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Scene Title Undone
Synopsis Knowledge can't be undone.
Date February 28, 2021

Sheepshead Bay: Dirty Pool Pub

There is a black door, set in a black wall, in the back wall of a bar that favours that same shade.

Behind it, on a wet operating table, lie the cooling remains of a man, his constituent parts separated like those of a butchered animal. Isaac Faulkner is nearly unrecognisable amidst the sliced flesh and clothing, save for his face - a lifeless mockery of itself, dried and fresh blood alike clinging to his forehead and cheeks, and in sightless, half lidded eyes.

But not for long.

Everything happens again, but in reverse. Muscles uncut, clothes untorn. Blood rolls up and recollects in its warming home.

And then…

That black door opens with a start, three figures leaving it backwards— until they do not. Until they stand, once more, where they'd stood almost exactly an hour ago.

Faulkner's just stepped forward (backwards?) in front of Zachery, who stands with his hand on the taser tucked behind his back. This time, however, his hand falls back to hang by his side, as empty as his monocular stare ahead is.

This is a lot to process.

Everything got changed back to where it had been when the Castle had gone up— except Castle themselves. They stand near the operating table, where they had been standing moments ago. Everything had rewound, except for them. As they are now in front of, and not behind, the two of them might now see the small green glow that seems to emit as a second Castle goes up, brushing past them and coming up around them.

“This Castle won’t last as long. It won’t until I get some sleep. But it should give us some privacy. Unless someone has an interdimensional listening device.”

They let out a small sigh, looking sadly back at the two of them, before looking at Faulkner specifically. “Good news is, you’re no longer dead! Yay.” They clap, but there’s something half-hearted about it. What they had seen moments ago had definitely disturbed them.

Faulkner takes a long step forward, spinning on a heel to face Doctor Miller, and those eyes sure aren't dead now, are they? Oh no. They're moving all too quickly now, darting over each and every surface of Miller's abattoir before coming to rest on the doctor himself.

"Yes, Agent Castle, I noticed that," he says without effect, never taking his eyes off Miller, never even seeming to blink. "As I was saying before I was so rudely killed in midsentence and had my skull unscrewed… actually, nevermind. There's something more important to be discussed. Doctor Miller. I trust you learned something worthwhile from all of this?"

The abattoir sits so clean, tools unused and tucked away.

There is no immediate answer from Zachery. His expression seems stuck on neutral when he meets Faulkner's gaze, his mouth opening a few seconds before words are able to leave it. Was he able to learn something?

"… I did." He decides. His grin returns, wide bright and ecstatic in spite of Faulkner's upset. "I did!" He repeats with much more confidence, voice raised and arms going wide as he looks past the recently undeceased and beams with more actual joy than he's felt in years, "I was right! Agent Castle! If I were a hugger, you would be in my arms, you beautiful fucking bastard!"

Vindication is a sweet, sweet drug. And yet, almost immediately after he proclaims his victory, he stills again, breath halted and gaze glassy again.

There was so much that Castle wanted to say, but then Zachery Miller had to go and mention hugs. “Oh, mate, you don’t know me well at all, because I am definitely a hugger.” And with that, they are already stepping closer with arms wide and proceeds to pull them both into a hug. A group hug. One that they may or may not have been prepared for, but it is definitely going to happen here in this Castle. Right now.

Because they are a beautiful bastard. Thank you.

Who very much likes hugs.

“Before we get into the whole story, though, I think we could all use a drink. We still have some unfinished Guinness’s in there. I think the two of you should partake. Especially young Isaac.” Before he learns the details of the—


Castle very much wants to call their bosses and share this intel, but at the same time, these lads deserve to have a moment first. And have a say in what happens next.

And a drink. Or ten. “Did you have anything stronger than that?”

Faulkner's eyes glaze over a bit as he suddenly finds himself in a group hug, but… oddly, it helps. By the time Castle releases him, Isaac merely looks tired instead of sporting the Judge Doom Murder Stare.

