All The Sinners' Saints


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title All The Sinners' Saints
Synopsis The revelation that Simon Broome still lived was only the beginning…
Date December 13, 2020

Please allow me to introduce myself

A pickup truck roars down a desert highway under cover of darkness.

I'm a man of wealth and taste

The air outside has cooled down since the sun set. Temperatures that once soared past the high hundreds now have dropped below forty degrees. It’s refreshing for the moment, the cool breeze whipping through the cabin of the truck. A song plays over the radio, the dim light from the receiver dial the only illumination in the dark cab.

I've been around for a long, long years

Stole million man's soul and faith

Richard Cardinal sits in the passenger seat, arm out the window and right hand weaving up and down through the cool desert air. He sings along to the song under his breath, cataract-clouded eyes focused on the darkness beyond the truck’s dim headlights. The truck’s driver, a young Simon Broome, turns his attention to Richard with a side-eye.

And I was 'round when Jesus Christ

Had his moment of doubt and pain

“I take it this song is still popular in the future?” Simon asks as he turns his attention back to the road and Richard stops singing along and looks over at his would-be friend with a nod.

Made damn sure that Pilate

Washed his hands and sealed his fate

“It’s a classic. The Stones are a classic.” Richard smiles, thoughtfully. “Today’s the first day the world is hearing it. A lot of young minds are being shaped by this song for the first time, for the coming era it’ll represent. It’s practically ancient in my time, though.”

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name

Simon makes a small noise of acknowledgement. It’s clear he and Richard share different musical tastes, but he doesn’t remark on it. “How much further do we have to go… and when can you tell me where it is we’re headed?”

But what's puzzling you

Is the nature of my game

“We’ll know when we get there.” Richard says with a vague gesture ahead with his left hand. “That’s something you’ll learn to appreciate, as you come to know the adversity we’re up against. The more people that know something, the more likely it is someone will find out. The aphorism, two can keep a secret if one is dead is so much truer than I ever realized. But even the dead can’t keep secrets. Not in the real world. The one hidden from us.”

Stuck around St. Petersburg

When I saw it was a time for a change

The noise Broome makes is at once one of acknowledgement and dwindling patience. “A blind envelope,” he remarks, glancing briefly at Richard before returning his attention to the road. Richard’s silence and raised brow encourages Broome to keep talking. “An agent given instructions in a sealed envelope, only knowing what his task truly is when he is given cause to open it. So if he is intercepted, even under duress of torture, he cannot divulge the secrets.”

Killed Tsar and his ministers

Anastasia screamed in vain

“Something like that,” is Richard’s distracted response as he notices a small, abandoned building on the side of the road. “Take a right up here. Slow down, though, the road’ll be pretty overgrown now.”

I rode a tank

Held a general's rank

Broome does as asked, easing off the gas and watching for signs of a turn. Soon the faint suggestion of a dirt road into the desert comes into view and he affords Richard a more suspicious look. Pulling onto the shoulder, Broome turns off the highway and onto the rough and overgrown dirt road. “No one has been down here in a while, have they?”

When the blitzkrieg raged

And the bodies stank

“Not for a few years…” Richard says quietly. “And if we’re lucky, no one will be out here for a few years yet. Which means we can pick up the pieces, before there’s no pieces left to pick.” A slight smirk crosses his lips. “And if you want to know where we are…”

Pleased to meet you

Hope you guess my name, oh yeah

“…there’s your answer.” Richard says, pointing to an approaching wooden sign near a collapsed fence. Simon looks over at it, one brow slowly rising. The name doesn’t mean anything to him, but the context is chilling.

Ah, what's puzzling you


Is the nature of my game

Fifty-Two Years Later

The Reach
Lappland, Sweden

December 13th
2:53pm Local Time

Simon Broome’s face is one known from the pages of history, the infamous man who was posthumously tried for crimes against humanity in Albany, New York at the end of the Second American Civil War and found guilty. A man who was believed by many to be the founder and brainchild of the Commonwealth Institute and all of its darkest programs and secrets. A man that supposedly died in the arcology’s collapse.



The woman standing behind and beside Broome is something more of a cipher. Draped in a black, knit shawl and wearing loose clothes she does not carry the air of a doctor or assistant. Her face is one known only in visions of the past and in recollections of those who encountered her in the collapse of the arcology and the following years of intrigue that followed.

Joy is as much a cipher as she is a living record of history. But not a wanted criminal, not even a woman most people know. Instead, she is a dark-eyed enigma standing watch over the Institute founder, one hand on the back of his wheelchair.

“I imagine you all may have questions… and strong feelings about this moment.” Broome says in the weak and tired voice of a fragile old man. “I promise you… nothing but answers.”

There’s one man here who knew that Broome hadn’t died in the collapse of the arcology, but Richard had been told that he’d died years later from the ravages of age. Confronted with the evidence that assumption was wrong, he actually drops back a step in shock.

Simon? Jesus Christ, Ruby, you told me he was dead— “ He flickers an accusing look at the woman in question, then back to the old man in the wheelchair. His expression softens a little, and he admits, “I’ve got… a lot of questions, that’s for damn sure, old friend. I hope you do have some answers for— “

His gaze drifts up to the woman pushing him, and his eyes widen.


“Joy,” she gently corrects Richard. From her perspective, she hasn’t been the swordsmith’s daughter in centuries.

Beside Richard, Nick’s fingers twitch but he doesn’t reach for his weapon — after all, they are guests — as he sees a man whose ilk he’s made it his livelihood to hunt and bring to justice. That Simon Broome wasn’t dead and living in Europe is a slap in the face to the CIA agent, and he exhales sharply in disbelief.

When Richard speaks, Nick glances over, a brow arching at the words old friend. Nick has a lot of questions but he chooses to remain silent, his blue eyes narrowing a little as he looks from Broome to Joy to Ruby, watching for any sign that he and his fellow travelers are in danger.

Wright’s eyes lock on Broome and her heart skips a beat. Her eyes snap to the woman behind him, seeming vaguely familiar though the memory is broken. Elliot’s. Wright has difficulty hearing what’s being said. The shock of this replaces other sounds with a ringing in her ears/in Elliot’s ears. Her breath heaves for a moment before she can reign it in.

She relaxes. The sudden release of tension in her posture stands in stark contrast to the ice cold anger that fills the space where confusion momentarily flickered. She doesn’t have to try to differentiate her own emotions from Elliot’s. As he watches through her eyes their emotional reactions are identical.

Nothing but answers. This is very, very bad.

The more inexperienced of the linked pair hisses an audible breath in past her teeth, falling back a step, seemingly to let Richard make his way forward unhindered. Elliot’s reaction and Wright’s seeming amplification of it are nearly overwhelming to her. But a moment of leaving her eyes closed to process images that bleed over is enough to help her find her footing again.

Like Nick, Rue spent years tracking down people like Broome, oftentimes with Elliot’s assistance. Although their goal was to get there before him so Wolfhound could net the bounty. She isn’t the kind to think in terms of dollar signs over humanity, so there’s no metaphorical cash register ringing in her head to look at the old man.

Her hand comes to clasp loosely around Wright’s forearm. Then a little tighter, tugging gently until she has the other woman’s eye. “We need to see how this plays out,” she whispers in a low voice. Rue isn’t talking to Wright. Or, not just to her.

“In order to control the visions of prophets, sometimes you have to wear the blindfold yourself.” Simon says with a knowing smile to Richard, as if he were quoting something back to him. Simon wheels forward, leaving Joy standing silently and unintroduced at the back of the room.

“I realize none of this is as you may want it. I also understand that I have a lifetime of sins to pay for, and were it in this world’s best interest for me to, I would gladly rot the remaining days I have in a prison cell somewhere, or in a ditch. The latter will come for me before the former, I’m afraid.” Turning his chair to face Richard, Simon looks up at him expectantly.

