Retroactive Karma


lance_icon.gif lene_icon.gif pines_icon.gif

Scene Title Retroactive Karma
Synopsis Lance follows a lead to check up on a possible part-time job, and finds that his future is part of someone else's past.
Date June 30, 2018

WSZR Building

The WSZR Building is a refurbished mill located on the west end of Elmhurst, bordering Newtown Creek. The structure was a textile factory at the turn of the century, but was refitted into and used as a Cold War-era listening post through the 1960s. Much of the old radio equipment remained behind after the structure was subsequently refitted into a shipping warehouse. Following the war, the building sat in disrepair and was purchased by settler Martin Pines with his resettlement grant. The building remains a four story mill structure, but Pines spent two years refitting the broadcast equipment and — with the help of his sole employee Jolene Petrelli — managed to connect the station to surviving broadcast antennas nearby in Elmhurst. The lower floors of the building are equipped with diesel generators to provide electricity during power outages of the the delicate Safe Zone grid. The upper levels of the mill building are personal living spaces for Pines, though the majority of the open-concept structure is dedicated to the radio station.

A truck blares its horn as it rumbles down the street, warning a young man in a grey hoodie and jeans as he darts over the blacktop to the sidewalk— turning once he’s on that concrete oasis and extending his middle finger in an age-old gesture of offense to the departing vehicle, shouting, “Watch where you’re driving! ‘Couldn’t see me there’, that’s total botswarf— “

Turning away from his near-doom he looks up the brick sides of the old mill building, now a radio station, Lance brings up a hand to adjust the strap on the backpack he’s wearing. Burying that knot of worry at just showing up like this, he steps along up to the front entrance to hit the doorbell.

He’s even got a recommendation from someone who said they know the people who run the place, so maybe that’ll help? It can’t hurt, at least.

The front door of WSZR, up a flight of metal scaffolding steps to the second floor of the mill building, looks as rugged and weathered as the entire neighborhood it’s in. There’s no sign indicating that it is the WSZR building, but the soft din of music coming from inside is as good enough an indication. The doorbell, though, is a shrill monster.


It crackles through the door, a loud buzz that elicits a shout of, “Hold on!” The voice is unfamiliar to Lance, an old man he has no frame of reference for. It’s several long moments before the door is opened, and the stooped frame of a slight old man with wispy gray hair and a scarf wound around his neck is not the greeting he’d expected.

“Oh, uh, hello there son.” He offers with a warm smile to the young stranger. “If you’re looking for the coffee place, it’s on the ground floor, other side of the building. They’ve been closed what about… a week now, though. Hard to get coffee these days.”

Martin!” A young woman’s voice rings from inside. “Who’s at the door? Is it mom?” The old man, Martin, turns and looks back and waves one hand dismissively, then turns and looks back to Lance with brows raised expectantly.

“Hi! No, not coffee, I’m looking for the radio station? WSZR? Maybe I’ve— uh— got the wrong building…” Lance’s tone turns a bit dubious at his own thoughts, leaning back with an arch of his back to crane his neck and look over the building’s facade. Surely there’d be a sign, right? There’s music coming from inside, though, but he’s second-guessing himself now.

“I’m looking for— what did Robyn say— “ He fumbles with a pocket of his hoodie, pulling out a scrap of paper, “Uh, ‘Martin and Jolene’? Sorry if I’ve got the wrong place, mister.” At least there’s one man and one woman in the building, so maybe it is the right place.

A warm smile slowly grows on the old man’s face when Lance explains why he’s here. “Oh, you’re not at the wrong place at all, no…” Martin steps aside and motions into the spacious — and sparse — mill space. “Come on in, this is WSZR alright. She isn’t much to look at right now, but… well, you know how it goes.” With a raise of his brows the old man adds, “And, if you hadn’t put it together, I’m Martin. Martin Pines.”

Inside, beyond the single folding table and chairs sat in the middle of a spacious mill building lies an enclosed room with brick walls and a sturdy metal door. A light above the door currently shows green, and there’s a young woman stepping out from the doorway, vaguely familiar to Lance in the way people he may have met once or twice can be. Pollepel is when it clicks for him.

“Martin!” Jolene calls out, “who is it?”

Martin, ever helpful, quietly calls back. “Some nice young man who knew our names!”

