I'm Not Saying It's Aliens


elisabeth2_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif voss_icon.gif

Scene Title I'm Not Saying It's Aliens
Synopsis Richard and Elisabeth meet with Voss about current events…
Date June 15, 2019

The view out of Raytech’s conference room windows has always been what it is now, cranes instead of trees, vacant lots instead of buildings. Progress is a slow measure at the end of the world, and here in the aftermath of the world’s end, rebuilding is measured in years or longer.

For Kristopher Voss, he is afforded this view through a panoramic window overlooking the rebuilding of Jackson Heights. The paper cup of black coffee afforded to him by Sera is cradled between two hands. His phone rests face-up beside him, flashing with activity every few minutes. A call here, a text there. Raytech’s access to the GhostNet means he can’t escape work even in this remote part of the city.

As he drinks his coffee in quiet contemplation, Voss watches the tallest of the cranes outside slowly track from left to right across the flat skyline, carrying a bundle of steel I-beams along with it. It’s only when the entire window is interrupted by the presence of a massive dump truck rolling past, followed by a truck full of mechanical Yamagato Industries tetsujin automatons does he finally blink.

Voss looks down at the clock on his phone, then turns his head towards the door at his back. Toward the sound of approaching footsteps.

Conference Room

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

Jackson Heights, NYC Safe Zone

June 15th


“Sorry I kept you waiting,” says Richard as he opens the door, flashing a disarming smile, “I was in the middle of setting up a project, you know how people can be if you don’t give them proper instructions.”

He adjusts his tie absently as he walks along over to the table, easing himself down to sit across from the other man, “So what can I do for you, Deputy Director Voss? I’m surprised it’s taken you this long to stop by, actually.”

Voss spread his hands, flipping his phone face down and taking a sip of his coffee. “I’ve been busy,” is his dry assertion. “You probably already know that Elisabeth came to Liberty Island to talk to one Alphonse Baumann, and I imagine she already gave you all the details of their meeting. I wanted to come here to talk shop, because I know you’re back on your bullshit,” he says with a smile, taking another sip of his coffee, “and I figured we could just make it something official.”

Setting down his coffee, Voss picks up his phone and unlocks the screen with a swipe of his thumb. “I brought a present, too…” he says quietly, thumbing through something.

“Someone needs to be on this bullshit,” is Richard’s return quip, a brow lifting over the edge of dark glasses and smile tugging up at the same corner as if pulled by a string, “I have the best resume for it, as it turns out. As far as official, I was talking with Kenner, but…”

His hands spread a little, “Suddenly all of that work was apparently thrown in the garbage, for reasons I’m still unclear about.”

They fold again, then, and he leans forward slightly, “I do like presents, though.”

Voss looks up at Richard when Kenner’s name is invoked, then back down to his phone as if nothing had ever been said. “I went digging into some old archives that our mutual friend Claudia had lying around,” he says casually, as if the combined information of the Company, Institute, and Vanguard was someone’s old mail, “and I found this lovely postcard photo from 1960.”

Turning his phone around, Voss slides it across the table to Richard. “See anyone you recognize?

Which has to be a joke, because it’s full of people he recognizes. Jonas Zimmerman and Chandra Suresh in the foreground, in lab coats, standing by a wooden sign that haunts Richard’s nightmares.



Voss’ expression is a flat one devoid of amusement. “Take a look at the soldiers in the background,” he says, making a little pinch and zoom motion with his fingers. “Right behind Chandra Suresh’s right shoulder, there’s two soldiers smoking. The one on the left facing away from the camera… look at his nametag.”

And there it is.


“Fun, huh?” Voss says with a raise of his brows. “It’s like pulling up your carpet and finding black mold, except its an ex-nazi in America’s second go-around at concentration camps.”

Any humor bleeds from Richard’s expression as he looks over the photo, as he recognizes the buildings, the people, the sign. There’s silence for a few moments, and then he leans back in his chair with a muffled creak.

“That’s where it all started, here in the States,” he observes quietly, “No doubt in the disaster that ripped the place apart, Monroe made contact with— hell, he may have arranged the disaster, so— found some of the people he started the Company with. Scratch the surface of history in its nastiest places and you’ll find Monroe wandering around, I’ve noticed.”

Dryly, “He just seems to end up there.”

