It Should've Been Different


bf_cassandra_icon.gif robyn3_icon.gif saito_icon.gif

Scene Title It Should've Been Different
Synopsis Robyn Quinn employs an unlikely asset in the investigation of a murder: The murder victim herself.
Date August 12, 2019

It should’ve been different.

That though has been rattling around inside of Robyn Quinn’s mind for the last few months. It should’ve been different. Right now it means the way Agent Baumann died, as her passing at the start of the year is brought back to the forefront of Robyn’s mind. It’s been months since Voss handed her that assignment, months of interruptions, delays, and unexpected twists in her personal and professional life delaying this day.

But this day can’t be delayed any longer. Sooner or later, this was going to happen.

“We’re here.”

Hartford Company Warehouse

Red Hook

New York City Safe Zone

August 12th

7:09 am

No one has come or gone from the riverside Hartford Company Warehouse since Cassandra Baumann’s body was found there in January. SESA closed off the site, marked it as an active crime scene, and for the last eight months has struggled to solve their own agent’s death in the absence of both her ability and the resources to follow up the lead. Robyn Quinn’s car, parked in the wild and partly overgrown lot of the warehouse is the first car to be here in five months.

The front passenger-side door opens as Kenji Saito slowly emerges from within, squinting against the summer sun coming up over the buildings to the east. It’s only just now morning and already it’s swelteringly humid. He tugs at the collar of his black suit jacket and goes to open the door for the contractor sitting in the back of Robyn’s car. “Whenever you’re ready, Miss Cain.”

Cassandra Cain, as she’s known in this timeline, has had months to reconcile that she would be observing the death of her own parallel self. In the intervening time, SESA has struggled under the weight of multiple ongoing investigations to budget time to get the proper permits and clearance to investigate this murder site with a postcognitive. Privacy laws required legal counsel, the highly classified nature of Cassandra’s very existence further legal hurdles, and then on top of that the disappearance of Jac Childs further delaying this moment.

As Saito steps away from the door to the back of the car, he looks up to the warehouse’s peeling tar paper roof, to its rock-smashed windows, to the brown grass growing up between the cracks in the parking lot. It hasn’t changed since January. Hopefully that’s for the best.

Summer in New York isn’t too bad.

Growing up in Louisiana, Cassandra grew up during days so humid, walking outside was like being slapped with a wet towel, and temperatures often ping-ponged back and forth across the century mark. It was survivable, even pleasant, sometimes, but that was with the help of swamp coolers, light clothes, iced tea, and a salt breeze coming off the Gulf. Up here in New York, there was very little of that, and with the destroyed infrastructure and miles of concrete merrily soaking up the heat? Well, it was just like home, minus the mosquitos.

One small blessing, in her eyes.

Still, combining the lack of cooling and green space in the city, even low temperatures could quickly spike into the unpleasant range, so Cassandra, being pragmatic, dressed for the occasion in boots, jeans, and a nice shirt that covered her arms. Swinging her feet out of the back seat and pulling on her sunglasses, her feet crunching on the ruined concrete, Cassandra stands and takes a hesitant step, swiveling to look over her shoulder at Agent Saito for a second before her attention is captured by the ruined warehouse.

Her head turns slightly, taking in the scene. “So that’s where she was found..” she murmurs, more to herself than anyone, still trying to reconcile the possibility of what may be in store for the past she’s about to replay for the gathered group, rubbing her shoulders with both hands. The chill that you get when someone walks over your grave? Cassandra’s feeling that in spades. She had been given a brief rundown on how Cassandra Baumann was found - here in this warehouse - as well as the bullet points of the cause of death. Thankfully, from the summary she was given, Cassandra’s death probably was quick - just a few moments of terror that the woman standing here is about to live for the first time, and broadcast to two others, watching her doppelganger go through it and knowing that it really happened. Really, really happened.

There's a clear hesitance on Robyn's face as she pushes open the door to the car. Mildly ill at ease, she looks out at the direction of the river with an odd sort of suspicion. That gaze lingers, before she turns to Saito and Cassandra in turn. "This is your last chance," she starts as she turns away, starting a slow pace towards the scene of discovery, "to not see something you can't unsee." A warning shared to both of them, for different reasons. For Cassandra, the intent behind the warning is obvious. For Saito… she may have told him about other dimensions, time travel, and the myriad other things she's been involved in in her adult life, but nothing compares to what they may be about to see.

Not that any of them have the option to not see this through.

A look back at Saito reveals an expression that shows how much she wishes they could turn around and leave, though. Eyes close, and her visage becomes more stoic as she looks to Cassandra. "Come on." A follow me motion of her hand, and she starts across the lot. "Let's put a bow on this and get out of here." She may not have been close to her Cassandra, but this time she's finding it hard to hide how uncomfortable this makes her, a stark comparison to her far too casual, almost joking reaction to finding the body last time she was here.

“If there were any other way to find this out, I’d let you go that route so I didn’t have to do this.” Cassandra says, falling in behind Robyn and Saito as they start towards the warehouse, weaving around dead grass and broken glass in their path. The building grows larger as they approach, the only sound their feet against the broken concrete. “In the time leading up to today, I kept telling myself that I don’t have to do this. I could find an excuse to just not show up. The funny thing was, no matter how much I tried to justify not coming here, I kept circling back to needing to. After all,” Cassandra pushes her hair behind her ear where it’s quickly blown out by the breeze coming across the pavement. “She deserves it, plain and simple. She helped a lot of people and whoever did this to her needs to answer for what they did.”

