Old Family Movies, Part II

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Scene Title Old Family Movies, Part II
Synopsis A trail of breadcrumbs set to videotape are finally viewed from the privacy of a hotel just outside New York City… and the truths revealed are horrific for the past and future alike.
Date September 10, 2018

The Last Road


There are still places out there in the United States where the infrastructure wasn’t completely destroyed, places in far better condition than the Safe Zone. It was from one of those places that Richard Ray received a phone call - to his utter surprise - to meet his contact outside of the city proper, and to bring a certain piece of equipment. It took a few days to make arrangements, but then, it was going to take her a few days of travel anyhow.

The Last Road is, perhaps, an ominous name to the run-down motel and gas station that can be found on one of the roads up to - and from - New York City, and it’s hard to tell which direction of the road the place is referring to.

A case could be made for both.

There’s only one of those motel rooms inhabited at the moment, the neon sign outside casting a ruddy light through the drawn curtains that mingles with the yellow-white of the single lamp in the room. The whole place is running off a generator of some type - Richard didn’t ask what kind - but no amount of electricity can restore signal to the old cathode-tube television set that remains in the room as a relic of better times.

They’re not here for cable anyway, so as the evening drags on he’s sitting on the floor cross-legged beside that television, bent over and attaching the cables to an old Sony U-Matic VTR of all things. Obsolete equipment hooked up to antique in the hopes that it’ll actually work.

No suit for him this far from his home base, just an old pair of BDUs and a wifebeater at the moment, a shotgun lain to one side of his work in case someone suddenly bursts in and tries to kill him.

It happens more often than someone might think.

“So…” Des has rented a double room for herself. The second queen-size bed makes for a handy place to spread out her belongings in lieu of a reasonable table. She unzips her duffel bag. “I have a stack of tapes here,” which explains the need for the U-Matic if that wasn’t abundantly obvious by virtue of having asked for it in the first place, “and I really wish Jean-Martin were still alive, because he needs to answer for this.”

Not what Richard thinks. Probably.

“These are all chapter titles for my upcoming memoir,” Des declares as she starts pulling the cassettes out one by one. “Systemic Failure. Helios. ACGTU…” None of these so far sound particularly chapter title-worthy. “That’s RNA,” she adds as an aside for the acronym. (By supplying a slightly less obscure acronym as explanation. Just go with it.)

“Nightmare,” Des continues, “Wrong Turn. Broken Watch. Poor Choices.” She sighs dramatically, heavy on the exasperation. “It’s like it could be candid camera footage of my life.” For all they know, it is. Probably not, but, honestly? Stranger things…

“What the hell did Luis even film these on,” Richard complains, “I mean, sure, the tape he sent me with Michelle and Edward and all that— I mean, university, antiquated equipment and all that, but why a fucking U-Matic. Jesus.”

The last converter is plugged in, and he leans back, regarding the green light that flickers on. “I think it’s working,” he admits, and then twists to look back at her, “Those are some pretty ominous fucking titles. There better not be an evil dimensional horror hiding in one like that video the kids found.”

“I make literally zero promises.” Des takes her stack of tapes and sets them on the floor beside the antiquated player. “I assume these were all done in some academic study or other, and then… that’s just the format they stayed on. Because no one revisited the projects?” That seems fairly likely to her, at any rate.

And if no one revisited the projects, there had to be a very good reason. It seems as though a lot of what Richard’s mother worked on was buried deep.

Des rakes her fingers through her dark hair, shaking her head. “I’m partial to starting with the RNA video, myself. That seems the least terrifying of the bunch.” Which is possibly the exact opposite of true, but Des watched people fall into goo and took notes on it, so whatever genetic experimentation she imagines could be documented, it doesn’t scratch the surface of what she’s seen with her own eyes.

“Only you would think that the tape named after some weird genetic experiment is probably the least terrifying,” Richard says wryly, although there’s affectionate humor in it as he reaches over, picking up one of the tapes and regarding the label. “I assume there wasn’t any sort of order they were in, because that’d be too fucking easy.”

He sets it down, lifting another to consider, “I’ll admit, I’m curious about Helios given how the sun affects what we’re working with, but I guess the order doesn’t really matter. We’re watching them all.”

“There might have been,” Des admits with a shrug. “But they got a little jumbled around in transit, so I’m not sure what it was.” She takes up a perch at the corner of the bed-turned-table and glances toward the window. The shades are drawn and there are no gaps, thanks to a hairclip she used to hold the two pieces together in the middle.

Looking down at her boots, she frowns. “He wasn’t just dead, Richard. Adam Monroe murdered him.” And for what, she hasn’t been able to determine. That it might have been for something long past seems likely. “The symbol was painted on the wall in blood.” You know the one. “Like it was some kind of message.”

