Invisible Braille


eileen_icon.gif gabriel_icon.gif raith_icon.gif

Scene Title Invisible Braille
Synopsis Gabriel translates the letter entrusted to him by Barbara.
Date April 15, 2011

Old Dispensary

"He's insane."

It's been a couple of hours, since Gabriel Gray and Jensen Raith discovered the dispensary empty, and it's taken Gabriel almost that long to figure out what to do with what was, for all intents and purposes, a blank sheet of paper with an envelope. The envelope is in Raith's possession, now, Gabriel having pointed out that strange wax seal, the one that reads as Vanguard should it have ever had an emblem, and the page in Gabriel's. A couple of hours, and he's done the following:

  • figured out how to generate ultraviolet light with Colette's ability to show up the message;
  • stolen a book of braille from Eileen's room;
  • begun raising the dots set in the invisible ink with the tip of a pen so that someone could potentially interpret it through touch;
  • started to translate it.

He sits at the dining room table, with a disc of mild, purple-lish light hovering over his shoulder, the crusts of a sandwich on a plate near his elbow, and book and letter both in front of him as well as a notepad. The pen is tossed down with a clatter, and he pushes the notepad for Raith to see, leaning back in his chair to stretch his back, grind around his eyesockets with the pads of his thumbs. "There's got to be an ability for this," is muttered roughly. The light blinks out, giving way to only the fire glow generated from the hearth, the gas lamp on the table.

In Gabriel's precise handwriting, the message thus far reads: Munin my name is Magnes J Varlane as you probably understand. I come from a Vanguard utopia, one that you and I built with our own two hands with the help of Kazimir Volken.

"No kidding."

It's been a tense couple of hours since they discovered the dispensary empty. Missing friends, missing family will do that to passing time. And when that notepad finds itself in front of Raith, what's written on it, thus far, does not do anything to lighten the mood. Almost dismissively, the ex-spy flicks the notepad back to the appointed translator and turns his attention towards one of the things he'd thought to bring back from Pollepel before they left: A now one-quarter full bottle of whiskey (that, admittedly, wasn't much fuller to begin with). Popping the stopper free, he raises it to his lips and takes a long drink before he turns and offers it to Gabriel. "I really thought we were done with this bullcrap after Apollo. Happy birthday to us," comes out from Raith's mouth bitter and even acrid. An insane Magnes, he could deal with: That the young man was out of touch with reality has long been an expectation.

An in sane Magnes hellbent on reshaping the world in Kazimir Volken's image, he is not prepared to deal with. "Suppose we just shot him and pretended it was an accident?"

The sound of footfalls echoing down the corridor announces someone's return, though they're too light to be mistaken for anyone other than the woman who appears in the doorway a few moments later, halfway out of her coat, which she hangs on a hook. Eileen goes through this routine almost every day; she's so familiar with the movements involved that she doesn't have to think about it, and can instead focus on suppressing the anxiety she can feel fluttering about in the cavity of her chest like a wild songbird trapped behind the skinny piano key bars of her ribs.

The light wool cardigan she wears beneath her coat she opts to keep on — the weather hasn't improved that much — and she crosses to the armchair in front of the fire, intent on peeling her feet out of her leather riding boots, which leave tracks of moisture on the Dispensary floor but no mud. "Why pretend?" is her contribution to the conversation, her voice breathy and a little uneven. Her strides are short and brisk.

In loyal dog anticipation, Gabriel's head lifts at the sound of Eileen's entrance, teeth caught around the end of his pen — although when she makes her claim of the armchair just yonder, he doesn't immediately get up. He reaches, instead, to take the whiskey more out of comraderie than actually having a taste for it, and knocks back a sip with only a slight crinkle at his nose. "Hi honey, rough day?" sounds like someone else is saying it in saccharine concern, Gabriel's own familiar tones labelling it as sarcastic if not meanly so, before he's dropping his gaze down at his work.

