A Message in a Bottle


ff_nova_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title A Message in a Bottle
Synopsis Richard wants to send an SOS out to another world.
Date June 18, 2021

Yeah, Buoy! in the New York Pelago

As the group makes their way back down the stairs from the party-turned-autopsy, Richard quickens his steps a bit to catch up with Nova - although not for the reasons most people trying to catch up to a pretty young woman in a little black dress do.

“Nova,” he says quickly, “You got a second? Need to ask you for something mission-applicable real quick.”

All business, tonight. No parties. He left the jacket of that velvet tux back in Marlowe’s place somewhere anyway.

Nova turns, brows rising curiously over her wide blue eyes, and she dips her head in a nod of assent.

“You may ask me things, whether or not it’s ‘mission-applicable,’ Meneer Ray, and I will answer if I can,” she says, the Dutch-accented words spoken in a teasing tone in a contrast to his all-business demeanor. Still, she looks a little more worried than she had before the party that wasn’t a party.

“Should we be out of others’ gehoorsafstand – ah,” she taps her ear, small, almost elfin, and adorned with a series of little silver hoops, “hearing? Or is it safe to speak about here?”

“Probably,” admits Richard with a glance back, “Even though it’s not– something they’d probably really understand, it might touch on some things we’d rather not get spread around.”

He chuckles, giving her a wry look, “Sorry, I know I tend to be a little– mission-focused.”

Nova shrugs. “I don’t think that is a bad quality if you’re on an actual mission, which you are, so I think you’re doing just fine. No apologies necessary.” She looks around, then back up at him. “Let’s go back to the boat, then, and you can discuss it there, out of the hearing of the others.”

It doesn’t take too long to get back to the Yeah, Buoy!, and after gathering a thermos of hot tea from the galley, Nova leads Richard to the wheelhouse – below decks is a small and cramped space that may be invaded at any time by any of the “crew,” though some of them have taken to finding other places to sleep while in port.

The little wheelhouse is chilly, but at least it’s out of the rain. Nova turns on a solar-powered lantern that hangs from the ceiling, then pours out two mugs of tea. “So what is on your mind?”

“I’m a terrible workaholic,” admits Richard as he walks with her, shaking his head, “You give me a target and it’s all I think about until I’ve gotten there. You should see my conspiracy board. All newspaper articles and string.” The last has the tone of a quip, though of course he actually has one.

Once they’re out of the rain, he drops down to sit, reaching for the mug with a faintly grateful smile - warming his hands on them at first. “Right, right,” he says, bringing one of his hands up to slip his shades off now that they’re in dimmer light, “So– your, uh, ability, it lets you communicate with your other– selves?”

She takes a sip of the tea – it’s chamomile but it’s been sweetened already with real honey, which for her is a luxury that she relishes for a moment, before smiling at his joke. “I think maybe that is one good thing about this world as it is – there are fewer conspiracy theories, and also fewer actual conspiracies only because there are so few people and no governments. Well, no big governments. There is always some tribe of elders, even when there is little else, nee?

But then there is the question of her ability – she’s already explained it, so it’s more of a need for confirmation, or elaboration, but Nova nods. “Yes. Though as I said, the Nova in your world is one of the people who is missing, and her doppelganger is like the man we just looked at, they tell me. So I cannot communicate with her. I only hope she is okay, wherever she is.” The worry for the other self is apparently on Nova’s expressive face, her brows drawing together, her lower lip worried at between her teeth.

“The same timelines that your wife traveled through, those I have counterparts in, and no others that I am aware of – probably for the same reasons that those are the ones they moved through – proximity to ours, or whatever it is, I am not sure. The me who works with the agency who brought you here, she probably understands more than I do, but I get bored listening to her meetings,I confess,” Nova adds with a grin.

