What Happened In The Light Of The Aurora


richard_icon.gif seren_icon.gif

Scene Title What Happened In The Light Of The Aurora
Synopsis While making the rounds following the events that took place at Hart Plaza, Richard distracts a distraught Seren with tales of Conduits and Entities.
Date February 28, 2020

Raytech Renaissance Center

Detroit, Michigan

"Yeah. Yeah, we're fine here—"

Kara Prince has a borrowed cell phone pressed to her ear, looking for a conference room that's unlocked to her as she heads down a hall within the Raytech Renaissance building. When a handle finally gives, she pushes the door open and makes it approximately a half-step in before locking eyes with someone already seated at the conference table in the room. Seren Evans has a coarse blanket drawn about their shoulders as they sit turned out from the table, elbows braced on their knees.

An impossibly winged tiger sits between their knees, a deep grey with greyer stripes down his body. Baird turns as well at the sound of the door abruptly opening, eyes gleaming gold as he looks in Kara's direction.

She doesn't manage to pull the door fully closed behind her as she moves on without a word or a shift in her expression, steps swift. Slowly the door swings back open again, letting Seren continue to hear the sounds of the Providence munitions chaplain as she heads down the hall. "We're safe," they can hear her as she opts to keep moving rather than find another place to nest in immediately. "The city's locked down, so getting back is going to be…"

In the meantime, Seren looks back to Baird, cupping his furry face between their hands. The silver gleam to their eyes maintains a stubborn glint of white in their ability use, not that they know, and not that it can particularly see use at the moment.

After all, Baird is ultimately of them.

A tear of breath finally escapes them as they fail to hold back a stutter of a sob, tears still streaked down their face to their chin. The red tie of their businesswear hangs, lending them a credibility they no longer feel they have. Outside, the world is no longer coming apart at the seams, but Seren takes shelter from it anyway. American authorities have begun streaming into the city, accompanying the jets that made their way there first. Noah Bennet, as he'd introduced himself, had taken control of Hart Plaza and began clearing everyone out who didn't want to talk to the authorities.

That had included Seren, though the blood streaming from their nose had merited them being caught by the arm by a paramedic, dragged to be examined. There had been confusion on the paramedic's part prompted by unintentional ability usage,— stately armor settling over the uniform she'd worn and a crown gleaming at her imperial brow— but at least the unbidden projections had been favorable. A maximum dose of ibuprofen and a handful of other measures later, they'd wandered off, seeking quiet— seeking


They wish they knew what.

Devi had told them fervently that whatever happened it wasn't their fault, but Seren can't believe that. Not-Eve had been there, and she'd saved Claire only to start hurting her again, and Seren— in all their well-meaning ways— had reached out with their ability, and…

Baird settles his head in their lap in an attempt to console them, but Seren closes their eyes hard and lets out another vocalized breath with a sniff of frustration.

A dozen other things happened all at that moment, all of them speaking to that maybe it wouldn't have mattered anyway, but the energy that had emerged from Claire had looked back at them with such sadness in its eyes that they can't reconcile that, not entirely. Had they done the right thing? Had they not? Had they ruined something?

It's easier to obsess over that, somehow, instead of everything else which threatens to not make sense.

After talking to what felt like literally every authority figure that was within a hundred mile radius of Detroit while simultaneously trying to arrange for the recovery of certain key tech salvage, Richard had finally escaped to breathe for a moment.

Of course that only lasted maybe ten seconds before he decided to start checking on his people, because that’s just the kind of person he is.

There’s a frown as he sees Kara walking down the hallway - she’s here because she was with Noah, but he doesn’t need to like it. The door’s open where she came from, so as he makes his way down the hallway he cranes his neck to look inside, stopping when he sees Seren there.

“Hey,” he greets them gently, tiredly, stepping into the room, “How’re you holding up in here?”

For just a moment, Seren rushes through the motion of scraping their cheek with the heel of their hand to hide away any sight of tears. "I, uh…" Blinking rapidly, they look to Richard, then quickly off at nothing, the sheen in their eyes still present more from their ability than from tears. What can they even say about how they're doing?