Fills in a letter or two, mutters blah blah blah. "Someone left you a love letter. In invisible braille, which just seems like overkill to me." The disc of ultra-violet light throbs back into being to skim over the page.

"Of course it seems like overkill to you," Raith says plainly, "You not Insane Mirror-Magnes." That said, the ex-spy rises up from his seat and heads directly for the cupboards in the kitchen. "I'll put on some tea. That way, you can have a nice comforting drink while we all sit down and fill you on on what we know and figure out what we're going to do." But even with that in mind, there is still something that gives Raith pause as he sets about getting water for the kettle. "You know, I would've figured that you'd be a little less inclined to jump right into shooting him and not even pretending it was an accident. You really aren't a big fan of accidents, I mean. Unpredictable, and all that, so what's the story? I thought you at least liked him enough to tolerate him, kind of like a sad puppy you don't want to keep but don't have to heart to get rid of."

One boot comes off and then the other, no laces or buckles to fuss with, and Eileen nudges her footwear up against the stone lip of the hearth where the heat of the flames will ripple and roll and lick over the leather, drying the material without shrinking it. She leans back in the armchair and reaches up with both her hands to rake fingers through the windswept tangle of hair on top of her head, shaking the damp curls out like a wet mop.

While Raith busies himself in the kitchen, she fishes out a cigarette from behind her left ear and a matchbook from the back pocket of her jeans. Tea won't do for her nerves what nicotine will. "I don't know where to even begin," she says, and although her words are harsh and bitter, it would be a mistake to interpret her tone as derisive. There's a certain bluntness behind it.

Eileen is being honest. She really doesn't. "What does the letter say?"

"…I say 'it's in invisible braille' and you ask me what it says?"

But there's a ruffle of paper as Gabriel gathers his notes, as small as they are, the crackle of fire and the scuff of his chair beneath him underscoring a pause before he recites: "'Munin, my name is Magnes J. Varlane, as you probably understand. I come from a Vanguard utopia, one that you and I built with our own two hands, with the help of Kazimir Volken.'" A beat, to underscore the end of transcription thus far. "I'm going to make him eat the letter. If it has to be after he's shot dead, then I'll take it." Head bowing again, Gabriel draws the letter closer.

Scribble scribble. It's like starting a crossword puzzle — it's difficult to put back down once begun, especially when one has several obsessive tendencies, and Gabriel does. "What's wrong?"

"I'd start with the whiskey," is the kitchen's recommendation. With a light 'clank' as the kettle comes to rest on the stove, Raith leaves the kitchen and returns to the table to rejoin the other two. "Really, start with the whiskey. It's makes it easier to accept that this is really happening. Who the fuck writes a letter with invisible ink? What is he? Twelve? I'd be careful translating that letter, Gabe. You might get the meaning wrong without a decoder ring." Without even giving Eileen a chance to start with the whiskey, Raith snatches the bottle back and takes another drink. It is entirely possible that it may have been a bit more full at the start than he is willing to admit. "Please tell me you have good news, Eileen. Like, the council has issued a standing order to shoot him on sight, maybe? That'd be good news."

"I went to fetch a rifle from one of the caches." Eileen pauses to steer the cigarette into the corner of her mouth, then strike a match against the worn strip on the back of the book. Flame snaps to life at its tip, and she cups a hand around it as she uses the match to light the cigarette, red-gold bleeding out from the gaps between her fingers. "He must have known I'd be by, because he was already waiting for me when I got there."

Eileen stops to slip the matchbook back into her pocket and take the first drag from her cigarette. What she's saying doesn't lack conviction; what it's missing is the momentum to carry her forward. She circles around what she wants to communicate, unsure of her angle of approach. "He claims he's from another timeline," she says finally, "one that's parallel to ours. Or at least that's what I gathered from it."

