Sing Your Own Special Song


ff_chel_icon.gif elisabeth2_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif ff_ria3_icon.gif

Scene Title Sing Your Special Song
Synopsis "Do you remember my sister?"
Date June 21, 2021

Morning light spills through cream-colored curtains to paint in bright shades across a hardwood floor. A graceful and willowy woman in a loose brown sweater and patched-up jeans slides a freshly printed record out of its paper sleeve, setting it down in the turntable beside her cup of steaming hot tea. She sets the needle down on the record, and soft strings and a crooning woman’s voice rises from the speakers around the room.

«Nobody can tell ya»

The brunette begins swaying to the beat, a rise and fall of her shoulders, a sway of her hips, a shuffling of bare feet across the scuffed wood floor. She starts snapping her fingers to the rhythm, a smile creeping up across her lips.

«There's only one song worth singing»

She lowers her hands, fluttering them down in front of herself as she shifts one shoulder up, moves her weight to the ball of one foot, loops her arms out in the air, and lets her head slowly roll from back to front in a clockwise motion.

«They may try and sell ya»

Her arms go up again, head slowly tipping back and wispy brown hair swishing down in fine strands. She walks backwards, waving her arms up and down in front of herself as she backpedals, as though she's swimming through the air. When she comes to a stop, one leg is bent at the knee, weight on one foot, arms paused in place.

«'Cause it hangs them up»

One arm goes up, the other goes down, and she lets her head sway from side to side with her bangs swishing over her face. Her hips swing opposite of her head, arms cross at the wrists, hands closed. She's smiling against the tears welled up in her eyes that streak glassily down her reddened cheeks.

«To see someone like you»

As the song swells into a crescendo and Mama Cass brings it in for the chorus, the dancer lets her arms rise over her head and fingers spread. She crosses her legs at the ankles, opens her mouth to sing along, and then jumps into frantic motion.

«But you gotta make your own kind of music»

Arms pumping in the air, she hops around the house, bare feet scuffing and scraping across the floor. She pivots on the ball of her foot, one leg bent, then dips forward and touches the floor with one her other arm held up in the air behind herself. She swings one leg up and around, a pirouette that twists her weight and shifts her into a heavier momentum-based movement.

«Sing your own special song»

The dark-haired woman leaps, legs scissoring in the air, lands down on one of her feet, swings the other leg out and leaps again, twisting her hips this time in such a way that she spirals through the air before landing again. Her smile grows, in spite of the fact that her jaw is trembling and her shoulders shudder with choked back sobs. She leaps through the air again and then—

«Make your own kind of music»

— disappears. Like a frame cut from a reel of film.

«Even if nobody else sings along»

For a time the spacious living room is still, faint particles of dust glint in the air where they cross paths with a sunbeam, and Mama Cass continues to belt out a melody.

«You're gonna be nowhere»

Noises from the nearby kitchen—clinking dishes and running water—briefly drown out the music.

«The loneliest kind of lonely»

And a gray-haired man with a broad smile walks into the living room, drying his hands. He looks at the record player, one brow raised, and shakes his head. Then, like a frame spliced into another reel of film —

«It may be rough going»

The brunette woman reappears dressed in an overly long yellow t-shirt with I ❤ NY across the front. She comes to a stop with wide eyes, looking at the gray-haired man smiling at her. She flashes a smile back and rapidly snaps her fingers to the tempo of the song.

«Just to do your thing's the hardest thing to do»

The gray-haired man cracks a smile and throws the towel he was drying his hands with to the side and throws his shoulders up, then slides to the side and shuffles in his footsteps before snapping his fingers in rhythm with hers.

«But you gotta make your own kind of music»

Hey,” he tries to get her attention over the music, but she isn’t having any of it. She shakes her head from side to side, hair swishing back and forth, then claps her hands over her head to the beat. He awkwardly dances along with the rhythm of a wind-up monkey.

«Sing your own special song»

She can’t help but laugh.

«Make your own kind of music»

Otherwise she’d cry.

Fifty-Three Years Later

Fort Jay
Governor’s Island
Conference Room: Peregrine

June 21st

10:37 am

Rianna Cardinal shuffles along to a familiar beat, twirling her hands around and shaking her hips from side to side. Mama Cass’ voice emits from an unfolded Awasu on the conference table.

«Even if nobody else sings along»

Clapping her hands together over her head, Rianna shuts her eyes and lets the song take over. She doesn’t notice the conference room door opening, nor does she hear the sound of footsteps.

«So if you cannot take my—»

The moment the music cuts out, Ria looks up in a startle to see her mother looming over the phone with her finger on the touch screen. “You hate this song.” Chel says with a squint of accusation, to which Ria shrugs.

“Everything feels different on this side of the Looking Glass,” Ria admits in return, sitting on the corner of the conference table, hands folded in her lap. “Everything sounds, looks, and tastes better. I think that’s just the way of things.”

Chel sighs softly, stepping over to her daughter and gently reaching up to touch her cheek. “Are you okay?” She’s asked a hundred times since the incident at the rig. “You gave me a hell of a scare.”

Ria reaches up and touches her mother’s hand, then gives it a squeeze. “I’m fine. I’m almost forty. Please.” Chel smiles awkwardly, withdrawing her hand and sheepishly hanging her head.

“What’s up?” Ria asks, knowing that something is.

“Elisabeth’s here,” Chel says matter-of-factly. “She wants to talk, she’s on her way up with Doctor Stoltz from Raytech.”

Ria raises one brow. “Doctor who?

