Never Alone


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Scene Title Never Alone
Synopsis Fearing his memories are as redacted as Odessa's, Richard Cardinal enlists his sister's help in discovering the truth. They find far more than that.
Date July 24, 2018

Raytech Industries: Executive Storage Room

One might wonder why a 'storage room' has keycard security that only the Board of Directors has access to, with no cameras inside that connect to the security system. One would be right to wonder such a thing, because what's stored in this room certainly falls on the side of the unusual.

The center of the large storage room is framed by four plastic latticeworks that stretch from floor to ceiling - with openings at the four corners to allow entrance between. Strings are tied off to the lattice in a variety of colors, attaching here and there amongst each other, twisting together or stretching off to another part of the latticework. Four pairs of goggles hang from the latticework, which when worn reveal AR tags and images attached to various strings, which can be viewed and manipulated.

The grey walls are hung with art prints of unusual paintings, each carefully labelled with dates and artist names like //Brill and Mendez and Mas, with additional notes available through the AR goggles of theories about what they predicted and whether they came to pass or were averted - or are unknown. There's an entertainment system including a record player set in another part of the room, with a collection of Else Kjelstrom's music carefully and lovingly archived with it. Elsewhere, file cabinets line the walls loaded with hard-copy records and notes that have never been put into digital form.//

A simple table and two chairs are the only furniture in the room.

“Okay, so…” Richard Ray leans forward in one of the chairs, arms folding on the table’s top as he looks at his adopted sister with a serious expression, “…how do we do this? I mean, last time I was a tag-a-long, not the target.”

A video camera and an audio recorder are set on a stand not far from the table, just in case something strange happens and they need to review the situation. It wouldn’t be the first time, after all, and building security has no cameras at all in this shielded room.

Dressed down a little for comfort, Kaylee sits in the chair opposite of him. “Just the same as before. We will be unaware of anything around us, fully at the mercy of your mind, memories and what not.” Leaning forward as well, she rests her arms on the table, looking rather concerned. “You realize, we do this and there is serious trauma hidden in there… you have to live with that. My blocks are not as strong as, say, my ability to make you do things.”

Standing, she pulls the chair around the table to where she can be within reach. “Just like with Odessa, I have to be in contact.” Moving to bracket his head with fingers to each temple. “You really ready for this?” She asks, ready to pull them both in at his word.

“My entire life is a series of traumas,” Richard quips, closing his eyes as Kaylee’s fingers rest on his temples, “If things before Riker weren’t real… I need to know what actually happened. Maybe it’ll help us— I don’t know. Somehow.”

A deep breath is drawn into his lungs as he braces himself, jaw tensing a bit. “Okay. No time like the present. Go for it.”

There is a soft sigh from his sister. “You do have a point.” Kaylee’s words equally soft, a humorless smile tugging at one corner of her mouth. Her own eyes close as well, as she casts her mind into his, gently pulling him with her.

He won’t even really know they are there until he opens his eyes and sees not only his sister looking at him, but the blood red eyes of a black snake, peeking out from between her curls. Not that Kaylee herself is really aware of it.

And they aren't in Kansas anymore.


Kansas City University

Kansas City, KS

June 18, 1982

9:19 pm local time

Lights from police cars flash brightly against the backdrop of brick buildings. Red flashing lights from fire trucks do the same, casting intermittent red, blue, and occasionally purple illumination across the rain-dampened street. It smells like petrichor — the scent of freshly fallen rain — but the sky is now clear of clouds. All that remains in its place is a swirling spiral of green light fading to blue on its curtained edges, an aurora unlike any other.

The center of the spiral looms directly overhead, and where Richard and Kaylee find themselves transplanted feels like the backlot of a movie set. There are police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, all surrounding a four-story brick building on the KCU campus. But for all the bystanders on the street; to the crowds of students looking in horror, to the police putting up sawhorse roadblocks, to the Native American truck driver standing by his big rig with tears streaming down his face, no one is moving.

It's like a snapshot in time, except…


“No sign of whoever took the baby,” comes from between emergency workers, and the profile of Eric Thompson looks haggard and exhausted, his hair not yet gray and eyes downcast to the street where a body is covered with a bloody sheet.

