Oculus Tempest


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Scene Title Oculus Tempest
Synopsis Gabriel, Raith and Eileen continue their vigil over the Volken family.
Date October, 1900

A cool breeze blows across a grass field, disturbing long blades as they rustle together. Beneath the patchwork cover of white clouds, the sun shines warm down on the verdant plains of the French countryside. Distant trees serve as a reminder of the forest border not far from the small farmhouse made of mortared riverstones seated on the back of a steadily flowing and rocky brook. With its wiiden shingle roof laden with moss and old-world architecture, it is reminiscent of a place from a time not yet come, of another garden in other woods, on a distant island far, far away.

"Come forth, I say!" Screams a child across the fields, a twisting branch from an oak tree carried in his hands. Thw wind disturbs his blonde hair, bright blue eyes focused up on the mostly clear skies, one hand raised with the stick, his tiny voice booming for all he's worth. "There's other business for thee: Come, thou tortoise!"

Turning slowly, the young boy in his charcoal colored slacks and double-breasted jacket is laden with a woolen cape, dyed a slate gray and clasped shut with a hairpin around the collar. He turns, brandishing his stick at a far thinner and older young woman standing barefoot in the field nearby to him, her raven dark hair caught on the wind, playing with the hem of her skirt and rustling the loose fabric of her borrowed blouse.

"Fine apparition!" The boy shouts with a stiff German accent to his English, "My quaint Ariel…" comes more quietly as he curls his fingers towards the pale and nymphish young woman, curling one small finger as if beckoning Eileen Ruskin forward. All the while, the distant sound of a woodsman's axe hitting a stump on splitting logs create a steady rhythm. "Hark" he insists, "in thine ear…"

Turning to his right, the boy motions his gnarled stick towards the cabin, pointing to a tall and broad-shouldered man with a wood splitting axe in both hands, driving logs in half with a stack of split lumber around a stump. Clothing hangs on a line beside him, flagging in the breeze. "Thou poisonous slave," the boy proclaims as he motions towards Gabriel Gray, between uses of the axe, "got by the devil himself." Blue eyes narrow and the boy's chin tilts up. "Upon thy wicked dam, come forth!"

A long, awkward silence breaks pause between Gabriel and the boy. "I said," is murmured, "Come forth!" His stick lifts into the air again, followed by an expectant stare to Gabriel. "Caliban," the boy hisses in a stage whisper, "that is your cue!"

d'Argent Farm

Somewhere Outside Versailles, France

October 31, 1900

"The boy seems to get along well with your friends…"

Far from the grassy stage whereupon The Tempest is being performed, Colonel Vladimir Volken shares a certain confidence with the one legitimate soldier among the three time travelers. Headed up the dirt trail to the farmhouse from the stables, the Colonel offers a wary look to Jensen Raith, then back to the blonde boy in the field. "He got so sour when you called him Kazimir," the blue-eyed Colonel notes as he walks, gloved hands folded behind his back. "Ever since someone told him what they thought the name meant, he has refused to be called it. He likes to go by Alfonse, his middle name— his grandfather's name." Vladimir closes his eyes and shakes his head. "Serise insisted we name him Kazimir, it was her father's name. I had no idea it was such a negative thing…"

It has been three days since Paris, three days since Kira St.Croix attacked Colonel Volken and three days since they had gone into hiding. Here, in the verdant fields of rural France, hiding on a farm that belongs to the family of Vladimir's wife they have come to accept that Hiro Nakamura has not returned for them. There is a certain resignation when one is, mostly stranded in the past, trapped with the family of a boy who would grow to become a genocidal monster in his old age, but realize his own mistakes in just enough time to try and set them right again.

"I never did ask," Vladimir offers a look askance to Raith, "are you a family man, back in America? Your brother I know has begun to set up roots, but do you really have a young one of your own, or was that all a part of the cover?"

They could be here, for a very, very long time.