The prospect of alcohol does catch his attention though. "Yes. Yes, absolutely, for the love of God. Beer me," Faulkner says. Then he pauses. "Huh. If we drink something in here, does that mean we get to drink it twice?"

“Yep. You can get as drunk as you want and them immediately sober up and get drunk again,” Castle responds with a grin, because, well, there were some perks to the Castle. “Back at Xpress when we were waiting to evacuate the injured I got a bunch of them really high so they wouldn’t be in so much pain while they were dying waiting to get evacuated in the Castle. It reversed before they were evacuated though so it was like nothing happened.” They wink in a ‘don’t tell anyone’.

Zachery barely has time to draw his arms reflexively inward again when the offer of a hug is actually taken up. But he doesn't fight back, just waits for it to be over with that grin still on his face. Unblinking. Still not breathing.

When the conversation continues around him, he slowly turns when he's able, and wanders somewhat stiffly over to the unmanned bar. When he gets there, he pulls a half empty bottle of cheap-looking whiskey off a shelf, lands his back against a wall, and slides all the way down until his ass is on the floor.

"I was right," he says one more time, but now with the distinct tone of defeat. The words leave him on barely enough breath to carry them, but he still manages a chuckle before the cap is twisted from the bottle and he lifts the whole thing to his mouth.

Faulkner follows the not-so-good Doctor out of the ~~murder room~~ ~~scene of the crime~~ laboratory, swiping a bottle of rum. He also swipes a glass, pours something in, then rummages around under the bar until he comes up with a bottle of lime juice that looks like it escaped from the sixties and has been in hiding ever since. Carefully, he opens it up and sniffs it; it still smells like lime juice, at least, so it's probably good enough. He pours a bit of it in his glass, adds some rum to it, and a bit of mint extract — this more recent than the lime juice, at least. He doesn't bother with ice; his half-assed mojito will have to do.

"I'm pleased to hear it," he says. "So share with the class, Doctor, if you'd be so kind. Walk us through the procedure, step by step, while the memory's still fresh." He reaches for his phone, then grimaces, glancing to Castle — any notes he might take will be erased as soon as their little time bubble gets reset. Still, between the three of them, hopefully they can remember everything.

“You may have been. Sadly I was very wrong it looks like, but, there’s a lot of bright sides to me being wrong,” Castle says, bringing up that there was a bright side, even if they don’t clarify what they are for the moment, as Zachery still has to say exactly what he had theorized and how this had proven him correct. At least they had gotten some answers now, and— “If you want to take notes I can take the Castle down without resetting it. But you’ll have to pay for any lost liquor and— and any hangovers you might get from it.” It’s a choice that they’ll leave to them.

“I have someone taking very detailed notes, though,” he says as he reaches up and taps his head, voice shifting a little, eyes seeming greener for a moment. “She’s more reliable than I am with a lot of things. And has a pretty good memory.” It’s a weird thing to say, but this whole situation is weird. And perhaps they had decided they should share a secret too. “I personally think any records of this should be well guarded. I’m very concerned that— whoever did this to you is watching.”

Even if right now, they can’t. Unless their tech is even better than they could imagine.

Because one cannot breathe whiskey without more modifications than the people in this room have undergone, Zachery lowers the bottle he's holding by the neck, resting it atop a knee. A vacant stare is slowly drifted up at Castle. Catching his breath, he nods, but visibly struggles to pick what of all of this to respond to. And there seems to be more with every second.

But. "No," he finally manages, "I, ah— no, leave it up. Leave it up. We…" He looks to Faulkner again, very little of the eagerness from before left in him now. "I disregarded the theory at the hospital— not immediately, but— because why would the doctors have lied? Or be so incompetent as to…" He blinks, fighting back a chuckle that halfway leaves him anyway.

