From General To Gardener


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Scene Title From General To Gardener
Synopsis In the wake of the battle at Sunspot, things have changed.
Date April 7, 2019


Pine Barrens, NJ

Today is one of those days when Kara finds the lights already on in the armory when she makes her way in in the morning. She can hear someone at the long worktable just out of view from the door, alleviating any immediate concerns the lights were left on by someone who shouldn't be there, having done something they should not have. Some days, the armory feels as much workshop as storage, items enabling cleanliness kept somewhere in the order of the equipment and tools. Everything in its place… except on the occasion when warring methods of organization were simultaneously put into play.

When she sees it's Lang who's beaten her in this morning, she knows already some things will be out of order when they're replaced. It's just part of the brand of helpfulness he provides when he stops by. Regardless, he is firmly on the list of people who are welcome.

"Morning," she greets when she sees him, chin tipping his way. Kara lets her gaze fall for only a moment to what he's working on before she focuses on him directly. "Had meant to find you later, actually. Had something to talk about."

“That so?” Is one of Lang’s ways of implying that he’s busy without outright saying as much. Most of him has turned to hunch over the dirty engine block of the old Chevy El Camino he’s been trying to get back into action. It isn’t a practical vehicle, but something Lang’s been working on to pass the time, given how quiet things have been since they marched out east. But much as Kara knows Lang’s tricks, he knows hers as well, knows her tone when she’s got a hold of something she won’t let go. He had a dog like that once.

“What,” Lang says, setting down a wrench and a rotted length of coolant hose atop the carburetor, “can this here old salt do for ya?” He rests his forearms on the side of the car, still stooped under the hood, but knowing well enough that he’d best put down what he’s working on. A lot has changed with Lang in the intervening months, he's continued to grow out his hair, has taken on a less severe attitude with most of the people of Providence. The saying is, fatherhood's changed him. Probably for the best.

It's better than she could hope for, usually, given she'd not even cut to the point yet. Her hands find the pockets to the jacket she wears to fend off the morning chill, stuffing their way comfortably into them. "Wanted to talk to you about New Mexico," Kara explains, only the slightest conversational lift to her tone. No, she's very serious with this one. Whenever he looks back, he'll see what he can hear in her — the focus on the concern she'd like to dissect.

"You asked, when we regrouped, what happened."

Kara looks off only for a moment, like at the memory itself, before her head shakes once. It's a crisp action, precise. "I still don't know. Not entirely. But it had to do with that … other set of abilities Gray has to her." The thing they had to develop safety protocols around in case of injury — to Eileen, or to others around her, for the protection of all parties. "She lost control. That much was clear."

"I'd never seen that out of her before, and I wanted to ask you, rather than the rest of them." She tilts her chin his way again, her voice mindful. "You've known her longer than I have. You seen anything like that before?" Before.

Kara knew what came in the after she speaks of, after all. Or she thinks she does.

"I've been thinking on it ever since, Lang. I'm worried what happens the next time 'the voices' get to be too much for her." she shares plainly. "We were lucky she was pointed mostly at enemy forces when all hell broke loose." It's not worth openly mentioning how devastating it would have been if that screaming black energy of hers had only had friendly targets to devour.

Lang looks up at Kara, squinting, and he pointedly steps out from the car and pulls down the support rod, closing the hood. “She didn't tell you yet?” There's a hint of something more accusatory in Lang’s tone. “N’that surprises me, because she ain't never been anything but open with us…”

But it doesn't sound like Lang takes Eileen’s silence too seriously. “Yeah, I've seen it before. First time was in Zaire in 2004, watched one old man turn six poachers who were in the wrong place at the wrong time into dust and bones. She inherited his thing,” he says as if that's normal. “It's like Evo herpes or something, but with a mind of its own.”

Lang’s mouth twitches, almost a smile. “Our old bosses’ mind,” is at first opaque, until it suddenly isn't.

“Kazimir Volken.”

Evo herpes, he says. Kara forces out a breath of laughter. As for the rest, she clarifies, "She told me enough." And for a while, that had been the case. "I didn't see a need to go digging for the details. There's enough to deal with 'round here; most of the time I speak with her, it's to take care of that." There's something slightly disapproving in her tone. Kara was always a problem-solver more than a people person. And there had been an abundance of problems to address to keep her busy.

"Sunspot changed that, though. Took it right away from being something to not really worry about to being an actively worry about it kind of issue."

As for the mind in question that drives the power, Kara looks off with a thoughtful sniff, examining what drawers are open already in the wake of Lang's tinkering. "The snake seems to think it's poisoning her," she confides quietly. "And that makes me wonder if that means we have more little spells where she loses control to look forward to."

She looks back with a stern shake of her head. "Too much has been built here. If there's risk of that again in the future, if you see it there, it needs known. Need measures, or something…" There's a flicker of dissatisfaction in her expression for how there's not an immediate, specific suggestion that comes forward.

Kara finally lets out a short sigh to get rid of that. "Kazimir Volken, huh?" She's forced to look back, remember the ethereal growl on the air, the one that bent into Eileen's voice that day. "So that day, there was some voice talking about the death of princes. Likely him, I take it." She slants a look back his way. "It'd be too much to hope he died and it's just the herpes now, wouldn't it?"

