Closed, Part I


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Scene Title Closed, Part I
Synopsis The way back is…
Date December 25, 2018

This place reminds her of the door in her mind, rusted and wet.

Hundreds of feet below the surface of what was once Cambridge, Massachusetts and now further hundreds of feet below risen ocean levels, Elisabeth Harrison finds herself in the last place on Earth she ever wanted to be: The Commonwealth Institute. The journey was supposed to end here, and in a bleak way, it has.

Streaks of bubbled rust mar the once pristine white walls of her private quarters, spacious enough to live in comfort with her daughter were it not for the lingering smell of wet metal and seawater permeating the air. Were it not for the fact that this is a gilded cage.

An oil lamp is the only light provided in Elisabeth’s quarters, as the wiring for the inset lights corroded away years ago. Environmental controls long since failed here too, save for the oxygen recyclers, making it uncomfortably cold in the entire structure. Warm blankets are thankfully abound, but due to the condition of the old air filtration systems fires for warmth aren't permitted.

So, wrapped in four layers of blankets, Elisabeth sits on an old leather sofa in the dimly lit living room of her two bedroom gilded cage. Paintings on the wall depicting urban life and rural landscapes in the United States from the years before the flood feel almost cruel now.

On the glass coffee table in front of her, the lamp flickers it's silent flame, and the shadows around her dance their silent dance.

The sight of Norton Trask monetarily shocked Liz into immobility on their arrival. SO MANY damn things similar and so many different. She had no time to warn people to keep their distance, and the negation of her ability has brought back dark memories and deeper nightmares. Despite years of therapy, the experiences in these worlds activate deep-seated horrors and still trigger reactions that even her therapist in Bright said might never ease. She feels trapped and muffled, the world two-dimensional much as it was in the Virus world, and it only adds to her sense of despair — she hadn't honestly realized how very very hard she was clinging to the one strand of hope that Dessa gave her so many years ago… it's Christmas. It's Christmas 2018, and whatever it was that made Dessa and Richard believe they would have a way home — whoever the prophet was — she can't see a way right now to actually make that come true.

But Dessa never said "on Christmas Day" either… she just said "by Christmas." Well, by God, there are 12 days of Christmas, and she is fighting with every ounce of her will to keep her own despair from everyone else.

Because Michelle is alive. And as long as that is the case and as long as Magnes keeps his goddamn mouth shut to Kenner about who they are and where they're from for now, there is still a chance they can do what they need to do. And very quietly, there have been conversations among the travelers as they work to sort out how to make their next moves. She's learned a lot over the years, particularly in the Wasteland. Fighting back in her own world was more soldier and less guerrilla warfare. It's the sneaky parts and willingness to slit throats that are coming back to the fore here in this prison. She is getting her people the fuck out of this hellhole.

A brief glance toward the room where Cassandra and Aurora are sharing the bed for now assures her that they're sleeping peacefully. Elisabeth drags her hands down her face and pushes the blankets off to get up and pace. Her mental map of the original Ark is old and probably won't be of use here, limited as it is to the parts of the Ark that she'd been allowed to tour. But as she paces, she keeps working through ideas in her head. Kenner staged a coup — which means the factions down here are split and while some will be rabid in their support of one or the other, most are going to duck and keep their heads down while shifts in power happen. It's determining who she might be able to trust that will be the trick here.

Her mind spins over options, ideas, possibilities.

Interrupted, then, by a soft series of knocks on the bulkhead door leading into her room. That it’s late is an understatement, Aurora went to bed at least an hour ago. There’s no clock in the room, no way to tell in this subterranean bunker how late into Christmas day it really is. But a caller at this hour hasn’t happened since she arrived.

A visitor at this hour also isn't an expected occurrence. Elisabeth pauses at the door for just a moment before opening it to whoever is on the other side — her first thought is that it's one of her people who needs something.

It isn’t.

Elisabeth.” The woman standing in the doorway isn’t familiar to Liz. Tall, at least six feet, blonde hair threaded with gray, prominent nose and hawkish features. She’s probably somewhere between Elisabeth and her mother in age. She was at the intensely awkward banquet when they arrived, brows furrowed and silent all the while, looking uncomfortable in her own skin. She’s dressed like a doctor, dingy white labcoat, upturned collar, magnetic identification badge clipped to a pocket that isn’t quite legible at the angle its sitting at.

“I’m Doctor Ingram,” she says with a slight raise of her brows and a wary look down the flickeringly fluorescent-lit hall behind her, “might I come in for a moment? There’s some medical concerns I need to go over with you regarding your child and their health here in the Arcology.” She takes a half step forward, looking over Elisabeth’s shoulder.

A single brow quirks upward and there's a visible wariness as Elisabeth steps backward into the quarters to allow the woman entry. A swift glance down the hallway before she closes the door, and then she moves around the other woman to keep herself between Ingram and the door that leads to her child.

"I'm listening," is all she says to Ingram. She highly doubts that if they wanted to be a threat to her they'd knock. But it doesn't mean that she's not ready for just that idea.

Doctor Ingram pauses, looking around the apartment, then to the door that Elisabeth is cutting off her path to. She waits, a moment of awkward silence, and then points up to the ceiling with one hand while pressing a finger to her lips with the other. Then, she motions to her ear and circles around the room. They’re listening.

“I’m checking with everyone regarding immunization records for communicable diseases. Has Aurora received her full round of vaccines, or was that not available?” Though the conversation seems innocuous, Doctor Ingram reaches into her jacket and withdraws a piece of paper with a handwritten message on it.

Donald is going to kill you.

And on the reverse side.

I know Michelle. I know where she is. I know why you’re here.

“I suppose I should ask you the same thing,” Doctor Ingram says as though she hadn’t just showed that to Elisabeth. “Are you vaccinated? Standard communicable diseases.”

The first is not news. As Elisabeth takes the note, she conveys the lack of surprise with a twist of her lips and a shake of her head. Flipping it over, she considers. Is this too easy? Perhaps. But what are her choices here?