“I’ve been trying to round out my collection of Adam Monroe memorabilia to tell on Alibaba, and I was thinking you might’ve found a couple more mint condition trading cards since the last time we met?” Voss asks, taking his phone back. “We’re doing our damnedest to put a pin in his ass, but when he’s got at least a dozen asses, that starts to get more complex.”

Tucking the phone in his jacket, Voss leans back in the chair, then fusses with the recliner bar so he can lean back a little further. He grabs his coffee, crossing one leg over the other. “We’ve got Monroe pegged as a financial backer of Praxis Heavy, which has made the President— very unhappy. Praxis has been less than forthcoming about it, as expected. Secretary Chesterfield’s flying out to China tomorrow to meet with their executive board and talk with the Chinese PM. So that’s going to be an international cluster-fuck. We don’t have an actual signed document saying he’s running the whole fucking company, and even if we did China might just tell us to fuck all the way off.”

Taking a swig of his coffee, Voss looks out the windows. “California Safe Zone is a whole other fucking issue, as you might imagine. In our haste to not burn to the ground, the President made the same deal with Praxis we did with Yamagato. So their little fiefdom inside the CSZ is a sovereign state, so if we so much as walk a loaded gun across the border we’re potentially declaring war with a company that has giant spider tanks.” Voss’ brows raise and he takes another long swig of coffee.

“How’s your morning been?” Voss asks, never mind that it’s almost sunset.

A humorless smile touches Richard’s expression at the quip, hands folding over his chest as he regards the other man. “I can verify that Monroe’s the force behind Praxis,” he admits, “I don’t have any hard evidence, but it’s true all the same. He’s also influencing the triads, and it seems fairly likely he’s also got Mazdak since a bunch of them just tried to murder me in the middle of the Safe Zone not too long ago. I don’t think I was the target, but the actual target only makes sense if it’s Monroe…”

One shoulder lifts in a slight shrug, “The Praxis hack also suggests that he’s the force behind the Institute Remnant, which is just thrilling news, let me tell you.”

A pause, “I can’t help much with the spider-tanks, though. You made it illegal for us to build any sort of horrible mechanical weapons, which is why I’ve been making corn lately, and most of my old combat-worthy operatives all joined Wolfhound after the war.”

“If we wanted any of that we’d ask,” is all Voss says about that. “When Wolfhound hit Sunstone we received plenty of confirmation of his involvement with Praxis and the holdovers from the Institute. Pete Varlane also coughed that up. We did, however, get some interesting information from Varlane about a woman named Erica Kravid. Opportunistic, sharp, dangerous. She worked for your evil fucking twin on a few projects here and there and apparently helped build that doomsday device that you blew up in Alaska.”

Voss takes another sip of his coffee, thinking about how to frame the news. He chooses straightforward. “We’ve got reason to believe that as of November 8th, 2011, there’s been two Erica Kravids running around. One from this timeline, and one from who the fuck knows where. When we picked up Bruce Maddox from Wolfhound, he gave us this sob story about surviving Natazhat and getting picked up by Kravid, even though she didn’t seem to know where she was or what was happening. Everything Maddox told me confirms that Kravid might have come through when you kicked time in the dick back there…” Setting down his coffee cup, Voss looks up from it to Richard.

“Which is becoming a problem. Travelers.” Voss looks tense as he reaches into his jacket, retrieving a wristwatch that he sets down on the table and pushes toward Richard, much as he did his phone earlier. The watch is a little dinged up, dented and scratched. “This is a Retriever Beacon, according to the files we have on it. It’s a GPS tracker and uses the same Compass technology their fucking robots had. We’ve got a brain at SESA, Dana Carrington, who’se been analyzing the info from Sunspot. She thinks that it might be possible to tune something like this into the frequency of electromagnetics from other— what— strings?” Voss isn’t a scientist.

“So part of this exchange is my asking you if you and your super genius mother and mad scientist brother would be interested in,” Voss taps the watch, “taking this apart, and making it do that thing. Because this is rapidly becoming a situation where we don’t know who or what came from other timelines and the President wants to clear up any uncertainty on surprise doppelgangers replacing heads of state.”

Richard unfolds his hands, reaching over to pick up the watch. “Superstrings,” he corrects quietly, turning over the dented device in his hand, “And— yes. I’ve considered the possibilities already, although since Compass research is illegal I haven’t pursued it.” A brow lifts a little over his shades, regarding the other man as he reminds him of the legality of such research.

