shakes off seawater from his sleeves. "Cardinal shot me," he wiggles one finger through a hole in his dress shirt, "you were spot on about needing the vest." The younger Edward nods at the accreditation, folding his hands behind his back as his eyes narrow behind his glasses. Slowly, anxiously rising from her seat, Kathleen approaches the two. Her footsteps make no sound, the rain ignores her. She is a passenger, no, a spectator.

"Now that he thinks you're dead, we can get moving on this." An askance glance is given to the boarded up building, then shifts blue eyes back to his older counterpart. "We've only got a few more days to get everything in order before they move on Petrelli. Are Mister Rickham and Doe moving along as planned?"

For a short time, the elder Ray stares silently at his younger counterpart, and then doesn't answer anything that was brought up. Kathleen, on the other hand, moves to stand beside both of the twinned Edward Rays, looking back and forth at them with growing confusion, and yet a subconscious current of understanding. "You know…" the senior Edward starts, "I realize the danger in working with you." With himself. "The inherent danger in allowing our paths to meet. It is, in a way, fascinating to know that so many hypothesis about time travel are being thrown out the window here. But from the moment I found the first cipher you hid in those want ads, I've been wondering something…" Edward's blue eyes narrow, water running down his forehead from his drenched hair. "Why did you decide to get in contact with me after I tried to kill you?"

A youthful smile crossed the face of Edward's counterpart, gloved hands wringing behind his back. "You and I don't have entirely dissimilar goals. It was Teodoro Laudani that helped me realize that the only way to truly win in a battle against Arthur Petrelli, is by cooperation. After spending some time in his clutches after attempting to make nice with him, I've come to be more sympathetic to your cause."

"But not wholly on board." The elder Ray notes with an inclination of his head. The younger Edward is silent on the matter, only affording his elder self a meager smile. "Given the company I've been keeping as of late, I would be surprised to have an ally who didn't also have a knife at my back, so your Judas complex is welcomed." It's only after the words have left his mouth that Edward finds the irony in them.

His younger counterpart, however, notices it immediately. "Let's get to work. I've made some projections based on what Teodoro and I last talked about, and the course of action I set him on. If we're lucky Phoenix will continue to act predictable and Teodoro will continue to pave the road to hell with good intentions." Stepping back towards the bench, and then eventually the boarded up building, the younger Edward Ray gives his older self a side-long look.

"So, how did it feel?" He asks after a pause, "Staring down the barrel of Mister Cardinal's gun?" That name again. Kathleen's heard it before, or she feels as though she had. Something it seeping into her here, intrusive in the way the smell of burned food it, like cigarette smoke, it affects everything around her. She feels the smugness that floods from the young Edward's words, and his older self can only sneer in response, palm rubbing at his chest where a bruise remains instead of a gaping hole thanks to timely planning.

But in the end, a response does come to Edward's mind.

"It felt familiar."

Kathleen takes a half-step back, wringing her hands and trying to make sense of just what it is she's seeing. Her mind reels, and their conversational dance continues. "Now that we have achieved consensus," the older Edward begins, "I think it's time to take stock in everything we've collected." His younger counterpart nods, reluctantly, and takes a conspiratorial half-step forward. Kathleen mirrors the movement, looking from one Edward to the next. "Arthur is a symptom of a larger problem, a current that we both agree can only be diverted by the monumental. I presume you already understand what I intend to do?"

"Genesis," the younger Edward answers the riddle. "That's why you chose Moab, chose this time to return to, chose Pinehearst as your target. It's not because Arthur was a monster in your time." Those words ring through Kathleen's skull. "There's always monsters. We see them every day when we look in the mirror. It isn't Arthur you object to, it's the preordained notion of all of this. That we have no agency, and that no matter how many alterations we make the fascist undertones of our futures never depart."

Kathleen begins circling the Edwards, watching as senior rests a hand on junior's shoulder. "The probability that my plan for genesis will succeed is only 78.766% right now. The odds decrease by half a percent every day I'm delayed. Of course, I know you have your own ideas for how this will all play out. We're on opposite sides of the chessboard, each attempting victory but with separate definitions of what victory entails."

