My Brain Hurts


vf_elisabeth_icon.gif vf_ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title My Brain Hurts
Synopsis This is why Liz hates time travel and assorted other physics things!!! Dammit, Richard!
Date December 1, 2011

Liz's Quarters

Ygraine has a mission. She therefore concludes that it might be wise not to seem too readily as if she has one… so by the time that she comes to find Elisabeth, she has done her usual daily exercise routine, stopped off at the showers for a clean-up, and then changed back into her normal attire.

She has no 'regular' job expected of her. Not really Elisabeth has been trying to get to know people, as she can. She's losing track of days down here in the underground — she knows she is. It's not helping the sense of being trapped. She's at least managed to stop having panic attacks… the overload of triggers seems to have simply overwhelmed her brain's ability to keep on secreting all of those chemicals. So… maybe that's a good thing.

When Ygraine finds her, Liz is actually sitting in her quarters with some paper that she's managed to salvage from the sheet music that Odessa had posted in the room, and she seems to be working on a totally separate piece than the one currently on the front side of the paper.

Ygraine delivers a politely jaunty knock to the door - and cracks a grin when she looks in to find Elisabeth apparently engaged in musical composition. "Would you mind some company for a little bit?", she asks quietly, seemingly at least partly expecting to be sent on her way.

Glancing up, the blonde smiles just a little. It doesn't quite hit her eyes, but it's genuine. "Not at all… come on in." She sets the stub of a pencil and the accompanying paper aside. If it's actual music composition, a glance at the paper might indicate that she's never really done that before at all. At the very least, there seem to be a lot of erasures. "What's on your mind?"

Ygraine slips inside, closing the door behind her. "Well… partly, I'd like to check how you're doing. But I, ahh, had a conversation with Magnes. Apparently as a result of a suggestion from you…?" She looks quizzically hopeful.

As the door closes, Elisabeth sits more upright, her blue eyes immediately more alert. It's not a simple chat, if Ygraine is closing the door. "Yes.. I sent him your way. Of all the people here…. you're about the only one who might have any clue how to help him with his powers. So…" She shrugs a little and smiles. "Did I mention that I rely on you a lot back home?" Clearing her throat a bit, she looks down. "As to how I'm doing? Not… as badly as I could be, not as well as I might wish," she admits.

Ygraine glances around as if checking for anyone else present in the small room, before moving closer and gesturing questioningly to the bed. "Mind if I take a perch? I… yeah. You told me I'm an 'advisor'." There's a hint of teasing there. "But we can set aside what I came to talk to you about, if you need to talk."

Blowing out a breath, Elisabeth laughs quietly. "Sit. Wherever you want." She's just sitting cross-legged on the cot, but she gestures to the other woman to take up the rest of the thing. "You're far more than that. You have been… my friend. My roommate. My shoulder to cry on. My sanity on a couple of occasions. The person I've talked to about hard stuff." She shrugs a bit. "But that took a little time to build, and I didn't want to scare you off. You're still really skittish here… like when I first knew you. So… let's talk about what brought you. And then if you're still so bored or desperate for gossip that you want to hear me whining, perhaps I'll spill it on you." She keeps her tone light, as if she really doesn't want to bother Ygraine at all.

Ygraine studies Elisabeth for a moment… before remembering herself, nodding, and moving to fold onto the available space - her motions not quite so fluid as those of the properly-fed martial artist Liz left behind, but there's clearly a good deal of hard-won physical fitness and suppleness there as she folds smoothly into place. "Skittish, hmm? You might well be right, there. But… well. Yes. I should probably raise a couple of things with you."

The Briton doesn't do so immediately, instead closing her eyes for a few seconds as she gathers her thoughts and searches for words. "I had a moderately detailed talk with Magnes. He's apparently attempting to study, but… is coming from a rather low base of knowledge. It seems that my initial conversation with him, back in… January oh-nine, I think it was, didn't actually inspire him to do anything to learn about how anything he did worked, or what it was he might be doing in any detail, or how it might develop, or…." She shrugs broadly, both looking and sounding a little exasperated. "I can at least half-understand that, since when I asked him a few questions he lost the ability to tap his powers, that night. So there'd presumably have been a fear of replicating that himself, if he started delving. And it's not as if most people feel a need to think through everything, I know…."