Meanwhile, nearby

“…and to be honest, you came at the best time.” Agent Gates says as he escorts Elisabeth and Ourania through Fort Jay. “We’re relocating to Kansas City tomorrow morning. Fire’s getting too close to the city and Fort Jay is under evacuation orders. Critical staff takes top priority.”

Gates stops by a conference room door with a bird silhouette on it. He glances back at Elisabeth and Ourania, then gingerly pushes the door open. “Chel, Ria, sorry for keeping you waiting.”

It is at that precise moment that Ourania Stoltz—Odessa Price’s—world unfolds on her like an origami crane. Odessa remembers it as clear as Elisabeth does, that Ria came through during the Crossing at Sunspot those years ago. That she was swept up by a government agency and had been working covertly with them, an agency that turned out to be the OEI. But Odessa doesn’t remember—

—can’t remember—

Juliette Luis—Josefa Camila Ruiz—Rianna Price—


Ria looks at Ourania with a momentary, stoic silence. Her emotions betray her anxiety, her fear, her tension. Her eyes betray a look Odessa has seen throughout her life: Play it cool.

Odessa’s breath catches in her chest when she lays eyes on the woman she knows is Ria Cardinal. Knows should be Ria Cardinal. But she can follow the string back. Luis, Ruiz, Rianna…

“Ria!” She greets the blonde with a wide smile, drawing in a deep breath once she remembers how to do that. “Good to see you.” With a nod of her head, she greets Ria’s mother. “Chel.”

Every damn hair on her arms and the back of her neck feel like they’re standing on end. She’s never been so glad to be wearing a lab coat, and her hair down. Her brain is screaming. How did she miss this? O folds her hands in front of her, seemingly collected, but anxiously, she twists the silver band, set with an oval cut yellow-green sapphire and flanked by baguette cut diamonds around her left finger anxiously. Her wedding ring.

How did she miss this?

Elisabeth's steps falter for a split second when Dessa slows and then she smiles, a little tightly, at her mother-in-law and sister-in-law. She hasn't seen Ria pretty much at all since the landing where the light mimic helped power the wormhole and helped save their lives. It's good to see the young woman again.

"Hey guys," she greets casually. She's weary, with all that is going on back home, but she's glad to see the two women alive and well. "You scared the shit out of me, you know," she mildly remonstrates Chel and Ria. Thank God someone was on the ball and let her know they were okay. Blue eyes flicker back and forth between the Cardinal women, and she asks, "How are you both holding up?" She doesn't know and has never met this world's version of Dave, but she does know that he was at the platform for some reason – she just doesn't want to ask while Gates is in the room.

“We’re alright,” Chel says with a shrug. Her words feel listless, heavy, distracted. “We’re lucky it wasn’t any worse. I think — I think we’re all very lucky to be alive.” She glances at Ria as she says that.

Ria offers Odessa a smile, though it hides an internal scream. “Good to see you Doctor Pride, we really need to stop meeting once every couple of years at the end of the world.” She says with a well-meaning wink.

“I’ll leave you be. If you need anything,” Gates interjects, looking at Odessa and Liz, “just let me know, I’ll be down the hall with Wright getting a status report.”

Odessa settles her gaze on Gates. He always sees her looking on edge, it’s just the nature of their acquaintance. “Thank you, Agent Gates.” One has to hope Gates isn’t reading the minds in the room, because there has to be an awful discordant cacophony of internal screaming going on. Probably not Elisabeth, but the way Chel speaks, Odessa can make some guesses about her mental state.

“It’s Stoltz now,” Odessa corrects after the door has shut behind the OEI man. “I got married.” More. internal. screaming. “About two and a half weeks ago,” she laughs softly, anxiously, “but who’s counting?” With a gentle nudge to Elisabeth’s arm, she adds, “Liz was there with the kids. We had a very simple ceremony. One of the art museums.”

There’s no success in the attempt to keep her smile from looking sad when she adds, “I’m sorry you missed it.” Odessa feels like she’s going to puke.

"Thank you for the escort, Agent Gates," Elisabeth echoes in a calm voice. She waits until he's gone to slide a silence field into place around the small group of women, a bubble that encompasses only where they are just in case of listening cameras. She turns her blue eyes to Chel and Ria.

"Based on what I've heard so far, you are damn lucky to be alive," she agrees. "It sounds like it was touch and go… and based on what I know, there were some side effects." Wright Tracy apparently died and came back to life, so there's that. "I assume they've told you Richard and the team made it through okay. How is Dave doing?" she asks gently. Because she's kind of figuring that's at least part of what has Chel so strained. She's never met this world's version of the man, but Chel loved her David Cardinal and Elisabeth met yet another that she knows loved Chel.

Chel shakes her head, not noticing the dagger-eyed look that Ria is giving Odessa at the mention of the word married. It could melt steel beams.

“David is stable but detained,” Chel says quietly, crossing her arms over her chest. “They’re… saying he has no recollection of the attack. He remembers someone coming to his hospital room on Roosevelt Island, and then…” she sighs away the end of the sentence. “I haven’t been allowed to see him.”

Ria looks away from Odessa and settles her attention on Elisabeth. “We had a kind of singularity expanding at our backs. Leftover thin-spot in reality from somebody blasting the Entity out of one host and into another. Science of it is all wobbly, probably going to make a lot of people need to rewrite a lot of books.” Though there’s probably something about that which troubles her, more so than intrigues her. She’s afraid to voice it, because it makes her fear more real.