"You're bitter," the younger Edward explains. "Failure has scarred you, and I'm…"

"Naive?" The older Edward opines. Kathleen looks back and forth between the two. "You see the solution, here?" The older Edward inclines his head at the question, running one hand over his thinning hair slowly to slick rain from his scalp.

"Cooperation, or, best two out of three?" Both Edward's laugh at the wordplay, Kathleen laughs at the wordplay, and dread clutches in the back of her throat when she can't understand why it was she laughed.


Elsewhere


Wind strikes Kathleen's cheeks, blows strong and as wild as the crimson light that floods the rooftop that replaces the boardwalk. She shields her face with one hand, seeing a man and a woman looping with bands of scarlet energy that then fork upwards towards the sky. She covers her mouth with one hand, taking a step back only to find her heel make purchase on a hand. Kathleen turns, looks down, and sees Edward Ray dead at her feet, riddled with bullets. She boggles, looks up with abject confusion as his doppelganger stands nearby.

For the first time in so many years, Edward has no way of predicting what is about to come to pass. The future is a blank slate. "You can, John… I know you can," his voice is weak, wavering, and Edward leaves a drooling trail of blood in his wave as he walks, seeping from somewhere on his right leg, all too copious. Whatever happened to him in the Pinehearst building nearly killed him.

Watching everything happening, Jennifer reaches out with a shaky hand, taking one of Catherine's and one of Helena's, closing her eyes as she hangs her head. There's a tension in her expression, one of uncertainty and worry, and as she turns to look back up and the glowing red light, she both fears, and accepts what might come.

"I— I can't! It— it's not— " That hollow and distant tone to his voice continues to grow, coming with waves of crashing thunder as the red bolts continue to snap and pop around him.

Edward raises one hand, staring between his fingers as the corona of light from Elisabeth begins to grow, watching flares of radioactive energy arc and spill off of her body. "John! John you have to stop this! John you have to stop this right now, or she's going to kill us all!"

A tormented look comes over John as he stares down at the woman, stares at her face, looks into her eyes, and it all finally starts to come back. No matter how deep they were buried, no matter how hard the scars on his mind tried to hide them, no matter how much the trauma from his experimentation at the hands of Pinehearst ten years from now was… the face of his sister alive is what awakens Tyler Case inside of the shell of John Doe.

"Libby," he murmurs under his breath, the screams of his past self filling the air as bolts of lightning jump and spark off of his form, hands shaking and that crackling pulse of augmentation growing larger and larger. Finally, he reaches down and brushes his palm over her cheek, feeling the warmth of radiation coming off of her as his clothing begins to brown and smolder where she leans against him. Kathleen looks at Libby, brows furrowed, lips parted in uncertainty and yet at the same time some strange and dawning understanding. The underlying logic of dreams is that you never realize you're in one, you just accept and understand the situation you're in. Except this is so much more intense.

"I— " Libby's face mirrors Tyler's, a look of hopelessness and despair. "I can't." Libby reaches up, her hand ghosting near his face, nearly blinding him from the light it sheds and the cancerous glow that sickly emanates from her thin body, setting black spots of crisped burning through her leather jacket and her jeans.

"I can't let you do this," Libby says to John over the growing noise of thunder. "I'd— rather we both die, than let you become a monster. You're not— you're not a monster— you're my little Ty." Her hand comes up to touch his cheek, and the scalding hot pain of her caress is nothing compared to the ache that her words cause in Tyler's chest as he looks out over everyone else here, looks to his Edward's lifeless body lays with arms spread out on the rooftop.

He has to stop.

Turning away from Libby, John looks back at his younger, tortured self. The bolts now encompass the entire building, shedding an unstable crimson glow like an erupting volcano over the Jersey parkland. Tyler reaches up with one hand, curling his fingers closed. "I— I have to— " his jaw clenches, and the bolts of lighting only continue to build towards a cataclysmic charge, "I— I have to— " his hand trembles, fingers clenching together, "take it back."