"That's a simple question with a very, very complicated answer." It is at least as complicated as the cover they're trying to maintain. Their real cover, that is: It would be unlikely that Vladimir really believes that Raith is a business man and some sort of international agent for some vaguely defined power. But Kit Walker, AKA the Phantom managed the same sort of double life for years of comic publications, as did Lamont Cranston, AKA the Shadow. So why can't Jensen Raith, AKA… stage name pending?

"So to keep it simple, yes. Two, in fact, although one is, uh, 'unaccounted for,' courtesy of an old headache. I would suggest very strongly you not mention this to your wife. Their mother and I never married." Lying isn't going to go over well if it's discovered, but certain omissions of truth should not pose the same obstacle. And in any case, the best way to keep Volken's trust may well be by presenting themselves as very human, imperfect and therefore, relatable figures, even if 'human' isn't quite the right descriptor to use. Whether now or later, each and every one of them has at least a little bit of monster in their blood.

"It may well be," says Eileen, coming up from behind Kazimir— Alfonse— to place one hand between his shoulder blades and draw his attention away from Gabriel, "but if Mr. Ingram doesn't finish chopping that firewood, you and your mother are going to be very cold tonight." It's a gentle reprimand, but firm too; she knows how the man feels about the boy, or at least the incarnation of him responsible for bringing them together, and it's for his sake rather than Alfonse or Serise's that she comes to encircle her arms around his waist and lift him up onto a nearby tree stump so that they're the same height.

"You're a very fine Prospero," she adds then, wiping a smudge of dirt from his cheek with the sleeve of her blouse. Overhead, the silhouette of a falcon skims through the misty clouds, and the Englishwoman curls fingers around Alfonse's wrist. She raises both his hand and the makeshift staff that holds it. Indicates the bird's shape with her chin. "Look there. Do you see?"


Metal cleaves fibrous wood, the two thunks falling apart, a clean slice through that is a mite bit more impressive than most other times where the axe just gets stuck in a cleft of its own divising, needing to be worked out with a boot levered against it. It's good, this. Therapeutic. What isn't it stalwartly ignoring the boy and his attempts to reel Gabriel into his game, only getting a dark look out the corner of Gabriel's eye before Eileen acts as a buffer, swoops in to claim Alfonse's~ attention.

Sleeves rolled as far as his elbows, it's his bare wrist that he greases along his forehead, bending at the waist to grab up on of the undivided logs, balances it with the care of a tee, and goes to grip the axe handle once more. The metal head of the tool fwips through the air, before wedging deep into the log again.

The difference between leaping a few minutes forward in time versus a century is a little like setting out on a raft in a calm pond versus white water rapids. Missing home is something that Gabriel doesn't. Feeling trapped is another matter.

Up the dirt path towards the field, Vladimir and Raith make a dour looking pair at a distance, though the laugh lines creased in Raith's face may actually be from laughing, unlike the typically taciturn Colonel. Affording a look to Gabriel, Colonel Volken offers him a subtle nod as he walks, soon turning his attention back to Jensen.

"Unfortunate," Vladimir finally agrees about Raith's unwed status, "but such is the way of a soldier's life. The military has not had much change in the nature of ports of call in a very long time, and I don't forsee that to change drastically between the Americas and the east."

For all his stoic demeanor, Vladimir Volken isn't actually a monster that one might ascribe to a person who holds the ability he does for any length of time. He's a pragmatist, and it is evidently clear where Kazimir will later obtain his military cunning from and much of hisa mannerisms. There is a great deal of Vladimir in his son, but tempered without the flair for theatrics that his boy seems to have taken to, if his imprompty performance of The Tempest were any indication.

"You aren't coddling him too much, are you?" is the Colonel's greeting called up to Eileen, "you treat him too softly and he is going to turn out soft." Blue eyes narrow as Vladimir considers his son and the woman with her arms around him. But it's a smile, feigned as it is, that the Colonel punctuates his sentence with, turning back to Raith as their journey ends here in the field.

