Face the Strange


aman_icon.gif odessa3_icon.gif

Scene Title Face the Strange
Synopsis When Aman asks for a crash course in how strange their world really is, Odessa decides to draw from life experience.
Date September 1, 2020

Roosevelt Island: Aman's Home


She had never talked about any of that with anybody. Only she and her cousin know about what they experienced. Richard thinks she was just high. Odessa straightens up to look at Aman as though she’s never really seen him before.


Breath leaves her with a note of astonishment and fear.

It’s realization and understanding that bring it back to her. “Oh.” There’s one very likely place where Aman would have heard tales of entities and time travel. “So you can help Kaylee.” Odessa nods her head slowly, lips twitching upward into a small smile. “Yeah, of course. I can help you wrap your head around all that. Or… at least help you learn how to pretend that you can wrap your head around it.”

Aman winces, the movement of it a twitch of his brow and a narrowing of his eyes. "So I can help me, actually," he clarifies quickly and uncomfortably, "Keep up with all the shit that's apparently hiding just beneath the surface around here."

"Or— like we said, at least pretend to." He lifts one hand to rub at the side of his head, teeth pulled back in a momentary, silent grimace before he tries to get himself back together. "Because if I'm going to stand a chance at ever understanding the shit you guys went through, I'm gonna need a goddamned crash course to get me through it." His hand slides down to hand off of his neck, head tilting to the side in his discomfort. "Or— or something so I don't just get the fuck overwhelmed every time something fucking new comes up."

"I still don't know if I can handle it," Aman hesitantly admits, his arms dropping back to his side. "But I'm definitely not going to stand a chance if it all just hits me at once instead of in, like… bite-sized mindfucks." He feels a little crazy even bringing it up, a touch of nervous mania in his eyes as he looks back to her. "You know?"

“Right, yeah.” Odessa’s still reeling from the fact that Aman has knowledge of some of the horror now that she’s seen. “Well… Alright.” Blue eyes slant a glance toward the refrigerator, then back to Aman. “Got anything stronger than tea?” Then she winces. “Wait. Fuck. I have the car.” She rolls her eyes. “Still not used to that. Way more convenient, though.”

“C’mon. Let’s go sit down and I’ll at least get you started on the primer.” Pushing off from the counter, Odessa starts to make her way back to the hall and the living room with much more ease now than she displayed earlier. She’s already recovering from that tumble, it seems.

Still, it’s with a quiet sound of relief that she settles into her spot on the couch. “You’re going to hate me by the time we’re done,” she predicts. “But I know you can handle this. We’ll just… do it in small portions.” Or he’ll go as insane as he almost certainly has come to suspect by now that she is.

“Where would you like me to begin?”

Aman considers, briefly, staying standing. In the end, he opts to sit down on the other end of the couch, turning to face her. He lets out a sigh, expression one of consternation. Where to start?


"I don't know what I don't know, to be blunt about it." That admission comes easy. "I thought it was bad enough, all the crossed wires left over from the Civil War and its aftermath. But…" His brow starts to furrow, a bit of hesitation to it. "There's more to it, than that. Isn't there? There's a whole other mess of bullshit that Kaylee's seen, that that whole Raytech family knows about, that…"

Well, and here comes the assumption.

Aman looks back to Odessa, not speaking with as much care to his voice as he could for how much it feels like he's teetering on a precarious edge with very little ground beneath him to begin with. "That you know about, too, probably, right? I mean, you spent years with them, if nothing else."

Odessa nods her head. If he’s being more blunt than he maybe otherwise should be, it doesn’t bother her in the least. “I did,” she confirms. That’s all a matter of public record anyway. “You… didn’t do a lot of research on me, did you?” There’s an enigmatic sort of smile that follows that question she doesn’t expect him to actually answer. He’s made clear he’s tried not to delve too deeply into her past, to preserve his own sanity and help him… Well, not resent or hate her.