The walk up to the factory is a slow one with Saito lagging behind some as he walks. The young agent can’t help but follow Cassandra with his eyes, can’t help but struggle with the enormity of both what he’d learned before taking on this case and what he would undoubtedly have to grapple with once Cassandra was done here.

The building looms crumbling and red, three stories tall. Its windows, all of which are in various states of broken, are just rectangles with darkness beyond. As the trio makes their way around the southeast side of the building to the dirt lot where Cassandra’s body was found, there is more yellow tape erected by SESA, some of it recent along with location marker cards in bright hunter orange, numbered to show where pieces of evidence were found — like the vial of Refrain.

“This is…” Saito starts to say, then realizes he’s too far behind them. He takes a few hustling strides to catch up, coming around on Robyn’s side and angling a look across her to Cassandra. “This is where we found you— her.” He blanches, motioning sharply down to the ground where a single evidence card marked with a bold 1 sits.

Robyn is quick to look up at Saito at his gaff. She can't blame him, she would definitely be making the same mistake in his shoes. "To be exact," she starts in a low voice, "this is where we discovered our Jane Doe's identity. She, along with three others, were fished from the river." Motioning to the river with a bit of hesitation, before fingers curl into fists and she looks back to the other two.

"I would prefer to stay as far from the water as we can manage," she notes, a shiver running down her back as she turns her attention to the "1". "We don't start here," she states definitively. "We end here." Attention turns to the warehouse, with its collapsed side. "We start there, if we can safely navigate around and possibly through the inside. If Cassandra can help us see what caused the explosion, we can work in and out to piece things together better." Maybe. Turning her attention to their guest of the hour, she manages not to hitch her voice saying her name. "How're you feeling about this?"

Stepping into the deserted warehouse where this world’s Cassandra was found really brings it home. The movie fan in her was expecting a classic chalk outline to show where the body was found and a hard-boiled detective taking statements from witnesses. All that’s left to show that a life ended here is a small yellow evidence card sitting on the floor. A very visible shiver goes through Cassandra at the sight. “To be honest?” Cassandra turns to Robyn, letting Saito catch up, staying close to the pair in a futile effort to comfort herself. “I feel like I’m going to throw up.” Cassandra admits quietly to Robyn. “I thought I might have a…reaction. It’s why I didn’t have breakfast. Just in case.”

Cassandra takes a deep breath and looks towards the site of the explosion, then back to the number, sitting there innocently, physically turning her back on it so she doesn’t have to look at it. That’s the bomb at the end of the story. The toxic surprise at the center of this particular Tootsie roll pop, and she’s not wanting to get right to the worst of it.

“As long as there was someone alive around before it happened, I should be able to get something.” She reaches into her breast pocket to draw out her blindfold. A newly-built item from Raytech, it looks like a simple pair of sunglasses with a strap that tie on the back of her head, pulling the glasses tightly over her eyes. At a glance, that’s all that they are, but when they’re on, all visual stimulus she would get is cut off entirely, special filters storing and dispersing the dark tears that are a hallmark of her ability. “Let’s find a spot near the center of the explosion and let me go to work. Hell, a chunk of the bomb might give me something. I’ve pulled data off of worse.”

Worse was a dead man’s jawbone. A memory she doesn’t like keeping in her pocket.

“We uh,” Saito adjusts his collar as he hustles to keep up with the two, “actually— there weren’t any. Bomb fragments, I mean. The report on this suspects Expressive ability may have been the cause of the explosion. A full fire investigation came up inconclusive. There was original speculation that this was a gas leak blast, but there’s no active mains.”

Saito moves ahead of Robyn and Cassandra, pulling the tape away from the blown-out side of the building and balling it up in his hand. He could’ve just lifted it, he realizes a moment too late. “The uh, blast started…” he just drops the tape, for lack of a place to put it, then fishes a slim tablet out of a zippered pocket in his jacket. With a tap he turns it on, then navigates through some documents to a map of the factory with investigator’s notes. “Over there,” he motions to where concrete support pillars are bowed outward, cracked and scrubbed clean of their stone on one side, exposing rusted rebar supports within. The floor is likewise broken, shattered beyond recognition.

“Forensics got zero off of this entire site. No blood, no hair, no partials, nothing. The fire did a lot, but whatever happened here either— didn’t happen here or a lot of work went into trying to hide who did it. But then,” he motions in the direction of the river, “that. So…” Saito looks down to the floor, then sweeps his attention up to Robyn, then Cassandra.

“Whenever you’re ready, Agent B— ” Saito just shuts his mouth and looks rueful, bringing up hand up to his head. “Ms. Cain.

Robyn angles a look over towards Saito, seemingly emotionless. She feels less so internally, but she's trying her best not to let it slip out into the world. Her stare is a practiced one, one Saito has likely gotten used to seeing by now. It stands somewhere between "You're talking too much" and "You got this, kid."

Silently, she looks around the crumbling building, taking a moment to take it in close up. She knows it's closer than they should be; it was a bit astounding that the building hadn't finished collapsing in on itself by now. It's not like she could protect them if she did; her ability doesn't give physical plyability to her darkness.