“Everything you see here, Richard, has been set up for you to take control of. This building, the information we’ve collected, the limited resources at our disposal. This was the last failsafe of the Institute. Not the shambling mockery people like Erica Kravid used for their own personal gain, but the organization you intended to use to save the world.” Simon delivers those words with both conviction and fluidity, as if he’d been waiting to say them for years. “The people you’ve brought here were already on our lists of potential operatives to join you in this endeavor, or people that we needed to reach out to for other purposes.”

Slowly, Simon wheels his chair to face Nick, Rue, and Wright more fully. “Mr. Ruskin, Ms. Lancaster, Ms. Tracy. You are going to hear a great number of strange and confusing things in the coming days. I will endeavor to provide a satisfactory answer to them all.”

“I’m sorry we had to deceive you, Richard.” Ruby adds from beside Simon’s chair. “But with eyes everywhere, we had to keep our actions in shadow.” She looks to the others. “Shall we adjourn to the parlor? There is one more waiting for us there, and I think that will help explain everything.”

“Christ Almighty,” Richard exhales a heavy sigh as everything that’s been said sinks in, one hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose sharply and his eyes closing, “This is something that I’d do to myself, isn’t it? Or, at the very least, teach you enough that you’d do it to me knowing that it’s the right thing to— ugh, I can’t even be fucking angry about it.”

But he does have one hell of a headache suddenly.

He draws in a deep breath, straightens, and then holds one finger upwards towards Simon and Ruby. “Just a moment.”

A step forward, and a turn towards the three that he’d come with, giving his head a slight shake. “I don’t need to be an empath to tell that you’re… upset about all of this, but please give them a chance to explain. Also, we’re surrounded by people with abilities who could stop us from fighting before we could think twice, so it wouldn’t do any good anyway.”

“What he says is true, in that the Institute wasn’t supposed to be what it became, but…” He turns a sharp look back upon Broome, “Someone wouldn’t stop the Director when it became clear he’d gone absolutely fucking insane, and I had to put him down like the mad dog he’d become.”

“Let us hope then, for all our better devils, that your past self is more merciful this time.” Broome notes with a raise of his brows. “Should we cross that bridge.”

Richard smiles faintly, if bitterly, “The parlor, then?”

The skepticism Nick wears in his expression is as visible as the coat around his form. He looks over to Rue and Wright, not adding to that exchange but noting it, then looking back to Richard when the other man takes a moment to address his fellow travelers.

“If they’d stop talking like bad fortune cookies,” he mutters with a glance past Richard to both Ruby and Broome. He looks back to Richard and shakes his head slightly. “If it’s yours to control, I say you blow it the fuck up and never look back once we’re done here, but something tells me that’s not going to happen, mate. Just be sure you have someone to put you down like a dog if you need it, yeah?”

He nods to the women to lead the way, content to follow at the rear.

Wright shrugs her arm out of Rue’s grip. Please give the founder of the clandestine nazi eugenics arcology a chance to explain, Wright thinks. They’re miles away from it mattering that the Institute wasn’t supposed to be what it was. Richard Ray’s pleasant familiarity with that founder is revolting.

She once again looks across the faces of all of the unknown quantities who can apparently prevent conflict. She turns back to Richard just enough to let him see some of the disgust she feels at his acquiescence, but says nothing. She stares to the side with a subdued shake of her head to cover the way her eyes lose focus for a moment.

“October,” Elliot says with the accompanying tag to a memory key. “Assume hostage protocol and gather intel,” Elliot says, staring at the back of his home with Wright sitting beside him.

Wright places her hands in her jacket pockets as if cold and helpless. She finger spells Rasterize in the pocket. “Record everything,” Elliot says, tossing the basketball back to Wright.

Rue lets it drop. Her hand, the request for patience. But, really, where are they going to go? They didn’t come here with their own vehicles, and do they really want to trek their way back down if they can help it?

The redhead stares down at her shoes, eyes closed as it helps her focus on the memory that isn’t hers. Though from the outside, it looks as though she may just have a headache. (And who could blame her?) When her head looks up again, she looks uncomfortable and flashes Wright an apologetic look.

Rather than agree to head into the spider’s parlour, Rue lifts her arm, gesturing in the direction of the mystery woman. “What’s your name?” There’s no biting allegation there, just a simple question. A matter of being polite. Rue doesn’t ask who is she, as though she isn’t there or can’t answer for herself.

“Joy,” she says as Rue follows the group toward the parlor, only then walking to follow alongside the group. “I know you,” she says of Rue, more an aside than anything. “Or, I know a you. You seem less fractious, less…” she carefully chooses her words, “less haunted.

To be less haunted is a tall order to fill, especially given the shift in the redhead’s expression at that mention. The blood drains from Rue’s face. She keeps moving forward. The only thing she’s ever been able to do.

Broome’s wheelchair whirrs softly as he leads the group into the parlor, a spacious stone-floored room with flagstone columns and a crackling hearth. The ceiling feels low in here, giving it a somewhat cavernous feeling. Though a light behind panes of frosted glass set in the ceiling provides a warm ambience. The furniture looks straight out of the 70s, with earth-toned red and yellows, browns, tans, and beiges.

“I can’t believe you’d still support him, Simon,” is Richard’s slightly rough-voiced observation as he follows the man in his wheelchair, shaking his head, “When I thought that he was just carrying out his insane plan with the Device, that was bad enough, but the things going on in the Ark…? Christ almighty, what you did to Julien alone, how could you allow that? How could you justify it?”

He’s had a lot he’s wanted to yell at the man about in the years since, but assumed him dead.

Simon looks up to Richard, brows raised. “I can’t.”

By glass doors leading out onto a snow-covered balcony, the final party to this meeting stands in waiting. He has a short stature, though the low ceiling makes him seem a little taller than he is. His dark slacks contrast to his loose white button-down, with its sleeves rolled up past his forearms. As he turns, Nick feels the pit of his stomach drop out.

He knows this man. But it’s impossible.

On his way into the room, Nick recognizes the severity of the German officer's expression, the downward cast of his lips and furrow of his brows, the eyepatch covering where one eye is likely missing. His uniform denotes him as a man of rank — stature — even if his height leaves something to be desired.

A dismissive gesture and tone of voice comes with a snap of leather-gloved fingers, ordering the soldier that had been watching Nick out of the interrogation room. As he leaves, shutting the metal door behind himself, Nick finds himself sealed in the room along with the eyepatch laden SS officer.

"Do you speak English?" It comes with a stilted German accent, almost too thick to be anything but a parody. As the short officer tucks his hands behind his back and approaches Nick's chair, he seems to be studying his mannerisms, posture, everything.

English, Polish, French — his Polish isn't good enough to come off as natural, even if the accent is good, unless Nick wants to come off as having the vocabulary of an eight-year-old, Nick knows. Nonetheless, he quickly tries to decide which is the safest in this scenario, but the pain and confusion clouding his mind leads him to the simplest answer, if a few moments slow in coming:

"Yeah," he breathes out, blue eyes wary and guarded as he peers into the one-eyed man's face. Nick's jaw tenses after the word, as if waiting for a blow to strike out for daring to answer in the affirmative, or perhaps for the delay. The soldier probably thought he was deaf or mute or both for a moment. "Where'm I?" is muttered next: Nick is hoping the answer isn't as dire as he fears it will be. And of course the question he can't ask but he really wants to know is 'when' am I?'

"Doesn't much matter," sounds much less German than it did a moment ago. "By the time it would matter, you'll probably already be dead. You came at a pretty convenient time, Mister York. I'd been considering leaving the country, thanks to the inability to plug a security hole I left open. Now, I have a name, face and body to present to the Fuhrer."

Wringing his gloved hands behind himself, the eye-patch wearing officer moves to a table near Nick where his personal effects are laid out. Wallet with a 2010 ID, perscription drugs, a cell phone, too many things that don't belong in Nazi Germany is relatively obvious.