“Is there anything you do already know? We can start there and ripple out as we start to clarify? Otherwise…” Odessa tucks her legs up onto the sofa, turning sideways in her seat so she can face Aman properly. “I can tell you more about myself, and the life I was born into.” She shrugs one shoulder. “I’ve never known what normal looks like. It might be somewhere to start.”

Aman holds up one hand, fingers pinched closely. "A little research. Ward of the Company thing came up… um…" His hand turns over, index finger ticking out. Uncomfortably, he skirts around, "Humanis First." Searching his memory, his palm hovers a moment longer before it falls back to his lap. "That's it, really."

"You gave yourself up, rather than other Albany Trials criminals who were hunted down by Wolfhound," he notes as an important afterthought, voice sterning before he looks back to her. Because that was an important discrepancy.

“Right on all counts,” Odessa confirms with a nod. “Just… with a lot of gaps in between.” She has good enough humor for the convoluted mess that is her own personal timeline, to be honest. The alternative is something that results in an existential crisis, she supposes.

“I was born in Odessa, Texas in 1984. My father was murdered, and my mother was attacked as well. She went into labor, had me, and… died of her injuries.” Odessa looks down as she folds her hands in her lap, as though she needs the visual to do this. It’s definitely not because she’s opened up on a hell of a downer that she’s only about to make worse. “It was her birthday. Now it’s mine.”

The hardest part of the prologue out of the way, Odessa lifts her head again. “My father had been with the Company for years. He was retired when he was killed, but because of who he was, the Company looked into it. They found me at the hospital, now an orphan, and scooped me up before I could be shipped off to my uncle, or the foster system.”

What a different life she might have led if the hospital had managed to track down Eric Mas first. Not, Odessa reminds herself, that he would have taken in his sister’s child anyway.

“They knew right away what my ability would be. That I would be able to control the flow of time.” That blonde head shakes with a helpless shrug. “Don’t know how. Must’ve had someone who could identify abilities. Hell, for all I know they had a precognitive who saw my future.” Which… might explain a thing or two. Talk about self-fulfilling prophecies, though.

“I grew up in captivity. I was told I was very special, and that the world was very dangerous and it wasn’t safe for me to see it. So…” Odessa smiles tightly. “Ward of the Company is a little generous. I was a prisoner. An experiment. I was molded and shaped to become this creature without compassion or a center of morality.

“I wasn’t taught about consideration for other people’s feelings. I wasn’t taught to understand or process my own emotions. I was a physician, sure, but it wasn’t out of a place of goodness or wanting to heal. I took pride in being able to fix people, but… I didn’t really care about their wellbeing. I just needed to make sure they could still function. Do their jobs.” Odessa trails off and looks down at her hands again. “Be experimented on.”

He doesn’t need their link to see the shame written clearly into the lines of her unfamiliar face. “I didn’t know any better. People were just cogs in the machine. That’s all I was, so why shouldn’t it have been true for everybody else.”

In this way, by telling this tale, Odessa is getting her wish. She’s allowing him to see all of her, and make his own choices about her, while also giving him some of that insight into the secret world that’s been carefully hidden by clandestine organizations and the government for decades.

And for people like Aman, the threat of the Company, the things they did, it was real but… abstract. The same way one might view labor laws and regulations. Something terrible happened to safeguard against those things ever happening again, but it was all so distant from everyday living.

Odessa, though…

Aman pulls one leg up onto the couch, knee tenting and his forearm laying over it while he listens. He keeps a poker face.

He reminds himself that's not how she thinks anymore. That she's grown beyond that.

"That's so fucked up," comes from him in a murmur. "They were fucked up. Supremely." he acknowledges solemnly. "I'm glad you were able to get away from all that in the end."

“Yeah,” Odessa agrees easily. “It was. And it took me a long, long time to understand exactly how fucked up it was. It was just…” She shrugs. “What I was raised to know.” Which doesn’t excuse any of it, and she doesn’t even try to imply that it should. “I mean… They created the perfect state for me to fall in with the Vanguard. They took me in after my escape. Offered me a community and a purpose.” The last word gets a subtle emphasis.

