The Aleph, Part II


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Scene Title The Aleph, Part II
Synopsis Agent Verse takes a calculated risk.
Date January 23, 2012

An electric buzz accompanies the metal clank of a lock disengaging in a barred door.

As the barred gate slides open, the prison's visitor raises a badge up to the armed security guard standing on the other side. The printed text clearly indicates, Verse, Stephen and below that Unity Enforcement Office. The guard waves Verse through, hitting a button to slide the barred gate shut behind him with another loud series of buzzing alarms. As it rattles shut behind him, Verse pauses and looks back over his shoulder. There's something familiar about this that he can't shake, something beyond the normal of having been here before, but something about this particular moment that feels familiar.

The guard notices his hesitation, though neither say anything at first. Then, awkwardly the guard says, "If you need anything, let us know." As though this were a hotel he was visiting for the night, not the single largest Evolved prison in the entire world.

Moab Federal Penitentiary

Moab, Utah

10:27 pm

Hard-soled dress shoes click with noisy report down the concrete lined hallway of Red-Level, the highest security detention block in the most secure prison in the United States. As Verse moves swiftly down the corridor, his attention shifts to the whirring security cameras pivoting in place as they follow his movement. Then, to the windowless steel doors that block off each suffocatingly small and windowless cell. In his time as a Unity Enforcement Officer, Verse had put many of the men and women now detained in Moab behind these very bars, in these very cruel cells. He had never considered the morality of it, not really. Not until the disappearance of his husband. Tragedy has a way of making people re-evaluate their lives.

In this way, Verse feels like a new version of himself; one defined both by tragedy and introspection. In a place like this, opportunities about for more of both.

Verse's unescorted progress stops at Block B, Cell 4. He raises his badge and slides it through the magnetic card reader, turning a red light green with the same buzzing click as the gate before. On opening the cell, there are no personal effects. There is a single-wide cot that extends from the wall, a fixed table that is bolted to the opposite wall along with a pedestal chair unable to be moved from the floor. The toilet, too, looks like part of the room rather than separate furniture. All of that is wasted on the catatonic man laying on his back on the cot.

Edward Ray stares vacantly at the ceiling, a thin blanket pulled up to his chin as though he were a young man just tucked in by his mother. He has been afforded no such comforts. Verse swings the cell door shut and clips his badge back onto his lapel before moving away from the door. He regards Edward in the way someone might a sleeping tiger, full of the potential for great harm. As he tugs off his gloves, tucking them into the right side pocket of his suit jacket, Verse wonders how apt that analogy truly is.

Taking a seat by Edward's bedside, Verse looks to the bare desk, then the security camera above it. After a moment's consideration, Verse brings his bare hand down as if to touch it to Edward's brow, and from the camera's perspective that seems like what is happening. Except, Verse's hand falls a half inch away from making contact. With his back to the camera, Verse quietly says, "Convincing."

Edward's blue eyes flick to Verse, and the corner of his mouth furthest from the camera threatens a smile. "On the count of three," Verse relays, giving a beat before starting. "One," he breathes in deeply, "two," Edward steadies himself and prepares for the show. "Three."

Choreographed chaos erupts as Edward bolts up and sends Verse back from the cot onto the floor. The blue-eyed probability predictor draws in a gasping breath and paws at his own face, as if feeling it for the first time. Both men in this conspiracy know the camera can't pick up audio, and play their game of charades as best as they can. "What day is it?" Edward asks with feigned panic, though the question is legitimate.

"January 23rd," Verse says, with a quick addendum of, "2012." Though Edward at least seems to know what year it is. Doing his best to occlude view of Edward's face by the camera, Verse squeezes the smaller man's shoulder tightly. "There's been an event. Arthur is paranoid. We have to be careful." Edward's blue eyes search Verse's, and narrow slowly. "On November 8th visitors from another… world? Came through to— "

"Again?" Is Edward's unexpected and exasperated response. Verse's eyes slowly grow wide at that startling revelation. Seeing Verse's reaction, there's a look of dawning confidence on Edward's face. "1982, University of Kansas. Arthur doesn't know everything that happened that day, or he'd be here, not you." Looking around the room, Edward wets his lips and looks increasingly nervous.

Verse, however, parrots back what Edward said with stunned confusion. "Again?"

"The Company covered it up, there was an overlay, more than a dozen people from… somewhere else slipped over. They were rounded up, memories altered, and shunted into the general population. The coverup was… extensive." Slowly, Edward swings his legs over the edge of the bed and rests a steadying hand on Verse's shoulder. "Arthur will find out, eventually. If this happened he already is digging into Looking Glass, which means it will only be a matter of time before…"

"He's building the device." Verse states in a hushed tone. That revelation, that data point, sets Edward's eyes flicking left and right in a flurry of movement. He looks up to Verse, tense and anxious.

"I need to get out of here." But there's no agreement in Verse's posture, only further tension and a brief, anxious look to the cell door.

Verse shakes his head, regret evident in his eyes. "I can't, Edward. There's too many eyes on me. Arthur's been… paranoid, all the time. I wouldn't be surprised if he had me followed here. I just— I need to know what to do on the outside." The resistance to his request has Edward slouching back onto his cot, blue eyes scanning the room as if looking at multiple salient points, but no such details exist on the bare stone walls.

"You need to find the first variable in this equation." Edward admits with a shaky voice, brows pinched together and shoulders tense. Verse doesn't seem to understand. As Edward scans the room further, his eyes narrow. "The one you're trying to solve for." When his eyes square back on Verse, Edward's voice is but a whisper. "Whoever they are doesn't matter, Stephen. Wherever they've come from, wherever they're going." One shaky hand reaches up and fingers curl into the sleeve of Verse's jacket. "All that matters is making certain Arthur doesn't finish that device."

Breathing in deeply, Verse grabs Edward's arm and pulls it away from his jacket. "Edward, focus. How do I do that?" Edward's pale eyes meet Verse's far darker ones, and for a moment he is silent. His only instruction is one that is always harrowing, always a danger to the telepath.

"Look in my mind," Edward explains with a tremor in his voice.

"I'll show you the way."

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