“They’re saying it’s growing.” Chel says, changing the topic away from David and choosing to jump on the existential grenade that Ria isn’t willing to. “The anomaly. It’s expanding, slowly. They’re mitigating its expansion with something similar to the siren technology, but it’s only mitigation, not a full arrest. We don’t know how large it could get, or… what will happen as it expands.” Chel looks at Ria, then back to Elisabeth. “It’s also not the only one. There’s a few, around the world, all of them growing.”

Ria rubs one hand at the back of her neck. “Nobody knows if it’s related to the magnetosphere getting thinner or not. But it’s a problem we’ll have to solve once the, you know, doomsday flare thing is off the table.”

From anyone else, Odessa would bristle. From Ria? Odessa flinches and turns her face away, as if it would hide the way her face turns red. She isn’t sure if it’s from shame or general upset. What was I supposed to do? she wants to ask. Just put my entire life on hold in the hopes that you would come back after you said your final goodbyes? She doesn’t say You’ll like him, he’s nice, either.

The details of the attack are something she doesn’t even attempt to touch. The screaming inside of her to address the fact that her mother did come back makes it harder to focus on anything, but not impossible. The science she can weigh in on. “That makes sense,” she murmurs absently, “that the sonic resonance would keep things somewhat at bay. We had to use something similar to get through in the first place.”

Wincing immediately, she realizes she’s speaking from the wrong perspective. She remembers providing the numbers to the others and reaching through to herself from both sides of that mirror. It causes a pain in her head. Fortunately fleeting, but she remembers the severance between her other selves and her power. That makes Odessa’s bones ache in a way that lingers. “Maybe you and Rina should take a look,” she posits to Elisabeth, rather than indulge her pain any further. “Your abilities might provide more data.”

Both Elisabeth's brows shoot up momentarily at the information that Dave himself was the attacker. That is something Wright didn't mention. But she files it away in the back of her head for now at the rest of the explanation.

"Like the one in Antarctica?" Elisabeth guesses thoughtfully. It's not quite a question, more like a verification. As Dessa talks, Liz has a pensive look. The first-person perspective is not missed, and she eyes her friend cautiously. She's starting to realize that Dessa has bleedover from Destiny in some ways. Because Dessa doesn't usually call Liz's mother 'Rina.'

Then she turns her attention to the room at large, her query more for Chel and Ria to avoid drawing attention to that little quirk, "I would assume their siren tech is essentially using counter-frequencies to the ones coming out of the anomaly. Do you know if they've verified that all the anomalies have the same frequency from the other end?"

Her blue eyes flicker between the women. "As in, are the ruptures coming from the same timeline? It's not like there was only one interested in punching through. Since each timeline we went through has a slightly different background frequency, we should be able to get some kind of a handle on whether we're only dealing with incursion from one timeline or multiples," she offers quietly, and then muses in an absent aside to Dessa, "I wonder if I can still feel the differences… I don't think Mom's ability is as well-developed as that; it's more like echolocation. But generally speaking, they seem pretty intent on making sure I'm not anywhere near this project, so I haven't offered."

Then she turns her attention to the group again. "Richard suspects the attackers wanted the team to get through though we still can't figure to what end – maybe just the magnetosphere problem, maybe something more." She crosses her arms uncomfortably. "He also suspects we're not dealing with just timeline-hopping but also time-hopping. Which complicates matters immensely. And it doesn't help when no one's actually talking to one another because they're all secret-keeping assholes." Yeah, there's a bit more than a hint of bitterness there.

Chel crosses her arms over her chest and looks thoughtful, beginning to pace the room. Liz knows that posture by now, she’s firing on all cylinders. “That’s the weird part, the anomalies only exist here as far as we’ve been able to tell. The OEI has a remote office in the timeline where Pinehearst had taken over before you intervened,” she says with a glance to Liz, “and none of the anomalies are present there, anywhere. They don’t have enough of a presence in any of the others to look beyond Virginia and Alaska, but those two aren’t present.”

Ria watches her mother pace the floor, stealing glances at Odessa on occasion. “The anomalies are strange. They’re not true singularities, because they don’t absorb light. But they do seem to absorb electricity, exactly like Mateo’s old ability. The OEI had him investigate one that used to be present down in Jersey, him and his wife. They vanished for a few hours and reappeared with, as far as we know no recollection of where they were.”

Chel nods, looking over at Ria, before continuing her pacing. “It’s entirely possible these are bleeds from either a timeline we know of that the OEI doesn’t have an active presence in, or they’re from a timeline we have no knowledge of yet.” Neither outcome appeals to Chel, however.

“We’ve tried sending probes into the one in Virginia, the one they have contained, but the electricity-devouring property severs the connection immediately. We don’t know if the probes were crushed or… what.” Chel says quietly, walking to the office window to look out at the jagged, gray skyline of the Manhattan Exclusion Zone across the water.

“The OEI classified them as an ICE-NINE situation.” Ria says, hopping up to sit on the edge of the conference table. “Like the Vonnegut novel.”

Chel glances over to Ria, then back to Elisabeth and Odessa. “In the book,” she summarizes just in case neither of them have read an obscure 1970s science fiction novel, “there’s a synthetic material called ICE-NINE that changes anything it touches into itself. Basically, it consumes the Earth and everything on it.”

“Tomorrow’s problem,” Ria notes with a furrow of her brows.

