What Was Taken, Part II


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Scene Title What Was Taken, Part II
Synopsis Cassandra and Ryans dig into the past.
Date September 27, 2018

The roar of traffic is hard to hear this deep into the rambling green. The sound of boats blasting horns carries louder than freeway traffic, however, and the sounds of the nearby Hudson River echo through the relative stillness of the cemetery. Tall trees and hedges block view of the city beyond, making this particular path feel as secluded as it really is.

“You know, I've been wondering something…” A man walking through the cemetery asks, hands tucked into his pockets and brows furrowed. He turns a look over at the man in a crisp suit walking at his side, far less stopped in posture. “You ever think t’wonder what kind of severance package this job offers?”

The tall gentleman in the crisp suit levels a flat look at his partner, lips downturned into a frown. The scruffier man in a the wool coat laughs and scratches at the back of his head. “God, y’know, you're just one big ball of stress aint’cha? I've got t’wonder what it is you do for fun. Tip back a pint? Decorative bonsai?”

The man in the crisp suit strides forward down the path, counting headstones until he reaches five rows deep, then turns and looks at a row of headstones with one grave marker missing. “I have a baby girl,” he says to his partner, turning to walk down the row of headstones. “I don't have time for hobbies.”

Oy,” his partner grumbles, “mate, I'm not much of a family man myself but I'm just going to step out here on a limb and say that you shouldn't really make your children your whole bloody life. Okay?” When the man in the glasses stops, he looks down to the large gap between two headstones in the row. He doesn't dignify his partner’s advice.

Instead, he hands him a shovel. “I hope you like digging as much as you like talking, Agent Rains.” Claude looks at the shovel in his hand, breathes in deeply, then looks up to his partner with a roll of his eyes.

Bugger that, Noah.”

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Greenwood Cemetery

Bay Ridge

7:26 pm

Present Day

There is a shroud of uncomfortable silence that hangs over the air. Under the cover of darkness on a cool, cloudy night, there is no one around to see two people stalking through overgrown cemetery grounds. Flashlights light their way through the grounds, into knee-high grass and to where headstones lay in toppled rows, kicked over by vandals over the decade since the collapse of society and the civil war.

Greenwood Cemetery isn't actively used anymore, with gates shut and locked by a chain. Such security, though, is little deterrence to the persistent. And it is, doggedly, a persistence that drives Benjamin Ryans on into the dark, following the trail of memory and remorse to where it ultimately ends.

Cassandra Baumann follows alongside, counting headstones with Ryans as he makes his way to the family plot. Generations of the Ryans family are buried out here, the first of which approaches on the right. An old headstone, crooked and cracked from vandalism.

Markus Ryans Jr
“The Only Easy Day Was Yesterday”
May 5, 1926 — June 14, 1996

Not far from that, a headstone lays smashed on the ground.

Markus Ryans Sr.
Born: September 7, 1907
Died: June 6, 1944

Ben’s heart rises into his throat as he sees another vandalized and smashed headstone laying in pieces in the tall grass.

Mary Ryans
“There is no excellent beauty that hath not strangeness in the proportion.”
April 18, 1956 — November 8, 2006

Her name, even after all this time, carries so much weight.

He knew, as soon as he had seen the condition of the place, that he might not like what he finds there. As Benjamin’s flashlight sweeps over the graves of his father and grandfather, he is glad that Huruma was not there. His heart sinks at the condition of each. Decorated war heroes, treated like this in death.

“Shameful,” he rumbles out softly.

Mary’s stone. That brings on a flash of anger and then a wave of sadness. They girls had worked hard to help him pick that headstone and what would be written on it. Kneeling down and placing his flashlight on the ground, Ben brushes leaves from the face of his dead wife’s grave stone. There is a gentleness to his movements even though his expression can’t be read. Only Huruma would feel the pain of grief and loss.

Finally, with a sigh through his nose, he looks over the area that holds generations of Ryans. “If Bradley died, this is where we would have buried him.” Picking up his flashlight, Ben pushes to his feet again, ignoring the twinge of pain the stump gives when he uses it. The light sweeps across the plots, sketching out the area with light. “It would have been within this area, but…” The flashlight falls on the fallen stone for Mary. “It would be near this section.” He moves the pool of light to one side. “Cause this is mine.”

Where he’ll be buried… soon.

Cemeteries, before the war, were considered sacred places. Places for quiet contemplation and eternal rest for those laid to rest. A place where families could mourn those who went on before and think that, just for a little while, there would be a tangible place to go to remember them. After the war they were simply open areas with stone and metal markers, with little meaning except to those who placed the markers there in the first place.

