The Aleph, Part IV


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Scene Title The Aleph, Part IV
Synopsis On a trip to the University of Kansas, Magnes and Isabelle make a monumental discovery.
Date September 22, 2012

In a photograph, there once was a brick tenement building across from a vacant lot. Cars parked on the roadside by the lot, a bonfire burned in the dirt. Once, a spiral of green Aurora Borealis hung in the air, like a whirlpool of light that threatened to swallow up the sky.

Lowering the photograph, Magnes compares it to reality. Gone is the vacant dirt lot, replaced with scrub grass that gives way to a chain link fence and a new construction site. A sprawling four-story building is in the process of being built across the street from the Applecroft Apartments. The expansion of the university grounds has demolished everything that was once in the photograph in the intervening years between 1982 and 2012. Thirty years changes everything.

But this intersection is not far from where Michelle LeRoux died, and the photograph in hand is the only physical evidence that Magnes has ever been able to find that proves he's on to something. Just what he's on to isn't clear, though. But whatever it was Michelle was researching started — and ended — right here.


Lawrence, Kansas

September 22, 2012

2:29 pm

Traffic is slow in this part of the city, far from the hustle of downtown. The campus of the University of Kansas is spread out over a couple of miles. With thirty years behind them, neither Magnes nor his traveling companion Isabelle have much hope to find a lead in faculty or students. Even the city itself seems to be betraying them in their search. Nothing stays the same, and everything changes.

It's been a frustrating trip, as things haven't been going as smoothly as his last trip. But he's decided to head to the Kenneth Spencer Research Library. "Even if the photo didn't lead to much right away, if we go to the college's library we might be able to actually find something useful. It's a lot harder to scrub someone's physical presence outside of computers."

"I just hope we're not at a dead end. We absolutely need Michelle's research."

He's speaking to Isabelle, of course, and is wearing a thin black blazer over a white button up, with some blue jeans and his black Converse. "This would be easier if we had people who were better at investigating things. But maybe this is just how hard investigation is for everyone…"

Frustration intermingles with a low level of anger. Magnes has to be right, this just must be how hard it is to thoroughly investigate anything. Isa is use to just sorta burning her way through things. Being around Magnes fully again.. and the others.. has started the process of her figuring out that maybe fire isn't the solution to like everything.

Walking alongside Magnes in a muted green dress that falls to her knees. Her own pair of dark red Converse adorn her feet. No jewelry, hardly any makeup. Her dark brown hair swept up into a loose bun. She wants to seem professional. Everyone in Bright seemed so.. together. It was a strange concept for her still. “We got this Mags.” Clapping a hand on his shoulder.

The feeling of not getting much out of their search weighed on Izzy more so because she was still on the lookout for anything pertaining to her family and this Thalia. “No no, no dead ends. Let's have some hope right? There's gotta be something here we can use.” Adjusting the straps of her backpack so that the black pack fit more snug.

It’s just about a mile from Applecroft Apartments to the research library, and the walk gives Magnes and Isa time to take in the sights of the Kansas University campus. The grounds are surprisingly verdant, with small copses of trees between whitewashed dorm buildings and lecture halls. The population of students and faculty in late September is surprisingly diverse and it feels like nothing Isabelle has been able to experience in the latter parts of her life. Even now, so long since arriving in this alternate world, it still feels like a dream.

For Magnes, this is a window into a life he could have had. Surrounded by people his age, surrounded by academic study and possibility. Perhaps this is the future that his father had intended for him, but instead there was Panucci’s and a lifetime of ever-increasing slouches into militarism, leading up to being swallowed by a black hole of his own creation. Sometimes, it’s hard to even imagine what life would be like otherwise.

The Kenneth Spencer Research Library is a sprawling four-floor facility with a stone block exterior. The green wood and metal frame around the front windows and doors are marked with a copper sign indicating that Magnes and Isabelle had arrived at Strong Hall, the home of the research library. No one in Strong Hall questions Magnes and Isa’s presence inside, and the marble-floored foyer greets them with other students and busy faculty. They’re able to navigate on their own, following clearly signed halls that take them past conference centers and to an enormous open interior space divided into a dozen glass-walled cells containing rows and rows of bookshelves.

