It's Not An "S"


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Scene Title It's Not An "S"
Synopsis Following a meeting about the impending HELE event, Gates confronts Odessa.
Date June 21, 2021

Following the conclusion of the meeting, Odessa couldn’t get out of the space fast enough. The sooner she could put distance between herself and the onslaught of those emotions, the better. The hasty retreat was made to her office – the stark little sanctuary within the halls of laboratories. Dropping down to sit at her desk, she finally pulls the handkerchief away from her nose and tests with a white tissue pulled from the box to see if she’s still bleeding.

From a shelf just above her eye level, a photograph of herself and her husband from their wedding just short of three weeks ago should be serving as a reminder of what she’s been working to preserve. Instead, all it does is serve as a reminder for what she’ll lose, whether they fail or succeed.

Odessa throws the wadded up tissue in the trash bin and pumps sanitizer into her hands.

Odessa's Office

Jackson Heights

June 21st
11:12 am

“So, what exactly was your plan there?” Odessa didn’t feels Gates arrive. As always he’s a blind-spot to her, a physical presence without an emotional aura to perceive. He stands in the doorway of her office, arms crossed over his chest and one brow raised expectantly. He’s not mad, he’s just disappointed.

The empath doesn’t shriek, but she does make a rather undignified noise that’s somewhere between a gasp and… Okay, so it’s a shriek. Her body reacts to the surprise, knees bumping up against the underside of her desk, one arm knocking the tissue box to the floor. She places both palms against the edge of her workspace and breathes in and out deeply once before she swivels in her chair to regard the man in the doorway.

For a long moment, Odessa just looks at him, and it feels like her ability is trying to reach out, to come at him from all sides to find some gap that will allow her to perceive him the way she’s meant to. That’s something that’s started to become second nature, though. Habitual. Unconscious.

“You don’t understand. There was just so much— ” The empath stops herself short of finishing that sentence. “I panicked.” Odessa shakes her head. “I panicked, because I worried I might be the only one who actually sees it and knows what it really means.”

“You might be surprised to learn this, but there’s a whole agency of people who saw that and knows what it means.” Gates states with a playful tone of voice, masking his disappointment. “But what we had in there was what I like to call mixed company. You don’t talk about some topics in mixed company for a lot of reasons. Chief among them, adding to an already heavy burden of existential dread.

Gates sigh softly. “If the brightest minds in our country can’t build this bunker for us because they’re grappling with the reality that there’s a thousands of years old Expressive who may control the power of the sun, nobody wins.” He tucks his hands into his pockets. “Yes, it’s obfuscating the truth from them, but right now that knowledge doesn’t do them a lick of good.”

Fresh tears glisten in the blonde’s eyes, but they don’t fall, and no sniffling or mewling accompanies them. Only trembling fingers, which wipe them away the moment they’re blinked free of their over-full wells.

Odessa reaches down to retrieve the fallen box of tissues with a hummed note of resignation as she sets it back down on her desk. “So I just get to fall right into the overlapping middle of that Venn diagram then.” The intersection between brightest minds and grappling with reality.

“I… had a team working on a containment facility.” Her voice is strong, even if her expression holds uncertainty. “With our resources being diverted, obviously that isn’t going to be our primary concern, but I still think it’s worth pursuing.” As she’s continued, Odessa’s conviction has grown, her eyes stay on Gates’. “Is that something we could pass off for further development?”

“Containment?” Gates asks with one brow raised. “Like what Monroe tried in Detroit?” He crosses his arms over his chest. “We don’t even know if that worked or if that thing just wanted to stick around for whatever it was trying to do. I don’t even know how we’d test it, either. We could estimate efficacy using known models of, what, teleportation and phasing? But we don’t even know all of what it’s capable of, Odessa.”

