There Are Always Consequences


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title There Are Always Consequences
Synopsis Elisabeth and Ria discuss the past.
Date January 8th, 2019

The Ark

B-Ring Maintenance Shaft B-66

The tunnels are hellish places to have to hide, in Elisabeth's opinion. There are slightly more open places on B-Ring to use, since it's abandoned, but anyplace that people hole up needs to have multiple evacuation points and no chance of being stumbled over accidentally… so the maintenance tunnels really are the safest options. But it's wet. And it's very dark. And it's colder than a Siberian well-digger's ass in January. And it takes a lot of Liz's fortitude to withstand the conditions, falling back on meditation training and using memories of Bright and some memories from her own home to try to keep herself from turning into a screaming mess.

A food scavenging run to pick up the parcels that are secreted away in the kitchen only takes one person, but they usually try to go in teams of two for look-out purposes. Elisabeth's ability has made it pretty well a given that she's a look-out most of the time. But that's okay. This time around it finds her paired with Rianna Cardinal… and it's the first chance she's really had to speak to the younger woman at all.

Huddled up in the shaft while they wait for the right time to go — dinner is still ongoing and Silas, in the kitchen, will package up all the leftovers for them. If they're lucky, some will still even be warm when they get them. But right now, it's simply a waiting game. Enclosed in a one-way silence field so they can hear what's around them but can't be heard, her booted feet up against the far wall while she slumps against the one at her back, Elisabeth has so many thoughts in her head. "Did you know that your power is the opposite of your brother's?"

It's soft. And perhaps awkward, that segue. But based on what she saw, Rianna has just as much curiosity about her brother as Richard has about his family.

“So he's a charmless dimwit without any good looks?” Rianna asks asks with a lopsided smile, shifting her attention up from a damp backpack she kneels in front of. “Or do you mean the laser light show stuff?” Her amused smirk turns into a smile as she looks down into the backpack, rummaging around for something.

“I'll be honest,” Ria says with a sigh, pausing her search to look back at Liz. “I have a hard time reconciling the fact that I have a brother. I've never known him. It's like— growing up? My mom would talk about how she had a son and he was lost. I always thought she meant like… that he died in birth. I never pressed.”

Ria returns her attention to the backpack. “Before I started college she told me the truth, about everything. It was hard enough keeping a secret that I was a living laser pointer, but also believing in some fantasy my mother dumped on me?” She makes a soft aha noise and retrieves an old and scratched up digital camera from the backpack. “That sort of stuff fucks you up as a kid.”

Holding down the power button, Ria turns the camera on. It makes a series of soft beeps, then the telescoping lens extends and retracts and the cracked display on the back of the camera comes on. “What's he like?” Ria asks without looking at Elisabeth. “I've heard his voice… a lot. But… that's not who he is as a person, not really.”

Elisabeth barks out a soft, genuine laugh — perhaps the first one she's had in ages. "Well… in physical description, he's just like you, if that's your description," she retorts, truly amused. "Powers-wise… he's a shadowmorph."

Leaning her head back against the wall, she can only nod slightly at Ria's comments, her demeanor more solemn. "I've … dealt with parents of kidnap victims. Their anguish is a terrible thing to behold." She's lived it secondhand for two years now. "It has to be something similar, I would guess. The … fear, the worry, the desperation. The never knowing what happened." Looking away for a long moment, the audiokinetic has to swallow hard. Addie and Manuel weigh heavily on her.

Pulling in a breath, she considers what she's been asked, choosing her words carefully. "He's charming. Occasionally witless. Pretty good-looking." The quick smile she shoots at Rianna is impish, a shared opinion of men in general. But her blue eyes are haunted. "We've had to piece together some of his background, since no one ever really knew his origins. He grew up in an orphanage, so… it was a tough childhood. He's wicked smart," she muses in a rueful tone. "I sometimes think perhaps he inherited some of that from your mother, though that's not where his powers lay. He's… driven."