"I'm not okay," they follow a moment later. A faint laugh trails that admission, the honesty in it allowing them to look back to Richard. Baird's grey form exhales a sigh as he hobbles a step back, then makes his way toward the door, faced turned up to very intently look upon the Raytech CEO while he chuffs noises that only make sense to him and his summoner alone.

They make Seren laugh a little brighter anyway, but it doesn't reach their eyes before they shake their head. "I…" they begin, and Baird pauses in his pace toward Richard to shoot an accusatory look toward his summoner for what he already knows they mean to say. Unmeeting either of their expressions, Seren looks off to the side and confesses how they see things. "I fucked up."

‘I’m not okay’ is all Richard needs to hear before he steps inside, drawing the door actually closed behind him. He looks down to the conjured fantasy that is Baird, offering the imaginary creature a quick smile before looking back up.

“We all do, sometimes,” he admits quietly, “I fucked up bigger than anyone, today, yesterday… probably the last few years, to be honest. What’d you do?”

Sitting properly upright, Seren palms their phone off the top of the conference table and looks down at it long enough to confirm that they've not received any replies to the texts they've sent out, not yet. Slipping the device from one hand to the other, they adamantly point out, "You saved that girl's life. You did a really great thing."

"I meant to help. I tried, but I think all I did was just…" It's only then that they can bring themself to look back at Richard. They wonder, "Did anybody tell you yet what happened before you all got there?"

“I should have stopped this before it ever reached this point, but I let people… take me off the board,” says Richard with a heavy sigh, dropping down to sit across from them, gloved hands folding on the table-top.

“And no, not all of it. I’m still trying to untangle everything.”

It's reluctantly that Seren nods, and by so doing silently imposes a responsibility on themself to fill in the blanks. Still, it takes a minute for them to work up to reliving that. When Richard makes his way over, Baird lazily pads back in that general direction. A look is given to the conference chair closest to him before he decides, perhaps wisely, that he wouldn't fit. Instead, he sits just before the table, resting his head on the surface of it. His tail noisily thumps under the table as he settles in, working on getting it wrapped about himself.

"You can't be everyone's everything. I mean… it's kind of why companies exist, isn't it? To do great things as a group that a single person can't do on their own?" Seren forces a small, but well-meaning smile.

Not that they're advocating the use of a company as a thinktank and/or a personal intelligence web and possibly as a private army, but in a certain light…

"Anyway," they go on, letting their voice fall. "Um… so a lot happened." For a moment, they're self-conscious about it, and work around that by directing their gaze down at the conference table. Swirling etchings begin to draw on its surface of their own accord, and that seems to be enough of an idle distraction for them to get back on track. "Miss Valerie and I realized that girl— Claire— she was being held there not of her free will. We'd started to try and do something to help her escape, but then…" The etching pauses, and Seren swallows hard. Their thumb brushes over the table to fix the uneven line created before they cut themself off, and then the mental doodle resumes. "A-and there was this girl who'd showed up, she looked just like, um, Chess. She looked like Chess, and she was so sad before she teleported away again." Brow knitting, they finally circle back around to the point that begins their struggle to speak all over again.

"And then Claire…"

Seren makes it past that point this time, at least, even if the describing words don't take form. "Then Eve showed up," they tack on, voice falling to softness again. "And the man with the blue eyes— he kneeled to her. I don't know what he said, but then she turned to Claire, and then she…"

"She started glowing." While it's progression, it's definitely not the thing they regret. It's a winding road to that point. Maybe this context is required, first. "And I remembered this awful dream I'd had, where the sky was terrible and the world was filled with horrors, and a voice called out The Resurrection is upon us. The voice said, this world wasn't meant for humankind, the same way the man from the television had. And Eve glowed, and Claire glowed, and what happened to her was undone. And… thensome."

"But she was alive again," Seren marvels in a whisper.

“That wasn’t Eve,” says Richard with a shake of his head, sadly; their friendship had long since eroded, and he knew she was on a self-destructive road, but he’s still unhappy how it turned out for her. “She was— it wasn’t possession so much as subsumption. It was an entity that’s… been around since the Sumerian era— no. Further back, I think, really. We’ve been trying to figure out a way of dealing with it…”

Then he’s watching them across the table, a sudden tension to his manner, “When it was undone, did it— did she heal or did it look like her death rewound?”

