The Cult Of Personality


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Scene Title The Cult Of Personality
Synopsis When a mirror speaks, the reflection lies / You don't have to follow me / Only you can set me free
Date April 8, 2021

The sun set somewhere between consideration and conviction. Outside the windows of Kaylee Thatcher’s apartment the skyline of the Safe Zone is shrouded in a smoky amber haze. Everything smells of smoke.

It is nearly dark in Kaylee’s apartment, save for the glow of her cell phone screen showing a phone call from weeks ago. She hasn’t even entered the number into her contacts list, it just sits there as an impersonal string of numbers. Not the heart-wrenching truth they form in sum.

Kaylee taps play on the associated voicemail message. One more time.


The voice causes her heart to flutter and hands to tremble, even now. A memory of anger.

I'm… I don't really know what to say.

A memory of confusion.

I just got to thinking about you and I… hope you're doing alright.

A memory of loss.

If you want to talk, well, now you have my number.

A memory of her mother.

I love you, bean.

Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

April 8th
6:17 pm

As the message ends, Kaylee is left staring at the number again. The number of a woman she thought died during the war, one she mourned, and one she’d moved on from. Who now, in a time when Kaylee is at her absolute weakest, comes back into her life.

Letting loose a breath that she didn’t know she was holding, Kaylee swallows hard a few times before swiping over to the number pad. She has stared at that number for so long, she had it practically memorized by now.

Slowly, Kaylee punches in each digit, seeming to almost hesitate after each one. Having to take a moment to give another little pep talk til she pushes the next.

Kaylee was glad that Carl was with his father today. There was enough anxiety over this moment, without adding on an excited child. He’d already gotten into the habit of asking her if she’d called his grandma, yet.

Often. So often.

Oh, to be so young and naive about the woman that had birthed her. Kaylee couldn’t help but feel a little jealous as her thumb pressed the send button. Her stomach instantly twisted with a sharp pang of anxiety as the phone buzzed in her ear. There was a surge in her desire to hang up the phone.

In fact, Kaylee starts to pull the phone away from her ear to do so… but then the line picks up,

“H-h-hello?” Kaylee stammers out nervously, quickly pulling it back to her ear. Too late to turn back now.


One Hundred Miles Away

North Egremont

Long shadows are cast across the wide open yard behind a small colonial surrounded by a tall stand of trees. The platinum blonde woman standing on the back porch plucks her cigarette from her lips and looks at the way the setting sun flares between the striped bark of birch trees and the darker silhouettes of stout pines.

Karen Thatcher exhales a breathy sigh with a hint of menthol on the wind, and closes her eyes. “Yeah, bean,” she says with a gentle voice fringed with tension, “it’s your mom. Nice of you to call.” There’s that half-joking half-serious judgment in her voice Kaylee remembers from her childhood.

“It’s nice t’hear your voice. Sorry I took so long to…” Karen dithers, then shakes her head. She doesn’t finish her sentence.

One Hundred Miles Away

Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

Jackson Heights
NYC Safe Zone

«It’s nice t’hear from you. Really. I missed you.»

“Yeah…” Kaylee says softly, trying not to let her anxiety show, “Sorry about that. It’s been… insanely crazy around here. Between the family business and… my… job.” She stumbles a bit over her words as she almost blurts out something about her condition.

“I… missed you, too.” Kaylee hadn’t meant to hesitate, but… for a moment, she had to wonder if she did. She was. “I went back home to Oakgrove. It was… horrible. Tried to find y’all, but only found Willy and a half bombed out house.” Almost as if summoned by his name, the old grizzled senior cat jumps up on the counter and sprawls. “I held out hope though, cause I didn’t find any bodies.”

And she looked.

North Egremont

«I’m glad to know you’re alive. I thought about y’all often over the last seven years after…..»

“Me too,” Karen says with a look out over the yard, her eyes unfocused and not really seeing the yard, but rather trying to imagine her daughter on the other end of the line. “I saw you on tv, few years after the war ended, when we started gettin’ tv broadcasts out here. Saw you testifying about all the bad stuff the government did and…” she laughs, a short and harsh thing, “spittin’ image of your father.”

There’s an awkward silence after Karen invokes Edward, and she steps down off the porch and starts walking into the yard, bare feet in short grass against the prickling cold of early spring. “I couldn’t not call. With the fire coming up toward New York, with all the stuff I see on the news… I tried calling Raytech and they said you didn’t work there anymore, and I tracked you down to the police and…” she laughs again, this time nervously. “They said you weren’t in and I just…”

Karen doesn’t explain how she got Kaylee’s number.


Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

«I hope it wasn’t out of line. Me… calling you like that.»

Luckily, her mother can’t see the mild grimace at getting compared to her father. There were emotions at that idea, much like the feelings she was having about this conversation.

She was feeling severely conflicted.

“So you got to hear about some of what happened,” Kaylee breathes out in a resigned sigh, pushing away a small nagging in the back of her mind. They never really got into what happened to her or other rather important things, before she stormed out.

