elisabeth4_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Objective
Synopsis It's all so much, but the only way is forward.
Date June 30, 2021

Raytech Industries Corporate Housing

There’s a sharp knock on the door.

Security was told all was clear, nothing to be concerned about. Maintenance, too, was warded off until later.

And still, a rapid, persistent knocking.

It’s a woman’s voice on the other side of the door, indistinct from where she sits in the bedroom. A moment later, the voice calls again, raised in volume this time. She can hear her.


The pace of the knocking is growing frantic. “Liz? Is everything okay?”

The heavy churn of intense emotion from inside that apartment is really all the answer Odessa needs – sadness, grief, remnants of panic and terror. It takes until after the third round of frantic knocks before the tumult abates just a little. As if the owner has finally heard the noise and is fighting to swallow it all down. The empath feels the source of the chaotic dark emotions approach the door but it doesn't open.

"Dessa… I'm fine." Even Elisabeth herself grimaces on the far side of the door, even as she leans on the metal-cored wood and presses her forehead and her hand against it. Unknowingly, her friend is mirroring this posture on the other side of it. Liz's voice carries plainly to the listener without problem. "Please stop shouting," she asks in a softer almost-whisper. "Don't bring everyone else knocking." Like Jared and Carina or Kaylee. "I just … had a nightmare."

Truth, but only part of it. She is pretty sure Dessa can feel both the truth and the lie in the words, mixed with guilt now at the attempt to dissemble. Along with a split-second moment of curiosity as Liz wonders in the back of her mind what the empath hears in what feels to her like cataclysmic waves of panic and sorrow.

The door isn't opening.

Odessa’s fingers splay against the cool of the door, her cheek pressed against it. The sorrow is nearly overwhelming. The fear also easy to succumb to, after yesterday’s horrors. “Please,” she merely murmurs now, sure that Liz can feel even that small vibration in the air. “Please, I know you aren’t.”

Blue eyes squeeze shut as she feels the prickle of tears in their corners. “Let me in,” she whispers.

There is a long silence while Elisabeth wrestles with the seething ball of chaos inside her. Finally, just when it seems like she might not comply, the bolts inside the door slide free and the door opens.

She is just as physically distressed as she is emotionally. Her face is swollen and flushed, her nose red, and her eyes are still leaking tears that she may not even be wholly aware of. Elisabeth shies away from meeting Odessa's searching look, holding on tightly to the door as she backs up just enough to let her friend come in. Odessa is barely clear of the threshold when the latch clicks the door shut…

And the empath finds herself with an armful of peacekeeper clinging to her like a lifeline. With her face buried in Dessa's shoulder she says in a choked voice roughened to a husky rasp, "Nathalie was right. We failed."

There is no context for the words, which bring yet another soft sob from Elisabeth's shaking form. Panic is, at least for now, frowned under the waves grief, anger, and guilt for even feeling the latter.

Odessa’s grateful that Liz is the one who initiates the hug, because it was taking everything inside of her not to drag her into one. “Let it out, honey,” she encourages, rather than telling her to stuff it away in a box. She cradles Liz’s head against her shoulder, swaying gently with her. Somehow, it helps to see her and have a visual on where the emotions flow from, even if they still spill over into her. It makes it easier to be the rock to cling to in the tempest.

“We haven’t failed,” she insists. It doesn’t matter what the context is, Odessa knows they haven’t. There’s still time. They’re still working. Fighting. “It’s okay. I’m here. We’ll ride this out together,” she promises as she presses a kiss into her friend’s hair. “Talk to me when you’re ready, but only when you’re ready.”

If anyone understands the catharsis in tears, it’s the empath.

Finding herself with a firm anchor, someone she doesn't have to be strong for, Elisabeth lets the turbulent emotions free. She couldn't say when the last time she cried so hard was. Perhaps the day she buried an empty casket next to her mother. Ugly crying with no control, fear the primary emotion underpinned by anguish. It comes in waves; just when she thinks she's done, it begins again. Until finally she has nothing left.

Somewhere in there they moved, because as she picks her head up and becomes cognizant of where they are, Elisabeth looks confused for a moment. She doesn't remember moving, and that brings a pang of consternation. It becomes obvious how brutally exhausted Elisabeth is as she leans into the hug for an extra few moments, gratitude and affection finding their way through the darker emotions.