She steps gingerly, looking the room for scorch marks, discoloration, anything that could donate a possible point if origin. Yes, the room has been professionally search multiple times, and her colorblindness can make discerning differences hard occasionally. However… it can also create a stark difference in spots as well

It takes a moment before she finally steps towards the middle of the room, and bends down to pick up a broken piece of a brick that once made up the building. With a glance over to Saito, she wordlessly hefts it up and holds it out to Cassandra, one eyebrow quirked expectantly.

A challenge. Do what you do, Cassie.

Cassandra doesn’t answer for a few seconds, shards of shattered brick crunching beneath her feet as she follows Agent Saito through the tape to the blast zone. It’s surprising how well she moves, confident, comfortable amidst the wreckage. Spending so much time jumping from string to string and living in places very much like this for an extended period, you tend to revert to old habits that kept you and yours alive and comfortable in such places. “It’s okay, Agent Saito. Cassandra’s fine. Cain really doesn’t fit, but I had to pick another name before my relocation. Besides, if you can be Batwoman, be Batwoman, y’know?” Cassandra actually rests a hand on his shoulder briefly, giving it a squeeze. “I understand the confusion. Trust me. I’ve had to try and stay out of your Cassandra’s shadow ever since I got here, and it’s not been easy.”

This, though? This should be a walk in the park with a horrible destination at the end.

Cassandra turns to look at the blown apart columns, studying them, before striding towards them confidently. She’s in her element. “Forensic scouring tends to fail when I get involved. Shift delete won’t help anyone here.”

Standing just outside of the edge of the blast zone, Cassandra uses her foot and a hunk of plywood to scrape a clear spot on the floor, laying the wood smooth-side up, taking a seat cross-legged right in the middle of it, shifting to get comfortable, and pulls on her blindfold, securing it with a click on the back of her head.

“I guess you’ve worked with Cassandra before.” Her head swivels, blindfolded eyes taking in the dimensions of the room. “Objects have a size limit. Locations are generally the four walls around me.” The warehouse would be pushing it, but where she sits, it seems she should be able to get quite a bit. “So hang on to your butts.”

And the lights blink off.

Cassandra Baumann’s power was more gradual, but this Cassandra’s works much, much quicker, thanks to her time researching for various alphabet agencies in her world and some very painful memories in this one. Almost in an instant, the world recedes into darkness, the light fading from one frame to the next, as if a giant window had been shut or a light had been switched off. Ghosts of movement can be seen swirling around - echoes from the more recent past. Glimpses of homeless scavengers picking out twisted steel for recycling, construction workers cleaning up debris or SESA agents taking photos and notes about the scene flash into being, Cassandra combing through the psychic backlog of the world in search of the information that is being sought. Instead of using individual threads like she normally follows, the room’s resonance is being woven into a tapestry, unconsciously, and being played back in quadruple time.

Flames blossom on fragments of shattered shipping crates. Destruction and chaos give way. She smooths the stones and new patterns emerge - chaos becomes order - a few hops back and the warehouse is undamaged, the world as it was before. She looks back to Robyn and Saito, able to pinpoint them in the vision. “Ready?” she asks. When and if the word is given, the wheel turns.

Twice!” A faintly British-accented voice cuts through the echoing clatter of the warehouse. Cassandra is suspended in the air, floating free in the middle of the warehouse without anything holding her up, a panicked look on her face. A pale figure cast in moonlight stands in the doorway that leads out toward the river. “Is she gone? Did you lose her!?” He is tall, well over six and a half feet, ghastly pale with no hair. His blue eyes feel overly large in his small, round head. Bundled against the cold, he looks like a scarecrow brought to life.

“What the fuck!?” Saito yelps, backing up from where the frighteningly tall albino was standing in the vision. But it ends there, because Cassandra ended it. There’s more, further back, and she’s sure of it. The albino, the late Cassandra Baumann, everything moves in a hasty blur as her living doppelganger rewinds the moment in time back to its start.

The warehouse is dark, save for shafts of pale moonlight that spill through the high windows. In the open space between shipping containers, a woman sits slouched forward against the concrete, her back up against a metal support column, chains wrapped around that then loop down around her raised arms, locking her wrists together. Her head hangs forward, dark curly hair spilling over an equally dark complexion.

That’s not Cassandra.” Saito says with a furrow of his brows, heart still racing from the previous moment. He starts to go through data on his tablet. “I’ll see if I can find anyone who is a match from the other corpses we ID’d.”

The bay doors of the warehouse on the opposite side from the river slowly slide open, followed by the sound of an approaching engine. A white panel van with no license plate comes to a stop as it backs up to the loading dock and then turns off its engine. The curly-haired woman bound in chains does not rouse from the noise. Muffled and distant voices grouse noisily as two men in workman’s jumpsuits get out of the van, circle around the back, and open the doors. “S’fuckin’ freezing out, fucking hate this,” the taller and thinner of the two says to the shorter and broader one.


These two men haul an unconscious Cassandra Bauman out of the back of the van, one man carrying her by the shoulders and another by the legs. They haul her into the warehouse and lay her down on the floor while one of them breaks away and grabs a folding chair, opening it and setting it up near the woman bound in chains. “Go get the duct tape y’moron,” the short man with the grizzly beard says to the taller, who hustles back to the van to retrieve a roll of tape. Soon they prop Cassandra up and hoist her into the chair, then duct tape her hands together and her ankles to the legs of the chair.

