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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Whisper
Synopsis One day following an unsettling revelation, Edward Ray finds himself presented with a new conspiracy.
Date June 19, 2021

Office of External Investigations, Remote Office, HQ

June 19th
9:14 am

“That’s all we know.”

A silent tension hangs over the briefing room. Under the glow of fluorescent lights, the many faces gathered around a faux wood conference table look unnaturally sullen. The stark lighting makes Director Roger Goodman’s face seem almost skeletal with the way his eye sockets are cast in shadow and his high cheekbones create swatches of darkness down the sides of his face.

Around the room, six out of eleven seats are filled. At the back of the room, a map of the United States is projected on a large screen with concentric red circles off the coast of Virginia. Director Goodman takes a deep breath and folds his hands in front of himself, looking down the table at the other agents gathered. On the wall past the end of the table is a large seal, depicting an eagle superposed over a triangle. Arcing across the top it reads: Office Of External Investigations.

“And the Virginia anomaly, it’s still contained?” Sarisa Kershner is first to ask about the doomsday scenario, twirling a stylus in her gloved hand as she looks up from a tablet containing the meeting briefing.

Goodman nods, exhaling a brief sigh of relief. “For now. But I will remind you our intelligence is pieced together like a game of telephone right now through several hands. I don’t think highly classified information will make its way across the communication bridge we have between the Home Office and the Root Timeline.” Sarisa nods, bringing her stylus down to the tablet, scribbling notes.

“Do we have an ETA on when the Home Office will be able to complete a second Looking Glass?” Is Matt Parkman’s first question at the end of the briefing, casting a look down the table to Sarisa, then back to Goodman. “Do they even have time to?”

Goodman shakes his head. “Not from scratch, no. But as far as I’m aware they may have other options. When I last spoke to Home Office leadership, they were investigating alternatives, but I don’t have anything concrete at this time.”

“What about ability use?” Agent Ayers wonders, setting her tablet down on the table. “Would it be possible to use Agent Van Dalen’s consciousness as a bridge? I could— in theory I could project my dreaming mind into her consciousness, then ride it to her other self, and use it like… skipping a stone across the surface of water?”

“That’s way too risky,” Agent Brooks interjects. “We don’t know how stable consciousness transferral is across timelines, you could become separated from your body.”

“I appreciate the concern, Kathleen, but I think we’re all going to be separated from our bodies if we don’t stop this solar flare.” Hokuto replies, barely-restrained tension evident in her voice.

“If we keep throwing our resources at wild ideas and coming up with nothing from it, we’re going to be just as bad off as—” Kathleen starts to say, but is interrupted by the last agent in the room who has otherwise remained quiet.

We don’t have enough information.” Edward Ray says, head held in his hands. The room grows quiet as he speaks up. “Hokuto, we can’t risk losing you to the void just to try and contact the Home Office. We have to work with the known variables.”

“And what known variables would you recommend?” Goodman asks, one brow raised.

Edward breathes in deeply through his nose, looking at a nameplate at an empty seat. N. VAN DALEN. He looks back to Goodman.

“Give me twenty-four hours.”

Two Hours Later

Office of External Investigations, Remote Office, HQ
Parking Garage

Footsteps echo through an otherwise silent parking garage. A red stripe of paint follows the bare concrete wall. Rows and rows of cars are parked side by side, and winding between them Edward Ray makes his approach to a modest Hyundai parked in an isolated space apart from most of the other cars.

Clicking the fob on his keychain, Edward unlocks his car doors and slides into the driver’s side, unshouldering his laptop bag to set on the passenger seat. He pauses, brows furrowed behind thick-framed glasses. He reconsiders, and leans back to place his laptop bag on the rear seat, while at the same time craning his neck to look down at the person hiding behind his seat.

“Ms. Van Dalen.” Edward says without a hint of surprise in his voice. “Would you like to join me up front?



Despite the very short conversation in her head, externally, Nova Van Dalen, curled up tidily in the back seat, blinks at being so quickly discovered, then tips turns a bright smile on the man in the front seat.

