False Pride


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Scene Title False Pride
Synopsis Following a direction from Richard, Jac seeks out Dr. Pride to find out what she knows about Cindy Price. She winds up finding out more about her family than she expected.
Date October 19, 2020

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

Even though she knows it’s a futile effort, Jac Childs has grudgingly made her way down to the biomedical laboratories to find Dr. Pride. The blonde haired genetic researcher is doing the boring part of the scientific process — entering her handwritten notes into the computer so that they can be read and referenced by others.

Pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose she then reaches up to tighten the ponytail atop her head by splitting it, grabbing a portion in each fist, and gently tugging the two halves apart from each other. One strand still hangs down in front of her and she blows it away from her face with a sigh of breath.

The light tap of knuckles against the doorframe announces Jac’s presence as it usually does on the days she's assigned with helping Doctor Pride. Today wasn't one of her normal days, though, as evidenced by the lateness of the afternoon.

She lingers at the door for only a second or two before wandering into the room. She's not surprised to find the scientist sitting and engaged in something. As expected, it looks like Doctor Pride is busy — too busy to be bothered with the sorts of questions that have only a cursory connection to science.

Still, she was sent to ask those questions. Jac had decided on the trip into the depths of the campus that she could make enough of an effort to satisfy Richard’s insistence.

While there’s a quiet huff of exasperation from Pride, it has absolutely nothing to do with being interrupted or by whom. The terminal is locked with the quick stroke of her fingers over the keys. “Oh, thank god,” she groans gratefully, turning in her seat to see who’s knocked to get her attention. “A distraction.”

Her face lights up when she sees who it is. “Did Tuesday come early?” the doctor asks teasingly. Mondays may seem to stretch on into eternity, but she’s fairly certain this one hasn’t become the next day already. “What can I do for you, Jac?”

“Richard…” Jac hedges into her purpose for interrupting reluctantly. She places her textbook on the edge of the table, catty corner from Doctor Pride and the work she's got in front of her. “Mister Ray sent me. He thought you might be able to give me some answers that he doesn't have.” It's obvious she isn't sure why the man in charge would believe it.

“I tried explaining you're busy, but he dad-voiced at me and it's better to just not argue.” Jac shrugs with one shoulder, looking as much as sounding apologetic even though it seems like her appearance isn't too intrusive.

“Richard is very good at the dad voice,” Pride commiserates with a serious expression and a nod of her head. “Don’t worry,” she coaxes in a gentle voice, gesturing to a chair nearby her workstation. “You aren’t bothering me a bit. I need to take a break from staring at this monitor anyway, so thank you for coming down here. Have a seat.”

Whether Jac sits or not — it’s expected by now that there will be some awkwardness from the teenager, for all that the two of them seem to get on just fine — Dr. Pride sits back in her own chair, posture relaxed. “Did Mister Ray forget how to program the coffeemaker again? I’ve told him a thousand times, that’s not on my list of duties.” She’s joking. “No, really,” the blonde laughs quietly. “If he thinks I can help you with something, chances are very good that he’s right.” Richard doesn’t often send anyone her way, after all.

It could have just been Richard blowing smoke too, although Jac keeps that thought to herself. She puts herself in the chair just beside her book. “I mean. He was telling me about some people that I'm connected to in complicated ways.” Complicated may or may not be the greatest understatement ever.

The book, which has nothing to do with her presence or any of the questions she had to have been asking Mister Ray and everything to do with mathematics, is drawn closer. Obviously it's an uncomfortable topic, in so far as awkwardness goes, and she distracts herself with the cover of the textbook.

“He said you'd know about the Prices.” Jac shrugs, again implying an apology for something she's sure Doctor Pride wouldn't know anything about. “He said they adopted this woman who… was a surrogate.” For her remains unsaid, since it’s complicated.

“Well, I do know a thing or two about complex connections,” the scientist quips. “All those tangles of RNA.” Her eyes open just a little bigger, her nose crinkling as she continues to be lighthearted in the hopes of helping put the intern more at ease.

She’s patient while the girl fidgets with her book, unperturbed by the way she doesn’t look up at her while she mulls over what she needs to say. Maybe she remembers a time when she was like that.

But the reason — the reason — wipes the smile off Ourania Pride’s face and leaves her stunned. “Oh.” The breath leaves her in a slow, even exhale. “I see. Well, Richard was right to send you to me.” She nods her head slowly and now it’s her turn to stare down. The index finger of her left hand is extended, its sisters curled in toward her palm, and the opposite hand wraps around it, thumb brushing back and forth over the knuckle.

“I suppose we’re long overdue for this conversation, and… I don’t have an excuse for it.” There’s a shrug of her narrow shoulders. “He, ah… Richard told you to come talk to me because the Prices were my parents.” Ourania’s head bobs up and down in short little motions. Finally, her blue eyes come back up to meet Jac’s. “Cindy is my sister.”

While the woman seated across from her navigates from shocked to explanation, Jac raises her eyes to watch from beneath furrowed brows. Something in Doctor Pride’s tone draws her to stillness, even before she gets to the crux of her statement; fingers cease their unknowing worry of a small crease in the book’s cover, the absent bounce of a knee stops, even Jac’s breath grows shallow like she's holding it.

