Omen, Part I


adam_icon.gif byron_icon.gif eileen2_icon.gif kara_icon.gif sharrow_icon.gif

Scene Title Omen, Part I
Synopsis /ˈōmən/ (n.) an event regarded as a portent of good or evil.
Date August 30, 2019

Far beyond any road, there were once elephants.

The trees are leafless here, north-east of Hardy Township. The crumbling remains of an air traffic control tower is a distant rectangular block, visible through the stick-bare trees. Nothing grows here, not since the war. The ground is split and broken here, trees stink of caustic chemicals like tar and oil. Sometime during the war, the airport in the distance came under attack. No one knows exactly how it came to be, but the ground shook for a mile during the attack. Whole houses collapsed, trees fell, the ground split open. Natural wells of oil seeped up through the earth, polluting the groundwater, polluting the soil, and in the measure of a decade killed everything in a two mile radius of the airport.

The scant few locals in the area call it the black forest on account of the smell of oil in the air, and the way in which the dead-gray trees seem to darken the horizon. Longer ago, before the war, before the revelation that the world was not as we knew it, this place was called a Jungle Habitat.

The wreckage of the old zoo and amusement park that was here still stands in the stinking, dark forest. A tall wooden sign proudly proclaims the name of the old roadside attraction. Rusted iron bars overgrown with dead vines enclose what were once animal habitats made of concrete, now strewn with dead leaves and garbage. A solitary overgrown path leads to the visitor’s center, a single-floor ranch style building with three demolished entrances devoid of doors. Once, there were elephants here, proud and trumpeting.

Now, nothing lives here. Nothing can.

And yet, today…

Today there are birds.

Visitor’s Center

Ruins of the Jungle Habitat Amusement Park

The Black Forest, New Jersey Pine Barrens Outskirts

August 30th

4:17 pm

The birds don’t want to stay in the vicinity, so they flit between the trees. Some come darting in and out of the visitor’s center, tiny messengers of whippoorwills and grackles. The pale, wrinkled hand extending from the darkness of the visitor's center retreats when a droplet of water lands on it. Rubbing forefinger and thumb together, Charles Sharrow turns to look into the broken remains of the building, where rain falls down through holes in the ceiling and the mouldering carcasses of taxidermied animals are frozen in the unlit corners. Sharrow is thoughtfully quiet, more so today than in the last few. Parley has been something he has encouraged, for multiple reasons, few of which he’s given a fair explanation of.

“Go outside,” Sharrow says to two middle-aged men in tactical gear standing by the door, a pair of his remaining Sentinel force that he’d come to Providence with. “Make sure that no one else has intentions of disrupting these negotiations.” The two nod to one-another, then step past Sharrow and out into the drizzle. Sharrow pauses, though, eyes catching sight of the snarling muzzle of what was once a taxidermied hyena, now mostly reduced to its wooden frame and glass eyes.

There are other animals, too, native to far-off continents and countries that no longer exist in the form they did when Sharrow was born. Eileen has taken interest in a dilapidated diorama behind a pane of splintered glass. Moisture clings to its surface in the form of fog, obscuring her view of what is meant to be a vertical slice of an Indian jungle, but she studies it anyway. A rotting leopard is missing the lower half of its jaw, so it seems strange to see small deer and colorful tropical birds frozen in mid-flight and hidden amongst the diorama’s false greenery.

There’s no reason for them to run, Eileen thinks. The leopard doesn’t even have any teeth.

She imagines the display must have been very beautiful at one point in its history. The backdrop, cracked and peeling, has retained most of its original detail and appears to have been painstakingly painted with a very steady and deliberate hand.

If running was a real option, the Remnant might have taken it. She understands where Sharrow is coming from when he implores them to renegotiate their arrangement with Praxis, although nothing she’s said in response to his pleas indicates that she agrees.

What does the inside of Adam Monroe’s mouth look like? They’re here to find out.

Kara lets out a huff of amusement at a comment she overhears on the communicator laced in and around her ear, the first sign of life from her in some time. She stands between two displays like a tourist might, her casual angling both at and away from any of the sights to avoid looking too interested, but draped diagonally across her front is a rifle, and across her back is a black duffel. The fit of the latter is snug across her torso, covered as it is in the plated armor she's not worn since December.

She swivels her head in Sharrow's direction when he orders his men out, tapping a finger along the side of her rifle. She feels more than hears the hum of the battery pack attached to her hip, keeping the AEGIS active around her. Cynically, she wonders if the armor would protect her from any missile attack that might be dropped over them. Realistically, the explosion and fumes from the poisoned ground they stand on would pose more a problem than any single dropping of ordinance, no matter how well-placed it was.

So that's comforting.

Adjusting the grip on her weapon, Kara slants a look sidelong at Byron while she continues to wait in silence. She turns something over in her thoughts and then glances in the direction of the doorway again, expectantly.

Byron has crouched down, picking something up off the ground. It's a long, bedraggled looking peacock feather that nevertheless has not lost its shine and colour in the however many decades its been since it bloomed into existence. Between his fingers, he smooths out the individual segments of barb until the vibrant eye resembles itself better, and then peers towards its source. The taxidermied peacock is still standing upright, but its proud plumage has wilted, and its head has fallen off altogether, and inexplicably out of sight.

He stands, now, looking back towards Sharrow, and meeting Kara's glance. Almost immediately looks away and resumes a restless pace around the room. At some point in the interim months, he's acquired a suede jacket to replace ratty wool and cotton and flannel, fringe along the breast and back. Beneath that is a shoulder holster, and a simple matte black sidearm. He's not a bad shot with something bigger and badder, but has specified in the past: he can hunt a deer, but he's not a soldier.

When Kara first met him, in fact, and asked what he did, he'd said painting.

Which isn't a lie.

Taking a breath, he concentrates, and an invisible psychic radar reaches in a wide radius of 200 feet. Registers Eileen Gray nearby, Kara Prince at his five o'clock, Sharrow by the door, the armed men told to wait outside, just anonymous pings of vague spacial location. When he senses something new, he turns his head in that direction on reflex.