"You're a time-traveller."


It takes a moment for his face to be familiar to the others, but it sits on the inside dust jacket cover of The Wolves of Valhalla, a photograph showing the men who would begin Project Icarus; Simon Broome’s father was one, the legendary Adam Monroe another, and Kazimir Volken who would go on to found the notorious Vanguard among others. But this man was different.

Marcus Raith, a British spy implanted in the German government when the Nazis took power, who fed intelligence to the allies through the height of the second world war from within the ranks of the SS. But this man looks like he’s in his mid to late fifties.

Marcus Raith would be over 120 years old.

“Mr. York.” Marcus says with a rise of one brow, making monocular eye-contact to Nick. “It looks like we both lived.”

Striding into the parlor, Richard slows - it takes him a minute to place the familiar face, and then his eyebrows raise even further above the dark glasses he’s wearing. He glances over to Nick, murmuring to himself, “Looks like I accused the wrong Raith of being a robot.”

Richard’s words of warning were probably intended more for Wright and Rue than the CIA agent. After all, this chapter of Nick’s storied past is one he hasn’t shared with many, though some might have told stories of Nick showing up on Pollepel Island gaunt and in a Nazi officer’s coat.

In many ways, Nick isn’t the same man he was when he met Marcus — his work and training have helped him focus the rage into something more productive, while maturity and age has helped temper it even more. But all of the anger and hot-headedness of his youth rush back the instant he sees that smug, familiar face belonging to the engineer of his death.

The words don’t help calm him.

Nick takes a deep breath in from his nose, like some comical cartoon bull, then strides across the room, his long legs making short work of the distance between them, and strikes Marcus square in the jaw with a closed fist.

Marcus isn’t the first Raith he’s punched.

For a man of his age Marcus Raith takes the punch well, stays standing and braces himself with one hand flat against the glass of the large window at his back. He stares up at Nick with his one good eye, works his jaw from side to side with a flash of a smile and a laugh as fingers come back red from a split on his lip.

“That one was free,” Marcus says with a huff of a laugh, working his jaw from side to side again as he leans away from the window. The look he gives Nick all but says the second one won’t come free of charge.

“If we’ve all gotten that out of our systems?” Marcus asks, touching his lip again and keeping his eye on Nick.

Wright follows the group quietly, though her anger reduces to a simmer. A look to Rue gives her a feeling of regret about her brusque treatment, though she doesn’t outwardly display it. Better not to give these people anything to work with. She spends the walk paying attention to her surroundings and the interactions of everyone here. It’s interesting that Richard refers to his doppelganger as I when he’s being given a house but him when he’s recognizing the other man’s atrocities.

In the parlor, Wright casts her eyes about the wide open space and expansive windows. How the hell do they heat this place? Mostly she can’t parse what a spy who infiltrated a nazi eugenics program would be doing in the home of the man who continued the program’s legacy. Nick’s storming over to him raises her curiosity, though it’s the punch to the face that gets the appreciative nod.

At least somebody gets to be angry about this nonsensical horse shit.

The mental equivalent of a shake of head is offered in exchange for the sense of regret. Rue doesn’t have the history with anyone in this place that the rest of them do. If Leon Heller had stepped out of the kitchen, there wouldn’t have been anything that could have stopped her from vaulting over furniture and friends alike to get to him. She understands. Maybe not perfectly, but she understands.

In a situation as tense as this, someone either has to either defuse the situation, or grab the reins and take control of it, and Rue Lancaster is no Avi Epstein. She doesn’t have the bellow and the bluster and authority that can turn heads — thankfully for everyone in the room. Lancaster’s bark is only effective for getting the attention of two people. One is the aforementioned Epstein.

The second is the grandson of the man in the eyepatch.

And since Wright is playing the role she’s chosen for herself here, where they’re guarded, Rue slips into that of the peacekeeper. “Hey,” her voice raises, but it’s a gentle thing as she crosses cautiously to where the one-sided scuffle has just occurred. “Nick.” Expression serious, sympathetic, she starts to lift one hand to invite him to come back toward her, but he’s already doing so on his own.

It isn’t that she thinks he made the wrong choice here. Once, when she’d tried to slap the smug right off of someone’s face, Nathalie had intervened, and she hadn’t tried to tell Rue that she was wrong, she’d only de-escalated. It hadn’t been the time or the place. Maybe it hadn’t been the right action, either. That doesn’t mean the anger hadn’t been valid.

Threading a ginger curl behind one ear, she attempts to steer Nick toward Wright, trusting that their mutual ire will encourage each other to stay in check and wait for the opportune moment if nothing else. Blue eyes settle on Marcus for a long moment. Rue lifts her chin. “You good?”

“He could work on his hook,” Marcus says with a brush of his thumb across his lip, eye focused on Nick.

Broome wheels past Richard, putting himself between the others and Marcus, while Joy hangs at the back of the group, leaning against the wall with one shoulder, dark eyes mostly downcast. “Please, I know this is a tense and surprising moment…” Broome says as Ruby slips past the others and moves to stand beside Simon, hand on his shoulder. “But were there any better way to do this, I can assure you it would have happened. I promised you answers, and I would much prefer they be delivered now… rather than later.”

Pivoting his wheelchair, Broome looks over at Marcus who has by and large shaken off his punch to the jaw and tried to keep his pride mostly intact. Nick knows how hard he punched him, even if Marcus isn’t willing to admit how much his jaw aches. “Mr. Raith, would you be willing to tell your story again, to this group?”

Marcus’ brows go up and he paces the room along the perimeter, moving over to the roaring fireplace. He leans toward it, one hand on the stones above the mantle and adopts a slouched posture, looking down into the flames. “Once everyone is settled.”

Joy finally moves away from the wall, pausing as she starts to pass Wright. The dark-haired woman levels a momentary look of steady eye contact on Wright, giving her a weirdly knowing nod before leading by example and settling down on the sofa. Ruby moves from Simon’s side to do the same, setting down beside Joy with a reassuring hand put on the outwardly younger woman’s arm.

“Much of what you are going to hear today is going to sound fantastical, even in our age of miracles.” Broome says with a furrow of his brows. “But I assure you, it is scientifically verifiable truth that I encourage you to investigate on your own and scrutinize. You all, each of you, have a stake in what will be discussed tonight… upon which rests nothing short of the survival of humanity.”

"Seemed like a pretty nice hook to me," Richard quips to Marcus's bravado, his humor as dry as salt.

A 'you alright?' look is slanted over towards Nick, and the executive reaches out to clap a hand on the agent's shoulder, murmuring even as he moves to take a seat, "Leave it at just the one for now. We can punch him more later if we don't like what he says." He doesn't murmur it that quietly.

Leaning back in his seat, he arches a single eyebrow upwards. "Simon, I was born in another timeline, Lancaster got framed by her alternate-reality self, Wright knows about all the atrocities you performed in my alternate's name, and Nick, uh…" A glance, then back to Simon, "Nick's Eileen's brother."

"I think you'll find us credulous."

Nick returns to the fold so to speak with eyes still ablaze with awakened fury, but his shoulders rise and fall with a quick, short huff of a laugh at Richard’s words. He keeps his eyes at Marcus, raising one dark brow at the critique.

At Broome’s request for everyone to be settled, — not just seated, so he feels the word choice might refer to his emotional state more than just making use of the furniture — Nick nods in a tacit answer to all the querying looks, and Rue’s question if he’s okay. He takes a seat apart from the sofa, one where he can be far from Raith but still see him, leaving the sofa for the others.

