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Scene Title Scraps
Synopsis In the aftermath of the Second Civil War, the Boy Scouts of America makes a comeback. Prepared. For Life.™
Date May 5, 2019

Pine Barrens, New Jersey: Sunken Factory

Accessible via a seemingly-abandoned tunnel nestled somewhere in the Pine Barrens' darkest tangle is an old, forgotten factory that fell out of use long before the Second American Civil War. It has recently been repurposed by the ragtag militia that calls the woodland adjacent to Providence its home, serving as a base of operations, so far off the beaten path that isn't unlikely to be discovered except by an aerial survey.

The property consists of the tunnel and connecting rail yard, the factory itself, and several smaller satellite buildings, including a makeshift armory, Hector Steel's workshop, stable, and a storehouse for the militia's vehicles, including two helicopters and a fleet of at least six trucks.

Of all the buildings, the factory is the most prominent: a large, sleek brick-and-cement structure with large glass windows and a long, narrow skybridge that connects its two disparate halves together at the middle. It's difficult to understand — at least at first glance — why it's colloquially referred to as the Sunken Factory by locals, but setting foot inside the factory's eastern half reveals that the its lower levels have been flooded by the nearby Oswego River, which isolates the property from the surrounding forest on one side and makes it easily defensible against external threats. The property's western half flanks the cliffside into which the entrance tunnel is built.

Inside the factory, glass windows let in an abundance of light, allowing plant life to flourish in the skybridge during the summer months, and for the factory's inhabitants to navigate its strange corridors without assistance during the day. Night is a very different story; solar panels affixed to the factory's roof power an extensive network of artificial lights that give the interior a warm, otherworldly glow by which to see. Hector Steel's ingenuity has restored running water, fed by a filtration system, to the factory's western side where most of the sleeping quarters are located.

It isn't quite civilization, but it's trying to be.

There is a quaint domestic scene happening within the compound right now.

Fresh meat sizzles ready on hot black iron, filling the room with warm, gamey smells. Less mouth wateringly, there is also the quiet hum of the microwave as sundry leftovers are brought back to life. Other aromas include garlic gloves and onions simmering in their sugars, and, beyond what's cooking on the industrial sized stove tops, the scent of ammonia, cleaning agents, and the rain outside.

Night time presses in black on windows. Ghost has been introduced to a very direct route from the entrance of the sunken factory to the kitchen facilities. It's late. Most lights have been killed, and the space is big enough that there are shadows in the corners.

But the light is on over the stove, bright and yellow and glaring, and illumination above the silver countertop that can act as a dinner table for now.

Byron Wolf has his back to his guest. Byron Wolf, for those playing at home, is secretly Gabriel Gray, but he hasn't dropped that masquerade for Ghost's benefit. There are plenty of differences, being a very good disguise — choppy dirty-blonde hair, coarse textured, the same growing in pale enough to be silvery around the chops. There's a waxy quality to his skin, blue eyes watery rather than piercing. He is skinnier than Sylar, but taller by a couple of inches.

But there are similarities. Isms.

"Hey, get me a beer from the fridge," however, sounds like whoever this guy is supposed to be.

The ghost is sitting at the bench nearby, leaning over the slender folder he printed from Wolfhound's servers, his chin perched on his hand. Trying not to look hypervigilant that, after driving ten miles over dirt track and marked farmland, past aggressive DO NOT TRESPASS signs and fenced-in dogs who had barked their ramshackle properties into lighting their windows, he had arrived somehow at a place that has a subterranean lake, solar power, and multiple helicopter pads. He isn't afraid, here, he's just been


a lot of attention. To his surroundings. I guess.

But Ghost has also been careful not to look too much like that's what he's doing, because that would rather defeat the purpose of cautiously penetrating this whatever faction something based in the midst of farmland. He brought two matching pens! to help him and Gabriel study (he studies very little) and has only touched what was conveniently in reach, turning the spice collection around container by container until Gabriel had needed to get to it, peeking in the drawers only to find normal knives (not ninja knives), and sticking his head through only two! unlocked doors on his way to and from the bathroom just briefly, instead of really-really looking around.