Translation blurs to a halt when Gabriel stops thinking about it, unfocusing from the braille and the translation book and instead listening. Sarcasm and quips both melt away as well, pen dropping neglectfully as he folds both hands together and studies the knit of fingers, blunt nails and callused palms. He doesn't talk this round, even, for all that there are probably five different things to reply to, and twenty statements on the topic to make, and at his shoulder, the disc of light splits apart once more, drifting like dust set on fire before dwindling into nothing.

He shoots a look towards the shape she makes with the armchair, a psychic assessment of injury she won't feel, but anger is possibly beginning to come across as warm via empathy as the flames are able to produce.

Raith listens just as Gabriel does while Eileen recounts the short version of her encounter with Magnes. It's not exactly the kind of story that either man was hoping to hear. "And then you shot him?" The question's delivery is somewhat forced but only somewhat. It's intended less as a serious statement, and more to lighten the tension in the air. "I hope so, at least. I'm not sure I'd be heartbroken, if you did." But then, that brings up a more serious question. Magnes did not seem to remember the events of Operation Apollo. But he seems to have remembered the garage. So how do they determine what memories, if any, have slipped away? Or maybe he actually is from a parallel world. Probably not.

Eileen is quiet, then. The cigarette burns between her knuckles and the smoke thickens in the air, making dense shapes with smudged, silvery edges with boundaries that shift and change as the chemistry of the room does. She hooks a nail under her front teeth and presses her lips around it, though she does not bite down hard enough for the glassy keratin to split or break.

"He took the rifle," she says, "from the other side of the room. I've never seen him use his ability quite that way — I'm not even sure that it is his. Wrenched it out of my hands like my grip was nothing.

"I slammed a door on him. I'm not sure I'd have gotten away, otherwise." She shifts her hand to the chair's arm and rubs the edge of her thumb along the upholstery. The Englishwoman has come a long way from weeping in Gabriel's arms about Peter Petrelli on the floor of Eagle Electric, but not so far that she can disguise her fear from him. Even Raith can see she's disturbed — the expression on her face is strangely vacant and unsettled.

Gaze resting on the whiskey bottle, Gabriel's fingers twitch at some distant memory of yanking moonshine in an unlabeled bottle into his hand with a thought by a fire a little wilder than the one in the dispensary. He can't, anymore, of course. He hasn't been able to do that for a long time. So he reaches and takes it for himself, flicking a look to Raith before taking a swig. When it's set down again, it's more or less out of immediate and easy reach of the older man.

"He's either a weapon or an accident. Different memories, different power. We're not unfamiliar with either concept." The notepad spins a fraction around on the smooth table with a flick of a finger, mouth pulling in a scowl. "Parallel worlds— we've all gone back and forth through time, but I've never seen things go sideways."

His tone suggests that it's not outside the realm of possibility. Nothing is. "Doesn't matter. I want to go hunting. He's laying claim to a couple of things close to me."

"If he's from a parallel world, how did he get in this one? And can't we just send their crappy Magnes back to them? If his world is so much more awesome, he should be happy to go back." On some level, maybe that's the most sensible thing Raith could possibly say. On some other level, he decides to pass on more whiskey and rises up again to head back into the kitchen. "And I object to hunting for two reasons. One is this. Consider it. Let's say he is from a parallel world where he built this Vanguard utopia. He might not be the pushover that the real Magnes is, and if he isn't that pushover, there's a nonzero chance that he could fuck your shit right up."

"And here's the other reason. Consider it, too." The ex-spy stops just long enough to turn around to address Gabriel and Eileen. "Let's say he's not from a parallel world. If he's insane, or they subverted him-" Whoever 'they' are- "Problem solved. Question answered, whatever. But if it's not the real Magnes, if it's someone pretending? Where's Magnes?"

"He said there'd been an accident," Eileen supplies. "If he was able to go back, then I think he would; he seemed at peace with the world Kazimir left him," even if she can't imagine one where she's attracted to any incarnation of Magnes Varlane. She rises from the armchair and strays from the warmth of the fire, drifting in a slow but purposeful arc toward the table.