“Des.” The name is whispered in the beat that follows Ourania’s revelation. It's hushed enough to be missed under the whir of computers and ventilations, possibly even by the one who owns the name, but it carries weight. She hadn't offered any knowledge of her parentage, fearing the fallout of certain names.


Jac sits up straighter, feeling torn. She should be happy, joyous even, but anger and confusion have their hands in the mix. A long overdue conversation indeed. Someone, anyone, could have told her something. Her head turns away to stare briefly at the table until she recalls the textbook beneath her hands. Fingers curl around the spine and it's drawn to her chest like a shield. That she was told by Doctor Pride herself ought to take some of the sting away too, yet with everything else she's experienced over the last year…

Her feet find the floor before she realizes she's moving. “I…” Jac’s face turns toward Ourania, but she doesn't quite focus on the other woman. Her feet shuffle backward, a little unsteady. A twisting, unsettlingly sour feeling in her stomach tells her she should probably go. “I'm sorry I… that I interrupted. I know your work is very important.”

The betrayal churns Ourania Odessa’s stomach. Although it isn’t her own, she feels it as keenly as Jacelyn does. “Don’t say that name,” she whispers as softly as the girl had. “Please don’t say that name.”

And she’s retreating. Odessa’s own horror at the pain she’s inflicted brings her to her own feet to follow. The next actions are impulsive, and if she were thinking clearly, she wouldn’t take them at all, but she’s in a panic.

Surging forward, the woman wraps the teenager up in a tight hug and crushes her to her. Not so long ago, Jac fit neatly against Odessa, their heights not so different. Now, Odessa is nearly a foot taller than the redhead. It feels strange, but also allows Odessa to feel as though maybe she’s better able to protect Jac.

Her niece.

“I’m sorry, Jac,” Odessa whispers desperately. “I’m so sorry. I’ve been so scared. I didn’t know what to say, or how to say it.” She smooths a hand over those amber waves. “I’m sorry.”

When Jac recoils it's as much physical as it is emotional. The unexpected rush and reach toward her triggers the response learned within the walls of her childhood home. It chokes off the apology she tries to form, freezes her feet place, head turned to the side and eyes squinted shut in expectation of something far less comforting than a hug. She's rigid when Ourania first finds her, in the manner that a creature who's more familiar with abuses than kindness would be.

She doesn't struggle against the embrace. The act rolls over her like a tidal wave, and confusion crashes into the cringing fear of a second ago. Happiness and sadness spread together like froth from a sea of churning emotion. Slowly, the teen's arms find their way loose and then around the woman's middle.

She shakes, overwhelmed by a myriad of emotions, but she still doesn't struggle. "You didn't do anything wrong," Jac says, her voice wavering. How could Odessa keeping her identity a secret have been wrong? Especially from her. "You couldn't tell me and… and that's fine. I… it's probably… I don't know. But… but you don't… you don't need to apologize. Not to me.”

Of all people, Odessa should know better than to do what she just did, but she couldn’t help herself in the moment. “No.” She presses a kiss to the top of Jac’s head. “No, it’s my fault. I’m sorry. You — You deserved to know and I kept that from you.” Because of her own fear. And if she were in Jac’s shoes, she’d be hurting as well.

Tears well up and spill down Odessa’s cheeks as she holds Jac to her, cradling the back of her head and swaying with her gently. They’re both shaking now, and Odessa isn’t sure where Jac’s emotions end and hers begin anymore. She isn’t sure it matters. “Oh, god. I was so relieved to find you’d landed here. I just didn’t know how to tell you. I thought if I could just keep an eye on you from afar, maybe that’d be enough.”

It clearly wasn’t. “Please promise me you won’t leave me.” No. That isn’t fair. “No. Please promise me you’ll leave if that’s what you need to do. But I’d like to sit and talk with you if you’re open to that.”

“What?” It isn't what Jac wants to ask, but it's the only thing she’s able to ask. The moment is confusing, it makes no sense. She wants to argue that Odessa has every right to not have told her, certain if the reasons were known why she thinks that, then the woman who is somehow her aunt would agree.

She looks like she might be sick or start crying, possibly both together. Panic prickles, although she can't be sure why. Her brow knits, face drawn tightly. A pained sound manages to escape her throat.

“I'm not,” she begins. Jac’s voice strains to find more words and she has to pull in a breath before continuing. “Not leaving. Just searching. Trying… trying to find… trying to understand why… why I was made.” Her next breath is a conscious exhale, followed by a shuddering intake. “I swear I won't tell anyone. Please believe me.”

“Shh, shh. It’s okay.” The shushing is gentle and immediate. “I know, sweetheart. I know you won’t.” Odessa crouches down enough to get a better look at Jac from her own level, rather than her much taller vantage point. “My sweet girl. I understand. I understand so well how you feel. And that isn’t going to be enough to take that pain away.”

