elisabeth_icon.gif squeaks5_icon.gif

Scene Title Somewhere
Synopsis There are answers out there, if one looks long enough.
Date October 16, 2020

Raytech - Residential Campus, Elisabeth Harrison's Apartment.

It isn't often that Jac Childs has an excuse to venture onto the residential campus. She can't claim to have an excuse this time either. But the vague reason she gave her mom for why she would be late returning from Raytech Industries — something about questions for a Traveler — was accepted after only minimal hesitation. There were plenty of assurances she's staying up on her regular coursework and not stretching herself too thin with extra things. There's even the promise to herself, after and while she approaches a door she's only been to once or twice ever, that she'd get home in time for supper.

Knuckles rap against the door to Richard and Elizabeth’s apartment, lightly and with a polite insistence. She isn't expected, and only when she drops her hand to her side does Jac wonder for a moment if she should've called or texted first. Hopefully Liz won't mind the oversight. Shifting backward a step, the teen tucks her hands into her coat pockets while she waits.

The security in the building is such that Jac couldn't get up here without a call ahead. So even as she knocks, the door whips open. Elisabeth's voice from inside wafts, "Aura, Wai"

Yeah, no. The sandy-haired tornado that is the petite form of Aurora Harrison hurls herself at the teen. "Squeaks!! You dinnent hide fast enough! The tunnel almost got you!!"

The little girl saw just enough of the borealis over Detroit and overheard just enough of who was present to have her own ideas about what happened out there. "Why dinnent you hide like you said?!"

The blonde mother of the clinging vine appears in the doorway and sighs. "Sorry, Jac… she's really glad to see you, if you can't tell."

The small but present voice is barely enough warning for Jac to brace for what comes next. She loses a couple of steps when Aurora plows into her. She pulls her hands free to first catch herself, then find the younger girl’s shoulders and give her a small squeeze. Liz, however, gets a shrug and the confusion that builds from Aura’s questions. Dessa’s sword? Tunnel?

“Um…” The teen angles a quick look down at the small girl. “That's a long story. And I… I don't think your mom would want me to tell it right now.” Her brows furrow as she looks up at Liz again. “I was actually hoping to talk to you. About other things.”

"Sure thing," Elisabeth replies with a small smile. She's carrying a dish towel that she's just finished wiping her hands on and she flicks it gently at Aurora's behind. "Pixie, you should go finish your picture for Unca Kain so I can take it to him when I see him."

Aura's hug on Squeaks is fierce, but she draws back immediately and looks up solemnly at the teen. "I'm glad the tunnel dinnent get you." She pats Squeaks' arm and then goes back inside, skipping toward her room.

Liz watches her a moment and then gestures Jac to come in. "C'mon, have a seat. Are you holding up okay, kiddo?" Without asking, she moves to grab bottles of water from the fridge before she joins Jac on the couch. Her blue eyes are taking in the way the girl is moving, as if taking stock of her recovery.

“Me too,” Jac affirms, but unable to fully shake the uncertainty out of her voice. She'll have to ask later what that's all about. Her eyes track after Aurora as the girl flits off to some other part of the house.

Shaking her head, the teen looks up at Elisabeth before following her into the apartment. “Yeah.” At least physically there doesn't seem to be anything wrong with her. She moves to the couch just as easily as ever, without any sign of lingering aches or pains from any bodily thing. Her emotional and mental health are probably a different story, but she holds onto a front of adjusted wellness. “I mean… there's still questions and…”

Jac sighs and shrugs. “I don't know anymore. And I don't really know who to talk to.”

Handing the young woman a bottle of water, Elisabeth lowers herself to a seat. Her bottle of water is placed between her feet on the floor as she leans her elbows on her knees and clasps her hands together between them. She meets Jac's eyes with is a wealth of sympathy in her expression but no pity — as much as she might wish a different life for the girl, reality is what it is. "I can't promise to have answers," Elisabeth replies quietly, "but why don't you lay it out for me and we'll see what we can come up with."

Slouching in her seat, with the bottled water pinned between her hands, Jac shrugs. It's the first reasonable response she can come to, with a lifetime’s worth of problems buzzing like pissed off yellowjackets inside her head. Her thumb presses a shallow dimple into the plastic bottle. “I guess… it's just hard being here. It's home, I know it is. But…” Shaking her head, the teen looks to the bottled water in her hands. The plastic pops lightly when the dimple is released. “It's Squeaks’ home,” she finishes quietly.

Blue eyes flicker as the older woman leans back with a heavy sigh. A glance toward Aura's roommate gives away that she's made the conversation private, but right now Jac isn't able to tell for certain. Elisabeth's gaze comes back and there is a certain weariness to her expression as she says softly, "Yeah."

There are probably a lot of people in Jac's life who will understand what she's going through, how the happenings of the past month can change a person. But in some ways, Elisabeth is still living that situation.