When she pulls away, it's with a squeeze to reassure Dessa that she's finding her center. "I'm sorry," Liz tells her quietly, hiccuping at the end with a startled expression. It breaks the solemnity and she giggles self-consciously as she wipes her face.

Then realizes that Dessa's all wet and teary too. "I got tissues," she says with a watery smile. "Somewhere." Looking around for them gives her a couple of seconds more to gather herself.

“Never,” Odessa whispers, brushing a strand of hair from Liz’s face. “Never be sorry for… for being your honest self with me." She looks around the space until she spots the box across the room. “I’ll get them.”

Lifting up off the couch, Odessa takes the moment with her back turned to Elisabeth to squeeze her eyes shut and let the tears there fall before wiping them away with her thumbs. She plucks up the box and brings it back over to set down on the coffee table in front of the sofa.

“I know you don’t want to talk about it, but do you want to talk about it?”

Gratitude and affection for the first time outweigh all the things that started this tailspin. Plucking several of the wipes from the box, Elisabeth offers it back to Odessa. She didn't miss that they both need them. She takes several moments to try to mop her face, blow her nose, and compose herself amid hiccuping breaths.

"Yesterday brought back a lot of memories," she begins quietly. "Probably for a hell of a lot of people, given the reports I saw last night." There's a moment's pause. "The fires were deliberately set." Liz has no way to know whether that is common knowledge yet, though she thinks that someone was going to give a press conference at some point today. "We didn't realize until the responders started taking gunfire. A couple of them were killed. As we pulled back from the fire's front lines… they had a Hunter bot. Still with the Compass intact." Just like what happened at RayTech and other places around the Zone. Nightmares following last night's events are probably going to be a given for a lot of people.

The memory is still visceral, and it sets off a momentary low hum, immediately silenced, as she reacts to it. Swallowing hard, her blue eyes unfocus and her fingers twist the tissues. "I think for just a second I couldn't remember where I was. What world I was in."

She trails off and then huffs out a sound not quite a chuckle. "You know, I laughed at Richard when he put ballistic glass in the apartment windows." After the second time she had nightmares and broke them. "Probably the most sound financial investment he's made in our living quarters," she admits. Some distant part of her brain notes the use of 'living quarters' instead of 'home' but it's such a random thought, it's gone before it really registers.

“Yeah, it was… I had a gun pointed in my face yesterday,” Odessa says quietly as she dabs at her eyes before blowing her nose as demurely as she can manage. “Hunter bot in the warehouse lot, where I was doing triage.” She draws in a shaky breath; her nerves are still frayed. “Hahn got hit real bad. Depleted her suit. She had ferrofluid leaking into her through-and-throughs.” Pinching her brow, she at least has good news to deliver there. “I got her stabilized so they could get her off to Elmhurst. If I did my job right, she’ll recover. It’ll just… take a while.”

In this case, Odessa is confident she saved a life, even if her patient may be out of her hands. She holds onto that buoy for her mood, wishing she could infuse Elisabeth with it as well.

Elisabeth nods, her relief reflected in her face. Kaylee told her about Hahn earlier, and she is grateful that Dessa was near enough to help the woman. It does help.

“Reminded me all too much of the war.” She smiles tiredly. “I had my breakdown last night. Harry stayed over. There was no way we were going to make it back to Williamsburg.” Odessa’s eyes crease at the corners. “My dog may not forgive me. Well, he will, but it might take a pallet of peanut butter.”

Odessa rubs a hand over Liz’s shoulder back and forth gently. “We just have to keep moving forward. We can’t let them win, you know?” Even if the fight seems never ending.

Elisabeth leans into the touch, taking the comfort offered. She would tear up again but she's not sure she has any tears left to cry right now. "I'm really glad you're okay," she says softly, looking at the woman who has been her companion through some of the strangest moments in her life. The upsurge of too many conflicting emotions is held to a low volume as best she can for the empath.

"Dessa… do you remember the dream?" Reaching up to drag a hand through her blond hair. "New Year's… not this past one but the one before." She has thought of that dream off and on over the 18 months since it happened. She's watched the Pure Earth bullshit play out, literally feeling like she's got deja vu some days. And that, more than anything else, is what has triggered this meltdown. "Richard wanted to believe it was just the Bitch being a bitch. That it was a warning or a way to scare us. But…"

That's where the well of deep sorrow comes from. All of this is entirely too familiar. She wants to lay out her thoughts, the details to make Odessa see why she believes it. But it's so much and it's so tangled in her head, she can't find the words. So she settles for whatever she can get out there simply.