“I have to keep myself focused on how to get Richard and the others home. With the Virginia Looking Glass destroyed it could take a year or more to build another, and I don’t know if we have that kind of time.” Chel explains, continuing to pace in a circle. “As far as I know the OEI in the remote office doesn’t have a Looking Glass of appropriate size, or correct geolocation, either. I’m— trying not to panic that the end result of this is them beaming a bunch of data over and then just— ” She shakes her head, unable to finish the thought.

Mom,” Ria says, sliding off the table and walking over to Chel, putting a hand on her shoulder. “Richard’s stubborn. Just like you. Like dad. He’ll find a way.”

Odessa falls into her own thoughts, setting her bag down on the table finally and wrapping her arms around herself as she turns her back to it and leans. Mom, Ria said. That hits her gut in a way she doesn’t like, and she can’t articulate why.

Well, she can, but she’s choosing not to. Trying not to. Sera and Mara were isolated. They didn’t have other connections. Just her children. Ria is very different.

“When we brought everyone through… Through El Umbral, Mateo and I lost our powers. Do you think… Do you think his power is trying to push through to something? Somewhere?” Odessa shakes her head slowly. “I don’t know. I’m just… spitballing.”

Our powers, she said. Shit. Odessa’s rattled. Off whatever game she might still have left. Speaking as herself, and not as this aliased life she’s building for herself. “Ria’s right,” she says, following Elisabeth’s lead to try and keep the attention away from her little slips. “We know Richard can do this, or we wouldn’t have sent him. If anyone, anyone can do this… It’s him.” A small smile is slanted to Liz, meant to be reassuring. “Besides, you know he’ll have help.” Though she’s no longer connected to her other self apart from shared memory, she has no doubt that Destiny will find her way to Richard, and help him.

Listening to Chel's thought processes settles Elisabeth in ways she can't explain. In so many ways, it's like talking to the woman's son – Liz has never claimed to be the brains of the outfit, but a lot of times she knows that it's more important to ask the right question.

"Okay," she says slowly. "Well, if it is another timeline, my immediate money is on the Wasteland one." She glances between all of them and adds for Chel and Rianna, "Our kids have already time-jumped from that one once before to try to stop things from getting worse. Besides, I think those asses were looking for a way to invade us anyway – although I could be mistaking them for damn OEI, which seems to have succeeded." She grimaces. Remote Office indeed.

Although the blonde wants to take solace in Ria and Dessa's reassurance, the truth is that with the machine destroyed it's a very real possibility that the scenario Chel just spoke aloud is going to come to pass. And it takes Elisabeth a long moment to contend with the sensation of being hit in the solar plexus and the ridiculous desire to cross herself and ward off evil – giving voice, naming something, invites the universe to take notice and that bitch doesn't need any more ideas about how to fuck with this family.

Swallowing hard, Elisabeth drags her hands down her face. There is so much she wants to say and can't. Richard said not to tell his mother about the robot cuz she'd freak the fuck out. But this seems like something Michelle may need to know. Glancing toward the door, she debates. "Chel… there may be something I know that will help. But I'm not sure what the OEI has already told you." Her blue eyes rest on her brilliant mother-in-law. "Have you been read in on anything they found out about the Confessor?"

Chel’s brows furrow and she shakes her head, glancing at Ria who also looks equally confused. “If it’s not related to the Looking Glass research we were doing in Virginia they haven’t been too keen on sharing information. Need to know, and all that.”

Ria shakes her head, kicking her legs a little. “I’ve been on the OEI end of the Looking Glass research and that hasn’t come up. Is it something new?” She looks at Odessa with a little wrinkle of her brows, then back to Elisabeth.

O gives a quick shake of her head to indicate she’s in the dark on this one. “Floor’s yours, Liz,” she grants with a spread of her hand in front of her before returning to fiddling with her ring. “What do you have?”

Pursing her lips, Elisabeth considers one more time. "One of the things they learned when they got there is that the Confessor wasn't from 'around there'," she says slowly. "He was in possession of a miniaturized wearable version of the Looking Glass, from what I understand." She looks between Chel and Ria. "I'm not sure how much help it will be right this moment, but I think you should be aware it exists. Especially if Richard and the others can get additional technical specs back to you, maybe it'll help get them home."

Sighing heavily, she pauses to work through half-formed ideas and thoughts. The fact that the guy was also a robot and tied in some way to the whole group of our own people who've been turned into androids or something… she just can't figure out how it fits. "I think Richard is hoping the Edward of your world will be able to help him, even though we know he's not got the same kind of ability." She slants a brief half-smile at Dessa. "Destiny got him out."

Miniaturized?” Chel says incredulously. “I… want to say that’s not even possible, but I can think of a couple of scenarios where it’s probable, I just can’t imagine the kinds of technological advancements that would need to happen in order to…” She hesitates, then looks between Odessa and Elisabeth. “Do they know where it came from? Is it still operational? How does it protect from the Shearing?

As Michelle starts to get breathless, Ria steps over and puts a hand on her shoulder. “Okay there, deep breaths.” Looking back to Elisabeth, Ria’s brows furrow. “Edward’s not much help to anyone if you—” She stops herself, wrinkling her nose. “I’m sure he’ll find a way to be helpful, ability or no. I’m still a bit shocked to find out the one here had one. Can’t quite put my finger on why, but the discrepancies between the two timelines feel weird.”

Michelle briefly looks at Ria, then back to the others. “Sorry,” she says with a hesitant smile. “I should probably filter all my questions about this through Wright.”

