I Think I Broke Him


devon2_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title I Think I Broke Him
Synopsis After seeing the Raytech meeting, Elisabeth thinks understanding of how to detect things with the Compass tech isn't as clear-cut as Carrington made it sound.
Date July 28, 2019

Raytech, Zachery's Office

She thought about this for a couple of days before she decided to actually send the note asking him to meet with her. Elisabeth has learned enough about her own power that generally speaking she doesn't feel the need to learn much more, thanks to five years in a world where she could go to the university physics department and get help with it… but there are a couple of aspects that she's interested in these days. And one of them popped up in a meeting where Raytech's projects were discussed.

As she enters the office where he works, the blonde is a little… perhaps thoughtful is the right word. She's dressed for work, pretty clearly — a holster at her hip, her badge clipped at her waist. Dark slacks with a soft blouse and a blazer that covers the holster mostly. Blonde hair tied up into a sleek twist. But the blue eyes have a faint frown to them. "Morning," she greets Zachery as she slips in. This time she's the one carrying coffee that she proffers as a morning greeting.

"Good morning," replies Zachery, all too easily and flatly, out of habit more than anything else.

He may have been given an office over a month ago now, but that doesn't mean it has to look like someone's been using it, apparently. There's nothing on the walls, and he's seated at a desk with nothing on it other than a switched off monitor and keyboard, legs up on a corner of the desk — and then SWIFTLY OFF OF THE DESK when Elisabeth comes into view, with a thud of his heels hitting the floor. The notepad in his lap that he'd been using to scribble away about something or another is promptly flipped shut, and lightly tossed onto the empty surface in front of him.

After he straightens - but stays seated - he offers Elisabeth a practiced smile, before his attention drifts briefly downward to the coffee. "How fares the coffee maker? Is it still trying to tell bad jokes between pours?"

"Nah, this one came from the apartment. No joke-telling coffee pots there." And real coffee that's good too! Elisabeth smiles slightly, setting the cup in front of him. "So… I saw the meeting, and something popped up that's going to be a problem with the Compass tech. And we're going to need biological readings on the situation before we have a full-on meeting that includes SESA and whoever the fuck else," she tells him.

After sipping from her own cup, Liz studies him. "The point of the Compass technology is to detect the molecular resonance of a portal or people and objects that come from a superstring not our own. Agent Carrington has a misunderstanding of something in her calculations, however. And you and I are going to need to see if we can figure out the situation before Raytech starts their development of a tech that's useless."

Some modicum of the carefully composed expression gives way to visible amusement as Elisabeth curses. He's probably not entirely certain why it's funny, either. It just is.

Before he replies, he gives her a thoughtful look back. Then, finally, "I'm sure SESA would appreciate any and all thorough research we can get done beforehand to smooth things out. However — " he pauses, leaning back in his chair to stretch his arms up, and threads his fingers together loosely behind his head. "Don't get me wrong, I'd be happy to help, but - how would we quantify said readings? Unless this is a case of 'this person is fine' versus 'blown to smithereens'. Which I doubt."

Elisabeth eyes him narrowly. "No…. it's a matter of their assumptions about how long it takes people and objects to 'normalize'," he can hear the air-quotes in her voice, "such that their harmonic resonance matches this universe instead of the next one over. And you'll quantify it using me and some of the items that I've traveled with. All of the NDAs you had to sign to work for this company apply to this knowledge and the project you're working on, so now you get let in on the biggest open secret of all." Her smile is not amused.

"People from the other timelines are already here. If we want to use the Compass tech to actually trace them, we're going to need to figure out how they change — whether it's all at once or incremental — and how long resonance frequencies on people actually last. Because to get home after seven years of jumping timelines, I had to literally tune the portal to this universe…. It's the universe that I resonate with… but it's not the universe I was born to. And I had just spent five full years in a single different universe. So the time it takes is longer than five years… or there's something different about what happened to me."

Whatever semblance of 'casual and vaguely relaxed' Zachery had found just now? There it goes, right out the window. Gone forever. Bye.

His arms drop back down to his sides, onto his chair's arm rests, and his expression ebbs away into neutrality save for the fact that his eyebrows seem unsure on what they're supposed to be doing right now. High? Nno. Low? Nnnot either. Ffffurrow. That seems right.