"They are coming. Even if it just starts with our own fucking country tearing itself apart again… the rest of the world is going to step into this. It's going to happen." Her bleak outlook on that is reflected in her emotions too. "I don't understand the larger picture, not at all. But They. Are. Coming. And it's going to be sooner rather than later." Elisabeth has a deep certainty.

She pauses and concludes quietly, "Of course, maybe it just doesn't matter if the goddamn solar burst fries us all first." A pause. "Maybe we should have just fucking let it." And kept their people home where they belong. Sure they would all die… but at least they'd die together.

There is the despair that she was struggling so hard to hide. The rage. The agony of the thought of whether giving up, something she only once came close to doing before Samson Gray wearing Arthur like a meat suit changed matters. "Maybe … if we hadn't been so stupid as to keep trying to get home and gone into hiding in Arthur's shiny cesspool, the Bitch would have been trapped for another few thousand years. At least if that had happened… Richard would be here with Harm and the twins."

They are coming. Odessa wants to argue that, emphatically, no, they aren’t. But… she isn’t sure enough that it wouldn’t be a lie, and she doesn’t want to lie to Elisabeth. All the same, there are assurances she feels confident giving. “You did the right thing,” she insists. “You didn’t stay somewhere you didn’t belong. You made your way home, to… To better lives for a lot of people.”

Odessa squeezes Liz’s shoulder. “You saved so many lives in the flooded world.” They both did, but only because Elisabeth, Lynette, and Mateo had been a catalyst. “Uluru was already there.” While she of all people believes that names have power, she just won’t shy away from this one. In this way, she’s saying that name has no power over her. Speaking the name will not draw them to her.

She hopes.

“If it hadn’t been you, it would have been someone else.” This she is sure of. If that was bait that the Travelers rose to, then it’s bait that would have drawn someone else in, some other way. “I’ve held that voice inside of me, Liz.” It’s Odessa’s turn to let the cracks in her armor show, a momentary flicker of fear on her features. “I’ve felt what they’re capable of in my own skin, in my bones… And it’s an awe-inspiring terror like I’ve never known.” That she won’t sugar coat. “But I know we can do this. We’ll fight the Entity. We’ll fight the small minded bigots that think we should be wiped out. We’ll endure, because it’s who we are.”

Odessa takes Elisabeth’s face in her hands, impressing up on her: “It’s what we do.

She can tell herself the same things, but in the darkest moments Elisabeth fights to hold onto that logic. Oh, she knows Odessa is right. She does. If it hadn't been her group, it most certainly would have been someone else – because this plan, whatever it entails, isn't really about the who, it's about getting the results. There will always be someone to be maneuvered into fitting the role that needs filled.

If it hadn’t been Elisabeth, Odessa knows her counterpart from Arthur’s world would have done it alone. Somehow.

Liz’s blue eyes come up to Odessa's when her friend elaborates on having felt the Entity. Wrapping her hands around Dessa's wrists when her friend cradles her face, she searches for the right words. "The thing that scares me the most about all of this… is the fact that somehow, some way we don't understand, all of it is related. Richard said that when they jumped… he had the feeling that the attacking force wanted them to make it through." Her confusion is clear as she rests her forehead against Dessa's.

"For the life of me, I cannot see how this whole thing fits. There are just pieces and parts that make no sense. And you know I don't function well without a clear objective." She huffs out a tired half-laugh – the information is not news to Odessa by a long shot. "I guess at least with Pure Earth I have a clear target to vent all this fucking resentment on until the solar storm either kills us or doesn't."

“Your objective,” Odessa says calmly, resolute in the face of her confusion and trepidation to know something wanted the new travelers to make it through, “is to survive. To be ready. We’re doing that already. You’re supporting us.” She means the scientists who work for her husband’s company. “Your objective is to help keep me from crumbling,” she laughs weakly, betraying the fragility of her own foundations.

"Oh great," Elisabeth quips back quietly. "No pressure, right?"

None at all. “Pure Earth is a great place to start. I didn’t get to kill enough bigots in the war. I’d like to make up for that.” With the proximity they share, Liz can’t precisely see the grin that cuts across Odessa’s face, sharp as one of her knives, but she can hear it in her voice. The dark, rich tone of it. “But that might violate the terms of my parole.”