"She'll need a son," Vladimir explains in hushed confidence, "that one will. Your brother found himself a fine young woman, she reminds me of Serise when she was younger. She'll make a fine mother one day, provided your brother does not lose that dutiful edge he has."

Vladimir Volken is also a nosy individual, delighting in prying into the lives of others and offering unsolicited life-advice to everyone around him. He isn't quite righteous about it, but there is a certain imperious air to his tone.

In shouting distance but just out of earshot otherwise, Eileen and the young Alfonse stare upwards towards the dark silhouette of a bird cast against the blue sky. "What is it?" It's a simple enough question for Alfonse to ask, one hand lifted up to shadow his eyes. "I can't tell what it is," he complaine, looking up to Eileen with pale brows furrowed. "Tell me, tell me what it is!"

"He'll keep it. He knows what's good for him, you see," is perhaps an odd response for Raith to give regarding the prospect of Eileen having a son. "I made an untoward comment to her, once. For such a tiny thing, she has a surprisingly strong right cross." The conversation between soldiers, past and future, is given a brief pause before Raith picks it up again. "You have given thought to how we're going to defend this property like I suggested, right? You already know that your eyes aren't going to be enough by themselves, and neither are ours, so we need to narrow the areas we need to watch. But-" A half-hearted half-shrug with only the right hand- "You know this already, you're a Colonel. I was only a Sergeant."

"It's how you're going to catch our supper." Eileen tightens her grip on Alfonse's wrist, and although she closes her eyes she does not instruct the boy to do the same. She turns her face away from Vladimir when he calls out to them, a wry smile shaping her mouth and she whispers into his hair, "Prospero was a great sorcerer, but you and I have a little magic in us too. Watch."

A sharp downwards motion of the staff seems to knock the falcon out of the sky. Wings tucked in and angled back, it plummets toward the earth like a stone, and for a moment it looks as though it's going to crash into the field, but then those same wings snap out, stalling its descent. Talons yawn open, the falcon disappears and there comes a cry from somewhere in the tall grass up ahead.

Eileen releases her hold on both boy and staff. "Go on," she says, coaxing him off the stump. She's confident that the falcon won't do him any harm, even with its claws in the dead pheasant, wings mantled and hooked beak parted around a silent warning. It, after all, isn't the one in control. "Run and see."

A splinter goes flipping end over end as Gabriel manages to wrench the axe out from where he'd buried it, rerighting the log and pausing, just long enough, to glance for Colonel and Raith when the former calls out, then towards where Eileen is hunched over Alfonse. There is a twinge of feeling as one bird kills another, registering of the game they're playing, before Gabriel returns to his task, breaking apart the separate lumps of wood by levering them away from another with foot and axe both.

"Maybe you should listen to the boy's father," is gruff suggestion, keeping his eyes on his task. "Just a thought."

"I have several eyes," Vladimir insists with a motion around the yard, "your brother's wife has more skill than she lends on, her… her magic with the birds…" he lowers his voice on mentioning even the barest hint of something supernatural. "It is one little girl with very exotic firearms. I will not live in constant state of fear and alarm because of some one eyed woman. No matter what tricks she has up her sleeve, I will not seem to be a man of panic or fear in front of my family."

Turning to look more fully at Raith, Colonel Volken rests his hands on his hips. "I understand your willingness to help, and I appreciate whatever arrangements were made with my superiors to put you here, but I have no intentions of seeming the coward. It is your job to protect my family, is that not what you said?"

While Vladimir and Raith argue over the specifics of self-defense and pride, Alfonse looks wide-eyed out towards where he seemed to take a bird straight out of the sky. "How— " he turns, looking back at Eileen with the staff gripped firmly between his hands. "How— how did you do that? How did— " there's a wondrous smile on his face as he backpedals, shoes squeaking in wet grass before breaking into a run, headed towards where the pheasant was taken down with a child's wonder.