It’s the physical pain that causes Odessa to straighten up again, taking Jacelyn’s hands in her own. “Come sit with me.” Gently, she hopes to lead her the few steps back toward the chair at her workstation, but ready to cede the ground if necessary. Whatever the girl’s choice, she gestures to another chair nearby to invite her to be seated with her.

“I spent years… wondering who I was. Where I came from. Why I was made.” And Odessa realizes how incredibly lucky she is to know now that she was made because two people loved each other so completely that they wanted to create a life together. That she wasn’t some test tube science experiment after all, the way she’d always suspected she was.

“I can’t answer that question for you. Not… not yet. But maybe someday, we can figure it out together.” Odessa rests her elbows on her knees, her wrists crossed together over the pool her skirt makes between the peaks. “What you need to understand is that it doesn’t matter why you’re here. What matters is that you are, and what you want to do with that.”

Her smile now is a sad one. “One thing I figured out far too late in life is that you can’t live with the goal of being what others expect you to be for them. You’ll only crush yourself under the weight of that burden.”

Reluctance guides her first steps as she's led toward the table. Once moving, though, Jac follows and even sits in the offered chair. Through it, the textbook she had brought has somehow found a resting place near the door, likely set aside when she was first embraced. It's momentarily forgotten, with the young woman’s eyes resting somewhere in the space between her seat and Odessa’s and her attention on the words being spoken.

Argument rests in the back of her throat, and forms tears that sting her eyes. No one could understand what it's like to be her. Or any of the things she's gone through. Why the self loathing comes far more easily than the confidence she wielded less than a year ago. The teen’s eyes squeeze shut in an effort to push that all aside. Her doubts and fears yell loudly, but some small voice suggests she listens.

Her hands lift from her lap, abandoning the skin pinching and finger twisting. She brushes one hand across her eyes instead, using it as an excuse to turn her face away.

Something in what Odessa says rings loud and true. She knows she'd been used, tried so hard to be who someone else had wanted her to be. And she was crushed for it and tossed aside, like a burnt out cigarette butt.

“But can I decide what I do?” It's a question Jac has wrestled with for months, one she's barely been able to put to words. Because she was made in a lab, implanted into someone with no knowledge of if she was really wanted or if it was a coercion. All that she knows is three seconds of a memory that she can't even be sure is hers, and some tiny spark of hope remains that there's a greater reason for it all, if only she can uncover it. “How, if I don't even know who I am?”

Her face turns, eyes seeking to meet Odessa’s, pleading for understanding. “I just need to know.”

The way Jac feels so terribly alone in her experience is something that crawls under Odessa’s skin. You’re not, she wants to say, without the assertion having been made out loud. “You can,” she says instead to the question Jac has asked. “Not all the time. Nobody is in control of their own lives at all times. That’s part of being a kid. It’s part of existing among others.”

One shaky hand comes up to brush away tears from her own face. “It’s not going to come to you all at once. It’s going to take a lot of time, actually. But the good news is that you are so much younger than I was. You have time to figure yourself out. You’re not going to be in your mid-twenties, trying to navigate the world like someone in their early teens.”

It hurts to say that, more than she expected. It hurts to admit all the time she lost. “You have your mom,” Odessa reminds her gently. “She loves you, and she wants to help you find your way, whatever you decide that is. And you can try every which direction until you find the right one.”

Jacelyn’s aunt leans forward and takes her hands again. “Even if we never find my sister… That doesn’t invalidate your existence. It doesn’t change who you are. You are more than what you were created to be.” Odessa smiles encouragingly through her tears. “And so am I.”

Conflict rises within, twisting into a knot in Jac’s chest as Odessa speaks. Deep creases form across her forehead. She knows all of the things her aunt says, with varying levels of understanding, but it doesn't temper the fear that comes with understanding. The omnipresent what if plays a mournful tune that questions what she knows to be true.

Her eyes drop, breath catching. Or maybe she's holding it as a wall against the confusing and uncomfortable mass of emotions. Worry and hope and fear and relief rage together, each vying to shatter the other.

“But.” Lips fold in over her teeth. She knows her family is here, that whatever methods were used to create her doesn't change who her family is. Nor does the nagging fear that she's ruined it somehow. But it's those methods, the roots of her lineage, that she's so desperate to know.

Jac wilts beginning with her shoulders until she's crumpled into arms folded across her knees. “You don't even know.” Her words are muffled against the folds of her arms. “You don't. I thought… I thought you… that you'd just…” Her fingers curl into her sleeves and arms, but she doesn't lift her head. “And I didn't know. When Richard said to come here… I'm just trying to understand.”

“I do know, Jac.” Maybe that’s not what she should say, but in this case, Odessa feels she understands better than Jac realizes. But the way the teenager tries to finish that thought, the aborted sentences… Maybe Odessa doesn’t know what she’s trying to get at.

Ma bibiche, I need more words from you to help me understand what you’re trying to say.” Odessa knows better than to put too many words in the girl’s mouth. “I can help explain, but not if I don’t know what question I’m trying to answer.”