“I know,” Richard says with a sigh, one hand coming up to rub at his face, “Tyler told— wait. Wait, he fucking left the bloody symbol on the wall and ran off? At least— he took care of the body, at least, buried him, gave the old man some final respect…?”

He looks unsure. Tyler isn’t the best at thoughtfulness, after all.

Des shakes her head slowly as Richard puts together what Tyler told him. “He… had a blanket over him?” Her face scrunches up sort of apologetically and sort of like she’s been told something she finds distasteful. “That makes a lot more sense now. Because Adam sure as hell didn’t do that.”

“Oh, for Christ’s…” Richard buries his face in one hand, mumbling against his palm, “He’s a replicator, he couldn’t spare a fucking body to dig a grave? Or at least call the police, Jesus, it’s been months…”

“Yeah, it didn’t smell great in there.” But she’s showered like three times and left those clothes in the trunk of the car. It’s a little chilly with the tanktop, having given up her sweater in the name of protecting against olfactory offense, but it’s a necessary sacrifice. “Should’a had you bring me a hoodie,” Des laments quietly.

“Who do you think the message was for anyway?”

“You can wear my jacket if you’re cold,” says Richard, motioning with a hand to the old bomber jacket draped over the television stand. Where the television used to be, before he took it down to mess with its wiring, anyway. A glance over, a bit of a grin cracked, “I’d offer to warm you up another way, but— we’ve got some serious work here.”

The grin fades, then, and he admits, “No idea. Maybe just a— statement of intent? He’s a serious Evolved supremacist, so it’s possible he’s just going after anyone even vaguely connected to the old Icarus days…”

Des laughs, slightly startled by how forward he is, and blushing. She pushes herself to her feet again and snatches up the jacket, pulling it around her shoulders but not putting her arms inside just yet. It’s still warm from him, and she smiles absently at that.

“That could be.” The smile fades. “Maybe he really is just… that flamboyant.” Funny, that. “For some reason, I always seem to fall in with the theatrical ones.”

“I’m feeling awfully attacked here,” Richard quips, and then he reaches over to grab a tape— not really paying attention to which, so he ends up grabbing the one she’d put on top, labeled ACGTU — and slide it into the player, “Anyway, let’s find out what’s on these tapes…”

“I turned over a new leaf with you,” Des insists, grinning. “Just don’t prove me wrong by launching into long scenes from Shakespeare or whatever.”

There's a crackle from the television, a line of white that slowly rolls from top to bottom, rips into two for a moment, then comes back together right before it reaches the bottom of the screen. A moment later, there's a hiss and a pop of audio, and a warped, flanged audio of what sounds like voices. It's unintelligible, at least at first. Then as the tape winds on, a grainy picture of washed out colors comes into focus.

Adam Monroe.

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He is strapped into a chair, leather restraints on his arms and legs. He's screaming, but a gag over his mouth is keeping whatever he's saying from being audible. The room around him is too dark and in too high of a contrast from the light blooming off of his white shirt to make out details, except that there's a small amount of what looks like blood on his clothes.

Suddenly, the gag is pulled out of his mouth by an unseen hand. It pulls forward, then drops down loose around his neck. Adam spits in the direction of the camera. Then there’s another invisible force against his jaw and neck and his head is forced back.

«You’ll talk when I want to hear what you have to say.» Arthur Petrelli says from across the gulf of time, immortalized on this old tape recording. Hearing his voice again sends a chill down both Des and Richard’s spines for wholly different reasons.

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«Let’s talk about — » there's a warped noise that distorts the audio, « — for a minute. Hm? Because right now, I've got a room full of dead agents I have to answer for and I feel like you've been fucking me.» Slowly, the telekinetic grasp on Adam’s face relaxes. «Have you been fucking me, Adam?»

«You'd know.» Adam manages to say with a smug expression, eliciting a quick snap of his neck. Adam goes limp in the chair, and there's a deep sigh from Arthur on the other side. «Send him back to his cell until he straightens out. We’ll try again t — »

The video abruptly cuts to footage of Adam pacing around in a cell with a thick glass wall between him and the hallway. Odessa immediately recognizes it because of the color stripe on the concrete wall. It's Level 5.

«Comfortable?» Arthur’s voice again. Adam gives him a dirty look. «So, here we are again. I need you to talk to me about — » another warping sound distorts the tape audio « — and your plans. You've got a lot to lose right now, Adam.» That makes the blonde pause his pacing. «Triplets. I'd hate for them to grow up and not remember their father.»