There’s a distant ping in the back of her mind that tells her she’s fortunate she’s not been conscripted to some other Company or Evolved Affairs-like branch again. She could be off on some suicide mission right now, instead of finally using her intellect to save the world, and have that intent be known.

“You’re going to use your resources, and you’re going to hunt them, because it will give you purpose when you need it. You’re going to be present for your family, your friends, because you know we all need each other.” Odessa presses a kiss to Elisabeth’s cheek, murmuring in her ear, “You’re going to be amazing.

The comment about violating her parole and the tone in which it was said have the intended effect – Elisabeth can't help the chuff of laughter. There's a subtle knife blade of satisfaction that lances through her at the tone. The sense of the same darkness in the peacekeeper. They've come a long way over the years, even if some of it was with Odessa Woods. Maybe because some of it was with Odessa Woods.

She is only half joking when she replies, "In the case of Pure Earth targets, I will figure out a way to come up with a badge to deputize your ass. Maybe it'll be my turn to punch Marcus Raith in the face to get the OEI to claim you as an agent."

The promise, however joking, that Elisabeth would find a way to get Odessa deputized is met with a quiet chuckle. It’s a chuckle that decays prematurely, however natural it seems to Liz. She’s just given Odessa information she hadn’t had before. Information that slots into place in a puzzle to which she was missing pieces.

Elisabeth pulls in a breath and nods a little, scoffing, "I can definitely do everything on that list except the last thing." Well… being there for her family is long-distance right now, with the children evac'd to Detroit and Richard gone.

Hugging Odessa tightly again, the empath can feel at least a little of her turmoil ease. She's getting her feet back under her, coming out of the spiral of her own anxiety and PTSD. "I am so tired of being a piece on a chessboard set up before any of us were even dreamt of," Elisabeth admits in a weary tone. She pulls back just a bit to look her friend in the eyes.

"Thank you, Dessa. Everyone has so much on their plates dealing with their own fears and terrors. I appreciate that you swallowed yours to help me balance mine." It means more than she can say. She wouldn't have bothered anyone with her own need for an emotional check-in, even though she knows any of her friends would be there if she did. She'd have managed it alone like she has so many times… maybe after sitting in the closet for a couple of hours freaking eight the hell out, but still!

The younger blonde smiles shakily, glad it can’t be seen when her chin is hooked over Liz’s shoulder while they embrace. She’s back to her sympathetic neutral by the time they ease back, pleased that this has been working at least in fractions. The thought that Liz would have kept it all bottled up if she hadn’t been here leads the empath’s heart to ache. She’s glad she was still just down the hall.

Again with a rueful smile she wipes a couple of delayed tears that suddenly escaped her eyes. "I can feel myself falling into old patterns. Like a comfortable pair of shoes. Richard's not here; I have to take care of our people. Gotta not let them see my stress and helplessness." So not healthy. But her tone says she recognizes she's doing it and will be working to do better.

“Don’t hide your stress from me, Liz,” Odessa asks of her, a small smile breaking out as she reminds her, “you can’t anyway.” Grabbing a fresh tissue, she gently dries the tracks leftover on her friend’s face. “We’re in this together, okay? I’ll support you when you need it, you’ll support me when I need it, and we’ll just kind of lean into each other when neither of us can support ourselves and hope for the best.”

The laugh is a little helpless, but what good are they to themselves if they can’t have their dark humor in the face of the insanity of their lives?

“How are you doing?” Blue eyes seek to assess visually what Odessa’s other senses tell her, looking for confirmation. “I know you’re not great, but are we trending back to okay? To going to be okay, you know, eventually?” She smiles again. “It’s okay if you’re not okay yet. Just tell me what you need.”

Odessa’s need — gnawing at her soul, a desire for more knowledge — can wait.

Her nod is closer to her usual demeanor despite the swollen features from crying so hard. She's not the prettiest crier around, that's for sure. But she is pulling herself together strand by strand. "We're trending toward okay," Elisabeth agrees, pulling in a deep breath and letting it out slowly. "What I need, you've already done," she admits. "I needed someone to just be there without having to ask."

It maybe sounds self-absorbed in some ways; Elisabeth has never really been good about asking for help, though the years of therapy in Bright and the continuing visits here have helped her retrain that particular issue … usually. These aren't exactly usual circumstances, and given the fact that she has PTSD it's perhaps not surprising that she'll have to work a little harder to hang on to those better habits.

