Unwell Tidings


lisa_icon.gif richard_icon.gif

Scene Title Unwell Tidings
Synopsis After narrowly surviving an attack by Mazdak, Richard is sought out by an unexpected ally.
Date June 8, 2019

His world was pain redefined.

The monochromatic world in which Richard Ray’s shadow form operates is a scintillating mass of contrast and value, silvery at the edges and burned black where light exists. A photo negative of the world where light is darkness and darkness is light. It's never been like this for Richard before.

Chaos gave way to silence, and the vibrations of the world seem less intense now in the cold lightness of a shadow beneath a derelict garbage truck that hasn't run its route in a decade. The alley walls are tall here, ringed with fire escapes and torn old trash bags. Much of the northern edge of the Safe Zone is like this. Much of the northern edge of the Safe Zone is a time capsule of ruin.

Richard tried to make it all the way to the Church of the Ascension to warn Pines, but the daylight encroaching from parting clouds felt like hot steam on an aggravated sunburn. He needed time, he needed to recuperate.

He needed to figure out what the fuck just happened.

Jackson Heights

June 8th


There’s only been one other time that Richard was hurt this badly while in this form, and it didn’t end well for him— it saved the world, perhaps, but it certainly didn’t go well for him. It was much less this time, a flashbang rather than the primal force of the atom split, but it still hurt.

He’s never been sure how much punishment of this sort he can take in this shape. His alternate didn’t last long with a flare at his heart.

The living darkness that is Richard Ray rests beneath the garbage truck, pulling himself together as tightly as he can, as compact as darkness can be, an abyssal pool under the vehicle.

Why was Mazdak here? Were they trailing me, or were they after Melchior?

He’s trying not to think about the man whose face he… well, he doesn’t even want to think about it. Focusing on the mystery is easier, a knife to cut through the haze.

“Hey, Nosferatu.”

Someone’s here

“You alive?”

From beneath the truck, Richard can see a pair of ratty Converse sneakers, laces muddied with dirty water. The woman’s voice isn't a familiar one, but it's smoky quality is distinguished. “Your friends are safe…” She meanders along the side of the truck, turning to walk backwards and — Richard imagines — look up and around for signs of moving darkness.

“I come in peace,” the stranger adds, stepping through a oil-sheen puddle.

There’s silence for a moment. She knows he’s here, obviously, Richard realizes— but can’t directly locate him. The back of his mind starts an exercise in trying to figure out the different powers that could do that, before the more reasonable part takes over.

“If I can be called alive right now. I’ve never been sure…” …been sure…

A moment’s pause, then more sibilant whispering slithers from under the truck, “Who are you?” …you?…

“Oh how the mighty have…” The woman takes one knee, then another, and bends down to look under the dump truck, blonde hair spilling down over one shoulder and thick-framed glasses slouching off her nose, “…crawled under a dumptruck?”

Richard recognizes her.

Three women arrive in rapid succession following Silas, and the presence of Mala, Denisa, and Lucy are like rapid-fire gunshots. Mala arrives first, followed by Denisa slamming into her and knocking her over, and Lucy spilling out of the portal next and landing atop both of them. Agents now burdened with arrivals are struggling to help them out of the way. Not long after there are nine more people, each unfamiliar to those gathered in the room and each appearing one after another in rapid-fire emergence, some colliding with one-another as they fall out of the portal and are dragged to safety by SESA agents. It’s here that Kain notices something is wrong.

She came through the looking glass.

“I always imagined our first meeting would be something less gross,” she says, pushing her dark-framed glasses up the bridge of her nose, setting her mustard yellow backpack on the ground beside herself. “But seriously, are you ok?”

Then, remembering herself, she extends a hand under the truck. “Lisa.”

Then unthinkably,


She smiles cheerfully. “Sup?”

