Butterflies And Hurricanes


vf_edward_icon.gif vf_elisabeth_icon.gif

Scene Title Butterflies and Hurricanes
Synopsis Using strings, Edward and Elisabeth continue to try to map out the point of divergence. And work on a way to get home.
Date November 8, 2011

The Hub

“November 8, 2006. The bomb.”

It’s been like this for hours, a gradual transformation of Edward Ray’s cramped office into a living map of history. Two cups of coffee, savored for being nearly the last in the entire city, rest steaming on the last table left in the office floor. Furniture has no place here, it all belongs to the string web now. Colorful strings spread out like a spider’s web across the room, dangling with photographs, paperclipped documents, Post-It notes, and other identifiers to chart their course through history.

“The 2008 election.”

A Vote Petrelli poster is clipped on a string beside a newspaper headline declaring Allen Rickham the victor by a landslide. This is a familiar point in history to Elisabeth Harrison, Edward’s companion on this trip through time. History barely remembers, in either timeline, that Rickham won the election. But there he was, a champion of the people, a champion of the Evolved. For all that went wrong in this timeline, the virus prevented Nathan Petrelli from robbing him of that.

“The December assassination attempt.”

A photograph of Sylar is clipped to the string. “The Vanguard attempts to kill the President, as a show of fear, to make the world bend against the Evolved. It doesn’t go as planned,” Edward admits, clipping a black and white candid photograph of Abigail Beauchamp to a white string. “She saved Rickham’s life, I suppose after I helped get everyone together. That— I’m not exactly a fighter, or even someone who prefers to be in the remote vicinity of danger.” Grimacing, Edward reaches into a box and pulls up another string. “I suppose that’s why they say wish in one hand, shit in another, right?” It’s a joke, but it comes off as bitter.

“The defeat of the Vanguard.”

Edward hangs a Post-It note marked with January 28, 2009 on a gray string. “This is the largest divergence… there was no assembled strike against the Vanguard. Phoenix and their allies never stood a chance, there was no organization, no victory. We were caught flat-footed to the Vanguard’s true intentions, chasing a truck full of diseased victims, unaware that the virus was going to be launched directly into the city.”

Stepping back from the web, Edward rests his chin in one hand, and looks over at Liz with a squint. For a moment, he’s silent, examining photographs of Helena Dean, Peter Petrelli, Catherine Chesterfield, Teodoro Laudani, Conrad Wozniak, over and over, faces of survivors and martyrs. Edward crosses his arms, reaches out for his cup of coffee, and merely savors it with a deep inhalation.

“Our point of divergence is, likely, somewhere within December 2008. Everything else lines up well, based on what we’ve discussed.” In spite of all of the possibilities, Edward seems convinced that this is the case, that it could be something so close, so simple that changes everything.

Elisabeth moves to sit down on the floor, looking at the mess that they’ve made. Of all the things she ever thought she’d be doing, teaching Edward Ray a string map never made the list. Her anxiety is sky high, evidenced only at this point in the way she keeps running her fingers across the side of her forehead, her coffee cradled protectively in her other hand.

“In my world, after the assassination attempt, Rickham was blackmailed into stepping down just a few days before the swearing-in, his status as an Evo exposed when Sylar attacked him. It wasn’t public knowledge, but… he was hurt, stuck in metal form. His Veep became ill just then, too, if I remember correctly.” She frowned slightly. “We always felt that was rather convenient, but… there was no proof and none of us were really in position to follow it up.” She smirked just a little. “The government followed the line of succession from there.” She frowns, struggling to remember the reasons for all the political turmoil. “The Speaker of the House refused the position — he was pretty old — and then the next person in line was… a naturalized citizen, I think, and couldn’t take the post. So at that point, the Secretary of State became President.”

She’s quiet for a time, her mind busy going over so many half-forgotten details. Did it matter that in her world, they were certain that Nathan Petrelli was actually Sylar in disguise? She herself wasn’t even sure when that happened… did it make a difference here? God, Liz had always hated this part of things — trying to sort out the implications from chaos.

“All of which likely would have played out here, were it not for the virus.” Edward ducks under a yellow string representing Helena Dean and looks at the web from another perspective. “Yet, in our timeline, there was no concentrated attack on the Vanguard. No one was able to organize effectively. We didn't have enough information to see a ruse for what it was.”

Lifting a hand up to scrub at his cheek, Edward ducks and slips around the web. His blue eyes drift from string to string, then over to the photographs of Sylar and Kazimir at the middle. He walks back to the desk, rifling through a series of old files from the Company. “Your death,” Edward notes with a furrow of his brows, “came in November…” Edward looks back at the web, reevaluating his earlier thought.

“November 21st, 2008. The rocket attack on Washington Irving High School.” Edward pins the Company’s file to the string, along with a photograph of members of PARIAH blamed for the attack. “Carried out by — to us — unknown members of the Vanguard.” Edward looks with an uncertain expression at the strings, and then over to Elisabeth.