There's a sudden snap, and all of the bolts of red lightning snap away like severed high-tension cables, wildly thrashing around in the air before drawing back towards Tyler and John in the manner snapped rubber bands recoil on themselves. Kathleen ducks to avoid one of the lashing tendrils of energy, as if she could be hurt, as if she could be here in this memory of a moment in time. The moment the bolts meet with Tyler, there is a sudden explosive detonation of carnation-colored light that floods out all vision and engulfs the Pinehearst building, sending Tyler and Libby flying backwards away from each other. Struck by one of the bolts on their way back, Edward lets out baleful howl and staggers back holding his head, eyes rolling back as he collapses down to the rooftop in a motionless heap. Kathleen too feels a sudden, burning pain behind her eyes, clutching her head as she too falls down onto the rooftop.

Her vision blurs red. She hears… an echo. Edward, echoing.

"I have you to thank for this, Gillian." Without his glasses, Edward looks far older, older than ten years should make him. "That day, years ago for me — months ago for you — when you empowered my ability in the New York Public Library… I saw this. I saw everything play out. For just a moment, Gillian, I saw every possible future at once. Everything, from the moment you touched my hand, has led here. To this."

Again.

// "I have you to thank for this, Gillian." Without his glasses, Edward looks far older, older than ten years should make him. "That day, years ago for me — months ago for you — when you empowered my ability in the New York Public Library… I saw this. I saw everything play out. For just a moment, Gillian, I saw every possible future at once. Everything, from the moment you touched my hand, has led here. To this."//

And again.

"I have you to thank for this, Gillian." Without his glasses, Edward looks far older, older than ten years should make him. "That day, years ago for me — months ago for you — when you empowered my ability in the New York Public Library… I saw this. I saw everything play out. For just a moment, Gillian, I saw every possible future at once. Everything, from the moment you touched my hand, has led here. To this."

And again.


Elsewhere


Kathleen covers her mouth, the small room smells of dust, sweat, and decay. Multiple unfamiliar faces fill the room, all save for one. The Midtown Man, standing a mere few inches from her. Sylar's dark hair, full brows, prominent nose and square jaw are an annual menace on the news. Every November the 8th, the world remembers his sins, and causes self-inflicted trauma by opening old wounds. But these wounds, this place have no familiarity to her. No sense.

"Once we find the appropriate frames of reference," There's Edward Ray, Kathleen hadn't noticed him at first. "We can start establishing a location in both time and space to put you that will be a compromise of danger and efficiency." There's a slight crook of Edward's lips at that, "Regrettably, this is the culmination of all of my historical reference. With telecommunications networks having long since been shattered by society's collapse, I can't just browse the internet for historical information." There's a rueful smirk there, "I feel like a pioneer." Society's collapse has Kathleen reeling, her head swims and confusion is once more replaced with a dreamy sense of knowing.

Eileen is an unfamiliar face, but she is severe-looking and deeply conflicted in her expression. She's all tension and poise, and then nothing. A possibility let go, a thread dropped. Why does that make so much sense? Eileen's only half-listening to their conversation, her focus elsewhere. "How do you plan on sending him back?" She asks.

Looking away from Eileen, Sylar turns his back towards her again, following the yarn as directed until it almost crudely knots with the black leather one that extends out on its on path, towards the past, but veering sharply once it meets that of the yarn. In one direction, news paper clippings of various murders decorate, even before that, a grainy high school picture. It's the other direction that most interests Sylar, but he goes back, trying to estimate the time. On string. It seems almost silly.

But finally, he hooks a finger over it, yanking it once in indication - around when the white thread, yet again, crosses over, much like, further back, the crossover that indicates an explosion wiping out New York City. "This is when he must have sent me," he says. "But I guess in your time, I was… never sent anywhere." Or was he? At Eileen's question, he goes still, carefully listening.

"How do I?" Edward raises one ragged brow, blue eyes shifting behind the lenses of his glasses to Eileen, "Miss Ruskin, I do believe time travel is outside the scope of my specific powers." His voice takes on a markedly incredulous tone, and with a click of his tongue and a shake of his head, he waves one hand towards the open door. "If you would be so kind as to go down to the mess and heat up some water?" A thin, painted smile creeps up across Edward's lips. "I think it's time for tea."

