Re: What The Fuck, Part I


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Also Featuring

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Scene Title Re: What the Fuck, Part I
Synopsis After serving as a communications service, Wright asks Liz for a little clarity on what was discussed.
Date June 19, 2021

“Sorry,” Wright says, realizing that seems extreme without context, “‘what the fuck’ regarding operational details, not ‘what the fuck’ in any way related to you talking to your husband.” She tries to laugh it off, managing to still look slightly manic.

Fort Jay, Governor’s Island
The Prime Timeline

“I mean, technically it’s ‘what the fuck’ regarding the operational details you talked to your husband about?” she continues, really sticking the landing. She drums a complex rhythm against the edge of the table for a moment before returning her hands beneath the table. “If you have time before you go, that is.”

Elisabeth slumps a bit back into the chair and nods. "I have time. I, uhm…." She pauses, considering her words and how to put them into some kind of order. "Maybe the easiest way to begin this would be to let you ask whatever questions you want answers to and I'll do my best to answer with as much context as needs to be backfilled." Her tone is somewhat rueful, but the offer is very sincere. "I'm really not exactly sure where to begin, and your questions will help me pick a starting place."

There's another moment before Liz adds quietly, "Welcome to the chaos that has been my life, by the way." It would be funny if it weren't so utterly true.

Wright laughs sympathetically, not feeling any less lost with the opportunity to begin asking questions. She looks down to the table as she recalls the various parts of Liz and Richard’s conversation that she was privy to as intermediary. “Your life sounds like it’s been a wild ride,” she ventures.

But staying on task she sighs, starts, stops, sighs again. “Is Ourania Pride actually somehow Odessa ‘Internationally-famous Bioterrorist PISEC Escapee’ Price?” she asks. Might as well just go right for it. Fast-like-bandaid. “Because that would be alarming as fuck.”

Shiiiiiiit. That wasn't exactly the place Elisabeth expected to start. Both brows rise on her forehead, and pulls in a long breath. "The short answer is yes," she replies slowly. "Her ID is backstopped by people in the nosebleed sections, and they know exactly where she is. Think of this as WITSEC. Her way of doing penance for stuff she did before — which, quite frankly, is immensely complicated lately, given her husband's line of fucking work."

There's a low tone of annoyance regarding the man himself. "She's walking a hellaciously fine line." And Liz's concern for Odessa is patently clear.

Ah, yes, Wright thinks, her husband who I have no reason to assume is a glorified secretary for this world’s mafia king. Certainly neither of whom Elliot has ever met. “Well that’s crazy,” she says. “We had a briefing on her, amongst other escapees, earlier this year for an op.” She doesn’t add that they got Donna Dunlap a deal with the OEI, or that Elliot knows where Pete Varlane is being held.

She nods, eyes wide, at the odds of such a thing happening. “We’ve always felt pretty detached from the weird shit,” she says with another helpless laugh. “Post-Ark, obviously. More in the gritty, street-level Daredevil kind of shit. Not the Movers and Shakers stuff. But I guess here we are, doing this.” She gestures at the room around them, the timeline right beside them.

“I’ll be honest,” she says, losing a bit of the helpless edge and showing true frustration. “We’re out of our fucking element here and getting answers out of people generally just results in hand-waving away questions or a face full of pot smoke.”

"Well, you won't get that shit from me, and I doubt Elliot is getting it from Richard. If he is, you tell Elliot to tell my husband I have a shoe and I'm prepared to send it between timelines to hit him in the head," Elisabeth retorts with a grin. But she does get a little less amused as she considers.

"My connection to Odessa Price is … tangled. Her ability involved a type of time manipulation. She has some kind of link between her alternate selves. It's not constant, and it's not like what you and Elliot are doing. But it's saved my life more than once." She tips her head. "Honestly, I love her…. I just wish she'd stop turning over rocks and dating what crawls out from beneath." Liz grimaces. "Richard hates the guy, and I just get… weird vibes off him. And it doesn't help that he's a d'Sarthe lackey, which could wind up landing Dessa back in prison."

Dragging a hand through her hair, though, she adds, "Most of that was probably more than you wanted to know. So … next question?"

"No," Wright assures her, "that's actually very interesting. Elliot had a few run-ins with her over some weird shared dream nonsense over the past few months. They and some others all met at Rossignol to talk about how the dreams were apparently, in some way, related to a presumed-deceased Vanguard horseperson. I'm assuming that Ace is her husband? Harry Stoltz, or whatever. Elliot also got the creeps from him."

She hopes this is enough to tie off any other suspicions about Elliot being there for other reasons as well if it should ever come up. If it provides an opportunity to gain information from Elisabeth that Elliot couldn't find about Ace on his own, all the better.

"Yeah… she did call him Ace once." Elisabeth grimaces slightly. "I'm not sure what she sees in him — he seems kind of controlling to me. But… Dessa has had a really hard life in every world I've ever known her. She… doesn't really seem to know any better and I know she's trying to break that cycle. I can only hope that if things get too crazy she gets the hell out. You can't live your friends' lives, yeah?"

Then it's her turn to frown. "Shared dreams are never a fucking good thing… is everything okay?" Liz has been through some weird shit with people having dreams and flashes and whatever the hell else.

“I mean,” Wright pauses, shrugging, “there’s a Vanguard guy making his way through Russia and it’s being broadcast into people’s dreams by a stone angel who may or may not be the separated dream self of a survivor of the plane crash whose memories appear to have been altered in the real world.”

She finally lets the shrug down. “Also the angel appears to be a sycophant of his. Feng Daiyu, that’s what his name was if I recall correctly. Elliot got that information just before we deployed, it was supposed to have gone to SESA through Agent Cooper, who was amongst the kidnapped dreamers. I accidentally knocked Elliot out of one of the dreams and took his place and the angel was not happy about it.”

“That is to say yeah,” she says, shaking her head at her rambling, “everything seems on the level there.”