The research library contains original printings of historic books, manuscripts, and other older texts dating back hundreds of years. But it’s signs for University Archives that have Magnes and Isabelle’s attention. They’re able to move through the library uncontested, and it doesn’t appear to be from a lacking security either. It appears that the research library is open to the public, and as they reach the wing for University Archives, it is much the same.

The University Archive offices are far less spectacular than the research library, consisting of rows of computers and a front desk where a young man sits idly tapping away with the end of a pen on a notepad, listening to a pair of large headphones. He’s just old enough to not be a student, but young enough to be considered a peer of someone Magnes and Isabelle’s age. He also appears to be the only staff member on duty today.

Magnes walks up to the desk, leaning against it as he considers what exactly he's going to say. He can't just ask for Michelle LeRoux, that might raise some red flags. But… "Hey, I was wondering if you could point us in the right direction for anyone who's done work here on things like Einstein-Rosen bridges, string theory, anything of the sort. We're doing a particular focus on female students in STEM throughout the last four decades or so, so if you could bring up any research that women have done, or point us in the right direction…"

Then, holding out his hand, he offers, "My name's Ness Parker, by the way."

Even going to Brooklyn College hadn't prepared her for this. It's so strange. Isa on campus. This campus is very beautiful though and the pyrokinetic takes in their surroundings as they make their way along. Coming to the the Archives and watching as Magnes introduces himself she flashes a award winning smile over to the man, tilting her head a little to the side.

Innocent girl it is.


The young man behind the desk seems genuinely surprised by the topic of Magnes research, and is also surprisingly eager to offer assistance. “Well, I mean this is — ok, so you’re not looking for like, Lene Hau or Ursula Franklin. Alumni who were into physics, though? I can… yeah, let me see.”

Sliding over to his computer, he keys through a few screens and then begins typing in search keywords. “So, let’s see. I mean right now we have an enormous alumni selection that’s probably right up your alley. There’s more than a dozen graduates at CERN right now working on opening a black hole that’ll swallow the earth or something,” he laughs, because it’s a joke, but the humor doesn’t quite float all the way.

“How far did you want to look back?” He asks, continuing to type in search criteria, but also already printing some information across the room. “We didn’t have the current physics department until 1983, so most of the physics research was done on-premises here. Anything after 83 would be at the newer department in Manhattan.” He hesitates. “Kansas. Manhattan, Kansas.” There’s a grimace of amusement there, as though that was another attempt at humor that fell somewhat flat. “Any, uh, records prior to 83… aren’t digitized, and they’d be down in the stacks in the back, with the one microfiche reader we’ve got left.”

One brow raised, he offers a look over to Magnes, seemingly far more interested in the science-minded peer than Isa’s quiet demeanor.

"I'm looking for something a bit older than 83, I was told there might be some interesting unsung students, but I wasn't given names. Any chance you could show us how to use that reader?" Magnes wonders, looking around this rather disorienting, to him, structure, wondering what even counts as 'the back'. "I'm really interested in early research from back then, if you could show me some things?"

Ruffling the back of her hair Isa eyes stay focused on the helpful man. But it seems they need to go back further than the digital records can allow and so when he offers a solution quickly she grins a broad grin, a dimple showing and her hazel eyes twinkle. “You are just so helpful, aren't you?” Flicking her wrist and rubbing the inside as she stands back to regard the man and then sliding her gaze back to Magnes before snapping her fingers. “Ah ah, damn it I've forgotten her name also what a ditz.” Rolling her eyes with a soft laugh she begins to back away towards where he indicates the records and reader are.

“I've always wanted to use a reader I heard they make things bigger.” The two can't see the rouge grin on her face, steps echos in her wake. Almost to the point of shrieking in laughter but she keeps it together hand on her mouth. She's still not the most amazing at the science stuff but.. well they’ve gotta get some info and she's curious anyway.