“Erica’s a dangerous woman. And should probably be shot in the fucking face on sight,” he observes, “Any iteration of her should be, honestly, the woman is toxic. I suspect that my ‘evil twin’ as you call him actually tried to nuke her during the attack on the Ark, rather than leave her free…”

The watch is set down, “We could make it work. Hell, we could put satellites in orbit that could detect a superstring overlay anywhere on the planet. There’s just the issues of the legality of that research, and the fact that it overreaches our project budget by several zeroes.”

“Let’s— ” Voss motions to the watch again, “start with a fun little wristwatch before we decide to go full Moonraker, okay? I want to have something that we don’t need to launch into space in a foreign country. Budget concerns notwithstanding, as the United States isn’t exactly daddy warbucks these days. But as far as the legality goes, let’s consider this a good-faith exercise that’s less likely to split the fucking universe in half. We’ll provide you with the Institute’s research data on the compass technology, and Agent Carrington, and the work can be done here,” he motions around at the building. “But nothing you do with this— it’s all black, you understand. Nothing out, not a fucking peep. Because as you can probably imagine John Q. Public gets really nervous when the government starts researching this shit.”

Sighing, Voss grabs his coffee and takes a long sip, because he knows he’s going to need it for what comes next. “That said, what do you have for me?” He looks across the table at Richard, one brow raised.

“In the end, everything comes into the light, Director Voss,” Richard observes with a slow shrug of one shoulder, “I can keep things secret, but even the Company’s decade-long redaction is falling apart now— not even the Magi could keep it buried forever. You may want to remember that. Kenner and I were in agreement that being open about things was a safer policy in the long run…”

“Maybe I’m just paranoid,” he admits, “But I pay attention to patterns, Voss, and the sudden shifts in positions and authority have me rather worried these days. I trusted Kenner. How do I know I can trust your organization these days?”

He motions a bit towards the other man, “Did Claudia have any input on the decision to make that deal with Praxis Heavy, when it was made?” A very random question, it might seem.

“Don’t worry about Donald,” is all Voss says on the topic, leaning back in his seat. “No matter what we wanted to do or not do about publicity it’s ultimately the President’s call, and President Praeger made that call. We stepped in line to follow through. As for… Claudia?” Voss looks momentarily puzzled. “No, that’s not exactly in SESA’s purview.”

“You don’t have to trust me, Richard. That’s the beauty of my having the authority and you being a private citizen. You don’t have much choice other to trust me, unless you want to start the last ugly mess all over again. But the way I see it? We haven’t come down on you for your pet tiger, or any number of other things that aren’t nearly as well-hidden in a world of oracles and seers as you might think…” which is Voss’ way of agreeing with Richard, without necessarily having the liability of saying so.

“I don’t work for Claudia, I don’t work for you, I don’t work for the President at the end of the day,” Voss says with a spread of his hands, “I work for America. So, take that as you will, because I’m asking a second time…”

Voss takes a sip of his coffee. “What do you have for me?”

“Keep that in mind, Voss,” says Richard, an unreadable smile briefly crossing his expression, “Do keep that in mind.”

He gestures vaguely with one hand, fingers brushing through the air, “We have reason to believe that there is an imminent threat to the survival of humanity in the form of an entity whose true nature is still misunderstood but which is terrifyingly powerful. It shows up in several ancient mythologies and may, in fact, be what remains of the first Evolved.”

A steady look at the other man, “Adam has faced it in the past… at least twice. Previously it was imprisoned in the nothingness between strings, but escaped again somehow. We believe that Adam is planning a way to defeat it, but he’s chosen a path that’s not going to be good for anyone in its way, since the ancient sonuvabitch seems to always think ‘killing lots of people’ is a solution for everything.”

As he talks, his hand drops to a piece of paper on the desk and he casually writes out something before sliding it over — assuming, perhaps, that the man is recording the conversation for posterity.

Also, Adam is Claudia’s ex-husband says the paper, although she may not remember it.

The door behind Richard opens to admit Elisabeth, and she closes it quietly behind her. A wordless look at Richard conveys that the other situation is at least quieted down. Blue eyes flicker to Voss and she greets him with a nod. "Director. It's good to see you again." She takes a long swallow of the coffee in her hand and then drops the empty cup in the trash can by the door.

