Two Weeks In The Post Apocalypse


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Scene Title Two Weeks in the Post Apocalypse
Synopsis Elisabeth and Edward catch up and plan their next steps.
Date November 22, 2011

The Hub

It’s been two weeks.

Two weeks since Mount Natazhat, two weeks since the black hole, two weeks since waking up in a world she neither knows nor understands. In the time that’s passed, Elisabeth Harrison has been forced to endure the tragedy that is a world where the Vanguard were victorious, where she died, where the world moved on and humanity is on the brink of extinction. Nothing in her life, up until this point, had prepared her for this situation.

Seated in his office, leaning back in a metal folding chair with a cup of instant noodles under his nose, Edward Ray had been waiting for Liz’s arrival. The string web in his office is prodigious in size now, covering nearly every open spot except for the small corner he’s now enjoying his breakfast in. “Good morning, Elisabeth.” Such as it is. In the last two weeks there’s been an establishment of equilibrium, things have at least been peaceful if not haunting. Edward’s assistant Dirk had been collecting names for a census, delivering them to Elisabeth starting yesterday. All told, it’s been a lot to take in.

“I know you and Magnes are eager to figure out how we all make it out of this,” Edward says with a slurp, pulling a chopstick-plucked pinch of noodles up into his mouth. “But the more hastily we move on these things, the worse it’ll be for all of us. I’m sure you understand.” Edward has a stack of documents at his side, and the room appears to be theirs. He’d called Liz up to his office, likely, because he had some agenda item for her. Whether she came just for that or not, even he can’t be certain.

Elisabeth’s arrival is on time… there is only so much she can do with these strings and sitting in his office and staring at him all day might ease some of her paranoia about what he’s up to, but nobody can actually work under that kind of scrutiny. Her eyes trace along the strings that he's now got set up. A year ago, she wouldn't have understood any of what these strings mean. Now, however, she understands a lot more than she has really spoken of. She walks the map slowly, looking at various strings. Mentally comparing them to the ones from her own world.

She wonders to herself if it’s even worth saying to him that he can’t save his world. That what he’s doing here, plotting out the timeline in the hopes of traveling back to change things here… but she’s learned. It doesn’t work that way. It never will. All she’s hoping at this point is that he’s at least doing what he can to try to get them home. Because… anyone who wants to go? She’ll happily take along. Anyone who wants to stay and do what he appears to be planning? Not her circus, not her monkeys. This is his world to fuck up any way he wants to… and she’s struggling to make sure that she doesn’t make their problems her own. She wants to go home, and her eyes have to stay on the ball.

Rubbing her forehead in a way that is clearly a habit, she chooses against wasting her breath. “What can I do for you?”

Edward’s brows raise as he looks up from folders in his lap, staring at Elisabeth as if she just asked something in another language. Head tilting to the side, his brows furrow and he surveys her expression thoughtfully for a moment. “At the moment, not a whole lot actually. I wanted to give you a status update.”

Rising to his feet, Edward slaps the folders down on his desk, ducks under a few strings and clears the distance to Elisabeth. “Magnes and Mateo are continuing their tandem practice sessions, in quarantine. Munin hasn’t attempted to stab anyone yet from her new quarters. No one seems to be much the wiser of your predicament and surface-level Vanguard activity is within normal levels.”

Tucking his hands into his pockets, Edward looks to the floor. “I've been considering some things.” Blue eyes track left to right, then square back on the blonde. “I needed a few days to really think about it, but…” Edward looks at the floor, thoughtful for a moment.

“Before I start rambling,” those enormous blue eyes alight back to Liz. “Is there anything you need, other than the obvious change of scenery?

The update on what’s going on around the place, especially the no one being the wiser of their “predicament” is actually reassuring. Elisabeth crosses her arms and leans back against the wall. “No. There is nothing I need right now, thank you for asking.” She studies the man for a long few moments. But whatever thoughts are passing behind her blue eyes remain shuttered within her head. “Please, by all means, go ahead and ramble. I would very much like to hear what you’ve been considering. Is it this?” she tips her chin toward the string map. “Or something else?”