As they move through the cemetery, Cassandra can pick out freshly-dug graves dotted between the rows, here and there. Even if this place isn’t regularly used, there’s always a need for someone to have a places to bury a friend or a loved one, and the lack of maintenance gives those who need a place like this opportunity that they may not normally get. The desecrated tombstones - stripped of anything metallic and most leaning at unnatural angles - get a sad look, Cassandra running her fingertips over them as she passes, the whispers of ghosts from below calling to her, their memories held in the objects they are buried with.

“It is shameful.” Cassandra agrees, stepping around to peer over Ben’s shoulder at then name on the stone he kneels at. “It’s not a place of comfort and respect for anyone anymore. It should be.” She stays a respectful distance behind until he’s ready to talk, righting a fallen concrete bench to sit on, bare hands resting on the cool stone.

“Where would you like me to start?” She asks, withdrawing her silk blindfold from it’s dedicated pocket in her bag. “Just everything in this general area from….I guess around ten years ago? Longer?” She looks around, blowing a breath out of her nose, speaking again off-handedly. “You know I generally need to touch things to get a reading, but an open space like this will…well, it’s possible, but it’s going to take quite a while to tune it in.”

It's a good question, and one that Benjamin doesn't have a great answer for. He knows the plot by heart, without needing the headstones standing. His mother and father are buried nearby to where he kneels. His grandmother and grandfather are not far from Cassandra. Obviously in front of him is Mary, and his space next to that where a small shrub has turned into a large bush thanks to lack of grounds keeping over the years. Plots reserved for his living children, all with blank plot markets indicating the reserved space.

He doesn't see what Cassandra does. He doesn't see the gap. No matter how hard Benjamin Ryans tries to look at the cemetery, he can't see it. His eyes pass over it like any other inconsequential detail. Nothing to see here.

Except, a broken pattern.

Ben is the only man who would know the Ryans family plot’s boundaries at a glance. Between his grave and Mary’s, where a reserved plot is marked by a small plate of blank stone, there is a bare gap the width of a proper grave. No marker, no headstone, just a space. Occupied by a shrub that's become a bush.

Cassandra has studied patterns most of her life. The human mind recognizes patterns, and she reorganizes the impressions of patterns into events. As a SESA agent she's trained to see these discrepancies.

It might as well be a flag, in the shape of a shrub, that's grown into a bush.

Sometimes all it takes is a different set of eyes. When one knows something, anything that’s out of the ordinary might be overlooked or ignored, as it seems to be in this case. All in all, it takes Cassandra a little more than seven minutes to work it out, watching Benjamin pace back and forth between the markers from edge to edge while simply observing. The Ryans plot, from what she could tell, was originally was outlined with low wrought iron fencing mounted in a concrete edge that delineated the perimeter of the plots. The fencing was ripped out long ago by scavengers and the concrete is crumbling in places, missing in others, but it’s still something she can make out in the fading light.

The good thing about cemeteries? They’re logical. They make money by selling plots and putting in as many bodies in a given area as possible. A bush doesn’t pay for a plot and that, Cassandra thinks, is the key.

Slipping off the bench and standing, Cassandra takes out a small aluminum flashlight, turning it on with a twist and illuminating each marker as she passes over it. “Senior, Junior, Mary, Yours, Bush.” She lingers on the bush for a second before the light moves again. “Child one, Child two…” She looks to Ryans before she moves the light back to the bush and lingers there. “Unless you paid for the extra spot or have a green thumb, that’d be where I’d start.” she says softly. “I think that whoever removed the memory of your son did the simplest thing and just…planted a shrub over the grave after removing the marker and cleaning up the records in the front office. No questions about why they’re digging up a plot. Maintenance guys just see a place they don’t need to mow and then, with the war, it’s overlooked and forgotten. It’s a simple solution, and the simplest solutions are sometimes the best.”

“My grandfather’s stone would have been here —” The former Company man starts, crouching next to the broken gravestone, and then trails off as she point out something he’s been missing and almost lover looks, until she illuminates it.

Turning on the balls of his feet, Ben really looks where she is pointing for the first time. There is a spike of cold, that slides through him and settles in his stomach. Brows furrow a bit as he wonders, Has that always been there? Was that where his boy is buried? It was a hard concept to really grasp since he talks to Bradley often.

Rising to his feet, he approaches the plot. He feels it, that desire to look away from it, to turn his attention elsewhere. So he is forced to concentrates his focus on that plot and that bush. “Charles,” Ryans growls out, when he crouches near the bush, fingers of his hand press against the cool dampness of the grass, as if he could determined what was under it. “I didn’t know this was here.” He resists the urge to look away from shrub. “If they worked this hard to keep me from being unaware, this is it.” His voice takes on a rough quality, this was going to be hard. Still, he was determined.