"Gabriel could go with you the next time you meet," is her attempt at offering a compromise, and her orbit brings her behind the chair occupied by the man in question. Her hand not holding the cigarette touches his back, resting between his shoulder blades as she reaches out with the other for the whiskey. Her fingers hook around the bottle's neck and she hefts it off the table, trailing smoke in her wake. "There's no reason he should recognize him if he assumes someone else's shape."

Breathing deeper to match the press of her hand, Gabriel watches the track of the whiskey until it's out of sight, before resting his attention down on the tools and paper in front of him, laying the letter over notebook, pushing pen into spiral binding as if to pack up and go, but he's not going anywhere while she speaks, if at all. "Why don't I hunt him on accident?" is sarcastic proposal, one that shows teeth, but it's all he says on the matter.

"Alright, now we're talking about just too many accidents," is all Raith says before he disappears into the kitchen proper. Presumably, to pull together the tea he had half-promised earlier. "Also, I don't like him. The less meeting I need to do with him, the better. And there's no guarantee that I won't just blow him up. No gravity manipulation will save him from a bunch of nails traveling at three thousand feet per second."

"I'm not going to argue with either of you about how you want to handle this." There's a raw quality to Eileen's voice that it didn't possess before, but this is a result of a mouthful of whiskey burning down her throat rather than an emotional response. That comes in the form of a kiss dropped on the crown of Gabriel's head. "If you want to seek him out, then seek him out," she mutters into his hair. "If you want to blow him up, then blow him up. I've no quarrels there."

"Just keep your birds watching," is swift on the tail of Eileen's statement, and low enough so that it's only for her ears, irritation lining a thread of tension up Gabriel's neck that a kiss on his skull can do little to relent, although the sips of whiskey is helping some. He hesitates, before dismantling the items he'd fidgetted back together, that same strange light lying over the letter like a blanket and bringing up the dots raised with pen tip.

He swings the braille book around, and leafs through pages. Something to do.

"Great!" When Raith reappears from the kitchen, it is with a single mug of steaming liquid in hand, tea bag still suspended in it. It doesn't go to anyone in particular, but simply down on the table, open to whoever wishes to claim it. "We'll work out a strategy, find some way to trap him. Or something. I don't know, it's late." For a moment, the plan to trap Magnes is forgotten. "You gotten anything else out of the letter, Gabe? I kind of want to see where this train wreck ends up."

Another drink of whiskey, and Eileen places the bottle and its remnants (ha ha) back on the table. The tea she leaves for Gabriel — he seems intent on finishing his work and will get more use from it than she will since the caffeine will only keep her awake. From behind the chair, her next destination is the stairwell, which she should have no trouble navigating, and then a bed with cool sheets and a heavy comforter rolled all the way down to its foot. How comfortable the mattress is scarcely makes a difference. She's exhausted.

Waits, however, to see if a few more moments of stilted silence will yield anything from the letter. Her hand retreats from Gabriel's back, if only so it does not distract him.

"Nowhere good." He glances over his shoulder to Eileen, and adds to reward her patience of a few moments, with a wry curl of his lip, "He forgives you."

The tea is tepid by the time Gabriel drinks from it, the hearth fire sinking low amongst the broken, black wood, but he finishes faster than he starts, and soon, whatever fleeting conversation is managed— if a little one-sided with Gabriel's distraction in his designated task— he has a result to let Raith scan before he brings it up to Eileen.

Munin, my name is Magnes J. Varlane, as you probably understand.

I come from a Vanguard utopia, one that you and I built with our own two hands, with the help of Kazimir Volken. I understand that you've strayed from you obligations, and for some reason you haven't gotten revenge on Abigail Beauchamp. I can forgive it all for you, Munin. I believe it's time we used your influence over the Ferry to rebuild the Vanguard, cherry pick the best and most easily influenced of the bunch. I look forward to seeing you, I'm sure you can see the merits of rebuilding the Vanguard.

And I do hope that your birds are well.

With Love,


The contact phone number at the end is something Gabriel keeps to himself for the time being.

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