“Y’think that’ll do?” The taller man asks, one brow raised. The shorter man shrugs and shakes his head.

“Won’t matter, boss’ll be here soon. C’mon, let’s go move the van.” The shorter of the two kidnapper says, motioning to the back doors of the warehouse where the van sits idle.

“No match,” Saito says as he looks up from his tablet, “this other woman, she isn’t one of the people we pulled out of the river.” Slowly moving around the perimeter of the vision, Saito creases his brows and looks from Cassandra to Robyn and back again, worried.

Colourblind eyes dart back and forth as Robyn takes in the events happening in this vision. Arms cross, lips pursing as she watches the unwind unfold in a manner that almost makes her a little queasy. Pressing the back of her hand against her mouth to suppress a sound of uneasiness, she takes a deep breath and sighs.

"I want an ID on Powder," she remarks, motioning to where the albino last stood. "And that van." But she is almost transfixed by the woman with the curly hair, watching her closely. "Listen closely. Watch the edges of this… scene for details. If they were looking for our Cassandra specifically… they had to know what she could do."

Not that they were likely counting on another Cassandra being here to drag it out into the light. There weren't many postcognatives like her - none, at least, that Robyn had ever met. Hands clasp behind Robyn's back as she begins pacing around the unfolding scene, treating it almost as though she were on a holodeck in some sci-fi TV show or movie. "Cassandra, how much fine control do you have over how this plays out?"

She doesn't look towards the other woman as she addresses her, instead making her way further in, as an opposition to how Saito lingers at the edges. THe jumpsuits are studied, looking for any identifying marks, logos, or spots where patches may have been torn off. The warehouse may be dark, but that's to the agent's benefits - being able to see more clearly in the dark occasionally proves to be quite the boon.

Cassandra didn’t know what to think when she saw herself floating there in the vision in the center of the room. The other was still alive at this point, held there by the albino. And she knew that, at some point quite close to this, Cassandra would not be breathing anymore, having her head partially melded with a slab of concrete. Cassandra feels sick, covering her mouth, trying not to wretch. In the days leading up to this, she knew, logically, that she’d see something terrible happening to the Cassandra of this world and told herself that she could handle it. Now, faced with the vision, she found herself staring at herself from her seat on the floor, fighting the very real urge to stop the vision or jump up to help, somehow, even though she knew in her heart of hearts that her visions were only echoes of what had happened. Changing the past after the fact would be on par with changing an echo after it’s been shouted.

It just doesn’t happen.

Her attention turns to Robyn, away from the figure bound to the railing, away from Cassandra taped to the chair. “Sorry…I don’t know what happened there. There must have been a…hiccup. Or something. To keep me from going past when he…the albino…was holding Cassandra.” she apologizes. “Fine control. Um, I can’t zoom in or anything like that, but I can change the passage of time.” She lifts a hand and the scene inches forward at a snail’s pace. Drawing it back freezes the scene and starts inching in back, the men moving fluidly in reverse. “Normally I could re-orient things and change the center of the image, but this room is different from the items I usually deal with. We have to physically move to wherever you’d like to see.”

There is a long span of empty time where Cassandra, bound to the chair, twitches and shifts. The other, unknown woman, remains as motionless where she is chained up. Moving faster through the passage of time, the still living Cassandra is able to speed through roughly an hour of unconsciousness until—

Cassandra jerks awake from the torpor of unconsciousness with a startle. Her limbs don’t respond the way she wants them to and she can feel the tug of adhesive at her bare wrists. Blurry vision focuses to reveal a brick mill building that was at one point in time converted into a warehouse. Her hair is plastered to her face on one side, blood sticking to her brow and cheek.

Seeing Cassandra jerk upright, Robyn reaches into a side pocket on her bag and pulls out a personal notebook. She flips it open, thumb pressed against the spine as she pulls out a pen. With a click, she scribbles down Some fucking albino, before scratching out the curse and sighing.

"So she was already caught when she got here. Likely too hard to work backwards…" So looking up, she turns her attention to the altered present in front of her.

Outside of the spacious, dark building, there are the shouta of raised voices in argument, but it’s impossible to make out what it is they’re arguing over.

“Oh Jesus.” Cassandra covers her mouth at the sight of herself, bound, and the sound of the men outside of the room arguing. “We…” She slows the vision for a second. “We can move closer to the door to see if we can make out what they were arguing about, if that’d help. I think we…we need to finish this, first, though.”

Eyes slide over towards Cassandra, before Robyn nods. She makes a slow movement in the direction, though she tries to stay more focused on what's already happening.

Finally, straightening in her chair, Cassandra opens tear-crusted eyes, blinking away the stars that threaten to overtake her vision and tries to lift a hand to wipe her face off. When it doesn’t move, she stills and takes a calming, shuddering breath. Looking down, Cassandra studies the dull gray of the duct tape. With slow, gentle movements, Cassandra starts to work her right wrist back and forth beneath the duct tape, trying to get a little slack in the binding, her attention razor sharp on the voices arguing somewhere in the darkness.

After a while, with a tug of her right wrist, she tests her bonds, trying to jerk her wrist in one sudden movement to the center of her chest - the way her training taught her to break out of a situation like this.