"Aurora's are up to date. I think mine all are, but I have to be honest that I'm not sure. I know I've had all my childhood ones, before the Flood." Her tone is cautious, and her blue eyes flicker toward the door briefly. "Is there a way to tell whether they're all up to date?"

The offer is wary, as if she's unwilling to trust but also that if they're supposedly going to stay here as Kenner tried to make them believe, she doesn't want to risk anyone else. In point of fact, it's as good an excuse as any to get out of the room and snoop… if the doctor is as sympathetic as she seems.

“Why don’t we take a quick trip down to my lab?” Ingram suggests with a raise of her brows. “No need to wake Aurora up right now.” That said, Ingram moves to the door and rests her hand on the lever to open it, looking back to Elisabeth with a tense expression. The note she’d shown her is crumpled up tightly in her fist, knuckles white.

Pursing her lips, Elisabeth nods slowly. "All right." Her tone is still wary, but she nods her understanding again. Walking to the bedroom door, she hisses softly to wake Cassandra but not Aurora. "Hey — gonna go check to be sure my shots are up to date so I can't accidentally get anyone sick. I'll be back." She's not leaving them sleeping cluelessly while she's potentially taken out and shot or something.

When she comes back, she grabs a sweater off the couch and then gestures. "Lead on, Macduff."

“Ingram,” the Doctor corrects, not getting the reference, as she wrenches the door open into the hall. “Sara Ingram.”


Christmas is nearly over, if Mateo Ruiz’s watch is any indication.

Evie sleeps soundlessly on the sofa in the livingroom of their suite-sized accommodations, two thick blankets over her shoulders. There’s a single oil lamp on the glass-topped coffee table beside the L-shaped sofa to light the room. The arcology is dark in many places, lighting in the halls is even erratic. Mateo is familiar with this situation, it reminds him of the faulty wiring in the Hub. There’s no lights because there’s both not enough electricity being generated and the wiring is corroding. But, conversely, Mateo can feel that it’s also not entirely true. There is electricity in the wiring of their suite, in every single room. It connects to ventilation ducts with softly spinning fans that circulate air to the filtration systems, but it feels like too much power for just the fans. He’s had a few days to obsess over it.

With Evie sleeping soundly in a real bed, a comfort after the previous world that they had made use of back at the Library as well, Ruiz moves over to where his wife sits and shakes his head a little, “This place set up to use way more electricity than it seems. I can’t really use my ability…” he has tried, too, but at least the last few days he’s been able to touch his wife and daughter without worrying about more than a little static spark. “But I can still tell.” Electrician training had part to do with it, but apparently the negation hadn’t shut down everything, leading to him having little to obsess over besides the set up and the way the electricity moved through the underwater building.

“Some of this looks like ways I would wire things, too. To get around lack of resources.” He’s not sure if that surprised him or not. According to Destiny he had been here for a time. Until he wasn’t. That was why she had come here to look for him. And wiring did have a style about it sometimes.

He’d never thought to ask if he had been trained as an electrician in this place too.

With a glance toward the young girl on the bed he keeps his voice soft, “I do wonder what’s using all the electricity, though. Cause it’s not the air filtration system.” They had those in a few places in the Hub too.

This place has not been what Lynette expected. As such, the last two days, she's been more depressed than ever. She tries to hide it for their daughter, but in moments like this one, she can't. She's too tired.

She's been tired for worlds now.

When Ruiz moves closer, she glances up at him, her head tilting. "That makes sense. They had to have realized they were trapped at some point, if they were smart they would have started to ration resources right away." She glances toward the duct, her frown deepening. "Whatever reason they have to be using more electricity than normal? I doubt it's anything good." She looks back to him again there, "Seeing as this is a prison more than— whatever it was meant to be. However… it is a prison we can take a stroll through. There's only one way to figure out what they're powering with it."

So they say,” Ruiz responds to the ‘prison they can walk through’ part. He half wonders how much freedom they were meant to have, and he hadn’t liked the way some of the folks had looked at him when they arrived. But he didn’t think they knew certain things, either, and that might be to their advantage. “Let’s go for a walk. I think this world’s Mala is right down the hall, I’ll see if she will peak in and stay with Evie.” Just in case. But he didn’t think anything would happen immediately.

They weren’t planning to actually cause any problems, but he also didn’t want Evie to wake up and be alone and wander off, either.

He holds out his hand to his wife. “Let’s go see what the mad scientists are up to,” he offers in a jesting tone.

As Mateo offers his hand out for Lynette, there’s a bloom of light that manifests in the room. It starts in one of the air ducts, a goldenrod glow with spots of blue and green inside, then zaps down from inside the vent and manifests in the middle of the living room into the form of a short blonde woman in a ratty workman’s jumpsuit, smudges of grease on her cheeks, and a holstered revolver at her waist. The blonde, for all her abrupt appearance, quickly places one finger at her lips in a shh motion, and points to the ceiling with her other finger.

Then, gesturing down to the chest of her jumpsuit, the blonde who was living light a moment ago, points out the sewn on name tag: M. RUIZ. Her brows rise, finger still at her lips, as she slides a silent look back at the child sleeping on the sofa, then back to the Ruizes. The hand that was pointing at the ceiling turns, palm out, and reveals a message scrawled in Sharpie marker on her palm.

They’re listening.

Lynette takes Ruiz's hand, but when that light comes out of nowhere, she steps between the blonde and her daughter. She glances the woman over, taking her direction not to speak. Once she sees the name tag, Lynette looks concerned for a whole new set of reasons. She nods to the message, squeezing Mateo's hand. "Maybe that's not such a good idea," she says out loud, for the audience, before she moves to grab Evie's colored pencils and a pad of paper that is half filled with drawings from the little girl. She scribbles down a note before passing it to the other blonde.

Who are you?

The sudden appearance of a stranger in a jumpsuit that looks eerily like what he’d worn back in the Hub, complete with the name badge causes a grunt of surprise from Ruiz. For a moment he looks as if he’s about to say something, but then stops as he actually processes what was written on the hand. Lynette’s quicker at playing along than him, as he lets go of her hand and watches for a moment. After a second he realizes he needs to respond. For the audience. “I guess you’re right. It probably was the air filtration system anyway,” he murmurs, looking at what she’s writing and nodding because he agrees that’s the far more important question at the moment.