"In any case, he's trying now. I mentioned a paradigm or model that he seems happy with. It's not perfectly accurate for how gravity works, but its flaws are beyond my limited understanding. And with that, we have a… language, if you will, that we can use to try to figure out more of what he does. I was able to speculate a bit about how his ability might have interacted with Ruiz's, and he gave me a snippet or two of information there…. Including the statement that Edward predicted that someone would emerge from Ruiz's portals. Possibly even at that time. Do you know if that's right?"

Pursing her lips, Elisabeth nods slightly. "Apparently it is correct, yes. It's something that… bothers both of us. Because it implies that Edward at least suspected the possibilities of parallel realities — as opposed to time traveling, which is what we all thought was happening. And it also lends itself to the idea that Edward has access to some variables that had to have implied the possibility that SOMETHING would eventually come out of there, right? And …. I'm not sure I can wrap my head around that concept, personally. Why?" Liz is curious.

Ygraine arches a brow, chuckles, and grins. "That's why, actually. Magnes didn't seem to have realised that. He knew that Edward had done something odd, in terms of 'probability prediction': he hadn't made the connection to it seeming to suggest that Edward had a variable of 'communication, even travel, between realities is feasible'. From what little I've gathered, you were a complete surprise to Ruiz… which I think implies that whatever Edward picked up was something that bypassed Ruiz himself. That would seem to rule out anything physical. Or even a spoken voice. But how about a transmission of some sort? Of course, for Edward to pick up one of those would require him to have a working receiver - which is not a surprise in itself. Transmitting would be immensely risky for us; receiving, so that he can listen in to events above ground and any 'chatter' the Vanguard might let slip - that would make perfect sense, if he could manage it. My mentioning that line of thought led Magnes to bring up a 'Mallet Device': something apparently designed to transmit between realities?"

There's a long, slow blink from the blonde. She hadn't…. really realized that Magnes didn't get the implication. And then Elisabeth is frowning. "Oh…. oh my God, Ygraine…." She bites her lip, a ferocious frown pulling her brows together. "Okay, I've only caught one or two of these…. and until you *said* that, it wouldn't even have occured to me. I'm so not a science or sci-fi geek." Clearly her brain has seriously spun up into high gear, though, because the audiokinetic bounces off the cot and starts pacing the small confines of the room.

"When I met K-Mart, one of the things Ruiz traded for was a Walkman that I could use to help with the silence factor down here." Elisabeth grimaces and looks at the Briton. "Being negated triggers anxiety for me in the best of conditions, but then throw on top of it that the concrete bunker housing we have muffles sound waves, it leaves me feeling very … cut off. So having something to listen to helped. But K-Mart mentioned at the time that the radio was occasionally picking up broadcasts. Weird ones. That seemed like they were bounced off the stratosphere or something — you know, like that whole idea that we could hear our own old radio waves bouncing back from space after a certain amount of time? But what if……" She bites her lip. "What if those are actually not from here?"

Waving that aside just a little, she says, "The Mallett Device was a machine that was built with the intention of the bad guys sending themselves messages back through time. It's part of how we got here, I'm pretty sure. Because a bunch of us attacked the machine and damaged it, and when it activated, it showed us an alternate world. There was a woman's voice singing a song…" So much was happening, her memories are chaotic. "What if… we didn't just rip a hole from our home to here but ripped… something worse in the fabric of space and time?"

Ygraine looks up, brows lifted as she watches Elisabeth. "That… there… gyah. Erm. Possible. But if the broadcasts were already happening…." She closes her eyes again. "Okay. The simple version is that there are too many theories for how the heck any of this works. There's some evidence that our universe isn't the first. Or necessarily even the second. Naturally, that's disputed. There're theories about a new universe branching off every time a decision is made, or some great event happens, or…." She shrugs, broadly. "Something I posited to Magnes is that whatever he did might work as punching a hole in the fabric of space-time: whatever Ruiz does seems to make holes, but without using gravity. There was mention of him draining electrical power - which, if memory serves, is a lot more efficient than gravity. Gravity's a 'weak' force. Takes a heck of a lot of mass to generate a perceptible effect. Doesn't take a lot of electricity to do things. So… Ruiz 'cheating' and creating something that's not a 'black hole' but is still a 'hole'… that makes at least a little sense."

