One Last Time


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Also Featuring

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Scene Title One Last Time
Synopsis Kaylee is given an opportunity to say goodbye to her father, and finally learn the truth of his plan.
Date November 8, 2011

The Commonwealth Arcology, B-Ring

Lights spark and explode overhead from a massive power surge. The demolished ceiling spills dangling electrical and fiber-optic cables from within like mechanical entrails. The hall is almost completely destroyed, and beyond the heaping pile of rubble and wreckage, there is smoke and the suggestion of fire in audible crackling pops. A drizzled trail of blood winds from the rubble pile, by a few fragmented pieces of thick glass, to where dark-soled boots have left scuff marks on a white tile floor.

Kaylee Thatcher lays on her side, droplets of blood leaving a trail to her brow where a large gash cuts across the right side of her forehead. Under the flickering and snapping lights of the arcology’s hallway, she looks dead. But then, sudden and frantic, she jolts up with a sharp intake of air; hands and feet scrambling across the floor. Vision blurred and ears ringing, Kaylee can’t see the others anymore. She can’t even hear them, just the tinnitus whine echoing in the center of her skull. She feels the warm, wet trail of blood along the side of her face.

Then, she remembers — the grenade. A knot of nausea churns in Kaylee’s stomach as she makes a quick, tactile assessment of her well-being. Remarkably, aside from a throbbing head-injury, she feels mostly intact. But in the tinnitus ring, there’s something echoing in the back of her mind. Something other than the deafened wail of damaged ear drums.

Kaylee. Her name.

The sound sends a chill down her spine. Not because of simply the situation, but because of the familiarity of the voice. Then it rings out again in the back of her mind, a broadcasted chirp on her currently unfocused psychic receiver. The voice of Edward Ray.


No. Wait. Can that be?


The fight to focus her eyes — on her surroundings — is quickly given up, the world going completely unfocused so that Kaylee can turn her efforts inward. Fingers lift to touch her ears, then sliding further up in a futile effort to block the insufferable whining in them. It does nothing to help, but she does feel the thick stickiness of the blood between her fingers and the light brush of her sister’s bracelet against her jaw.

Mentally, Kaylee fights past the that shrill monotone ring in her head, past the sharp pains of her head injury. The woman allows her senses to focus on that voice. So familiar, that is creates a little thrill within her chest. The little girl within her whispering for Daddy, even though the older woman tries to silence it. There is a hesitation, a moment of shyness to the mental touch; remembered disappointment and pain keeping her from grasping on that thread.

However, with a surge of courage, she follows that sirens call. Still there is that tiny lost part of herself that continues to whisper.


Bleary-eyed and dizzy, Kaylee staggers down the hall, the voice in her mind growing subtly louder. It’s clear now it isn’t her subconscious playing tricks on her, or something from the head injury, she’s picking up on conscious thoughts. Against all odds except the very ones he’d planned on, here’s here. Edward Ray is here, Edward Ray is alive.

Kaylee can barely keep upright, though. As she walks, her legs buckle, knees tremble and head swims. She slouches against the wall with one shoulder, presses off with her hand to leave a bloodied palm-print, then keeps walking. It’s the head wound, blood loss, probably after-affects of what was in the lab too.

She isn’t sure how long it takes to get to where the voice is coming from, because after she rounds a corner she isn’t in the arcology any longer.



Look in my eyes, what do you see?

The guitar riff is a familiar one, as is the setting. An old model picture-tube television sits on a wooden bench flanked by a pair of windows that let sunlight in to a cluttered, but comfortable looking living room.

The Cult of Personality!

Kaylee’s mouth in dry, and she can feel the tightness in her throat as the noise of the song playing on the radio pounds between her ears. Everything's blurry still, and she's having not only a hard time focusing her eyes, but also focusing on much of anything else, as if she were drunk or sick. It's an odd feeling of lacking equilibrium that is slowly— gradually— fading.

I know your anger, I know your dreams!

She’s been here before, both in real-life and in dreams. This is the setting the Nightmare Man threw Kaylee and others into as a method of self-defense. But now, somehow, she’s slipped through the doorway of a hall in the Commonwealth Arcology and entered a door through time to her own childhood.

I've been everything you wanna be! Oh!

In the tiny and cramped kitchen, a young blonde woman in her twenties is dancing around in her socks and a pair of cutoff jean shorts, her bright pink tanktop decked out with neon green writing on the back that displays the words In Living Color. There's a pan on the old stove, the sizzling sound of something cooking— bacon. She turns around, blonde hair thrashing in front of her face as she skids across the kitchen floor towards the refrigerator, opening the door and pulling out a carton of milk, her lips flashing along to the lyrics of the song.

I'm the Cult of Personality, Like Mussolini and Kennedy!

She pours a little bit into a bowl, then starts cracking eggs on the side of the counter, one by one adding the pair into the bowl with the milk and applying a whisk. The sound of that stereo blasting is absolutely deafening, she's going to go completely deaf listening to it. Bobbing her head up and down, the blonde draws her hair back into a ponytail and pulls a fuzzy scrunchy off of her wrist, tying her hair back from her face as she continues to dance to the song.

I'm the Cult of Personality, the Cult of Personality, the Cult of Personality!

In the living room, the television is on, showing a few people running across a track field. There's a flash of an Olympic logo on the screen, and then aerial shots of the city of Barcelona, Spain. It's really the first thing that seems clear in Kaylee’s head, because she’s seen this all before, twice over. Outside the windows that sun is filtering through, showing off the skyline of the city of Boston Massachusetts.

Neon lights, Nobel Prize!

Kaylee’s mother continues dancing around the kitchen, singing into the whisk like it were a microphone. She can't be much older than Kaylee is right now, and right where she expected it is a little five or six year old blonde girl, walking down the stairs into the living room. Followed by a blonde woman Kaylee doesn’t recognize.

When a mirror speaks, the reflection lies!

Twenty years old, holding young Kaylee by the hand, eyes upturned to the older Kaylee with a sudden look of shock and uncertainty.

You won't have to follow me!

How,” the stranger exhales breathlessly.

Only you can set me free!

Daddy? Where….

The little girls anguished voice fades away as the world comes into focus.

The telepath tries to open her mouth to answer the question, but the words escape her. Maybe, it is the confusion of being… here…. again. Seeing her mother dancing around in the kitchen again…. panic laces through Kaylee’s thoughts – a flashback to another horrible event. Trembling fingers lift to touch – tenderly – the place where the wound on her head should be. There is nothing. Pulling them away, she slowly blinks at the lack of dark ruby on her finger tips.

Something was wrong.

