Radio Waves And Tinfoil Hats


vf_edward_icon.gif vf_elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Radio Waves and Tinfoil Hats
Synopsis Liz and Edward talk about radio waves and family stuff.
Date December 5, 2011

Edward's Office

She so doesn't want to actually verify that any of this is true. The very idea that something we did tore a hole in the entire fucking universe big enough that radio transmissions are coming through it is … not a comforting one. But if Ygraine is correct and it was happening even before the Mallett Device went off, that is even more utterly terrifying. Because something else is clearly going on — and Liz is pretty damn sure she is truly not going to be able to see the pitfalls.

Still, there's nothing for it but to talk to the man himself. Elisabeth isn't one for sending word that she's coming — she just comes. When she knocks on his office door, she already knows that he's in there. And she tells him with a wary expression, “We need to talk.” Don't you hate those words?

There's music coming from Edward’s office, through the door. Though it isn't loud enough to drown out Liz’s voice. After a moment, Edward opens the door and the quartet music carries out into the hallway with the tinny quality of small speakers. “Good, good,” Edward slips away from the door, a pair of large scissors in one hand and a ball of yarn in the other.

The string web has grown exponentially since their last visit, and Edward has taken to elevating it up seven feet overhead so that the clippings and notes dangle down into view. He has a step-stool in the middle of the room, a box of files and folders beside it on the floor. An old portable record player with built-in speakers plays the music a string quartet that clinks with piano notes that sometimes become crashing and discordant arrangements of noise and chaos.

“Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time,” Edward explains with a motion of the scissors to the record player. "It was written while Messaien was a prisoner in Germany Stalag POW camp, and the music incorporates birdsong as analogy to the power of the archangel who announces the end of time." Edward carefully sets the ball of yarn down inside the box of folders, turning to face Liz.

"The quartet itself is…" Edward traces a free hand in the air, "liberated — after a fashion — from the constraints of time in a way. The song never confines to any one beat. Rather," Edward steps back up on his stepstool and cuts a string free from the web, tugging it away with a careful twist of his fingers. "The musicians performing the piece create an elastic rhythm that more or less follow Messaien's inscrutable instructions such as the mind-boggling, infinitely slow."

Balling the severed string into one hand, Edward arches a brow. "I figure you didn't come here to discuss music, though."

She would far prefer discussing music, honestly. Elisabeth's blue eyes take in the string map and she is… truly horrified at the thought that she encouraged this. And yet a part of her is simply resigned. No fate but what we make didn't work as a mantra for Sarah Connor either… because some things apparently have inertia.

She does listen to Edward’s discussion of the musicians. She's not familiar with them, despite her musical education, so it interests her. But her expression is regretful as she agrees, “No… no, I didn't.”

She moves to one side of the office, pulling up a patch of floor and lowering herself to it so she can study the strings from below while they talk. “It's taken me a couple of weeks to acclimate enough that my brain finally kicked in,” she admits in a rueful tone. “When we arrived here, we were not who you were expecting. And it's finally occurred to me to ask exactly who you were expecting and how you knew to expect them.”

She looks at Edward and comments softly, “You told me you had no idea about time travel being a possibility until I said it… but I have this notion that you understand the concept of parallel worlds way better than I realized. Especially if what you're doing is listening to impossible radio transmissions that should not exist … and yet the radios are picking them up.” Elisabeth shoved her hand back over her hair, pulling her knees up to rest her elbows on them and then clasping her hands around her legs.

“Who was it that you were actually hoping for when we fell out of that portal, Edward?”

Edward’s expression shifts from whimsical to somewhat befuddled. He tucks the scissors into the back pocket of his slacks and comes down off of the step-stool, dropping the severed string to the ground as he died. “You know for all the craft supplies I have in here I'd wondered where all the tinfoil had gotten off to.” One corner of Edward’s mouth creeps up into a smile. “For your hat.” He explains, helpfully.