"You don't," Jac insists but without explaining why Odessa couldn't know. How does she explain the past year, the constant dead ends at every turn that led her to gamble on a stranger? Or the way she was used and tossed aside like rubbish, when she was abandoned by everyone who promised to protect her at her worst moment. That she lost everything she had, without trial or a chance to defend herself, because of her choices. Why she's the least deserving of knowing Odessa has been at Raytech this whole time. She wouldn't know where to begin if she wanted to explain.

And she does, but when she's ready to. Instead, she pulls in a breath and holds it until it burns. Then she holds it a few seconds longer. The physical stretch and ache helps, somehow, to push down the emotional pain. It gives her the chance to gather it and bottle it up. The exhale that finally comes is like a door closing on all the bad things.

"I don't even know what exactly I'm looking for." Jac's voice wavers. That closed door is more like an overstuffed closet than a vault, still threatening to break open rather than keep things secured within. "I just… I found out who my… who… I'm biologically from. But… but I want to know why. Why them, why Cindy, why me."

There’s a ripple of frustration that passes through Odessa, but stays well beneath her surface. Jac is a teenager, and if Odessa remembers one thing about that age, it’s that she felt alone in everything. That no one could ever possibly understand her. Her life. Her pain. Her crippling uncertainty. Someday, maybe, they can commiserate. For now, Odessa is content to be an ear for her niece. Jacelyn’s pain and frustration are very real. Valid.

But in the end, Jacelyn was actually wanted by the people who used her for their ends. Odessa never felt like a person. Only an object. A power or a mind.

A microscopic cog in a catastrophic plan.

“Cindy was… Cindy is very special,” Odessa begins in a soft voice. “She was… Clairsentient, I think. Maybe they thought her ability would allow her to be better protected. Make things safer for you.” That’s just speculation, but if Odessa wanted to keep an unborn child safe from something so terrible and omnipresent as Uluru and her allies, she would think someone like Cindy would be the best bet.

“Adam is your father, right?” She tries to offer a smile of encouragement, but it’s a shaky thing. The topic of Adam Monroe is a complicated one full of conflicting emotions on Odessa’s part. “Was Cindy not your…?” A surrogate. Then who…?

Maury Parkman was using her for something.” Instead of refraining from speaking, choosing her words carefully, Jac just blurts it out. And once that’s released, more follows on the next breath. “It wasn’t to keep me safe from anything. He left me with Stefan Morrison. I wasn’t adopted by anyone, no one wanted me.” Bitterness, like the midwinter storms that rise up, cutting at the threads of understanding she’s woven together. “Definitely no one wanted me for just me. I was a guinea pig for Stefan’s work and the Morrison’s only kept me for the promise of money and a free test subject.”

It’s never been put as so many words before, and they’re laid bare like a newly debrided wound.

Adam Monroe is another topic all together and one that cuts as deeply as her first admission. “He used me too.” It is a harsh claim, filled with more pain than bitterness. She’d had time to reconcile with her treatment by Stefan and Carolyn Morrison and even get used to the idea that things were done to her that she might never understand. But Adam…

“He never actually wanted me either. He got what he wanted then left me to die like everyone else.”

Everything she hadn’t wanted to admit, is made all the worse hearing it in her own voice. Jac, already folded over, tries to make herself smaller and get further away from it. “He didn’t even tell me anything about Cindy, why she was chosen or why I was made.” Not born, never born. She wasn’t conceived in the normal way, her parents never wanted her. Her existence is on the whim of some dark and secretive science.

Parkman was formidable, but no mastermind,” Odessa opines. Would she want him to hear her say that? Oh heavens, no. She enjoys breathing, thank you very much. “Whatever he was doing with Cindy? It wasn’t his show that he was running.” Arthur Petrelli always pulled the strings, even when no one seemed to realize. “Listen to yourself. They wouldn’t have created you if there wasn’t something about you that made you special.”

When she was young, that was something that always gave her solace. She was so convinced that she had been conceived of in a laboratory, rather than in a marriage bed, that she knew there must be some reason for it. That she was part of something bigger than herself, even if she couldn’t know what it was. Well… she certainly hadn’t been wrong about that, had she? It just hadn’t been by scientific design.


“Even if it was only their project they were intending to safeguard, they still needed you to be safe.” Odessa places a hand against Jacelyn’s cheek. “Did you ever read Harry Potter? You must have, smart girl like you who loves her books. Remember how they made him live with his awful aunt?” She suddenly doesn’t like the parallel she’s just started to inadvertently draw, but she’s come this far, so she’s in for a pound now, “It wasn’t what was kindest to him, but it was what made him safest. And I’m not excusing anything anyone involved in this situation did to you. I’m just saying…”

“Except Aunt Petunia never actually hurt Harry,” Jac cuts in quietly, “and Uncle Vernon didn't test experimental drugs on him.”

Odessa shakes her head. “It would have helped me to know that there was a reason. That it wasn’t just done haphazardly. That a man who didn’t even want you took you in? That means there was a reason for it. A reason he probably didn’t even like. He could have had any number of subjects for his test, but it was you they chose. That means something. What it means is that it’s a mystery we can unravel. A thread we can follow back to Cindy.”