Ghost's final deduction has been that: Gabriel's new friends are weird, whoever they are. But the venison smells so good. He gets up to retrieve a beer from the refrigerator, does not take one for himself. He is courteous enough to open it before handing it off. He parks his big butt against the counter beside the stove. "Hey," he says, brightening. He picks thoughts out of empty air. "What's your name supposed to be here? I'll be Estragon."

"Like, as opposed to 'Ghost'?"

Byron, after accepting the beer, says this on the back of a deep swig, and glances to the other man. Expressive eyebrows make a cynical peak between them. A cynical peak that asks if Ghost really wants to be cute about fake names, and by extension, fake faces. Nevertheless, he says, "My name's Byron," and ducks a little to check how venison steaks are cooking on the side facing down, tongs peeling them back carefully. "Nice to meet you."

There's a slightly rougher New York inflection than the kind that lives only very faintly in Gabriel's normal voice, rolling off the tongue all too easily.

The microwave goes EEEEEEEEEE.

Byron sidesteps to thump it open. Steam rolls out of it and the red plastic bowl that Byron takes out of it, shaking its contents. Roast vegetables from a couple nights back — sweet potato, carrot, swede. It smells like rosemary and olive oil. "Don't be a fuckin' jackass about it," is earnest request, and he does in fact hike his voice down. "People here don't know."

Ghost pokes his mouth out, a mild sulk at being told off so harshly! for his relevant question, or the harmless joke it was packaged in. And then he smiles, because that's fair. "Maybe whoever kicks down the door would appreciate Samuel Beckett," he says, his nostrils flaring despite himself, doggishly, at the tasty smells. "What do I know? They took in some mysterious rando named Byron who cooks a mean deer and set him up near their fleet of armored trucks. They could read books."

It is the ghost's version of agreement, though, that he kind of lowers his voice too. Not by much, but just enough that the pop and sizzle of venison oils surely cover it up. Ghost looks at the red plastic bowl. Is that thing microwave safe? He should bring some Pyrex next time he comes through here. He is going to eat the Hell of this food anyway. Usually when he's looking through Wolfhound documentation, all he has is a protein smoothie or some kind of orzo salad.

A brief moment's silence. Wait a minute. It's not that Gabriel Grey has a shortage of enemies even on SLC-E friendly sides of the nation, but. Buuut. Probability trees and equations flying through the ghost's head like confused math lady, and then he puts his head to the side; his best canine self again. His big shoulders roll forward into an inquisitive shrug, and he drops his voice even further; a stage whisper: "Are you pretending to be non-Evolved?"

The deer steaks come out of the pan, left to ooze on a cutting board as Byron ducks away from Ghost's presence by turning to the sink. Blasts the pan to clean it. Part of his charm — thief and smuggler with a heart of gold, kid with plenty of mistakes grown up into something good enough. Knows his way around the kitchen and everything,

Does leave the pan where it is, though, after a rinse. He'll clean up later.

"No," he says. There's a look askance, more Gabriel than Byron, though it would be an impossible thought exercise to divide between them every minute gesture to discern some pattern of honesty and emphasis. He takes a knife to the steaks, cutting them into neat thirds, delivering them into plates. "I walk through walls."

And that's all he can do. The vegetables are shaken out of the bowl (which is a microwaveable bowl, Gabriel is thirty-eight, give him a break), gathered into piles neat to slices of mid-rare meat. Maybe a touch under from that, but Byron seems satisfied. Maybe, also, underseasoned with just salt and pepper, but it's not a bland portion of flesh to begin with.

He sets the plates down on the countertop with a slight clatter.

"This place is all mysterious randos," he says, retrieving his beer. "I came in with something to offer, they tested by abilities, loyalty, whatever. Here I am. And here you are."

Well fine Ghost isn't hanging out in an anti-Evolved terror group hideout with its fleet of vehicles then. He pendulums his magnificent, glossy body away from the counter he was leaning on, walking over to sit back down at the table with the very important papers he had abandoned there. He leans over the plates, sniffing. Microwavable plastic skeezes him o u t but considering he murdered some of his best friends years ago, he will have no problem.

