To New Beginnings And Old Acquaintances


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Scene Title To New Beginnings And Old Acquaintances
Synopsis "Time is not duration but intensity; time is the beat and the interval." ― Ursula K. Le Guin
Date May 11, 2019

Manhattan Exclusion Zone

Grinding steel accompanies the gates of the Exclusion Zone's opening.

These yawning walls of rusted steel spread wide enough to allow a single person to slip between their toothed seams at one time. Yellow and black caution banding around the gates' edges warns passers by Do Not Stop Between The Gates. Do Not Extend Limbs Beyond This Line. On each gate, the corroded seal of the Department of Evolved Affairs lies in defaced dereliction. Spray paint partly scrubbed away by time implores, "Fuck Everything."

Beyond the gates, the ruins of Manhattan have claimed the entirety of the island. It is a sight unlike anything Elisabeth has ever seen before, a harrowing a horrifying landscape not entirely unlike the Wasteland timeline, but so much more intimately personal. This was her timeline, this city was her memory.

Not a single building is spared from an appearance of desolation and destruction. Rusted cars lay parked in the street where the end of the world began, eight years hence. Vibrant green grass grows up between fissures in the concrete, life has found a way regardless of the world. Richard’s team treads carefully between these demolished vehicles, boots crunching broken glass, striding around fallen billboards, evading sinkholes in the street where the ground has given way to yawning crevasses that were once subway tunnels. Birds scatter overhead, the ostensible kings and queens of the world's end. From here, it looks like the war never ended. The Exclusion Zone’s high walls block out view of the Safe Zone beyond, and sight unseen it feels like Raytech’s team is once again entering another world entirely.

The team is geared in urban armor, and the four expeditionists are flanked by a couple of the bodyguards who were willing to trek through this mess — Kaylee's primary, Bob Barazani, and Elisabeth's primary, Mike Gordon, are also similarly geared up in armor and armed. This region is not abandoned. And they're making clear they are not targets.

As they make their way carefully through the initial barriers, Elisabeth can't help a soft sound at her first full sight of it all. Stepping into this ravaged landscape hits her in the stomach and she's literally breathless with a horror that has no words. The hum that's just below human hearing levels now flares to life, though its presence is unlikely to be felt unless you're right next to her (so far).

There's a sharpening of her gaze on their surroundings, a subtle shift from the more relaxed demeanor of the past several weeks to the woman who survived similar messes to this one for years. The lines of her face seem harder, and she observes, "Here we go." Shifting her attention forward, she lets her ability widen in scope, listening in the quiet for the sounds that could herald an attack as they embark on the Hike From Hell. For now, the helmet is strapped to her side.

“Always the hardest the first time you see it,” Kaylee comments as an aside to Elisabeth. Her Aegis armor at least didn’t feel like the burden it once did. Her hair is pulled back into a tight bun, making it easy for her to pull on the helmet if she needs it. For now it bounces on her hip, making a tapping sound.

Bob is like a larger shadow behind Kaylee, lips pressed into a fine line. He doesn’t get to be her guard as often, but he takes it just as serious. “No, it’s just as bad every f’ing time,” he comments blandly, eyes moving over the ruins around them suspiciously. This place made him uneasy and he let them know loudly and often on the way there.

This is the first time that Delilah has ever worn anything remotely like an Aegis suit, and frankly- - it makes her feel a little too self aware. It's cool as hell, sure, but wearing it where she is, that's too on the nose. Though she was reluctant, she complied with the armor. Best bet in a time like this, if this is all going to go sideways. She hopes not.

At least the weight of boots is familiar, and for a while after they enter she is silent, watching the rusted cars and graffiti pass by. The color of her hair is bright against the ashen backdrop, likely just as much as Kyle's entire countenance is.

"I'm with him." Dee pipes up from Bob's elbow, giving him a gaming bump with her own and craning a look to Kaylee. "It's fuckin' awful here however you slice it."

Kyle agrees, wordlessly, where he's tucked behind Delilah in their procession. The AEGIS suit fits him poorly, tailored for a man his height but not with his coat-rack thin frame. But it isn't just the body armor that's making him nervous, it's everything here. Everything he's ever felt guilty about being a part of, sitting right here to bleach in the sun.

“Every time,” Richard agrees quietly with his sister as he lets the sight sink in, no less impactful than the previous times he’s been through these gates. There’s a Spot™ trotting along beside him carrying a duffle-bag on its back, as much an excuse for a field test in unsteady terrain as anything, a camera mounted on its manipulator arm scanning the terrain and recording their route.

“Manhattan’s not empty, though, however it looks,” he tells the others, shifting the Banshee’s weight at his hip as he walks through the gates, “So watch yourselves. The sort of people who insist on living out here aren’t usually friendlies.”

The first leg of their journey takes the team down the overpass from the Brooklyn Bridge entrance. From this elevation the desolation can be seen across nearly the entire length of Manhattan. To the north, skyscrapers that once stood tall even after the bomb have partly collapsed and are slouched against one-another like two drunks on a walk back from the bar. But this is just a preface for the horror to come.

The streets had been choked with ruined vehicles with flat tires and fire-scarred chassis. But once they reach the clusterfuck of what was once a military checkpoint the horror of the Exclusion Zone is drawn into sharp focus. All of the ice-crusted vehicles still have bodies within them. Vegetation-encrusted, skeletal remains of families trapped in their vehicles, trying to flee Manhattan when the war swept into Manhattan. The hundreds of vehicles frozen in time here were struck by white phosphorus anti-personnel munitions fired from drones. Whole families burned to death, trapped in their cars.

The line of melted vehicles goes all the way back to the overgrown plaza that abuts city hall, which is where the team will connect onto Broadway. But between them is the first of many impromptu memorials they will find. Some of these vehicles have long-dead flowers left at them, an implication that others have come before and been as moved.

It is a sobering sight, one of many reasons why the Exclusion Zone remains closed off. It would take decades to recover all of the bodies within its border.

”S’like walking through a f’kin’ tomb,” Bob says from where he is leaned over looking into one of the cars, where the skeletons of kids were huddled up on one side of a blue station wagon, like they were trying to escape their impending death. He says a little prayer in his native language for their souls, before straightening, and moving on. Hurrying to catch up with Kaylee.

“Yeah, it’s got walls around it and everything,” Kaylee sighs out, kicking a rock down the plant choked street. The action startled a few birds out of the grass, they screech loudly as they fly up and away. The telepath glances at the others with a blush of embarrassment, “Sorry.”

Delilah looks fine until they start past rows and rows of cars; by the time they make it to City Hall and Broadway, she is rubbing at her eyes and gritting her teeth. The birds taking flight startles her without effort, and a yelp precedes Kaylee's apology.

"Unh, it's okay, we're not watching for'em." She returns with a murmur, and a weak smile. Brown eyes return to studying the memorials along the path, and for a long moment Delilah stops to look into the husk of a van. The burnt skeleton of a dog lies over that of a small child, and she almost chokes.

"I hate it here."

Elisabeth jumps and visibly flinches when the birds take flight, her blue eyes pivoting skyward as if waiting to see if anything untoward is going to happen. But other than that, she simply pulls in a breath and remains silent. The helo draws her eyes. Chinooks are meant for evacuation… this one never made it. Each new horror just sends her emotionally deeper into herself to fend off bad memories.

“Easy, lover,” Richard murmurs, reaching out to touch Elisabeth’s arm as she jumps, his eyes understanding as he watches her face for a moment. Once he’s sure she’s steady, he moves over to Delilah’s side, a touch to her back to try and usher her away from the van.

“So do I,” he admits quietly, “So do I. Don’t look in the cars, guys, it’s just… just keep moving through here.”

The trek through city hall plaza is tough going. What isn’t crumbling away underfoot is overgrown with vegetation. The ground beneath crumbling asphalt is soft and wet, marshy much like Manhattan was before human habitation. Sandbags are still lined up in barricades topped by razor wire. Old husks of jeeps are parked on the green, mostly covered in foliage. City Hall is gutted from an internal explosion, the northwest face of the building torn open from ground floor to top floor. The exposed floors are sagging and dilapidated, with tangled messes of furniture and debris jutting out. There's a distant pop of gunfire, so far away it might not even be within the Exclusion Zone’s walls.

Bob pauses a little ahead of Kaylee and offers a hand up to help her down a rather slippery slope of debris that almost took his feet out from under him. It didn’t look like much until he was halfway down the short slope. He’ll feel that in his back later and his wife will bitch at him for the risks he takes. Already she didn’t like this rich family he worked for and felt he deserved more pay. After all they had two kids in college and at least another getting ready to start and two others getting close. Bob had a big family.

The hand is gingerly and, probably, reluctantly taken; but, neither did Kaylee want to fall on her butt. Bob is given a smile once she gets to the bottom. “Thanks,” she offers softly. He doesn’t say anything, just gives a clipped nod to her, and turns to offer a hand to the next person that needs it.

Mike takes point, keeping watch while the rest of the group clambers down the rubble. What was once apparently a three-car mash-up sits directly in front of a small alley, and he doesn't like it. So he checks it out quietly.

From the top of the mound of debris, Elisabeth scans with not just her eyes but her ability. There are people. They're within her range, but … they're apparently not interested in trouble from the well-armed expedition because they're keeping a distance. Or perhaps they don't even know we're here. As she moves to come down the pile, accepting Bob's hand on the slick spot, she slants a look back over her shoulder. "There are more people out here than I think anyone realizes," she says quietly.

Richard frowns down at the slope for a moment before starting to pick his way down it, taking a hand if offered before he’s down at the base— turning, he watches as the Spot™ happily trots down, slipping now and then but the internal gyros keeping it on its feet and straight.

