Differently Arranged


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Scene Title Differently Arranged
Synopsis Two women raised as wards to clandestine organizations discover a common thread as they research science of the past.
Date May 25, 2021

The saying goes you die three times.

They say the first time is when you pass away.

The second is when mention of your name stops.

And the third is when all record of your life ceases to exist.

For Doctor Jean-Martin Luis, the lives of a handful of people stave off his second death. And the collection of cardboard boxes filling a storage unit in Red Hook is like a ward encircling his memory from the third.

Sitting cross-legged on a folding table with a stack of papers spread across her lap, Juliette Fournier examines the yellowed edges of a man’s life and legacy, coated with a fine layer of dust, smelling of mildew and cheap cigarettes. Stacks of old tax documents from the Commonwealth Institute go in a neat pile at her side, and towers of more unopened boxes loom in the storage unit’s shadowy recesses.

She couldn’t let any of this go. No matter how hard she may have wanted to.

Astronomical Storage
Red Hook
NYC Safe Zone

May 25th
6:11 pm

Julie sets down her phone after checking the time, a knot of anxiety twisting in the pit of her stomach. It’s one thing to delve back into the last records of her father, but it’s another to do so at the behest of her employer. But what’s twisting her guts is that she has to do this with help.

At least Ourania Pride is a stranger, not someone who could make this more awkward than it already is.

If she only knew.

Odessa is glad she doesn’t. It was awkward enough back in September. She’d seen the woman’s temper flare, felt how badly she hurt, and wanted to help her through it the way she used to when she was young.

Not, of course, that Odessa had been any good with feelings when she herself was younger. But at least she’d been able to quietly murmur assuring things in French and try to instill a sense of calm. But the buttons pressed by her cousin are much more aggravating than a skinned knee.

Before she ever enters the space, she can feel the anxiety rolling off Julie. And while she could shut off her senses, knowing when Julie’s upset is growing to a boiling point is incredibly valuable. So, she’ll just walk in without knowing where her anxiety begins and Julie’s ends.

“Ms. Fournier-Raith,” Ourania Pride greets when she steps through the door. Being as she’s not in the office, she’s dressed down in jeans and a red knit sweater that folds over at the neck and hangs off both shoulders. Comfortable, but ever fashionable. A rebellion against prison jumpsuits for as long as she can manage to stay on the outside of a cell.

“I appreciate your willingness to meet.” Pride smiles in a conciliatory manner. “Where would you like to start?”

“It’s your rodeo,” Julie says with a huff of breath to blow an errant lock of hair from her face. “There’s a lot. Most of this was shipped up from Texas where—” She cuts herself off, hops off the table and twists into a little, self-conscious and anxious ball inside.

“None of it’s organized. I—haven’t even looked through all of it.” Julie adds, frowning. “Mr. Ray had all this moved up. Made sure I knew where it was and…” she shrugs. “Look, I’m just here to make sure you don’t find any embarrassing baby pictures or something.” She says with a feigned laugh to hide how horrible she feels inside. The tempest of guilt, shame, loss, anger, and resentment that this place evokes in her.

“What are you looking for?” Julie asks. Clearly Richard hadn’t told her. “Let’s start there.”

Ourania nods her head slowly as Julie explains the situation. She wasn’t sure what had been here already and what Julie had already been through, so this… Okay. “I won’t mince words with you, Julie. Your father was part of the Company before he was part of the Institute. I’m sure you remember this.” She knows that was the wrong thing to say as soon as she said it. Too revealing of who she is, but she glosses past it without skipping a beat, hoping she’ll get by.

“I’m looking for information on a project he may have inherited and worked on, or may have at least collected records for, because he realized its value. Or… maybe he didn’t, and just wanted to keep records complete.” She can’t quite keep the fond smile off her face. Luis had a brilliant mind, and she may not have understood what it latched onto or why, but that didn’t change her appreciation of it. How she admired him. Odessa only wishes she’d been a better student.

“The project was called Umbra. Does that ring any bells at all?” Ourania asks hopefully.

“Historical revisionism,” Julie says with a wrinkle of her nose. “Facts straight: Doctor Luis was never part of the Company. He may have consulted for them unknowingly, but he was always a member of the Institute.”

