castle4_icon.gif ff_cat_icon.gif chess4_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif eve_icon.gif ff_hart_icon.gif ff_marlowe_icon.gif ff_nova_icon.gif robyn7_icon.gif richard5_icon.gif ff_walker_icon.gif

Also Featuring:


Scene Title Redacted
Synopsis Invited to a party by the syndicate leader Marlowe, the Travelers discover something left out of any report on the Sentinel attack…
Date June 18, 2021

Travelers From Beyond!

You are cordially invited to a night of music, drinks, and intelligent conversation in the exclusive Sagittarius Lounge in the penthouse of Queen Lowe’s. Esteemed and invited guests only, no +1’s.

It isn’t every day that people outside of Lowe’s syndicate are permitted to the penthouse floor of her fortress compound.

The resplendent trappings of the historic New York City building that once was known as 40 Wall Street has remained. Even on the lower levels, the decor of the self-appointed Queen of the Pelago maintains a level of visible wealth and prominence brought about by Lowe’s unique ability to transmute materials with a touch. The copper and brass inlays on the walls, the retouched Art Deco paneling from the building’s original design, the refinished furniture, lush vegetation, and electric lights gives the place the feeling of a 1920s Speakeasy meets the neon-lit bars labyrinths of the old Kowloon Walled City.

The Travelers didn’t arrive together for Lowe’s invitation, but they were gathered together none-the-less in the lobby of the 70th floor just below the penthouse. Birds fly freely through the two-story lobby, perching in the branches of live trees growing up through the concrete floor with branches that spread across the high windows and cast unusual shadows across the ground.

The Travelers were escorted here by one of Lowe’s syndicate members, a man with dark hair and a youthful face that goes by the name of Levi Walker. Richard met him once, a lifetime and a world away, in Snoqualmie when he traveled out to meet the Guardians. He’s a cryokinetic, if Richard recalls correctly.

“Sorry for the wait,” Walker says with a glance up a curving stairwell that leads to the penthouse, “just waiting for the lady of the hour to show up.”

70th Floor Indoor Botanical Garden

The Pelago

June 18th
7:27 pm

"The sights are quite worth the wait dearie."

The traveling had left them tired but after a few days on world Eve was already becoming acclimated to their surroundings, it didn't necessarily hurt that the memories of these places and people her counterpart knew still lingered inside of her. But it was clashing with the unfamiliarity she feels encased in. Nevertheless, they were at a party and gaining audience to a Queen. That meant dressing the best.

Or the best you could after dumping yourself in a new world. Luckily for the Travelers, the ones who were unable to scavenge an appropriate outfit weren't out of luck. Because curiously in a trunk with a note at the bottom of the Forthright for Eve were an assortment of fine garments, many of which were stolen over the years through the wild seer's journey through time.

To meet with a queen is a great delight, dress fresh, be mindful and don't squint in the light.

For tonight Eve wears a vibrant red dress that matches her eyes and of a light fabric. The slit up the side ends at mid thigh on the right side, the tail ends grazing the top of her bare feet. She felt it more respectful to try to appear as short as possible in comparison to the Queen. Two accessories, the first being a simple golden ankle bracelet that gleams in the light when her dress moves. The second being the staff that was a gift upon her resurrection, the silver collapsible rod she leaned on more for confidence than the need for physical strength.

"Remember to be mindful of Her Highness, though she is very generous and gracious. A fair queen, you are so lucky. We have a queen back home but she is an old crumbly. Very posh though!" The first bit directed to her friends but mostly Castle while the last bit said to Levi with a wide grin.

"Is there any cannabis?" Not that there wasn't a stash of dried up and pretty shitty weed that she stuffed some into a paper and into her cleavage. Maybe a Queen had the really good shit.

Chess shakes her head with a chuckle at Eve’s babbling, content that the other woman is no longer on the edge of death — of course, that means someone else died, but she pushes that thought out of her head. She’s not in a dress, perhaps chalking up the fact that the last time she wore one, things went horribly wrong the next day. Or she just doesn’t love dresses.

Maybe Mad Eve saw that coming, for the black pantsuit that Chess wears is tailored almost perfectly for her. Slim-fit pants and a flattering, feminine-cut blazer are both formal and comfortable, and the latter helps to put the traveler inside them at ease. Her one jolt of color comes in the form of bright red heels that bring her height up a couple of inches.

“No worries,” she says to Levi with a nod, her hands finding their way into their pockets as she looks around at the architecture and decor.

The youngest of the party, and their captain, Nova couldn’t resist a little dress up, opting for a simple “little black dress” that might easily have been worn at a cocktail party in a building like this in the past. She can’t help but to smooth the skirt now and then, and it’s easy to see she’s not used to wearing dresses.

“Thank you,” she says to Levi, then moves to the window to look out at the water while they wait.

The party does not have long to wait for its host to arrive. The first thing heard over the murmur of the ocean and gathering is the sound of clinking metal upon metal and soft clicks of footfalls over tile, then concrete. The next they see is the crown of bleached locks piled and pinned in a rakish mohawk-like arrangement on Marlowe. Then the rest of her appears at the top of the stairs, and the others can see why Mad Eve had the foresight to offer an array of more quality couture for such an occasion.

The Syndicate leader has dressed in a longsleeved, high necked top with what looks like small holed, dark thread fishnetting woven against an opaque white cloth. A collar of interlocking brass rings - the source of the metal clinking - hooks around her neck with a flat purse-like pendant attached beneath the center. Matched with earrings and a chunky bracelet of similar design, even in the dim lounge lighting they seem to sparkle. A wide leather waistband secures the beige canvas of her gathered long skirt with its rough asymmetrical hem line cut and left to fray on purpose. Each step of her black ankle boots down the curving stairwell is surefooted, confident, comfortable with steady approach.