“Huh,” he muses, “Doing better in this terrain than I thought…”

Turning back, he tips his head in a nod to Liz, “Last time we came through I saw some of the encampments from a bit away. Some of them have reasons to hide. Others are still scared. Some are just stubborn. All of ‘em are dangerous, potentially.”

Past the ruins of city hall, the old stone structure of the US Treasury building looks to have been gutted by fire, the external shell intact but windows blackened. It fares better than the FBI building just past it, which is little more than a rubble-filled crater. The debris from which is spread across the street, heaps of broken concrete, upended vehicles, all concealed by thick patches of vegetation and juvenile forests. The scenery is much the same, following Broadway in the shadow of demolished high rises and skyscrapers.

But the Raytech team isn't alone out here. Evidence of occupation is everywhere, from the glow of distant fires through blown out windows to the tracks of feral dog packs trod in the mud. After five blocks they hit the intersection of Broadway and Canal Street, where cars are stalled in an eternal gridlock. Most of these ones are empty, decayed things. Two tanks, each demolished by past explosions, sit desolate in the middle of the intersection.

These used to be her stomping grounds… City Hall, the FBI building. But it's no longer familiar territory. So much damage, so many lost. Walking through this zone is a nightmare… and in some ways, one she's already lived. It's really not unlike the Wasteland at all. Elisabeth murmurs to her companions, "Reading the numbers on paper doesn't even begin to cover the scope." The subtle hum is a little deeper now, felt a little in the bones despite still being subaudible. She doesn't like this, it makes her uneasy as hell and she keeps expecting to see drones coming at them though nothing she hears sounds of machinery.

Mike keeps his weapon on ready with its nose pointed down, a former soldier who's clearly been in combat zones. "Christ," he murmurs. "I keep thinking we've hit the worst of it, and then it gets worse." He's not from New York, and this is the first time he's seen what became of the rest of the city. Dark eyes study the two tanks and he observes, "You know shit went seriously pear-shaped if they abandoned the tanks."

The tattered remains of government buildings have little effect on Delilah's features; or maybe, she's just now paving over it with something stronger. She swallows hard and sets her shoulders as Mike expresses his own disbelief. Liz mentions numbers, and it's just static in her eardrums.

"Trust me, this is just one level of Hell." Until she says this, she hasn't had much of an edge, just nerves. It bubbles forth in a thin line now, a slow build of mental barrier. Concentrate.

“The red-head is right,” Bob says not far from his much younger counterpart. Sorry Delilah, Bob forgot your name, ‘I had to come here many times, when that one,” he jerks his head towards Kaylee’s direction, “Was out here looking for her friends, who were lost.” In time doesn’t get said, cause they didn’t tell him that… in fact, the last time out he had stayed behind cause his youngest daughter had a game. “It has always bothered me that the government only put up a fucking wall instead of giving each a proper rest. Their souls will not rest until they can be laid to rest properly.”

Kaylee for her part is quiet, concentrating on the world around them, listening for a stray mind to wander into her mental field.

After Canal street it's Howard and Grand, and these intersections are likewise congested with traffic trying to flee the city as the war took a sudden northerly turn. Just past grand street there's the remnants of a chinook helicopter on its side, windows blown out and rotors torn off, smashed atop a row of rusted cars.

“I came back to the city once during the war,” Richard says suddenly as they walk around, his gaze sliding over the husk of a helicopter and head shaking as he continues past the rusted remnants of cars deadlocked in traffic for years, “It was stupid, but I had a promise to fulfill.”

He glances back over his shoulder, chuckling, “Tamara and I had to save the trees that we used to keep up on the library roof. You remember those? The little saplings?”

Elisabeth glances over and then blinks, the smile small. "Wow.. I remember them. Where'd you put them?" She looks over the mess and then shakes her head. "I never got back to the library to retrieve the passports and coordinates to Jaiden's place in Australia that I left for you… when I was planning to run." She'd hit a seriously low point before the plan to hit the Institute finalized, during the months he was 'missing' in time.

“Wait… what?” Kaylee takes a couple of quickened steps to catch up with Liz and Richard. Yeah, she heard you up there. “You didn’t tell me about that,” she says blandly, staring at her brother from across Elisabeth. “Was that before Joseph and I got there with the kids? ‘Cause I sure as hell would remember something like that.”

Kaylee wouldn’t have let him go alone for one. Infant or no.

“Yeah, after you went to Canada but before you came down… the fighting had died down a little in the city,” Richard admits, head tilting back to look at the buildings, “More things were still… standing, there were even people still living here.”

He shakes his head, shifting the pack on his back as he walks, “We ran this daring rescue around patrols and shit— “ A chuckle, “It was totally crazy of us, but Tamara knew the turns we needed to take. We escaped on a boat. I planted them on Jared’s property.”

It makes Elisabeth's smile just a hair wider. That the trees were safe at her father's. She doesn't say much about the rescue itself — we all do crazy shit sometimes. Just because it gives us a little hope.

Past Grand, Broome Street comes into view. There's few cars here, just one overturned semi truck devoid of any contents. The back door of its trailer is open, crawling ivy hanging from the yawning aluminum maw.

For all that the Exclusion Zone is horror, it is also desolation. Those brief glimpses of desperate habitation by residents either too stubborn or too criminal to inhabit the Safe Zone are fleeting, and then they're gone. Birds are the only constant, fluttering from rooftop to rooftop, nesting in the demolished frames of windows and the crumbling eaves of sagging high-rises.

The heels of Kaylee’s booted feet thump softly against the metal of a burnt up and rusted car she is currently sitting on while they take a brief break to rest their feet. Her attention is turned upward at the husks of buildings, trying to remember what they once looked like before it all went to shit. The crunch of boots pulls her attention, even though the hum of the mind tells her who it is, before she looks.

“Drink,” Bob gruffly orders her, holding a bottle out to her, one in his own hand. Once the telepath takes the bottle, he moves to hop up there with her. “If my wife knew where I was…” He shakes his head.

Kaylee glances at Bob with amusement, “She worries and keeping secrets is… it’s never a good thing.” Bob rolls his eyes and gives her a matter of fact look. “Yeah, I know… I’m not one to give relationship advice.” The smile fades at little and she turns her attention upward again; of course, making sure to work on that bottle of water.

“But, you are right. She worries and when she worries she gets loud,” Bob points out rather proudly. “When she worries, her voice rises to levels that even would put Ms. Harrison, over there, to shame. So I tell her nothing to keep the peace and spare the neighbors.”

The comment gets a laugh out of the telepath, something that seems very out of place in the desolation.

The further north they go on Broadway the worse things get, structurally. The streets may have collapsed down to the subway stations there, but it's impossible to tell because the chasms are filled in with the broken remnants of buildings. Entire city blocks are laid flat here, with just jagged pieces of rebar and steel I-beams to mark where foundations once stood. A sense of dread builds as they cross two more blocks, finding the shredded fuselage of a passenger airliner in twelve sections wedged between demolished buildings. Sun-bleached remains of blue seats litter the rubble-filled streets. Fragments of plastic and metal jut up from the underbrush, sometimes it's hard to tell what is concrete and what is weathered bone.

Picking across the midtown wilderness with the team, Delilah does her damndest not to lag behind. At this point she has fallen largely silent, save for the occasional mutter when helped or offering to help the others make the trek. Those usually spark-filled doe eyes are darkened, glazed over with the protective layer of disconnect that Elisabeth will absolutely recognize. It remains as they travel, unerring.

The farther they go, the more carefully Liz watches Delilah. It's hard on everyone, but Delilah's had a long time of not being in this game. She keeps pace with the other woman when she lags behind. No one gets left alone.

Noticing the disconnect, Kaylee drops back on Delilah's other side and looks at Liz. She walks there for a moment, before she speaks up, her tone light, “Hey Dee. Carl’s been telling me about Walter at school. I think the kid looks up to your son.” It’s idle chat, but with hope it serves as a distraction. Focusing on something good. “Then again, he is the oldest of the Ferry’s kids.” At least the ones born in this timeline.

There is a bit of a chuckle as she looks at the redhead. “I still remember when I found out you were pregnant with him.” She scratches her jaw, looking embarrassed at the memory. “I think I blurted it out to the room. I felt like shit for… like forever.”

Wherever Delilah was, it wasn't here. She blinks upwards when she hears Kaylee's voice from beside her, looking a touch embarrassed. It will pass.

"Yeah?" The news from Carl via his mother gets a softer smile than usual, but there is certainly a flicker back into her face. "Damn, he is. Sometimes I forget." Dee runs a hand through her hair, looking perplexed in passing. "You know, so many of them… you know." She opens her hands out. So many out there, she means. It is Kaylee's next reminder of something from the past which causes a rupturing cackle that is way too loud and once it comes out, the redhead is covering her mouth, waiting for the echo to pass. That was …a dog? Bird? Dogbird? Not at all a laugh.

"I mean, I didn't find out until a nurse told me. And that was- - weeks and weeks. I felt fine the whole time, and I thought I was so hungry because I was getting better from being sick…" To her credit, Delilah scoots closer to Kaylee, hushed this time.

Yet further north the city rapidly deteriorates around the intruders into the Exclusion Zone. Storefronts blackened by fire, upturned vehicles, burned police cars and toppled ambulances all line the street. There are no bones like there were on the bridge, but the signs of violence from the riots are punctuated by the presence of more sandbag barricades, razorwire wrapped around small growths of stick-thin trees shooting up from the split concrete, and the demolished frame of a crashed police helicopter sticking out of a third story window.