“I – I’m not sure,” Kaylee manages to croak out through the constrictions of her dry throat. “But I know this is – this cannot be not real,” she half whispers. Her fingertips brush together lightly, as if she didn't believe her own eyes.

When her gaze lifts to meet this unfamiliar face, Kaylee’s eyes are sharper and narrowed with distrust. A touch of resentment, maybe, mixed in. “You however…” A flash of black, stills the rest of those words in her throat. Scales deeper then the darkest night glitter like crystal, catching her attention. The telepath’s breath catches as a familiar weight settles around her shoulders – tightening ever so slightly around her neck. She knows what this means.

«You however. I do not know you.»

That silken voice does not belong to the telepath. No…. Two eyes, red as fresh blood, stare from the triangular head of a midnight black snake. Its gaze is almost piercing, as if it might look straight into your soul. The head lifts — swaying in a rather rhythmic way — following Kaylee’s gaze towards the woman. A flicker of a forked tongue tastes the air.

A sudden knowing passes behind the telepaths eyes. “This is a dream.” «A dream.» Is offered in agreement from the snake, who flicks its tongue against Kaylee’s cheek.

Who are you?!?” Is snapped out, louder this time — demanding, from woman and snake in unison. Almost immediately, her ability flowing around her – ruffling at blonde curls — with pressure of it threatening the woman in front of her, seeking answers.

The unfamiliar woman lets out a shriek of shock at seeing Kaylee, both hands raising as if to shield herself from something as simple as a physical assault. When her hand releases from the younger Kaylee, the entire vision shatters like a pane of glass. The two-dimensional dreamscape crumbles around the older Kaylee, melts into a deep darkness beyond, leaving her standing alone in a field of infinite black. Below the telepath, she can see her own muted reflection, as though she were standing on a nearly invisible sheet of ice.

Then, slowly, something else begins to creep into the darkness. There’s a voice, distant and muffled as though on the other side of a door. Gradually, that conversation gets closer, and when Kaylee hears a door open a room comes rushing into focus all around her. It’s a white-walled room, almost like a studio apartment. The walls have dark, inactive computer screens inset into them. A round bay window shows a sunny field outside, though the quality of the image makes it feel somehow synthetic. What little furnishing the room does have include a gurney with the back elevated, blankets tousled and no one in them. At a glass-topped table, Kaylee spots Edward Ray, with a computer program of virtual chess opened up and full-screened on the virtual surface. He’s not looking at the chess game, though, he’s looking up to the door and past Kaylee.

Edward sickly thin, his head shaved bald from the brain surgery he underwent, dark circles around his eyes. Bandages are taped across the back of his head where a bulge of gauze padding covers where a hole had been drilled into his skull for some kind of device. Large, expressive blue eyes stare up and past Kaylee without seeing her, as none other than Warren Ray comes in.

Rather immediately, it becomes clear that Edward recognizes Warren. There's a squeak of wheels as Edward rolls himself from around the table, confined to a wheelchair due to the atrophy of his leg's muscles and potentially brain damage as well.

The plastic IV bags hanging from the drip stand attached to his chair sway from side to side as he wheels past the glass table, staring at Warren as if he were a ghost. That tears well up in the scientist's eyes is a sign of understanding and — remarkably for Edward Ray — raw emotion. But he has no words, not for this meeting, not for anyone.

"I don't know if we've ever met before, father,” Warren begins hesitantly. “My memories are all jumbled, but I'm glad that the father from my memories isn't real." Warren walks up to Edward, removing both gloves this time to stuff them into his pockets, and offers his hands to Edward. "I didn't know my machine would wake you up, but I'm just happy to finally meet you."


Seeing that man — who in her memories was always to healthy — reduced to… to this. Her reaction is immediate, chest tightening with the clash of emotions, a prickling at the corner of her eyes. A foot slides forward, towards the frail figure. She wants to reach out to him, touch him….

But then… almost against her will, the telepath’s eyes move to Warren. Seeing him there, leaves an unbidden taste of bitter jealousy.

It is because the little girl deep in her mind doesn't understand. Didn’t you want me anymore? it whispers, did I do something wrong?


“Damn you.” The words hiss out between Kaylee’s clenched teeth, realizing suddenly, that her prey deftly avoided her attempt at answers. “Damn you, for showing me this — for distracting me.” Cause in her mind, it felt like an attempt to delay her, with emotions she thought she had managed to bury so long ago.

She suddenly seems to fold into herself, hands lifting to grip at the sides of her skull, fingers trailing up to tangle in her blonde curls, trying to block out the whine of that tiny voice, who keeps asking why?


Kaylee’s voice chokes, catching in her throat. Her head comes up sharply, her attention focuses solely on Edward Ray, with tears just starting to slip down her cheeks.“Why won’t you just talk to me?”


No one can hear Kaylee, not Edward, not Warren, no one. The vision, memory, dream plays out as it must have in some distant point in time. Swallowing awkwardly, Edward's lips move to talk, but no sound words come out, only a hoarse croaking sound. Jaw unsteadied, Edward lifts up one shaking hand towards Warren's, his grip weak as he squeezes his son's hand. A smile plays at the corners of Edward's lips, troubled and bittersweet. His eyes, tear-filled as they are, say what his voice cannot, conveys emotions words would be insufficient to at any rate.

Kaylee can see that Warren has his father's nose, his father's eyes. These genetic traits, passed on through whatever union spurred Edward on to have a son of his own. The similarities between Warren and Edward end there, but they are a line of comparison that a man with as much attention paid to detail as Warren would never be able to miss.

Swallowing audibly, Edward breathes out a shuddering breath, embarrassment in his features as he lifts his free hand to wipe at his eyes, a strangled laugh coming out as mixed as his emotions are.

"It's alright, you don't have to talk.” Warren comforts. “That'll come later, you spoke when you woke up. It's nothing that recovery and therapy won't fix." Warren leans in a bit more, not quite trying to hide anything from Broome — Broome — It’s only then that Kaylee sees his tall shadow in the doorway, a black-clad silhouette in a suit with eyes of impenetrable darkness and a gentle, grandfatherly demeanor. "I have my sisters, they're somewhere safe. Everything's going to be fine soon." Sisters.

The mention of Warren's sisters brings an emotion-choked smile to Edward's face, a smile struggling to show on Edward's lips, his trembling hands struggling to squeeze Warren's harder. Swallowing tightly, Edward's lips open to try and form words, but nothing comes out. Frustration soon becomes evident in his voice, followed by the hoarse whisper of something that sounds like, "brof— brofer," in desperate attempt to communicate with a mouth that will not cooperate and a brain that is still recovering. Simon steps away from the door, giving visible privacy to Warren and Edward.