Sighing, Gates shakes his head. “It’s not a complete waste of time, though. If you have any work done, yeah, you can send it over. I know leadership at the OEI already has a team working on plans on how to confront that thing should it rear its head. Maybe we could build some sort of outward-facing version of this to keep it out of the shelter, should it survive the flare.”

All told, Gates is taking everything rather well. What with the end of the world looming and all.

The younger woman’s gaze falls, arms wrapping around herself and she feels very small indeed as Gates pokes holes in her plans. She knew they weren’t infallible, but they were all she had. Her only line of defense was to do the best she could with what she had before her.

It’s the use of her name, not her title or her surname, that keeps her from the edge where she could so easily fall into spiraling thoughts of the doom and damnation of their world. It brings her to lift her head again and scrutinize the agent.

“I can’t read you, you know.” She supposes he must know by now about her ability, given how he could root around in her head so easily before. “I can’t tell if you’re in possession of the world’s greatest poker face or if you’re its greatest optimist.” Odessa smiles faintly, her eyes not carrying the warmth of it, but not speaking contrary to it either. “Either way, I feel like I’d benefit if you’d teach me something.”

Gates looks at Odessa, squinting for a moment, and then his expression shifts into an unexpected smile. Not for its suddenness, but for the honesty in it. “You know, Neitzsche once said, we are unknown to ourselves,” Gates notes with a raise of one brow, “but he was also a racist and a narcissist. So. Your mileage may vary.”

Tucking his hands into his pockets, Gates rolls his shoulders. He looks down at his feet, rocks back onto his heels, then looks up to Odessa. “It’s a roundabout way of saying you can’t read yourself. Which is what you’re trying to do here. I have a…” he takes one hand out of his pocket to gesture vaguely in the air. “Oh, you know Peter Petrelli, right? I’m like that, except just for psychic abilities.” Gates smiles, proud of his shorthand. “Not sure if that’s something I can teach.”

His smile is disarming and it makes Odessa’s widen, seeing the life come back to her eyes. She snorts softly at the commentary at Neitzche’s expense. He earned it. Odessa sits up straighter in her seat, tilting her head curiously as the explanation comes. Blinking with surprise, her lips form a thoughtful frown for a moment before she lifts her chin — ah! — and brings it back down again in a nod of understanding. “So the effect on me is like Veronica Sawyer, then.” She can drop names too! “You’re just reflecting my ability back at me.”

Wiping at her face under her eyes again for good measure, she looks up at the agent with a sheepish sort of smile. “If you could show me how to read myself without having to have a superhuman ability for it, that’d be valuable.” After a self-deprecating snort, she adds, “But I guess that’s what the court-mandated therapy is for.” Odessa sizes Gates up a moment like they’re meeting again for the first time. “You use it much?” How can she not be curious about the way someone else might use the ability she’s only slowly come to understand.

“Not yet,” Gates admits, pacing around a few steps with nervous energy. “I—try to be cautious with new abilities. Test their capabilities in small measures in isolated locations. The last thing I want to do is think I understand what I have, and make a gross underestimation, and…” He pulls his hands from his pockets to make a little explosion gesture with them. “We all know how that goes.”

But Odessa doesn’t need an ability to know Gates is hiding something. The way he hesitates at the end of that explosive pantomime. It isn’t that he’s talking about Midtown, specifically, but a fear of his own. Maybe, somewhere inside, he knows he has something dangerous to keep in check. Maybe everyone has a monster they try to control.

“If you ever want to learn sometime — you know, so it’s not something lurking in the background that might be a problem later — let me know.” Odessa shrugs her shoulders a fraction. “It comes in handy.” He can have his secret — she’s certainly kept plenty of her own. Who is she to judge?

“So, walk me through it.” Gates says as an attempt to steer the conversation in a different direction. “Your containment plan. Say we build a cage, get Monroe in there. Then what? We can’t just fold him into a little triangle and shoot him into space.” He immediately grimaces. “That—was a Superman 2 reference. Sorry.”

