Badly Kept Secrets


francois_icon.gif kaylee3_icon.gif

Scene Title Badly Kept Secrets
Synopsis Kaylee meets with Francois to discuss the problem of Curtis Autumn, and deliver an overdue token of thanks.
Date July 25, 2019

The Bastion

This was the first time that Kaylee Sumter had been in this particular building. She could understand why they picked it for a place to work out of when they were pulling SWAT duty for the NYPD. The outside of the Bastion brings to mind the castles in her son’s favorite stories, a fortress and a bit intimidating to look at. The interior, however, reminded her of something else entirely.

“It’s like an old bunker,” Kaylee murmurs to herself as she listens to the sound of her shoes on the polished concrete floors.

It was a bit on the nosey side, but Kaylee couldn’t help peeking into open rooms as she passed, a folder held in one hand. The whole reason she was here…

Well, mostly.

Kaylee had volunteered to bring some paperwork for Wolfhounds leadership from the NYPDs administrative pool. To be honest, she was here on more than that, on the sly she was here because her family was invested in Wolfhound. With what she’s learned lately, the telepath felt that Francois and Avi needed to know.

Speaking of the former, as Kaylee turns a corner a hum she hasn’t heard in a long time tickles at the edge of her field. A few moments later, she’s knocking gently to announce herself. “Mr. Alllegre, may I bother you for a moment?”

That psychic signature takes her upstairs to a corner office that commands what would be a nice view of New York City were a place of nice views — a patchwork quilt of industry, unkempt parks, and broken horizons.

Rather than demand she come in, Francois registers the unexpected voice and gets to his feet instead, moving to open the door for her. If Francois were to say what he knows of Kaylee, he would not speak first about her Raytech affiliations — he would speak in a subdued manner about those last gritty months of the Ferrymen's life, where he played doctor in between renegade terrorist. They all had their double, triple lives back then,

Maybe they still do. He resembles, a lot, the medic of the Ferry years, and much less the creature she had met in even further far-flung decades.

Readier to smile, which he does, now. "Mrs. Sumter," he says, if we're doing formalities. "Come in."

The office is much like the rest of the interior, with its exposed brick and heavy wooden frames. A desk centres the space, with chairs on either side. Spartan of much in the way of decoration, with horizontal blinds at the windows deflecting the worst of the summer sun. A picture on his desk, angled for his own reference rather than on display to anyone else.

“Thank you,” Kaylee offers in a sort of quiet reverence. It takes a lot not to stare, especially since she should be talking to a feeble old man. Even in the Ferry days, it was surreal. Not unlike knowing that Adam looks so young for a three hundred plus year old man.

Here she finds herself doing it again, Kaylee quickly shifts her attention to the folder in her hand. “Ah… paperwork from the precinct. I volunteered to hand deliver it.” It’s offered up with a bit of a lop-sided smile, free hand lifting to say ‘there you have it.’

“Don’t ask me what it is, cause I’m just the messenger woman.”

To be honest, it was paperwork that could have been easily couriered. Nothing urgent enough for the personal delivery by the detective. Fairly aware that it might seem a little suspicious, Kaylee doesn’t dilly dally about the real reason she was there.

“I confess, I saw an opportunity to come see y’all.” There is only the barest hint of apology in the woman’s words, hands gripped in front of her, fingers playing with her bare skin where a ring might have once set out of nervousness. “My family has a standing with your organization and… I’ve come across some information about one of your team members. Curtis Autumn? It could be nothing, but I’d rather not make that determination for y’all.”

A glance to Francois’ desk, Kaylee adds, “I-if you have time that is.”

Francois can tell an excuse when he sees one, even before she confirms the matter. He obliges her by taking the folder, regardless. Curiousity shades quickly into a hint of what could either be concern or wariness at her bringing up Autumn — perhaps, when it comes to that young man in particular, both.

"Come in," he invites, rather than ask the immediate obvious questions, pushing the door open wider. "And you are welcome any time, of course."

Likely still within business hours and normally by appointment, but the impulse to make time for people he knew prior to the war is a strong one. Francois leads the way in, setting the unopened folder on his desk as he goes. If her better reference is that of her experiences from a journey into the early 1940s, then the difference is even more stark. His clothes — practical, understated — are nice, even expensive, and his hair is worn long enough that he might be accused of vanity. Perhaps that's a fair indulgence, for when she met him the first time, it was still roughly hewn short to the skull, by a stranger's cold hands and colder razor.

