I'm Not You


kaylee_icon.gif luther_icon.gif lynette_icon.gif mateo_icon.gif varlane_icon.gif

Scene Title I'm Not You
Synopsis What secrets lie within the mind of Magnes J. Varlane?
Date October 20, 2018

A chair crashes against the wall.

“It's not fair!”

A table is flipped over, throwing checkers and a board onto the carpet. The ground trembles softly, furniture starts to move of its own accord, lights flicker off and on.

He told me I was special!

Six minutes ago, Luther was playing checkers with Varlane in the safe house level of the Benchmark building. The pair were enjoying a hot cup of tea, waiting for Kaylee to arrive once she'd gotten through morning traffic. Lynette had just stepped out of the room to talk to Mateo.

I was special! Me! I wasn't the clone!

Then, this.

I can't be the clone! I can't! I can't!

Varlane stands in the middle of the common room, clutching his head and rocking back and forth, socked feet scuffing the floor and face bright red with frustration. His eyes are wide, filled with tears, and he acts like he doesn't even see Luther across from him on an adjacent sofa. A low, trembling hum is slowly building in the air.

You’re the clone! You! You!

He'd managed to duck the chair, but Luther gets a table and checkers flipped his way and he scrambles to his feet and out of the way. The originally Los Angeleno handles himself like he were in an earthquake situation when the ground trembles beneath his shoes, even though the epicenter is a young man having an existential crisis before his eyes.

"Hey, buddy, look at me," he calls to Varlane, trying to slide into the attentions of the distraught one and de-escalate his distress. "You're alright. You're good. Talk to me. Who’s calling you a clone? Tell me what's going on." The ground might be a little unstable, but Luther firms his tone to a steady one. His eyes don't leave the young man, though he's listening for anybody else coming into the room in a hurry if they're investigating the shouting and electricity flickering.

The shouting brings Lynette back into the room, holding the door open rather than coming deeper into the space. Luther is fielding it for now, and she's willing to see how he gets on. Plus, crowding Varlane is not the best idea. She glances behind her to see if Mateo is following or if Kaylee is on her way back, too. But her attention stays mostly on the pair and the tossed table.

She's seen these moments. Here in the building. During war. In herself, sometimes. Her team can handle a lot, but she's not sure they're really prepared for the identity problems that a clone would have. Some clones, anyway.

Not long after Lynette, Mateo does follow, head tilting to the side in curiosity at the appearance of the man. He looks vaguely like the one from that recording— the one that had him and Lynette, even if they did not look exactly as they should. From another world, they had said and he had believed. But this man wasn’t from another world, or not what he’d briefly been told. No, this man was something else entirely.

Yelling did not strike him as strange. Certain people that stayed in the Benchmark had episodes like this, after all. That was not unusual. But that he’d been called in certainly was. “Is he going to be okay?” he asks with a upturn of an eyebrow, voice soft, trying not to interrupt too much.

Even before the telepath shows up at the door, offering a soft “Excuse me” to the couple at the door, Kaylee’s ability is winding around Varlane’s mind offering soothing thoughts. “He’s not okay, but with hope we can get some answers on how to help him.” She hopes among all the questions they have about this strange person who looks like Magnes, yet isn’t.

Blue eyes are focused on Varlane as she approaches, a gentle smile on her lips. “Good morning, Varlane.” The greeting pleasantly offered, by the telepath, even as her ability. She holds up a bag, “I’m sorry, I’m late. I thought you might be hungry, so I brought you donuts and some chocolate milk.” She opens the bag and looks in it, “It’s not Dunkin’ Donuts, but they are not bad.”

Closing the bag again, Kaylee offers it out to him, “You look, much better today. Did you sleep well?” It’s a tone, she uses with her own kids, calm and pleasant.

Like a candle flame deprived of oxygen, the psychosis and vitriol displayed by Varlane diminishes the closer Kaylee comes to the floor. It's an obvious and external torpor coming over him, like drugs suddenly taking effect, but Lynette's put nothing in Varlane’s food. She needn't. Not when Kaylee is a sedative all to herself, when she wants to be.

Magnes said it,” is Varlane’s distant and confused response to Luther’s question as the harmonic rumble in the room dies down and the furniture stops shaking. A look of shame and guilt comes over Varlane’s expression when he sees what his tantrum wrought, and he just… settles down and sits cross-legged on the floor, balled up fists pressed against his head and eyes wrenched shut.

“I'm sorry,” Varlane mumbles, gently tapping his knuckles against his skull in a steady beat. “I'm sorry Mr. and Ms. Ruiz. I'm sorry Mr. Bellamy.” He frowns, shoulders hunched forward. “I'm sorry Ms. Bellamy.”