“So..” voice trailing behind her before she swerves her head over to the side to look at her best friend and their new helper. “Can a black hole be considered a gateway?” Innocent expression on her face. “I mean I know I’ve heard about the whole getting crushed to bits but.” A sheepish shrug. “I'm his sister, I like to tag along. Try to immerse myself,” a fabricated sigh, “In culture and important things like space. ..and catching up on Whose Line Is It Anyway.” There had been a marathon.

Arching one brow, the archive assistant grimaces and offers an askance look at Isa. “Oh uh, I’m… not entirely sure?” There’s an awkwardness to the way he responds, though it’s not the kind of intimidated awkwardness Isabelle is familiar with. His smile, too, doesn’t quite reach his eyes. “I’m a geophysics major, first year, black holes are a little far off from my preferred subject matter. But uh, I mean I’ve seen Event Horizon, does that count?”

Magnes earns a more earnest amount of attention as the archive assistant slips from behind the counter and beckons the two to follow him through the office to a door in the back. “My name’s Leon, by the way,” a hand offered out to Magnes with a fond smile. “We’ve got archives going back to the 1800s, so yeah, I can do old. But you’re a physics major? Or are you like… new media? Journalism?” The last bit gets a hopeful rise to the tone of his voice, and he backs up into the door, opening it for Magnes and Isabelle into the crowded paper archives. “Nice jacket, by the way.”

Inside the back of the university archives, there are rows of metal shelves lined with cardboard boxes filled with paper documents. All of which are meticulously labeled with serial numbers. Some of the boxes — a vast majority, on a further inspection — are also marked with a blue sticker that reads DIGITAL in black marker. All the way to the back of the room, there’s an enormous old machine that looks like a CRT television with a suspiciously flat and more vertically-aligned screen. Leon steps over to it, flicking on the power, and a fan can clearly be heard humming inside as it powers up.

“The bulb has to warm up, so, we can let this go while I pull some microfiche for you.” Leon motions over to tall stacks of filing cabinets. “Any specific dates you want me to pull first? I’ll do alumni records in physics, and then…” he rocks back and forth on his heels, “maybe like… yeah I can pull grant recipients? I figure whoever manages to land a grant might be interesting to you for your uh… project?”

"Grants sound good. I'd say check anything from the seventies to around 1982. I hear there were some notable women from that time, but their work may have been forgotten. And I'm a physics major, but this is a bit bigger than journalism. We want to take the possibly forgotten work of female scientists, and then maybe bring that work back to life, giving them full credit where society may have failed them." Magnes explains as if this is explanation was always in his head, but in truth he's just getting better at playing parts.

"Are there any MIT transfers? That might be interesting. I hear there might have been a few, but my sources could have been misinformed." he wonders, though his tone suggests it's perhaps not too important of a detail, it never hurts to try.

“Ya, the future is fucking female. And the past.” And just about everything else thank you very much. Blinking, ah that's her cover. “He's the science wiz in the family, I'm the woman’s studies nut. We balance each other out, Leon.” A wide smile she's just running with it and if there was a trace of a lie. Well you couldn't tell it.

“I think it's downright cruel to have omitted some female researches from the history of this science.” Here here. Errr… closing her mouth and stepping back to allow Magnes to continue to have the floor. The pyro puts a hand on her hip fingers tapping at her side.

Hazel eyes passing over the reader.

Nnnnot a lot of people transfer from MIT to KU,” Leon admits as he looks through the records. “We’ll probably have to cross-reference admissions and transfer records, uh, sorted by majors… ok, this shouldn't take too long?” In archival terms, just a few hours.

Leon is quick to collect microfiche for the selected years and specialized data points Magnes had suggested. From there, Leon shows he and Isabelle how to work the machine, a clunky and low-fi beast that throws off a surprising warmth. But ultimately Leon leaves them to their research, headed out of the back room and leaving the pair entirely unsupervised.

In that environment it still isn't easy to find what they're looking for. Two and a half hours pass with not a single mention of Michelle LeRoux, no admissions, no transfers, no classes, nothing. But in a reference to lab reservations in another student’s file, Magnes and Isa find a complaint filed by a B. Enfield about a research lab being booked indefinitely by a non-student researcher. The name on that complaint:

Michelle LeRoux.