“That's just a tool,” Edward dismisses the string web. “Like making an outline to an essay. I'm trying to build a team we can conceivably go up against the Vanguard with when the time to rescue Gillian arrives. But, more to the point,” Liz can hear someone walking into the office behind her. “I'd like you to meet one of my spies.”

In the doorway stands a man just a little taller than Elisabeth, light brown hair cut short, jaw somewhat square. His gray and black clothes look mostly nondescript in the way an automotive mechanic might dress while on the job. This one carries a rifle, so that's different.

“David Cardinal,” he says in a way that sends Elisabeth’s heart skipping a beat, one hand outstretched in casual greeting with an easy smile behind it.

Given how many people she’s run into that she’s been peripherally attached to in the past two weeks, Elisabeth is grateful for the warning that this man is one of Edward’s spies. She is bracing herself to potentially turn and find Richard Cardinal. She’s known for a week that he’s alive somewhere around the place. But the man she turns to face isn’t someone she knows… until the smile quirks his lips. Even without Edward’s introduction, it might have tipped her off — she knows the younger owner of that smile all too well. It’s a struggle, but she thinks she manages to keep her expression pleasantly neutral as she reaches out to shake the man’s hand. Her fingers are perhaps colder than expected, but it’s not exactly warm in some of the tunnels.

“It’s a pleasure,” she replies. “Liz.” She leaves off a last name just by force of habit here. The more people who know she’s not a dead woman walking, the better off she and Magnes are likely to be. Looking to Edward, she cocks an eyebrow. “So…. who are we spying upon at this point that you wanted us to meet?”

David’s handshake is that kind of firm affirmation of a greeting that someone who has a lot of social interaction on professional levels develops. A little corporate, but also loose. A salesman’s handshake. “If Edward told me how polite you were I would've showed up sooner. I'm charmed.”

Clearing his throat, Edward looks back and forth between David and Elisabeth. “Actually, I'd like to leave the answer to that on your shoulders. David possesses a unique ability that allows him to hijack the senses of another person. See through their eyes, feel what they feel, and so on.”

“Edward makes it out to be more exciting than it is. Trust me,” David raises his hands and cracks a smile. “It's kind of a pain in the ass. But it's handy. Like ol Ed here!” The friendly barb brings a grimace to Edward’s face.

“Yes, ah. As— I was saying,” Edward wrings his hands together. “I'd like to test the waters, so to speak, and see how you'd like to apply David’s gift. He's one of the few non-negated residents, but that's a closely kept secret. David’s ability is passed on by touch,” Edward motions to Liz’s hand. “So in order to sensory hijack someone, he needs to handshake. We can't use it to spy on Kazimir Volken, but I'm hoping…” Edward stops, backs up.

“Liz, you have a singularly unique perspective. You've fought the Vanguard before and won.” Edward’s brows raise, and David’s do for wholly different reasons. “I'd like to see how amenable you are to calling the shots. With… guidance.”

The shock of facing this man, she wants to keep to herself. Her curiosity about him is evident, though, as her blue eyes roam his face noting where a more familiar face is similar and where it's different. His good-ol’-boy charm brings a faint smile to her features, though perhaps not for the usual reasons. She's often wondered if personality traits are learned or genetic — there appears to be an argument here for some amount of genetics.

Not that she's sure she buys it. But hey. It's definitely something to be amused by.

At the somewhat awkward explanation, however, Liz's sharp blue eyes shift to Edward. Fuck. its all she can think at this moment. Not because she's particularly hiding anything from Edward right this moment but … well, because fucking telepathy, unnegated. Which means Edward uses the man, most likely, to not just spy on the Vanguard. She sighs.

“All right — but don't pull that shit on me again,” she replies a little tightly. “Next time just fucking ask me first. How does someone else being able to hijack my brain give you any help? I didn't go up against the Vanguard alone, and although I can tell you what we did last time, that's really not likely to help you here. Do you mean that he basically rides along on whatever it is you want me to do?”

She glances at David Cardinal a little warily. “And precisely how long does your ability to do this last after you've touched someone? Because I dislike the idea that I might be showering with a voyeur.”