With a frown, he looks toward the walls again. Listening seemed the most likely thing, cause she didn’t seem worried about cameras, but he looked around to try and figure out where. “Wish, I had my guitar.” He could start playing music to try and drown out any strange noises they might have made. Not that he’s had a guitar since they left Lynette’s home. Not a good one at least. “Did you see if they had any music down here?” Because that seemed the second best option. And it continued the conversation a little longer to give the woman time to write something.

And most importantly it might cover their absence if they had to leave.

There's a record player and turntable in the shelves, though it and it's collection of records look disused. With no electricity going to the wall outlets the player has had no way to operate, leaving them with fewer options than they’d hoped.

The blonde, scribbling away in the notebook, gives Mateo a lingering stare and then turns the notepad around. She's only written two things, big enough to be easily read from a distance.

Rianna Cardinal.

Go for a walk. Say you need fresh air. We gotta talk.

Rianna motions to the door with her nose, then wags her brows. She keeps the sketchbook and pencils tucked under her arm.

"There's no music. There's nothing down here," Lynette says, letting emotion into her voice. It isn't hard, since despair is never far away. She looks at the paper, then to Rianna. Cardinal is a familiar name, at least. She looks at Ruiz, pointing him toward the latter half of the message. She'll set up, he follows through.

"I want to go home," she says, a sniffle following her words. The tears that follow are real, as is the sentiment. She hasn't voiced it thus far, but she's been thinking it a long time. "I miss our son. I miss my father." Home is impossible to return to for many reasons, but especially because she means a time that has long since passed them by.

Cardinal. As far as he recalled, the only Cardinal he had known well hadn’t had much in the way of family besides his father, but then again, this world seemed to be taking liberties with things. Tugging on the sleeve of his shirt, Ruiz nods at what is written and then looks back toward Lynette to say a soft. “I miss them too.” And only one would be at the end of this journey. He can’t expect her to latch onto an alternate version of her father the way they have reignited what they had with their alternates.

With her set up, he continues, “Let’s go for a walk after all. Stretch our legs, clear our heads, see what kind of entertainment they have on this boat.” Not a boat, but he couldn’t think of a better name for it. “They have to at least have something. People would go stir crazy.” And maybe they did anyway from what little he has seen.

It was an excuse, really, and they all knew it, even if it was a good one. If they intended to keep all of them here there had to be something to keep minds and bodies occupied.

Rianna seems to approve of this course of action. She remains silent, offering a look back at Evie’s slumbering form, then turns to give a reassuring nod to the Ruizes. As Mateo opens the door into the hall, Rianna disassembles into multiple streamers of light and raced out the gap, reforming in the hall with a swish of her blonde hair.

When both Mateo and Lynette are out in the hall and the door shuts, Rianna keeps a finger raised to her lip and then jerks her head down the hall that leads away from the residential block and toward the civilian medical wing. In that same moment, she explodes into streamers of light again and disappears further down the hall…

…leaving room for the Ruizes to follow at their own pace.

Not Much Later

Civilian Medical Wing

“Listening devices aren't on in this wing right now…” is the first thing doctor Sara Ingram says as she pushes through a series of double doors into a largely abandoned looking medical wing. Room after room is unlit, and Sara leads the way with a flashlight in hand, as even the overhead lights are off. “Power systems are low, everything’s being conserved. Only essential systems.”

Doctor Ingram turns around and looks over her shoulder to Elisabeth. “I'm sorry this is such a rush. Donald Kenner held a coup quite some time ago, deposed the director of the Institute. Had me executed.” Doctor Ingram smiles awkwardly. “Another me. It's complicated. I'm fine.” She starts walking faster. “Thanks for asking.”

“I have to get you to the elevator,” Doctor Ingram insists, “Ria is getting Mateo and Lynette,” and she seems familiar with both of their names. “After what happened at the banquet, we couldn't wait any longer.” None of this makes sense to Elisabeth, not where they're going, who they're going with, why they're going anywhere.

“We have to hurry.” Doctor Ingram insists, flashlight bobbing up and down the hall.

Although she keeps pace with the good doctor, Elisabeth is not liking the explanation — or lack thereof — one little bit. Her brows have a perpetual line between them since they arrived and her head is on a constant swivel as they move tonight. She hates the sensation of being wrapped in cotton with everything muffled and fuzzy at the edges. The initial panic of that has at least dulled to a low, constant roar against her mind. The fact that Mateo and Lynette have also been fetched for whatever this is …

"What exactly are we up to, doc? I'm giving you enough rope here to hang me with, but cloak and dagger is not my favorite game." She pauses a moment and then says quietly, "And if you're expecting us to help you take back your facility, I have to point out — I'm pretty damn good at overthrowing assholes, but those of us who came here are negated and you have us separated. Not much good for staging our own coup here."

“This place was never meant to save anyone,” Doctor Ingram explains. “It was a research facility, for people like us. It just— happened to work out. Be airtight. Survive the pressure. Mostly.” The Doctor makes her way down a winding circuit of corridors, past rooms that were clearly once medical examination laboratories. Rooms filled with centrifuges, microscopes, light boards for x-rays, all manner of scientific technology, all darkened and mothballed.

“There's a device here, I know you already know what it was.” Doctor Ingram pushes through a pair of double doors with Elevator Access marked above them. The rooms past here all look like old offices, with dust-shrouded desks and long-dormant computers. “It was modified here, transformed from its original design by a genius named Mortimer. You knew him better as Warren.” There's a certainty in Doctor Ingram’s voice, talking about Elisabeth as if she knows her personally.

Up ahead, the hall terminates at a large freight-sized elevator with an illuminated keypad beside it. Doctor Ingram swiftly moves up to it and keys in 6181982 and then presses the enter key and the light above the keypad turns from red to green and the doors slide open. She looks back over her shoulder at Elisabeth, then walks inside. “We need your help getting out of here.”