“I know what the Phantom Zone is,” she chuckles with a shake of her head. “I still had access to some media.” With his offer to listen, Odessa lets out a slow breath and gestures to a chair. “Sit down, you’re so tall you make me nervous, looming like some redwood.” She doesn’t wait to see if he will or won’t sit down before explaining her plan, however.

“It can’t be Adam, for starters. He’s…” Blue eyes scan toward the ceiling, hands spreading out to either side. “Everywhere. You trap one, and it’s not enough. But… I had a brush with Uluru a couple months ago.” Just admitting to this much makes her nervous, but Odessa carries forward. It isn’t the name she fears, but the response to what she’s done. “I experienced a vision of her past. Maybe who she was in the beginning?”

The blonde shakes her head. “Honestly, I don’t know. I can’t explain it. But I… I felt her pain. I felt what she felt, and she used it to try and take control of me.” That’s a grossly oversimplified version of what happened, but it’s also the least incriminating toward others she holds dear. “What I’m saying is that I’d intentionally draw Uluru in to use me as a vessel again, but while I’m in the containment my team has devised.”

Odessa looks down at the floor between her feet. “I don’t love it, but if we get her down from an untold number of hosts to a singular one, that takes one gargantuan variable out of the equation.” Her gaze lifts again, her smile sad. “And apart from my husband? No one’s going to mourn Odessa Price as some great loss if I have to spend my life in that prison, or worse.”

Gates mouth presses into a thin, flat line. He does not sit. Instead, it feels like the looming redwood looks even larger than before. “You had an encounter with Uluru. A couple of months ago. And I’m only just hearing about this now, which means no other agency has likely heard it either.” He makes a little gesture with two fingers, touching them to the wall. “We’re gonna put a pin in that.”

“This idea you have of using yourself as bait?” Gates moves his hand from the wall to pinch the bridge of his nose. “You do realize how it sounds, right? You were exposed to a memetic, possessing entity and somehow came out unscathed? And now you have an idea about how to voluntarily offer yourself up to it?” He sighs, lowering his hand and looking square at Odessa. “Are you so sure it's your idea?”

Her mouth opens to argue her case for not telling any agency, but instead, she holds her tongue. For once, she chooses wisdom. There’s no good argument for it anyway.

At least she doesn’t shrink in further on herself. Still, the next time she opens her mouth to speak, she still has no counter. Instead, she questions her own ingenuity and cleverness. Doubt comes in. Blue gaze lifts from where it had been aimlessly wandering the other side of the room while she mulled that notion over, settling on Gates again. “They possessed me when I was just a child. Maybe no idea I’ve had has been my own.”

A single breath of a mirthless chuckle leaves her lungs, one corner of her mouth twitching upward for only an instant as a harrowing thought comes to her. She keeps her eyes on Gates. “You rooted through my head. How are you certain that you’re not infected?” There’s no humor at his expense there. Her expression speaks only of very grave concern.

“I’m not,” Gates says with a spread of his hands, “but I know my mind and I know my ability. When there’s cause for concern, I can put things in—” he waves his hands in the air vaguely, making some kind of abstract shape, “—containment, for lack of a better term. You’re not a telepath. And this isn’t about me.”

“I didn’t say it was,” Odessa says softly. “I just want to make sure we’re both playing it safe.” She considers the compartmentalization Gates claims to be capable of and smirks faintly. She doesn’t even have to lift her voice — the expression conveys it all. Must be nice.

Sighing, Gates tucks his hands into his pockets. “Look,” his tone shifts, less frustrated and more understanding. “I know you feel responsible for all of this shit, because of… your whole deal. But you putting yourself in a little box under the assumption that we can even remotely predict what that thing’ll do or want at a moment’s notice? That’s not a scientific approach, it’s an emotional one.”

Gates looks down at the ground, then back up to Odessa. “So, let’s walk back to that pin.” He says, tightness creeping back up in his voice again. “You had an encounter, a couple of months ago? Walk me through that.”