She pauses and then says, "He was a thief when I first met him. Not too long after that, though… 36 kids in New York City committed suicide because they were terrified that the government would disappear them for having powers." Elisabeth clenches her jaw tightly for a moment. "So stupid. Such a damn waste of lives," she whispers. "When your brother heard about it, it pretty much … hit him where he lived, you know? He decided that if that's the kind of world that we were leaving the generations behind us, he had to step up and help change it. So that's what he did. That's what we did… tried to change it." She shrugs a little. "He'll tell you he's not a good man. He told me that a lot. But … I don't know that I've met very many better ones."

She pauses and then laughs quietly, reaching up to wipe away tears she didn't know she was shedding. "Of course, he has plenty of moments of complete and utter dumbfuck asshattery. Occasional moments of being an absolute dick. But… he's a guy, what can you expect?"

Ria smirks, but it's a hard-fought expression. “My mom says the same thing about herself, that she's not a good person…” Slowly, Ria begins to thumb through the images on the camera. “She never got over losing him, made… choices. Joining the DoEA to protect me, telling me that like it was some sort of huge sacrifice for her…” each press of her thumb comes with a soft beep.

“This place was built for people like us, you know?” Ria says as she looks up from the camera. “On paper it was supposed to be a holding facility with some research areas. But mom always imagined one day things would get bad enough and our kind would need a place to hide. She said that… on a long enough timetable, once people found out about us, it would only be a matter of time before they tried to exterminate us all.”

Ria sighs, recognizing how prescient that is for her world. But then, rather than continue, she turns the digital camera’s screen toward Elisabeth. There's a preview of a photograph of Michelle and David together on a park bench holding hands. It looks relatively recent. “That's my dad. He… died in the flood.” Ria looks away. “We were really close.”

To the explanation of the Ark, Elisabeth simply nods and says quietly, "Some version of the DoEA seems to exist in all the timelines that I've seen. I think… the fact of our existence makes it inevitable that some agency springs up. People fear and want to control what they don't understand." Human nature. History repeating itself ad nauseum.

She leans to look at the pictures being offered. The sight of a Michelle and David happy, smiling together… it softens her expression visibly. "I'm sorry you lost him. I know what it's like. My mother was killed." There's a pause before Elisabeth says, "That world's version of my mother, the one who saw me grow up. Like your brother, I was born here and ripped away from this world as a child. Me and my father both. My birth mother came here with me, once she was able to believe that I was who I said I was." The explanation needs to be given. Touching the image, she has an abashed expression. "I met a version of your father. I could see so much of Richard in him. But I see… parts of your mother too. The… driven parts, especially. He'll… he'll have a lot of questions for you, I think. Assuming, of course, that you plan to join us on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride."

“I'd be a shitty aunt if I stayed here,” Ria says, powering down the camera to conserve the meager battery life left, then tucks it away into her backpack. “Because, I mean, I don't have any certainty about this… but that girl of yours?” Ria’s brows rise slowly. “She's got mom’s eyes. So… my brother must.”

Ria doesn't wait for any real confirmation, instead she just zippers up the main pouch of her backpack and looks down at the floor. “There's nothing for any of us here. I know mom’ll be leaving the middle the she can with you. All we can do is hope for the best. Move forward.” Smiling to herself, Ria looks back up to Elisabeth.

“Do you think we’re actually going to make it out of this alive?” Ria asks, no hint of humor in her voice.

Her head tilts slightly and Elisabeth studies Ria. "He does," she agrees softly. It's something that is both comfort and heartache for her — that Aura has Richard's eyes. And she smiles slightly, noting silently that Michelle bore some observant children.

Leaning her head back in the wall again, the answer has no uncertainty. "Yes. Don fucked up royally — he missed." Elisabeth's tone is flat; Don's a walking dead man as far as she's concerned. She looks at Ria. "We've come too far to let a crazy asshole stop us." Her blue eyes are ice cold. "The only reason we didn't just stay topside and figure out the timing for the next jump is because we were given information by someone … who is usually correct on such matters," God help us all, "that your mother's machine is the only way to aim for the correct timeline."

