Physics Lesson


ff_chel_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif

Scene Title Physics Lesson
Synopsis Elisabeth goes seeking Michelle Cardinal's advice on matters spatiotemporal.
Date January 3, 2019

Raytech-Yamagato Greenhouse

Jackson Heights

8:38 am

She made an appointment! Elisabeth's been trying really hard to not intrude on Michelle's space, except to make sure the woman knows she is always welcome to time with her grandkids when she can handle it. Carrying a bag of the good coffee, she taps on Michelle's office door in the aeroponics and hydroponics building and waits for permission to enter. "I come bearing gifts," she teases with a soft smile, brandishing the bag of coffee beans. It's one thing the two of them share — an addiction to the substance and a genuine appreciation that one gets from being without the sacred bean.

Michelle hasn't moved much today. She's sitting at her bare desk with her laptop, still not having added a single decoration to her office except for an analog wall-mounted clock and a coffee pot plugged in on a small table beside the door. The blinds to her office are pulled all the way up, allowing for a view of the freshly falling snow outside.

Not looking up from her laptop Michelle asks, “Did you have any luck finding that brand of cigarettes?” She means Pearl Specials, a brand of menthol cigarette that doesn't even exist in this timeline. But then, they don't have Morley cigarettes where Chel is from. “You never realize how much you missed something until it was swept away by the apocalypse.” Michelle slowly lowers the screen on her laptop to partly close it, only then looking up to Elisabeth.

"Sorry — found out finally that they've never existed here." Elisabeth doesn't really nag either mom about their smoking habits. Richard occasionally falls off the wagon too, and she's well aware of it. "Just coffee. But at least it's good coffee," she says as she drops it onto the counter with the coffee pot. As she makes her way to sit down in the chair on the far side of Chel's desk, she tips her head toward the laptop. "How's the water filtration planning coming?"

Chel throws her hands into the air, closing her eyes and shaking her head. “It’s water filtration, it’s the one thing I know for certain I can do with my eyes closed. Too many years of maintaining the filtration systems in the Ark.” Reclining back into her seat, Michelle folds her hands in her lap and exhales a steady sigh, blowing an errant lock of hair from her face.

“Honestly, it’s been hard to focus since we returned from Antarctica,” Chel admits with a glance to the window. “Everything we found there was… beyond imagination. My mind’s been racing ever since; half with excitement, half with terror.” She blinks a look from the window back to Elisabeth, then over to the bag of coffee with a faint smile. “You’re not just here to make a delivery, are you?”

"Not really," Elisabeth acknowledges with a small smile. "I'm glad that you found so much to actually excite you there." Well, sort of, "But, to be honest, something happened the other night and I have a feeling you may be the only person who might have some of the pieces that could help me make sense of what I saw." She tries so hard not to draw Michelle into the things that the genius doesn't want to know, but her expression is troubled.

"In your world, Don used to talk about a lot of things like… compressing the timelines, according to Silas. I didn't really hear a lot of that stuff and I need to understand some of what he talked about…. and I think it might be time to ask you about the way we tuned that portal. Is… is it actually theoretically possible to collapse the timelines into one string?"

When Elisabeth invokes the ghost of Donald Kenner, Michelle’s expression sags. She brings one hand up to pinch the bridge of her nose, slouching back against her chair with a sigh. “Don was out of his mind,” is her off-the-cuff answer. “He spent years locked down in the Ark with us, but I think he was sick for a long time before he’d gotten there. He… he never got over the loss of his family, Elisabeth. I felt awful for him, I… I get where he was coming from. But he wasn’t in his right mind.”

As she runs a hand through her hair, Michelle realizes that this isn’t so much about Don as it is the theory itself. She looks up to Elisabeth questioningly, then out to the partly-blinded window overlooking the city beyond. “I’ll be honest with you, Elisabeth, the amount of things we know for sure about how spacetime works would fit on the head of a pin. Superstrings are a theory, a… convenient explanation for us to be able to conceptualize something as ephemeral as time and space.”

Michelle rises from her chair, lifting her arms over her head to stretch before circling around her desk. “Nothing I experienced has made me confident our scientific understanding of time is any more accurate than, say, Quantum Leap.” She’s been watching a little Prime-timeline television courtesy of Richard’s dusty old collection of VHS cassettes.

“Mateo’s portals and the Looking Glass operated on the concept of a frequency. That we can be sure exists,” Michelle explains, walking to her whiteboard and picking up a purple marker. “Everything in the universe resonates at a specific frequency, it’s the way in which our molecules vibrate in synch with the world around us. Everything from Mateo to the Looking Glass appears to work under the supposition that there are no different timelines, per-se, but different frequencies. Like…” Michelle taps the end of the marker on her chin, “like broadcast television channels.”

Michelle turns to the whiteboard and starts drawing a square box to represent a TV, complete with rabbit ear antennas, and then draws wavy lines radiating out from it. Very scienficic.

