Belief Is Only The First Step


elisabeth_icon4.gif magnes_icon3.gif

Scene Title Belief is Only the First Step
Synopsis Not just in powers but in the idea of getting home… and that they still have one.
Date December 10, 2018

Oar Place or Mine

Showing up in Elisabeth's quarters after knocking a few times, Magnes appears in the middle of the night, wearing his heavy coat. He's clearly just gotten in, and holds a hand up. "Elisabeth, don't freak out, but I've been hanging out with Old Man Me a lot, and uh, he taught me some stuff." He's silent for a moment, and then adds, "It's gonna be weird."

The middle of the night means that Elisabeth is pulled out of bed and they have to move to somewhere other than the apartment that the group has been crashing in. She leaves Cassandra and Aurora sleeping, a brief nod at the postcog to just acknowledge between them that yes, Cass has it. And then Liz follows him, wrapping her coat around her. It's getting colder, the wind always blowing even with tarps covering the areas of broken windows and such. It's a fact of living literally in the middle of the ocean — there's always wind.

"Okay," Liz tells him quietly, her blue eyes rubbed clear of sleep and watchful. "Not like most of your power stuff isn't weird… but as long as you're not turning into another black hole, show me." She's almost teasing. Not quite, but almost.

"So, talking to my older self, and training with him for most of the month, what we determined is that we have the same ability. We just have a weird understanding of it. We both interpreted our abilities based on what other people say they are, but, at the end of the day, our ability is something that science doesn't even entirely understand yet. It was actually our sister, Clara, who said it was dark matter, but he said he doesn't care about all the science stuff." Magnes reaches out in between the two of them, the space more or less in between their faces.

"He taught me to stop thinking scientifically about it all the time, just to feel it. We did a lot of haiku, I wasn't good at it, but I learned." He suddenly grabs, seemingly at nothing, and then he pulls. His face appears to warp for a moment, until he lets go of whatever the hell he grabbed. "I can literally grab and bend space."

Taking a step back, Elisabeth is clearly startled by the appearance of his face when he does that. "Whoa!" she blurts out. Then she peers at him closer to make sure his face is back to normal before she tips her head and considers. "Okay…." The word drags out, and he can tell her brain is trying to categorize and assess the new information. "You realize that … even though I'm fascinated by the science of this, I don't actually understand what that means, right?" she finally offers. "As you say… dark matter is hardly even understood at the base level by people way smarter than me." She grins at him. "I think it's pretty nifty that you have a better understanding of your power, though."

"I barely understand it either, it's practically like some kind of weird magic, the way my older self taught it to me. Like… I've been thinking of it all wrong, thinking that I create gravity, or that it's just an innate part of me, but what I'm actually doing is manipulating all of the stuff around us. Like we're in an ocean of… stuff." Magnes suddenly raises his foot, then presses it down and pulls himself up, like a mime stepping on a box.

"It's almost like complete nonsense." He crouches down on his apparently invisible platform, staring at her. "I don't even know what to do with a lot of this. He can do some interesting things, but I'll need to practice a lot before I can do something like that. He can literally hide himself between the spaces, like… imagine if you could hide in two dimensions, you turn a piece of paper sideways and then no one can see you. He can do stuff like that."

He tugs at space again, plucking it like a piece of rubber. "The best I can do is tug at the universe I guess. Though maybe it's not a good thing to keep tugging the universe like a scab."

"That…. Might be a bad thing," Elisabeth agrees. "Considering that when Zeke triggered you, as far as I can extrapolate from what you're telling me, you basically plucked the STUFF and cranked open a hole to a new universe." Her tone is dry. She leans back against the wall and crosses her booted feet at the ankle while putting her hands behind her hips to rest on them. "And I'd really rather you didn't go ripping the scab off this universe and create some kind of black hole vortex that I have to try to kill you to stop. Again. Because that went badly last time."

She's honestly trying to find a light heart in a situation she's barely understanding. Mostly she's not serious about trying to kill him — she really didn't want to kill him back then! Just… to make him stop ripping a hole in the world.