An emotional response. Yes, well… If he understands anything about her ability, maybe he understands some of that reaction in her, too. But there’s that pin. Odessa works her jaw from one side to the other, not in annoyance, but as though to prepare for a hit. Tilting her head to the left, she’s rueful when she meets Gates’ eyes again.

Starting this conversation with Are you going to send me back to prison? might not be the best choice. It sets a tone suggesting she deserves to, perhaps, whether she does or doesn’t. It will also suggest that she’s incentivized to lie (more than the usual) or withhold the truth. Best to be out with it, then. “When attempting to access a cache of memories imprinted into a penny by Caspar Abraham, I encountered one that was… Impossibly old. Couldn’t have— Shouldn’t have been there.”

Odessa shakes her head. “Uluru.” A shiver runs down her spine and her eyes shut tightly, fingers curling in toward her palms slowly. “I had time to think about it, and I thought at first I was watching from their perspective. But now… I think I saw something happen to them.” Opening again, her eyes settle wide on Gates. Not wide with fear or confusion, but… wonder? “I think I saw them executed, and watched them… become their executioner.”

Both hands scrub over the woman’s face before she simply sits there, hidden behind them, heels of her palms pressed against the hollows of her eyes. “After that, I could hear their voice in my mind. I felt them under my skin, pulling my bones and trying to drag me under so they could resurface.” Hands fall into her lap, though her eyes stay closed as Odessa draws in a breath and lets it out as a shaky exhale.

Let me in.

The whisper is a demand. A plea, and a warning. Overenunciated.

Concern, when she feels safe enough to open her eyes again. “I haven’t felt that since I manifested when I was a teenager. I haven’t heard that voice since—” Since she demanded to know that her concerns were seen and being taken seriously. “—I had my original ability.” Lips pursing tight and brow pinching over the bridge of her nose, she continues. “I shut it out. Once I disconnected from my ability, it stopped. And when I engaged it again, days later, the voice wasn’t there anymore.”

Mmm,” is the only response Gates gives for an awkwardly long time as he stares down at Odessa. After that punctuated silence he seems to stir back to life like a little wind-up toy that just needed an extra twist. “And this penny is… where, now? And where did you come into possession of it?” Every detail Odessa has laid out has only opened more avenues of questions for Gates, and he seems ill-suited to let unasked questions lie.

She does not reach to lay a hand over her chest, over where the penny continues to hang around her neck like the symbol of a patron saint. “Safe.” If Gates expected Odessa to give up so valuable an object readily… “It was given to me to decode the memories. It was supposed to tell me something about myself, I guess.” That’s the selfish take on it, but not an entirely inaccurate one.

Gates slowly tilts his head to the side, an imperceptible crease forming in his brows. “Given by who?” He turns to face her directly. “Because right now this is sounding increasingly suspicious, you do understand? We have resources to investigate these things, the OEI has been combing through all of the pennies that Wolfhound recovered from Caspar Abraham, and if you have one that could answer questions about a world ending threat and it’s sitting in your sock drawer…”

“Jewelry box, actually.”

Don’t smirk at that, Odessa.

No further than a light in the eyes?


With a sigh, she decides to be a bit more forthcoming, for a change. “So, when I turned myself in,” because Ace was so keen on keeping attention off himself that he drew attention to her, but please ignore that tiny detail, “I was taken to Fort Jay for holding, right? Well, one of yours rolled in to see me. At least, everyone thought he was one of yours. Government, not whatever flavor of spook you identify as.”

Running her tongue over the front of her teeth, she watches Gates for a moment. Not trying to decide what she tells him, but how. “You know about the Monroe Hydra. One of them had a… shapeshifting sort of ability. Let him masquerade his way in the door to see me.” Odessa shrugs. She’s not to blame for that one. “He came in, gave me the penny, told me to hide it, and find out what’s on it so I could… save everyone, I guess.”