Though unfortunately Warren will have to put even more consideration into his biological clock once he's solved the puzzle of his father's words. "Brother? Me, or do you mean something else? Um…" He reaches back into his pocket, pulling out a pen and a little sticky note. "Can you write?"

Edward shakes his head, trembling hands moving to his lap. Sliding his tongue over his lips Edward looks as though he would have trouble even holding a pencil, let alone writing with one. His shaky hand moves down to the joystick on the arm of his wheelchair, pulling the stick back and making his chair whirr softly as he rolls away from Warren, coming to a stop with a squeak of its wheels beside the virtual surface of the large table and its touch screen.

Edward rolls the chair around the end of the table, coming to sit on one side. He brings a trembling hand down to the virtual surface, brushing aside the chess game to reveal a blank white surface. He thumb taps on an icon resembling an upper-case and lower-case A in blue, bringing up the image of a keyboard on the table.

Slow, one-finger typing commences where Edward begins entering letters into the virtual surface, then shakily moves his hand over the process button at the bottom. In synthesized voice, the text is read aloud as unnatural sounding speech.

«Is your brother safe?»

"What? I have a brother?" Warren's eyes are wide at this revelation, immediately approaching the man to listen to the voice and read the screen at the same time. "Who? What's his name? I can find him if I know his name, I have resources and people that can help me."

Once more Edward brings his hands down to the screen, a trembling movement of his hand bringing one letter at a time across the display. His tongue slides across his lips, blue eyes alighting to Warren and then back down to the virtual surface. As the next sentence is sounded out, the text-to-speech voice emotionlessly reads words aloud that should be spoken with care, concern and love.

«Not by blood.»

Edward's eyes avert from Warren's, sweeping across the virtual keyboard in more trembling keystrokes.

«Richard Cardinal. His father and mother were close friends of mine when I was your age.»

The cold, mechanical voice tells a sorrowful tale by digital cadence. Even as Edward continues to type, the machine voice reads aloud Edward's words, without conveying any of the emotion evident in his eyes. An ineloquent and inelegant solution to his muteness.

«They trusted me with him, if something ever happened.»

«Something happened.»

«And I was a coward.»

"Cardinal… Cardinal is safe, I'm not sure where he is, but I know he's alive, you don't have to worry about him, alright?" Warren walks up behind him, placing both hands on his shoulders. "Come on, you should rest now, you shouldn't be straining yourself. I promise I'll find Cardinal and make sure he's safe." Though the implication of this, and his phone call with Cardinal earlier in the day… are many.

Edward's hands continue to brush along the keyboard with soft, tapping touches of each digital letter. Each time his finger impacts one of the keys, it glows softly and expands in size to inform contact, spelling out half finished words. Edward presses the process button again, then turns to look up at Warren as the voice begins to read one final time.

«There are no words»

Edward's lips downturn into a frown, the look of weakness and guilt written across his face is too many years too late to matter. Too many years and too many lies apart. But yet it is there, raw and unfiltered, int he eyes of a feeble and broken man.

«No words to express how sorry I am»

«For failing you all»

Lifting one shaking hand up to cover his eyes, Edward's head hangs down towards his palm, a noise hitches in the back of his throat, tense and tight. He may not be able to speak words to his son, to the boy he abandoned.

But he can cry.

When the world doesn't change, when she can't do anything about what is happening around her, Kaylee gives a strangled sound of frustration.


This stops her. Kaylee straightens and focuses on the conversation before her.

Lisssten. The snakes silky voice slides along her skin catching her attention. There is a touch of excited discovery. The weight disappears off her shoulders, only to reappear on the desk. Again it repeats, listen.

Edward… her father was trying to talk. She follows, along with her brother, approaching where the avatar of her temptations and ability sat coiled on the table. Ssssee., it whispers, vipers head tilted down at the screen as fingers start to touch the screen. And she does, standing just behind the men and watches with a touch of pity as the thin man types on the screen.

Each type sentence, each metallic uttering of that infernal machine, cuts through Kaylee like a knife. It left her raw, in pain, and full of questions. What happened with Richard?

Delicate fingers, almost of their own accord reach out to touch the gaunt tear stained features of Edward Ray. But — but, before contact can be made, they pause, and after a heartbeat slowly curl away, into a trembling fist; falling listlessly to her side.

There was a war going on inside of her between the little girl who just wanted her daddy and the time tempered woman who had to lived a life without him, who’s mind echos the word, Coward. But was that aimed at him or the telepath herself.

“You should have fought for us,” Kaylee murmurs, voice bitter. The tears in her eyes sting, forcing her rub at them in an attempt to clear them, so that she can focus on him. “You should have been there.” Maybe, I wouldn't have killed him… Her voice hitches, and a small sob escapes, leaving her voice thick, “You knew, but you didn't fight for me — you didn't fight for any of us.” There is real pain in her voice as she added…

“You made someone else do it for you.”

Everything was crystallized in Kaylee’s moment of introspection, a frozen raindrop in time, locked in an instant of familiar reunion. When it crumbles, Warren is speaking, as though he were speaking to Edward and to Kaylee at the same time. But, there’s no way that could be possible.

"You're only human.” It feels like a knife into her heart. “I've made mistakes that I can't even remember, I've taken lives and hurt people. I can only imagine the things I've done. But the Institute erased that part of me, I'm a different person now, and I want to make the world a better place and somehow make up for what I've done." Warren walks around to maneuver Edward's chair so they can face each other, and places his hands on to his father's. "What matters now is that you're awake, my sisters and Cardinal are safe, and while we can't get back any time that was taken away from all of us, including you, this is not the end. The best apology you can make to me is to get better, to be able to walk on your own two feet again, and hug your girls with your own arms."

What Edward Ray is presented with here brings tears to his eyes for reasons most people might not ever be able to understand. Presented here with his son Warren, whole and sane, it is validation of everything that Edward has been striving to prove for much of his adult life. His obsession with statistics, with probability and manipulation of events designed to tailor to a specific outcome.

His son was saved, and if it took what cold and calculating torment Edward inflicted on him to heal his mind, so be it. Kaylee can feel the self-justification in his mind, emanating through the dreamscape she’s within.

Offering a weary smile to Warren, Edward lifts one hand to rest shakily on his son's at his shoulder. His smile is faint, tired and small, but the resolve in his eyes shares none of that frailty that his body has. There is determination in Edward Ray, determination and hope.

To Edward Ray, his son Warren is validation to his entire life, and the motto he has unwittingly lived it by.

The Ends Justify the Means.