It takes Elisabeth a long few seconds to parse what she's being told. "Wait, wait…. what fucking Vanguard guy in Russia?? You're fucking telling me that the dream person was in the crash and they're following Feng Daiyu?" Blue eyes on Wright's face reflect abject horror. "Jesus fucking Christ, that man is a cockroach!"

Shoving up out of her chair, the audiokinetic paces the small conference room. An inaudible hum, more a feeling — like the hair on the arms vibrating — than any true sound, flares to life in the room. There are so many questions she wants to ask. But she drags her hands through her hair and says, "Okay. Put a pin in that. We'll come back. Let's deal with your questions first. What else was said that you're asking me what the fuck about? Between us, Richard and I should be able to get you both up to speed."

O is the person who identified him, even. A lot of what we were confused about related to the fact that the two of you seem to be personally involved with Odessa,” Wright says, holding up her hands to forstal argument over her own misconception, “who we believed to be a wanted terrorist until just now. Obviously you have extensive history and her story hasn’t been all sunshine and roses. You don’t need to recount it to me.”

She takes a moment to scratch at her ear, staring into the middle distance, trying to not absorb Elisabeth’s well-founded concern about Feng. “I suppose the other big point is that there is worry that the survivors of the flarepocalypse might have sent a time traveler back into the Flooded timeline in order to influence what you did there?” she says. “I don’t even know how to formulate a question around that, I just can’t comprehend the why.”

There is so much history with regard to Odessa, and the truth is that Liz looks relieved not to have to try to lay it out for someone. "Thank you for that," she murmurs in appreciation as Wright says it. "It's so fucking tangled it will take all night."

Blowing out a slow breath, she puts both her hands on her hips. "All right — so, the why is something I'm not entirely sure I understand either. Richard is going to be a better person to ask for theories because my conspiracy brain sucks." Elisabeth considers possibilities. "My opinion would be that if the people who created the robots sent someone back to stop us, it wasn't our kids. It would be the people who created the robots — whether that's Weiss-Renautus or the Vanguard or Mazdek or whatever the fuck… that they wouldn't want me to get home because that opens the possibility of Richard finding out there's a way to travel… and then going there to try to stop things which takes away their power?"

Spreading her hands helplessly, Liz adds, "it makes little sense to me. But it would jive with Kazimir Volken's actions in other worlds — he loosed the Shanti virus on the one world, he was beaten back in Wasteland sort of but the place was a hellhole, and he blew out the ice shelf and flooded the world where Elliot is now. I never did exactly understand what the fuck their purpose was. Who wants to rule a destroyed world?"

“Yeah,” Wright says, unsure what else to offer. “Like I get that it’s a thing some people seem to believe is a good idea, but I’m not a megalomaniacal, genocidal monster so I’m probably not the best person to go to for an answer.” She laughs, leaning over the table for a moment before settling back.

“Elliot is asking Richard about it now,” she says, “so I probably don’t have to wait too long to put some shit in context. Is there anything else you want to know?”

Tipping her head as she moves to sit back down, Elisabeth offers, "You've said before you didn't want to talk about things because of the NDA, but I think at this point with regard to anything timeline-travel, time-travel, or assorted other insanity-related, you've more than earned the right to some answers. I think the only thing I can really think to ask you about is what the hell is going on with this dream thing."

She grins slightly, teasing with a wicked twinkle. "Unless you want to tell me all the gossip about your visit with Simon Broome. I'd love your guys' insight on whether the OEI is out of their minds."

Wright laughs nervously, then grimaces. “Well, I told Marcus Raith to eat his own shit until it killed him,” she says. “Great moment for impulse control on my part.”

A burst of genuine laughter erupts from Liz. "Good for you!" she cheers. "That fucker… I wouldn't trust a fucking thing he says if he has it notarized by God himself." She does offer a half-shrug. "Not sorry. That man was all up in the Company's shenanigans long before it was the Company. He lives in shades of very dark gray.

"Now, don't get me wrong — I've done my share of wading in the gray. But I don't think very many people will ever wallow quite so deep as that group."

Elisabeth pauses and then offers, "I can't believe it's been so many years since we first saw all those old pictures and put things together." She shakes her head. "So many secrets."

“I mean we work for Wolfhound,” Wright says, “I suppose we don’t have a lot of room to judge the moral grayscale. Though that’s all been sanctioned by the government. At least, after the fact.” Her clarification makes it clear that official sanctioning of what Wolfhound does professionally probably doesn’t move it far on the moral color scale.

“Is there anyone over there you want Elliot to reach out to?” she asks, then blinks and shakes her head. “Sorry, I forgot because I assumed Richard would tell you himself, but the man truncated Silas’s message rather severely. It reads as follows:” Her eyes lose focus and partially close.

“To Elisabeth Harrison,” she says slowly, remembering his words. "Rumors of my death have been greatly exaggerated; I'm not dead, but I am stuck at home. Let anyone who might care—especially the survivors of our little field trips—know that I'm alive and that I wish them the best. Tell Lis to remember what I told her under the cherry tree. And tell her I'll do what I can to help Richard along the way, just like I did her.”

Her eyes open again. “Figured you deserved the unredacted version.”

Liz waffles her hand back and forth while Wright comments on Wolfhound's grayscale. "Believe me when I tell you that I have absolutely no room to talk." She once climbed on a roof to take sniper shots at Humanis First. Talk about glass houses.

Her lips quirk upward in a smile, genuine joy mixed with regret as Silas's full message is delivered. She looks down at her hands, rubbing them up and down her thighs as if to dry them. The inaudible hum against skin has lessened to almost imperceptible by now. "Thank you. Silas is good people. I hope he considers coming back here again, but I'll definitely understand if he chooses not to. I'll let Kain know, though." She grimaces and looks up at Wright. "His local analog is apparently a mob assassin. Because things aren't complicated enough."