David laughs and shakes his head, “Well, I lose my senses when I share the other person’s, so there’s a timing issue. Moreover, I can only be synchronized with one person at a time. So, next person I link up to, I lose our link. Edward thought it would be good to show you how easy it is to pass around.” He looks over Elisabeth’s shoulder to Edward with a did that work the way you hoped jabbing expression.

Demuring, Edward steps back under one of the strings. “No, you didn’t do it alone. Thankfully, I’ve been following through with your earlier requests and putting together a, well— a patchwork census. Dirk’s been doing his level best to get you that information as he can pull it together. What I’d like to do is build a team from that.”

Munin has been more than willing to cooperate and help us find Gillian, and… I suppose we avoided that mea culpa of my plan to incinerate her.” Edward clears his throat and rubs one hand at the side of his neck. “That said, any team we put together that relies on special powers is likely going to be put at a higher risk of death, whether we succeed or fail. So I’m trying not to lean too heavily on that.”

Stepping further into the office, David tucks his hands into his pockets. “All told, Edward figures you’d want somebody to make sure your prospective team-members were above board. He says you don’t really know anyone here, so that’s where I come in. I make sure your folks aren’t hiding anything.” He looks over at Edward, making sure he got that right. The reciprocal nod elicits a flicker of a smile from David.

“So, Allen has volunteered his help regardless. When he’s in his other form, he can’t contract the virus, making him valuable for these kinds of exercises. Beyond what value a six and a half foot tall man made out of iron can bring.” Edward pulls a spiral-bound notebook from his desk, a blue ballpoint pen tucked into the binding, and hands it off to Liz. “Make a list, and I’ll make sure people are in compliance. We don’t have the luxury of hoping for volunteers, the literal fate of humanity hangs in the balance. Compliance will serve us better than kindness.”

“But,” David looks at Edward, “we can at least try that first, right?” Edward’s response is a quick, non-committal series of rapid sure, sure, sure nods.

Elisabeth considers the information that’s been laid out before her. And despite that she dislikes intensely the idea of conscripted volunteers or a telepath checking up on hers or anyone else’s brains, she can see the potential necessity of it. “Honestly,” she tells Edward, “based on what I’ve seen of your people so far, there are plenty who will volunteer to help in any way they can… whether it means risking illness or not.” Her blue eyes flicker between them. “They all know the entire community is on borrowed time. So any hope at all that something can be done is likely to be met with a positive reaction. The only trouble you’ll really run into is that I’m a newcomer, and they are going to be beyond leery of trusting any plan that I come up with. And rightfully so — I’ve already run into it, and I’m actually really glad to see it.”

Smiling tightly, Elisabeth has a flash of that brief conversation at a woodpile when she asked Ryans to take on armor for the exact same reasons. She shakes her head just a bit and sighs. “As in any operation when you’re asking an unknown to lead, the most important aspect is going to be getting your trusted leaders on board. So… that’s a call you’ll have to make: Who here would be the most trusted expedition leaders? And then we’re going to have to trust them with the truth of where I actually came from and why we’re doing what we’re doing. The risks and the potential rewards need to be laid out for them.”

Shoving a hand through her shorn hair — or rather over her head — in a habitual gesture, Elisabeth considers. “I need to talk to Eileen about what we’ll be facing when we go in after Gillian. And we will need to have everything else already lined up when we do go after her, because this is going to be kicking the hornet’s nest. They’re going to come after us harder.” She shrugs. “I can’t see how this community doesn’t wind up obliterated if we fail. So we’re only going to get the one shot at getting everyone out of here safely, in my opinion.”

“I like to have a fallback plan,” Edward admits with an incline of his head to the side. “But I’ll brew something along those lines. As far as people listening to you, I think I can trust your judgment on that. You have myself and Allen in your corner, and as far as these people go that might as well be the word of God.” Looking over her shoulder to David, Edward lets his point hang silent for a beat, before returning his attention to Elisabeth.

“I’ve done my level best to keep these people alive, but I feel like that’s about where my capabilities end. If I could’ve beaten the Vanguard with my own ideas, well…” Edward looks like he was about to make some sort of self-deprecating joke, but David cuts him off.

“But he can’t.” David’s expression is a wolfish smile at that, hands tucked into his pockets and shoulder against the door frame.