Baird's gold eyes flick to Richard with interest.

"To be honest…" Seren stares off for a moment, remembering the moment. Reliving it. For a second, a flicker of light, a flicker of Claire? hovers off to the side of them both— of someone garbed in red robes coming back to her feet in a blur of reverse amidst a haze of green.

Their eyes flit back to Richard. "The latter. All the glowing light, it was gold, but then it turned green. There was this cloud of it, and it ended with lightning. It knocked Claire back off her feet, but she was alive."

For just a moment, the echo of an angry "You—!" can be heard on the edges of perception, and for some reason it brings a smile to Seren's lips.

"Then she hit the guy there with everything she had."

Their hand comes to rest on the top of Baird's head, bringing his eyes to squint closed under the pressure of the pet. "I yelled for her, I yelled for Eve," this said with a glance of apology to Richard, because they didn't know at the time that Eve wasn't Eve, "and told them both it was dangerous and that we needed to get out of there. The men with guns— they were scared of Eve, so it seemed safe. Like it was the best moment for us to run. A-and…"

"She just—" Seren tries to laugh their way through it, but they can't even force it. They look back to Richard, wondering how to explain. They don't want to. If it were less distressing, maybe they could even share the vivid memories on replay, but they're sharp, and awful. "The men with the guns started to turn on us, and she looked at me. She didn't even need to look at them t… to…"

Well, Richard saw the aftermath of those bodies. Felt the distinct lack of life in their soupy remains.

"A-and then other people showed up. They teleported in. They started attacking Eve, and she got angry. She was shrouded in this blue fire, and it didn't even burn her. Things— exploded, and the ground shifted, and then Eve was in the air with Claire again, holding onto her with her power. She was hurting her. Claire— started screaming, and…"

Seren shakes their head, looking down at their lap and withdrawing their hand from Baird's head. They curl up in their guilt. "She started glowing, all this red energy like life started…" They draw their fingers subconsciously down their forearm toward their wrist as a visualization of what happened. "It started to pull from her, and I just— she was hurting, Richard. It didn't make sense, and Claire didn't deserve to suffer, and I didn't want anyone else to die." Their shoulders shake with the adamance of that.

"So I imagined that she got what she wanted, the entity that had Eve, and hoped that she'd just… go."

That did not happen. That patently did not happen.

With a roll of their lip, Seren averts their gaze. "Then the kid who was hurt, she stabbed Eve through the back, and there was an explosion— it knocked everyone back. The energy that came from Claire was left behind like an afterimage. A person. She— she looked at me, and she looked so sad. And Eve was gone— she was just…"

Rubbing their forehead with the side of their thumb, they repeat with distress, "She was just gone." A stutter of sound follows, like they'd mean to say even more, but they lose their momentum, voice breaking.

“Hey…” Richard reaches over across the table, although not all the way. He’s wearing a glove, though, to ensure no accidental skin contact occurs if they reach back. His tone is gentle as he watches their face, “Easy. It’s… you didn’t do anything wrong, and you didn’t fuck up, either.”

He draws in a breath, explaining, “Eve was dead before she showed up. That thing was just— wearing her body like a suit. An Eve-suit.” He’s not entirely conscious of the fact that he just quoted Men In Black, but he absolutely did.

“As far as Claire is concerned, you— you probably saved her life,” he notes, “The Entity didn’t pull everything out of her, there was some left, and that— is probably what kept her alive. If there was a person it was probably…”

Trailing off, he considers them, “Do you know about the Conduits, Seren?”

It's not that simple for Seren to step away, not when the event is still so close and the horror leading up to it clouding their judgment, their recollection. "But what if I did fuck up? What if I— got in the middle of something I shouldn't have— what if…"

They take in a single deep breath, holding onto it. They close their eyes, counting away the spike of anxiety by seconds even though their eyes sting with salt.

"I can't say I've ever heard of them," they confess quietly once they've stilled their anxiety down to small ripples, at least for the time being. "But neither have I heard of any ancient Sumerian entities walking the earth, either." Eyes opening, Seren fixes Richard with a weary look, but not a disbelieving one.