Sharrow doesn't get the opportunity to offer a last-minute piece of advice to Eileen, because that head tilt of Byron’s is more than just a turn to listen to the sound of footsteps that weren't there a moment ago. Byron had sensed, briefly, two new minds just twenty feet away from the visitor center inside of their perimeter of security, then one of the minds vanished as quickly as it had appeared, leaving a solitary consciousness behind.

From that very direction, a silhouette of a tall and slim man in a dark blue suit cuts against the diffuse gray coming in through the westerly doorway. Adam Monroe hasn't, unsurprisingly, aged a day since Eileen last saw him in the Eagle Electric warehouse when he pledged himself to Kazimir Volken’s personal doomsday strategy, save that his pale blue eyes seem more tired than they were then.

Sharrow’s back straightens and he moves to stand one step behind and one step beside Eileen, putting himself in a place of prominence but not equality with her. He voices no greeting, remaining a silent and reassuring presence at her flank.

Adam is lightly dappled by rain where he stands just outside the doorway, hands in the pockets of his slacks, posture relaxed. He calls out in a conversational tone, “Knock, knock.”

Appearances are deceptive.

It may be Sharrow at Eileen’s side, but the other people already in the room know that’s not where she’s placed her faith. She asked Kara and Byron here for very deliberate reasons—just as she’s trusted Finn, Chris, and Lang with the all-important task of guarding the building’s exterior. These are her people; Danko and Iago do not number among them strictly as a matter of insurance. If negotiations do not go as planned with the man behind the curtain that is Praxis Heavy, Sedro-Woolley and Providence will both need leaders who can protect them.

Eileen folds her hands at her midsection. She wears no armor, only a slim black coat and tailored dress beneath. Her boots, like the rest of her fashion choices, are trim but sensible. Although she clearly isn’t worried about coming to physical harm, her body language remains guarded and alert. The conduit will protect her; the same cannot be said of Byron, Kara, or even Sharrow.

When she looks in Adam’s direction, it is from beneath the dense cover of her lashes. Knock, knock, he says, and if she were in an indulging mood she might answer with: Who’s there?

But that isn’t the question waiting on the tip of her tongue.

“Where is Dr. Yeh?” she asks instead in a voice with a quality like crushed velvet: equal parts firm and soft.

The shift of color, darkness where there had only been blank space before, draws Kara's eye immediately. But even by the time she's turned, the second figure has already vanished. Discipline keeps the trigger of her weapon untouched, if only just. "Teleporter dumped Monroe at the building," she murmurs for her earpiece. "Then bounced. Eyes out."

Eileen's question is posed. The air feels heavier than before, and she almost selfishly waits for the question to be answered. But Kara draws in a slow breath, taking a step forward and keeping her rifle trained on the unfamiliar figure Adam Monroe poses. Before anything else, something needed done. "Jacket off," she calls out crisply. "Arms up. Rotate." It feels all too familiar, half of the command nearly slipping from her in a different tongue.

But, she thinks to herself, if she were a vengeful immortal who had been insulted, she'd likely not think twice about strapping an explosive to herself for the sake of taking some very personal revenge. Hell, people who weren't immortal did it.

She steps at an angle, eyes dark as she observes, sights trained on his head. "Please," Kara adds stiffly, since this is supposed to be a polite occasion. Her expression doesn't shift in any way indicating she finds the formality to be optional.

It's been over a decade since Gabriel Gray has had Adam Monroe in his sights, and over a decade since he obsessively plotted to get Adam Monroe in more than just that. Once upon a time, Kazimir Volken promised him and his undying ability on a silver platter. Once upon a time, Gabriel Gray had wanted to live forever.

The shine has worn off.

(But still.)

Byron Wolf fixes his focus on his former quarry, but the intensity of it is not out of place as Kara barks her directives over top of a rifle. As Sharrow slips into place at Eileen's flank, so too does he move as if he has his place, boots scuffing along cracked tile and earth as he circles around nearer to Adam, ready to divest him of weaponry should any show up hidden under jacket or strapped to his waist.

Adam levels a languid, blue-eyed stare at Kara, then closes his eyes and with restraint visible in his expression unbuttons his jacket and slides it off his shoulders and slowly does a turn. “You’re barking up the wrong tree, love.” He says to her as an aside, “But if some security theater is what it takes, that’s fine.” He drapes the jacket over his forearm and walks ahead, arms out to the side and palms up. Adam doesn’t seem inclined to wait while Kara inspects him. Other than a pressed navy and cerulean patterned button-down shirt he had nothing beneath the jacket.

“Firstly, I wanted to apologize for the uh, everything that happened with my representative. I haven’t been hands-on with Praxis’ relationship with your group, aside from getting updates as to what you’ve been doing. So when I heard how things went down and how my…” he presses his tongue against the inside of his cheek and shows a moment of frustration, “how my instructions were interpreted I realized the age-old axiom. If you want something done right, you’ve got to do it yourself.”

Briefly flicking a look to Kara, then back to Eileen, Adam finally answers the long-standing question. “Doctor Yeh is in the Praxis Ziggurat in the California Safe Zone. She’s alive, no thanks to whomever decided to perforate her right lung. But she’s fully recovered now,” which must have required something preternatural, given how recently she was shot, “and I’ve already told her I want her back here,” he motions with one finger across the room, “with you. As a gesture of good faith. Provided you’re not just going to execute her off-hand, that is.”

“Are your apologies usually this condescending?” is the next thing Eileen wants to know now that their fears about Yi-Min have been assuaged. She’s careful not to let her relief show, refusing to acknowledge Adam’s proposal with anything except a lifted brow.

Byron knows that look. She’s a little impressed—not by Adam, but by the brazen manner in which her fellow Brit has chosen to conduct himself. Her footfalls send ripples shivering through the puddles underfoot as she moves to narrow the distance between them. The afternoon light struggling in through the gaps in visitor center’s crumpled roof catches on a brooch she wears on her coat’s lapel. It’s a strange, silver little thing embedded with jewels that have long since lost their luster. (And in this way maybe Adam can relate.)