Her thumb brushes gently over Jac’s freckled skin. “Do you understand what I’m saying? It wasn’t good or kind, nor was it fair. But there was a reason behind it.” Sighing gently, she smiles. A sad, rueful thing. “Now, I hate defending Adam Monroe, so listen to me closely, because I’m only going to say this once.” That’s a lie. Odessa will say this as many times as Jac needs to hear it. “Your father didn’t leave you to die. Your father was unable to come and find you. And if I know anything about Adam… I know that he would have come to find you if he’d had the ability. I know this in my heart, Jacelyn.”

Jac shakes her head as if to deny what Odessa claims. “He wouldn't.” He didn't, and he'd told her very early on that she shouldn't rely on him. It's only since Detroit she's felt the truth in that.

Her expression is very serious now. She needs her niece to understand what she’s saying to her, and what it means. “Adam Monroe was the king of sacrificing others in the name of what he felt was the greater good.” Her brow creases. “But you weren’t that. He did everything he could to ensure that you could survive. I saw him the week before—” Odessa’s voice is caught in the back of her throat and she sits back in her seat, her hand falling away from Jac’s face so she can wipe at her own instead.

“The week before Detroit. I’d just been picked up and he’d found me in detention.”

Raising her own hands, Jac scrubs at the stress on her face. Adam didn't care, or he wouldn't have left her in that square. She wouldn't be sitting in a lab, across from her aunt, believing knowing she was cast aside. For a moment, behind the shield her palms make, her face scrunches with the pain of heartbreak she'd rather stayed buried deep. Tears prickle, and her throat grows tight until she manages a breath.

Eight Months Earlier
Safe Zone
Fort Jay

“You really need to relax,” Odessa tells the agent across from her, lifting her wrists, palms up and fingers splayed the scant couple of inches she can from the table. “I’m just a girl.”


They both know she isn’t. There is nothing about Odessa Price that can be qualified as just.

Agent Coburn shakes his head in disagreement. “I missed you at the Arcology,” is not what she expected his response to be. “I missed you at the trial,” he adds, coming to stand on the opposite side of the table from her, “and I couldn’t get close to you at PISEC.” Coburn fishes something out of his pocket, but keeps it hidden in one gloved hand.

“I always wondered what Arthur saw in you,” Coburn says, invoking a name that has caused nothing but pain throughout her entire life. “Then, my eyes were opened.” Coburn says, pressing a tarnished penny down onto the edge of the table. He slides it across to Odessa with two fingers.

Odessa recoils from the penny like it could be an adder, poised to strike. Only a few weeks ago, she would have laughed at the absurdity of it. It’s just a penny. But she saw the look on Cindy’s face. She saw what happened to her. All traces of feigned mirth are gone now and all that’s left is anger.

The Arcology. The trial. PISEC.


There’s a loud creak of protest as Odessa stands up fast enough to send her chair skittering back from her, then toppling over to the floor with a loud clatter. The chains holding her wrists force her to bend forward while her eyes blaze. “Who the fuck are you?!”

Agent Coburn’s eyes quiver in a way eyes are not supposed to. His pupils briefly deform into ovoid shapes, irises bleed with color that turns from gray to something more like blue. The bones in his face snap, pop, and slide beneath his skin while cartilage deforms, cracks, and resets into new configurations. It only takes a few seconds for Coburn’s face to disassemble itself beneath his skin and return in a new configuration, hair bleached paler, brow more imperious.

Eyes now familiar.


“We need to talk.”

Anger shifts to disbelief the moment it becomes apparent that something is deeply fucking wrong with Agent Coburn. Odessa’s mouth drops open in shock first, then a scream that never makes it out of her throat. Whatever this is, either it’s already been established that no matter how much she shouts, she’s not going to receive help, or she will and all chances she has of figuring out what the fuck this is will be gone.

And she’s glad she didn’t. Scream, that is. Though she is still incredibly disturbed by what she’s just witnessed, she’s glad now she didn’t look away. She wouldn’t have believed this if she hadn’t seen it with her own eyes.

How long has she expected to see him again? How long did she watch over her shoulder? When did she finally accept that he wasn’t coming? And why did it always hurt her damn feelings that he didn’t chase her down?

Adam,” she breathes out. Her mouth works around words that she never manages to settle on, let alone form. After all these years, what does she say? “What the fuck?” is about as succinct a line of questioning as Odessa can come up with.

“I don’t have time for what the fucks,” Adam says with a glance over his shoulder. “You have no idea how lucky you are to somehow be alive in spite of every single bridge you’ve burned in your life chasing you down the river.” There’s a tension in Adam’s expression she’s never seen before, but also an earnestness in his eyes that doesn’t feel like a lie. All there is inside is anxiety and fear.

“You’re going to be my failsafe, Odessa.”

Present Day

“Listen to me,” Odessa places her hands on Jac’s shoulders. “If Cindy Price wasn’t your biological mother, I need you to tell me who was.