There’s a briefly pained expression that comes with the next admission. “And, yeah, maybe he was just appealing to my desire to redeem myself and be a hero for once, but… I saw his face. I felt his emotions, Gates. I don’t think he was lying to me. I think, even if he was tricked, he believed what he was doing was going to help save us all from Uluru.”

Gates sighs through his nose, eyes tracking from side to side. A thought crosses his mind and he starts to speak, but stops himself. He reconsiders something, and his expression softens. “Couple years ago, before all the shit hit the fan with Praxis, we got wind that Kaito Nakamura had a vault tucked away in the mountains in India.” It’s hard to tell where this is going at first. “Lot of stuff important to the Nakamura family out there, presumably something only Kimiko knew about…”

Shaking his head, Gates tucks his hands into his pocket and glances to Odessa, then the floor. “After all the dust settled in Praxia, we interviewed a bunch of Monroe’s surviving staff. Two of them gave overlapping reports of an event that seemed to change everything with Adam. He went from being what they described as a self-possessed megalomaniac, to a laser-focused megalomaniac.”

Gates shrugs, then looks up at Odessa from the floor. “They said it all happened after he retrieved a penny from the Nakamura vault.” He looks Odessa up and down. “The penny they used to redact him in the 80s. The one with all of his memories on it. Which makes me think… if the story we’ve heard about what went down on the Deveaux rooftop that day in ‘84 is true? Our Uluru and Adam overlapped for a while. So he’d remember what it remembered while it was using him like a sock puppet.”

Gates takes a step toward Odessa and lowers his voice. “So the question becomes, not why did he give it to you…” his head tilts to the side, “but what did he want you to do with it?”

“He said,” Odessa begins cautiously, unconsciously shrinking back in her chair when Gates steps closer, “I was his failsafe.” She bites her lip and shakes her head. “That I need to find my sister, Cindy Morrison.” Dragging her fingers through her hair, she sighs heavily. “She’s in the custody of the Deveaux Society. They’ve allowed me to see her once. I don’t know if you’ve seen her, or know about her, but she’s locked in her own mind. But they say if she’s touched, she… shows things.”

But she’s getting ahead of herself. She circles back. “Adam told me… He said if he died, or worse, I needed to find out what was on that penny.” The words, the way he said it, sticks strong in her mind. “Between his penny, my sister’s power, and… my brain…

Odessa meets the telepath’s eyes, unafraid now (of him). “I need access to Cindy. She said something to me. I think she needs to show me something. I think she wants to.” For a moment, her gaze goes distant, remembering an episode of Jeopardy in her own damn mind. “I don’t think she knew who we were meant to be to each other, but I think she had custody of me for a while? That seems like the kind of sick shit Arthur would have pulled.” There are mixed feelings there, still. Part of her remembers the Petrelli patriarch as a mentor, fatherly at times, even. But even in those roles, he still had the capacity to be a monster.

“I think she could show me something important, Gates. I don’t think what I saw on that penny was a trap. I think it was just a hurdle.” Odessa leans forward, earnest now. “I was there on that rooftop in 1984. I was necessary then. I think I still am.”

She’s overwhelmed then with a profound sense of sadness. She wonders if he can feel it with her ability, too. “The last thing he said to me was that the man I knew was designed to kill us all, and that I deserved freedom from him.” She closes her eyes and thinks for a moment about what he once was. “He radicalized me as a teenager. It’s part of how I ended up with the Vanguard.” There is a deep and warranted sense of shame that comes part and parcel with that.

She opens her eyes only to look down at the floor. “Adam told me the world was sick, and filled my head with notions about my ability to heal it. I think he was right. I think I can. Just… maybe not the way he meant it at the time.” Again, she looks up to the agent, beseeching him. “I know I’ve been an awful person. I know nobody really trusts me, but you know, don’t you?” That she’s truthful. That she means what she says. “I don’t want the world to die. I want to save it.”