"But I think that the one dependable property gravity has is that it has a direction. It can't exist without one. Gravity's is something pulling other things towards it. My whole ability is just changing which object things are pulled to. But the pull's still there. So I suggested to Magnes that maybe what his gravity-created hole did in interacting with Ruiz's hole was that he provided a 'pull'. Effectively grabbed the far side of Ruiz's portal, and latched it onto what he'd done himself. I might be utterly wrong, of course. But if I'm right… then that's how you got your wormhole. And it wouldn't mean you'd just torn random holes and made random wormholes in lots of other places. I think you might be looking at something which worked with a clear start and a clear end."

Elisabeth stops and stares at Ygraine. "Do you see my eyes glazing over?" she demands of the Briton. "I have no idea what you just said! Dear God, this is why I let Richard deal with this bullshit! I don't understand it! He's the brains — I'm just the field marshal. Put me in a battle and I can tell you where I want everyone so that shit gets done. But this?? This is so far over my head, you might as well be speaking ancient Egyptian!" Both hands fly to her head and she definitely looks overwhelmed.

Ygraine hesitates a moment, then unfolds, rising to her feet so that she can attempt to put a hand on each of Elisabeth's shoulders. "I think you're okay. I think that if you broke the world - or worlds - when you came through, you only did so once. Creating one tunnel, with a clear start and a clear end. If my crazy suppositions are right. And if that's true… then that means that Edward is either lying about his ability and he's actually a precognitive… or he had data that let him make predictions about people coming through Ruiz's portal. It doesn't necessarily mean that he thought a new arrival would be from another reality: perhaps he was expecting a time-traveller, or someone from the other side of the planet, or whatever. But if he had data, he had to get it from somewhere. And those strange transmissions… they sound like a definite possibility. Particularly since you've heard a transmission coming through some sort of 'hole' yourself."

Blue eyes are a little frantic on Ygraine's, and Elisabeth pulls in a shaky breath, nodding a little. Still clearly not quite following. "Edward…. has to have data. He's not a precog, he's a probability calculator, basically. I don't…. think he's a probability manipulator. At least he wasn't in my world. HOWEVER… in my world, he was also a physicist. He claims that here he was just a math professor, but … he's a liar. He's always a liar."

Ygraine frowns, worriedly. "I… can't immediately see why he'd lie about that. Lying about being a virologist would make sense. A few other things. But why conceal that sort of difference? Certainly, many forms of physics are intimately bound up with mathematics - especially the theoretical side. There're whole fields of research that involve nothing but mathematics, as they try to figure out how things might work on fundamental levels. Which… sounds like his sort of thing. But it wouldn't be a major difference for him to wind up in mathematics, officially, rather than physics."

A quick apologetic look precedes a head-shake. "Sorry. Going off on a tangent again. But I agree that he seems to need data. If he didn't…." One hand lifts from Liz's shoulder to wave around. "This would look rather different, I think. It was lack of knowledge that stopped us in January oh-nine. For him to make a prediction so… so outlandish as to say that it was likely someone would pop out of one of Ruiz's portals? That sounds to me like he had some pretty startling data. Data that Ruiz himself didn't have, so… your mystery transmissions seem a very good bet, to me. Do you think he'd be willing to tell you about them? He's shared more with you than with most of us, already."

"…. Maybe?" Elisabeth replies. "If he thinks I already know about them, he might." She bites her lip and tells Ygraine, "I know he's told at least me more than he's told a lot of people… but I don't think he's telling me because he trusts me. I think … he's already five steps ahead with a plan that I … cannot even comprehend here." With Ygraine's hands still on Liz's shoulders, the tremors that have begun to wrack the blonde's body are actually evident. The anxiety that began when the realization hit her that she is looking at an even bigger clusterfuck than she thought has literally tumbled the overwhelmed blonde into a full-blown panic attack — she flat doesn't know what to do with this information. Elisabeth has to fight not to hyperventilate. "Give me… a second!" she gasps, backpedaling out of Ygraine's immediate orbit so as to give herself just a bit of space.