There's a wince from Robyn, clenching her teeth a bit as she watches Cassandra work her way free. "Clever," Robyn admits, stopping in her tracks as she watches with fascination, before her eyes drift back to the other woman.

Looking down to her notebook, she scribbles Cassandra Baumann, before circling it.

“Hey… hey.” Cassandra whispers, trying to get the attention of the woman handcuffed to the railing. “Wake up.”

After Cassandra painfully gets her hands free, the biting cold stinging at every inch of her exposed skin, she finally hears the other woman makes a noise in the back of her throat. The other captive blearily opens her eyes a sliver and squirms against the uncomfortable ache of her raised arms. As awareness rapidly becomes understanding it quickly spikes into horror. She struggles against her restraints with a noisy clatter of metal on metal, tugs back against the rail she’s cuffed to, breathing heavily and eyes wide. It’s only when she sees Cassandra halfway bound to the chair nearby that the scope of the situation really comes into focus along with her vision.

Jesus Christ,” she says with a shaky, breathless exhalation. “Jesus fucking Christ, what the fuck— where— where are we?” Whoever she is, she’s not hesitating, tugging and pulling at the railing in an attempt to try and wrest herself free. All it’s doing is making noise. But at the moment the men arguing outside don’t seem to notice.

Wrists raw and bleeding, pain shooting to the tips of her fingers, Cassandra reaches down to unwind the tape from around her ankles and pushes herself out of the chair she was bound to, crouching down to make an assessment of what’s happening.

“Shh, shh. Quiet.” Cassandra whispers, hands coming up to cover the chain against the metal. “Stay still.” She glances furtively over her shoulder towards the sound of the argument, listening intently, before turning back to the other woman. “I’m Cassandra. I don’t know what’s going on. I’m snatched, same as you.” Cassandra’s right hand moves to the collar of her jacket, fingertips searching the seam until she finds what she’s looking for - a bobby pin tucked there just in case something like this ever happened.

The bobby pin goes to her teeth, the plastic ball tugged off the straight end and the pin bent out and stuffed into the lock as deep as it will reach before she bends it over, removes it, and does it again, creating a zig-zag bend at the end. She’s going to try and pick this thing!

“Never thought I’d have to do this…” she murmurs, carefully working at the lock, trying to keep the chain from scraping against the metal. “What’s your name? Why did those people want you?” Trying to keep the woman calm by having her concentrate on other things.

The other woman stares vacantly, then confusedly, up at her rescuer. “I— Cassandra.”

Well, there’s a coincidence.


Cassi. Cass— Cassi Hayes.” Looking up to the handcuffs, Cassi does her level best not to squirm any further. She looks past Cassandra to the sound of voices, and at the same time seems to be trying to calm herself down. In spite of how cold it is out, Cassandra can see bears of sweat forming on Cassi’s brows. “You gotta hurry, I— I think they’re coming. Oh fuck I think they’re…”

Upon hearing the name. Robyn offers a pointed look towards Saito, before looking down to her notepad and scribbling Cassandra Hayes down, with arrows pointing out to the phrases Cassie?, No Initial facial match, possible alias?. "Hell of a coincidence," she voices aloud, giving voice to something she's sure they were all thinking. A line is drawn from one Cassandra to the other, connecting them.

Her pen taps against against her chin, looking up as new chatter draws her attention back to the scene playing out in front of her.

Cassandra can hear the noise of conversation getting closer, a substantial amount of clattering happening at the front of the warehouse like a chain being moved from the doors. There’s the rapid clinking of links being pulled through a metal opening, probably a closed handle. Cassi struggles, making the lockpicking harder. But then she stops, her breathing arrests, and Cassandra can see Cassi’s pupils grow wide enough to nearly swallow her irises.

Then, in an instant, they narrow to pinpoints and she jolts like she just fell into her own skin from a great height. “Go— go go go they’re going to come in!” She hisses, just as Cassandra finishes picking Cassi’s right cuff with a click.

Robyn narrows her eyes as she studies Cassi, immediately starting to walk closer to her. "Her eyes," she notes with a tone that borders on accusatory. "What the hell just happened? Is she Evolved?" These questions of course just go out to the room with no real intention of having them answered.

Pen moves across paper, drawing another arrow out from Cassi's name. Crazy eyes. Evolved? Possible mental class ability?

“I’m not leaving you.” Cassandra’s voice is calm, despite the very real fear running through her. She looks around hurriedly for something, anything, then grabs the length of chain Cassi Hayes had been bound with. She hefts it in her right hand and turns to Cassi, looping the chain of the cuff around the wrist still braceleted. “Listen to me.” Cassandra puts her hand on both shoulders, looking right into the other woman's eyes. “ When the door opens, you run. Run as fast as you can for the opening. Ignore anything that happens.”

Cassandra sighs, hangs her head, and then it's all business. Her pupils expand, sclera turning black, and she turns to gaze at the door, able to see despite her ability’s drawback, waiting for the instant the door swings open.

Cassi Hayes’ eyes widen and she looks like she’s going to talk again, but as Cassandra pulls that length of chain Cassi had been handcuffed to up into one hand all she does is sink back in momentary resignation to the moment. “Cassandra— ” is her too-late interjection as the doors to the warehouse open and a pair of men in gray coveralls come strolling in, mid-argument.