Elisabeth listens as they talk, her eyes watchful. The code to enter the elevator, she only catches the first several but it's not as if the rest are unfamiliar to her but there are four — she can guess what they're likely to be. Without commenting on it, she enters the lift and leans against the side wall to cross her arms. "I'm willing to help with that," she acknowledges, although her tone still has that wary edge to it that says she isn't just trusting all this at face value. "How exactly are you thinking I can help you?"

Mortimer Ray. Heh… she actually met him as both, but she doesn't mention that. Considering what's been said and not said for now, Elisabeth asks, "How do you know that I knew him as Warren?" Because that, so far as she's aware, is a name he only took in her world. "You said your own name like I should know it, Sara Ingram. Perhaps you should enlighten me."

Doctor Ingram presses one finger to the button marked C-Ring. As the doors slide shut, she looks back to Elisabeth. “Don isn’t a prophet,” she explains, hands spread, “he’s… we’ve all been listening to the device for years since we found it, trying to determine what it is. It started as a scientific inquiry, but once Richard reached out across the divide to contact Michelle, everything changed.”

As the elevator begins to descend, Doctor Ingram crosses her arms over her chest and furrows her brows, watching the indicator at the top of the elevator shift from A-Ring to B-Ring. “We’ve been listening to moments of history, tuning in to frequencies, learning about you… multiple yours, all of you. We’ll hear snippets of radio broadcasts from other dimensions, parallel timelines is what Michelle theorized, and then…” Doctor Ingram closes her eyes, “then she heard her long-lost son. Then everything was different. We weren’t passive observers.” She doesn’t touch on the topic of her name, just moves past it.

Blinking her attention back up to Elisabeth, Doctor Ingram’s brows furrow. Eyes intent. “That’s when Don started talking to the machine.”


There’s a flicker snap of light, taking a left at a T-junction in the residence halls, moving into what is clearly a maintenance access corridor. There’s open rooms with wheeled tool chests, old acetylene torches, welding masks. None of it looks to have been used in a long time. Wiring is exposed here, clipped with colorful plastic wire caps. There’s no way any Mateo Ruiz did this poor of a job.

Rianna disappears out of sight, taking another turn. How much longer?

The flickering of light gives them enough to follow at a reasonable pace, but Ruiz can’t help but stop and look at the exposed wires and the way everything looks positively jury-rigged. And not even well. “Even Isa could have done a better job with the wires than this,” he mutters under his breath, unable to bother trying to hide that thought. If they were stuck here any longer he might just offer to help them fix this crap job that they’ve made of— well— what might have been some of his work. So long ago that it’s unrecognizable in most places.

Since he can’t work on it now, he just shakes his head in disgust and moves on, following the flickering woman who wore his clothes. There was much he would like to ask, but he tells himself there will be time later.

Lynette has been following the woman made of light in silence. As far as walks go, it isn't the most relaxing. "They've been down here for years. If their Mateo Ruiz was lost… they might not have had someone else with the skill." It's hard, thinking of all those lost otters. Truly lost, rather than just wandering the wrong path in the garden. She has to focus on breathing for a few moments. She steps closer to her husband, arm linking with his.

"I'm supposed to be at that meeting," she says, under her breath. She's not sure of the exact time, but she knows that it looks bad for making the arranged time with the other Mateo. Her dreams had been her own for several days, so she hasn't even been able to warn him.

When Mateo and Lynette round the next corner, they find Rianna waiting at an elevator, just having keyed in an access code. “Lots of shit has been going on here, I figure you've all put two and two together by now. Some of the Ark residents aren't too keen on our dictator and chief,” she says, stepping in to the freight elevator, “but we know the shit Don’s said about you is true. About what you can do. About who you are.”

Leaning up against the back of the elevator with her arms crossed, Rianna closes her eyes. “My mom isn't dead. She's being detained in a secure wing because Don needs her to keep his fucking machine running. Joy said you two could help us, and Elisabeth. So, we wanted to get you together to talk. Figure out what the fuck it is you want, and how we can work together to twist Don’s head off like a fucking dandelion.”

She motions to the keypad in the elevator with her nose, “Hit C-Ring.”

As she speaks out loud this time, Ruiz assumes that it means they are free to talk in this area, though he still glances around as if trying to figure out how to tell the difference between safe and not safe. The whole place was so crudely done in many places, but he could tell it had once been very sophisticated. Years and lack of resource and proper maintenance crews would do that. At the mention of Joy his head tilts to the side a little. A long time ago there had been a prediction. About something that never happened. And he tried to recall most of what that slimy weasel-eyed man had said after he stopped trusting him. And he had said he predicted a woman named Joy would come through the portals, not the two trouble makers who did…

With a shake of his head, he dismisses that, stepping into the elevator and saying with a nod of gratitude, “We figured you were the girl made of light we were told about as soon as you appeared. Thanks for the help,” he adds after a moment, nodding to Lynette to push the button for them after he glances around. “But yeah, we don’t much care for him either. And we all can help each other.”

But Lynette had made a comment that he’s been thinking about too. “Do we know what time it is?” he asks the women. He knew it was Christmas, but he had no idea what time beyond— well that it was probably evening.

Lynette doesn't hesitate to hit the button, even though they are heading to an area that are definitely not allowed in. "He's wrong," she says, as far as what Don knows. "The god he's looking for is no savior. She's a monster." Lynette knows that much. The creature that roams through Mateo's maze, hunting for a way out, scratching at the walls. Turning the leaves red. She shakes at the memory, all the nights she's hidden from it while she tried to find Mateo. "The only way we can help your people is getting them out of here before the ocean takes them."

She pauses there, working on steadying her breathing and calming her heartbeat. As far as what they want, Lynette can only blink away tears from her eyes. Some fall down her cheeks and she wipes at them with trembling fingers. "Elisabeth needs to talk to Michelle. Is there a way to arrange that?"

