Like The Library Of Alexandria


des_icon.gif julie_icon.gif

Scene Title Like the Library of Alexandria
Synopsis Sometimes everything just goes up in smoke.
Date August 28, 2018

Elmhurst Hospital

The sun has yet to sink below the horizon, but it’s steadily headed in that direction. The walls of Elmhurst Hospital draw long shadows across the asphalt of the employee parking lot. Shifts are changing over and people are slowly trickling out of the exit doors. There’s a woman still clad in her white coat standing under a shelter with a cigarette in hand. Taking a break, or they’re just the type that deludes themselves into thinking it’s not as bad if they don’t smoke in their car.

There’s laughter and soft conversation from a small knot of people exiting together. Friends about to head for happy hour at the end of a long day. Julie Fournier-Raith is not among them, having broken away from their pack and headed for her car. Keys jangle in her hand, tumblers click as the right one slides into the lock on the car door. The chatter stops, but not in the way that’s muted by the sound of car doors shutting. The lot is eerily silent.

The woman in the lab coat stands at the passenger side of Julie’s car, blue eyes pleading behind large red glasses. “Please don’t scream.”

The list of people still speaking to Des Desjardins is a short one. It’s made shorter when narrowed down by color of hair, and shorter still when she eliminates the faces she thinks her mother should recognize.

“Or… do, if it makes you feel better.” Des shrugs her shoulders. No one can hear it anyway.

Slowly turning toward that familiar voice, Julie keeps the keys in her hand. There's a large keychain of a purple penguin, a plastic block fit for a photograph, though it's hard to make out at a distance, and a cheap aluminum cutout of a paw print. Blue eyes assess Des with a certain measure of steeliness, her other hand is in a sling, wrist and part of her hand braced in a cast. Julie looks exhausted, dark circles under her eyes, like a tired raccoon about to be chased out of the garbage.

She says nothing when confronted with Des, just steels herself up against the car. There's a look around, down to the car — a pre-war Ford Taurus that probably had too many miles on it before the fighting began — then back up to the wanted woman. Julie’s grip on the keys tightens, jaw set.

Des’ eyes roam Julie’s figure, lingering on the cast and the sling. There’s apology in her eyes. Her own wounds are visible in the form of the angry red line on one side of her forehead. The stitches may be out, but it’s far from fully healed. She hasn’t seen the girl since… Well, she’s not a girl anymore, is she? It’s been a long time.

“You were on the roof with her that day, weren’t you?” Des raises her gaze back to Julie’s face slowly lifting her hands and placing her palms on the roof of the car to show she means no harm. That’s not to say she isn’t armed. That would be foolishness in her position.

Blue eyes narrow and Julie looks like Des just said something in Hebrew to her. Chin tilting askew, her grip on the keys loosens just a little. “We talked,” Julie reminds Des, brows raising slowly. “If this is about the attempted stabbing, let's call it even.”

As if to punctuate her bargain, Julie wiggles the fingers on her broken wrist slightly. People have tangled with Samson Gray and walked away with far worse before, if they ever walked away at all. “Okay?”

“No, we didn’t.” There’s a heavy sigh as she admits, “This is going to sound crazy.” That just can’t be helped. “Something happened. A… version of me from another timeline was in my body. We… swapped back only after…” She lifts a hand off the roof of the car to gesture vaguely toward Julie. “What happened. The person who saved me told me that I had a friend on that roof with me. It’s taken me awhile to figure out who that might have been.”

Des shakes her head, lips pressed together and brows furrowed in an expression of regret. “I don’t know what she wanted from you. Why either of you were there. I… I was hoping you could help me.”

To say that Julie is incredulous would be an understatement. Her grip tightens on her keys further, jaw sets tighter and its clear she's looking for possible ways around and away from Des to find the edge of her influence. But as she thinks back to the conversation she was having on the rooftop, how Des didn't seem to recall the events in the Arcology, what Julie herself saw in her ability. That white-knuckle grip loosens, and Julie looks at Des with widening pupils.

“It's changed.” Julie says with uncertainty, ending a stage that was looking through Des more so than at. “Your ability is back to normal, or whatever normal is for you compared to what was happening in June.” She looks Odessa up and down, then takes a step toward her.