“He said he’s on his way, we— ” Whatever the tall, broad-shouldered kidnapper was going to saw is swallowed by a sensory overload from visions of the past come frighteningly alive. Shadows and figments give way to an entire warehouse full of laborers moving boxes of machine parts. Voices fill the air, a cacophony where there was nothing a moment prior. The two kidnappers let out a shriek of fright, staggering away from the phantasmal display. The shorter, thinner of the two clutches at his head and walks straight backward into an old metal shelf, causing it to topple over with a riotous clang.

“I had no idea that I could do something like /that/” Cassandra watches in awe as the multiple timelines flash over each other. Perhaps something to practice.

"Don't let it get you into trouble," Robyn remarks in a flat tone as she watches Cassandra's ability play out. "I'm surprised you're able to… recreate this madness, to be honest." Eyes flick over to Cassandra Cain, and then back to the vision

Cassi Hayes spares only a moment looking at Cassandra. Her pupils do wide, then narrow down to pinpoints again. She starts to say something, stops, tries again, nearly reaches for the postcognitive twice, but each time she stops herself. It’s only then, with a rueful look of guilt on her face, that Cassi disappears in a burst of what looks like superhuman speed. But it comes with no gust of air, no rush of something moving faster than a human ever could. One moment she’s there, another she’s a blur, and then…

"What the actual fuck?" Now Robyn's eyes narrow as she looks at the space where Cassi used to be.

DEF evolved. Translocative? Why stay captured? No evidence of speed. …conceptual? Looking back up, she draws a line from her initial observations down to her new notes, frowning.

"Agent Saito, did you get a better look at that? Got any thoughts on what sort of trick she just pulled?" This isn't a test, and that much is evident in Robyn's voice - she is very genuinely hoping her partner has input on this.

Cassandra feels something slam against her chest, not a bullet or a fist or anything tangible. But there’s a pressure on her rib cage so sudden and so forceful that it knocks her off of her feet. She is flung backwards through the air, disrupted from her concentration in such a way that her projection of the past dissolves into shimmering scraps of moments fluttering like loose feathers in the air. It’s only when she somehow doesn’t hit the floor but hangs in midair that she realizes nothing hit her in the chest at all but a force, a presence..

Twice!” A faintly British-accented voice cuts through the echoing clatter of the warehouse. Craning her neck where she’s suspended a few feet off the ground, she sees a pale figure cast in moonlight standing in the doorway of the warehouse that leads out toward the river. “Is she gone? Did you lose her!?” He is tall, well over six and a half feet, ghastly pale with no hair. His blue eyes feel overly large in his small, round head. Bundled against the cold, he looks like a scarecrow brought to life.

The albino’s blue eyes track to Cassandra. “Who— is this?


Motioning to Saito, and then to the two goons, she turns her attention to the albino as she scribbles more notes branching from some [redacted] albino - British-ish accent and Evolved. Some for of parakinesis/telekinesis?

“Who are you? Just…just let me go.” Cassandra spits, struggling against her bonds. “I don’t know why you grabbed me off the street, but let me go.”

The tall, sinuous albino cants his head to the side the way dogs do when they’re trying to hear a particular sound. His pale eyes look Cassandra up and down, and then frustratedly he looks over to the two men struggling to regain a hold of their senses. “I didn’t want— you,” he says with a subtle stutter. “I wanted her,” he motions to the door Cassi Hayes had escaped through. He reaches inside of his jacket, producing a thin vial of luminescent blue liquid and — rather than injecting it — he squeezes drops of it into his eyes. The effect leaves his eyes glowing with swirling blue light as veins are instantly introduced to the drug inside the vial:


With a moment of scrutiny, the albino looks at Cassandra intently and his glowing pupils narrow to pinpricks as he mutters, “Postcognitive. Useless.” The telekinesis suddenly ends and Cassandra is left to crash down onto her back on the floor. But when she hits the cement it feels like it’s lost its rigidity, like it’s become something malleable and spongy.

Robyn's posture noticeably stiffens as this plays out. "Wait, wait, wait-" Her voice almost sounds a bit frantic as she tries to piece some things together, turning to her notebook and scribbling multiple things. "Of course Refrain is involved." Goddamnit. "But how did he… He knew her ability." She looks over to Saito. "That's at least three different potential SLC Expressive displ-"

She pauses as she sees what's happening to the cement, eyes widening. "Four. Jesus…" She swallows, thinking back on the events of the last year. "Gemini? Or a Mosaic? Was he… ability hunting?"

That's a sobering thought, bringing up memories from years ago she would rather not entertain.

“I would’ve let— you go,” the albino hisses, and Cassandra can feel the force of telekinesis no longer lifting up, but pushing down. “I would’ve just let you go/,” he repeats with a tightness to his voice that channels his anger and frustration. He throws the now empty vial of Refrain down to the floor, shaking his head in frustration as he does.

It’s the last thing Cassandra hears before her head is slowly pushed inside of the concrete floor as though the stone were pudding. She grasps out wildly, clawing at anything she can find to stop what’s about to happen. One hand finds purchase on the cold glass of the vial. She squeezes it tightly in her palm, back arching, legs kicking, scream muffled by the suffocating envelope of stone.