“Mr. Ray,” she says in a cheery voice, as if it’s commonplace for her to stow away in people’s Hyundais. “That’s very kind of you.”

Reaching up, Nova finds the handle to the backseat to open it, then tumbles out onto the cement, and springs up into a standing position. The door closes gently, and she walks around the back of the car to approach the passenger door to slide back in. She smooths the front of her skirt, then folds her hands neatly in her lap, looking straight forward and ignoring the hastily rising rose color of her cheeks.

“So how much do you know?” she asks, “I wouldn’t want to waste your time if you already know the answer is 42.”

Edward lifts his glasses off the bridge of his nose and sighs softly, massaging his eyes with his forefingers and thumb. When he’s done he has the audacity to set his hands on the steering wheel as if he knows where to go next. His hesitation and the lack of engine noise indicates negative.

“More than I’ve openly admitted but less than is helpful,” he finally answers, still staring straight ahead as if looking for a sign. Instead he just sees the car parked across the way from him. He glances over at Nova, brows raised over the thick frames of his glasses. “How about you start from the top and we’ll compare notes?”

“That’s a good rule to follow, I think, when it comes to these things,” Nova says brightly, reaching into her pocket to pull out a cell phone, using the face recognition to unlock the screen. She taps the notes app.

“I’ve got a message for you from Richard Ray. Let me read it to you.” It’s not her work phone but a personal phone, as a precaution against the powers that be on this renegade mission, and the text is encrypted until she taps something that shifts the letters into the right place.

Finally, she clears her throat, and speaks in a very newscaster-ish voice, trying not to inflect meaning on what amounts to a telegram sent across time and space.

“‘Flooded Timeline: The attack by the Sentinel on the Pelago during Elisabeth's trip through the timelines was led by a man called 'Confessor' Crowley. After the smoke cleared, he was determined to be an artificial lifeform, identical to what we've seen produced by Project Galatea in our timeline – the Department should have details on that case. He was wearing a suit designed to survive the Looking Glass shearing effect, that was equipped with technology that appears to have been Looking Glass-derived that was at the very least allowing him to teleport. It may have suffered failsafe failures because he ended up teleporting into solid material and being killed. Unknown if the miniaturized Looking Glass had jumping capabilities outside the timeline. No known timeline on the current temporal axis has this level of technology.’”

She glances over at the man in the driver seat, taking a breath before continuing. “‘I am forced to assume that he was a time traveler from the future. Unknown what that means for our mission, but I felt it was important you know about it. Other theories I may have are not included in this message to prevent muddying the facts.’"

Tapping the screen again, the encryption returns, and Nova opens another file. “I can take dictation on your response if you like, Mr. Ray,” she says cheerfully, like anything she just said was normal.

One of Edward’s eyes twitches subtly as he looks at Nova. His expression—vacant and still—is hard to read. For a moment it feels as if he is in shock, but then Edward just as abruptly comes back to life with a clearing of his throat and a glance away from Nova to the clock on his dashboard.


Edward grips the steering wheel with both hands, tight enough that his knuckles turn white. Then, with a relaxing of his shoulders, finally gives Nova a side-long look. “I don’t imagine I have to tell you that none of this leaves the car?” He doesn’t. Nova wouldn’t have been hiding in his back seat if she intended for this to be an above-board conversation.

Sighing softly, Edward turns the ignition over with a soft whirr of the electric motor and puts the car in drive. “The implications of this information are disturbing to a level I don’t even know if I can fully articulate.”

As Edward pulls out of the parking space, he turns toward the garage’s exit. “Presuming the information is correct, this means that there is a group—or are groups—of people with the ability to miniaturize the Looking Glass and traverse timelines. Coupled with what we’ve heard about these synthetic duplicates, it means that there is a possibility for these impostors to be anywhere in any timeline.”

Whether Nova likes it or not, Edward is taking her for a drive. “Is your self in the Root Timeline with Richard presently? Could we…” Edward continues to round through the parking garage toward the exit, “…play a game of telephone, so to speak?”

