Origin Story


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Also Featuring:

alix_icon.gif miles_icon.gif sabine_icon.gif

Scene Title Origin Story
Synopsis Everyone has one.
Date July 29, 2019

“Your daughter is one of them.

Francesca Lang would have nightmares about this day for the rest of her life.

“She’s a danger to the school, to her peers, to everyone in this community!”

Seated in an uncomfortable folding chair, Chess’ eyes are averted to the floor. Water still soaks off of her from the pool she had just been hauled out of. The towel draped over her shoulders gives her a semblance of modesty, but her swim clothes leave her chilled in the air-conditioned office. The superintendent of schools, red-faced and livid, screams at Chess’ parents so loud his voice cracks.

“She launched an explosive at children,” the superintendent shouts, pointing out through the frosted glass of his office door. Behind him, the school’s principal stands with arms crossed over his chest and head down, obediently silent. “The Department of Evolved Affairs is already on their way and once they hear about this situation they are going to lock your horrible little monster of a child away. How long have you known about this!?”

Much of the rest of the conversation sounds like blood rushing in her ears. There’s a deep, underwater quality to it all. A muffled tinnitus howl that even as an adult she’d be hard pressed to remember. It’s more the shame, guilt, and the feeling of being exposed both physically and emotionally that will stick around.

The superintendent and Chess’ family scream each other hoarse while the principal offers furtive and nervous glances to Chess. Right up until the office door opens unprompted. Dark silhouettes viewed through the frosted glass reveal themselves as black-suited government agents, sidearms holstered at their hips. One of them is in tactical gear, sunglasses on, cop posture. Another is in a suit, unremarkably caucasian and middle-aged. His name was Fenster or Fraiser or something like that.

But the third person in the room, a Chinese woman in her late twenties, is the only one to make eye contact with Chess. She closes the door behind herself, and as a child Chess never thought much about how this woman didn’t have an identification badge or introduce herself. Or how no one but Chess seemed to notice her in the room or so much as look at her.

“We’re remanding Ms. Lang to her family’s custody,” is a memorable line Chess heard, fifteen minutes later. “Pending her Tier-2 registration.” Her memories of this day were cloudy, but some things are indelible.

The anger had abated, cooler heads ruled. As a child, it felt like release from a hopelessly grim future. She had been relieved, there was no life imprisonment awaiting her. Just the fallout from a genetic revelation.

But as an adult…

Ten Years Later

The Praxis Ziggurat

Praxia, California Safe Zone


July 29th

11:17 am Local Time

It’s been ten years since that day. More recently, ten hours since she left Japan.

The warehouse Adam had spoken of was a means out of Japan, packed on a cargo plane bound for the west coast of America. A flight that had taken the better part of a day, followed by security checkpoints leading up to this. A glorified waiting room.

The concrete-walled office that Chess has found herself in reminds her of that principal’s office. There’s some house plants, more than back then but the faux wood on part of the walls is reminiscent enough. Ferns grow in recessed floor planters by one wall, hanging plants at the corner where two floor-to-ceiling windows meet, showing an industrial landscape of what was once San Francisco.

The sound of the door opening at her back reminds her of that day, but it isn’t the same woman entering from behind. This one is British, caucasian, older.


“Ms. Lang?” She’s modestly tall, dark hair spilling over her shoulders. Her features are hawkish with high cheekbones and a proud nose. Her suit is expertly cut, speaks to wealth. Her smile, though, more honest than most people in suits can muster. “My name is Sabine Hazel,” she says with an offered hand, “I’m sorry you’ve been kept waiting so long.”

Stepping in behind Sabine, Chess’ ostensible sister Alix looks smaller than normal because of her narrowed posture and the looming ceilings high overhead. There's an unspoken anxiety in her expression, but also a familiarity. She knows this place. Alix had been gone for the last hour, voluntarily, to meet with Adam first. Now, on her return, Chess can see some reticence in her eyes. It's unclear whether what she learned was what she wanted to or not.