"Welcome, weary travelers," Marlowe greets the party amicably, "to the Sagittarius Lounge." As she descends to the bottom of the stairs, she places a hand on Levi's shoulder to subtly release him from having to tend to a front man position. "Please feel free to make yourselves comfortable, enjoy the space, and don't worry about the chill up here. When it gets later, we'll turn up the heat." Figuratively or literally or both, it's left to anyone's guess.

As Marlowe approaches and scans the arrivals, it's clear she takes her time to appreciate their aesthetic. Eve's red dress earns a light coo of the woman's bold, vibrant color choice. By contrast with Chess and Nova, the black suit & blazer combo and LBD are top notch staples, and she nods approvingly. "Can't go wrong, Captain," she tells the youngest, and aims a crooked smile in Chess' direction.

While Castle has not been completely themselves since they arrived in this world, they seem to be a little more like they had been before departure tonight. Even the clothes that they have picked out feel more like something they might have worn before, colorful and tasteful and well-fitting, and rather gender-ambiguous even. A suit of sorts, but with a jacket with tailcoats that look like a frilly skirt that goes all the way to their knees. They’re even actually smiling for a nice change of pace, with green eyes glittering joyfully as they look around. Their pale hair is done up in a low and tight ponytail that gives the briefest illusion of short hair, until they turn around at least—

Because it’s not Saffron that’s in the lead tonight. No, Saffron’s not really wanting to be part of these festivities— so she’s stepped back for the night, and it’s most definitely Basil that’s walking around enjoying the view and doesn’t seem to mind that his girlfriend isn’t as dressed up as he is.

He thinks she’s prettier still, tho.

With the arrival of the Queen, he continues to smile, even if the face is not his own, and continues to admire the adornments. “Just because we’re high in elevation doesn’t mean we need to get high,” he teases his mother for a moment, before looking back to Chess. “She was your friend in the other world, right?” Marlowe. It must be weird for her to keep running into people she knew, but didn’t, in this world. He just wished he didn’t have to talk to her through his sister’s voice.

Another who doesn't look dressed as fancy as they could be for the occasion is Robyn Roux Quinn, as she's been going by since the meeting a few days previous. That's not to say she's dressed down, though, dressed in a black buttoned up blazer, marked with faded white buttons and white trim along the collar, pockets, and sleeves, accented with what lace at the bottom edge, with a frilly black skirt to match. More curious, though, the is colourful ribbon and likely fake flower that look like they recently formed some sort of fancy bowtie but now hang freely down her front. The collar barely hides a black choker to match the rest of the ensemble, rings already lining several of her fingers - anyone who's seen Robyn in the last few days knows this isn't something Eve picked out for her.

Rather, Robyn just came straight for what she's settling into doing for work in the Pelago - performing music in one of the building's establishments. If that hadn't given it away, the acoustic guitar resting on the floor beside her and bag hanging still from her shoulder might otherwise done so.

She seems momentarily distracted, humming a tune to herself before glancing over at Castle first, then Marlowe. "Oh, I am so very underdressed f'r this," she realizes, as if how everyone else is dressed hadn't made that clear enough to her. She blinks and offers an apologetic smile before shrugging and taking the guitar back in hand so that she can follow after their hostess.

Richard tugs on the lapels of the jacket as they await their host, certain that in some way "Mad" Eve was trolling him from beyond the grave.The jacket? A velvet and leather tuxedo in deep maroon. The shirt beneath? Black, button up. Pants, black. Shoes, black but slightly tight.

"I suspect that weed isn't high on their list of crops to grow, Eve," Richard observes a bit dryly, before the metal clink brings his gaze up to the arrival of said host, a smile tugging up at the corner of his lips despite himself.

"I'm a Gemini, myself," he quips, "But I do like what you've done with the place."

Elliot’s black suit and dress shirt are hard to distinguish from the suit he wore at last year’s ill-fated Halloween Gala. The cut is negligibly different. In the eleven years since suits were last made in this world, little about the style would have changed. He’d love it if he were allowed to wear a mask at this party too, though he’s thankful not to need the sling.

Hopefully they'll avoid armed assault as well. For that he has only the folding knife he had on him for the transit from home. He pulls it from his pants pocket to let Levi, who he assumes is as close to a bouncer as this place will have, can see that he’s carrying it. When the hostess appears to guide them toward their destination he checks the position of a bright blue tie. Exactly where he left it.

An aluminum can filled with screws comes tumbling down the stairs Marlowe so elegantly descended a moment before. It lands on the floor with a clatter and the screws go skitter-slipping down each step before rolling under furnishings, underfoot, and out of sight.

A soft “Fuck,” comes from the top of the stairs, followed by the head of a blonde woman poking out from the doorway, then back in. There’s some sharp back-and-forth whispering, and then a grimacing woman in a utility jumpsuit walks out and awkwardly waves at a group dressed for an actual party.

Sarah Hart is a member of the NYPD-SCOUT in the Prime Timeline, but here she appears to be a member of Lowe’s syndicate. A technopath stranded in a world where technopathy has very little utility.

“You—actually—so you did tell them this was a party.” Hart says with an awkward inflection in her voice. She threads an errant lock of blonde hair behind one ear and looks back up to the top of the stairs where Cat stands with her arms crossed, looking down at the lower floor. Cat, also, isn’t dressed up. Instead, it’s a threadbare gray sweater and cargo pants with some loose spools of wires tucked into the pockets. Her sword, for once, is nowhere in sight.

“Hey folks,” Cat says with a quick look at Hart, who kneels down to pick up the screws. “Main party’s upstairs, if everybody wants to go up we can get this started.” She says, offering an apologetic grimace to Lowe on behalf of Hart’s slip with some supplies.