It's unlike Kara to ask questions of that nature, so she goes back to asking ones with clearer yes or no answers without waiting for a reply to her hypothetical. "So, you saw Volken use it before. What about her?"

Lang was quiet all through Kara working through the issue, right up until she asked if he’d seen it in use. Closing his eyes, Lang crosses his arms over his chest and slides his tongue across his lips. His eyes focus down at the ground, and his brows furrow. “Yeah,” Lang says in a murmur.

“You could say that.”

Geopoint Scientific Enclosure

LookingGlass Chamber

Boulder, CO

June, 2017

The Bright Timeline

Automatic gunfire tears through the hallway, separating chunks of concrete and conductive metal from the square pylons in the long chamber. Spooled tendrils of power conduits snake across the floor, soldiers in black armor carefully treading over them so as to not trip and leave themselves open.

«Did Goodman just— » Whatever the British officer in the black armor was about to say is cut short as he takes a round to the chest, sending him staggering back as ferromagnetic plates harden to absorb the shock of the flattened round. «Fuck these bloody fucks!» James Woods swings his assault rifle around and checks his right, then dashes ahead to where one of his comrades is ducked behind another column. «We have t’get the fuck out’f here before the self destruct goes off. Canfield— »

Screams fill the air, Woods’, Canfield’s, every single member of the security force fighting off the highly organized attackers. The screams don’t come because of small arms fire, or an explosion, or anything so physical. Instead, it comes as a creepy black haze that slithers through solid objects like snakes. The screams are strangled, anguished, rasping, and then silent. Woods falls backwards and away from the pillar, but when he hits the ground his armor comes apart because there is no one inside the suit.

His empty helmet rolls to a stop at a woman’s booted foot, a trail of ash and crumbling bones between it and his headless armor.

Present Day

“…and she ended it like that.” Lang says with a snap of his fingers. “A whole fuckin’ emergency response team, dead and bones. We stole their armor, those fancy-ass babies we brought to Sunspot, and hopped in that dimensional blender. An’ here we are.” He shrugs, but it’s clear Lang’s left out a lot of the story.

More than a lot.

But it’s enough.

A soft click comes from Kara after a long pause, her first reaction to everything she's taken in. Her face quirks to one side after that before mellowing out, her expression passive as she looks back to Lang. "And here we are," she echoes back, the comment shallow. Her jaw rolls. That black energy sounded like a boon if in a pinch and pointed in the right direction, but she still can't shake her concern about the what if. It's been established the danger of the ability, if nothing else.

Her eyes narrow at that, a cant of her head to one side before she looks back his way. "Well," she opines, giving it another moment of silent thought. For now, she leaves it at: "Guess we hope Evo herpes doesn't start feeling talkative again." Just for now, though. If Lang wants to share more, he will.


"How've you been, anyway?" Her hands have slid from her pockets now, only so she can fold them tightly across her chest. "It's been a while since we've caught up. Between the gala heist and this on-and-off with the roaming robot…" Kara mutters something derisive under her breath about that, unintelligible.

Lang turns away from Kara when she asks that, keeping his back to her as he hunches down beneath the hood of the El Camino, picking up the wrench he was using earlier to pull off rotten hoses. “It’s all good,” is neither an answer nor true. Lang’s been nervous since the events at Sunspot, he’s been extra protective of his daughter, he’s been more of a reclusive doomsday prepper than ever before.

“That tentacled woodchipper ain’t exactly the best neighbor,” Lang admits of the robot, “an’ a good part of me’s wonderin’ if it’s the same one.” He looks at Kara over his shoulder for a moment, then returns his attention to the engine, prying off a mostly rotted hose to drop beside the other one. “Ain’t no way t’tell exactly how many of them there are, I mean asides from the fact that we ain’t up t’our dicks in them.” A soft cling-clang-clink echoes from inside the engine. “Goddamnit.

Lang looks back at Kara again, “Hey, do me a solid and see if you can fit your hand in here and get this host clamp out? I dropped it down between the radiator and the fan. I don’t wanna have t’take the whole fucking thing apart.”

"Only way you could make that sound more unconvincing is if you said 'everything's fine', or worse, 'everything's all right'," Kara observes with a lazy heaviness. She settles back in an idle lean with her arms still folded, trying to read what she can out of him, as little of it as there is to glean. When he looks back over his shoulder, her poker expression holds when he says woodchipper. Singular.

She does stand up straight again though, arms still folded. "'s more'n one," comes out from her in that same dark mutter as before. Kara approaches the side of the car before she speaks with more clarity. "The run in we had back in March — there were two of the damn things. And it was on the road back to here."

Jesus, what if there were more?

Instead of immediately facing that possibility, the work with the engine serves as a good distraction. "All right, move," she grouses, bidding him aside with a wave of her hand. "Doubt I'll have any more luck than you, though. You might be SOL." Only after do her arms actually come unfolded so she can lean over the block and peer down into it. "But," she says with a lift of her brow, she'll try. The engine receives a tilt of her head before she reaches down into it.