“You don’t need a lot of clutter,” Lance opins as he steps inside, shrugging the backpack into a better position on his back, looking around the open space inside, “I always like big empty spaces, the acoustics are great…”

A smile flashes then across his expression as he straightens, offering back, “I’m Lance, Lance Gerken. I was talking to Robyn— uh, Robyn Quinn? She said you know her?”

Familiarity flickers in his eyes as he turns towards the doorway, his brow furrowing a little as he tries to place her. “Hey, uh— do I remember you from the castle?” It’s easier to say the castle in case someone doesn’t recognize the reference, in these days of fame for the Ferrymen and their associates.

Jolene looks like she’s seen a ghost. Because, technically, she has. The color has visibly drained from her face when Lance introduces himself, Pines can see the expression and gives a gentle pat to Lance’s back. At the same time he’s meeting Jolene’s stare, brows up in an earnest you ok look. As he steps away from Lance, hand coming off of his back, Jolene recollects herself enough to give Martin a tentative nod and a thankful smile.

“I’ll leave you two kids alone,” Martin says in a soft tone of voice, “and man the battlements. If you hear any screams, that’s just me listening to the Animals.” A smile creeps up again as Martin starts making his way to the booth, leaving Jolene alone with Lance. She doesn’t say anything, just ambles forward on her crutches.

Those… Lance doesn’t remember.

“Um…” Lance turns his head to watch Martin as he withdraws from the scene with that comment, leaving him standing in the middle of a large room alone with Jolene. He brings a hand up, fingers scrubbing against the nape of his neck self-consciously as he watches her approach on crutches.

“So, uh… do I know you,” he asks uncertainly, clearing his throat as he tries to figure out what to say, “I mean, you look familiar. The— crutches are new, I think…?”

A long pause, “Um. Are you okay? …say something?” He’s used to quiet - quiet is literally his thing - but this is weird. And she’s coming forward slowly and unrelenting, like a disabled slasher from a particularly surrealistic horror movie about a radio station.

Lance,” Jolene exasperatedly exhales, lunging forward as best as she can, letting one crutch fall idly to the side with a noisy clatter so she can loop her good arm around the young man’s shoulders. She smells of dust and old linens, spicy tea and pressed flowers. “Oh my God, Lance.” There's obvious emotion in her voice, her grip around him firm but hardly tight — though not for lack of trying.

When she leans back from the embrace, when Lene’s green eyes settle on the uncertainty and unfamiliar in Lance’s expression, there's a flush of color that comes over her cheeks and a furrow of her brows that implies immediate embarrassment. For a moment, she forgot herself.

As she lunges forward, Lance very briefly shifts towards a judo stance, but catches himself before throwing her over his shoulder when he realizes she’s not going for his throat like some horror movie monster. The embrace is only more confusion since he only vaguely remembers her, hands lifting to pat against her back awkwardly, “Uh, yeah, that’s… that’s me, I…”

She leans back, and then a memory twinges from just a month or two before, his eyes widening as he finally connects the dots.

Of course… then the kids seem to not know what she means about the slang from the future and Lynette looks puzzled for a moment. "Did no one explain it to you? I suppose you were young at the time." And it was crazy. "Cash and Adel and… Noa, Jolene, Benji, Ingrid— They were all from the future. A future. They came back to avert it, no one told you this? Really?"

“Wait, wait— Lynette said— you’re a time traveller,” Lance accuses her with a bit of awe in his voice, the implications of her knowing him hitting him all at once as he leaps to an assumption, “Aren’t you? You must know future me?!” He pauses to take a breath, and then there’s the barrage: “Is he as primal as current me? What’s he like? Did he join SESA? Did he ever go to college? Did he get married or have kids or anything?!”

The answer to most of those questions is probably way more depressing than he knows, but then nobody ever told the kids much about the Wasteland.

Don't destroy the integrity of the timestream, Hannah would say. But Hannah Sumter isn't here. So fuck the timestream and it’s integrity. “I am— was? I don't know what you'd consider me anymore.” Lance’s reaction makes it easier for Jolene to recover from her faux pas, and that itself makes it easier for her to answer his questions.

“We were close,” Jolene admits with a flash of a smile, unaware of how history has spilled out over the intervening years. “There… wasn't a SESA where we’re from. It— ” She hesitates. “How much do you know about where I came from?” As she asks that difficult question, Jolene starts moving to the folding table, gesturing for Lance to take a chair with her. The discarded crutch is just left there on the floor for the time, she can make sue with one.

