Not Paranoia


elisabeth2_icon.gif ff_silas_icon.gif

Scene Title It's Not Paranoia…
Synopsis …if someone really is coming for you.
Date June 1, 2019

It's not unusual for Silas to be up early. It is, however, unusual is for him to still be up early… and more unusual still for him to be here, in the tiny box of an apartment they'd issued him in the Safe Zone lottery, instead of aboard the boat. He's been taking turns staring out the window, staring at the bottom of a cup full of bourbon — more of which has evaporated over the last six hours than has actually been consumed — and working on a text message.

Elisabeth, this is Silas. There's something I'd like to talk to you about; would you be able to meet me tonight? 7 o'clock, at the park, where we talked about things we hoped not to see on River Styx.

The capitalization and punctuation are correct, which takes forever on Silas's archaic flip phone… but what's taken longest about this message is all the times he's gone back and erased everything to start anew. Despite his best efforts, though, he ends up with almost the same thing every time.

He looks out the window again and swears at the rising sun, then eyes the text message still blinking on his phone. Shaking his head, he reaches out and mashes the send button, then powers down the phone. There'll be a reply, or there won't, but if he plans to be anywhere at any time tonight, he needs to at least try to get some sleep. Ideally six hours ago, but now will work.

A Park

His text received an immediate acknowledgement, along with agreement to meet. Elisabeth has spent too many years on the run dodging various governments and people to think that this request is anything but worrisome. But he gave a time and place and didn't drop any weird stuff to make her think it's an emergency, so she goes about her day quietly watchful. And doing small things that won't be immediately noticeable in her errands, like taking out money.

When he arrives to the park, she's sitting on the same bench where they originally talked that day, seeming at ease in the early evening sun. At least until one is close enough to notice that her blue eyes are taking in every minute aspect of his body language, scanning behind him for any hint of a tail, and — unseen — listening for anything wrong in his immediate vicinity.

"Hey there," she greets softly.

Silas looks… a little tired. A little down. He greets her with a cheery smile, of course; he's always had one of those for a friend, and he always will. But it's always the little things that ruin an act like that; the lines on his face seem a bit deeper, his eyes a little more sunken. Altogether he seems just a bit more careworn, a bit older.

"Hey. Glad you could make it," he says, and for a moment his smile's just a little more genuine. He eases himself down on the bench beside her. "So," he begins, only to fall silent, staring out into the distance. "So," he tries again. "I need some advice," he concludes, glancing back to Elisabeth and nodding.

He scrubs his hands down his face, then, with feigned nonchalance, he glances around; he's not really worried about a tail, but right now he's worried in general, and so he falls back on caution… but the park's quiet. Good. "I have a little story to tell. Think we need a privacy bubble for this, or do you think we're good?" he asks, glancing to her, and for just a moment the mask slips, and the strain he's under shows clearly.

Oh… oh God. He can feel the moment that subconscious worry becomes an active one, though it's subtle. The way the air around her shifts as she closes the audio bubble around them isn't noticeable — her skill with the field includes making it so that external sounds they can still bear just fine. But it's also in the way her gaze sharpens on him and in the way her attention intensifies.

"Tell me," Elisabeth invites in a tone gentler than he might have expected.

"I told you, I think, that I was curious about what this world's version of me was getting up to," Silas says slowly. "There was… a more than academic reason for that. When we were coming back, I saw… well. That's not too important, I don't guess. Point was, I know what kinda person I was, and I feared that this world's me might have left some messes out there that might come calling."

At that, he laughs — a low, unhappy chuckle. "Oh Christ was I ever not worried enough." He lets out a deep breath. "I had someone investigate for me. Fed em the 'blah blah abducted by Institute facestealers bit', told em I had a vision and saw myself gettin' killed by someone around 2009; asked 'em to dig a bit."

Silas falls silent, leaning forward to look down at the ground as he tries to find the right words.

"Coming here… I saw some things too," Elisabeth acknowledges. Tipping her head, she's definitely listening. She's wary but there's no apparent judgment involved in what he's saying and her tone is still gentle with how hard this is for him. "I take it that the news is even worse than you thought. What happened?"

Silas nods, straightening and staring out into the distance. "I worked for the Linderman group, it seems. 'Public Relations' is what they called it," Silas comments, in roughly the same tone of mild disinterest he might use to discuss the weather.