That said, Julie walks with a purpose like she knows where she’s going. “Jean-Martin kept records on most of his experiments, paper hard-copies. He was extremely paranoid about the reliability of digital media. He… used to go on a lot about how another flare like the one in 1989 could erase all the world’s magnetic tapes.” There’s a hint of melancholy there, a deeper sadness. Longing. But then resentment. Anger.

Julie stops at a stack of old, dilapidated and waterlogged cardboard boxes. She lifts several off the top, then starts rifling through ones in the middle. “You can take that stack over there,” she says with a motion to a pile of boxes a few feet away. “All the gray folders with the red tabs were active projects, the blue tabs were past projects. It could be in either, if there’s any record here.”

“My apologies,” Ourania is quick to offer when Julie corrects her. That’s not how she remembers it, exactly, but who knows what of her memories are even… She takes a steadying breath and follows after the other blonde. When directed to the boxes and their filing system explained to her, she pulls the first box off the stack and sets it down on a smaller stack of unrelated boxes, where she won’t have to bend over so much to rifle through. “Thanks,” she smiles over at her, a fleeting thing.

“I’m sorry,” Ourania adds. “I know this must be hard for you, going through these… I mean, they qualify as memories in some way, right? It’s a legacy…” She doesn’t look up from the box, afraid of what she’ll see, even though she’ll feel it anyway. “Jean-Martin was a genius. Paranoid or not.”

The resentment twists around warmer sentiments as Julie roughly flips through the boxes. “It’s nothing like family,” she says with a tightness in her voice. “My father is retired and living in full-time psychiatric care and my mother is dead. Jean-Martin Luis was an abductor that I developed Stockholm syndrome for.”

In spite of her cold, clinical words, Julie still feels something for him. She’d have never kept all these files after Richard shipped them up from Texas. She’d have never agreed to this. Never demanded to be there for the file review. Her sentimentality belies her true feelings.

Julie lifts up another box and sets it aside. “Tell me more about Umbra. Was it some kind of fucking biological weapon someone got a hold of?”

Odessa never thought Julie would come around to that way of thinking about Luis. To say those things about him is profound. She’d tried to convince her of it once. Had felt she’d seen so much of herself in her, but the main difference was that Julie and her sister had been loved, even though they had been removed from their home and their parents. And at least they hadn’t been murdered.

Her own stomach twists and she wears a miserable expression as she sifts through files, pulling them out one by one and giving each a cursory check of the contents.

“No, no. Umbra was nothing like that. It was… ah… I guess it was a genetic project. Meant to protect the subject from manipulation of their SLC-E marker? I’m honestly not sure, since I haven’t been able to find the files, and the Company’s digital records simply don’t exist.” A finger is run reverently over a page of notes in Luis’ handwriting and Odessa feels tears threatening. She blinks quickly. “It seems like the sort of thing that would have piqued Jean-Martin’s interest.”

“That doesn’t sound, on the surface, scientifically possible.” Julie notes with a hint of frustration as she roots through folders. “The Suresh Linkage Complex isn’t a single fucking—” She cuts herself off and exhales through her nose, reconsiders, then re-reconsiders and goes on a rant. “There’s internal and external components. You have the receptors; the prion-like protein mirage, and then the adynomine receptor. Those are bolted onto the three internal components,” she says with a sharp slam of a box on the floor. “Human Endogenous Retrovirus group K’s SLC link, a metal-binding protein like that found in birds, and then the cryptochrome analogue.”

Throwing her hands in the air, Julie starts grabbing files out of the box, flipping through them, and then throwing them on the floor. “You can’t just prevent manipulation of those elements. Even the things that seem to fuck with the Suresh Linkage Complex don’t really.” She puckers her lips to the side. “Arthur Petrelli enacted a magnetofield injection to his own EM field and that process garbled the victim’s prion mirage. The ability was still there it was just unreadable by the tests we had at the time and inaccessible to the pathways needed to interface with the victim’s EM field which is required for fucking ability expression!

Julie slams another box on the floor, picking through a third. “So whatever you’re looking for is either a waste of time or it isn’t what you think it is.”

This isn’t anger. It’s resentment. It’s pride crushed by failing recognition. Julie studied under the most brilliant scientists of the modern age and has nothing to show for it except a nursing degree.

And here Odessa Price stands, proud and impressed with the young woman she first met as a little girl. A girl without a single ability, even. Apart from the one that made her a twin, of course. She’s looked up from the file she was perusing and just watches Julie in awe. One corner of her mouth creeps upward in a half smile.