“We have more pressing concerns.” Comes another voice walking slowly through the crowd, and both Kaylee and Richard recognize Charles Deveaux the moment he speaks. As he stops by one of the frozen bystanders, Charles presses a hand to their head and furrows his brows. “This is going to take me all night.”


Thompson kicks his brows up and nods slowly, “I'll do another sweep. He can't be far, and if we can catch him before your game of Red Light, Green Light ends it'll save us a lot of— ”

“What would have saved us a lot of problems,” Charles interjects, opening his eyes as he moves his hand away from the bystanders head and looking at Thompson, “is if you had followed protocol.

How is this in Richard’s memories?

The serpent earns a brief, surprised twitch of Richard’s eyebrow upwards, but he doesn’t comment on it. His adoptive sister seems comfortable with a snake on her head so who is he to judge?

Then he turns— briefly dealing with the vertigo of being on his feet rather than sitting— one hand coming up to shield his gaze from the blinding swirl of blue and red light. “Nobody’s moving,” he comments, “Is this just, like, a snap sh…”

Then someone speaks.

“Thompson,” he breathes out, his gaze falling to the bloody sheet, eyes widening slightly. “That— wait, this— this doesn’t make sense. How am I— wait, Michelle is dead, this…” Charles chimes in, and he looks back to the familiar man, one hand tightening in a fist by his side as he chews Thompson out.

Then he’s looking back to Kaylee, expression startled, “What the hell is this? How is this?”

A hand reaches out to steady, her brother as he shows signs of being a bit wonky still, Kaylee understands. What she doesn’t get is what was going on around them. «Your guess is as good as mine.» Sssstrange… fassscinating. Let’sss dig deeperrr The tail of the snake is now looped loosely around the telepath’s neck, head swaying slightly with some enthusiasm.

Charles gets Kaylee’s full attention, it was always fascinating to meet another of her ability, even in death. What really grabs her is the mention of Red Light, Green Light…. What?!? The telepath looks around them as she steps in between frozen bodies. «He— did he do this?» Imposssssible. Near one of the frozen bodies, the snake slides off the telepath’s shoulder, winding around it with a tongue flickering against the frozen cheek. It’s as if the snake is trying to understand what they are seeing.

Kaylee looks back at Richard with an incredulous look. «You know what this reminds me of? Odessa. When we saw dad talking to Kain, she was dead… it was a memory that shouldn’t have been there.» She looks at the nearest frozen face and a glance to Charles. «Planted memory, maybe? But who’s?»

People are frozen as far as the eye can see down any street. It's only then that Kaylee and Richard both notice the absence of noise from the city. How much had Charles affected, and just how powerful was he?

“If I hadn't…” Thompson starts to defend himself, then paces around and runs one hand through his hair, seeming full of nervous energy. He looks back at the corpse under the sheet, then closes his eyes and looks away. “Christ,” he whispers to himself.

As Charles moves to the next bystander, placing a hand on their brow and closing his eyes, he's interrupted by the sudden and unexpected arrival of two people in a dimpling distortion of the air. A woman emerges from a rippling heat-mirage haze, young and dark-haired, dark eyes, unfamiliar to Richard. But beside her is a familiar enough man that it sends a shockwave of nausea and agony through Kaylee.

“Well this is a fine fucking mess, isn't it, chaps?” Adam Monroe.

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Charles turns to Adam, brows furrowed and lips downturned into a frown. “Joy, Adam.” He briefly looks to Thompson, as the woman identified as Joy walks among the frozen people, gently touching their faces with the tips of her fingers. “Thompson, go… look for that one who got away.” Thompson glances at the trio, then slips off out of sight into the crowd.

“He's fun,” Adam quips, then notices Joy and gently pushes her hand away from fondling the faces of any more mind-trapped people. “Don't, you never know where they've been.” She rankles her nose in response, then turns to Charles.

“I've determined sixteen overlays,” Joy explains as she straightens the collar of her black business suit, looking practically Company-chic. “They're in a spiral pattern, moving out from this locus point.” Charles eyes widen.

“Sixteen?” The words fall like lead from Charles’ mouth. “I'm going to need you to take me to each site. Get a message to Arthur, too, let him know we’re going to need to pull an all-nighter.” Joy nods, then glances to Adam who is staring up at the sky with a distant expression. Charles notices that look and steps away from the bystander and moves toward Adam, following his sight-like to the aurora.