"Which, apparently in this world means murder. Silas Mackenzie was a murderer here. Like, a professional grade murderer, won some murdering championships in the Murderdome or… whatever," Silas chuckles; it's not funny, but hey, chuckling's better than screeching, right? His words are coming fast, now; now that he's started spilling his fears, they're pouring out of him. "As in — to give you an idea here — there are apparently nearly two hundred murders that have been tied to him. They were assembling a case to try him at Albany, and probably the only reason my ass isn't in a hole right now is because they never went public with it."

"Other me dropped off the map after Linderman died. Maybe he's out there in a monastery somewhere or something, or maybe he finally cashed out on Russian roulette and saved the country the cost of the injection, but the fact is that he's put a lot of people in the ground and we have the same face," he says raggedly, and now, as he finally looks at Lis, the mask falls away, revealing the fear beneath.

"And the kicker is—we share more than the same face. I'm gonna go out on a limb and say probably the same fingerprints and the same DNA as this guy, which means the instant the cops start looking at me funny it's about two steps to supermax for me. I've been capering through a damn minefield this entire time, and I… I really don't know what to do here." He falls silent for a moment, getting a grip on himself again. "So. You have any ideas?"

A single brow quirks upward and Elisabeth purses her lips thoughtfully. "It meant something else in your world?" she asks, genuinely curious. But there's zero alarm or concern about what other-Silas did, really. (She's truly an odd duck sometimes, right?)

But as he continues to talk, she sees the problem. "Well… first thing, we're going to contact SESA and alert them to the problem, just in case they don't know about it. Which presumably they do, since you said Albany trials, but always good to make sure we're covered on that front. So that if something pings in the system, it's flagged immediately for high-level intervention."

There's a pause and she considers the options. "I think for the most part, you should keep living your life, Silas. Are you… worried that the guy will come after you?" She tips her head. "Seems to me that'd be a stupid move, but you'd be the only one who has a decent idea of whether the alternate you would stick his neck out that far…" Then she offers, "We can certainly put a personal bodyguard on you if you think you need it." She rests a hand on his forearm. "Whatever he did — and Silas, whatever you may have done back before… I've got your back here. You're not going to get pinched for shit you didn't do without me making a whole hell of a lot of noise."

Silas looks a bit askance at Lis's question about Public Relations, but as she continues, his expression deepens into something more… contemplative. His lips curve up into a tiny, tired smile as she lays her hand on his arm; sometimes it's the little things that help the most. And that offer to make a hell of a lot of noise on his behalf… that definitely helps. It's always good to know that you're not alone if things go bad; that alone does a lot to ease Silas's worries.

But… there's still a problem here. "What bugs me about all of this, though… if they knew about this, why didn't they say anything? So I'd know what I had to look out for, instead of capering around in a minefield without knowing about it? And if they didn't… god, that's even worse. If they didn't know about this, how am I supposed to rely on them for anything?"

He falls silent for a moment, thinking further along that line of thought, but her other question draws him back to reality… he hadn't even considered that Hometown Silas might come for him. He thinks about it for a moment.

"No. I don't think it's gonna be a problem. Linderman was twisting his arm into working as a trigger man, and I'm pretty sure that he was leveraging his family to do it." He's equally certain that's not all there was to it — there'd have had to have been some money involved, too. Good money, otherwise he'd have rolled on Linderman the instant he thought he could get away with it. It would've taken both the carrot and the stick. "And… that's not viable anymore, I don't think. His wife died, and his kid… she won't even speak to him, from what I've heard," he says glumly, and there's that twinge again. A daughter… he thinks, and then ruthlessly quashes the thought.

"He vanished right after that, and Linderman's dead now. Supposedly there wasn't a death certificate issued, but… I dunno. He's probably curled up in some hole somewhere, staring down the barrel of a six-shooter and wondering if tonight's the night he gets to barrel number six." He leans forward, looking down at the ground. "I've killed some people in my time, but… only when it was them or me," he says.

And yet… You'd have killed Kenner quick enough, wouldn't you? You were gonna make that your Christmas present to yourself, some sly and awful piece of his brain whispers. That was different. That bastard deserved it! he thinks back, but this whole line of thought is troubling…

…and probably something he doesn't need to be thinking about right now, anyway. "So no, I don't think he's gonna come after me. But there's another problem with the whole 'going to SESA' bit. What if they start wondering how I got all this information?" he asks.

