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Scene Title Explanations
Synopsis Having decided sleep wasn't for them, two Travelers mull over the bizarre events of the previous evening.
Date July 6, 2021

Ruins of Toledo
The Flooded Timeline

“Hey.” Richard looks over from where he’s leaning against the side of the Wildcat staring up at the sky where dawn’s reds and yellows have just started banishing the stars, a precious cigarette dangling between two fingers with a stream of carcinogenic smoke trickling upwards. Technically, he’s quit.

If he smokes early in the morning enough maybe nobody will see and report back to Elisabeth.

“Couldn’t sleep either, huh?” He flicks ashes into the wind.

Elliot watches Richard in the periphery without reacting immediately. His response is delayed, he’s obviously exhausted though Richard’s seen him in worse states of sleeplessness. “Yeah, it was a day,” he says with a tiredness that takes the bite out of any sarcasm, “With all the revelations I figured, why ever sleep again?”

“I’ve had that thought a time or two,” admits Richard, bringing it up to his lips and taking a long drag on it; eyes closed, he blows the smoke upwards towards the early morning heavens, “I can always go shadows and I won’t need to sleep physically, but it gets *weird* psychologically after awhile.”

Ash flicked off into the wind, “Didn’t realize how much I’d gotten used to feeling the life all around me. Every little movement woke me up, even as tired as I was….”

“When we landed here I didn’t sleep for a week straight,” Elliot admits. “Due to that whole thing we talked about.” Something he’s not awake enough to check around for security right now, so he doesn’t elaborate. “Going without sleep gets weird. I actually hallucinated briefly before finally blacking out.”

After a moment, he begins to process the latter half of Richard’s remarks. “You have a life sense ability?” he asks, though he’s uncertain about the tense.

“I did,” Richard admits with a slight shake of his head, “The conduit’s abilities can be summed up as life force manipulation, really, there’s a… wide range of what they can do, it isn’t all just Kazimir turning people to ash.”

He looks down at the cigarette, admitting, “It’s a fucking obnoxious ability at first, but you do get used to it. Still. It was never really mine, I was just holding it for a little while. It was always Nat’s.”

Elliot takes some time to process the resurrection he bore witness to, with all its shadows and mysteriously anachronistic phantom guests. He also remembers the near death of Asi at the hands of another conduit, and the lives saved by yet another conduit he had no knowledge of. “The Nathalie from home, you mean?” is all he can muster at the moment.

"That's a… complicated question to answer," Richard admits, finally lifting his gaze over towards Elliot, "There really isn't a… Nat from there and Nat from here anymore. It's all just kind of…"

He waves the cigarette about a bit, grasping for a way to explain and finally coming up with, "Mashed Natatoes."

Elliot doesn't know what to make of that, looking up to Richard with a confused gaze. "Run that past me again, would you?" he asks, parroting Richard's words back at him.

Richard grimaces slightly. “She’s both,” he tries again with a shake of his head, “She has all the memories of both iterations of Nathalie. The one from here, and the one from our timeline who died. Think of it like– “

He paused, trying to think of a better way to explain, “So, all of our Nat’s memories were stored in the conduit. During the– resurrection, all those memories were uploaded into this Nat.”

Elliot's expression is inscrutable as he considers the implications of Richard's claim. It cleaves to closely to his discomfort about what Odessa's mother did to Richard's own sister. "All of both at once? Two minds in one body like…" he doesn't say Agent Castle because that isn't his knowledge to share with anyone around. He instead gestures in the direction of Scout and its occupants. "Or a single… composite self?"

“Composite. It was just an upload of memory, not of– “ Richard waves his cigarette-holding hand around vaguely, “— a whole damn person. They were both pretty close personality-wise, fortunately, so there shouldn’t be many changes there, although I’m sure there will be a few.”

He shakes his head slightly, “I don’t really understand how it happened either. I should have died back there, honestly.” What.

The admission is met with confused silence as Elliot begins to comprehend several things at once. "Like Natalie Gray," he ponders, "who I did not know held a conduit, and who could have unknowingly killed me or other network co-hosts if I'd attempted to link her in?" This seems like a sore spot that he's working hard to contain a deeper anger over.

"I told you that linking to Nathalie LeRoux during my time in the Ark apparently killed one or more of my co-hosts," he states. "You failed to mention that there was another risk to us. Other than Stef. Telepathically accessing somebody's expensive bird army could have been useful, and I wouldn't have known not to."

He sighs, because it means something else too. "LeRoux might remember what happened now," he theorizes. "Back then." She could remember possibly killing a child that he promised to deliver to safety.

“Grey likely would’ve been safe. She probably wouldn’t have agreed, but…” Richard’s nose wrinkles up slightly, “The White just gives, it doesn’t take, and the– memory space in it is a little more separated, I don’t even know anything about it.”

He grimaces, though, “Honestly, though– given my experiences with her husband, I was trying not to– think about her much at all. Which was a mistake, turns out she was a wonderful old woman, but…” A vague motion of a hand. Elliot understands emotional avoidance, he’s sure.