That joke aside, Edward scrubs his hands together and then bends down to pick up the step stool, moving it out of the floor and to the side of the room. “Both concepts existed squarely in the realm of speculative science fiction to me, prior to your arrival. That doesn't mean I didn't think either were impossible. Just unlikely.”

Stool moved, Edward turns around to face Liz and wrings his hands. “When Mateo first began experimenting with his ability, with the portals I’d estimated that there was a possibility that if they could import matter they could also export. You see,” Edward walks over to his desk and picks up a set of old car keys.

“There was an electrical accident here a while back involving Nicole. It's how we learned she was like us.” Edward motions between himself and Liz. “But Mateo was practicing with his ability nearby, and when she drew in all of the local ambient electricity, she did something to his portal as well. Now, this is between you and I, but I found this pair of car keys after the incident.” He tosses them, under-handed, to Liz.

“They were in the corner of a sealed room. I estimated they came through Mateo’s portals. So, I did some statistical analysis. If a person was to come through, what were the most likely variables. I did some Punnett Squares and came up with variations of hair, eye color, ethnicity. The most likely candidate would have been an Asian woman with dark hair and eyes.” Edward’s time is conversational, matter of fact. “But, obviously my data was bad.”

Finally, he crosses his arms. “You're going to need to explain your radio theory more. Because… I'm not sure I even follow that one enough to dismiss it.”

She actually chuckles at his tinfoil hat joke. Because God knows, if you'd told her two years ago that she'd be hip-deep in government conspiracies and dimension hopping, she'd have been the one to drop you off at Bellevue. She catches the keys, looking at them thoughtfully. Asian woman… is put on the back burner of her mind.

With a sigh, Elisabeth leans her head back against the wall she's leaning on, trying to put her chaotic thoughts into something approaching a line rather than a Gordian knot. “Okay,” she finally says. “Bear with me a little here, since I'm not a science geek. Assuming all the things I thought of as time travel are actually parallel timelines… I have either personally seen or have been given firsthand reports from those who have seen them my own timeline, your timeline, a timeline that by 2040 looks like a Terminator movie, a timeline that actually came out okay except for its rotten underbelly… and one more that I've only glimpsed, where we failed to stop the Vanguard detonating a nuke codenamed Munin under the southern polar ice cap and flooding the world.” She’s feeling her way through the explanation, looking for what feels right.

“The day we landed here, Magnes and I were trying to stop the head of the Institute from activating the Mallett Device and failed. The machine spun up, and while part of our team were rescuing the people tied into the device as human batteries, I tried to destabilize it from the control room. That worked… but only partially. It opened a portal to the water world. Someone was singing. That puts… four of the timelines that I know of being represented in one room. The CEO came from the Wasteland future. The singer on the other side of the waterworld portal. All of us from my timeline. And Ruiz on your end somehow tapped in.

“But K-Mart said something to me when I went to him and he gave me a Walkman for music. He said that sometimes the radio bands pick up weird broadcasts that are being bounced off the atmosphere or something. I'd heard of something along those lines with radio signals of ours that bounced back like 60 years later through the Voyager probe or something, so honestly I didn't think much of it at the time. But… what if the radio signals aren't this world's signals? What if something that is happening — Maybe Ruiz's ability, maybe the sunspots and solar flares, maybe something else entirely — what if somewhere along the way we've managed to actually tear through whatever the barriers are and those signals are from somewhere else just like Magnes and I popped through from our world? Is that even possible? And if it is, what does that mean for us?”

Shoving her hand into her hair and resting it atop her head, she looks at him. “Ygraine knows a hell of a lot more about gravitational theory than any of us… and she thinks it's entirely possible. But I have no idea how that helps us. Or if it helps us.”

The notion is curious, and while the explanation for it is a long one, Edward seems rapt the entire while. “For a radio signal to get bounced back, it— would have to reflect off of something in space. I mean,” Edward furrows his brows. “I only loosely understand the physics of it, but radio waves can be refracted by the ionosphere, but they’d either be bounced back into space or absorbed by the ground. I’m not…” As he trails off, Edward looks over to the record player. His gaze then dips to the floor, then back to Liz.