A silence hangs in the air for a moment, like a literal dust cloud that obscures Zachery's vision. Once he's managed to focus on Elisabeth again, he manages a simple… "Alright." He swallows hard, suddenly seems to realise he hasn't blinked in a while, and does it several times as if to catch up. Uh. "Alright. Okay. Yeah. I. Remi, she — ah. Yeah." Again, his brain seems to stall, and his gaze darts off to the side as one hand comes back up to be mashed into a scrub of his jawline. "… Yeah. Alright." Sure okay. Totally get it.

Remi. The name is known to Elisabeth and she lets him see it. "If she's telling people, I'm going to kick her in the fucking shins. I'd really rather she not get chucked in the darkest hole SESA can find for her."

Blowing out a slow breath, Elisabeth nods. "So… most of what you need to know about my power I can probably tell you. But I know you're going to want readings anyway. And I'm not certain if my ability has anything at all to do with how I vibrate in tune with which universe either. So we don't have a control variable on that front. If you want to bring Carrington in on this — I suppose it's doable, but I have a physicist I trust more and would prefer if you feel you need a physics consult. Richard and I figured it was best to start with you — since we're looking at biological matters. Molecular resonance is something that kinda crosses fields when you're talking living beings." And any physicist who learns of it is shitting their pants.

There's a lot of words happening, and a lot of Zachery that just isn't. He has once again forgotten how to blink, and maybe breathe?

Oh no, there it is. Its return coincides with him reaching for the coffee he was brought, and once he's brought it up to his face, he just… doesn't drop drinking it. Clearly wishing it were something else instead.

"Alright," he says one more time, a little hoarsely and unhinged, after coming up for air from his drink - not a great indication or whether or not he's parsing anything said in and of itself. But then, after his eye locks back onto Elizabeth's face, he slides forward in his chair and takes a deep breath to say, "I would like readings. More information is — well, it's vital even in the event that your ability isn't relevant, in which case ruling that out could clear up circumstantial…." aaand he's broken again, still holding onto the coffee with one hand while the other hand is dragged down his face. "This is… a lot. I can help," he is quick to add, with a breathy chuckle that seems to escape him against his will, "but it… is…"

She can finish that sentence with whatever she likes, apparently, because he leaves the end hanging.

She dropped it on him all at once on purpose. "I figured if I break your brain all at once, when you start processing and formulating questions, you'll have at least all the basic information," Elisabeth tells him, not without sympathy… but she is a little amused at his expense. "Welcome to my life." She grins at him and sits down on the edge of his desk so that he can assimilate for a few minutes before they begin.

"The… basic information on alternate universes and travel between the two, and resonance differentials and…" Listen, Zachery could go on, he really could, but he does not. A wry grin makes its way back into his face, as he finishes off the coffee.

"You know, never once did I expect a stranger on a bus - if she was that," a searching look is pointed at Elisabeth's face as his shoulders sag a little, but he continues, "to lead to this direct moment where it is revealed that I've been assimilated into an episode of Sliders."

At least he's talking in full sentences again. That's progress, right? Even if another dry chuckle escapes him at his own words.

Her grin at him is cheeky. "You have no idea," Elisabeth smirks mildly. "My life has been seven whole seasons of Sliders." She's old enough to remember that show.

As to the person who told him to come here… well, she's not going to address that except to say, "I've tended to find that I land where I need to be…. especially when things like that happen. There are obviously certain people who think you're important to stopping an invasion force." Liz shrugs slightly.

The next following breath that leaves Zachery is the 'trying to recompose himself' kind, with his shoulders coming back up and his chin lifting. "What can I say, I like to…" a beat or two passes, "… help where I can. Of course, since I thrive on information about - shall we say - peculiar situations, it helps that I'm presently in one where I'm silently wondering whether you've had to kill the you that was already here."

Whether she wants to answer that question, apparently, is up to her, since he's already turning to the monitor nearby to turn it on. And the possibility doesn't seem to faze him, either, as he turns his attention to what's on the screen - a calendar- with newfound enthusiasm threaded through his words. "I'm… going to be absolutely up to my ears in things to do, aren't I."

"No, I did not have to kill anyone to be here," Elisabeth replies mildly. Well, not originally anyway. "The circumstances around the fact that this was not the world I was born to are long and convoluted, but it happened when I was a small child. The analog that existed here, as I understand it, died in a car accident a couple of years before I arrived. The Company was involved in my integration." That should probably cover most of what he needs to know about that part.