Considering for a long moment, she says, "Please tell Benjamin that I did what he asked, and his message was received well. His son has a good life here and is happy." Elisabeth's brow furrows slightly, like she's thinking her way through a course of action. "Wright… can you have Elliot ask Richard, should I make some attempt to speak with Yvette about the robot Confessor? Not exactly convinced she wouldn't lie, but… I don't know. Is the robot being reported to OEI too?"

“I’ll ask,” Wright says. Then, attention suddenly alert if embarrassed, “If you want to arrange a conversation between Rianna and Dr. Pride you may want to use whatever resources you have to do that immediately. I don’t know where she or Michelle are right now.”

That makes Elisabeth scowl just a bit. "I've been trying to get hold of Chel, but haven't been able to. Who would you recommend as the best person at OEI to kick in the ass?"

Wright looks embarrassed, chewing something over before responding. “I don’t know who I can trust here,” she says honestly. “As much as I’d like to trust Gates, he operates on a level I can’t really conceive of, so divining his intentions is next to impossible. Obviously Marcus ‘trustworthy as a honey badger in heroin withdrawal’ Raith is out.”

“Honestly, if I were you, I’d pretend I was in no way involved in your decision to seek her out,” she says. “I may have made her situation worse unintentionally. Maybe not. The dangers of limited information in isolation.”

"Oh you don't have to worry about that. I've been very patient so far about not having been able to get hold of my mother-in-law. Waiting politely for them to bother giving me some kind of update about my husband, who ripped timelines apart to find me." Elisabeth's smile holds a wicked, flinty edge. "Maybe it's time I remind them exactly who I am and how ugly things get when I decide it's time to make noise." Anyone remember that bombshell interview that broke shit wide open at the beginning of the war? No? Hmmmmm.

Wright looks mildly alarmed. “Raith strikes me as the ‘make it look like an accident’ type,” she says. “But there’s probably someone in this building who knows where to find her. Probably close to Dave, who needs medical care for the whole… disintegrating at the genetic level thing.” She debates telling Liz that he is technically responsible for destroying the Looking Glass and stabbing both Gates and Michelle, but lands on not digging into that right now.

Elisabeth looks surprised. "Dave who? Disintegrating at the genetic level? What the fuck are we talking about here?" She totally seems to blow off the idea that Raith can make it look like an accident.

“Hoo boy did I just assume that was something you’d know about,” Wright says with an anxious laugh. “Dave Cardinal?

Whoa, what? "Wait… what the hell does Dave Cardinal have to do with any of this?" Elisabeth looks completely flummoxed. "I didn't even know he was …." She sighs heavily. "I shouldn't be surprised by that, given the givens. That's a whole complicated family mess."

Rubbing her forehead, she finally says, "Wright, tell me exactly what went down, please? Clearly I'm missing some pieces here, and it might be very relevant. Explain the disintegrating at genetic level, too."

Wright considers for a moment exactly how in over her head she should get in this conversation, and finds a happy medium. "Okay, so," she begins, eyes up and to the side as she puts the facts in order, "Dave Cardinal underwent the Gemini process, and as a condition of Michelle's agreement to work on the Looking Glass, Dave got a room at Fournier-Bianco because his health is deteriorating. So I'm assuming Michelle will be in proximity to him, wherever he is. Not sure if they're going out to K.C. with the rest of us."

"Fuck." Elisabeth's reply is both succinct and resigned. As if this is not something she's finding all that unusual or shocking but it's just another what-the-fuck to go on the list. "Okay. I'd lay odds they're not going to let Chel out of their sight, which means he'll be there too. It sucks that it's going that way for him. Jesus."

Sighing, she drags her hand through her hair. "Okay. That'll just go in the back of my mind so I can check on the guy's situation. That's… going to be hard for Chel and Rianna." Elisabeth frowns just a little. "How did it come about that Rianna came out of the Looking Glass, do you know?"

"I honestly do not know what happened," Wright says, fighting the impulse to sum up with a dramatic shrug. "I am as confused as you on this one. Possibly more so, as I have no context for most of this."

Elisabeth nods with a bit of a shrug. "Fair answer. Other than meeting up with Chel and Rianna, honestly, I have no fucking clue what my husband thinks I can do with any of this goddamn information," she admits. "I'm trying to decide if you ought to be telling someone that the fucking robots are in the Flood world." She rubs her forehead.

"DOE already knows," Wright says, looking mildly annoyed for a moment, eyes up and head shaking. "The team was invited to a party, given suits and everything by the local Eve, only to find out it was a maneuver to see if they were also androids. I reported everything live."

She shifts back in her chair, sighing. She does know why Liz has to connect the dots on Michelle, Rianna, and Odessa, but this feels like a less is more situation. Gates may not have believed her, but she believed him when he said he'd look into it. "This whole operation has been even nuttier than I expected, and I expected my partner to jump through a hole in reality into a churning ocean to take a road trip across an apocalyptic wasteland in order to secure information that could lead to everybody on this planet surviving a solar flare that's supposed to roast off the atmosphere." Among other things. She looks saddened when she thinks about the distance between them, connected though they are.

The sadness is something Elisabeth can well understand, and she says softly, "Sometimes ignorance really is bliss, don't you think?" There is regret in her eyes as she studies Wright. "You've already survived so damn much, I'm sorry that you got pulled into this."

Wright responds with a thankful smile, clearly not alleviated of the weight of it all. Elisabeth isn’t wrong, they’re in way over their heads here.

Dragging a hand through her hair, Liz sighs. "There are significant pieces that we're missing. And maybe Gates is the person to speak to, I just don't know. The presence of the Confessor in the Flood world essentially throws everything that I thought I understood right into a fucking blender." Her brows pull low over her nose.

