Four Strings



Scene Title Four Strings
Synopsis Richard goes to the last place he saw his father.
Date Dec 25, 2011

Mobile Radio Communications

The building is a windowless, single-floor concrete block structure with a radio antenna built on the roof and an adjoining storage building. Both roofs are laden with solar panels. It's easy enough to pick the locks to gain access inside. The storage building contains four generators, fueled by the solar panels, and are connected to the main building via underground conduits. The main building has a wheelchair accessible ramp.

“La mer

qu'on voit danser le long des golfes clairs

a des reflets d'argent,

la mer,

des reflets changeants

sous la pluie….”

The beautiful singing voice of Else Kjelstrom spills through the room like a tide of music, ebbing and flowing with the needs of the song, soaring to heights and diving to the depths. Static whispers and crackles over the radio the only reminder to Richard that she’s not actually in the room, that he isn’t sitting in some coffee-house listening to her play.

But Else Kjelstrom’s dead, and Richard is leaned back in an old and creaking chair, booted feet up on the edge of a console tied to radio equipment cobbled together improbably into a broadcasting station, eyes closed as he lets the music carry him away to a world where Operation Apollo had never succeeded.

To a world where the waves gently lapped at the shores of the Empire State.

The final crescendo is reached, and then silence for long moments, where all he can hear is his own breathing. There’s a pop, a hiss, and the song starts up once more, repeating as it always does.

Hazel eyes open, and the man’s feet drop to the floor. He leans forward over them to turn a knob to one side with a sharp click that cuts off the broadcast before leaning back in the chair again. One hand delves within the old flight jacket he’s wearing, withdrawing his cellular phone and checking the signal.

One bar. For now. He doubts the cellular network will survive the next few months.

A contact’s dialed, and he brings the phone up to his ear, leaning back slowly again and closing his eyes.

“Alia,” he says as the phone’s answered, “I need to talk to Gitelman. No, not Hana…”

A few hours earlier…

“Well,” Richard sarcastically observes to nobody in particular, sweeping sunglasses off his face and staring up at the building he’s standing in front of in building frustration, “This doesn’t look much like like a garage to me.”

Antenna stretch upwards as if reaching for heaven’s gates, forever tied to earth by the concrete of the single-floor building they’re attached to, their call for grace powered by dark tiles drinking in the sun’s light covering both the main building’s rooftop and that of the storage building beside it. It’s obviously, blatantly a radio broadcasting station rather than the a mechanic’s garage he was expecting.

The picture in Cardinal’s hand shows a man in a mechanic’s jumpsuit outside of a garage, the name Dave showing at his breast on a nametag. An arm is wrapped around the shoulders of a pregnant blonde woman, matching gold bands on their hands to demonstrate their marriage. They look happy..

It was the only evidence that Richard had that his past wasn’t a lie. That he had parents at all.

"Ah' don't know you, Richard. Yer a goddamned ghost. Stint at Rikers, then nothin'. Ah' did mah homework on you, an' there ain't a whole lot that says you ever even existed before they gone and chucked you in that prison. Birth certificate, driver's license, prison record." Kain's brows crease together slowly. "That don't sound like a man, that sounds like a lie."

Kain found nothing, when he looked into his past. Nothing. And it wasn’t like the man wasn’t good at doing background checks. There should have been records, lists of foster families. Didn’t the nuns constantly talk about his permanent record?

But there was nothing. Until the photograph. And after a long of digging, and a lot of work, it led him here. Wherever here was, since it sure as hell wasn’t David Cardinal’s garage.

Realizing that he’s been staring up at the building for more than a couple minutes, Richard finally shakes his head and steps onto the concrete ramp leading up to the metal front door. Mobile Radio Communications is what the faded sign above the door reads, noticed in a glance before he’s trying the door. The knob rattles. Locked.

It takes him five seconds to realize that he can’t just slip beneath the door like he used to, a grimace crossing his features in frustration. Like trying to reach out with a missing arm. Instead he crouches down beside the door, pulling out a fabric roll from a pocket of his cargo pants and unrolling it upon his thigh. Slender metal tools are pulled out, rusty skills are put to work. But even rusty, he’s good enough to pop the lock within two minutes.

Nobody’s been here in years, he realizes as the rusty door squeaks open and he steps within, finding the light-switch after a moment of fumbling (unused to needing light, another stab of pain in his heart) and walking past cardboard boxes covered in a layer of dust in the short entryway.. Unsurprisingly, the main feature of the cluttered main room is a broadcasting console, all knobs and dials and switches, mismatched equipment that looks like it was cobbled together from various sources rather than all coming together. Lights and indicators blink and gleam here and there, letting him know that it’s still broadcasting, a song playing in an automatic loop. An old tape case sits on the console, the name ‘’Charles Trenet’’ visible through the dust.

Brushing past a stack of plastic crates and around some gas canisters, Richard comes to a halt before the equipment, looking down at four faded, dusty photographs tucked into the seam of the broadcasting console. One by one, he picks them up, brushing them clean.

One photo depicts a 5 year old Valerie playing with a chess set. She is trying to eat a white rook.

Another photo depicts a 10 year old Kaylee standing over a broken stonemasonry plate looking proudly guilty.

A third photo depicts an 11 year old Warren with silvery eyes taking apart a lawn mower engine in a grassy yard.

The final photo depicts a newborn baby wrapped in a silvery emergency blanket cradled in an unknown man's arms. In the background of the photo, police and ambulance lights are flashing in the dark.