Peace, relative happiness, the impending threat of two world wars… but is this really worse than where they left? Time and again there had been the temptation to just stay here in the past, and with Gabriel's replication of Hiro's ability they could manage it.

It is pretty here, but to Gabriel still a cage, even if a gilded one.

"It is," Raith replies, "And that's exactly what all of us intend to do, but I'm getting the very distinct impression that you and I have different ideas on how that ought to be done. There's a lot of land-" A motion around the yard, mimicking Vladimir's- "Out there, and that's a lot of empty space to watch. The key word there being 'empty.' If it were up to me, it would be filled with wolf traps, at least. I admit a preference for traps that use TNT and carpeting nails, but I doubt you stockpile that in the cellar. My point is, I would much prefer to render as many routes of entry onto this property as unsafe to use as is reasonably practical, but like I said, I think you and I have different ideas on what we should do."

Try though he might, Raith cannot keep all anachronisms from showing. His idea of warfare is very possibly at odds with Vladimir's, and he knows it. He doesn't care either. "I'll tell you right now, Colonel. Even if you tell me, 'no traps,' I'll probably put traps out there anyway, so you may as well know where they're going to be..

Although Eileen is not consumed with the need to return to her own time, desire is never far from her mind. Two of the dearest people to her are here at her side, but the part of her that continues to hold out hope that Ethan Holden and Teodoro Laudani, as she has come to know him over the last year, are still alive. There are those she's left behind to consider, as well as her responsibilities to the Ferry and a little boy not entirely unlike the one swimming through the tall grass. Wherever Mu-Qian is, she also hopes that she and Bai-Chan are well.

With Alfonse preoccupied with falcon and pheasant — the former of which relents the latter and obediently relinquishes it to the child as he approaches — she turns and begins making her way toward Gabriel, the dew making her skirts damp enough that the material clings to her calves and thighs and outlines the shapes of her legs through the fabric.

The games she plays with Gabriel are very different than the games she plays with Alfonse. "You don't have to chop that firewood," she observes lowly. "I like it better when it's cold. You press so much closer."

Now he's chopping wood for the hell of it, really, more than enough to bring inside for a toasty warm evening in the rural home. Gabriel pauses, however, resting the wooden handle of his axe against one shoulder as he looks across at Eileen, his stare at a squint that turns his eyes into narrow, dark slits of gathered eyelashes beneath his brow, before he glances back at the logs. Returns to what he's doing a moment later, setting a log upon the blunt stump of wood, keeping careful in setting it upright before he hefts his axe, hovers the blade over it.

"They don't have birth control in 1900."

Swing. Thwunk.

"Traps are cowardly and show a lack of control of your own battlefield. If you insist on playing this encounter like some whining British soldier hunting foxes in his spare time, then be my guest." Pride and vanity are two terrible demons that have great sway over the Volken family line, and Vladimir is no such stranger to these evils. Stern as he is with Raith, there is some reluctant resignation in his voice, looking over to the farmhouse as the front door opens, and a short woman several years younger than Vladimir emerges.

Serese Volken is unsurprisingly gentle in her expression as she looks to her husband, thick and dark brows furrowed, giving him a square look of disapproval and chiding. She may not be able to understand what he had been saying in English, but she understands the tone he was using; she's heard him use it with Alfonse before.

"«Serise, go back inside»," is more softly offered to the brunette as Vladimir looks up once to Raith and then begins walking towards his wife. When Serise steps fully out of the doorway, carrying a bundle of freshly washed linens in her arm, it's to the clothesline that she's headed, but the soldier seems intent on taking them from her, wresting them from her feigned reluctance, even as it elicits a smile from her.

"«Go sit down, you are in no condition to be walking around.»" Vladimir notes, resting a hand on her swolen stomach, a faint ghost of a smile crossing his lips as his gloved hand brushes over where her loose dress shows the evident signs of pregnancy. "«Go," he nods into the house, "«and not another word about it.»" Admittedly, Serise isn't that much of a strong listener. Lifting up one hand, she reaches out as if to brush her palm over Vladimir's cheek, only to have him recoil from her and brush her hand aside, eyes wide.