Mention of Magnes causes Luther to frown, but at least the shaking’s stopped and the others have arrived to take up the handling. The man slowly eases the line of tension invisibly holding in his shoulder posture, blinking a few times. Then he turns to pick up the pieces of checkers and right the upturned furniture. An apologetic look is sent to Lynette and Mateo, the man remarking in a quieter aside, “All I said was ‘king me’, not that it couldn’t have sounded like ‘clone me’.” He shrugs, still.

Catching the young man’s contrite look, Luther adds, “You’re okay kid, really. Look around, nobody’s mad.” That is, until Varlane apologizes, and then the last part of Ms. Bellamy enters the conversation. Luther straightens up abruptly, shooting a glance to Kaylee, then back to Varlane. “What?” he utters in brief confusion.

“Not for a long time,” Lynette says to Mateo, her hand coming to rest on his arm. If ever remains unspoken, but implied by her tone. She squeezes gently before she lets him go and crosses to Varlane. Crouching, she starts to collect scattered pieces.

“It’s alright,” she says, softly, “nothing that can’t be cleaned up.” Apology easily taken, forgiveness easily given. Luther’s reaction gets a crooked smile as Lynette glances up at him. “Welcome to alternate timelines, Bellamy. I doubt it gets any less strange.” She’s fairly familiar with the idea by now, but it’s still strange to imagine another her with another life. Other choices, other outcomes. She very much feels like she is the real Lynette. And she assumes every other one of her feels the same way.

Knowing about alternate worlds and even seeing them on tapes felt different somehow than this. He knew that Des has connections to her other selves, and had even swapped places at one point, but this still felt different, and made him grateful that the closest he had come to interacting with another him had been watching a recording on the television. Mateo doesn’t know what the differences between clones and other selves even was exactly, but… “He’s right, no one’s mad…”

However then he hears the Ms Bellamy bit and casts a glance toward the blonde woman. He won’t comment on that, but he certainly finds it vaguely funny. Which he might not if he had actually known her real husband. Thankfully that constant whisper of sounds in his head might cover that up. Right this moment it seemed to sound like the ocean, the surf against rocks.

Though Kaylee knows about these alternate timelines, Kaylee is actually caught unaware when she is addressed as Ms. Bellamy. “What?” is repeated right along with Luther, a glance going to her security chief. There is a brief flicker of amusement, before she turns back to the man on the floor. A part of her starts to correct Varlane, but she isn’t sure if he’d even understand. So she doesn’t even try.

Instead, Kaylee crouches down in front of the man and reaches to gently take a hand. A comforting gesture. “Hey, everything is alright. You are among friends and none of us are angry.” Her ability is still curled around his mind using imagery in his own memories to keep him calm. Almost like images of a snake weaving back and forth before a mouse, the telepath works on charming Varlane. “In fact, we need your help. I need to you focus on Magnes, he is not in our world. He’s lost and you might be the one to help save him and our friend Elisabeth.”

Each word is spoken softly, measured and calm. Kaylee’s fingers curled warm around Varlanes, blue eyes and ability watching him. “Will you help us and let us look at your memories?” Lips are pressed briefly together before she adds, “In return we will try and help you be you and not him. To find the people who did this to you and make sure they can’t hurt you anymore.

Varlane’s mind is like supple leather under Kaylee’s touch; pliable. With even the most conservative use of her ability, she feels his resistance waning and the humming sound vibrating through the room comes to a subtle stop, leaving a few plates ringing with a pitch-perfect vibration in another room. Varlane rakes his hands through his hair, looking up to Luther and then around to the scattered furniture and game board.

“I’m— I’m sorry,” Varlane exhales in apology, looking over to Kaylee next, then Mateo and Lynette. He doesn’t seem in a hurry to address Kaylee’s question, instead wiping at his face and chin with one hand, drying tears he didn’t even realize he was crying. “It’s— it’s quiet now. It’s quiet.”

Though Varlane’s mind is pliable, it is also a jumbled mess. While projecting soothing notions into his mind, Kaylee could feel the reverberations of cacophonous sensations and psychic imagery. It’s like having five televisions turned on at once, all with different volume levels, and trying to make sense out of any of it.

“M-Miss Ruiz…” Varlane briefly glances to her, then down to his feet, “she— she’d want me to get better. His brown eyes flick up and over to Luther, and Varlane looks the part of a poorly trained dog who’d been beaten; shoulders hunched, brows raised, expression meek. He seems afraid of him, if only in the way someone might be when they expect to be immediately disciplined. Mateo, thankfully, seems to draw no immediate reaction from Varlane beyond a few quick looks.

“I want to help,” Varlane says softly, slouching down onto the arm of a sofa that was pushed away in the outburst “help the Doctor.” He hasn’t said Adrienne’s name in a couple days, there’s a distinct possibility now becoming clear that he might not remember it anymore.

Staring at Varlane, Luther likely doesn't realize how sternly he looks at the younger man. In truth, the security chief is perturbed. But he schools his expression back to something more neutral, if at least trying to be slightly less stern. "Cut if out, Rowan," rumbles the man while he distractedly busies himself with finishing up resetting table, checkerboard and picks up the stray pieces flung about.