The albino stands over her, watching as she struggles, claws, kicks, and after a horrifyingly long period of time suffocates in that stony prison. The albino sucks in a deep breath, then exhales a shuddering sigh and sweeps his hand down his face. With a gesture of one hand he pulls her up out of the ground, leaving a mass of hardening stone entombing her head.

Cassandra has seen death before. She’s even taken part. Killing and death is not something she relishes in the slightest. Through it all, she sits silently, watching her doppelganger dangle above the concrete floor and then slammed unceremoniously down and into the suddenly muck-like surface. She hangs her head, turning it to not see the final fear-soaked moments of Cassandra’s life, but that doesn’t stop the sounds. She covers her ears, but that doesn’t stop the noise that’s coming directly from her ability inside her skull. There’s no shutting it off. She listens to the struggle of someone that does not wish to have her life ended against something that is very much doing so. Curling around herself, Cassandra listens to the scraping of boots against the portion of the floor that’s still solid, like concrete should be. The doomed woman’s movement grows more panicked as time passes until horribly, there is nothing but silence. The last sound she registers is the echo of Cassandra’s heels drumming on the floor as her legs finally collapse.

She doesn’t even consciously hear what the Albino says.

She’s going to need a minute after this.

Please do something— useful.” The albino hisses at his two henchmen who have scrambled away from Cassandra’s murder. “Take her and put her with the others,” he says with a motion to Cassandra’s body. The albino’s two henchmen scramble ahead, grabbing Cassandra by the ankles and the wrist and hurry with her toward the door that leads out to the river. The albino closes his eyes, sucking in a deep breath as he rolls his head to the side, then sighs deeply. He starts humming as he walks, smoothing a hand over the side of his head. The hum, then, turns into a whistle as his body starts to break apart into curling waves of water vapor and sublimates into seemingly nothingness.

Robyn recognizes the tune, it’s a Beatles song. Yesterday

"Five," notes Robyn, looking down at her notebook. "I believe in yesterday, hm? Well, buddy, you did have Refrain…" She turns back to Saito, walking towards him. "Para or telekinesis, force projection, ability identification, matter alteration, and smoke or vapor mimicry, at the very least. I may need to look into what we recovered from Sunstone. See if I can find any… matches to these ability sets being used or transfered there."

She offers Saito her notebook, pursing her lips. "This has gotten a lot more complicated."


Releasing the notebook into his grip, she turns back to Cassandra. "Can you keep going? I want to know what caused that explosion. We can… look into where and why they took Cassandra later."

Turning to Saito, she motions to the notebook. "Make a note to talk to Agent Sandoval about his progress in the human-slash-evolved trafficking cases."

It takes about a minute, but Cassandra pushes herself up to a sitting position with one hand, turning so she’s facing away from the entombed corpse of Cassandra Baumann and bobs her head. “Y..yes. I can keep going.” She swallows hard, her mouth dry. “I wasn’t expecting it to be…like that.”

Still facing away, she looks to Robyn. “You want to see what caused the explosion, or what the men were arguing about outside.” Cassandra sounds disconnected, almost, like her brain is running on autopilot but she really isn’t registering things that she’s seeing.

"Explosions first," Robyn replies, still looking at Saito. There's a pause, before she turns and starts to slowly walk towards Cassandra. "Unless you'd like a break, Ms. Cain. I… know what it's like to have to see yourself…" There's a hitch as she thinks back to her visions of other timelines, followed by a sigh. "Well, you know. It's draining. Take any time you need before we continue."

“No. No. I can go on. Do you have everything you need from here?” Cassandra looks over to Saito and Robyn, eventually turning toward the body and putting herself in a sitting position. She takes a moment and squares her shoulders, looking at the fallen Cassandra again, and then, once that horrible image has been studied, she sweeps her right hand forcefully from left to right, wiping away the scene, blotting out the image that was there by moving it into the future. Beyond the time of death to the moments before the explosion. She obviously doesn’t want to face her own mortality again any time soon.

“I think we've seen that enough,” Saito says in a hushed tone of voice, finishing making a note on his tablet before coming over to stand beside Robyn, concern evident on his face. The pair give Cassandra time to comport herself before she moves on to the cause of the explosion. As darkness and sensory deprivation floods the room, so to do images of the past coming out of the ephemeral darkness when Cassandra finds the precise moment.

Dim shafts of light spill through the high warehouse windows. Though night has fallen nearby street lights provide a jaundiced, ambient glow to the building’s interior. A tall and stocky man in a gray jumpsuit walls into one of those shafts of light, setting down a matte black case on a pair of steel drums. His jumpsuit bears a distinct patch on the shoulder, a red rat with three bars imposed over it.

Three others stand in the light, two dressed in black motorcycle jackets and one even carrying a helmet under his arm. The other a sleek, dark suit and polished shoes. All three men, Chinese, watch as the man in the jumpsuit opens the case and finds it… empty. “What the fuck is— ”

The man in the jumpsuit wheels around, only to come face to face with a gun drawn by one of the men in leather jackets. “Your employer fucked us,” says the man in the suit, who steps more clearly into the light to reveal a jagged burn scar down the side of his face and neck. “That last payment was short ten grand. We had a mutual arrangement of trust. The Ghost Shadows repay broken trust with blood, as I'm sure you're aware.”

“Bullshit, I— I counted that myself.” The man in the jumpsuit says, staring down the barrel of a gun. But the burn-scarred Triad doesn't seem to care.