Brows knitting in an unconscious mirror of Ria, Odessa tries to piece together what Liz is saying, even as she returns that half-smile with one of her own. Not from there and a robot are unsettling thoughts about the Confessor from Destiny’s world that was someone she cared about in this life. “If they miniaturized it,” she posits quietly, “maybe there’s yet another string where the technology advanced further than ours.” She asides to Liz. “Like the advancements from the timeline where Arthur wasn’t stopped.” Unintentionally, she then looks meaningfully at Ria. Her world.

The moment she realizes she’s doing it, she averts her gaze again. She sighs and gives a shrug. “There’s also temporal manipulation.” A conclusion she readily considers. “A future innovation brought to a point in the past…” She’d say it sounds like Hiro’s kind of bullshit, but Odessa remembers how adamant Hiro was about avoiding changing certain things. On the other hand, he’d always made exceptions for saving the world. “Anyway, spitballing isn’t going to lead anywhere here. We have too little data and no way to mine for more on our own.” Agreeing with Michelle, she adds, “Maybe those are things Ms Tracy can tell the team to keep in mind.”

"I'm not sure how that plays into anything but I have had a lot of years to ponder discrepancies. In your timeline, Edward didn't have a power but in every other that I've been to, he did if I remember correctly. My mother in yours had a power and my mother here did not. Maybe it just takes a certain set of circumstances to manifest. It's probably a research angle for another time, though, assuming anyone is alive to research it."

Dragging a hand through her hair, though, she says quietly, "Richard didn't want you to get ahead of yourself in the knowledge about the robots." She grimaces at her mother-in-law. "He didn't really want you to even know. But trying to get them home takes all priority as far as I'm concerned – and if what the confessor had on him can help that, he'll just have to be pissed off at me later." Her blue eyes track to Dessa.

"Believe me, I've been going rounds in my head and going blind in the string room trying to figure out are we dealing with yet another string or a temporal thing or both? But that is not my area of expertise and well… the OEI doesn't fucking like to share information any more than Richard does. You're right that we're missing too many pieces."

Elisabeth looks at Ria and Chel. "I'm telling you because it may become relevant to you as time goes on, but honestly Chel…. he needs your attention on what they're attempting to do first. It's pointless for you to be working on a way home if there is no home to come back to. I'll keep in touch with both of you about the information on the mini-tech. Richard wants one of the RayTech science guys to deal with that so you can focus on this shield thing."

While Chel paces back and forth, Ria has fixed Odessa with a side-long stare and a kick of one brow up.

“Alright,” Ria says with a clap of her hands. “You,” she points at Chel, “are going to go fucking cross-eyed if you try and think any harder. I can smell the fucking smoke coming out of your ears from here. And you,” she says, pointing to Elisabeth, “are also like a car driving a hundred miles per hour in first gear. I think we should—”

“Are you going to recommend we go get shots?” Chel says with one hand braced to her forehead. “Because I am absolutely not going to—”

A Time Later

Cat’s Cradle
Phoenix Heights

“—do another shot if it kills me.” Chel slurs, waggling a glass in front of herself where she slouches up against the bar. “Swear t’god ‘Lisbeth you drink like you’re made of granite.”

The four women are posted up at the bar in Eve Mas’s dingy, underlit dive bar across town. While Chel slouches around her empty shot glass mourning its bottom, Ria stands between two stools with her back to the bar, elbows propped up on it with Elisabeth on one side and Odessa on the other.

“So anyway,” Ria says, gesturing to Elisabeth with a sloshing-full shot glass of tequila, “you were telling me about Ricky?”

No, she absolutely was not. One moment ago Elisabeth Harrison was in a fucking conference room on Fort Jay and the next minute it’s like she woke up from being drugged, except she went from a sober environment to a bar. There’s no threads connecting the two moments, and for the barest of seconds when she looks at Ria Cardinal she doesn’t see Ria Cardinal, it’s like she’s someone else. More prominent nose, sharper features, but it passes like deja vu.

Odessa recognizes exactly what is happening.

Ria, what the fuck?” Odessa hisses under her breath, shooting an accusatory glance to the wedge of lime pinched between her fingers and the rime of salt on the curve from thumb to index. She swivels in her seat, caring very little when her knees knock lightly against the tall woman’s thigh on her way around.

To be fair, she's probably a good bit more drunk than she feels – she doesn't do a lot of pub crawling these days. It's just that when she does, she has to keep up with Izzy and Devi lest she be laughed at. Smirking at her mother-in-law, Elisabeth retorts, "Nope. You're just a lightweight."

Then her blue eyes slowly take in the Cradle and a frown furrows her eyebrows together. What the fuck–? Her confusion is visible in her expression as she looks up at Ria, rearing back for just a moment when her sister-in-law's face wavers for a split second. Then those eyes skate to Dessa, uncertain whether she is just way more drunk than she should be or if something weird just happened. What the actual fuck?

“We all agreed a round of drinks would lighten up the situation,” Ria says nonchalantly, motioning to the bar. “Round of drinks,” then to the group, “lightened up?” She spreads her hands, as if a magician showing off his now sawed-in-half assistant. “Why’re you looking at me like that, I’m right.

Chel, too drunk to know any better, sets her glass down on the bar. “Did you know,” Chel slurs, motioning toward Elisabeth and Odessa, “Ethanol— alcohol— blocks and affects some receptors in the brain?” No, really? “And it also turns into other psychoactive molecules through metabolism? ‘Cause it’s metabolized in the brain not the liver.” She points at her head, as if indicating just exactly where the metabolizing is happening at this very moment.