And then, once he's out of things to busy his hands with, comes back to stand at ease nearby. He stifles the urge to cross his arms over his chest. "And you can tell us to stop," adds the man with a look over at Kaylee and the others to confirm that.

Lynette looks over at Luther, her smile amused. “Cut what out?” she asks with all the innocence of a little sister.

Her attention shifts over to Mateo, because she has been dealing with parallel timeline shenanigans for a long time now and she’s pretty much in favor of them. And she knows that Luther is going to have a lot more than a name to deal with if this mind trip works how they think it will.

“Of course,” is added more seriously, “if he needs to stop, he just has to think it.” Which may or may not be true but she figures it’s close enough. She looks over to Kaylee next, giving her the floor. And the lead on this little excursion.

“We won’t do anything he doesn’t want,” Mateo adds in agreement, though really this would be the telepath’s agreement, he’s sure. Because they weren’t actually doing anything, he didn’t think. But from what he’d been told, he wanted to be involved in this. There was a kid involved, after all. Their kid. And not the one they had agreed to adopt and bring to the states from Mexico so that she could experience what they hoped would be a better life.

He didn’t know Elisabeth. He didn’t know Magnes. But he knew who they were likely travelling with, if that video had told them anything, if what had happened in the last few months had told them anything. Him and her.

And the possibility of a tiny him or her thrown in definitely heightened the necessity. Even then, he would never agree to do this if the young man did not want to. “I do hope this helps you.” He doesn’t know what the telepath is hearing, but if he did, it might have reminded him of the noise he so often hears himself. Only there’s never been voices buried in his noise, that he could recognize. If there was, it was buried under the rest.

“Easier for you, Lynette, since you two seem to be together wherever you go,” Kaylee point out with a touch of amusement to the woman, coming to Luther’s defense some. “If ever there was proof that fate exists, you guys would be it.” She’s heard some about these alternate timelines, that fact being one of them. An apologetic glance is thrown at Luther, before she focuses on Magnes again.

“I’ll go in first and once I can, I’ll draw you all in.” At least everyone here has been on one of these journey’s before. Knees crack softly as she kneels in front of Varlane and offers him an encouraging smile. “Shall we see what’s in your head, my friend?” Slowly, Kaylee moves to press fingers, gently, to each side of his temples. “Think of a place.” «A place you feel safe.» With that telepath lets her ability slide around his mind and she simply steps into it.

As Kaylee’s mind moves toward Varlane’s, Lynette, Luther, and Mateo see his brows furrow with a momentary look of both uncertainty and confusion. Then, as he sucks in a breath his eyes go unfocused in the same moment that Kaylee’s do. Their eyelids drift shut after, and at first the rapid movements of their eyes behind dropped lids seems erratic and spastic, but then the movements appear to synchronize, and soon Kaylee and Varlane even appear to be breathing in and out in unison.

Perfectly synchronized.


Soft music seems to emanate through the walls of a cozy, Colonial-style house set somewhere lush with pine trees, judging from the forest outside the windows. The house's interior is wood paneling on the walls, hardwood floors, decorative furniture with doilies and accent lamps all in the style of somebody's grandparents. The walls are lined with pictures, old photographs of Magnes and a smiling man with an immaculate coif of dark hair that look to be from the 1970s or early 80s, judging from the fashion. In the photographs, Magnes looks to be five or six years old. Some of the other pictures show an unfamiliar young blonde girl about the age of six or seven, smiling as well. There's a woman in the photographs as well, likely Magnes' mother. One photograph looks to depict the whole family.

In the foyer, where Kaylee first becomes aware of the house, there's a carpeted set of stairs that look well-used, with sets of children's shoes lined up between the slats of the banister. There's also a doorway into cramped kitchenette and dining room. The floor is a beige linoleum with gold accents, an avocado-colored refrigerator with postcards and drawings on it, and a pristine sink. The window over the sink looks out onto a well-maintained front yard on a sparsely-traveled road. It all feels like a slice of of 70's or 80's Americana, when all the polish and shine from the promise of the 50's was wearing thin.

Magnes Varlane is seated at a green formica table in the middle of the dining room, holding a blue coffee mug in one hand. Not to drink from it, but rather just to look at the faded Superman symbol painted on the front in red and yellow. Magnes draws in a deep breath, then exhales a sigh and looks up to Kaylee, smiling faintly.

Finding herself in the foyer of a home goes a long ways to calm her own nerves, letting out the breath she was holding in a soft sigh. A glance around tells her that for the moment everything is okay. A mindscape is a fragile thing after all. Kaylee takes a moment to strengthen weak points in the memory, before stepping deeper into the home and towards Varlane. «This is a very nice starting point. I take it this is home?»