She apparently at least caught the last part of what was said before she stepped in (damn audiokinetics), and she picks up a thread of it to add on to what Richard's told him. "I've been thinking about this for quite a while, and I believe that it orchestrated its own escape using the Looking Glass. If what really happened in 1979 was that was when they fought it and managed to pin it between strings —" she told Richard about the part of the conversation she and Voss had regarding Adam attempting genocide then — "and if its reach is as wide as we suspect, it would actually make sense. The 1982 situation happened by an activation of the Looking Glass machine when it wasn't even plugged in or otherwise connected to any power source."

It's a detail she's never mentioned. It was something Ria told her almost in passing as she told Liz about what happened that day, but it's been percolating in Elisabeth's mind since that conversation.

Voss’ hand slowly moves over the paper Richard handed him and crumples it against his palm as Elisabeth talks, then tucks it into his jacket without another word. He looks from Richard to Elisabeth, going as far as moving his chair to the side and sitting so he can regard them both in his peripheral vision. “Yes this— topic.” Any discussion of what came through the Looking Glass with them makes Voss prickle.

“Before we get into the weeds on this,” Voss says with a motion to Richard, “ancient aliens or— what have you.” He looks back to Elisabeth and vaguely waves one hand in the air. “At any point when you were careening through an experience that would make H. G. Welles soil himself… were you aware of the possibility that whatever this thing is actually existed?” His brows raise and he looks back to Richard. “Either of you? Or were we all equally blindsided by the thing the surviving agents are still seeing a therapist over?”

The door opens, and Richard looks over to flash a brief smile to Elisabeth before turning back to regard their guest.

At the question, Richard’s brows both go up. “I held a briefing about it,” he observes, “There were multiple SESA agents present, did they…” He glances back to Liz, then to Voss, “Did nobody file a report about it?” He sounds rather exasperated, one hand coming up to rub between his eyes, shades pushed up a bit with the motion.

“Nobody listens. Yes. We were aware of the existence of the Entity but after several jumps it had not shown itself,” he says in more tense tones, “Also we had never heard of it manifesting as a giant lightning monster before, so that was new.”

The response sends Elisabeth's eyebrow quirking. She considers her reply and finally answers slowly, "We knew there was something." Her pause is more to get her thoughts in order about to describe what she knew than a way to stall.

"As we worked with Mateo to open the portal from the Virus world, there was … an incident. With a voice." Her tone is grim as she remembers. "He'd always heard it. He just.. thought it was in his head, not something else." So she's known since basically the beginning. The explanations could get long here, and she drags her hand down her face, lowering herself to a seat next to Richard. "It wasn't until I started getting settled back here in New York that I really realized the extent. And truth be told, the idea that it orchestrated its own escape…"

There's a heavy sigh. "God. Okay… There's a lot. I'm trying for short versions." How the fuck even to put it to words. "Coming through Mateo's portal the last time, syncing it with the Looking Glass device, … we saw things. A whole host of timelines. I think that it's something about how the Looking Glass does what it does, something at the quantum levels, that opens the way for it to get free." Elisabeth grimaces. "We knew there were significant risks, Director. But in Arthur's world, they ripped open that hole long before we even tried." She glances at Richard. "It's how Cassandra from Arthur's world got to the Wasteland world like a year or more ahead of us. She had to escape through an unstable version. It's been a question in my head since I found out about the Remnant being here why she landed there but they landed here."

Voss looks unsurprised, his attention focused down in the steaming surface of what remains of his coffee. He nods, lifting the cup up to take a sip, making a thoughtful sound the whole while as he does. There’s no way on God’s green earth that Voss wasn’t aware of the briefing Richard had, even if it was before he was the deputy-director, there were SESA agents at the meeting who filed reports.

Nursing his coffee in both hands, Voss shifts his weight in his seat to look up at Liz more directly. “Okay,” is all he says after all of that, then swivels a look over to Richard, “so we have an Expressive,” he refuses to use the other E-Word, “that somehow was… living? Trapped? Between timelines, which in and of itself is unbelievable enough to say, but there’s a guy in Ohio who can turn people to gold, so…” he waves one hand in the air, “we live in weird times.”