"Your outside perspective might help here — If Richard's hypothesis that they were trying to stop us from getting home is true… my assumption would be that they knew opening the portal would free the entity. And if he's right that they waited to attack this time until the team was through on their way back, it implies there is something there that they hope will fix things. If he's right and we or our kids sent people through time again, it's because we get there we're literally no other options. We've learned too much about time travel for us or anyone who knows us to make that decision lightly." Elisabeth pauses. "So what on God's green earth is going on up in Alaska in that world that they'd want us to access? It can't just be about the solar flare. But I can't fathom what the hell the purpose actually is."

And she pauses again to add ruefully, "If you ever wondered why I'm so fucking jaded about certain things? This is the kind of shit I've been doing for a decade or so, and I have a lot of nightmares."

Wright laughs a bit hopelessly. “I’m not sure the outside nature of my perspective will be much help here,” she says. “Elliot and I are always just trying to keep our hands on the rope while being dragged behind a speedboat.” She smiles to imply sarcasm, but it’s hard to hide the effort of being the outsiders in a world of inside jokes.

But nightmares she understands. “How do you ever sleep?” she asks. She has slept the last two nights, but still feels like she’s only ever one step ahead of the thing that will— with absolute certainty— eventually be waiting for her when she closes her eyes. Just like before; these last few years of peace becoming meaningless in the shadow of its return.

"Well, anytime you have questions, you're more than welcome to text or call me. I'll do my best to make sure you have some water skis, at least." Elisabeth offers a rueful smile. "Not sure I can offer more than water skis, for all the good they'll do at the speeds we live, but hey… something is better than nothing, right?"

She gets more serious at the latter question, though. "Well…It's tough," Liz observes quietly. "Some nights I don't. It took me nearly 18 months to be able to sleep through a night when we got home. I think… that I only do that when I know Richard is near. Because I know to the deepest parts of me that I'm safe when he's there. There are only a couple of other people in the world around whom I can sleep like that." Her blue eyes are shadowed. "I have a feeling you know exactly what I mean."

Dragging a hand through her hair, Elisabeth considers. "I'm fucked up on the deepest levels," she huffs out a half-laugh. "I always expect people to have secrets and an agenda that's likely deadly. But don't tell my husband that — he always calls me the optimist and tells me he'll find a cure someday." She goes quiet and confesses in a soft voice, "Sometimes I wish I didn't know any of it. That I could go back to being like the people around us… blissfully uninvolved and unknowing that the world has nearly fucking ended at least four times in my lifetime."

Wright chuckles bleakly. "From what we've learned, the world has ended four times. The fact that Elliot is in a version that ended is existentially terrifying, but what am I going to do?"

She doesn't let it get to her, it's too easy to spiral into the hopelessness. After a moment she nods as she considers something. "Ignorance would simplify a lot of things," she says. She looks to Liz with a serious expression. "Speaking of which, I realize this may be difficult but if any talk of other timelines could be avoided around Marthe and Ames I'd appreciate it. I don't want them dealing with this dread."

Elisabeth smiles immediately at that request. "I generally don't talk to anyone who's not already in the know about any of this. I cannot promise what Ames may have picked up from Aura, though," she admits wryly. "But she has no idea where her father is right now and no reason to know it — she's dealt with so much horror in her life, seen so much that I wish she hadn't… I'm amazed that she's as well off emotionally as she is. The only thing we can do for the people we love is keep our mouths shut about what the possible outcome is." There is sadness in her blue eyes as she watches Wright. "If you need to talk, if the stress of knowing what could be coming gets to be too much… please, pick up the phone and call me? I am one of the few in this world who actually does understand what you're feeling."

"I will," Wright says, smiling gratefully. "Thank you for the offer. Where I'm heading, phone will be pretty much the only option for communication with anybody. Elliot aside, obviously. Marthe is staying here to work and Ames will be with her, though I've been told they can be flown out if the wildfire becomes a problem."

"Not that Marthe wouldn't insist on volunteering for hospital shifts if it does get bad, but I think the plan at that point is to have Ames housed at the school. She's definitely not 'trust to take a plane alone' age yet." She smiles warmly thinking about the amount of chaos her daughter is inexplicably capable of producing.

"Worst case, Wright, I can make sure they're on the RayTech jet with my kids. Harmony is used to riding herd on the three of them plus Kaylee's son and even Walter at times. So adding Ames in won't strain our resources." Elisabeth smiles slightly. "That will help Marthe not to have to choose which side of her conscience to deal with. And Harm is never completely on her own — I expect Kaylee may also evacuate, and even if she doesn't, we have the security teams who are also nanny-trained."

She pauses and then wrinkles her nose. "Still blows my mind that I came home to find my thief lover running a company this big and successful," Liz admits.

“I greatly appreciate that,” Wright says with relief. She stares away for a moment as she considers what she’s learned, and what else she needs to ask with this limited opportunity.

“What was it like?” she asks, her attention returning from elsewhere. “Your interdimensional traveling? You obviously don’t owe me any details, but I’m curious how you managed to get around, considering the extreme measures it took to get the current team to the flooded world.”

What was it like? Elisabeth has to think about that for a minute, even after all this time struggling to process and distill the years into some kind of comprehension for herself much less put it into words for others.

"It was a lot of different things, at various times," she finally says slowly. Her blue eyes flicker upward, the expression in them haunted. "We slipped through the wormhole Magnes made and I don't remember anything about that transit. Just… waking up in a world where the virus had killed most people. I … had enough time to be terrified and horrified, and then honestly there was no time for any of that in the fight to survive and figure out how to move on. The second traversal was…. under fire. And it was … maybe a roller coaster."

She pauses. "For a long time after that landing, part of me wondered if we were actually dead and just living in between the last second of life and the first second of death," she says softly. "Because of the way we jumped each time, it was kind of like riding a water slide. Mostly black. The last one…. that one was different. We all saw alternate versions of ourselves coming through that one. But… overall, none of them were particularly rough rides. The landings weren't wonderful, kind of spitting us out. But…. all of them, we evac'd under fire, so I don't know if those landings are representative."