“I was born in 1987,” is a fun fact about Nick that he decides to share, but the seeming non sequitur turns relevant with the next breath. “In 1941, I died, or was a centimeter or so away from death, thanks to being thrown in the gas chamber at Treblinka, courtesy of this asshole.” He nods to Marcus, not taking his eyes off of him. “Volken plucked me out of the pile of bodies and had me healed by Francois Allegre, who I’m not sure remembers me and I haven’t reminded him.”

He takes his eyes off of Marcus for a moment to glance over at Broome. “So, yeah. We’re used to ‘fantastical.’”

Wright follows Joy’s nod with a look of befuddlement. If she’s from Elliot’s memories of the Ark, she shouldn’t recognize Wright. Was she looking at her or Elliot? Wright has nothing to go on for what the woman is or isn’t capable of.

She looks for a seat, but doesn’t feel welcome enough to take a seat on the couch. Instead she opts for a chair designed by somebody who wanted his guests to know that he hated them: a squarish cushion inside a backless wooden box. From here she watches Raith pace through the room. He’s clearly a man used to getting away with terrible behavior.

One thing she finds of note is that there has been significantly more time travel among her companions than she would have guessed. Elliot confirms Raith’s appearance against his hardcover copy of Wolves of Valhalla. Wright blinks languidly, as though it’s just the jetlag, while she looks at the dust jacket in Elliot’s hands.

Seeming to feel slightly alienated from the group she arrived with, Rue doesn’t opt to sit on the far end of the room on the sofa or the square cushions there. Strategically, they’re a better choice. Backs to the wall, eyes on the rest of the room, line of sight to the exits… Instead, she opts for one of the low square seats at the coffee table opposite the couch where Ruby and Joy sit, near Broome and with a… second row seat to Marcus’ presentation.

“It’s storytime and here I am without my carpet square,” the redhead laments dryly. “I suppose this will have to do.” And what a story it is that Nick has to share with them. The corner of her mouth tugs up briefly, the awkward twitch of someone who doesn’t know quite how to respond, except perhaps to deflect with and attempt at self-deprecating humor. “And here my only claim to fame is that someone who looks like me has done something…” She waves her hand. There isn’t a good word that encompasses it without making it sound like she’s making light of what happened to Nick. Traveling through time is amazing. The rest of that? Not so much.

She waits for what’s next. What’s worth not punching people for here?

Broome doesn’t seem familiar with Nick’s story and the look of concern, especially at the mention of Treblinka. But Simon knows when to ask questions and when to listen, and given what he knows is coming next he chooses that moment of discretion.

“Some of you already know this story,” is how Marcus begins his peace. “But in 1982 the Company unwittingly unleashed one of the most powerful Expressives in the world on an unsuspecting populace,” Marcus says with a touch of his hand to his jaw, looking down into the flames. “It’s able to manipulate someone’s genetic code on the fly, including its own. Effectively limitless Expressive power. It was imprisoned in 1984, memory of its existence wiped from thousands of people in one of the greatest conspiracies in history.”

“I actually made a powerpoint about the Entity, if you want to see it later,” Richard murmurs to the others as the ancient spy starts his explanation. He’s probably kidding. “Don’t tell Director Voss, he’d lecture me on classification again if he found out.” He’s not kidding.

Looking up from the fire, Marcus smiles over at Richard. “I’m not concerned about Kristopher.” He continues to brace a hand against the hearth, then looks back into the flames. “The… Entity slipped free of its bonds two years ago and since that time it has been systematically attacking the magnetosphere surrounding Earth, opening gaps in the natural shield around our planet that protects us from solar radiation that could cook us like a rotisserie chicken.” Marcus leans away from the hearth, crossing his arms over his chest.

“In October, a special research division of the US Government confirmed that the magnetosphere depletion was exponential and coincided with the development of a tremendous sunspot that will, eventually, release a coronal mass ejection that will hit us… by our estimates sometime within the next two to four years, and if the magnetosphere depletion continues apace? It will wipe out all life on Earth down to bacteria.” Marcus delicately touches his jaw again, chin up.

“I’d much like to keep that from happening,” is how Marcus frames his involvement. “And I think you all can help save the world.”

At the news that the planet is going to get par-broiled by the sun, though, Richard’s eyes widen slightly in horror as he stares at the old spy. He leans forward, resting one hand on his knee as he stammers out, “It’s been— what? Why— why would it do that? I heard something about the magnetosphere, but— what possible…”

He trails off as a sudden realization strikes, sending him slumping back on the couch like a puppet with its strings cut, “…oh. Oh, of course. Jesus Christ, it needs more power to do what it wants, and since it gains power from the sun…”

A few shades paler than he’d been, he draws in a breath, “Alright. And how… the fuck do we stop that, Swords?”

For all the rage exhibited just moments before, Nick is now still and stoic of countenance. His eyes are one hint to his anger, ice blue and narrowed as he listens to Marcus speak. The other is the nearly-silent tattoo of his fingertips against his kneecap, a nervous tic that he quiets often by pulling out a cigarette.

Despite the fact the world is likely ending soon, it would still be rude to light up in someone else’s house.

He doesn’t seem surprised by the news, though he does glance over at Richard’s reaction, one brow ticking up at the dubbing of Marcus Raith with his grandson’s moniker. Nick and Jensen Raith didn’t always see eye to eye, but the man was part of his strange extended family for a time in a way that Marcus is not. Can we not goes unspoken but is definitely emitted through look alone.

“They already tried that, mate,” he quips, knowing full-well ‘Swords’ is meant as a nickname and not an actual solution to the problem laid out in front of them. Despite the levity, his expression is serious. “Not sure what we can do,” he indicates Rue and Wright with a tip of his head, “unless shooting it or spying on it will help.” Richard, though, finds himself under Nick’s piercing gaze, before the spy returns his questioning look to the other spy.

Wright looks around the room to her companions, trying to gauge their reactions. She’s aware of the entity thanks to Eve’s deeply unnerving rendezvous with her and Elliot in the woods almost a year ago. The knowledge that it is powered by the sun is news to her. “Well,” Elliot says, “That’s fucking bad.”

Wright gives a shrug in the general direction of Marcus somewhere in the neighborhood of What the fuck could anyone here do about that.

“Yeah, no shit,” Rue mutters under her breath. That’s fucking bad. Sighing, she glances back toward Wright briefly before assessing the others she doesn’t have a mental bead on. “I thought I got to be Swords in your new fancy Hellfire Royals club,” she scoffs to Richard, mixing her comic book and CIA lore intentionally. “I’m telling Jens.”

"He's the original," comments Richard quietly as he stirs himself from that brief moment of horror to quip, "You can tell, because the ones after him are better polished." The comment prompts Rue to a snort of laughter as a cough into the back of her hand.

Maybe the snark is not helping the others cope, but it sure is helping her. Of everyone in this room, she has the shakiest foundation for what the Entity might actually be or what they want. When Eve popped in to tell her all about it, Rue had been closer to four-and-a-half sheets to the wind and just wanting the whole encounter to be over. Well, after she established whether or not she’d have to give up her rent-free accommodations. She had priorities.

Letting out a couple chuckles that betray just how affected she is by the news that they all might die and what that means not just for her, but everyone she knows and loves, she angles a look up to Marcus from beneath the manicured arch of her brow. “Look, I don’t even shoot people for a living anymore. I’ve got an otherworld double out there that’s fucked up what’s left of my reputation, so I am basically garbage in terms of influence anymore. Don’t get me wrong. If there is something I can do to avert the end of the motherfucking universe? I’m all the fuck in. But unless you need me to drink someone under the table, dazzle them with modern dance or some Coyote Ugly shit — that’s where you dance in really slutty clothes, but you don’t take them off — I think you might have the wrong girl!”

Having said all that, Rue tips her head back with a frustrated groan. “Can a bitch at least get some wine?” Her shoulders immediately sag, like someone’s already told her no.Damn it!

“Those of you who are busy gazing deep into your own navels and want to go are welcome to take the truck back to the village,” Marcus says with a narrow of one eye, followed by a look to Broome, expectant.