The four-lane road of Houston Street is a graveyard, however. Gridlocked vehicles are frozen in time, windows blown out of each and every vehicle, many of which have vegetation growing from inside of them, spindly branches and young leaves. The wind howls between the gutted buildings, demolished from explosions and a battle between the unthinkable forces that twice leveled Manhattan. Another military checkpoint ahead has a large, bullet-riddled steel sign displaying the seal of the Department of Evolved Affairs, below which a placard reads HAVE YOUR DOCUMENTATION READY.

A skull here, missing most of its top, stares up at the group from a small patch of wild raspberries. Birds scatter from the grille of a truck with no tires. Broadway starts to curve here, moving to the west steadily, crossing streets where more demolished vehicles lay in ruin. The sun tracks a course overhead, shadows shorten and the bright sky is dappled with a few thick, fluffy clouds. In the thirty some odd minutes they’re walking, the sky gradually darkens as a thin cloud cover blocks out the sun and a drizzling rain starts to fall.

Knees pop as Kaylee crouches down near the skull, hands are protected by gloves from sharp thorns as she extracts it from it’s resting place. There is a gentleness that Kaylee brushes dirt from the skull. “I used to just…” one hand comes off the skull to wave her hand, “trick my way through these points.” Fingers gingerly touch along the ragged edges of wound. “So many were not so lucky.” She cradles the skull in her hands holding it up where she can look at it in the hollow eye sockets.

The guilt of her part in the war… or lack thereof… it haunted her here. Kaylee also knows this skull could of been her.

Even as she ponders this, Bob suddenly snatches the skull from her hands and nudges her aside with a light kick of his leg. He crouches and reverently replace the skull in the impression if was pulled from, “Leave the dead to their rest.” Once it has been returned, he stands snagging her arm to get her to her feet again. “It is disrespectful to mess with them.”

The desolation is getting to Elisabeth in all of this. The resemblance to the Wasteland is getting worse and worse. She can't help but wonder how anyone survived this. Did anyone? Swallowing hard, she takes a moment to look up at the helicopter. Just a moment to remember them, along with all the others dead in this gridlocked mess.

"Don't." Mike's the new guy, but this isn't his first battle zone. When Elisabeth glances toward him questioningly, he shakes his head at her. "It'll eat you up. And you weren't here. And even if you were, you couldn't have done shit," he tells her baldly. "One more person wouldn't have made the difference." He gestures with one hand, the other still holding his rifle slung low, urging her forward to keep moving with the rest of the group. For all his stern words, there is a wealth of grief and horror in the dark eyes that scan over the small expedition. Like he's doing a head count to be sure he's got all his ducklings.

By the time the group has reached Madison Square Park, they are approaching the worst-damaged areas of the city. Entire skyscrapers slouch against one another. The park has overgrown the street here, vegetation rambling out into the road in the form of verdant shrubs and brambles, tangling into cars and spread across the asphalt. The park looks like a forest now, with tall stands of wild grass where manicured lawns once grew.

5th Avenue leads up toward Midtown, revealing all-too familiar reminders of a life gone by. Up ahead there are twenty foot tall concrete barricades stacked side by side, the kind typically used by the Army Corps of Engineers to create temporary perimeters around base camps in urban war zones. Here, they were used to partition off the functioning parts of New York City from the Ruins of Midtown.

It's here that Liz pauses for a long moment to look up what was once familiar territory. "My mother used to walk part of the way to work from here," she says quietly. "There used to be… an old-fashioned drug store with a soda counter … somewhere around just south of here." Strange, the memories that pop up after so long.

“Granny used to talk about places like that,” Kaylee admits with a chuckle. “Swore she couldn’t stand the stuff we drink now. Said there was nothin’ like the fountain soda’s she’d get and malts.” By the way Kaylee wrinkles her nose, the telepath probably doesn’t share the same feelings about malts.

Kaylee’s eyes drift in the direction of Midtown, but she doesn’t say anything about it, just turns thoughtful.. Losing herself in old memories.

5th Ave follows the perimeter of the ruins, following the barricade walls and its checkpoints like a vision of the Exclusion Zone in miniature. Tall and colorful graffiti covers the wall, paintings going back as far as the 2008 election, with faded and cartoonish depictions of Petrelli, Rickham, and Mitchell. Never is the road here bare, there are cars as far as the eye can see, many of which with rooftops still packed with weathered old luggage and personal effects from people trying to evacuate during the war. Nearly all of the vehicles are, mercifully, free of human remains. Only nearly, though.

It’s here the group finds the East Midtown Checkpoint, an open gate off of 5th Ave. Burned out husks of Humvees are parked in front of the entryway, overgrown with vibrant green foliage and purple flowers. There’s a sense of calm serenity here, where once there was just military presence, even before the war. The checkpoint is nothing now, just a broken gate arm on the asphalt and a discarded riot gear helmet. Sandbags on the other side tell a story about trying to reinforce this checkpoint, but against what and when is a story too old to tell in detail.

Vertigo-inducing views aside, there is not much Delilah cranes her head to look at now; which is why, when she hesitates at the corner of a jagged brick building, it sticks out.

A few paces down what was once a cozy alleyway is more graffiti, miraculously only missing the top edge.

A bird.

A firebird.

Her breath catches, fleeting, before she starts walking again, pace more clipped.

The conversation Kaylee has been having quietly with Bob is interrupted by Dee’s sudden stop. Her head tilts a bit watching the other woman and how she hurries off again. As the pair pass the alleyway, they both look down it. Bob looks confused, but Kaylee understands. It was a symbol she recognizes, even if she wasn’t a part of it.

In fact, for a time, Kaylee was on the other side of the line. Seeing Bob staring at her, he gets a weak smile and a soft, “It’s a long story.”

For a moment Bob looks like he might protest that answer, but then shrugs. Whatever.

The other side of the Midtown barricade is like going deeper into a Russian nesting doll. The destruction here is absolute, buildings lay flat like trees blown over by a hurricane. Tall struts of iron and crumbling stone are arranged in heaps like ocean waves. The Raytech team is forced to climb them like shifting hills. Sometimes there will be the fire-gutted shell of a building that’s still standing, but what little had remained here after the first bomb didn’t survive the second. It’s such an abstract amount of destruction that it’s almost hard to even recognize what it once was. It’s hard to put a finger on where any one building might have been, or even what city this was.

By the time they reach what was once Time's Square, there’s just looming gray and black skeletons of skyscrapers. Paper debris blows across what little remains of the street, where cars were tossed like toys, embedded into the ground from nuclear fire. There’s a soft tick coming from Richard’s geiger counter, but the sieverts thrown off by this site aren’t in hazardous levels, provided they don’t stay for too long.

But at the end of the road, there’s no one here. Just a ruin.

If it's a trap, this is where they'll be most exposed. And throughout the hike and scramble through the ruins, Elisabeth keeps seeking the sounds that might warn them. This area brings back memories… of the news that her mother was missing in the rubble of Midtown, of searching desperately for survivors, of days and even weeks of no sleep before the first responders on the site of the blast had to finally admit defeat — there would be no more survivors. There were no more buried people who could be rescued. It was simply a body recovery at that point. And one that was not going to be complete by any measure.

Midtown holds bad memories for anyone who lived in New York back then. This … in some ways is almost better. Leveled, there is at least some illusion that someday it might just be cleaned up and rebuilt.

"Why the fuck your grandfather brought us into Times Square, I just flat do not get," Elisabeth breathes out to Delilah. Because trekking through all this? It sucks. He better have a good reason.

Times Square is barely a shell now. That they are actually here keeps Dee quiet until prompted by Elisabeth's words. She fixes the older woman with a look of mixed emotion, yet somehow still manages to spare an earnest, tiny smile for her.

"No bloody idea. I never wanted to see this place ever again, and yet, here we are!" Her arms lift as she answers, slapping back down in a pointed shrug. Don't expect her to make much sense of it either. "A flair for the dramatic isn't out of character, but I dunno if that was on purpose or not. Probably… not." Delilah finishes with a mumble.

Kaylee’s boots crunch as she turns in a slow circle taking in what was left of Time Square and it was depressing. “God. I remember standing right…” she looks down and points to a point to the side, now buried in concrete and rebar. “Right there when I first came to New York for college. Granny always told me that when I finally get there I should go see a show and take lots of pictures of Broadway to send her. She said it was her favorite spot when she was younger.”

When the telepath’s anxiety was up, she tended to talk, so it’s no surprise when Bob’s gloved hand drops on her shoulder in reassurance, a brief contact before he goes back to watching the area with weapon ready. It was enough, to calm her nerves a little. “Maybe he wanted you to actually see in person some of the worst reminders of what this country went through?” Kaylee finally offers. “I mean…” she motions to the destruction around them, “you gotta admit, this place makes a hell of a statement.”

That soft tick of sound keeps going on past the sound of Richard’s boot-steps as he steps slowly into the ruin, crouching down slightly on one knee and reaching down to run his fingers through the gravel and dirt. “This is where the idea came from originally,” he says, head turning slightly in Kyle’s direction, “The Garden of Eden project. I wanted to… heal the damage from the bomb. The precognitives saw some possibilities, but…” He lets the gravel spill free, shaking his head as he rises slowly to his full height, “It wasn’t meant to be. I guess in the Wasteland it turned into a bigger idea, and he carried that forward when he came here.”

He glances back to the others, then, noting, “It didn’t sound like he wanted to meet her here, from what Liz told me, but that she met him here. So he’s probably not going to be expecting us. Nonlinear interpersonal relationships get weird sometimes.”

He knows better than most.

Kyle’s been silent the whole trip, just shy of the mechanical strides of the Spot™. He stands some fifteen feet from the group as they look around the ruins of Times’ Square, running a hand through his hair. Kyle’s distant eyes are focused across the field of rubble, partly buried cars,bristling spines of rebar and iron beams, toward the north where the dark silhouettes of buildings still stand.