"And yes, it's highly probable that you're going to be quite busy. And that if you talk to anyone outside a very small group working with you, you may find people looking for you." She shrugs. "Richard is of the opinion that this should be open knowledge. The government severely disagrees." And she can't honestly say she's sure they're wrong… what use is panicking a world of people that alternate dimensions might maybe someday invade?

Panic? Like the quiet panic still silently showing in the way Zachery pulls the keyboard closer and starts tabbing through the days on the calendar without actually fully looking at what he's doing? Little bit? Tap tap tap. "Mum's the word," he mutters, as if to himself, still failing to recompose himself.

But oh right, there's someone else in the room. When he looks to Elisabeth again, it's a little frantic, and more words immediately tumble out of his mouth, more quickly with each and every one that leaves him: "About SESA, you - plural - work with them quite closely, then. I need to know — there's a — I'm going to be — something has — are you familiar with a Nicole Varlane?"

A brow quirks. "Yeees," Elisabeth replies slowly. "Why?" There is a cautious wariness to her demeanor now, her blue eyes narrowed thoughtfully.

The taptaptap of buttons continues as he once more turns his head to look at the screen, scrolling through the calendar with an up arrow, down arrow, up, down, up aaand back down. Very productive.

"I was wondering if she knew, about — all of this, considering her prior employment," he answers a little slowly, but clearly, as if deep in thought about his schedule for the upcoming days. A lot quicker, he adds, in the midst of clearing his throat, "I'mmovinginwithher," then continues with an air of faux confidence again, " So, you know, clarity regarding what can be discussed without the possibility of meeting a hitman on the job would be nice."


He's…. do what now?

Elisabeth is caught a bit flat-footed by that, and it shows in her expression if he glances at her. "Nicole… is safe to talk to, yes. But… not because of her ties to the Company. She was part of the team that was with me and Richard when we hit the Institute in Alaska… the day I supposedly died."

"… Alright." Again, just that word. Zachery's stare at the monitor glazes over, and the taptaptaps stop altogether.

One by one, things are coming together. Maybe. Either way, he doesn't look like he's enjoying the process. "And this was not the you in the car crash, but the one that — with the brain damage and the… broken ribs and cuts and a… bullet to the skull?" There is little room for answering before he asks, his hands coming to rest on the desk, palms down, "Tell me, do Raytech employees generally get horribly mangled before or after their first Christmas bonus, because I'd like to plan ahead if I need to — or is it just the higher ups who need to worry?"

A soft chuckle erupts. "Raytech was founded by people who not only fought in the war but fought the Company and Pinehearst and the Institute before most people even knew there was a war," Elisabeth observes quietly. "And we are still friends and connected to a great many others who did the same." She shrugs. "Given the idea that we could be facing interdimensional invasion? If you want out, now might be the time to say something."

She wishes she were kidding.

“You should take that advice if you have any doubts at all.”

It's a familiar voice that interjects from the doorway. From just outside the doorway, specifically. Liz knows it right off, likely she may have registered the approaching body when it was still at the other end of the hall. For Zachery it's probably a little less easier to place, since he's only had two brief conversations with Devon Clendaniel.

And both of those occurred when the young man was laden with strained emotions and infused with narcotics.

He suffers neither of those today. Not openly.

A single step brings him forward, to be framed by the entry into the office. “Sorry if I'm interrupting.” He knows he is, but he sounds sincere. Mostly. “I… can wait.” Dev looks from Zachery to Liz, a short flick of his eyes, then angles a long look down the hall. It's his way of excusing himself from the conversation without actually excusing himself from anything. Clearly he's connected to that group Elisabeth has spoken of just seconds before.

No immediate answer leaves Zachery after Elisabeth's words, his mouth closing and brow knitting.

Only when he becomes cognizant of Devon's presence does Zachery turn in his chair, shoot him a look and just… wheezes out a laugh. It's not loud, it's not on purpose, it's got him smacking a hand over the top half of his face like that will make things make any more sense. "No, just, ah- just come in," he manages, exhausted, fighting the laugh back down in bits, "Just come in."

Glancing over her shoulder at Devon, Elisabeth says with a smile, "Hey kiddo. I think I broke him." She grins with a rather wicked twinkle of amusement. "Alternate dimensions generally rocks people's brains a bit. He's gonna come up swinging shortly here with a list of questions as long as my arm, I'm sure."

A single brow ticks up, and Dev turns an unspoken question at Zachery. Liz’s explanation puts the doctor’s reaction into place. He shakes his head slowly, maybe even sympathetically. Maybe.