«You lay so much as one finger on their heads and so help me God, Arthur, I…» There's a moment of silence between the awkward pause and what comes next.

«You've got nothing. Now tell us how to stop that thing or I’ll seal you in a concrete block and drop you to the bottom of the ocean.» Arthur’s threat is made with a livid intensity.

«You can't.» Adam responds sharply, coming up to the glass. «You don't understand, Arthur, there's no winning this one. The Rolling fucking Stones basically wrote a song about them. Been around for a long, long, years? Stole many a man’s soul and face? Coincidence, but it plays nice.»

«The Devil isn't real.» Arthur spits back, his shadow briefly visible in the glass. «What is it?»

Adam slams his palms against the glass loudly. «The fucking Alpha and Omega, Arthur! The beginning and the fucking end! Where do you think we came from? A fucking rib? Where do you think I came from!?»

There's silence for a moment, and Arthur becomes partly visible in frame. «Are you telling me that thing inside Nisatta is one of us?»

Adam’s expression turns into a manic smile. «Arthur. That's so cute. They’re more than we are, to the magnitude we’re more than normal folks. Like I said, they came first. Were first.»

Adam’s mouth creeps up into a smile. «They made us in their image.»

The tape cuts there, black, but not done.

Richard just leans back against the edge of the bed, one hand coming up to rub at the curve of his jaw— short nails rasping against stubble would give his hairdresser a conniption if he saw. “Christ almighty,” he swears under his breath, slanting a look to Desdemona, “Do you think they’re talking about that thing— the one the kids saw? Fuck, the tape won’t even say its name… and Nisatta?”

He stares at the black screen, “Do you think they’re related to Kam Nisatta? And what triplets?” He only knows one set of Evolved triplets, and there’s no way that he means them.

Right?

Des is made visibly uncomfortable by the sight on the screen. Slowly, she lowers herself down to the floor in front of the television to sit cross-legged, transfixed. Arthur Petrelli’s is a voice she’d gotten used to hearing of late, and it makes her shudder. There’s worry on her face for the state Adam is in. When he was her patient, she had tried to do better by him than what he had previously endured. Even if they parted on the worst of terms, it upsets her to see him mistreated. Especially by Arthur.

“I don’t know,” she says quietly, gaze a little haunted by what they’ve seen thus far. “Too much of a coincidence otherwise…” Des watches the screen warp and distort the way that old tapes tend to even when there’s no image to show. Is this the part of the horror show where she’s supposed to reach over to clutch Richard’s hand?

The image flickers back into clarity after a brief burst of static, interrupting Des’ thought. On the screen is a lab, and an unfamiliar woman is stepping away from the camera in a white lab coat, dirty blonde hair, and loose sweater. She was clearly setting up the camera, and takes a step back from it as she does. Also in frame is a tall and thin man in his late thirties or early forties, short, dark hair and a long face. He looks familiar to Des, and she almost places him before the woman calls him out.

«This is Victoria Pratt, overseeing researcher for Project Tartarus. With me today is doctor Colin Price.» As she steps aside, a lab comes into view with cages for testing animals, and directly in front of the camera: a severed human arm on an examination table.

“That’s my dad,” Des says softly, disbelief in her tone and on her face. How many times has she looked at the picture in that file and tried to imagine what he was like in the full motion of life? She reaches out and clutches at Richard’s forearm with one hand, her eyes glued to the screen and what happens next.

“Oh,” Richard breathes out, his other hand reaching to cover hers, “Oh, shit. And is that a— “ A glance to her face, worried, then back to the screen, “Yeah, that’s… that’s a severed arm. Tartarus? I’ve never heard of it, I just heard that your father was working on the Formula project…”

«Mr. Bishop has instructed us to find a chemical countermeasure to the genetic resequencing ability of — » the audio clicks loudly « — in order to prevent it from… I don't know making us unable to process oxygen if we so much as look at it the wrong way. What we've done is taken a tissue sample from Adam Monroe as you'll see on the film.» Colin Price is narrating as he walks over to the arm. «Files we were able to obtain on the Nazi’s research in Project Hydra indicate that Adam’s cells remain regenerative — but without instruction on what to do — for up to 72 hours after severance.»

Victoria Pratt disappears into the background, the sound of clinking glass can be heard on the distorted audio.

«My theory is that the genetic resequencing isn't entirely dissimilar to how Adam’s neurological pathways instruct his regenerative cells to return to a baseline form. Without those impulses they're without instruction. Therefore,» Colin begins plugging electrodes into the arm, «if we can figure out how those messages are sent, maybe we can find a means to block them.»

«Without causing neurological failure.» Victoria calls from over Colin’s shoulder. Colin, wiping a hand at his brow grimaces awkwardly.