“This Expressive,” Voss says with a look down to his coffee, “you say was maybe trapped sometime before the 1980s, and something the Company did back then — or your mother — or God knows what combination lets it run free. The Company collectively shits their pants and finds a way to push it back through the interdimensional doggy-door.” Voss nods, taking another small sip of his coffee. “For whatever reason, they make everyone who knew anything about it forget, like some kind of witch’s curse. And now we’re here, and whoever it is they kicked out of reality is back and upset…” He nods, slowly.

“So the questions are — and these might not have answers, but I’m spitballing here — ” Voss looks between Elisabeth and Richard, “why?” His brows rise. “Why were they trapped? Why were they able to escape in the 1980s? Why did they wait until now to come back out. Like you said,” he motions to Elisabeth, “this isn’t the first time we’ve had a dimensional hop. If Kravid came over in Natazhat in 2011, why didn’t it show up then before we knew fuck-all about it?” He looks back to Richard. “Why didn’t it show up in the…” he slides his tongue over his teeth, “wasteland? If Cassandra was hopping around as Elisabeth says. Why didn’t it show it’s Gozer the Gozarian self anytime before right when it did?

Voss breathes in slowly, then exhales a groaned sigh. “Because I feel like if we start to speculate on answers to that, it’ll raise new questions, which’ll have meaty answers. This is basically a first-contact scenario and — let me tell you the government actually has those protocols — and if this Expressive came from a literal space-between-spaces? Is it human? I’m leaning to yes, because they seem to have motivations we can even kind of understand. I’m of the thought that something alien would think like an alien. But trust me, the A-word’s been thrown around and I’m not saying its aliens. At all.”

“To the best of my knowledge it was human at some point,” Richard says with a tight shake of his head, “These days— well. It depends on how you define human. It isn’t widely known, but there are several people who have survived beyond death due to their abilities, and I’m not just talking about Rebel either.”

His hands drop down against the table, and he leans forward, “Those are all questions we’ve been asking, but unfortunately the Company hid most of the answers from us. The only good sources we’d have are Monroe and Melchior— one isn’t talking, and the other disappeared just when I was about to find him.” There’s frustration in his tone there, lips twisting in a grimace, “I’ve been fighting the urge to make a deal with the damn devil just to find him.”

Leaning back again, he admits, “It’s possible that it needed certain— alignments of the magnetosphere before it could come through, which is why it was able to at the height of the auroral storm. Or it may have been waiting for certain individuals to be present for it to reach out to…” Eve.

“The worst possibility of all is that, if it has a non-linear relationship with time, it knew this was the best chance for it to succeed.”

Well… she's really glad he's not saying it's aliens. Because then we'd be dealing with comic books again, and Elisabeth really fucking hates it when Magnes is right about that kind of shit. It sort of skews her worldview. She settles her elbows on the table while she listens to Richard's reply, formulating her own carefully. The years of working in different timelines haven't given her superbrains or made her an expert on physics and quantum mechanics… but it did give her companions who in fact did study those things and they tried to give her a good working understanding. It's… still a layperson's understanding, though, and severely limited.

"Because none of those other times combined had all three components in sync," she answers. "When we came through, we had a high power level running into the portal itself and I'm not entirely sure what you did on your end, but on our end, we could hear your transmission, sort of. But it was a mess. The sound waves were … for lack of a better descriptor, they were crashing into one another like cross-tides. We fried the transmitter, and that was when they realized we never needed the machine at all. Magnes was basically able to resonate with his ability to the right frequency down to the quantum level and I had to stabilize the quantum resonance field while he literally shoved dark matter down the portal's maw. Michelle said it was something like a symphony. And it may have required the other factors like the atmospheric situation, too, or the solar particles themselves. In the Bright world, I was warned that there were specific times that would send me where I was going. And maybe… those specifics are what trapped it too."

She pauses and considers. "Think about this," she offers quietly. "You asked opinions about why… so here's a partial set of thoughts. We know that it can travel hosts. We know that it is incredibly powerful. We suspect that it can actually alter DNA on the fly. There are some indicators that it is either the first Evolved or it is where the first Evolved came from. It is old. Ancient, even. We also know the conduits — the ability that Volken had, among others — have two aspects, we call them light and dark. We know that parts of it have been attached to other people — when it came through the portal, it retrieved those bits. So maybe it was partially here in some fashion the whole time, but couldn't come all the way through.

