Take Us Back


dana_icon.gif robyn6_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Take Us Back
Synopsis All that we have known will be an echo
Date November 12, 2020

One Week Ago

November 5th
12:03 pm

A car rolls down an empty highway at a brisk pace, taking no small advantage of the fact that the roads here are more or less empty for the moment. It's been miles since the last time anyone spoke, quiet having settled into the cab as green eyes stare out at passing trees and overgrowth covered signs.

A heavy sigh escapes Robyn Roux's lips as she shifts in her seat so that she's staring ahead once more. This excursion had been her idea, and yet now as they drive ever closer to their destination, she finds herself tinged with anxiety and regret. Almost certainly she would be met with disappointment, she knows this. Yet, it's not enough to temper the growing unease she feels.

Almost four hours was a long time to think, after all.

Threading blonde hair behind her ear, she glances over at the driver's seat, a thought dancing on the tip of her tongue. Richard Ray seems about as focused as she is, though more on the road than on his thoughts, at least as far as she can tell. Lips purse, and whatever she was going to say goes unsaid as she turns her attention back out the window.

As a yellow sign comes into view, Robyn sits up. She watches as it passes by, tensing up that much more. It's the first of what will be several EPA branded caution signs warning about radiation levels. "We're almost there," she murmurs as she takes grip of the cane she keeps up in the front seat with her.

Looking down at it's raven's skull head, she sighs again. "Thanks for this, Richard."

It’s not the only cane that’s in the car, of course; there’s another, older cane, its head that of a silver wolf smoothed almost to featurelessness over its decades of use. Richard doesn’t need it, of course, but he carries and uses it on occasion. This trip is one such occasion.

It serves as a physical prop to remind him of what he’s actually carrying.

“What, you think I was gonna make you make this drive on your own? Besides…” He glances over with a smile, eyebrows lifting a little before he looks back to the road, to the yellow signs speaking of danger ahead, “…we haven’t spent much time together in— fuck, forever. I mean, not counting the trip to Colobanth, but that’s always a shitty trip.”

There’s a box in the back of the vehicle as well, but it’s not carrying any canes. It’s loaded with hazmat suits.

"I wasn't exactly the most social for most of that trip," Robyn murmurs. She had been boisterous and gregarious, particularly to Dana, at first, but once they'd hit the waters and travelled Antarctica, Robyn had been much more withdrawn. Now, it feels a bit like that again. A glance is offered to the hazmat suits in the back, and then to the road ahead.

Almost to their destination, yet still too far away for her liking. With a heavy sigh she casts her eyes upwards and ahead.

“Neither was I. Too many memories of that place…” Richard shakes his head, “If I had brain one in my head I’d move somewhere tropical that I’d never see snow again, but that’d mean pulling myself out of the game, and— well. You know I could never do that…” He’d tried, for a few years. It didn’t work out. Then he trails off, his gaze sweeping to the window as his words die on his lips.

It's just in time to see a sign pass them by on the road; Robyn's assessment of the distance left in their drive was pretty accurate.

"Cambridge - 5 Miles"

One Week Later

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office
Data Processing Lab

November 12th
10:12 am

There's a look of curiosity on Robyn's face as she thumbs through a box of records that sits on the table in front of her. "I never took the time to go through these before now. I really should have," she shares, gingerly using the tips of her clawed rings to flip from one to the next.

It's the second time she's found herself in Raytech's data processing lab. It feels like… well, a record caught in a lock groove, being back here again for this purpose.

"This is everything we have though, so I hope it's enough. Is there a particular record I should be looking for?" Leaning back from the crate, she looks over to Richard with a raised eyebrow. "I forget if what we found last time was spread over multiple records or not."

She hasn't forgotten what they're looking for, though. Hopefully, there's something to be found today.

“Yeah, it was spread over multiple records,” Richard admits as he steps back over from a console to look into the crate with a frown, “We’ll probably have to check them all just in case… which album has that last song that he was playing before he got taken into protective custody? Could have been a clue.”

“And yeah…” He exhales a sigh, straightening, “…hopefully it will be. The last box was only a third of the data, so we’ll see what we can get from these.”

Sucking in a breath, Robyn closes her eyes as she ceases rummaging through the records. "Thelonius Monk, 'Straight, No Chaser'," she replies in a low voice. "My mom had that album too. Like, in Boston. It was in the set we found from Colobanth too. Tyler put it on while he was making us tea." That memory is pretty clear in her mind, as most everything from Antarctica is. A hand clenches a bit at her side, the tips of her jewelry digging into her palms. "It's clearly a common thread. I just don't know if it's the only one."

Stepping back from the records, Robyn takes her cane in hand and turns to Richard. "At least now we have a better idea what we're doing and how to go about this. Should be a bit quicker this time, yeah?" There's clearly hope in her voice that this is the case. "This whole process still mystifies me."

“Right. Right. ‘Japanese Love Song’ or something like that…?” Richard shakes his head a little, “I never talked to him before that— technopath conflict— but I’ve been told his old handle was T.Monk, so that makes a shit-ton of sense.”

Then he’s flashing her a wry smile, “Mystifies you? Christ, I feel like a monkey sometimes in my own labs, I don’t know how any of this bullshit works. And yet I could probably hold a lecture on parts of quantum physics. Some days I feel like a toddler that learned how to run but has no idea how to crawl.”

“Which might explain why I keep running into walls.”

"Japanese Folk Song," Robyn corrects, smirking as she looks over at Richard. "Honestly it's amazing I can work my own security system. I'm learning, though." Shaking her head, she turns back to the records. "I can fix up and build instruments, I can mix and master an album, but I still can barely navigate my computer's OS. I guess the switch from Windows to YamaOS doesn't help there."

Arms cross and eyes close, expression turning a bit more sombre as she stares ahead at the machine that will be reading the records behind her. "What about everything else we found? Did you ever… figure out if I had to worry about radioactivity?"

“Oh, it’s all safe. If we’d crossed the river…” Richard trails off, head turning as if to look in the direction of the Ark. Not that he knows where it is, but it’s a symbolic direction anyway. Then he shakes it again, regretfully, “I should— see about getting Harmony and Luther up there sometime, if I can talk them into it. They might be able to disperse things. Maybe we could salvage some of what’s left down there.”

He cranes his neck towards the box, then clicks his tongue in satisfaction as he reaches in and plucks the vinyl in question up. He steps over to carefully set it on the player hooked up to the other machines, letting the automation select the hidden track.

“I’ve had Alia set most of my stuff up with voice commands or simple gestures, honestly, so I don’t break something.”

"And yet you run a million dollar tech and security company." A soft chuckle escapes Robyn's lips as she pulls a vinyl out of the box and looks it over before handing it over to Richard. "Jesus Christ, Richard, how did we get here?" There's a hint of a laugh and amusement behind the words, but the pause afterwards makes it feel like a more earnest question. "Your luddite self should still be running a small security firm, and I should be touring the world."