Something about the timing of this and the way the video was intercut tells a story. The first footage was of worse quality, recorded over the start of this tape. This footage of Victoria and Colin seems a few years older, possibly predating Colin’s death or putting him somewhere nearby. Even the footage is out of order.

«What we need to do next i— » The take scrambles into a colored mess of horizontal bands, there's a brief glimpse of the hand on the severed arm flexing, then just static. The remainder of the tape appears to have been demagnetized sometime in the past. They're old, it happens.

The player continues to turn the spools, playing static and scan lines.

“My God.” Des knew firsthand, of course, that some of the Company’s experiments were barbaric and the stuff of nightmares, but this is something else. Knowing who’s attached to the project makes her feel a bit sick. “I guess I didn’t fall far from the tree,” she mutters. “What the fuck was—”

Des shakes her head and finally releases her vice-like grip on Richard, sighing heavily as she flexes her fingers and rests both her hands in her lap, watching the static on the screen. “I guess that means it’s your turn to pick.” She manages to tear her eyes away from the screen and look to her companion.

“That’s another project name I haven’t heard before, Hydra…” Richard’s eyes widen as the arm starts to twitch, and he releases a breath he didn’t know he was holding as the screen turns to static. “Christ. That— what were they talking about?”

He looks back to meet her gaze, brow furrowing, “The— thing— has a genetic resequencing ability? It can change genetics on the fly? Jesus, no wonder they were so terrified of it, but— “

Back to the screen, “Why would they erase their own memories of what happened? Even your father’s, probably…”

“I… have more information on Hydra. Not much, but I found a file and- Later.” Des cuts herself off with a hint of self-directed frustration. One mess at a time. And that file is a big mess.

As to the rest, what they’ve just seen, Des finds herself at a loss for concrete answers. “I don’t know. Whatever it is, even Adam seems to have some kind of respect for it.” The scientist looks down at her hands in her lap where one thumb is nudging at the cuticle of its opposite. “Ideas and memory hold power. Maybe… Maybe that’s what this is. There was a girl once whose ability, I heard, would flourish around positive emotion. What if there’s someone whose strength comes from… being known?”

It sounds an awful lot like the plot of one of those fairy stories she used to read when she was younger. But those seem less and less fantastic every day.

“Mm.” At the mention of later for Hydra, Richard nods a bit, agreeing that whatever it is— it can wait. It isn’t as if the animate severed arm of Adam was, as they speak, crawling through the shower drain and coming after them.

Hopefully, anyway. God knows they’d seen stranger things.

“Mala,” he confirms about the positive energy, “She was one of the girls at the Lighthouse, Brian mentioned her now and then… well. Let’s see what other surprises we’ve got waiting.”

Helios is the next tape, picked up and slid into the machine.

With a click and a whirr the tape begins to play. The screen is once again a distorted image of static and colored scan lines that flicker and tear in horizontal banding. When the sound kicks in there’s just a high-pitched electronic beeping sound in an irregular rhythm — not Morse code, but not entirely dissimilar — before the image cuts to a time-lapse recording of the sun and the moon passing in front of it to make an eclipse.

When the eclipse reaches totality, there's an unusually discomforted feeling in both Des and Richard, and instead of progressing past the sun the eclipse just hangs in the sky. Clouds zip by, one after another, and the sun starts to track its way across the heavens, but the moon… follows it.

The sun reaches the horizon as a brief flash of dusk colors the screen, and then the sun sets and the tape just stops with a loud click. The screen goes black.

Then there's a grinding sound in the player and the tape kicks on again after another series of loud clicks and the skyline is briefly visible again before the image flickers and turns to static again. A few moments later there's a jump cut to a glass walled cell in Level 5. The cell is empty. A moment later there's a high pitched scream from the cell and a silhouette of a circulatory system comes flashing into view inside of the cell, flailing wildly in vibrant pink and red. Unblinking and lidless eyes stare directly at the camera. Just as quickly as it appeared it disappears. The tape goes black again.

When it jump cuts back, it's in the middle of a washed out and older recording. Kaito Nakamura is in frame in a blue blazer and a white turtleneck with shaggy, dark hair. Beside him, a younger Daniel Linderman stands with him over a lab table where dead plants are under heat lamps.