Stopping just on the other side of the table, Kaylee closes her eyes for a moment and reaches for the other minds around her, one by one her friends are drawn into Varlane’s head. As each appears, the telepath takes a moment to steady them, before moving on to the next.

Once they are all there, Kaylee turns to Magnes offering him a faint smile in return. She doesn’t admit how nervous she is.

“Yeah,” Magnes says softly, wringing his hands together around the cup. “This is… where I grew up. This is home.” Outside, at first glance it looks windy. But the trees bending and blowing don't appear to be moving in the way one would expect from a steady wind, the branches appear to be flexing up and down, as if they were threatening to be pulled up straight out of the ground.

“This was my favorite house,” Magnes adds with a furrow of his brows. “We moves to Cape Cod after the bomb. Dad said it wouldn't be safe in New Jersey anymore… on account of the fallout.” Slowly, Magnes settles the cup down on the table and turns the Superman emblem out and away from himself. “I haven't been back since.”

Brushing aside the sheer curtain, Kaylee watches the trees outside for a long moment, listening to Magnes talk. «It’s a lovely place,» if dated. «If you want,» she starts, measuring her words carefully, «I can try and make this your safe place. For whenever things start getting loud in you head.» Letting the curtain go, she turns back the man. «Something to calm you.» It wouldn’t be the first time, having given Joseph and Mateo those types of memories too.

Moving across to the table, she studies the mug, gestures to it for permission to pick it up and examine it. «This yours as well?» She smiles a little, thoughtful.
«I had a mug like this at Granny’s, my cocoa cup. I was always up before my mom, earlier riser. Granny would be up though and she’s be waiting with a coffee for her and a cocoa for me.»
Brows furrow a little looking at the mug. «I always wonder what happened to them during the war.»

Lynette steps into the dining room, looking a little lost for a moment as she adjusts to being mentally and physically in two different places. She turns toward the sound of voices, letting out a sigh of relief when she sees Kaylee there. She doesn't interrupt— not verbally anyway— she just comes over to the table, too. Her hand reaches out toward the other blonde, just to let her know that she made it in okay, even though it's likely that Kaylee knows that better than she does.

Not long after Lynette, Luther appears in the doorway leading to the living room from the kitchenette and dining room. His tall frame hunches out of some awareness of the smaller door frame, albeit he's staring around curiously at the house regarded as home. The decor looks familiar in style to him, likely having grown up in a similar setting. Just during the actual 70s and 80s.

As if suddenly aware of just how much space he takes up, Luther sticks close to the wood paneled walls, though he starts to lean up against the avocado green refrigerator and listens to the telepath walking Varlane through the mental scape. He's watching too, soaking in the experience. The training he and Kaylee have embarked on isn't quite like this at all.

Mindscapes are strange places, though this one is certainly different from the one they’d found in his own head. Sometimes he dreams about that place these days, walking through the winding hedge maze, looking for something but he never quite knows just what. But at least this one is quieter. Mateo can barely hear the roar that’s constantly in the back of his mind, dulled. Almost as if it’s not quite present here. Or because here is not him.

Eyes slide over the house, over the pictures, as he moves to join Lynette. He knows physical proximity shouldn’t matter in this place, but he still reaches out to take her hand, as if that will help. A family home.

Magnes nods belatedly to the comment about the cup, as though he had to think about it for a while. “Yeah,” is his sheepish admission, “mom liked getting me the superhero stuff. Clara was really into it too.” He looks down to the table, lacing his hands together. “I used to read comics a lot when I was sick. Dad wouldn't bring me them, but mom would sneak them under my pillow and tell me that it was like having a secret identity…”

Smiling faintly at this memory, Magnes looks up to Kaylee. “I never used to be able to remember that. Being sick.” He looks away, to the window. “My brain’s been… so full of static lately.” He doesn't seem to have a thought about making a safe place. “I think I'm dying.” Maybe that has something to do with it.

«Your mom sounds like a special woman,» Kaylee comments quietly, offering Magnes a bit of a sad smile. The mug is gently set back down on the table at the mention of dying, brows furrowing a bit. Was he just guessing or did he know somehow? A glance is sent to the others, taking a deep breath she turns back to Varlane. «Dying? Are you certain? It might be just this place.» She looks at the window again, the other can see her thinking, a flicker of uncertainty of what she is doing.

«Static,» Kaylee says softly, there is an idea, but first…. «Do you remember where you were being held before your doctor friend helped you escape?» She promised… Hands rest on the table, leaning a little as she watches him. Her ability curls around his mind, working to steady it.

Reaching up to dry his eyes, Magnes shakes his head. “A lab, somewhere… I don’t know. Doctor Allen flushed me out of a drainage pipe, they were liquidating Project Heisenberg. They were going to kill me.” He looks down to the table, hands folded and shoulders hunched forward. “Somebody in a boat fished me out of the water off the coast of Los Angeles. Saved my life. I’ve been… making my way back home ever since. I didn’t know what else t’do.”