That would be a hell of a stretch, too oddly specific and immediate in its being drawn for them to suspect it might be.

“There’s a lot that isn’t… publicly known. You’ve heard of Kazimir Volken, of course,” Richard says. It’s like asking if someone’s heard of Osama bin Laden, only the Vanguard tried to kill a lot more people than al Qaeda ever succeeded to.

“It’s on record that his ability was ‘life draining’, but the truth is a little more complicated. There are— abilities, a very few of them, that can pass from person to person like a— symbiote, or a parasite,” he says, “Two of them we call the ‘White’ and ‘Black’ Conduits. Kazimir held the Black Conduit, which let him drain life from the people around him. The White Conduit was a healing ability, a dear friend of mine used to hold it.”

He takes a breath, “We think that Claire’s ability was similar to them. This, though, this is where things get complicated and mostly supposition, so you’ll have to bear with me here.”

Kazimir Volken is a hell of a way to lead with this story, and Seren's hands find each other in a tense hold under the table, trying to keep their reaction to themself. Baird, on the other hand, lifts his head off the table, ears flicking and turning toward Richard. He gets somewhere with an assumption before Seren even does, the transmission of it silent from imaginary creature to summoner. Seren's eyes shift his direction with a sharp furrow of their brow and an additional worrying of their hands under the table.

Then they look to Richard's own— gloved.

They remember the miracle he performed in the plaza.

"I saw a person," Seren interjects instead. "I swear I did. It was just for a moment, but before all of that red energy returned to Claire, I swear I saw them— and they looked right at me. So… So I believe you."

Richard sees where their eyes go, and there’s a faint, sad curve of his smile for a moment as he draws his hands back fully to his side of the table, resting them beneath folded arms as if to conceal them.

“Every… every host for the conduit is…” He hesitates, trying to figure out how to frame what he’s saying, “…recorded? Copied? I don’t know how it works, but they’re all… there. Sometimes they appear to the host, talk to them.”

Softer, he confesses, “One of them helped walk me through what I was doing, out there.”

He closes his eyes, head shaking, “If the Catalyst is like the other conduits, then it’s the same way. Potentially all the way back to— the Entity, the Dragon, Uluru the Invincible. Whatever you want to call her. We think they were originally invested in people connected to her. Children? Siblings? We don’t know. Thousands of years ago is a hard timeline to follow. We’ve found mentions in Sumeria, China, even the Zuni people.”

Mentions, he says.

"You mean myths," Seren picks up on easily, and with interest. The question of how much myth is myth and how much belongs to colored retellings of acts of ancient SLC-E is one they find to be particularly fascinating. "Myths of…"

Their eyes dance back and forth blindly as Seren searches their memory. Curls of auroral color bleed their way through Baird in ripples, a haze of blues and orange and green washing over him and taking root in the gray of his stripes. "Parentage in mythology is always interesting to look at— the way two gods blend together down into their progeny— and how similar or dissimilar they are. But if you're talking about Sumerian myths— which I admittedly don't know a lot about— and China in the same breath? Zuni?"

Their brow begins to furrow as they look back to Richard. "Just how old do you think these symbiotes are?" Even for the scrunch of their eyebrows, their eyes are somehow still wide. Because… "Sumerian society existed over the spanse of some four thousand years."

And that alone is an unknowable expanse of time.

"What are you thinking? Earlier in their history? Near the end? There's a lot more to go off of the closer you get to Common Era in terms of documentation, evidence to corroborate stories with truth…"

They're interested now. Invested, even if it's without a goal in mind.

“As old as we’ve had legends of heroes with incredible powers, of gods who look like men but fly and bear power in their hands… it’s not talked about a lot publicly, but it seems likely that at least a significant percentage of world mythology is derived from some of the few Evolved in pre-history,” Richard admits with a slow shake of his head, “And beyond that…”

A rueful curve of his lips, “Uluru re-created a biosphere briefly in the Antarctic that couldn’t even survive in a modern atmosphere. Who knows where it originates from— the Jurassic? Triassic? Earlier?”

His hands spread, “I don’t think that Applied Mythology was a field of study until very recently, and even the previous Hosts don’t seem to have many answers.”

