And So This Is Christmas


cassandra_icon.gif richard2_icon.gif

Scene Title And So This is Christmas
Synopsis John Lennon had no idea.
Date December 3, 2018

Richard's Office, RayTech

“I’m Cassandra Baumann, from SESA. I’m here to see Mr. Ray. Is he available?”

It’s early morning at the front desk of Raytech and Cassandra is doing what is thought to be impossible. After claiming her second cup of coffee and making it across town in record time, she’s attempting to have a meeting with Richard Ray without being on the schedule. She doesn’t seem to be leery about dropping her credentials of SESA, or Richard’s name to whoever - or whatever - is manning the front desk, but she knows not to try any sort of intrusion by word if it’s mechanical.

After all, she doesn’t want a repeat of the raptor incident.

The mechanical raptor-secretary is not— praise all the Gods that may be— present today. One hopes that if it’s ever present again it’s been disarmed, or at least better-programmed to deal with unexpected information.

“Agent Baumann’s here to see you, Mister Ray,” Sera cheerfully tells the intercom, “She doesn’t have an appointment, though. Should I call the robots?” Cassandra gets eyed suspiciously.

”What rob— you know what, nevermind. No, Sera. I’ll be right there.”

“He’ll be right here, Agent Baumann!” The secretary points to her eyes, then Cassandra, eying her for a moment despite the cheerful demeanor.

It’s just a few minutes before Richard arrives, hands spreading a bit. “Cassandra, good to see you.”

It was a relief to see that there was a person at the front desk - although in this place it could be a holographic projection, a simulacrum, or something to do with cold lasers that’s wired into the building’s security systems.

Even if it’s a plain old person, that last bit is almost certainly true.

“Thank you.” Cassandra replies, stepping out of the way to a small seating alcove near the front desk, sitting down on one of the utilitarian wooden benches. She waits quietly there by the desk, a satchel slung from left shoulder to right hip across her body, hidden beneath her coat. Anything offensive was taken care of by security when she entered the building first thing, and for a SESA agent, she was surprisingly well armed. Now, with her check tag tucked away in her wallet she awaits the arrival of the man of the hour.

“Richard.” Cassandra rises to her feet with a solemn expression, shifting the bag beneath her coat to the front. “I’ve…I need to talk to you. In private, if I may.” She cuts straight to the point. ”I don’t know what any of what I saw means but…” She trails off. “I just need to show you something that I think is important. That you’ll find important.”

“Why do I suddenly feel like I should grab some whiskey on my way?” The comment is, of course, rhetorical as Richard sweeps an arm in invitation and turns to start walking, “Is this one of those ‘we’re going to need a large, empty room’ sort of things, Agent Baumann, or more of just a private conversation?”

Wry, he glances back, “Just need to know where to go.”

“It might help.” Cassandra says quietly as she follows along behind Richard, the receptionist following the pair of them until they’re out of sight, going back to her duties of answering the phone and acting as a physical barrier to anyone who might be entering the building.

“This is one of those private conversation things, Richard. Your office would be best, I think, if I remember the set up correctly.” She pauses as they make their way through a security gate, her issued VISITOR pass glowing green as she passes through. “You know how people in October were reporting visions of unfamiliar events?” This was reported on the news as being a worldwide phenomenon that’s, to this day, unexplained. “Odd visions are par for the course for me, to be truthful, but I..had one. Out of the blue. Without my ability acting at all.”

She reaches out to touch his shoulder lightly, stopping their travels in the hall.

“Do you have a daughter, Richard?”

The question gives Richard pause, his head turning to look at her over his shoulder in silence for a moment— an unreadable expression. No answer, though, as he turns back away from her and leads the way to the elevator.

In silence he rides up with her, heads down the hall, and taps his security pass against the black touch-pad near his door. The door releases and he leads the way in, shaking his head slowly as he does.

Once the door closes, he finally speaks.

“Two,” he says quietly, crouching down to catch the charging kitten - getting a bit big now - and hefting the little ball of red fluff up into his arms, fingers stroking over her fur, “Given that you referenced the dimensional overlay, I’m going to assume you’re referring to Aurora.”

Richard’s office is just as Cassandra remembered it. Stepping inside, she looks around to see what, if anything has changed, looking over her shoulder once the door has shut. Nodding simply, she moves to the desk and lifting a very familiar photograph from its prominent place on the surface. “That’s what this woman called her, yes.” The picture is turned to show Elisabeth’s face smiling from behind the glass.