When he looks up from his hands, it’s briefly over to Luther. He looks at him with an awkward uncertainty, but says nothing when he turns to look back to Kaylee. “We all die,” Magnes says, but for whatever reason it doesn’t feel like he’s being philosophical. “I’m not like you,” he adds, “I’m… they made me. My dad did, with his ability. But we’re not… perfect. We break down, lose… integrity.” Dark eyes avert to his folded hands again. “I don’t know how much time I have left.”

Looking at Luther now, after he’s listened to Varlane continue on about these doctors and projects and liquidating, is like looking at a bull through fence slats. For now, harmless and inert. But when something might get him going, is up in the air. He breathes in and out, steadying himself as the anecdote makes him think about Chess and Alix and what they’re facing. Whether they have some unspoken time limit.

“You said Jersey, earlier. But now you’re saying you wound up in the Pacific, off of Los Angeles?” He studies the young man, gaze flicking to the others briefly before turning back to Varlane. “What did they want you to do?” he asks in as even a tone as he can manage.

Lynette holds onto Mateo’s hand, stepping closer to him. It doesn’t matter if the physical touch is all in the mind, not to her.

The conversation unfolds in front of her, all the more reason that she’s glad to have Mateo here with her, and draws a frown out. “Luther,” she says softly, “there’s more than one. He’s confused. And connected.” New Jersey, Los Angeles, both could be true. Probably are, if she understands multiverse theory correctly. “His father is trying to make a perfect son,” she says, looking back to Varlane. For confirmation, although she sounds confident enough without it. “Is that Project Heisenberg?”

A father trying to make the perfect son. There’s a few reasons he could think that a man might try to do something like that, if they had the resources and the need, but it also sounds like… The ones he did make who weren’t perfect were treated in ways only a madman would. Mateo continues to squeeze his wife’s hand and nods. “It could be true. It could be like walking a ever changing labyrinth. Only his seems to be seperated by glass in some places, making him see the other paths a little.”

Sometimes he wondered what would happen if that garden maze they had seen in his head had been thinner. The one he keeps seeing in his dreams. How much time he has left. “Well, however much time you have left, you should make the most of it.” That’s really the only advice he can think of to tell someone, and in this case, it seems the young man might well be trying to make the most of it through them. Why else would he want to let so many of them into his head?

There is sympathy and rage towards the man who did this to his son, shoulders stiffen when he mentions not being perfect and eventually. A hand is placed on Magnes’ shoulder, a comforting presence. «When we are done here, I’ll do my best to make you comfortable.» What could she do? Only her best, really. He didn’t deserve what might be coming.

«For now, we have a task.» Kaylee gives Varlane an encouraging smile, hand moving to touch his temple. «We know you’re connected to other versions of yourself. Mateo and Lynette are worried about their children. So let’s start there, hmm?» Her ability wraps around his mind in an attempt to focus his connection. To try and keep out the rest, she braces herself for the job ahead.

As much as she is curious about the Ms. Bellamy comment, Kaylee brings her friends to the forefront of her mind and Varlane’s memories.

“It… doesn’t work like that,” Magnes says with one hand raking through his hair. “It’s… I’m not you, I can’t just make things happen inside my head. It’s like… it’s like I’m a radio. I’m stuck tuned in to one channel, but the frequencies are always changing, so I never know what I’m going to pick up. Dad— ” he falters for a moment, “he— Dad wanted me to learn how to control it, but I can’t. That’s not… it’s— I’ve tried.

Magnes’ worried expression softens some as he looks down to the chipped formica of the table. “Mr. Ruiz is really nice, and his wife is… she’s sweet. But I can’t… I know that something terrible happened.” Magnes looks up to Kaylee, then over to Luther specifically. Then, as he moves his attention to Ruiz and Lynette, there’s an apologetic expression that spreads across his face. “I tried to… to help, but they took Manuel. They took Addie too.” Brows furrowed, Magnes looks down to the table and wrings his hands together. “I… I could see it. Feel it.”

Then, voice small and crushed he whines, “I couldn’t protect them.” The lines between things he’s seen of his other selves and his own self are blurring, his own sense of identity is… fluid here.

“Did you see— why’s he keep looking at me like that,” Luther asks after he notices the way this Magnes Varlane looks at him. There’s still a wariness and disbelief of it all lingering behind Luther’s tone, though he can’t help feeling unnerved by even the pathetic sound from the young man. He checks a glance back to Lynette and Mateo, then to Kaylee.

“But what’s the point of creating so many clones? And if they’re in every… timeline… what, like, his ‘father’ is also some mad scientist supervillain in every version too?” This just gets worse the more Luther thinks on it, and shaking his head, he turns to move and poke around the room, to find something else that may explain what all this is about.