From that link Magnes is able to pull up records on the lab reservations, finding that it is a building that was demolished in 1997 to make way for new dormitories. The lab, when it existed, was reserved for the purpose of “quantum mechanics grant research” and contains two additional names on the reservation: Richard Schwenkman and Edward Ray.

Neither name has any records at KU beyond the reservation, and no further record of Michelle’s existence is found anywhere in the archives, save for a seemingly innocuous piece of data: while researching at KU she stayed in a dorm on campus, and that dorm room still exists.

Magnes is sure to take notes, and pictures. He always takes pictures on his camera that doesn't connect to the internet or anything, something he learned from the Rebel days as a precaution. He takes pictures of the relevant information, just in case someone else might be able to discern more later. But once that's done, he looks to Isabelle. "I guess we're going to her dorm room to see if we can find anything. If she was running from someone, or trying to hide things, there's a chance those things might still be hidden. And having my own personal orbit is a pretty good way to shake out secret compartments."

He heads out for Leon, waving a hand. "I think we've found some useful stuff in here. Thanks a lot for the help. I'll let you know how things pan out."

Eyes narrow at the name Edward Ray. Weasel man. Izzy nods over at Magnes. “A little B&E? My favorite.” Her lockpicks handy in her backpack. Idly holding onto the strap of her backpack the brunette trails after Magnes and grins over at the man that helped them. “Thanks Leon, see you around.” A wink given to the man before she exits the place with him.

Looking to the left and then right, she walks forward while then turning her gaze to her best friend. “Lets raid that shit.”

Ellsworth Hall

University of Kansas

6:08 pm

In the fading light of day, little of the dorm room is visible. The rattling sound from the knob isn’t from keys in the door, but something that works all the same. A soft click later, and the dorm door is opening to the hall, revealing in a single shaft of light an otherwise unoccupied room. Isabelle Ashford’s silhouette looms in the doorway, lockpicks in hand, and Magnes right over her shoulder.

Ellsworth Hall is an eight-story Freshmen-only dormitory, but back in 1982 the relatively new — at the time — building also served as temporary housing for postgraduate researchers visiting the university. Today, there is little signs of habitation. A single bed is pushed into a corner, adorned with only a fitted sheet. The desk by the door is empty, no computer or books, and the single bookshelf is likewise bare. No one has this dorm reserved, at least not yet, and the intruded space that once housed Michelle LeRoux lays open.

Magnes takes a deep breath, looking around, then he holds his hands out and extends his gravitational field as far as he can.

He slowly walks around, lightly pulling at everything it passes through, though not enough to displace anything too much. He's mostly trying to feel if there's anything out of place, anything hidden, in the walls, in any old furniture…

"You have any ideas about where people hide things?" he asks Isabelle, since there might be more practical ways to search than his ability.

She's in her element as she works on the locks and when the door pops open that satisfaction that always blooms in Isabelle’s belly comes and she snakes into the room immediately going to the floor and peering along the bottom section of the door. She feels along the edges as Magnes does his thing with his ability. It still fascinates her, how his works.

“Well it's been a long ass time so checking under the mattress and in the drawers seems lame. Closet space? Maybe a space in the wall,” she knocks to see if any part is hollow. “Under the floor.” Eyes lingering on what they said on. Still though, Isa is a woman who pays attention to detail when she's robbing someone. Nothing doesn't get searched, pulling open drawers and peering around. “Could be anything really.”

She’s not at a loss so much.. well okay yea she's not sure what they are looking for. A notebook or something written down she's guessing.

Finding anything of value in the dorm is a seemingly fruitless endeavor. As Magnes and Isa get to searching the room, they find evidence of past occupants in the form of small personal effects, letters tucked away in the radiator, a stash of $27 in a metal bill clip, but none of them old enough to have been from Michelle LeRoux. After about a half an hour, when it feels as though they've exhausted everything at their disposal, Magnes feels a subtle weight above him that is just loose enough to be either the carcass of a mouse that died in the ceiling, or something stashed away behind the light fixture.