But this isn’t the end, wasn’t the end, couldn’t be the end. Kaylee feels something, not just something hidden, but a purpose bubbling behind her eyes. A purpose in the sibilant whisperings of the snake draped over her shoulders, in the machinations of clock and time, of chess and strings. This was happening for a reason. Nothing was left up to chance with her father. Especially not this.

The world once again becomes a two-dimensional pane of glass. It fractures, cracks deep and shatters into countless fragments of possibilities. They rain down, dropping into a mirror-still pool of water without splashing. Kaylee is once again alone in the darkness, but this time — this time — there is something in there with her.

The stranger.

Kaylee,” she isn’t like Hokuto, has no theatrics. A young dirty-blonde woman in white and red hospital scrubs. A logo on the right breast pocket belongs to the Commonwealth Institute. She isn’t a figment, isn’t a dream. She’s something alltogether more tangible. In that way, she is like Hokuto. She isn’t the dreamer, or the dream.

Kaylee,” her voice is closer now, and the perceived physical distance between the two narrows as though it were an elastic point in space. “Kaylee, I’m here to help.” There’s an urgency in her voice, and behind it, Kaylee can hear something. Something familiar.

A klaxon, blaring.

Her fingertips lightly touch her lips as she whispers, “The ends just…..” her eyes widen at whatever thought crosses her mind. Tears spring to her eyes, her chest heaves as she tries to catch her breath; her eyes seem to look everywhere and nowhere; as mentally she tries to go over every moment of her life. — Every. Moment. — even…. Joseph.

God's gift was free will, didn't you know?

“Y-you… manipulative… ” bastard. She cannot get herself to utter that last word, though the concept flits through her brain in relation to the man she shares her genetics with. It strengthens her, as she slowly turns to meet the stranger, though tears still dampen her cheeks, no more do they fall. “Help?” Kaylee sounds confused, uncertain. Then sound starts to trickle into the darkness, making her look around sharply, reminding her what she had been here to do. "Wh-"

Her breath catches, “Edward Ray.” She reaches to grab the younger woman, fingers trying to curl in rough fabric of the scrubs. “He’s here. We have/ to get him //out.” It doesn’t matter that she is angry and bitter. He is still her father and she is still his little girl.

Family can be funny that way.

No,” is the echoing answer from the stranger. “He asked me to show you the truth,” comes with a chilling sense of finality. At those words, Kaylee feels herself sucked down into that mirror-still, watery surface. She plunges deep into a dark abyss, floating and yet also falling at the same time. Bubbles of air blossom upward from her nose and mouth, and in each of them are shimmering reflections of moments in her life.

It's Monday night and most good little college girls are home in bed sleeping for exams, not Kaylee. Instead of sleeping, she comes striding into a bar with her current flavor of the month bad boy. He's dressed in his ratty jeans, white wife beater and a brown leather jacket covered in various patches. His breath already reeks of alcohol as he drapes his arm over her shoulder pulling her close, even though her expression is one of boredom. "Oh… come on, babe. Just have a few drinks with me." He says, leaning down to nibble at her ear.

She ducks out from under his arm quickly, though she turns it into a playful action. "I told you I don't drink that stuff. " She slides on to a barstool, a glance given to the amount of glasses piling up in front of one particular patron, as her companion moves to lean against the bar next to her. He calls out for a couple of Jack and Cokes, obviously not listening. She rolls her eyes upwards and sigh.

Adam Monroe glances up for a moment from a few seats down and smirks to himself before going back to the impressive study of his glasses…
You need to see, Kaylee, the voice of the stranger clings to the back of her mind. Suddenly, there’s a line stretching out from the bubble, a line of causality. A string.

Staten Island bubbles into view in Kaylee’s mind. A familiar day, a chance meeting. A big red and white van rumbles along through the streets of Staten Island, keeping away from the fringes of the Rookery — things there too messed up for any sort of deliveries to be safely made, at least for the time being. As it nears one of the usual checkpoints that the urban residents have started to grow used to for the free delivery of soup and bread, the vehicle slows down a bit. It's still daylight, although that's fleeing soon, and Richard Cardinal is settled into the front in the passenger's seat with his shades down, the visor down, and a generally unpleasant expression on his face. "Fuckin' sun," he mutters under his breath.

See the connections, the stranger’s voice pleads again, and a thread extends from the bubble.

Helena Dean is a face Kaylee hasn’t seen in a long time, but when it’s surrounded by other blurry shapes, the only ones that come into crisp focus are her own, and Adam Monroe. "They're never discerning when put in Man's hands." Helena says softly, looking to Adam. "Do you have anything to offer us of significantly intelligence or resource for us to consider your proposal? Because last I heard, you were snuggling up with Kazimir Volken and the Vanguard, when you weren't trying to drop your own world killer virus and go all Brave New World." A brow arches.

Adam’s voice is as smooth as silk, "Meier is capable of a lot of surprises…"

Kaylee, the stranger whispers, follow the connections.

Gunfire pops in Kaylee’s ears, her vision tunnel focuses down into familiar corridors, familiar faces. Familiar mistakes. The threads from Adam and Cardinal led to Phoenix, which led to Pinehearst. Kaylee shoves her gun back in the holster with a frustrated sound that almost like a growl. She shakes her head to try and dispel the ringing as she approaches Sabrina. Then the lights flicker and Kaylee looks up. What the… And then the alarms go off, eyes widening.

Hurrying to Sabrina, Kaylee looks over the box and glances at the woman confused. But, she does as she asks, grabbing the indicated vials as fast as she can without breaking them and pressing them into the cases, snapping them shut as fast as she can. Then Sabrina is moving for the door and Kaylee grabs what she can comfortable carry and starts for the door as well. "Hey— Whoa wait up!" When one of Adam's men are near she shoves the cases at him and moves to grab another, intent on following everyone else out.

Klaxons blare and wail warnings as Michael slides through the blood of enemies and comrades alike, hauling cases of a luminous blue chemical in one hand. Turning to the entrance of the facility, he slings his rifle over one shoulder and rushes at full speed down the hall, through open doors slicked with the gory remains of the Advent Virus' failed test subjects. He meets up with a handful of Adam's other mercenaries, slinging the cases to them as Sabrina and Kaylee follow behind him.

Filing cabinets are tipped over, paperwork stolen, information and documents, drugs, sedatives, muscle relaxers, painkillers, anything that Adam can sell on the street, anything he can rob from Pinehearst, from Arthur. The vans are hotwired, started up and loaded to the roof with stolen cargo. Climbing into the passenger seat of the van that Ash climbs in to drive, Michael pops open one of the cases, looking down at one of the glowing blue vials as he rolls it around between his fingers, the slim blue cylinder reflecting in his irises brightly.