"Would you like anything? Coffee, water?" It's a quick hike back down for the shared kitchen, but of the two old men who are now in control of this castle, Francois was considered mostly spry.

“No, but thank you.” At least, Kaylee learned some manners from her Granny, even if her parents neglected to. “I’ll try not to keep you long.”

Moving to settle into a waiting chair, Kaylee just starts from the beginning. “I was approached by Elisabeth Harrison and Curtis for help. I don’t know what you have heard of Curtis’ psyche, how the government Total Recall-ed the guy and turned him into a killing machine for an undercover… something.” She gives a wave of her hand. “I don’t know all the details, only a few.

“He came to me looking for help putting Ash back. Curtis was suffering from missing time and felt that Ash was to blame for it.” Kaylee’s tone, sounded like a police officer giving a report. Words even and measured, holding no hint of her feelings on the matter. “He asked me to go in and see if either I could integrate them or remove the extra mind. See if I could find this missing time too.”

This clearly wasn’t the end of it, but the woman pauses there giving Francois time to digest that bit and a chance to, “Stop me if he already told y’all what happened.”

So casual, this talk of reaching into a man's skull, reordering its contents, elimination and consolidation. Francois' smile presses thin, but he stays quiet after offering a quiet verbalisation that yes, he is aware of Mssr Autumn's psychological background, such as it is. He doesn't react, externally, to the mention of missing time, but internally—

Well, Kaylee would have to be more impolite than she is currently being.

Francois shakes his head. "Not yet," he says. Benefit of the doubt. It's not impossible that Epstein already knows whatever Kaylee has to report, but he doesn't stop her.

It doesn’t occur to Kaylee that there are some people in this world that don’t deal with telepaths on a daily basis. WHile the tone of his mind shifts, Kaylee isn’t paying too close attention to it, focused on explaining what she found. “There were a few things I found that were a bit… concerning.”

Setting forward a bit on the chair, Kaylee struggles to put what she knows into words. “The first… well, Curtis feels that Ash is a seperate mind, not native to… well, to his own mind.” Fingers of each hand tap on the desk, with some distance from each other.

Then they start slowly sliding across the top towards each other, while Kaylee says, ”Thing is… they are both the same person.” The meet then and her attention shifts back up to Francois. “There is no distinction between the minds. He is literally talking to himself.” The telepath lets out a quiet sigh, looking at the hands, before letting them drop to her lap again.

“Curtis doesn’t want to believe what he is capable, so somehow has… convinced himself Ash is a totally different person.” The woman’s shoulders lift slowly, “But he is Ash and vise versa.”

Curiousity and concern lapse into faint confusion, Francois leaning back into his chair and folding his arms loosely, idling it to pivot just a little under the subtle pressure of heel to floor. "I confess," he says, in his lilting accent, "I do not have an exhaustive understanding of what makes up Curtis' mind, or his opinions of it. I understood that he underwent memory modification, that the government placed him as an agent within a terrorist faction."

The nuances of a Jekyll and Hyde scenario, however, is a tempting one — he knows the name Ash, knows that it existed separate in Curtis's mind. Or perhaps not, with Kaylee's news.

He glances to the picture at his desk as he says, "How did it come to be this way? This— I don't know." Psychosis is a very loaded term. "Delusion, if it is that."

“That I am not sure about,” Kaylee shakes her head slowly, “Maybe it was the trauma of the war? He mentioned during the war letting ‘Ash out’ to do the dirty work. In truth, he was doing it all and simply refuses to accept it. That he is capable of what Ash does so willingly and with pleasure.” She may be a telepath, but a shrink she is not. “But that’s not all. Curtis believes that when Ash is taking over, he is losing time.”

The shake of Kaylee’s head says that she knows better. “I know for a fact, Devon is one of your’s,” part of Wolfhound, “and that he went missing and came back with missing time.” Which was putting it simply. “Whoever in Adam’s employ wiped Devon’s mind, also wiped Curtis’ memory.”

Which might be alarming news in itself, here Kaylee lets it sink in. “Unfortunately, it is too dangerous for me to dig very deep. So I can’t see how frequently this missing time happens.” The telepath’s expression turns grim when she admits that. Clearly, there is a reason.

Francois doesn't like just taking people's word for it — even someone like Kaylee Sumter, whose breed of data can only be verified by her own self and very few other people. If Kaylee says the fingerprints match, then all he knows is that Kaylee says the fingerprints match.

"When did this missing time start occurring?" he asks. He conducts himself as she conducts herself; politely methodical. "What brought him to you?"