A small shake of her head and a faint smile suggests a brief reverie in more pleasant memories, but both of those fade as she steps back from the table and looks over at Richard. "I can't be the only one who just… stops and thinks about that anymore." Eyes drift back to the box of records and she falls quiet, sucking in a deep breath.

“No. I should be…” Richard trails off as he accepts the record, his eyes closing a moment and his head shaking slightly as he murmurs more quietly, “I should be— so much more, actually. I’m just a shadow of what could have been.”

No laughter, there, as he sets up the second record to be recorded and any data transferred over.

For a long moment, Robyn is silent. It's only with a heavy exhalation that she stands straight and looks at the machine that'll process the records. "Let's get that one on and… look through some of the stuff I bought back. See if we can glean something from any of it."

As she steps away from the table she pauses and looks back over her shoulder, an eyebrow raised. "You don't happen to have a boombox somewhere in this place I could borrow overnight, do you?"

One Week Ago

November 5th
Cambridge, MA

Cambridge is at once a ghost town and a community. Rows of buildings gutted by fires that were never repaired sit adjacent to tent cities of squatters living in and around overpasses. Clothes lines are hung between tenement buildings that have residents in them in spite of evacuation orders. People have nowhere to go.

The streets are devoid of cars, both active and junked. There looks to have been a modicum of restoration done to areas outside of downtown Cambridge, but the heart of Boston visible on the horizon looks more like Midtown Manhattan: a collection of bomb-eviscerated skyscrapers collapsing to ruin and scant construction cranes. Remarkably, most of the road signs on the freeway are intact and only some vandalized beyond recognition.

The signs pointing to exits off Storrow Drive and onto Charlesgate Park means they’re getting close. Charlotte Roux lived within spitting distance of Fenway Park. But what else is in spitting distance is the looming shadow out the passenger window, the one haunting Richard.

Across the Charles River, the ruins of MIT are a violent reminder of could-be and might-have-beens. The drainage canal where Else Kjelstrom died is just across the river, between the water and MIT. There’s not much left of it these days. Richard can see the high fence erected to keep out mourners and the curious. The Mass Ave bridge that crosses the river is blocked by concrete barricades and chain-link fences. Radiation hazard signs are everywhere.

There’s cranes over the ruins of MIT. Even today they’re still pouring concrete into the arcology that melted down, trying to seal the radiation from the reactor in place. There’s never been a perfect solution to the problem that was also readily available. So much tragedy and death in one place.

“Speaking of memories,” he finally murmurs, in less light tones than earlier.

Silence is the response Richard gets. Robyn never looks up, her eyes settled on her feet and her cane as MIT loom in the distance. She knows, objectively, that there's going to be sadness today, for one reason or another. There's going to be no avoiding it, going back to the place she lived almost fifteen years of her life. To where her mom lived.

But that's about all her heart can take.

It takes a lot not to look up, not to offer comment in response. "We should be there any minute," she remarks quietly. "I know I've said that, like… six times by now, but- actually this time."

“I’ve never actually been there,” Richard says quietly, drawing his attention back to the road, “By the time we were ready to raid it, I was on my way to Alaska to deal with Natazhat, and… well, then it was gone. I just had Alia and Kaylee’s reports, later, and… the footage, of course.”

He draws in a breath, then exhales it, “Alright, just tell me where to turn.”

There's a soft chuckle, Robyn shaking her head as she finally looks back up at Richard. "Yeah, I'm not going to sit here and pretend I had it worse," she remarks with a clearly feigned sense of mirth. "The whole day was an entire shitshow for the lot of us. I… only really ever heard about what happened in Alaska from Adel and Nicole."

Pursing her lips, she turns her attention back to the road, silently staring ahead and watching for the moment to turn.

“I never talked to many people about it,” Richard admits with a little shake of his head, not enough to take his attention from the road, “After Liz was— presumed dead, and everything else that happened, it was always too sore a subject…”

"Yeah." Staring ahead, Robyn turns attention to street signs. "Yeah," she repeats distantly. "I'm glad Kaylee made it out of the Ark relatively okay. She was with me, Eve, Gillian, and Jolene for a bit, but… we got separated."

Thanks to a suicidal scientist with a grenade.

"I still don't really talk about… the rest of that year, to be honest," she admits in a hushed tone. "The Ark, losing my sight and my ability, getting scarred by Eileen, almost drowning in the siege. It's still too much."

There's no moment to reflect, though, as Robyn's eyes widen and she sits forward a bit, pointing. "Two intersections up. Turn right, you'll know the building when you see it."

“I was in a really bad place myself,” Richard says quietly as he drives, nodding a little as she mentions the intersections and the turn, “Everyone went their separate ways after Natazhat, and I was… alone. If it wasn’t for Niki…”

He trails off. One more name he can’t rely on if he needs them any more, ever again.

At the second intersection, he turns, driving around the burnt-out husk of an abandoned car in the process.

"Nik- Oh. I only ever knew her sister." A sharp exhale escapes Robyn as she leans forward and looks ahead. "I'm still upset about what happened to Barbara. The whole thing could've been avoided." There's a bitterness in her voice that Richard hasn't heard in a few years, the same kind she used to have after the war.

As they pass by the husk of a car, Robyn watches it with a certain wariness, before turning her attention back ahead at the rough, cracked concrete of the road. "Same thing after Pollepel. If I saw anyone, it was… I mean, it was mostly just to deliver guns to them, or get some people out of the country. There's something I never thought I'd have on my resume, gun runner."

Robyn points a head, to a tall building they are finally coming up on. "I almost stayed in Quebec," she admits. "I didn't want to come back to New York. But the Trials convinced me, and then Cat got me to stay." Not to mention Colette's roll in that, even if it had been a few years prior at that point

“I told Eve she was going to get people killed,” says Richard, his voice tight, “She didn’t believe me. She wouldn’t listen. She never did, never does. Always thinks she knows what’s best…” He’s a little bitter himself. “The whole— the Zimmermans. They were friends, all of them, and now…” They’re all gone.

There’s silence a bit, before he says, “Edward had set up a place for us to hide out the war. Of course. So we stayed there, did what we could. After that… I had to do what I could to make up for everything Ezekiel did. And everything that Ed did to keep us safe.”

"Yeah… Eve and I aren't on speaking terms anymore." And they may not be ever again. "Are you still following Edward's plan?" comes in a hushed voice. "I don't- believe in fate, and the universe can't seem to decide if it agrees or not."

Her shoulders sink a bit, looking up at the car's ceiling. "Coincidence is chaos with a purpose. A purposefully paradoxical phrase I use to illustrate the ridiculousness of this world. People like Edward, I've never known what to make of it. With people like Eve, we know we can change it. But having it so mapped out? It's…" Looking back ahead, Robyn points to the tall building.

"We're here."