“What do you make of it?” Charles asks in confidence, slowly turning his gaze to meet Adam’s as his eyes also lower. “Ever see anything like it?” Adam remains, surprisingly, silent for a moment, then shakes his head.

“It's beautiful,” Adam notes, brows furrowed. Then, with a look to Charles, seems agitated. “Stay out of my head.”

“Try speaking your mind more,” Charles retorts, “and I won't have to.” But he lets the issue drop, noticing Joy trying to get his attention. The silent raise of his brows requests her to chime in.

Joy chooses not to, at least not immediately. “Some of the overlays are… there were accidents. I think we should go to one near Yonkers. There was a car accident.” Charles closes his eyes at Joy’s description, then punches the bridge of his nose and nods.

“Charles did this, yes,” Richard says to Kaylee, his voice pitched low as if they could disturb a memory, “I’ve seen him do it before, when I met him during my trip to the nineties… did he leave this memory then? I mean, this— this obviously isn’t mine, so— “

Then space twists and two people appear. One unfamiliar— the teleporter, he assumes. The other…

“Monroe?” A briefly confused look that clears after a moment as Charles speaks, “Oh. That makes sense, Monroe was one of the— “ Wait. Adam.

He reaches out, swiftly, to steady his adoptive sister. Somehow he thinks she’s about to need it.

And he’s be right.

It starts as a hiss of pain, echoed by a more joyful sound from the snake draped around the shoulders of one of the statue-like victims. Then there is a jerk of her shoulders and she seems fold in on herself a little, eyes closing against the intense pain. «Shit.» Is about as much as she can manage at the moment, as she staggers a bit; but, still upright thanks to Richard.

It is tempting at that very moment to cut contact and push them out of the memory; but, what is going on seems really important. «I’m… fine.» Ssshe’sss not. «No one asked you.» That might be the first time she has addressed the snake, who watches Adam head weaving side to side.

Kaylee forces herself to straighten with a hand pressed hard to her stomach, eyes cast to the side, trying not to look at Adam. «If he is this powerful. Then he might have, but why?» She looks up at Charles with narrowed eyes. «Think Edward had a hand in this? But… the 90’s? How would he know we’d be here?» It was what made the most sense to her.

“Of course there was a car accident,” Charles offers quietly, exhaustedly. “Okay,” he eyes the crowd, “I'm going to lay on a low-intensity hypnosis on these people for now, suggest that they don't see anything unusual. I'll come back to clean up after.” He turns to Joy, one brow raised. “Yonkers?”

Joy nods, though she looks over to Adam after, as if trying to ascertain something. Adam, in turn, looks at Joy with a difficult to read expression. “It's fine,” is the most subdued thing Adam has ever said. “I'll keep an eye on the blokes here, make sure nobody cartwheels off a cliff or something.” He looks in the direction Thompson had run off in, then back to Charles. “Go on, play hero.”

Charles smiles, though it doesn't reach his eyes. “That cute attitude worked on me when I was twenty, Adam. Now I just see your glibness for what it is.” He places a hand on Joy’s shoulder. “A mask.”

Joy looks worriedly at Charles, then over to Adam who closes his eyes and throws his hands up into a shrug. Joy, sending the awkwardness, folds in on herself like she was vapor, taking Charles with her into an infinitely small fold in space.

Into darkness.


Raytech Industries

Executive Storage Room

As Richard jerks out of the memory — vision — whatever it was, Kaylee too is recoiling from the exposure to Adam and the sudden termination of that psychic experience in a manner that was neither under her control nor her choice. But she is immediately aware that something is wrong when she can still feel the psychic connection to Richard.

Richard can tell something is wrong because Charles is in the room with them.

“Hello, Richard.”

Richard pulls sharply backwards from the touch of Kaylee’s fingers as the vision falls into darkness, giving his head a shake as if to clear it. “How was… that wasn’t one of my memories, it’s not possible for it to— “


He stares for a long moment at the man in the room, and then a rueful smile curves up at the corner of his lips. “Charles. I should’ve known. I guess the suit and fedora weren’t the only parting gifts you gave me…?”

There is a shudder that runs through her whole body when she is thrown back into her own head. A hand immediately, covers her mouth, as her stomach gives a lurch like she might lose the contents of her stomach; but, she fights it. She hadn’t had time to eat anyhow…. Which might be for the best if she can’t get that under control.