"Well, if it helps, older me can bend way more space than this, and the universe hasn't broken yet, so it's probably safe. I just need to, you know, not do this while augmented. But this really does explain the whole black hole thing." Magnes stares at the space between them, then holds his hands up, staring in between his hands. "I probably did literally rip space wide open back then, it probably had nothing to do with mass and everything to do with how much I was being augmented. And, not properly understanding my ability like I do now, I had no way to stop it."

"It probably also explains why myself in the Bright universe could seemingly permanently affect gravity, or stop me from using my ability entirely. He must have had a more innate understanding of how people are affected by the, uh… stuff, without really understanding consciously." He steps down from the invisible box, considering. "I still have no idea how something like that works, but I'd probably rather not get super lazy and just permanently make all of my chairs and couches weightless anyway."

"Me in the Wasteland, I could probably feel how people displaced space. I can kind of do something like that, but not to the extent that he can. It all makes a lot of sense, a lot more sense than gravity being magic or something. Science is hard." He shrugs, then lounges back, as if he had a wall to lean on. "So, what's been going on with you?"

Elisabeth simply watches him, letting him use her as a sounding board. And she grins slightly. "I am so not the science-brained one. I've learned everything I can about the idea of superstrings and alternate universes and time and dimension travel… and even so, it's still a struggle." She pauses and considers how best to answer it. "Well… Been trying to help Kain." The Cajun's been in bad shape since they arrived from the Wasteland, but they why is not her tale to tell. "Ran into Remi Davignon here, she's a telepath. Not sure how I feel about her yet… but do be cautious if you run into her. She can make people do what she wants with her ability." She looks down. "And I met my mother." Her mother, who Elisabeth rarely talks about. Who was killed in 2006 in Midtown. Though her voice is steady, she herself may not be as steady as all that. "She's a mate on the Featherweight." The name that they'd speculated might be a boat. "Other than that… same old, same old. Trying to figure out a way to actually locate Michelle Cardinal." Because it's important to her.

"Yeaaahh, about Remi, I knew she was a telepath and there wasn't a whole lot I could do if she wanted to learn something, so she saw into my head a bit. Though it was less like normal telepathy and more like… kind of a mind merge type deal." Magnes shrugs, then holds up a hand so he can finish. "I know it's going to sound kind of dubious, but the whole experience of being in her head convinced me that we can probably trust her. It was kind of like I was her, temporarily."

There's a shrug to that. "Dealing with telepaths is complex at best. Kaito trained me to resist telepathy, so she got little off me… I'm not surprised she went looking and looked you up." Elisabeth grimaces. "She always was a nosy little thing. Here she gets what she wants by hook or crook. So just be careful."

"It wasn't quite like that. I mostly saw her and decided to drop in. I didn't realize she'd met you already until she said so." Magnes starts to idly tug at the space in front of him again, with two fingers, looking like someone who can't quite stop picking a scab. "I didn't quite realize that you particularly knew her at all. Back in our world, I just used to play piano for her and she sung in French and stuff. And also that time my clone kidnapped her and I had to throw a shark at him."

"Mmmm." Elisabeth eyes him and then just shakes her head. There are things she doesn't really want to know about his bad old days. "I knew her," she says quietly. "She's a good person. And when I left Frontline and went on the run, she wound up living with me and the Endgame contingent for a while." A faint smirk creases her cheek as she remembers, "She really wanted to sleep with one of my… friends." Which brings up a whole series of memories of her friends and their relationships. "Graeme wasn't interested. So Remi and I kinda had some awkward moments where she was a jealous twit and I was caught in the middle." She shrugs. "She maybe outgrew twit-dom. Same as you."

Sighing heavily and leaning her head back against the wall so she can look up, she tells Magnes softly, "It's … strange, being here. I know at least some of what happened in 1982, but … my mother doesn't have a lot of answers. She was hurt at the same time my father and I got yanked through the original portal. She's… different here."

"I really have trouble understanding this world. It's like the world where everything went right, until it didn't, and then there was a flood." Magnes blinks at the mention of her mother. "What do you mean? What's different?"