“Don’t mind me,” Hart mumbles, quietly collecting handfuls of screws off the floor. “Don’t mind me.

At the arrival of Queen Lowe, Eve does a courtesy or a bow or some combination of the two that almost sends her onto her side on the floor. "Your Grace… Majesty. Your Highness, Imenience?" Eve takes a moment tapping her chin and looking over at Castle for help with eyebrows raised. Then she settles on: "The Rising Sun, My Queen, thank you for having us."

"We could all do with a little loosening up. Loosey Goosey! We've had family deaths, family injuries, I just died and we've had an incredibly long journey! A moment to put the feet up!" Eve says this with a grand wave to the Queen with a cackle that fills the air but then a can of screws is everywhere and so is a very nervous woman. "Hmmm, butterfingers as well. That's me. I'm such a klutz!" Knocking on her forehead and head tilted to the side with a wide grin. "Here!"

Eve sinks down in a crouch to help Sarah with the screws. "Lots of repairs hm?" A sad smile as she dumps a handful of the screws back into the can, you'd have to be blind to not notice all the work being done on the Pelago as a whole.

Chess shakes her head at Castle’s soft question to her, then nods to Lowe with a smile for the approving nod. She pitches her voice low to reply to Basil, “No, I don’t really know her, but I know who she is. She’s a friend of Monica’s, though, so she’s good people. Back home, and here, too, it see-”

But that’s when the can full of screws hits the floor and clanks its way down the steps. Chess jumps, one hand immediately sliding into her pockets to retrieve the polished stone she keeps there for both worrying at and a safety precaution. Luckily, her brain catches up with her reflexes before she firebombs the lounge, and she exhales slowly, shoulders lowering from the tensed posture they’d leaped into at the sudden noise.

Her eyes narrow a little at Sarah and then up at Cat, before she lifts her brows at the others of her own party. “They wouldn’t invite us here just to have us walk a plank or anything, would they?” she whispers.

Nova’s less bothered by the casually-clad natives, looking at Eve instead with an enchanted look on her face as she regales Marlowe with made-up titles. “I don’t think she’s an actual queen,” she says, quite solemnly, under her breath, as if giving the strange woman some etiquette pointers — she is after all their guide, although she’s not as familiar with these parts herself.

“Shall we?” she asks, voice returning to normal pitch, and she gestures for them to head up the steps, like a cheerful corgi trying to herd them in the right direction.

Robyn's approach to the steps pauses as Cat makes her emergence, first offering a look at Eve and Sarah, and then over at "Queen" Lowe. Her eyes narrow and her head tilts as she regards Cat with suspicious curiosity. "Oh, I can't wait to see what kind of bullshit this is," is muttered under her breath as her shoulders rise and fall to match the annoyed expression on her face.

With a shake of her head, she lifts the guitar up again and starts up the stairs. "Yes. A party is what we were told," she offers in a droll tone, paired with a smile that doesn't at all match it. "Hopefully it's a real blinder."

Elliot is disappointed in himself for thinking this might not have been a trap after all. He looks from hostess to conspirator to technician, sighing and feeling embarrassingly out of place in this suit the local Eve procured out of what he’s sure she thought to be some grand joke.

"OCTOBER␇1,’ he sends on a flicker of his fingers in the pockets of his suit pants. He might feel better if he hadn’t just shown security his weapon.

“Rasterizing2,” Wright responds.

"Please," Marlowe adds after Eve's lavished her with titles. "We can save the bulky titles for business contracts, and wedding announcements, yeah?" After a quick, covert glance to a side, she reaches up to touch a hidden clip on the purse-style pendant to pop a flap open. From the hidden compartment, she produces one rolled joint of weed which is thus bestowed unto Eve. She winks once at Richard after in response to his comment about the availability and priority of weed. And how he looks in his tux. She also aims a particular smile at Nova. "People like to call me 'queen'. I sure as fuck am one, but I like to think I'm no tyrant. I'm here by virtue of those who support me, that much I know."

"And while you're all welcome here, you are friends," Marlowe continues, nodding at Castle affirmingly. She looks like she's going to go on, but the can of screws interrupts and turns her attention up along the stairs as well. Hart and Cat's comparably drab appearances don't change Marlowe's amicable attitude at all, rather serving to spur the Syndicate leader towards the point of the party behind its veneer of pleasures.

"So, friends, you were asked here so we could get to know one another better. The council of captains, as you've already met, are a bit of a mixed bag but overall good people. They went through hell and highwater to keep the Pelago from destruction. We've been through a lot. We trust each other enough to have each other's backs. That's the way it's been at Lowe's. Community, contribution, construction, and doesn't hurt to get a bit commerce in there as well. And when someone or something comes along to disrupt all that, we've got to take a closer… cautious look. Please," Marlowe says once again with gracious invitation and a gesture for them to follow. "The real party's up the steps, in my private workshop."

Marlowe moves forth, boots and skirt sweeping back up the steps. The expectation of the others to follow feels like utmost propriety.

“Think some of us are overdressed?” Castle asks, leaning closer to Chess, a hint of curiosity in the voice that isn’t quite right for him. Or the face that isn’t right for him. “Now I’m starting to think mom played a prank on us by picking out the wardrobe.” Though he had specifically chosen the clothes that he put on for the night, because there had been a few choices set aside for them. It was like their mother had thought they might need some changes of clothes. Very thoughtful. They would make quite a bit of use out of them, he was sure.