Seren blanches at that, beginning to frown… but also lean forward further at the same time. "Jurassic? That's millions of years ago. Homo sapiens as a species? Only 200,000 years old. I don't think any Entity would be from back then, but maybe…"

They begin to slowly frown, their imagination working. "Was it possible she was rewinding time as… practice? Practice for what she did to Claire?" Rewinding her time. "I mean, it's extreme, don't get me wrong, but."

Seren brushes their hand across their cheek, smearing away the last of the grey-tinged river without bothering to check and see how much of a raccoon they look, or make any attempts to correct it.

"Man," they sigh quietly, wistfully. "Applied mythology would have been a hell of a field to go into. Wouldn't it, bud?" They look down to Baird, who turns his head to meet their gaze. "Way more interesting than architecture."

“No, what it did to Claire…” Richard breathes out a sigh, his gaze dropping to the table, “I’ve seen it before. It was an ability belonging to a man named Darren, he could reverse time on an object or person within certain… limits. Honestly, everything I’ve seen it do can be chalked up to an evolved ability that we have on record.”

He looks back up, fingers vaguely moving through the air, “What records indicate about its true primary power is that it can rewrite the genetics of people on the fly, so basically it’s just giving its host whatever power it needs at that particular moment. I’m not sure it’s actually creative so it may not be able to make up brand new abilities, but the existing pool is large enough.”

“It may not be human in origin at all. Whatever it is, where it comes from was long ago enough that the atmosphere isn’t the same composition.”

After patting Baird's head, Seren turns back to the conversation, going back to listening with a more thoughtful expression. When he winds to the end of it, their brow furrows.

"Okay, but… they died."

There's a pause, then, looking up to Richard with widened eyes, widened for emphasis to this point.


They'd be more anxious about recalling this if something in Richard's tone didn't treat the issue as if it were one that was closed.

"I saw it with my own eyes. Eve was stabbed, and shot with an arrow that exploded, and she exploded."

“No. Eve died, yes, but Uluru…”

Richard grimaces, his head shaking tightly, “You can’t just shoot or stab something that’s made of energy. That explosion was just it… leaving, I suppose. All that’s changed is that we don’t know what poor bastard’s going to be the next host.”

He looks down, then back up, “I’ll admit, we don’t know much about it. I had a— vision, when I was healing Jacelyn. A— child, a toddler, looking up at an eclipse, staring at it. And then something… came over her. Her eyes turned gold, and the sky burst into an aurora, and a voice said ‘Gutes-Asi’. Her mother called her name, then, Nin— bada? Ninbanda. I think her mother was a seer.”

“Fuck if I know what it meant, though. Maybe it’s the moment that Uluru entered our reality, or just the first human host. It was all— a few thousand years ago, I think. All clay huts.”

Poor Eve. Seren's eyes flicker with hurt again as they reflect on that— that she died while the other thing, the entity that possessed her, lived on. They keep quiet through the revelation Richard presents, pensive about it and everything else they've seen.

After giving the last of it due consideration, they finally lift their head again, looking to Richard warily. "I still don't know what to think of all this. What happened, as much as…" With a tip of their shoulder, they seem to indicate everything else that he's told them.

"She looked at me, when I tried to call her and Claire to safety. Like she didn't know what to make of me. She said… she liked me. That I had 'imagination', the same way someone might tell you you've got spark." It may not be untrue, but it was an oddly deep, instantaneous cut to the heart of their ability they'd not expected. "I don't know." Seren mumbles, one hand lifting to scrub at the side of their neck, over the curling script of the tattoo there as much as the isotope mark it partly covers up.

"If she's just gone but'll come back— is that something we should worry about? Or is it just one of the mysteries of the universe that should be left alone to play itself out?" They know what they saw, the dangerous nature of the sky opening up like that, but … thousands of years this Entity's been around, supposedly, and things like that weren't exactly commonplace. "I guess— what happens now?"

At the question, Richard offers a faint smile of understanding. It’s easy to get lost in the wake of events like this, as he knows… only too well.

“First,” he says, hands folding, “We take care of each other. We’re there for each other, we heal our wounds, we repair the damage and we’re— there for each other. That’s the first, and most important, thing that we need to do.”