Alix moves into the lounge’s sitting area, then settles down on the sofa as close to Chess as she can. She reaches out, just for a moment of reassurance, for a hand to hold. “It'll be ok,” is Alix’s small-voiced reassurance of her own.

“Mr. Monroe is ready to see you,” is Sabine’s interjection.

An hour is a long time to wait, alone, on the edge of a continent thousands of miles away from the few people she trusts. Enough time, on top of the long flight, to question her decision a hundred times over.


She’s passed the last half an hour tearing off tiny bits of a piece of paper torn from her notebook, igniting them with the friction that comes from kinetic energy spun into overdrive, then letting the miniscule ashes drift to the floor.

At the sound of the door opening, her head cants that way immediately — she’s been sitting at an angle to keep an eye on all possible entrances. She hops up to her feet and glances at the woman’s proffered hand — Chess doesn’t run in too many “handshake” circles, though her brief stint as Yamagato’s ward of sorts gave her some practice.

Her own handshake is quick, perhaps a little sweaty, but strong enough. She’s not a shrinking violet. No pun intended.

Alix’s hand is taken and squeezed more warmly, before Chess reaches to grab her ever-present messenger bag, this time packed with fewer hubcabs and metal scrap pieces and instead with a couple of changes of clothes. Her jacket as always carries a few tricks in its pockets, but nothing that in and of itself would be considered a weapon.

Of course, in her hands, everything is a weapon.

“Chess is fine,” she tells Sabine, offering no pleasantry, but nods to indicate she’s ready to walk.

“I'll have her back to you very soon,” Sabine promises Alix with a level of familiarity that implies they know one-another beyond today. Alix nods, folding her hands in her lap and making herself look small as she watches Chess rise from her chair and move to follow Sabine. It's her turn to wait now.

As Chess is ushered out of the room, Alix watches her departure with tense brows and wide eyes. It isn't fear, but Chess is hard pressed to determine precisely what it is she's experienced. Something profound, undoubtedly. Something not easily conveyed in words.

And they say you can't go home again.

Eight Years Earlier

University of Colorado Campus


“So anyway, I asked him what the lecture was going to be on…”

Miles Dylan was never a quiet man. That's something Chess has come to know in their short time together. Even when standing in line at a deli to get lunch, he would have some anecdote, some story, something to keep from too much silence hanging in the air. It made the noise of the world around them fade away, brought his voice and face into focus. It was like a barrier, partitioning Chess from the world outside. A buffer.

“He looks up at me, eyes all vacant and full of dread,” Miles says as he waves a hand in front of his face, “and says,” he nudges Chess, “what lecture?” Miles raises his brows, laughs at his own story, but Chess doesn't turn to face him.

“Chess,” Miles asks he, briefly glancing ahead to the deli counter to make sure they're not up, then back to her. “Chessie? Francesca?” It's only then that he notices her eyeline up on the television. It's muted, but the lower third of the screen displays news that sends a stone to the bottom of Miles’ stomach.

President Petrelli announces mandatory relocation of all Evolved citizens.

It was the worst case scenario.

Eight Years Later

Praxis Arcology

Praxia, California Safe Zone

The office Chess is escorted to doesn't much look like one. The space isn't what she expected, isn’t a cold and corporate space over viewing the industrial sprawl of Praxia. Sabine brings Chess into a room lit primarily by natural light filtered between partly closed metal shutters on the outside of the ziggurat’s massive windows. The tessellated stone tile floor is matte textured. A hanging wooden trellis is suspended overhead, adorned with tropical, flowering plants and crawling vines. Low wooden furniture is arranged like a living room, and several tall potted plants are arranged around a moss garden featuring a manicured bonsai tree.

Adam Monroe isn't alone here, either. Though he stands by the far window, suit jacket off and hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks, there's a woman here as well. About Chess’ height, dark hair and soft but strong features. Her clothes are loose and airy; patterned linen in earth tones, a knit shawl, simple copper jewelry and bare feet. She's watering the plants when Chess arrives and is the first to greet her.