“I’ve been working on my problem in case things turn messy. But it’s still hit or miss. Not that you need much help with anything…”

His date can blow up the whole floor if she put her mind to it, after all. He had no doubt that, if things turned south, she would be the one that would get them out of the mess the fastest. At least by blowing any holes in walls that might get put between them and the exit, at least. He still didn’t know if he could manage to get the Castle to respond on command, but—

He didn’t really want to change his code name either, so he was going to keep working on that.

“Lead the way,” he gestures with a thin hand, one that has a tattoo on one of the fingers. Basil had never had any tattoos, but the same couldn’t have been said for his sister’s body.

The confusion and fumbling of the technopath brings one of Richard’s eyebrows upwards— and then he breathes out a chuckle under his breath, one hand coming up to scratch under his chin at the stubble already becoming more than just that. He’d been spoiled by electric razors.

“Gee,” he comments dryly to his companions, “I get the feeling this isn’t really a party, gang. Call off the strippers and the keg delivery.”

A smile crooks his lips anyway as he moves to follow the way upwards, leading the Travellers if nobody else steps up first. He’s not worried about his personal safety, it seems.

Hart offers an askance look to Cat, and then just heads up the stairs without another word. Cat, in turn, follows Marlowe’s lead and starts up the curving concrete staircase.

“It’s not not a party,” Cat offers over her shoulder, scrubbing one hand at the back of her neck as she does.

As Lowe’s guests move toward the stairs, Walker produces Elliot’s knife from a quick sleight of hand and twirls it around, handing it back to him grip-first. Walker doesn’t follow the others up the stairs, but instead leans up against the wall and watches their ascent.

The curving staircase leads up to a small landing that crosses to another staircase. Windows in the landing look out to the crashing sea and the wall is encrusted with crawling ivy. A row of old airport metal detectors are set up in the middle of the landing and bolted to the walls, but they don’t seem to react when Cat walks through clearly carrying a bundle of copper wires in her pockets, or even when Elliot and his knife pass through.

On the other side of the landing another set of stairs ascends to an open pair of doors leading into the penthouse workshop of Queen Lowe herself. There are dozens of workbenches scattered around the wide open space, old Persian rugs rolled out across the floor, some smudged with motor oil and stained with other chemicals. A wide array of mechanical devices from engines to dynamo armatures from hydroelectric plants are in various stages of assembly or disassembly.

A few areas of the workshop are partitioned off by folding screens with faded landscape block prints on them. Overhead, mason jar lights hang on wooden frames partially concealed by a forest of ivy and tree branches growing out of the cracked ceiling, giving the workshop the feeling of being inside of a forested canopy.

The group is led to the middle of the room where a surgery lamp is angled down over a low metal workbench, upon which rests a whole fucking corpse that is steaming with cold vapor and covered in a thin layer of frost.

Cat walks up to the table with the body on it alongside Hart, who does her best to avert her eyes from the macabre display. Cat motions for the others to come over.

The man on the table looks to be somewhere in his mid to late 40s, shoulder-length brown hair and a short beard. The top of his skull has been surgically removed, along with one of his eyes and all of the flesh on his right arm. There is far less surgical damage to his chest, where a huge diagonal section of his torso is missing several rectangular chunks, and pieces of steel appear to be fused with blistered sections of his skin.

The arm that has been stripped down to the bone is not, infact, bone. It looks like a human skeleton, but the bone-like matter has larger pores and is a slate gray color. The bit of ligament and veins still attached to the bone are off-colored, looking more gray blue than they should. Next to the corpse’s empty skull is a dissected brain sitting in an upturned aluminum cake pan. The brain has been split in two to divide the left and right hemispheres revealing a fist-sized cyst in the center of the brain where the Fornix, Thalamus, and Midbrain meet the brain stem.

Beside the brain pan is a shallow metal dish upon which sits a golf ball-sized piece of carbon-fiber material with several severed wires coming off one end.

Cat looks from the body to the Travelers and then nods to Lowe. “They check out,” she says carefully. Then looks back to the Travelers. “The sensor didn’t ping on any of them. They’re not whatever the fuck Confessor Crowley was.”

Castle knows precisely what that is. They saw it inside of Isaac Faulkner’s skull when Doctor Miller pulled it out with his bare hands.

That is the corpse of a synthetic lifeform.

Silent the rest of the way up the stairs, Robyn comes to an abrupt stop as she moves into the workshop and lays her eyes on a fucking human cadaver. Her eyes flick up to Cat, to Hart, and then down to the body as she slowly approaches. "Oh, it's a party alright. Just th' wrong kind."

How glib.

"So, uh, can I be th' first t'ask what the fuck?" There's concern in those words, rather than accusation. Stepping around to the side, she doesn't get too close, but she definitely starts looking it over with as keen an eye as she can manage amidst her surprise and unease. "What fresh hell…" Intrigued by the arm in particular, Robyn leans as close as anyone will let her to it.

“How did that get here?” Castle asks, almost on the heels of Robyn, looking at Crowley’s body with a shocked expression, because— well— they had been very heavily involved in that case, and they had seen first hand what had happened when a brain was sliced open and what was inside. Faulkner had walked away from it, but— it hadn’t been an easy situation. “The leader of the Sentinel that attacked you guys— was a bloody synthetic lifeform? How did you even have the tech to make something like this here?”

— and then the horrible thought. “Assuming he was made here..?” Was he from somewhere else?

At the sight of the cadaver on the table, Chess’ brows draw together; she doesn’t rush forward to look at the body up close, but turns her head to give a questioning look at Cat, Hart, and Lowe. Her fingers worry at the stone tucked in her palm, charging and uncharging it to soothe her nerves. She follows more slowly, but keeps her distance, no desire to get closer than a few yards away.