“And you know….” Her voice hitches. Karen knew what she was… what she had been. “Well, you’ve probably read a lot of things,” she ends a touch nervously. Kaylee hadn’t really kept a low profile. “Like, you have a grandson.” That hadn’t been a secret at the trials.

North Egremont

«His name is Carl.»

Karen lowers the phone from her ear, bringing her other hand up to her face. She covers her mouth with one hand, tears welling up in her eyes as she processes that revelation. Swallowing down the lump in her throat, Karen’s hand trembles. She crumples down into a crouch on her deck, then just sits on the steps that go out to the lawn and tries to composure herself. Kaylee can’t hear any of it on the other end, just the punctuated silence.

When Karen brings the phone back up to her ear, her daughter can hear the emotion in her voice. “A grandson?” She asks with a quavering tone. “Is he…” Karen says, pausing to wipe her eyes with her free hand.

Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

«…is he like you?»

Thankfully, her mother can't see the subtle crease of Kaylee’s brow at the question. The fuck…? Her mouth opens, her first instinct to yell at her for such a question.

But something stops her. Maybe Kaylee was reading into it too much? Instead of words a breath huffs out in their place.

With a false smile on her lips to brighten her tone, Kaylee hides that flash of emotions. “I… can tell you he’s smart. Probably as smart as Edward. Scary smart. He especially loves numbers and math. Doesn't miss a thing that’s going on around him. Speaks his mind like Granny, but a good heart like his father.”

There is no masking the pride and love for her son, her little miracle. “Only thing he got from me is a tendency towards mischief….”

Kaylee’s jaw tightens and tears prickle at the edges of her vision. Struggling to hide her fear that her mother might reject her son for who he is, she almost hesitantly asks, “Or are you asking if he will one day develop an ability? If so… then yes, he tested positive. He….he’s hoping to get fire breathing, just like a dragon….he’s obsessed with dragons,” she says, ending with a tone of amusement.

North Egremont

«He’s curious about you.»

Karen swallows a lump in her throat and nods, wiping at the corners of her eyes. She looks out to the horizon, cradling the phone to her ear in silence for a moment. Kaylee can hear the strangled sound of her trying to stifle a sob on the other end of the line.

“I bet he’s lovely,” Karen says with a rawness in her voice that she can’t hide. “I’m sorry about… everything. I figure you’re a better mom than I ever was. I figure… I figure Carl will have it easier, since what you have is—people know how to deal with it now.”

Something about the way Karen says that makes Kaylee’s stomach turn. A knot of anxiety begins to form.

“There’s a lot of stuff I… I think I blocked out about when you were a kid. I did some—I wasn’t the best mother I could be.” Karen admits with a shaky sigh. “I didn’t know how to…” she hesitates, then exhales another shaky sigh.

Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

«I didn’t know how to deal with what you were.»

The knot in Kaylee’s stomach grows tighter.


“Yes, I’m gonna take that baby home and if you want to be close to her, you’ll come with us and get straight.”

“I… “

Karen was suddenly on her feet, the little girl flinches without thinking and scooting back from the edge of the landing. “Fine! Take her! See if I care! I didn’t want her in the first place!”

“I blocked out a lot, too,” Kaylee whispers thickly. There was no hiding the impact those words made the woman’s daughter, no stopping the snuffle and sound of her brushing viciously at the tears she didn’t want to shed for this woman. The deep shuddering breath she has to take. “I…I don’t remember a lot… but what I do remember, it isn’t good, momma.” The bit of southern accent she'd picked up from her Granny shows through when emotions are high.

“I wish I may, I wish I might; please star grant me a wish” Kaylee cracks open an eye looking up; but then quickly closes it again, fearing the magic of the star fading before she can wish. “I don’t want anything for me, wishing star. I just… I just wish mommy was happy. Maybe take me away so that I don’t mess things up anymore. Make me not born anymore so I don’t hurt people like daddy says. Then maybe mommy will be happy.”

But like Granny, Kaylee also doesn’t sugar coat it or ease her mother’s pain. “What I do remember…. I needed my momma, but she didn’t want me. You know I even wished on a shootin’ star…”

North Egremont

«… because I just wanted //you to be happy again.//»

Karen lowers the phone away from her face, muffles the receiver with the heel of her palm, and cries into her other hand. She slouches forward, then just bends into a crouch. Her shoulders shake with each ragged exhalation, fingers wiping at her eyes, trying to smooth away the tears. She brings her phone back up, and her first words sound breathless and exasperated.

“I just did what I had t’do,” Karen says with a shake of her head. “I was happy you were okay,” she says wearily. “I just—I wish I’d remembered sooner…”

Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

«…what that Charles man did to you.»

There was a mildly snippy comment on the tip of Kaylee’s tongue, spurred on by sudden courage, about what her momma had to do, but it’s quickly forgotten at the utterance of a familiar name.