"This smells really fuckin' good, Gabe," the Teodoro "the ghost" Estrador Laudani says, in a moment of unexpected sincerity. In this instance, he is every stereotype about Italians and boys and soldiers, his pale eyes peeking at the food, the pink cross section between the brown on either side. The vegetables look good too, tender, just enough oil distributed across the surface. For a man who semi-regularly loses all interest in the moorings to his own physical body and summarily dismisses it, Ghost is enjoying this one, for the moment.

Immediately Ghost produces a fork in hand, knife in the other. "Most eligible bachelor goes to," he says, brightly, as if they do not both know that EILEEn is with us once more.

Byron sets forks and knives down, and slides them over to Ghost. Only lifts his hand after imparting this reminder;

"It's Byron."

Holy shit, bro. "I thought you were a spook professionally, not just literally," is that same kind of mouthy playacting he's dipped into a few times now. Not as mean as Gabriel would say it, certainly. There's a slightly dour look aside as he focuses now on his meal, on bachelor status, and he hunches over his food. He's had practice, for all that bachelor and widower have some distinct differences.

He flicks his blue-eyed gaze to paperwork, chin upping to it as he asks, "They actually have anything?"

"It smells great," the ghost says with great alacrity, "Byyyrrrrr." Gabe is so much more pronounceable, which of some consequence somewhere, I guess. But Ghost is nomming his way through generously-sized pieces of meat now. (He's not really a ghost. But maybe he won't mention that to one of the most famous serial-killers in global history.)

Anyway, the venison is so tasty. He actually stops Byrring at Gabriel specifically because he's distracted by the taste party going on in his own face. Mmm. A piece of carrot winds up in his mouth even before he's done with the venison, because those textures and tastes would go together, he knows. Nom nom nom! With the enthusiasm of a much younger man, Ghost saws up a whole bunch of pieces with his knife and then switches to operating primarily with just his fork, so that he can keep eating with his dominant hand, even while he flips open the folder with his other one.

(Ghost isn't sure how he would spook his way out of it, if someone blew in here and demanded to know why a transcript of a Raytech conversation was on the table, even with the Wolfhound logo carefully blocked out with a square of paper he'd slid over it on the photocopier.) (But he'd think of something.)

"Check it out," he says, pointing at the first mention on the paper, sections highlit by the haphazard strokes of Ghost's own highlighter. Ch'ggghighout, is kind of how it sounds because his mouth is quite full.

The Company discovered something they couldn’t handle. Adam Monroe, an Expressive with unmatched regenerative capability that may have lived a hundred years or several hundred, it’s hard to say referred to it as the devil. This may sound ludicrous, but as far as I can determine this expressive had the ability to modify genetics on a whim and was also possessed of an ability that was memetic in nature, spreading through mere knowledge of it. It was less a person than a force of nature.

Ghost's molars crack through broccoli stems. "Weird, huh?" Wrahahgh?

Byron is apparently unperturbed by Ghost's doggish enthusiasm, just as much as he isn't flattered by it — he eats neater, but he's also comfortable with standing there, sawing through fresh-cooked meat with his hold hand wrapped around knife hilt, carving off pieces that are slightly too large for his mouth.

It's with a clean hand, at least, that he steers the document closer. Reads it while chewing, swallowing, but doesn't go back for more as he reads it again.

"Modifying genetics," he says. "On the scale of Eve's ability, I guess."

He turns back to his dinner. "Not so weird," he says. Which isn't true. This is plenty of weird. But still— "The Conduit powers had to start somewhere. Had to come alive in a person, long ago, before it transcended flesh. Maybe whatever this thing is like that. Something that separated from an originary form."

Ghost frowns thoughtfully, weaves his left and right in agreement. At some point between Kazimir Volken and the Second Civil War, the Conduits became such a thing. It's not that the ghost forgets, exactly, but his scales are off, skewed by ten years of history manufactured from a different time, his interest in international politics, and the dubious nature of the contract work he does outside of Wolfhound. What Gabriel says does make sense. The weird and mighty Conduits can't be alone in their weird might. #metaplot.

"Eve was at the meeting too. She confirmed what Richard was saying… here." By now, Ghost has managed to clear his mouth, and the data, with Gabriel's reactions, are sufficiently interesting that he isn't stuffing his face immediately. He turns the page to point at the next highlighted section.

I've gotten to meet it. More than once. It was in ancient times, the time of the samurai. It was inhabiting a young woman. The power that it holds? It wants. Out. Everything Richard says, it's true for Adam.