“You’re just what I need. Help me figure out what it really is. Whatever it is, I know it works, because there’s a proof of concept. But I don’t have the blueprints, so to speak.” Ourania shakes her head slowly. “You really did learn so much from him. That’s your accomplishment.” Not Luis’.

Finishing up the box she was on, she sets it aside and grabs the next one, starting to sort through it. “I have a conundrum you might be interested in looking at. I have a group of patients with no Suresh Linkage Complex markers. Rien. It is non-existent. Not Expressive, not Non-Expressive, no marker. Their genetic code is otherwise perfectly normal.” Dr. Pride glances up from the file she’s closing up and setting aside, gauging Julie’s reaction. “I’d love a second set of eyes on it, if you’re interested in telling me what I’ve fucked up.

“Off the cuff, you’ve made some generalizations about how SLC Positive and SLC Negative is rendered,” Julie says with a slow shake of her head at the box in front of her. She drops it to the floor and kneels down to start digging through another. “Tests that can determine whether someone is SLC-Expressive or not are antibody tests, that’s why it works on blood.” She explains, pulling out a file and flipping through it, then setting it aside.

“Mohinder Suresh designed those first tests, and later the portable field tests used right up until the war started.” Julie continues, using the conversation to distract herself from the hurtful sentimentality in her chest. “Those tests—hell, all modern SLC tests—are built off of the same principle. They’re looking for the ADYR—the adynomine receptor. A positive result requires the protein be expressed on the cell surface,” she says, threading a lock of hair behind one ear. “Defects present in either the receptor proper or the prion-like protein that is its scaffold result in non-expression of the receptor complex and thus a negative result.”

Julie looks over at Ourania. “That is to say, there’s no functional difference between truly not Expressive and Non-Expressive. They either have the protein or not. But you can still fool the system. What you’d really need to do is get your hands on one of the EM field tests we had the Renautas company developing before the Institute collapsed. Those were the next phase in detection that bypassed the Suresh Linkage Complex and the adynomine receptor entirely, and detected microfluctiations in a person’s EM field. In theory they could have even identified what kind of ability they have. But those detectors would only work on manifested Expressives since a person’s EM field doesn’t undergo a change until manifestation.”

Julie sighs and stands up, moving to a fresh stack of boxes. Still no luck.

Ourania’s chest is similarly tight at the mention of the usage of the field tests. It feels like the air is thick as soup with humidity and smells of warm and stale beer. A hand closing around her wrist, dragging her in and the collision of her ribs against the edge of the table. It looks like a shark’s smile and a smooth voice demanding of her—

Julie looks over and Ourania snaps out of her reverie as if she hadn’t been feeling overwhelmed by the sensory memory tied to emotion. If anything, it’s stepping out of one frying pan and into another. She’s overwhelmed again, but this time by what she’s just heard. She chooses to channel it into finishing with the box she’s on and starting the next one.

“Huh,” is the only response she gives to the end of that science lecture, tongue pressing to the back of one canine. “EM fields play that big a deal in Expressive identification? I never would have considered it…” Humming thoughtfully while flipping through the fil in her hand, she keeps her tone almost absently casual, like small talk. “Julie, would you be willing to look at some data I’ve collected and help me examine one of my patients? I’ll put a bug in the boss’ ear about getting one of those Renautas tests — or at least maybe their blueprints — from Yamagato.” With any luck, they retained some of that information from the apparently hostile takeover and metamorphosis to Renautas-Weiss.

“Good luck,” Julie says with a bitterness out of the corner of her mouth. “From what I heard all the research was destroyed and the program shuttered.” Her voice tightens when she says that. “I—applied for some work at Yamagato Industries, cited my expertise in the field and—Nakamura personally shut me out. That’s when I found out everything about the Field Detectors and the third generation of Compass tech was destroyed. The knowledge suppressed. It’s like she didn’t want anyone to know.”

Julie rakes a hand through her bangs, brushing them out of her face, then pulls out another file and starts flipping through it. She’s quiet for a moment, stewing in her frustration, before upturning a look to Ouriana. “Who’s your patient?” She can’t help but ask. If Julie Fournier-Raith had any weakness, it would be her curiosity.

“Well Nakamura’s a bitch,” Odessa replies easily. Takes a moment to consider what she said. “Was, excuse me.” But she stops and really takes a moment to consider what Julie’s just told her. About the technology destroyed. In honesty, she held no ill-will toward Kimiko Nakamura. She holds some unbidden grudge for the loss of a sometimes-friend, upset that the so-called wrong sibling survived.