Lowering her hands, with only the shadows of her emotional aches and growing pains showing, Jac shakes her head. Her eyes find Odessa’s chest then raise along with a shoulder. “Cindy was a surrogate.” It's never been something she had felt shy pointing out, but it feels strangely empty to say it now.

“Adam said Claudia Zimmerman was the other donor.”

“Claudia Zimmerman?” Odessa narrows her eyes faintly, confused. “Why of all people would—” Lifting her hand, she closes her fingers around the ever-present penny that hangs from her neck. “There must be something about the combination of his ability and hers…”

There’s no forthcoming answer there. She’ll have to give it time and thought. Instead, she picks up the thread she started with. “Adam told me he’d be back,” she tells her niece. “He wasn’t coming back for me, but… He promised me that if he could, he would.”

Odessa laughs, and it’s a sad sound that carries her pain on its notes. “I loved him, Jac. For a time… For a time, I was his. He told me we were going to heal the world, and I believed him. He used to fill my head with such stories. Told me of places all over the world. Places I’d only heard of in books.” She expects Jac can appreciate the effect that must’ve had on someone as impressionable as Odessa was.

“But I hurt him. A lot. Often. Repeatedly. And ultimately, I betrayed him.” Odessa leans forward to take Jacelyn into her confidence. “It’s what I’m best at.” There’s still hurt there, but she’s trying to cover over it with a playfully conspirative tone. “Ask anybody.” Her reputation still precedes her in that fashion, she suspects. Even with Jac. “So he didn’t owe me anything.” Whether her betrayal was justified or not, it would never have mattered to someone like Adam. “But he came to me when he could have left me to rot not knowing… Adam always knew he was in danger. He knew there was a chance something would happen to him and he wouldn’t come back.”

Her face contorts with her misery. If the smile before was sad, this one is positively heartbroken. “I had hoped he would be wrong. I hoped he’d come back to me and tell me he didn’t need me after all. Jac, he wanted us to be self-reliant because he knew he wouldn’t always be around.”

Which sounds absurd even to her ears. Adam was supposed to outlive everyone.

“Don’t mistake me, he’s a bastard, Jac. But he wouldn’t have just left you. You were too important to him.”

The small, despondent shake of her head is what Jac uses to refute. There's too much to grasp and understand. None of what Odessa claims makes sense, of the plans within plans and half promises of returning. Not that the teen has any illusions that she'd have been told of any — she was only given what information and instruction she needed to play a part. And as much as she wants to believe she had any real worth to Adam, that hope flutters like a nearly spent candle. Her memory of the day she last saw Adam tell a completely different story.

Tears well in her eyes again, and spill over in spite of her efforts to blink them away. “I just… I tried so hard. I thought… I thought maybe he would… after the Entity was defeated…” Jac looks away and shakes her head. “But he's gone now. And… so is the Entity, and… and everything I worked for. Everything, even before I was taken… It's all gone.”

Taking a breath, the young woman wipes at her eyes. More tears are quick to replace the ones she's removed. The whole topic is a festering wound, as much as she'd like to forget the abandonment and fallout of her choices. Her hands press to her forehead as the ache in her soul twists and rears again. “I didn't mean to tell you all of this,” she musters. She really hadn't meant to bother Odessa at all. “I didn't… I wasn't even going to ask you about anything.”

“I know, bibiche. I know.” Her heart breaks to see Jac in so much pain. “I’m glad you’re talking to me, though. I’m glad you’re talking to someone. You can’t keep all of this bottled up inside of you. I know how hard that is to do. It just hurts you in the long run, and it’s good that you aren’t doing that now.”

He’s gone now, and so is the Entity.

“No he’s not, Jac. Neither of them are gone.” Odessa reaches out to place both hands on the girl’s shoulders now, waiting until their eyes meet. “Listen to me, Jacelyn.”

Eight Months Earlier

“I need you to listen to me very carefully,” Adam says, pointing to the penny. “Do you know who Caspar Abraham is, and what his ability was?”

In the face of his fear, Odessa feels strength. It should be terrifying to see him scared, and yet she finds it strangely gratifying. Maybe she’s still chasing a high off Ace Callahan’s arrogance and self-confidence even hours later, but the right corner of her mouth ticks upward, a flash of fang in a grin. “You used to have plenty of fucks to give for me.” Piece of shit.

Not letting that become some kind of argument either of them would waste time on engaging, she swallows uneasily, even though her expression stays fixed. But the posture she’s holding is starting to get uncomfortable. Her shoulders hunched toward her ears and her palms and forearms flat to the table. Fingers flex restlessly, like he always used to see when she was trying to work her ability — even though he didn’t know that was what she had been doing at the time.

Pressing her lips together as she rolls her shoulders forward, she looks up at him and inhales deeply through her nose. “I know what he did to my sister. I know that he helped facilitate the assassination of my parents. I’m sorry he’s dead, because I’d loved to have—”

Adam’s eyes narrow for a moment, and then Odessa feels something churn inside of him, causing her to fall silent. Something that is even more terrible than fear.