“You did just tell them the world was ending, Marcus. Your bedside manner could use some improvement.” Broome notes with a rise of his brows and a quaver in his tired, old voice.

“You’re welcome to go drink yourself into an early grave any time now, Ms. Lancaster. Perhaps I should be inquiring with your alternate.” Marcus suggests, and Nick knows Marcus well enough to be able to tell he’s goading her rather intentionally. Like a glass of cold water to the face or a slap across the cheek.

The plan,” Joy interjects, looking from Ruby to Marcus. Her brows rise.

“The best plan we have right now involves the construction of an orbital shield to deflect the solar flare from the Earth. However, the development, prototyping, and fabrication of something of that magnitude — even with all the Warren Rays of the world stacked end-on-end — would take decades. Our numbers guy has done the calculations.” Marcus says with a spread of his hands, seemingly delivering further bad news.

“That said, we don’t have to do that work. It’s already been done, somewhere else.” Marcus looks over to Richard, brows furrowed. “The technology we need for Project Svalinn was developed in 2005… in another world.” Coming to rest beside Broome, Marcus puts a hand on the back of his wheelchair. “Somewhere out there is another timeline, one in which the Vanguard won and flooded the world. From the interviews done with refugees that crossed over from that timeline, we believe the technology was completed prior to the flood, but never utilized.”

Broome looks over at Marcus, then around the room. “Protecting the Earth from the flare is only one step in protecting ourselves from this Entity, but if we can’t manage this… everyone dies. Marcus’ plan is to send an expeditionary force across the threshold between realities to retrieve this technology from where it was developed, and return it here so that final adjustments can be made before it is launched into orbit between the Earth and the Sun.”

“It’s a long shot, but it’s our only shot.” Marcus affirms. “Richard, you were on Simon’s short list to lead the team across the divide. Ms. Wright, we believe your partner in Wolfhound, Elliot possesses an ability singularly suited to the task to provide communication back here. In exchange for his assistance, we will turn over all relevant information he’s been looking for.” Marcus is carefully vague about the details of that information.

Nicholas,” Marcus says with a look at him, and then Rue, “we need a team on this side of the divide to get an on-field assessment of Mazdak’s operation in Iraq and determine the Entity’s whereabouts and status. This is an area where Expressive abilities are a liability. We would like to deploy you both with the CIA overseas along with a handful of others, provided you don’t have any other pressing engagements.

“If anyone is going to disrupt this operation, it’s Mazdak. Their single-minded loyalty to this Entity is one of the greatest threats we’re posed and we believe their use of prophets and seers to govern their organization may give us a tactical advantage in staying one step ahead of them.” Marcus steps away from Broome's wheelchair and moves to the middle of the room.

There, Marcus puts his hands on his hips, looking around at the others. “I don’t expect you to agree to any of this right now, but I do expect you to think about it. This operation — with you or without you — moves in just a few months. We can’t afford to wait any longer.”

“And obviously, I realize this has all been a tremendous amount to digest…” Broome says with a slow shake of his head. “Questions are, understandably, deserving of answers. I promised them, and I intend to deliver. I was skeptical myself when Marcus first came to me.”

"If he keeps being this much of an asshole, Nick, please punch him again," Richard observes coldly as Marcus makes that comment about the other February Lancaster, looking rather unamused as well at the man's attitude in the midst of this issue. He leans forward again slowly as the spy starts to explain the plan, as it were.

When he's done with explaining the rough outlines of things, he draws in a slow breath and straightens up, "I've heard crazier things than this, Simon. Honestly, that plan sounds pretty solid, and I can provide quite a few suggestions for all of these roles. There's just a few points that I think need elaboration here."

"First… how do you suggest we get to the Flooded Earth, for one, and two, once you've solved that issue, how do you expect to get us past the dragon waiting between the superstrings that isn't exactly incentivized to let us through? Three, once we get there, how do you expect us to find our goal and get back?"

Nick glances over at Rue when Marcus comments on her reactions, his brow lifting in a look meant to warn her not to react the way he already did. He has a feeling that “freebie” Marcus gave him might not be extended to Rue.

After all, Marcus did have him killed. He owed him at least one punch.

“Cheers,” he says with faux brightness at Richard’s request, but his eyes level on Marcus once more. He looks a little amused at the implication he’s not doing much with his time with the CIA. Of course, since they’re sitting a rock’s skip from Poland in a war criminal’s abode, he might actually agree with that assessment.

“I’m assuming you already cleared that with my superiors,” he says to Marcus, but then nods at Richard’s questions. Good ones, all of them.

There's a flipped switch in the alcove where Rumor keeps her emotions that washes it all in a shade of red. Elliot's witnessed this moment from the outside, and Wright by proxy.

"Hey! Sugartits."

Slowly, the ginger starts to turn her head to glare in the direction of the offender at the end of the bar. Rue turns back to Elliot, informing him, "I'm gonna fight him."

“Three things,” Wright says as she holds up three fingers on her left hand. It’s mostly just for a sleight of hand distraction as she reaches her right hand under Rue’s beside her and interlaces their fingers. The same way Eliot does when they’re sharing comfortable silence together. She rubs her thumb over the outside of Rue’s to make sure it’s noticed before open conflict starts. Wright’s angry with her, and it’s clearly not empathy overflow. Her affection for Rue is distinct from the similarly protective anger coming from Elliot.

“First thing,” she says with annoyance to the room at large, “My name is Wright Tracy, not Tracy Wright.” Her eyes are on Marcus as she says, “Second thing, eat your own shit until it kills you.” She counts down to a single finger, and directs her angry gaze to Simon. “Third thing, what reason is there for this smug asshole to be here? He’s clearly already told you everything if you have the answers we need, and inciting violence from the people he needs help from helps no one. If you want cooperation, make sure he doesn’t say another goddamn word. You’re on thin fucking ice as it is.”

There’s a short spike of anxiety as Wright realizes that her bargaining position here isn’t great. They could do a lot of damage with the information they’re offering in exchange for assistance. But this behavior isn’t going to stand. She takes a moment to visibly calm herself.

There’s a small shift of Rue in her seat, like she might have been about to rock herself to her feet, but Wright’s pulled her back down. The look from Nick keeps her from considering a second attempt.

Fingers trembling against the blonde’s, there’s gratitude in the undercurrent of Rue's emotions, but it’s many fathoms beneath stronger feelings of self-loathing and worthlessness. That anger, redirected inward for lack of a safer outlet at the moment, gnaws at her insidiously from within.

Closing her eyes for a moment as she draws in a long breath, continued unhappiness betrayed by the tight set of her jaw, her gaze doesn't lift once it's been unshuttered again. Instead, Rue opts to stare hard enough at the coffee table that she might bore holes in it if that intensity were made manifest. The clasp of her hand with Wright's firms, reaching out to her, and across the ocean that divides them from their metaphorical switchboard.

Broome looks at Wright with a furrow of his brows and a tension in his mouth, as much as he can muster. When he levels a look back to Ruby, the two share a wordless exchange of opaque nature. But Marcus is the one who keeps talking.

“I didn’t throw the first punch,” Marcus says with a spread of his hands, “but unfortunately for you this smug asshole is one of the only people with the resources to keep this entire world from burning to a radioactive crisp. I’m not suggesting we like each other, but I am suggesting we keep our egos to the side for long enough to save everyone else, and then we can go back to business.”

Angling a one-eyed look at Richard, Marcus is the one with the answers. “Getting to the Root Timeline is a matter of technology at this point. We’re working on getting a new Looking Glass operational, a refinement of previous iterations. The return trip…” Marcus’ brows rise. “I’ll get to that.”