"Then, I relied on my own knowledge of the human body. Which… disappointment after disappointment—" He inadvertently cuts himself off with an abrupt laugh, dragging the whiskey close again. "But why would it have made sense to me at all? We're not…"

He pauses, looking between Faulkner and Castle both, real and fake eye widening with a panic he quickly and heavily scrubs a palm across to try and undo. It does little to help, and there's still plenty of frantic energy in his voice when he continues to explain, with something between a sneer and a grin, "We never came home. None of that—" He waves his free hand wildly in Faulkner's direction, before another laugh escapes him and he gestures at his own head with splayed fingers, "None of this… is ours, or human. Or maybe it is, but not the ours we… because we never…"

The rest of his sentence disappears into another swig of his drink, the bottle raised right back up again.

Faulkner frowns at Castle for a moment… then smirks. "Well. I've already trusted you with my life today; trusting you to keep good notes doesn't seem that much more to ask." He looks uncertain when Castle mentions 'her', though, glancing around as if to ascertain that no one else is there, coming back to Castle with a quizzical look.

Miller's pronouncement — his series of rambling pronouncements, rather — forestalls the question Faulkner was trying to articulate, though. For a long moment, he stares at Zachery, trying to make sense of what he's leaving unsaid.

"You're saying we're… replicants, then. Pod people?" It's not a new supposition, but Miller's speaking as though it's proven. "How certain are you, and what, specifically, is it that makes you so certain?" he asks. His tone sounds almost morbidly fascinated.

There’s a grateful smile from Castle as they seem to be trusted with this situation, and they reach to grab a glass themselves, but this one they fill with water, because they apparently wish to be sober for the note-taking and the memory keeping. It may not affect certain things, but it might affect what they remember and how they remember it, and right now that’s the key to everything. That’s the only thing they get to take with them, after all.

“It does open up a whole can of worms, that’s for sure, but it also leaves some hope. It means that the Millers’ baby may still be out there somewhere. Maybe whoever kidnapped her had not even known she was pregnant when they did it and they hadn’t been prepared for it. It wasn’t widely known at the time.” Assuming the originals were still alive somewhere. But why would someone bother replacing if they didn’t want to keep them for some reason or another? There were many questions, but Castle wanted to look on the bright sides…

Nicole might get her child back.

The bottle in Zachery's hand comes down again, this time low enough to hit the ground. It rolls away from him in a small semi-circle, spilling what's left of its contents onto the floor.

He lifts his arms, slowly, folding them onto drawn up knees and pressing his forehead into them with a shuddered out exhale, hunched forward on the ground and staring blankly off into the bit of darkness he's created amidst his semi-foetal position. Only then does he manage, though muffled, "I took you apart, you imbecile."

Anger doesn't quite travel on his words, considering the lack of energy he's able to put behind them. He struggles, both with his words and otherwise, breathing irregular and insufficient for the words he's trying to get out. "Like a… like chicken pot pie. All parts— assembled. Constructed. In— indistinguishable, astoundingly… beautiful, the sheer… I don't understand— know how they…"

He stops, grabbing a loose fistful of his own hair as his head falls even lower as if tension alone is pulling him toward some sort of center point. "There were two," he corrects, quieter still. "Nicole's."

Then, finally, he adds, "Are?"

Maybe. More of a maybe than it's been, and it sounds like it may have broken him in the process.

Isaac's eyes flicker over to Miller, and he is silent for a beat. Two. Three. He takes a deep breath. "Yes. Yes, Dr. Miller. You took me apart. Thank you, I expected that much," he says in an utterly emotionless voice, one eye twitching.

"What I want to know are details," Faulkner grates out, and he is very proud that he managed to finish that sentence without adding you dipshit to it. "What, specifically, you saw that clued you in. How obvious it was. Because, of course, someone did a… rather abbreviated version of the whole unscrewing your skull procedure on you."

Faulkner sucks down a strained breath. "So what are the chances that they honestly missed… whatever it was… that you saw? And if they didn't miss it… then, as you said, Doctor. The question becomes: why would they lie?"

“…Two. I hadn’t been told that part,” Castle admits, looking surprised, but also saddened. Two made the loss even harder, but really it had been hard at one. Maybe it would be even more of a miracle now. It’s something about the way Zachery says that, though, that makes them shift, standing back up and moving around to—

Oh no.