One Week Later

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office
Data Processing Lab

It takes Richard a minute to pull himself out of his thoughts, to shake his head and look back over, “Ah— yeah, actually, I think I do. I’ve got a bunch of obsolete players stacked up in a closet somewhere, you have no idea the weird-ass formats I’ve found some of the old Company stuff on.”

“I don’t think Jean-Martin updated his recording formats since the 60s, at the least.”

"That doesn't surprise me, to be honest. I think my dad…" There's a slight pause, and Robyn turns her attention to a big box on a table near them. "I think he still was using 8 tracks for some things, last time we talked."

Straightening her black dress, she picks up her cane from against the table, the metal tips of her jewelry clinking against it. "How automated is this process now, anyway? I'll have to think Alia the next time I see her. I understand records, of course, but the science behind writing something like this into lock grooves is… foreign to me."

But they had this discussion last time.

"How much did it seem like we were missing, again?"

“You’re not the only one. It should be pretty much automated at this point,” Richard glances over to the records spinning slowly on their players, needles dragging along grooves to feel out their secrets like a blind man reading braille.

“We only had— roughly a third. Heh. More than what we got from the Wasteland’s broadcast back to me. That’s just a pile of mostly-corrupted garbage. Just enough to show us what we need to build but can’t.”

Pursing her lips, Robyn lips thin as a rather miffed expression forms on her face. "Our odds aren't good here, then," she admits. "I hope I'm wrong, though. I don't know how else we'll get the rest of it without finding a way to ask Drucker himself."

Not that the data would be her first question, if she could.

A heavy sigh escapes her lips again, making a frustrated little noise as she turns to the box. "Mom was obviously trying to remember. Something was there. Why is it always that the people we need to talk to the most are dead, and someone like Hiro is never around when we actually need him to be?"

Her hands run down her face, staring ahead blankly for a moment.

"Never mind, sorry. I promised I wouldn't be so dour, didn't I?" The smile she angles at Richard seems faked at first, but it quickly turns more genuine. "I guess it's habit at this point."

“Trust me, I sympathize…” Richard drops himself into a chair, waiting for the system to decode whatever’s on there, fingers raking back through his hair and a heavy sigh escaping his lips, “Every thread I follow has been burnt off at the end. Sometimes literally. I even looked into HAARP, since the equipment there would’ve been perfect to track Uluru…”

His hands lift up, “AND EZEKIEL HAD BURNED IT DOWN.”

They drop, and he looks over with a rueful expression, “Is it psychologically unhealthy to want to strangle another version of myself that I’ve already murdered?”

"Uluru? Is that what we're calling… it?" The Entity, she means. Robyn furrows her brow, chuckling a bit. "I liked 'the Entity' better. Sounds like a Stephen King novel. Uluru sounds like the Dean Koontz version." Because Horror is all she can really think of when it comes to this particular subject. "Though I guess that isn't fair. I liked Phantoms well enough."

With a small shrug, Robyn turns back to the box in front of her and sighs. "No," she says quietly. "Have I- have I ever told you what I saw in my overlays?" She falls quiet for a moment, folding open the top of the box. "I'd strangle some of them if I could. It's so strange to have them… living rent free in my head because of that."

Nostrils flare, and Robyn shakes her head.

"Richard… have you started on Plan Z yet? In case we can't get all this data we need?"

“It’s its name, or at least one of them,” Richard admits with a shake of his head, “It’s what it was called in some of the old Mendez comics, the prophetic ones. We always thought it was a metaphor, but… shit, maybe I should look back through them for anything useful.”

He drops silent when she mentions the overlays, drawing in a slow breath, “No, you didn’t. I… haven’t told anyone about mine, either.” He looks down at one hand, and murmurs, “One of me is Kazimir now. In— the Virus timeline.”

He doesn’t answer yet, about a Plan Z.

Robyn stares at Richard for a moment, before letting out a small chuckle. "Funny that," is said in a distinctly sardonic tone. Not, it's really not. "I was Vanguard in that world." Swallowing hands fingers rub against her palms as she leans against her cane, staring down at the box. "I didn't see much. I know I, um. I killed that world's Liz though." She did it, she phrases. She still holds her belief that all of herselves are her even after everything.

"The one you called Bright, I was a part time pop star, part time PR head, part time corporate assassin for Arthur Petrelli." A shiver runs down Robyn's spine. "That one was wild. I saw the most of her. Sometimes I feel like she still lives in my head, much stronger than the others."

Stepping back from the table, Robyn again falls silent, staring ahead almost vacantly. Somewhere between absence and introspection. "Um. Anyway. That's wild too. Being Kazimir." Her gaze shifts a bit to look at Richard's own cane, with that now iconic wolf's head on it. "I'm glad that's not how it went down this time. I don't know what I'd do in that situation."

It’s not only Robyn’s gaze that drifts to the cane, as Richard’s does as well. “We can’t blame ourselves for the things our alternates have done,” he says quietly, “We have our own traumas to deal with without adding in theirs. To hell with them. We’re our own people.”

He flashes over a quick smile, “You worry about it too much, you’ll go crazy. Trust me. I have twenty pounds of yarn stretched across a room somewhere to prove it.” Half a joke.

He steps over to the computers, reaching out to tap a screen, “Let’s see if we’ve got anything yet.”

Robyn's eyes dip down towards the floor, chewing on her lip for a moment as she thinks of a rebuttal, a sharing of her philosophy of self, something in response.

In the end, she says nothing. She just waits.

One Week Ago

November 5th
Cambridge, MA

Stairs are the fucking worst.

That's all Robyn can think as she pushes open the door to the floor her mother's condo is housed on. The elevators are expectedly long dead, one having collapsed in the years since the events at the Arcology. She's tried to push her proximity to that cursed drainage pipe and the hellscape it led into out of her mind ever since Richard reminded her of it.

It's not entirely working.

Distraction comes in the form of the ruined hallway ahead of them, almost every door either off its hinges or kicked in, showing the presence of scavengers of years past. Robyn never believed that they would have been the first to venture into the building, but a part of her had hoped…

Hoped against all hope that one of her childhood homes was unscathed.

That hope is dwindling with each door she lays eyes on.

The Geiger counter said that things were safe in this area, so - for now, at least - the hazmat suits stay in the car. That hasn’t stopped Richard from getting suited up in AEGIS gear, however, because there’s no telling if squatters or something more dangerous has set up shop in the building.

There are always rumors around the Dead Zones, and he knows some of them are true.

“Chances are, most looters would’ve just grabbed electronics, obvious valuables,” he encourages quietly as he walks down the hallway, Banshee in hand but kept low, “Probably left… personal stuff behind.”

There's a short nod from Robyn as she makes her way towards the far end of the hall. The last time she walked down this hallway, she was with Elaine, visiting just months before everything went to hell. Now, seeing it look like something out of a horror movie or abandoned city video online is unnerving.