“You called me, at Elmhurst, under an alias we had on file for you at the Institute. You arranged for a meeting on Staten Island, wanted me to go over what I knew about your file from my time at the Institute, and then you digressed and asked me about your ability. Which was… different.”

Julie’s brows furrow, head tilts to the side, and she inspects Des as though she were a fly in ointment. “Samson Gray attacked us before we could finish our conversation. I barely made it out of there alive.” And Julie feels no compulsion to explain how she managed that, either.

“Your story isn't unbelievable, either.” Julie notes almost off-handedly. “The Institute was running experiments on superstring migration and quantum viewing devices before it was burned like the Library of Alexandria.” Swallowing, Julie fights off a visible frown.

“Elaborate.” On your sitch.

Des isn’t sure what normal is anymore. For her ability or… in general. There’s a brief flash of a grimace as she listens to what the younger woman has to say. When Julie steps toward her, the distrust that her counterpart had shown isn’t there. She doesn’t step back, doesn’t tell her to stop. She steps out and away from the car, but puts no more distance between the two of them. Whatever it is Julie feels the need to do, Des is giving her the space to do it.

“So much for laying low,” Des mutters. If Julie recognized the alias, it could have been reported by someone else. The urge to glance around for signs of security grips her for a moment, but she stays focused. If this is how it happens, then she’ll deal with it.

“I’m glad you’re…” The brunette frowns faintly. “I’m glad you made it. I’m sorry you were in that position at all. I’m sorry you were hurt.” If there’s one thing Des is consistent about, it’s wanting Julie’s safety. She doesn’t need to ask how, she can just be grateful that the woman’s alive to speak with at all.

Elaborate, she’s bade. Taking a deep breath, Odessa decides to do just that. “Ever since the Arcology, something’s been wrong with me. I’ve… I’m sure you realized that I acquired Doctor Stevens’ ability. It seems to conflict with my own.” Which isn’t much of a revelation now or then. “I can see into the superstrings.” Confusion and a fear edge into Des’ expression and her tone. “Not intentionally, not consistently. But I have dreams about my other selves. And then we just… traded places. That’s not how either mine or Darren’s abilities ever worked. It shouldn’t be possible.

Julie’s tension only relaxes some, like the way someone might relax when confronted by a rabid dog, but discovers it's on the other side of a fence. She breathes in deeply, then exhales a steady sigh and looks away from Odessa to everything that's frozen.

“Darren Stevens possessed an ability to alter the state of matter by rewinding it to a previous state of being. Whatever means of quantum manipulation he had, must have interacted poorly with your ability, which — I assume — locks some matter and energy into a single quantum state while letting others flow freely. Like a screen door letting air in, but not birds.” Julie’s eyes wander as she theorizes what might be happening.

“The reaction when Darren tried to bring you back a second time must have been energetic. Some kind of collision of matter and particles that… maybe accelerated or simply disintegrated him. That seems to have destabilized you. I'm willing to bet the Gamma radiation inside the reactor didn't help either. It was likely a confluence of multiple possibilities happening all at once.” Julie searches the ground with an inspecting stare, then looks up to Des. “Basically, you broke yourself. Probably permanently, given that I can't think of a way you'd fix that.”

“I hate to be the bearer of bad news,” Julie says with a subtle frown, “but it's probably going to kill you. Maybe not in an obvious way, but… whatever is happening to you is clearly unstable. Your position in matter is unstable, shifting from one state to another. I wouldn't be surprised if you just ceased to exist at some point, from our perspective.”

The news Des is given isn't reassuring, nor does it bode well for the long term. However, Julie has one last piece of information to relay on that. “I've only heard of one other person with a similar ability to yours, but as far as I know they're dead. Doctor Luis was studying an Evolved that died… maybe sometime in the 1980s? Someone who he believed possessed an ability to alter their own quantum state. It was complicated stuff,” Julie notes with a shrug. “He never let me read the file, though.”

While Des had come to some of those conclusions on her own, it’s another thing to hear them confirmed by someone else. She looks uneasy and sick at the notion of simply disappearing. If she has her way, she’d like to avoid that fate, thanks.