Elisabeth's tone eases as she finds again the similarities to Aurora in Ria's features. "But I had to come anyway… Even if there hadn't been a machine, I would have come. Finding you were alive, knowing who you were… I couldn't have lived with myself if I didn't find a way to give both of you the option of coming with us," she tells the younger woman with a faint smile.

After a moment's pause where she seems to weigh whether or not to say something, she then asks, "You said your mom told you what happened the day your brother disappeared… would you mind telling me what she told you?" She's often wondered, since she learned that, if there was some pattern to who got thrown into the next timeline over or if it was random.

Ria had been quiet, just nodding and listening, right up until that question. She blows out a sigh and flicks a bottle cap she found in her backpack across the way to plink-clink to the floor. “Yeah…” Ria says in a sigh, slowly turning a look up to Elisabeth. “Yeah… I suppose.”

University of Kansas

Beechum Lab

Lawrence, Kansas

June 18th


A paper-wrapped burger lands with a heavy crinkle of paper onto a nearby table. Burger King, fresh.

“One Whopper,” then a soda is carefully set down, and a crisp and hot apple pie in a cardboard sleeve, “plus dessert.”

Richard Schwenkman sits on a stool, his unkempt mop of hair as loose as his smile, brown paper Burget King bag in his lap. He fishes another wrapped burger out, throwing it across the table. “Heads-up Eddie!”

The burger sails above and to the right of Edward Ray, though he tries his damndest to catch it, arms up and kicked back in his chair — kicked back so far he falls completely backward with a crash onto the floor. Laughter erupts from the table, and settling down into her seat, Michelle Cardinal picks up her hot apple pie with a hand heavily laden with a gold ring.

“Eddie,” Michelle says through the laughter, “you looked like a dog going for a frisbee!” In spite of his placement on the floor, Edward is laughing too. He crawls back up, somewhat smooshed burger in one hand and the back of his chair in the other.

“I'm fine.” Edward deadpans, setting his dinner on the table. “Wasn't David coming by?” He asks with one brow raised. “Should you even be here?” Michelle looks equally put off by both questions, rankling her nose and pursing her lips.

Rich, clearing his throat, tries to change the subject. “We’re green for procedure tests after dinner,” he says with an awkward smile, motioning over to the four foot tall cylinder of metal at the back of the room with a triangular CRT television screen welded in a cooper frame. “I picked up the liquid nitrogen with dinner. Great combo.”

“I knew I should've asked for soft serve ice cream,” Michelle quips, taking Rich’s queue to back down from her own sense of pride. “Ok, we’ll eat and— ” The squealing cry of a baby approaching has Michelle’s eyes wide. She pivots in her chair, looking to the stairs that lead down into the basement lab while Edward unfolds his sandwich.

There's a chiding click of a tongue as David Cardinal al emerges from the stairwell, carrying a carseat in his arms with a tiny, blanket-swaddled baby within. “Kid, you've gotta learn t’be quiet when you're sneaking…” David says with a smile, offering an encumbered wave to the others.

“Dave, I saved you some fries,” Rich rattles the bag back and forth with a grin as Michelle boosts up from the table and takes the baby out of the carseat and rests him over her shoulder. He quiets down almost immediately. “Or you could steal your wife’s burger, while she's burdened with child?”

Dave flashes Rich a look, then laughs and walks by Edward, giving him a gentle slap on the arm as he does. Edward, mouth full, splutters a greeting and feels around the table for a napkin to clean his greasy hands with.

“So, this’s it?” Dave says, walking over to the machine at the back of the room. “Boy I… kinda figured it'd be bigger, y’know?” He looks over at Rich, expectantly.

“We going to see Blade Runner next week?” Rich asks without giving David’s question a moment of consideration. David shrugs, looking over to Michelle who is pacing around the room with her baby in her arms. She brings him over to Edward, smiling.

“Want to hold him?” She asks, and Edward, cleaning his hands off, quickly finishes and flashes Michelle a nervous smile. He reaches out, taking the baby in his arms and cradling him to his chest. Michelle smiles, softly, then looks up to David.