No protest comes from Eileen. Without saying another word, she offers Edward a small nod and slips back out the same way she came, swiftly and silently, her leather boots absorbing the sound of her footsteps on the floor.

The strings sway as Sylar lets them go, turning his head just enough to watch, out the corner of his eye, Eileen leave. A pause, the myriad of strings within the room all gently moving, silently, from the recent disturbance, and Sylar ducks under them so he can come stand in the center. Seems like a good place to start. "You didn't answer her question," he points out, not looking at Edward. "Even if it was the wrong one to ask. You do have a plan, don't you."

Edward pauses as Sylar's question hangs in the air. His eyes peer through the latticework of strings, leaniing to one side to peer at Sylar around a newspaper clipping showing a headline that reads, "RICKHAM WINS!" His eyes narrow slightly, and then he just brushes it all away with an affable smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes. But there's something in Edward's tone of voice, however, that has an even more serious tone.

"Mister Gray," He over-enunciates the name, as if to make his point more clear, "let one thing be absolutely clear…" That smile finally reaches Edward's eyes as he tilts his head ever so slightly to the side.

"I always have a plan."

Again.

"I always have a plan."

And again.

"I always have a plan."

And again.


Elsewhere


"There is only one Hiro Nakamura," Kathleen's eyes snap open at the sentence, and she's in a room full of strangers again. What she heard is said with all the affirmation of a man who finds his own individuality important. "I would not do this to myself, I— could not do this to myself without causing irreparable damage to the timeline. The sheer amount of irrecoverable damage would be unimaginable, we would all be severed strings. This is someone with less finesse than I have, someone different that can do something like what I do. I am not throwing your life away, Richard…" That name again, Richard. Kathleen looks around, her head swimming.

"I have no intention of sending you back to 1977," Hiro explains, and the date clings to the back of Kathleen's mind like flypaper. "There is nothing going on there, no ripples, no distortions from the timeline we are in at present. Rhys," that name, too, like a neon sign burning behind her eyes, "has seen nothing in that era that would indicate I would need to bring you there. Richard, I do not play games with people's lives… I believe you have me confused with someone else."

"Someone once told me about certainty…" Cardinal's jaw sets for a moment as he considers Hiro, the suspicions aroused by the conversation all stirring in his head like a thousand buzzing wasps through a hive, "…it's his flaw too, you know." Edward's, Kathleen understands.

A breath's taken, exhaled, and then he nods, once. "Alright. I'll do this. But…" A gloved finger thrusts at Hiro, "…after this little time war is over… you need to promise me that you'll find out what the hell Samson was talking about. I don't have any intention of dying before I was born." Kathleen's mind swims again, on tides of possibility and probability. She sees threads separating and connecting, converging and ending in paradoxical means.

"I do not presume to know the motivations of anyone who bears that name, let alone one who… apparently tried to kill me while I was sick in the hospital." It's a point that Hiro seems a little confused about, but the notion has his brows furrowing and jaw squaring. "What of you?" Hiro asks with a look to Niklaus, watching the German cautiously.

"I have every intention of going," Niklaus affirms with a suspicious look to Hiro, "after all, I need to save my family do I not?" There's something bitter in Niklaus' tone that seems to imply some small level of frustration in what he's doing, but that it isn't entirely directed at Hiro, the swordsman is thankful for. Offering Niklaus a nod, Hiro takes a step forward towards Cardinal, then lays a hand on his shoulder, offering out his other hand to the German. When Niklaus takes Hiro's hand, it incites a warning from the time-traveler.

"Remember," Hiro states firmly, looking ot Cardinal, "every choice you make here, will drastically affect the future. I will be able to clean up memories and some of the mess left behind by your footprints, but not everything. Consider the butterflies." Kathleen's eyes fall shut, a throbbing pain lances through her skull.

"Consider the butterflies."

Again.

"Consider the butterflies."