Pushing her whole body back against the wall, Liz tries to force herself to breathe slowly while her brain runs a million miles a second, it feels like, and gets nowhere. "I…. I don't know what to do with this, Ygraine. I am not smart enough to outthink Edward Ray!" Oh GOD, Richard, where the FUCK are you when I need you? I'd even settle for Hiro FUCKING Nakamura right now!! She closes her eyes and looks toward the ceiling, fighting for every breath to try to slow the hammering of her heart in her chest.

Finally, she says again, even more softly, "I don't fucking know what to do with this."

Ygraine backs up when Elisabeth pulls away - resulting in sitting down rather sharply on the cot. She blinks, rather fearfully watching the blonde try to calm herself. "From what you've said… there're slight differences already. Beyond what Edward says his job was, before. If he had a slightly different field of study, maybe that helps tie it all together? The idea that this is all at least a little 'off' from what you knew. Edward having different knowledge, different skills - maybe that helps explain the changes? Because he just didn't know the things he needed to predict some of the stuff that happened here? But I'm guessing, I admit. My point is… things being different doesn't necessarily mean he's screwing us. There might be other, sound, reasons to think that. But we know there're key differences already. What we don't know is how many there are. Physicist versus mathematician might actually be a significant one. But what you do? We could try finding out if some version of your 'Richard' - I've heard you mention him before - is anyone we've heard of. But we can definitely see if you can learn anything from Edward about the transmissions. He's involving you in things. He wants to learn from you. He's likely to give you information, if only so that you give him information in return. You're valuable."

She knows she's scaring Ygraine, and Elisabeth has a lot of practice at dealing with this. "Just… give me a minute," she insists, more quietly. It takes her longer than she'd like, but when she can finally breathe, the blonde apologizes. "This place… I swear to God is designed to set off every one of the PTSD triggers I have. And I think I've found a couple of new ones since I arrived," she tells Ygraine. "I'm so sorry." Keeping her backside against the wall, Liz leans over and braces her hands on her knees while she thinks. Or at least tries to.

"We can't bring him into this," she replies immediately to the suggestion of Richard. The fact that she's actually said his name out loud is dangerous enough. "Your world's version of Richard Cardinal… never had reason to learn string theory the way my world's version did." She looks up at the other woman and says quietly, "And you cannot breathe a word about him to anyone here. Your Richard …. I need his abilities, and I can't afford to alienate him with … way the hell more emotional ties to a perfect stranger than he's going to be comfortable with. Promise me you won't say anything to anyone?"

"Him?" Ygraine's clearly more than a little surprised. "I… well. The forename put him in mind, of course, but… really? Wow. Ahh, yeah. Okay. I can try to remember not to put my foot in it." She sighs, shooting Liz another worried look. "I know what it's like to…." She gestures vaguely around. "I'm sorry. Truly. And I really do wish I could help."

More than anything, that reaction is able to knock Elisabeth's panic reaction into something less harsh. The blonde starts laughing. Dropping her head, she giggles breathlessly. And when she looks up at Ygraine, she nods slightly. "Indeed." Her amusement is completely genuine. "He's had a shitty life. But… in my world, something happened and he stepped up. And it changed everything in his life." She sighs heavily. "Those things never happened here… so I don't know what to expect of him here. And I don't… really want to confuse the two, if you know what I mean."

Pushing more upright, though still leaning on the wall, Elisabeth tells her softly, "The idea that Edward has data points …. is not one that hit me until you brought it to me. I'll talk to him as soon as possible. He may not be out to screw anyone, I'm not the best judge of character in this world, I'm sure. A lot is still the same, but there's a lot that's different too… and I'm off-balance a lot."