It's not like he hasn't been in that chair, having that conversation.

The invitation is accepted without pleasantries of how he could wait, it isn't important. “To be fair,” Devon says as he joins them inside the office, “anything we've done is enough to rock brains a lot.”

There was a thing left hanging, an answer not given. Zachery sees to it by saying, grin still on his face, "I don't… want out. I don't." He lifts both hands, as if in surrender, "I will admit to not knowing what I was getting into when I was pointed into the direction of this company, but honestly? I was quietly anticipating another job in which I spent my days at a desk just like this one, except understimulated, mostly kept company by paperwork, and waiting for a termination of either… my position or…" His words slow, and the sentence never quite finds its end.

He clears his throat. "I'm… sorry." Monotonously launching into a different matter instead, he leans forward in his chair and asks, "Devon, did you need something? Or were you here purely to witness my trying to cope?" Which, if his face is anything to go by, would only amuse him further.

"Well, I'm glad to save you from yourself," Elisabeth says rather cheerfully. "So where would you like to begin, Zach?"

“Yeah,” Devon answers. It's not like he'd be making any social calls. He and Zachery may’ve made amends but that doesn't mean they're friends. Besides, “I wanted to talk shop, but this is more interesting.” He glances at Liz, a grin hinting in his expression. Also, “And Liz was here first. So my business can wait.”

Somehow, that answer sends Zachery's eyebrows up in surprise. "… Okay." He says, a little absently, before clasping his hands together in front of him and turning slowly to Elizabeth again, after a quick dart of a look in Devon's direction. He takes a really, really deep breath, and then—

"Why are they invading?" He asks. Then, continuing immediately and after becoming the most animated either Devon or Elisabeth have seen him, gesturing vaguely with seemingly every other word, "Who is 'they'? Why here? Is it because we started something? Does someone need to have a dead counterpart here if they want to come over, or is that just a bonus? Can I have a list — or something? Of all the… people. Timelines - parallel, infinite circle, or what. Is there a chance you are working for - and excuse the incredible, gross oversimplification here - the 'bad guys'? And also, is there a reality from which we could steal another one of me because I just thought of a really good trick to play on my twin brother."

He could go on. And he will, if no one stops him.

Yeeaaaaah. That's about what she expected. "Why? Because some people always have to obtain what others have, I guess? I've never been exactly clear on the why when it comes to certain people's motivations." Elisabeth considers that question a moment. "Mostly I chalk the 'Why' up to human nature's worst tendencies," she admits.

"For whatever it is worth to you, it's not as simple as good and bad guys, obviously, but there are some distinct things that I would rather not see come to pass. Such as hunter drones in the streets seeking and killing Evos, having to register and get permission by the government to procreate, things like that. Which was happening in one timeline I've been in and was even worse than here in the war, if you can imagine it. In one timeline, a virus that killed like 80 or 90 percent of the entire world population was set off because a megalomaniac thought that was the way to make things 'better.' In another, that timeline's version of the same guy blew up a bomb under the Antarctic ice shelf and flooded the world. So … you'll have to make your own determination on whether I'm the good guys or the bad guys, but I like to think I'm the good guys." Then again, everyone does!

"Uhm… let's see…" Elisabeth pauses again to gather her thoughts into some semblance of order. "No, I won't tell you who they all are." In part because she doesn't even know all of them and never did. But in part to protect them. It's patently clear to him by now that she will protect her own to the last. "And no, you don't need to be dead in one timeline for another version of yourself to travel there. I talked to one version of myself, and knew alternate versions of a number of people I'm close to here."

She stops there, uncertain which things she's forgotten to answer.

It’s an effort to not outright laugh at the literal diarrhea of questions that spill out of the doctor. Devon smirks, but somehow manages to not go beyond that. It will never cease to amaze how in the dark about things people are, whether willfully or otherwise it doesn’t matter much. There’s so much people don’t know or haven’t tried to figure out.

“I’m not so sure it could be labeled as an invasion.” He muses aloud, willing to offer another viewpoint as if the one Liz is giving isn’t confusing enough. “Perhaps some came intentionally, others may have ended up here or anywhere accidentally. Like getting on the wrong bus.”

He leans against the edge of the doorframe, deciding he’s likely to be here for a while. That’s fine, he doesn’t have concrete plans for the day yet. “As well, timeline is a misleading term. It’s… like the root system of a tree. A choice or an event causes a new branch while the original keeps digging on its path.” Yes, Devon’s been listening.