Purpose is, apparently, very important to her.

“But I saw the ruins of Midtown for myself, finally. I’d heard about it when it happened, but I had no… frame of context for it. I didn’t understand the magnitude of a city, let alone that level of catastrophic destruction. And I thought about all those lives. All those people, just trying to get by.” Even now, it’s difficult to fathom. “All I ever wanted was freedom. I just wanted to live. And I started thinking about how everybody else just wants to do that, too.”

Odessa’s gaze goes distant for a moment. “I fell in love for the first time. I mean, maybe. I don’t… know if I was truly capable of it back then, but I like to imagine that’s what it was. I wanted to run away with him. Find somewhere to hide and pretend we were normal. But… that sort of life wasn’t in the cards for either of us. Instead, he tried to… arrange for my escape with someone we both trusted.” Breath leaves her lungs like someone had pressed a hand to her chest and pushed it out. “And he died for that. It was the first time I truly understood loss. Midtown was abstract. He was personal.”

With a nod of her head, she continues, “So I sabotaged the work. I wanted revenge for what happened. I had been misled and lied to, and people I had learned to care about got hurt. I couldn’t kill the world.” So at least there’s one point in her favor. “I escaped the destruction of the lab with the help of a teleporter and laid low in the Midwest for a while. I tried to be normal.”

There’s a bitter laugh at that. “Turns out you need money. Never had that before! People always handed it to me, or the material goods I needed. Provided the roof over my head without me having to do anything for it.” Except engineer a deadly virus intended to wipe her kind off the face of the planet. “Out there, alone? I didn’t have any of that. I didn’t even have a legal identity.” Odessa bites her lip, cocking her head to one side. “Soooo, what’s a girl to do? I robbed banks.”

Aman's passive reception of the story breaks then. He laughs, wincing even as he does it. "Odessa." he chides her, voice heavy. Like someone does to… anyone who does something against the social norms because they don't know any better, and it's halfway adorable.

That still applies here. Right?

"Holy shit." He laughs again, sitting up straighter. But then his head dips in disbelief. "Jesus Christ, did you get away with it?"

His laughter bolsters her mood and she laughs in return. “Yeah. For a while, I did.” She grins widely. Can you believe it? “But I got careless the more comfortable I got. I got greedy. I started taking more, and more frequently. I had it all in this firebox, which I buried out in a field in Iowa.” There’s a little self-satisfied smirk at that. “But…”

The smirk fades. “I fell into patterns. Created habits I didn’t realize. Law enforcement managed to track me. I still don’t know how they took me down. I think probably with a tranquilizer dart? But for all I know, they tazed me. One minute I’m walking out of the bank with my purse stuffed full of bills, the next I’m waking up negated and in an interrogation room, high out of my mind on… whatever it is they pumped me full of.”

And here’s where the story gets dark again. “I didn’t have any ID, because I technically didn’t exist. So they had no idea who I was. Fingerprints gave them nothing. All they had to go on was my word. Told them my name was Brooke, and they speculated about what my ability was capable of. They chained me up in front of a wall of monitors, pumped me full of Amphodynamine to extend the reach of my ability, and morphine to keep me from having the strength to break out of my chains, and… made me the security system.”

Odessa closes her eyes. “I… don’t remember a lot of my time spent at Moab. And none of what I remember is… pleasant. Uhm…” Her head dips down, and she clearly struggles with where to go from here. “So, the b- breakout, though.” She can gloss right on past all that unpleasantness and pick up from there. Yes. Good. “That’s where all this shit gets real weird.”

Her lips press together, brows furrowing in concentration. Trying to get the memory to come into sharper focus. “Phoenix? Or… The Ferrymen? Whatever they were calling themselves back then, they attacked the facility to free the prisoners. Someone finally came to my rescue. But our abilities clashed.” Odessa opens her eyes again, still astonished and bewildered after all these years. “We tore the facility apart and scattered it through time and space. There was an augmenter and another temporal manipulator and all that Amp in my veins.”