Do you see? The stranger’s voice calls in a sibilant hiss. Do you see like I do?

Kaylee's reflection is mirrored in a pair of dark sunglasses, a muted glimmer of her own reflexively fearful expression. The stranger's five o'clock shadow stubbles his chin, and his reaction to Kaylee's appearance is a crook of one brow up higher than the others in silence, and a brush of his fingertips gliding across the volume knob of the radio.

Once spotted, Kaylee pushes the door open further, her own blonde brow lifting at the stranger, blue eyes skimming over his form. There is still a healing bruise across her cheek, but she still crosses her arms and sets her shoulder on the door jam. "I do really hope you have an appointment?" She asks a pleasant tone in her voice, offering a fake smile. A hand moves so she twirl a finger at the floor, "Cause I'm pretty sure this is trespassing?"

Pushing off the door jam with jerk of her shoulder, she steps into the apartment and to the side of the door. Offering the open door with a flourish of one hand, the other resting on the doorknob. "Leave now and I won't consider calling in the cops," Kaylee is tired and worn out.. and would really not want to have to do with police.

Pursing his lips together now that the music is off, the man with those dark sunglasses cracks a smile. "Call the cops?" The stranger's expression turns into a toothy smile as he slowly stalks across the apartment. "Well hold the phone sweetie, the cops are already here." Reaching inside of his jacket, the man in aviator sunglasses removes a leather badge folio from inside of his coat, flipping it open to reveal a white badge on the interior: Avi Epstein, Central Intelligence Agency.

Kaylee, the strings. The stranger whispers with sharp intent.

Beckoning Kaylee over again, the helmeted figure of Desmond Harper in Horizon Armor steps forward to meet up with her, waiting for a tow line to be thrown down from the helicopter roaring overhead. The cable, with a foothold strap and a harness comes down, and Kaylee is carefully strapped in by FRONTLINE operatives in armor marked 00-02 and 00-03. The armored soldiers make certain she's secure before clipping back onto their lines and getting winched back up into the helicopter one by one.

As Kaylee is hoisted up into the helicopter, Harper is left standing beside the last tow cable, watching Brennan in the howl of the snow. «We're trusting you to do what's right, Doctor Brennan. Broome has a great deal of faith in you, and I personally don't share his sentiments.» Why is this man's voice so familiar? It's right there on the tip of Brennan's tongue, but something just doesn't click with the tone, it seems so familiar thought. «Consider how they've treated you and how we treat you, when you're going to bed tonight.» Clipping himself on to his tow-line, Harper makes a thumbs up motion to the helicopter and begins to get winched up inside.

How does one event lead to another? How do choices connect everything? The stranger’s voice is getting closer, this tangle of ephemeral psychic strings is leading somewhere.

Outside, the air is still, but now and then a humid breeze will test her windows, slip in a small flurry of moving to kick edges of her curtains around like a bashful boot toe. With the same kind of subtlety, there is a minute shift in the air as something fills in space that was empty just a moment ago, oxygen pushed aside in the split-second act of teleportation, the slight swing of a three-quarter length coat making a fabricy whisper somewhere to Kaylee's left.

In the same moment, a black shape edits itself into reality in her periphery, a rushing sound that doesn't quite sound like wind. Hiro's eyes are unfocused, first, when this space materialises around him and he keenly sets his sights down on the woman seated on the sofa. "Do not be afraid," he says in the very same space of time it takes for her to notice him. A hilt of a sword is visible at his shoulder from where it lies sheathed diagonal across his back, his hair shiny and black as wet tar, pulled severely into its warriors tail, and a patch of beard is razored around and left on his chin that looks weak in his round face.

Everything else about him is sharp edged, for all that his physical shape is not. "You are Kaylee Thatcher," is a signal that he won't need an introduction, if she had any intentions of doing so. "My name is Hiro Nakamura."

The sudden arrival of a figure as well as a mental presence makes Kaylee jump enough that she almost spills the laptop onto the floor. Missy is startled to her feet and she bumps into the coffee table with a yelp. It's only the quick actions of the blonde that computer doesn't meet the floor. Fingers gripping it tight, it hangs there as she stares at the man standing in her living room, while her dog growls. "What the…!?!" She starts to snap, but then what he says registers.

"Hiro?" The surprise and recognition at the name shows on her face, as she pulls the laptop back in her lap slowly, the lid closed. Her father's words ring through her head. Don't trust Hiro Nakamura.

But you did. You were nudged, Kaylee. Every step of the way. Even if words weren’t followed, they caused the desired result. Now the stranger’s voice feels more confident, more connected.

"Maybe there's a photo album inside," Cardinal suggests with a shrug as he leads the way through the hallways, around through the cavernous vault of one of the reading rooms and down a flight of stairs - a few layers of curtains keeping most of the heat from the space heaters below in. There's lights down here, electric ones hanging from jury-rigged wires, tables and chairs and all the comforts of home. He leads the way into a side room, long tables holding a number of boxes and crates of various supplies. One of them, he pulls the top off of, reaching in to lift up the blue wooden humidor from within, offering it over to Kaylee.

"Here," he offers, "Set this down, lemme get my lockpicks out. Bastard didn't leave a key."

The moment Kaylee sees the blue box, unbidden fuzzily remembered words flit through her mind.

"Your brother is alive and well, and he's going to ask you for help with something very soon — you'll need to do whatever he asks. You'll know him when you see him, he'll be carrying a blue box."

The voice of the stranger, clearer now, pleads. Follow the strings.

What she sees is Warren in a white buttoned up shirt with a black tie on, apparently having removed the jacket of his suit and thrown it on top of his desk… which is pushed all the way to the side of the room. Things are a bit hectic, with lego K-Nex parts all over the floor, forming both large and small models of a machine so complex, there's no real way for her to even tell what the elaborate clockwork mechanism is. And the walls are covered in blueprints. The most she could really make out is the fact that a few of them mention something about a mind/machine interface.

He looks back at her, eyes silvery, appearing a bit exhausted from a complete lack of sleep. "Have a seat, somewhere…"

Your brother built the device that saved Edward, the stranger whispers into Kaylee’s mind. You found each other, even though you began at disparate points.

My sister. The echoed thought happens just as she announces who she is. The teen doesn't seem to process everything very quickly. "Valerie," she says in soft ones, in a way that seems to not quite know what she's saying. "I— you were supposed to be somewhere else…"

Now, the stranger’s voice seems distant, not in volume but in an ethereal quality. Every decision, every choice, every possibility, spiraling out into the infinite.

But then, it all comes into crisp focus.

It's like stepping back into time.