Her eyes search his face. For the longest time, he’s existed only in stories passed down to her by other people and in written correspondences she was never meant to read. But also—

“I wore a shawl embroided with jewel-toned birds,” she says, like she’s reciting the beginning of some sort of riddle. “I told you it was my favourite, so you held it for me. You thought you could keep it safe. Keep me safe. Does any of this sound familiar?”

Security theater or not, just letting Adam waltz in unchecked would be negligent. Kara is unrepentant as she waits for the turn, weapon lowered but still at the ready after she grudgingly accepts the result of the eyes-only patdown.

The good news is taken at face value, but the good faith gesture is harder to accept. There's got to be something else there. She's on the side of believing that something other than an extreme misinterpretation happened to lead to Lanhua's visit going how well it did. Kara trusts very little when it comes to Praxis, foremost their intentions when it comes to any long-term relations with the Remnant.

Eileen's riddle breaks the focus she has on Adam. The munitions chaplain glances at the Englishwoman, her visual attention alighting on her only briefly before she resumes watch on their surroundings. Her gaze moves on, but her ears stay open.

Byron does not interject.

Nor has he completely stopped moving. That Adam has a teleporter handy to him means that blocking off exits becomes a low priority, but maybe habits die hard as he circles around. His presence is as unobtrusive as one of the many shadows of the ruined interior, but broken tile shifts and creaks underfoot, puddles ripple gentle, and even someone as immortal as Adam Monroe has innate survival instinct enough to know when he is being watched.

(Save for one darting glance, in Eileen's direction, unable to divine the nature of her riddle.)

Adam is silent as well. There is no curiosity in his expression like Byron, instead there is a look of surprise. Sharrow takes a step closer to Eileen, regarding her with a side-eye and a furrow of his brows unbecoming of his usual stony demeanor in these kinds of situations. His focus dips to the floor, then back up to Adam as he breaks the silence and speaks over the rain. “She asked you a question.”

Sharrow’s voice breaks Adam’s silent reverie. He blinks his focus over to the old man, then briefly across the faces of Kara and Byron. His demeanor has shifted perceptibly, gone is the stiffness and pretense, his shoulders slack. It may be a trick of the light, but he looks subtly older. His eyes tired.

“Yes,” Adam finally voices after a near solid minute between the time Eileen last spoke and his answer. “Yes I… I recall that promise wasn't well upheld. But we aren't them.” His gaze diverts to the floor, searching, then rises slowly as if against a great weight. “Things have changed, in the here and now. Your agreement with Praxis, the…” He wavers a hand in the air, seeking a seemingly ephemeral point. “I thought you were not what you are.”

Sharrow looks askance to Eileen again, then back to Adam in silence. “Lanhua did exactly what I asked her to. She was supposed to rattle your confidence, take Yi-Min and… it doesn't even matter why now. I wasn't operating with all the information. I'm not here to renegotiate whatever contract you had with Yao Tze,” the name is unfamiliar to Eileen. “I'm not here on behalf of a corporation. I'm here on behalf of you.”

Tongue darting across dry lips, Adam takes a step forward in urgency, but hesitates moving any further. “You, everyone in this room, everyone in this whole fiefdom you've built. You're all in tremendous danger.”

From you,” Sharrow chimes in, narrowing his eyes. Exasperatedly, Adam raises his hands in a placating gesture and clenches his teeth together. He also seems surprised by Sharrow’s tone, giving the old man a disapproving squint.

“Have you heard it yet?” Adam asks in a pleading tone, “whispering to you? A voice?”

Eileen hears many voices. Kazimir’s. A woman whose name she shares, and who may or may not be a witch. The conduit is relentless, like waves lapping the shore in the dead of night — and sometimes just as comforting, too.

But Adam isn’t referring to the conduit. If he was, his voice would not possess the desperate edge that it does. He would not be standing close enough for her to do what she came here to.

So Eileen surprises even herself when she doesn’t (reduce him to ash).

“Yes,” she answers, because there is nothing to be gained by lying, “but it gets stronger when you listen. Better to pretend it’s just the wind.”

Whatever these two are talking about has gone over Kara's head since the riddle was first posed. She wonders at the memory Eileen references, wondering if it was the best idea to bring up something that might have not happened here, but the reactions to it are worthwhile on their own.

Such as Adam's— not to Eileen, but to Sharrow.

Her eyes narrow for just a moment before she seeks out Byron out of the corner of her eye, checking in a glance whether he saw it, too.

He might have. Kara catches the tail of a glance spared to Sharrow before Byron puts Adam back in his sights, all quiet and pending aggression as he tries to chart this new angle, eyes narrowed. Not an unexpected angle, save for the fact that Adam puts a voice to it before god and everyone.

Finally, from his corner, Byron says, "What does it want?" in a voice that sounds perpetually unused. And somehow still manages to sound a little like a warning about where this meeting might go, depending on the answer.

Adam doesn't have an answer to that question, not immediately. Sharrow seems intent to listen, head tilted to the side and one brow raised, his tired old eyes moving from between Byron and Adam. “That voice is a being, older than the wind, the first of us.” Or so he believes, in light of any other compelling evidence to the contrary. “A long time ago, it gave me the power I have. Made me what I am and forced me into service to it. I betrayed it, found a way to imprison it, only to have the Company unintentionally release it more than a century later.”

Sharrow squints, incredulously. “You expect us to believe that?” Adam flicks a look at Sharrow, cold and indifferent to his disbelief. Instead, he squares a look back at Eileen, even as he intends on answering Byron’s question.

“I believe it wants you.” Adam’s assertion isn't followed by silence, the wind gently blowing through the trees, the sound of rain pattering on the roof of the visitor’s center. “Because I think the power you have, everything it encompasses, is a fragment of it that it lost long ago. I didn't… I didn't realize that until recently. Until I found out what you possess.” Or what possesses her.