“I’m sorry,” Adam says in a hushed breath, but he doesn’t quantify it. He neither has time to nor believes he needs to. She knows what he’s sorry for, she just doesn’t understand why. Steeling himself, Adam glances to the door, then leans forward to close some of the distance between himself and Odessa.

“If you already know about Cindy, then you’ve saved me some time.” Adam admits in a whisper. “That penny,” he says with a nod toward it, “contains every memory I ever had. Every memory that was ripped from me by the Company. In the event of my death or… worse, I need you to take this.” He taps his finger beside it on the table. “I need you to hide it, and I need you to get it to a psychometrist to decode what’s on the copper.” He doesn’t specify who. He doesn’t think it matters.

“Then, you need to find Cindy Morrison.” Adam’s statement rings like a gunshot in Odessa’s mind. “She’s alive, but wherever she is, I wasn’t able to find her. Cindy Morrison might be the last key to all of this. Between that penny,” he indicates to it again, “her ability,” then he looks up to Odessa, “and your brain.”

Adam breathes in deeply through his nose. “If you don’t see me by the end of the month…” he shakes his head. “You’re the only one I can trust with this.”

Present Day

The long version of the name was chosen for a reason. It needs to get her attention and convey the gravity of what Odessa’s about to say. “If he comes for you, if you ever see Adam again, you don’t talk to him. You don’t try to reconcile or make sense of anything that’s happened. You don’t try to fight him. You come find me. You come find Richard. No matter what he says to you. If you see Adam Monroe, you alert one of us right away. Preferably both.”

Odessa’s hands grip Jac’s shoulders a little tighter. “Do you understand? I don’t mean are you listening to me, I mean do you understand what I’m telling you? You need to understand that this is important. You may not be protected anymore. You have to tell one of us so that we can help. So we can keep you safe. So we can keep the world safe.”

There’s very real fear in Odessa’s intense stare now. “Promise me.”

“No.” Jac shrugs, lifting her shoulders to loosen the grip on them. Her face draws, guarded and pained, confused by what Odessa’s telling her, what's being asked of her.

“No I don't understand.” A weird feeling clenches in her chest, but she can't tell if it's hope or fear. Adam isn't gone? And neither is the Entity. A tiny voice tells her she shouldn't be surprised by either revelation. It's the same one that always casts doubt on things she believes to be truth. She saw the Entity explode — or whatever it was that happened and nearly killed her. Maybe that's what the strange vision meant, that it was going to start over.

The idea makes the tightness in her chest drop and ferment in her stomach, and the longer she thinks about it the closer to panic she gets. Without her abilities, without her sword…

She's just a teenager.

“No. No, we… I have to…” Jac gropes for a what, a where to begin. Her involvement in uncovering the mysteries of what happened to herself and the rest of the survivors has been periphery at best. Except for an unexpected hit during a test that seemed more than unlikely to have results, a collaboration with someone who seemed to share in her appreciation for thinking outside of the box. But there's nothing. Nothing she can land on that might even get close to a hint at what happened.

“Jac, we’re going to figure this out together. I promise you. I’m not going to cut you out. I may hold things back until I have answers that don’t just breed more horrifying questions, but if I can’t do better than that… I won’t keep it from you.” About the survivors. About Cindy. About Adam.

It’s now that Odessa finally confides, “I’m scared too. You aren’t alone. This is… All of this is big and overwhelming and I’ve lived some really weird and horrifying shit.” She just wants to draw the girl in for another fierce hug, but she knows better than to make her feel caged right now.

Taking a deep breath, she puts her money where her mouth is, not holding back. “The Entity — Uluru — they… They took Adam.” The notion sends a shudder through her. “That’s why you have to tell me or Richard if you see him. That’s why you can’t engage. Now— Now do you understand?” Odessa needs Jac to understand the danger and make a promise to avoid it as best she can. There’s a desperation in that need.

Together. The word pulls Jac from the depths of her thoughts, away from the suffocating knowledge that she once had the abilities inside her and now…

Her eyes focus on Odessa’s, sharp and searching, terrified to trust too far anymore. So she searches, reaching through the fear and looking hard for any sign that she can't believe her aunt. She desperately hopes she can. The alternative is too crushing to think about.

She’s still picking at threads to hold onto when Odessa drops the reason for her warning. Jac sits back slightly, like she'd heard wrong. Like she's wanting to believe she'd heard wrong. “Oh no.” The teen was there, at ground zero when Uluru tried to unleash their power on the world, there's no need to make her understand the terrible combination of that supreme being and Adam Monroe.

“No… How— ” But Jac stops herself before asking the obvious question. The weight of the news is smothering. As angry and hurt as she might be by circumstance, Adam is still her father. “Yes.” Miserably, she understands.

Odessa smooths a hand over that red hair again. Her heart breaks along with Squeaks’. “I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I wish I could say something else was the reason for my concern, but… I couldn’t let you possibly walk into that danger not knowing.” Her hand slides down to cup Jac’s cheek. “And I couldn’t let you believe that he had abandoned you. I know he wouldn’t have.”