“This is…” she glances at Castle, eyes wide and she doesn’t complete the thought — this is what Asi, Yi-Min, Kaylee and all the others look like inside? But she swallows the words, unsure of what’s safe to share with their hosts here in the flooded mirror of their own world. She looks to the rest of their party, her eyes wide, then back to Cat.

“Why are you showing us this?” Chess asks.

As Chess hangs back, Nova moves forward, quietly staring at Crowley’s body, at exposed “bone” of the arm, at the brain in the pan, at the thing that came out of the brain. She stays still, quiet, her eyes fixed on the display in front of her — her mind on another Nova in another world and her artificial twin. Is this what she would look like split open on a table? One hand comes up to her mouth, and her teeth find a nail to nibble at as she waits for the responses to the questions already asked.

Assured that this isn’t a party after all, Richard shrugs out of that tuxedo jacket as he walks, folding it loosely over his arm; he’s never felt comfortable in those things, and he’s glad for an excuse to shed it.

One eyebrow raises at the sight of the corpse, glancing to their hosts from behind dark lenses, then returning his attention to what they’re being shown… and his eyes widen. “They… didn’t,” he says, stepping forward to look at the remains more closely, “There’s no way they did. This is— from project Galatea, this timeline doesn’t have the industrial capacity to build something like this. They can’t uh— they can’t even produce some of these materials…”

A sharp look’s shot to Cat, “How long was this man leading the Senti— no, no that doesn’t matter, he could’ve been replaced at any time.”

Elliot grimaces at the table laid out for them. He transfers his knife to an inner jacket pocket in order to make room for silent communication. ‘WARN␠ASI␇,’ he sends to Wright, leaving her to get Asi’s attention in their world first. In the meanwhile he glances around the room as the other Travelers are otherwise distracted.

"The Terminator would never stop…" Eve whispers as they find themselves in the room with an android. The joint bestowed to her by the Queen to which Eve had bowed her head most graciously is now tucked behind her ear and the mad woman prowls the area with eyebrows raised and head tilted to the side, midnight dark strands of hair falling into red orbs. "Invasion."

But how did they get here, how would they know, who was they?

"To know to come here.. at this time. They must have a seer. Or my children's bosses aren't as good at keeping their secrets as they claim." Eve frowns and looks over to Marlowe, "My Queen, when did this invasion begin? How many others have you found?" Her fingertips twitch and a reflex to reach out and claim a vision of what's to come with this otherworldly tech springs fresh in her mind. But that wasn't something she was capable of anymore, Mad Eve's impulses still streak through her. For a desperate moment she looks for something sharp but remembers the body she's been gifted. Trust the Turkey.

What casual and jovial demeanor Marlowe had put on airs for dissipates like the frosty vapors keeping Crowley's dissected as the others are brought closer to the workshop table. She hangs back and to the side briefly, giving them room to congregate. As they study the body, so too does she study them and their reactions to it.

Marlowe turns a sidelong gaze to Cat. "Victory against the Sentinel's final attack only brought us this. And everywhere we've turned, more questions than answers," she tells the travelers after a long pause. "Crowley was their lead inquisitor. Until the fight on the Decatur, few if any saw his face and lived to tell anybody about it. As far as anybody still alive knows? He was a man who took his secrets to his grave."

Marlowe turns away to another nearby table with a covering, pulling off the canvas to reveal pieces of a peculiar vest shorn in two at the same angle as Crowley's torso. She moves forward, coming to the tableside. The brain pan gets a nudge closer to the center of the light, then the vest laid beside it. "We've spent months trying to figure out the tech. The engineering, as you've pointed out, isn't anything we've seen before. But, you all seem to understand what this is. What it means. You've seen this elsewhere. Else-when."

"Tell us about Project Galatea," Marlowe says evenly. It's not a request.

Cat offers Marlowe a quiet look over the table, then glances to Hart, who circles around Crowley’s remains to stand in front of them.

“We didn’t know what we had right away,” Hart says with a quick look to Marlowe, then back to the others. “I was on the water the day the Cerberus crew killed Confessor Crowley. I was—I was helping clean the deck. When I touched his corpse I—I felt something. Something technological inside of him. Cat helped me bring his body back here and I—I just thought it would be something like a pacemaker, something we could strip for Lithium or other rare metals. But it…”

“It blew our minds.” Cat says with a slow spread of her hands. “We showed Marlowe, and the three of us spent weeks trying to piece together what it is he is. The best we could come up with on the resources we have is exactly what Saff—Castle called it. A synthetic life-form. Everything from the bones to the blood are engineered to appear human, but deep down inside… it’s not. Ben Ryans fought this guy, Huruma was inside his head. Neither of them noticed anything.”

As Cat continues Hart circles around the table and moves the surgical lamp down to highlight the vest. “Beside the people in this room, the only other person who knows about this is Levi, downstairs. Over the last year we’ve built a sensor system to detect the unique electromagnetic frequency that sphere inside his brain emitted. So far we’ve discreetly run the Council of Captains through it. But we… we have no idea how many others there are out in the Pelago, or elsewhere.”

“We thought you might know.” Hart says, tilting the light to the side to highlight a shimmering pattern in the hard surfaces of the vest. “Because Crowley wasn’t just a synthetic human, he had other technology with him that I can’t even figure out.”

That familiar shimmering pattern to the material is unmistakable to the Travelers. A nanomaterial designed to resist the Shearing force of the Looking Glass. It’s exactly like the breastplate of the suits the Travelers used, with modifications.

“Martin Crowley nearly killed all of us.” Hart says with the Good Cop routine to Marlowe’s Queen Cop. “If you know anything that could help us, we need to know. Did this thing come from your world?”

“And if so?” Cat asks, crossing her arms over her chest, “Who sent it?