“Tell me what you remember about that day,” Edward asks, beginning to wonder if the point of divergence is standing right next to him.

His uncertainty is reflected back at him, because… well, the blonde doesn’t assume she is that important in the grand scheme of the world. But… certain things here, at least, are in fact pointing to that very idea. Elisabeth bites her lip, the idea that her actions should have such effects on everyone around her anathema to her. She’s just… HER. She just does the best she can to do the right thing, the thing that is best for the most people, when a choice is presented to her — at best she’d call that ‘not being selfish.’ It’s like a living, breathing version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

“It was just a regular day at the school,” she tells him quietly. “I had been tapped to teach not only music but math, and some of the students were the athletic types who really needed to pass but weren’t. So I brought in the smartest kid in the class for a lunchtime tutoring session with those students in my classroom.” She moves to stand, unable to sit still. Crossing her arms with her coffee cup curled up beneath her chin, she settles her weight squarely on her feet and begins to shift back and forth again — the movement serves in lieu of pacing. “I remember… that one moment we were talking math and the next, I was picking myself up off the floor. My ears were ringing. The windows were gone. So I did what we were trained to do, really. Just started shoving the kids ahead of me out into the hall to evacuate.”

Her blue eyes flicker across those strings and she finishes quietly, “Somewhere in there, there was another explosion… because I don’t remember getting out of the building. We surmised later that I hit the fire door itself. I remember the building collapsing behind me.” There’s a look on her face that Edward himself is all to familiar with here — losing so many and not being able to do a damn thing about it. “When I got out of the hospital… I knew a man who had ties to Phoenix, to Helena Dean. And I told him I wanted in,” she says simply. “I wanted justice for my kids. I started working with Phoenix, but… I also Registered and rejoined the police force a couple weeks later, the SCOUT team. The information on the virus and the Vanguard came from Phoenix. And I took it to my superiors. Commissioner Lau authorized SCOUT to be involved, and between Phoenix and SCOUT, the situation was… neutralized.”

“SCOUT,” Edward murmurs, moving over to another cardboard box, pulling out some water damaged files. Making a noise in the back of his throat, he steps around the string web, then plucks a photo of Karen Lau and William Harvard out to clip to the string. “So, you survive the explosion, join the police… and…” Edward looks up to Liz, his pale eyes wide in anticipation.

“You said that Phoenix passed the information along to the NYPD…” Edward closes the police file and walks back to the desk, laying it down. “In our timeline, that didn’t happen. Phoenix didn’t have any information to give. Everyone was in the dark until it was too late.” Edward looks back up, tongue sliding over the inside of his cheek slightly. “Do you know where Phoenix got the information from? Their source?”

“The only thing I ever really knew about that was Cat Chesterfield kept a database,” Elisabeth replies promptly. “I…. If I did know back then where it came fr—” She trails off, a frown pulling her brows together. “Uhm…” She is clearly digging through her memories from back then, finding it difficult to put details into place after all this time. “I wasn’t really in Phoenix at that point, but I …” Her head tilts slightly. “Eileen, possibly? For some reason her name is sticking in my head, but… you know, at that time, I was literally a baby in the terrorist circles.” There’s an edge to that word, but she doesn’t hesitate on it. “Honestly, my best memory of any of this would have been to either ask Cat, access her database, or ask Teo. They would have been the ones who knew the most,” she finally allows slowly. Her brow is furrowed, though.

“I wish I could,” Edward says, then looks away with an informed silence that explains her fate. Though at the mention of Eileen, Edward’s expression shifts to something more prickly. Drawing in a slow and steady breath, he crosses the floor of the room one more time and rummages around through a series of old file folders. A few documents stamped with Interpol are laid aside, followed by an old black and white photograph of an old man who is unmistakably Kazimir Volken, and a matchstick-thin teenage girl in what is the youngest Liz has ever seen Eileen Ruskin.

Edward walks over to the strings and hooks Eileen’s photo with a paperclip onto her own string. Then, looking down to the floor, Edward purses his lips and grows uncomfortably quiet. He circles the map, looking up and scratching at the side of his cheek. He’s found the answer, and he doesn’t appreciate the irony.

“She was the leak,” Edward explains with some measure of certainty. Then, shifting blue eyes over to Liz, he manages something of a furtive expression before looking away and asking. “How well do you know Munin? Ah, Eileen?” When he looks back, there’s an unspoken ask somewhere in there.

Elisabeth shakes her head a little. “I don’t, really,” she sighs heavily. “In my time, because of things that have happened between then and now, she’s… in my world, she’s someone that I would help if she asked. She’s done a great many things, trying to … I don’t know if she sees it as redeeming herself or what, honestly. I don’t think we’ve even really met in person. We’ve seen one another… maybe. But any contact I’ve ever had with her has been completely incidental. Why?”