There’s silence from beneath the garbage truck for several long moments, followed by a low, whispering chuckle of sound. “Of course,” the shadow murmurs, “Your alias is awful, by the way. I thought you were just trying to get my attention with it, when you sent that crazy doctor my way, but… this makes sense too.” …too…

A pause, and then he notes in a drier whisper, “I’d shake your hand but I’m pretty sure I have second-degree burns right now. Well, you have me a captive audience at least. Good to meet you.” …you…

“I was trying, you’re bad at spy stuff.” Lisa says, sitting down on the ground cross-legged, backpack at her side. She’s not stooped down enough that Richard can see her face, but he can see her hands move when she talks. “I would’ve introduced myself when I came through, but your mom was… she didn’t think it was safe. After everything people told her about your Edward, she was worried they’d put me in a glass box and lock me up forever.”

One of Lisa’s hands lifts out of view, likely threading hair behind an ear or adjusting her glasses. “My parents made her keep it a secret, until I was sure it was safe. Which, I mean…” she gestures around, “maybe not, right?” There’s a hoarse laugh, followed by a flustered sigh. “I tried leaving you messages on a ham radio, stuff maybe you’d have picked up. Got some other folks interested instead… but— you know how it is.”

Scrubbing the palms of her hands on her knees, Lisa leans down and looks under the truck, glasses crooked on her face from that angle. “Nobody told me you could become… smoke?”

“I’ve been busy with other spy stuff,” Richard replies defensively, “I’ve been kind of busy, you know, between getting to know my daughter, dealing with the potential end of the world, all of that…” …usual stuff…

There’s a long pause, and he admits, “She probably had the right idea. They might have, especially back in quarantine. People get a little twitchy about Edward, and I can’t entirely blame him… even if everything he did was for the best.” …the best… “…and frankly I don’t know what I turn into. I used to think I was turning into shadows. I know enough science to know that’s not a thing, now.” …now…

“Science is funny like that, ain’t it?” Lisa says, sitting up straight again and fishing through the flap of her backpack. “You’re taking this in stride, which is pretty good. But I mean, I guess nothing tops red electricity monsters on the scale of fuckery.” Seeing something in her bag, Lisa makes a soft sound.

“Your friends are cool, I helped them get away. Sorry I couldn’t be more help, pretty much every other option ended with my brain on the ground rather than in my head.” From inside her backpack, Lisa fishes out a plastic-wrapped sandwich with a little price sticker on it which she— just starts unwrapping in her lap.

“Sorry if I’m not connecting all the dots for you,” Lisa adds, “people tell me I skip steps when I talk to them.” And then she just— starts eating a sandwich. After having run from terrorists. “Thus s’a l’ttle weird, in’it?” She says with a mouthful of chicken salad on rye.

The darkness undulates closer to the edge of the garbage truck, though not emerging past the boundary of its shadow. “I’m in incredible pain actually,” he replies in a low, sibilant whisper, “So it helps to focus on something. And I’ve seen a lot of crazy bullshit in my life, you get used to it…” …to it…

Richard is silent for a moment, then says - not asks - “You have your father’s power.” …prediction…

Lisa leans back down, sandwich pushed to one side of her cheek and eyes narrowed with furrowed brows. Her glasses slowly slide off of her face. “My father didn’t have a power. At least, not where I’m from. But I don’t think the one here does the same thing I do, or maybe I’m just doing it wrong. Or maybe he was.” Lisa chews noisily and then swallows, then reaches for the other half of her sandwich.

“Are you hungry?” Lisa offers, sandwich extended under the truck like she was trying to coax out a feral cat.

“I’m trying not to turn back until I’m in a medical facility, but thank you,” says the shadowy form in dry tones, “This is less painful than the burns will be.” …will be…

The darkness roils to the edge of the shadow anyway, as if letting himself be coaxed. “Was Juliette your mother?” …mother…

Brows raised, Lisa looks down at the other half of the sandwich with surprise and sets it back in the unfolded plastic and wraps it back up. “That’s a really good guess, yeah. That’s my mom. She… gave everything to make sure I was safe. Dad would’ve come but he… he had a promise t’keep.” Lisa slowly wraps up the sandwich, looking over at something out of Richard’s field of view and then back again.