She looks hurt, admittedly, curling her fingers to her palm and sliding her tongue across her lips, pale eyes averting down to her feet as that raised hand lowers to set atop her stomach. "«Lunch is almost prepared,»" she explains in a hushed tone of voice, turning away sharply from Vladimir. The Colonel looks like he wants to stop her, perhaps try to explain, but in the end there is just silence, and hesitance.

As Alfonse comes trundling back from the grassy hill where it borders a thin forest, Vladimir spots the phesant held by its legs, dead in the boy's hands, and offers a hesitant smile where there should be reassurance. Alfonse sees it as disappointment, and that much shows on his face, while clearly— Vladimir is disappointed about something else in his life entirely.

"Suit yourself, Volken," is not spoken openly when Raith replies to Vladimir's remark about cowardice, but is whispered only to himself. There's no need to start an argument about the 'right' way to prosecute a war, especially since the Colonel will be in for a big enough shock when the Great War begins and he sees the Maxim gun used on soldiers for the first time. Instead, he turns his attention to Serise when she appears, and takes note of the interaction between the two. The better to interact with her later, in such a way that hopefully won't change the course of history. This time traveling thing is total bullshit.

When tiny Kazimir, little Alfonse shows up with his catch, Raith does not take note of Vladimir's reaction, but only the boy's. So sad. "«Is that a pheasant?»" the spy asks, "«You caught a pheasant?»" And suddenly, he looks to Alfonse's father, one finger pointing to the mighty hunter. "«Your boy caught a pheasant. So young, and already, he's catching pheasants. Pretty soon, he'll be catching elephants.»"

The exchange between Vladimir and Serise does not go unnoticed by Eileen, though she witnesses it in her periphery and understands nothing of what's being said, their voices carried to her as wisps on the same breeze teasing her hair. The other woman's condition tells her that Vladimir only recently came into possession of the ability he will one day pass onto his son, and his son to Gabriel.

At the same time, she dips down to gather some of the cut firewood in her arms, one piece at a time with her knees bent and brushing the grass, and her weight resting on the front of her feet. She picks through the pile, choosing the most slender and lightweight sections, which she then begins to stack loosely on her lap.

She feigns disinterest in the man with the axe for the duration of Vladimir's argument with Serise, fleeting as it is, and then shifts her attention back to the blade upon Alfonse's triumphant return. "No," she agrees, mildly enough in that pleasant tone people take when talking about the weather.

Pieces of wood clunk together, and she's standing again, a centipede flicked from her sleeve. "But I have a mouth."

Gabriel doesn't care.

About family dynamics, Kazimir's daddy issues which are totally not even as bad as his!! Not. Eileen's mouth. That he cares about Eileen's mouth might be indicated by the way his next axe fall hits wrong and only serves to send a piece of splintered wood spinning off with the fuller chunk wobbling, and falling like it's mocking him off the stump for all that Gabriel tries to catch it with the edge of his axe. A look delivered Eileen's way implies that it was her fault.

Bending to pick up and replace the chipped log, Gabriel does glance towards Alfonse and the bird dangling from his hand, nose wrinkling a little at the sound of Raith's praise. "How long do you want us to wait," he says, voice low, deceptively conversational, "before I pick up and try for home?"

Raith's insistance has Vladimir turning back, offering a look to Alfonse, brows furrowed and breath exhaled as a slow sigh. "He did well," the Colonel admits with a look to Eileen instead, unable to hear her coy games with Gabriel at this distance. "He did well enough…" Somehow even the compliment from Vladimir sounds like admonishment, and for as much as the tiny young boy can manage a smile, it's obvious enough that it isn't an honest one.