But that isn’t the hook. The hook is what metaphorically pulls up the corner of Odessa’s mouth in a smirk that she keeps hidden from the other woman. They’re so alike, aren’t they? Given their similar trajectories, how could they not be?

An exhale brings her back to neutral once more. “You can take your pick. I have fifteen,” Ourania responds. “Some of them were unknown to me before all of this, but then others read like a Who’s Who of the post-war reformation. Kaylee Thatcher, Nicole Miller, Gillian Childs…” She enunciates each name with semi-exaggerated movements of her mouth. “But the patient I’m most interested in pursuing at the moment is Gillian’s daughter Jacelyn.

In case the name doesn’t immediately ring a bell, Ourania further supplies, “Jac’s an intern in the sciences department. Easily accessible to us without having to arrange special appointments if we require more testing — which she and her mother have so far been perfectly willing to consent to.” Those blue eyes light up with excitement. “What do you say, Julie? Want to solve a mystery?”

There’s something in Julie’s eyes that belies distrust. She looks away from Ouriana and grips the sides of the box, brows furrowed. Something about the situation, about having it dangled in front of her twists her guts on the inside. It reminds her of Luis, using curiosity as a bait to get her to perform like a trained monkey. She looks back to Ouriana fully prepared to say no, but then instead says nothing.

Julie does a double-take and looks back to the box she’s holding.

“I found it.” Julie says in a whisper. She sounds like she doesn’t even believe herself at first. Reaching inside the box, Julie pulls out a thin manilla folder marked with the word UMBRA on the tab. It’s practically folded in half and dog-eared on the corners, having sat in the bottom of a box of files for years. Hungrily, Julie flips the folder open and starts leafing through handwritten and printed documents, some of the latter having perforated tracking on the sides from a dot matrix printer.

I found it,” Julie repeats, louder this time. Ouriana can see some the pages the younger woman is leafing through: gene sequences, photographs of blood cells, x-rays of mice, ultrasound images. “I don’t know what I found, but I found it.”

Odessa realizes the moment she sees it in Julie’s eyes. She’s never seen that look before, but she knows she should have seen it in the mirror, if only she ever had the wisdom to ignore the bait herself. She never has managed to, and she’s not sure she ever will. This moment, this right now, is a testament to her unwillingness to ignore her curiosity. It doesn’t matter how she dresses it up, how much she tells herself that it’s truly for the greater good. If it was a bore to her? She’d expect someone else to handle it while she did real science. Searched for meaningful answers.

The folder Ourania was holding hits the floor with a loud slap of the thicker envelop, followed by the comparative whisper of its contents shifting and sliding out in a half cascade. “You— You did?” It’s with astonishment that her own station is abandoned to crowd Julie at hers. Unthinking, Odessa reverently whispers, “You found my father’s work?”

“Yes?” Julie says with a squint at the documents. “No?” She flips through the paperwork again. “I don’t know this is—” She doesn’t connect the pieces right away. Doesn’t realize how profound Ouriana’s slip-up is.

“Some of these tests are dated 1982 and 1983.” Julie explains, showing Odessa blood test printouts on the dot matrix reams. “These ones, though, they’re…” She flips to them and Odessa sees that they’re on familiar letterhead:


Julie’s slack-jawed stare lingers for a moment before she goes back to the files. “The older tests were done by a C. Price, and V. Pratt. I see a lot of references to DNA methylation, histone modifications… it looks like relatively early work into mapping epigenetic memory modifications in genes.”

Julie flips to the Pinehearst letterhead documents. “These newer tests were handled by a Doctor S. Ford and Doctor A. Meier.” Julie’s brows furrow. “Meier. Meier.” She recognizes that name, flipping back through the documentation. “Alison Meier, she was with the Company, developed the Advent Virus and—she was at Pinehearst when it collapsed.”

Starting to pace back and forth Julie flips back into the folder and goes to another section of documents. “In the 80s, it looks like Pratt and Price were attempting to study Expressive gene manifestation tests in… animals. A branch of development for… Jesus Christ, these are Project Icarus files.” Julie reveals photocopies of handwritten documents on US Office of Special Investigations letterhead dated 1947 to 1955.