Elisabeth listens and lets her breath out slowly and quietly. "So…. my thoughts on this," she says carefully, "are a little scattered here, so bear with me." She bites her lip and searches for how to phrase herself.

"They may have known and thought it was a non-issue since he's disappeared. If you're concerned about it, checking into it is the right thing to do." Her smile is faint and a touch rueful. "And you don't rely on them for anything — but you keep them in the loop that it could become a problem." Then she clears her throat. "There are… things you don't know about me, and a lot of things you don't know about Richard Ray, Silas. One of those things is that between us, even with a seven year gap in my own contacts and knowledge, we still have a really extensive network of people to call on. So if they ask how you got information, just point them in my direction. They'll roll their eyes and sigh and won't ask any more."

Clearing her throat, Liz murmurs, "I'm not as… above-board as you might think. And Richard certainly isn't." She grins a little sheepishly. "Pardons were had all around."

Silas mulls that for a moment. After a moment, he nods slowly. "I knew Richard had a bit of a checkered past — sounds like maybe a bit more than I knew, heh," he observes, mustering a chuckle. "Not that it matters a whole lot. 'Breaking the law' and 'doing the right thing' aren't always opposites. Like on the Ark. Or, hell, during the Second Civil War, from what I read."

He pauses, then glances back to Lis with a smile that's actually mostly genuine. "Although maybe I shouldn't be saying that, given your new job and all." It's a rather lame joke, but the fact that he's cracking any joke at all is a step up. The surge of levity passes quickly, though. "Alright. Go to SESA, live my life as best I can, right?" he says, letting out a sigh. "It's good advice, I know. But it just seems… ugh. Like tiptoeing through a minefield, you know?"

Elisabeth leans back in her seat and has to laugh just a little. The silence field around them keeps anyone from hearing even if they wanted to, so she is unconcerned about what gets said here. In that regard anyway. She tips her head and considers. "When I met Richard, and for a long time after that, he was a thief. I was a cop then, too. And I knew what he was. Hell… I brought him in once." That memory sort of makes her smile a little. "He was a straight-up criminal, Silas. Even had ties to Linderman and other Linder-goons like Kain Zarek back then. You're not the only one who came with us who is dealing with a bit of an identity crisis." Her tone is gentle. "I was once taken and held hostage by Humanis First for a few days. They didn't just randomly kidnap me off the street. They took me from a sniper's nest where I was picking off their members." It's been a long time since she thought about what she was doing that night. Not something she's exactly proud of.

"I know what you're going through. When I landed in the world that we stayed the longest… that world's Elisabeth Harrison was living basically the same life I'd built here. She was an FBI agent there, but … she had friends, she had her partner. And I was worried all the time about being mistaken for her. I colored my hair and I took a job waiting tables, sometimes singing." That's what Richard had been talking about. "Made a living eventually with the singing, but… it was always looking over my shoulder. I didn't have the support that you have here. Nor the backstopped background. I'm struggling with trusting the government myself, so I get it. But… how can we start over in a whole new life if we're dragging the baggage of the old one around constantly?" Elisabeth lightly squeezes his arm again. "Live your life. Check in with SESA and let them know that you're worried about the potential problems. Be on guard but … not so much that you sabotage what you're trying to build, okay? And I'm here and I will back you, balls to the wall, if you run into problems."

Silas listens. At first with a raised eyebrow, but then with a more intent expression as she starts describing Richard's criminal past. He does snicker a bit at the phrase 'Linder-goon', but other than that he just listens silently.

"Knowing that — that you've got my back — that means a lot," he says, offering a tired but genuine smile. He falls silent for a moment, looking out into the middle distance… but in bringing up the bit about backstopped identities, Lis has indirectly made a very good point. SESA has made an investment in the Travelers in establishing the cover identities for them; the various inoculations, the documents, the wholesale manufacture of histories had probably taken a pretty big chunk of time and labor. More important than either of those, though, is the fact that they've got money in the game. Three hundred thousand dollars isn't really a lot in a government agency's budget… but multiply that by the number of Travelers, and even in governmental terms it comes to a measurable expenditure. The kind of expenditure that probably had to be marked down in a ledger somewhere. That someone had to sign off on.

