The Devil You Could Be



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Scene Title The Devil You Could Be
Synopsis Following his abduction at the hands of Rue Lancaster, Richard Ray finds himself in a deadly situation.
Date January 12, 2019


"You almost had me."

There's silence from Richard Cardinal for a long heartbeat, the blue-white arcs of electricity reflecting off the polarized goggles he's wearing along with the crimson lightning that cracks and spits from him. Then his shoulders sink, a sigh breathed out against his scarf.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, Richard," he says, shaking his head slowly as he walks closer, stopping across from his future self and bringing his left hand up to push the goggles up, letting the other man see his face. Some blood crusted at the corner of his lips, chapped and cracking from his exposure to the cold, his eyes squinting a bit against the light. Unused to it, even

"I asked you a question, up there," he adds, voice lifting so it can be heard over the noise of the machine spinning up in the background, "What did it say? There was a note on Ronald Mallett's door when we showed up there. I don't think it was for me. I think it was for you."

"What did it say?"

Face to face with his younger self, Ezekiel is forced to consider an uncomfortable truth. The villain never considers himself as such, he is the hero of his own story. Now, surrounded by water tinged pink with blood, bodies soaking in six inches of ice cold death, he gives that notion due consideration.

The way back, is closed.” Ezekiel breathes the words out, what the sign said for him. He stares at Cardinal, as if that should hold some meaning to them both. But it only proves something to Cardinal that he had been considering for some time.

It's the meaning of what the sign said when he got there. What was written for the Richard Cardinal of this time on Mallet’s door: Time is not a line. Either someone changed the sign, or two roads diverged in a wood further back than imagined.

“But, you're right,” Ezekiel admits. “The message — wasn't going to work. My road always ends here. Walter Trafford stood right where you are in our future. My failures are circles.” Sliding his tongue over his teeth, Cardinal exhales a ragged breath. “I’ll get it right next time.”

Overhead, the lasers of the Mallet device wobble and grind together as they spin. Bit the lasers are being bent upward, distorted by the insane gravitational force exerted by Magnes’ power gone berserk. “I had to think bigger.” The entire facility begins to rumble, pressurized pipes begin to blow.

Ezekiel’s eyes are that of a madman, stolen from Cardinal’s friend.

“Welcome to the new beginning, Richard.”


Richard Ray’s world is redefined by aches and pains, a throbbing in his head rousing him not from restful sleep but fitful unconsciousness interspersed with anxiety-filled snippets of the past. As Richard’s tunnel vision begins to focus, he sees—


It is a moment of existential horror as Richard sees himself sitting on his knees with arms raised over his head, rusted metal restraints around his wrists and chains going through a metal eyelet in the ceiling. But it's not Richard.

It's a reflection.

The concrete-walled room Richard finds himself in is surrounded by a variety of mirrors. From free-standing sheets of mirrored glass without frames, to poorly-maintained antique mirrors, seven foot tall dressing mirrors, and small round hand mirrors. They lean up against the walls, creating a nearly complete ring. One tall mirror even hangs on the back of a rusted metal door with an open viewing slat into a dimly-lit hallway. A single shaft of yellow light coming through that opening is all Richard can see by. That realization means a lot.

Richard feels like he's been asleep for days. He can tell from the way shadows feel deeper than usual that he's negated, probably chemically. He's still dressed in the same clothes he was when he was with —

Rue, fuck.

It's all coming back now.

It comes back in an ache in the back of his skull, too much time spent in unconsciousness pounding behind his eyes as Richard slowly gathers the scrambled memories of how he’d gotten here and puts them in order. The meeting room, Rue acting like she was, foolishly entertaining her advances too long…

And then…

“Fuck,” he breathes out, voice a bit ragged from disuse as he looks around slowly. His arms aching from their position, skin a bit abraded from the metal.

Concrete walls, but a collection of mismatched mirrors, rusted shackles. This isn’t Praxia, nothing about this screams high-tech or well-funded, and that’s a surprise. It feels more like the old days, conspiracies and criminal groups and resistance fighters.

At least Logan isn’t likely to walk in.

Clearing his throat, he calls out, “Hey, isn’t this the part where someone should be monologuing at me?”

But the only one talking is the man in the mirror.

The silence gives Richard time to take in more details. The smell of oxidized metal in the air, the streaks of rust going down the concrete. There's water running down the chains from the ceiling. There's a drain, grated and six inches across in the floor directly below him. With his sleeves bunched up to his elbows, Richard can see small bandages on his forearms. Likely from IV shunts that were taken out. There's no telling how long they've had him for.