“I know that I've never given you reason to trust me,” Adam continues. “Laying things out like this is— I know I… I need you to know that it will come wearing familiar faces. I don't know who, or what, but it will steal the bodies of others. It will inhabit them and ride them like chariots over the backs of everyone you love if you don't bend a knee.”

Sharrow’s expression has hardened some, but his incredulity has changed into something more unnerved.

“In spite of everything, I need you to put aside whatever grievances you have, because this has suddenly become so much bigger than a financial relationship.” That appears to be Adam’s ask, laid at the feet of a tale so tall its top is somewhere in the clouds.

One ungloved hand drifts toward the other, and Eileen touches the tips of her fingers to the patch of skin where her wedding band should be. Against her better judgement, she steers her attention in Byron’s direction with searching eyes, hoping to see his opinion betrayed by his expression.

It’s difficult, because Byron’s face is not really his own. So she utilizes the telepathic connection they share and thinks at him instead: Monroe’s right.

She remembers the first time she remembers hearing the voice. It probably isn’t a coincidence it was the same day her Bright counterpart lost her husband — and gained a conduit.

“I don’t trust you,” she says out loud, to Adam, in a voice that’s low and bruised, “but I believe you. What do you expect us to do?”

Kara's gaze has stopped roaming in light of what's been said, her grip around her gun shifting as she more deeply considers it beyond the obvious lifechanging they're all in danger that Eileen seems to buy. Her expression is flat save for that lapse in immediate attention to their surroundings, leaving it for the others standing watch to handle for the moment.

"He expects our trust," the munitions chaplain gruffly points out, a sourness to it. She's not willing to put everything behind so easily, given what happened at the Factory, and she can't keep silent about it. "To blindly do as he says because he knows better."

Her lack of respect and faith is made plain in that.

Even more when Kara gestures at Adam with an upward tilt of her chin. "It doesn't matter if you're seeking pawns or allies; You'll find neither here. Both require trust you've lost the privilege to." Her eyes narrow. "Betrayal tends to cause that."

"But if you do have any advice," she supposes they'll hear it.

So is Prince, is reflected back at Eileen, from Byron's corner.

At least in the moment, when it comes to this tension between factions, perhaps a little less so if pared right down to Monroe and Eileen alone. Byron, personally, is impatiently waiting for him to offer something of value besides tidings, and too keenly interested in spite of himself to know what that might be to delay the moment but echoing after what Kara's already expressed. His expression is wooden and distrusting, but his stare is direct, ever predatory.

That question elicits a slide of Adam’s tongue over his lips and a look around the room at the number of unfamiliar and vaguely familiar faces. The former far outweigh the latter and it makes him all the more uncomfortable about being in such close proximity. “Honestly,” Adam says with a slow raise of his hands, open palms out, “I don’t much trust you all either, but there’s got to come a time when either we risk trusting, or we agree to die alone. I’m bloody well certain that I’m not willing to accept that last bit just yet.”

With a quick look at Sharrow whose tense posture and the way he rubs his forefingers and thumb together feel strangely familiar, Adam seems to lose his train of thought for a moment. It’s only when he looks back to Eileen that things seem to come back into focus for him. “I need you to come back, with me, to California. I’ve an aircraft waiting a few miles outside of here. I can’t explain too much out here in the open, where it could… hear things.”

“Do you actually expect anyone to leave with you?” Sharrow barks out in disbelief, which elicits a sharp look from Adam a second time and a visible sneer of confusion. “Unbelievable, is this all it took for you to poison the minds of every member of the Company?” That has Adam’s train of thought entirely derailed, staring in bewilderment at Sharrow.

Adam finally loses his composure at that level of interruption. “What— the hell. Could— you just keep your mouth shut for five minutes? The adults,” to which he motions between himself and Eileen, “are talking.” Byron notices Sharrow’s right hand curl into a fist, hairs on the back of his neck standing up. There’s something familiar about Sharrow’s demeanor and it has nothing to do with the wizened old Vanguard.

“I realize things between us haven’t been exactly good, but our relationship would have been managed on a different footing if I’d known you had Volken’s power in you all this time.” Adam implores, the last few words said through clenched teeth. “We could have— ” Three distant pops of gunfire break the silence. Adam’s back straightens and eyes go wide. Three more, a moment after, accompanied by a far off scream of a perimeter guard. Then—


It’s startlingly abrupt. Her presence in the threshold of the visitor’s center causes Adam to freeze in a wave of uncertainty, neither recognizing her face nor understanding her dynamic with the others. She wasn’t there a moment ago, now suddenly the rail-thin young woman stands soaked head to toe in rain, bundled in a wool jacket a size too large for her. Sight of the girl standing on her two feet feels disorienting to Eileen, like staring at herself in a funhouse mirror. When Adam opens his mouth to ask something, that’s when Sibyl steps out from the doorway to the rainy exterior into the darkened confines of the building, and it becomes apparent to all involved there’s something wrong with her eyes. They’re glowing.


Speak of the devil.

Eileen’s heart jumps into her throat and she feels her extremities go numb. She has every reason to be afraid. Later, she’ll experience very little shame about the instinctual step she takes backwards, or the tremor in her voice when she says: “Kara. Killswitch.

Her hand comes up, fingers splayed wide, and she begins to gather darkness into the seat of her open palm. She possesses two abilities she can use in tandem; at the same time the conduit is taking shape, birds rise from the trees outside with a sound like thunder, making the sky go black.

It occurs to her that one of these maneuvers has to be a bluff. To destroy the Entity’s physical form without a better understanding of the consequences seems like a bad idea, so she folds the conduit’s energy back toward her cadre like a shield instead — or a mother bird protecting her nest with her wings.

Kara is already swiveling to the child, a muscle twitch away from firing her weapon on the girl with dangerously-glowing eyes. Uninvited, unannounced, and clearly problematic— she decides to take the opportunity before her. Aiming dead center on the young girl, she fires a burst of ammunition before letting her steadying hand off the side of the rifle, reaching behind her into the bag diagonally slung across her. The reach is awkward, not enough to get the box out of the bag, but definitely enough to find the switch.