Tipping her head, Elisabeth would like to comment on Don being crazy… but she thinks Silas could be right. Not crazy — just touched by the Entity, who had him doing some things. Her attention, however, is focused closely on this lesson and explanation.

"The resonance frequency of this world is a few steps off the one that you lived in," the audiokinetic nods. "That's also how certain enemies were trying to track us in other places — by searching for things or people that resonated at different frequencies than their own universal constant." Blue eyes flicker to her mother-in-law. "But how did you know that we'd resonate with this world instead of.. as an example, the world we stayed five years in?"

“I guessed,” is the least comforting thing Michelle Cardinal has ever said. There’s a guilty smile that flashes across her face, followed by finishing her drawing with a channel knob on the television. “In all truth, Elisabeth,” she says as she turns, “it was desperate hope. I might’ve put it out there as confidence and certainty, but we were all guessing there. I’d hoped that there was still something in you that resonated with the world you’d been in the longest. Sure, five years in one timeline may have altered your frequency, but you’d been in this timeline for nearly all of your life. It’s not a binary, it’s a spectrum… or at least, that was my theory.” Michelle flashes a slightly more self-satisfied smile. “I was right.”

Putting the cap on the market, Michelle points to the television. “To your question, theoretically, it could be possible to do something like a… combination or compression of timelines. If parallel realities are only subdivided by the resonant frequencies they have, if something on an order of magnitude large enough to change the entire universe could shift their frequencies…” Michelle shrugs, “that might bring them into alignment.”

Setting down the purple market, Michelle picks up a red one and pops the cap off. “But imagine you were doing that with television. You remember how these worked right?” She motions to the rabbit ears, then starts drawing squiggly lines in the tv screen. “When there were two channels of competing frequency, you’d get weird overlap. Sometimes a double-image, lots of static. Now,” Michelle caps the market again and points it at Elisabeth. “Imagine that, but with everything. I’m not sure that doing something on this magnitude would create a result we can comprehend, let alone survive.”

She guessed. Well…. Elisabeth can't exactly cast stones when she and Magnes were jumping blind the whole goddamned time, can she? "Well, you were definitely right enough," she agrees. Though it just adds to the troubling thought that Liz has carried all along — that Aurora and the people who arrived here with her could be targets if the Compass is up and running. Pushing that aside, she listens.

"The overlap you're describing pretty much sounds to me like what was happening the year before we arrived," Elisabeth says quietly. She's never shared the vision she had that New Year's Eve. Maybe someday. "Some combination or solar flares and whatever else influencing what the radio stations could pick up. They were listening to different timelines on the radio. And people were seeing and feeling the things that happened to another self?" Everyone survived… that we know of. "Or was that something different?"

Overlays, right.” Michelle nods, tapping the capped end of the marker against her chin. “Richard explained what he knew about that to me, and we were experiencing it on our end of things as well… or— I imagine we were. I never experienced one,” she notes in a quiet tone of voice. “But I think my side’s Robyn Quinn did, among others.”

Picking up more markers, Michelle starts to draw a series of differently colored parallel lines on the whiteboard below her earlier scrawling. “But that was before we completed the Crossing. Richard had said those started some time in…” she looks up at the ceiling, then writes October 2018 on the board. She makes a corresponding circle on each of the parallel lines next to that date. Elizabeth now sees they’re parallel timelines. “You landed in October too, didn’t you?” She notes, looking back over her shoulder to Elisabeth, adding that below the date.

“So you have this journey you took, starting here…” Michelle says, drawing a circle on the black line. “You and Magnes disappear, and wind up…” using a red marker, Michelle draws a line from the this timeline to another. “The world where the Shanti virus was released.” A purple line.

“You stayed there for a short time,” Michelle says, drawing another circle further up the line in red. “Then you jumped from here to…” she draws a red line from the Virus timeline across to a green-colored timeline, “the world where Arthur Petrelli ruled America.” The so-called bright future Elisabeth had first learned about more than a decade ago now. “You stayed there for a while…” Michelle says, drawing another red circle, but further up the timeline. “Then you left from there to…” and once again she draws another red line, this time to an orange timeline. “A wartorn hellscape,” is the best way she can describe the Wasteland.

After making that last mark, Michelle turns to look over to Elisabeth, handing her a black marker. “Start adding dates next to these red circles, best as you can remember. Departure and arrival dates in the timelines.” Michelle then turns back to the whiteboard.

“You stayed in this… wasteland for a short time,” Michelle notes while adding another circle further up the line, “then traveled to…” and she draws a red line from that circle to a blue-colored timeline. “My home.” The flooded Earth. “So right here…” Michelle says, tapping the end of the red marker on that new circle on the flood timeline. “This is when the overlays started. At least here and on my timeline. Possibly elsewhere as well, if people here were having visions of places other than my timeline, which it sounds like is the case.”

Michelle draws another circle, further up the blue line, along with a date.


This is when we completed the Crossing.” Michelle says, drawing a red line back through all the other timelines back to the original black line. “This is where you…” she pauses, taking a step back from the whiteboard to inspect the pattern. “This is where you closed the loop.”