Another drag on the cigarette, brow furrowing in consideration as he exhales the smoke, “She might. I’d… give her some time to settle before trying to dig up those memories, though. She just died, after all.”

Elliot sighs as he tries to let go of his frustration. It's a moot point now and he's only holding onto it because he's rattled. He accepts it though, and nods thoughtfully. After a moment he asks an alarming question. "Did your survival have something to do with the Ghost of Christmas World War One?"

“I– huh. You could see him?” Richard seems startled by that, “I– well. Huh. That’s something. I knew they were more than just mental projections, but…” A shake of his head tries to push away the theories already forming, “I think so. Apparently he’d been helping Nat navigate down in the Graveyard and– everything else that’s down there. Up there? In there.”

“He seemed to have some kind of plan, and it worked, so– I’m not arguing.”

"If he's more than just a mental projection," Elliot guesses, "and the Graveyard and the Palace exist by the same rules, it's entirely possible he's a dislocated consciousness. A whole, Relevant person capable of existing independently in that kind of space. Maybe I could see him because of proximity? I was touching Nathalie at the time, though I was not doing anything like linking her, obviously." Just plugging the hole in her chest as she bled to death.

"Or the structures overlapped?" he continues to wonder. "Or the amount of energy discharged to make it possible thinned the barrier between here and the Aquifer. Not an overlay, just… temporarily nearer?" It's all speculation, but it's interesting. His voice is barely above a whisper as he mentions dangerous secrets.

“It isn’t the first time. O– an empath I know once said she could feel them like discrete presences,” Richard’s brow knits a little, “I mean, what’s the difference between a consciousness formed of pure memory and a person? None, really.”

A sidelong glance, “As our android friends prove, really, although the purushas proved it first.”

“It wouldn’t be pure memory,” Elliot thinks. “There’s also emotion, and motivation, the drive of conscious selfhood. Memories are just information. If this guy had a plan, he’s not just somebody’s indexed memories. He’s everything that person was, sans body.”

After a pause he considers something else. He’s already told Destiny this, so there’s no sense leaving it out only for it to come back to bite him later. “I know who O is,” he says. “Who she really is. We’ve met on an investigation into a dislocated dreamer, though I didn’t figure out who she was until talking to Eve, then I pieced the rest together during your conversation with Liz.” He didn’t know she was an empath though, and does a mental inventory of their encounters. He’d been linked to Asi last time they’d met up to talk to Angel’s PHARO counterpart. He’ll have to be even more careful around her if she’s the one who sold him out to Gideon.

“Oh?” A flicker of surprise, then Richard chuckles, “Suppose I shouldn’t be too surprised you put that together. Don’t tell anyone, she’s in the witness protection program or– something like that. Turns out when the government tries to make you do something awful you get some leverage when it all goes bad…”

He waves his hand as if to dismiss it, “And– well, yes. I say the conduit stores memories but I guess it’s more complicated than that. They’re all in there, everything they are, were. I’ve had arguments with Kazimir and long discussions with Rauen. It’s how the old man lived for so long– he figured out at some point how to make sure he took over the body when the conduit moved. Thankfully for all of us he finally decided he was done with that bullshit. At least ours. Other timelines…”

He grimaces, “May differ.”

Elliot shudders at the thought of more conduit Kazimirs wandering the strings. “I wish O no harm,” he says, “She seems dedicated to helping a lost soul find its way back to its body before it loses cohesion in its dreamscape. That means something to me. Though I worry about the company she keeps. Ace gives me the bone-deep discomforts. Is it just me or is that guy… trouble?”

Fuck A– “ Richard pauses in spitting out the epithet, leaning forward and looking back and forth to make sure ‘Aces’ isn’t present before leaning back, “Fuck Ace Callahan. He’s a psychopathic murderer working for a crime lord, and the only reason he hasn’t woken up without a pulse is because she loves him for some fucking stupid reason.”

“She– “ He sighs, shaking his head and taking another drag off the cigarette, tone tight with frustration when he continues, “Nevermind. She just– she doesn’t always know what’s good for her. She’s been used by so many people over the years that I think she looks for it now, I don’t know.”

“Jesus,” Elliot says, thoughtful. Richard is clearly closer to Odessa than he’d originally figured. He isn’t close enough to the woman to worry about protecting her from Ace, he just needs leverage in case he ever has to work with Gideon again. “Who can say why someone loves another. He made a comment that I took to mean he got the wrong kind of enjoyment out of hunting, but psychopathic murderer? Who did he kill?”

“Mmn. Nobody that didn’t deserve it, to be honest,” admits Richard, “But framing taking out a Pure Earth cell as a ‘fun hunting trip’ and enjoying it’s different from taking out a terrorist cell because it’s necessary.”

He glances over, “What’s your interest in the guy?”

“After I and several other people got kidnapped into a creepy dreamscape by a poetry-quoting statuary angel for the third or fourth time, we convened at Rossignol for an interview with a woman who we had presumed to be responsible for the dreamer,” he explains, which is a true thing that did happen. “She turned out to have no idea what we were talking about, but she’s also a PHARO. Insisted she never had an ability.”