All that awkward uncertainty about being in a new place with people he doesn’t know has fallen away now, as Lance is incredibly interested in the fact that he’s talking to a time traveller that knew him in the future. Which takes a backseat to any fear of embarrassment he might have otherwise been holding onto.

He does pick up that discarded crutch, though, stepping over to grab it before moving over to the table and leaning it against the edge. Dropping back into the seat, he rocks back and then forward, arms folding on the table as he looks at her with eager attentiveness. “We… uh, nothing,” he admits sheepishly, “Lynette mentioned it like— just last month when we were having dinner with her and Mister Ruiz— that’s her husband— she said that you’d come back to stop your future, like the Terminator?”

“Literally,” Jolene admits with a laugh. “I didn't get that reference until about two months ago. We… didn't exactly have movies back home.” Green eyes shift briefly to the studio door, then back to Lance. “Imagine if the war never ended, and what the world would've looked like. That's where we were from, basically. Nukes went off everywhere, the world was poisoned… we were all hunted like animals.”

It isn't a pleasant topic, so Lene chooses to segue some. “But— yeah, I knew you. We… met in like, mmn,” her eyes alight to the ceiling, “20… 34?” She nods, thoughtfully, “Right around the time Ygraine and Robyn adopted me. It— it was a good time. I mean, you were a whole fucking lot older back then.” She cracks a smile at that. “Married, too!” Because that's a fun thing to talk about, and Jolene has no idea how thin the ice she's treading on really is.

“Whoa. Not primal,” Lance murmurs at the description of the world they went through, “The war here was bad enough… sorry.” He grimaces a little, “Don’t have to talk about it— “

Then he’s grinning again, “Twenty thirty four? Jeeze, I was a lot older, that’s like, retirement age.” Teenagers. ”Robyn adopted you? She was one of us. Kinda.” The semi-adults, back then. Existing somewhere between the Lighthouse Kids and their keepers, like Colette and Tasha. “You probably knew that though— I was married? Is it, I mean is it anyone I might know now?” Thinking of all the teenagers and others his age that he might know, there are a few possibilities.

He’d never think of the truth, though.

“Maybe? I mean…” Lene carefully settles down into one of the metal folding chairs, putting her one crutch beside the one Lance carried for her. “Back in my time, you two were happy. But — and I can say this because I'm certain we've avoided that future — when you died, it really crushed her.” There’s a simple earnestly in Jolene’s words, a matter-of-fact simplicity that displays her familiarity and experience with death. Everyone dies eventually, it's nothing to avoid discussing.

“I honestly don't even know where she is anymore. She came back with us though, to save you. To save everyone. I'm surprised she never told you, even after we decided to pull back the masks we were wearing.” Lene lays one hand in her lap, while the other idly plays with a lock of hair. “I saw her during the war, and then…” She makes a soft, uncomfortable sound in the back of her throat. “She's reclusive. Kasha — Cash — never really was much of a people-person except around you. I don't even know if she's still here. Walter disappeared so… maybe she left with him.”

Everyone dies. Lance does look momentarily uncomfortable as his own mortality is mentioned so casually, but then she’s focusing on his future self’s wife, and his interest is piqued again. “Well, nobody ever told us kids that— “




He just stares at her in wide-eyed silence as something she said hits him mid-sentence, absolutely dumbstruck at the revelation of who his future wife was.. 404 Error. Reboot?..

Both of Lene’s brows go up, head tilting to the side, worry slowly beginning to creep in on the edges of her expression. “L-Lance? Are uh— are you ok?” There’s an uncertainty in Lene’s eyes that grows to fear that she said or did something wrong. Her hands come to settle flat on the top of the folding table, leaning forward with an earnest concern.

“Lance?” Briefly, Lene looks to the green light of the studio door, then back to her time-distanced friend. “Uh, is… did I… uh…” She did.

“I, uh… sorry, I…” Lance rakes a hand back through his hair anxiously as he snaps out of it, trying to wrap his mind around the concept, “I know Cash. I know— I mean I know Kasha, she was brought to the Lighthouse as a baby, I…” He swallows once, continuing to babble a little as he uses words to work it out, “Cash has— she’s always been around. I mean, I guess since you came back? She taught me to use my powers, and… a bunch of other stuff, fuck, we used to play scavenger hunt when I was a kid, little stone toys and stuff that she’d hide, I still have them…”

He still looks absolutely shocked at this news, “I— I mean, I married Kasha? That was Kasha all this time?”