Wright gives a sad smile in sympathy; there's no way a running fight through numerous post-apocalyptic wastelands produces mostly good memories. "Elliot and I experienced a different version of his life during the deployment," she says. "He was kind of an asshole." Elliot doesn't protest the accusation. The heartbreaking moment of the overlay was actually finding out that Bastian had survived there.

But she realizes the thing that bothers her most about what Liz just said.

"I fell into the black and died on the oil rig," she admits quietly. She had no memory of it, but knowing that Elliot remembers her death is existentially horrifying enough, and she hasn't given it any real reflection since. Years of pushing the bad shit down into the BLACK BLACK BLACK makes it easier to just pretend. To never deal with and process trauma in a healthy way. "Then it turned out to not have ever happened. The event changed. Nobody survived in the original version."

Blue eyes come back to Wright and Elisabeth's horror and sympathy are reflected in her expression. "God, Wright…" She doesn't even know what to say to that. She can see suddenly exactly what the other woman is doing, too. Denial ain't just a river in Egypt, and Liz is also an expert at shoving down the bad.

"I, Uhm…" How does she put this? "I met Ezekiel's Elisabeth," she says quietly. "I didn't live the alternate timeline but… I've had flashes of it. She… is broken in ways that I have somehow been lucky enough not to live." A long moment passes. "I hoped, in the world Aura was born in, that staying away from that version of me would keep her safe." Liz averts her eyes, remembering the shock and the anguish of that day. "It didn't. She was murdered by Samson Gray, who was looking for us."

Shaking her head, Elisabeth sighs heavily. "Honestly, Wright… time travel and timeline hopping are a complete shit show. I hate that they're there, and now that it seems the agenda isn't what we thought it was, I don't even know how to feel," she admits. "I can't imagine how traumatizing living that moment in the transversal must have been for you."

Wright smiles awkwardly, vacillating between relief and guilt. "I don't remember it," she says sheepishly. "The only reason we know it happened is because the team got through before the catastrophe and Elliot was streaming my perspective when things changed. I haven't gotten brave enough to borrow the memory. Also Richard said we'd basically die if we thought about it too much."

She shakes her head to dismiss the impulse to joke about it. "The version I remember, the current version, was bleak enough," she says. "But we made it. It could have been so much worse. Would have—was worse. So Elliot felt me die." Her eyes close with tears which are quickly cut away before the idea of him having to live without her in another timeline can take root and lead to panic.

Her sympathy never wavers but there is some amount of relief when Wright says she cannot remember it. "Maybe not remembering is for the best. I have no idea if Richard is right about the dying part, but frankly I don't even want you to take the chance that he's right," Elisabeth admits. "I'm grateful for whatever the hell it was that happened out there that literally changed the outcome."

She reaches out and puts her hand on Wright's forearm, squeezing gently. "I can't say I envy either of you the down side of your link," she says quietly. "I understand the stress you both must be feeling from it, as well as anyone can who doesn't have that link. I've… lived and had visions of my share of existential horror from other versions of myself. Richard has lived visions of being the man who killed me. Whatever you need, whenever you need it, I'm here to listen, okay? Sometimes… the only way to get through them is saying it out loud and taking away its power to crush you." God knows, she's had her share of the soul-deep terrors Wright is dealing with.

Retracting her hand because Wright hasn't seemed to want the contact, Elisabeth adds earnestly, "I'm going to have to dig into what did change and how. It might be really important to all of this. But I don't want to lose you in the what-ifs, Wright. Don't go through this alone — use us. Lean on us. Both of you." Her smile is wry. "We can handle it, I promise."

Wright sees Liz’s hand coming and manages to suppress the urge to immediately pull away, though once the other woman lets go she places her hands beneath the table.

“Thank you,” she says, hiding her discomfort behind a smile of real gratitude. “I will try to do that. I’m not sure how much of it I can safely talk about on the phone from K.C. though. And I assume every room in the city is bugged.” She’s nervous enough about how much of the NDA she’s violating in these conversations as it is. It would be nice to be able to talk through some of the horror. It would be nice if she were able to, but that would require telling the truth.

"Yeah, talking about it on the phone can be difficult, but we can find ways to make it happen if you need it, okay?" Elisabeth wrinkles her nose. "Cutting operatives off from help is not going to keep their operatives healthy." And if they don't recognize that after all that people have lived, well… Maybe Liz will just remind them a little. "I can't blame you for being paranoid about it, though."

Dragging a hand through her hair, she asks softly, "Is there anything else specific you want to know that I can answer? I don't honestly feel like I have helped as much as I'd like to."

Wright gives the question a long moment of thought, she wants to make as much of this conversation as she can. "Any allies you think of for if Elliot is in a bind would be helpful," she says absently as she continues to think, eyes in the middle distance. "Or people to stay away from it not trust."

She chuckles as she had another thought. "Maybe a list of people who can read thoughts or detect lies," she says. "That particular combo would make it very hard for Elliot to do his spy shit." Among other catastrophically worse scenarios.

Tilting her head, Elisabeth thinks about the people she met there and the ones she knows the analogs of here. She told Richard about all the ones she could think of, especially Ryans, Huruma, Des, and the Wasteland's version of the Lighthouse Kids that traveled with her through the portal.

"There's a woman who calls herself…" what the hell did she call herself there? She has to parse through a lot of memories, none of them fantastic, to bring to mind a name. "Valentine. She called herself Valentine. Here, we know her as Peyton Whitney." The headmistress of the academy their children attend. "She can see through other people's eyes if she's had contact with them. It could be useful for Elliot. And there's a telepath there who might actually help out, if you cross her path… Soleil Davignon. French accent, used to be an actress." Used to also work for Raytech here, killed around the time Elisabeth came home. "Or, she'd be the one to avoid if he's trying to keep things from people. I also met that world's version of Asi, and I saw but never spoke to that world's version of Agent Sawyer. I have no idea if either of them will be kindly disposed to help the traveling group. Sawyer is a pirate queen there, and she's … hardcore." Not that Vee here isn't.

