Before I Go


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Scene Title Before I Go
Synopsis The last time Magnes saw his father was eight years and one lifetime ago.
Date April 21, 2019

Painted concrete walls and fluorescent lighting are a horrible combination.

Everything down here has a dingy, off-white coloration to it like spoiled milk. There’s this greenish-yellow cast to everything down here, from the ostensibly white paint of the walls to the tile floor. The plastic chairs, which are supposed to be hunter orange, instead look more the shade of an uninviting creamsicle. It’s that suffocating atmosphere and the dull buzz of the ceiling lights that has been Magnes Varlane’s sole company for the last eighteen minutes.

Across from Magnes, the wire-reinforced glass window of a visitation booth is otherwise empty, save for Magnes’ own dull reflection in the glass. He sees himself as a semi-transparent phantom, with long hair and a beard that has grown out some. The phone across from him is exactly like what he’d expect from a movie, there’s even one on the other side, the booth divided by that glass window. It’s only when he hears the buzz of a security door opening — not the lights overhead — that he feels a pang of anxiety in his chest.

Shadows dance across the wall, thin and muted things. They lead the way for a pair of figures approaching, one dressed in the uniform of a government corrections officer, the other in a drab gray jumpsuit is a man Magnes hasn’t seen in over a decade. He is heavier than he remembers, hair gray, face broader, scowl deeper. As he’s brought into his seat, there’s also a sadness in his eyes that wasn’t there a decade ago. There’s loss, regret, and anger too.

Pete Varlane is sit down across from his son, settling in to the same silhouette as Magnes’ own silhouette. He looks across the divide of the glass to his boy, to the potential of his son, and then reaches down and picks up the corded phone in front of him. His eyes square on Magnes, and a light starts flashing on the receiver at Magnes’ side of the glass.

This has been a long time coming.

Liberty Island Detention Center

Liberty Island, NYC Safe Zone

April 21st


It's at a time like this that Magnes wears the outfit that's taken him from world to world, challenge to challenge. His long coat and boots one could have only had made in Arthur's timeline.

He stares at Pete for a long few seconds, a million thoughts racing through his head, a million pieces of information, experiences…

The receiver is finally picked up, and he immediately speaks, as if to cut Pete off from anything he might have to say right now. "I know about what you were doing, the things you made. I know about my sisters, and how my mother felt about one of them. I can only guess at why you did the things you did, hopefully you'll tell me that. But what I ultimately want to know, after thinking about it so hard, about how I don't fit in with the others, is, what am I?"

Pete’s stare drifts down to the small table in front of him, phone cradled against his cheek. His brows rise, lips curl into a frown, but at the same time he’s nodding to himself slowly and repeatedly. “Mmmn,” is the first vocalization he can muster, a non-committal sort of half-grunt. With a sigh of resignation, Pete looks back up to Magnes and his eyes are pink all around the edges, bloodshot and glassy. His face is red, flushed, and for an awkward moment he’s just silent.

“You’re my son,” is Pete’s answer, plain and simple but delivered with a tightness in his throat. It isn’t the answer Magnes wants. Pete knows it isn’t the question he was asked.

"From what I can tell, you've had a lot of those. Why is it that I seem to be different? Why am I even still alive? Aside from the sheer tenacity with which I seem to survive." Magnes looks down at himself, placing a free hand against his chest. "Why am I not melting? Why can I have kids? Why do I still have the ability of the original one?"

Then, a pause, and he adds, "I met him. I won't explain how, but I met him, so don't lie to me about that."

The snort Pete gives is in some ways derisive, but mostly just seems to be amused. It doesn’t last. When he actually thinks on what it is Magnes is talking about, all of the light and humor in Pete’s expression drains. He swallows loudly, louder still over the telephone connection, and with an exasperated breath says, “I said what I meant.”

At first it seems like Pete is just stonewalling, but that isn’t the case. “I don’t know… what you mean by met him, because… because you are him.” Pete looks up at Magnes, only partly confused. He’s missing pieces of information, to be sure, but it’s now that Pete looks more confident and certain that their power dynamic is shifting back to its usual balance, in his eyes.

“If you’re saying shit like that, you obviously were never told what it is that I do,” Pete says with a gruff tone of voice. “I split cells, Magnes. I’m a living mitosis cycle. A xerox machine of the body. You’re as much the first Magnes as you are any of the others. You’re all genetically identical, except for… genetic anomalies. Human beings, we’re complicated things. We’re not just made up of our own DNA,” he’s starting to ramble, “we’re made up of viruses and foreign DNA, mitochondrial levels of things that grow over generations. It’s like trying to illustrate a forgery on a microscopic level. You zoom out far it looks fine… but you zoom in close enough and… it’s a mess.”