“I’ve experimented some with Darren’s ability,” she explains softly, lifting one hand and watching the green arcs that jump between her fingers and spark off into the air before fading away when she closes her fist. “I can feel it unraveling me.” Des lets out a deep sigh, eyes closing heavily as she rolls her shoulders. She can feel the pull of time on her very being. Its call for release.

Blue eyes open again and settle on Julie. “Do you have any idea if that file might still exist somewhere? Any clue as to who it was?” She frowns, looking out into the still evening. Luis had promised to tell her more someday. How different would things have been if she’d followed him out of the reactor chamber instead of buying them more time? Instead of searching for–

No. Des sighs again. She made the right decision for once in her life. Mateo Ruiz hadn’t died alone, and if compassion isn’t more important than her selfish need for answers… “Anything would be helpful.”

“I don't know,” Julie says with a hushed voice and a slow shake of her head. “He didn't like to talk about it, and I let him keep it to himself. I was a child,” she reminds Odessa.

“If Luis still had the file it…” Julie closes her eyes and her brows crease, lips press together firmly. When those eyes open, she reaches inside of her purse and pulls out a somewhat crumpled yellow envelope. “He wrote to me during the war. But he… he was deteriorating. Parkinson's, maybe.”

Handing the envelope over to Odessa, Julie levels a cold look at her. “The letters stopped a while ago. I figure he's passed away. But…” She hasn't checked. Hasn't written back. “If he kept anything it might be there.”

Amazingly, there is a return address on the envelope. Mail, of all things, delivered during the war. The address itself feels like a message in a bottle: 162 Cardinal Way, San Antonio, TX 78253.

“I know,” Odessa says softly at the reminder that Julie was only a child when all that craziness consumed their lives. There’s sympathy in her gaze. She reaches out to take the envelope and Julie’s hand briefly, giving it a squeeze. “Mon biquet… I’m sorry about… how things went. I just wanted you to have a normal life.” A lump in her throat is swallowed uneasily.

The address is looked at, recognized without comment, and then tucked away into her own pocket. “Thank you. I know you don’t owe me anything, and maybe you’d be good with it if I disappeared, but… If you ever need anything, I’ll always do my best to help you.” Now if only Des could promise that her best would be good enough. Or even the right thing.

“You're right,” Julie says as she watches Odessa with the package. “I don't owe you anything. The only reason I didn't return the favor you did for me on the roof was because Samson Gray showed up.” Her grip on the keys in her other hand tightens to white knuckle again.

“You want to do something for me?” Julie’s voice cracks, “check yourself in to Benchmark.” Her shoulders rise slowly and then fall. “Because— maybe you don't remember grabbing Darren by the time before you sucked the life out of him and crushed his bones with your heel, but… that didn't look like a fucking accident.

Swallowing audibly, Julie exhales an emotional, shuddering breath. “I don't know what's wrong with you, Odessa, but you're a fucking poison.” Blue eyes flick around, never really making eye contact. “Don't— come looking for me again.”

While not unexpected, the words still hurt. It feels like there’s a fist inside of her chest, squeezing her heart until it makes her want to die. Des presses her lips together and blinks, shedding fat tears that run down to the point of her chin.

The whispering suggestion in her mind, the one that came back to life that day that Darren revived her, reminds her of how easy it would be to snuff out the insolence in front of her. Odessa swallows down bile and takes a step back. “You’re right,” she tells the young woman. Everything she touches turns to dust. If that’s not poison, what is?

There’s no light in her eyes now. No excitement at seeing someone from her past. “I’m sorry for everything, Julie…” She takes another step before she turns around and starts to make her retreat.

Just one more ruined bridge.

Once Des is gone, once time returns to normal, Julie slouches against the car and covers her face with one hand, exhaling a brief, strangled sob. The clip-clop of heels coming up behind her has an uneven cadence, and when a taller, older nurse with her foot in an inflatable cast and a walking cane innocently asks, “Jules, are you ok?”

Julie responds by throwing her keys at the ground and and shouting, “Drive your-fucking-self home, Rebecca!

As Julie storms off, her coworker is left standing in slack-jawed confusion.

Burning bridges is an art, practiced by damaged people.

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