"I'm not quite sure th' timeline quite lines up for an invasion," is a more grounded, even response to Eve than many have heard out of Robyn as of late, "since this is… what, almost three years old." Slowly Robyn reaches down to the vest, running a finger across the familiar material. "But it's still insanely worrying."

Her finger taps gently against the vest, eyes rising to look up at Cat with a curious expression. "This worries me more," she remarks about the vest. "We had t'wear suits to make it here without dying. This is terrifyingly similar." And in case Cat somehow can't pick up the implication, Robyn looks her in the eyes. "This is what you use t'cross timelines safely." Two fingers stay pressed against it, her shoulders rising and falling as she takes a wary breath. "God, maybe timeline doesn't even matter."

A glance is given over to Richard, then back down to the vest as she leans close to it. "Is this the only one y'have? Has anyone checked any Sentinel wreckages from the attack?" There's a sudden analytical turn to her voice, thumb rubbing at her chin - maybe she's switching into work mode.

“Crowley is the only one we found,” Cat confirms. “And no other suits like this.”

It's not the material that's caught Richard's attention, but something else entirely. He sweeps off his shades and tucks them into a pocket, tossing his jacket over onto a random chair and stepping forward quickly. One hand comes up resting on Robyn's shoulder as he leans forward and past her to look at the garment that the synthetic corpse is still wearing, half-fused into the steel girder. The shades are tucked away into a pocket as he reaches out, fingers trailing over a frost-cracked pipe here, over a metal frame, over…

"No," he breathes out, shaking his head and repeating louder, "No, this isn't possible. This isn't— this isn't a shear suit, this is a jump suit, this…this tech is at least three generations past what Michelle's done, this— "

Eyes as black as midnight snap towards Cat and Marlowe, his authoritative tone suddenly very much reminiscent of his mother's to those who knew her, "What was he doing? What did he say? Anything unusual? Do you have any recordings?"

Asi's presence pinging Elliot brings with it a mild confusion and a vague sense of dread. Why had Wright been the one to reach out instead of him tapping her attention? What was this thing requiring her to stay calm? Whatever she might've thought it could be, she's wrong twice over. "Holy shit," she whispers, willing herself to mute her reaction down for his sake. "This…" Her mind races to find something to contribute rather than just tag along for the revelations. "This has to be a divergence. I don't think he's from here, for whatever that's worth. Crowley isn't a Vanguard name here, and… long dead, besides."

Chess frowns as Richard speaks, and shakes her head slightly — not in disagreement but in confusion. “Jump suit, not a sheer suit? Meaning, what, that they wouldn’t need the device at all? Because I distinctly remember jumping,” she says wryly.

The youngest among them takes a few steps forward at last to look at the corpse on the table curiously, then looks up at Hart. “Their world didn’t send it, unless someone else did without our knowing. Obviously.” Nova gestures to the surprised — shocked, really — expressions on all of the faces of the Travelers gathered around the body.

“But they do have people like this in their world. They went undetected for some time and did not know they were not humans like you or me. They feel what we all feel. Empaths, telepaths cannot tell the difference. Only doing this…” she gestures to the body again, “revealed what they were. But that is very recent. A year?”

Nova glances at Castle to confirm, then looks back to Cat and Hart. “Maybe this was an early iteration. But I do not know why anyone who would have made it would have sent it here — and as Meneer Ray says, the technology is better than their own.”

"That's exactly what I mean," Richard answers Chess, gesturing to the vest, "He's wearing a portable Looking Glass.”

"You sound like you have no imagination but that's not hard to fathom." Eve replies to Robyn as she continues to squint at the body of the robot, eyeing the vest and listening to the others speak. "Invasions don't start with an army, they start with scouts." Eyes close, wanting to ignore that Looking Glass tech. Disdain for the technology that has ripped the world apart fills her and nostrils flare. For progress.

Rolling her eyes now at this inconvenience, tampering with forces unknown gone wrong, "What is the range on your sensor? Gather all the chickens in one place and do a little scanny. Big rewards." Things start to twist in her gut at the thought of how wrong this could all go by an infiltration.

“About one foot.” Cat says flatly, side-eying the direction the Travelers entered from, “you walked through it. It’s uh, not as easy as that sounds. Trust me we already thought of the why don’t we just try and scan a few thousand people angle.”

"At least this proves without a doubt coming along would have hurt more than help. Androids of unidentified descent coming with you really would not have helped your case with these people," Asi mutters as an aside to Elliot.

There’s a long bout of silence from Castle, as their eyes darken and their face grows far more serious. Their lips move as if to be muttering, but there’s no real sound coming from them. Then, when they do speak up, it’s in tones that are— vaguely British for some reason or another. They always had a muddled accent, but sometimes it descended into certain tones for specific reasons, and there was a reason—

“After coming through to their world, I was taken in by this agency and I worked with them to stop further incursions. To investigate other disruptions in the timeline.” Disruptions like them. “Looking back, it was what my mother probably saw for us.” The reason she had manipulated them into going to the Ark in the first place. There was a small tsking sound, and they avoided looking at the younger ghost of their mother for a moment before they continued. “When we came upon our versions of this— We thought the same thing you did. That they were from another world at first.”

At first. “It was why I was on the case at all. Every evidence we discovered told us that they were from that world. It took quick and dirty brain autopsy to discover their true nature, and we hadn’t been willing to murder citizens under speculation, so we took some extreme measures when it came time to cut one of them open to discover what was really under the surface.” They had been able to bring Faulkner back to life. They wouldn’t have suggested the procedure if they couldn’t have.

But they didn’t need to know the full details.

