What's My Name?


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Scene Title What's My Name?
Synopsis Richard Ray comes face to face with the enigmatic Joy.
Date December 13, 2020

It wasn’t back to his room that Richard went, after meeting with Broome and the other ghosts that walked the floors of that second floor office. Some of them could talk. Some couldn’t, but he could hear them all the same.

His future self’s house here in Sweden is a haunted one indeed.

There’s one more person that he needs to talk to before the night’s over, though. If just to try and lay to rest one more ghost. It’s not with an eye towards discussing a thousand years of history, or a power that may by now outpace nearly everyone else in the world, but to talk about the loss of a single girl that has him knocking on the door to Joy’s room.

Because he knows that his cousin was something to her, too, once.


Nine Years Earlier

The Commonwealth Arcology
Below Cambridge, Massachusetts

November 8th

Klaxons blare, blood red security lighting bleeds on the eggshell white of the Arcology’s walls.

“C’mon, just a little further.”

Avi Epstein rounds the corner of the B-Ring’s Black Level detention wing. He leads the corner with the muzzle of a cold .45, his other hand occupied with the wrist of a small, black-haired girl. “Ok, so if you were mislabeled and you’re a teleporter now’s the time you fuckin’ tell me.” Avi says, scratching his cheek with the barrel of his gun as he steps out of the open doorway into view of the maglifts and the B-Ring concourse. There’s bodies everywhere, Retrievers slumped over park benches, unarmed lab technicians laying in pools of blood.

Avi feels a slight tug, looking back at the girl. “No, we can’t go back that way.” Avi says, looking down the curving hall they’d just come from. “I gotta get you to Doyle, and then I’ve gotta—”

His brows furrow, and he momentarily looks around. His eye focuses on something at the end of the concourse by the elevators, a figment of his imagination, then nothing. Just a shadow.

Avi takes in a deep breath, placing both hands on the grip of his handgun. “Okay,” he says, “one down. Now, I’ve just gotta get out.”

He doesn’t turn around, doesn’t look behind him. Not to where the little, dark-haired girl is still standing. Not to where the figment of his imagination stands behind her, long and dark hair hiding her face, pale hands on the girl’s shoulders.

He can’t see her.

He isn’t meant to.

Present Day

The Reach
Lappland, Sweden

December 13th

7:05 pm Local Time

The door to Joy’s room in the Reach opens by itself. Not out of some technological marvel—there’s almost no digital technology in the Reach—but because Joy willed it so. Her room is a sparse thing, easily mistaken for a Yoga studio. The floor is hardwood, the only bed is a roll-out quilted mattress and a single comforter and one flat pillow. Windows overlook the dusky illumination of the snow-covered forest.

Joy stands by the windows, a ceramic teacup cradled in her hands. She does not look at Richard in the doorway, and she is but a shadow of a memory to him. Pale, thin, long dark hair down to her waist. She lifts delicate hands up, sipping the tea, and then says, “I was wondering if you’d come.”

As the door swings open, Richard hesitates for just a moment— takes a breath— and then accepts the implicit invitation by stepping within the room. He reaches a hand back to carefully close the door in his wake, head turning to consider the willowy figure beside the window. As archetypical as a painting, in that moment.

“I wanted to take care of all the… business first,” he replies simply, “Always been better at business than personal, really.”

It’s an awkward moment. He knows so much about her, and she - no doubt - him, but this is the first time they’ve actually met for more than a fleeting moment, or an echo through distance and time.

Joy nods, a subtle thing, and turns back to the windows. “So this isn’t business,” she states flatly. It’s hard, in this moment, for Richard to rationalize what he’s seeing. Here is Joy, decades severed from the vision Barbara saw of her and Charles Deveaux examining Michelle’s dorm room after the accident in Kansas, and she hasn’t aged a day. There have been few true immortals, in spite of body-possessing conduit bearers and other-dimensional entities, there is something subtle and effortlessly elegant about people like Joy, like Adam.

But intellectually Richard knows that this is a several hundred year old woman, one who faced down the Entity on the isles of Japan centuries before he was born. A woman who faced down the Entity a second time on the rooftop of the Deveaux Building. A woman who has weathered history, only to wind up at this moment.

Not entirely unlike the power living inside of him.

If they survive this, and if the thing inside him is still there and hasn’t chosen to leave - or be taken - will this be him, one day? A few hundred years down the line, watching others try and clean up the messes that he’d left behind, the history that he’d failed to correct?

It’s the sort of thing that keeps Richard up some nights.

“No,” he replies, drawing in a breath, “Nathalie was my cousin. Well. Second cousin. On my mother’s side.”

One hand comes up, fingers rubbing against the nape of his neck self-consciously, “I’m told you were protecting her.”

Regret paints across Joy’s features. First she looks down to the floor, then away to the windows. “Not well enough,” she laments.