Dragging a chair, he steps up and reaches the ceiling light fixture. It doesn't take much to loosen the already loose screws the rest of the way with a fingernail, and when he pulls the fixture off and exposes the wiring, a small plastic baggie bound with an elastic band drops from the opening and hovers in mid-air in Magnes’ gravity field before it can hit the floor.

Hovering in front of Isabelle is a tiny metal pipe made from faucet fixtures and a shirt length of black rubber hose. It's rubber-banded to a sandwich baggie with a few desiccated buds of decades-old pot inside, along with some errant stems and seeds. But on the other side of the baggie is a Polaroid photograph of two twenty-something people exhaling mouthfuls off smoke at the camera, arms over one-another’s shoulders.

Isa recognizes one as a young David Cardinal, after having met him at the hub. The other is a blonde woman with a haircut that emulates a Farrah Fawcett swoosh, lips pursed and pot smoke lingering around her. They both seem to be in love, and the photograph is clearly taken in the dorm.


Isa looks over her shoulder at the wall by the bed, then back to the Polaroid. There's writing on the wall in the photograph, and wallpaper over the walls in the present-day.

"So is that Michelle? I keep forgetting that I've never actually seen her." Magnes wonders, and passes everything off to Isabelle, before he heads over to the wallpaper.

He presses his hands against it, closing his eyes, trying to hone in on the separation between the wallpaper and the wall. It's difficult, but he finally latches onto the wallpaper's gravity, then rips his hands back, taking chunks of wall paper with it. He keeps doing this, as if his hands have glue on them, until all of the wallpaper is entirely off.

“Well.. that's Dave. So I'm guessing we hit the jackpot.” Pleased with herself the woman takes a moment to study the photograph further peering down closely. As Magnes walks over to remove the wallpaper Isa kicks away the fallen pieces to come and stand in front of the wall with Magnes.

A hand on her hip, she clutched the bag of old pot and Polaroid in one hand, “Well look at that.” Eyes trained on the wall. This trip wasn't for nothing after all.

The rush of discovery is exhilarating. As the wallpaper is torn off from the wall, strips of mathematical equations are revealed piece by piece. It feels like finding buried treasure, uncovering a secret long lost, and it's happening right in front of Magnes’ eyes. How this was missed decades ago is uncertain, unless Michelle herself decided to hide the writing, or the housing administration did before the coverup. Because this doesn't feel like the way a spy organization would hide this writing.

By the time the wall is cleared, there is a massive equation written in faded marked revealed to Magnes and Isa. The complexity is astounding, but even now Magnes knows enough to start to get his head around what it might be, even if he can't follow the entire stream of thought.

It appears to be two formulas designed to perform specific functions. One appears to be how to define a specific wavelength, though what sorts of frequencies are being dealt with and how this applies to Looking Glass isn't clear. The second formula is for calibration purposes, and cross-references the frequency detection formula. Together, it feels like looking at a complex equation designed to figure out the frequency of a signal, and then either broadcast or receive from it.

But the mechanics of how it works are mind-bogglingly complex.

Magnes immediately starts taking pictures once it's all uncovered, but… a thought occurs to him. "We can't live this here."

He holds his hands out. "We're making a break for it once I do this. Go open the window. Get ready, because we're jumping and making a, well, we're gonna fly to the truck."

Concentrating, he doesn't want to destroy the wall, so he tries to latch onto the very foundation of what's behind it, to avoid ruining the plaster itself, then starts to increase its weight, pulling inward. He tries to be mindful if he starts to notice cracks, switching where he stresses the weight where he needs to.

He is going to take this damned wall if it kills him.

Eyes light up with mischief and the woman rushes over to the window to pull it up blinking as she turns her head to whisper, “Well fuck, isn't the window too small?” Isa figures they can just bust it out altogether if they need too. And as Magnes works on extracting the piece of wall with the equations on it the pyro studies it, “I couldn't tell you what any of this shit means.” God's honest truth. But hopefully, maybe it can help Magnes with Looking Glass.