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« — ince 1967, we’ve observed two cosmic events that affect our kind.» Kaito Nakamura says as he watches Linderman touch the plants one by one and bring them back to life. «The August 2nd, 1972 Space Age Storm, produced three X2-class solar flares that bombarded the earth with cosmic radiation, changing solar wind speed from 350 to 585 kilometers per second. When the storm hit on August 4th it //supercharged the abilities of every Special human in the affected hemisphere.//»

Kaito looks down at what Linderman is doing, healing the dead plants, then looks back to the camera. «Just two years later in July of 1974 a second coronal mass ejection fling irradiated particles at the earth resulting in significant ability diminishment or complete and utter powerlessness in some cases. Both times these events lasted for less than twenty-four hours.»

Kaito points at the screen. «As a Company Agent, it is up to you to understand how to handle these dangerous situations and how to compartmentalize uncontrolled Special abilities from the public view.»

Linderman slowly looks up at the screen, he is clearly reading something held by the cameraman. «Teamwork saves lives,» has wooden delivery, «teamwork is the backbone of the Company. But don't take my word for it, ask our space research specialist at the Colobanth Research Facility, Charlotte Roux, th— »

The tape cuts to static and presents no more data.

There’s silence for a long moment as Richard just stares at the screen, at the static as if the patterns of black and white would resolve into something that made sense. After that moment, he sweeps a hand up to point at the screen and exclaims, “What the fuck was that?”

“Seriously, what the fuck was that, the moon was fucking moving, Des. What was that thing in the cell, what was— “ A slow breath is draw in, exhaled, and he brings a hand up to rub at his face, muttering, “What the fuck. Did you know that the Company even had a space research facility?”

Des, for all that she can be impassive to the strange, lets out a terrified shriek at the silhouette in the cell. “What the fuck?!” She has her hand pressed to her mouth for the remainder of the tape. There’s a sort of surrealism to the internal Company training material.

Bewildered, she slowly turns to Richard and watches him while he rants. “I told you the RNA video would be less scary,” she jokes, but rather numbly. “That had to be some kind of… editing, right? Some effect?” Because eclipses don’t work that way. And the space research facility? Des shakes her head several times. No, not a clue.

“I just— I don’t even know what to think,” Richard admits, staring at the static for a few more moments as he tries to make sense of what they just saw. Not enough puzzle pieces. Not enough strings. This is a whole new vista, an entire part of the world that seems to have been hidden from everyone.

Until now.

He pinches the bridge of his nose with one hand, eyes closing for a moment. “You— you pick the next one. We’ve got to get through these, something’s got to come together.”

Looking through the stack, Des heaves a heavy sigh. “Sure,” she mutters to herself as she lays her hand on the next tape, pulling it out to swap with the one in the player. “Why not this one? Systemic Failure. What can possibly go wrong in this one?”

Before she pushes the tape all the way in, however, she stops and leans over to kiss Richard, flashing him a nervous smile. “Thanks for coming all this way to watch horror flicks with me.”

And now, on to the next.

As soon as the tape begins to play an image pops onto the screen in washed out color and crackling scan lines. The shape is at first inscrutable, a triangle of metal. Then, immediate recognition: Looking Glass.

But this isn't Michelle Cardinal’s device, isn't the size of a dehumidifier and sitting on a table in a Kansas science lab basement. This is a much larger apparatus of cooked wires and cables, exposed copper tubing, and the triangular metal frame is some six feet tall at its apex, based on comparison to other objects in frame.

«Alright.» It's not an immediate familiar voice. «This is… this is so far beyond me, beyond us. We shouldn't do this. We really shouldn't.» The timid man's voice is still unclear, though the one that comes in response isn't.

«Bring her over.» Bob Bishop, a dead man, speaks from the past over the warbling audio quality of the tape. A teenager moves into frame shortly thereafter the order, wiry and dressed in a tweed jacket. He has a shock of red hair and for a moment he's easily mistaken for Walter Trafford — similar facial features — until he talks.

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«Mr. Bishop…» The source of this redhead’s concern is the wheeled cart he moves ahead of himself, trailing wires and cables behind it. On top of the cart is a two year old with a tuft of blonde hair, electrodes attached to her temples and special wire fabric gloves on her hands with rubber insulated cables coming off of them. «…I don't like this.»

«I don't like it either, but we don't have much choice. Angela said she'll manifest in adolescence and be able to generate the power we need. But we don't have time.» The redhead teen looks back, brows furrowed in worry, and then turns to the child who can only be Bob’s daughter Elle, and rests a hand on top of her head, gently brushing her hair with his fingers.

Exhaling a sigh, the redhead takes a few cautious steps back and then begins to emit a scintillating rainbow-hued aura that distorts the video on the tape considerable. That aura then shines over Elle as well, and electricity begins to erupt from her body in snapping bolts. «Oh my god,» Bob whispers, and Elle continues to build with electrical output.

«How much more, Mr. Bishop?» The redhead shouts over the electrical snapping.