"Given the idea that the entit— PERSON," she says, trying to make him less jumpy, "ultimately had an ability to split itself among hosts like that, and given Adam Monroe has been around for 400 fucking years, it is entirely possible he knew at some point who and what it was and over those centuries… maybe they've literally been in a fight. The whole… angels versus demons mythos or various mythologies of fights among the gods. Those would all fit this thought. And maybe whatever it was they did in 1979 — or whenever they actually collectively shit their pants and pulled out all the stops — weakened it significantly enough to trap it, at least partially, and then basically it took time for it to build up its strength. To recover.

"But it was recovering between superstrings where — because, as we've learned, time is not a line — it could see infinite outcomes. Like we did coming through. Maybe whatever it is that weakened the quantum barrier that kept it away happens naturally every so often with solar activity or something, too. But in this case, sheer human curiosity gave it a bump. In 1982, Michelle Cardinal built a machine that could at least partially do what it needed. So it… put in motion a plan that would guarantee that the machine would continue to be developed in at least one timeline. Managed somehow to shove enough electricity into a completely unpowered device to overload it. Sent a bunch of us scattering.

"Michelle never stopped looking for her son, and human nature being what it is, other people never stopped wanting the power they thought the machine could give them. Because of the way time works, the continued development of the Looking Glass machine then happened in multiple timelines as the original split time and again. But it only partially worked, and perhaps what happened in 2011 and all our subsequent traveling started a cascade effect. The Overlay may have been just the warning that the barrier between worlds was breaking down. And this year, when we finally had all the pieces in place — we opened the door. It didn't happen before because maybe it needed a certain confluence of powers and quantum entanglement between the parties — like Mateo had with his other selves — to actually fully open the way." Something else suddenly hits her. "It spoke through Remi," she remembers. In the chaos of those last moments, she'd barely heard Remi.

It's a whole lot of maybe, and a whole lot of words. Elisabeth looks between them, rather sheepish. Like she expects them to tell her she's insane. "It's … not really a fully formed theory, but it seems to fit all the facts that I've learned over four timelines…" She trails off. She's usually unwilling to offer these thoughts, even to Richard, more comfortable in her role of field leadership. She got her people home, Isabelle and Magnes and even Kaito were the science brains.

Maybe it would have been simpler if it were aliens.

Voss’ expression is the picture of placidity by the time Elisabeth finishes that long theory. His head angles to the side, like a dog trying to make sense of an unusual sound, but it doesn’t show in his eyes. He reaches for his coffee, taking a loud sip, then looks over at Richard and then back to Elisabeth. Sliding his tongue across the inside of his cheek, Voss looks down to the floor instead, then back up to Richard/. “Mnhmm,” is the only response he really gives, blinking his attention finally back to Elsabeth one last time.

“So it’s the villain from Ghostbusters II,” Voss says quietly, looking down to his coffee and then back up to Elisabeth. “Okay,” is anything but. “ That’s… certainly a string of things. Interpretations. I mean when we have zero facts, anything goes, I suppose.” Looking back to Richard, Voss blinks a few times as everything Elisabeth says just keeps rattling around in his head. He loses his train of thought, instead returning to the well of his coffee for one last sip, tipping the cardboard cup up as far as it can go before he pitches it with a plak-clak against the far wall and then down into the wastebasket.

“Melchior,” Voss says quietly, changing the subject in small degrees, “is a man named Martin Pines, if you weren’t already aware. We managed to squeeze that out of Baumann after Elisabeth showed up last time. Unfortunately, that intersects with another case SESA is currently working. Pines disappeared on the 8th from the Church of the Ascension across town. Not abducted, just… disappeared. No one saw or heard anything, just one minute he was there and another…” Voss spreads his hands.

“Round about the same time, Mazdak performed an attack on the WSZR building he owns. You probably saw that in the news,” Voss says, which implies he isn’t aware Richard was there. “We spoke to one of Pines’ employees who fended off the attackers, she says she and a guest to the studio fled to the roof and managed to escape. We found one of the Mazdak men,” Voss puts a hand over his face, then moves his hand, “without half of his face. Which, as far as we know neither of the two women there could do, so… we’re trying to figure out what’s going on.”