The picture is replaced in its spot, Cassandra turning to look at Richard, leaning against the desk. “I had a vision of…something. With Aurora, this woman, and me. We were…” She wipes her eyes. “We were setting up a christmas tree, of all things, in the corner of an apartment, and just talked about things…” The bag is unfastened and Cassandra withdraws the only thing she had with her when the vision hit - an oversized sleep shirt with a cartoon cat emblazoned on the front.

Folding it over, she lets it rest between her two palms, moving it to sit on the top of the desk, resting one hand against it.

“I didn’t get this woman’s name, but I remembered seeing her face in this picture when I visited.” Thank goodness for observant SESA agents. “She and Aurora and the other…me were talking and…if you’d like…I can show you what was said.”

The offer is given, respectfully.

“Elisabeth Harrison.” Richard’s chin dips in a slight nod as he looks to the photograph, gently setting Richelieu down on the desk’s surface. The kitten pads over to the edge closer to Cassandra, mewling softly as he peers up at her.

A slow breath’s drawn in, exhaled, and he nods once more. “She was lost during the Battle of Nazahat; her and another man were drawn into a singularity and pushed into an alternate timeline. She gave birth eight or nine months later. If prophecies and probabilities win out, they should be home soon, but…”

Hesitating, he nods, “I’d— like that, yes.”

Cassandra nods. She doesn’t need to go through the litany this time as she winds her blindfold around her eyes and takes a seat on the floor cross-legged in front of the desk, where Richard can sit or stand as he pleases. “It’s a little blurry.” she warns. “So I may not be able to get the whole thing but…little bits hopefully will be enough.”

The room darkens as she uses her ability, a mass of threads bursting forth from the bit of cloth that she’s pulled to hold in her lap. She quickly and easily finds the thread she’s searching for - a shining thread that’s a different color from the rest, drawing it down to bring it to the fore, the vision starting.

For a time, the vision is something simple and mundane. Cassandra, alone in her apartment with her cat, watching something on television when, suddenly, it all changes…

“It’s not much of a Christmas tree, but I think I did pretty good.”

The room that they sit in is small and dim. Fading sunlight trickles in through a grime-covered window flanked by ragged curtains. The sound of waves and the sea can be heard, even viewed, if one looks out towards the endless ocean surrounding them. The tops of buildings - familiar ones to New Yorkers - rise out of the water, sentinel-like, the streets below submerged, the city transformed into a metropolitan archipelago that people still call home. “I had to do a little bartering to get some of this stuff but, hey. Do as much as you can with what you can get.”

A branch from a tree, the bark long worn away by the action of waves, the surface mirror-smooth from the endless friction of water and current, has been cut off short and placed in a corner, a broken wheel rim acting as a makeshift stand. The branches have been festooned with plastic and glass, debris that would be considered trash anywhere else, but here woven into garlands and tied into bows. And somehow, in one of the rooms left over from that last Christmas before the bomb so long ago, a string of lights was found and draped over the branches.

Turning from the battery by the window, wires leading out and up to somewhere on the roof, Cassandra holds up a plug. “Aurora? Do you want to do the honors?”

Aurora's sitting in her mother's lap, watching Cassandra string up the lights. She has Blossom in the crook of her arm, and she's been a little uncertain. Elisabeth glances up when Cassandra asks that. Aurora climbs up out of Liz's lap and tucks the floppy stuffed dog back into Liz's lap. "Hold Bossum, Mummy." The petite little girl comes over and takes the plug, biting her lip as she deliberately and ceremoniously plugs the plug into the socket.

When the colored lights come on — several of them apparently burned out, so they're lucky they found a set wired in parallel! — Aurora is… entranced. "Oooh," she breathes out, clasping her hands tight in front of her in glee. "Look! Look! They're so pretty! Unca Felix always had white lights," she reminds Cassandra. "Mummy and me like colored ones."

At the sight of Liz, of Aurora, tears come to Richard’s eyes. He steps slowly through the vision, reaching out a hand as if to touch the woman’s cheek— finding nothing— and then he turns to watch his daughter plug in the lights, a sad little smile curving to his lips.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” he says softly, to nobody at all.

Quietly sitting as the vision progresses, Cassandra only watches, letting Richard take his moments when needed before she continues further.

“I like the colored ones too.” Cassandra confides to the little girl, giving her a smile as she moves to sit on one of the threadbare couches, moving aside a bedroll so she can sit without sitting on someone’s bed. “I grew up with my granny having big lights like these in her house on the bayou. I’m so glad I can share this with you and your Mommy.”

Enraptured by the colored lights, Aurora stares at them for a few moments. Then she comes over to climb back into the nest of Elisabeth's crossed legs, tugging Blossom back into her arms. Resting her head back on her mother's shoulder, she looks at Cassandra. "Christmas stories?" she asks, a little hesitantly.