“Chess,” she says, setting down the watering can and moving away from the plants. “It's… you've grown so much.” As she talks, Sabine fades into the background, shutting the door behind herself and leaving Chess alone with Adam and

“My name is Joy.”

Chess’ dark eyes dart here and there, taking in the details and probably making note of an exit route if she needs one. Her eyes find Monroe’s form first, drawn there by the light, but the trickle of water from Joy’s direction turns them that way.

The single word, her name, spoken first makes her tip her head — perhaps in memory. Her eyes narrow, not angrily, but as if she’s trying to see through the fog of memory and dream.

The comment about growing — something a relative would say — catches Chess’ breath in her throat.

“Qiyue,” she murmurs, brows drawing together followed by lips pressing together, to quell the emotion that seems to be welling up inside her. Despite of her.

Still, there’s no hiding the way her eyes fill with tears for a brief second before a hard blink blots them dry. “Chess,” she says, terse as usual.

There is an awkward distance that Adam keeps from this moment. Awkward more so for him than anyone else. He draws in a breath, exhales a soft sigh, and watches Joy and Chess while carefully choosing his steps as he approaches. Joy seems oblivious to Adam’s tentative meandering, instead quick to close the distance on Chess and gently take one of her hands in her own.

“I know you must have a wealth of questions,” Joy says with a furrow of her brows, “I've… I've been nervous about this day coming for a long time. When I found out someone inside Praxis wanted you killed I… I felt helpless.” By now Adam is an ever present shadow in Chess' peripheral vision, slowly making himself more obvious with each purposeful footfall.

“Why don't we… let Chess talk,” Adam opines, nearly slipping Yingsu instead of Chess’ preferred name. He looks over to her, expression as tentative as his posture. “I know I don't have much of a reputation for truth,” Adam admits with a quick grimace, “but for what it's worth, I want to tell you the truth. Whatever you want to know.”

“Anything,” Joy almost too-eagerly adds.

Chess stares down at her hand in Joy’s, her fingers stiff for a moment before they tentatively curl around the other woman’s. Her dark eyes flit to Adam as he draws nearer, but return to Joy’s face, studying it. Perhaps trying to see any similarities between them.

“You saved me once,” she says to Joy quietly, tacit forgiveness for the inability to help in more current events, maybe.

But she’s being invited to ask — anything — and there’s so many questions. Chess looks at a lost for a moment, looking from Adam to Joy and back. From father and mother, if unwitting or unwilling.

She swallows, then words tumble out quickly.

“When did you know? Before or after ‘Four’ and ‘Six’ tried to kill me and Alix? Did you send them?” is asked of Adam. She looks at Joy, as if she might ask her a question as well, but she shakes her head slightly. Not yet.

Though Joy remains quiet when the question is posed to Adam, her expression belies an answer of yes to Chess, as well as a brimming admiration and curiosity all her own. Adam answers more directly than that.

“I didn't,” is as simple as Adam can state it. “Someone inside Praxis had gained access to my secure terminal, sending encrypted messages to field operatives. Alix and her siblings weren't supposed to be used as… blunt instruments, but they were. Hits against Yamagato, hits against Praxis’ own weapon shipments to smuggle arms. Someone in the company is wise to me and trying to undermine things. What I can't figure out is why they'd target you and how they'd know to.”

Sighing sharply, Adam sweeps a hand over his brow and through his tousled hair. “What I know and when I know it are harder to pin down. Did I bomb the Yamagato building?” Adam closes his eyes and shrugs defeatedly. “I did.”

But,” Joy is quick to chime in, “things have changed.”

“A long time ago the Company took something from me. Memories of… who I am, what I'd done, and replaced it with fabrications. The why of it is… it's a longer story. But I only got my memories back after the bombing, when I took them back from the Nakamura’s vault. Then it was…” Adam shakes his head. “Bloody overwhelming.”

“But… I knew you were made from my DNA along before that. When I inherited the Institute’s collective resources and knowledge from their carcass. But I…” Adam looks over to Joy.

“It is all very complicated,” Joy offers as both an explanation and a justification. Weary as she is to deliver either.