Taking a step back, Ben nods her to it. “You know your ability best. Do what you need to.” Even though, just that seemed to confirm everything he needed to know, there was a part of him that still needed to see it.

Cassandra clicks off her flashlight and tucks it into the pocket of her jacket, leaving her satchel on the bench before moving to crouch right in front of the shrub. She reaches out to touch the leaves lightly, feeling the texture beneath thumb and forefinger and then, with a glance to Ben, sits cross-legged on the grassy ground, pushing the tall grass down to something a little more nest like. “Sit down.” Cassandra gestures to the bench before she ties her blindfold in place. “This place is deserted, but you can’t see out while you’re in my vision.” Probably explains why she does this in rooms, usually, or in places that are considered otherwise safe.

There’s a pause as Cassandra settles into her seat on the ground, her fingertips digging slightly into the dirt on either side of her. She reaches out with her mind and, when she finds something interesting, she straightens. When she does that, the entire world seems to oscillate briefly, like someone had dropped a stone into the puddle of reality covering everything, the ripples distorting the scene around them for a second while she attunes herself to this place. Those ripples and waves start to fade and, with it, the light surrounding them melts away until darkness is the only thing that can be seen, stretching out to infinity in all directions with little threads of light that only become visible when Cassandra reaches up to take one in her fingers. She feels it, discards it, and takes another, looking for something…anything…to latch on to.

“There’s a lot here.” she says thoughtfully as she moves through the lines of events, methodically discarding ones that don’t feel right before moving to the next, keeping a a few close that might work. “This is going to take a little while.”

As directed, Benjamin settles in for the long haul. “Take your time,” he offers softly, without any sarcasm or malice. If he was anything, it was a patient man. The flashlight is flicked off plunging them into darkness, but also allowing his eyes to adjust to the world around him.

He is on alert, listening, even as he watches what she is doing. Even though they are in the Safe Zone, he never really believed any place was safe. Which would explain the glock hooked within easy reach along his belt.

As Cassandra sifts through the emotional and psychic content of the area, she feels the presences of the Ryans family throughout the years. Moving backwards through time, swimming through the pain of Mary’s funeral, the burial of Ben’s father, and then…

June 15th


“So, exactly why're we playing gardner right now?” On his knees in the loose earth of cemetery soil, Claude Rains pats down freshly disturbed earth with a shovel. A small, scrubby bush sits in the center of the disturbed earth, a tiny and defiant hemlock that will weather the years.

Beside him, Noah Bennet rests on his shovel and exhales a sigh. “Claude, when Charles Deveaux asks you to plant a shrub in a cemetery with no context, I'm of the mind that you plant a shrub and don't ask questions.” He reaches up to wipe sweat from his brow.

“Well it's not like I told him no,” Claude admits with a weary tone. “But some days I'd just like context to the cryptic bullshit we get asked t’do.” As if to emphasize that point, Claude withdraws a tarnished penny from his jacket pocket. “Like this, for instance.”

Noah arches a brow, looking from the penny to Claude. “Is that your severance package?” They both get a good laugh at that.

“No,” Claude says as he presses a finger into the fresh soil at the roots of the shrub, then plans the penny like a seed. “Just another weird piece of bullshit Charles asked me t’do without any context. It's like a bloody trust exercise or something.”

Noah raises his brows as he watches Claude plant the penny and then smooth over the earth, patting it down. “Okay, you're right. That's a little weird.” Claude roses to stand, dusting his hands off on his slacks.

“Let's go get a bloody pint.” Is Claude way of dismissing the entire, bizarre scenario. It's probably best that way.

Present Day

Leaning forward with elbows resting on his knees, Benjamin waits for her to shift through the past, watching the flickers of this and that. The brief glimpse of Mary’s funeral is the most painful, a knife in the gut.

But it is the sight of Noah Bennet and Claude Rains has him slowly straightening. “There,” rumbles out. He goes silent watching them, making the observation, “This is after Noah adopted Claire and before Claude went AWOL” He trails off thoughtful. “So after eighty-nine and before ninety-nine.” That was a large gap of time that this could have occured. “He didn’t mention Lyle…” He trails off. When had Lyle been born?

His train of thought is interrupted when he sees Claude pull something out of his pocket, Ben has a good feeling of what that is. He remembers watching something similar used on Adam in those level 5 memories that Cassandra exposed. It is enough for him to come to his feet and move to where he can see it planted.

“What are you up to, Charles?” Ryans’ voice is soft, lost in thought. He looks at the shrub, brows furrowing. After a moment, “Slick,” he rumbles out in appreciation. “Bury it here and push my mind away from it? If not for Eve’s vision, it would have never been found.”