Biting her lip, Elisabeth looks at Cassandra. The little girl looks up at her mother. "It's not Christmas without Yggy and Unca Felix and Unca Lee," Aurora says staunchly. "They're not here. But… we could see them…"

“That’s right, Rory, we can.” Cassandra says softly. “If you’re sure. If your mommy is sure, too.”

Elisabeth considers and then gives Aurora a serious look. "Do you think… that maybe we could wait and do that on Christmas?" she asks. "Mummy's… not sure she's okay to see them just yet."

Immediately Aurora nods. "Okay, Mummy. It'll be our Christmas present, okay?" She pats Elisabeth's face gently and smiles. "Another story?"

"Well…" Elisabeth pauses. "I could tell you stories about my Christmases as a kid," she offers. "Or Cassandra could tell you about hers." She pauses. "Or I could tell you stories about your grandfather… and your dad."

Cassandra smiles. “I like that idea. Is it okay if I sit with You and Mummy and Blossom while we tell stories? I can bring my blanket over to cover us all.”

Aurora hesitates. She looks resistant but she nods a little bit. "Okay."

Scooting a little to lean back against the wall with her arms around the little girl, Elisabeth pulls in a breath. "Okay… let's see." She waits until Cassandra has the blanket and comes back, snuggling all three of them beneath the covering against the chill of the evening.

The image freezes at this moment, Cassandra, Elisabeth, and Aurora sitting, about to tell their story. “I…kind of did some mental math. I recognized her face from the picture but didn’t place it until a little later…which is why it took me a day to get over here. Once I realized they were probably talking about you…” Cassandra rubs her head. “I thought you should see this.”

She gestures to the frozen scene. “There is more.”

“She knew Felix and… oh. They must’ve been in— right, right,” Richard shakes his head, dismissing momentary confusion. Alternate timelines are still weird to think about, even for him. He crouches down near to where Liz and Aurora are, watching them with that faint, sad smile, resisting an urge to reach out again.

“Christ. I can only imagine what stories she’s telling about me.”

“Well…” Cassandra pauses, with a soft chuckle. “You’ll see.”

"So… I don't think I ever told you this. When your daddy and I first started seeing each other… it was kinda complicated. Cuz you know, grown-ups always make things more complicated than they have to be." She grins at Aurora. "Remember I told you I was a police officer?"

After Aura nods curiously, Elisabeth continues. "Well, I was also sort of a soldier for a while, too. And your daddy and me and the Uncle Felix who lives in my world, we were all working together. But the first Christmas… me and Uncle Felix were in a place called Russia. It's a country on the far side of the world from here." And all hell was breaking loose and Mummy was killing people, but that's not part of this story. "I had had to leave New York without letting Daddy know where I was going… so he was really really worried when I was finally able to call him."

Aurora looks intrigued now. "There's a Unca Felix where we're going?" And then she chides, "You know you're s'posed to call, Mummy."

“She’s got you there, Mummy. You are supposed to call.” Cassandra teases once she’s settled down, the blanket swaddling the three of them in a warm embrace, Aurora and Blossom in the middle between the two women, illuminated by the setting sun and the twinkling of the christmas lights. “There is a Felix there, and you get to meet him all over again. How special will that be for him? And for you?”

Whoa! Aurora's fascinated now.

“Oh, Christ,” Richard shakes his head, smirking, “This story…”

He looks over to Cassandra, “‘Had to leave without telling him’ in this case translates to ‘Vincent fucking Lazarro chloroformed her and she woke up in Russia on a black ops mission she didn’t sign up for’.” The Homeland Secretary has a checkered past, it seems.

“Oh…” Cassandra sits a little straighter. “You, Richard, have had an interesting life…This is the last bit that I got here.” Cassandra’s voice is soft, static of sorts making some words not come through, almost like she’s adjusting the tracking on an old video tape.

Elisabeth has to stifle a snicker at that. "There is," she agrees. "And yes, I know I'm supposed to call, but it just … went badly. So anyway, there I was, sitting in Russia, calling your dad to let him know that I was okay and asking him to make sure Grampa knew too… and you know what he did?"

Aurora's hazel eyes — God, her father's eyes — are wide as she stares at her mother. "What??" Blossom is being held tight to her chest in anticipation.

"He said 'I love you,'" she tells Aurora somewhat indignantly. "That was the first time he ever said it to me." A theatrical roll of her blue eyes. "And I couldn't even hug him or anything! Boys are so dumb sometimes."

Aurora gasps in outrage. "Bad Daddy!"