“I know you’re looking for somebody, Richard. I know that’s why you went to whatever that building is. But he’s already gone.” Lisa’s voice grows quieter and she tucks the half sandwich into her backpack. “I don’t have specifics, because I never do? But uh, yeah. If you go wherever it is you’re headed, you won’t find him. That much I’m sure of.”

Exhaling a huff of a breath, Lisa starts picking at stylistically-threadbare holes in her jeans. “So… you, ah… you knew my parents here?”

“Damn it. Damn it, damn it…” …damn it! The liminal substance of Richard’s being seethes for a moment like boiling nothingness, and there’s suddenly less dust under the garbage truck than there was. He doesn’t notice. “I was so close, and now…” …nothing again…

A low, long hissed sigh follows. “Yes. I knew both of them, although they weren’t together in this world. I… believe I have a photo of your parents. She was pregnant, my parents were there too. I don’t know how it got to this world, probably one of the overlays…” …overlays…

There’s a tired, defeated note to his voice now, at the realisation that Pines is gone. Hopefully not dead. He wasn’t fast enough.

Lisa exhales a sigh through her nose. “Sorry about your whatever you’re doing,” is the most half-assed response Richard has ever been privy to. “He’s alive, wherever he is. Probably not hurt, either, that seems like it’s got some purchase… yeah.” Then, Lisa ducks down and looks under the dump truck again.

“Your mom talked about you non-stop, y’know.” Lisa pushes a finger up the bridge of her nose to straighten her glasses. “Especially after your bananas radio broadcast from another dimension, thing. I expected you’d be more… you know, three-dimensional.” She smirks, trying to lighten the mood. “I’ll admit, now that I’ve had a few months t’adjust and… you know…” Mourn. “It’s like having a second chance. I’m trying not to fuck it up completely. You can sign my performance review card later, it’ll be in the mail.” She’s presumably kidding.

Exhaling another sigh, Lisa opens the flap of her backpack and tips it over, then slides it halfway under the truck. “Alright, sitting in greasy water is cool and all but it’s time for a piggyback ride. Get in.”

“Why didn’t you just come to the facility? Michelle could’ve let you in…” A slow ripple of darkness flows like thin tar over the edge of the backpack’s flap as the tenebrous man slithers into the offered shelter.

Maybe he shouldn’t be so trusting, but he’s always been a bit blind when it comes to Rays.

“The building does have our last name on it,” he observes. …our name…

Carefully picking up the backpack, Lisa makes sure to close the flap around the top but leaves it unbuckled. “Because it wasn’t the right time,” is about as straight of an answer as Richard is probably going to get, which is also perhaps what he’s used to with Rays in general. Settling the backpack on her shoulders, Lisa straightens up and rises to her feet, moving out of the alley and onto the sidewalk.

“My folks always told me to trust my gut, so I do. I found out later that trusting my gut is a bit more science-y.” Lisa says with a lopsided smile, turning right and headed south. “But… I mean, more than that I was honestly just fucking scared. This has all been a lot to take in. Dad was convinced I’d be safest here, because anywhere was better than where we were. But we were supposed to come together… and then…” She shakes her head. “Shit happened.”

Looking down to her feet as she walks, Lisa jostles the backpack a little as she shifts its weight on her shoulders. There’s a gas mask inside that Richard finds, a few bottles of water, and that half-eaten sandwich wrapped in plastic. “Where’m I taking you?” Lisa asks over her shoulder.

“Probably the hospital,” murmurs the shadow in Lisa’s backpack, “And… I can understand that. With your mother gone, with Juliette…” …whatever happened..

A pause there, as if to acknowledge her grief, “You don’t need to be alone out here though. You’re family. Also, we have plumbing.” …and cable…

Snorting, Lisa shakes her head. “I lived in an underground shelter without much electricity and only moldy books to entertain myself. I’m accustomed to roughing it.” Though there isn’t as much dismissive color in her tone as Richard would expect. It’s as if she herself doesn’t entirely believe what she’s saying. “I’m not sure I’m ready to be like… out in the open. Even just around other people. It’s hard because people are like, choices, and choices are fucking loud.”