See,” Chel continues, tracing patterns in condensation on the bartop with one finger. “Acetate—that’s a metaba—met—metabolite in grain alcohol? It’s partially responsible for some effects of alcohol intoxication, because it interacts with the, uh,” she swirls her finger around, “inhibitory GABA neurotransmitter.”

Ria glances back at Chel, then rolls her eyes. “Okay ,well at least she’s not stressed.

Whatever rebuttal Odessa has gets set aside in favor of listening intently to Chel’s knowledge dump. “I did actually know all of that,” the doctor confirms with a thoughtful frown and nod of her head. “Wild shit, right?”

The perky enthusiasm fades, flattens out by the last syllable when her eyes land back on Ria. “Lighter than helium,” she deadpans. While she is, in fact, unamused, the performative act of that is to defend herself from the anxiety layering every moment she isn’t addressing the elephant in the room.

Elisabeth laughs at Chel, her blue eyes flicking to Ria. "She's funny when she's shit-faced," she observes. "Geekier than ever, but funny." Her brain is still trying to figure out where the missing time went – she can't be that drunk, can she? She doesn't feel blackout drunk…

"Ricky's a great kid. A menace of adventurous boy, but fantastic," she tells Ria as if this was the conversation all along. "Where Lili is the thinker, supersmart and quiet, Ricky is wide open and quick. He's the one most likely to go full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes…"

For a moment she pauses and then Liz says ruefully, "He's not genetically mine, but Harmony keeps accusing me of giving him a reckless gene." A pang hits her chest as she realizes both of her boys have been like that. "He's incredibly protective of Aura, even from when we first got home. She's come out of her shell a lot, but she's still something of a tempering influence on Ricky. He doesn't think anything through right now when he gets an idea in his head. Aura always seems to know when he's about to do something really stupid and redirects him. Then goes with him on whatever wild scheme he comes up with."

Glancing at Dessa, she grins. "They're a tactical and strategic nightmare team all on their own – then toss in their friends, and we're all fucked. Between Ames, Carl, and Walter…" Add in the potential for others being dragged in, like Jonah and Pippa Ryans?

Suddenly shutting her mouth, Elisabeth downs the shot in front of her as she realizes some of the names have changed but Jesus Fuck if it didn't just hit her that Richard very well could be onto something with the thought that we may be dealing with another time-travel mess. It wouldn't be the first time this group of offspring – with a different combination of kids – did exactly that. Oh fucking hell.

No. No, seriously. That has got to be just paranoia. Right? Oh she definitely needs more alcohol. Elisabeth gestures to the bartender for another round, her expression briefly aggrieved before she redirects the conversation. "Yep, you were right. A round or nine of drinks is exactly what was needed," she informs Ria loftily.

“Parenthood,” Ria says wistfully, staring down at the bar.

Chel catches that and glances up in her inebriated stupor, squinting. “Don’t you go making me an—uh—double grandma.” She slurs, motioning at Ria. “I can’t hammble that responsibility.”

Ria glances at Chel, forcing a smile and says. “Gosh, we should drive mom home before she gets—”

A Time Later?

Someone’s Car?
It’s dark, there’s trees on either side of the road

The dashboard clock is flashing 12:00

Elisabeth can’t remember the last time she rode in a wood panel station wagon. Situated in the back seat, she has the entire rear of the vehicle to herself. Every single bit of it feels hauntingly familiar, but the where and when is hard to place. Maybe it’s just a similar car. But she knows this is a 76 Ford LTD Country Squire. They all sort of smell the same, that old leather smell.

Up front, Ria is driving with Odessa as her passenger. Chel is… gone?

It’s dark, and Ria is driving this station wagon down a dirt road flanked by tall trees. The road feels suffocatingly narrow. Mercifully, it feels like it’s been hours since anyone had a drink, and once-foggy heads are much clearer.

“So, now that mom’s gone,” Ria says, looking at Elisabeth in the rear-view mirror. Except the woman Elisabeth sees in the reflection isn’t Rianna Cardinal. It’s Juliette Luis. The woman from the Ark. The one who sacrificed herself to get everyone here.

“I think we need to talk.”

Jesus Christ, Mom.” Try as she might, Odessa can’t keep her tone terse. There was some amount of… acausal subterfuge required to separate them from Chel, and it causes the last syllable to crack as she draws in a sharp breath in the effort to hold back tears.

The exhale is shaky, and it comes with it the only question Odessa feels she can actually articulate with words.


The mental gymnastics involved in this day are harrowing. Why does she keep losing time?? And where the fuck are we now? Elisabeth's sense of reality is seriously skewed by the current locale. This feels like it should be a dream – or maybe a memory. Are they even really here??!

Looking up to the mirror, Liz stares in shock. "Juliette?" Wait, what? There's a mental double-take when Dessa calls her Mom.

"Okay I seriously need a refresher course – I can't remember how we got here and I'm pretty sure I don't remember getting to Cat's Cradle. Which… for the love of God, what is your ability?" she demands of Rianna/Juliette. "Are you actually Juliette? Did you … steal Ria's body? Are we even really here?" It's patently clear she doesn't remember that Ria never came through the portal; that the light mimic helped power the thing and never arrived.

There are probably about a million more questions she wants answers to, but Odessa asked the most important one. Elisabeth simply ends with, "What the actual fuck is happening here, Juliette?"

“Mom… does this,” Odessa stammers quietly and distractedly in response to Elisabeth’s confusion, leaning around the seat to look back at her. “You kind’a get used to it after a while.” Which brings her back to the woman in the driver’s seat and, “How are you here? I thought you were dead.