Looking back up at him, Elisabeth's consternation is evident to him. "Remember when we got here… I told you that I thought maybe this was a timeline before our timeline split off?" He'll remember easily enough. "In this world, there was no Company. No one here really learned anything at all about powers. Whatever it was that Michelle Cardinal was doing in 1982, there was … obviously no Company oversight, you know? So… she didn't run from them and get killed, presumably. But she did rip open the hole in space and time and send people through. Kaito said that it was 16 people who came from what we call our world to his world. So… assuming that number holds true, there were 16 of us pulled from this world into our world. IF it went the same way… my dad and I were 2 of those 16 people. I learned from a memento Kaito gave me what happened to me and my father. We were in a car accident and my father… " She pauses and then swallows hard before continuing.

"The car went into the river. And my dad… he was trying to get me and my mom both out. But he couldn't. And he chose me. So he got me loose and we got to the surface… but we didn't surface here in this world, we surfaced somewhere else, under those northern lights." She shrugs a little and looks down. "I thought, when Kaito showed me what happened, that my mother had likely drowned there. And I was glad that I couldn't remember my own version of the accident and that my dad would never know he'd made that choice." When she looks up, she says softly, "But my mom didn't die. She nearly died. And she suffered brain damage as a result of the accident. So she's … not really the same mom I knew in our world. She's having a hard time understanding where we came from. And I don't really know how to explain to her that I can't stay here. That's going to gut her." It might just gut Elisabeth too.

"It's strange, when you think about it. That all of us who gravitated together have something in common, something to do with the craziness of this world. Though our craziness is obviously a bit different, it frequently goes back to the Company and the Institute." Magnes pushes himself forward and reaches out to take her hand.

"I would say that we should see if she wants to go with us, but I don't know if you're willing to take that risk. I don't really know how to deal with this situation, I keep wanting to save the Lighthouse kids in every world and… it's hard. Seeing so many people we care about, and having to leave them to pick up the pieces of their world." He frowns, looking down at her.

"It's even more difficult that this is your actual mother, and… it's hard to say what the right or wrong decision is, if there even is one." A bit of sadness washes over his face out of the blue, as if a thought just hit him. "Technically every mother I've ever met could be my real mother, I'm a clone, I could almost say they're all kind of equally valid. I keep having to leave them behind, wondering if I can truly make a connection to my mother back home, or if she'd be confused and with one of the clones."

"It's a matter of…" He bites his bottom lip. "What's matters more, what's best for us, or what's best for our mothers."

She reaches out and takes the offered hand, squeezing tightly. "I wish I had those answers. Seeing the what-might-have-beens has been eating me alive every time we do it. And every time, we wind up leaving people behind." Elisabeth sighs heavily. "I don't even know whether to offer her the option… I mean, what the hell is seeing me and then watching me go to another world going to do to her? What would her coming back with me do to my father?" She's just … lost. "There is no right answer here. There's not even a half-right one. What's best for anyone? And who the hell are we to make those calls?" She sighs tiredly. Making the connection to my mother here is… a special kind of hell."

"I make a lot of decisions without knowing the right answer, I just think of the least bad one in the long term. What might be bad right now but possibly better later?" Magnes explains, smiling. "It sucks, you know. I don't do crazy or seemingly stupid things without thinking about it, but sometimes the only option is a crazy or stupid or even selfish thing, or nothing at all."

"Look at your options. Leave your mother here and possibly devastate her, take her with you and probably throw your father through an emotional loop. I can't really answer for you, but…" He holds his free hand up, as if weighing things a bit. "Trying to take her with you might be bad, but it's also the option that leads to more options, rather than leaving her here and having no option at all once we're home. It's the option that isn't a dead end."

"You're getting smarter as you get older, brat," Elisabeth tells him affectionately. "I can't make the choice for her. I can only make the choice for me… and you're right. Whatever it is… it's her decision to make. Just like staying behind or not was Kaylee's." The long breath she lets out is slow. "Do you think what he's taught you about your power is going to help with the opening of the portal this time?"