"I need my kids home," she says quietly. "But I need them safe more than I need them home, so they'll stay in Detroit for now… even though everything in me wants to tell Harmony to take the kids and run. The bunker is being stocked anyway, and I can't get the image of the HQ building being bombed by jets out of my head." Elisabeth sighs, dragging a hand through her hair.

"I need my husband. I need him here helping me keep our family and our people safe." She grimaces, her resentment that he went and the understanding that he had to still at war in her heart and very clear in her voice. "That one is just a flat no. So… barring those two things, I need one uncomplicated objective – and you helped me focus on it. I'm gonna hunt down some Huma– Pure Earth fuckers and put them out everyone's misery."

For a split second, she has a grim look that gives the briefest glimpse of the rage she's capable of. She might be serious about outright murder in this instance. Then the look and the intensity are gone and she concedes, "I'll at least try to get them into jail first. Guess I need to keep reminding myself this isn't the Wasteland." Yet.

“It’s not,” Odessa agrees, voice gentle. “We’re nowhere near there.” That might sound false, but Odessa remembers dimly her own role in bringing about that nightmare. “We still have power. President Harding… I think he’s a good man. There’s no Department of Evolved Affairs. No Georgia Mayes to try and exterminate us.”

Gradually, she starts to come back to herself, settling her hands in her lap, but not in such a way as to suggest she won’t be ready to embrace her friend again in a heartbeat. “I admit, Pure Earth looks more organized than I thought they were.” This attack on the city was coordinated. They played the long game. It’s harrowing to consider. “But they don’t have the power of the government behind them. They can be dismantled. I believe that.”

Last night, sobbing in her kitchen, she wasn’t so sure. “If they let go of my leash…” If she was given leave to track down the enemy. Odessa sighs. “Can I… circle back to that, actually?” There’s a faint wince when she makes that request, like she’s not sure it’s fair of her to ask for something of her own out of this situation.

Elisabeth considers Odessa's list of things that are not the same – and looks thoughtful. "The coordination bothers me too," she agrees. "Colette and I were talking about that not long ago. And honestly, Dessa… I'm not sure any of us should be let off the leash of law." She grimaces. "Too many of us have a lot of baggage."

Tipping her head though, she adds, "And of course we can talk about that thought some other time." Not like the problem is just going away. But the tone shift tells her that there's something else Odessa's thinking about. "What's going through your head? Something I can do something about would be a welcome change." The self-deprecating grin is a good step forward.

“Yeah,” is all Odessa has to say about staying within the bounds of the law. She gets better than anyone how that baggage can affect someone, what it can drive them to do and to be. It’s why she’s on a leash at all.

Odessa glances away, pensive for a few seconds. Then she brings her gaze back to Elisabeth. “Tell me about Marcus Raith.”

Blinking at the request and then having to parse it, Elisabeth pauses a moment. "What about him?" And another pause as she looks curiously at Odessa and asks, "You're familiar with him?"

She is cautious in how she chooses to answer the question she receives in return. “I mean, I knew Jensen Raith. Old Vanguard turned Ferryman?” Odessa watches Liz’s reaction, unable to hide the hint of wariness in her own expression.

It's the wariness that has Elisabeth's attention, because she knows Odessa well enough – a couple different versions of her! – to know that when she's being cagey there is something definitely afoot. "Yeah, I knew Jensen," she agrees. "Not well, but… he was with us in Antarctica. And he's the one who brought word that Richard survived it. But Marcus… he's old as fuck, and I have no idea how he's still around – hell, for all I know he time-traveled his happy ass here."

She grimaces. "He's Jensen's … grandfather, if I remember right. He was a friggin' Nazi - literally - and one of the things that Richard and I learned early on was that he was involved with Adam Monroe. We saw a picture of a bunch of those fuckers. I can probably dig it up in a file cabinet if you need me to, or even grab Wright and have her ask him where his file is … You know how Richard is about his intel." You know the man has a file somewhere. There's a bit of a grin there, her amusement at the man clear.

She tips her head and considers. "Now he's in with the OEI. But I don't have a lot of detail on any of it. Just the general knowledge that he's a dick and knowing what he was involved with back when makes me very uneasy."

She hesitates. "I can dredge through my head to try to remember what else I knew about him, but he was kind of peripheral to what we were dealing with at the time. Why?" The last is asked in that way that says she knows Dessa knows more than she's saying. And it's not going to be let go.

“I need a drink.”