“Okay hold on…” Julie kneels down and starts laying the files out. “We have three time periods. This OSI stuff from the 40s and 50s…” She sorts through the pile and lays out those first, a mix of photocopied handwritten documents and old photographs.

“Then we have this work in the 80s.” Julie continues, adding a stack of documents and photographs of rats as well as a grisly diagram of a vivisected arm that looks hauntingly familiar to Ouriana from one of the old VHS cassettes.

“Then finally we have these files that range from the early 90s to 2009.” Julie continues, setting down the Pinehearst documentation in a third, final stack.

Turning her attention up to Ouriana, Julie looks more puzzled than confident about her findings. “We have to start somewhere,” Julie asserts. “You asked me to look into this. Which set of documents do we start with?”

The more information is laid out, the more Odessa feels herself unable to fathom how this was all buried so well. But Luis was a man that, while a brilliant star, was often overlooked in his importance. In this case, this worked to their benefit. Just once more, she wants to thank her grandfather for his obsessive recordkeeping. She’d just like to see him.

But that pang of guilt and nostalgia are shoved down as she zeroes in on the research conducted by Colin Price. “Yeah,” Odessa murmurs absently. “I hear that bitch Alison may have helped perfect the process. Or at least as close to it as it’s managed so far. It appears to have worked.” At least until whatever happened to the self-named Sundered.

I’m most interested in something that was discovered… Probably from the testing in ‘82 and ‘3. Either something happened during those tests, or something from the previous documentation came to light.” Ourania twists a lock of hair around finger while she thinks, her head tilted to one side and a keen light in her eyes. Things are interesting now.

But now it’s interesting from multiple angles. “The finished product might help us the most overall. If you want to take the 90s and onward, I’ll start with the limited research in the 80s and work my way back to the post-war era, since I think they’ll go nicely hand-in-glove.” Still playing with her hair, Pride looks up at Julie. “Sound alright to you?”

Julie glances at Ouriana, then the files, then back again. She nods, kicking the box at her feet aside and kneels down on the concrete floor. She hands the folder covering the Company’s work in the 1980s over to Ouriana, then opens up the folder of work set in the 90s in front of herself and begins arranging the files.

“Keep like documentation together,” Julie suggests. “Lab work with lab work, journal entries with journal entries. We’ll make a visual map of the processes on the floor for now, then take photographs of everything so we have a digital record.”

The tableau this long process lays out is an interesting one involving names and players Ouriana wasn’t expecting to see.

What begins in the 1980s are partially-redacted and scattered documentation about some sort of attempt at sequencing Adam Monroe’s genetic code to unlock the origins of his regenerative capabilities. Tendrils of this research clearly become Project Heisenberg, though none of Heisenberg’s research is contained here. Instead, it goes down a different route of understanding first the how of Adam’s tissue regeneration and then it becomes increasingly concerned with the why.

Victoria Pratt, Colin Price, and Daniel Linderman are deeply involved with this research. Pratt and Price were the lead researchers investigating the epigenetic memory contained within Adam’s cells, though the reasoning behind why this research was initiated is lost. Ouriana knows why, though. She can imagine what is behind the black marks on the documents. She knows, now, why the redaction happened in 1984 and what it meant for projects like this.

Down on the margins of research carried out at Fort Hero in 1982 is the name of an intern researcher on Price and Pratt’s team: Lucinda Morrison. The research covers some information that Ouriana has seen in other places; research that began as attempts to transcribe the epigenetic memory from Adam Monroe’s cells into lab mice. Which then led to the unexpected discovery of ability transference into mice, with the only surviving test subject: a rat named Shakespeare.

Almost no relevant information survives beyond the incident with Shakespeare escaping his maze enclosure. The purpose behind Colin Price’s research is never clearly revealed in these heavily redacted documents.

What Julie has laid out paints another picture of a post-redaction world. Colin’s research was re-started by three individuals: Daniel Linderman (once again), Arthur Petrelli, and Alison Meier. The work is split into divergent research categories that clearly branch off into the development of the Advent Virus, attempts at re-synthesizing the Formula, and other research intended to replicate Colin Price’s work with Shakespeare and the work Victoria Pratt had done in the Hartsdale lab with the Formula in the mid 80s.