"I've been doing it wrong, thinking of it wrong. I was thinking of it like altering weight, thinking of it purely like gravity, when I should have been thinking of expanding, of moving the space apart. At least, I think that's the difference, based on what he taught me. If I'm thinking of this right…" Magnes makes a circle with his fingers, putting two hands together.

"The vortex opens a hole in space, so… logically I should be able to push the edges of that space to hold it open easier, to take some of the burden off of Lynette." He looks down at his hands, considering. "I'm not even sure I'd need to be augmented to do that. Before I was doing it by pure brute force, but now I actively have an idea of what I'd even be trying to do, there can be some nuance to it. But we won't know until we try."

God that sounds utterly terrifying. But Elisabeth nods slightly. "All right. Well… we know that the portal and Odessa's power have some interaction. Tossing yours in the mix just means being more careful still." She pauses and says quietly, "This is outside my wheelhouse. So you do what you need to do to see if things might work. We are, at this point, pretty much flying blind. Trying not to rip every world apart. Tell me what you need, though, and if I can get it, you'll have it."

"At this point, I'm not entirely sure that I'd want to be augmented, but if I were… I think I have an idea of what might happen when I try to push the portal open, I'm just not entirely sure of my ability to control that yet. I barely have control of the basics." Magnes notes, plucking at space again. "So… augmentation, if there's even a way to do it, might not be the way to go unless we get absolutely desperate. I think we have enough people and a firm enough understanding of this stuff to get by without it."

"If anything… I know that Remi wants to come with us, so, it might be useful to have her there to keep my head clear. I don't want to lose my shit like I do when that portal opens sometimes. Though if I'm not augmented, I should be fine." He's seemingly counting his fingers, going over different things. "I think we can do this, but there's certain predictions we haven't seen yet. I wonder if they were all specifically meant for us, or if they could happen to anyone."

"It's hard to say… that's the nature of predictions, really," Liz replies. "But… we've seen the Featherweight come to pass. And we've learned the Ark is actually out there. I'm going to see what I can get out of the other version of Odessa. The one that's local to this timeline is…very different than the ones we've known."

"I'm still a bit concerned with all the Lovecraftian warnings. But we'll face that when we come to it. I have a feeling all of that stuff will somehow be at the end of it all. But we've gotten through so much now." Magnes raises his hand, as if it were a weapon. "I won't let some outside the universe monster thing stop us from getting home. I'll punch that goddamned thing if I have to."

Elisabeth chuckles quietly. "Truly, I'm continuing to hope that Lovecraftian horrors of the deep are not actually in our cards," she admits. "But I'm not sure I'd put anything past this world. Still… I can honestly say that wouldn't be the weirdest thing to happen to us. If you're going to punch it in the face, at least make sure it doesn't try to eat you first, please? I don't want to explain to Elaine." She's mostly teasing.

"Older me can do that Lovecraft thing where you hide in between the cracks of space. That'd be pretty useful in this situation, I think, but…" Magnes shrugs a bit helplessly. "Anyway, you should probably get some sleep. Old Me made me do so much haiku to figure out my ability that I'm exhausted."

Haiku? "Do I even want to know why haiku had anything to do with it?" Elisabeth wonders aloud.

"It's… like… he understands the world with ancient martial arts wisdom. The haiku helps clear and focus your mind, and think creatively. We have to think more about creativity and existing in the moment than science. Science is when our weird cartoon ability starts making a lot less science." Magnes stares down at the floor, perhaps thinking about the earlier invisible platform he stood on. "I think the belief aspect of my ability goes far deeper than I previously thought, and he didn't even try to get good at science, so he's able to do all sorts of crazy stuff."

"Basically the dumber I am the more powerful I become." he figures, tapping the side of his head a few times. "I've been doing it all wrong all these years."

Wow. Elisabeth considers that thought. "Maybe it's about smart or dumb. Maybe it's just about the ability to believe." She squeezes his hand and then releases it, her tone pensive. "Small children aren't dumb… they just haven't been told that gravity will make them fall when they learn to walk. So they haven't learned fear and they haven't learned how things are supposed to work yet… therefore, sometimes they can do things that seem to defy the laws of physics. Just because they don't have a clue that it should be impossible." She shrugs slightly. "Sounds kind of like you're right, though. The more you're willing to suspend disbelief and thoughts of how things should work, the more likely you are to just … do."