“We have heard some unusual, garbled transmissions. They started about a week before you arrived, and ended after you got here. Mostly advertisements for automotive dealerships in Jersey,” Edward’s head tilts to the side, “music, some fragments of maybe shortwave radio conversations? Nothing coherent. Certainly nothing I’d build a predictive model around.” Though as he says that, there’s a thoughtful look in Edward’s eyes.

“A while ago we lost one of the founders of the Hub to the virus. Her name was Hana Gitelman,” Edward’s brows furrow slowly. “She could communicate with radio signals, kept us aware of the Vanguard’s movements. She… got sick, and committed herself to die in the ruins in exile.” He takes a deep breath at that. “People claim to still see her from time to time, like a ghost… I’d dismissed the notion as rumors. But,” Edward’s blue eyes flick back to Elisabeth. “Stranger things have happened.”

But all of that amounts to a shrug. “The signals stopped a while ago, though. Whatever caused them, maybe it was leading up to whatever caused your own situation. Some sort of environmental coincidence that allowed you to come here rather than being turned inside out in the emptiness of nothing.” His expression flattens. “I wish I had a better answer for you.”

“So do I,” Elisabeth breathes tiredly. “If there is a chance that Wireless is still alive… she might be able to help with the radio signals.” But the words are low, as if she doubts it. The virus kills a vast majority of people. She doesn't know enough about Hana’s power to know whether to woman could do what Rebel did and upload herself, though she also doubts the infrastructure is still in place to have allowed it anyway.

“I would be interested to hear the shortwave transmissions, if they're still happening,” she admits. “I mean… it's possible they're also from my world, I guess. So maybe the way back still exists…” She frowns. “I’ll get with Magnes over the radio thing and maybe it's time we all had a brainstorming session about the next steps, I don't know. Magnes needs to talk to Eileen.. and once we have a half a clue where to look, one of your recon scouts has said he’ll go take a look-see.”

“The radio transmissions stopped weeks ago. Let’s focus on the present.” But Edward assesses something else Liz said, brows furrowed and eyes cast to the side, pupils dilated. “Scouts will get caught, even the birds if we’re not careful.” Blue eyes flick up to Liz. “Maybe a short team, a thousand feet behind, but… we send one person out and they blow it, we lose our window.” He looks back to the strings. “I think the next thing we need to do, is get Munin to talk now that she’s had some time to rest and stretch her wings,” then, a look back to Liz. “And you finalize your team. Then… then we can put a plan in motion.”

“Magnes is already planning on speaking with her, and pretty quickly too.” Elisabeth studies him for a long time. “What do you see when you look at these strings, Edward?” Her tone is genuinely curious, and she chooses two at random. “What does it tell you when you see this string cross that one?”

The question elicits a look from Edward to Liz. “Connections,” Edward explains. “Where one series of variables intersects with another. It's like… three dimensional algebra. See,” Edward motions to the strings with one hand. “Life, causality, it's all an equation at its simplest. If this, then that.”

Moving to stand beside Liz, Edward crosses his arms over his chest. “Choices, points of change. They're all variables in a complex equation only as solvable as you know what you're solving for.” He smiles, faintly. “That's why no one else can do what I do, even if they copy my ability. The power is useless without the knowledge.

As he talks, she climbs back to her feet and studies the map. Three-dimensional algebra is WAY outside her wheelhouse. Stepping carefully between the strings, she pauses, touching a picture here and there. She sighs quietly, holding the newspaper clipping of her alternate’s death here in this world. There’s a small grimace as she realizes what she’s reading. “The 36,” she murmurs. Just different in this world… without the impacts of the other incident. Or at least… with very different impacts. As she moves back to him, her fingertips trailing along one of the strings, she asks quietly, “Do we know the right variables to solve for yet?”

The question elicits silence from Edward. His pupils dilate again, stare distant, lips pressed together in a thin line. He looks like he's about to talk a few times, but then just turns away from Elisabeth and smooths a hand over his mouth. He circles for a moment, then looks back with a less intense stare than he usually affords.