“Charles?” Kaylee breaths out the name, even as her whole body suddenly feels cold. Very cold. “How….?” did she know that name, the younger Thatcher doesn’t say. Ever since she’d learned of what Charles had done, she’s always wondered.

Her mouth opens again, but it takes a moment before the words spill forth. “Charles? As in the Company Founder. A… A telepath just like me?” Kaylee is almost afraid to ask the obvious question, in fact, her mother can hear that twinge of fear.

North Egremont

«Remember what? What did he do to me, momma?»

It takes a few moments for Karen to get her composure back. “No, honey, I—I don’t know. I don’t know who he was I just—I know he came by when you were little. I—I forgot most of it. But it’s not…” She trails off, scrubbing a hand over her face. “This is hard to explain over the phone, it’s hard enough to deal with. I—I don’t know.”

Swallowing dryly, Karen looks around the back yard, to the long shadows cast across the grass, to the diminishing light of day bleeding over the horizon. “Do you… “ She reconsiders the way she wants to ask this question. “Could you come up here? For a little visit? We—maybe we could talk it over. Figure things out some?”

Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

«I miss you. It’d… it’d be real nice to see your face again.»

The sound of indecisions escapes her, before Kaylee could think to stop it. How could she tell her mom that the situation is far more complicated than she could ever imagine. She’d rather see her mother with her real body and face, not this fake one she’s been given…. And there was the possibility…. That she wasn’t even her.

Kaylee shook her head trying not to think about it.

“I….I have to see if I can,” Kaylee finally says, grimacing at her words. “My brother Richard is heading out of town for a business trip and I need to help hold down the fort here at Raytech while he’s gone… not to mention my job.” There was a small thread of truth there.

However, her mother had dangled a huge carrot in her face. Something had happened to Kaylee as a child and the Company was possibly involved.

Teeth catch briefly at her bottom lip, before Kaylee meekly asks, “If I can…”

North Egremont

<Around when were you thinkin’?»

It takes a minute for Karen to formulate a response. All Kaylee hears on her end is a deeply drawn in breath that’s held for the duration of the silence. What she doesn’t see is the look of anguished indecision on Karen’s face, the tears welled up too deep in her eyes that spill over her lashes and dribble down her cheeks.

“Any time you’re free,” Karen says with a weak weariness in her voice. “Any time at all would be just peaches and cream,” she says with a flutter of an overwhelmed smile partly hidden behind a trembling hand.

Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

«Whenever you have time for me.»

Licking her lips, Kaylee drags a notebook close to her, flipping the cover open and finding a blank page. “Okay. I’ll look at my schedule - the joys of being a part owner of a tech company - and text you a date,” she says, picking up a pen and giving the back of it a click. “I won’t make you wait long.”

Kaylee needed to see what her mom could remember. She had to fight the urge to sigh. If only she still had her ability.

“If this goes well… then maybe I’ll introduce you to your grandbaby,” Kaylee says with a small nervous smile. It had been the first time she’d felt hope for a path to reconciliation, cause much like Edward… Her mother was a shitty parent, but she was still her mom.

North Egremont

«That sound like an alright plan?»

“It does.” Karen says with a small smile. “You—you let me know what date works for you, okay bean?” Swiping at her eyes with her free hand, Karen focuses on each individual word as carefully as she can so as to not interrupt each one with a sob. Try as she might, Kaylee can hear how tight and strained her voice is on the other end of the line.

Lost in a memory, Karen realizes she’s been silent for a long time, then breaks out into an exasperated and emotional huff of laughter. “Sorry I—I just got to thinking. I—I should let you go. I’m—I’m so proud of you, bean.”

Kaylee’s Apartment
Raytech Industries Campus, Employee Housing

«I love you.»

Breath hitches at those words catch Kaylee off guard. Especially that her mother was proud of her.

The feelings that suddenly have a stranglehold on her heart makes her speechless and brings tears unbidden to Kaylee’s eyes. Mix in the love that she’s heard them many times before, this time it felt different.

Blinking furiously, Kaylee has to take a few shaky breaths before she can say, “Love you too, mom.” There was some small part of her, in the back of her mind, that balked at those words and for those feelings, Kaylee was filled with such guilt that she cut the call abruptly, before her mother could hear the choked sob or the breakdown after.

God, she wished Granny was around. It was easier to deal with her mom with her around. All Kaylee ever wanted growing up was to know her father and to have her mother want and accept her. It would take time to find her footing with her mother. It had been her mother who took the first step in mending what was broken.

But… Kaylee could take the next step.

Looking down at her phone through bleary, tear-filled eyes, Kaylee taps through her to her photos and finds just the right one. A selfie with her and Carl, one he asked for after building a lego dragon together. He was holding it proudly with a smile that mirrored his mothers.

Kaylee hit send on the message that would deliver the photo to her mother. A reminder of what was at stake for both of them. If the two youngest Thatcher women could get past a lifetime of drama… Kaylee knew that it would make not just a little boy happy, but would have made her Granny proud.

Reconciliation is all Vivian Thatcher ever wanted for either of her girls.

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