“Is that the Dustin Hoffman thing in the future?” Michelle wrinkles her nose and David just motions at her with one hand as if pointing to Exhibit A in a trial.

“You see what I've got to work with here?” David says with a faux-resigned sigh. “Yes, it's that Dustin Hoffman thing.” He turns his back to the machine, waggling his fingers, “in the future. You'd like it, there's like, mad science.”

Michelle puts her hands on her hips and stares at David, who grimaces and throws his hands in the air in defeat. “Maybe I'll take little Richie with me. He has good taste in movies.”

Edward looks down at little Richie when the baby's name is invoked, then looks up to Michelle with an awkward smile. “For what it's worth it sounds interesting, it's from the guy who did Alie— ”


Woah! Fucker!” David leaps away like a frightened cat from where the machine at the back of the room is situated. Rich bolts up out of his chair, Edward scoops up the baby and rises from the table, and Michelle rushes last Edward over to David. “That thing just shocked me!”

“Static discharge,” Michelle says with a away to David’s shoulder. “It's not even powered on or plugged in. Now stay away from it before you fry a transis— ”


Holy shit!” Rich shouts, pointing at the machine. “The Looking Glass just arced to the floor like a Tesla coil! Did you see that!?” The shocked look on everyone’s faces implies that they did. Edward starts to walk toward Michelle with the baby in his arms, right up until there's a cacophony of static eruptions from the triangular frame and it powers on by itself.

Rich let's out a high-pitched scream, running to the circuit breaker. David sweeps his arms around Michelle and pulls her back as another blast of electricity leaps out of the machine. “Turn it off!”

It is off!” Rich shouts, throwing circuit breakers with a loud clack. The lights in the basement go out as he does, and baby Richard begins a soft and frustrated cry again. In the dark, Edward tries to soothe the child, but it becomes evidently clear something is terribly wrong as fine, hairlike arcs of electricity are flowing off of everyone.

“Out! We need to get out!” Michelle shouts, crashing into a chair. But before anyone can react, there's a high-pitched banshee wall of a scream that fills the air, and the triangular screen of the Looking Glass explodes with light. Auroral colors swirl through the room, crackle and snap off the walls and send sparks showering from anything metallic they touch.

“Out!” Michelle shouts, interrupted by a low sonic droning sound followed by a high-pitched whistle and an electrical crackling in the air. A moment later a powerful wind picks up in the room, lifting books off of the table, sending napkins and burger wrappers through the air. Lightning dances up the walls and everyone screams. Then, in a sudden violent burst of light, there is a discharge of blue-green energy that blasts through the room.

When it fades, the screaming has ended. The baby has stopped crying. Panic and confusion fills the air until David is able to fish a flashlight off the floor and turn it on. He sweeps the light over Michelle, then Rich, then Edward who is sitting on the floor with a smoking, empty blanket in his hands.

“No…” Edward says in abject confusion, “no.” Michelle’s scream pierces the air.

“Where is he!?”

Where's my son!?

Present Day

“Mom… I don't think she ever really recovered.” Ria says in a hushed tone of voice, pulling her knees to her chest and wrapping her arms around them. “I don't know a lot about what went on between then and when I was born. The government got involved, packed up the Looking Glass the next day and shipped it off to… god knows where. I guess that's how mom got involved with them.”

Staring down at the floor, Ria is troubled. “I never met Rich. He… killed himself the year before I was born. Never forgave himself for what happened. Blamed himself. Edward… never came around. I know him and mom worked together eventually, but… I think he felt guilty. Responsible.”

Ria sighs and rests her chin against the back of her knees. “I guess everyone did.”

Elisabeth listens quietly, her eyes closed through part of the story. She visibly flinches as it comes to an end. The guilt of that kind of thing will eat you alive if you let it… she knows. The kidnapping of Addie and Manuel does it to her. She doesn't say anything for a long few moments, parsing through the story. The fact that it came on without even being plugged in — that's the part that gets her. There's a frown as she considers the thought.