Ygraine nods, managing to find a smile - and to look sheepishly guilty over her kneejerk judgement of the younger Cardinal. "Like I think I said when you first asked me: I've a lot of respect for Edward and his abilities, and he's clearly got a lot 'right'. But I've never been clear on quite what it is that he's doing all this for. He might be a starry-eyed idealist, but he doesn't seem to feel the need to share that with anyone else, if he is. Other people have guilt, and family, and so on - that's why they keep trying. Identifiable reasons you can see if you look. I don't know what it is that's pushing Edward to keep trying so hard. So I'm not quite sure what his real goal actually is. Survival, definitely. But is that all? He's passed up the chance to be a cult leader or dictator, which he could probably have managed as the obvious saviour of everyone he brought here. So what is it that motivates him? It might be something wholly good and benevolent. But I don't know. And for you… that must apply to everyone. You don't know anyone."

Nodding a bit, Elisabeth sighs. "I … In my world, we always wanted to believe the best of the man. Maybe he didn't make all the best choices, but who the hell does? He's never struck me as particularly bad… just … perhaps more pragmatic? And I'm a little biased because some version of him put my name on a list of people who needed to be dead so that certain things didn't come to pass." She shrugs a little. "Was he wrong? I have no idea. I just… don't trust that any choice he makes is… without agenda, I guess. And I'm wary of what his agenda really is." She shrugs slightly. "Then again… are my choices without agenda? Not really. I want to go home. I want to take as many people from this world out of here as I can. Does it make me any better?" She shrugs again.

"Hopefully." Ygraine ventures a small smile. "The best we can do is try to get it right. A lot of people forget those last few words, and think that so long as they try they're doing all they can be. Trying to aim your efforts is kind of important, too. And… yeah. I've not seen anything I've identified as Edward screwing us, and I've seen a lot that's clearly contributed to all of us making it this far. But I still can't say with certainty where it is he's aiming to get to. Or who he sees as important. So… I'm with in you in wanting to believe the best of him, certainly. But I think we need to keep learning what we can. Which means you need to, I'm afraid. When you feel up to it."

"It doesn't matter whether I feel up to it. It needs doing. Because if it's true that the radio stuff has anything to do with any of this, knowing about that could inform what Mateo and Magnes are doing." Elisabeth runs her hands down her face wearily. "I warned him that I was not going to be operating in the dark." She wrinkles her nose. "And until I have the right questions to ask, I can't usually call him out on the situation. But… you've given me some new questions. So… we'll go with that."

She smiles just a little. "As long as his goal is to save as many lives as possible — and I'm even okay with a pragmatic bit of enlightened self-interest here, because who doesn't want to save their own ass? — I am okay. I might not like some of what he does, but …. when the devil drives, you know?"

Ygraine nods, trying to look encouragingly hopeful. "We've made it a lot farther than many of us thought we ever could. And now… well. Whatever's happening, there seems to be hope attached to it. Which is… painful, but good. So I really hope that we can all follow it. But if there's anything I can do to help you, do tell me. Whether it's keeping you company, or leaving you alone, or… trying to stumble across anything else that sparks questions for you to ask. I'm game."

"Keep bringing me the questions, definitely," Elisabeth tells her. "Because I was not kidding….. I am not smart enough to keep ahead of this." She shakes her head. "I don't know why, but I have never been able to wrap my head around the complexities of this shit." She sighs. "But Ygraine? Thank you. For being willing to stick it out with me."

Ygraine shrugs, once again looking bashfully unsure of herself. "Hey, I'm just a crazy nerd following some interesting ideas," she protests - before leaning forward to take the risk of initiating contact with Elisabeth's shoulder again. "If I can be a friend, I will be. And if I can help with all this weirdness, I will. Thank you for believing in me."

Tilting her head, Liz tells her with a sincere look, "I wish…. that I could convey to you how very much I believe in you." There's a rush of tears that she wipes away quickly. "Finding you here… I know you're not the same Ygraine. But you are in so many ways. And having that here… means everything to me. So… thank you." She reaches out and hugs the other woman.

Though startled, Ygraine leans into the hug - and after a few moments, tightly enfolds Liz in one of her own. Words, for once, seem to be beyond her.

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