Of course he has.

Right when the space opens up for Zachery to talk — he sits there, in his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose, staring down at the floor. Just for a bit.

We finally speaks up again, he does so in a cheerful tone that completely opposes a somewhat defeated slump forward, "Well! At least there's comfort in knowing that somewhere out there, there might be a me who's processing all of this and asking exactly the right questions." As if on cue, something comes to him, and he looks between his visitors with a small amount of energy returned to him. "You mentioned a portal. How are they opened?"

Well, now we're getting into the nitty gritty. Elisabeth moves from her perch on the edge of the desk to a chair, where she can lean back and work on the simplest explanation. "Two ways that I know of," she tells him slowly. "First… there's an Ev—- Expressive whose power opens them. That's how I've been traveling the past few years. However, the second way… there was a point in time where a machine was developed that could at least partially open the portal. It was not stable in any world where it was developed… but the people who knew of it kept on working on it. There are about a billion theories on this, just so you know… and I'm struggling to give you the simplest version of this as I understand it."

Elisabeth sighs and says, "And I'm definitely leaving things out so as to give a less squiggly explanation. From my own experience thus far, the earlier iterations of the machine couldn't be tuned so that the portal could be directed to a specific universe and they could only listen to other superstrings. The resonance frequency of each superstring is slightly different — the background radiation as it were. So the timelines closest to us — think of them as the branches that have strayed off of our branch somewhat but events happened similarly enough, they're the ones I was traveling through. There are people here in our world who I brought home with me from each of the other four timelines that I've lived in over the past seven years. My own 'home' frequency did not change even though I lived in one of those timelines without jumping for about 5 years. I was the reason that we could 'tune' the portal to the right place. Hence my thought that Carrington is working with incomplete data and bad assumptions about how people's resonance changes."

It's a good thing Liz has the answer for that, because Devon wasn't exactly privy to the science of the Looking Glass. Or really any of the rest of the whole alternate reality multiverse traveling. That sort of thing is possibly well above his current pay grade or it isn't yet a thing he needs to know.

Either way, it doesn't seem to phase him. Neither the explanation from the audio kinetic nor his lack of further answer. The young man instead just… shrugs. Typical.

Something about Elisabeth's explanation slowly seems to bring Zachery's attention to pinpoint focus on her face. With his elbows propped onto his legs, his hands come back together for his fingers to interlace. Too tightly, really, twisting as his fingertips dig into his own skin.

When she's done, and he looks to Devon to catch a shrug, he looks… defeated. Like all of the energy is gone from him.

But only for a few seconds. After that, he sits straight up, relinquishes the death grip on his own hands, and cracks a smile. Bright and - probably the most sincere both Devon and Elisabeth have seen him look so far. "So it… doesn't matter, then," he announces, crisply, apropos of… something. Relieved. "It really doesn't."

Clearly a little flummoxed by that response, Elisabeth quirks a brow. "It doesn't matter how it opens?" She needs some clarification there. (Of course, as far as she's concerned he's not wrong — the how of it opening isn't really what they're worrying about right now. It's whether and how to trace people who are landing that's the main question.)

The answer — or rather the lack of one — prompts a glance in Liz’s direction. The raised brows on Devon mirror the audiokinetic’s question. “What,” he begins, tagging along after Liz’s more precise request for clarification, “exactly doesn't matter?” His is a little more generalized.

"If there is this — tree, these branches, or roots or… — near infinite possibilities, in theory, right?" Zachery stands up, the tone of his voice possibly even cheerier than his expression, even if the way he grabs his chair and repositions it in front of his desk is a little erratic in how much energy he puts into it. "Then everything already has or will have happened, and… it's of no consequence. Elsewhere, it's like nothing's gone on. It's meaningless. It's nothing," he tells Devon this, somewhat more directly, confidently, "Nothing matters."

He pauses for a moment, still standing with a hand leaning on the back of his chair, then… starts toward the door out, breathing an unplanned chuckle. "Excuse me, I'm, ah — going home now. I suspect I'll be back tomorrow. Or maybe not!" Who knows! Maybe it doesn't matter who knows. He seems okay with either of these options, giving a en exaggerated shrug.

Elisabeth's expression get rather … concerned… as she watches Zachery leave. Pursing her lips thoughtfully, she clears her throat and looks up at Devon. "I think I broke him," she observes wryly.

I guess we'll see if he returns to actually run the tests….

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