“To be honest, on how long, I can only go by what he told me,” Kaylee offers apologetically. “According to him. It started during the war and has gotten worse lately.” Which, as she said before, was why he came to her. “I can’t look deeper and confirm it. He… he has a trigger.” The telepath drops that word like it is something disgusting.

“He doesn’t remember ever being in the presence of Rupert Carmichael, but I know the man’s work.” Kaylee spreads her hands helplessly. “If I dig, I risk setting off whatever it is and getting it myself.” Which would be bad all around. She would not only set off a violent event, she’d end up with the potential of doing the same. “The same risk comes with tampering with it or blocking it.”

Kaylee hates to say it, but she still does, “This is why I am here, Curtis is a potential danger.”

That also, incidentally, is what you find in the dictionary when you look up Curtis Autumn, but the irony of Kaylee's earnest warning is not quite funny enough to draw even a grim smile from Francois. "To others," he says, mostly to make the addition, "to himself."

All at once, he is not certain that Curtis would have come to Wolfhound with this information, the benefit of the doubt receding as Kaylee speaks — and not if Curtis is already in the habit of concealment. The rest — the risk of 'digging', of 'getting' — are more strange artefacts of things Francois does not completely understand that he allows it to remain unexamined for the time being, but he'd be remiss if he didn't ask:

"So what is to be done about it?" His hands open. "You have seen something like this before. How is it fixed."

"That is, honestly, something I don’t have the answer for,” Kaylee admits with some frustration. “As long as a telepath doesn’t mess with it, the trigger should remain intact for the foreseeable future.” ‘Should’ she says with no certainty whatsoever.

However, there is a but in that statement, a finger coming up too. “Unless someone knows the word to trigger it, but Rupert used Sumarian words.” Kaylee isn’t happy with her answer, but there is no helping it. “This trigger is a one time thing and I’ve only seen it after the fact.” Meaning this was her first live one.

“As for everything else,” the telepath’s head shakes slowly, “That ball is in his court and right now, he’d rather keep his head buried in the sand and not face the truth of what he’s done.” Kaylee’s shoulders life in a slow shrug. “I just wanted y’all to know the potential was there. I’d rather y’all be informed rather then something happen and y’all be clueless. Especially, if he is possibly working for Adam again.” Which for her those memory modifications suggests may be happening.

At her prompt, he reluctantly circles back to this prospect, this connection to Adam, the similarities of the blank spots bright in Devon's mind. In his immediate future, he sees a phonecall with Epstein and further difficult conversations.

Rather than release Kaylee back into the wild, Francois says, almost talking to the air than he is strictly to her, "A hundred years ago, or more, and popular interpretation of the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde tends to remember the story incorrectly." He uses his hands to illustrate his words, articulate and fluid. "Common memory knows it as a horror story of two opposite men inhabiting one body, with one capable of monstrous acts, and the other as the civilised other half, party to terrible violences beyond his ability and reckoning.

"But, of course, that is missing the vital point of the story. That there is no separation between these men. That Hyde's brutality, his grotesque, transformed character, is simply an extension of what Jekyll wills and is otherwise unable to enact in his station. It is the very suppression of this nature that makes it evil, not only nature itself."

Food for thought. Francois touches the edge of his desk. "If we need you again— we won't ask anything of you that would be a danger to yourself or Curtis, but we may call on you, if needed."

“Absolutely,” Kaylee says with a firm nod of her head. “The people in Wolfhound mean something to me and helping keep them safe as well. Even Curtis.” For different reasons she doesn’t put out there. “I’d really like to see him get the help he needs.” Kaylee is honest about that at least.

Standing, Kaylee has every intention of leaving. There was work to be done still and her day wasn’t done yet. “If you need me you can certainly call on me, anytime.” Much like Francois, many were the people in their group had been with the Ferrymen. “Thank you for hearing me out and if Avi wants to discuss it with me, too, he knows how to get ahold of me.”

Yeah, she might have heard that last bit or guessed that he’d talk to his co-leader, it is a mystery.

Inclined towards manners, particularly where women are concerned, Francois gets up from his chair to see her to the door. Not quickly, of course, one arm out to shepherd, but he says, as they go, "Thank you for coming to us about it. If he was promised your confidence, I'm sure it would have been a difficult choice."

“He never asked for it, he stormed out,” Kaylee says with concern.