Kneeling down, Ryans places a fingers where the penny may be roughly, fingers digging into the grass to pull a clump of the sod to mark the spot, with a soft complaint of: “And me without a shovel.”

At the direction, Cassandra slows her searching, fixating on this one strand of time, drawing it between her fingers like a long, coarse thread, her power acting as a reader and projector all in one, letting the scenes play out as they happened, when they happened. “It’s a beautiful day they chose, if there ever was one.” Cassandra comments, remaining silent as the tarnished penny is withdrawn and buried. She turns her head to give Ben a look inside the vision. Even though she can’t see him, she knows where he is. “I’ve got a pocket knife in my bag. Front left pocket, in the little sleeve, and watch the 1911. It’s loaded.”

Of course it is. She’s a smart, careful girl.

She leans forward and rewinds the vision, Claude returning to his kneeling position on the ground, watched by Noah. Cassandra’s fingers move slightly, letting the vision inch back until it’s at the moment where the penny was planted at its deepest. She lets go of the string, the vision holding steady as she leans forward to rest her finger approximately where the penny was pushed into the ground, wincing as the branches of the Canadian hemlock slide over her skin. It’s a strange sensation, feeling things that she can’t see, withdrawing a little when she hits something woody, repositioning and feeling her way to the trunk and back to exactly where Claude’s finger is pushed into the dirt.

“Right about here.” she says, plucking some of the grass from the soil, digging with her fingernails.

Time, as always, has changed things. But Cassandra has the approximation close enough. Ryans reaches into his pocket, pulling it a small folding knife as he saws at the top roots, cutting and prying and pulling lengths of the hemlock’s root cluster up from the soil. He's skilled with the knife, mindful of Cassandra’s fingers.

Eventually, Cassandra feels the cold touch of metal at her fingertips. And those dirty fingers pull back from the earth with a tarnished penny, dated 1984.

Having someone in that close of a proximity with a knife while you’re blindfolded is kind of nerve wracking, but when he gives the word, she leans in and digs a little more. The soil over all these years would be hard, but around the roots it’s fairly soft and, with a little more manipulation of roots and the like, the penny is taken out of the ground and wiped clean on the leg of her pants. The blindfold is removed with her other hand and the scene surrounding them fades to the darkness of the cemetery.

“I think,” Cassandra offers him the penny. “That man from Level Five might have something to do with this. He used pennies, remember?” She shifts her weight to sit off of the grave, one knee up, the other pulled beneath. “If I might suggest a plan of action - we might do well to take this to somewhere less…outdoorsy…to see what secrets this penny has in store for us.”

Wiping the blade of the knife on the worn jeans, Benjamin takes a moment to put it away before taking the penny. “I think you’re right.” Squinting at the date, he turns it towards Cassandra and reluctantly asks with a slight grumbling growl, “What does that date say? I forgot my reading glasses at home.”

“Um…” Cassandra reaches back for her bag and retrieves the light, blinking it briefly, illuminating Lincoln’s face. “1984. D-series, if that matters. Why? Did…that bald guy, whatever his name was, try to use specific dates, or new pennies, to keep up with when he did stuff?”

“I don’t know,” admits Benjamin softly, pulling the penny back to squint at it again. “It would make sense though. How better to mark the time of when a memory was deposited, then with a year.” He looks across from the penny, with an upward tick of a brow. “So we can safely assume that this was from 1984 and that these are my memories.” Why else would they bury it in this place.

His thumb brushes over the face of it as he considers, “How much room do you think we would need?” Clearly, Ryans has an idea of a place.

“Wherever you’d like.” Cassandra offers, moving the dirt back into the hole and tamping it down with her foot, dusting off her legs and moving back to pick up her satchel. “My range of effect is about ten by ten, but it can show everything, pretty much, from that viewpoint so….somewhere with four walls, a floor, a door, and a roof, that’s at least ten feet square. And private.”

“My house is out,” Ryans decides rather reluctantly, “Too many people like to suddenly show up out of the blue.” A glance upward at the night and adds rather flatly. “Even this late at night.” He turns thoughtful going over options. No doubt SESA had places, but he didn’t want this in their hands.

Ben is thoughtful for a long moment.

Tucking the penny into his pocket, tucking it as deep as it will go, Benjamin gives a firm nod. “Raytech,” he decides. “I trust Richard and I think they would have the space we need. I know for a fact, the young man is not out of the game.” Which means, he’ll have a place for them. “Plus, I think he’ll be interested in this.

Bending down, he retrieves his flashlight from where it rests in the grass now that his hand is free. “I guess it is time to make an appointment with the CEO of Raytech.”

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