Kaylee Thatcher hasn't been in this very bar for over a year in real time, five for the woman herself. Last time she was here she decided to run away. So it also makes her a little nervous. Blue eyes dart to the bouncers and bartenders checking to see if they are familiar, but time has dulled the memory.

A notebook is clutched to her chest, fingers curled around the edges. She spot a booth table, how many times had Adam had meetings there. It makes her stomach still twist painfully.

Somethings still haven't changed.

She slides into the booth, setting the notebook on top of it. When the waitress approaches, she's given a small smile, "Tea as in regular tea. No lemon." She settles back in the seat, listening to the hum of voices around her wary and waiting.

The waitress nods to the order with a smile, and she slips away from the booth to head back towards the bar.

It's then that the shadows across from her stir to life, bulging into three dimensions to solidify into the form of one Richard Cardinal. He brings a hand up to pull off his shades, rubbing at his eyes briefly and murmuring, "Brings back memories, doesn't it, little sister?"

"Enough to make me feel nauseous, big brother." Is the bland reply from the telepath, as she turns to look at the man across from her. Kaylee gives him a small smile. "It's good to finally see you again." Fingers lace together and rest on the table as she leans forward.

"I was glad to see you got my message and I do apologize for the delay." Thee is a small scrunching of her nose. "There were a lot of sudden dreams where I was… I have two myself." Kaylee almost looks a touch overwhelmed. She sighs and pats the notebook in front of her, "Thirteen documented dreams so far. I've seen a good majority of them."

"I don't have much in the way of good news for you," Cardinal says with a slow shake of his head, leaning forward to rest his weight on folded arms, a frown pursing his lips as he watches her face for a moment, "What have the dreams been about, for the most part? I've only heard about the one with the funeral, and Liz's about being on the run… and mine."

"Death, war… New york in ruins. Us against them." Worry creases her brows as she looks down at the notebook. Finger unfold and flip at the pages. "Robots. It's disturbing. The range of years… it's huge. The furthest one that I can tell so far." She opens to a page and flips it around for him to look at and pushes across the table. "I'm fifty years old, negotiating with John Logan for medical supplies." Brows lift a little "One of the soonest," She flips the pages again to another page. "Liz being captured as the enemy by the Ferry… from what I can tell. She was pregnant in the dream."

Kaylee's head shakes a little waving at the book. "That's just what I have so far. I set up a board to lay out events…" She trails off and grimaces, "Starting to think I need to go to the next level." And the telepath doesn't seem all that happy about it. "There is something connecting all this… I just don't know what yet."

Cardinal's nostrils flare in a rough snort of breath. "Logan…" His gaze hoods a bit, expression disgusted, "Naturally, that cockroach would still be thriving even after everything… I should've killed him years ago."

"So you don't know the worst of it," he says quietly, his eyes closing, "I was hoping — maybe you did. It'd help to know who the enemy was."

"Our own government from what I can tell." Kaylee nods her head towards the book. "There is a dream of Robyn Quinn, Monica," she remembers the young woman, "Sable and a couple others. It's in there. Labled Nicole's rescue." Her fingers drum the table lightly, "They rescued Nicole Nichols, in a fishing village over where Jamaica Bay is currently… from rape by soldiers… or from what I can tell they were."

It still makes her stomach turn a little, thinking how Quinn blew out the man's brains. "There is another where the ghetto's are still there and me Raith and others are trying to get the people to leave. There was a teenage girl there that was pregnant by a soldier. It's scary.

"Really, really scary." Kaylee sighs out, going quiet long enough for her tea to be left at the table.

"No…" Cardinal exhales a sigh of breath, his head raising to regard her steadily, "…not just them, Kaylee. The world went to hell. Messiah made a resurgence at the very least. I suspect China, myself— zero-en-one, probably— but I can't be sure. I…"

He's silent for a moment, gaze cutting across the room and away from her. "They nuked us, I think," he says quietly, "We were in command and control in the Institute… we logged ICBM hits. Five or— six? I think."

You’re almost there, the stranger whispers and Kaylee feels herself fall out from the watery depths. She falls down, through the bottom of the abyss, free-falling through darkness into what looks like an immense spider’s web. There’s strings everywhere, a tangled mass of colored yarn, lengths of chain, wire, all of them corresponding to people, intersecting at knots that represent events.

Yet somehow she falls perfectly through this tangle, though the series of events leading her to this very moment, to a moment of moments. What could Edward Ray possibly need from her now?
Kaylee lands on solid, if mirror-surfaced, ground with the grace of a feather. Her blonde hair slowly falls to dance across her shoulders. The string web stretches out into the infinite around her, and up ahead in the darkness there is a spotlight. It shines down on a single desk, where a craft kit is open; little scissors, spools of yarn, scotch tape, paper clips, safety pins, post-it notes. There’s also a small radio, antenna angled up.

A man steps into the light, string in one hand and shears in the other. Receding, mousy-brown hair, round glasses, sweater-vest. It’s her father. He reaches down, pressing the corner of the yarn spool onto a button atop the radio, and music begins.

Take a little walk to the edge of town

And go across the tracks

Where the viaduct looms

Like a bird of doom

Edward begins cutting out a picture, his back to Kaylee as she ducks and weaves her way through the strings. The music has a thumping beat, a trilling guitar, and Edward subtly dances to the rhythm.

As it shifts and cracks

Where secrets lie in the border fires

In the humming wires

One of the strings closest to Kaylee stands out from all the others, a bright red string made of thick yarn. It’s there, intertwined with a gray one, and the picture of an elderly Chinese man dangles from it by a paper clip. He isn’t familiar to her. The red string doesn’t have a photo attached, but it’s headed in the direction she’s going

Hey man, you know

You're never coming back.

Following the red thread, it intersects with several others. One of them is a black piece of plastic-coated wire, upon which hands a photograph of Cardinal.

Past the square, past the bridge

Past the mills, past the stacks

It all starts to connect, now. Cardinal, connected to a string representing Edward. Connected to this red thread. It weaves through nearly every single thread Edward has mapped. Whoever this red-lined thread is, he’s unbelievable critical to everything.

On a gathering storm comes

A tall handsome man

Then she finds it, another Edward string, this time the version of himself from 2019 who came back with — Tyler Case. Kaylee’s mind catches afire, red, the red lightning. Suddenly the connections all make sense. Tyler had been there since the beginning, since the start. Swapping powers, making connections, and Cardinal was there as well befriending Case, dragging him along, protecting him.

In a dusty black coat with

A red right hand

Kaylee’s heart sinks when she finds a gray thread representing the Cardinal from the future, tangled up with Tyler’s thread. They’d swapped bodies, and Cardinal’s gray thread ends there. It — it doesn’t continue. The red thread does instead. Suddenly, Kaylee understands Edward’s string map.