The water’s noticed as it trickles over his arm, Richard’s lips pursing. Either there’s some very bad plumbing, or they’re beneath… a river? A lake? An ocean?

The bandages suggest he’s been here for awhile, which is worrying, because it means that either they were doing something to him while he was out — or they had to move him a fair distance. Neither are good news.

He shifts, bracing himself as best he can and pulling downward on the chains — testing how rusted they are, although in his weakened state he’s not sure how much good it’ll do. Better than sitting still and waiting, though.

The chains are sturdy enough, though the bolt in the ceiling is a little loose and sends tiny chips of concrete down to the floor and atop Richard’s head when the chains are pulled. Somewhere beyond this concrete cell footsteps are approaching at a leisurely pace. But there's a cadence to them that is off beat. There's a click every two steps, a distinct grit of metal on gritty concrete. It stops outside of Richard’s cell, followed by a groaning creak of his door being unlatched.

As the door opens, Richard sees a tall silhouette backlit by the hall light. Wherever this is looks old, ruined. As the figure steps through the doorway a tightness comes over Richard’s chest on seeing what the dark-skinned stranger in the black suit is carrying.

Kazimir Volken’s cane.


The man holding it is a stranger to Richard, blue-eyed and intense. Richard has to crane his neck to see him, but not for long as the stranger makes his way around Richard’s right side, then stops in front of him. “So you are the one I've heard so much about,” he says in greeting, setting the end of the cane on the floor and clasping both hands atop the wolf's head. “Richard Cardinal,” not Ray. “The bird in the spider’s web. I am Baruti Naidu, and you are my prisoner for the time being.”

Richard squints a bit as the door opens, the patterns of light and darkness in the room difficult for him to adjust to in the absence of his power. Sizing up the man in silence until he’s said his piece.

“Mmhm. Does the old man know you’ve got his stick?”

An eyebrow lifts a bit, head lifting to meet those blue eyes, “I mean, I can appreciate image as much as the next guy, but really, you’re verging on trademark violation here.”

“It is not his anymore,” Baruti says with a rise of his brows, “he is a memory.” Slowly, Baruti takes a knee and lays the cane down in front of Richard, setting it on the floor. Slowly, the blue-eyed man rises to stand and gestures with palms up to Richard.

“It is yours now,” Baruti intones, taking a step back toward the mirrors on the far end of the room.

Amongst the many things that Richard was expecting to be said or occur next, this wasn’t one of them. His brow furrows in confusion briefly, looking from the man to the cane, before there’s a flicker of memory—

Walking in the shadow of vine-encrusted skyscrapers, there is a serenity in the silence. The hour of humanity has come and gone, leaving only monuments to their existence. And yet… somehow life springs eternal. The deer straightens and backs away from the puddle, then begins to bound off through the tall grass and into a parking lot filled with rusted scrap vehicles.

Moving over to the puddle, booted feet stop on the edge of the water. After a brief moment, the lone figure takes a knee in the earth and picks at old brass shell casings in the dirt. His reflection — Richard’s reflection — is muted in the murky water. But he looks older, hair gone gray, wrinkled and weathered. Tired.

— and he jerks back a bit from where the cane’s laid out. “If you wanted to give me a present you could’ve just dropped it off at the front desk, Tutti-Fruity.” Sarcasm is an easy way to deal with fear.

“You mistake my intentions,” Baruti suggests, “this is no gift.” He then walks around Richard and moves to stand beside him. Reaching inside of his jacket, Baruti regards Richard via his reflections in the mirrors. “You are a fascinating man with an interesting history. A survivor, tenacious. You avoid fate as though you were a deer in the forest, ears twitching, alert and poised to deny what is prescribed for you.”

Baruti slides a short punching knife out from inside his jacket, gripping the T-bar with long fingers, the arrowhead-shaped blade jutting out between middle and ring finger. “But this has been a one-sided conversation Richard. I have done much of the talking. You are a detective, of sorts. Are you not interested in detecting?

Richard regards his captor in the mirror, his lips pursing in a tight lin for a moment before he decides to play along. “Alright,” he says, voice still a bit raspy from his captive time, “I’ll bite. We’re somewhere old, impossible to know how far from the Safe Zone at this point or how long I was out. It’s either somewhere it’s raining, we’ve got bad plumbing, or we’re underwater.”