With a roll of her eyes, she adds, "Great. You're gonna go be a Jedi." Complete with Yoda.

"I've seen what older me can do, I didn't even think that stuff was anywhere close to possible for me. I can fly without that weird pseudo-falling now, by just sort of pushing the dark matter. It's a bit hard to control, but the things other me can do are insane. He apparently didn't figure out most of it until he was basically in his forties or something." Magnes shakes his head, reaching up to grab the air, then he pulls himself up as if doing a pullup. "He said that I'm learning all of this much earlier than he did, and I already have a much better control of my ability than he did at my age. Which I guess makes sense, in the Bright world I can't even use it as a ranged ability."

"The only reason I realized I could use it at range is because of when Kazimir was inside of Peter and taught me, so, without that experience I guess my progress would have been much slower." he considers, though there is a frown. "I don't understand why Kazimir keeps affecting my life. It almost seems like some kind of fate. I thought after a while that maybe it was just Peter, but even in that Virus world he kept me as some high ranking official."

Elisabeth's response is a slow one. She's had years to think about such things. "No fate but what you make," she whispers, remembering a line from an old movie. "I think… that certain things that happen have to happen because the sheer weight of circumstance around them will force them to happen. And that some people, by virtue perhaps of being caught in those circumstances in various ways, will always sort of wind up in proximity to each other. But… I don't think it's Fate. I think… maybe it's just a preponderance of the weight of those circumstances. Humans are by nature explorers … we're curious and not always smart about our curiosity. It seems inevitable, if you take that into account, that some technological advances are going to happen more or less in the same way in each timeline."

She looks at him. "We've only traveled timelines that are closest to us. I'm sure there's some kind of physics reason for it that I'll never understand. But if we managed to jump off the web of strings into … like, a string that diverged 500 years ago. I don't think you'd find the specifics of this happening the way it has. Maybe Volken was never born, you know? Don't… get bogged down in the idea that you have some kind of actual relationship with Volken that is fated. That way lies madness." Elisabeth can't help but smile, albeit tiredly. "If I believed that things are fated… I wouldn't go home. I'd believe that that Fate brought me here to the Mom who physically gave birth to this version of me that sits in front of you and that I'm supposed to stay here."

"I don't even know what Fate really means for a person like me. The one clone who by chance didn't melt into a pile of goo, by chance ended up probably one of the first people in history to travel across a bunch of worlds and poke lots of holes in the multiverse, by chance did a whole lot of stuff in my short life and survived." Magnes places a hand on his abdomen. "By chance I still haven't exploded yet."

She can't help but laugh. "Well… I'd say that you haven't exactly got a fate, then. Cuz that's an awful lot of chance happenings that all add up to basically 'oooh, look, I haven't exploded.'" Elisabeth's giggles are quiet but definitely present, bubbling out of her uncontrollably. "Either that or you do have a fate and you keep spitting in its eye… I'm not sure which applies."

"It does kind of seem like the universe really wants me to die sometimes, and like I just seem to keep coming back for some reason. I feel like even Adam Monroe hasn't come back from being exploded into tiny pieces." Magnes raises his shirt, looking down at his various scars. "It makes me think that I'm supposed to stay alive just long enough to fulfill some kind of purpose and then suddenly drop dead. Or maybe my ability keeps me alive. I don't know. I did die in the Virus world…"

She sobers quickly. Elisabeth pauses and then says, "Believing in the idea that your life has a purpose, that you're here for a reason, is the basis of faith itself, Magnes. I think we all strive to be our best selves when we believe that we're here for a reason." She shrugs a little. "In the Virus world, Liz was killed the day the Vanguard attacked Washington Irving High. In our world, I survived the explosions. In Arthur's world, she was killed by Samson Gray… simply to stir the pot. In ours, Arthur never rose to such prominence and was never taken over by Samson. In the Wasteland, Liz was murdered and resurrected by the man she loved… In our world, Richard refused to do it when he was told by Edward that it needed to be done… but I still took a bullet to the head that but for Teo and Hana would have left me dead in the Hudson. Fate trying to reassert itself? Or perhaps just chance. Or maybe… it just wasn't meant to be that way. I don't honestly know, and never will."