“Huh,” Wright says quietly. “I wonder if she could see through the network since I’ve met her before. It would rely on feedback, but I wonder if she saw her other self she’d…” she pauses and waves away her digression.

There's a pause. Elisabeth did warn Richard about all of the names she just offered to Elliot, but it wasn't for the same reasons Wright is asking and she didn't have to worry about abilities. "Is Elliot looking for particular kinds of intel for the OEI, Wright?" Her blue eyes are sharper on the other woman now, not having had the thought until just this moment that it's entirely possible Elliot's been given a whole different set of orders.

Wright laughs bitterly. “No, as far as the OEI is concerned, Elliot and I are just two soup cans on a string,” she says. “When we went to Sweden, Raith told me he’d give Elliot information he’s been searching for in exchange for our participation in the op. But he was lying, he didn’t have shit. Guessing he figured Elliot would die and he wouldn’t have to back up his promise.”

She shakes her head, drawing in on herself. “The only reason we know that is that Elliot figured it out while we were staying on the oil rig,” she says before trying to lighten her mood about it. “So the only thing Elliot can really do there other than be somebody else’s comms equipment is what he does for a living, which is infiltration and intel. If it ever needs to happen. Not really a skill he can advertise for daywork.”

“Well,” she corrects herself, “that’s not entirely true. He’s also going to link a bunch of people into the network so he can overclock and use the cognitive capacity of half a dozen people to break a code Silas came into possession of, which should be fun.”

Quirking a brow, Elisabeth seems thoughtful. "Well, not unexpected that Raith would be a liar, I guess," she murmurs. "If I can help with the info Elliot's looking for, let me know. What kind of code?" Because that's interesting, if nothing else. And then she grins ruefully. "Never mind — if you want help on a code, I'm not the person to come to. But Richard? I swear to God, I think that man inherited some of his mother's brains. He'd be a good one to talk to."

Shoving her hand through her hair, Liz sighs again. "I'm sorry the two of you got pulled into this the way you did — with lies and threats and shit. But I have to admit that I'm grateful for Elliot's presence there," she confesses softly. "I'm having some serious emotional responses to them being there that I …. we'll, I expected to be anxious for a lot of reasons. But it's… way worse than I was expecting. So knowing he has people I trust with him? It means a lot to me, Wright."

Wright smiles warmly at the idea of being somebody that Liz trusts. By all accounts, Liz is one of the greats. It’s nice to feel it in the moment, even if she and Elliot can’t actually be trusted. Especially not Elliot, considering he agreed to—and fully intends to—shoot Richard if he ever swings into full Mad Scientist territory. Nobody needs another double-secret mad science torture dungeon buried under Cambridge.

“You can always reach out to me too,” she says, “if you need an update. I’m almost always streaming Elliot with nothing better to do, so reassuring you when you’re anxious is the least I can do. I’ll add your number to my safe list so you can wake me up in the middle of the night if you need to.”

“Richard originally asked Elliot to transmit the code for more conventional codebreaking. Elliot offered to overclock so we can keep whatever message it contains discrete. Richard himself won’t be linking in for that because of what we’re just now learning about the fucking Conduits?” She appears more baffled and awestruck than angry.

“And Elliot appreciates the offer to help with the intel,” Wright says in resigned disappointment. “But what he’s looking for was never on the books to begin with. His Ark shit.” She motions to demonstrate frustration with the whole ordeal.

Elisabeth winces at the Conduits. "Oh geez," she sighs. "Yeah… well, it's not something to advertise, but it's also hard for him. They killed his cousin to make it move to him and we still have no idea why." She grimaces slightly. "The fact that the OEI is connected to people like Simon Broome and Marcus Raith, though?"

There's a long moment's pause while the blonde sorts out her thoughts. "Richard has spent the past decade trying to make up for his fucking alternate self. He's haunted by the knowledge that he was twisted enough to kill me and hurt people he considers friends. If he or I can help Elliot find Arc information, we'll do it in a heartbeat." She meets Wright's eyes, unable to hide the sheer depth of her sadness. "I'm terrified that what the OEI is up to, what they've sent them to do, isn't an Edward Ray agenda but one that came from Broome and Ezekiel." She shakes her head. "Zeke was literally insane from all of the attempts to fix things, jumping through time. But Broome always believed in him."

Wright looks away, frustrated with herself. “When we met Broome in Sweden I nearly killed him in his chair,” she says quietly. “Like I could wring from his neck all the horrors Elliot endured in a black site below him while he sat at the top of his castle.” She clenches her hands beneath the table as though they needed a reminder on how to kill an old man, and it’s visible in her arms above the lip of the table.

“But Joy told us otherwise,” she says. “I was still reeling from the fact that Simon was alive, I couldn’t stomach the idea of hearing his voice again. Even knowing he was just a puppet, he still enabled Ezekial’s horrors.” She takes a sharp breath in to cut off any attempt to spiral into that rage.

“We don’t blame Richard at all,” she says to assuage any worry. “We get it… As much as anyone can get however time travel works.”

There’s danger in asking for help, more than she can ever say, but there has to be balance somewhere. “Unless you have access to the Deveaux Society’s Institute record trove,” she says, “anything Elliot is looking for doesn’t exist.” Just what Pete Varlane told him, and what that meant for the two of them.

She can't blame Wright for thinking the way she does. "I was pretty shocked to hear Broome was still alive myself," she admits, "much less that he was involved in the OEI and shit." She wants to ask a lot of things about Ruby and Broome, but she doubts anything she might hear is really anything more than prurient curiosity.

Elisabeth's head tips very slowly to one side and both her eyebrows go up. "Actually…" she replies slowly. "I might just be able to help there. Let me put out a couple feelers." She seems a bit happier at being able to potentially do something that Wright asked for.