"Luther. If they were created before the timelines branched from each other, then there's the same clones in every one of them. Alright? And yes, of course his father is a mad scientist in all of them; I'm really going to need you to keep up." Lynette has never not been something of a harsh friend for Luther. A habit they crafted during the war. A habit she's yet to break.

Sweet gets her attention. While she recognizes that she has the capacity to be sweet, it isn't a word she would ever have attributed to herself. But also—

"I thought his wife died." It's a thought spoken to no one in particular, an assumption made between the video of the lost otter and the painting of him. But before she can really pull herself out of that web, Varlane mentions the child's name. And she knows. "Manuel?" She looks over to Mateo, her hand tightening around his. She has questions— about a million swarming for attention— but she looks back to the young man at his last words.

And to that, she doesn't know what to say. That sort of guilt is hard to carry, and hard to soothe away.

The fact that his wife thought that the other him’s wife had been dead is not what surprises him. Mateo had made the same assumption, really. He had assumed that would be the case of any him that travelled onward. Seeking the piece that had made him whole, because he’s not unsure if he would not have done the same if something had happened to her. But the kidnapped child. The name.

No one else would know that name. No one else would consider that the best name for a kid of theirs. Even Kaylee had only briefly heard Jose’s voice in his mind when moving through his memories. And then one would probably assume Jose would have been the choice. Manuel hadn’t been a name many people knew, or how it was associated with Jose, either.

But he did. And Lynette did.

His son. Magnes’s daughter. Kidnapped. Lost.

“Why?” is what he immediately asks, his voice soft and deep, but with a hint of an edge that not even Lynette sees often. “Who?” No blame seems to be directed at this man, though. Even if he’s the one apologizing for it.

“Kazimir Volken,” is a name that drives an icy dagger into Mateo’s heart. “S-something happened, in— somewhere.” Magnes’ brows furrow. “The uh, the— he got inside Eileen, and then — because Gabriel got killed she — they took the children and… Edward told me.” Magnes looks up, tear-filled eyes wide. “Edward told me they went through the Looking Glass before they destroyed it. He was sure they’d be — they’d be where I end up.” Magnes seems to have a hard time differentiating the realities, his selves, and the lines between them in this place.

“You’ve gotta understand, my— my dad just… he wants his son back. Not me, the first us. The—” Magnes clutches his head and clenches his jaw. “Nnnh— it’s so hard to concentrate.” The wind outside picks up and pulls at the trees. “But he can’t. I’m not them, I’m not even me, I— I don’t— know. But nobody’s paying him to bring back his dead son,” Magnes says with a sympathetic expression, with a pleading look. “They want what I am.”

It’s hard to find any organization within this Magnes’ head, eyes narrowing slightly in thought. There had to be enough fragments of memory to find what they want. However, what is going on around her is distracting. Not to mention the telepath is trying her best to keep the walls around them shored up. This wasn’t a simple trip for her and no doubt she’ll be feeling it afterwards.

However, the mention of her father catches her attention and breaks her concentration. «Wait,» she looks at Lynette and Mateo, eyes widening slightly. Could he mean? «Isn’t she in our world?» Somewhere.

Then something else catches her attention. Kaylee look down at the man. «They can’t have you,» she tells him firmly. «However, much time you have… It’s your own, not theirs.» Hands cup Magnes’ face and she states firmly, «I don’t understand his pain, but he also doesn’t deserve you or any of you.» Pete could go die in a fire for all she cares. «You are still his son and the fact that he can’t see that… I just…» Lips press tight and she lets go of Magnes’ face. «If I ever see that man…» Even though she’s agree, Kaylee just can’t complete those sentences, though those around her can almost swear they can see the slick black body and red eyes of a snake through the tangle of curls.

Letting out a breath, Kaylee closes her eyes her head tilts up. She needs to distract herself from the dark thoughts. She goes back to looking for a viable memory… SOMETHING. Finding the thread of one, she grabs at the thread and tries to bring it into clarity.

Lynette's on the receiving end of another disgruntled look from Luther for her harsh (but fair) tone. But the man recognizes that he's far behind the ball at this point, so stops his caged lion-like prowling long enough to stand along the walled edge again and listen a little more carefully.

The change in Lynette and Mateo's demeanor, subtle but there, refocuses Luther and he takes note. The mention of Kazimir Volken and Eileen send a chill down into the gut, but it follows with a disagreeable, low growl. And Magnes' struggling and the wind outside the house picking up.

Luther sniffs the air once, loudly, glancing around again. His look lingers on Kaylee, watching the telepath closely as she continues her search. "How 'bout pinning down a place. Or a name. Someone who ain't supposed to be dead, someone who we can track. That Doctor? Doctor Allen? Are they… they in this world?"

It isn't Kazimir Volken that changes Lynette's posture. It's Eileen. She straightens up suddenly, her shoulders tense as she forces a blank expression on her face. Because Varlane doesn't need to be on the receiving end up her anger— it isn't his fault, however guilty he feels about the children. She turns toward Mateo, her hands coming to hang onto his shoulders. She is not okay, not by a long shot.