Ohmygosh,” Jolene exhales the words with the urgency she would if they were poison. “L-Lance I… I ah— no it— it’s a differrrr… nnnhh…” Panicking, she reaches scrambling hands across the table to take one of Lance’s, perhaps to try and reassure him or build some great lie that this was all a practical joke. Ha ha isn’t it funny, Lance? The pounding of blood in Lene’s ears and the race of her heart makes the joke lose all humor.

“I— I didn’t realize y-you— I’m— ” Lene swallows audibly, pawing at her own face nervously with one hand. “S-so sorry, I’m— I shouldn’t have opened m-my… oh no. No, no, no. This’s uhh— uhhh…”

“I, I just…” Lance’s fingers curl back against hers for that reassurance, looking down at her hand and his, “Wow. I mean… that’s a lot to… absorb.” Is he angry? Upset? Even he doesn’t know. “A lot to take in, I mean— no, I, thanks for telling me— “

He flashes a quick smile, squeezing her hand, “It’s okay. You just— you didn’t know, and— someone should’ve told me a long time ago.” She probably should’ve told him, instead of…

Instead of whatever she’s been doing.

“Wow. I… um. So hey,” he changes the subject, offering her that irrepressible grin that he’s always had, “How long’ve you been working here? Robyn, uh, she suggested maybe I should volunteer here maybe? I could keep noise out of your broadcast room, or something, and— I mean, you knew me once. Chance to get to know each other again now?”

He pauses, “Wait, did Robyn know about all this?” IT’S A SET UP!

Lene makes a noise in the back of her throat, shoulders hunching and brows furrowed. “R-Robyn didn’t know, I mean, unless you meant my Robyn from— you didn’t mean her.” Lene closes her eyes and scrubs one hand at her forehead. “Look it’s…” she lets the topic change go for the moment, “some terrible shit happened where I’m from, and… and when you died… Kasha…” she looks away, eyes glassy. “I didn’t think she’d ever recover.”

There’s an awkward silence for a while, with Jolene looking away, eyes halfway lidded and teeth drawing at her lower lip. When she blinks a look back up to Lance, there’s apology in her expression, in the way her brows furrow together and raise, in the way she can’t quite look him in the eye of vocalize what’s hurting for her. It clearly isn’t easy for either of them.

It’s a lot for Lance to digest, and right now it’s mostly confusion, and he’s a little freaked out… but the woman across from him is clearly more upset in the moment. Always the one that tried to keep morale high at the Lighthouse (if sometimes in misguided/hilarious ways), he pushes his own feelings out of the way for hers. His other hand moves to cover hers as well, clasping it between the two of his warmly.

“Hey,” he says more gently, “It’s alright. She’s— she’s okay, I mean, I’ve seen her a lot, and… she seems okay. And a lot of bad stuff happened, I’m sure, but— shit, we gotta move on. My sister, uh, Brynn? Maybe you knew her, I don’t know, she’s not really my sister, she was just at the Lighthouse with us— “ He’s babbling a little again. “— anyway. She told me, she was telling me that there was Before and now there’s After and we can’t keep living in the Before. We need to decide what our lives are gonna be now. Especially since Before was fucking botswarf, for me and you.”

He pauses, eyes rolling up as if he’s thinking, “Uh, maybe before and after are bad terms for you because of time travel— anyway, anyway, you know what I mean, right?” He flashes her that grin again, “C’mon. It’s ok. I can— figure that, I can figure out all that weird stuff later.”

It’s probably not okay, but Lance is a master of faking ‘okay’.

“And look,” he adds, “I’m totally alive now!”

Jolene’s green eyes alight to Lance, nervousness and anxiety chiseled across her features. She looks down, blankly, to the table top. “You are,” Jolene says softly, lifting up her good hand to scrubs away tears welled up in her eyes. “I'm sorry, Lance. I shouldn't have— I shouldn't have said the things I did. You… you're not the person I knew growing up.” Looking up to him, juxtaposed in a reverse position of seniority, Lene appears rueful.

“Cash loves you… loved you so much. If she didn't tell you, there's a reason for it. Probably— probably because she's not a fucking Petrelli and knows how to keep her mouth shut.” Jolene braces one hand against the side of her head, brows furrowed intently. “I'm sorry. You're such a sweet kid. You didn't…” Deserve this? That doesn't feel right in her mouth. “Ask for this.” He didn't.