“I did what I had to do to get her safely out of the Commonwealth Arcology. When I realized the way the wind was blowing, I used every power at my disposal to make sure someone was there at the right moment to save her. So that I could get to her.” Joy looks up to her reflection in the window, but can’t bear to look at it. She closes her eyes, turning her face away from it.

“Nathalie was at the Ojas Amargos Commune in Mexico, a Ferrymen Safehouse I wound up in after…” Joy looks at Richard, “I became host to those.” She nods at him, but he knows precisely what she means. “A Retriever team hit the commune, Nathalie was shot in the crossfire and…” Joy spreads her hands. “I saved her.”

Turning to face Richard, Joy wraps her arms around herself. “I don’t think there has ever been anyone to wield that power so young. Nathalie grew up with both of those forces, commingled, forces that were antipodal to one-another, and somehow lived in harmony inside of her from a young age. I saw a future for her. Now…”

Joy sighs softly. “I don’t blame you, for surviving,” she blinks a look up to Richard. “If you were concerned. She was selfless.”

Richard looks away at those last words, moving slowly over to look out the windows that she was just a few moments ago. There’s silence for a long few beats before he replies quietly, voice a bit rough, “I blame myself enough for all of us.”

Silence, again.

“I shouldn’t have been there. I shouldn’t have fallen into their trap, I…” He closes his eyes, “I’m sorry.”

“We are all vulnerable to the tyranny of the stars,” Joy says, and it sounds like she’s quoting something, but Richard isn’t sure what. “Failure is a part of life, regret comes from not learning from your mistakes or, worse, learning from them and making the wrong choices again anyway.” From the tone of her voice, it sounds as though she’s done both.

“If you came here just to apologize to me, I’m not the one you should be apologizing to.” Joy says to her muted reflection in the window. “Apologize to yourself.” She blinks a dark-eyed look over at Richard, brows furrowed. “But if there was something else, I have nothing else going on tonight.”

His own reflection is equally dim, muted, but in this place it seems to him to have a life of its own. The mistakes that he’d never made, but that happened anyway. Did he learn the right lessons from them regardless? Or the wrong ones?

“Not only that.” Richard turns his head a little, looking at her for a moment with a slight purse of his lips, as if trying to figure out how to phrase what he wants to say.

“I… don’t know how much you know about these,” he admits, “I was… conversing with one of the echoes, the memories, within them. A good woman, one that I know well even now. She told me that Nathalie was— there, but different.”

His gaze sweeps back to the window, to the dim reflection of himself. “Maybe she’s not gone forever,” he says softly, daring to speak it aloud.

Joy looks back at Richard, and there’s a look in her eyes he hasn’t seen before. The way her brows are furrowed seems like suspicion, but the hawkish intensity of her stare says intrigue. All the same, there’s something to it he can’t intuit, a centuries-old mask over her emotions. But what he can be sure of is that he has her attention.

“We are made of stardust,” Joy says quietly, “I heard a man on television say that many years ago. I find myself in agreement.”

Turning, Joy comes to face Richard and steps closer to him. She reaches out, placing a hand on his arm. “You and I are more than flesh and blood, more than thoughts, memories, and experiences. I’m sure philosophers and scientists all have different words for it, but I’ve experienced the truth.” It’s like she wants to say something, but is making a conscious choice to speak in metaphor and allusion.

“There is a way back,” Joy says with hushed certainty, the way Robert Oppenheimer often spoke of the atomic bomb’s threat to humanity, “but death is not something that can be transcended without a cost. I don’t know if Nathalie will pay it.”

If there had been set embers of hope in Richard by the words of Abigail’s memory, the response from Joy kindles them alight, his eyes widening ever so slightly.

“I know we are,” he says softly, meeting her gaze, “‘For what may know the thoughts of a man, save the spirit of that man within him?’ If all we were— if there was nothing to us but flesh and blood, chemicals and electricity…”

He looks away briefly, eyes closing, “Nathalie would have woken up a new person entirely, not me.”

Drawing in a slow breath, he looks back up to her, “My cousin’s paid enough already. If there’s a cost to be paid, I will pay it.”

Massaging a hand at the side of her head, Joy smiles a bittersweet smile. “Were it that simple,” she says with a hint of knowing. “I should… get some rest,” she adds with a hint of that visible weariness, though she doesn’t let it hinder her tired smile.

“I wish I could be of more help, but what I know could fit into a thimble in comparison to the ocean of our questions.” Joy says with a slow shake of her head. “Ever since I woke up in that cave in Hokkaido, it’s a little scrambled eggs up here.” She says with a soft laugh and gesture to her temple.

“Of course.” Richard offers her a slight smile of his own, inclining his head, “Thank you for talking with me, regardless… I know I could ask questions all day, really.” He chuckles, “And nobody ever has the answers. Just more questions. I guess I should be used to that by now.”

He steps back, “I’ll let you rest. It was good to finally, you know. Meet you.”

“Likewise. It was good to see you,” Joy says as Richard leaves her room. But the quiet part, the thing she holds in, is said aloud only to herself once he’s gone.


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