“I don’t know,” quips Richard, raising his mug of tea up and lifting both eyebrows a little, “Doesn’t the discovery of robot duplicates hiding in your midst strike you as particularly… conspiracy-y? Although to be fair, I’m pretty sure they’re from the future so any conspiracy would just be in its infancy currently…”

He takes a sip of the tea, gaze hooding a bit as the sweetness spills over his tongue and down his throat. “I’m never fond of those meetings either,” he admits with a soft chuckle, “But speaking of that– you– ah, they’re in the timeline that was previously controlled by Petrelli, yes? My sister– Kaylee Ray– she’s the vice-president, all of that?”

“That’s the one,” Nova confirms. “Not fair, right? She gets that world, and I get this one. But it could be worse.”

She takes a sip of the tea,then wraps both hands around the mug to leach some of its warmth. “And, ja, I suppose a robot duplicate from the future is a little ‘conspiracy-y,’” she concedes. “I guess I mean in my experience. No one is on the internet these days arguing about the moon landing or who shot a president. I guess if there is a silver lining to all this,” she nods to the water outside, “It’s that we do not waste our times on such kibbelen anymore.”

Her smile turns a little crooked. “Sorry, I babble a bit. Are we co-conspirators today? What are we conspiring to do?”

“To get some… direction,” says Richard with a bit of a grin, “Your plans can only be as good as your intel, after all, so we need to make sure the information gets into the right hands…”

He motions a bit with the mug towards her, “And, no offense, but I don’t trust half of the OEI as much as I can throw them. What we learned today about the Galatea androids here, and what they were doing, and the fact that they’re from the future… there’s one person that information needs to get to.”

Another sip of the tea, eyebrows going up, “The vice-president’s father, Edward Ray. Can– uh– that you get that information to him directly? I don’t trust it going through channels, things can get.. Muddled.”

One brow arches as Nova considers the question. “I am not OEI so I am not offended, Meneer Ray, but my counterpart, Doc, she is. A remote office agent or whatever they called it on her side of things. And I can’t go directly to him, but she can, and you see how that goes, ja? She’s just a junior agent. I can ask but my gut instinct is she will say she has to ask – whoever’s in charge on that side.”

Her mouth purses over to one side as Nova tips her head thoughtfully.. “If we ask her, though, she’ll know that is your plan, and then they will know it is your plan when she asks if she can do it. So I can ask, but it will definitely begin a chain of events you may not want to set into action.”

She juts her chin toward him. “The decision is yours. I will not do anything until you say so. I do not think she’s lurking in my head, but if so, I will trust her not to do anything until you say so too. That one we can trust, not like Fantôme.”

“I don’t mind if they know the information too, I just…” Richard leans back, brow furrowing as he considers the issue, “…I need to make certain that information gets to Edward unaltered. If even a little bit gets left out– or worse, altered– it could be potentially disastrous.”

“She’s our only link to that timeline, though,” he admits, “Any thoughts? You’re the expert here.”

Nova’s eyes widen and she laughs. “Expert. Hardly. I am aanmodderen as I go.” She pulls her feet up onto the sofa, sitting pretzel style as she thinks, mug resting on her knee.

“I think what will happen is she will ask for the permission to go – also so that she has the authority to find him and speak to him, and hopefully they will give it. If they ask her to alter or omit, we can discuss what happens then. Perhaps she can give him more information discreetly,” she says, lifting the mug for a sip of the sweet tea within.

Her head tips as she looks back at him. “I cannot go back and forth in real time like a dialogue between you, but I can be with her when she speaks to him. And come back if needed to confer with you, but the way my power works, my mind travels to her, and here, I sleep.”

Nova wiggles her fingers in a sort-of gesture. Sleep is not the right word.

“It takes a few minutes to find her. And while I am sleeping here, I am not aware of my surroundings here, for as long as I am there. You see?” she asks, brows lifting.

“Oh, we’re all making it up as we go,” Richard replies, a smile twitching a little to his lips as he waves off the comment, “But you’re definitely the expert on yourself. Even if it’s ‘yourselves’. Just as I’m the expert on myselves, and by the by, if you ever see a different me, probably run. Most of them are assholes.”

Arguably all of them, depending on who you ask.