It was never about people.

He'll wrap you in his arms

Tell you that you've been a good boy

He'll rekindle all the dreams

It took you a lifetime to destroy

There’s an interconnection of strings where Edward met Gillian Childs, where he was augmented and saw into “every future.” Threads extend out from that event, to the Pinehearst rooftop where he confronted his counterpart. She traces the strings, finding where he was struck by Tyler’s ability and was augmented beyond even what Gillian could afford him. How he was captured by the Institute — but —

He'll reach deep into the hole

Heal your shrinking soul

But there won't be a single thing that you can do

The papers about the Institute trace back to the start of the gray thread of the future Cardinal, which circles back around to — Kaylee’s heart sinks deeper. By manipulating a series of events, by creating a future where Arthur took over, he predicted the return of his future self, predicted the fall of Pinehearst, predicted the rise of the DoEA, predicted…

Edward created the Institute, with other people’s lives.

He's a god, he's a man

He's a ghost, he's a guru

They're whispering his name

Hands trembling, Kaylee follows the red string, past where multiple threads from a future yet to be — perhaps never to be — all intersect. They track and twist and turn, tangled in one another until there are only four threads joined at the end.

You're one microscopic cog

In his catastrophic plan

A purple string, representing Magnes Varlane, a rainbow blend of thread representing Colette Nichols, a black wire representing Richard Cardinal, and…

Designed and directed by

His red right hand

…a red thread representing Tyler Case’s ability.

Edward slowly turns, holding a newspaper clipping in his hands. Dim light reflects Kaylee in his glasses, and one of his brows slowly raise. There’s a troubled expression on his face, but here he looks whole, looks intact. She can’t imagine his condition, can’t imagine what state he must be in. The stranger isn’t here. It’s just father,

“Hello, Kaylee.”

And daughter.


As soon as the breathless word escapes her mouth, her hands fly up to cover it. Blue eyes widening a little; surprised at her own reaction from seeing him… and him actually seeing her. This is something she has always hoped for, deep down, since she first learned about him. When he stopped being a man in a worn out photograph; became someone real through the words and memories of others. A man she had thought for so long had snubbed her, avoided her.

The threads of her life told her the truth.

She had gone over so many scenarios in her head for this very moment. Now that it was here….

There were just… no words.

There was only chaos in her mind and it kept her frozen in that moment. She wanted to scream. She wanted to cry. She wanted to slap him, but she also wanted to just hug him. Feel that he is real. There were so many questions she wanted answered… but… In that moment, Kaylee was afraid to move, lest the moment be shattered.

Instead, very cautiously — very timidly, she reaches out to this man, though in part of her inner mind, she knows it is not truly real. Still her hands seeks to find out if this is happening and that he is there. Swallowing, Kaylee struggles to compose her mind from the sheer shock, to get the words to form on her lips. “I— I never thought…” her words are shaky at best, throat thick from the emotions. “I always wanted…” Her teeth catch at her lower lip to stop the sudden trembling. Unshed tears glitter in her eyes.

The tangled lengths of string behind him catch her attention, pulling her attention away from him briefly; following the lines for a short time. It was overwhelming and astonishing to see how his mind works.

Softly, Kaylee asks, “Why… Why now?” She knows why deep down, but she still brings herself to look him in the eye as she ask him that question.

Edward takes her hand in his, feels real, feels warm to the touch. “I’m sorry,” is genuine in so many ways; in his expression, in the psychic context Kaylee can feel laid bare all around her. It doesn’t make what he’s done right, or better. It doesn’t fix her childhood, it doesn’t bring back to life all the people he’s directly and indirectly killed.

“It’s — the end,” is Edward’s belated explanation for why. “My masterwork.” Brows furrow, and Edward squeezes Kaylee’s hand more firmly. “Someone has to know, and — I needed to see you. Need you to tell your family, what I did. Why I’ve been the man I am. You all deserve the closure I could never give you.”

Strings fading away, Edward and Kaylee are left along in a room of darkness and a reflective, watery floor. “Everything I’ve done has led to this day, November 8th, 2011. Kaylee I—” Edward’s voice hitches in the back of his throat. “When I was younger, I ran from my ability. From the horrible things I saw I had the potential to do to my family. But, that day Gillian opened my mind, I realized it was all for a reason. My gift — my curse — is to build a better world for you. For all my children.”

Squeezing her hand, Edward turns large blue eyes into the darkness. “There’s so many branching paths, Kaylee. So many ways this all could have gone. There’s never a right choice, but there is a best choice.” He looks back to her, jaw trembling. “I could have prevented a lot of terrible things, but each one cost me the life of one of you…” his smile quavers, jaw trembling. “I— did the best I could, to make sure you all made it out alive. Into the best possible outcome we could manage with our limited time.”

Releasing his daughter’s hand, Edward takes a slow step closer to her, and moves his hand to her shoulder. “Kaylee, I’m — not well.” Edward’s eyes flick down to his reflection below them, of a man in a halo neck and back brace. “Warren saved my life, but…” his blue eyes alight to her. “It was only temporary. Richard came to me,” his brows furrow, “not your Richard. The other one. We disagreed, violently, and he left me like this. On the verge of death.”

Edward squeezes her shoulder, gently. “There are people in this world, Kaylee. People better than me, people who care, who’ve been waiting for the last shoe to drop. A woman named Aria Baumgartner came to speak to me, a powerful telepath like you. She’s helping me finish my work, in Alaska. The other… a woman named Kathleen,” Edward’s brows raise, his expression emphasizing the name more. “She’s connecting us, helping translate what I experience into what you can… feel.”

There’s a glassiness to Edward’s eyes, tearful and laden with regret. “I love you, Kaylee. I’m more proud of you than you could ever imagine. You have… such a good life ahead of you.” His expression starts to falter, those tears becoming heavier in his eyes. “I just wish I could be there to see it.”

Tears fall freely, sliding down Kaylee’s cheeks, she doesn’t even try to stop them now. It was everything that a daughter would want to hear from her father; yet, this was the first time she ever realized that she needed it. Those words seemed to justify so much she had done in her life.

He knew. He noticed. Kaylee wasn’t just a pawn to him.

As the meaning of his words sink in, when she finally glimpses his true state, she suddenly can’t catch her breath, chest heaving against the surge . Everything she thought, everything she felt. Everything she did to harden her heart against the pain he had brought her. To strengthen her, to get through each day of her young life. It peels away, piece by piece, until her battered heart is laid bare to the raw emotions.