But what’s interesting is a corner of the research not dedicated to ability synthesis. Pieces of a puzzle that play havoc at what Ouriana believes to have been a known sequence of events. There’s a photographed copy of a 2001 NY State driver’s license belonging to Cindy Morrison. There’s FBI and NJPD files on a Stefan Morrison who was independently performing unlawful human experimentation on women at a fertility clinic from the late 1980s up to 2003, and paperwork that indicates he was rescued from these legal troubles by Daniel Linderman and given the cover identity of Stefan Ford.

As Julie continues to sort the paperwork, it’s clear that Linderman put Doctor Ford into research at Biomere Corporation, a well-known Company shell corporation that Pete fucking Varlane once worked at. Though, he was ignorant to the Company ties. Ford’s work at Biomere was on researching epigenetic memory and something called Multiplexed Sequence Encoding.

“Messages?” Julie says aloud when she sees those documents. “This.” Julie slides the paperwork over to Ouriana. “This is a process for storing non-biological information in DNA. Genetic cryptography, we were just starting to cut into that in the Institute before things collapsed.” She looks at Ouriana, then around at the paperwork, as if starting to piece something together.

There’s a growing sense of dread as they lay out the timeline. Ourania isn’t sure what she expected, but it wasn’t this. She glances at Julie furtively as they go. Lucinda. Cindy. The fertility experiments. It brings her to what Jac told her about what she’d seen when Cindy reached for her hand. The man with the accent has to have been Daniel Linderman. She wants to ask herself what they were doing with her, but… She’s afraid she knows.

It’s Julie’s question that pulls her back from her spiralling bad thoughts. “Messages?” Again, her gut twists. “What sorts of messages were you hoping to encode?” O’s brow furrows, confused and concerned. “What would that look like?”

“Anything.” Julie says with a steady look at Odessa. “It’s data encoding, but with a biological computer instead of a digital or analog one. We could encode anything provided there’s enough space. A funny gif, a movie, music, the collected works of the Library of Congress.” Shrugging, Julie tucks one leg under herself and flips through a few of the odds and ends of files, trying to figure out where they go.

“It’s storage.” Julie continues. “So you’d still need to know where to look, and what you’re looking for. But where it gets really interesting is in inherited multiplexed sequences. That’s inheriting some of that data from parents. We could, potentially, encode genetic information that could be passed down through generations like a time capsule. That’s something the Institute Director was extremely interested in, continuity of knowledge in the face of, you know, the end of the world.”

“It looks like Mr. Linderman was deeply interested in these concepts too, from the way these documents line up.” Julie says with a squint, leafing through a few lab results. “These are from… early thousands. 2001, 2002. Wouldn’t have been terribly sophisticated, but he was putting a significant amount of work into it through Biomere and this Ford guy.”

Julie stops, flipping back through one of the older Company-era files. “Huh.” She flips back through again. “Weird.” Julie says as she pulls imaging from a file from the 80s, and a file from the early thousands and lays them side by side. At first, they don’t look remarkable.

“So, this is a genome sequence imaging from Umbra,” Julia says, pointing to the low-res and grainy image of black and white lines that look a little like a bar graph. “This is genome sequencing from Linderman’s work.” They’re of a higher quality, similar visual design, but not identical.

“But look here.” Julia says, pointing with a finger to each image. “These markers indicate junk genetic data. Which is kind of a misnomer, it’s just data we don’t have a context for. You’ll notice it’s a shorter length than all of the others. We have a matching length here in the late thousands imaging. Two totally different case numbers and presumably different subjects. It’s not—unusual, but it is interesting.”

As she talks herself through whatever it is she sees, Julie stretches forward and pulls a folder from some of Luis’ Institute work unrelated to what Odessa is interested in. It’s like she knows what she’s looking for in these files. Here, she adds a third imaging result that is much more crisp and clear.

“Okay, so, this is a genome sequencing from…” Julie runs her finger over the serial number on the printout, “Eve Mas, taken in 2010 during her stay with the Institute. Nothing remarkable, except down here, same little stub of junk data. Its position in the sequencing is what’s important.” And when Julie says that, it’s when Odessa’s able to latch on to where the younger woman is going. That position in the genetic sequence is where human genes give instructions to the protein chains that become the Suresh Linkage-Complex.