Lance crooks one brow up— a Petrelli?— but doesn’t ask, just giving his head a little shake. “Maybe not,” he admits, “But— I mean, I’ll talk with Cash and that’ll get— figured out. Somehow.” Fuck all if he knows how. He’s confused as shit and isn’t even trying to process it right now.

“And yeah, maybe I’m not the same person, I’m a different… version? But,” shoulders roll in a shrug like a wave, “Doesn’t mean we can’t get to know each other all over again, right? Just, uh, reversed?” There’s gotta be a joke in there somewhere, but he can’t think of one right now.

“…what’s your favorite color?” It was the first question he could think of!

The expression that crosses Jolene’s face next isn't one of regret or sorrow, but a more bittersweet recognition of the younger man who just wants to make things better. She exhales a sigh, shaking her head and smiling all in one. “You're so sweet,” Lene admits in a hushed voice, “I don't think that'll ever change in any timeline.”

But then, that admission made, her green eyes cast to the side and contemplate a different question altogether. “Red,” she finally says, answering Lance’s question as though she's never really thought of it before. Then, to be fair back she asks two of Lance:

“What's yours, and… why’d you really come here?”

“Blue,” Lance admits, his smile widening a little when she relaxes a little more, “And hey, don’t tell anyone, it’ll ruin my rep as a grim avengers.” One eye closes in a wink, and then he shrugs a little, hand sliding from hers as he leans back in his chair.

“So, uh, like I was saying I was looking for some stuff to do and Robyn thought maybe I could come volunteer here,” he admits, repeating from earlier attempts to change the subject, “Maybe I could use my ability to filter out sounds when you’re broadcasting or something?”

A pause, “I totally think she set us up, though, now.” He grins, “I’ll have to get her back.”

Jolene laughs, snorts, and then shakes her head slowly. She doesn't correct Lance on anything. “Why volunteer?” She asks rhetorically. “Martin’s paying me. It's not a lot, but it's work I can actually do. We could use another DJ, and we can both show you the ropes. It's not hard, and we don't really have any major competition in the area.”

Cracking a smile, Jolene lets her hands come to rest in her lap. “Your ability'd be super handy here too. You figure out how to screw with people’s minds with it yet?” Did he what?

“Really?” Lance’s brows lift a bit at that, sitting up, “I mean— absolutely. I’m talking with Robyn and Agent Lin about maybe joining SESA, but, there’s probably a lot of training and stuff before then, and like, studying. I’d like to be making money other than, like, selling smuggled guns though.” He’s doing what? Well, guns aren’t illegal. Technically.

Then he blinks, leaning in again, “Wait, wait, screw with what? Cash taught me some stuff, but— how’s that?”

It’s probably cheating asking people from the future how his power works. He just considers it a head start.

For a moment, Jolene gets thoughtful and relaxed against the stuff back of her seat. “Oh it was— I don't know. You could make it so quiet people could hear their organs working. Or at least that's what some people told me once.” She considers that and squints. “I don't honestly know if they were screwing with me.”

Green eyes flick from the middle distance to Lance. “SESA’s a primal long-term plan. If Robyn can help you get in the door and get the education you need… I say do it.” Though, biased as she is she adds, “but this job isn't so bad either.”

“Oh, yeah, kind of,” Lance admits, “I meditate like that sometimes. Just cut off all the sound outside me and just… have no sounds but my own. It was weird at first, but you can get used to anything eventually. It’s kind of primal, honestly. Cash— uh. I mean she taught me a lot of things I could do.”

Awkward. Move on, quick!

“I mean, in the short term at least,” he flashes a quick grin, “I could absolutely work here. Assuming you and that guy— Martin?— will have me.”

Jolene cracks a smile when Lance admits Cash taught him things but she doesn’t really elaborate on what brought the smirk on. “I bet,” is about as close as she gets. “Anyway, Martin’s a great guy. He’d take anyone in, really. Guy’s outlived his entire family, pretty much anyone he’s ever known…” she turns a look in the direction of the studio, then back to Lance. “It isn’t so much about the job, as it is the company.”

“So,” Lene looks Lance up and down. “What do you say? You ready to become a part time DJ?” There’s a mischievous look in her eyes, the opportunity for some retroactive karma against an inveterate trickster from her time.

Of course, Lance is still a trickster, and that shows in the grin he offers her right back. “Challenge,” he replies, offering out a hand to shake, “Accepted.”

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