Wright’s reaction to the possibility is complicated. She looks thrilled for only a second before curling in on herself. She tries to explain something, but no words come out. Her hands flex, one cradling the other as he scratches at her neck while sorting out whatever she needs to say.

“It’s totally possible there aren’t any records,” she says, finally lowering her hands. Only a moment passes before they return to the safety of the dark beneath the table. “Or that there’s no record of him. As far as he can remember, he never told them his name. But those memories are fucked.”

She leans forward, eyes serious to emphasize, “They were held in a site that wasn’t even on the map. Wasn’t even finished construction yet.” Every impulse tells her to withhold every scrap of information she can, because that’s how they keep the demons at bay. “No living security, no directions. Just the…” her voice locks up. “Just the warehouse.”

“Site Zero was a secret from almost everyone who worked in the Ark.”

Frowning, Elisabeth asks, "Site Zero?" She's definitely never heard of that. "It was somewhere other than the place he wanted to use Elle and Harold to power his machine?" Not that she has any idea whether Wright even knows those names or anything. "Do you know where the warehouse actually was?"

Wright looks frustrated as she tries to piece together what she can from the memories of memories of the days before Elliot's capture. Elliot pauses as he feels her stray close to that hell, but doesn't dissuade her. "It was in C-ring," she says with as much confidence as either of them could.

"We were Ferrymen. He'd been inserted in the Ark for a couple of weeks to gather intel, and noticed discrepancies in the security footprint for the area," she explains. "And there were techs in the B-ring labs who didn't know where their data was coming from. So he dug a little deeper and found that there was an enormous black hole in human security. A place where there was activity but no people. Work in an unfinished area that wasn't construction. So he went to find the warehouse."

"And then," she starts, "And then," she continues, "And then," she says, so much less sure than she was

What was she talking about?

"He missed his pickup window," she says. "We didn't hear from him and I spent six months on the outside trying to drink myself to death. I'd lost him again and we'd only just found each other." Think nothing of it. Over it now. The past is the past. She shudders and puts her hands over her eyes.

Sympathy and regret fill Elisabeth and she says softly, "It's okay, Wright. Deep breaths. You don't have to say more." She won't push; she's well acquainted with the signs of impending PTSD attacks. She coaches gently, "In and out slowly. I'm sorry I asked you to remember that." The aftereffects that came from those days are pretty horrific. She won't leave Wright alone to deal with it, but she doesn't reach for her either. She simply remains quietly, being present for the other woman.

Pulled in by the distress, a different set of eyes and emotions tug on Wright's attention for just a moment. A text message of time, complete with cute animal. "It'll be okay," Asi promises, and reaches out with her non-eating hand to pet Aisu's soft head, vicariously passing on that comforting sensation. Then the dog whines so needily it turns into a yawn, eyes on the pizza he's not allowed to have. "Would you knock that off?" Asi asks him with a startled laugh.

Wright grimaces without removing her hands from her face, attention leaving them room almost completely as she turns to Asi and Elliot both. She laughs in a way that feels out of place as she feels the soft fur of the begging dog miles away in Phoenix Heights, then matches her breath to Elliot's to help guide her back to center. Maybe I should get a dog, she thinks. Ames is an easy sell on that one.

She nods in thanks before she finally lowers her hands, eyes dry but still haunted. "Thank you," she tells everyone who's watching. "It's hard to remember broken memories." She sits up straight to better control her breathing.

Asking for help has been so difficult, but maybe they can stray close enough to protect people from their own ignorance. She listens to Elliot mention Site Zero to Richard as well. "Whatever happened there," she says, looking to Liz with a serious expression, "it's dangerous to know about. Somebody at Praxis knew about it, Avi brought Elliot a file. It's the reason we came out of retirement." It's still nerve wracking to get this close to talking about Project-0.

The look Elisabeth offers holds acknowledgment of how hard it is; she has been there. "Wright…. most of what I know about is dangerous to know about. Right up to and including documents that proved human rights violations and shit like that," she replies wearily. "It's another horror on the pile that I keep inside a vault in my head. If Elliot wants me to stay out of it, I will. But don't think the danger will deter me." She shakes her head a little. "I honestly have no fucks to give about what they want hidden — in my opinion, even all this timeline bullshit should have gone public. The only reason I'm okay with keeping the mission Elliot and Richard are on now quiet is because there is literally no one who will benefit from knowing ahead of time that a solar flare will wipe out the world in a few months. Let those who can just enjoy the time they have left, those of us who know? We'll fight to the last breath to try to stop it. If we can't, we'll know we died trying."

"It's more a matter of Elliot's safety," Wright explains, "and by extension the safety of me and my family. What they were talking about at Praxis would be incalculably valuable: a conventionally unhackable quantum computer. And that project would rely on the possession of a traumatized man with a family to leverage against him. He'd rather die than go back to that." And that's just the surface level horror.

"So finding what he's looking for comes second to nobody knowing that he's looking," she stresses. "And considering the hoops the techs seemed to be jumping through in order to process the project data, it's probably pretty diffuse, which means aggregating a lot of data from a lot of departments. Which most likely would require access to the entire archive."

"Hypothetically speaking," she adds, allowing some of the old hopelessness to creep back in before dreams of closure can be further dashed. "There's still no way to know for sure anything meaningful was recorded. They weren't going by names down there." Just ever expanding digits and dots.

Her brows furrowed over her nose, Elisabeth considers what they're aiming at. "What really sucks is that it's not so different than what they're doing with Edward Ray right now… and what Zeke was planning for other people." Like Elle and Harold. Using human beings as parts for machines. The unmitigated horror of the idea alone is enough to make her feel sick.

"There may be some avenues," she says quietly. "But I won't do anything to put any of you at risk, Wright. I promise." There's a long moment where she gazes into the wall, wondering if the ghost of Renautas Past might be of any use in any of this, but she hasn't laid eyes on that guy in months. And it's not like he's summonable. "Given the dangers, any digging I do will be very down low, which will definitely limit what we can find. Was there anything at alll helpful in the file Epstein got hold of?"