That's not enough to completely dispel Silas's lingering doubts when it comes to trusting the government — old habits die hard — but it's enough to allay the worst of them. He lets out a long breath. "Alright, then. I'll… see about chatting up SESA, next chance I get." He still has his share of doubts and worries about this, but if nothing else the most immediate of them has been lifted. If nothing else, now he thinks that there might be a chance to follow that advice Lis is giving him… which in turn sounds not so unlike something he once said to her. He chuckles aloud. "Live my life, huh… sounds like good advice, if I do say so myself."

"Hmmm," Elisabeth replies with a smile that relaxes the worried lines in her face. He did sort of scare her a bit. "Have no idea where I heard it." Tongue firmly lodged in cheek. "I'm grateful that it's not something worse," she admits. It sure seems sometimes like her whole life is a Chinese curse.

"Ha!" Silas lets out an explosive laugh after that last statement; it takes him a moment to realize that she hadn't been joking, and that prompts another laugh. He shakes his head, his expression somewhere between amusement and bemusement. "I… guess I might've overreacted a bit. I was… pretty worried that Hometown Silas's crimes might have ended up getting pinned on me," he chuckles, though it still sounds a bit forced.

Even that forced humor drains from his voice as he looks over to Elisabeth. "I was more worried, though, that that could've ended up being used as ammunition. Against Richard, who's done a hell of a lot for Amelie and I on top of tearing a hole in the universe so that all of us could make it here," he says, a rueful grin briefly resurfacing before being submerged again beneath his solemn expression. "And against the rest of the Travelers. All of us deserve a shot at a happy life, without anyone tryin' to take it away. It'd kill me if I cost them that.".

He takes a deep breath. "It seemed worse than it was, I suppose. It's… really something, sometimes, isn't it? The way a problem can seem gigantic when it's inside your head… but a lot more manageable when you start puttin' it into words." Manageable. That's a pretty good way to put it, actually. The problem isn't solved, but it no longer seems to be the looming death sentence he'd once feared. It's just… bad, not terminal.

Abruptly, Silas smiles again. "Well. Thanks for coming, Elisabeth," he chuckles… then he pauses. "Say. You had dinner yet? I'd offer to cook you somethin', but…" he grimaces. "I'm kinda stayin' away from the boat for a bit. Amelie's gotten her mind-reading thing back, and I'm… not exactly the best company for an extra-sensitive telepath at the moment," he admits; his mental state is a hell of a lot better now than it was before this talk, but it's going to be awhile yet before he's back to himself. "There's a pretty good burger place nearby, though, and I could murder a cheeseburger about now."

Reaching out to hold his arm for a long moment, Elisabeth meets his eyes. She hadn't been kidding, but she also understands where he's coming from. "It might be an overreaction, Silas, but I get it. It's really damn hard not jump at every shadow. It took me over a year in the second place we landed to finally settle into what I'd call 'watchful alertness' instead of constant vigilance. It takes time."

She smiles, though, and says, "I'd love to grab a burger. C'mon." Amelie's telepathy being back brings a faint look of alarm, though, and she murmurs, "Remind her what I told her when we first met — she needs to clap some serious shields around herself and not be running around with her power wide open. I'd hate to see her pick up the wrong thing and have someone go after her the way they did her alternate here."

Silas can't help but smile with sincere gratitude at Lis's reassurance; it really does mean a lot to him. He doesn't say thanks, but that smile should convey it clearly enough. Her comments about Amelie, though, startle him. "Wait, really? That's what happened here? I knew she died, but…"

Grimacing faintly, Elisabeth says, "We don't know why. But yes, she was murdered. And then they hit her husband too." Her voice is carefully level when she tells him that information. "Both Remi here and Amelie had habits of eavesdropping and amusing themselves with what they could find, though. I warned Amelie in your world when I met her not to fuck around like that, but she really needs to not fuck around like that here."

Silas absorbs this for a moment, nodding slowly. "She's been working on trying to dial it down a bit, but…" He reflects a bit on Amelie, and shakes his head slowly. There's a limit to how much he feels he can say behind her back, even to Elisabeth. "Well. I'll pass on what you said. And I'll try to talk her around, though I can't make any promises on that," he says; he doesn't think he's gonna be able to win that fight, but he'll give it a shot. "In the meantime," he begins, grinning as he levers himself to his feet. "Let's go see about those burgers."

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