Shadows are getting long now, cast across the uneven ground. The sky is dark, save for an orange glow in the west where the cloud cover has broken up and the setting sun is partly visible. What’s most unsettling is how quiet it is here in Times Square, how the whistle of the wind through the ruins and the occasional cry of birds has replaced the cacophonous noise of New York City.

Until suddenly.

“Does anyone hear— ”

It hasn’t.

Day turns to night in the blink of an eye. Spring turns to winter. Death turns to…

Times Square


11:58 pm


Screaming fills the air, what was once an empty space is now the heart of a vibrant metropolis. Brilliant lights fill the sky, towering buildings loom overhead as flurries of snow drift down from the sky above. The air is bitterly cold, everyone in the throngs of thousands are bundled up against the winter weather, wearing glittering glasses with enormous numbers across them: 1999. Some people pop noise makers, others are drinking in the streets, and the crowds are shoulder to shoulder. Everyone has lost sight of one another in the transition.

1999 is a year that is gone from her memories, the part of her brain that housed any memories of almost that whole decade splattered on a warehouse wall somewhere. It doesn't matter anyway, at this moment. She can't make sense of anything. With her ability expanded to capture the sounds of potential approach from all angles and distances, the abrupt shift into chaos is nearly unbearable for the audiokinetic. Elisabeth's hands shoot to her head, to cover her ears and try to drown the sound that literally blasts through her brain — and her eardrums. Instead there is blinding pain and then complete confusion.

In the middle of straightening up and turning towards Kyle to see what he’s heard, Richard’s suddenly… twenty years in the past? The sudden assault on his senses staggers him, the sudden brightness like knives hurled at eyes unprepared for this much light.

“Fuck,” he swears, whirling and squinting through his shades to try and make something out in the chaos, “Liz? Dee? Kyle? Where— “ His voice drowned out by the noise all around them. Reaching to push someone out of the way, he stumbles as his hand goes right through the figure.

Delilah is scouring the street with her eyes when everything shifts and flips. Her breath leaves her instead of coming out in a yell, the abrupt presence of a thousand faces and voices sending her stumbling back onto what was a curb, landing on the ground and face tilting up into the tunnel of buildings, light, snowflakes- -

"What…" A frame enters her vision, she tries to move aside, only for it to move through and send a chill down her spine.

One minute they are surrounded by ruins and the next, she’s in the press of people. Kaylee feels panic set in as the sounds hits her. Turning, she almost collides with Bob. He knows. Hands grip her shoulders in worry. So many people sardined into such a small area was a very bad thing for someone like her. Her hands fly to her ears against the sound, while the telepath braces for the mental impact.


The roar of the crowd is deafening. Their eyes are all focused upwards, toward the jumbotron overlooking Times Square, flashing images of fireworks and live broadcasts from around the world. A flashing globe of lights is slowly descending above the jumbotron. The number 1999 flashes in bright neon lettering on the displays of nearly every storefront.

Turning in a stumbling circle, her blue eyes blinded by tears of agony from the roll of sound that she's muted around herself if only to protect her ears from further assault, Elisabeth stumbles through someone standing next to her without realizing it until the last moment. And then she trips over her own feet, trying to figure out her balance, which is shot. Ultimately, she simply crumples to her knees in the crowd, hunched over and holding her head.

Mike Gordon, having never seen something like this in all his life, is stunned to immobility when the crowd and the sound suddenly appear and it's nighttime. He wonders blankly if he's had an aneurysm or something. He's more stunned yet when someone walks through him instead of into him when he fails to get out of their way. He winds up standing stock still like a statue and just… Not. Moving. The lizard hindbrain has decided that if you don't move, whatever's coming at you CAN'T SEE YOU.

Okay, Richard, get a grip. As his hand passes through the man, he stares for a moment, then turns and waves his hand towards another person, passing through their shoulder and back again. “What the… is this a vision…?” His brow furrowing, memories of Cassandra’s ability coming to him as he looks around. It works like this. But they didn’t bring Cassandra with them today.

The mental impact to Kaylee never comes.

While everyone else is panicking, the telepath looks up at her bodyguard with a confused look and gives a small shake of her head. Bob returns that with his own confused furrow of dark brows. Kaylee shrugs off the grip on her shoulder and swings an arm at the crowd around them. Bob lunges to try and stop her, but freezes when her arms pass through the bodies.

What the fuc’ing hell is going on?!?” Bob shouts over the crowds screaming.


Kyle appears pressed between the crowd, sucking in lungfuls of freezing cold air, looking around in wide-eyed bewilderment. He pushes two people away, shoulders them apart, grabs and pulls himself through the screaming masses. His hands are shaking, vision blurry at the edges, breath hitching in the back of his throat. He falls forward, too much momentum, too much confusion.

A voice or two are listing at the edges of her hearing, muffled by racket. One thing does occur to her when she comes around to realizing that this is some sort of illusion- - a convincing one. She feels the cold and the noise and the vibration of sound in the concrete- - yet something in her knows not to panic, memories lighting up and reminding her of other, worse places and times. Though she also realizes that not everyone knows how to not panic.

"Kyle…" Delilah blanches, "Kyle?!" She may feel… a little responsible for him. This isn't what his life was, even if it was everyone else's.

Kaylee grabs on his plated shoulder and leans in to yell over the crowd to Bob. “Illusion… or… postcognitive illusion maybe?” She taps the side of her head and shakes it. “Nothing there. It’s a memory… or something like that.” The telepath wasn’t an expert after all.

However, it’s good enough for Bob. Far more composed he looks around. “Let’s find the others!” he shouts back at her, to which Kaylee gives a firm nod and allows herself to be led forward.


Landing on the ground, Kyle exhales a shuddering breath and looks around on his back. He screams, loudly, but no one hears or notices him. There’s panic in his expression, forcing himself up onto one elbow, trying to get up. He reaches up to pull himself up by the pant leg of someone standing over him and his hand reaches through them as if they weren’t even there.

Are they here to witness something? Richard’s mind whirls but he can’t remember if anything of note happened on New Year’s 1999, not that it’s helped by the rioting chaos of the square all around him. He looks up, taking a step before bumping into the Spot™ next to him, glancing back down to it. “So you came with me,” he mutters, “Then where’s— “

He cranes his neck, trying to look through the crowd in sudden worry. Where’s everyone else?

Wait, what was she doing? Kaylee grabs Bob’s arm and stops him only a few steps into their journey. He watches the telepath tilt her head a little. Realizing what she is doing, he turns to face her full and waits patiently waiting for her to guide him this time.

Kaylee closes her eyes to concentrate. Not on the blaring noise, but for a specific sound that comes from the constant flow of mental commentary that everyone has. Unfortunately, it takes time to look through all the screaming celebration around them.


The screams grow louder, Kyle tries to be heard, but he can’t. Scrambling to his feet he walks through the ghosts of these people, arms windmilling around and chest rising and falling in rapid breaths.

Bob fidgets as he watches her, fingers drum impatiently on the stock of the gun. He’s about ready to give her a shake, but as he reaches for here, blue eyes snap open. Turning back from the way they came, Kaylee grabs Bob’s wrist and drags him after her.

It had been a flicker, but Kaylee was pretty sure she heard Richard’s mind. Like a bloodhound on the scent, she simply walks through the crowd. A woman on a mission.

Everyone was just far enough apart that to Mike they are lost in the shifting crowd of… ghosts? What even the fuck? He is disoriented enough that it takes him these precious few moments to parse what's around him and he tries to orient himself to where he last saw each of the group. He starts walking, slowly but with purpose, straight through the 'people' around him in the direction he thinks he last saw his primary protectee. And his instincts are good… he just wasn't looking down, which means he trips on Elisabeth and does a ridiculous dance-step around her kneeling form to avoid stepping on her or hitting her in the head with his weapon muzzle, ultimately landing in a somewhat ungainly stance to one side of her.

There is much mental cursing as he crouches down to both protect her better and to see if she's okay. "Ms. Harrison! We gotta move, ma'am!" Off to the side or something seems a good plan to him. Next to a wall? Are they even real? But Elisabeth either can't hear him or can't comprehend — perhaps both.


Until Kyle collides head-on into Richard.

The Present

In an instant, the cold dissipates. The city dissipates. All that is left is ruin, and the people who had come there to meet a dead man.

What the fuck!?” Kyle screams, falling backwards onto his ass amid the rubble, staring up wide-eyed at Richard.

The impact has Richard staggering back a bit, barely catching himself before falling down - the quadrupedal robot by his side rocking back on its legs as if moving to avoid an anticipated body toppling. He grimaces, head shaking as he tries to clear it in the sudden shocking silence before stepping forward to offer a hand up to Kyle.

“Did— did you all see that,” he asks uncertainly, “The square? The crowd? It was the turn of the century…”

About the time that Kaylee, with Bob in tow, breaks through the crowd near Richard the vision and sound is gone. The suddenness of it is just as jarring as the vision itself. Bob does not like this. “I vote we leave this cursed place.”

“Bob…” Kaylee starts, but the guard holds up a hand to stop her.

“No, this was a bad idea from the start,” he grouses, very uncomfortable with what happened. Unlike Luther, Bob and Lou had been spared these kind of things. This was Bob’s first real trip down the rabbit hole. “This is as bad as that time you went to Staten and we got attacked by all those fucking birds.”

Kaylee gives her guard an understanding look. “It’s going to be okay.” Bob only grunts and storms away, needing a moment to compose himself. Rather then follow she turns to Richard and Kyle, finally. “I saw it,” she offers even if the question wasn’t for her. “I was like… Twelve around that time? Watched this on the TV with my Granny. Mom was out at a party, I think.” She shakes her head. “Maybe this was just something to get our attention?”