Mention of monsters elicits a look from Rianna, followed by a look down to her wrist. Rolling up the right sleeve of her jumpsuit, she reveals an old digital calculator watch with a broken face that still, remarkably, tells time. She doesn’t immediately tell the Ruizes what time it is, but instead drifts toward the topic of Michelle.

“That’s why we need to talk,” Rianna indicates with a kick of one brow up, “we’ve gotta bust her out.” Then, turning her wrist around she shows Mateo the time. “It’s Christmas day,” she says in quote of A Christmas Carol. “There’s still time.”

The Ark

C-Ring, Engineering Bay

9:58 pm

C-Ring is much as the travelers saw it when they were first whisked through the Ark. Doors welded shut in their frames, paneling missing from walls and ceilings, salvaged for other parts of the arcology. Electricity down here is still pumping, but it doesn’t appear to be going to anything. Conduits surge with electricity and Mateo can feel it through the walls, but nothing here is powered.

Doctor Ingram and Rianna lead their respective charges to the same destination, from opposite sides of the arcology. Both groups arrive at the same time in a cavernous engineering bay, massive steel doors still powered by the Ark’s reactor. As they grind their way open, the noise of their movement echoes and reverberates through the high ceiling and rattles its rickety, half-collapsed catwalks.

Joy,” Rianna says as she hustles through one door, both her hands shedding light that floods the room. Across the bay, Doctor Ingram — apparently also known as Joy — hustles toward Rianna and roughly embraces the other woman. There’s a fretful, panicked measure to their embrace, as if neither expected to see the other again.

Ria,” Joy whispers, looking back over her shoulder to Elisabeth as she leans out of the hug. “I found her.” Rianna nods, brushing a lock of hair from her brow as she jerks her thumb over one shoulder to Mateo and Lynette, brows wagging.

“Mateo, Lynette…” Ria steps aside and motions to the tall, blonde woman in the tattered lab coat. “This is my friend, Joy. She was Michelle’s chief technical officer before everything went fuck-shaped.”

“Doctor Juliette Luis,” Joy corrects, smiling faintly. “Joy’s— a nickname. I’m not sure if any of you knew my father in your world. Jean-Martin.” Joy turns to look over her shoulder at Elisabeth, then back to Mateo and Lynette. “I— apparently have some sort of ability to possess the identities of others. It’s a veil I can drop on a whim. Sara Ingram is…” she waves her hands in the air, “was one of Kenner’s physicians. He doesn’t seem to realize I’m not her. Doesn’t seem to realize I’m alive.”

Ria offers a concerned look to Joy, then back to the others. “Anyway, that’s a long and fuck-all confusing story. We need to talk about getting my mom out of the brig and getting the fuck out of here.”

Shock upon shock upon shock. She's grateful to lay eyes on Mateo and Lynette, and Elisabeth's relief is obvious. But the news of Ingram's name definitely brings recognition. If not to the woman herself, at least of her father. She files away 'Sara's' ability for now as perhaps not the most important aspect.

Blue eyes move back and forth between the women and she blows out a slow breath, her brows pulling to a frown. "Your mo— " Elisabeth skates a look at Lynette and Mateo, querying. "You folks need to get us up to speed with as few words as possible. Who are you?" she asks Rianna… because there's a suspicion forming and she's not sure how to feel about it. Rianna has… a subtle resemblance to a certain pixie Liz travels with, perhaps, if you're looking for it. "Who guards the brig? Who do we need out of it? And who can be counted on if shit goes even more fuck-shaped than it already is?"

With their arrival, Ruiz is looking up at the walls, the surging energy, wondering how exactly he can still feel it. He still didn’t know where all that electricity was going to, but he could imagine where it was all coming from. This reactor of theirs. “They have a lot more power here than they are using in the residences.” It’s an idle comment, really, but he looks toward Lynette as if to signal her to draw that connection.

With a finger, he points toward Rianna, “She’s the light girl that we were told about.” Yeah, he’s just going to throw that out there first.

And one of her other questions he’s going to answer with a small shrug too, “I’m assuming they need us to get either Edward Ray or Magnes out.” Neither man he actually wants to let out anytime soon. For various reasons. But he’s actually a little more likely to let Edward Ray out than the other right now.

“Are they necessary?”

"Michelle Cardinal," Lynette explains to Elisabeth, she seems to think this will cover everything she needs to know, because her attention turns when Ruiz mentions the power.

"This machine," she says to Rianna, "it's the Looking Glass." It isn't a question. She knows. Hard to forget the machine that enabled Eileen to take her son to another world. "Kenner's been using it to, what? Watch the other timelines? Take trips to and from?" Thoughts tumble through her mind, one linking to the next moments before it tumbles out of her mouth. "I'm supposed to open the portal with the other Mateo tonight. If I can't get it open… he'll be left with a one-sided portal." Not a good thing, her expression is clear on that. "It's our way out of here. Yours, too," she adds to their escorts. The others aren't here, but they can be fetched if she can get access to the power.

Ria and Joy exchange confused looks with one another, then slowly turn in opposite directions. Ria eyes Elisabeth, one brow raised and a hand at her chest. “Rianna Cardinal,” she explains succinctly, “Ria, for short. Michelle’s daughter.”

Joy, in turn, is looking at Mateo and Lynette. “I’m sorry back up a step. Edward Ray?” She shakes her head and wrinkles her nose like they just mentioned getting a skunk to come with them. “I’m sorry unless any of this is going to involve doing our taxes he’s not going to be much help. He came here looking for his son… and— he was too late.”

Ria and Joy exchange glances again, and the former rolls her shoulders. “I don’t know who or fuck all of what we need,” Ria admits. “All I know is Kenner’s got my mother locked up in C-Ring with your big-mouth boy, probably, and Kenner seems to think you’re the fucking wunderkind or something.”

“Portal.” Joy blurts out. “Of course— Mateo.” Her hands come up into the air. “Michelle and our Mateo were performing experiments with his portals before he disappeared, years ago. They were using the Looking Glass. How did you— ” Joy claps her hands together, shaking her head.