It’s 11:30 in the morning, Odessa.

She scrubs a hand over her face, clearly working through the information Elisabeth has imparted. “Yeah. I know the… Adam Monroe, Kazimir Volken, Project Icarus…” One corner of Odessa’s mouth hooks back in a grin of incredulity. “He was undercover for the Americans.” Which is not to say that he wasn’t also a believer, a double-agent.

“I met him in 1945.”

Odessa tips forward and buries her face in both hands now, a sound of frustration muffled against her palms. “You’re sure he’s OEI?” she asks, lifting her head. “One hundred percent?”

Elisabeth's amusement is short-lived, and she nods. "I was never clear about where that guy stood in anything," she admits. "Like I said, he was peripheral to what I was doing. But yes, I am certain he's OEI – Richard met with him as part of the group before they jumped. Wright really enjoyed seeing him punched in the face, and told him something like 'eat shit and die' cuz he was an asshole. Why?" Because now she's alarmed. "Fill me in, Dessa."

Odessa pales. “Raith sent them on this mission?”

Oh God. Oh God fucking damn it all to hell. That expression sends Elisabeth's anxiety into the stratosphere. "Tell me." 'Tell me what the fuck you know right this minute before I lose my shit' is what Elisabeth means, every bit of which is conveyed in her tone.

A placating hand is held up. “No, no. It isn’t that.” Odessa shakes her head quickly, trying to keep Liz from jumping to the wrong conclusion. “It’s just… The whole reason I got parole is because — I mean, I don’t know this for sure, but Agent Gates interviewed me at Rikers. I’m pretty sure my lawyer had been about to off me, or have me offed.”

A dismissive hand is waved. That is neither here nor there. And only Odessa would wave off the notion of someone intending to murder her as inconsequential. Just another Tuesday.

“Point is, he comes in, interviews me about the Entity, right? A month later, I’m out.” Considering she’d been facing down a life sentence before, and it wasn’t certain she wouldn’t hang even after she turned herself in, following her being more or less unwillingly liberated from PISEC…

“Deep breath? This is a me thing, not a Richard thing.”

Narrowing her eyes, Elisabeth considers the information. "This… is still alarming as fuck. What do they have you working on?" It's a sad state of affairs that her reaction to someone potentially trying to have Odessa murdered is similarly low-key.

“They don’t,” Odessa states plainly. “What I’m working on is just what they’ve got all of us working on. I’m not being singled out here.” Dragging her fingers through her hair, she slouches forward until one forearm is propped against her knee.

“So. 1945.”

Closing her eyes, she shakes her head slowly. “Hiro Nakamura bullshit.” It’s all the explanation required for how the hell did you get there, if the fact that Odessa somehow hopped realities for two years wasn’t enough to cause Liz not to question it.

Elisabeth just rolls her eyes expressively and nods. Of course it's Hiro bullshit.

“It was a bad jump, but we wound up in Germany in 1945.” She leaves Clara and Daphne’s roles out of her recounting for now. “This was, I don’t know. Twelve years ago? Hiro was delirious from fever. We got separated. I was alone, standing in the middle of some bombed out buildings, and then there’s… Raith. I see him make a forcefield, he sees me stop time, we decide maybe we can trust each other. Plus, you know, I was five-foot-two and had one of those soft faces back then.” She manages a little humor for her situation and what she’s lost and gained since that time.

“I told him I wasn’t from that time, that I was from the future. I needed to find Hiro so I could go back where I belonged. I told him Hitler was going to kill himself the day before it happened.” Whoops. “So he believes me, right? Turns out, they already had Hiro. He’d been at the camp for days, and they thought he was a spy. It’s complicated. You know how Hiro was.”

And fuck her, she actually misses him.

Again, she presses her hands to her face and groans. She is too sober for all of this. “They negated me. Raith was going to hold us there and scrape out every bit of future knowledge we had.” With a bitter laugh, she pushes herself up to sit straight again. “Said I was property of the United States government.”

Her fingers tangle in her blonde hair, pulling it just the faintest bit to keep her present in the moment. “Who knew that’d become a recurring theme?” She looks wearily at Liz.

Aside from grimaces or nods throughout, Elisabeth doesn't say anything. She listens hard, though, her mind calculating … was this happening at the same time a bunch of them had to jump around a bit in time to keep time-traveling assassins from killing each other? That had been … an adventure. It sounds like the same timeframe – around 2009 or '10-ish.