«All the way, Daniel. Give her everything you've got, we need to see if the trap— » Before Bob can finish his sentence there's an explosion from one of the wires, spraying molten rubber and a brief blast of flame. The video flickers and pops and then cuts to static.

There is nothing left on the tape.

“That’s Ellie,” Des breathes out when the little girl enters the frame. Her eyes get large, filling with tears. She doesn’t realize exactly what this will turn out to be, but she knows that horrible things were done to her friend at the hands of the Company.

The hands of her own father.

Could it be that they really felt they had no choice, that Bob Bishop felt there was no other resort than to damage his only daughter irreparably? When it’s over, she whispers, “My God.”

“It has to be,” Richard agrees, and as he realizes what’s going on he reaches over to close his hand over Des’s again, fingers squeezing against hers as the experiment using her childhood friend is shown on the screen.

He’s shaking his head as the video cuts, “Christ, Bob. Just— what were they doing? Were they trying to use her to power the Looking Glass? What trap?”

The questions have no answers at the moment, the hissing static keeping its secrets well.

Des clutches Richard’s hand tightly, reaching up with her free one to wipe away the few tears that have spilled down her cheeks. “If I thought I could do it, I’d have half a mind to bring him back to life just so I could kick him in the ribs. Let him live with his sins until he unravels again.”

While she’s trying to be a better person, there are situations she’ll make exceptions for.

Holding the file she recovered from Luis’ living room is feeling like the right choice the further along they head down this rabbit hole. It might help to serve as a palate cleanser when they’re done with all of this. “Your pick now.”

“Do I have to?” It’s tongue-in-cheek, an almost-smile tugging up at the corner of Richard’s lips as he gives her hand another squeeze. “I should go give my sister-in-law a hug after this,” he sighs, reaching out to eject the tape. It’s set to one side, and he picks up the next tape.

Broken Watch it says.

He slides it in, and leans back, hand closing over Des’s again, “Odds we get Gabriel or Samson in this one?”

“And an extra one from me.” The squeeze is returned, then Des withdraws her hand again. She looks at the title he’s picked and smiles faintly. That would have been her next choice. Great minds.

His comment has Des’ smile fading swiftly, recalling a conversation from nearly a decade ago. “If you ask them, it’s the rest of us that are broken.”

The tape makes a few clicking sounds once its inside the player, then a crackling noise plays over the television, followed by a pop and a hiss of static. Horizontal bands of color streak up and down across the screen with a distorted image between them that is impossible to make out, though it looks somewhat like waves or the ocean. When the image comes into focus it isn’t water at all, but rather contains video footage of a clock. The second hand is moving back and forth across the same spot. The hour and minute hands aren’t moving, locked at 11:08 for the entire duration of the tape.

Nine minutes into the footage, a thick-fingered hand holds up an open pocket watch in front of the camera, too blurry to read at first. When the camera slowly pulls focus, the pocket watch also shows the time as 11:08, and the second hand is locked in the same position, flicking back and forth between the 10 and 11 second mark. The watch is held on camera for several minutes of presumed time, then is lowered.

The wall clock against a concrete wall is all that’s shown again for one and a half hours. Then finally an unfamiliar voice on the tape murmurs, «Fuckin’ wild,» and the tape cuts to static with nothing further on it.

Well, it was less terrifying than the others. Richard brings a hand up, scratching at the back of his neck briefly. “Huh. Maybe— maybe this is someone with a power like yours,” he asks, glancing to Des, “Living between seconds, pausing reality like that?”

Covering a yawn behind her palm, Des shakes her head slowly. “It could be, but I don’t think so. It… seems symbolic to me.” Peeling her eyes away from the screen, she gives her attention to Richard again, scrubbing her hand over the lower half of her face before she continues.

“It was eleven-oh-eight. Eleven eight.” This might be reaching so far that Des is beginning to feel like a conspiracy theorist. (Well, that’s the whole point of all of this, isn’t it?) Her expression is part apology and part worry. “November eighth? Shit keeps happening. What if that’s… prophecy, and not temporal bullshit?”

“You’re right.” Richard’s gaze hoods a little as he looks back at the screen, frowning, “Eleven-oh-eight, back and forth… repeating, over and over. Just like what’s been happening over and over again…”

He glances to the pile of tapes, then back to her, “Your turn.”

“I think I hate this.” The stack of tapes is dwindling. “So let’s just take the one that represents this evening, huh?” Des grabs Poor Choices and swaps out Broken Watch, setting it aside with the others they’ve finished.

“If it’s footage of the two of us sitting in this room,” Des jokes, “I’m out of here.” But she’s also kind of not really joking.