Jolene didn’t rat him out is what’s going on.

“We’re working with the CIA on the Mazdak angle, which isn’t moving quickly. But given that they’re pro-expressive extremists, targeting Pines feels less like terrorism and more like an attempted kidnapping. We found negation gas canisters on scene, which means Iraq might still be producing the gas. They weren’t old US-issue. They were new…” But Voss digresses, shrugging.

Anyway…” Voss says with a sigh, “SESA is at a bit of an impasse right now. Plenty of resources, not a lot of directions to turn to that aren’t dead ends.”

At the mention of Remi, Richard frowns slightly— the rest gets a bit of a nod, though. “Really, given the data we have it’s as best an explanation as any,” he admits, looking back to Voss, the man’s words only making his expression grimmer.

“I know about Pines,” he admits, “I tried to get to him but— someone else must’ve gotten there first. I’m hoping it wasn’t Monroe’s people, but I know that’s a slim hope. Unfortunately unless you’ve got Samson Grey’s phone number— and have a way to get the sonuvabitch to do us a favor without murdering us— I don’t know any clairsentients with the sort of ability to locate him.”

He sighs, leaning back in his chair with a creak, “Were any of the Mazdak operatives captured? Are they working with Monroe after all? I know the triad, over on Staten, is working with him… we might be able to flush something out under the guise of a crackdown on their operations.”

“There are a few— old Company and Institute bases that we could check for recent intrusion or current operation, too. If you want some suggestions.”

Elisabeth simply leans back in her chair to listen for a few minutes. In some ways, getting her thoughts out there makes her feel like she's done her due diligence — Voss can't say she hasn't told him shit — but it is speculation. So eh. Not as helpful as she'd like it to be, certainly.

The information that one of the operatives was found without a face doesn't appear to weird her out any more than any other bit of information, but she does cast Richard a sideways look briefly. A carefully mildly interested one that looks like she's listening to his suggestion. She'll ask questions later though.

"I don't know what the particular plans are for a crackdown on Staten in general, but it was a cesspit before I left and I doubt it's better now. The Triad…" She sighs. "Seems a never ending battle on that front."

“You both may get your wishes soon enough,” Voss says with a slow motion of one hand to the direction of Staten Island. “You may have noticed the 91st military battalion hasn't pulled out of their base in the harbor yet…” Raising his brows, Voss shrugs, as if that's all he can say about that. “But, that's not my purview right now.”

“The Mazdak operatives that were alive when the military police showed up fought back and were killed, unfortunately. We’re not clear on their motivations, but we've known they've been in the country for at least a decade.” Voss’ revelation there is delivered with a simple and factual tone, as if discussing the weather.

“Some nine years ago or so they had a gun battle in DC with some people you might remember from the old days,” Voss looks at Elisabeth and then Richard, “Noah Bennet and Brian Winters.” Briefly, Voss looks to where his coffee was and frowns disappointedly. “Bennet was informing for the Petrelli administration in order to buy freedom for people the Ferrymen were smuggling in. He and Secretary Parkman had some sort of arrangement worked out where Bennet would feed the government dangerous Expressives in exchange for Parkman turning a blind eye to others…”

Shrugging, Voss doesn't seem to have a thought one way or another about that. “Bennet was in custody of a man named Amid Halibi at the time, and he had intended on handing him over to the government… but Mazdak interceded. They knew where Halibi would be and fought Institute retriever teams and the Ferrymen. They didn't ultimately get Halibi…” Voss admits with a rise of his brows, “but he's dead now so it doesn't matter.”

Tapping his finger on the table, Voss does share something that he thinks does matter. “Since you brought Mazdak up… are either you familiar with what happened in Tajikistan in January of 2011?” The location and date are unfamiliar to both Richard and Elisabeth. “According to testimony we received from both Odessa Price and Veronica Sawyer, the Institute attempted an operation in Tajikistan under the authorization of a man named Roger Goodman to rescue Amid Halibi’s daughter Lucine from Mazdak…”

Voss leans back in his chair and folds his hands. “In the village they'd been told to find her in, Goodman and his team found Mazdak had tunneled into an international Pinehearst research facility. They were performing experiments that we — in the intelligence community — had no frame of reference for at the time. When the Institute finished their exfiltration of Halibi, the US military moved in and flattened the site. But,” Voss points a finger in the air, “all these years later, with access to the Institute’s archives, we have the recon photos from Goodman’s team…”

Voss raises one brow slowly. “How much have you heard about Project Gemini?