The woman starts for the door, a pleasant — maybe even relieved — smile on her lips; but she seemly hesitates before the door, a hand on the handle. The smile falters and the hand withdrawal, at the realization that she has an opportunity. Maybe it was the mention of the past… the distant past that gives her the courage. “A-a-actually, I may have one more thing to discuss with you personally.”

Kaylee turns to look at the man shepherding her from behind. “1945…” She barrels right in, it was a date she’d never forget, no matter how much time passed. “I saw you, you were- ,” what was a good way to describe the man she saw then — eyes roam thoughtly over much healthier features, “- much different then.”

1945. Winter in Germany, is sometimes what he euphemistically calls the time he spent there. It is not a year that Francois would forget either, and it was even longer ago for him.

Much different is true, but there is perhaps a guarded shift to his expression that reminds Kaylee of the man she met in Dassau. Just a little. Francois' hand drops to his side, listing backwards a step. "I don't understand," he says, apologetic, returning a crooked smile to his face. There are a lot of words to describe the differences between then and now, and healthy covers a whole host of sins. He has a confident command of the English language, too, and room to care for any outward presentation of pride and identity.

The man she met in 1945 would probably not have had the ego to drop a literature analysis into conversation for no reason. "You saw me in 1945?" In person would be an unbelievable enough leap for most people, but as much as Francois is not used to telepathy, he is all too acquainted with time travel.

The telepath’s head only nods at first, before she says, “Yes. I remember the cold, because I was still dressed for summer in New York.” The words are quietly spoken.

The smile Kaylee offers him is lop-sided and uncertain. She was nervous. “I’m sure you’ve heard of Hiro?” I mean, who hasn’t. Right? “I worked with him for a time, helping prevent a future worse than this one.” Not much worse, but bad. She has a journal about it.

“There were some very bad people working to kill a lot of people. People I care about.” Some she didn’t, but helped anyhow. “You got caught up in the middle of it, much like I did in the end.”

Kaylee spent five years for her part lost in the past.

“You saved my life that day,” Slender fingers brush at her neck. Kaylee can still remember the way it felt to drown in her own blood. “Then we had to… to block your memory or risk history.” She hates admitting it, but he deserved to know. “I had always planned to offer to unblock it, but then the world went crazy.”

Francois gives a highly tolerant nod of his head at mention of Hiro Nakamura, and his lack of surprise to hear his name now probably indicates that he knows him well enough.

He is attentive and a shade wary as she speaks, and when she finishes, he doesn't instantly jump back on board of the conversation. The tenor his thoughts, just in range of her perception, is that of straining recollection, flipping through a dusty photo album, attempting to make sense of grey, grainy images. He stops, anyway, knowing there is nothing to find, and his attention shifts to the brush of her hand at her neck.

He can guess. "Something saved your life," he says. The healing, he means. There is a slightly subdued note to his voice that wasn't there before. "I'm sure it was barely me." Before she starts thanking him, or something.

“But you had to decide to take the action,” Kaylee points out with an apologetic smile. “I know about the white conduit,” she explains, which means she knows a little something about it. “My brother is Richard Ray, there is little that man doesn’t know.” There is a blandness to her tone, touched with a bit of jealousy. “But while it heals my throat. It was you that dug the bullets out of me so I could be healed by it.” It was a long and tortuous process. “You could have walked away, you didn’t.”

Whether he wants it or not, Francois gets it, “Thank you.” The words are genuine and a little bit emotional.

Taking a deep breath to calm those same emotions, Kaylee offers him one more thing, “If you want those memories back, I can remove the block.” She did it before, long ago… it had been tough, but she had time and experience now and the block would be old. “Doesn’t have to be now, but the offer will always be on the table.”

That is, perhaps, fair.

And to not accept her thanks would be to get into too much philosophy and contemplation, so Francois nods his acknowledgment at her gratitude, for a deed he doesn't remember, but certainly sounds like him. He sees the subtle rise of her feelings and only responds to it with a twinge of curiousity, the kind he is always cautious about — casting his mind that far back is not something he likes to do by accident, or without focus. Even the immediate months after liberty had been a nightmare.

Except, of course—

"Remove it," he says, gently.

— the idea of memories denied him, and remembered by others, is immediately unacceptable, and so he cuts across her offer to defer to a later time with a low-key intensity beneath all the manners and maturity. Insisting itself now. He is too rational to twist this into some scenario where Kaylee has done harm to him, but he would probably have more than a few words with Hiro, had he shown his face.