Edward offers a stressed smile to David at that, and then looks back to Liz. “As for most trusted, I’m not sure my judgment on that is as good as it could be. But, Ling Chao has the most experience in the ruins. I’d say Hana Gitelman, but… she’s not with us anymore.” Blue eyes move to the floor, then to the side. “You knew these people too, possibly better than I do.” Then, looking back up to Liz he arches one brow. “Possibly better than they know themselves. I trust your judgment.”

Lord, if they had Hana Gitelman in their corner, they really wouldn’t need Liz. She’d turn over leadership to the other woman in a heartbeat, especially for guerilla tactics. She wishes they had Hana. “I knew some of your people, Edward… in a wholly different kind of context,” she says quietly. “Some translates to here, some doesn’t. And this is your home, not mine.” She admits quietly, “For myself? I’m almost always one to take a sliver of hope rather than just sit and wait for the inevitable. But we’re asking them to risk whatever is left of their lives on a very very long shot.”

She sighs heavily, looking over his strings. “And before we actually go after her? I’d really like to know your calculations on whether we’d just be taking the virus with us to potentially infect other people where we go.” Elisabeth looks back at him, feeling a little grim. “Because that cannot be allowed to happen. Which means not only am I asking a team of people to go out and possibly get dead on a very slim hope, there are also going to be people we have to leave behind. It’s… the worst kind of Sophie’s choice.” She shrugs a little and gives him a rueful smile. “But I guess that’s why they pay us the big bucks, Edward.”

“I haven't been able to figure the variables about the virus yet. But, the pragmatist in me says that everyone who leaves needs to be in a clean suit. Otherwise they're not going.” Edward inclines his head to the side.

“Regardless, we’re all living on borrowed time. As far as Gillian goes, I don't know if it's a one-chance deal. We’ve hit back at the Vanguard on several occasions and we've been able to hide. We’re very good at that. The key is not leading them back here.”

Edward tips his head forward, brows raising. “They haven't found us yet,” he makes sure to be clear on this next part. “And trust me, it's not because they don't care. They want us all dead, badly. One more strike isn't going to change that.”

Tucking his hands into his pockets, Edward looks to the string web. “As for my people,” Edward says that dubiously. “I don't think the difference between nurture and nature is as great as you may suspect.” He looks back to Liz. “You'd still choose to die protecting those kids, if you had to. Time can change a person, but not completely.”

She can’t dispute the truth of his last statement. Elisabeth nods slightly to the ‘clean suit’ idea and seems on board with that thought, and she listens to the information on previous hits intently. “I figured the trick would have always been not leading them back here, which is why I want to sort out who the best Ruin Rats are. They’re going to know the best places to scatter and get underground fast, which is obviously key to escape.” She smiles a little. “Depending on where they’re actually basing themselves and what intel you already have on the place, maybe we can actually get in and out with a minimum of firefighting.”

Looking between the two men, she asks, “Is this the kind of ‘guidance’ you’re referring to?” She’s uncertain about the matter, since he’s not really asked her to do anything that they hadn’t already talked about — going after Gillian was going to be a necessity, and Liz would be a fool not to enlist all the local scavenging talent in building this plan. But she can’t shake the feeling that the word ‘guidance’ had a particular meaning in this case. “Or are you asking me to let Mr. Cardinal ride along while we’re out there? And by the way, does riding along mean that you can take control?” Because that… actually rather alarms her.

“No, I'm more a voyeur,” David says before immediately regretting that and closing his eyes while grimacing and shaking his head. “Nope, no, nope. I'm sorry that's— not right.” Biting down on his bottom lip he scratches at the side of his neck and wishes he could just melt into the floor.

Edward, with a hand over his face, breathes in deeply and then slowly exhales a sigh. “David is here to act as your spy. Whoever you want him to observe.” Then, looking back to Liz, Edward folds his hands in front of his face and rests his fingers up the bridge of his nose in a somewhat prayer-hands gesture.

“What I'm saying is I think your judgment on who we take, beaded on your own observations and gut calls, may be better than my predictions. I've come to discover that there's some… kind of things I can't predict, and I've become too reliant on my ability.” Stepping back into the string web, Edward motions around at it.