“Anyway, Ace was there. You ever meet someone and immediately want to take a shower? I’m good at reading people but… I don’t know. My animal/predator warning system went off. I didn’t go back.” Also true, though it leaves out the relevant truths. He doesn’t want to push too hard on this right now, the road is long and they have time to circle back to it.

“Mhm.” Richard regards the other man through his shades as he takes another drag of cancer, then turns his head back and exhales it in a roiling cloud that drifts skywards. “Rossignol. That’s d’Sarthe’s territory. Dangerous place if you don’t know the right people.”

Elliot nods. “I went with Asi,” he says nonchalantly. “Two Hounds in the same room at the invitation of the performer seemed safe enough.”

He thinks about the dreamscape, about his kidnapping into it and their strange dreamwalker hostess. Dreamscapes and Palaces and Graveyards and overlays. “Do you think there are any lingering effects of surviving the conduit transmission,” he asks, “or would you be interested in learning how to use the network?” This is a test of Richard’s comfort; the man knows Elliot assumes nobody who knows the truth of his ability would ever willingly link into it.

“Shouldn’t be any danger in it now,” Richard observes, flicking some ash off to the side, “Unless my own traumatic bullshit would make it worse in there– I know you said there’s already some PTSD running rampant, I wouldn’t want to add to it.” No apparent concern about the nature of the ability or what’s already there.

Elliot stands, shaking stray rain drops from his waxed canvas jacket and giving the area a more thorough inspection. He closes his link to Squeaks just in case, though he trusts her not to pry outside of an emergency. Walking away from the vehicles into an impressive fog, he's silent.

"There's no danger of you interacting with the minotaur and taking on Bastian's trauma," he says quietly, fog keeping the words from moving far beyond them. "It's in the Palace, and I don't think it's even possible for you to get there. To date, the only people who've ever seen the inside have been permanent hosts like Wright. I wouldn't dream of trying to take anyone there without extensive training either way, the rules of that kind of space aren't intuitive."

Richard gives his head a slight shake. “No, no, I meant-– I meant the opposite,” he says with a sidelong glance, “I’m pretty fucked up in the head after everything I’ve been through, Elliot. I don’t want to affect anyone else with my shit. I had a– a goddamn flashback just coming through the Glass. My brain’s one big tangle of past traumatic experiences. I think my psychiatrist is shocked I’m still functional.”

A vague gesture with the cigarette, then he’s grinding it out on the side of the vehicle and tucking it away to save for a few drags later maybe- got to save what you can, he can’t exactly pick up more- “As for the Palace– probably could get there with a good enough telepath, or dreamwalker. I’d bet my sister could do it, if you ever needed to for whatever reason. God knows she’s taken us on walks through enough weird mental spaces before. I can’t watch Jeopardy anymore.” Whatever that means.

"We've all got trauma," Elliot says, not to diminish Richard's but to assure him he's not alone. "I don't think I've ever linked anybody who doesn't. Sharing isn't risk free, but it isn't a constant memory blast to everybody you're linked to. If you experienced post traumatic stress, we could feel your discomfort but wouldn't remember with you unless you directed us to the memories. Which, obviously, try to avoid that part."

"We have a lot of time on the road," he continues, "and no need to progress at a rate you're not comfortable with. If you want to have the option to share sensory information but not memories, I can close that link between you and everybody else. It might make other facets more challenging, but we can work with it until you're confident in understanding how the ability functions." The idea of a telepath accessing the Palace by bypassing his protections is discomfiting, and he doesn't dwell on that for now.

“As long as nobody can, uh, see anything I don’t want to share I don’t mind,” Richard brings one shoulder up in a shrug, “I just don’t– want anyone else to have to deal with all the bullshit I’ve had to go through over the years. I’m a– a fucking ball of traumas and bad experiences at this point.”

A faint smile twitches to his lips, “Besides. I’ve gotten used to having other people living in my head.”

"I can't blame you there," Elliot says with a soft chuckle. "I keep wondering why everybody is so averse to the idea of the telepathy bit, but then I remember that telepathy is actually kind of terrifying and also I got mad-scienced with a bunch of it so it all makes sense really. We'll focus on making sure you're comfortable before anything else. I'll close you off from everybody but me until you feel like roaming around the network. And if you don't like it, that's enough to make it end."

He gazes into the fog, roaming on its own across the shattered highway. "I'm going to say we should wait until we've both slept before trying," he continues. "Today will be heavy enough without it, probably." The time will also give him space to worry further about the possibility of a prospect being able to access the Palace without being a true host. He doubts Richard would be in a rush to find out either.

“My sister’s a telepath, so I’m used to that at least,” Richard admits with a slight shake of his head, “I’m just all too aware of what she could do if she wasn’t someone I trusted completely. I know what the Company did back in the day with telepaths and…”

A bob of his head, “Rest is a good idea. Tired minds and mental abilities don’t work well together.”

“We’ve got at least one more day, after all.”

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