But there are no answers to the myriad questions spinning through her brain to be had here. "How could they not, even though it was really no one's fault, it sounds like." Elisabeth sighs heavily, reaching out to offer the younger woman what comfort she can with a gentle squeeze of her shoulder. "I'm sorry. That must have been a lot to take in when you learned about it. The science fiction of it is mind-boggling in and of itself. But then to … hear all of us from a different world, I can't even imagine how weird that must have been."

There's a moment of hesitation. "When the machine went off, it seems like it synced across the timelines that Magnes and the rest of us have traveled." Which now sends a warning klaxon off in the back of her head, but she puts that thought on hold for a moment — Being present in this moment if more important. "According to what we've been able to learn, my world's Edward wound up holding the baby… to keep him safe from our government, he was left at a church orphanage." Liz grimaces faintly. Catholic orphanages were not the most gentle of places, but he did survive, after all. "He never even knew his real birthday, you know — they marked it as June 18 because of … everything." She grins just a little. "I hoped to find that out somewhere along the way, figured it might be the only thing I could really bring home for him about his parents. You, my dear, are going to be a lovely surprise."

“June 16th,” Ria says, making Richard just two days old and maybe a day fresh out of the hospital when he was taken by the storm of light. “Mom barely even had time to be with him. She'd just given birth a couple of days before and here she was… babysitting her project.”

Shaking her head, Ria seems both surprised and not. “He ended up with Edward. Man…” she exhales a breathy laugh, “I can't imagine how that kid turned out. Edward’s son, Mortimer? He was a real oddball. Thank god he only ever had the one.”

Ria smiles, somewhat ruefully, and looks up to Elisabeth. “Do… you think he wants to see us? My brother, I mean. We’re basically strangers, who— who abandoned him. I've been…” She looks back to the floor. “I've been nervous about that for a while. I don't want to just— I don't want to assume he cares about a couple of people he's never met.”

June 16th. Yeeeeaaaahhhh…. Elisabeth can see a lot of similarities to some of the not-so-good parts of Richard Cardinal, that's for sure. But she bites back any comment on the obsessive behaviors of some Cardinals. "I have the feeling that had Richard grown up with Edward, he wouldn't have become the man that I fell for," she observes mildly. "Edward Ray in my world, at least? Definitely not someone I'd want kids near very much… Although to give credit where it's due, he may be a shitty parent, but I'll never fault him for doing whatever he can to keep his kids safe. Methods? Those are really sketchy. But intent matters."

Reaching out to touch her shoulder again when Ria vocalizes her fears, she turns to make sure she has all of Rianna's attention. "Hear me well, Ria. You did not abandon him. None of you did. He was taken through no fault of any of yours. Even your mom… she couldn't have known what her machine would do — you know that if she had, there would have been no way in hell she'd have put him at risk." That much she believes of Michelle Cardinal, despite her own paranoia about being manipulated by the woman. "And you've never stopped looking." She touches her fingertips to the younger woman's chin, making sure she has her eyes. "He's going to be thrilled." Her grin is rather cheeky. "And when the honeymoon period is over, my door'll be open when you want to bitch a blue streak about how he's sticking his nose in your life all the time. Okay?"

“You're right,” Ria admits in a small voice, eyes focused down at the floor between her feet. “Thanks, Elisabeth. It… it helped to hear that. It helps to know… to know that maybe everything will turn out okay in the end. Maybe I'll… get to know my older brother. Maybe mom’ll be happy. Maybe we can actually be a family again.”

Ria slowly looks up to Liz, a bittersweet expression dawning. “Maybe that stupid machine was built for a reason after all. Maybe… maybe everything does happen for a reason.”

The Looking Glass syncing across worlds echoes through Elisabeth's mind. If the machine does that every time it opens… fuck. What does that even mean? They've worried about what's between the strings for a while anyway, but what if… she has to force those worries down deep. Eileen's voice whispers brought her thoughts.

You and Varlane can’t just Goldilocks your way across worlds until you find one that’s just right. You want to go home? Fine. Own it.

There are always consequences…

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