"I thought Sera was your mom," Elisabeth blurts out, literally her mind reeling. "What, is she a body snatcher, for fuck's sake?" She turns her eyes back to Rianna in the rear view, clamping her teeth shut so as not to piss off the reality-warping body jumper….or whatever the fuck is going on. She is so confused.

"And watch the road! I don't want to end up in the river or something!" Fragments of old memories dredged up from a past she barely remembers have Liz worried a deer is going to jump out and send them into the river or something. Assuming the river isn't a metaphor or a portal to another timeline, they could actually drown this time.

There’s just more rapid-fire between the two women. “No. Sera was my mom, then it was Mara, and now it’s—” Odessa groans and tips forward in her seat, her arms crossing together on the dash, her head hitting against them. “Oh god. Richard’s sister.” She lets out a frustrated whine. “Don’t call her a bodysnatcher. She’s not a bad ‘70s sci-fi horror film.” And she’s sitting right there.

Ria glances back in the rear-view mirror at Elisabeth, then over at Odessa, like a mother appraising her two kids bickering on a road trip. “If you’re done?” She asks with a raise of one brow. It’s rhetorical. They’re done.

“I’m Odessa’s mother. I was Rianna Price.” Ria says, looking at the road, eyes distant and unfocused. “Yes, you are here. And here is somewhere north of the Pine Barrens, I think. We drove out here, you just don’t remember it because you weren’t there for it.” She glances at Liz in the rear-view. “And I don’t know what my ability is. It’s complicated.”

It’s only then that she glances at Odessa. “Nobody’s ever truly dead,” she says with a haunting certainty and a frustrating sense of finality. “I was just lost. When the Looking Glass cracked open in Virginia, it was like… coming out of a cave. No more shadows, just real people.”

Ria slowly turns the wheel to follow the curve of the dirt road. Little beyond the road and the pine trees are visible at any distance outside the car.

“Ria was there with me,” she says, though she doesn’t explain where there is. “We got tangled up on my way out, and now we’re this. It wasn’t intentional. I just… wanted to find my way home.” She insists, jaw clenching, a vein in her brow becoming more prominent.

With her frantic back and forth with Elisabeth done, Odessa stops and breathes, sitting up in her seat again and staring at the scenery as it passes. She’s crying silently when the explanation has been given. “I thought I’d never see you again,” she whispers, because she can’t put enough strength in her voice.

She grinds the heel of her palm against her eye to wipe away the tears, but they just keep flowing, and she gives up and just lets it happen. Odessa laughs, because she’s stretched so thin she can’t help herself. “Welcome home.

Frowning as she listens, Elisabeth takes in the explanation and considers it. She leans forward in her seat to put a hand on Odessa's shoulder and squeeze tightly, lending the only comfort to her friend that she can while they're in a moving car.

"I wasn't there for it." She mulls the thought, trying to comprehend. "I'm not even sure how to wrap my head around that, but… why have you been here since we landed and not said something?" Michelle obviously knows nothing about her daughter being tied up with Jul– "Wait. When the Looking Glass opened in Virginia – when? Rianna came through with me…" Except… maybe she didn't?

"Jesus, this is almost as bad as talking strings with Richard," the blonde mutters, pinching the bridge of her nose in a movement extremely reminiscent of said husband. "Okay… this might be where we have to put a pin in that and revisit it, because I have a lot of questions and now I'm wondering if Ria is just going to vanish on us. But you said we needed to talk. I'm assuming that it wasn't exactly about the how and when you got here so…" Blue eyes come up to meet Juliette's in the rearview again, even as she once more squeezes Dessa's shoulder. "You're exposing your situation to me or us for a reason," she observes in a quiet, flat voice. If she didn't need something from them both, why would she bother telling Elisabeth any of this? "What do you need?"

“I can explain it later,” Odessa promises softly, laying her hand over Elisabeth’s, grateful for the support.

“It’s hard to say hello and have people know who’s saying hi,” Ria explains. “For all either of you remember Ria Cardinal came out in Sunspot when you made it home. But all of that is kind of… it’s true and it’s not. I don’t really know how to explain it. I just know I was somewhere else for a long, long time. Now I’m here, and it’s like I always was.”

Ria tenses her grip on the steering wheel, looking at the speedometer. “And I don’t want anything. I just thought—I thought you both deserved the truth.” She glances at Elisabeth in the rear-view mirror. “You deserved to know that there’s one less death on your conscience,” and then over to Odessa, “and that you didn’t lose your family.”

Odessa puts both hands over her face now. You didn’t lose your family. And she sobs unabashedly, her relief akin to opening a release valve. She takes a few seconds to just let that happen before she scrubs both palms over her face to try and dry the tears from it.

With her fingers twined into Odessa's (at least until the latter withdraws), Elisabeth inhales slowly and holds the breath in for a long moment before releasing it. She is watching Ria/Juliette in that mirror as much as possible; she's listening for the lie in tonal pitch or the drop of eyes. And she isn't finding a lie.

Swallowing hard, she asks softly, "So… whatever this ability to shift reality… Ria really is here and alive too? You're … sharing a form?" The idea that Richard's sister didn't make it through the transit… it's a thought that makes her physically sick.

But there's another part of this, too. "You were there… on the rig when they passed through. Are… does your ability interact with the anomalies?" Part of her wonders… is Ria the only reason the team survived?