Whoosh goes the next exhale. “I had… I lost two whole months of my life. I was in and out of a haze. I had… prophetic dreams.” Odessa buries her face in her hands finally and half-groans, half-whine, “Fuck, my life is weird.”

Oh no. Of course she didn't get away with it. But Jesus, those consequences.

Prison's bad enough. And he's heard stories about amp. Aman doesn't seem to find it weird, just painful at this point. But of course, they've only just entered into the weird parts, apparently.

The latitude of his eyebrows shift, one rising over the other. It clicks finally. Moab? But Aman's lost for words at this point, only able to look at her with an expression that prescribes him to be only vaguely still following at this point as in that the words have meaning when put together in a certain order, even if he can't exactly fathom the magnitude of the reality of them.

"What happened then?" is all he can think to ask, because, where else is there to go but forward?

Odessa peeks up from between two fingers and sighs. “I think you need a break, maybe?” Or maybe it’s her that does. “Saying it all out loud like that is… Is a lot,” she admits. Frowning then, she shakes her head. “Or maybe I should just tear the bandage off?”

One leg unfolds so she can drape it off the side of the couch, foot on the floor now, the other still tucked under that leg. “So I had these visions, but I didn’t understand what they were. I — I couldn’t. Not then. Not until years later. Which… I guess is normal for precognitives.” She could ask Eve sometime.

“I dreamed of…” Odessa fixes an apologetic stare on Aman now. This is where it’s really going to start going off the rails. “I dreamed of alternate timelines. Worlds so much like ours, but where we zigged instead of zagged at strategic points of history.” Her eyes get wider then. She’s apprehensive. Afraid of what his reaction will be to her next admission. “There’s a timeline where I didn’t… betray the Vanguard. There’s a timeline where I killed the world. All of it. Everybody.”

And the weight of that feels so much heavier. Even though she ultimately did the right thing — and it’s what spared her the noose — she has the memories of the woman who stayed loyal to Sylar, regardless of who was at the helm, and saw the awful results of it. That horror isn’t hers, but it forever will be all the same.

Aman reaches that point where he's holding on only with a bit of twine, face to face with a hurricane. It shows in the confused shift in his eyes. It shows in how he touches the topic of alternate timelines at first warily, brow beginning to furrow. But then when Odessa talks about what she did there, suddenly the floating mental mine becomes a liferaft.

It's just an alternate reality, he tells himself.

Funny, how that shift happens.

"I don't know— why that's a crazy concept." It's a difficult admission, just like it's a difficult topic, but he makes it through. "We have— teleporters and precognitives and… so imagining things like time travel, and…" He can't say the word alternate timelines, apparently so he just glosses past that while still addressing it.

Blowing out a sigh between his teeth, he supposes, "I mean… if every possibility is out there, there's a timeline somewhere I finished med school and became a doctor. Maybe one where I don't have an ability. Maybe one where I do something terrible with it." Aman doesn't look at Odessa as he shakes his head, more focused on trying not to tip overboard the rickety, overloaded canoe of his mental being at the moment by making any sudden moves. "But the important part is… that's not here. That's not… you. Even if you saw it in a dream, you made a decision different than that."

"So…" He narrows his eyes for a moment, then finally chances a look to Odessa. "It's just like the dreams people had two years ago, isn't it? Different… places. I can— I can wrap my head around that." Or at least, he's trying to prove to himself that he can.

It's just that when he got a glimpse at himself in another life, he wasn't killing the world.

Not overtly, anyway.

Odessa waits patiently for Aman to work through it all. And it is a lot to work through. She’d been braced for more blowback for her admission, but she’d promised to lay out her sins for him and let him decide what to make of her. This is part of that. He doesn’t know why yet, but it’s a part of accepting who she is all the same.