Gates is quiet for a little while after Odessa is done, then closes his eyes and shakes his head. “You get done saying how Adam promised you that you needed to be his failsafe, to follow his instructions to the letter… and in the next breath you’re saying how he’s the one who radicalized you and send you off to the Vanguard by playing into your need to be the hero.”

Gates looks over at Odessa, brows furrowed. “You do realize you’re falling into the same patterns of abuse, right?” The question is a rhetorical one, to Gates it doesn’t matter if she believes him or recognizes it.

“I know who Cindy Morrison is,” he says as a change of topic. “And if it weren’t potentially suicide to attempt a telepathic link to her, I might be able to get her out of her predicament. But right now we’re staring down the barrel of a gun about 1AU that way,” he says, pointing to the sky, “and I can’t risk being a drooling vegetable. And you can’t afford to be distracted by Monroe’s last attempts to manipulate you and your ego.

Crossing his arms over his chest, Gates gives Odessa a firm look. “If there’s something on the penny, the OEI can and will find it. But we can’t help if you don’t let us.”

The same patterns of abuse. Odessa sucks in a breath and looks down and away, obviously affected by the assertion. To have it said that way, in those words, hurts in a way she didn’t expect. The dig at her ego causes her to flinch further, lips pressed together. It takes effort to avoid giving into the urge to cry.

“You’re right.” So, she’ll share a little more. “Cindy said one word to me,” she confides. “Thirty-four.” She shrugs her shoulders, shaking her head. “I don’t know what that means, but she was trying to tell me something.”

After another deep breath and a moment of solemnity stolen behind closed eyes, she lifts her head again and squares with Gates. “Does helping me entail cutting me out of the equation?” Odessa knows how this works. Or how it has in the past, anyway. “I’ll give you that penny if you promise you’ll convince the Deveaux Society to let me find out what my sister wants me to know.” Her gaze holds steady. “Will you do it?”

Gates sighs softly, his tense shoulders relaxing. “I don’t have any reason to cut you out of her life, and if you’re willing to cooperate… I have incentive to help where I might otherwise not.” He admits, a small and selfish smile creeping up on his lips. “Unlike a lot of other government functionaries, when I say you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours I mean it. Because this is a world-ending itch we’re talking about.”

Shifting his weight to his front foot, Gates holds out an open hand. He doesn’t say anything, but Odessa knows what it implies. He either intuited that Odessa was keeping it on herself, or he read her mind.

And if he read her mind, he was kind enough not to call her out on her quiet deception and let her come around on her own. Odessa can appreciate that. “It’s not being cut off from my sister that I worry about so much,” though it is still a worry, “it’s anything else you might plan to do with what I’ve been entrusted with.”

Slowly, she reaches behind her neck to work on the claw clasp that holds the ends of her necklace together. “Who do you have that can look at this? I’ve tried a couple psychometers before, and all they got was memories of the penny being passed around, not what was on it.”

“We have someone who can analyze the information on these,” Gates says vaguely, watching Odessa take the necklace off. “We’ll get to the bottom of it. Our world depends on it. And you have my word about Cindy.”

Provided she follows through with the penny.

“I believe you.” And if Gates knows anything about Odessa, it’s that she’s not a terribly trusting person. Once she clasps the necklace back together to ensure the pendant won’t fall off the chain, she pulls it from her shirt and holds it out, letting it dangle in front of him so he can see it is what she says it is. “1984 mint. It was still shiny and new when they did this to him.” It’s certainly not that anymore.

A faint smile shows on her face, introspective and bittersweet. “You know, I wanted to be like you. The suit, the job… I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to help people.” Odessa lowers the penny onto his palm, but still holds to the chain. It’s symbolic more than anything else. He could easily tear it away from her if he wanted. “If this… The memories on this penny…” The smile fades. “If your people use it to hurt others, I’ll never recover.” Because while she may trust him, there’s a whole unquantified host that makes up the OEI that she can’t assess, and she’s been used by the government before.