“Joy, I stopped trying to figure out the how of this shit a while ago,” Ria says with a roll of her eyes. “If you folks can get us out of here, that’s all we want. But we can’t leave tonight, we— we’ve gotta get my mom, at least. There’s a bunch of other civilians here, who— I don’t know how many of them are with Don. But there’s good people. I don’t care where you take us, as long as it’s away.”

“Doctor Ford and I have been formulating a plan to rescue Michelle. He’s the only person who knows who I really am. There’s a few more of us, hiding out in the unfinished spaces of B-Ring where Kenner doesn’t have listening devices. We just need a plan.” Joy says with a worried look to Ria.

You’re the fucking super heroes. We— ” Ria is cut off by a vibration in the air, a high-pitched thrumming sound that comes from somewhere through an adjacent wall. Ria flicks a look over to Joy. “Was that the fucking Looking Glass?

Joy, wide-eyed, doesn’t have an answer. But Lynette does. Somewhere deep down in her bones she can feel a tingling sensation, a vibration in the core of her being, a sympathetic hum that rings far above and far below the audible spectrum. Elisabeth can hear it too, the same high and low note combinations she emitted the day she tried to destroy Magnes’ singularity with a scream.

That's when they realize something. On the way down, Mateo could feel the electricity in the walls. Lynette can feel the hum of El Umbral, Elisabeth can feel the waves of sound. Maybe it's this spot, maybe it's something else. But they're not negated.

Something is happening.

Ria… Cardinal. Elisabeth stares at the girl for a very long moment. Even with a hint of a suspicion, it's something altogether different to be smacked with the reality. Michelle is here and she is still alive … and Elisabeth is staring at Richard's baby sister.

This isn't the time for those questions, though she starts to ask them. But the low-level sensation that has been niggling her for a few minutes now has flared to full life and Liz's eyes go wide with alarm. "No, No, No!!! The pitch….. What are they doing??"

Her head whips around in the direction from which the sound waves emanate and her tone is urgent. "Dear God… is he fucking stupid enough to try to open it with just Magnes and Michelle?? It's…." Words are escaping her grasp because she doesn't know the right ones. She only knows that sound is not right. "It's active… that's what it sounded like when Magnes ripped open spacetime near the machine in my world — I destabilized the machine but then when he did what he did, he ripped open a black hole!" She is truly terrified that they're going to basically destroy the Ark here and now with all of us in it. "We have to stop them!!"

The thrum of electricity fills him fully. Ruiz had been aware of it, vaguely, but now it’s far more pronounced. Now he knows he could pull on it, that he could produce it again. He knows cause as the walls shake and as the building hums he can feel the sparks crackling on his fingers due to released tensions. No. No no no. They were supposed to have time. They were supposed to—

Don said he needed them.

Maybe he was wrong about that part too. “I might be able to drain enough electricity, pull it into this area,” he says with a quick check on the walls. No, he doesn’t think he could do it. He has no where to put it. Nowhere to sink the energy. He could electrocute people if he just shoved it into the walls and let it do whatever it wanted.

And he’s not completely sure he could handle it. But they weren’t all here. Evie wasn’t here. They couldn’t just open the portal. “I can follow the flow of electricity and take us where they are.” But that’s the most he can offer right now.

The fact that Edward Ray is ‘just an accountant’ will process later. Much later.

Lynette's attention turns toward the Looking Glass as it starts to resonate within her. Liz handles explanations, which is good because soon a roar sounds in Lynette's head, mixing with the sound of a train clanking along tracks, horns honking, fires crackling… and that ocean, crashing into the shore, tearing down everything it touches. It hits her harder now than it did the first time she heard it.

A tear slips down her cheek.

She looks over at Mateo, her head shaking. They can't go now. She won't without their daughter and this odd collection of travelers they've created. She can't without dooming them all to be stuck here. However.

"Liz could go," she says suddenly, "she could explain things to them on the other side, help the rest of us to follow. Kain would protect Aurora until we can join her." In a practical sense, she needs Mateo to help power the portal. She hasn't worked out how to use Isa's fire or other forms of energy the way he had. "It wants to open," she says, her tone turning distracted, as shaky fingers press against her temples hard like she might be trying to dig the sound out. She says it wants to open, but she doesn't open it. Instead, her fight is to keep it from acting on its own until the others tell her what they want to do. That first tear is joined by others before long.

Ria and Joy are stricken by the conversation happening around them. The Looking Glass, though concealed behind at least one steel wall in another chamber of the C-Ring, creates a palpable sense of concussive force once it fully spins up. Waves of deep, bass-filled sound vibrate through the maintenance bay, and strange lights are starting to manifest in the air, shimmering motes of blue and green radiating outward from a point in space like paper tassels tied to an office fan; ribbons of aurora light cutting horizontal into thin air.

“We don’t have a fucking plan for this!” Ria shouts over what is a growing sound of crashing and roaring air building up above. Lynette can feel something, a pressure building behind her eyes, like someone trying to reach from inside of her skull out through the sockets. It feels like El Umbral itself was yearning for release, to open and expand, it feels like someone trying to make a connection from a point infinitely far away.

At the same time, Joy begins wandering off with her brows pinched together, looking up at a dimpling point in the air near where the streamers of light are pushing. Her lips part, confused and horrified in one. She is silhouette by a pair of enormous blast doors, now illuminated by the auroral light, streaked with rust and weeping from condensation. “I’ve never seen anything like this before…” she whispers, reaching up in a mesmerized gesture toward the lights, just too far out of reach.

As if this strange sequence of events weren’t enough, blurred after-images of human-like shapes and forms begin to manifest in the air, like photo negatives imposed over the real world. Everyone in the hangar leaves blurry after-images behind themselves, static frames like what the sun burns on a retina, slowly fading behind them. But there’s other echoes here too, echoes of some massive, cylindrical machine directly below where that dimple in space is forming. Elisabeth had seen it before… seven years ago.

The Mallet Device.