Which brings Lisa to a realization. “Am I taking you to the real hospital or your mad science hospital?” She asks, because that’s an important distinction.

“Mad scientist— “ A hissing chuckle from the bag, amused more than anything, “The actual hospital. We don’t have a great medical facility…” …medical…

The shadow sinks into the bag, making itself ‘comfortable’ within the contents, idly exploring the as they travel. “Mm. That makes sense, if you can see the… branching possibilities like Edward could. It’s a… difficult ability to deal with. He— didn’t deal well.” …well… A pause, “You would be welcome anyway. We could set you up with your own apartment in corporate housing. Mom keeps to herself a lot too.” …housing…

Mmmn,” is an uncomfortable sound in the back of Lisa’s throat. “I’ll… think about it,” is said in the same way people say that I’ll have to check it out to something they absolutely will not, in fact, check out. “Elmhurst is a long way from here,” she admits thoughtfully. Then steps off the curb and starts hustling across the empty street. “No worries, I’ve got an idea.”

Picking up speed and moving into a jog, Lisa crosses not only the street but starts to round the corner of the block. “There’s a bus stop two blocks away, heads straight to Elmhurst. You just need to, uh…” She starts to slow down,turning to talk over her shoulder at the backpack. “Not say anything? Easy?”

A whispering sigh from the backpack. “I’m at least leaving you my phone number,” he insists, “You’re family and I’m not letting you be completely isolated out here…” …out here…

Then there’s a hissing chuckle and — silence. An answer to her question, it seems. He’s good at being patient, and quiet.

“Oh I’ve already got that,” Lisa says with a hint of guilt in her voice, “I tried to fucking call you before the shooting started, so I had to call your friend instead.”


“And… I guess. Family. Whatever,” sounds more dismissive. Lisa seems reluctant to take hold of the notion, because unlike every other iteration of history, where she comes from, there is no familial bond between Richard and Edward, because there was no Richard. “I’m not sure I’m completely in on that, to be honest. All I know is like, two things.”

Lisa cuts across another quiet street, getting to the curb just as a truck packed with Yamagato construction robots goes roaring past. “One, parallel realities are real and Ray Bradbury was wrong.” Up ahead, the graffitied walls of the bus stop come into view. “Two, monsters are real and I’m still having nightmares about it.”

“I wondered who was calling. I had to duck in a hurry, though,” Richard replies in a sibilant murmur, “And that’s alright. We can talk about it when we have the chance…” …the chance…

To someone who, for most of his life, had no family - family is everything. Even the most tenuous connection is precious. The fact that he now has almost an embarrassment of family hasn’t changed that.

“They are,” he admits then, more softly but loud enough to be heard, “Humans are the worst ones of all, though. I don’t blame you for being freaked out. I would be too.” …too…

That sentiment leaves Lisa in silence, settling down on the bus stop bench and checking her watch. “I don’t know if I believe that humans are the biggest monsters anymore… not after seeing that thing. Not after…” she shakes her head, settling the backpack Richard is hiding in at her feet. “Twenty-six minutes until a bus comes by,” she says quietly, looking down at the pack. “I’ll drop you off at Elmhurst Hospital, ok? I don’t want to answer questions or get the MPs involved on my end of things…”

Dropped off. Like a baby outside of a church. In a lot of ways, Richard was accustomed to that phenomena in his life. It brings to mind things, like the orphanage, like Isabelle, like the life he thought he had before he made the decision to look behind the curtain.

His whole life had been one big curtain.

“I can… handle things from there,” is Richard’s rueful murmur. Just dropped off like a package. Despite his wealth, despite the fame, life had its way of humbling him at every turn. “It could get awkward if you stayed anyway…” …Julie…

There’s further silence from the pack, before he inquires, “You’ll keep in touch? You haven’t been trying to get in touch with me just to carry me to the hospital, I know…” …I know…

“Yeah…” Lisa says quietly, looking down the long road ahead, brows furrowed. “Yeah, I will.”

But how many times has he heard that before.


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