Looking up to Magnes, Pete wraps up his explanation as simply as he can muster. “I thought you were another failure. But you weren’t. You were the one I’d been trying to make… I just— couldn’t accept that you were your own person. I could match the body, match you down to the cells… but I couldn’t replicate his soul, for lack of a better word.”

Ashamed, Pete looks away and down to his lap. “You’re Magnes J. Varlane,” Pete says firmly. “You’re… you’re your own man.”

"So the great mystery is that I'm just, like… the finished product? After failed attempts?" Magnes doesn't push further on the met him angle, it's too much information that Pete doesn't need. He frowns, chewing on this information, understanding it. It makes sense, even though he doesn't want it to make sense. "Where is my mother? Where are my sisters? It feels like my entire family is missing."

The soul-crushing questions come one after another for Pete. Closing his eyes he slouches back into his seat and brings one hand up to his face, fingers scrubbing at his eyes for a moment. Pete doesn’t bother to confirm Magnes’ assertions that he’s the finished product, because at this point it’s clear. The one he’d all but thrown away was, after all, the perfect clone. It was Pete’s own unwillingness to let go of the son that died that prevented him from seeing this.

But for the other members of the Varlane family…

“Felicia’s been gone since before the war,” Pete says quietly. “Your guess is as good as mine. I… I didn’t think you’d ever find out about Clara. She… she didn’t want anything to do with me, or our family, or what we did to your memory by…” By making genetic copies of her dead brother. “She died sometime before the war, my people never had confirmed intelligence on how. But she was working with rogue elements in the government, who… are also dead now.”

Pete slowly opens his eyes again, looking at Magnes with a wrought emotion in them that he never has before. Perspective forced upon him by prison has clearly given him time to think about nothing but his own failures and transgressions. Whether his tears are ones of anger or remorse are unclear.

“Your mother died in the war…” Pete quietly, ruefully, says. “When… when the arcology in Cambridge went down I was in the air on a jet headed to San Francisco. By the time I’d touched down we were being evacuated to a secure location in California. Nobody from the Institute came for your mother…” he says with a bitterness. “We— by the time I was able to send anyone out to look for her— the house in Cape Cod was destroyed. Everything was burned to the ground.”

He doesn’t apologize. He’s not sure he effectively can.

Magnes is quiet for a long moment, staring. It's difficult to tell what he's feeling, what exactly he's thinking. He seems almost stunned in some way, to learn of so many deaths all at once. Pete can feel the thing that always happens when Magnes is emotional. The air is quite literally heavy, not heavy enough to be painful, but heavy enough to create a mild discomfort.

"That's not fair…" is all he can say at first, the table under his free hand starting to fracture like a web. "After everything, after all I had to survive, after all I learned and brought back with me…" He slams both hands against the table now, the phone still pressed against his ear by the grace of emotions and gravity.

"Make this right!" he demands, everything becoming significantly heavier now, like wearing full body weights.

The lights flicker overhead, sway a little too. Pete startles at first, having forgotten for a moment what and who it is he’s conversing with across the divide of that glass. The distance at which the gravity is manipulated doesn’t yet reach past their small confidence, neither corrections officer on either side of the glass is clear why Pete drops his phone. The flickering lights, so brief, draw their attention only momentarily. It’s Magnes’ raised voice they’re most concerned about, but they take the patient route to see if a burst of emotion is as far as it goes.

Pete doesn’t — can’t — reach for the phone, but he doesn’t really needs words to convey meaning to Magnes. There’s a look in his eyes, a man bound in handcuffs in a gray jumpsuit on the wrong side of reinforced glass. Magnes has never seen him like this before, never seen him without a glib answer or a dismissive departure. But in the glass, superimposed over Pete, Magnes sees himself. It’s likely Pete is seeing the same thing, except it’s a muted reflection of himself over Magnes.

Make it right is something Pete Varlane had once said about his son’s death.

I can’t,” is Pete’s soundless response, mouthed to Magnes with the helplessness of a man staring backward in time at his younger self. He wishes more than anything for that cycle to end.

Magnes tries to calm himself, his gravity letting up when he realizes that Pete can't respond properly. But then he shakes his head, taking a seat again to properly hold the phone against his ear. "Tell me everything you know about Clara's death. Tell me what you know about how she was living. I want to know something. I'll find Felicia, somehow, but tell me what you know about Clara."