And again.

"Consider the butterflies."

And again.


Elsewhere…


"History is funny that way," Simon Broome is sitting at a chess table in Central Park, with Richard Cardinal on the other side. Kathleen stands behind Cardinal, and now she has her hands on his shoulders. Simon Broome is an unfamiliar face, but he's a knot in threads. He moves a pawn forward two spaces on the opposite side of the board from his knight, opening up an angle of approach for his left side bishop. Three moves later he'll checkmate. Richard doesn't see it yet, Kathleen does. "Events happen, some great and some terrible, and the people who were there to experience them always have the most vivid recollections of what it was, what it felt like, what it truly meant when it was happening." Leaning back in his seat, Simon's brows crease and one dark brow rises slowly.

"Then, years later, you have the spectators who weren't there, who did not live what happened commenting colorfully on the could have's and should have's, those who are given the gift of hindsight to second guess the choices that were made. They weren't there, yet that will criticize as if they were. Then, in their time, they will be forced to make choices, participate in history, and somewhere down the line there will be others who will look back on their choices and wonder…"

A black bishop slides across the board in a slice that brings it to stand before the advanced pawn, Richard's fingers lingering for a moment before drawing away. "They say that hindsight is twenty-twenty," he admits, knuckles dropping to rap against the edge of the table, "And most people tend to imagine that the people who were there had a chance to think, to consider, to plan… when, usually, they didn't. They made the decisions they thought they had to at the time…"

He shrugs one shoulder upwards, "…and hoped for the best. Foresight's a much rarer gift than hindsight."

Again.

"Foresight's a much rarer gift than hindsight."

And again.

"Foresight's a much rarer gift than hindsight."

And again.


Elsewhere…


The cold winter wind blows steadily across Central Park, branches rustling together and the distant sound of a dog barking and a jogger running past muted distractions. Simon Broome is lost in thought, staring down at the finished game of chess, going over the moves again and again in his mind. Kathleen stands behind Simon, now. Hands on his shoulders, moving down his arms. She's moving the pieces. She sees further than he does.

"You started a game without me?" Startles Simon from his thoughts, brings him back to the present as he looks up to the source of the voice. Kathleen doesn't need to look to know the voice. In her periphery there is a wiry man in a white windbreaker hiding his dress shirt and necktie save for the collar offers a teasing shake of his head and chastising click of his tongue.

"Oh, no… I was just…" Simon's dark eyes narrow, then look back up as his partner he'd been waiting for folds himself down into the seat Richard was just in, looking at the board through the lenses of small, round glasses. He laughs, blue eyes alighting to Simon. Kathleen laughs at the same time, in the same inflection.

"You were just winning in what, four moves?" One of his fine brows lifts and there's a grin spreading across his face as he starts rearranging the black side of the board. "Clearly you haven't found a replacement for me yet," he says with fond confidence.

"No," Simon notes, handing the black king across the board to his opponent.

"No I haven't, Edward."


The Commonwealth Arcology


Kathleen jolts up, covered in sweat, her eyes wide and bloodshot. Blood streaks across her upper lip, down her cheeks and one side of her face. Her pillow is stained in it, her hands tremble. She isn't in her bed. She awakes on the floor of her dormitory, a Sharpie marker clutched in one hand. She's scribbled something on the floor, something in deep black. A curving line, with three forks. Her stomach turns and she reflexively drops the market with a clatter.

"What," is Kathleen's breathless first words. She stands up, staggering away from the symbol on the floor, looking to her blood and marker speckled hands. Her eyes blur, head swims, and she looks to the symbol again. Unfamiliarity replaces itself with certainty.

Studies in the field of dreams define "dream logic" as subconscious definition of reality.

Kathleen walks in a circle around the symbol, swallowing dryly.

The dreamer's subconscious fills itself with enough context to understand and accept the unreality that surrounds it.

She looks to the door to her room, but sees more than that.

But what of the subconscious of a dream-traveler? What do their subconsciousness fill when it is the dreams of others that they experience?

"I understand," Kathleen whispers to herself.

What doors could that open?

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