"Hopefully records count as something personal. No idea what else we may find." Stopping, she looks back over her shoulder at Richard, and then to the Geiger counter. "I doubt anything else useful, but I'm open to being surprised. Everything about my mom has been a surprise the last few years, why should this be any different?"

“I know that feeling,” Richard admits quietly, sympathetically, “I’m still getting used to the idea that I… have a mom still. And she’s not— good at being, you know, maternal.”

An empty can is stepped over so he doesn’t crush the dented aluminum under his boot, the garbage-strewn hallway navigated carefully to keep from making too much noise, “Which was your place?”

"Right up here." That's a vague enough answer, but it's only a few more doors down before Robyn stops and turns to a door. The numbers have long since been removed from it and it hangs partway open and slightly off one hinge, but Robyn could close her eyes and count the steps from the elevator to this door every time if she had to.

Slowly, a hand reaches down to the doorknob, thumb running over the keyhole. "I guess we won't need my key." It had never left her possession in all these years, not even during the war or the watery escape from Pollepel. A sentimental treasure from days long gone, now without any true use.

The door is slowly pushed the rest of the way open, eyes glazing over as she steps into one of her childhood homes.

"Maman! Je suis à la maison!"

Familiar words that echo in the back of her head and almost roll off her tongue as she stands in the condo's foyer. In her mind's eye, she can see it as it once was, superimposed over what it has become. The illusion is quick to fade, leaving the sight of a building that has clearly seen quite a deal of foot traffic in the last decade to haunt her.

“We could take the doorknob,” Richard suggests… and he’s serious, glancing to it then to her.

Hey, he knows how people can be sentimental about the strangest things. He’s guilty himself.

As she steps forward, he hangs back, moving a few steps behind. Giving her time, but keeping a careful eye out for any threats.

Stairs up reveal the condo as a split level, with three doors off from the foyer. It takes Robyn a moment to compose herself before she takes in a deep breath. "That way's the kitchen. I doubt anything's there, but we can check. That door goes to the den and dining room." Her finger sweeps across the foyer, pointing to a hallway by the stairs.

"And that leads to the- fuck. Let's go with living room. My mom turned it into a painting room at some point. We should start there, she kept her favourite record player and vinyl in there." Eyes angle up to the steps, and stares for a moment. "Bedrooms are upstairs, mine and mum's. The attic too."

Her gaze lingers before she turns away and starts down the hallway to the door leading to the living room. This one isn't just off it's hinges, it's gone - but for Robyn it's impossible to know if that's the work of looters, or an adjustment her mother once made. Any thought about it vanishes as she steps into the large room that once housed her mom's painting studio.

It's empty, save for one broken glass shelf near the back of the room that once housed an array of pictures and other sentimental items.

“Damn,” Richard murmurs as he steps in after Robyn, pausing there, “This place has been… cleared out completely. Fuck.”

He looks away, draws in a breath, then looks back, murmuring, “I’m sorry, Robyn.”

"We shouldn't be surprised," is Robyn's way of deflecting from the sadness the state of the living room brings to her heart. Slowly, she makes her way across the room to the broken shelf, where a small box sits fallen to one edge with it's lid half off.

Bending down, she lifts up the lid, eyes widening as she pulls a picture out from inside, an old Polaroid with one corner faded from long term light exposure. "Oh wow," she remarks quietly, staring at it for a long moment. Gingerly, it's placed back into the box and the lid slid on.

It almost looks like she's going to pick it up, when instead she rises back to her feet empty handed. "Upstairs." There's more than a sliver shakiness in her voice, but that too was to be expected. "Bedrooms and attic. Then, the rest. And then…"

Richard looks to the box, watching her as she sets it back and closes the box - clearly he wants to ask, but he doesn’t when she doesn’t volunteer.

“Okay,” he says gently, moving to step with her, “Lead the way.”

A step up the stairs, Robyn pauses and looks back at Richard. A moment passes and she shakes her head, turning and starting up the stairs again. "I'll be okay," she remarks as if meaning to head off a comment from Richard. "It's- I should have expected this. I'll get it together, I always do."

The stairs are a short walk; it's still a condo, after all. There's only four ways waiting for them at the top - two bedrooms, a bathroom, and the entrance to the crawl space attic. "Pick a door, any door," she remarks half heartedly as she motions to the doors. For her pick, she makes her way straight to one of the doors - her own room.

There haven’t been any signs of anyone else present in the house, so Richard lets her move on her own for the moment instead of worrying about squatters. He watches her for a moment, then turns to open the other bedroom door.

“You need me, just say something,” he offers, genuinely.

The room Richard steps into shows signs of being long since picked over. Even then, there's enough in the room to tell a story. The curtains are long since gone, but an ornate curtain rod still remains latched into place. The drawers of a similarly once well kept and ornate bureau are pulled out and a few picture frames knocked over. Glass from the frames and a mirror attached to the back of the bureau litter it's scratched and dented top.

More telling is the two plastic brushes that still sit on the floor near an open closet. A ripped, mostly scavenged roll of canvas lays across the floor nearby, and in the closet clothes belonging to a woman almost certainly older than and not at all in the style of Robyn when she had lived here permanently, along with a shoebox with an askew lid at the bottom of the closet that reads "Before you were famous" in sharpie.

This is Charlotte Roux's room.

In the adjacent room, Robyn stands in the door frame as the light casts her shadow long over the room she grew up in after moving to the states. It's an absolute mess, to say the least. Anything warm - clothes, bed sheets, curtains - or that could be used for warmth has long since been scavenged. Only two vinyl posters remain on the wall, one for Blonde Redhead and another for t.A.T.u., both of them still creased and ripped at corners. The rest are long gone, leaving only chipped paint and the remains of thumb tacks and tape.

Despite that and the fact that she doesn't see any of her instruments, equipment, or jewelry, her room seems to have fared better in the long term than her mom's. Robyn knows academically that checking her room is probably a waste of time - why would the records be here? - but as she stands in the doorway, a small, sad smile still creeps on her face.

“Must be her mother’s room,” Richard murmurs to himself when he reaches the closet, reaching out a hand to slide some of the clothes on the rod along to see if there’s anything hidden behind them. About to step back, that’s when he notices the box, and hesitates.

Crouching, he reaches out to pick the shoebox up, glancing inside to see if there might be any keepsakes remaining. He doesn’t want to give Robyn hope of finding anything if it’s empty.

Though the shoebox is much too small to contain the vinyl the pair seeks, Richard finds instead a small collection of cassette tapes. Many of them are blank but the one that sits on the top has more than enough on it's faded label to tell Richard what the box likely contains.

Friday I'm In Love, The Chain, Here Co

Old tapes, likely of Robyn in her teenage years if the date is anything to go on. The label looks ready to fall off at the slightest provocation, the adhesive keeping it on having long lost it's stick. Little else seems to rest inside, however. With nothing in the way of visible crevices or hidden cubbies otherwise to be seen in the closet.