“Far as I’ve ever been able to tell,” Ria says with an incline of her head to the side, “they just don’t exist while I do. When I leave, they start existing again. All the time I was in charge is a memory, but it… feels off. Like a dream. Gaps in time. I’ll be honest, I don’t think it’s a great experience, if I had to guess.”

Ria grimaces, but also doesn’t seem all that tore up about it. “As for the anomalies, I dunno. Never seen anything like it before I showed up at the arcology. I remember—some horrible stuff happening, and then it didn’t. Reflexive, not purposeful. I can’t control big scale changes like that at all.”

Elisabeth and Odessa recognize so much of the actual Rianna Cardinal’s demeanor, tinged only slightly by Juliette’s. It really is like it’s Ria, doing a Juliette impersonation. Though the truth is obviously reversed.

Odessa had seen it with Mara Angier, and Sera Lang before her. She still works with both of them, on opposite sides of the river, and sees clearer now what’s them and what was her mother.

It makes her wonder what her mother was like when she was only her mother. Sometimes it feels like she’ll never filter down to the truth of her. But the fact that she’s here at all for that to even be considered is a miracle. In a world where miraculous occurrences have explanations, where Juliette Luis is concerned, the explanation is the lack of one.

It means she’s smiling when she shows her face again. “Oh, I can’t wait for you to meet my n—”

The breath leaves Rianna’s daughter in one hard push. Odessa turns suddenly in her seat, straining against the belt to do so. “Mom.” Blue eyes are wide with shock at the potential implication of a detail that’s just come to her: Rianna Price didn’t have her memories stolen in April of 1984, she was simply murdered.

“Do you remember my sister?”

Ria stares at the road ahead when Odessa mentions her sister. Brows furrowed in thought.

The explanation, while on some level horrifying, is actually of some kind of comfort to Elisabeth. It's starting to gel for her that, although she remembers Ria as coming through with the rest of the group from Sunspot, it didn't happen that way. Based on what this Ria is telling her. She's not sure it matters, truth be told. "However you got here, I'm glad," she tells Ria quietly. Her hand rests once more on Dessa's shoulder with a squeeze in silent support as she tells the driver, "It sounds like your very existence saved my sister-in-law's life and Dessa's lost enough." Both time and people.

A faint frown creases Liz's brow and she looks back up into that rearview to study what she can see of Ria's expression in it. She's not sure she knew about her friend having a sister – she doesn't think so in this moment, but that means nothing right now. Her head is spinning with all of the information. Instead of throwing the billion or so questions she has out into the air, she gives Dessa room to ask her questions. They're personal and arguably more important. "Your family tree is literally insane," she observes wryly. Even without a time-manipulation ability, it's tough to keep track. And that's saying something, considering Elisabeth's own experiences and life.

Ria looks at Elisabeth, then Odessa, then back to the dark road lit only by her headlights. It’s hard to tell whether what Odessa asked or what Elisabeth said has made her grow quiet, but there’s gears turning behind her eyes.

“It’s getting late, isn’t it?” Ria asks in a tone of voice incongruent to the current conversation. But that’s because—

Some Time Later

Stoltz Residence


Odessa spits toothpaste into a sink.

There’s a hint of red in it from her gums. The porcelain is cold, her electric toothbrush still buzzing softly in her hand. Standing up straight she sees herself in the bathroom mirror at Ace’s house, head gently swimming from alcohol. A night on the town with Rianna. With mom. A night drive and—

Then this.

Odessa is alone, save for the sound of a snoring dog in the bedroom. Or maybe that’s Ace.

She looks back in the mirror and realizes that she hadn’t been looking at the right her. The woman who stared back was a stranger now, though. The stranger she chose to be. Ouriana Stoltz. But, for just a second, the old her stared back and she hadn’t even noticed.

The toothpaste swirls down the drain, pinked with blood.


Raytech Industries Corporate Housing

It’s dark and the bed is empty.

One of Elisabeth’s bare arms is stretched out across a length of cold sheets. Dim light from outside filters in through tinted windows and the air conditioner hums softly in the wall. Her head swims, just a little. From a night out on the town with Rianna, from a day she remembers in fits and starts. From a recollection peeking out from behind confusing angles of personal relationships and the negative space of not enough answers.

What the fuck just happened?

Fifty-Three Years Earlier

So if you cannot take my hand


And if you must be going, I will understand

He tries to get her attention, hand on her cheek. She turns with a weary smile and tears in her eyes. The morning light makes him look younger, softens the creases in his face, the bags under his eyes, the gray of his hair.

You gotta make your own kind of music

“You’re crying.” He says, and she smiles his concern away, wiping tears from her eyes with her thumb. She doesn’t say anything back, just lingers in this moment for a little while longer. Because somewhere inside she knows it can’t last. Somewhere inside she knows there’s tragedy. There’s an ending coming.

Sing your own special song

She shakes her head, putting her hand on his and squeezing it gently, then turns her face to kiss his palm. A part of her was conflicted, and at the same time a part of her wasn’t. Life changes, history takes twists and turns, and ultimately… something either happens, or it doesn’t. But that is what brings tears to her eyes.

Make your own kind of music

“Hey,” she says, forcing a smile. “I got a question for you.” She takes his hand and moves it so she can kiss his knuckles, then places it down on her stomach.

Even if nobody else sings along

“What do you think…” She asks, heart racing in her chest.

You gotta make your own kind of music

“…of the name Cindy?”

Sing your own kind of song

He smiles. “Kind of alliterative, isn’t it?”

Make your own kind of music

“Yeah.” She agrees. “Yeah, it is.”

Even if nobody else sings along

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