There’s a small twitch in Chess’ cheek when he says he didn’t know — something of relief, though her expression is still guarded. The talk of the Institute and vaults earn him a slight shake of her head of not following all of it.

“I don’t know one from the other anymore. Praxis and Yamagato. Everything’s so intertwined. It’s hard to know who to trust,” she murmurs. It’s clear that her trust hasn’t been earned here, yet. But the tough facade is broken. There’s no bluster or sass, at least at the moment.

Chess looks to Joy. “Did they make us without you knowing, too?” she asks, voice softer at the weighty question, her gaze dropping and brows drawing together. “You were there when I was…two?” She looks back to Adam. “Lanhua didn’t make it out, but how’d she get separated from the others?”

The questions spill out, and she realizes she needs to stop asking in order to hear the answers. And breathe.

Joy looks at once surprised and ashamed when Chess describes the events that happened in her infancy. “I was a prisoner,” she explains in a hushed voice. “In the mid 1980s, I was placed into protective custody by Kaito Nakamura, one of the founders of the Company, and kept in a laboratory in China. For my own protection,” sounds a little harsh when she says it. “But, I volunteered when they took DNA samples from me. I…” she grows quiet, then rubs her hand at her forehead. “I didn’t know they were using it to make people, let alone with— ”

“No one is judging you,” Adam quietly asserts, resting a hand on Joy’s shoulder. She nods, eyes shut, and brushes a hand across her cheek to dry a faint tear that had started to track down her face. “Kaito had all of the clones commissioned in secret, protected them individually, for… what might have been a noble cause, but he died.”

Adam pauses, sliding his tongue across his teeth. “I killed him. Years ago.”

Averting her eyes, maybe feeling guilty for asking the question, for making Joy upset, Chess stares at the ground for a moment, then looks up when Adam speaks again.

“Not your fault,” she tells Joy, her own voice hushed. “You couldn’t know.”

Dark eyes flit from Joy to Adam again. “Good.” At least they’re on the same page about something. There’s another question bubbling on the surface as she studies him for a moment, but it’s pushed aside to ask another of Joy.

“You’re immortal, then? Are you a regenerator or whatever it is he does?” she asks, another unsure glance thrown Adam’s way.

But apparently the question for him returns. “Noble cause? How is any of this noble?”

Joy looks troubled at the question of her longevity, angling a look to Adam that is at once uncertain and challenging. The subtle shake of Adam’s head is a tell Chess has seen in other people before, that undercut of not now. He aims to distract by answering first. “It might be hard to see the forest for the trees in your birth, in what was done to you and your sisters, but it… has a dark sense of purpose to it.”

Struggling to explain, Adam wets his lips and swipes a hand through his hair, starting to pace through the greenhouse. “There’s a long-form answer to this, but I feel like it’ll be distracting in the moment. But the short version of it is… a long time ago, the Company found themselves up against a threat they couldn’t defeat through strength of arms alone. In the aftermath, memory of the incident was… removed, from everyone. What Eve was talking about in Japan, the Dragon?” Adam’s brows rise. “It’s real, and… you and your sisters were born to fight it.”

Chess’ gaze narrows and darts from Joy to Adam and back when their look is exchanged, and she looks like she might challenge that headshake. But she doesn’t interrupt when he begins to speak.

“So Kaito made a bunch of clone troopers,” Chess murmurs. Blame Miles for the Star Wars indoctrination.

It’s a lot to take in. “So that’s why I can be here, but not the others. Are we… like inoculated against it? Or do we have some epigenetic knowledge of how to fight it, because of having each of your DNA?” It’s a question she posed on the way up the mountain to her friends as they sought answers. Instead they found Adam and Lanhua.

Moving at last to a chair, Chess perches on the edge of it. “If we can fight it, I’m here for that,” she says. Fighting is her first instinct after 2011.

Diplomacy is another issue. “But I’ve heard you’ve said some dumbass stuff about people who aren’t SLC-E. Was that before or after your awakening?” she asks, glancing from Adam and then to Joy, eyes lingering on the other woman’s face, looking for the answer there rather than in Adam’s words. “I have friends who aren’t evolved. I’m not here to further any batshit Nazi agenda about a superior race.”