“Yeah. It’s like those dreams. Only I had been having them a lot longer. There’s something about my ability — the one I used to have — that… tied me together to all the other versions of me. Or, at least the ones closest to our own parallel world.” She lifts her hand and shakes her head. “Best not to think about that too much. Let’s just say for now that the worlds that most resemble our own are metaphysically close to our own. The bigger the change, the further away it is, for lack of a better explanation.”

There’s just the one notable exception, but she’ll save the flooded world for another discussion. “So… That’s the tip of that iceberg.” Because, yes, there is so much more.

“We’ll save the rest of it for another time, I think. But all of that stuff… It’s all real. I’ve been through time. I’ve passed through different dimensions. I’ve seen things, lived things that… are probably why I’m as broken as I am.”

Odessa leans forward then, reaching for his hand. “I need a favor, Aman. And I need you to keep a secret.” Which is a favor in and of itself, but his very knowledge of her is already a secret he has to keep.

Aman exhales a slow sigh as he tries and fails to process all of this in the immediate. It's going to take him a while. He attempts to lighten the mood from the even deeper serious state Odessa's started to drag it to. "Is it that the lockbox is still buried in Iowa somewhere, chock full of money, and you need me to go get it for you?"

He doubts it. He seriously doubts it. He chuckles to show as much before his chin tilts in a gesture to her, and he reaffirms his grip around her hand.

"No, seriously, what is it?" he asks, voice dipping back down in a sign he's going to attempt to be more mature about this.

The joke does disarm in the way he hoped it would. Odessa laughs, briefly but genuinely. “Gosh, no. I went and dug that up after the war. I got it buried somewhere else now.” It’s not quite as chock full as it used to be, but she’s still got emergency funds out there.

Not all of the amusement fades from her expression by the time she gets around to her ask, but she does grow more serious. “I need a psychometer,” Odessa tells him. “But I don’t know who to trust. Do you think you can lift it from somebody and… help me out?”

Odessa’s free hand moves to the chain around her neck. “I… I had a sister. My parents adopted her before I was born and someone took her the day they were murdered.” Fingers slide between fine links and skin to hook around the chain and draw the pendant out from her shirt. It’s a tarnished copper penny, framed in silver. “This is the only clue I have to finding out what happened to her.”

Of all the things he expected to follow, this did not even remotely register as one. Aman blinks and looks down at the penny, confusion slipping away to be replaced with the beginnings of understanding.

Because, of all the items for a psychometer to read… a penny?

"I've never picked up an ability like that before, so I'd probably be starting from scratch…" Slowly, though, he turns it over in his mind. "I could put out a wanted ad, say it's for something entirely different. 'Found something old-looking during a deep clean, trying to find the owner it used to belong to…' Something innocuous like that."

His head tilts at the penny, then he looks back to Odessa with a small frown. "Why are you so sure the penny will have the answer? It happened thirty-some years ago, and…"

Aman hesitates on calling out how money changes hands, and how it seemed impossible a single penny could hold the answers she hoped for, instead opting to ask: "Are you sure this penny would have what you're looking for?"

If this were any other situation. If this penny was anything other than what she knows it to be, all his unspoken reasoning would be completely founded. The penny is taken between thumb, fore and middle fingers, obscuring it from view as she rubs it as if for good luck. Or like she could get her own sort of reading from its surface and the storied past of it.

“I need you to listen to me very carefully,” Adam says with an earnestness she doesn’t expect. “Do you know who Caspar Abraham is, and what his ability was?”

“Yeah,” Odessa responds easily. “I am. I’m one hundred percent certain.” She tucks the necklace back into her shirt then, as though afraid that if it spends too much time visible, it might be a beacon sent out into the world that would attract trouble.

Breathing out slowly, Aman weighs her certainty against his skepticism. And he decides, if she's gone through all this effort, maybe there's something after all to it. What could it harm to try, at least?