"January," Liz gently corrects, "not February. Then this…" Elisabeth points at the starting point, "November 8, 2011." It's not a date she ever forgets. She jots the date down with the marker Michelle hands her and corrects the February date at the same time. "When all hell broke loose, we know things — actual objects — landed in various timelines. Me and Magnes here, a bus in Arthur's world, a security tape from Natazhat in Wasteland." She adds marks for that. And adds, "We heard the Thing's voice coming out of Mateo's portal in the Virus world while we were attempting to escape. And we'd been recording the efforts to use his portal to get home. That tape actually landed here in the same geographical location back then… but it wasn't found until later. Ask Richard about the tape, if you want to see it." She does make a little X on the image to mark that.

The jump from Virus to Bright, she points and says, "That was… mid-January, 2012. Maybe the 15th or thereabouts. I can't remember exactly — dates were hard to keep track of living underground, but I know it wasn't very long after Christmas. I'd just realized Aura was on her way." It made escaping an even bigger deal.

Pondering the other dates, Elisabeth murmurs aloud, "We stayed there for years." The same date again. A pause. "But there was some kind of overlay or overlap or something in 2014 there — Odessa from 2018 here swapped with her 2014 self there for about a year. Well, a year there. Only a couple weeks passed here. It's how I knew Richard at least knew we were alive. That's when I started worrying there was a time differential. Because I sent as much information as I could back here with her about Michelle scribbling on the walls of her dorm room for the Looking Glass, hoping it would help." A dashed line marks Odessa's jaunt, just in case it's important.

"Also… they opened Looking Glass somehow just before we left, too … because as far as I can tell, that's when some people from Bright ended up here while Cassandra ended up in the Wasteland months ahead of us." Elisabeth Marla that too.

"Our exit portal from Arthur's world to the Wasteland was November 8th, 2017." Her finger moves to the Wasteland. "We survived there for nearly a year. October…. I don't know the exact date. Mid to late October." Elisabeth hesitates. "I'm pretty sure those overlays weren't just your world to here… I had one of the Wasteland world. I'd bet that all the timelines were having them. I'm pretty sure Richard had one here that told him what happened in the Virus world." She leaves it at that. "And we tried at Christmas to get through to here and couldn't sync up. Dessa… the one that came with me from Arthur's world… could feel multiple versions of herself — the one here was freaking out about the failure, the one in your world had found something, and reality itself was unravelling, she said."


Michelle glances up at the whiteboard, noticing the scribble over the 2 on her date. “January. Right. The…” she brings a hand up to her forehead, “that month in SESA quarantine really did a number on me. It felt like being in the Ark again, lots of walls. I don’t think I really started… started processing what was going on until after we were all released.”

Sighing, Michelle caps her marker and sets it down in the small tray at the bottom of the whiteboard. “Looks like basket weaving,” she off-handedly comments, motioning to the board. “Maybe that’s… maybe that’s what you’re looking for. All this travel, back and forth, it’s like sewing something together. It’s like some sort of— uh— interdimensional cross stitch.” She flicks a thoughtful look over to Elisabeth. “So, I don’t know if any of this answers your question. I don’t know if there is an answer. But when you look at this pattern from a far enough distance… it’s hard not to see an attempt to draw things together.”

That's not really what Elisabeth wants to hear, and it shows in her expression. As she studies the drawing, stepping back, she can see what Michelle means. Biting her lip, she caps the black marker and hands it back. "A bunch of us were pulled into a dream-vision." She looks at the scientist. "It's happened before, though not quite like this. A large number of people given a glimpse of what's to come. In this case… the Thing that came through the portal with us seems to be the source. She … showed us another war. A lot of images of people with powers once again being shot against walls and things like that. Talk of 'as it always was and always will be' kinds of shit. I can't… I really couldn't tell if it was a future that is coming or one that could be." It's not like any of the -isms really go away — whether it's race, religion, skin color, gender, there are always the -isms.

"There are other … crossings. And I don't understand how time travel actually interacts with any of this," Elisabeth tells her mother-in-law wearily. "But I can tell you this much. I'm scared, Michelle." She looks back at the board. "You… you should probably come see Richard's string map," she says finally. "I don't know if it will in any way help matters, but… maybe you'll understand it better than we do. The original was Edward's." It's the first time she's said the man's name without the tone that implies fucking Ray at the end even when it's not spoken. "Maybe, if you can see a pattern we've missed… maybe we can figure out a way to stop it. Don's god, his Aleph, is not something I want in a world where my kids live."

A shadowed look crosses Michelle’s eyes, hidden by the fringe of her lashes as she glances down to the floor. She looks up, briefly, to the whiteboard and slowly curls one hand closed as she considers what a string map might entail that couldn’t be done on a whiteboard. But Edward Ray’s name being invoked gives her pause, brings her focus back to Elisabeth.

Chel is afraid, again.

“Show me.”

But when has that ever stopped her?

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