Adam makes an uncomfortable face, glancing to Joy who also looks like she wants an answer to that question from him. “I thought a number of… unfortunate things in the past,” is Adam’s answer. “But that's in the past.” Joy’s reaction to that answer is so opaque as to be immaterial, and she blinks a look over to Chess with both pride at her having raised the topic and reassurance that it was a good question to ask, conveyed in a Mona Lisa smile.

“Also, epigenetics?” Adam is eager to get to a topic he more easily and less dangerously navigates. “I do fear I've underestimated your education, and for that I apologize. Yes, I've— I'm not a scientist but I've been told that's a part of it. My biological descendants have some genetic predispositions, but you and your sisters…” Adam looks to Joy, as if for permission for something, and Joy seems to know where he's going with it. She nods, and Adam looks back to Chess.

“Joy was once the host of this entity, more than three hundred years ago. It changed her DNA to suit its needs, and as such you and your sisters not only bear my genetic makeup but also Joy’s. It makes you less susceptible to its mental influence. Not… perfect, but you were a step on the way. There's a young woman here, one who served as the final product of the experiments that created you. Her name is Jacelyn Childs.” Adam explains, slowing the pace at which he circles the room. “With all of you and her we stand a chance to… maybe slow it down.”

Joy looks down to the floor, then up to Chess. “Most importantly,” she says, more concerned with Chess’ immediate question than the big picture Adam wants to paint, “as far as we've been able to tell, this entity cannot use you as a point of focus. It can't use your knowledge for its own gain. So the secrets you have, they're yours. So long as you don't tell anyone else, they can never become part of this… psychic collective consciousness that it possesses.”

“That's one reason why we couldn't tell the others,” Adam explains. “The other being that… unless I've greatly misread the signs, Eve has been compromised by it. She's a sensory organ for that thing; eyes, ears, hands, and a mouth. I'm of a mind that Eve lives because it needs her. Because it wants her to spread its consciousness and the memory of it like a virus.”

Joy’s expression in response to Adam’s answer is noted, before Chess turns her gaze back to him. She huffs a breathy laugh at his surprise at her use of the word epigenetics, but listens to the rest of the explanation. There’s no surprise at the talk of the entity but a nod.

Her eyes narrow slightly at the word product, and her default frown returns at the talk of Eve. “Shit,” is all she has to say to that revelation.

“As for my education, it was rudely interrupted by the United States government declaring war on all SLC-Es. But given my parentage, I’ve been doing some reading on genetics. Knowing that Joy survived the entity reminded me of some articles I read on epigenetics,” she explains, a little defensively. Her lack of education is a sore point, perhaps.

Chess pushes her hair out of her eyes and behind one ear. “So the entity — does it know what you know?” she asks Adam. “Or are you somehow immune too? Because if it does… your planning anything to defeat it is futile, yeah?”

“I found a costly way to confuse its senses,” Adam says with a look down to the floor, then up to Chess. “When I took control of what was left of the Institute I had a great wealth of resources at my disposal. But once I regained my memories of past events, I tried to leverage it in a way that… that makes a difference for more than just my personal well-being. Two of those projects involved replication of my body, splitting me like…” Adam furrows his brows. “Like a worm. Not cloning, per-se, but something more. The other project allowed me to interlink my consciousness between all my my bodies, creating a sort of quantum network of shared thoughts.”

Adam exhales a deep sigh after that explanation. “By spreading my mind, I've created multiple points of overlapping consciousness that should confound the entity for a time. But I can't risk prolonged direct confrontation with it.” His tired, blue eyes track over to Chess. “That's where I hope you would come in.”