When the words finally stop, Liz scrubs her face with both hands and then sighs heavily as she leans back on the couch. "Yeah," she finally agrees quietly. "We all need to be a little more worried and pay a little closer attention there. It's made me uneasy since I found out about him, and everything you just told me?" Yeah, makes that uneasiness a lot deeper.

"They haven't singled you out and asked you to do anything different yet. But if they're behind your release, Dessa, there's an agenda there and we both know it." Blowing out another breath, she puzzles through the thoughts racing in her mind. "It wouldn't be unusual for them to have their fingers in multiple pies, obviously. But I can't help figuring it all ties in somehow. Because we're just not lucky enough believe it fucking doesn't."

She wishes she could be amused at that thought, but she just shakes her head. "I fucking hate the shadow organizations. And giant global conspiracies. And fucking string maps. So far, not a damn one of these assholes has been a benefit to anyone but themselves except as a side effect. And now I'm wondering if we've got a big problem with the mission the others went on."

Odessa seems to have gone somewhere else while Elisabeth has been speaking. She looks numb by the time attention has turned back on her. It takes a long moment before she even realizes she’s being looked at.

“So, the thing is, Liz…” Odessa comes back to focus. “I saw Kazimir Volken kill Marcus Raith.”

Elisabeth is suddenly very still. "… … …When?" Her blue eyes are sharp on Odessa, keen interest and a thoughtful expression, like she's trying to fit a puzzle piece into the broader picture.

“1945,” she says quietly. “He shouldn’t be alive.” Odessa wraps her arms around herself and shakes her head slowly. “They’d had some kind of deal, probably to get Kazimir amnesty with Paperclip or whatever they called it.” Acquiring Nazi scientists to work in the interests of the American government. “But as soon as Marcus told him it was a done deal, he wasn’t needed anymore, so…”

A slow tip of her head is Elisabeth's only response at first. She is turning the pieces over and over in her head. "Oh-kay," she says slowly. "So … let's lay out the possibilities here. You went back to '45 and saw Kazi kill Marcus. But we know time travel doesn't work like that." She pauses.

"Which of course makes all our running around in '09 to save each other from assassination in the past rather moot. That's the kind of thing that creates new timelines, God help everyone. But aside from that, let's assume he got killed.

"That would mean one, he got resurrected. I mean… Kazi had the fucking conduits, he could have mostly killed Marcus in front of you but then saved him. Or two, he's a time-jumped or a timeline-displaced version on Marcus – which is actually kind of scary. Or three, let's go out on a limb, he was somehow rescued in the same way Zeke was back when they put his brain in a jar?"

She's sure there are probably a lot of other possibilities. "Four, he could be one of those robots like the Confessor…" Oh shit, that's a thought. "Although that one seems unlikely, since he's been around a while, but who knows when we're dealing with this shit." She looks at Odessa and admits, "I know I'm missing a ton of other possibilities here but… being as we know time doesn't work that way, I'm leaning toward that explanation."

Odessa’s brow furrows. The first three possibilities are all things she’s already considered, but the fourth one, that one lacks context to her. “The who? Who — what are you talking about?”

Elisabeth grimaces. "You know what's happening to Kaylee, right?" Oh God, please tell her this isn't the first Dessa is hearing about this load of assfuckery.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ve been working on… unraveling it.” Odessa is horrifyingly aware of Kaylee’s situation. “So there’s a synthetic human,” she surmises readily enough, “but who’s the Confessor?” Why does she not know about that? Doesn’t she know about every terrible thing? It feels like it sometimes.

With a groan, Elisabeth scrubs her face with both hands. "Weelllll… basically Richard ran across a dead one over there." She shakes her head and leans forward on her knees to prop her elbows and dig at her eyes with her palms. "Which is why I am so fucking confused with how everything fits together but I'm so sure it does. It's just too many scattered pieces that make no sense together, but it's too much fucking coincidence to swallow for there to be two different groups able to open a portal to that place."

Pulling her head up out of her hands, she adds in an aggrieved voice, "And when I talked to him, Richard seemed convinced the guy was probably also from the future." As if they don't have enough fucking problems. "And he also floated the theory that we, or the kids anyway, might have been the ones to send him." She looks at Odessa and just asks, "Do you ever wonder why we're not all raging alcoholics sleeping under a bridge somewhere? No sane human being wants to be sober pondering this shit."