In a low voice, she tells Jac, "When I came back, I did a lot of things to try to reclaim my life." There's a pause while she searches for the right words. "I went back to a job that I've loved, reconnected with people. But sometimes I feel like the world's biggest imposter — I'm not the same person who left here. Too many things that I saw or did, choices I made. Too much happened. And I wanted to fit back into my life here."

The corners of her lips quirk upward briefly before she looks at the bottle in her hands. "But it doesn't quite fit, does it?" She looks up to meet the younger woman's eyes. "Something fundamental inside you is different now."

“I can't be whoever they expect me to be.” Jac doesn't go so far as to claim she's an imposter for trying. “Not when I don't even know who I am anymore. And the whole just give it time.” She's sure Liz has heard that before, too, but it doesn't make her any less bitter toward the sentiment.

“It's a placebo. Sure, everyone saying it means well, but…” Her hands lift in a helpless gesture. Good intentions haven't solved anything.

Jac rests an elbow on the arm of the couch and props her head up with her hand. “I feel like…” Her eyes lift from some distant point and search for understanding in Elisabeth. “Who I was is what everyone expects and welcomes, but I'm not that anymore. And whoever I am now is… not so much.”

A soft snort escapes Liz and she nods a bit, looking toward the window at the give it time. She herself has given it almost two years and she still feels like an imposter at times. If only time were all it took.

Elisabeth smiles a little. "None of us come through life unchanged. Some changes are bigger than others, but we all grow and learn more about ourselves — good things and bad. And you've been through a hell of a lot this year." Tipping her head, the blonde ponders what she might be able to offer as help. As usual, she feels woefully unqualified on this front. But she does nod. "I think… that the people who know you don't expect you to come out of it unchanged… they just love you and want to be there for you while you become the person you're going to be. They don't want to lose you. And maybe they're also holding on a little tightly to the you they know because they're a little scared that the new you doesn't need or want them anymore." For all that Jac worries about her own changes, others worry too.

“I'm scared too.” Jac has never openly questioned her place among her small collection of friends and family. But even the reassurances she's been given since returning in March have felt like they were meant for someone else. “What if they never accept me? Or if I never figure out who I am and how I fit into things again?” How does one even find themselves? “Right now I'm just a fraud and they're going to figure it out eventually and then… I don't know.”

Leaning forward again, Elisabeth meets the girl's eyes. "Jac? I know it's hard to look at it this way, but… have a little faith in the family that has taken you in." Imposter syndrome is very real. "You're going to figure out who you are and how you fit by living each day. Don't try to be anyone — just live. Do whatever the next thing in front of you is — whether that's finding a new job," because she knows the internship is gone for right now, "or deciding you'd rather take a class or two, or maybe asking one of your Lighthouse siblings to go on a scavving trip. Live in the now and don't worry about who you're supposed to be or how you're supposed to act — just feel the things you feel and do the next thing in front of you."

She reaches out and touches Jac's arm, her expression earnest. "I know you're scared. There are a lot of emotions to process — a lot of things for you to feel and to think about. But getting lost in your head isn't living, kiddo.The people who love you already accept you for exactly who you are — mistakes and all. That's Lighthouse." That's family. "You don't have to earn a place. You already have it. You just have to find your way through the way you feel, and when you come out on the other side? You're going to find us all still here." Even her.

Jac doesn’t immediately disagree, she allows for a few seconds to pass to digest the advice. She knows most of what Liz shares is true, but some of it rubs like the sandpaper appeasement she'd complained about earlier. So she does eventually shake her head. The motion draws her gaze away and finalizes with a sigh. “What if…” That path of thought meanders, lazy like some shallow, slow moving river from the stories she used to love.

It brings long moments of silence, broken once by the teen breaking into the bottle of water she'd been given. Her refusal to look at Liz again seems to be more for the need to think more, to confront the notion that it just takes time and demand better answers. Eventually, though, she does return to the audiokinetic.

“The me that I am right now feels like she doesn't belong here.” It's the simplest way to put it. Jac knows she's kept up a facade of getting back to life as normal, even with the continued bumps in the road. “I know I do, but… I feel like…” She hangs from the thought, staring into a near distance. “I feel like I need to understand me, who I am now. Or it's just… always going to feel fake.”

It sucks that the reality is time is only answer. It's a horrible answer. She tried to put it slightly different terms, because she hates the answer herself. But it's true, to some degree.

Still, Elisabeth does nod slightly. "You can't do anything about how long it takes to really cope, obviously," she says quietly. "The only the thing you control is what you do within that time. So… an understanding of self starts the same way learning any other thing — give yourself permission to try something and if you don't like doing it, don't." She tips her head.