"I'll put some feelers out. I can't make any promises, though. I'm not… connected or anything, you know? The network of people I interact with for my side-gig are mostly deliberately as unknown to me as possible for their sake and mine. Exceptions happen, of course, but…"

He shrugs helplessly, then redoubles an effort of looking like he's taking this as serious as possible. "I'll work with you. See what I can find out. But if you had an idea for someone in particular to seek out, I mean, I can go that direction, too." Aman looks to her a little expectantly. Maybe she did have someone in mind?

“No,” Odessa says quietly, accepting the reality of the situation, “I get it. But you have more experience with this sort of thing than I do. I just…”

No. Do not tell him you used to just abuse your access to the SLC-E Registry, Odessa.

“I don’t have the resources I used to. The only people with that power that I used to know… They’re dead.” Odessa rakes her fingers through her blonde hair and finally relinquishes her hold on Aman’s hand. “Maybe poke in around some SLC-E support groups? I’m…” She winces and admits sheepishly, “I’m still not open about my status yet, or I’d do some of that myself.”

Aman shakes his head a little more ardently than before, brushing past that. "I'll figure something out," he voices a touch sternly. If there's a moral line he's not willing to cross, using support group meetings as a farm for ability information appears to be one of them. "I'm not exactly open with my ability, either. I don't exactly have one until I do, anyway."

He tries to gloss past that quickly, though, forcing a brief grin. "We'll see what turns up, though. All right?"

Yet another reminder of how far from the straight and narrow path Odessa has strayed, perhaps. She shrinks back a bit at the firmness of his voice, only realizing how fucked up that method would be when he shoots it down.

“Alright,” she murmurs, allowing him to move them past that note of unpleasantness, giving him a small smile in return. It fades as she notes, reluctantly, “I should probably get going.” Yet, she lingers, making no move to push up from her seat.

For a moment, too long a moment, Aman doesn't know what to say in response to that. Odessa makes no move to leave, and he makes no move at all himself. He hesitates. In his head, he goes through all kinds of excuses. There was more tea if she wanted it; maybe some more ice would be good to steady her before she left; at the very least, he could walk her to her car?

But she's not a telepath. And neither is the link between them open for her to realize fully just how uncertain he is on agreeing with her.

"I'd say you're more than welcome to stay and catch up on a show for a bit, but… You've probably got TV where you're staying. And you've probably got to get going, don't you? It's dinnertime." There he goes, aloud but no less fumbling. "If you'll be missed, you should probably go."

"And if not—" he adds on quick, gesturing vaguely at the TV even as he suggests, "You could stay for dinner."

She wants to. God, how she wants to. But she will be missed. There's only so long she can stay out before it becomes something she has to answer for. Especially while she has the car. "It's a bad idea," Odessa tells Aman with a sad smile.

Reluctantly, she starts to push to her feet, grabbing for her cane. "If…" Whatever she's about to say, she decides better of it, her smile finding a little more strength. Some secret amusement held in her eyes. "It's been good… seeing you."

"I promise to have a better hello next time I see you." Aman glosses right past how they shouldn't be, instead leaning into that swear. After all, he needed to follow up on what she'd just asked, and she in turn would need to tell him more about the mysteries hidden in plain sight so they quit catching him so off guard every time he's exposed to one of them.

They'd make it work. Somehow.

Because even if they didn't, it was impossible not to end up back in each other's orbits again due to their link.

"Be safe."

"Only if you do the same." Odessa picks up her purse by the door. "I'm getting a new phone soon. I'll call you when I do. We can start texting again."

Because they are bound to one another, regardless. For good or for ill.

She shuts the door behind her and heads down the stairs with careful steps, to the walk and down the block to the sleek black Porsche. Odessa smiles as she sets her purse on the passenger seat.

Dialing a number from memory, she waits for the call to connect. "Hey. I'm wrapping up. Need me to pick you up? Or… dinner?"

As she drives down the block, headed in the direction of the bridge that will take her home, she lets her gaze settle on Aman's house as she passes by.

Odessa smiles.

She left her bag.

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