“As for the logistics of the mission itself, I have people working both sides of the divide. We’ve managed a method of interdimensional communication, but it isn’t perfect and it isn’t reliable. But we’ve made contact with a trusted source in the Root Timeline that has sourced information for us. Beyond that, it’s going to be the task of the expeditionary team to actually get to wherever the tech is and get it back.” Marcus folds his hands behind his back, looking from Richard to Nick.

“I haven’t broached the topic with the CIA yet, but I will when the time comes. We have the President’s full backing on this.” Marcus indicates, followed by a look around the room and then back to Richard.

“The return trip… may not be an option.” Marcus admits with an incline of his head. “We’re exploring some options, but without Mateo Ruiz’s ability making a doorway large enough for a person to fit through on the other side is uncertain. We do, however, have a means to transmit data through point-to-point relays. If we can get one into position in the Root timeline, we can beam information over to this one. The schematics and designs necessary to construct the shield. Once we have that, we will hopefully have enough time to fabricate it using as many local and international resources as possible.”

“But it does mean there’s a possibility that the expeditionary force may be stranded there. If not permanently, then indefinitely until we can find a means to bring them back.” Marcus shifts his posture, folding his hands behind his back. “Obviously that’s something of a personal sacrifice. But the risk of death in even attempting a crossing is astronomically high to begin with. There’s more minutiae, but I’d rather our tech department deliver that to you than have me misquote them.”

When Marcus mentions a tech department, Broome’s eyes narrow in subtle scrutiny. It’s like he’s hearing about that for the first time. Not all of these details seem familiar to him, and Ruby likewise is locked on Marcus’ words.

“As for the Entity,” Marcus spreads his hands. “We have no actionable information to determine how or if it has direct influence in transit through the Looking Glass. It might, it might not. And we certainly don’t have a reliable way to research that either. Obviously we’re going to continue looking into things, trying to pin down as many variables as we can, but right now this is the best solution we have. According to the little we know about the Entity, it’s not technologically savvy. Every host we’ve been able to assess the actions of has been, time and again, confounded by technological applications. That likely won’t stick, but it’s the best we’ve got.”

“It can’t.” Joy reluctantly speaks up. “It can’t interfere like that. I… I don’t think it can do anything to the people passing between. Only if they stay. My recollections of my time as a host are minimal, but the sense of helplessness is profound. I’m not sure I can abstract an appropriate metaphor. I’m sorry.”

Marcus gestures at Joy with an incline of his head. “Any other insights you might have would be greatly appreciated, given the circumstances.” He blinks a look back to the others. “Now, I think you’ve all made your preferences on this whole conversation pretty clear and we can keep all of our future interactions… remote, if at all. That works better for me anyway.”

"I think we can all agree that everyone here who might be upset has very good reasons to be," Richard replies with a single brow's arch upwards at Marcus, "But I'm sure that we can all set our egos aside in the name of saving the world. Including yourself, preferably, if you'd like this to go more smoothly."

He turns his head to look at the three he came with, giving his head a slight shake and murmuring, "We don't need to like them, but if they're right— and I'm afraid they probably are— we do need to work with them."

Eyes hidden by sunglasses sweep back to Marcus, "Before I'm willing to step through your Looking Glass, I'm going to want to talk to the tech depart— "

Memory stirs.

“If the overlay’s already collapsed, I don’t think there’s much we can do there, unless your team managed to fire up the solar array and get readings,” Richard admits, rubbing two fingers against his forehead, “The point— the point is, Agents, that yes, you’re not the science guys.”

He leans back in his chair, hands spreading as if to indicate the room, “We are. We’re probably the only friendly group on this planet that has a dimensional science division, even if we haven’t been doing much in that regard for fear of making things worse. We have people with abilities, we have knowledge, we have expertise, and we have some idea of what’s going on.”

“Let us help. Fuck, we have a sample of the only material known to hurt the damn thing and SESA’s been sitting on our authorization to research the auroral ferrochromium. We’re trying to cooperate with the government and obey all the damn laws here, but we’re basically sitting here in handcuffs having to watch someone preparing to put the entire planet in a goddamn blender.”

Bright steeples his fingers, leaning them against his mouth as Richard talks. “Not the only friendly group, unless you consider us enemies, Mr. Ray,” he says softly, one hand’s fingers flapping up and then back down as if to say bygones.

He straightens sharply, "You're with the Exterior."

Marcus looks at Richard and raises a brow, and though he doesn’t say anything there’s something in his smile that all but says, you’re getting ahead of me.

At the mention of throwing the first punch, Nick lifts a shoulder slightly, and smiles — almost beatifically, if it weren’t for the smugness about it. His knuckles still twinge a little, so he knows it was no light slap. No doubt there’s a quip waiting to be made along with that smirk, but he knows when to sit and listen. This is a briefing, and the most serious one he’s ever attended in his life, such as it is, casual as the seventies decor may make it seem.

“I’m fine,” he says quietly to Richard’s request, echoing Marcus’, for them to set aside their differences for the time being to work with Marcus and Broome, despite the past. “I’m used to working with assholes.”

He glances over at Marcus to gauge his reaction to Richard’s epiphany, no doubt already evident on his face as the CEO puts two and two together to make four. “That explains a lot,” he says with a nod, before he posits his own question.

“The Root Timeline? I’m not a quantum physics expert by any means, and I don’t have the first hand knowledge of all this that Richard here has, except by association.” And relation, but Nick Ruskin leaves that unspoken. “Meaning the original? And how do you know your contact there’s trustworthy? How do you talk to someone in another dimension?”

“Richard may have let the cat halfway out of the bag a little early, but our contact is an operative for the US government agency I represent.” Marcus explains with an incline of his head to Nick. “But we’ll circle back to that in a second.”

Wright hides the embarrassment she feels for her outburst. Not because Marcus Raith isn’t a worthy target of her rage, but because she can’t remember the last time she snapped at someone like that. She controls her breathing, and the anger reduces to an almost undetectable simmer.

Simon’s impenetrable exchange with Ruby gives her pause for concern. She can’t tell if they’re unwilling participants in this event as well, or if they honestly believe she shouldn’t have a right to be angry. They’re clearly not calling the shots here.

Focus. If the network can function across timelines, that could be critical to this mission. But if they wanted to be sure that the link to someone on this side didn’t break—or needed to be maintained beyond a few weeks—One of them would have to stay behind. If the mission failed, and she and Elliot were trapped across that divide… One would die, and the other would be alone to experience the disastrous trauma that death would cause.

It’s Richard’s suggestion that Marcus might work for the DOE that catches Elliot’s attention. “That explains the antagonistically condescending demeanor,” he says, though he’s mostly joking.

Wright directs a question to the room at large. “Isn’t the Earth’s magnetic field created by the movement of the core? Is the Entity damaging the movement of the core itself, or just creating effects that interrupt the magnetosphere?” If the core stopped spinning it would be the end either way.

“As far as we’re able to observe the Earth’s core hasn’t slowed down. My agency’s best assessment is that anomalies caused across the Earth by the Entity’s activity — like the one over Detroit in February — are somehow damaging the magnetosphere. We believe that, in time, the damage may repair itself but only without further incidents.” To that, Marcus offers a look to Richard. “One of the many reasons I wanted to reach out to you. While we have access to tremendous scientific research, we all need to cooperate on this. And before you come across the table at me saying why didn’t you come to us sooner, we only found out in October.

Rue brushes her thumb along the outside of Wright’s hand, attempting to overwrite some of that embarrassment with her own gratitude and understanding. She was receiving an anger overflow from both sides of the link, as well as her own. How can anyone keep a truly level head? Rue can barely sort out her own shit on the best of days. The fact that this is the first time she’s seen Wright (or Elliot) fly off on someone speaks highly of their ability to handle their emotions.

“Wardrobe’s not as loud as I expected,” Rue murmurs back to Elliot across the divide, hoping to inject a little levity into this for all of them. Especially given she’d rather like to just slide under the coffee table, or excuse herself to the patio.