Castle is hugging him again.

“Siblings can be both a blessing and a curse. I’m sure we’ll find out what happened to them. And you and your wife. And— “ What would happen to them? Well, that’s something they’ll have to work out eventually. It’s a big pickle. The biggest pickle. But at least their children were out there somewhere. At least they were out there somewhere. Hopefully. Intact. Empowered. Undamaged by whatever this had been.

“I doubt they lied so much as they didn’t dig deep enough,” they add as they pull back, looking at Isaac. “That was why this surgery was such a big deal— it could be more than mildly evasive. It could go deeper and risk more. He didn’t need to maintain your health and wellbeing, because you were already dead. But details are important. We’ll need them for later, Doctor Necromancer.”

In response to the hug, Zachery's shoulders pull even tighter upward. One of his arms untucks from him and is shoved clumsily outward to push to Castle away wholesale— before it's lowered immediately so he can feel around for the bottle he's dropped.

Finding it nowhere within reach, he sits back just enough to let his head rest against the wall with a thunk of skull hitting wood, aiming a barely focused look up at Faulkner from where he sits. "When we're done here— I'll draw you a literal fucking picture, will that do?" He asks, wheezing out some noise of fury and amusement both. "Of all the nerve endings where there shouldn't be, of the— fine— fibre cable network run through every part of you that's keeping you upright. And… presumably, me. Whoever… that is."

He looks to Castle, next, his stare into their face suddenly twitching into something more less harsh— and more distressed. "Who the fuck are we? If we're not adapted, if we're new, who the fuck would I even be to them? To…"

Then, as if it's not a complete non-sequitur, he mutters under his breath, "We must consider death."

Isaac regards this scene with a bland and even expression. Doctor Necromancer is having an existential crisis, it seems. Fine. Fine. This is perfectly fine. It would have been better if he could've stayed in possession of his wits long enough to share the results of this little science project instead of immediately doing the metaphorical equivalent of shucking his pants and running screaming into the nearest briar patch, but nope, this is happening now.

To be fair, it's not like Isaac can't understand being upset. He's quite upset himself! He'll probably have a crisis of his own, later, from having been unceremoniously killed and taken apart like a goddamn pot pie, but whatever! This is fine!

And to be even more fair, there's the whole pod-person angle on top of that. Maybe it's just that the not-so-good Doctor's had an hour alone with his thoughts. Isaac hasn't had that luxury, on account of instead being dead most of the last hour.

So Isaac exhales but says nothing, just wraps his hand tightly — tightly — around his glass and takes a sip of his drink. He isn't sure what business they have left here, aside from the drinking, but this is fine too. He can wait for Miller to pull himself together, and, even better, he can keep himself together until Miller does.

At least Castle does not seem to be insulted by the rejection of affection, as they move away. “I think death— if you can even call it that— might be coming for you whether you consider it or not,” they say simply, perhaps too simply given the situation. “Maybe you weren’t intended for long-term activation, maybe you weren’t meant to be used for this long— or maybe you’re just breaking down— everything has an expiry date— and you all might just have one earlier than you’d like.”

There’s even a hint of something closer to Zachery’s accent in the way that Castle is speaking now, a little more British. Like perhaps they thought it was easier to be cold and calculated when they spoke like that? Or maybe it wasn’t the softer Castle speaking.

The one who immediately seems to pop in a moment later, that more Irish tone coming out, “But at least you aren’t made of cake.”

Chaos. Pure chaos sometimes.

Perhaps they were hoping to get a laugh. Or lighten the dour mood.

The next hand Zachery throws out toward Castle does so with a pointing finger, and a nod. "Precisely. That."