At least, Adam wasn’t there…

This close, Richard can see just how pasty and pale she is. Too many times lately, she’s been having to deal with this curse… this trigger in her head. Adam was quite the conversation piece lately.

When her brother addresses someone who shouldn’t be there, Kaylee turns… thankful for the distraction. Seeing Charles Deveaux standing there, she comes to the realization that their minds were still linked…. Though…

“How…” Her voice was her own. There was not tinny reverberation. They were sitting in that room. Kaylee doesn’t finish that thought, she goes quiet, silently in awe of the dead telepath.

Curiously, Charles neither seems to see or hear Kaylee. “You didn't find Waldo,” Charles says softly, a gently chiding tone in his voice. He looks older than Richard ever remembers seeing him, gray all over and wrinkled. “But I didn't leave that in you in the 1990s, though you're getting warmer.”

As Charles stands there, he looks down at the floor and then back up to Richard. “Look again.”

Kansas City University

Kansas City, KS

Lights from police cars flash brightly against the backdrop of brick buildings. Red flashing lights from fire trucks do the same, casting intermittent red, blue, and occasionally purple illumination across the rain-dampened street. It smells like petrichor — the scent of freshly fallen rain — but the sky is now clear of clouds. All that remains in its place is a swirling spiral of green light fading to blue on its curtained edges, an aurora unlike any other.

The center of the spiral looms directly overhead, and where Richard and Kaylee find themselves transplanted feels like the backlot of a movie set. There are police cars, fire trucks, ambulances, all surrounding a four-story brick building on the KCU campus. But for all the bystanders on the street; to the crowds of students looking in horror, to the police putting up sawhorse roadblocks, to the Native American truck driver standing by his big rig with tears streaming down his face, no one is moving.

It's like a snapshot in time, except…

“No sign of whoever took the baby,” comes from between emergency workers, one of whom is carrying a foil emergency blanket bundled in his arms. The profile of Eric Thompson looks haggard and exhausted, his hair not yet gray and eyes downcast to the street where a body is covered with a bloody sheet.

“We have more pressing concerns.” Comes Charles' voice in the crowd, moving over to the emergency worker who has his head down and whose jacket is far too big for him. He stops by that frozen bystanders, pressing a hand to his head and furrows his brows. “This is going to take me all night.”


It's Edward, cradling a foil emergency blanket in his arms, as though it had weight.

Raytech Industries

Executive Storage Room

“He's not as clever as he thought he was,” Charles admits with a rise of his shoulders and a more youthful shrug than his appearance may imply he should. “But I knew the score, Richard. This deck’s been stacked for a long time.”

Richard is silent for a time as he digests this entire situation, or tries to… drawing in a slow breath, then exhaling it, one hand rubbing against his face. “He stopped to take a picture,” he notes quietly, remembering, “I have it, somewhere. The red lights, the blue lights. The baby. Me.”

A sharper look in his eye as he pushes himself up to his feet, “Then why don’t you tell me the score, then, Charles. My memory’s been fucked with, I’ve been manipulated and pushed around and used all my goddamn life it seems. I think I’m owed some answers. At least.”

Having her ability used like this is a bit disorienting for her. Out…. In…. and out again. “Jesus….” She gasps out, a hand pressing to her temple, starting at Charles. Unlike, Richard, Kaylee isn’t sure she could stand if she wanted it. Her ability clinging tight even as he does.

This wasn’t a message for her though, she continues to sit in silence.

It's a fair thing that Richard is asking of Charles. "I passed away in 2006," isn't the weirdest thing Richard's ever had said to him by a psychic phantom. "When I passed, my mind… untethered. Not in any permanent way, I imagine, but enough to fly. I visited you then, imparted a promise to you that I made a long time ago. Like part of a last will and testament. Delivering a promise that I'd tell you where you came from, as much as I knew the story. But that I'd wait until you were ready."

Tucking his hands into the pockets of his slacks, Charles slowly tilts his head to the side and regards Richard thoughtfully. "You see, I'm just a message. An idea, left like a seed in your mind, waiting for someone to find it, to trigger it. The rest of this, my affectation? That's a creation of your subconscious." Though the mechanics of that and how this projection of Charles can even know it's own unreal nature is mind-boggling.

