And All Shall Be Well


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Scene Title And All Shall Be Well
Synopsis Facing what seems impossible, Chess and Richard look for hope in its many guises.
Date April 16, 2021

Janus Offshore Drilling Platform

Off the Coast of Virginia Beach

Even for spring, it’s chilly out on the water. While the height of the platform helps to cut down on the moisture in the air, it seems to highlight the strength of the wind. But at least it’s fresh air, and up at the railing looking out to sea, the anomaly below is at least out of sight — but hardly out of mind.

Chess’ long blond hair whips around her face as she squints toward the east. Her expression is pensive, as her dark brows knit together. It’s not hard to imagine what those thoughts are — the same worries, questions, ifs, and maybes that they’ve been discussing since they’ve been given the grand tour, no doubt. Not worth a penny.

“At least it’s not in negative colors,” comes Richard’s voice as he approaches where she’s standing, hands tucked in the pockets of his bomber jacket, sunglasses hiding his eyes as usual as he follows her gaze towards the eastern sea, “That was a view I could have done without. Reminded me of… well.”

He stops beside her, gazing out, “…the last time I was going far away to save the world, I guess.”

Looking over her shoulder, Chess gives Richard a weak attempt at a smile. “I’m not sure I’ll be able to unsee most of what we saw today anytime soon. Just more nightmare fuel, I guess.” She huffs a short, breathy laugh and shakes her head. “Didn’t need any more of that, to be honest.”

Her gaze returns to the water; it’s not as terrifying to look at as what they saw below their feet, but it’s not a relaxing view, at least for her. The vastness of it makes her feel removed, helpless, small.

“The suits reminded me of my last world-saving attempt, and we all know how that ended,” Chess says wryly. “When was yours? Did it work? Because it’d be good to have at least one person on the mission who’s actually saved the world before, not gonna lie. Even if it was for a different disaster.”

“We used to have a joke-not-joke that saving the world was our actual job,” Richard says with a slight shake of his head, “I don’t know if Luther told you any stories from back in the day, although he didn’t join our little… conspiracy until after Apollo. Someone wrote a book about it, although a lot of the details are…”

He brings one hand up in a vague motion through the air, “…glossed over, for obvious reasons. Hell, half of Apollo….” He smiles a little, “Nobody’d believe us. A giant robot crab, flying away from a collapsing mountain while Kazimir Volken stood on top of it, shouting to steer for the town…”

“We succeeded,” he admits quietly, “We stopped the bomb planted in the Antarctic ice. Everything else failed at that last minute, but I was the failsafe.”

One brow tics upward and it might seem like Chess doesn’t believe him, but then she shakes her head. “Nothing sounds believable anymore, even the truth. I’ve seen too many insane things myself to doubt that, but it does sound like something out of a movie and not real life.”

She jerks her head over her shoulder, to indicate the rest of the platform, and presumably what’s beneath it. “So does this.”

Turning toward him, she leans one elbow on the railing and folds her arms across her chest. “So where we’re going is the timeline where you didn’t save the world? That’s a little ironic. Thanks, are in order, by the way, for being the failsafe here.” The last comment comes without the sarcasm the rest of her words often carry.

“It’s the only timeline that I wasn’t in,” Richard says, his tone oddly wistful as he looks out at the water, “And thanks. If we ever need to absorb another nuclear bomb, though, I’d like to request that someone else pull that particular duty.”

He closes his eyes behind his shades, “For me… honestly? Day to day business, that’s what doesn’t seem real anymore. I’m always waiting for the next thing to come along and turn the world into something new. It’s probably some sort of post-traumatic stress or something, though.”

“I have no idea if I exist anywhere but here,” Chess says quietly, thoughtfully, glancing back to the water and then back to Richard, her face reflected back at herself in his glasses.

“Since Detroit, I’ve gotten the ability to absorb hits, but that would be a bit too much, I think. Speaking of PTSD.” She shakes her head. “I told Gates when he pulled me in for this that I’ve got a bad record for actually fixing things, but I guess being willing might be my only qualification.”

Her smile tips up one corner of her mouth as she adds, “Probably a little stupid, too. Or stubborn, if you want to sugar coat it.”

A lift of her shoulder shrugs away the self deprecation, and Chess juts her chin in his direction. “So you up to date on your Mother’s Day flowers and cards? Not getting a lot of confidence vibes on your whole mom situation. No judgment here. My parental situation is awkward AF, afterall.”

“My mother’s from the root timeline,” Richard explains, shaking his head ever so slightly, “She invented the— technology that they’re using down there, accidentally. She was trying to make a window through time, and accidentally made something else.”

“There was an accident. I’d just been born. A… lot of people were moved between timelines. I was one of them, just a few days old. The Michelle Cardinal on this side was killed by the Company in the aftermath…”

Gazing off at the water, “She spent decades trying to find me, somehow. Finally, we found each other. And now they want her to send me away. So no… she’s not going to like this.”

Chess listens, turning back to the water. Her brows draw together, and she looks back up at him. “Shit. I’m sorry,” she says quietly. “I’m glad you found one another again. I…” she grimaces, and looks back to the east, reaching up to push her hair behind her ears when the wind tugs it.