“It’s hard for boys to say that. Men too.” Cassandra adds from her admittedly ignorant point of view. “I bet Mommy hugged him really, really tight the second she saw him, though.”

Elisabeth has to laugh. "Bad Daddy," she agrees conspiratorially. "But he definitely did hug me really really tight when we were together again. It was really hard because I didn't actually see him again until after Christmas." She hugs the little girl. Her voice goes very low, solemn. "It's really tough to have people so far away at the holidays. I always felt very lonely when that happened. And sometimes pretty mad, when it seemed like it was happening because of things I couldn't fix. Or because someone else made me go somewhere like Russia at the holidays."

Aurora is very quiet, curling up a little more tightly between the two women.

Elisabeth glances uncertainly at Cassandra.

"It's okay to be mad at them for not being here?" Aura asks in a small voice.

To Cassandra’s credit, she doesn’t comment on their first ‘I love you’ being across a telephone line, but circumstances dictated it had to be so. She has no idea how she would react in that position, and being chloroformed and dumped into a plane on the way to Russia? Not good. The vision pauses after that question from the little girl. “And that’s pretty much all I’ve got…” She leans back against the desk, her head making a muted thud on the heavy panel as it collides. “The real world rushed in right after that.”

“I’m sorry, Liz,” Richard says softly as the vision fades, “I’ll try to be with you this Christmas…”

He closes his eyes, nodding a little wordlessly to her words. Then he pushes himself back up, straightening slowly. “Thank you. They’re in the Flood, now… she’s not far from my mother, hopefully. Hopefully, we’ll see them soon…”

Ghostbusters is one of Cassandra's favorite movies, and Egon’s line about there being a massive a cross-dimensional incursion being possible comes to mind. “So what's going to happen? Are the…timelines, I guess, going to merge into one? Are they coming here like that Quantum leap show? Or are they going to get on a bus and just magically appear at the stop downstairs? I mean…what in the hell is flood?”

Cassandra has no idea what's going on. This is a position she's not entirely used to being in.

“Christ, I hope not, that’d be a disaster,” Richard can’t help a dark chuckle, “The death toll would be unimaginable if they just all… merged. So many histories destroyed…” He rubs a hand against his face, “Possible. I hope unlikely. I don’t know for sure.”

His hand sweeps over, “Uh, of the four closest superstrings in our possibility cluster, two of them represent timelines where the Vanguard won. In one of them, the failure of Operation Apollo — possibly due to my absence in that timeline — resulted in the sea level leaping up a few hundred yards or so. The Flooded Earth.”

The look of confusion isn't hidden very well by Cassandra's blindfold, and remains when the blindfold is removed entirely. “Superstrings. You make me feel like the day I accidentally walked into an advanced theoretical physics class. I was lost then and I'm lost now. I just hope that way smarter people than me know what's going on. At least I hope that you have a clue.”

Cassandra pushes herself to her feet, putting her nightshirt away and slipping her blindfold into her breast pocket where it normally lives. “I don't know much, Richard, but even I can tell when things are a little…interesting. If I get any more of these visions of your family…”. Because that's what they are. “I'll let you know, okay?”

“How do you think I feel? I never even graduated high school,” Richard admits, flashing a grin over to the woman, “I’ve had to figure this shit out as I go… fortunately it seems I inherited something from my mother, at least.”

The smile fades, then, and he nods a little, “I— appreciate it. Thank you, I mean that, I— I’ve never gotten to see her before now.”

“The epitome of faking it until you make it.” Cassandra’s hits it right on the nose with that one. “It just goes to show that brains can trump education sometimes.” She straightens her jacket and makes sure her hair is okay in the reflection of the desk, flashing Richard a smile. “You're welcome. I'm glad I was able to put a face to the name.”

Cassandra starts towards the entrance of the office, pausing for a second at the door. “She’s adorable, by the way. Has your eyes. There won't be any denying her when she gets here, assuming the prophecies you mention come true.” Cassandra turns, taking a step forward and daring to adjust Richard’s lapels and tie, carefully smoothing it down before taking a step back to regard him critically. She nods in satisfaction. “I'm sure you know this already, but she’s going to be trouble. Mark my words, and will do as she pleases - just like daughters should with their doting daddies.” Cassandra takes another step back. “Dabbling in precognition, although I don't have the gift.” She waves. “Talk with you later, Richard. If you need to see it again, let me know.”

“I have enough trouble from Lili as it is, I can only imagine the handful Aurora’ll be… God, I should tell them,” Richard suddenly realizes, looking to the door and then back to her with a faint, wry smile as his lapels are adjusted for him, “Thank you, again. I… thank you.”

He nods slightly, “Take care of yourself, and if you need anything— let me know.”

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