Junk, to the scavengers. To Robyn, they might be precious treasures. Richard carefully re-settles the lid on the box and picks it up, carrying it under one arm as he steps along back out of the bedroom and moves over to the other.

“Hey, Robyn, found something…”

When Richard steps into the other bedroom, he finds Robyn sitting on what was once upon a time her bed, staring out the window at the foot of it. "People've been crashing here," she shares with a sharp but nonchalant tone. "You'd think they'd be nice enough to leave some of my stuff, but I don't really know what else I expected."

Motioning over towards her closet, she takes on a look of mock indignation. "They even took the guitar stands, Richard! The guitar stands!" Staring for a moment, her eyes drift down to the box. "That's definitely not records." Her voice is quiet, her entire demeanor shifting as she swings her legs back over the edge of the bed.

"Um. What'd you find?"

“Look, maybe you were raided by a Mad Max Hair Band Apocalypse Gang,” Richard suggests dryly as he looks to the closet, then steps over… offering the box out, eyebrows raised a little.

“Think they’re original Robyn Quinn mixtapes. I could probably make a mint off a collector.”

"A- what?" Robyn blink, lips thinning as she tries to process Richard's remark, eyes drifting down to the box he offers. Gingerly she reaches up and takes it, sliding the top off the shoebox slightly. "Holy shit. I- I can't believe…"

Teeth rake across her bottom lip as Robyn swallows back some emotion. "You sell these I fuckin' end you. Unless you share the profits." She pulls one out, turning it around in the light as if in awe of something she's never seen before.

"Ah, um. Just… just the attic to go." Clearly distracted, she motions to the third door back in the hall, but makes no effort to advance herself.

Richard flashes her a smile at the ‘threat’. “As if I’d dream of it,” he murmurs, then glances to the third door and back again. He waits just long enough to realize that she’s not going for it herself, then advances himself.

“What’d you all use to keep up there?”

Robyn is too busy looking around the hallway for anything she might have forgotten about or missed. "Good. Because that's not an idle threat. I bet I could if I put my mind to it. You're lucky I like you, Richard."

The question of what might be stored within gets a moment of consideration. "Whatever. Stuff." Robyn's shoulders rise in a shrug. "Unless there's a cubbyhole I didn't know about, the attics about the only other space we could hope to find those records." Staring at the door for a long moment, she shakes her head. "I don't have a lot of faith at this point."

Pulling the door open, dust blooms into the air around them. Robyn can't help but cough, motioning for Richard to go on ahead.

As the dust blossoms, Richard coughs as well; grimacing, he reaches up and pulls the visor of the helmet he’s wearing down over his face. Armor hath its privileges. Flicking the ‘flashlight’ function of his phone on, he moves to walk up into the attic.

“I swear to god if Samson Grey is hiding in here I quit,” he declares, loudly enough to carry into the attic. As if the man might change his mind and leave if named aloud.

"I wouldn't need Samson to do it," is a macabre observation, Robyn forcing out a chuckle as she steps up to the door behind Richard. "I literally bleed light." As if that'll sum up what she's getting at more than enough.

The attic - more a crawl space, almost - is small. There isn't much left to be found here, it's clearly been raided. Several empty and crushed boxes litter the floor along with a few bits of broken glass. But more notable, bent and folded at the back of the attic is an array of canvases marked with coloured oils and paints.

Robyn had mentioned once her mother was a painter.

“…oh shit, I think we struck gold. I mean, not record gold, but, family-heirloom gold maybe,” Richard observes, his flashlight lens pausing upon the canvases, motes of dust floating in the beam thick as the stars in the Milky War, “You said that your mom painted?”

Of course he noticed the paintings first. He’s tracked down enough prophetic paintings that he notices that sort of thing right off now, even for the more mundane variety.

"Yeah, she did," Robyn remarks with a bit of renewed enthusiasm as she crouches in behind Richard. "Nothing prophetic or anything, that wasn't her deal. She was- she did something with solar energy. I can't remember if we talked about that."

No one could blame her for being a bit distracted.

The first painting Robyn spots stands out to her immediately - the painting of the faceless man in the rain, the last painting she ever saw her mum work on. Immediately she makes her way over to that one, peeling it off the wood.

"I remember this. She was working on it when I visited her with Elaine." The last time she saw Charlotte Roux. Her arms lower with it in hand, expression becoming distant for a moment. Slowly she holds the finished painting back up, eyeing it curiously. "You know… this looks familiar," she observes with clear suspicion.

Against the wall, several others sit waiting to be examined. They've all long since been freed of their frames and mounts, some torn and others faded. The ones that aren't catastrophically destroyed all paint a clear picture, though.

A painting of snow at night with footsteps that lead to nowhere. Paintings of rain falling in the dark of night. An abstract set of shapes and mesh that cuts a hauntingly familiar silhouette. A picture of another, different faceless man with a red carnation on his lapel.

"She didn't forget," Robyn whispers, looking past a painting of herself as a young teenager in just the most gaudy clothes and back at the painting of the faceless man in the rain. "Not entirely."

“Yeah, a heliokinetic. God knows I wish she was around still, that’s one ability that would come in handy right now…” Richard stands back a bit as Robyn investigates the canvases, using the flashlight to illuminate things for her.

He doesn’t need it, himself.

The red carnation catches his attention, though, and his eyes widen. “Caspar.”

Robyn doesn't need it either, shown by the way she reaches over and lowers the hand that Richard is holding it in. "Mixing colour light with my black and white nightvision makes my eyes hurt," she notes, looking over him with a small smile. "But thanks."

When he breathes out that name, Robyn's brow stitches together. "Casper? …Like, Abraham?" That's the only Casper she knows besides the ghostly sort. "That… makes sense. Her memories were on some of the pennies."

“Sorry,” Richard chuckles, tapping the flashlight button and tucking it away, “I didn’t realize you had nightvision too. Guess we know who needs to be on watch during night ops, huh?”

Then he steps over to the painting, his chin dipping in a bit of a nod, “Yeah. That’s a picture of Caspar, I’d lay odds on it. It must have been swimming around in her subconscious— she probably thought she’d made him up, or dreamt of him…”

"I didn't used to. What I can do, it's… changing. I didn't used to bleed light either." But that's maybe a discussion for another time, Robyn instead turning her attention back to the paintings. "She had trouble with faces," she notes, holding up the man in the rain next to the painting of Casper.

"I think… I think this might be Drucker. It reminds me of what we saw when he died." Sucking in a breath, she looks over at Richard. "It's like she wanted to remember, but couldn't. But I thought when people like Casper did this, it was like wiping a hard drive. There shouldn't have been anything left, I'd think."

Otherwise, what's the point?

“I don’t know,” Richard admits, looking at the picture that might be Drucker, brow furrowing, “The brain’s a weird organ and… how mental abilities work is so fucking uncertain it may as well be a form of magic. I know more about the literal fabric of reality than how telepathy actually works.”