"She has their son," she says to him, although what she is really trying to say is not the obvious restatement, but rather this on top of their other run ins with Eileen. What she did, what she didn't.

The conversation goes on behind her, but she can't engage at the moment. She can barely listen. Later, someone will have to fill her in on the details. Out in the physical world, sparks dance through her hair and over her skin— a clear sign of the emotion she is trying not to show here.

Kazimir. That name reverberates through Mateo’s head even longer than the second one. Eileen. He’d known that the woman had his ability, and he didn’t even really blame her for attempting to kill him. No, he hadn’t. The closest was he would have been upset if she had taken him away from Lynette and Des and Silvia. But part of him would always believe he deserved to die for what he had taken part of. Even if that voice in the back of his head reminding him he was more than a weapon to be used tried to tell him differently.

When her hands touched his shoulders, though, he was pulled from thoughts of Kazimir and what that monster had done in another world. To the son of another him and another her.

Their son, really. From another life.

Did Eileen still have him? was the question he didn’t want to ask, and the one he didn’t want the answer to be negative about. They could find Eileen, if nothing else. They could try.

Did he dare face her again? To get back a child of both of their blood, he probably would. “We’ll figure this out.” After. After they deal with what’s going on with Magnes. They still had more to learn, he was sure. The golem had an origin, after all.

“I— I can't— I don't—” Varlane struggles with the past, present, and future of himself. As Kaylee reaches for something tangible, she feels a thread of grief slide through her, a palpable sense of loss and fear that — thanks to her own training — she is able to compartmentalize and recognize as someone else’s pain, not hers. But when she finally urls her fingers into something solid, something concrete in the static of Varlane’s mind, it's like flipping the switch on a television.

One minute they're there.

The next minute they're—

Another Place, Another Time

Sunlight spills down across a stone courtyard bordered by skinny trees. The view from this patio is a breathtaking ocean vista, and the whitewashed building up on the hill overlooking the courtyard is an exquisite structure, a lavish hotel of some kind. The air is sticky and sweet, a warm summer air clinging with the scent of clove cigarettes and whiskey.

“That's amazing work you’re doing.” Pete Varlane stands tall and thin, hair not yet gray, a cigarette in one hand and a glass of dark alcohol in the other. Though he's looking out over the sunset dappled ocean, he's conversing with the man dressed in white linens beside him.

“Oh, well, it's all toward a worthy cause. Degenerative brain disorders are some of the most challenging…” The dark-haired man stops, closes his eyes, and smiles to himself. As he turns toward Pete, he wears a name tag on his white linen blazer. “Here I go, sermonizing.”


World Congress on Infectious Diseases
Doctor Jean-Martin Luis

“No, no it's… it's good. Interesting, even.” Pete offers Luis a look, one brow raised. “Doctor Suresh’s panel was, ah, certainly something wasn't it? Did you happen to keep a tally on how many people just walked right out once he said the word superhuman?” Flashing a devilish smile, Pete looks back to the water. “Unbelievable.”

“Isn't it?” Luis asks, hands in his pockets and posture slacked, as if he were uncomfortable in his own skin and trying to withdraw. A side-long look is afforded to a boy of no more than five or six years old, with short and curly hair. “Your boy’s awfully quiet,” Luis says with one brow raised.

Pete looks over at Magnes, standing to Luis’s right, keeping the French doctor between he and his father. “He's well-behaved. His sister Clara’s the mischief-maker. But my old lady has her under wraps for the evening.” Pete takes a drag off of his cigarette and looks to Luis. “Do you have kids?”

“One,” Luis says with a find smole, “Juliette.” He looks down toward the water after saying her name. “She's brilliant,” is said with such pride, “leagues ahead of her peers in studying genetics. She's worried for me, I think. My father and grandfather both suffered from Alzheimer’s as they got on. She wants to find a cure.” He isn't so convinced that she can, but there's a glimmer of hope in his eyes.

“You must be proud,” Pete says quietly, looking to Magnes then back out to the ocean. “Being a father’s… challenging. Especially as professionals.” Luis looks at Pete again, then down to his name tag.


World Congress on Infectious Diseases
Peter Varlane

“I work for a pharmaceutical company,” Pete explains as he finishes his cigarette. “I'm not really a man of science, just the business side of it.” Reaching into his pocket, Pete produces a plain white business card with black font and a diagonal bar logo. It reads Biomere Incorporated. “I work with Mr. Chesterfield, I think you talked to him earlier?”

“Ah, yes, he—” Luis is interrupted as someone calls out across the courtyard.

Dad!” A woman’s voice, cheerful and young. As Luis slowly turns, he squints against the sun to see the blonde young woman jogging down the stairs from the hotel toward the courtyard. She carries a bundle of folders against her chest in one arm, the other waving excitedly. Magnes turns and looks at her, his brows raising slowly. She's maybe eight years old, just a little older than Magnes. Eight and studying genetics.