She ignites the box, an unseen red light winking on in the bag strapped to her person. Just as quickly after, her hand returns to the rifle to steady it and fire another controlled burst directly at the small girl’s center of mass.

At the sound of the initial burst of gunfire outside, Byron's sidearm is already in hand, pointed downwards, attention dragged off where it had caught on Sharrow. His expression had almost echoed Adam's in a milder sort of fashion, where irritation pulls his mouth and confusion writes itself in the crinkles between his eyebrows. That expression is banished to something more hunted, and something blanker still when the girl appears.

And then, chaos.

He raises his gun towards the diminutive form of Sibyl Black without yet pulling the trigger, and moves sideways around until he has himself between Sharrow and safer passage. "Eileen, get out," he barks, not really expecting her to do as told. Under the short-range thunder of Kara's firing, everything too loud and fast for more words, he impresses to Eileen, We'll be behind you.

And then he reaches out with his senses towards the golden-eyed girl in an attempt to stake her still with the freeze-muscle influence of puppetry, an ability like a prehensile psychic thread wound through with aptitude. If he can lock her down—

Everything happens so fast.

What is most evident to Eileen is the abject look of betrayal on Sibyl’s face the moment the seething darkness of the black conduit is made manifest against her. Eyes wide, lips parted, it is though whatever inhabits that body did not expect violence, did not expect fear. But those wide, gold eyes stare intensely as violence is the immediate greeting.

Kara’s gun functions as would be expected, black powder ignited, bullets fly faster than the eye can follow with intermittent flash from the muzzle. It feels like slow motion, the way the raindrops seem to be suspended in the air between each mechanical beat of her gun like a marching drum. Maybe it's the horror, the unflinching horror for the second time of being utterly powerless. Because, in the end, she is.

The rounds from Kara’s rifle strike the body of Sibyl Black and shatter as if they were made of a fine powder. Shrapnel from the shattered bullets ricochet off of her and clatter to the floor and find themselves embedded in the floor. The storm of birds outside cry havok, their shrill songs building to a crescendo over the sound of gunfire as this being — this entity — extends a desperate hand toward Eileen, only to have her motion arrest. For one bare, hopeful moment, Gabriel Gray has ensnared the greatest catch. He can feel the body behind the power trapped, frozen, at his command.

Then, everything goes to shit.

A telekinetic shove assaults “Byron” from his right side. The push comes so hard and so unexpected as to launch him off of his feet and through the glass display case that holds a moldering taxidermic stag. Glass and wood explodes and Charles Sharrow keeps his hand extended in the direction he threw Gabriel in. The air around Charles ripples and distorts, a heat mirage unable to be maintained in the face of such chaos.

No!” Is all Adam is able to scream, diving away from the gold-eyed entity with a stare locked on Sharrow. Adam extends one hand and propels a blast of lightning out of his palm in a single stroke that ionized the air and tears through Sharrow as if he were made of paper and cotton. Sharrow vanished as if he were made of smoke, instead, and as the mirage around him fades a man comes into view just offset from Sharrow’s position. Dark-haired, bearded, wide-eyed and in shock from the sudden carnage.

When Byron fixes a look on him through the rubble of the broken display case, he sees the impossible.


“Do it!” Peter shouts, only to have Adam leap at him with an unfolded knife in hand. Peter steps in to brace himself as Adam lunges forward, catching Peter in the hand with the blade and forcing it down into his shoulder, pinning his hand to his chest.

Liberated from the threads of binding, the Entity continues a silent advance across the floor toward Eileen.

It wants you, Adam had said. Eileen’s inner conflict plays out across her face in plain view, too preoccupied with the events playing out around her to hide behind a carefully constructed veneer. Kara has never seen the Englishwoman’s mask drop, but she does now.

She locks eyes with the munition’s chaplain, her trusted advisor— friend. Although she and Kara do not share the same empathic bond that connects Eileen and “Byron” at a spiritual level, the sentiment behind the Look she gives her is clear.

You’ve done your part. Now I’ll do mine.

If it’s the conduit the Entity is after, Eileen welcomes its pursuit. The more distance she can create between it and the people she cares about, the better.

Puddles ripple outward under her footfalls as she continues her retreat, moving toward the exit at a pace that keeps the waif — is it even a waif? — at the very edge of her orbit. Only when her back foot hits the topmost step of the visitor center’s entrance does she finally turn, hurling herself outside into the rain.

Their Plan B will be here soon.

The light in Kara's eyes dim when shooting does nothing. There's little thought to it at all, she just suddenly becomes aware that this thing before them — whatever it is — is the thing Adam referenced. The thing that was powerful enough to turn a man immortal. She knows in an instant that this isn't a fight they're going to win.

She looks back at Eileen, her outer shell of confidence missing the same way the Englishwoman's is. There's a very different message she gives off in that moment, one that encourages her to go the way Byron had already shouted for her to. With him tossed to the side and Sharrow's apparent betrayal, there was frighteningly little separating Eileen from the thing that wanted her.

Or rather, what clung to her.

She did not think it needed to become any more powerful than it already is.

In an instant she internally screams at for the impossible decisions needing made. Kara looks away from Eileen with a hardening of her expression, resuming fire on the bearded stranger since he appears to be in league with the waif. Perhaps he won't be invulnerable.

If Adam gets hit, she imagines he can take it. That was his thing.

Though no one had mentioned the lightning before.

Glass breaks, wood splinters, and the dried out husk of the taxidermied stag collapses under the dense weight of Byron thrown across the room. Dust whorls in the air, and shock keeps him down for a few seconds as he lifts his head to squint after the direction of the onslaught.

It would be hypocritical to be very angry at someone disguising themselves so deceptively, but here we are.

The air is full of the sound of gunfire, and Adam and Peter Petrelli are a bloody tangle. For a moment, Byron loses all track of the Entity's position, Eileen's position, formless rage rising through his veins like mercury, and he flings out a hand to fire off a concussive blast of invisible energy that slams into both Peter and Adam, sending them flying aside as the concussive boom thunders louder, deeper, than the short-sharp firings of Kara's weapon.