When the illusion — or whatever the hell it is — disappears and the sound waves stop battering at the field that she pulled around herself, Elisabeth blinks upward somewhat dazedly to the man grabbing her shoulders and urging her to her feet. Shakily gaining them, she stands with Mike and looks around, relief clear in her expression as she lowers her hands and, finally, the silence field. "Mother fucker," she breathes out into the suddenly quiet surroundings.

"Ma'am, your hand…" Glancing down at the words, Elisabeth grimaces and then reaches for the strap on her pack to bring it off her shoulders and rummage for something to clean her hands before anyone else notices. "It's fine…" Then her voice rises to call over toward the others, "Everybody okay?"

If he were inclined to argue, Mike doesn't know her well enough yet, so he bites back whatever he might want to say — he and Bob seem in the same boat here: clueless. "What the fuck just happened?" This was not in his job description.

For her better judgment, Delilah stays seated on the 'curb' where she is, watching as people pass through pieces of her and one another, a haze of bodies that aren't there.

When it finally vanishes, she lets out a big breath she hadn't known she was holding; the redhead is on her feet in a second, Bob's voice sticking out by virtue of depth. Richard's after that, though there is a ringing she isn't sure on the origin of. Delilah makes her way over, then, crouching down beside Kyle even as Richard offers his hand out.

"Hey, hey…" The touch to Kyle's shoulder is a soothing one, voice to match. "You're alright, we're alright… take some deep breaths, slow, okay?" Cousin or not, Delilah looks out for people.

Sucking in exasperated breaths, Kyle hunches forward and rests his hands on his knees, trying to recollect himself. “Yeah,” he says with a flutter of breath, “yeah, I— I'll be— ”

Times Square



October 1st


“— fine?

Noise, again, replaces the tomb-like silence of the Exclusion Zone. But this isn't the riotous shouting of New Year’s Eve, but rather the sounds of a city, of an ordinary moment on an otherwise unremarkable day. The city is dark today, and while the sky is bright and blue there's a pall of darkness over the island of Manhattan. Towering skyscrapers rise up toward the source of this darkness, people on the street glance upward, many holding pieces of paper with holes punched in it look down at the sidewalks to the light shone through the holes.

They can't look at the source of the darkness.

Because it's an eclipse.

Oh my god,” Kyle exhales the words, squinting at the sky and shielding his eyes from the view of the eclipse’s totality. It evokes in everyone gathered, save for Bob and Michael, a primal sense of dread and anxiety, an inexplicable feeling of awe and separation from body and mind. Staring up into the general direction of that eclipse is like looking into a yawning abyss.

But one man among the entire crowd of pedestrians is doing just that. A white-haired man dressed in black, his back aligned to Richard and his team, shadowing his eyes with one hand and head tipped back. He lowers that hand, turns so he is visible in profile — a weathered old man of many deep wrinkles and snow white hair. He looks tired, but at the same time, there is an unsettling light of ingenuity in his eyes.

“It appears I am not alone any longer,” he says in a perfectly austere British accent, one fair brow raised. He is both surprised and confused. It's only then that Richard and the others notice that time has frozen into a single moment. No noise of the city, no pedestrians, no traffic. An eternal eclipse, and one man standing in its shadow.

“Hello, Delilah.”


The world shifts again, and Delilah reflexively grips onto Kyle's arm as if she might be able to shield him - - from what? She blinks her eyes wider, skimming the sight of people around them. They have that one thing in common, and though she'll have realized what it is in a moment, her kneejerk reaction is to glance at the sky, though not at its star.

She remembers this. She was at school. They went on the roof with boxes and glasses…

This time, there is something else. She feels her stomach flipping under the weight of the eclipse, tumbling in over itself in a frenzy of disconnect. An out of body feeling, or like seeing yourself from above a bed. She wants to look again, but Delilah cannot seem to do it; the young woman shies away as if under a watchful judge, lean hands trembling away from Kyle's arm. The AEGIS armor feels like plate mail on her chest- -

All until she hears his voice and the halt of Everything.

Even an eclipse of this magnitude can't keep her eyes down forever. It can try. More than one thing has, and failed. Some of Dee's red hair clings to her face as she raises her chin, caught earlier by cold and tumble, the wind in the ruins.

Tears burst out from brown eyes, sliding down freckled cheeks and pooling at the corners of trembling lips. Breath stutters, voice strangling into a squeak and sharp intake of air, words failing. Delilah takes two steps forward and stops, hands cupping over nose and mouth, still sobbing, though her reddened eyes are fixed ahead.

She wants to run to him, and that much is clear.

But it's been too long, and she has been tricked too much. Her feet root, frame shaking, voice thick.

"Is it really you?"

This time, as their view of reality shifts, Richard isn’t staggered as much— the lack of blaring noise and lights helps, of course, but he was almost braced for something else to happen. He finds his gaze drawn upwards, stomach turning over in a flip as he stares at the sky through the darkened lenses of his glasses as long as he can.

It isn’t very long before he has to look down, shoulders drawing up in an involuntary shudder. A part of him expected it to move, as he saw once on a video.

“The hell is going on, is someone…” He trails off then as the older man speaks, looking up, sizing the figure up. Recognizing him from his picture.

“Walter Renautus,” he offers over, although Dee’s reaction provides all the confirmation he needs, “I presume.”

Elisabeth uses a wet wipe from inside her pack to wipe the blood traces from her hands and is lifting it to also wipe the sides of her face near her ears when the scene shifts again. Though she has a pounding headache now, her balance shaky and her hearing for just this moment shot, she is also instantly alert for trouble. She learned the hard way she doesn't actually need to hear the normal way, much as Conrad didn't. So it's not really slowing her down. The dread that hits sends that subtle hum that's been happening around her tipping finally just barely into the audible registers.

She leaves her pack on the ground and walks slowly toward the white-haired man, her expression wary. Much to her bodyguard's dismay. Walter Renautas doesn't look any different than he did in her mind, but if his power is also time-related, he could have made all of these impressions or whatever they are around the same time despite the years in between on the watchers' side. She does wait until his gaze turns toward her before speaking, with just one question at first.


As the scene changes again, Kaylee freezes, but there isn’t the same surprise that goes with the illusion. Yet like everyone, the telepath’s attention is drawn upward as if she can’t help herself. Breath catches in her throat, but even before she can fully lay her eyes on the eclipse, sensitive blue eyes squint against the light. Quickly, she turns away and lets go of the breath she was holding, her heart beating hard with the invoked emotions.

Bob glances at Mike a brows arched and gives a shrug. He doesn’t see the big deal.

Scrubbing at eyes watery from the strain, Kaylee almost misses it. One more mind, unfamiliar and just outside of the group. Her head snaps up and she turns to look at the man, with a look of surprise. “He’s real,” Kaylee speaks up, informing everyone that this one didn’t appear to be an illusion.

That sudden move from Kaylee and the doubt from Delilah, has Bob reacting on instinct, his rifle coming up to train on the figure. Not to shoot, but a precaution. However, it is only for a moment, the telepath lunges to snag the barrel and jerks it down. “What the f—” he starts to snap at her, but a warning look from the woman has him backing down, unhappily. He pulls her grip from the rifle and quietly growls out a “Fine.” Satisfied, Kaylee turns her attention to Walter.

For all the majesty of the situation, Walter Renautas seems equally as surprised as those gathered here to meet him. Kyle comes up to stand beside Delilah, resting a hand on her shoulder in mirror of the same reassurance she’d given him but moments ago.Walter’s expression is subtly changed when he sees Kyle, eyes narrowing slightly in scrutiny, before he gives the whole group a broader look.

“I suppose I am,” is Walter’s answer to every question angled at him at once. He touches his chest, feeling the pocket of his suit jacket, withdrawing a carnation red handkerchief from it as he approaches Kyle and Delilah. This close, she can smell his cologne, and it brings back a sensory memory far more intense than even just seeing him. He looks much as he did the last time she saw him, not long before he passed away.

Walter offers the handkerchief out to Delilah, sympathy cutting through the confusion in his expression. But he doesn’t recognize the others, and it has clearly put him on an uneven footing. “You’ll all have to forgive me, I am… a bit uncertain of myself at the moment. Where, when, and why aren’t often this disassociated from one another…” As though no time had passed at all, he lays a heavy hand down on Delilah’s shoulder…

…and it breaks apart like a projection on smoke.

The reaction has Walter pausing, looking down at the proffered handkerchief, which he apologetically tucks back into his weathered hand. “Actually, it appears I have some context, after all.” His tired eyes lift to look at the others.

“I believe I may have died.”

Pulling in a low breath, Elisabeth finishes wiping the side of her face and crumples the wipe in her fist for now. A glance at Delilah holds sympathy for the other woman's emotions — she felt the same when she saw her mother in the flooded world. Overwhelmed was the simplest word for all the feelings. Her blue eyes shift back to the old man, and she doesn't pull punches with him — she has zero idea how long this might last. Look what happened with Joy in Devon's head.

"Sometime 5 to 10 years before the date we're apparently standing in now," she agrees. "The eclipse was in 2006." She remembers that only because the Bomb came very shortly thereafter. "What year do you think it is? And if you think you can manage even a conjectured answer on the matter… why would you want to meet here and now some 20 years after you died?"

Delilah hears the others, and she knows she does. Still, they are garbled things compared to how she tunes herself only to her grandfather. Kaylee's gets through, only just. A weight on her shoulder brings her back, somewhat; her eyes flick to the side to Kyle, and the hand on her shoulder. She lifts the hand attached without looking again, fingers light against his knuckles.