The others have good questions. Some she’d thought to ask herself. Others, well, it becomes clear that she may have been the only one of them that did not pay any attention at all in high school. Maybe she should have studied for her earth sciences exams instead of having a ghost give her all the answers. With her free hand, she makes a motion over the top of her head to indicate the vicinity in which Wright’s question found her — or didn’t.

Rather than focus on any of that, Rue lifts her gaze to Joy on the couch and studies her again. She can’t help but wonder if anyone’s really asked her if she’s okay.

With some questions answered and a moment of silence afforded, Marcus reaches inside of his jacket and produces a leatherbound folio that he hands over to Richard. “But to your earlier point, I don’t work for the Department of the Exterior. I’m a part of something different.”


“Officially, the Office of External Investigations handles investigative work for the Department of the Exterior pertaining to all non-terrestrial phenomena. Space, space weather, shuttle disasters. What isn’t publicly disclosed is that we also investigate paradimensional phenomenon.” Marcus exhales a soft breath at that, not quite a sigh but something adjacent. “The office was founded following the events at Sunspot to keep the United States abreast of the newly discovered complexity of our reality.”

Marcus stands near Richard, crossing his arms over his chest. “Due to the classified nature of this information, the exact particulars of our activity must also be kept undisclosed. The agents you’ve met are my subordinates… and our operation is paradimensional in nature. Both here, and in what we call the Remote Office or Branch 2. A timeline parallel to ours where the Civil War did not happen and the Department of Evolved Affairs was never formed.”

“The Rickham administration has been coordinating with us and we have co-opted members of multiple branches of government since the Sunspot incident with the intentions of sharing technology and scientific understanding. Due to the activities of the Entity, this has instead become a triage group trying to halt the end of all life on not just this Earth… but all Earths.” Marcus’ clarification of the states comes with a look around the room again.

“When I began to suspect that Mr. Broome had survived the events of the last few years, I came here to restart an old conversation.” Marcus looks to Broome, and this time it’s his turn to raise his brows expectantly.

Broome and Ruby briefly share a look, followed by Broome offering a subtle nod. “Marcus initially reached out to us in 1977 when the US Government, aware of but not able to stop the spread of the Company’s influence, was searching for a way to prevent the usurpation of the country. He reached out to you, Richard. Or rather… the you I knew then. However, you were suspicious of the government and rebuffed Marcus’ offer to partner with you.”

“What I didn’t know at the time is that Richard Cardinal was more than just a Special.” Marcus says with a spread of his hands at the use of an old-time term for Expressives. “The day that Richard was murdered by Samson Gray, he contacted me and wanted to talk. But I didn’t receive the message until it was too late, and Simon went to ground.”

“So, it would seem, we have closed that particular loop.” Broome admits with a slow shake of his head. “And now, given the perilous situation we’ve found ourselves in, I’ve tentatively agreed to join forces and cooperate in this endeavor with the resources we have, limited as they are.”

“Kill the Entity, Save the World.” Marcus states plainly.

“Hi! Yes!” Rue raises her hand like she’s waiting to be called on in a classroom, or maybe at a press briefing. “Excuse me.” Pointing at Marcus, she finally decides to address the elephant in the room. “How the fuck are you alive?”

“Time travel,” is Marcus’ flat answer. No follow-up.

“I’m marking points off, because you did not show your work,” Rue warns with a roll of her eyes.

At the look and the mention that he ‘let the cat half-way out of the bag’, Richard’s lips twitch in a slight, crooked line. “If I wasn’t going at leaps of logic and intuition, I wouldn’t be here, Swords.”

He listens then to the explanation - looking between the two men as they speak, fingers anxiously drumming against his knee. “…and I’d gathered the Exterior was something like that around the time they seized my research site in Antarctica before I’d gotten a follow-up expedition down there. Alright. I don’t see how we have a lot of choice here, if we don’t save the world we’re all going down with it. I’ve been working on a few… wait. The Rickham administration?”

He doesn’t blink for a long moment, before lifting one hand and burying his face in it, sunglasses shoved awkwardly up by the motion. After a moment, his shoulders start to shake, deep breaths gulped in now and again. Is he crying? After a moment, they can tell he’s laughing, though with a slightly hysterical edge and trying to control it. His other hand lifts up shakily, a finger raised.

Give him a minute, it says.

“Please tell me there’s not actually aliens. That’s all this fucking world needs next,” Nick murmurs in an aside, mostly to himself and not meant to be replied to as he studies Marcus through narrowed eyes. That he’s here through the wonders of time travel is, of course, not surprising and very fitting, given Nick’s last meeting with the man.

Marcus shrugs slightly at the question. “Jury’s still out there.”

“Can I get my cell phone back?” he asks, with a smirk lifting one corner of his mouth upward. “I had a brilliant video of a rat dragging a slice of pizza on that one.”

As Nick cracks his own jokes to deal with the existential weight of learning the world is doomed unless they all get their shit together, he glances over at Richard who seems to be losing his. He looks to Wright and Rue to assess their outward expressions, then back to Richard.

“You alright, mate?” he asks, brow ticking upward again.

Wright nods along as the conversation gets weirder and, somehow, even more apocalyptic. Wright looks across the room at Richard with a quirked brow. She turns away, trying to think of ways to lessen her personal anxiety at the thought of Separation across timelines. “How big is a Looking Glass?” she asks. “Would it be possible to build a modular version, transport it to the other side and assemble on-site?”

“The Looking Glass technology is not, typically, portable. The power requirements are significant and the sheer size of the framework means that it needs to be constructed at a large scale. However…” Marcus crosses his arms. “Our Remote Office has been working on miniaturization of the technology, as their side has had access to the tech for a significantly longer period of time. What we’ve been able to develop is a portable data transference device codenamed the Iris. It’s still large and would need to be moved in pieces and assembled, but a feasible number.”

“If transport back from the Root Timeline isn’t possible, at the very least you could get the data back to us.” Marcus explains with a level of gravity appropriate for someone discussing a one-way mission. “There’s other complications with bringing technology through the Looking Glass… but that’s probably a discussion better reserved for the specialists.”

Slowly turning her head to where Richard is apparently losing his shit, Rue spends the time it takes her to glance him up and down to assess what to do with that before she’s turning back to center again. The answer, she’s decided, is nothing. Whatever’s going on in that head of Ray’s, she almost certainly wants no part of it. Not at the moment, anyway.

Instead, she nods her head along with Wright’s question, affirming the validity of it and running her tongue over her teeth. She raises a question of her own. “How are we supposed to kill the ancient thing that nobody’s managed to vanquish before?”

A beat. “Asking for a friend.” The ginger points over her shoulder to Richard. Him. Specifically. That friend.

“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” Marcus asks of Rue. “We know vulnerabilities based on coordinated research between SESA and Raytech and the Company was in development of a weapons system codenamed Amaterasu that could damage the Entity… but is that enough? Can we even kill something like that? Those aren’t questions we’re going to be able to answer here, today.”

“That’s a topic with a million variables, ones that everyone in this room has a corner of in their hands. I can almost see Richard percolating with the desire to talk about the things only he and his company knows about.” Marcus says with a crooked smile. “But there’s a time and a place for that, with people smarter than me, and more eyes on.”

“But my office is actively investigating the Entity in as much as anyone can,” Marcus explains. “As of yet, though? Nothing is certain. All of these weapons and weaknesses might be for nothing. We just don’t know enough.”

After a few moments, Richard wipes his eyes, drawing in a deep breath… exhaling it… and then leaning back again, shaking his head. "Every time," he murmurs to himself, tucking his shades into the collar of his sweater, "Every… every fucking' time. M’fine, Nick, just… circles in circles. I can’t ever escape it."