As far as his mother goes, he at least got to meet some version of her, but how he'll learn to deal with this, who really knows.

It isn’t a question Pete ever expected to hear. Especially not from this Magnes. He looks tired and fragile as he settles back into his seat, one hand smoothing over his face as if it will help flatten out the wrinkles and make him younger again, able to make different choices. It doesn’t. “The last time I saw Clara was when she was nineteen,” Pete says into the palm of his hand before it makes the entire journey down his face. “She knew everything, and hated me for it. She left home for college, but she never came back. I kept tabs on her over the years, which… was easier once I got in with the Institute. She got her degree, became a fucking scientist, and then went as far away from me as humanly possible…”

Antarctica. Magnes already knows how that story goes.

Pete sighs, eyes distantly focused. “I drove her away. I understand that. Now she’s gone… everyone’s gone…” though he looks up at Magnes for a moment, he doesn’t let his stare linger. “Everyone’s gone.”

"I met Clara, I didn't know who she was, I barely spoke to her. I don't even know if she knew who I was, it certainly didn't show if she did." Magnes leans on his elbows, looking a bit defeated, so many reasons to feel defeated. "My fiance was killed by some fucking dimensional monster that for all I know is still alive out there. My little girl got kidnapped by Kazimir. Kazimir, the ultimate fucking thorn in my side, time and time again."

"I've seen more things than most people should have to, things I can't tell you." Things he doesn't necessarily deserve to know, even if he could tell. "I just want to make my life whole, I want to not feel like everything is just gone. When my little girl got kidnapped, I did far worse to this world, to this reality, than clone someone. I've died so many times and somehow come back."

He sighs, because, really, what else can he do right now, what else can he ask? "What do I do?"

Mention of interdimensional monsters flies over Pete’s head in such a profound way that Magnes is left to wonder just how much he truly knows. There’s pieces he can glean out of the mess, words that mirror moments in his life, slot into associations with the past and give him context for his son’s pain. Sitting forward, phone cradled to his ear, Pete’s words feel somewhat hollow. “I’m… sorry, Magnes.” It’s not that Pete doesn’t mean them, but it’s that sorry is so many years too late.

Pete is strung out, his emotions threadbare and raw and he is vulnerable in a way Magnes has never experienced. It shows in his tone of voice, in his posture, but mostly in the gentle way in which he speaks rather than the cocksure smugness that is every memory Magnes has. “Just don’t become me,” is Pete’s easiest advice. “Don’t— don’t lose sight of what you have trying to fix everything you lost.” Pete’s voice tightens, his jaw trembles. “Don’t let go of anything, anything worthwhile. Or it’ll all be for nothing.”

“You’ll look around one day,” Pete says with a strangled swallow between thoughts, “and not even recognize your own life.”

"Sometimes I think that's what my life is now, but maybe that's just how the world changes, the way people grow up. I still have my little girl, I know she's safe. I have people I care about, people I call a family. I've saved the world more times than I can keep count of. But I also can't forget how many people I failed to save, and how many people are lost. I think that… I always wanted to be a hero. I can remember being a kid, even if I never truly was." Magnes stares down at his own hand, considering everything, though perhaps primarily his very existence. "You always thought my mother was distracting me with comics and things like that. But if not for that, I think this world would have been destroyed multiple times over."

"I have a legacy. I don't want to make you feel better, because too many people have suffered. But for all the bad that you've done, creating me has saved thousands, if not millions of lives." He points at Pete's hands now, nodding toward them. "So if you want to make up for anything, if they ever give you the opportunity, then do something to make the world better again. If you ever think they're doing something wrong, then stop them, or refuse. You aren't dead yet, which means your legacy isn't over. It's time to change what you can, while you can, even if it's just what's inside of you."

"If my little girl died, if I could do what you do, I'd have done the same thing without hesitation. Because when my little girl was taken from me, when my Addie was taken from me, I gave a man an unspeakable level of power so I could find her again. Thankfully he turned out to be a good man this time." He places a hand against his chest again, closing his eyes. "So many versions of me have died, they've suffered. I never want to make any version of my Addie suffer, I never want to make any version of Adel suffer. As the product of all of that suffering, all I can say is that what you did was selfish, and it wasn't about me. I know because I did a lot of selfish things to find my daughter."