Looking down to the phesant, Alfonse takes a few sheepish strides over to Raith, looking up to him with blue eyes that once convinced Jensen to commit to a plan of genetic genocide. "Will you help me?" he asks with a voice nothing like the gruff sandpaper of Richard Santiago. "I… have never cleaned a bird before," the boy explains, too hesitant to ask his father for such things. "I need to know, if… if my father is to take me hunting. He promised when I was older that he would take me hunting."

Behind Raith, Vladimir walks towards the clotheslines, barely visible from this side of the house, insistant on handling Serise' work for her while she is with child. Were itnot for the ability blackening his veins deep within his core, Vladimir Volken might well have been both a good father and a good husband. Time, unfortunately, is more cruel than to allow that.

"Well, you can't go hunting without knowing how to clean a bird," Raith replies to the boy, although how genuine his smile is will prove much, much more difficult to determine: He's had more practice. But he can't invest too much time in young Alfonse, because that might destabilize the entire universe. The spy's attention diverts over to Gabriel, to answer his own question. "A few more days," he says. "If what that gypsy said is true, if something is going to happen, I have a feeling it's going to happen while we're still here. It's an opportune location, I think." With the boy right there, well, it won't do any good to talk about assassins. Gypsy fortune tellers, on the other hand….

There's a reluctant protest on the tip of Eileen's tongue, something about how much time passed between Kira's first attempt on Vladimir's life and her second, but the closest she comes to voicing it is a small sigh, inaudible over the rustling grass and the leaves in the trees. The botched swing is a victory and the piece of splintered wood her evidence, but she does not take nearly as much pleasure from it as she would under different circumstances.

For all her tenderness toward Alfonse and Serise, the last few days have been an emotional trial, and she disguises her hurt with a gentle voice and hides pain behind half-smiles that are more rueful than she intends.

Silence emphasizes her faith in Gabriel. If it was weak, she would be asking him whether or not he's certain that he can spirit all three of them back to the present with his most recently acquired ability. Instead she curls her arm around the gathered firewood and places her opposite hand just above Gabriel's elbow. A firm squeeze is her answer, largely because Raith has already summarized it for her.

"Did you him when he said when the last time he saw pirate girl happened to be?" Gabriel mutters, even if it's within earshot of the people who belong in this time and place. "Someone was in the opportune location. And was spattered all over it." Thunk. No chopping, just driving the axe hard enough into the tree stump for it to stick, handle jutting into the air. "If the gypsy knows so much, maybe he knows that I'm supposed to be the one to get us home too."

Flimsy theory, fueled mostly by motivation to leave. But in the event of not actually wanting to squabble over it, Gabriel concedes his limitation— "A few days," is agreement, to words and handsqueeze both. And then ejecting himself into the timestream like stepping into an oversized slingshot with only a bare grasp on trigonometry.

Clouds darken the landscape as they briefly cross between the earth and the sun, casting shadow down on the grassy plains and sparse forest. Beyond the horizon, Versailles' lights cannot be seen, nor her silhouette. Only the tufts of smoke wisping up from the cabin chimney as they are caught on the wind and the sound of blankets rustling in the breeze as they are clipped out on the line by a dutiful husband.

History has its rivers, time has its lines, but in the spaces betwee there are moments of respite well-earned. Even if they may at times feel like prisons, these rare heartbeats between pulses is what makes life worth fighting for, futures worth dying for.

Little Alfonse Volken stares up with a smile to Jensen as he takes a step back and away, eager to begin learning how best to clean a kill before he can go out hunting with Vladimir. Inside of the cabin, Serisa Volken finishes the small lunch that will be shared among so many guests that she does not wholly understand the purpose of, does not understand truly the danger she and her unborn child are in.

To Gabriel, Eileen and Raith, all they see is an echo of something that already was, something that needs protecting, so they can return to the future where this family is shattered and broken. Though all this time, through the days they have spent with the Volkens, there is one unanswered question that is left to linger in the minds of time travelers, especially those who once shared distant memories with Kazimir as an adult. There is no answer, just an unnerving and ominous warning.

He was an only child.

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