“But, I mean, obviously she did remember something, even subconsciously…”

"Your sister is Kaylee Ray," Robyn remarks with a teasing touch, a bit more life returning to her voice. "I expect better of you, Richard."

A genuine smile forms on her face before she looks back to the paintings. "This tells us a lot, but… not what I hoped. But still, you're right. It's gold. Maybe I should look around and see what might have survived of my mom's at galleries and private sale."

It was how she made most of her money, after all.

"But if the records aren't here… fuck. They aren't here, are they?"

“Look— “ Richard laughs softly, “What brother has ever understood the shit his sister was into? I think that one’s a universal law, like temporal inertia and Petrellis causing trouble.”

His gaze sweeps the attic, then, and he shakes his head. “No. We knew it was a slim chance anyway… it was worth coming up to take a look.”

Robyn can't help but snort at that, somewhat begrudgingly. "Don't let Jolene hear that." Jolene might agree, but it might also get back to Peter. "Temporal inertia. I-" Shaking her head, she sighs and begins collecting up the paintings.

"Never mind, I don't want to think about that. C'mon. Let's go grab what we can and… leave."

There's a small hitch in her voice. She knows it's the last time she'll ever leave this place.

“Hey…” Richard reaches over to clap a hand on her shoulder, offering her a sympathetic smile, “Take your time. We aren’t in any hurry today.”

He steps over to start gathering the paintings up, adding, “And Jolene absolutely is a troublemaker, don’t even lie.”

"I don't want to linger," Robyn remarks quietly, brushing past the comment about Jolene. "It's better to… get what we want and go I think." Stepping out of the attic and back into the hallway, she turns to look back in at Richard.

"Too many memories, too little time."

Story of her adult life, it feels like.

One Week Later

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office
Data Processing Lab

Dana Carrington sits hunched over a desk in the data processing lab, head in her hand and brows furrowed mouthing a curse under her breath. When the doors open she sits up straight and brushes her bangs out of her eyes, then adjusts her glasses.

“Mr. Ray, Agent Roux.” Dana says as she stands, motioning down to her laptop. “You’re either going to believe this or not, but the record you recovered firstly has entirely different data from the previous, but it also was encrypted. I wasn’t sure what to make of it at first,” she says, pulling out her chair for one of them to sit.

Dana walks over to where the record sits on a turntable, cabling spooling out from the back and connecting to audio converters that then feed into a desktop computer. Her brows come up and she shakes her head. “It was a puzzle.” Dana states with a flutter of amused laughter. “But the answer was staring me in the face all along.”

“You see, when we extracted the data from the record, we didn’t know what to make of it. There was a plaintext encoding that just said CELP in the file, and it took me a bit to figure out what it was!” Dana reaches down and picks up a square and thin plastic case containing…

…a CD.

“CELP stands for code-excited linear prediction!” Dana wags the CD case around in one hand. “It was a digital audio forerunner. The data on the record is a single two-minute CD track! That would’ve been confusingly cutting edge back in 1984 for sure!”

Setting down the CD, Dana motions to the laptop. “I just finished decoding the track, I haven’t listened to it yet. But it’s like a 16 kilohertz sample rate and mono-channeled. Even then it was still 3mb, big enough to take up all the possible space on the record.”

Dana pumps her brows up. “Go on, hit play whenever you’re ready to open the time capsule.

Robyn can't help but blink, taken aback both by Dana's discovery and her enthusiasm. There's a mix of emotions on her face; the thrill of finding something so ingeniously hidden tempered by the fact that there's a high chance that this something entirely different isn't at all what they were looking for.

"That's… incredible," she admits, which is true either way. "Not what I was hoping, but who knows. Maybe this has new answers on it." And inevitably, new questions, and that's assuming there's no degradation or artifacting in the audio - she knows the perils of such a low quality recording rate.

She's still as she stares at the CD, for once more focused on it than she is on Dana. "Go ahead, Richard." It sounds a bit more vacant than usual, but in a different sort than the emotional vacancy she had displayed earlier. "Do the honours."

“Huh.” Richard’s brow furrows as he looks at the CD being excitedly waved about. “Well, I was hoping for more of Project Amaterasu, but… well, whatever this is, it’ll hopefully be enlightening.”

He hesitates as he notices Robyn’s manner, reaching over to give her shoulder a wordless squeeze of reassurance. Then he’s stepping past her and over to the enthusiastic SESA agent, observing with a brief grin her way, “You know, if you’re ever considering a change of career, Dana, there’s always room for you here at Raytech. I’m just saying, we have a very generous benefits package… Robyn, don’t tell Voss I’m trying to headhunt his employees, I already give him heartburn.”

"You've been trying to poach me for years. Why would I start now?" At least Robyn still has some mirth.

Reaching over, Richard taps ‘play’.

«Let me start by saying… I’m sorry.»

A man’s voice crackles over the speakers.

«I’m sorry you found this, I’m sorry for what you’re going to hear, and I’m sorry for what’s to come.»

Dana’s brows furrow together as she listens to the voice, looking to Robyn and Richard for recognition. An echo of a memory, one shown to her by Walter Renautas. She knows it.

"Drucker," Robyn breathes out, eyes widening as a breath hitches in her throat. Swallowing, she glances over at Richard and nods. This is it, hopefully. At the very least, some sort of clarification.

“Yeah,” Richard agrees softly, leaning forward to hear better, “That’s him.”


«My name is Richard Drucker and this message is a confession. In the early 1980s I was conscripted by an organization known as the Company, forced to share my research to combat an existential threat. A being. A… God.»

Dana chews idly on the inside of her cheek, nervously looking at the speakers.

«I have encoded my research on this Entity onto four albums, each embedded with a unique radioisotope for tracking purposes.»

Dana’s eyes suddenly widen.

"Fuck. That… may make them trackable, at least." Her remark is quiet, trying her best not to speak over the recording. "I told you the Entity was a better name." There'd be a bit of pride there if she wasn't trying so hard to be quiet.

“I’m not going to use some appellation for it, Uluru isn’t Voldemort, for fuck’s sake,” Richard mutters back quietly.

«I fear that my research will be used for ill-gotten gains, so I have done everything in my power to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands. I can only hope that you, listening to this message, will use it more responsibly than the tyrants of my era.»

Quietly, Dana moves over to her laptop and begins running a search through SESA’s database.

"I can't blame him for being worried, but… this may be a rare case of that not being the case." It's been hard to reconcile the Company as she knew it to the organization that once was, that her mother once worked for.

«To my niece, Hana, אני אוהב אותך.»

Dana glances up as Drucker briefly speaks in Hebrew, then looks back to her monitor.

«To Charlotte. I would never trade the time we had in this life for anything, and yet in the same breath I wish we never met.»

A small smile twitches up on Robyn's lips, remembering the interactions between her mother and Drucker she had seen a few times over now. It almost immediately fades as a hand moves to her chin. "Wait. Why-"

«To my unborn child…»

Dana immediately looks up from her monitor, eyes as wide as saucers.