Opening his eyes again, he sighs. "Let's both, as father and son, agree to stop being selfish, agree to do what's right and what's best, because neither of us are dead, and we both have things to do. I would hope that breaking out of prison doesn't run in the family, because I've become incredibly good at it. Just see what you can change from here." He motions his head to indicate the space all around them. "Out of infinite universes, there are places where we haven't suffered, places where the same mistakes weren't made, the same losses weren't experienced. So let's let the 'what ifs' have their peace and see what we can make of things here and now."

There’s a decent amount of what Magnes says that goes past Pete, but far less than before. He sits there, silently, listening to his son and hearing him speak like a fully functional adult for the first time. Pete’s left to wonder how many more moments like this he’d missed, how many more times Magnes had grown that he’d dismissed off hand. What’s worse is that most of what Magnes is saying makes sense. For a moment, Pete’s so distracted by that he started to let the phone come away from his ear. It was only once he realized that he was straining to hear that he thought to bring it back up.

But Pete doesn’t really have a response for any of that. The kernel of wisdom he thought he was dumping in Magnes’ lap was just a scrip from a fortune cookie; words full of hollow meaning. Magnes had already lived those worries, already faced his own Id across the streams of time, and came around to a fuller understanding of himself. Pete’s sigh is audible through the phone line, and the only thing he can think to say is to assuage one misplaced fear Magnes had.

“You grew up.”

Pete isn’t talking about emotionally, though. But that is part of it. “When… when he— when you were made. When I made you, it was at the earliest stages of development. I’d— I’d never used my ability like that before. You grew up, in our house, raised by your mother. He— he was always a part of you. You were born from him. All the others I tried to make… they were all made from you. That’s why you have a scar behind your ear. Because I had to take a tissue sample to— to…”

Pete shakes his head, bringing up hand up to his face and slowly sweeping it down. “I thought you were a failure,” he says shakily. But now, seeing the man in front of him, knowing that he has a daughterdaughters — and has survived so much, Pete understands the truth. “The only failure was me.”

"Wait, so I'm the alpha? The documents mentioned an alpha, but then they mentioned an aberrant clone. I assumed I was the aberrant." Magnes is quiet for a moment, absorbing that, and even flashing back to Hermod for a moment. "For a long time I believed that I never truly met my mother. The documents I got, they said the aberrant was created in 2006. I assumed that was me."

But then he shakes his head, saying simply, "But considering who I got the documents from, maybe they weren't entirely accurate…" Another time is a lot safer to say than another world. "Speaking of those documents. I read them so many times, repeatedly. 'Antisocial personality disorder stemming from adult-age trauma'. You need to get therapy while you're in here. If for no one else, do it for yourself."

That makes Pete laugh. Bitterly. “Jesus Christ, is this what it’s come to?” He mumbles into the receiver and at himself. “Being lectured about therapy by my own son.” There’s a flash of that old bitterness in his voice, a shade of the cruel man that Magnes was more familiar with, but only just that. A shade. Like a ghost come to haunt the room for a moment, not possessed of enough strength to shake the table or make the walls bleed. An ephemeral phantom of past traumas.

But Pete doesn’t linger on that, can’t make himself, at least not right now. “Aberrant clone, is that what it said?” Pete sighs, looking down at his hands, eyes closed. “No. No the clone I made in 2006 was trying to start over again from the beginning. Most of the clones I made of you were born as full adults from a piece of your thalamus, or each other’s. But the more you copy outward, the weirder things get. The… aberrant, I tried to raise you again. In the Institute.”

Exhaling a sigh, Pete drops something heavy on Magnes. “They moved him ahead of me. Wherever I was going to wind up before Wolfhound fucked everything up. He’s still out there. A younger you.” Then, with a haunted murmur he adds, “I… had to liquidate all the others…”

"I can do without the PR and corporate terminology." Magnes says with an intense distaste, shades of Pinehearst popping into his head. "Fine, okay… I need to find this other me. I don't suppose you have any clues? What is his ability?" It's certainly shocking, overwhelming even, but the look on his face suggests a certain level of emotional endurance for this.

Another Magnes, the surprise of such a thing is difficult to register as shock anymore.

But the mention of Wolfhound makes him consider… "Right, I heard my older daughter captured you. Did you even know she was your granddaughter?"

"Wait, before you answer that…" He holds up a finger. "Do you have any idea why Adam Monroe would want to steal my fucking brain?"

Pete was about to answer that. All of that. But when Magnes mentions Adam by name, when he mentions his brain, a flush of anger crosses Pete’s face that — perhaps surprisingly — isn’t directed at Magnes.

Heisenberg,” is the one-word answer Pete gives. “Project Heisenberg, named after the uncertainty principle. Shared consciousness. That was the project I was working on alongside Hydra, the only reasons I had funding to…” Pete looks down to his lap, not finishing that sentence. But Magnes knows how it would have ended: Fix you.