He closes his eyes, focuses, and then opens them to focus on Marcus. "Has the…" Hesitation, as he figures out phrasing, "…vice president of Branch 2's father reviewed this plan?"

“Their Edward?” Marcus shoots the elephant in the room. “He’s a part of our agency. We’ve been consulting.”

Nick’s expression is grim as Marcus speaks of the mission as a one-way trip, looking then over to Richard when he speaks again. He nods once to the sort-of reply Richard gives him — he doesn’t know what it’s about, but he knows what it’s like to be caught in an escapable loop.

He stands then, raking fingers through his hair at last and takes the few steps over to the glass doors leading to the wintry outside. He doesn’t step through them, but looks that way for a moment, before turning again, leaning a shoulder against the glass and crossing one booted ankle over the other as he regards the rest of the room once more.

“And,” he says, chiming in with his own question to go with Richard’s oddly specific query, “are you sure that opening any portal between these two branches won’t knock something worse loose?” He glanced to Richard, then Marcus. “I know we don’t got much choice but in a world with actual psychics and shit,” he shrugs, “you got anyone telling us this idea’s got better odds than not? Or warning you if we do this, it’ll make the universe collapse like a stack of cards?”

Nick’s blue eyes slide over to Richard once more as if to apologize for that simile.

“It will, actually. There’s an entirely separate issue related to the interdimensional travel, but it’s a longer time-table. So we need to rob Peter to pay Paul in this instance. We just can’t solve every problem at once, so our goal is to solve the most pressing ones.” Marcus says with a slow spread of his hands. “But the odds are, at least, in our favor.”

Wright’s primary focus at this point is brainstorming ways to ensure a return after Mission Complete. She’s not anxious, but focused. Elliot is running through possibilities of his own, eyes unfocused. “You mentioned a Mateo Ruiz having an ability that could open a way back?” she asks. “Any chance there’s a version of them in the Root timeline that could provide that service?”

“No.” Simon chimes in, drawing Marcus’ attention. “That Mateo Ruiz accidentally crossed over when Erica Kravid attempted to activate a Looking Glass in the arcology in our timeline. He died in the arcology’s collapse, to the best of my knowledge.” Simon looks down at his lap, wringing his hands together, shaking his head.

This is a lot, to say the least. There are answers, there are answers that aren’t great, and there are no answers in some cases. Ruminating quietly with her head bowed, Wright is watched from the corner of her eye. Rue’s never been great as solving for x on its surface, but she knows how to dig to find enough information to fill in gaps, to paint enough of a picture to work from and make best guesses.

Rue lifts her head. “How long do you expect this operation to last? How long does the away team need to expect to spend in this Root timeline?”

“We don’t know. Anywhere between a couple weeks, to a couple years.” Marcus spreads his hands helplessly. “And I only say a couple years because if we don’t have it solved by then we’re all fucking dead. But right now that other world is a mystery to us, even with all our resources. We don’t know what you’ll encounter there outside of our best-case hopes… and I won’t lie…”

Marcus shakes his head and looks out one of the large windows. “Given how dangerous it is there, those who do make the crossing could very well die there.” He looks back to the group, expression serious and stern.

“There really isn’t much more to discuss at this point.” Marcus admits. “At least not yet. Next steps will be to assemble the team and have those of you who will be crossing over meet for training sometime in March. But it’s too soon to have the logistics on that hammered out. Until then… the conversation in this room never happened.”

Marcus looks at everyone, one-by-one. “I don’t think I need to tell you what would happen if word about this went public. People joke about conspiracy theories cracking the world wide open, but if you think the 2007 press conference about the Evolved caused a firestorm… let’s just say the statistics for don’t end as well in our favor.”

“That said,” Simon chimes in. “I… do invite you all to stay for the night, at least. I know some of you may have questions of a more personal nature that I might be able to answer. I assure you, this place is a safehaven. You will come to no harm here.”

“I guess I’m in, then,” says Richard with a slight, rueful smile, still shaking his head at the loop he seems forever caught in. “As for retrieval— most time travellers can jump strings, they’re just not aware of it. Unfortunately I don’t know of any extant these days.”

Except for a young boy that he’s not going to mention.

He draws in a breath, exhales it, closes his eyes and nods, “Alright. I’m sure we have a lot to talk about, certainly, old friend.” There may be yelling.

The hits just keep coming. Nick stands back, quiet now his questions have been asked and answered. When Richard says he’s in, Nick’s gaze shifts from Marcus back to the man he’s traveled here with, his icy gaze shifting to something else — worry and respect for what Richard is potentially giving up to go on a mission that might take two years or might result in a permanent residence in the Root timeline, wherever that is.

He knows his advice won’t matter, that Richard’s mind is likely already made up, but Nick gives it quietly anyway. “Give it some thought before jumping into anything, yeah? There might be other people with less to lose than you, mate.” There are people without children, people without wives or husbands.

Wright sighs as she processes the realities of this operation. Possibly years, even if the world doesn’t end. There are probably other questions to ask. Right now neither she nor Elliot can think of any they want to ask in front of other people; or even of Simon in private. She gives Rue’s hand a gentle squeeze before taking her own back.

Rue returns that squeeze and relinquishes hold. The gravity of the situation weighs her down. What's being asked of people she cares about… It's too much. It's too much to ask of anybody, let alone people with the most to lose if this winds up being a one-way ticket.

Rising to her feet, Rue scrubs the heel of her hand over her face, digging in against the hollows of her eye sockets. Like she can wipe away her confusion and her conflicting takes on the solution presented for averting the end of the goddamn multiverse.

"I just need some air," she tells them, defeated. Rue starts to head back the way they came in with the intention of retrieving her coat so she can do this somewhat more comfortably. "You still smoke, Nick?" She angles a look to him, leaving it up to him if he wants to take up an invitation to join her, or just fulfill or deny her request.

“I have a late flight out of Stockholm to catch,” Marcus explains as he relaxes his posture and shifts his attention to Broome and Ruby. “We’ll reconnect in a few weeks when I’ve handled logistics stateside. Until then, take some time to appreciate the company of loved ones. If we fuck this up, it might be one of the last chances any of you get to spend time with them.”

It’s only then that Niklaus Zimmerman returns to the doorway, waiting for a nod of approval from Broome that comes after a moment of silence. Niklaus turns his attention to Marcus. “I will drive you to the airport,” he says tactfully, carefully. The way one might address a lion in the savannah.

“Let me show you all where the guest rooms are…” Simon quietly says before spurring his wheelchair into motion.

They would all need time to process what they just learned…

…about the end of the world.


Thousands of Miles Away

President’s Office
Yamagato Building
Yamagato Park, NYC Safe Zone

9:34 am, Local Time


“Have Hachiro take care of it first thing when he gets in.”

Kimiko Nakamura feels like she hasn’t slept in days. Maneuvering through the doors to her office she cradles her cell phone to one ear, clutching a tablet to her chest, purse cradled by its straps in the crook of her elbow. “I understand, but only Hachiro has permission to enter the server core.”

Hastily, Kimiko throws her purse down on her desk and sets her tablet on top of it, then walks to the towering windows at the far wall behind her desk. She looks out over the mist-shrouded district caught in early morning light, with a dense fog rolling in off of the water. Her eyes follow the traffic, brows furrow from the throb of a migraine behind her right eye.

Hachiro will handle it.” Kimiko says through her teeth before abruptly ending her call. She breathes deeply, then puts the window at her back and sets her phone down with a click on the glass surface of her desk. Shoulders rising and falling, she looks at her muted reflection in the glossy black surface.

It’s only then she notices a piece of origami sitting in front of her chair. Kimiko’s heart flutters in her chest, lungs tighten, and a chill runs down her spine. The pale white paper crane is folded delicately and with such familiar handiwork. She dares not to touch it, afraid it is a hallucination brought on by fatigue.


But hallucinations don’t talk.



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