Peering down out of the window for any witnesses, the woman pulls out a pair of sunglasses and plucks them on her face. “We ain't letting this get into those fuckers hands.”

The old plaster put up in the mid 1960s starts to split the moment Magnes pulls at it, though delicate in his approach, the nails the hold the plaster to the wall are sturdier than the wall itself, and pulling it out by the beams behind it would potentially collapse the ceiling. So as Magnes pulls, the sheetrock nails pull back through the wall, and cracks spread from those holes.

By the time the wall has been pulled free, it's broken into five distinct pieces about four feet by four feet, still too big to fit out the small dorm window, without making the window wider through creative application of brute force.

"We have to hurry up, so stand back." Magnes keeps the wall in his orbit, and makes room for pulling the window now. He holds his hand up, gripping the window and some of its surrounding wall by the hands. He's not delicate with this one at all, he starts pulling that inward as well, because if he just pushes it out, he might draw attention too quickly.

"Isabelle, get on my back. Grab tight. Once this thing is off, we're out of here."

“Aww poo.” She wanted them to finesse not cracking it at all but spilt milk so Izzy shrugs and watches as Magnes grips the window, eyes widening before she grins widely at his back. “Let's party.”

Leaping onto his back she clings tight and presses her face into his back. Bracing herself for the inevitable debris flying and craziness to ensue she squeezes Magnes’ shoulder in a show of support. He's done it, they’ve done it. Found an important piece to this puzzle Isa is so late to the game for. “Let er rip Mags!”

The window frame gives way before the wall, and shards of broken wood and crumbling drywall break apart and float weightlessly in midair. The window breaks as well, adding many shards dog glass to Magnes’ orbit. The sheer gravitational force necessary to break a wall is staggering, and that's exactly what Magnes does after the exertion, his head swimming and vision spotting with double-images and blurred inability to focus. Everything he was holding aloft falls, crashing down to the floor even as Isabelle is able to catch the gravitokinetic himself.

It takes him a moment to reorient, to regain his focus and wipe away the blood from his upper lip. The portions of the wall float up again, and this time Magnes is able to carry Isabelle aloft along with their spoils. By now people had heard the crumbling and splitting, but they aren't immediately able to identify tidy the blurs that rocket out of the crumbling hole torn in the outer wall of the dormitory’s top floor.

Magnes and Isabelle, along with the broken portions of the wall, rocket into the air and zip over rooftops, disappearing behind a nearby tree line not long thereafter. The wall will be destroyed, burned to cinders, and those cinders scattered into the heavens to join the other space debris in orbit around the earth.

But in an age of miracles, is anything truly gone forever?

Nine Hours Later:

Police tape covers the dorm room entrance on the fifth floor of Ellsworth Hall. Police are photographing and marking evidence, tiny colored placards indicate where each and every piece of debris fell in the dorm room. Standing just outside in the hall, UEO Officer James Woods holds a phone up to his ear, brows furrowed and expression shifting between worry and surprise.

“No, it's about what you figured. Whoever it was took the whole bloody wall with them when they left…” Pacing outside of the dorm room, Woods looks to tracked smudges of powdered drywall now ground into the hall carpet. “I haven't yet, no. We’re going to go over the security camera footage from outside the building, see if we can find anything suspicious.”

Woods pauses, glancing back into the dorm room, then looks back to the hall. “Okay, I can do that sir. But I think this is just vandalism. What's so important about this college that— ” He's cut off, nodding sharply again, and then exhales a steady sigh.

“Yes sir, of course.” Woods is nothing of not a stickler for the rules and protocol. “I'll head to Tokyo tonight and pick him up, and if we come up with anything I'll let you know.” Woods nods again, as if the person on the other end could see him. “Yes, sir.”

After ending his call, Woods begins dialing another number that was just dictated to him. The phone rings for a long while, and when it finally picks up Woods is immediately apologetic. “M’sorry about the weird hour, but Mr Petrelli needs your assistance with a crime scene.” Woods nods, then looks back into the dorm room.

“Thank you Mr. Mustang, I'll be by to pick you up shortly.”

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