"But the long and short of it is, the first time you and I met wasn't in the 1990s," Charles raises his brows, as if hoping Richard could come to this on his own. "It was the 1960s."

Most of what Charles’s message tells Richard isn’t surprising. Isn’t hard to understand, to accept, despite how truly strange it may be. He lives in a strange world.

The last words, though, have him exhaling a long breath, one hand coming up to rub between his eyes. “Christ,” he mutters, “Even now, the sonuvabitch keeps messing with my life. I should’ve killed him the first time we met.”

Hazel eyes lift to consider the other man steadily, “You met him in the sixties, then. Not me.”

Semantics,” Charles disagrees, but doesn't push it. “You came to me in 1967, I was just a young man then. But you had these… aspirations, dreams of a better future for our kind. You talked about the future like you'd been there, and you laid out a road map for tomorrow in front of me. Pitfalls to avoid, conflicts that would arise, and I asked you…” Charles lowers his head, searching for the context to the memory, then looks up to Richard. “Why tell me this?

Charles makes a face, the kind you make when you receive bad news that was expected. “You told me, because I was one of the good ones.” Looking down to the floor, Charles seems lost I thought. “You never told me enough to be dangerous, never enough to affect change on my own, but enough to prove your ability. You sold me on the idea of an Institute, and the price was a promise. That if something ever happened to you, that I'd look out for…” Charles smiles faintly. “You.”

Shrugging again, he spreads his hands. “Stipulations of course, specifications of things to not change, things that had to happen. I didn't rightly know who you were, and so don't think you did either. All you told me was about Edward, and I didn't make the connection until it was too late. You'd died, and I did what I could for what was left of you…” and suddenly it makes sense why the Company held on to a single brain all those years, “and…”

Charles looks defeated, sighs a little. “I colored within the lines, kept you safe. Kept Edward safe as I could be pushing dangerous recollection out of his mind. But I'll be honest, Richard. I don't know the whole length and breadth anymore either.” At that, Charles expression becomes haunted. “I know I voluntarily cut out a part of my mind, erased my own memories of something so dangerous that no one was ever meant to find it.”

But Charles lowers his shoulders, exhales a deep breath. “I can show you what I know. What came the day after that night… after Edward Ray disappeared into the pages of history.” He offers Richard — and by proxy Kaylee — a hand.

“If you'll let an old man fulfill his promise.”

“You were,” Richard says with a hint of regret to color his voice, admitting aloud, “If you’d still been there… hell, I may have joined up with the Company. Bennet always said I would’ve been a hell of an agent. Guess this explains why you knew I’d try and shoot Arthur in the goddamn face.” Wry, “He wasn’t that much different from me, in some ways.”

A turn of his head, regarding Kaylee for a moment as if wondering her thoughts on all this— and then he turns back to the older man, to the shadow of who he used to be, and he reaches out to clasp the offered hand.

“I owe you that much, at least, Deveaux.”

When he reaches for Charles’ hand, her own hand lifts to touch Richard’s temple again to strengthen the connection between them, so that she can clearly see what he would be seeing. Even so her eyes don’t move from the image in front of them. “Whatever it was, it must have been bad if it shook him this much. I can’t do half of what I have seen.” Her head shakes from one side to the other, slowly, with awe.

What would make a telepath of that power go to such extremes?

Kansas City University

Kansas City, KS

June 18, 1982

9:27 pm local time

Wild, blue eyes stare vacantly into the night. Slinking through the emergency responders and carrying a bundle of silvery cloth in his arms, Edward Ray is only passingly disguised as a first responder in the oversized fire and rescue jacket he stole out of the back of a truck. Once he’s slipped out of the sight of the police, he comes to a stop beside a parked car several rows down. Onlookers are surrounding Michelle’s body, and Edward’s stomach is twisting into knots.

Reaching up to shakily wipe tears from his eyes, Edward carefully cradles the squirming bundle in his other arm. “Sssh, ssh,” he whispers in shaky tone, then fumbles to find keys in his pants pocket. Once he’s unlocked the car door, Edward spots the Instamatic camera on the front seat, photographs of a recent camping trip scattered on the passenger seat. Looking around, frantic, Edward exhales near breathlessly.