Eight Months Earlier

Shit,” Odessa frowns. “God, you’re just so—” His emotions are so loud. The fingers of her right hand curl into a fist, teeth dig into lower lip enough to elicit a dull pain. Again, she huffs. “And just where am I going to hide that?” The faux ginger casts a look around the room. “I’m going to be stuck here for the rest of my unnatural fucking life.” Her head tilts from side to side with a small roll of her eyes. “Well, not here. But whatever hole they decide to bury me in next.”

If that’s not just going to be a grave at this point. But he’s given her something to live for. He’s given her hope.

The audacity of him.

“Some fucking failsafe. So, what?” At this point, the stance is going from awkward to uncomfortable and Odessa cranes her neck to look over her shoulder at the lost chair. She could try to reach for it with a stretch of her leg, but… Instead, she glances back to Adam and lifts her brows. A little help here?

“You want me to find out what’s on your precious penny so I can be in as much fucking trouble as you are right now?” Because that’s blatantly fucking obvious, and she didn’t need empathy to know that. “My brain, huh? Alright, Adam.” In lieu of being able to spread her arms out at her sides, Odessa cocks her head to one side and opens up her shoulders. “For old time’s sake, then:

“Tell me a story.”

Adam’s visceral full-body shiver at that phrase accompanies a wave of nausea and discomfort. “No time,” he says, sliding off the table, “and fortunately,” he says with a gesture around himself. “You being behind bars is the safest place to be.” He regards the penny and then considers Odessa. “There’s plenty of places to hide that, I don’t think you need me to suggest them.”

Odessa’s lip curls in revulsion as he implies she knows exactly how to smuggle something in a prison. “I better not get fucking Wilson’s from this,” she mutters. Bending forward the rest of the way, she stretches out her fingers until she can catch the penny under the pad of the middle one, drawing it toward her so she can dig her nail under the edge and lift it from the table. She lowers her head to the level of her arms again.

It's only the awful gag and brief fit of coughing that follows that tells him that, yes, she knows how she can hide something as small as a penny.

The sound of approaching footsteps has Adam tensing, looking back to Odessa, whose head swivels toward the door as she holds perfectly still like a doe that’s just heard a branch snap. “If you want to salvage one good thing out of everything that was done to you as a child, whether or not you care about the lives of everyone you’ve ever known, you’ll try. I’m out of options, Odessa. I’m out of time and I’m out of plans.”

“Glad to know I ranked so highly on your list,” she responds in a hush, face contorted in disgust of the lingering taste of copper on her tongue and in the back of her throat.

Odessa Price: Last Resort. How flattering.

He steps back toward the door, bones in his face shifting beneath his skin, hair darkening and voice changing as he talks. “Last question,” he says with a hand raking through his now-thinning hair, “make it good.”

Present Day

“Saving the world was always going to rate higher to him than anything else, but you were important to him.” Jac was the only one who could have survived the terrible price. “I know he’s gone, and we may never get him back, and I know I can’t even begin to replace what he represented to you. I… I never got to meet or know my father, but I did get to know my mother for a brief time before I lost her.”

Odessa starts to cry again. “It’s the worst feeling. I miss her every single day. So much. So, I know I can’t be to you what he was, but… We’re still family, Jac. If you want me after all of this…” Her lip trembles, her voice too tight now for more words.

“Don't cry.” Out of everything Jac could say, she chooses to push all the arguments and insecurities back into the darkest corner like the dirty laundry they are. She chooses to reach for that whispy strand of hope that Odessa is being honest about everything. That they're so much alike, she can trust her aunt somehow does understand some small part better than most. And she won't be kept in the dark.

“Please. If you start then… then… I might…” They've both already shed tears of all kinds, it's almost silly to ask if more can be avoided. Jac’s brows knit with a telltale stinging in her eyes.

But her own tears are held back. She can't cry if she's asking Des to not cry too. To further distract from her own aches, the young woman reaches across the short distance to lay a hand on Odessa’s arm in place of a hug. “Do you… do you remember after the Sunspot? In the facility? We promised…”

A pinky, the pinky of her free hand, is held up and offered to her aunt.

Yes. Odessa remembers Sunspot. She wastes no time reaching across the divide to link her pinky to Jac’s, still working valiantly to suppress her tears. She renews her vow to the girl who turned out not to be her little sister, but family all the same.

“Always, forever.”

Eight Months Earlier

There are so many great questions she could ask, and they all feel just out of reach after he makes that offer. Who am I, really? is chief among them, but cannot possibly have an answer short enough to be satisfying. None of the big questions could. Odessa smiles then, her expression sad. “You knew you’d had me. Ever since I was a teenager. You filled my head with such grand notions of what the world was. What it could be. How I could heal it. Did you miss me after all of that? Even once?”

It’s not a good question, but it’s important to her.

“No,” a voice that isn’t Adam Monroe’s says from a face that isn’t his, “because that man was a lie designed to kill us all.” He grasps the door handle, looking back at Odessa one last time. “And that man is dead.” The guilt she feels from him spikes, tittering with notes of dread.

“So you deserved freedom from him.”

And that was the last time Odessa Price saw Adam Monroe.

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