“Don’t even joke,” Richard says dryly, shifting to lean back against the edge of the bed, tense as he waits for the static to resolve into yet another surrealistic horror.

Or maybe a Slusho! promotional video, at this point he wouldn’t be surprised.

« — on’t know.» A voice is the first thing to greet Des and Richard, a woman’s, and not immediately familiar. The image takes a moment to flicker into view, but it’s clear that it’s a hallway and that the person behind the camera is walking and carrying it down the hall. In frame is a willowy and tired looking woman, possibly in her late teens or early twenties, with long light brown hair and long features. She’s dressed in a slouchy brick red sweater and jeans.

«They need us, Miguel.» The woman says over her shoulder as she defiantly walks ahead, down the hall and toward a closed pair of doors. It isn’t Level 5, but it does look like a Company facility, and one Odessa hasn’t seen in forever: Fort Hero.

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«Okay, chamaca, don’t lay that guilt on me. This isn’t what we were sold on.» The cameraman speaks with a noticeable Spanish accent. «Helping people, save the world, whatever? Radar dish nightmare radio? No. Nope.»

The woman turns around, halfway to the door. Her pale eyes flick from the cameraman to the camera lens, then back again. «Why’re you filming?»

«Because it keeps me from freaking out!» Miguel says with a note of defensiveness in his tone. «And if we get eaten by El Diablo I want there to be an official record that I disagreed to this. They told us to leave.»

The woman arrives at the door, and there is a loud and electric humming coming from beyond. There’s a vibrating throb of a static pulse, In synchronization with the pulse, the camera crackles with static. The woman, hands on the door, closes her eyes. «They’re powering up the device,» she says as though she can see what’s happening. «They… have a baby?»

«Come again?» Miguel says as he moves up beside the woman. «Why are they— what are they doing with the baby?» The woman’s eyes open as he asks that question, looking to Miguel with troubled eyes.

«They’re holding her inside some sort of— » The power goes out with a crackling pop. Both Miguel and the woman scream, and next comes a straining metal sound and a scream.

«Cindy!» Miguel shouts in the dark. «Cindy, run!»

The recording ends here, Miguel likely stopped recording.

“Some sort of what?!” Des shouts at the television, frustration etched deep into the lines of her face. “God damn it!” Her lips purse and she punches the side of the mattress she’s seated next to. “What the hell were they doing? When was this?” She isn’t sure who the hell either person was. If they were even agents. Cindy looked fairly young for it, but… that doesn’t mean anything.

“Do you think it was the Looking Glass behind that door? It seemed to need a hell of a lot of electricity…” Des sags and tips to her left until her shoulder collides with the bedside, leaving her propped up that way. “This is insane.”

“It had to be,” Richard’s own expression is frustrated as well as the feed kicks out, “The Glass would require a shit-ton of power to do what it does, but… a baby? That can’t’ve been Elle, she was like two or three in that other video, not a baby. They didn’t seem to be acting on orders, either— rogue Company agents?”

“Maybe Ryans will remember them,” he considers, reaching over to pop out the tape. Next? ‘Wrong Turn goes into the machine.

The tape clicks down in and whirrs softly, then the horizontal lines begin to streak across the screen with static. As the banding disappears, there’s a vista of a rocky coast and lapping waves. Seagulls are perched on the gray wood pylons of a long vanished pier, standing crooked out of the water. The camera pivots a couple of times, then stops. Out from behind it walks the brown-haired woman from the last video. Her sleeveless white dress flutters in the wind. She turns to face the ocean again, threading dark hair behind one ear.

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There’s no sound on this tape, making the room surprisingly quiet. The woman pivots again, looking back at the camera and motioning for someone to come out from behind it. A gull takes off from one of the pylons, and someone walks into frame from the right side of the camera. A dark-skinned woman in a cobalt and orange sarong, clearly dressed for the beach. Her dark hair is large atop her head, meticulously coiffed.

They walk out together toward the shore. The second woman never turns to face the camera, and they watch the waves coming in. Briefly, there’s a flicker on the tape and it cuts —

— to partially taped over footage of a burning car accident where a red sedan crashed into a logging truck, both of which are engulfed in flames —

— then cuts back to the two by the ocean and stays there for twenty minutes and then stops.

Static crackles over the screen.

“I don’t recognize— whoa!— What was that? I don’t recognize those two…” Richard gives Des an uncertain look, “I don’t know them, do you? What about the sedan, that crash mean anything to you?”

The mundanity of it compared to the others— with that crash in the midst— makes it almost eerily ominous.

“What the…” Des games at the scene. The horrible crash in the middle of such serenity. “What the hell is all this? What did Luis have?