Kaylee blinks. She might not have expected him to agree so readily. “O-okay.” She motions him towards one of the chairs, “You’ll want to sit for this, it will be a little overwhelming. All those memories opening up, they will feel… fresh,” is the best way she can explain it. “But, I have to tell you, once I open that door, I can’t close it again. Not without being amp’d up.” Which is what she was before.

Edging around the chair indicated, Kaylee waits for him to settle, even so, Francois can feel a light pressure. A test of his defenses. “I remember where it is, so.. No worried about me having to search. Your secrets are yours.” There is a slight tip of her smile to one side. SHe would get to experience that memory again also. One of the downsides.

Once Kaylee knows he is ready, cool fingertips press into his temples and her work begins.

As Kaylee gestures for him to sit, Francois reflects— perhaps it was improper, to demand she do this for him right now. It is a reflection that is merely acknowledgment and does not go internalised as he sits down, a certain amount of tension collected up in his shoulders, his expression. It doesn't go away when he feels that unusual psychic touch, when she assures him against needless invasions of privacy — a thing that hadn't quite occurred to him until she says it — and he offers her a flicker of a smile.

Bien, is thought at her.

The rain. He remembers that first.

The sound of it, but even more so, the smell, beating into thick earth, churned with boot prints, tank tracks. The smell of old clothing, of the cigarettes the American had smoked and permeated into his woolen coat before he had given it to Francois. Of gunpowder, and smoke, and black coffee and iodine. Francois has already closed his eyes and squeezes them tighter as a fresh headache blooms with the sudden unlocking of memory, but stamps down against making a sound.

He sees Daphne's face, streaked with mud and blood and tears. Hears her quavery French. His hands resting on the arms of his chair tighten when the ghost of Kazimir Volken, in the form Francois knew best, haunts these memories. He remembers saying, "Nazi," and thinking it would be a death sentence.

Long hours, under orange lamp light. Gentle words. Her familiarity, and he didn't know her. Not yet.

Another muddy memory emerges in sharp relief against the grey haze of his time in Camp Bravo. In the many hours of doctoring and healing administered to men suffering the same sicknesses and ailments as he, he remembers a woman, and he remembers Odessa Knutson, with a blanket wrapped around her and her blonde hair bedraggled from heavy rain water. By the time he sees Kaylee — prone on the forest floor, gasping, her eyes blank with oblivion as blood runs fast and hot out of the mess of bullet points piercing her body — it's all jumbled and confused, overwhelming.

In July, 2019, Francois is breathing unevenly, and becomes aware of it enough to try to stop and do so at a normal rate. His headache hovers like a miniature sun at the forefront of his brain, but he pushes past it to make eye contact.

By time he manages to meet the eyes of the telepath, he’ll probably notice the dampness that makes her lashes clump, maybe even the lines that escaping tears have traced over her cheeks. Kaylee revisits that moment, just as he is. The sensation of the condit knitting the wound together. The sensation of the knife digging though the meat of her leg to scrape on the metal of the slugs.

If he hadn’t been holding the conduit then, she wouldn’t be standing there offering him a small, slightly nervous smile. Taking a shaky breath, Kaylee’s hands shift to hold his face between the palms of her hands, the next words - whispered - are heartfelt and filled with gratitude.

“Thank you, Francois, for my life.”

Conduit or not, he had a choice that night.

Then just like that, Kaylee lets go - physically and mentally - and turns away to gather herself, working to brush aside those annoying tears.

“I’m sorry,” Kaylee offers first once she’s done so, though for exactly what is not clear at first. Maybe for one thing, or everything. Her own pain is more of a migraine and it makes her words softer and strained. The sound of her own voice like needles. “Aspirin will take the edge off. It was more memories then I remembered.”

Francois' hand drifts on a delay, en route to touching the back of one of Kaylee's hands, but her touch lifts away. Probably for the best — he's still catching his breath. More than just the onslaught of information, of him processing this extra time spent with a woman he loves very much, of understanding Kaylee's gratitude, or even of Kazimir Volken lurking ghost-like in the background of old memories stirred up vibrant—

What he remembers, with a sharper recollection than he's enjoyed in years, is that one singular feeling. That of the healing power, unlocked within him, glowing beyond his mortal confinements. Of neither feeling nor sensing but intuiting damaged flesh forming together. Of generations of acts of kindness moving his hands to do it again.

That was more memories than I remembered is cute and makes him laugh, nodding — but just once, the room swaying queasily with the action.

"We are even," he says. He sounds very certain. "I needed that."

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