“What was I…” For all his cognition, Edward seems momentarily bewildered. He pulls back the covering over the bundle in his arms, revealing an infant no more than a few days old. Horror sets in to his face, horror, confusion, and uncertainty. He slides into the car, shedding the jacket and throwing it over the photographs. Then, with the baby on his lap he picks up the Instamatic so he has room to drive, but keeps the camera held in his hands. His thumb slides over one of the buttons on the side, painted orange, and then looks at the child staring silently up at him.

Swallowing loudly, Edward asks himself, “are you real?” The baby says nothing back, and Edward breathes in deeply and snaps a photograph, then moves the camera atop his jacket while he waits for the Polaroid to develop. In the distance, police and emergency lights flash brightly, but no one seems to be paying attention to the spiral-shaped aurora swirling overhead, as if no one had thought to simply look up.

As the photograph comes in to clarity, and Edward can see the baby depicted in it, he tears up again and throws the photograph on top of his jacket. “Jesus Christ, Michelle.” One hand comes up over his mouth, hand trembling, and for a few good moments Edward allows himself to do two things:

Panic, and cry.

“I’m real.” It’s a barely audible exhalation of breath from Richard, carrying upon it two words, the answer to a question asked by a man on the day of his birth. A hand lifts as if to reach out as Edward just breaks down in a way that he’d never have imagined the man could.

He was always so confident, so in control. So angry, or so calm, or so prepared. Not this.

A hard swallow, once, and he pulls his hand back — there’s nothing to touch anyway. It’s just a memory.

“How did you— you weren’t here,” he says quietly to Charles, without looking away from himself and Edward, “How did you see this?”

The last time she had seen her father, Edward Ray was a man being kept barely alive by a machine. So fragile. Her so helpless to save him. Kaylee had dealt with that pain for years.So seeing him there healthy and younger, even if only a memory, it bring it all back…. That mixture of emotions.

When she sees him with the infant version of her brother, sees him break down; Kaylee’s hands leap up to cover her mouth, stifling a hitch of emotion. Tears blurring the image and already sliding down her cheeks.

Sometimes, a reminder is needed that even legends and monsters were human once.

It’s Kaylee that answers her brother, hands wiping at the tears. «Edward showed it to him,» the telepath says softly, with a glance to her brother. «Knowing that you’d get here someday, that clever…» she doesn’t finish that sentence, unable to really finish it really. «Just like he planted that message in Lorraine’s head. He knew a day would come that you’d want to know.» There is a small smile as she looks at her brother.

A good guess,” emanates from around both Kaylee and Richard, as though Charles were nowhere and everywhere at once. It is true enough, as he doesn’t seem to have a representation in this space at the moment. But more pointedly, it does appear as though he can perceive Kaylee in this mindscape. “But it wasn’t Edward. You’re seeing this, because you saw this, Richard.”

Another layer to the power of Charles Deveaux, able to cobble together coherent memories from the residue of an infant’s recollection years after the fact.

In the car, Edward has managed to calm down and move the baby onto the passenger seat, nestling him in to the swaddle of the jacket. “Okay, okay,” Edward whispers to himself, pulling the car door shut and turning over the ignition. “Don’t look back, just move forward. Just— just keep moving forward.”

“He did just that,” Charles explains in a hushed tone of voice, “he moved forward.”

The vision begins to blur at the edges, becoming hazy and indistinct. “I took a risk letting you and Edward escape into that night right under our noses. I knew I’d never see him again, knew I’d never be able to find him. But I trusted you, in so much as I knew you, and I felt we were even. I didn’t wholly agree with what Arthur and the others decided to do with the people who came over with you, across the country, but…” Charles voice grows softer, “we didn’t have any other choice.”

As the image finally loses all cohesion, Richard and Kaylee stand in darkness, unable to perceive themselves or each other. “But you did pop up on my radar, one more time.”

“If you let me go, if you didn’t… do whatever you did to the others? Then why isn’t there any— there’s no evidence that I even had a childhood,” asks Richard to the darkness, on edge a bit with Kaylee missing… even his body seemingly missing. “Are you telling me that was something Edward did? I can’t believe that Kain was that terrible at background checks…”

Humor even now, if black humor. Quips have always been his way when he’s nervous about a stuation.


That is pretty much the one word Kaylee manages at that revelation. Though there might be a underlying hiss behind those words. It wasn’t something she’d ever thought possible. A look cast about, of course, he isn’t there.