Those words rob words from Robyn's mouth in a way almost nothing else ever has before in her life, her expression mirroring Dana's.

«I hope you lead a happy life, and that the future your mother and I make is not one of sorrow, but of hope.»

«But if not… I end this message as I started it.»

«I’m sorry.»

The message ends.

That vacancy returns to Robyn Roux, eyes glassy as she stares at the speaker. Her thumb twitches against her chin, eyes unfocused. The way she swallows back thoughts, words, and air is audible in the silence after the audio finally ends.

Teeth rake over her bottom lip, silent as what they've just heard starts to process. Abruptly, she chokes out a breath she didn't realise she was holding, breaking into a cough as she turns away and places a hand against her chest.

When she recovers, she stays slightly bent, hand still in place over her heart. "Richard." Her voice is low, breathing over-controlled. "Tell me what you think." The please is implied by her tone.

Richard is left staring at the speaker for a long moment, then draws in a slow breath… looking back at Robyn, chewing on his lower lip briefly. “We… know your mother and Drucker were close,” he points out, tone gentle, “Very close, especially with what he said there, although there’s really no way to… be sure. I…”

His gaze sweeps back to the speaker, then to Robyn before suggesting carefully, “It’s certainly possible. Maybe even— likely.”

He’s gentle with it. He knows what it’s like, finding out what you know of your past isn’t entirely true.

Slowly, Robyn rises up straight again, expression reflecting a newfound sadness she didn't expect to feel. "I don't understand," she whispers, before looking over at Richard. "I mean… you're right. We both saw it. Hana saw it too, I'm sure. I just…"

Was this something else the redaction had robbed her of, alongside the brilliant woman she had seen Charlotte be in those visions?

Swallowing again, Robyn turns her attention to Dana. "Sorry. I- guess I should give you context, Dana." She's aware she doesn't have to, but this exchange probably seems like a bit much otherwise. "We saw… recordings of Drucker and Charlotte Roux, my mom. They were clearly close. Close enough to raise eyebrows. Combined with something I heard from someone who knew Drucker…" In a roundabout way, though she's not about to name drop S.Attva.

Though now that he's on her mind, that's a whole new thing she has to contend with. She doesn't spell out what she's implying for Dana, but she's sure she doesn't have to.

Oh.” Dana says with wide eyes and brows well past her bangs’ fringe. “That’s—gotta—be hard…” she says, wrapping her arms around herself and looking down to her laptop. “I’m sorry.”

An uncomfortable silence hangs in the air, one that Dana breaks the only way she knows how. By ignoring the problem and pretending it will go away. “The radioisotope mentioned on the recording is an old-school Company trick. They used to inject people with an isotope tracker,” she says, making a gun-hand gesture to the side of her neck, “which was followed by a satellite system.”

Dana exhales a sigh through her nose, then looks up to Richard and Robyn. “Unfortunately for us, uh, Hana and Drucker destroyed the thing with the help of Ben Ryans and some other folks back before the war. By—stealing a space shuttle.” She makes a face, clearly not entirely believing the story.

“We uh,” Dana dithers, checking her laptop. “We do have the schematics for the satellite, which was—you know—cutting edge in the 1980s. We don’t have anything up there right now that replicates it, but we might be able to build something similar and set it up on like a… Lockheed U-2 or something? It’d take a while to do a full sweep of even just the continental US, and that’s assuming there isn’t background radiation interference from Oregon but…” Dana fidgets. “He wanted this stuff to be found.”

“Does anybody else have anything up there that might replicate it?”

That’s a very casual question given the implications of it, Richard lifting a single eyebrow upwards in Dana’s direction. “And yes, I’m aware of the satellite, that was a— “ He chuckles, “Hell of an op. Operation Goliath. I wasn’t involved in it, but Alia was, if you ever wanted to ask her about the details. That’s— well. That’s when Rebel died.”

The latter more serious, though perhaps not as mournful as it once was. Part of them survived, but he’s not about to mention that in front of Dana.

“Do you think that the government’d be willing to lend us that sort of tech, though, Dana?”

"So that's how…'" Robyn falls silent at the revelation that Rebel "died '' during an operation with Drucker - something that helps give context to the current existence of S.Attva. "I've never known a lot about Goliath," she adds quietly.

Robyn reaches up, scratching at the back of her neck. "Is it that useful if it's the same thing the Company used? They popped a lot of people for tracking. Like, is it worth rebuilding old tech for?"

A part of her wonders if this is what Drucker meant when he referred to them using his research for ill-gotten gains. Guess he was right after all.

"I don't-" Robyn angles a look over at Richard, and then to Dana. "I wasn't planning on reporting this. I want- I want SESA and anyone else to know as little about this as possible until we know more." A beat, and she looks down at the floor. "Until I know more."

“That’s fair,” says Richard gently, reaching out to rest a hand on Robyn’s shoulder, “This is a lot, especially for you, I mean, with what that recording said…”

He trails off, then looks over to Dana, “Hey, Dana, can you give us a moment alone?”

Dana is, ironically, of two minds. She shifts awkwardly for a moment, half ready to answer Richard’s initial question, but realizing that he’s overridden it with the other request. Dana gives a nervous look to Robyn, then down to the floor. When she looks back up its with a flash of a smile and a nod before she excuses herself from the lab with a chipper, “I’ll go get a coffee!”

"Hey, wait, Dana you don't need to-" But she's already gone, leaving Robyn running a hand down her face. Shoulders slouching, she looks back over her shoulder, nonplussed. "You didn't have to do that," she says in a more subdued voice.

Teeth rake across her top lip, taking a slow moment to turn around. "I'll get it together," she insists. "I always do. I just- I need a moment to process it." Which maybe Richard is giving her, but it's not on her terms and perhaps that's what sits ill with her.

“I didn’t send her away because of that,” replies Richard with a shake of his head, denying it as he looks back at Robyn, “But I’d rather SESA not find out about S.Attva just yet.”

A sympathetic look over, “Do you want to contact them yet, or do you want to wait until we get more information before contacting them? This isn’t… much practically, but the emotional part is, even for them. But I absolutely understand if you need some time first.”

Eyes widen as Robyn stares at Richard as though this line of thought hadn't already occurred to her. It clearly had, but to have it put so plainly in front of her like that makes it real, and she's having a hard time with that at the moment.

"Ah, um." Eloquent is not something Robyn is capable of being, instead stumbling over her words as her eyes glaze over just a bit. "Isn't there, um." Turning to face Richard, she is quick to cast her gaze down at the floor. "Isn't there still a seed of doubt?"

Swallowing, Robyn continues to chew at her lip. "I don't want to jump… too hard to conclusions. At the same time it, uh. I guess it may jog something for them?" Sucking in a deep breath, she folds her arms across her chest and looks back towards the box they had been looking through earlier.