“Even after we discovered they were synthetic beings, they were still, most definitely, created in that world. However, the technology— still felt, in many ways, beyond the ability of that world…” There’s a thought, but they trail off, and look at Nova. As if maybe she would know something about this. More so than anyone else might. But that would be a question that would need to wait. Possibly a long time.

“It was still an open investigation when we left, with a few corporations being looked into as having related tech, but nothing that was— like this.” And by this, they gesture to the portable Looking Glass. This was definitely something they would need to relay to the home office at some point.

Elliot sighs as Asi points out that this trap laid for the Travelers would likely have caught her up in it. The best he can give her for a response right now is a crooked eyebrow that suggests, You're not wrong.

If whoever was behind this, Elliot thinks, has access to portable Looking Glasses, they could be from a world we have no knowledge of and no way to prepare for. He doesn't feel the need to spread bleak speculation to people who already fear other synthetic replacements.

Marlowe leans over the strange vest and bisected bionics of Crowley's corpse like a lioness at a kill eyeing a pack of scavengers. "He was able to instantly teleport short distances on the deck during the battle. Something happened and he wound up jumping into the wrong point. His own final destination," her answer to Richard draws out slowly as it comes secondhand. "If he said anything then, it'd be Captain Ryans and his first mate you'd want to ask who heard it. And, well, if Crowley did feel anything at all in his little machine heart…" Her voice lowers as she looks to Nova. "I hope he suffered."

Straightening from the mild hunch, Marlowe takes another moment to consider the travelers and looks past them to the repurposed airport screening detectors they'd passed through. "You know, they've brought more of this material with them," the Syndicate leader points out thoughtfully to Cat and Hart, her hand laying on the dark weave of the vest, fingers drumming lightly. "And a question that comes to mind is, where did your suits come from? And what're you going to do with them?" Her gaze strays back to Eve, lingering there, then sweeping back to the group in general. "If you’re willing to part with one, maybe we can come up with something that'll make this tech functional again. And by that, figure out who might be behind all this, and what they intend to do with it."

Her hand sweeps in gesture to the workshop. "Or, we can just hook Crowley up by some jumper cables on his nips, put some lightbulbs in his eyes and a projector up his ass and watch some fucking Golden Girls on canvas with a couple bottles o' rum to go around." Marlowe shrugs exaggeratedly. She’s not serious about that suggestion. Mostly not.

"Marlowe Terrell," Asi whispers to herself, equal parts horror and amusement at this other version of her usually more-wholesome friend.

“I’m not sure that’s how this works,” Hart says softly with a furrow in her brows. She looks to Cat, who circles the table.

“At the end of the day, we don’t know where this thing came from, how long it had been posing as Martin Crowley, if we was replaced or if it’s been here for years.” Cat says as she gestures back to the remains. “But for all intents and purposes, it is alive. The tissue decays, and we’ve been keeping it on ice for analysis. There’s some smaller components that are strictly artificial, like this… thing in his brain.” She says, motioning to the golfball-sized object. “But we don’t have the hardware to properly analyze it.”

“And it’s not functional anymore,” Hart adds. “I think it was, right after he died when we were moving the bodies, but it’s dormant now. I can’t feel anything from it, technologically.” She frowns, folding her hands in front of herself.

“But if this thing he was wearing was a portable version of the machine that was built in the Ark?” Cat asks, tapping the broken device on Crowley’s vest, “That raises even more questions. Answers to which I don’t know if we even have here…” She looks at Marlowe, then Hart, then back to the others. “But based on something you said at the council, I have an idea of someone who might.

“Richard Drucker.” Hart interjects. “I remember reading magazine articles about him before the flood. If he’s alive like—like you say he is? He might be the most brilliant mind left on the planet, and one with a lab we could analyze this at.”

“Which is our way of saying, if you’re going to Alaska…” Cat crosses her arms over her chest, “we’d like to come along, to get to the bottom of our own Scooby Doo mystery.”

Robyn only looks up from the body of the false Martin Crowley at the mention of her father; She had been listening but quiet until then. Instead, her attention had been focused on Marlowe. With a huffed out sigh, she stands straight and looks the “Queen” in the eyes.

“Ours don’t have this Looking Glass tech in them,” she remarks in a low and even toned voice. “If you want to examine one to understand it better or replicate it, I’m not against it. I encourage it even. But I want to be entirely clear about something first.”

Tapping her finger against the vest again, her gaze doesn’t waver from Marlowe. “In the unlikely event we find a way home, these suits are how we survive that trip. If one of them is damaged or destroyed, congrats, someone just got stranded here. Please be careful with them.”

Standing straight and crossing her arms, she lets out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. “That said, you can have mine to look over if you want to. I can bring it to you later tonight.” Her gaze sweeps to the others expecting remarks or protest.

She’ll let someone else handle their new tagalongs. It’s new to her, thinking of Drucker as someone in magazines and articles.

“I don’t…” Richard’s first reaction when they mention experimenting with the ‘jump suit’ is concern; he knows all too well the dangers of the Looking Glass technology. They could tear a hole in reality, they could get people sent to other timelines, they could splinter reality further…

But on second thought, this timeline was - most likely - doomed. And splintering the timelines further would just give the Entity a headache, so why the hell not?

“Drucker might be able to help, agreed,” he finally says, spreading his hands with a shrug, “And we’re heading to Alaska regardless— there’s strength in numbers, after all.”

"Excellent ideas buzzing about like fruit flies but the non gross kind, hm." Were there non gross kind of flies? Eve claps her hands together and eyes the Queen and the vest with eyebrows raising ever so slightly.

A way for these people to flee when the time is right, in case of her failure. "Please find out what you can yes Queen Lowe," Nodding her head at the others but now watching Cat, "Now it's becoming a party." Which Eve is thrilled about!