Odessa blinks dully, not sure she’s understanding it all, but there’s enough that she does. “Yeah,” she responds in a muted tone. “I mean, I think Albert and I are on our way toward a drinking problem.” It’s a joke, but also kind of not. She and Gatter have a stash for when they’re feeling overwhelmed and need to loosen up enough to continue the work. These days, being overwhelmed is practically their default state of being.

“We can only tackle one problem at a time,” the scientist murmurs regretfully. “And we only have so much control… That’s why Richard and the others are taking care of what you and I cannot.” It’s difficult for them both, but who else could they trust to save their reality more than Richard Ray? “Is there any way for you to get more information about Marcus? I could try to reach out to Gates. He seems sympathetic to me, but I’m not sure that’s the safest for me.”

Huffing out a laugh that holds little amusement, Elisabeth says, "One problem at a time." Because they've ever really seen one problem happen at a time. But Odessa is right, and she knows it. "Well… my one problem for now is Pure Earth. You have your one problem. There's not a fucking thing I can do about anything else right now except make sure the bunker is ready. What is it you want to know about Marcus?" She'll see if Wright can maybe come up with answers.

“I don’t know,” Odessa admits in a soft voice. “Anything?” She scrubs her hands over her face. “I just think he’s got to be bad news. I don’t know if it’s only bad news for me, or bad news for all of us… I hope just me.”

If she had to choose.

The snort from Elisabeth is eloquent in its own right. "As if," she mutters. "I'll see what I can find out, but I doubt it'll be much. He's damn good at covering his ass. So…" She sighs out heavily. At least the worst of her little meltdown seems to be passed. She just seems tired and no more worried than is usual for her. "Be careful if you reach out to Gates. I have to admit, I'm a little leery of the whole lot of them," Elisabeth notes quietly. "Seems more and more like we're back to playing the same games – we know there's shit they're not saying, so we don't trust them. And because we can't trust them, they don't tell us anything. Gotta love the Catch-22, right?" Not so much.

She pushes a smile. "Thank you." For a lot of things, but mostly just for being here. "I hate putting my shit out there on other people. But I really appreciate the shoulder, Dessa." More than she can say.

“I know.” It’s a response that fits to just about everything Elisabeth has said to her, but especially to the fact that she hates putting her fears and insecurities on display, and the appreciation. “I owe you like a billion, so…”

Odessa rubs Elisabeth’s shoulder briefly before pulling her in for a tight hug. “Call me if you need anything, okay? I’m going to go check in with the hospital and get my lab sorted out before I go back home. It was a miracle I convinced Harry to leave without me in the first place. I’m surprised he didn’t handcuff us together.” She laughs, shaking her head.

Hugging her friend tightly in return, Liz rests her head on Odessa's shoulder for a long minute and then nods as she finally pulls away. "Be careful going back to the house," she murmurs. "Fuckers out there burned half the goddamn country with flamethrowers; who knows what insanity they're capable of?" Because it certainly wasn't just the SLC-E at risk with wildfires across whole states. Rubbing her swollen, gritty eyes, she mumbles, "Shower. Coffee. Back to work." She's definitely not going to get more sleep now.

She pauses before she moves to stand and then smiles just a little. "Love you, Dessa." It's the second time she's said those words to a good friend this morning… but it feels like it needs to be said. Maybe because they're all facing the end of the world – again – but it feels important, so she simply says it.

“I will,” Odessa promises, pledging to be cautious, even as she looks sick over the horror perpetrated by Pure Earth. She does worry about her own safety, but with their treason outed, with the various peacekeeping forces within the Safe Zone aware and no doubt on the lookout, she has hope that whatever lingering malice may be out there, it will be nothing she cannot handle.

The air leaves Odessa’s lungs in an unexpectedly hard push, leaving her feeling unable to stand when she intends to at first following in the wake of Elisabeth’s sentiment. She knows it, can feel it, but something about the often stoic woman saying it makes the impact of it more substantial.

After reclaiming her breath, she pushes to her feet and rests a hand on her friend’s shoulder. “I know. I’m glad you let me in, Liz.” She smiles, the emotion showing in her eyes. Grateful, touched, and above all, Odessa feels humbled. Elisabeth has every right to hate Odessa for all the wrong she’s done, and yet, she shows compassion and kinship. Odessa feels a twinge to realize that Liz’s friendship feels a bit more like family.

“I love you, too.”

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