"I know you were on your own long before anyone else came around, before you met your family. Maybe… start by revisiting some of the old places? It will few different than it used to, but it's also familiar — a connection to where you came from. And then think through what's different — maybe think through an old situation and what you might do differently now than you did then?" It's not the best way to explain it, but she offers, "The perspective of how you might do something differently if you knew then what you know now might help you figure out your own thoughts about how you're different on the inside."

Before. “I used to try to learn about things just by reading or using the internet.” It's probably known that Jac still falls back on those methods, relying on digging through pages and skimming countless sentences until she finds a direction to go. It's more refined now, of course, with a stronger vocabulary and deeper understanding she's been able to uncover clues more quickly. “Or asking questions. That's how I ended up in Praxia.” Knowing who and what to ask are just as important.

But even understanding how she'd approach things now versus a year ago doesn't quite hit the mark of her dilemma.

“I want to know where I'm from. Where my biological parents are from.” It's a dream every orphan has. And for Jac, who was manufactured and then unwanted for so much of her life, it has a greater significance. “If I knew… if I could start to understand the paths they chose… maybe I'd start to understand why I exist.”

Listening to the girl's situation attentively, Elisabeth nods slowly. "You have to accept that you may never find those answers and … work on a way to be okay with that if it does happen. At some point, you'll reach a point where there just aren't any more answers. But you've got avenues to explore here. What can I do to help you?" she asks simply.

For a long moment, Jac is without answers or questions. She's long felt that trying to find anything about her origins was about as useful as beating a dead horse, and ideas on other approaches have been elusive. If she knew more about any of those involved in her existence she might be able to direct her searching more accurately. She leans forward, cradling her chin in her hands. Fingers tap against her cheeks as probably the most obvious sign that she's thinking seriously about the offer.

“What about arrest records?” Jac’s head stays down but her eyes lift with the sudden idea. Cindy was an inmate at Rikers. “Could we find those somehow?”

"Absolutely," Elisabeth replies immediately. "Assuming the records survived all this mess." She considers. "Let me do a little digging through what remains of the digital records. They were working on getting old files digitized before the war. I have no idea if that was successful, honestly — or how far back they go, if it was. But I can definitely look."

She pauses and ponders. "If nothing shows up there, records may still exist. It just may require a field trip, depending on where exactly the arrest was made." There's also the old archives building. But before she even thinks about traipsing there — because it's definitely off-limits — it seems a better plan to start with the easier avenues first. They might get lucky.

“What about Company records?” So much of it was already public record, but even more of it is buried under lies and half truths. Aware of this, Jac doesn't seem too hopeful that it's a path which would lead anywhere. Her own limited resources have proven near impossible to dig too deeply without resorting to dangerous and costly measures. “I know, before she was incarcerated, Cindy was a scientist with the Company. Maury took me to visit her once.” She remembers, but in the way one remembers an episode of The Twilight Zone.

Elisabeth looks thoughtful. "I have no idea if the Company records still exist. I was gone so long, even now I'm not entirely clear on what was destroyed. But I'll see what I can come up with there too." It's the least she can do. "I know Richard's had some things, but I think he already gave you what he has. I'll double check though, okay?"

Jac nods a slow acceptance. She's sure there's more to it than just what Richard has told her. There's no blame, though. It just is what it is. “Thanks,” she says, her tone dropping somewhere between relieved and resigned. At some point she will probably have to make the choice to stop or continue with more imaginative methods.

Sitting up, she casts a glance in the direction that Aurora ran off in. “I probably need to get home soon.” A look angles itself back to Liz. “But… what was Aura talking about when I got here?”

Ah. Elisabeth's expression moves from thoughtful to a grimace. "When all hell broke loose in Detroit, somewhere in the updates she caught wind of you being there. She thought we were all about to be sucked through a portal." Sighing, she shakes her head. "She's struggling a little. So she was just really glad to see you."

At first, Jac’s brows furrow with confusion, but after a moment she shakes her head. “I don’t know if that’s better or worse than what actually happened.” And from her tone, she isn’t going to speculate either. “That wasn’t Des’ sword I had either. It’s mine.” It doesn’t carry too much weight, like it’s a statement made purely for informational purposes.

“I’m sorry I came by without much warning,” Jac goes on as she stands. “If you can find anything on Cindy Morrison, though… I haven’t tried to see what records there might be or why she was arrested, but I know she worked for the Company.”

"It's neither better or worse. And don't worry about it. I'm glad you came. It's…. Not easy, what you've seen and done." There is genuine sympathy in Elisabeth's face. "I wish you hadn't had to see or do any of it. And I'm … just really glad you're alive. I know you're having a hard time of it, but … anything I can do, Jac, I will."

She moves to stand as well, walking the teen to the doorway. "I'll call you if I can find anything at all." Maybe the records are there, maybe not. But she won't stop looking until she's sure she's exhausted all possibilities. "Call or come by anytime you like, hmm?" It's a genuine invitation, an open door.

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