But as she comes closer and into view, her smile is disarming like a gunshot in a quiet room. Her eyes are like a knife slid between ribs. Her hair a noose to strangle the breath from shocked lungs.

Because Luther’s seen her before.

Benchmark Recovery Center

Kaylee’s eyes open, and Varlane’s do as well. Luther, Mateo, Lynette, they all come to at once having seen the same memory and yet only some fully rasping the truth. Luther has seen Juliette Luis’ face before.

In Odessa, Texas. In Raytech’s lobby.

It's her.

As she comes back to herself, Kaylee huffs out in annoyance; but, not at Varlane… at herself and her struggle with her ability. If anything, she has been learning lately how much she still has a lot to learn about it.

The sharp pinch between Kaylee’s brows keeps her from going back into the man’s head. Her hand falls from Varlane’s temple and rests on his shoulder. Despite not getting what they want, they didn’t come away without something useful. “Thank you, Varlane. Let me leave that home as a safe place, when you start to lose yourself again, you can turn to that memory… maybe even find some peace, hmm? Think on it.” The clone bringing out that protective side and a need to make sure he is comfortable.

As for the others, Kaylee pulls her attention from Magnes to her friends, “I might know where Eileen and her crew could be holding the kids.” Her head wobbles a bit, as she concedes to, “Potentially, unless they moved after I went in to res—” Her mouth snaps shut as she remembers Luther is still in the room. To cover a little, she moves to stand again and offers Magnes a hand up. “Either way, I might have an idea where to start looking.”

The memory fades and Mateo sits there wondering how that young girl looked so familiar. There had been a time, when they’d danced at Des’s birthday party, that he had seen her as more. And when he’d gone back to Raytech that strange little front desk clerk had been different. But… He shakes his head. They needed to focus on the present. And the boy that might be lost somewhere in their world.

The boy who was his. Whether from another him or not.

“An idea would help. We haven’t exactly seen her in a while.” As far as he knew, at least. He knew he hadn’t, though he had looked. Even if he wasn’t ready to tell his wife that. He should have been avoiding her since she tried to kill him. Should have.

No more avoiding it now. “We have to find him. And the missing girl as well.” He would do that for Varlane as much as for his double.

Luther's disturbed expression doesn't change very much as scenery shifts and they travel through time, space, and memory. He's been trying to keep up, as Lynette had mentioned, though the man doesn't look too happy with the situation. Varlane's struggles, particularly, are offputting in a deeper sense that he expects the world they're in to start crumbling around them in a demented Wonderland-esque dissolve.

He preps himself for it by— no, there's no preparation. It's completely different in less time than he can truly blink, and Luther involuntarily sucks in a breath. Only, to have it stolen from him when he turns from watching the conversation to see the young girl (Juliette, he would remember this later) running into view.

Suddenly back again in the Benchmark and his own headspace, the security chief becomes aware a bit more belatedly than the others. The conversation resuming around them all get a slow, silent nod at first. After a beat, he asks in a low rumble that tries (and perhaps fails) not to sound too notably discomfited, "You all got what you needed? Guy could probably use some rest." Ever the one to cling to common logic, of which the situation has had very little, Luther looks back to Varlane with a quirk of an eyebrow up, observing and making an evaluation of his state.

Lynette sucks in a breath when they’re back in their own reality again, her hands grasp
For something to brace on. She is not okay.

There is one thing she knows for certain about Doctor Jean-Martin Luis; he was Institute. Eve has told her that it’s more complicated than that, but for Lynette, the nuances are missing. For the telepath in the room, Lynette’s mind practically screams it.

“I need to go,” she says, words rushed as she tries to hold back a panic. She has done her best not to think about that organization since the trials. And before that, she drank away any stray thought of them. What they did to her has never left her, only been buried deep as she’s turned her focus on more productive things.

Not today.

“I need to go,” she repeats as her feet take her toward the door. She doesn’t leave, but her hands cling to the door frame as she tries to force herself into steadier breathing.

Wide-eyed, Varlane watches Lynette’s departure, brows raised and mouth slightly agape. He looks back to Kaylee, then over to Mateo and Luther, unaware of the complexities of what happened within his mind. There’s a vacancy in Varlane’s expression, an uncertainty made crystal clear to Kaylee as she feels his surface thoughts like the skin of water sliding like a sheath off of her body after coming out of a pool; he doesn’t remember everything that happened in his mind. Which leaves Kaylee with an altogether other thought: which Magnes was she speaking to, if not multiples of them?

“Miss Sumter?” Varlane looks back to where Lynette in the doorframe, and posits the simplest question anyone has asked all evening.

“Is she going to be ok?”

Unfortunately, it doesn’t have a simple answer.

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