She chuckles and shakes her head. “I was going to say at least you have a parent to miss you, but honestly that might make it harder than it is for me. And really, the words ‘at least you’ always sound dismissive, and I don’t mean to be. It is harder for you than it is for me. I don’t have kids. I’m not leaving behind a spouse.”

Still, her dark eyes shine with unfallen tears when Chess looks back at him. “It’s a lot to give up. I have friends, sisters. Luther.” Her lips press together and she shakes her head again. “But it’s not the same. So thank you. I want you to know I appreciate it. I don’t know how to do anything but blow shit up, but I’ll do whatever I can to help you get back to them, yeah?”

“Ah, you don’t need to thank me…” Richard smiles a bit, looking back to her with a brow lifted slightly, “It’s my job. This is what I do. It wasn’t really a joke, never was, this…”

He sweeps a hand to indicate the rig, the water, everything.

“This is what I do. But I do appreciate it.” His hand drops back down to his side, and he looks back to her once more, “I’ll do everything I can to get you back too. It’s not as hopeless as some of them are thinking, I promise you that.”

She follows the gesture with her eyes, a small smirk curving her mouth to one side. “I think it’s sort of what I do, too, only I haven’t had much success so far,” she says wryly. “I guess the war might count, but that was less apocalypse and more… revolution, I guess? Also I don’t get paid. Not a great job, come to think of it.”

Her gaze returns to him, and Chess smiles at the promise and the encouragement. “Once back in Praxia, Lene and I talked about how we jump from one crisis to another. I guess maybe some of us do that so others don’t have to. But it’d be nice if there were longer periods of time between the crisises,” she shakes her head and tries again, “…crises. I’m still recovering from the last one, you know?”

She looks over her shoulder. “It’s not hopeless,” she agrees. “But they need to look at all the ways it might fail to prepare us better, yeah?

“Look, when ‘Lene was working for me she damn well got paid,” Richard observes with a slight smile, “So did Luther. I at least make sure the crazy bastards that help me save the world don’t have to worry about rent. That ‘building a brighter future’ motto isn’t about business, you know…”

“You’re right, but they’re not going to. So that falls to us. Whatever they say you ‘can’t tell people’… ignore it. Just make sure it doesn’t hit the media or become public knowledge, that’s what they really mean,” he advises, since out here in the open air it’s unlikely any bugs or listening devices would work, “Make your own preparations with whoever you need to.”

“As for the rest, we had a saying for that, too, back in the day. Something Allen Rickham told me once.”

He looks off to the water again, silent for a long moment before he repeats the old Endgame mantra.

“We can rest when we’re done.”

Her dark eyes turn back to him. “The problem is that we’re never done. I think you mean we can rest when we’re dead.” The tone is light despite the cynical outlook.

She huffs a short laugh and looks back out at the water. “I don’t know what I want to tell them — the few people who care. I can’t even imagine telling Luther I’m going to a parallel universe and may never return.” Her brows draw together and she’s quiet a moment, trying to imagine how that would turn out.

None of the scenarios turn out well. She shakes her head.

“He had trouble enough with California,” Chess says wryly. “But he’s the only parental figure who cares about me, so I don’t really relish the thought of lying to him, either.”

“I said what I said,” Richard replies, not denying it, a slight and rueful smile touching his lips as he looks back to her.

“Tell him,” he encourages her, “If— the worst comes? At least he’ll know where you are, where you went. Can hope that we’re alive on the other side, somehow. You *know* he’ll fucking feel guilty for the rest of his life if he doesn’t know.”

Her expression turns a little grim as his turns rueful, but she nods when he tells her to tell Luther. She knows he’s right — and that she would never forgive herself for not saying goodbye. Just thinking about saying it again, with even less hope than she had in California makes her eyes well up again, dark eyes swimming with tears. Chess takes a shaky breath and shifts gears away from that topic.

“I’ve been trying to find information on my biological parents,” Chess says suddenly. “Adam because he’s likely not Adam anymore, and Joy…” The sentence breaks off like she planned to give a reason for looking for Joy, but doesn’t try to voice it. “Give or take a few genetic sequences.” She wipes her cheeks, catching her hair together again and twisting it in s loose coil, tucking it in front of one shoulder so it won’t keep whipping in the wind.

“Do you have people on that?” she asks, suddenly. “I worry about Jac… I’m not sure she knows what he is now. He — It — might trick her, like it tried to trick me. Like it tricked Adam in the past. She’s smart but it’s manipulative and smart.”

“At the moment, the Entity’s out of our reach… it’s in Mazdak-controlled territory, not that we have a plan to deal with it yet anyway,” Richard admits with a slight grimace, “Jac should be— largely resistant to its influence, even if she’s the only one, but you’re right. It could still try and trick her, especially since it has Monroe’s… brain to use for that.”

Then he looks to her with an eyebrow’s raise, offering quietly, “If you like, I can ask Joy to call you?”

Chess’ brows draw together at the question, but she sets it away for a moment.