There is so much emotion in that one little word. A keening note of realization that he was right, but daddy’s little girl did not want to believe it. “Daddy, this can’t be it. This can’t be the end.” That would mean saying goodbye and she had only finally found him again.

That is when her heart and her world shatters, he’ll know it the moment it happens. Know that in some ways, he is forgiven. His daughter reaches for him, fingers snagging on the wool of his sweater vest; as, if she could keep him from leaving, by holding on to him. Blonde curls cover her face — hiding the anguish — when her forehead drops to his shoulder.

“I’m sorry.”

Sorry for all the negative thoughts.

Sorry for doubting him.

Sorry for hating him.

“I’m sorry you can’t be there.” Her voice hiccups, through all those tears. “But…” Unseen by him behind a curtain of curls, Kaylee closes her eyes slowly. Her ability flairs pushing out around her. Finding the mind of dream manipulator, the telepath pressed in a memory, encouraging her to us it. The world around them shimmers and swirls around them; then slowly comes into focus.

Just behind the clinging, slumped form of his daughter, within his line of vision, Edward Ray will see his children. All four of them, together. It is a fresh memory, recent, of his children sitting around a table in the lair of Warren Ray.

Leaning back in his chair, with a newly retrieved beer, Richard Cardinal speaks up:

"Maybe he planned for us all to meet, one of these days," he admits, "Maybe in all of his scheming and manipulating, there was— at least a thought for us. To bring us together. I want to hope there was."

"So." He brings the beer up in a salute that shows the bracelet now wrapped around his wrist, a faint smile curving to his lips, "For what it's worth — to family. Ours, fucked up as it is."

As each sibling brings their drinks up in response and agreement, each one has a bracelet on their wrist. A unifying symbol — In that moment, the bond between the four Ray siblings is strengthened with each other…. and with…. their father.

This was Kaylee’s gift to her dying father. It was a simple gift: A memory freely given.

A faint, ghost of a smile crosses Edward face, and finally those fat tears in his eyes dribble past his eyelids and roll down his cheeks. He slips away, a half step back with eyes downcast and shame written across his face. “I couldn’t save your nephew,” Edward admits with brows furrowed, blue eyes scanning the floor as if he’d find something in it. The revelation alone is something otherworldly.

“Warren’s son, from the future. Robert Bishop Jr.” Finally, Edward’s pale eyes alight to Kaylee, and in that she can see the regret of decades. “There — there wasn’t an outcome where he survived that Warren didn’t. It — I had to choose.” And choose he did. “There’s… there’s still a chance, small as it might be, for him to start anew. A new future, a new chance with his parents.”

Sweeping one hand across his cheeks with a stuttering cadence, Edward finally looks up to Kaylee, and it’s regret at all the choices he’s made that weighs him down the most. “I’m proud of you… proud of you all.” His eyes sweep the room again, and then alight to the darkness. “But — but I have something I need to ask you to do, Kaylee.”

There, in that tone, is the voice everyone knows that belongs to Edward Ray. It’s a trembling quaver, a hesitant and yet demanding tone. When his wide, blue eyes finally meet hers again, there’s purpose in them. “I need you to wake up, and… and I need you to let me go. Let me rest.

The young woman’s head is already shaking, her eyes begging him not to make her do this. “No… no no no…” Kaylee’s fingers loosen from the sweater, but only so that she can throw her around his neck and hug him tightly; a strangled sob of a heartbroken daughter escaping her. However, even now she knows, she can’t hold on to him. She knows, it’s time.

“Okay, Daddy,” Kaylee says softly, voice heavy with raw emotions. It is barely a whisper near his ear. “Okay.” Her head nods a little against his shoulder, hugging tight a moment more, even if he never returns it. Then… reluctantly, slowly she pulls away of her own accord, eyes red from crying, her cheeks shiny with her tears. She doesn’t let go, her hands slide down his arms to take his hands, a point of connection. She sniffs and blows out a calming breath. Then she gives him a soft smile, though more tears escape blue-eyed. Her hands tighten around his as she says, “I think you have earned the rest. Know… that we—” her voice hitches, lower lip trembling, but she forces her to continue on, “We are proud of you, too. Thank you, for— protecting us. I know now it cost you so much; but— but you have done enough. The watch is ours now.” Her fingers slow loosen from his fingers, reluctant to do so.

“We’ll make you proud, Daddy. I promise.”

«Kathleen» These words were only for the younger woman hiding within the shadows. «Make sure he doesn’t feel any pain. G-give him…» Fingers fly up to cover her mouth as her grief threatens to consume her.

«Give him a good dream.»


Kaylee draws in a sharp breath, sitting up on a floor unfamiliar to her. The walls around her are white, mostly clean. There is a distant popping of gunfire, but nowhere close enough to be a threat. Her head swims as she sits up, awake, she can be certain — there’s no serpent to be found — though the matter of where is still unclear. Her eyes track to a thin, smeared trail of blood going to a closed door that ends below where she sits on the tile. Someone dragged her here.

“Kaylee,” startles her. Looking up, there is a young woman leaning down, offering a hand. She recognizes the stranger — Kathleen — from her dreams. It’s only then that Kaylee can hear the beeping of an EEG. Only then in the shadow of her peripheral vision that she sees the machine keeping the battered body of Edward Ray alive. The tube down his throat, the tape over his eyes, the back-brace halo around his head.

Kathleen helps Kaylee to her feet, looking over to the machine, then back again. There’s a hand that goes to Kaylee’s shoulder, tense and heavy. “I’ve been instructed to help you escape, I know a safe route, but we… have to act fast.” Kathleen looks to Edward again. “He showed me… a vision of what is to come.”

Kathleen’s light eyes meet Kaylee’s. “This place, is… it’s going to destroy itself. We can’t be here when that happens,” and then, with a beat of regret. “You can say goodbye, if you need to.” There’s no need to pull a plug, no need to turn off a switch. Edward will go down with the Institute he helped build, to save his children’s lives.

“No.” A single tear slides down her cheek; but, Kaylee does not cry. Even though it had been only a dream, her whole being felt that she had already cried herself out. Though there will be more later, when she was alone in her thoughts — or if Joseph just looks at her right. The tip of her tongue touches her bottom lip, before she whispers, “We said our goodbyes.” Delicate fingers reach up to rest on the woman’s own, in an attempt to be reassuring. “It’s been a long road. Let him rest.”

She doesn’t look at him, though her mind is already telling her what is there and it wants her to look. Instead, Kaylee closes her eyes and forces herself to hold tight onto that image in her head of him healthy and alive. There may be some regret later for that decision; but, right now, it was the right one.

The hand falls away and her eyes open again bright with determination; despite the flaring pain in her head. “Let’s go.”

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