"Which is I guess, why she has a personal interest," Ghost says. He wipes his mouth with the back of his wrist, leaning in over his elbows. "Apart from the usual." It seems rather like the kind of terrifying timey-wimey cluster riddled with important figures that she would accidentally herself into, regardless of prior contact. Just below the highlighted Eve citations, she also mentions Nazis, Praxis, the usual ominous terms. Not long after, Richard is trying to steer the conversation back onto its rails, thanking the former precognitive from the podium, remarking on linearity, et cetera. Transcripts are cute. The River Styx writers would love to get their hands on this.

Byron rereads this section— several times, trying to force the words to make sense without spiralling off into ??samurai times??? and other tempting divergences. It wants out is what catches his attention, finally relinquishing the documents in order to eat. Chomp chomp. He has decided he's not even going to try to factor in what the fuck Eve is talking about, meeting it in ancient times, except that it's probably another half-crazed dream.

Inhabiting a young woman also confirms his prior thesis statement, so that's something, but not a big revelation to either of them, he thinks. Yellow eyes, shining a lantern out of its empty host. There are wheels turning behind his stupid handsome face, before he gracelessly slides into a decision—

"Eve thinks she knows its form,"

— somewhat reluctantly arrived to. "She left me a," don't say 'clue' don't say 'clue, "note."

Having observed that former serial killer turned game chef is done with the page with Eve's disorienting quote, the ghost is actually starting to flip through to the next highlighted section. Which is. Somewhere. He can't quite remember where it is, since he went through these sheets only once or twice with a facile big yellow marker before deciding it was good enough. But Byyyyr is releasing new information through his teeth, and that draws Ghost's attention, an eyebrow quirked low.

"Yeah?" Ghost asks. "What's the clue?"

There's nothing wrong with 'clues.' Ghost actually finds the next set of fluorescent yellow marks in the packet and starts to fold the obstructing pages back from the staple, settling the new reading in front of his '''friend.''' But he's looking at Byron expectantly, expecting him to go first, his fight-scarred hand splayed lightly across the next big chunk of Richard Ray transcription. Come on, Gray, give it to me straight.

Byron reaches to extract something from his back pocket. A crumpled pack of cigarettes, but within, nestled among the few sticks left, a piece of paper folded over small enough. Crumpled, a little dirty, weather-worn, but he unfolds it and lays it flat on the countertop.

A sketch of a girl, sitting among building blocks that would comprise a city, if they were not scattered all about, destroyed. The girl's eyes are big, coloured in bright yellow.

Written, helpfully:

Sibyl Black
Watch. Out.

"Mean anything to you?" sounds as it was intended — less a bid for Ghost to fill Byron in, and more a measure of what Byron is obligated to explain.

Ghost stares at the picture for a long moment. Girl has a long oval face and apart from the color, her eyes are terribly serious, like he remembers being once upon a time before he renovated his personality into being a huge asshole.

"No," Ghost says. But he takes out his phone without ceremony, points the lens at the picture. Click! "I'll look her up when I get back to the Bunker, see if our SESA contacts know anything."

A beat. Ghost looks over the picture one more time, the papers momentarily abandoned. He's about to insert more deer flesh into his face, but then he pauses, the tip of his fork and its juicy prize a few inches from his clean-shaven chin. "You know," he says, "if the devil were serious about racebooting, it probably should have picked like a Native American girl." BRB LAUGHING AT OWN JOKE. Very quietly. Whatever. "Anyway, Adam's partner is supposed to be named Joy and probably Japanese. Could be a different host, or he's. collecting. girls."

Sounds Adamy? Ghost bites off another piece of deer and turns the page.

So. We don’t know much because nobody does. The Company somehow utilized Michelle LeRoux’s Looking Glass technology in concert with certain abilities in order to literally banish this entity into the… nothing between superstrings. Then they redacted several years of memories from the entire Company. Every single one of them. They altered the memories of hundreds of people to hide what happened. They even erased Adam and his partner Joy’s role in things, convincing everyone he’d been imprisoned by them for decades instead of working alongside them, because in the end he was working with this enemy.