“I… are you saying that Mazdak was working on Gemini?” Richard’s brow furrows in sharp concern, and he glances to Elisabeth before looking back to Voss, “Christ. Adam was working even back then… no wonder the sonuvabitch dropped off our radar.”

He leans back a bit, one hand coming up to rub between his eyes, “…and remind me to go hunt down Bennet and punch him in his smug fucking face for that. I didn’t realize, but I’m not surprised. Gemini, though— “

His hand drops, and he nods, “I’m familiar with Gemini. A research branch away from Pinehearst’s Formula research, a different way of artificially inducing abilities— in this case via artificial transference. Monroe’s people seem to have completed the project.”

As she shares the glance at the name Gemini, Elisabeth breathes out, "Jesus." There's a long sigh from her while she considers. Closing her eyes, she's forced to laugh. No fucking frame of reference. Jesus fucking Christ.

"Just keeps on giving, doesn't it?" Rubbing her forehead, she looks up at Voss. "What are the recon photos giving you that you're asking about?" Because obviously he wouldn't be bringing it up without reason.

Pinehearst was working on Gemini,” Voss says, “overseas. Mazdak seems to have co-opted the research for themselves, possibly on Adam’s order or he has some sort of arrangement with them. We don't fully understand the connection between Adam and Mazdak, and — honestly — we don't have any proof that they're connected other than an educated guess and that they seem to share similar ideals.”

Spreading his hands, Voss slouches back in his chair and looks over at Elisabeth. “The recon photos showed what Mazdak was doing. I don't have them on hand, but the hardware we found in Sunstone that the Institute was using to perfect the Gemini research was what Mazdak had started a decade ago. That means that as early as 2011 people may have been undergoing Gemini modifications. Short-lived, if their pre-completion tasks were any indication. But…” Voss shakes his head. “Now? We think they have the capability to make stable mosaics. Potentially as many as they want, if they managed to extract the data they needed from Sunstone before Wolfhound got there.”

Voss presses the flat of his palms to the table. “An army of mosaics.” He looks from Elisabeth to Richard. “Potentially.”

“Wonderful,” Richard grimaces, one hand coming up to rub the middle of his forehead with two fingers, “The last I’d heard, the Gemini process destabilized the subject after multiple infusions, inevitably leading to death. If they’ve gotten around that problem… yeah, that could be bad. On top of all of the Adam Monroe clones…”

A slow breath is drawn in, then exhaled, and he looks back to Liz, “We’ve been completely outmaneuvered. He has all the resources, all the alliances, and has potentially infiltrated— well, everything but us, and we can’t even be one-hundred percent there.”

For a long moment, Elisabeth studies his face, her thoughts hidden behind a carefully neutral expression. But when her lips quirk upward at one corner, the look she gives him is amused. "Have we ever come into it not outmanned, outgunned, outmaneuvered, and out of our element?" Her tone is dry. "We haven't lost yet."

It doesn't have the tone of arrogance, it's just simple faith in their ability to stand up to whatever comes next. She looks at Voss. "The only thing the whole lot of us can do is keep working the problem. We don't have the answers, but as you've already figured out? We don't give up either, so… we just work with what we have. Keep following the leads."

“The key is together,” Voss says with an incline of his head to Elisabeth. “Not just because the government wants to see things transparently, but because the eyes of the world are on us, because the United Nations observers are still keeping a close eye on everything. Civilian or otherwise. Because if we maintain communication, if we make the system work… we’re a united front.”

But with that, Voss rises from the chair and straightens his jacket. “Kumbaya, hold hands, sing songs. Whatever it takes.” He looks down to the chair he'd been siting in, then up to Elisabeth and Richard. “Otherwise? Who the fuck knows what the future holds. But whatever it is… we won't be in it.”

Voss buttons his coat closed, then looks to the door. “And that's where we leave it. The ball is in your court with the Compass tech, with being a third-party contractor to… you know, do things.” Voss straightens his glasses. “Just— please stop using that Lamont Cranston login? And email? And healthcare plan?

He grimaces.

“That's fraud.”

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