A step takes her forward to meet Walter partway, only for the mixture of memory and reality clash at speed. Her hand is in a half-lift as he reaches out. A moment after, her heart shrivels up and her chest tightens, eyes stinging anew.

Though Dee knows that she can't touch him, she finishes reaching out to the projection.

"…You did." Fingers list on the edge of brushing through the smoky illusion under Walter's hand, looking real as ever. "I knew it was too much to hope for. That you'd really be here…" Tears trickle and the back of her gloved hand smears them away, Elisabeth's questions speaking over the halt of Dee's words. The right questions that she suddenly can't even form, much less ask quickly. Once Liz poses her questions,

"This is Kyle. He's- He and his sister - my cousins. We think?" Even now she isn't certain, but the pieces fit. Delilah wants time with Walter and they need that same time for answers. She wants it for him, more than those. Sorry, guys. "I don't know if you even knew about them."

"The others," A look behind her, a smile and square of jaw for them that stays even when she looks back to her grandfather's ghost. "These are my friends. You can trust every one of them."

“He’s one of Luca and Elena’s kids,” Richard offers to ease the uncertainty of Delilah’s introduction, one hand coming up to rest on Elisabeth’s shoulder, “Easy, lover. Remember, he hasn’t set this meeting yet.”

He raises his chin in a slight nod over, “Richard Ray. Richard Cardinal, to some. You told Liz to meet you here, at this date… when she was a kid. Make sure to do that later, we don’t want to cause a paradox and split the timestream.”

Nonlinear arrangements are always so complicated.

The look on Walter Renautas’ face is one of an opaque enigma. There is a subtle crinkling of his eyes, a small curve of his lips, and a nearly imperceptible tilt of his head. He looks first at Kyle, assessing the white-haired man with momentary scrutiny, then familiarity. “Ah, there it is…” he says as if finding something, “yes, Luca and Elena… my brother’s children. So you must be…” He smiles, then nods. “I apologize we had to meet for the first time this way. Had I prioritized my life better, I’d have been there when you and your sister were born.” But Kyla isn’t here, and Walter’s brows knit together in momentary uncertainty.

“No,” Kyle says, nearly a whisper, “no, she’s not.”

As he draws in a steady breath, Walter takes a step away from Delilah, but reaches up as if to brush knuckles across her cheek, though the gesture never quite makes it that close. “As for this,” he motions to the others, “you appear to have me at somewhat of a disadvantage, but I appreciate your attempts to maintain the integrity of historical fact, but I assure you it isn’t necessary. We are grains of sand on a beach, there is no sequential order to sand. There is no hourglass.”

Walter looks between Richard and Elisabeth, then over to Kaylee as if sensing something from her. But ultimately he chooses not to remark on it. “As Delilah has eluded to, I have passed on. My choices in life have finally caught up to me, and I have paid the final price for them. But now, it seems, there is something beyond… as I always imagined there was.” Walter folds his hands behind his back, shoulders square and chin up, posture proper.

“You’ve given me a what and a where,” Walter explains, motioning to this place and then giving a general gesture to the others as if to explain why they’re here, “but I am left to wonder why we are having this meeting, if not for… perhaps an opportunity to say goodbye? But that only makes sense for two of you, doesn’t it?”

Elisabeth pulls in a slow breath at the hand on her shoulder, slanting a look at Richard. She nods slightly and goes silent, giving the older man time to talk to his grandchildren. If the shadowmorph is right (and she really hates it when he is), Walter will need context to even conjecture. "The why is because you arranged it. In 1982, there was an 'incident' that left me and my father in the company of Charles Deveaux. I was only… about 8. It was like this. You weren't solid, no one but me could see you. And you told me this time and place for a meeting. You hoped I would remember." She pauses. "But you didn't say anything more." And now, given this…

She has to wonder if this meeting is what set the whole process in motion, because he doesn't seem to have any clue at all what's going on.

The scrutiny from Walter has Kaylee standing a little straighter. There is a thought that flits through her mind, driving Kaylee to move away from Bob to stand near Liz. “Sir, I think I know what might have happened.” A hand motions at Liz. “The incident involved a thing called the Looking Glass. Her, her father, my brother, and countless others crossed from another timeline. It was no small thing.” She glances at Liz before continuing. “The Company decided to redact the incident. Liz and Richard both had blocks that I removed with my ability. One of those blocks involved a conversation between you and Liz.”

Teeth catch her lower lip briefly with uncertainty, but decides to offer the idea that, “You may also have a block or memory could have been carved out by a man named Caspar.” His mind was there, so she should be able to link up, so she also offers, “I can share with you the moment Liz is talking about… if you’d like.”

He can't touch her, but she knows he would if he could. Same, vice-versa. Delilah quietly wipes the last traces of water from her cheeks when he makes some space between them. His words on the grains of time choke a small, sad laugh out of her.

Even just listening to him is a balm; hearing them is also a sting.

Delilah lifts her chin to Liz as the other woman explains some of her context for this meeting. She's the one that had the date. Place. Time. Until Kaylee, she is quiet. Until the telepath herself goes through the entirety of looking glasses and blocks.

"Kaylee…" Brown eyes sharpen some, moving between her and Liz, then her grandfather. Dee's brow furrows next, "You have to see it." She lets out a held breath and adds, "Maybe- - maybe they did something to you too…"

Richard steps over, reaching out to touch Delilah’s shoulder reassuringly. “I don’t think that you’re a ghost, Mister Renautus,” he observes with a slight shake of his head, “Whatever your ability is— well, I’ve known people who have survived the loss of their physical body before. Technopaths, astral projectors, and the like…”

As the blocks are mentioned, he glances over, then back, “I don’t know if you died before the mass redaction that Arthur ordered. It was about a… about Adam. And about a woman with golden eyes.”

Walter’s expression is as placid as a pond on a day with no breeze. He listens, eyes subtly narrowed, head tilted to the side just so at a moment to indicate his interest, but then comes the patient smile of a man who has to explain something that he’s explained to many people before, to a whole new audience. “Does the butterfly remember being the caterpillar?” Walter asks, walking a few paces closer to the group. “I can’t say for certain whether or not my memories have been altered… I remember Adam Monroe, if that is the Adam you’re speaking of. But gold eyes don’t have any significance to me.”

Walter’s brows furrow, thoughtfully, before he looks back up to the others. Specifically, Kaylee. “But I wouldn’t recommend doing what I think you’re suggesting,” comes as a gentle warning. “My memory has gaps in it, something I accepted as a potential consequence of my work with an organization of like-minded individuals many decades hence.” Walter looks at Kaylee, intently. “But they learned long ago, that going inside my mind… did not end well.”

As he says that, Walter looks around the moment in time frozen around them. He looks to the reflections of the eclipse in the glass-walled skyscrapers, then back to the people who have found him adrift here. “You’re wise to note that I have an ability, however.” Walter says to Richard, seemingly unknowing of who he is. “But perhaps my warning should come with an explanation, and perhaps once you understand me, I can better understand you.” He briefly looks to Delilah and Kyle, and regret dawns over him and he is forced to look away.

“When I was a young man of fourteen,” Walter says with a wistful tone, “I went to bed one evening and never woke. My parents were beside themselves, and no amount of urging on their part could rouse me. Doctors came and went, proclaimed that I was catatonic, but could not explain the nature of my illness. I was unaware of what was happening around me… because I was not around myself. I was not ill.” At that revelation, Walter spreads his hands from behind his back. “I was somewhen else.”

“My mind is stretched across history,” Walter says thoughtfully, “but it is not history as you may perceive it. Imagine that every moment in history, every event, every second, was a grain of sand.” Walter pinches his fingers together and closes one eye, as if trying to see a grain of sand between them. “Now, imagine history as a beach, stretching out from one end of the horizon to the next, and each grain of sand on it a moment in time…” Walter smiles, lowering his hand and folding them behind his back again. “Now, imagine they were in no discernable order.”

Walter pauses for but a moment to allow that notion to sink in. “I can thrust my hand into the beach, pull out a handful of grains of sand, but I have no way of knowing where or when they are. What moments I will find. Not without great effort… and without perfect precision.” Raising one brow, Walter looks down to his feet. “I was in a coma for four years, from my parents perspective. But I was adrift in the memories of history for a stretch of time I cannot express in words. When I did finally find myself again, a moment as close to the one I’d left as possible, I awoke a different person. Doctors thought it was brain damage… my family couldn’t possibly understand, and when I tried to explain…” Walter creases his brows and shakes his head. “They neither believed, nor understood.”

Hiding his discomfort at that moment behind a feigned smile, Walter meanders across the asphalt underfoot, pacing back and forth. “It was not until I met a man by the name of Charles Deveaux — a man who would become one of my closest friends — that I truly understood my place in things, and how I was not alone. Charles was like you, I imagine,” he says to Kaylee, “and Charles learned the difficult lesson that my mind was not a place for expeditions. Lest you find yourself lost.”

Coming to the end of his story, Walter takes in a breath and sighs softly. A vestigial gesture, but one that feels right. One that feels real. “I suppose your assertion about my state is correct,” he says to Richard, “and perhaps, in a way, this is death, and I a phantom of history, haunting its memories.” He smiles at his own impromptu poetry. “But I do not know any of you… save for my relatives here. Though I suspect… that is about to change.”

"You're right," Elisabeth says simply in an aside to Richard. "I no longer have a leg to stand on when bitching about following cryptic leads from dead men."

She sighs heavily and then studies the older man. "So… basically, as a result of this meeting, you're going to run around and try to fix some things." Great. Just perfect. I hate fucking time travel. "And we have no idea at all why you'd choose me to talk to." There's a faint grimace. "I'm Elisabeth Harrison. So that you know when …. when you whatever it is you're going to do."