Pulling in a slow breath, she says softly, "I have to believe that my life has purpose. Because if it doesn't then it's all for nothing."

"I think that, as crazy as it sounds, the whole point of this journey was to teach me to stop taking my life for granted. To stop taking any part of life for granted. I've learned so much, we both have, but I don't think I ever fully appreciated my life back home…" Magnes sounds almost guilty, rubbing the back of his neck as he often does, though maybe less so these days than he used to. "I was both happy and miserable at the same time, I always felt like I had to seek out this idea of happiness, but also follow my instincts to save everyone and everything. I didn't know what my life was supposed to be."

"I kept trying to assert what I wanted life to be, I even tried to be normal for a while before Rickham came knocking on my door to go save the world again." He's not even sure if he ever told her that, shaking his head. "Claire losing her memories, I didn't know how to deal with that. It's selfish to say, but it was one of the most painful things I experienced before all of this. I ran away from it because I was a kid, I didn't know how to stand up, I didn't know how to really be there for someone."

"There's so much I could have done better, but I guess I was literally a toddler so, maybe I was a bit stunted, I don't know. Or maybe it's normal to be that immature at that age, in your early twenties." He shrugs, he really doesn't know. "I had a whole family that cared about me. Quinn, Elaine, Sable, my daughter Adel, I even had Eileen, even if she's a bit weird sometimes. I could have just… I could have appreciated it all, I didn't know what I had. I had so much, so many chances, and I don't even know how much of it will even still be there when we return."

"Sometimes I think that…" He bites the side of his lip for a moment. "When we return, it'll feel just like one of these other worlds, a place that doesn't feel like home. That's something I'm afraid of. Will I even still be able to talk to you? I mean… I just think I have a lot of fears, about you returning to your life, and maybe my friends are scattered, maybe they're dead, maybe they won't like who I am now, and then me and you lose all of what we built together."

As she listens, Elisabeth can empathize with his feelings at each step of the way. But when he finally trails off, she pushes away from the wall to hug him very tightly. She waits to speak again until that long, hard hug is done, finally pulling away to meet his eyes. "You can always talk to me. I'm afraid of a lot of the same things, Magnes… And going back to my life?" She shakes her head a little. "What life?" Her voice is low. "In the year before we got blown through the hole, I had destroyed my life. And destroyed what Richard was building for his life too."

Her sadness, her fears of home… they're not so different. "It's not like after 7 years we have an actual life to go home to. It's very much going to be … a lot like landing in Bright was. We're going to have to figure out how to live. And we're going to have to hope that we're not fugitives." They were, after all, in hiding in Arthur's world the whole time, hoping the government didn't just disappear them all. "The adjustments that people who used to be in our lives had to make when they thought we were dead… they're going to need time to decide how they feel and we aren't the same people. There are going to be things that won't survive the passage of this much time. But we — all of us who've survived this journey — we are family. Screwed up, dysfunctional, and crazy… but family. Don't you ever forget that. Okay?"

"Yeah… we have each other at the end of the day. Cardinal is probably going to think it's pretty weird that we've gotten close and such." Magnes says with a bit of a smile, reaching around her to return the tight hug. "I have so much to do when we get back, so much to figure out with my father, getting Addie back, solving the clone mess, finding everyone in my biological family. But at the end of the day, I do hope that there's something waiting for us, something to remind us that we are home."

"I think it's pretty weird that he's got a Thing with Odessa… so, ya know… weird is more or less the norm for our lives," she points out, trying to hide the insecurities that come with the thought of walking back into a man's life after six years with his child in tow. "We'll figure out all the rest once we figure out the hardest part… getting there." Resting her head on her de facto little brother's shoulder, Elisabeth hopes wistfully for the same thing — that when they get home, it actually feels like home.

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