The flickering, laser-spinning machine is a silent image impressed on the fabric of reality. But two shapes move around it, one feminine silhouette and one masculine. Ria watches the display with a slow shake of her head, brows furrowing. “Is that… Is that Michelle? And Mortimer?”

"Don't fucking touch it!" Elisabeth shouts out, moving to keep Ingram from sticking her hand anywhere near the aurora. Horror etches itself in her expression as she feels is continue to spin up and her blue eyes seek out not Mateo — because he's not the holder of the power — but Lynette. "What the hell do you mean, go? Are you fucking nuts??"

Her eyes go back to the images, the echoes. "Oh God," she whispers. She pulls Ingram backward, standing in front of the researcher. "You need to get that fucking thing turned off," she orders in a shaky voice. Her eyes never leave the images being formed and… given what happened the last time she destabilized the Mallett Device, even if this is a ghostly afterimage, she's worried about trying now. "Go shut it down, Juliette! Before we're all sucked in!" She still doesn't know if MAGNES is on the other side of the wall, after all, with the Looking Glass machine spinning up the way it is.

For a moment, Ruiz looks at Lynette with surprise. While he doesn’t doubt at all that everyone would do their best to reunite her with her daughter safe and sound, she had the same reasons for not going that they did. A little girl who might grow up without the only parents she ever knew if they messed this up. Which could still happen anyway, by the looks of things. “I’m not sure what opening a portal while this is happening would even do. It may not be able to stabilize. It might rip her to pieces.” It might rip the entire room and everyone in it to pieces. The whole station.

Wherever all that electricity was going it was so much closer than he had thought at first. He presses moves closer to the wall, raising a hand, trying to draw some of that energy toward them. In one hand and out the other, with a sparkling firework like display like the other world’s Lynette tried to teach him. But with him it turns into a spinning loop of electricity, moving around his hand. “I don’t think I can drain it enough.” No he knew he couldn’t. Whatever it was it was already affecting the area around them in ways he couldn’t begin to explain.

This had never happened before. Not that he knew. “You can try, see if it stabilizes on it’s own, but— “ He looks at Liz. “Opening it might make whatever this is worse.” He doesn’t recognize the machine, or the man and woman moving around it, but he knows that whatever he’s seeing is not supposed to be there.

"I mean that we need help," Lynette says, although she doesn't make it through the whole sentence without a pained whimper. She squeezes her eyes closed against the sensation, but that doesn't make it go away. In her mind's eye, she can see the hedges, feel the heated breath of the minotaur in the labyrinth. She crumbles to the floor as the leaves turn from green to red. "I need help," she manages to get out, but her voice sounds distant. Like she's somewhere else.

She tries. She holds it back as long as she can stand it. As long as she can manage it. But she loses her hold on El Umbral. White light starts as a point hovering in the room, then snaps open to a portal wide enough to walk through. It pulsates like it wants to get bigger, the edges flashing brighter.

“I— I can't.” Joy says with wide eyes to Elisabeth, even as she backs away from the growing infinitely dark portal raged with glowing light. “It's— Don has the machine locked down. There's not even a route to it this way. We— the only reason we chose to meet down here is because Don didn't install listening devices…” There's nothing they could do.

As the portal Lynette tries to create flickers and wobbles, something outstanding happens. The normally ink black portal surface begins to become transparent like a window pane. At first, smudged silhouettes are visible beyond the ring of light, but then, as something else works on the other side, the connection begins to stabilize and clear further with a thin rippled membrane like rough glass between Lynette and…


Immediately visible on the other side of the portal is Mateo Ruiz, another Mateo Ruiz. It's winter on a snow-dusted rooftop, immediately recognizable as the Deveaux Building. There's machinery and spoiled cables on the ground, and a miniature copy of the Looking Glass as Magnes described it from Pinehearst Tower, flaring brightly with white plasma inside of its triangular frame. Beside the machine, tapping at keys on a laptop and checking screens, Warren Ray is a sight to behold, eyes glossed over with chrome.

Then, Elisabeth’s heart lurches in her chest.

Richard Cardinal, as she knows him, is on his knees on the ground. His winter coat is parted to reveal an armored suit worn over his clothes, not horizon armor, too light. But something similar. There's an unfamiliar man nearby, dark-skinned and looking around wild-eyed, a handgun held out and pointed toward Richard.

Other people, very official looking in matching coats over dark suits — government agents of some kind? — are scrambling back away from the portal and the man with the gun.

It's home, except for one thing.

There's no sound. The images coming through the portal are like a silent film.

"Lynette— " Elisabeth's words are cut off as the portal opens and she backs up several steps, watching things coalesce. Whatever is happening, it doesn't appear we're going to stop it. As the resolution of the image sharpens, her breath is caught in her throat. First by the sight of the other Mateo, shock rendering her incapable of words for a long moment. She sort of … waves? … uncertainly.

The rest of what she's seeing, however, is not a good scenario. "No! What the fuck—" With no sound on our end, she can only assume there's none on theirs either, and despite her misgivings, it's instinct to reach for some way to keep a person from what appears to be an execution — and especially given who it is, she can't fight the desperate need to not watch him die again. "HEY! Asshole!" she shouts at the man holding the weapon. She has no idea if she can push the sound all the way through the barrier so that it reaches the other side, but she's damn well going to try. The manipulation is entirely by feel, instinct and gut-deep desperation. Taking two steps closer to the ring of light, she calls out again and this time — perhaps stupidly — shoves the wave toward the shooter hoping to at least wobble him. "Richard! Heads up!"

The electricity that had been spinning around Ruiz’s hand is snuffed out, pulled into the field surrounded and powering el umbral as it forms. He starts to draw out more, to give her more to take, but between the two of them drawing electricity from the building he’s not sure how things will go. It might mess up the machine, it might destabilize the entire thing. He moves to Lynette’s side, kneeling down and touching her arm with the hand that isn’t crackling, trying to support her. No one understood how tough this ability could be on a body except someone who had had it, after all. “You did it,” he comments quietly.

But he liked it much better when they did this on the rooftop.