Nova’s lips press together as she watches the man tense and she can’t help but wonder if this has been a terrible mistake. When he finally speaks, she relaxes, slightly, and nods at his question: what is said in the Hyundai stays in the Hyundai. Except for that which goes to the flooded world.

“Shiiiit,” is her uncensored comment regarding the synthetics in any time in any timeline, but she doesn’t apologize for the reaction. Finally, she nods again, slower than the first time, when he asks if they can play telephone.

“We can, but the caveat is that it won’t be exactly one to one. It takes a few minutes for me to come back and forth, and I won’t be able to hear or see you while I’m communicating over there.”

Nova’s smile is apologetic. “It’s more of a game of email in that way. And on dial-up instead of wifi. But I don’t make the creepy modem noises, at least, so that’s a plus.” Her chipper smile returns. “If you want to do so, let me know what you want to tell Richard in return, and I’ll head on over.”

Edward pulls out of the parking garage onto the busy street and engages the car’s autonomous driving system with a flick of a switch on the steering wheel. As the car slips into automatic drive mode, the steering wheel sinks closer to the dashboard and Edward’s seat automatically reclines a few degrees.

“Then let’s send an interdimensional email,” Edward finally says, glancing over to Nova.

A Short Time Later…

…and a Timeline apart.

Yeah, Buoy!
The Pelago

The wind howls outside of the small ship moored just off the coast of Lowe’s in the Pelago. The chop of the sea sends the small vessel casting up and down in the waves. For all of the time that Richard has spent here, all of it has been in the midst of a storm. There was something poetic in that.

Seated at the small dining table in the ship, Richard looks across the table to this world’s Nova, having been called here in response to a message in a bottle he sent across dimensions… and the answer he’s about to get back.

Not really expecting the answer back quite so soon, Nova’s in the midst of talking about Anchor when the ‘call’ comes through.

“There are the most amazing blackberry bushes, and this guy has figured out how-”

I’m here. Are you with Richard Ray?

Nova holds up a single finger to tell Richard Ray to wait one moment.

Ja. What’s going on?

“She’s with Edward,” she tells Richard, one finger still lifted in a gentle ‘hold up.’ After a moment, she grimaces, her eyes widening. There’s no tinny sound of a voice on the other end of a receiver like there is in a one-way telephone conversation, but that’s precisely what it’s like otherwise.

Finally, she sets her hand down. “Edward wants to relay information through me to you and back – it’s not like with Elliot, unfortunately, so it’s a bit slower. But regarding the message you sent, he says it means that there’s people with the ability to miniaturize the Looking Glass tech and traverse timelines, and with what we know about the synthetic duplicates in the timeline you traveled from, that there’s a possibility that there are imposters anywhere in this… or any timeline.”

She reaches for the tea she’s been drinking, then within her coat for a small silver flask, pouring something amber inside into the tea. It’s a generous portion. Nova offers him the flask.

“Reply – it’ll take the Doc – the other Nova – a few minutes to come back and forth, so, maybe like your first three points or questions, then your next, and so forth?” she suggests.

“Let’s hope you’re better at ‘telephone’ than I am,” Richard quips, reaching out for the flask and raising it up in a little toast before pouring it into his own tea. He likes tea. But a conversation like this calls for alcohol.

“Bright side is, if there is one, the geniuses over here jury-rigged together a system to detect the synthetics - they’ve agreed to explain it to Elliot to have Wright scribble it all down for my geniuses, which is a little roundabout but we should have the tech soon at least. Once we do we’ll want to do sweeps of both our organizations.”

Meanwhile, a Timeline Away

Edward listens to Nova relay Richard’s thought, making a soft noise in the back of his throat. He checks the traffic route while the car is in autonomous mode, seeing it mostly clear, then looks over to Nova.

“We could fabricate that faster on our side, but…” Edward shakes his head, “getting the data around would be too hard. Detection systems aside, do you know any other means of identifying these… synths?

“We did find one other method,” Richard admits, brow furrowing, “They have an EM field that emulates an Evolved’s own, only extremely exaggerated in scale. You’d need second- or third- gen Compass tech to tell the difference– I don’t know how well you’ve developed that tech on your end.”