Des eyes the last tape warily. “It's like someone taped family movies over a disaster. None of this makes any fucking sense.” All it does is make her wonder more about what the Company was up to.

A heavy sigh. Maybe it was foolish to expect answers from any of it. “Alright. Time for the capstone of regrets.” She puts in the tape labeled Nightmare.

“Did Luis even film these, why… why do half of these even exist?” Richard’s brow furrows as he looks to the stack of tapes, then back up, “I think that woman on the tape was, uh, Cindy? From the one in the Company facility…”

Nightmare. He shifts a little closer to Des almost unconsciously, looking at the screen, “Let’s see what a bad idea this one is.”

There’s a long period of silence on this tape, just black and no audio. Occasionally a single flashing green light will be visible in the top corner, flickering with erratic quality. It’s reminiscent of the CPU light on an old computer, showing when the hard disc was being read. The audio comes on in fits and starts, mostly clicking sounds — definitely an old computer — and then the rustling of fabric, a soft and distressed noise, and then sudden and ceaseless screaming so loud and so forceful that the child screaming goes hoarse.

A few moments into the screaming a light comes on and floods the screen with a bloom of unadjusted contrast. It takes a moment for whatever camera was recording this to adjust, and a concrete-walled room comes into view, along with a hospital bed and a bank of old computers that may have been cutting edge in the late 1980s. There is a child laying in the bed, tangled in blankets and glistening with sweat, blonde hair matted down to her cheeks and forehead.

It is Odessa.

She is six.

And she doesn’t remember this.

Odessa has electrodes taped to her temples, neck, and one on her forehead. Colored wires move to the computers. She’s screaming, eyes closed, writhing around on the bed with legs kicking. From off camera there’s the sound of a door opening and a figure walks into view so close to the camera that they’re out of focus and blocking view of everything.

«That’s nine straight nights,» is the unmistakable voice of Charles Deveaux. «We’re done with this sleep study.» Somehow, between the pauses in his words, the young Odessa has stopped screaming and fallen silent. «She’s never going to recover naturally,» Charles indicates, stepping out of the way and revealing Arthur Petrelli also in the room, arms crossed and lips downturned to a frown.

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«What’re you suggesting, Charles.» Arthur looks up from the now placid child in the bed. «//Because whatever it is… //»

«I’m saying that none of us are going to recover.» Is an ominous thing for Charles to say. «I can’t keep… protecting everyone every night. There’s something connecting us, all of us to that thing, and I think it’s our minds. I think…»

«What?» Arthur says, looking intently at Charles, demanding an answer.

«We have to do a full redaction.» Charles steps in front of the camera again and walks to Arthur’s side. «We knew this would be a possibility. Everyone. The Founders, our agents, the people we pulled in to this mess… We have to cut them all out. If even one fragment of that entity is still around, I don’t know what could happen.»

Arthur looks down to Odessa, then sucks in a deep breath and exhales a slow sigh. «What happens when one of us stumbles on to the redactions and starts digging? You know how we are.»

«I’m working on a way around that. Altered memories, mass telepathic adjustments. I can… I can possibly do it, but I’ll need the Trafford boy to help.» Charles scrubs a hand at his mouth and looks over to Odessa in the bed again. «We can’t let this keep happening. What we did to her… she’ll never lead a normal life. It would have been kinder if Adam had killed her on that rooftop, than let her live in this torment.»

Arthur draws in a deep breath and scrubs both hands down his face slowly. «I’ll… call in Caspar. We’ll need all three of the Magi, but I think we can do this in a way that gives us an emergency out, in case this bites us in the ass in the future.»

«Maybe.» Charles says with a slow shake of his head. «But if this goes the way I’m expecting, the Magi will need to be redacted too. Nothing escapes.» One of Charles’ hands comes up to rest on the rail at the side of the bed. «For all our sakes.»

Arthur closes his eyes and nods slowly, then looks directly into the camera and raises one hand.

The footage ends.

At that first scream, Richard nearly jumps out of his skin— and then the lights come on.

He recognizes the girl instantly, from the horrors that they saw within Odessa’s mind. He instantly reaches for her, hand clasping over hers, “Des— “

Odessa recognizes the sound of her own screams. Before the light comes on to flood the picture, she goes perfectly still. Richard’s clasp is met with no reciprocation. Without awareness, tears spring anew and run down her face, meeting at her chin in rivulets.

Only when it’s over does she finally blink and suck in a breath like it’s the first time she’s remembered to breathe in the past few minutes. “What did they do to me?” She knows there’s no answer here. The answers lie with so many dead men, who may not even have been able to tell her even if she had been able to track them down while they were still alive.

“What am I?”


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