“This junk data is in all humans,” Julie says, pointing to the commonality, “but in these three expressive patients they’re similar—though not identical—lengths. I’ve seen that patterning before.” She admits, looking up to Odessa. “When we were testing Multiplexed Sequence Encoding, we’d leave a stub sequence for our data.” Her brows knit together. “They’re… differently arranged? But it’s like—”

Julie sits back, letting her hands fall into her lap. She grows silent for a moment, eyes tracking from side to side in thought. “I’ve probably been staring at this for too long, but it almost looks like there’s sequence encoding in every Expressive. But that doesn’t make any sense, the technology only existed within the last decade. But it’s almost like someone…” She bubbles with laughter at the absurdity. “Left a message in us. Inherited through generations.”

Odessa stares at the tableau painted by the files they’ve laid out in front of them. “How – and I can’t stress this enough – the fuck?” She removes her glasses and scrubs her hands over her face. “Expressive abilities we don’t understand stretch back so much further than we’ve ever realized… Maybe someone did bury something inside of us and has been waiting for the day we can read it?”

Thoughtfully, her gaze moves away from the photographs and sheafs of paper in front of her to settle on Julie again. “What would it take for us to decode something like this?”

Strictly hypothetically?” Julia says, shifting to sit entirely cross-legged now. “All the data points to ensure we have the full message. Then we’d have to extract it correctly which would require determining what format the data was encoded in. Presumably binary, if we’re not talking about some sort of ancient data encoding. When we were testing the process out in the Institute we were able to encode two unique DNA oligonucleotide sequences with a clip of classical music, about a hundred and ten bits of data in binary.”

Scrubbing a hand over her mouth, Julie scans some of the paperwork. She leans forward and snatches up the documents from Coyote Sands and prior, starting to leaf through them as she talks. “There’s also a chance any data could be encrypted,” she continues, setting some paperwork aside. “So, if whoever encodes the data has concerns about it being found by someone else, they might use something like a one-time pad encryption at which point…” Julie throws the Coyote Sands paperwork into a pile, looking exhausted. “Who knows.”

“Sounds fucking worthless to me,” Odessa mutters, dismissing the idea as an impossible task. All the same, there’s a tension in her shoulders. It can’t be, can it?

Suddenly, she’s crawling back over to the stack of boxes she was looking through before, sitting up tall on her knees so she can reach over the top and slap her hands down on the notepad and pen she had out to work with, dragging them to the edge and to her before moving back to her spot next to Julie.

She starts jotting down names in one column, then drawing arrows to a second column of names. This could be entirely the wrong tree to shake, but she doesn’t like her other theory at all and would like to ignore it for as long as possible.

All while she does that, she travels down another branch of inquiry. “Continuing with our hypotheticals,” Ourania prefaces, “what if this information was originally encoded in one individual, just one so far back as to be a common ancestor?”

“Then it might not all be present,” Julie says with a shake of her head. “The further back you go the more scattered it’s going to be, inherited and lost, etc. It’s like a game of telephone at that point, you go down far enough and it’s just going to say purple monkey dishwasher,” she says with a shrug. “Dig up the bones of the common ancestor, though? Get a marrow scraping? Then maybe you got something.”

Looking at the Coyote Sands documents again, Julie shakes her head. “Lot of bad science in there, lot of inherited eugenicist bullshit from the Nazis. Don’t know how much we can trust half of that information.” She dismisses it all off-hand.

“Going back to your original question, the work Colin Price did?” Julie slides over some of the Company files. “They don’t explicitly spell out what’s going on here, but whoever redacted this didn’t have a full understanding of the science, otherwise they would have redacted this bit here.” She taps her fingers on a line of text.

…mutation in codon 127 appears to confer protection by preventing prion proteins from becoming misshapen.

“Codon 127 is a gene that makes prions,” Julie explains. “In literally every creature on this whole fucking planet, it contains the same amino acid, glycerine, inherited from each parent. Universally this takes the form of G127G. Except here…” She points out another line. “Whatever Colin was doing caused a mutation in his test subject’s inherited amino acids, resulting in it being a valine amino acid with the form G127V.”

Even for Ouriana, who has a background in genetics and virology, this is material far over her head. But Julie, not knowing who Ouriana truly is, feels content to spell it all out. “What this essentially means is that Colin was developing a cure for prion diseases. Because this mutation? It would prevent the manipulation of prions entirely. And while that’s some groundbreaking stuff, it has another significance.”

Julie flips through the Company files for something else, documentation pertaining to the research of one Doctor Bella Sheridan on something known as SOD. “I worked with Sheridan on this project. Mostly lab tech work, but I know the fundamentals up and down. Sheridan was the first person to identify that ability removal was a prion manipulation, that people like Arthur Petrelli not only manipulated the electromagnetic wave-form generated by all Expressives, but also folded their prions preventing SLC-Expression.”