"You busy here coming up? Trying to set up a rotation for who takes the Amish into town to sell their produce and goods."

Lang makes a face, part unconvinced and part unimpressed. But neither is directed at Kara. “I ain't had fuck all of much t’do since we set New Mexico on fire. Ain't complaining, neither, but we just about blew ourselves straight t’hell and now Boss Lady’s decided t’kick back and smell the wildflowers?”

Leaning against the side of the car, Lang watches Kara fish for the wrench. “You haven't known her as long as I have. Close, but this ain't horseshoes.” He looks over his shoulder, back to the door and then over to Kara again. “Ever since we left through that fuckin’ doorway t’Neverland, she's been one thing: a soldier. She's had one goal: destroy that fuckin’ machine.” Lang settles a serious look on Kara, then looks down at the old engine.

“I've seen people break under stress. Seen good folks snap an’ do terrible things. I ain't never seen somebody go from General to Gardener overnight like that. We could've pushed into that facility,” Lang says with a roll of his tongue over the inside of his cheek, “we could've won that fight. But she called us back. She called for the retreat.”

Lang drums his fingers on the side of the open hood. “That math ain't ever added up.”

In light of the shift back in the conversation, Kara is taking her time, not immediately looking back up at Lang, but neither focusing on snaking her fingers around the dropped item she can clearly see.

In fact, she's pushing back, bracing her hands against the frame and leaning on them.

"We could have," she acknowledges slowly, shifting her weight as she looks down at the block. "If nothing else we could have pushed in and made sure the fucking machine was destroyed, yeah." It's been months, but her jaw still threatens to lock with how vehemently she disagreed with the decision to pull back. The easy slip in her language is a clear enough indicator for it. "We were too late to stop them from using it, but we could've made it so there's not a next time to worry about with that bullshit."

"The math doesn't really add up, no," Kara admits, reaching in again. "Gray was a liability to us as much as the other force at that point, but she could have dealt with that by removing herself and letting someone else take point. And everything since…" She comes back up with the end of the tool pinched between her index and middle finger. "I don't know." The wrench is caught by her other hand, and she turns it over thoughtfully. "I don't know, Lang."

Kara shifts her gaze back to him as she offers the wrench out. "You're not alone, here. I'm seeing what you're seeing. Could have been plenty of reasons for what she did, maybe even good ones, and I'm not going to try and make excuses for what she did then and the direction things have gone since." She glances to the door again to check it's still only them before looking back. "Same time, though, I'm not going to go rocking the boat about it. Not for the hell of it."

“Not much reason to rock right now,” Lang admits tiredly, “‘cept for sour grapes. An’ that ain't usually worth dyin’ over.” Because the way Lang sees it, the way he's always seen it, is that dissent in the ranks doesn't lead anywhere except into a ditch. He takes the wrench back gladly, twirling it around and carefully pitching it into the top of his open toolbox.

“Mind the coconut,” Lang says as he reaches up to grab the edge of the hood, waiting until Kara’s out from under it before slamming it shut. This is a project car, and no good project is finished overnight.

Leaning up against the fender of the El Camino, Lang scrubs one hand across his mouth. “Now, if a better offer came along? That's hard tellin’, not knowin’. She's been good to us, kept us safe. If that stops… if we ain't safe anymore?” Lang shrugs. “Who knows?”

"She knows her worth there," Kara remarks, standing beside him. Not leaning against the vehicle with him — she's always been the kind to commiserate but never leave room for more. She knows her own worth, too, and it's not found in her emotional depth. "And I think that's why she's doubled down on providing. The amount of money coming in from that Yamagato heist is going to make us richer than small towns actually on the map, and she put herself on the line to make sure it went off without much of a hitch." Her eyes narrow at a spot of rust on the bumper. "She sees the robot for the issue it is and has been working on plans to take care of it with as little danger to us as possible."

"She's playing the long game for our security and paying attention to the short one, too. Making all the right steps to earn and keep loyalty." Kara pauses, circling back to an earlier thought. With a shift of her weight, her arms fold across her chest tightly. Her eyes narrow. "It's just…"

"If this was all we were gonna do we could have done it all out West with half the hassle." she says, unable to keep the soreness about it from her voice. Kara lifts her gaze back to Lang, a slight shake of her head.

It's not exactly true, but it's also not a lie either.

The look on Lang’s face is difficult to read at first. There’s a part of it that looks angry, that kind of restrained and pensive anger. As he steps around the front of the El Camino, Lang’s expression shifts, from that smoldering frustration to relieved acceptance. He rests a hand up on Kara’s shoulder, grip firm.

“I’ve been sayin’ that since we left,” is Lang’s long-belated response, said in hushed and conspiratorial tones. “You ain’t the only one t’think that way, neither’m I.” He lets his hand fall away from Kara’s shoulder as he steps past her, on his way to the door. “One’f these days we’re gonna have t’address that. All’a us.”

Lang pauses, a few paces away from Kara. He looks down at the floor, then back over to her. “We’re a rudderless ship,” he opines, then looks back down to the floor. “I just hope Boss Lady realizes that…” Then, Lang starts toward the door again.

“…before she has a mutiny on her hands.”

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