When the world goes black, there is a familiarity to it. Not the first time she had been in a darkness like that. So there is no panic on her part, but she can perceive his uneasy. So she allows her touch on his mind to be felt so that he knows she is there at least.

It’s about all she can do for him.

“I said I didn’t do anything,” Charles says with a bit of whimsy, “I didn’t say no one did.”

Saint Margaret’s School for Girls

Queens, New York

8:17 pm

October 31, 1994

“Now not word one about this being a school for girls. This is temporary, do you understand, Richard?” Standing on the doorstep of a Catholic orphanage and boarding house for girls, Richard Cardinal looks thin and rueful. His fluffy, pouf of hair is swept back from his brow in subtle waves, parted in the middle save for where a few errant locks have been tousled by the wind. “And put that flannel shirt on properly, it isn’t a skirt.”

The woman with her back to the door, already gray haired even now, is a familiar face from Richard’s past. Estrid Hadley appraises the young Richard with a furrow of her brows and an approving nod as he unties the flannel shirt from around his waist and slips it on over his near-threadbare t-shirt. “As for you,” Hadley’s attention moves to a dark-haired young woman who bolts up straight when the attention lands on her. “If I so much as see you with a book of matches,” Hadley’s brows raise to her hairline, and she doesn’t finish that gentle threat. Because she can’t, because Estrid Hadley is a saint.

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“Yes Miss Hadley,” is the plaintive response afforded by Isabelle Ashford, sliding an askance look to Richard with one brow raised. Quietly, she is tucking a book of matches behind her back and into her back pocket, to coincide with the soft pack of cigarettes in the back of Cardinal’s pants, once better hidden by his flannel shirt.

“Okay, now, just behave.” Hadley says gently, resting a hand on Richard’s shoulder before turning to the doors. “I’m going to have to talk to Sister Esther, so I’ll show you to your rooms and you’ll stay there like good children.”

I had someone keeping an eye on you, when she could.” Charles’ voice echoes around Richard and Kaylee.

“Jesus Christ, look at my hair,” Richard mutters as the memory begins to unfold, “I’m glad I at least outgrew that…” Then his voice trails off at the sight of the girl with them.

“Izzy,” he says quietly, “Edward killed her. I don’t— I don’t even know why, he could’ve gotten what he wanted without that.”

“And wait— “ Sharper, “Are you telling me that Mrs Hadley was a Company agent? Or a Deveaux agent, at least… and what happened to Edward? Did he just drop me off on someone’s doorstep?”

“I don’t know. The grunge look was cute on you,” Kaylee gives him a teasing smile. However, it just as quickly falls away. A glance going to Izzy, eyes narrowing a little. There is a faint glimmer of a memory, faded after so many years.

The mention of the Company, had her attention shifting to Charles. These memories might not be for her, but she is just as curious.

“Hadley worked for me, through Alice Shaw. Apart from the Company, apart from my own knowledge. It was all compartmentalized, but when your name came up on the child services registration… it raised red flags with the Company.” Charles’ voice follows Richard and Kaylee as they move about the memory. “Edward did ultimately leave you at an orphanage, under the name Richard Cardinal. Why he chose that name, I don’t know. But the surname pinged for us, and I sent an agent out to confirm in the negative that you were the child from Kansas.”

Meanwhile, Hadley opens the doors to the school — one that feels unusually familiar to Richard, more so than just something vague from his past, something from the present — and walks in with the young Richard and Isabelle in tow. They are greeted by a pair of nuns, young in her twenties with large glasses that went out of fashion half a decade ago, another considerably older and grayer, looking to have a passing resemblance to Miss Hadley.

I sent Hadley out after the Company dismissed you as a threat,” Charles’ voice resonates through the church space. “But it’s true… you don’t have much of a background, because the lonely story of your life is… true. A child with no birth certificate, abandoned as an infant, and raised in the arms of social services. Hidden away. But…

Charles voice grows quieter. “Not alone.

Richard reaches out a hand to Isabelle, who in turn reaches past the hand and steals the pack of cigarettes from his back pocket and tucks them into her own, then takes the offered hand. “She was one of the sixteen. From another world. I had nothing to tether her to here, so I kept her with Hadley. And you.