Julie raises one brow and looks up to Ouriana. “As an educated guess? Colin was trying to build some sort of gene therapy that could prevent the manipulation or removal of Expressive abilities at a genetic level.”

Ourania absently hums to assure Julie that she’s heard her as she talks about the waters muddied with blood in the Coyote Sands files. There aren’t enough hours in the day to pursue this line of inquiry. Not enough days left in their lives to find any kind of fruit on this vine. All that stewing ends the moment the younger scientist points out the unredacted line that breaks things wide open.

Head snapping up, Odessa tears the page off her notepad, crumpling it and throwing it aside like it had personally wronged her. “What did you say?” It’s an exclamation of astonishment, rather than an actual request for a repetition of information. She nudges in closer so she can look over the documentation for herself. She lacks Julie’s sophisticated understanding of the subject matter, but knows enough to make sense of what she’s seeing after she’s had the sequence laid out for her.

“Jesus.” Dr. Pride’s head shakes back and forth quickly. “Jacelyn. The bastardization of Colin Price’s work is… how Jacelyn was born.” She refuses to say created. For so long, she considered herself a creation, something made in a lab, and it was fine for her to use that dehumanizing language on herself, but she will never turn it on her niece, such as she is.

Odessa drops everything and laughs suddenly. Without thinking, she reaches out and embraces Julie tightly. “Bon travail! Merveilleux!” The younger blonde is released with an elated giggle from the older one. “Tu es génie! This is exactly what I need!”

Julie, like a stray cat picked up by her haunches, freezes in the embrace. She grimaces, if only just, but the expression reluctantly shifts into a somewhat crooked smile. “Ah, y-yes. Well, you’re—very welcome, Doctor Pride?” With a delicate touch, Julie puts her hands on Odessa’s arms and ever so gingerly slinks out of the hug and stands up from the floor.

Eyeing something on the floor, Julie squints. She drops down into a crouch and picks up some of the earlier papers on Stefan Ford’s Multiplexed Sequence Encoding. She narrows her eyes, then looks at the papers Colin was working on, then turns the documentation around again.

“If you’re implying that there’s a living subject of this work, from Doctor Ford?” Julie hands the document over to Odessa. “You may just be in luck.” She points down to a line on the document, one of specific importance:

…to ensure my research does not fall into the wrong hands, I have kept the only hard copies as MSE sequences in the edited genomes.

“Whoever Jacelyn is?” Julie raises one brow. “The secret to how to replicate this work is literally encoded in her DNA.”

Smiling sheepishly, Odessa loosens the embrace and gives Julie her space again. “Sorry,” she murmurs, tucking an errant strand of hair behind her ear as she turns back to the papers.

And Julie’s new discovery.

Now, there is triumph. She lets out an elated exhale as she scans over the words. “That’s perfect! I just need to—” Her excitement is tempered quickly by the realization that Jac isn’t as she expects Jac to be. She can sequence her DNA, but will she find what she’s looking for?

“This is great,” Ourania reiterates with a more sedate smile than before. “This is going to be a real jumping off point for my research.” Lapsing into quiet thought, she looks down to the inside of her arm and traces the faintly visible blue line of vein with her eyes. Is it her birthright passed on to Jac? She looks up again. “I couldn’t have found this nearly this quickly without your help, Julie. Thank you.”

Julie looks uncertain how to accept praise of any kind. Not entirely, but in a way that screams of her present-day unfamiliarity with it. “Thank you,” she says with mild uncertainty in her tone. “You can…” No, not can. “You should go. I’ll clean up here. I’m just…” She sighs softly, more to herself than Ouriana. “Glad I could make something come from all of this.”

She rolls her shoulders, looking at the papers scattered across the floor of the storage unit. Luis’ records, memories, the remainder of his life tossed around haphazardly. Julie smiles, distantly. For all that her relationship with Jean-Martin Luis was complicated, at the end of the day he was still family, of sorts. All she has to remember him by are boxes of papers squeezed into a ten-by-fifteen storage unit.

The saying goes you die three times.

They say the first time is when you pass away.

The second is when mention of your name stops.

And the third is when all record of your life ceases to exist.

If Julie has her way, the third will never happen.

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