It’s the last that he holds for long moments, gazing down at the picture of— who he can only assume is himself, minutes after birth. In Edward’s arms? Emotion wells up in his gut, grief at what he’d lost, anger that he could be so easily cast aside to the system. Was it some premonition of Edward’s ability that made him do it, to turn Richard into the man he needed? Or was it just the man’s own fear and cowardice?

He didn’t know which would be worse.

Finally he slaps them back down on the console, wiping his face with his sleeve and ignoring that it comes away surprisingly wet. A wet sniffling sound was heard by no-one but himself as he swipes at his nose a few times, and then turns just enough to notice a post-it note stuck to the main microphone. The yellow paper’s pulled free, and he frowns at the two names listed upon it. ‘Noa Gitelman. Raquelle Cambria.’ Not names he knows.

Just like the old man, still giving him work to do after all this time.

Leaving the note on top of the photographs, he turns next to the cork-board hanging on the wall, fingers raking back through his hair and rubbing at the back of his head. A string web stretches across the wall, a map starting with four names, with four strings in different colors. Richard and Ray’s own three children. Pictures of buildings - he recognizes the Pinehearst Building, the address where Redbird Security would set up shop, the New York Library, others - and newspaper clippings tied to the strings. This was Edward’s power in use, Richard knew. He was well acquainted with how to read it, too, by now.

His brow wrinkled into a bemused furrowing as he read the strings and found the conclusion confusing - as he double-checked for some greater purpose, searched for some more sophisticated design, but couldn’t find one beyond the simple plan he’d identified already. Finally, he gave up on the map’s secrets, and turned to follow the instructions given on the post-it note at the bottom of the board.

“Go to the basement, Richard.”

The basement door is unlocked, leading to a gently sloping ramp downwards. Concrete on all sides, dim lighting flickering overhead to lead the way. Another door, and then he found himself inside a shipping container.

Several of them, it seems, welded together and buried deep, modified into an underground bunker. There were crates of canned goods, shelves of jarred preserves, a water filtration system, boxes of flashlights and batteries, blankets and jackets, and everything that someone would need to survive for years in case of the worst.

He walks in, peering into this box or that crate as he explores the confines of the bunker. A touch claustrophobic, but nothing he couldn’t get used to, he admits to himself - even as the potential reasons for building such a place leaves a hollow of fear deep in his gut. As he passes one of the cots, he notices an envelope laying on it. Picking it up, he reads the name on the front. Kaylee.

Four envelopes in total he finds, carefully cradled for those they’re for. Kaylee. Warren. Valerie.

And of course himself.

The cot creaks softly as he sits down upon it, unsealing the envelope and pulling out the letter with fingers that suddenly are shaky. He grimaces, shaking off his fear and unfolding it in a rustling hurry that tears the paper a bit at one corner. Like pulling off a band-aid all at once. And he reads it.

Richard. By the time you read this letter, Andrew Mitchell will be beginning a war that will destroy everything you know and endanger everyone you have ever cared about. Kansas is a safe-haven from the majority of the fighting. Do not head west, stay away from major metropolitan areas. Do not invest in the US economy. Do not leave the country. Do not ever go to Japan. Help them communicate, help them find hope. I am proud of you most of all, because you are the only one who can do what no one else can. Visit the Deveaux Building rooftop in the Manhattan on December 25th, 2018.

I love you. Goodbye.

- Edward

It didn’t take someone who could see the probabilities, the possibilities, to guess what was about to happen in the country. It explained why the bunker was there, at least. The other instructions were enigmatic as ever, but he committed them absently to memory anyway. The important parts came after.

I am proud of you most of all.

I love you.

“Then why did you leave me?” asks Richard Cardinal, asks Richard Ray, in as raw and hurting a voice as he’s ever used, a voice he'd never use where anyone could hear, tears staining his cheeks again as fingers crinkle the paper in his hand. Nobody answers.

Only once had he ever even been face to face with the man, with the Edward Ray from this reality, and it was on the roof of Pinehearst. He’d followed every path he’d had laid down for him, puzzled out every purpose and carried it out. He’d killed men. Murdered futures. A part of him hoped to find Edward at the end of that road. A part of him had just wanted to see the man’s approval in his eyes. His pride. A part of him just wanted a father to hug him and tell tell him that he did good. He grew up an orphan, and that’s a want, a need, all orphans know.

But he never had a father to say that, to do that. And now with the collapse of the Ark, he never will.

The paper’s finally dropped to the cot, and an unsteady hand takes the stack of three more envelopes, lifting them up. Fanning them out, reading the names upon them. And his mind drifted, bringing up memories.

Of Warren enthusiastically showing off his new armor design to himself and Elisabeth.

Of Kaylee and Valerie, laughing on the couch in the library.

Of Lily and Ricky’s smiles, looking up at him from a crib.

He’ll never have a father. But he’s not alone anymore.

On the corkboard upstairs, strings in four colors criss-cross and intertwine, mapping out the lives of four people. Locating the points where they meet, where they cross, where they interact. Mapping out the best places and times to nudge events, to leave a hint, to drop instructions, to urge them closer together. It’s the simplest form of the plan that lay at the heart of all of Edward Ray’s other plans, cut down to its one end goal. The secret behind his grand manipulations, his catastrophic workings.

At the middle of the corkboard upstairs is a single point where all four of the main strings finally come together in a knot around one pin from which a picture of the Shalegate Factory hangs, the factory that Warren had been doing his work in. On the picture someone has written in red pen: Raytech?

It's a map of the lives of the children of Edward Ray. A plan of how to bring them together, and to give them what his own cowardice had denied them all those years.

Each other.

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