A slow breath, “Then, we start preparing for the next time. We research more ways to deal with this thing the next time it rears its head, we hunt down the people it was working with and deal with them, we make ourselves stronger and more able to handle the next thing coming down the pipe, and we give other people what they need to do so as well.”

None of which sounds like a corporation’s objectives, but he’s saying it as if he’s explaining Raytech’s objectives.

That answers the question of what Richard sees Uluru as, then. A threat, something to be dealt with rather than just avoided. Seren isn't sure what they think of that, not immediately, but they nod anyway to show their understanding.

"We?" they do wonder, a touch of caution in it for how they themself might be caught up in that we, assuming it's not royal.

“Well.” Richard hesitates, “We, as in myself and my family, at least. We’ve been… doing this sort of thing for a long moment.”

Gloved fingers push back through his hair briefly, “You don’t need to do any of that. You can just go back to your job once you feel up to it. We’re trying to make the world better in every way we can, and not all of those ways involve managing threats like this. The environment, poverty, disabilities, all things we’re also working against.”

“The company motto isn’t just pretty words, like most are.” Building a Brighter Future.

It's Baird who reacts most to that, letting out a chuff of interest and coming to his feet properly. To him, saving the world business sounds like it could be awesome.

Seren, on the other hand, is still a little too overwhelmed by the day's events to take the admission that the company has a secret mission in the words they live by with anything other than a grain of salt. They attempt a small smile.

"It takes all kinds," they supply almost meekly, looking away and down to their hands, fidgeting with them in their lap. "While that's wild to hear… I mean, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised? The history a lot of people around here have, including yourself. It just…"

Seren lets out a small laugh. "It sounds like a subplot on River Styx or something."


Richard buries his face in his hands, “Please don’t remind me of that damn show. There’s just enough truth in all the bullshit that they put on it to annoy me, honestly. They even know stuff that wasn’t in the history books.”

At that, Seren's equal parts surprised and curious. "Is there?" they ask, a little louder than they mean to for their open confusion. "The way people around the office groan about it, I thought it'd all been fake. Barely… barely based on the source material."

Even though the source material was reality.

“A lot of it is pretty far off, but…” Richard admits reluctantly, “…there’s just enough in there to be dangerous.”

One hand lifts, and he points at them, “…please save me the pain of asking me to elaborate on which parts are true. Talk to my sisters. They love the stupid show.”

With a mirth they weren't expecting to have found after earlier, Seren laughs again, this time smiling. "Maybe I should go find Miss Valerie and talk with her about it." They sound a little more solemn, but their smile doesn't fade as they suggest, "It might help take her mind off things. Might help her know I'm doing a little better, too."

After all, they'd more or less disappeared after asking for privacy, looking haunted by what happened because they were.

“It might,” Richard admits with a bit of a chuckle, straightening up from his seat, “I’m sure she’s worried about you, too.”

Then he pushes himself back from the table and moves to his feet, “Speaking of, I should go check on some more people— you going to be alright?” Eyebrows lift a little, as he looks to them across the table.

"Yeah," Seren replies confidently, a little relieved they can say as much. "Yeah, I think I'll be okay from here. Thanks, Mr. Ray."

With a glance back to the door, they wonder, "Is the aurora still going on out there?"

“I think it’s over, thank God,” Richard says as he turns to head for the door, “I don’t have any atmospheric analysis gear set up here in Detroit…”

Seren lets out a soft chuckle, remaining seated even after Richard leaves. They turn to look at Baird again, taking his face between their hands and holding onto its softness. Whatever they see in his eyes gets through to them better this time, and they give him a small smile.

Around themself, they feel growth form, grasses and mosses covering the conference room chair. Blossoms form, though— tiny snowdrops appear, dotting the armrests.

By the time Seren rises, they leave behind the person paralyzed with anxiety, making peace with themself and what happened, taking the good over the bad. It might come to haunt them again later, but for now, they meet the remainder of the day with the hope of a better tomorrow.

"Let's go find Miss Val, Baird." Seren says as they push themself to their feet, heading from the room. They leave behind their mossy throne they nearly sank endlessly into, pushed away by blue blooms of irises nestled among the snowpeas.

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