“There are only two variables left that I'm trying to solve for,” Edward states very matter-of-factly. “Everything I'm doing here is to solve for them.” it's clear to her who those variables are, and it follows the through-line of Edward’s life that Liz is familiar with. It's always been about his family, no matter how unfamilial he may seem.

“Beyond them,” Edward says in a small voice, “I'll be brutally honest. Nothing else matters.”

It’s perhaps an amusing thing that that, she believes of him. Nodding slowly, Elisabeth turns to him and says softly, “I know that about you already.” Pulling in a long breath, she nods. “It’s a motive I understand… though for myself, I extend that to all the children here, if it’s possible.” Running a hand back over her head, she asks him quietly, “Valerie and Warren are already gone? I’m…. sorry, Edward.” She looks at him, genuine sympathy in her gaze.

With a long sigh, she finally says, “Tell me about them here?” She grins a little. “Warren… helped develop parts of the armor that I was wearing when I got here. He’s an … interesting individual in my world.”

Mortimer,” Edward notes, “died somewhere on Staten Island before I could get to him. The Vanguard destroyed all of the bridges off of Manhattan, there was nothing I could do. By the time I found him, he’d already succumbed to the virus, along with the rest of his motorcycle gang.” Closing his eyes, Edward massages one hand at his brow. But then, blue eyes open.

“How…” Edward’s eyes narrow, and he takes a step toward Liz. “How did you know Valerie’s name? She— ” Edward’s eyes take on a glassy quality in a rare moment of vulnerability. “She died in Midtown. I couldn’t— I didn’t— ” He doesn’t say anything else, can’t say anything else. His jaw unsteadies.

There’s a split second when he makes that forward movement where the part of her brain that is now a soldier categorizes the way he moves as threatening and she watches him, wondering in a detached fashion if he will dare lay a hand on her, if it will come to something physically violent. But the moment has passed just as quickly as it happened.

Her sympathy at his emotions is clear and there is sincere sadness in her face to hear about Mortimer. “Mortimer became Warren Ray in my world,” she tells him quietly. “An unusual man, but no longer psychotic.” Or at least… not dangerous. “And Valerie survived. She’s… a very, very sweet young lady.” Richard has a lot of affection for the youngest Ray. Perhaps it will be of some comfort to him. “Your children… all of them that I know of… have survived. At least to the point where I left. They are… amazing people, each and every one of them.” In spite of Edward, as far as she’s concerned, but that thought isn’t spoken aloud.

“I haven’t met Kaylee here, though I understand she’s here. I’m glad that you still have her.” She hedges, unsure about assuming that he meant Richard Cardinal in his head count. “You said two have survived… I hope that what we’re doing can help get them away from here.”

Swallowing audibly and visibly pushing down his emotions and reining himself back in, Edward nods a few times in slow succession. As he does, his eyes scan the floor as if looking for something. But then as he looks up, there's a crease in his brows. “Logic dictates that if there's a timeline where all of my family is alive, what happens here doesn't matter. But that kind of statistical nihilism is for sociopaths. The experience of life matters, and… you're absolutely right. I hope what we’re doing can get them away from here too.” To where, Edward doesn't know.

“The sooner we find Gillian, the sooner we can see if that hope is even a reality.” Edward walks away again, slowly, past the record player and to where he has an old HAM radio on his desk. “You should give this to Magnes,” Edward picks up the radio, walks it back. “It's hand crank powered. If anyone would be able to figure out how to replicate the effects of the broadcasts, if they are coming from other timelines, he and Mateo might be able to.” The radio is held out to Liz, a show of solidarity in wavelengths.

She takes the radio from him and studies the man’s thin face and watery blue eyes. Elisabeth’s experiences of him in person are pretty limited to this timeline, and whatever else may be in his agenda, the man has done his level best here to protect the people around him. For that, she has to respect him. “I’ll give it to him,” she agrees. Wrapping both of her arms around the radio, holding it tightly to her body, and turns her blue eyes back to the string map. Pulling in a breath, she seems to steel herself.