He blinks, beginning to stir and clamping a hand onto the bar so as to sluggishly drag himself halfway upright with its help. "Not the… not the cake," he mutters, frowning, because wait, they're not that either. "The dying. If we're not us, great news, because someone is. For them, things might be alright. For us?" He turns to look at Faulkner, searching his expression before shaking his head. "No, we're— we need… to…"

His mouth still open, he struggles to find the noises that make up the rest of the sentence. Instead, he starts a new one, turning to his side and saying urgently, "I need to go. Castle, thank you," said with drunken sincerity and urgency both. "But undo the— thing, if you would. I have to go."

"Go?" Faulkner echoes, and there's something off in his voice. "So soon? Oh, but we only just got here. Quite literally, as it happens; once this little thing is reset, why, it'll only be a few minutes after I arrived, as I understand it. Am I right, Agent Castle?" he asks, his eyes never leaving Miller.

"But even if it's not. Taking a few minutes more to share details with the class isn't really going to make a difference in much of anything, Doctor Miller. Unless, of course, you're close enough to your expiration date that you only have an hour or so left. Because I've been thinking about that too, Agent Castle," he explains, dark eyes still trained on Miller. "Expiration dates and all. Oh yes, absolutely I have. For a month now. Why else would I have agreed to get murdered and fucking dissected?!" he says, his veneer of calm slipping.

For a moment after, Faulkner is silent. He just stands there, breathing heavily. His knuckles are white from the force he's using to grip the glass with… but the glasses here are made of sterner stuff than the ones at Raytech, it seems. The glass doesn't shatter.

Then… the moment passes. He runs his hand through his hair and he's all cool and calm and composed again. See, he's grinning! Or at least he's doing something with his mouth that shows a lot of teeth. An attempt is being made. "If that were to be the case, though — which is to say, if both of us were that close to dropping dead — then it's all the more important that someone else has the details, don't you think? Partner?"

Well, time passed, just not for you,” Castle says quietly, not really wanting to explain all the oddities of their ability right now. It’s complicated. The formation and retention of memory might be the first clue that time itself was not completely rewound and reset, but that things were returned to their relative spatial status at the end of the duration. It was complicated. And strange. And would take a lot of explaining. “After Nakamura-san, I imagine most of you had thought of your expiry date as it was.” That maybe it was just a matter of time.

With a movement of their hands, everything inside the room that had been moved in the last few minutes, including Isaac and Zachery, return to where they had been moments before. Except for Castle. Once again. This time, they’re actually close to where Zachery had been originally, and reaches out and takes the taser away. “I didn’t take it down. I just reset everything to sober you back up.”

Zachery can’t get much further than the door even if he tried. Because that’s where the borders of the Castle are, a foggy green haze that becomes more visible as he gets closer to it.

“Miller,” he says, a deepening emotion in his eyes. “Whatever all of you are— you are. You have thoughts, feelings, memories, and dreams. You make decisions, good and bad. We’ve seen this, you’ve tested this. This is an extraordinary situation.”

Just as he'd stayed silent during Faulkner's pressing for answers, Zachery is silent now. Even with the fog of alcohol removed again, he stands by the door to the back room as though he doesn't even notice Castle taking the taser from him.

Only when his last name reaches him does he seem to return to reality, fixing Castle with a look closer to apologetic than anything else. "I know I'm someone," he argues, "but not the someone I… if there's a Nicole out there who managed…"

He breaks eye contact, scrubbing a hand over his face, fingers digging deep. "I can't be part of that."

To Faulkner, he says with the audible undercurrent of tension biting away at forced patience, "Give me… a few hours. I walk out of here and get my head on straight, then I get whatever I have in there in writing and uploaded to the portal Tetsuyama sorted out. I know bodies. Disregarding the fact that I know better than anyone what human tissue is made of, at an excruciatingly deep level because of— because of what I remember being able to do - I have years of morgue experience. I've seen with my own two eyes what we look like when bodies undergo changes, sustained and gradual or sudden and traumatic both. This doesn't fit either. It doesn't fit anything but… fabrication."

He shakes his head, words slowing as his shoulders sag. "I know this seems a little like madness, given the givens, but this is me asking you to trust me. At this point I don't know what else I can… offer you."