He clears his throat - more of a cough - and he narrows his eyes at the mirror of his captor, “That cane was last seen in Hana’s hands, and she’s missing, so I’m guessing you’re responsible for that missing. You’ve got the cane and blue eyes, but I know where both iterations of the black conduit currently in this timeline are, so if you’re trying to make me think you’re planning on stabbing me and hoping the old man climbs into my body, I’m not convinced.”

“Sharp like a knife,” Baruti says softly. “My eyes are,” and on command they flare with an energized plasma and then die back down, “not like that. And we are almost directly below the Euphrates River.” He doesn't bother to elaborate and assumes Richard knows where that storied river runs through.”

Starting to circle Richard, Baruti gestures to the ceiling. “This place was once an interrogation site for the Republic guard. It was closed in 2003 when you Americans invaded, destroyed what precarious balance there was here, and then left it to burn.” Baruti doesn't sound angry in spite of his choice of words. Instead, he sounds judgmental. “As for Hana Gitelman…” he says as an afterthought, “you are correct.”


Cardinal tilts his head back a bit, gaze sweeping from the mirrors towards the ceiling. “You’re Mazdak, then. To be fair, the government that invaded this place is the same one that I helped burn down, so maybe we can call things square and you let me go, huh, Tutti-Fruity? We’re all, what do you call us, Children of God, right?”

Hey, it’s worth a try.

Unfortunately he’s fully aware that the god in question is a bitch.

“We are all connected,” is how Baruti corrects that turn of a phrase. “I have every intention of letting you go, Mr. Cardinal. And yes, I am a part of Mazdak. But I refute your point that the government that left Iraq in such a state is, as you say, burned down.” Baruti winds up on Richard’s right side. “The worst actors on one side of a political divide are gone, but many of the government representatives who authorized the war that led to this survived your internecine conflict and still make foreign policy.”

Baruti looks at himself in the mirror, then looks back to Richard. “Do you have further questions?” He asks, brows lifted in inquiry.

“Yeah, well, I can’t kill every asshole personally,” Richard observes with a roll of his eyes, “I could’ve taken over the government myself, but… I left that to the witches. They’ve disappointed me too.”

He turns his head a bit, regarding the man beside him, “Plenty. Why did you have me kidnapped? How did you get Lancaster to cooperate with this? And lastly, I thought you people were working with Monroe. What changed?”

Monroe is a gloater. The lack of him even showing up in video format is telling.

“Your assumptions, from top to bottom, are all incorrect,” Baruti explains casually. “But you're questions, they are astute. I brought you here, to this place and this moment in time, because you and I are are not entirely dissimilar people. We are servants of a greater design, a latticework of probability, cause, and effect that guide history inexorably toward a specific goal.”

Then, without any warning, Baruti slams that punching dagger into Richard’s armpit just above his ribs. The blow is as forceful as it is precise, and it barely even hurts at first, save for the subconscious dread of the warm and wet sensation running down Richard’s side.

“We are all of us,” Baruti says as he leans in to Richard, keeping the knife in the wound, “prophets. And every prophet belongs in his house.”

A deep grunt escapes Richard as the blade drives home; surprise, truly, because he didn’t really think he’d been brought here to be killed. Why wait to kill him, after all, why go to all this trouble?

A slow, ragged breath is drawn in, and he turns his face towards Baruti, fingers clenching above his head as if he could reach for the man’s throat. He can’t.

“Carmichael— failed,” he hisses out, “Just like the old man— did. Copying them isn’t— going to get you— anywhere, you sonuvabitch.”

Baruti’s blue eyes narrow, “I am not the imitator, Mr. Cardinal.” His voice is husky and warm against Richard’s cheek. “I am the original.” Baruti pulls the knife out of the wound and Richard can already feel the pulse of warm blood flowing more freely down his side. Baruti wipes the knife off on Richard’s shoulder, then slides it back inside the sheathe one his jacket.

“You have more pressing concerns,” Baruti explains, retrieving a key from his pocket and one by one unlocking Richard’s manacles. When the second one is undone, Richard collapses onto the floor on his side. “You have five to eight minutes depending on your heart rate. Left out of your cell, then right, then straight, then up the stairs.”