Ducking beneath several of the strings, she moves to a spot near the other side, reaching up to tilt several images to positions where she can see them properly. She hadn’t been sure whether she’d even bring this up. “You’ve asked me about a lot of people and places, Edward… but you never asked me about these ones.” Niles. April. Reed. And Tyler. Her eyes linger over Tyler Case’s face for a long moment. “Tell me how these four people connect to all of this in your computations? Because they were important to you in my world too, but I never understood exactly why.”

Edward’s brows furrow together, the notion that he came to the same conclusion in multiple timelines is fascinating. It's clear from the wandering gaze that follows that he's computing variables that represents. Finally, Edward cracks a somewhat awkward smile.

“Party composition.” Edward notes in a surprisingly conversational tone. “I— went through the Company’s files, reviewed training and ability tracker assessments. It's— I— the term comes from— ” Edward quickly and quietly mumbles, “Dungeons & Dragons,” and then briskly moves fast last that term as fast as humanly possible. “It's a representation of ideal compositions of skills and abilities.”

Moving on, Edward explains his rationale. “April Silver is a senior Company agent. She can create nigh-indestructible force fields and convert them into mononolecular weapons. She's not only brilliant and seasoned, but a capablue fighter.”

To the next, “Allen Rickham,” almost goes without saying from his expression. “In one form, charismatic and earnest, an every-man that can resonate with the people. In another form, an indestructible juggernaut who can lift cars and punch through walls.” Brows raise, an obvious choice.

“Niles Wight, electromagnetic replication.” Edward motions to the photo. “Niles is a criminal, understands criminal behaviour and that world. He can also be in multiple places at once and gain access to secure facilities through electrical conduits.”

Then to the boy. “Reed,” Edward waves a hand in the air. “He's a technopath, one of the smartest and most powerful on the planet, save for Hana Gitelman. He can dismantle electronic security, surveil the world through any networked lens, and change a bank account with one dollar to a bank account with one million dollars with a thought.”

Finally, the man the Company had the least on. The one Liz knows all too well. “Tyler Case,” Edward explains with a gesture. “Mostly an enigma, but he appears to have some ability to manipulate and augment abilities in others like us. What couldn't you accomplish with someone like that?”

Finally, Edward shrugs. “They're the dream team. If I could have my pick of anyone, it’d be them. Anything else is just icing on the cake. Unfortunately, they're presumably all dead here. So,” Edward’s mouth twitches up into a sarcastic smile. “No cake for me.”

Interesting. Elisabeth’s lips purse and she considers quietly. Her smile is a little thin. “If Hana is still alive out there somewhere, she’s going to be one of those … folks out there that people are calling zombies, yeah? Honestly… I wish the infrastructure had still survived so that we could talk to her. Hana has a unique ability to assess a situation and bring it down to the quickest route from A to B. I’d like to think she could have managed to uplink herself into a satellite somewhere and is happily floating around in space rather than becoming one of those.”

Shaking her head, though, she continues. “Almost definitely no cake for you. I wonder if that’s why you had us searching for them… as a dream team to take down Arthur Petrelli before he could become the new Head Asshole.” She looks at Edward. “And in this time, you’d be hoping to take down Volken and the Vanguard…” She trails off and asks softly, “Why? Because you’re expecting that no matter what we do, we can’t take everyone with us?”

“The odds aren't good,” Edward admits in a small voice. “Between risk of infection and so many unknown variables, I can't promise we’ll even be able to save half of the residents. I fully intend to try, but…” Edward dismisses the notion with a shake of his head. “What could have been doesn't matter anymore. Right now,” his blue eyes scan the strings. “Right now we have to worry about what we can fix.”

Moving back to the web, Edward slides the scissors out of his back pocket, eyes on the strings. “Be ready, Elisabeth.” He lifts the shears up to one of the strings, “I get the feeling we’re approaching something big.”


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