Savoring the last of her coffee for the treasure that it is, Liz finally has to take the last sip and then she moves to put the cup down against the wall she’d been leaning on. “Edward… how is pinpointing this going to help?”

“Because it changes the odds.” Edward’s expression goes distant again, and he walks over to the middle of the string web and furrows his brows. “Because…” there’s a noise at the back of his throat, and when he turns his attention back to Elisabeth, there’s visible worry in his eyes. He falls silent for a moment, then his shoulders slack and he reaches up to scrub one hand at the back of his neck.

“I don’t think Magnes and Ruiz are powerful enough, alone, to get you home or us out of this nightmare.” Edward’s blue eyes track to the side, along the string web. “Because there’s only one person who can change that…” he adds, moving over to the box of Company files, rummaging through until he finds one. Edward’s expression hangs, and his eyes search the air, before he walks back to Liz.

The folder he carries has WINTERS stenciled on the side, and PROJECT ICARUS below that. Opening the folder, he withdraws a file on one Stephanie Winters, but when he flips to the photograph, it’s without a doubt a young Gillian Childs. He still hasn’t explained why her relationship to Eileen matters.

Edward hands the photograph out, and asks, “Do you know who this is?”

There’s a pang for a moment and Elisabeth huffs a small sound that might have been a stifled chuckle. How many times as she seen someone else do that very maneuver? You’d think they were genetically related. It amuses her, something welcome in the midst of all this agitation and dismay.

Reaching out to take the picture, the smile fades. “I know her, yes.” She looks up at him, her blue eyes wary. She hasn’t missed that he didn’t answer her question about Eileen. “I know Stephanie Winters… is not her real name, or at least… wasn’t in my world. The only Winters I knew was Brian.” She hands him the picture back.

“Look… I know you well enough — or at least the other you well enough — to know that in part you’re not telling me things that are running through your head because you don’t quite have a handle on the probabilities involved in which paths are most likely. However, you and me?” She points between them. “You and me are going to operate on full disclosure, Edward.” There’s a hardness to her gaze when she studies him. “I will do everything that needs to be done to both go home and to get as many of your people the hell out of here as humanly possible — which is exactly what your brain is up to right now,” she tells him with narrowed eyes. “You’re less concerned about Ruiz and Magnes working together to just get us home and more concerned — and rightfully so! — about whether Gillian can augment the two of them enough to boost all of us out of here. But you are not going to play chess games with me the way your counterpart did with— ” She cuts that off abruptly. “Other people.”

Blowing out a breath, she drags a hand over her long hair, the braid hopelessly tangled at the moment. “Now…. tell me what’s running through that ridiculously brilliant, deviant brain of yours.”

Edward looks up from a spot on the wall he’d been staring at, wyde-eyed at Liz. “We don’t have a healthy relationship where you’re from, do we?” The smile he manages after that isn’t entirely honest, and the question is entirely rhetorical. With one hand finding its way to the back of his neck, Edward looks like the cat who ate the canary.

“I think it’s just easier if I showed you,” Edward explains, moving to the door of the office. He lingers there, in the threshold, and looks back over his shoulder. “It’s not far down the hall.”

That is putting it somewhat mildly. Something happened to your brain and you … left clues about shit for people. The you in my world understood string theory quite well. He wasn’t a math professor, he was a physicist, I think. Neither here nor there — he …” Elisabeth shakes her head. “Fuck,” she breathes. “I’m sorry. He tried to do the right thing in my world… but he hurt people I care about. And fucking well ordered me killed at one point. So … no. Not healthy at all.”

She moves to follow him down the hall, her blue eyes still as watchful as ever. “I don’t know whether to be terrified or amused at the look on your face, you know. But I suppose if you were going to fuckin’ kill me, you’d have done it already.”

Edward listens to Elisabeth in thoughtful silence. Occasionally his stare flicks away from her, to a distant speck of something in the air perhaps, and then back. But when there’s silence between the two, Edward manages a faint smile and dips out of the room for her to follow.

“No,” he belatedly responds. “I wasn’t going to kill you,” is clarified after. That ominous portent is left hanging in the air as Edward travels down the full length of the hallway, past steam pipes and power conduits, past oil lanterns hanging from hooks on the concrete walls. To the left at a forking path, into a claustrophobically narrow hallway that terminates at a heavy iron door. Old warning signs are set on the wall, red and white in coloration. Beneath the coat of soot, Liz sees the words Blast Furnace at the same time she smells coal in the air.

Edward looks back, brows raised, and slides open a view slot in the blast furnace door. “I wasn’t going to kill you,” he admits, letting Liz lean in to look through the opening. There, in the blast furnace a woman in bloodstained clothes is tied to a chair with zip ties, a gag in her mouth.

Eileen Ruskin.

“I was planning on killing her.”

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