Byron does not know what racebooting is but doesn't ask, choosing to put more beer in his face as he side eyes Ghost speculatively. His gaze falls on the documents again as they're nudged on over.

There are other things he doesn't care to ask. Like: how does anyone know anything about nothing between the 'superstrings', or remember memories erased. How does this get shuffled into the hands of someone like Ghost and put in front of someone like Gabriel Gray, with highlighter marks and, now, deer flesh grease stains? He doesn't ask because he kind of knows the answer — that nothing ever goes forgotten. It all rises eventually as it rots.

The Company. What a clown car of tomfoolery.

"She's an empty vessel. Sibyl Black. She went missing from Elmhurst Hospital a while ago where she was doing her best impression of a potato." He can sound like he doesn't give a fuck better in Byron's don't give a fuck voice than Etienne's quiet, earnest growl. "Prior to that, she played home for Eileen's consciousness until it found something better. Probably not a coincidence. Something about the way Black's mind works."

He pokes his fork back into more food. "Salient to keep in mind, if you intend to go dream hopping."

"That's interesting," says the ghost. Gabriel says, 'empty vessel' and he hears, 'RV for rent,' but that would seem to be somewhat of a downgrade from his current custom-fit clone residence. Why rent an RV when you have all. Thiiis. Apart from the relative cost in fuel, because Ghost's plate is completely empty by then. He puts his fork down, glancing at the other man's end of the table in that automatic way that suggests he might have even automatically taken Gabriel's plate, if he had been done. Residual Teoisms.

In absence of that, we have hair-raising tactical transcripts and enigmatic sketches of young women to stare at.

"Did she say anything about the clue?" the ghost suggests. "The Entity has two bodies? There was a switch?"

A concept that is, for some reason, easier for the ghost to sit with than strings, spaces in between them, et cetera. Although that's not exactly a high bar, as far as relative nonsense goes. The Entity's current choice of hosts seems like a fairly important detail, if 'choice' it is. If there are two Entities, that would also. be. not. great? Ghost frowns, pulling his fingers through the hair on the right side of his head.

Byron shrugs at him.

Hell if he knows. Who the fuck is Joy besides Adam's girlfriend from the 70s. Et cetera.

He doesn't appear to believe very strongly that there are two Entities, anyway, a doubtful look cast Ghost's way, but neither of them understand this enough to be arriving at conclusions. "She just left me the drawing to find," he says, of Eve's lack of context. "Maybe you can sweet talk more context out of her.

"But as far as I can tell, she just expects us to go fetch."

"Cool," says Ghost, after a long moment.

It sounds increasingly dangerous, potentially painful, if Eve's own change of abilities and synchronized screaming are indicators, but whatever. Who wouldn't want to meet someone else's Maker? (What else is there to want.) Ghost pushes his bowl away a few inches. "I'll cross check Sibyl Black's name with what the CIA and other institutions have.

"Do you need a burner phone? I have one for you, if you want." Ghost leans back on his stool, shifting his ass so he can pull the new device out of his pocket. Still in its brittle plastic insert.

Byron nods, mutely, offering his hand out to take the device away.

And then his pale eyes swivel to the documents on the table. The body he has shaped himself into seems to carry its own expressive air — a sleepy apathy that doesn't quite match Gabriel Gray's more intense brand of quiet, the sense that he is listening to and creating quiet conclusions out of everything. Byron Wolf has the constant look of someone one bounced check away from a park bench.

But there is an alertness to one last glance over the most available page. He is folding Eve's picture back up, without any intent to hand it to Ghost, despite the fact that he says, "Did you make copies?" Of the files.

Instead of answering aloud, Ghost slides the printouts toward the other man. A gift! Don't get caught with them, he doesn't say. He struck out the logos, but it would take three minutes for anyone reading the transcripts, the documentation, to tell that this is not data in the possession of nobodys who wander into Providence. Gabriel will figure it out/kill his way out of it/burn after memorizing/whatever.

"By the way, Wireless isn't filtering digital communiques anymore. Keep that in mind." The ghost's remarks are informational, indicative that he has no emotional response to the unavailability of a technopath whose reach had formerly covered the entire planet and whose interests were once closely aligned with enterprises such as the one they're talking about. He pats the counter with his hand, easy as you like, and then rises to leave.

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