There is no flinching away when Walter looks her way, more curiosity and wonder. Her head tilts a little as she listens to him, eyes unfocused; but not to look. What he describes reminds her of other times in her life. “I am… like him, a telepath.” Her smile is faint, but understanding. “It sounds a little like what I saw in my father's head, it was hard to understand, but he saw all the possibilities. Like a giant spiders web going out in all directions.” Even now, she remembered it so clearly.

“I was also mentally pulled into a place where all time and space touched at once,” Kaylee studies the subconscious of Walter while she talks. “So I get it, but don’t worry, I don’t believe in invading people's minds for the sake of doing it. The warning is appreciated though.”

Taking a page from Elisabeth, Kaylee can’t help but chuckle at herself, “Granny would smack me for being so rude. Though you might not want to look for me,” not that she expects him too, “I’ve been a lot of places throughout history.” she explains. “I am Kaylee Sumter, though the last names Ray and Thatcher apply at different times in my life. It is a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Renautas. You may or may not have known my father, Edward Ray.”

A throat clears behind Kaylee, reminding her of one more party member to introduce. Oops. “Oh and this is Babar Barazani. My bodyguard.” The bodyguard throwing a mock salute in greeting, but nothing more.

“It’s a pleasure to meet you, Ms. Thatcher, Mr. Barazani…” Walter says, but he blinks a look over to Elisabeth and his smile comes back. “Unfortunately,” he says in a gentle tone of voice, “I cannot change anything. I am a passive observer. It’s complicated, to explain how it works, but I can no more change what was written than any of you.” He really doesn’t know them, or their reputations.

It's a lot to take in, that profound explanation of what it is her Grandfather does. Did? She watches him through it, melancholy in her eyes. Delilah is trying. As some of the others finally introduce themselves, and Walter answers- - Delilah laughs; it's a soft thing, a bit helpless, a bit sheepish. The others can probably guess what she's about to say.

"My son can." Delilah offers this up with another small chuckle, eyes down briefly, mouth pulled in a chargined smile. Right. "You must be where he got it." Surprise?

"So what do we do now? None of us know why we're here… and I can't understand why you are here. Like some kind of… Runaway balloon." It's a serviceable comparison of an untethered person. "Are you even sure you're - dead? I mean… closed casket." Dee seems to hiccup over saying it so tersely, voice low.

“As my adoptive father used to say, time is not a line,” Richard observes with a slight shake of his head, “You may think of yourself as an observer, but you do change history— in that you’re going to tell us to be here today, in this moment. Severe changes do split the timeline into separate superstrings, but it can be done, even if it’s undesirable and pointless in most situations.”

“We’re here because you asked us to be - we know about the Company, about Pinehearst, about Charles, and a lot more,” he says thoughtfully, “But why you’re here, in this place and time, I don’t know. Or why we slipped into your… moment in the past, either.”

His jaw tightens slightly, “But if you still have your ability even now, a phantom of history, you may be able to help us. And all mankind.”

Slowly arching one brow, Walter looks appraisingly at the group, then slowly over to Delilah with a pained smile. “I’m certain of my mortality,” he says with a slow shake of his head, “Arthur Petrelli saw fit to punish me for denying him something long ago… but even he knew better than to try and take what he couldn’t control.” He says with a slow spread of his hands. “But your boy…” His eyes divert down to the ground, and in that he seems guilty. Though his apology goes unvoiced. At least in the moment.

“It would seem, untethered as I am from any one moment in time, I exist in a precarious place between causality and cautionary.” Walter smiles at the poetry in that. “Did I send you here, or did you send me to you? Some mysteries are best left unsolved… though,” he looks to Elisabeth, then back to Richard. “It sounds as though I might be confusing a mystery for destiny. What you’re experiencing here is a part of my ability, I am able to draw others into a vision of the past… to allow them to see the world as it was. It appears after my passing I…” Walter searches for the right word. “Slipped.”


Well, it was worth asking. To her, anyhow. Delilah nods just once- - if he's sure, then- - Her face scrunches up at the mention of Arthur. It's almost immediate, like something rank went past.

"Fucking Petrellis."

Someone had to say it. Everyone does, at one point or another. Dee does not at all seem reluctant to swear in front of her Grandfather- - because a five year old that refuses to stop saying 'arse' and 'goddamnit' is not going to stop when she's older. Sorry, Walter. Arthur was a twat, and if he had something to do with this - -

"Slipped." She repeats, the sound of it still not tasting right, leaving a sourness in her mouth. "You make it sound so incidental, the whole… falling between time." Delilah stops herself from getting sardonic, lifting a fist to her mouth and grinding her teeth. Mystery, destiny, it's all just confusion in the end. There is a fleeting look to the others. "What was it, granda, that Arthur wanted?" She has a feeling that she knows already, but if she's wrong, better to know the truth.

His choice of last names is noted, but not commented on, nor corrected. She focuses on important things. “Destiny… You know, I was told once, that there is no such thing.” Kaylee says softly, frown creasing her face. It was so confusing why they are here. She.. has an inkling. It is a single thought that nags at her.

He could see history…

Delilah’s comment about Petrelli’s, breaks through the silence and Kaylee can’t help the amused sound that follows that. (Sorry Peter…) For the most part, the telepath lets her have her say, it was her grandfather after all.

Looking at the others, Kaylee has an inkling on her own with what Arthur might have wanted. . “Mr. Renautus?” She asks turning back to the specter. “We are facing something we don’t understand and with no information. A long time ago, around the time that Liz and Richard crossed into this timeline, something happened. Something big. Something scary enough that the Company destroyed all knowledge of it and how to deal with it. Now it’s back and history may very well be repeating itself. We are currently unarmed and uninformed.” Her head shakes, eyes not leaving the man, “If your ability is as omnipotent as you describe it, then you might be the help we need to… I don’t know… discover some kind of clue.”

Taking a single step closer Kaylee asks, “Help us? Please? You must know where to find the clues in the past to stop it?” Hands spread helpless, “To everything that is happening and why… This has been repeated at least once, maybe twice, but… we have nothing.” It was a long shot, but she was taking it. Yolo?

She hates chicken and fucking egg questions. Elisabeth reaches up and rubs the side of her forehead. Causality loops give her a headache. But the thing is… "That statement makes no sense. Why would I send you to my younger self, who had just arrived in this timeline and was about to be mindwiped of the knowledge, to tell me to be here at this time and place, where you don't even know me. For fuck's sake," she growls. "That's the stupidest thing I can even … Well, no, I can imagine stupider, but frankly not from myself."

Annoyed beyond further words at this moment, Elisabeth shuts up. Her bodyguard, having only been on this detail a short time, has to stifle a laugh. Sympathy for that mindset is clear. He shoots a brief glance at his boss and uses a gloved hand to hide the grin until he has it in control.

“Easy, Liz,” Richard reassures her, stepping over to her side with a shake of his head, “I know this shit hurts your head, but we’ll work it out.” A smile’s flashed — that trust me smile of his — and he looks back over to his sister, to Dee, and Walter.

Patiently, Walter listens to the people gathered. But it is Delilah — and perhaps always Delilah — that he addresses first. “Arthur wanted me to choose a side in his squabbling over something called the Formula. A means, through science, to give people powers. He saw it as the only way to safeguard the future against the past, and he was losing the support of his peers. But I’d already retired from the Company…” he says with a soft tone. “This was… somewhere in 1987. I gave him my answer, and he never forgave me for… I suppose he saw it as abandoning him.”

Shaking his head, Walter looks from Delilah to Kaylee. “The Company’s past is riddled with mistakes made with the best of intentions. Even I was young when they were changing the world,” he says with a hint of levity. “They were children, alone in the world, feared by everyone who knew them and certain that their abilities and their intelligence made them the ones who knew the right choices to make. I will profess, I stood by those decisions too. The ones I remember, at any rate.”

Taking a step closer, Walter briefly looks at Elisabeth, then back over to Kaylee. “My dear,” he says softly, “I may know moments in time I want to see, people and faces I’d wish to meet, but finding precise moments is a fool’s errand. As I said, grains of sand scattered across the infinite and in no particular order. That I can even find myself is nothing short of a miracle. My ability is not a precise one, but… it still has value, to some.” He blinks a look over to Elisabeth, as if that also somehow should answer her question.

“I realize how strange this must be for all of you. For me, even.” Walter admits with a momentary smile. “We stand likely decades apart, judging by how mature young Delilah and Kyle look,” and he meets both their stares as he says their names, “and I wish I had, in this moment, answers to all the mysteries of the universe that you’re seeking. But, I will admit, I do not…”

Kyle looks about to say something, his brows knit together, but Walter speaks just a moment sooner. “That said… perhaps this is serendipity at work. I had no dying wish to ask my loved ones to fulfill. I had nothing but acceptance of my fate. I lived a long, rich life, and though I will miss my beloved… he and I both knew this day would come.”

Walter sighs, softly. “Perhaps I can be a dying wish, instead of asking for one. Family was everything to me in my life, from my husband to my son, my grandchildren and…” he looks at Delilah, smiling faintly, “great-grandchildren?” But he looks down, away, hiding a briefly visible wound at not knowing his own grandson. “I caused a great deal of pain when I worked for the Company, pain that I justified as being necessary to save the world. I bear that stain on my soul to this day. If… helping my granddaughter, helping you, rubs out even a smudge of that stain… then it would all be worth it, wouldn’t it?”

And so, Walter spreads his hands and drops both the most unfathomable and unbelievable question. “How can this old ghost be of service?”