Faulkner regards Zachery silently as he makes that final appeal… then, slowly, he starts to nod. "Alright," he breathes, the word more a thing visible on his lips than audible. "Alright," he repeats, this time with a little more volume — enough that it's actually distinguishable as a word.

"Fine. That's… fine," he says, still nodding. "Some time to… get ourselves together sounds like a sensible idea," he says, his voice sounding for all the world like someone agreeing to take a very large, very bitter pill. "I… I could probably use some time, too." He could definitely use that, actually.

For a half-second, it seems like he might just leave it there… but he can't. He actually can't, the words come bubbling up anyway. "I'll wait. For your… report. Fine. I'll trust you," he agrees. "But one thing. Before you go," the words spill out through gritted teeth, fingers twitching at his side as he does his best to keep the flood of emotion now boiling within him; his tone now is remarkably like the one Miller himself used a few seconds ago. "One… last thing. I have to know. The… the sac. In my brain. There's something in there, isn't there." There has to be. There has to be, doesn't there? He watches Miller's face for any sign of confirmation. "What did you see in there? What is in my brain?"

Based on the way that Castle’s lips are pressed together in a thin frown, they are not liking this situation one bit. Though this time, they keep some of those doubts to themselves, perhaps because Isaac agrees to these conditions laid out, and he has more at stake in this. Especially considering… “Just remember, Doctor— you’re not alone in this. There are thirteen other people still involved who share the same problems you are going through, who have no idea what’s going on with them.”

Castle is obviously not counting Faulkner, who is present, nor Kimiko, who was reported dead. Lifting a hand up, there’s a soft glow, and something— retracts around them. Nothing shifts this time, nothing changes. There’s no need to do any resetting. Just the Castle coming down this time. It’s almost like a breath of wind, rather than a ‘one moment being somewhere else suddenly’ at least. Less jarring.

Zachery watches Faulkner closely. "I'm not a technopath. All I can tell you is what it looks like, and what's right there, at the center of your brain?" He holds up his hand, to hold between his fingers an imaginary, golfball sized object while he looks Faulkner in the eye, before it's balled into his fist. "It might as well be from the hardware store on the corner for how little it has to do with organic growth. One thing I do know is that it's more than they showed me when I woke up from my biopsy."

He turns to Castle, next, already stepping aside and taking a backwards step toward the door out while answering, "I know I'm not alone!" Another laugh bubbles to the surface, flooding over into a grin - sincere, this time - and into his words. "Neither are murder victims, near the end, are they!"

Before either of them can answer, he turns on his heels and makes for the exit properly, waving a hand over his shoulder as he tacks on, "Thank you both immensely. It's been a pleasure!"

Faulkner watches through Miller's explanation, eyes following Miller's hands as he gestures. When the doctor departs, Isaac stares after him, mutely shaking his head at this whole business.

“That depends on the method of murder,” Castle muses quietly, in that mildly London accent again, before shaking their head and looking toward Isaac, whom they were now alone with. They hadn’t taken much in the way of notes, but it had been a difficult situation, and it had broken down. “We should probably inform the others of this, but— for now. Did you need some therapeutic destruction? I can raise the Castle for thirty minutes and you can destroy whatever you want.”

Therapeutic destruction was something they had come to appreciate. Especially when they could do it with no long-term consequences of the things actually staying destroyed.

Faulkner is silent for a moment longer. "No," he says at last, still staring after Miller. Then, finally, he looks back to Castle, giving a rueful grin. "But I appreciate your consideration." It's nice that someone has some… though that's probably less than charitable to Doctor Miller. Ah well.

"I'll be fine; I'll just add a bit to my evening run." And hopefully not fall off a building this time (or get kidnapped again). "Thank you for your help as well; I feel like maybe we're… finally starting to make some headway on this, you know?"

"I know," Castle responds quietly, looking back toward the table, where Faulkner had been laying not too long ago. Where he had never been laying at all. Because that had been undone.

"I hope knowing is better than not."

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