He stands, glass pieces sliding off of him, although there's no evidence of cuts or scrapes when he ought to have been slashed to ribbons.

And something subconscious finds familiarity in a new, but very familiar weapon as it's blindly, temporarily, copied into Gabriel's psyche through Liette Fournier's ability. His other hand reaches out, invisibly grips Peter by the ankle, and hauls him in closer: telekinesis. There is, maybe, the faintest trace of a smile that cuts across Byron's features — for Peter, a glimpse of that expression might be equally familiar.

That telekinetic shockwave was the only thing separating Peter and Adam both from a hail of gunfire. Still reeling from the shockwave, Peter feels himself being hauled by his ankle across the floor, grasping at the broken floorboards to try and find some measure of purchase. At the same time, Adam is struggling up onto his hands and knees, exhaling a shuddering breath as he paws at the length of broken wood and glass embedded in his abdomen. He looks up, toward where Eileen is running and starts to stand, holding a hand to his bleeding midsection.

Adam locks eyes with those that once belonged to Sibyl black. They stare back at him, fiery and unblinking, familiar and alien all in one. Even in the midst of this chaos, as Kara pivots to train herself on another target, as Byron hauls Peter Petrelli across the room by his ankle, Adam feels at once alone and surrounded by the eyes staring back at him. He opens his mouth to shout a warning and then

he is gone

Adam is unraveled like a spool of thread made from ground beef. His clothing disintegrates, spidery veins of flesh peel up and away from him in a soundless scream. He is disassembled inch by inch in the blink of an eye, erupting upwards in a gout of disassembled organs, bones, and other matter sprayed like a fine mist through the air, against the wall, and raining down on Kara in ribbons.

At the same moment Peter lashes out with his own telekinetic grasp, trying to latch onto something to hold himself in place. He grabs at the ceiling beam, but the old wood cracks in the middle and splits, swinging the wooden beam down and squarely into Kara like a croquet mallet. She’s launched off of her feet and straight back through a railing, her head smashing against the floor with a hollow report. She lay there, unmoving. Peter is given no assistance, not even in the slightest as the Entity takes a step forward and simply vanishes as if she were never there at all.

Outside the visitor center, the air in front of Eileen ripples like a heat mirage before coalescing into the distorted mirror that is Sibyl Black’s body. Seeing that young girl’s face is like staring back into a window through time, she can nearly smell the scent of whiskey and cigars clinging to Avi’s sweater over the smell of freshly fallen rain and the acrid stink of the underground fires below this place.

Petrichor, clings to the back of her mind. A memory of long past. Why is it always raining?

The Entity says nothing when confronting Eileen, staring at her with those unblinking and fiery eyes. She doesn’t move, not to raise a hand, not to furrow a brow. And yet, Eileen is nonetheless frozen in place, her limbs restrained by unseen hands. This, too, has a familiarity to it. Of another night, of freezing rain, of Griffin Mihangle. The distant sound of splintering trees that cuts through her thoughts means Kara did what she asked. The Entity seems unaware of what it heralds. All she does is step closer to Eileen, staring.

“This is not yours,” the Entity finally says with inscrutable indifference.

Why is it always raining?

Eileen thinks it’s because she likes the rain. It reminds her of home— of New York City, and of London. Its rhythm is as familiar as the drub of her own heartbeat. Gabriel’s, too. She’s committed his to memory, having spent many long hours of their youth with an ear pressed against his chest, both clothed and not.

This reminds her of the sweaters Gabriel used to wear in the dark, damp, cold of the Dispensary, which in turn reminds her of the sweaters Avi used to wear in the bright, dry, warmth of the attic where he kept her caged in like some sort of small, bright-eyed exotic bird.

She’s had her life flash before her eyes enough times to recognize when it’s happening, and although her heart is still beating very fast, Eileen suddenly doesn’t feel scared.

“No,” she agrees. The conduit isn’t hers. “It’s not of me, but I’m of it. Even you can’t take that away.”

Back in the museum, the man standing over Peter shifts shape, a hardly conscious action where he is remolded back into Gabriel Gray like soft wax manipulated with invisible fingers.

Condescending, mock affection; "Aw, Pete."

Some invisible, almost ineffable force thrums through the structure around them, vibrates up through shattered concrete, ripples standing puddles. Dust and debris shakes down from dilapidated rafters. A nearby glass case cracks, and Gabriel reaches a hand towards it, clenches his fist, and with a discordant high-toned clatter, shards splinter out from their frame and come spinning through the air, only to catch invisibly and rotate. Standing by.

"It could be a decade," Gabriel says, and a long, dagger like glass fragment suddenly strikes downwards, and buries in Peter Petrelli's thigh. "Fifty years." Another hurtles towards him, slicing through the sleeve, shattering and leaving broken pieces piercing shoulder. "A century."

The rest dart in close and then hang hovered, ready and waiting.

Gabriel's hands, likewise, hovered, ready and waiting. "And you'd still find your way back to me, just like this."

He doesn't remember Kara, unconscious now, the box she'd triggered on Eileen's order. He's barely cognizant to Eileen outside, numb to that thread of shared empathy as an old anger blurs the details of the present. Gabriel bares his teeth, and closes both fists — and each glass shard goes hurtling for the prone form of Peter, a school of glittering knives.

Peter’s scream fills the air, reverberating up through the visitor’s center like the bird cries higher above. In his periphery, Peter could see the girl he had brought here and Eileen, he could see what was happening. But he doesn't. The moment that face, Gabriel’s face, is revealed by the melting facade of waxen flesh all rational thought falls away. Rage replaces confusion, guilt replaces determination, horror replaces hope.

Peter implodes in a haze of rainbow-hued lights, rematerializes upright beside the man he has only ever truly known as nemesis, save for moments so fleeting they may well be forgotten now. Peter pulls Gabriel forward with a telekinetic hook, clapping a hand on his shoulder accompanied by the exchange of a haze of light between where palm and cloth meet. The reflexive kinetic shockwave that follows from Gabriel sends Peter bouncing across the floor, rolling to a stop before pushing up onto one arm.