“I can do big-picture stuff, but you're a former police officer. You know how to understand people, persuade them, and learn who they really are. Get to know the people of the Hub, build a team from that relationship. We have, respectively, time on our side right now.” Looking to the strings again, Edward makes a vague gesture around himself. “I'll look for the bigger movements. You,” blue eyes track back to Liz. “Be a leader the people need, rather than the one they've been saddled with.”

A single brow raises at David Cardinal and she can’t help snickering a soft laugh. “Nope, that really didn’t come out right at all,” she chuckles. “Very wrong. Funny as hell. But wrong.” She’s thoroughly amused. Pulling in a breath and letting it out slowly, though, Elisabeth says mildly, “You’re putting a hell of a lot of faith in a woman you barely know, Edward. And believe me when I tell you, I have no desire to lead a whole community. Getting to know them, that’s simply a matter of time and you say we have it. Building a squad to go after Gillian, likewise.” Frontline definitely gave her those skills, and she’s rather proud of that post… for the amount of time it lasted before her ideals got in the way. “I can do that,” she nods decisively.

After the comment about being reliant on his ability, the blonde tilts her head. Should I tell him that being exposed to Gillian will drive him insane? He has to know that already, one would think. And then she simply says, “I’m only going to be using Mr. Cardinal’s skills if I have doubts about something, though. Everyone deserves some measure of privacy, even in conditions like this.”

She looks between them, slanting a glance at the string map once more. “It’s hard to see things so similar… and yet so different.” Glancing at Edward, she admits quietly, “I sincerely doubt you’re going to be able to keep our origins here quiet for much longer. That it’s lasted two weeks is actually more than I’d bargained for in such close quarters. But you should think about how you want to handle it, because it’s coming.”

Edward nods, hands folded behind his back and shoulders slouched some. “Then let Allen be the heart of the people, and you can direct their hope for the future. Because without either of those, there’s not much to fight for.” Looking down to the ground, Edward’s expression changes into a smile.

“As for not knowing much about you,” Edward’s blue eyes alight back to Liz. “You were a police officer, teacher, and a woman who would sacrifice herself to save people who couldn’t save themselves. I could read a mountain of reports and dossiers on you, and it wouldn’t tell me anything more than I need to know with that one sacrifice.” His expression stiffens, tension at the corners of his eyes. “Someone willing to die for what they believe in, for their convictions. That requires a certain strength of character.”

Though for as much as Edward is leading things, Liz seems to be picking up what he’s laying down. “I was fearful of everyone’s reactions, initially. But, again, you sound like you have some experience with both time travelers and this other, ah…” Edward’s brows raise, “shenanigans?” Edward Ray just said shenanigans. “I’d be remiss not to leverage your expertise there.”

“Pfffffft,” Elisabeth breathes out quietly. “I did what I did out of a very real fear that if I didn't, his power would kill everyone. I happened to be the only one in a position to try and stop it. Anyone else in the teams I was on would have done the same if they could,” she demurs.

“Shenanigans definitely sums up my experience with time traveling.” Elisabeth snorts rather indelicately at that. “Worst power ever, in my opinion.” But she looks at Edward seriously.

“I'm concerned about their reactions. Very concerned. Because what we’re trying to do may just not be something we can actually figure out… and I hate the idea of false hope in a world so desperate for a sliver of light in the darkness,” she admits. “But I also figure if we let the grapevine take over, we could be in a bigger, stinkier pile of shit too. Because they'll make up whatever they want to and then not listen at all. On top of losing faith in their own leadership.”

Shoving her hand through her hair, she asks, “Out of curiosity… how are the Vanguard members keeping from catching the virus out there? Do we know that?” Liz's brain has clearly shifted gears into what kind of team we might need for this, but something else may be driving the query.

Looking down to the ground, Edward seems distant for a moment. “They aren’t. I’ve seen the Vanguard catch the virus and die from it. Their numbers have been dwindling too. There used to be more of them. They’re so fanatical they think they’ll be spared if it goes on long enough. That said,” Edward looks to the strings.