“Heisenberg was a Company project before Monroe took it over. Experimenting on clones to see if we could make shared telepaths artificially by entangling their minds. It worked, but never properly. At least not with the first few generations of you…” Pete swallows audibly, looking up from his lap, face still flushed red. “We were studying twins, trying to get the process right. We had more success with the Renautas and Fournier twins. We were able to build a proof of concept, on how to entangle conscious minds developed in a lab environment. Adam wanted it… desperately.”

Sliding his tongue over his lips, Pete looks down to where his receiver cord plugs into the wall, focusing on that point rather than his son’s eyes. “Hydra was the project that created you. The Company retrieved it from some dusty old government archives in the 70s, but it went all the way back to the Nazis. Experiments in human regeneration, supersoldier stuff. In the Company days they were testing Adam Monroe’s blood, figuring out the limits of its regenerative properties. When the Institute took over, that project got mothballed, but I dug into it trying to perfect your… brothers?” It’s the first time Pete’s ever said that word with regards to the clones, and it hurts him visibly to do so. To humanize them. After what he’d done.

“There was a point, Doctor Sheridan and Doctor Blite got a good hold of you. Back when you wanted to be just like me,” Pete says with a lazy smile, knowing that isn’t the truth. “By that point I’d already been bought out by Monroe, I thought he was going to… to… I don’t know. We’d been working with your other copies, he’d already started asking about Heisenberg and how it could interface with Hydra. Adam’s blood… your copies.”

Pete spreads his hands, as if that in any way explains anything. “He got what he wanted,” Pete says with a dismissive tone. “I hope he fucking chokes on it, because if he thinks he’s getting one single hand on a fucking hair on your head…” There’s not enough energy in Pete to spit out a curse with the force he used to. Nor is he in any position to protect his son in here.

He’s forgotten about the other questions now.

"More powerful people than Adam Monroe have tried to kill me. But I didn't expect Elvira and Bella to have anything to do with this…" Magnes has to consider how much sense that makes, and doesn't comment on wanting to be like his father. "It did work, I've been in the mind of a clone before, I experienced one of them dying. I almost wonder if quantum entanglement is why I keep coming back from the dead."

He shrugs, he can't let things emotionally overwhelm him too much right now, he has to keep his head together. "The real problem is how far Adam's influence reaches, but I have plans for that. He's not the first shadowy world ruler I've had to deal with, it just takes time and not panicking." But, realizing where Pete's mood has gone, and not wanting to press on the things he's been told here…

"So…" Holding up a finger, having plenty of other people to discuss these shadowy clone dealings with later. "My daughter, Adel. You met her? I'm sure you can kind of guess why she's a fully grown adult."

“Honestly?” Pete says with an exasperated breath, “No. Because it could be a million fucking things. She could be a— a— gender-swapped clone of you someone else made, a temporally-accelerated child you had, time travel, parallel dimensions. The shit I’ve seen since I joined the Institute… Magnes… the shit.” He shakes his head, looking down to his lap, and it’s clear the why doesn’t matter to Pete. There’s no wonder left in the world for him.

“Don’t screw it up,” is Pete’s warning as he looks back up to Magnes. “Whatever you’ve got, whoever, whatever it is she is to you? It doesn’t matter. Spend time with her, tell her you love her, tell her why you love her. Because on the day you can’t say it to her face anymore, the last good part of you will wither up and die.”

"I'll remember that. My girls mean the world to me, I've done unimaginably impossible things for them. I've literally defied the universe for them. Now it's time to rest and just live." Magnes sighs, taking another look at Pete. "Just remember that it isn't too late to be better. Now is the time to start."

"Do you have anything to say before I go?" he asks, apparently resolute in his attitude now, far less anxious. His anger is entirely gone, he just seems to be at peace with the situation, even if there's little in the way of forgiveness in his eyes.

He's showing small mercies to his father, it's more than Pete can be said to deserve.

Before I go.

Those three words bring a look to Pete’s eyes that comes with the finality of someone’s last words. For all he knows, for all he suspects, this will be the last time he ever sees his son. Blinking back tears, Pete’s face flushes red again and he looks down to his lap, around the small confines of his booth, then back up to his son.

His adult son.

“I love you.” Pete has never once said to Magnes. Not in his whole memory.

He chooses today.

"I know." Magnes says before hanging up the phone, turning his back to head to the security guards.

Who knows if he'll ever be back.

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