The pad of his thumb drifts back and forth along the edge of the vessel of tea as he considers the matter… and then finally he breathes out a sigh that catches the steam rising from his drink and makes it scatter. “Nothing that can be done for it, then, but take the risk. Go ahead and relay the request when you can, then, and we’ll see how it goes.”

“I swear, gambling is boring as hell for me these days,” he says with a sudden chuckle, shoulders shaking, “I gamble enough day to day with much higher stakes than money.”

Her brows lift when he calls himselves assholes, and she laughs. “That is good to know, Meneer Ray. I will tell my other selves to do the same. Well, perhaps not Fantôme. She may decide to do more than run away – either to hurt him or to team up with him, because she is also an asshole.”

Nova grins and shrugs. “We are products of our environments, and these different worlds show us that even more so than psychological studies on long lost twins or what have you. We all have the capacity to be good or kind, I feel, and we all have the capacity to be, as you say, assholes. Our lives shape us, lean us one way or the other, but I think we can still decide for ourselves, in the long run.”

The decision to go ahead is made, though, and Nova taps her temple. “I will do so soon, and then we will wait for her to return to us with a plan. Hopefully we don’t end up getting her fired, but between you and me,” she leans forward, as if she’s telling him a classified secret. “They need her for this mission, ja? I don’t think she will be fired.”

“Dare I ask where Fantôme is from?” Richard smiles despite the topic, shaking his head, “If anyone understands the truth of nature vs nurture I suppose you’d be uniquely capable of being that person, so I bow to your wisdom on the point.”

He crooks a grin to her as she leans forward, eyebrows going up as he leans in a bit himself, “That’s how I get away with breaking all the rules. Being indispensable.”

His grin draws a bigger one from her, and she taps her temple twice, to indicate it’s a smart plan for all parties involved.

“She is not terrible, Fantôme, just a little sneaky, a little more self serving than the rest of us. I don’t know yet about the one in your world, though. But I think she probably is more like the others and myself,” she says. “Wherever she is,” is added with a small frown, and she brings her tea up for another slow sip.

“Fantôme is in the world that is recovering from a virus meant to kill all of our kind. She lives in Paris, in the Metro tunnels now, but when it first began, she lived in the catacombs for a long time. I don’t think that can be very good for a person’s psyche, do you?” Nova shakes her head, her eyes solemn. “But she’s a survivor, and endured more than the rest of us – my selves, I mean. Most of us had friends or family to help us get by, but she was alone for too long, I think. She and one other were the first to awaken and find one another. Then me, then Doc.”

Nova’s head tilts as she considers the chronology of the manifestations. “I think maybe the better our lives were, the longer we went without needing one another, maybe?” She offers him a sad smile. “So I forgive her for being an asshole, sometimes. She is not me, even though she is also me.”

“Christ, that place…” Richard draws in his shoulders a bit, a shiver working its way up his spine, “…the me there isn’t even me. Not anymore. It’s Kazimir. Last I knew he was still in New York, though, so she should be well away from that psychopath where she is.”

No offense, old man, he thinks dryly, in case his Kazimir is eavesdropping.

After a moment, he breathes out a sigh, “I– can understand that. Another me, Ezekiel we called him, he was… well. I understand what drove him to take the steps he took. If things were different, I could have been him. As it was, I had to– kill him.”

Did he just confess to suicide? A question for the philosophers, perhaps.

Nova’s wide blue eyes widen more, and she reaches over to squeeze his arm. “I am very sorry to hear that. I cannot imagine,” she says softly. “I think we all have that capacity, to go bad, if enough bad things happen to us. Or maybe there are some among us who would never, but it’s hard to say for certain. I don’t know every possible me, even as the expert that you say I am.”

Her smile returns and she holds up a finger to tell him to wait, then rises and goes to a drawer in the galley, returning with a notepad and a pen. “Tell me, then,” she says, sitting down and pulling her legs up pretzel style on the sofa cushion, and she clicks the end of the pen, “What is your message to the other world?”

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