Baruti looks down to the cane on the ground. “You may want to arm yourself,” he adds, as his eyes begin to glow a brilliant gold like hot iron. “Goodbye, Richard.” And Baruti’s body becomes insubstantial, like a ghost made from shimmering blue light, and he glides upward through the ceiling of the room leaving faint crackles of electricity dancing on the bare stone.

Five to eight minutes.

"What sick fucking game is this," Richard coughs out as he hits the ground, looking up… in time to see those golden eyes, in time to see the translucent blue form of the man vanish.

"Yeah, yeah," he mutters, reaching over for the cane and using it to lever himself unsteadily to his feet, "Just… Jedi Ghost your ass out of here and leave me to run your little maze."

What's the point, he wonders; what IS the game, here? This all has a purpose but he doesn't have the point of reference to understand it. If it didn't, they would have simply killed him.

But not playing along means bleeding to death.

A slow, deep breath is drawn in, and he slips one hand under the other arm to press against the wound— to slow the bleeding as best he can— and he stumbles towards the door, roughly shoving a mirror out of his way.

Left. Right. Straight to the stairs.

The mirror falls, shattering loudly on the floor. Richard staggers our into the hall, the cane becoming necessary to balance himself as he feels mild dizziness beginning to onset. Each breath has become painful as shock wears off, as his wound flexes with every inhale and exhale.

The hallway is lined with cells. Doors all wide open, chains in all of them. As Richard moves as fast as he can down the hall, he's left to wonder how many people were held down here, for what reasons, under what conditions. It's one more layer of the world's blatant cruelty and one that he doesn't have time to dwell on. He's leaving a drizzled trail of blood in his wake.

At a cross junction in the dimly lit hall, Richard takes a sharp right, knees wobbling. He can feel the blood seeping between his fingers as he tries to keep a hand clamped fast to his wound. This hallway is shorter, less lights too. They're bare, careless bulbs hanging from cables in the ceiling. Richard’s shadow is muted, blends into the darkness. He knows he has to stay calm, don't elevate his heart rate. Move briskly. Escape. Ricky, Lili, and Aurora are counting on him.

The wolf-headed cane.

The knife in his side in a concrete-walled basement.

The endless walk down a tunnel while dying.

Every Prophet In His House.

It’s like Baruti decided to put together a smash remix of ‘Richard’s Worst Days’ and kidnapped him to get a second opinion. Richard’s opinion: It sucks.

The cane is a lifesaver despite the history of it, Richard’s weight relying on it heavily as he stumbles down the hallway; his hand soaked in crimson as he tries to keep pressure on the wound, but it’s relatively difficult to keep it steady when he’s moving.

The knife knew where it needed to go.

He breathes, carefully, counting each breath as he goes. Straight. There should be stairs. The idea has his knees even shakier, but he needs to make it.

Straight through another cross hallway, and Richard can see the stairs up ahead. These must be like cell blocks, private little hells for whoever was unfortunate enough to be detained in them. These small details help keep his mind active even as his vision swims. Exhaling a ragged breath, Richard passes through the intersection of halls and feels his legs buckle with the next step. The cane comes down, catching his weight but his arms can't hold it. He slouches into the wall, a sharp pain shooting through his side as he does.

Using the wall as a brace, Richard keeps walking, leaving a trail of dark blood smeared across the concrete in his wake. Rivulets of it are running down his arm, dripping off his fingers clutching the wolf's head. He feels short of breath, dizzy and tired all at once. There's a cloying dryness in the back of his throat.

It's not cold here, he realizes. He'd always stared death in the face in the cold. It's warm.

He ascends the first two steps, seeing a closed iron bulkhead door at the top. This place must not be too deep underground. A shallow basement. He goes for the third step, vision swimming, and feels himself falling backwards.

She stood in front of him on a rooftop, the ruins of Midtown rising in the distance, looking up at him with understanding in her eyes. “Welcome to the revolution, Richard Cardinal,” she said softly, reaching up to snag his shirt and pull him down. His fingers slid up the side of her neck, curling behind it as his mouth found hers eagerly, hungrily. Never do anything halfway.

Richard lands at the bottom of the stairs with a clatter of the cane beside him. His head spins, vision blurs, he's so tired He just needs to lie down. He just needs a minute to regain his strength, for his ability to come back, then he can make it out of here.

They were on a satellite phone; she was in Moscow, the starting stages of Project Apollo.

"Good luck, Liz. I know you can handle this. If anyone can, you can." He paused for a long moment, "Love you. See you soon."

He hung up. It was the first time he’d said it, and his heart was

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