I killed you,” Peter hisses, desperation and disbelief in his voice. “I killed you!” He screams again, and it is as if no one else exists. Not the bloody shrapnel of Adam Monroe, not the unmoving form of Kara Prince, not the mysterious child he was compelled to bring here. But this was not carnage, this was not chaos, this was not a flaw in a plan. Peter just couldn't see the spider for the web.

Everything was happening precisely as it needed to.

Outside, birds descend from the sky toward a body that once commanded them. A flock of mixed avian shaped twist down like an angry talon from the clouds, then come apart at the seams like stuffed animals plucked of all their threads. Bone, flesh, sinew, and blood spiral outward as the fragile-looking silhouette of Sibyl Black is soaked in their charnel remains. That same blood clings thick and dark to Eileen’s cheeks, pieces of the birds stick in her hair, and all is smudged across her skin as Sibyl’s hand touches a face that haunted her nightmares.

Eileen has made an assertion. Not even you can take that away. Now, when pale flesh contrasts with dark blood and tattered feathers, the Entity offers her wordless rebuttal.

A howling scream greater than the dying of birds rises from the back of Eileen’s throat. A terrified and tortured sound that accompanied black veins spreading beneath her flesh. Agony redefines her world, a pain more than bone deep, a pain in her soul — if such things exist — greater than the compiled tragedy of her life’s innumerable losses.

As the Entity pulls her hand away from Eileen’s cheek she pulls with it a seething clouds of smoke and shadow, of ashes and darkness, of entropy and decay that does not consume her, but rather feeds into her. The black conduit is drawn toward the entity like metal fibers to a magnet, seeping from Eileen’s skin in wisping tendrils. Voices not Eileen’s join the agonized screaming, voices both familiar and unfamiliar to Eileen. But it is more than that, just as the black conduit is more than an ability.

If Eileen could look at Gabriel, she would.

She doesn’t, because she can’t. Her body is a ragdoll under his hands, no resistance in her lax shoulders when turned over. Eyes that have already begun to go glassy and unfocused are set on a fixed point. Lingering desire to reach for his hand manifests as only a slight curl of her fingers.

The psychic thread that connects them has already begun to fray and unravel, but is still intact enough for her to funnel her final, disjointed thoughts and impressions through to him.

She’s sorry they fought.

She’s sorry about some of the things she said. Not all of them.

She’s sorry she couldn’t be the partner he needed: one who would have stopped him.

She’s sorry—

Streams of darkness tear forth from Eileen’s eyes and mouth, twisting and pulling, tearing apart from her in a measure of loss not spoken of by poets or pariahs, loss at once ephemeral and ethereal and blindingly physical. The Entity’s gold eyes burn bright through this haze, and Eileen can feel with her entire self what it is she is losing. It is more than just the conduit, it is the intimacy of memory, the experiences that were Gabriel’s, the moments that were theirs, the shared connection a part of her once had with him.

“Always means forever,” Eileen teases, but gently. “I’ll hold you to it.” Another kiss, this time along his jaw. Then again, closer to his chin. Her face follows the shape of his.

This is losing him all over again.

“Always love me, when I’m old and my bones are crumbling.

This is dying a second, third, fourth time.

Always love me, when I’m dead

This is grief, anguish, pain. This is—

and my bones are crumbled.”

Eileen is released from the Entity’s unseen grasp, the last slithering tendrils of darkness roiling into that small palm. Eileen is left with a hollow in her heart, an emptiness in her chest where that Gabriel’s love for her once was. Now there was a hole where his familiar embrace once cradled her. Now he was, truly, dead.

The Entity closes her hand into a fist, gold eyes staring down at Eileen unblinking.

There is an echo of her that exists within what was taken, just as Eileen Gray’s Gabriel does, but this knowledge is of absolutely no comfort to the woman openly weeping in the mud.

It hurts so much to breathe, it would almost be easier to just stop. Small birds bounce off of something as flimsy as a glass window and die of fright. So why can’t she be allowed to die of a broken heart?

Eileen folds into herself, knees drawn up and narrow shoulders tucked in, retreating from the wash of blood and rain, which sounds to her like a dull roar in her ears. She can’t hear herself screaming anymore because she isn’t. The only noise she makes is the frail gasp of someone choking on air.

It is the worst she’s ever felt.

Worse even than being picked apart by her own birds while she was still alive. What happened on Pollepel Island is preferable to this.

Gabriel could almost think she was being ripped apart. He wasn't there, that night on Pollepel Island, so he can only imagine. Regardless, white hot pain, familiar knife-edged grief, the kind that burns and burns, zithers from woman to man as if on a fuse, and Gabriel's tunnel vision focus on his enemy fractures, expression of dark predatory interest suddenly hollowing out as he turns his head in the direction she went.

Back to Peter — accusation, formless blame all blazed at him with a glare.

Staring at the sea

Raising his hands, Gabriel sinks telekinetic hooks into the cross beams of the roof, the supporting pillars in the walls, the points of weakness and strength in the building around him. It's more than he'd ever achieved with this ability prior to this moment and yet seems to come so naturally. Creaking— no, screaming wood, shattering and splintering, and the world around himself and Peter and unfortunately Kara as well seems to close like a fist as the roof and walls buckle beneath strange unnatural powers, a heavy beam under particular focus as Gabriel brings it down upon Peter, along with well, everything else as the building collapses into darkness, dust, debris.

Will she come?

He passes through the pandemonium like a ghost, moving at a blind sprint, and then a blind leap, and he enters the outside world in the form of a billowing inky cloud of shadow. It races, movements quick and silken, like an eel through mud, and seems at first to envelop Eileen like a cloak. Rather than drag her into that formlessness, Gabriel gathers himself whole, his chest to her back and arms around her body, as if her pain were a fire he could put out just like this. "It's me," he says, against her hair. The world around them is bloody feathers, splintered bone, rain-pattered earth. "I got you."