“Ours don’t have powers,” Chess says, staring at Crowley, then glancing up at the others. “But that’s not to say they couldn’t, eventually. But,” and her eyes flicker to Cat and Marlowe, “they do feel. Think. They couldn’t tell they weren’t themselves, so if we could, you know, ix-nay calling them things, that’d be cool.”

She might be thinking about Asi listening in on Elliot’s interdimensional Zoom call.

Nova offers her a small smile of something-like gratitude – given there’s another Nova out there she can’t connect with that thinks and feels like her other selves do.

But she’s less offended, and her smile is wide as Drucker’s name is bandied about. “He is very brilliant, and I know he will be excited to see that. You are very welcome on our road trip, but as you know it is a very long trip – do you plan to return or will you resettle in Anchor?” she asks curiously.

“He may not have had an ability,” Elliot says, realizing that those are the first words he’s said out loud since arriving. “If he came in a suit that could hop between timelines, it’s entirely possible it could hop through distances in local space as well.”

"Let me mark down perfected Looking Glass technology as something I was not expecting this world to have for you," Asi murmurs as an aside. Cigarette smoke fills her nose and lungs before she flicks embers aside. "But if reverse-engineering the suit, the vest, is possible… it could be your way back home."

“This isn’t the worst party we’ve been to,” Castle says with a small grin, though it might be about to get a little nicer, even if there’s still a body laying there, one that at least part of them doesn’t particularly want to look at for very long. As the others have addressed some things, they decide to address others, looking at Cat and Hart. “We can’t promise you that Drucker will be willing or even able to help you in everything that you want, but we can promise to help you get there.” Since they would be helping them as well. That was a fair exchange. “We welcome the company, honestly. It sounds like it’s going to be a long trip.” Unfortunately.

And then they add to Marlowe since it wasn’t mentioned already, “We already lost one suit in our entry,” There’s no blame in their voice, the entry itself had been a mess, and they also don’t even look at the one who had lost the suit. “So if your research enables you to replicate something similar, we would be very grateful.”

And finally— the most important question— “Where can I find Captain Ryans usually? I think I should have a word with him about what he saw with him.” The nod toward the unfortunate body.

Marlowe meets Robyn's stare full on, gamely holding the other woman's gaze as words, subtexts, and exchanges are arranged. Even as Robyn's gaze leaves the little contest, Marlowe's eyes linger a few long beats longer on her. "I'll let Levi know to expect you," the Syndicate leader's reply eases from her with no comments made for the notion of stranded travelers, no guarantees for analyzing works from another dimension. They all see the items haphazardly laid out before them.

"Hai, ganbarimasu,"[[footnote]]Yes, I'll do my best.[[//footnote]] Marlowe adds with a nod to Castle's remark on replicating the suit tech to be presented. Her eyes are lit up with an inner fire and excitement at the prospect. "I expect Captain Ryans and his crew to be aboard the Cerberus as long as they're docked here, like you all with Captain Van Dalen." She nods acknowledgingly to Nova. "And, well, once we're able to establish an overland route to Anchor, and to Richard Drucker? That's the sort of large investments the Syndicate's willing to throw all our effort into. We're willing to commit supplies, manpower…"

Marlowe leaves off the last thoughts, but her tone almost implies security and oversight. "Also, now that you know about Crowley's dirty little secret," she says, glancing from the body over to Chess, then the others, "It should go without saying that mentioning this to anybody outside of this party is a poor way to find out who's here to help you, and who's going to make that leak hurt. The only way we've been able to screen anybody out here is through those detectors." Hart and Cat earn a second glance.

"So, be careful," cautions Marlowe.

“If you’ve got a schematic for that detector,” asks Richard a bit wryly, “I wouldn’t say no to getting a copy of it. We’ve got our own problems with that thing on our side of the multiverse, and I know I could make good use of it setting up checkpoints in sensitive areas.”

He glances to Castle, “Let me know what you find out. If he said something…”

Cat casts a side-long look at Marlowe, then nods to something she sees in the syndicate leader’s posture. When she turns her attention back it is to the group as a whole, brushing off a little grit from her palms as she does.

“That all said,” Cat begins, motioning with her head toward the stairs they’d come up from, “we don’t know if Crowley came alone, either. If he came here and worked with the Sentinel to try and kill us all…”

“…there’s no telling what someone else might do.”


Elsewhere in the Pelago

An oil lantern casts flickering shadows on concrete walls. Old posters of bands and films from before the end of the world decorate the space, held in place by patches of peeling duct tape. The person who lived in this space died in the Sentinel purge of the pelago, but he’d collected as many pre-flood memories in his quarters as possible over his life. There was no body to bury, no family members to mourn, and a scant few friends who also perished in the destruction of the Empire State Building. Now, his quarters are the temporary residence of another. A traveler from distant shores.

A green canvas duffle bag is open on the floor at the foot of the bed. Inside, two rifles with folding stocks and several weathered plastic baggies of hand-packed ammunition are exposed to the lamplight. But also within the bag is a suit of body armor made from a material that cannot be replicated by ordinary means in this timeline, tiny hexagonal plates of hydrophobic nanomaterial designed to resist the frictional shearing forces of the Looking Glass.

Swinging her legs over the side of the bed, the new occupant of this room plants a foot on either end of the duffle bag, then hunches forward and pulls out a helmet from within. Her calloused fingers brush across the scuffs and scrapes in the helmet’s surface, her thumbnail traces a deep gouge in the visor. The helmet is old, battered from use that it was never intended for over a lifetime of operation that it was never designed to endure. On the brow, there is a name embossed on the helmet, one to indicate who the owner is and identify them for the remainder of their team.

Her eyes narrow, jaw sets, and she traces her thumb over each letter…



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