Wright ties Elisabeth’s comparison to what Richard explained to Elliot earlier. It’s hard to say it’s not like that at all when the context of the document he received seems so at odds with the lived reality of Project-0. She closes her eyes for a minute as she draws Elliot’s attention to the question to quickly be directed to the memory. He draws Asi’s attention there as well, both because he senses her presence in the other conversation and because she’s involved in the memory.

Avi sets the drink back down on the table and sits forward in his seat, resting his forearms against his knees. “That last job we took, out in California.” He presumes Elliot heard about it in the news. “We got a new tech specialist, Gitelman’s…” he shakes his head, “retired.” The answer is more complicated, but he doesn’t have the wherewithal to go into it.

“Anyway, she’s been pouring over some shit we pulled out of Praxis Heavy’s systems and…” Avi makes a noise in the back of his throat and shifts in his seat, retrieving a folded sheet of paper from his pocket. He opens it up and slides it across the table. It’s a piece of a technical dossier, unfamiliar names at the top, some Chinese-language text mixed with English. “Bottom of the page.” Avi says.

particular systems allow us a higher level of fidelity than was previously thought possible. With the research done at Sunstone lost, however, we need to fall back on older and proven systems. Project-0 remains the only other successful iteration of this design. If we are going to develop a quantum wet-network, invulnerable to technological hacking, we need to reopen these old project files.

Avi picks up his drink, swallows half the glass in a single go, then makes a noise in the back of his throat and looks at it like it punched him in the mouth.

“There was some unknown iteration of the project at Sunspot, apparently,” Wright says, “But the data was lost. It was mostly in Mandarin, but Asi might be able to dredge something out of the file that we didn’t.” There’s another spike of hope quickly quelled.

"A language I do speak," Asi reminds in a far gentler, more cautious voice than the earlier attempt to pick up Wright's mood. She turns her head toward her laptop, stomach churning, and not from the greasy cheese of the pizza. She had no idea that was what had resummoned these two back to Wolfhound's service. She'd need to deep dive back into those files again in the hopes she'd find something she'd missed before. "We don't have to look tonight, but I want to comb for the names of people asking those questions again, at the very least." She needs no further context to be propelled to that action. "Stop them from following those lines of inquiry, should they still be free."

Elisabeth frowns, and she says, "Have Elliot ask Richard if he knows about the iteration at Sunspot." She pauses, then confesses, "I'm thinking that it may have been what happened to our friend Aric… but I'm having a hard time locating such old memories after so long. I just remember… Aric, who was a telepath, was snatched off the street a la the Company's tendency to black bag folks. And we did get him back, but…"

Jesus, she wishes she had any idea what ever happened to Aric, but aside from keeping him safe after that, Elisabeth is struggling. "I took him to see Agent Jane Pak, to report what happened to him," she recalls. "I … have no idea what, if anything, ever came of it."

"Thank you," Wright says softly as an aside to Asi. At Liz's suggestion, she makes sure Elliot heard the question for his own line of inquiry, though it seems her partner is on a tear right now, and she's loathe to interrupt him. Talk of Project-0 stirs up memories of how he used to be, so drastically unlike he is today. Ten years ago Richard would have been lucky to pry five words out of him with a crowbar.

"It's possible," Wright says as her eyes flick back to Liz. "What was his telepathy like? The Project Zero subjects were all mental-class abilities of some kind. As far as he can remember, anyway." He doesn't remember what Bastian's ability was, just that he was the first permanent co-host to the network; Foundational and Relevant.

Elisabeth frowns slightly, considering the question. "I'm not sure how to answer that, to be honest. He was Graeme's boyfriend, and … one of mine," one of her people to protect, "but he never talked a lot about his power and after what happened, he kept an even lower profile. As far as I know, he was what I'd have called a mid-level power — nothing too flashy." There's a pause and she grins at a fond memory. "He was an incurable flirt." Sadness makes the smile fall away as she realizes she has no idea if he even survived the war. "We never knew why he got released either." She pauses. "Or if we did, there has been so much that happened since then that I can't remember."

Wright smiles sadly in sympathy, there's a lot in this man's story that Elliot could identify with. "It was certainly a decade for the history books," she says.

"I take forgetting some of it as a blessing, but it's hard to not know what happened to somebody you cared for. I'm sorry." She certainly lost touch with a few people in the chaos of the war, or during retirement. "If you want I can take advantage of my current placement to see if I can turn over any information for you. It would be only fair, considering."

Elisabeth hesitates and shakes her head. "No… the last thing I want to do is dredge up memories that he may have finally found a way to put behind him," she replies softly. She sighs and drags her hand through her hair. "Wright, try to get some rest," she says finally. "I'll get out of your hair for now and hopefully see you with Ames and Marthe later on, okay?"

A faint smile quirks her lips. "A little family time will certainly do wonders for all of us." She moves to stand. "You have my number — I am not kidding about calling me if things get bad, yeah?" Liz offers a chiding look. "I can't do much to help anyone who left but at least I can make sure all our people here are holding up."

"Yeah," Wright says with urgency, combing a hand through her hair and pushing her chair back from the table. "Should verify that the baby hasn't found a way to writhe out of her captivity and escape into the wilds of a federal agency."

Standing, she feels energized in a way she hasn't in days, despite finally getting a few consecutive nights of peaceful sleep. "I really do appreciate the offer," she says, "and I'll reach out if I need anything. Hopefully you will do the same." She pushes her chair back into the table and checks around the clutter to make sure there isn't anything she should bring with her.

"I will." Elisabeth's laughter at the description of Ames as she leaves is the laughter of a mother who knows exactly what could go wrong with children of the caliber of theirs loose in the wilds. Ames fits right in with the Cardinal/Ray/Harrison clan. "See you tonight."

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