“We had a doctor here, until recently. Odessa Knutson. You’re using her room now.” Edward turns back to Liz. “She helped Kazimir develop the virus — under duress — and, allegedly, an antivirus as well, which he has taken.” Circling back from the string web, Edward assesses Liz. “There may yet be more out there, but we don’t know. All I know for certain is that only a handful of his inner circle took it, and that didn’t include Munin.”

“As for your heroic sacrifice… I wasn’t talking about your Michael Jordan impression, as I think I heard Magnes call it.” Edward’s head tilts to the side, one brow raised. “I’m talking about the Elisabeth Harrison who died shielding children from a rocket-propelled grenade with her own body.” Blue eyes square on hers. “Like I said, our worlds aren’t that different. If presented with the choice, to save an innocent life, my bets are on you being a better person.”

She can’t help but snicker a bit at the ‘Michael Jordan impression.’ But she nods slightly to him and murmurs, “Any other teacher would have blocked those kids too.” That she honestly believes she’s not all that special in her viewpoint is evident — she’s not blind to the worst of people. She couldn’t be, not as a cop. But she’s also survived a number of horrible evil deeds from 9/11 to now that have shown her the best in people.

Elisabeth’s blue eyes watch Edward carefully. “If this works here like it did back home… Odessa was not working alone. It is just barely possible that Volken might have the other half of that dream team still alive, I suppose. You’d know better than I. But as I recall, her ability was actually something to do, literally, with viruses. Does the name Blite mean anything to you?” she asks. “If she’s alive… she could be key to making sure none of our survivors wind up sick, assuming we can actually depart this place.”

She sighs heavily, rubbing her forehead. “I know the circle of people who know things is small — eventually it has to get bigger anyway. If you’re willing to take my advice on whether or not to announce things, let me talk to one of the residents here. Ygraine Fitzroy’s specialty was conflict analysis — and she’s damn good at what she does. She’ll have a better feel for whether we can hold off longer. Something she said to me the other day is sticking in my head… that basically they’re going to be resistant to hope, because it means a change in the status quo. The status quo is comforting when you have so little left to lose. I’d like to give her all the facts to work with on this analysis and see what she comes up with. I know she can be trusted to keep it to herself.”

“To think, I only knew Ygraine’s special talents lied in emulating Spider-Man.” Edward smirks, and looks over to David who is quietly stepping out of the room. “Are we boring you?” He asks over Liz’s shoulder to David. Caught, he stops in the halfway open door and waves a hand dismissively.

“Just stepping out t’take a whiz. You two seem to got it covered, and Elisabeth here knows how to find me when she’s ready for me to put the eyes on someone.” David raises his brows, flashing Elisabeth a fond smile. “Miss Harrison,” and there’s a tip of his head and a furrow of his brows that is so very close to Richard’s. He isn’t that much older, either. There’s a good chance he had children young. It explains some things.

Edward watches David depart, then looks over to Liz. “Anyway, like I was saying… you’re already able to infer the personal details of these people in ways I can’t. In ways I’m— not really equipped to. So,” his brows raise slowly. “You let me know how I can help, what numbers I can crunch, and I’ll trust your gut on where we should go, unless I see a red flag.”

Glancing back at the man leaving, Elisabeth is caught by the expression of … affection? The man doesn’t know her from a hole in the wall, so she’s not sure how to respond to that one. “Mr. Cardinal,” she acknowledges his leaving quietly. Turning back to Edward, there’s a faint line between her brows. “I’ll get back to it, then, Edward. And if you don’t know Yana Blite, I highly recommend we look into it.” She pauses, waiting to see if he has anything more he wants to share before she leaves him to his work.

Nodding, Edward looks over to the Primatech Paper boxes on his desk. “I haven't seen the name yet, but I'll keep digging. There's a lot of files I still haven't gone through.” Then, holding up his hands, he reveals fingertips just covered in paper cuts. “The perils of administrative work.”

Edward’s more relaxed, casual tone seems to imply things went well. His posture is more slacked, expression almost happy looking. As Elisabeth turns to leave, Edward tucks his hands into his pockets and considers something.

“You should head down to Isabelle’s and get a drink.” Edward offers at her back. “Don't let her give you the moonshine though. She has an unopened bottle of Merlot under the counter.”

Edward’s lips creep up into a hesitant smile.

It's going to be a long day.

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