“That’s Chan Tin-chu,” Saito says from within the projected past, “the man with the scar. he's a known Triad asset, believed to be Expressive, SESA’s been looking for him for a couple years now since he popped up on our radar running guns…”

“Unfortunately,” Chan says with a rise of his brows, “I don't much care. Shoot— ”

Before Chan can finish giving the order a gunshot rings out from elsewhere in the warehouse. It immediately escalated into a firefight as the man in the jumpsuit is struck in the shoulder by his would-be killer and someone fires a rifle from the catwalk. High up above, a shorter and broader man in a similar jumpsuit fires down at the Triad. Rounds are exchanged, one of the men in the leather jackets is clipped by a shot and staggers out of the warehouse. In the chaos, Chan is shot in the stomach and crumpled against a post.

Both men in the jumpsuit begin to scramble toward an exit as Triad members flee in another direction. Chan, bleeding, begins weeping fire from his stomach wound. A blue-orange glow surges under his skin, floods out through his eyes, and an instant later he explodes in a concussive blast of heat, flames, and debris.

Holy shit!” Saito exclaims, shielding himself from the seemingly real blast.

When the dust settles from the explosion, Chan staggers out from the still-burning warehouse, smoking and clothes in tatters. His Triad accomplices hurriedly rush him into a waiting sedan dented and damaged by the blast, while another hops on a motorcycle parked nearby.

“So Chan's ability is…” Saito mumbles as the vision fades, “exploding. That's fun.”

Robyn is quick to reflexively shield herself as well - though not from an all too real seeming explosion; rather, from the burningly bright light it produces. Teeth clenched, she grimaces and shakes her head as she blinks rapidly in an effort to clear her vision. She coughs, a reflective cough from the imagined debris, and looks around at Saito and Cassandra.

It takes a moment, but a small smirk forms on her face, and she traces a check mark in the air. "Nailed it," she states with a sense of self impressed amusement. "Explosive expressive. And one who is immune to their own blasts. He could be some sort of mimic, and the trauma resulted in a- well. Explosive reaction." She looks over to Saito, then down to her notebook - it was foolish to surrender it so quickly. "I've heard stories of people who would… bleed, for lack of a better word, that which they controlled. Fire, smoke, light. I've never seen any definitive proof, but…"

She shrugs, looking back at the scene around them. "I don't like where this rabbit hole is going, though," she mummers quietly.

“Maybe not totally immune.” Cassandra observes quietly. To her, it looked like the explosion took something else out of Chan. Or it might have been the injury. Probably a little of column a and a little of column b. Getting shot isn’t pleasant in the best of circumstances, and adding in the chaos of a gunfight would be plenty to wrest mental control of an ability from someone who needs that control to…y’know…not go Defcon one.

Despite the madness of the vision, Cassandra, sitting in her spot on the floor, does not move during the explosive replay. She’s done this enough to know her visions can’t hurt her but she does turn away at the flash of the explosion, the flames washing over her, involuntarily flinching as a girder bounces through her and into the brickwork beneath her, leaving a divot six inches deep in the floor. She does shuffle to the side, out of the image of the girder, and pushes herself to her feet, looking back at where she sat for a second before winding the scene back, pausing it, and moving carefully towards Chan and his accomplices, studying them curiously. “The car is probably already at the bottom of a river, or in another state, with different license plates or a different color. And unless someone has their very own Miraculous Mercy Healing type on staff, a gunshot like that is something you don’t just shake off.”

They’re probably not lucky enough for Chan to have died from his wounds.

“We need to find out who that albino is, I'm going to make a facial composite of him and that Cassi based on what we saw…” Saito says, sweeping his finger over the blank face of a 3D model of a human head ok the tablet. “Nothing I've heard of in recent reports though. The uh,” he tabs over to another screen where a basic internet search has concluded, “logo is of an extermination company here in the Safe Zone. Brink Extermination, they're in Phoenix Heights. Still waiting for a reply back about the Hayes woman.”

Saito levels a look up and over at Robyn, “We could pay them a visit, see if they know either of these men?” He looks to where the two assistants of the albino went. “I don't think we have a good lead with Chan unless he turns up on his own.” Saito then looks anxiously over to Cassandra. “Are… you ok?”

Robyn glances over at Cassandra for a moment, before looking back ahead at the ruined warehouse around them. "We should see if there's any information we can ply about the recent Triad dealings. Not right now, but… soon. There's a connection, and it's already been far too long." The trail may be cold already, but there's no reason to let it go full arctic.

"Otherwise… I agree. I think that's the best lead we have the moment." A nonchalant shrug is given, before she turns back to the other two. "Hayes may not have been registered, but there has to be something on record about her somewhere. If we can't get anything here, I'll reach out to Kansas City and see if they have anything they can pull up - social security, birth certificate, Slice registration. Anything that will help us better understand who she is and where she may have gone."

A finger taps against her chin, and Robyn's smirk becomes a full smile. "A two pronged game of cat and mouse. Hopefully it won't take us too long to catch our prey, then."

Anxiously looking up from Cassandra, Saito nods and then looks back to the blown-out ruins of the warehouse. His expression sinks into a grimace, brows knit together in a furrow, and eyes cast to the side.

“Fuck,” Saito whispers.

Fuck indeed.

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