Gates chooses a more gentle path of closing his hand around the penny, but not pulling it away, letting Odessa choose to let go.

Though he does say, “This isn’t an accusation, but a genuine question: Did you want to help people because you wanted to help people, or because you wanted people to love you?”

There’s a hint of familiarity in the way he says it, words or feelings that may be his own. May have been his own. It’s impossible for Odessa to tell with how their abilities interact.

The question catches her off guard and hits her square in the chest with all the force of a freight train running at full speed. Odessa’s brow creases, her lips tremble, and a tear slides down her cheek. “I wanted to be free,” she admits in a hush. Her throat is too tight and when she breathes in through her nose, it’s a wet sound. “The world was too dangerous. They told me that was why I had to be locked away.”

Still, she clings to that chain.

Sniffling again, more tears come. “If I could save the world, I could be part of it.” Face contorting with her misery, she continues. “I watched other kids go home with their families. I lived in a sub-basement.” The bitterness edges its way in. “Other kids had birthday parties. I didn’t even know when I was born.” Bowing her head and biting her lip, she holds that way for a moment, continuing to sniff loudly.

“They filled my head with these notions that I was special, but not that I was loved. It’s like they did everything they could to make sure I never felt it, so they wouldn’t have to train it out of me.” Her lips twist into a strained and acerbic smile. “They’ve done studies about that, you know. Have you ever read them? What it does to a kid?” The cruelty of it is unfathomable. “They raised me to be a psychopath…” Blue eyes come up again, searching for understanding.

“Motherless… Fatherless… Unloved… Little Odessa from Odessa.

The breath of laughter that follows that lamentation is without humor. “Only the wrong kind of people can love a person like me.” Time and again she’s told herself that Richard was just lonely, or that he didn’t really acknowledge the reality of her. It fits with the narrative that she’s just illustrated has been woven since she was a kid. “So, yeah. Maybe it was about love at first, back then. But now?” Odessa finally lets the chain slip free from her hand. “It’s just the right thing to do.” Wiping under her eyes with the pads of her fingers, she shrugs her shoulders. There you have it.

Gates is silent through Odessa’s emotions, and he looks away long enough to examine the penny in his hand before transferring it to his jacket pocket. He’s silent for a while, then looks down to the floor, then to the door at the end of the hall.

“I’ll let you know what we find.” Gates says softly, turning for the door.

“You have my word.”

Some Time Later

Geographic Region Redacted

A necklace bearing a 1984 penny swings back and forth in the dim light of a dark office.

“…and she says it has all of his redacted memories on it.” Gates says, setting the necklace down on the desk in the light cast by a small green-shaded accountant’s lamp. The man on the other side of the desk sits back in his chair, and the glowing ember of a cigar blooms bright in the dark.

“You did good work, Gates.” Marcus Raith says as he sits forward, plucking the cigar out of his mouth with one hand and retrieving the necklace with the other. “There’s no telling what kind of information could be encoded on this, two-plus centuries of memories. However much of that they took from him.”

Gates nods, taking a step back from the desk. “I promised her that I would let her know what we find on it.” Then he appends, “Within reason.”

Marcus nods, and makes a dismissing motion to Gates. “Of course,” he says, setting his cigar in an ashtray so he can pick up the phone at his desk. “Let me know how that Cindy Morrison thing shakes out, too. It’s good to know where she wound up.”

Gates nods, then excuses himself from Marcus’ office. It’s only when Gates is fully gone that Marcus dials a number and waits for a response.

“It’s me,” Marcus says quietly, dangling the necklace in the air. “I’m going to need to borrow Damian for a little bit.”

The voice on the other end of the line says something, muffled and tinny.

“You won’t believe what I got my hands on.”

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