Is there hope for me

And there's a girl. Familiar and alien all at once, and Gabriel lifts his head to look at her with a different quality than the way he'd looked at Peter — but anger is present.

After all is said and done

So too is fascination.

Anything at any price

Eyes of molten gold stare across at Gabriel, devoid of emotive content. There is intent, ferocious and relentless intent, but in that same stare there is something that momentarily resembles compassion. The Entity’s expression softens, looking down to Eileen and creasing her brows together, even as an aura of seething darkness rises off of the Entity’s shoulders and is burned away by scintillating waves of blue-green light.

All of this for you

Gabriel feels the Entity’s stare level on him, a hand outstretched as if in offering of something, brows creased in thought and study. She, too, is fascinated.

All the spoils of a wasted life

“You are broken,” the Entity says in a soft voice, and for a brief moment that context is not clear. Until it suddenly comes into a razor-sharp focus.

All of this for you

“Be whole.” As those words escape the Entity’s lips Gabriel can feel his blood begin to boil within his veins. A scream to match Eileen’s erupts from him and reverberates through space and time as his mind catches fire. With a curl of her fingers the Entity's latches on to the gears and cogs, the flywheels and springs, the clockwork mechanism of Gabriel Gray’s identity and squeezes a grip fast around them. His vision blurs, swims, and for a moment the entire universe comes into sharp focus. Space, time, the fabric of reality itself is laid bare as one gigantic mechanism that is woefully broken and out of alignment. All of creation is like a broken watch spread across the length and breadth of history. And Gabriel can see at last how to fix—

All the world has closed her eyes

A scream of shock erupts from the Entity as a mechanical tendril blasts through the treeline, clamping around her wrist and lifting her up off of the ground. Pulling itself through the forest the massive bulk of a great octopedal machine rises a story tall, seven additional slithering spine-like appendages snaking out of the wood line, crushing trees. The monocular red eye in its massive frame focuses to a laser point on the Entity, who turns to this new horror with a moment of child-like vulnerability.

Tired faith all worn and thin

And then

For all we could have done

Child-like anger.

And all that could have been

Gold eyes flare with brilliant illumination, waves of scalding heat and light burn from within her bones, a coruscating sure of entropy seethes around her body and is joined by wisps of fire, crackling electricity, and heat-haze distortion. She opens her mouth to scream, and screams a sound that tears apart the fabric of reality. Metal disassembles, bolts and screws are separated into the air, as she begins dismantling the machine piece-by-piece, the world shudders under the emergence of such destructive force, even as the robot — uncaring of it's own fate — launches the remainder of its shaking limbs at her small body.

Ocean pulls me close

Futile, in the radiant glow of impending disaster.

And whispers in my ear

Gabriel Gray survives Kirby Plaza, and the memories of that day are clear in his mind even as the rest of the universe itself and his perception of it boils around him.

The destiny I've chose

Eileen stirs.

All becoming clear

Gabriel isn’t gone. He’s right there, all six foot something of him. She can smell his skin and his hair under the gore, feel the heat of his body and the resistance in his limbs when she turns her head over her shoulder and looks past him with green eyes.

The currents have their say

The light emanating from the Entity reflects off the water on the ground and suspended in the air like a brilliant ray of sunshine cutting through the clouds on a particularly stormy day.

The time is drawing near

A little like this one, actually.

Washes me away

Her return to reality isn’t as much of a snap as it is a gradually dawning realization that overtakes her at the same time the glow does. One hand finds Gabriel’s shoulder and bunches the coarse material of his coat in the gaps between her fingers. She tugs on him, hard.

Makes me disappear

“Gabriel,” she says, voice gone thick with the urgency building building building beneath it. “Go. We have to get up. Get up…”

And I descend from grace

Up, Eileen says.

In arms of undertow

Gabriel doesn't know which way that is. He feels the ground under his back, fallen bonelessly upon the earth with rainwater running into his nose and pooling in his eyes, but that doesn't feel like down either. The world is spinning and he is pinned against it, helpless, and the stars are as party streamers beyond the clouded sky. A storm of emotion rages in the glass jar of his heart, thoughts dash against the borders of his brain like thrown marbles, but it's not where he lives. He's in his skin, where rain patters, and his lungs, hyperventilating, and his nerves, ablaze. He feels like he could lift his hands and shape the air like clay. Like he could drag the sky down into glittering shards. Like he could do anything.

I will take my place

Eileen's words drum against him, meaningless, until they aren't. The break between the Entity's focus and the absence of it is washed away in a sense of self returning like a tide, and coherence comes in fits and starts as he reaches out and holds onto her.

In the great below

Gabriel and Eileen are engulfed in a blaze of light.

I can still feel you

And then they are gone, leaving behind rainbow-like silhouettes that glimmer in the air before those, too, fade.

Even so far away

Fade into a rolling wall of black flame, smoke, ash, and screams.

I can still feel you

Fade into the oblivion expanding outward from the shining silhouette of Sibyl Black’s body.

Even so far away

The empty space where Gabriel and Eileen once sat is lifted apart as though gravity itself was turned on its ear. Stones rise into the air, trees tear themselves free from the ground, the clouds pull away in a spiral pattern overhead and the curtain of the sky rolls back to reveal a twisting silhouette of green-blue light that descends from the heavens like the hem of God’s robes.

I can still feel you

In this still moment all is silent, and then in forever and an instant, annihilated. The shockwave tears up the ground, throws the ruins of the visitor’s center into the air and sets it ablaze with a colorless fire. Trees explode into burning splinters, the air ignites and animals are reduced to ash and bones as the wall of entropy and cosmic energy rolls over them.

Even so far away

The blast extends upward into the sky, reaching for that light, but never quite touching it. As the blast wave unrolls it leaves an ashen wasteland of flattened trees and gray skies behind. Standing unscatched in the epicenter, in the smoking crater of what once was, a single girl.

I can still feel you

Gold eyes in the black smoke.

Even so far away

Then, nothing.

Even so far away

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