"It's up to you." Anything she can do to keep from making a decision right now.

“I…” Richard watches her for a long moment, judging her thoughts, then gives his head a shake, “I think we should wait. You need to digest this a little more, and we don’t have anything more solid for him yet anyway.”

“He’s just going to ask us to keep digging anyway, so, until we have some solid information for him… we should just file this away for now.”

"I''m sorry," Robyn apologises in a small voice, fidgeting as she angles her gaze down at the floor. "You'd think I'd be used to things like this by now, right?" A small chuckle slips out as she shakes her head. "Hell, I'd be lying if I said I hadn't considered this before, after everything else we'd seen. You'd think I'd be ready."

A weary sigh escapes her lips as her shoulders sag, moving to a chair to sit down. "I guess it's different when it becomes real, though. I mean, heck. For years I built my entire identity around being Irish." The implication being that she isn't anymore, it seems.

“There’s a difference between wondering about something and knowing it, I mean…” Richard shakes his head, “I was lied to about who my parents were my whole life too, so I know how it feels. Like the foundation you thought you were standing on is just gone, and there’s just a hole under you and you don’t know where it leads.”

He flashes her a wry smile, “And you might not be Irish, but if you want, I’ve *definitely* got some Irish whiskey for once business is done.”

For once, Robyn doesn't match Richard's smile, still staring down at the floor. "The worst part is I have no one I can ask about it. Mom's gone, Drucker's gone, if Conner ever knew, he certainly wouldn't now…"

Heaving out a heavy sigh, her lips thin as she looks back up at Richard. "Okay, but what'll you drink?" The joke comes out a bit half hearted before she looks off to the side. "I made a promise to Matthew I wouldn't drink anymore, so if we're gonna get blitzed I'm gonna need a place to stay."

Matthew'd understand if she could tell him.

But she can't.

“I think for once it’s understandable,” says Richard softly, but seriously, “And you can crash on me’n Liz’s couch. If nothing else, she gets up early enough that you won’t be here for long— and she mixes a helluva hangover cure.”

His eyebrows go up a little, “We’ll find the truth, though. I promise. We always do.”

"Well, I guess that settles it." There's a lack of sincerity in her voice, mustering the fakest of smiles. "Except for the fact that it's not even noon yet." LIfting her phone up from the table beside her, she turns it over to make sure that is, in fact, still the case. "But I appreciate the offer."

Setting her phone back down, she looks back up to and past Richard.

"I'll be fine. I always am."

Late That Night

Kaleidoscope Studios
Robyn's Office

The last box hits the ground with a thud, the records inside jostling in their crate as it lands on the carpeted floor of Robyn Roux's office.

Staring down at it with a frown, Robyn exhales a long breath. It's been a long day, and she just doesn't have the energy to properly handle the records anymore, even if they aren't hers and need to go back to the radio station.

Lifting her head from the crate, she scans the other various boxes and new additions strewn about her room.

Atop the crags and cliffs, the air is thin

So we'll find a mountain path on down the hill

Her attention is drawn to a box with two long, rolled up vinyl posters sticking out of her it, containing the various knicknacks recovered from her former room at her mother's condo. They'll go into storage like so many other things, at least for now. Maybe she'll gift some of them to Matthew, but for now…

Meet me where the snowmelt flows

It is there, my dear, where we'll begin again

Stopping at the next box, she picks up an old and somehow not rotted blouse, blue and white. Her mother's. Taking the clothes from the closet had felt… strange, but by the time she and Richard had finished gathering everything else, it only felt right to take the rest of her mother's belongings.

With some wash and care, maybe she could even fit into the ones that weren't in too much of a state of disrepair. Her mom probably would've liked that.

Skipping stones, braiding hair

Last year's antlers mark the trail

Looking up from them, her eyes fix on a stack of framed paintings sitting on the couch she keeps in her office. She'd made a point after leaving Raytech with the things they had recovered to go buy a frame shop and pay good money to get several them express rehung and reframed. Time hadn't treated them well, but she would.

Take us back, oh take us back

Oh take us, take us back

Take us back, oh take us back

Oh take us, take us back

Her eyes lift to the space behind her desk chair, where the prophetic painting of her with a theatre mask smile and gun held forward at an unknown victim still hangs. Making her way over, she plucks it from it's hooks, setting it aside with the front facing the wall. She's been staring at that depressing and hopefully averted future long enough now.

The painting of the faceless man - Drucker - is lifted from the top of the collection of reframed paintings, Robyn staring silently at it for a long moment.

I've a friend who lives out by the river's mouth

He knows the fiddle's cry is an old sound

As quickly as the previous picture came down, the painting of the faceless man in the rain is hung up in its place. A reminder, of a great many things. Few of them are happy, but all of them are worth remembering.

A lonesome bow

The creeks and moans of empty houses are songs like fallen rain

Turning around, Robyn finds herself facing her desk. Littered with pictures, it looks like someone decided it was time to reorganise the family photo album. Pictures of her, her mom, even Conner at various stages of all of their lives. Some would get scanned, mailed to Conner. Maybe he'd actually respond to her reaching out if they're involved.

Windblown buildings, muddy ground

The strength of water can sink a man

Nestled against the cascade of photos rests an old tape deck, one Robyn had borrowed from Raytech once Richard had been able to find which closet it had been shoved into. Next to it, the shoebox of old cassette tapes, all of Robyn singing and playing in the years before she attempted her first professional recordings.

Take us back oh take us back

Oh take us, take us back

Take us back, oh take us back

Oh take us, take us back

Picking one gingerly out of the box, she presses a button on the top, the carriage for the cassette popping out. With the hope that it hasn't rotted over all the time, Robyn slips it into the tape deck and clicks the cover back into place.

There's no small hesitance as her finger hovers over the play button, shaking just enough to be precipitable as she depresses the button. She can't make out the chattering and laughing that filters out of the speakers moment later, in such terrible quality.

When the higher hills have turned to blue

And the waves are lapping where the children grew

It takes the first few notes of Friday I'm in Love to hit for Robyn to finally lose composure, tears slipping down each side of her face. A hand reaches up and covers her mouth as she begins singing in the recording, her voice so much younger than she could remember. It almost feels like listening to someone else now.

All that we have known will be an echo

Of days when love was true

Tears give away sobs, and finally she lets out everything she's been keeping inside through the day. Legs tremble, and rather than fight Robyn collapses to her knees, hand still pressed tight against her mouth as she begins to bawl. A slide brings her leaning against the underside of her desk as she wraps her arms around herself.

Muted voices just beyond

The silent surface of what has gone

"I want it back," she chokes out between tears. "Mom. Dad. Drucker. Else. Elaine. My life." Unable to see through the tears, she buries her face in her knees as the crying intensifies further. "I want it all back!"

At least down here, Matthew can't hear her as she continues to repeat herself, crying under the desk into the night.

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