“Isabelle.” Richard’s voice unsteady with renewed grief as he watches the scene before him, the theft of his cigarettes, the clasping of his hand. Maybe in another world… but not any of the worlds that he knows.

“It figures,” he says quietly then, after taking a moment, “In the end… Kain shot himself for no fucking reason. Edward killed Isabelle for no reason. I was right, earlier, Kaylee. My life is just a series of traumas. Pointless, useless tragedy every fucking time.”

After a few moments of silence, he says in rougher tones, “Thank you, Charles. For that, at least. At least you didn’t leave me alone.”

Unlike Edward Ray.

Even they are no more then figments — projections themselves — Kaylee reaches out and rests a hand on his arm, fingers curling around it. A show of support for her adoptive brother. Maybe a bit of an apology that her father did that. She at least had her Mother and Granny growing up.

Kaylee knows that nothing she could ever say could make it better or ease that pain. So she can only offer what support she can give.

“I don’t know what shape your life took since I came to store this message inside of you,” Charles confides as his voice echoes softly through the church. “But I hope you’ve found a measure of peace. I know I did, but it took accepting my mortality.” It dawns on Richard that this fragment of Charles Deveaux, however real it may seem, is just that — a message.

“If you haven’t,” Charles adds, “I hope you find it sooner than I did.”

And like all messages, this one eventually has an end.

Raytech Industries

Executive Storage Room

The world returns like the blink of an eye, clear and concise, simple and without hidden meaning.

Richard’s eyes open slowly as the memory fades, his hands sliding forward on the table— and he leans forward to rest his head on his hands, eyes closing again as he exhales for a long few moments.

No words from the man, just silently digesting everything and trying to figure out how he feels.

Now fully back in her body, Kaylee lifts a hand to brush at her nose, coming away crimson. Her head a dull ache… her stomach still queasy from seeing Adam again. It felt like each time it hits her worse than the last. One of these days she wonders if she’ll end up in the hospital.

That is kept to herself.

Her own self assessed, Kaylee turns her attention to her brother, concern etched on her features. She starts to say something, but stops herself. What could she say? Nothing seemed right in the moment, so she is just there for him if he needs someone to talk to.

It takes awhile before Richard finally sits up, leaning back and bringing a hand up to rub against his face, smearing tears away that he wouldn’t let spill down his face.

“Okay,” he says, quietly, “I’m okay.”

A slow breath taken, and then he offers a faint, ingenuine smile over to Kaylee. “At least it’s more than I knew before, so… that’s something.”

He drops a hand down to the table’s edge, and starts to push himself up to his feet. “The past’s… the past, after all,” he says, glancing over to the string map at the center of the room, “The way back is closed, we can only go forward.”

There is quiet understanding. Kaylee can remember what it felt to finally know something about her childhood and her father. The telepath doesn’t say anything, but offers a gentle smile in return.

His words also brings back the memory of the vision that Joseph had given her. Something she still hadn’t told her brother about. Now wasn’t the time either.

Only then does she speak up, her words thoughtful. “There we’ll have to disagree, Big Brother.” Rising to her feet, there is confidence in her voice as she counters his words with one spoken to her by a mysterious woman. “Sometimes you have to go backwards, if you want to move forward.”

“I think…” Richard gestures to the table, “We just did.”

He rubs his fingers between his eyes, and then lets his hand drop. “We’ve gotta get to work. We have to figure out how to get Looking Glass up and on the ground with— what little information we have. So that’s going to be a trick. We know there’ll be an incoming portal on December twenty-fifth, and where, so we’ll make sure there’ll be an anchor portal.”

He looks back to her, offering a faint smile, “Back to work, right?”

There might be a barest glimmer of worry, before an easy smile touches Kaylee’s lips and masks the feeling of anxiety. Something she was good at and has always been, “Yeah, Big Brother. Back to work.”

“And let’s…” Richard turns back to the door, pauses, glances back uncertainly, “Let’s do dinner tonight, or something, if you’re free? Or sometime soon, just… to catch up, you know? It’s been— “ A shrug, “It’s been crazy lately and we haven’t had the chance. Maybe we can bring Val?”

“I can be free,” Kaylee offers with a nod. “I’d like that.” They haven’t been able to spend the time like that. “Maybe a BBQ with the families soon?”

It already felt a little like the threads were unravelling.

They needed a little normal.

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