Well… since he's asked… Elisabeth looks up, her tone tight and intense. "How you can help…. Tell us anything you know about any of the following terms and/or where we can find information on them: Umbra, Gemini, Hydra, Adam Monroe, his relationship to the Dragon or whatever we're calling it, and…"

She looks at the others. "Additions to the list? Anyone?"

Because if we're only going to get one shot at this, might as well make the most of it and toss all the spaghetti at the wall that we can think of.

Not asking for much, are you? That’s Richard’s wry look to Elisabeth, before with a shake of his head he explains, “A… large portion of the memory of the Company during the eighties was redacted by ‘the Magi’, whoever they were a code name for, at Arthur’s order. Caspar was one of them. There was a… Evolved, or something else, that spread memetically. It was the only way, or so they believed, to end its threat.”

He grimaces, “Unfortunately, it didn’t, and now threats from that time are emerging and nobody remembers the details anymore.”

“June 18, 1982.”

Kaylee pipes up after her brother, follow his line, pointing at him. It was a good point to start “That is the second time this ‘Entity’ showed up that we know of. A machine known as the Looking Glass was opened in Kansas. It brought Liz and Richard from another world. But it also opened portals all over the world and one of them released something into our world, which possessed a woman named Kam Nissata. I’m going to guess in Japan. It would also give my father, Edward Ray, his ability.”

A part of her wanted to just show him, it would be so much easier; but the telepath takes the warning to heart.

Taking a breath, the telepath continues. “A few years later, the Company possibly defeats this thing on the top of the Deveaux Building… It was a group effort really with a possessed Adam trying to stop them. I don’t have an exact date on that, just… what I’ve been show by postcogs.” Which means no hard dates. ”After that, they wiped all knowledge of what happened feeling that knowledge of its existence would bring it back. It came back, so they were wrong there. I can’t imagine the Company not having a failsafe, not with all of the probability predictors and precogs.”

There is a blink of surprise, Kaylee hadn’t realized how much she had picked up over the months. She turns that look towards Richard and it suddenly becomes uncertain. Confidence in what she is doing flags with it.

“Uh…” She turns back to Walter, “I don’t know if that helps, but…” Kaylee gives a little jerky shrug and falls silent.

That it's not what she'd thought is a relief, but the real story is just as displeasing.

"We fought him over it too." Delilah murmurs, memories absolutely full of Pinehearst and the people they stood up against, unseen by the ones they were helping. She says it only when he looks to her, between his words to the other women. Kyle's features in her peripheral vision shift, only for Walter to preempt it; Dee is still near enough to rest a hand along his back, steadying. They've not known one another for long, yet she already treats him as family. It matters to her, too.

Elisabeth's answer earns her a soft laugh out of Dee, who just shakes her head a little and keeps listening. They briefed her on much of these questions they had, and some of the history behind them- - but they are still a jumble of new information she doesn't quite know what to do with.

Taking turns in this - - interview? Interrogation? Crystal ball? just means that Delilah waits for her own. She knows her grandfather is patient enough, despite not knowing how long they have here.

"Walter's a good boy, but he takes too much after his parents." The redhead openly shades herself- and Teo- though the fact her son is like her is meant to be reassuring. Walter Renautas may not know his namesake, but that his namesake carries on that meddling Trafford genetic code may be heartening enough. A good meddling doesn't hurt.

"So we find Melchoir and Balthazar." Delilah looks to Kaylee, inquisitive, and back to Walter, "I wish we were more precise… Sorry, granda." Spaghetti, Wall. Surely he understands.

Walter Renautas raises one hand in the universal gesture for slow down, but has a patient smile spread across his tired face. “I’m reminded of how eager Charles and his friends were when they first met me and learned of what I could do, and I will reiterate now what I told you — and them — so as to not too deeply disappoint. Yes, I can seek out moments in history and bear witness to them. I could even help you, as you’ve asked, as it seems I am already inclined to, but it will neither be clean nor precise. Finding my way through the sands of time to pluck a single grain for you is outside of my ability… and with your explanation that much of what transpired appears to be excised from my memory like so much cancerous tissue… it will be even harder.”

“These things,” Walter says with a squint, “the code names you said, they’re meaningless to me. Adam Monroe, too, is a name I do not know.” Lowering his hand, Walter draws in a slow and likely vestigial breath. “But, much like when Charles and his friends first met me, I can see a fire of truth in your eyes. I would not be the man I know myself to be if I did not help people in need, nor would I be so if I refused to help dear family.”

Taking a step closer to Delilah and Kyle, Walter tucks his hands into the pockets of his slacks. “I can look for these moments for you. But neither dates nor names helps any more than the other in my search. Time does not care what ephemeral numerical standard we impress on it. I search history through emotions, feelings, and impressions therein. Which is why I cannot follow my own missing memories… and must rely on the emotions of others. But I have a notion of how I might untangle this web of history… piece by piece.”

With a blink of his eyes over to Delilah, however, Walter flashes a smile. “That said, I do know one thing for certain. I know who Melchior and Balthazar are. While the significance of their identities were erased from my memory, the identities of those codenamed agents was not.”

Walter raises one brow, “Alfonse Baumann and Martin Pines.”

Wait… what? Elisabeth hadn't known those codenames. But she knows the two real names. A frown pulls her brows down tight over her nose. "Cassandra's father…." she breathes out, the sound less startled than resigned. That's a name she knows from another world, and she met the man once or twice when Cassandra was first in New York City. She hadn't had any idea the man was also fucking Company. Arthur's man. She's not sure she even wants to think about that — and although she'd like to think all Arthur's people were evil, they weren't. A great many really just thought they were serving their country the best way they could.

Six degrees of separation her lily-white ass.

"Martin Pines… if I'm remembering right, he's the guy who runs the vets group that I started going to."

Rubbing her forehead, the audiokinetic sighs heavily. Redacted memories are the norm in this mess, so … even if the people in question knew something back then, do they know that they know it? And how the hell is she going to tell Cassandra this one?

“Oh, Christ,” Richard just laughs, one hand coming up to rub his fingers over his face, “They just picked up Baumann not too long ago, so I can have someone talk to him, but… Pines. Fuck— “ He looks to Elisabeth, gesturing vaguely, “Pines runs the radio station. It’s a repeater station, mostly, for WRAY. Literally we probably have a contract with the man somewhere, and he’s… right under our noses.”

He shakes his head slowly, “I’ll stop by and talk to him myself, he’s like a billion years old so I’m not worried that he’s going to attack me or anything. I’ve been meaning to stop by to visit Jolene anyway…”

A wry smile to Delilah and her grandfather, “Seems like you’ve helped us already, Mister Renautus.”

“Pity,” Kaylee comments softly, shoulders sagging a little with defeat. At least there was something useful. “Emotions and feelings. That is outside my ability.” mostly “Makes me wish we had Huruma.” She glances at the others, with a small smile. Listening to the others, she nods slowly, moving to stand back with Bob.

"A notion?" Delilah only whispers it, but it's enough to ask; what would that be? It is the news that he remembers the names of the other to 'magi' which has her sharpening. She doesn't recognize the first one save for a vague familiarity. But the second? Liz and Richard yoink the words right out of her mouth, but she still turns to the latter with a widening of eyes.

"I'm going with you, don't you dare see him without me." It's only kinda-sorta a dare to do otherwise. "I'm there all the time, and- -" So is Walter. The wee one. Dee puts a hand to her head, a little thrown aback by Pines named out of Walter Sr.'s remnants of what he does remember. She would have never in a million years guessed, much less expected such a thing from him. Richard is right, though, he's quite old. "He's in his nineties but he's still sharp as a tack," A breath, and a look between the others, hesitant again.

"And kind.. So maybe we shouldn't go marching into that one." For once in this visit, there's a real smile- - brief, but a wide flash of humor in face and word before Delilah turns back to Walter. The smile lingers, more Daniel's than her mother's, even if her features are; Dee's voice eases with a sigh.

"I'm …glad that Richard wasn't full of it when he told me about this. Even if you're not- -" Here. "I knew if this was real you'd do whatever you could. 'Course, maybe I just wanted to see you. I've done enough world saving to deserve that much…" Delilah brushes a hand against her cheek, swallowing back a fresh course of tears. Nope. No more. Not right now.

Renautas raises a hand, ghosting by Delilah’s cheek as if to tip her chin up, but no such gesture truly manifests. Kyle watches the exchange, seemingly overwhelmed by both the wonder of what is happening and the majesty of the ability that his great uncle possesses. Kyle’s eyes divert down to the ground, brows knit together in thought. It’s hard not to become lost in the possibilities of what being able to see across the whole of time means to a person.

“I wish I had been able to find a moment with you that wasn’t… inappropriate,” Walter says to his granddaughter with a slow shake of his head. “But I have watched you grow. At first I thought it was a reward for a life lived with an attempt of virtue, but now I see that we are masters of our own fates… and afterlives.” Smiling faintly, Renautas lowers his hand and his eyes as well. “I do love you,” he says softly, “both of you,” he adds with a look to Kyle.” It doesn’t so much sound like a goodbye as it does something more ephemeral and impermanent. Renautas looks away from his family and turns his attention over to Richard, Kaylee, and Elisabeth.

“It seems then, this old man has been of some assistance already. I will leave it to you to follow the trail of the living, and I…” Renautas turns enough to regard the eclipse overhead.

“I will follow the trail of the dead and forgotten.”

The Present

In an instant, that crystallized moment in time is gone. The eclipse no longer hangs ominously in the sky above Walter Renautas, and the old phantom is gone save for the impression he left on those who witnessed his ability at work. A warm, dry wind blows through the desolation of what was once Times Square, bringing with it scraps of old paper and rattling aluminum cans. All is still and silent and the world is back the way it had always been…

Except that nothing could ever be the same again.

Not after that.

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