“Theoretically I was too — I think we’re only immune to being possessed. It wanted me to fight for it, back in Detroit, to buy it time,” she explains, looking out to the water again. “I told you in your office how it offered me power? It wasn’t just power it offered. It… offered to bring me back someone I loved. Someone who died saving my. It brought me back to that moment, to Miles freshly dead in Raven Rock, and offered to bring him back to life, like he’d never been gone, six years later.”

Tears glitter in her eyes at the memory, at both memories, and she looks back up at him.

“I was supposedly immune, too. Not as immune as Jac, but enough for her to get in my head and know my heart.” She takes a breath, then presses her lips together. “Anyway. I have to decide whether I’m telling her I’m leaving or not. But…”

Her eyes narrow a little. “You can ask Joy to call me?” she asks, huffing out a small, uncertain laugh. “You know where she is?”

Richard brings one finger up to his lips at the question, a bit of a smile there.

“I know a lot of things,” he admits, “It’s what I do, really. As for the Entity…”

A sigh, “It offers a lot, but knowing that nothing it offers matters because it’s about to incinerate the world… makes it a little easier to refuse, at least.”

Chess huffs a short laugh, and her expression is a pained one. “I didn’t know it at the time,” she says quietly, a tear sliding down her face. “I had the chance to bring back the person I loved most in the world, for a few moments of fighting, well, everyone else.”

One hand reaches up to swipe away her tears and she shakes her head. “But you’re right. It should make it easier to say no. In the future. If the people it tries to manipulate can focus on the greater good and not whatever shiny thing it offers instead. It tried to convince me it wasn’t for me, but for him, for Miles.”

She lifts her shoulders. “You said you know where Joy is. She’s…” Chess presses her lips together, schooling her emotions into something more neutral, or trying to. “Okay?”

“She’s as…” Richard draws in a breath, shaking his head, “She’s as okay as she can be. I think she carries around more sadness than any one person should ever be capable of, honestly, I…”

He looks back out across the water, silent for a moment, “If you’ve talked to her before, I’m sure you know how she is. Like a.. A tragic poem in human form, carrying a profundity to her every word that you just don’t feel smart enough to understand. Fragile— yet unbreakable.”

“I have, and I don’t,” she says, with a shake of her head. “I don’t think she really wanted to get to know me when I went to Praxia. She wasn’t unkind. Just not… personal.”

Another tear slips from her lashes and she turns away. “I was just a soldier in a war.”

Her shoulders rise and fall. “She doesn’t have to call me. She knew where I was for the past year, so she has her reasons for keeping to herself.” Chess’ brows draw together in a familiar sort of pain, the one that comes with feeling unwanted, abandoned. One that colors her connotation of family.

“I guess if you talk to her let her know I asked.”

“Don’t judge her too harshly,” Richard says quietly, reaching a hand over to rest on her shoulder if she doesn’t flinch away, “She— didn’t want anything to go the way it did, I don’t think. With Adam, with you all, with… all of it. And when you’ve lost as much as she has, I can only imagine how hard it is to risk connecting to anything, or anyone, anymore.”

He gives his head a little shake, “But I’ll let her know.”

Chess doesn’t pull away, and her eyes are solemn when they meet his again. “I don’t,” she says, shaking her head. “I just wish things were different.”

She lifts her shoulder and takes a deep breath. “Does anyone here have normal family relationships?” she asks, with a laugh, knowing the answer for Eve and Castle is a resounding no. “Maybe that’s the common denominator that makes us uniquely qualified for this hail Mary mission of ours, though I’m not sure why.”

Her smile turns a little wry, and she shakes her head. “I think we’re some of the very few people who they know can’t — won’t — say no, for whatever reason. Martyrdom, hope, hero’s complex, survivor’s guilt. Maybe a combination of all those.”

“Edward - the one in the other timeline - is involved with planning all of this. They wouldn’t have asked if they didn’t already know we’d agree,” Richard says, his tone a bit wry, “Try not to think about it too much, it’ll give you an existential crisis, and I’ve been having that one for— hell, nearly half my life.”

He shakes his head, looking back to the horizon. “We’ve got to hope that because of us, things will be different, for someone else. For those who come after us. That all shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of things shall be well…”

“I’ve had those, but identity crisis is more my flavor,” Chess quips back. “Courtesy of clonehood and being manufactured in a lab.”

Her eyes narrow at the quote, and she shakes her head after a moment. “I’m sure that’s a quote, but if it’s not philosophy or Shakespeare, I probably don’t know it. And the Shakespeare’s pretty rusty these days.” She hasn’t read any since she blew up her copy fighting Ivy.

“St. Augustine said Hope has two daughters, Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to do something about it,” she says. “I know I have both. Guessing you do, too.” She offers him a small smile. “Thanks for listening.”

“Julian of Norwich,” Richard admits with a soft chuckle, “The answer provided to her by the Son of the Lord when she asked about the necessity of evil in the world.”

“I guess I do have both… but after all this time, I find that what keeps me going is faith. You gotta believe things are gonna work out, if you work hard enough,” he says, offering her a rueful smile, “And hey. Anytime. Luther always took care of my people. So I’m happy to take care of his.”

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