The rooftop he now sees through the portal that had once been his own. He stares. In all his times using it, they had never been able to see the other side, never been able to look through. And there they were. Richard Cardinal in strange clothes for the Richard Cardinal that he’d known, but still recognizable. A man that looked like that shadow after image that they had seen briefly in the auroras, but not one he recognized. Agents of some kind as well. They had a distinct look about them after all. And guns.

With all the silence coming through, his eyes find his own for a moment, his own face the same but different, strained as he held a hand up to the sky as if trying to grasp at something, to twist something. No blood dripped from his own nose at least, just concentration, strain, and the shutting out of everything around him. Even the shooting that was going on that Liz was most definitely not ignoring.

And then he saw her. The other Lynette, and his hand tightens on the one on this side at the sudden tightness in his chest. Every Lynette had that effect on him.

"That's him," Lynette says, words broken up as she tries to catch her breath, "the one I found in the Garden." She clings onto Ruiz and he can feel her trembling under his hand. She reaches a hand out, fingers touching the field between him and her. His world and this one. "I didn't. We're blocked," she says, her voice as shaky as she is. "What did I do wrong? Why can't I do this?"

She sags back toward the floor, only Ruiz's support keeping her upright. She wipes tears from her face, trying to stop thinking about how close she is to their son. How close Liz is to her home. The more she tries, the more the thought dominates her mind, and she can't stop the tears running hot down her face.

Elisabeth’s sonic barrage does nothing to the portal, not even a shimmer or a flicker, and not a bit of the sound appears to have transferred through. On the other side of the portal, Warren attempts to anchor a grappling hook through the portal mouth, but when the physical object strikes the portal surface it explodes in a shower of white hot plasma that is swept up into the portal’s rim on his side, then spins out in globe of white hot metal from the portal on this side.

The connection is there, but it's a death sentence.

Richard seems to be staring past the man with the gun, who looks to be struggling with an unseen weight. But then, the gun falls from his hand and his legs buckle and he begins to collapse to one knee as blood vessels burst in his right eye. At the same moment, the color of the electricity on the portal on this side shifts down the color spectrum from blue-white to a deep neon-trimmed crimson, accompanied by a low and sonorous hum.

«Unbelievable.» A voice crackles to life from an intercom system in the ceiling.


«It really is possible. Michelle was right. She just needed one missing component.»

Rianna steps around Elisabeth, staring into the portal at Richard, eyes wide in disbelief. At the same time, Joy is looking up at the ceiling. “That's impossible,” she says with a stutter in her voice, “the only other person who knew we were here was Doctor Ford! He— he wouldn't— ”

There's a sudden clang from the doors that they'd come through, the unmistakable sound of hatch locks engaging. Joy turns, wide-eyed, “No!

«I do want to thank you all for your participation. You've given me what Michelle never could. The Aleph.»

Klaxons begin to blare, replacing Don’s voice. Up ahead, the interior blast doors to the airlock slide open, orange emergency lights flashing over it. Joy is screaming now. “No— no, no, no!

The outer doors begin to part, spraying seawater into the chamber. Joy staggers back, holding her arms up at the torrent. “No!

Lynette can feel a tremor in her arms, like holding on to the steering wheel of a vehicle that has gone wildly out of control. There's another shockwave of sound, this time from Joy as she explodes into a blast of white and red light, replaced by a younger-looking version of herself in black slacks, suspenders, and a white button-down shirt. Joy — or whoever she is — looks around confused and horrified.


“That motherfucker!” Ria screams, “That motherfucker Ford sold us out!” Even from the narrow gap of the cracked airlock, a torrent of water is beginning to flow into the chamber. As the wave hits Mateo and Lynette there is a crackle snap of electricity grounding out and the portal goes pitch black and loses its connection.

Don is going to drown them all.

Elisabeth ducks sideways to make sure whatever the hell that is spinning off the portal doesn't hit her while hoping it misses anyone else, and she stares through the aperture unsure what she's seeing. But the obvious is what she expected — opening this with the machine is not going to work.

Don's voice brings a grim expression to her face and she too turns toward the clang, her expression shifting back once more to horror as the water starts rushing in. Too much is happening all at once to really keep track easily. The sweep of rushing water knocks her feet out from under her and slams her into Rianna, sending both tumbling ass over teakettle back toward the locked hatch. As she hits the wall hard enough to see stars, there's a weird moment of disconnect where Liz notes that Joy changed faces but it means nothing to her. She opens her mouth to shout for Lynette, a frantic thought that maybe they could reopen the portal to get everyone out passing through her mind, but inhales frigid seawater instead.

They're going to drown. Panic-induced sound rolls off her in a counterpoint to the deep bass hum that came off the portal and then died when the portal died. Aurora! is the thought that consumes her in that moment.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to go.

The sheared metal doesn’t fly thru anywhere too close to him and Lynette, so Ruiz doesn’t bother to move, he just looks up at the voice, the mention of The Aleph and his eyes narrow as if he can see them. Everything is happening so fast. The doors are opening, there’s a slamming of fists against the wall, but all he can hear is the rushing of water. The color-changed electricity, thankfully, snuffs out almost as soon as the water hits him, grounding out into the floor rather than through the water and into them. And based on when they landed in the ocean on entry, he knows that he won’t be producing anymore, either.

Not until he gets dry. Again, thankfully.

Instead of trying to fight, he does the only thing that comes to mind. He grabs onto Lynette as they get pushed towards the walls, grasping her hand and pulling her close so all he can see through the rising waters is her.

Lynette looks up at the voice, tears halting as anger takes over.

"This guy didn't read the story," she mutters through clenched teeth. Clenched, because she is trying to hold onto this portal, even as it changes without her say so. And she doesn't have time to force it to do anything when the doors open. Her anger drops, replaced with a rush of thoughts about how wrong this is. How she failed her son. Her daughter. The water hits her and she scrambles for anything to cling onto.

But Ruiz finds her. Under the water, she wraps her arms around him, finding a moment's calm as she looks back at him. She leans forward, enough to press her forehead against his.

All the way to the end.

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