Joy is quick to interject. “If you’re willing,” she says softly. “You're not our prisoner, and we can't force you to help with this. I don't expect you to… to see us like family. Family isn't blood. It's the bonds you make. Mr. Bellamy, Alix and Kimberly, even Ms. Mas… they're your family.” Hearing Joy mention Luther and Kimberly by name is slightly chilling. It raises questions about just how much she knows about Chess’ life. “But you… the horrible circumstances that you had no choice in that brought you into this world, it could all be for a purpose.” Joy looks to Adam, who seems diminished some, then back to Chess. “You could protect your real family. The family you chose.”

The ‘how?’ is evident in the curious look Chess gives Adam, lips parting to give breath to the single-word question, but then Joy’s words pull her gaze back to the other woman. Her mother, biologically speaking.

A muscle twitches in Chess’ jaw and she lifts a shoulder in response. She doesn’t ask how Joy knows what she does, at least not now.

“Family evolves,” she says with a shrug. “It’s not about DNA but who stands with who when it’s time to fight. Alix isn’t my sister just because we shared genetics but because she chose to protect me from Crazycakes.”

That brings up another point. “Do the others know we’re here? I’ll be fine, but I’m worried about Alix. She almost died. It’s not going to be a happy reunion.”

Her eyes drift back to Adam. “No promises. But I’ll try. How many Horcruxed versions of you are there? I guess if I let Eve kill you it would’ve been a moot point anyway,” she says, but there’s the very finest edge of ironic humor in the words.

“I told them all,” Adam admits in a small voice, dodging the question of just how many of him there are and raising one brow at the same time as Joy at the word horcrux. “Your siblings. Ivy and Violet were… understandable displeased. Val would very much like to see you and Alix. I told her too, for what it’s worth. Alix. About everything.”

Adam exhales a soft breath, then wanders over to the plants, brushing his fingers across the leaves of one particularly long hanging plant. “But you’re right. Family evolves.” He lowers his hand from the plant, then looks from Joy to Chess.

“Would you consider staying here?” Joy asks of Chess after a mirrored look to Adam. “You can inform your friends you’re well, whatever would ease their minds. But… having you here, with everything that’s going on, it could mean a lot. Helping you get to know your siblings, us. We plan on bringing the fight to the Dragon by the start of next year.”

Adam circles back to Chess. “Having you here to plan with could make the difference between success and failure. There’s some other things in the works, other ideas we have, but— you’re special. I know you didn’t ask for this, for what you were made to be, but… sometimes you have to face your destiny.” Adam admits with a quick look to Joy and back. “Whether you like it or not.”

Chess narrows her eyes at the mention of Vi and Ivy being ‘displeased,’ but then she tosses her hair with a shrug of her shoulder. “Good,” she says lightly. Schadenfreude is alive and well. “If they give Alix any shit, I can’t promise to play nice.”

Which probably answers Joy’s question. Chess looks to her, expression softening as it seems to each time she looks at the other woman. “I can contact them? I won’t repeat anything related to the Entity of course, not if it’s unsafe for them to know,” she says. “But they’d want to know I’m okay. If they don’t hear from me… you know they’ll come looking.”

She looks to Adam and his talk of facing destinies. One hand rubs the tattoo on her wrist, the one that declares that she belongs only to herself. “I don’t believe in destinies. I may have been created for a purpose, but it’s my decision. And I believe it’s all of our purpose to do what’s right, even if it’s hard.”

Her dark eyes study his. “I’ll stay and I’ll help because I think it’s right. Not because I was genetically coded to do so by some man playing god with a petri dish.” She offers her hand to him. While the gesture seems confident, there’s a little uncertainty yet in her eyes.

The answer seems to be exactly what Adam and Joy wanted to hear. The smile on Joy’s face though, especially in the light of Chess’ self-determination, is a proud one. “Tell them you’re safe, but remember… the less they know the better for everyone. It has eyes and ears everywhere.” Adam says, worriedly.

Joy walks over, laying a hand on Chess’ shoulder, her smile undiminished. “Come on, let me show you to your room, and maybe I can answer some other lingering questions you might have along the way.” Adam watches Joy, and for a moment there’s a look of uncertainty on his face. One that is quickly replaced by something more neutral and passive.

“For what it’s worth…” Adam says.

“…it’s good to have you on our side.”

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