And on his end it’s entirely illegal, but he doesn’t mention that.

“I wish your end’s Nova wasn’t missing. That would make things so much easier,” breathes out the flooded world’s iteration of the consciousness hopper. “Aside from just wanting her to be okay, of course. Doc isn’t sure what level compass tech they have. She’ll check.”

Nova takes another sip of the whiskey-enhanced tea as she waits for ‘Doc’ to travel back to her body to share Richard’s reply.

Blue eyes open, and Nova rubs her cheek where she had been leaning it against the window. She takes a breath and sits a little straighter.

“The synthetics have an EM field that’s similar to their counterparts, but far stronger. He says second or third Compass tech can be used to identify them, but only second or third generation,” Nova says. “He has that technology, if we don’t.”

Edward sighs through his nose, looking out the driver’s side window for a moment, watching passing traffic. “It gives us a starting point. We have some Compass technology in secure holding, but research on it was outlawed during Arthur’s time for obviously less-than-altruistic reasons. But the Rickham administration hasn’t overturned the mandate. That said, the OEI operates outside several of those boundaries.”

Turning to look at the passenger seat, Edward sees beyond the woman acting as an intermediary. He carries on the conversation as if it were Richard in the seat, unfocusing his eyes like he’s looking at a magic-eye painting in the hopes that maybe it would feel less detached.

“What does your gut tell you about all of this?” Edward asks Richard. “Synthetic people, in that timeline, with that technology? What was he trying to do? Why?” Then, addressing the elephant in the room. “Do you think this is us at work? Somewhere further down the line?”

“If you want my theories…” Richard leans forward, hands folding in front of the teacup on the table, “…yes. I do think this is us. That looked like ferromagnetic armor, that looked like Looking Glass technology– and while we don’t currently have the technology to create those synthetic bodies, Raytech does possess the technology to replicate and store minds. In theory. We haven’t tested it, but we have everything short of the hardware to do it.”

“That suggests to me that either it’s us, or someone took our technology over once we were gone. I…”

He hesitates, “I think they may have been trying to stop Liz from getting home. I think that her entire journey, start to finish, was part of the plan– it was all too coincidental, all too neat. And then the Entity broke out into our world in the end. I don’t think any of it was a coincidence. I think this– with the androids– may have been the first volley from the future trying to change its flow– so that at least one timeline might survive. We know that there’s normally no point in diverging timelines, but in this case, there is.”

“We have that technology here,” Edward says after a moment of thought, no longer paying attention to the road as he drives. For all that Nova is the intermediary in this conversation, he only sees her as Richard in the passenger seat. “Copying and reprinting consciousness. It’s in nascent stages. Our Erica Kravid developed it during the early Looking Glass tests. Her tests involved transferring technopaths as data through a pinhole gate. We’ve iced the technology for the time being for… obvious moral concerns.”

But that’s just a distraction. Edward breathes in deep through his nose, glancing skyward through the windshield, then back to Richard-come-Nova. “Not enough data points to confirm speculation, but looking at where we’re standing right now we already are in the early days of inter-dimensional communication.” He says with a hint of wonder in his voice. “Ten or fifteen years more? Who knows.”

Shaking his head, Edward glances at the clock on the dashboard. “Get your Nova the information on the EM Frequency and have her pass it along to us. I can work up the chain on getting a single Compass for research purposes, see if we can tune it to the correct spectrum for detection. If we know what we’re looking for we’ll be able to tell if there are any here.”

“I have some people pursuing that communication technology right now, we have some examples of it, they’re just in… unfortunate hands right now,” Richard admits with a slight grimace, one hand rubbing against the side of his neck as he thinks back to the situation– and who he’d asked to get it for him.

Hopefully that situation is being handled, but if they can’t complete this mission, it won’t matter at all. In ten or fifteen years there may be no dimensions to communicate with.

“And yeah, the moral reasons are why we’ve been keeping it on ice, but in theory we have everything we need to accomplish it– so it makes sense that if we got desperate we might do it,” he grimaces, looking back at Nova intently, “A lot of my people are very– pragmatic, and I’m sure yours are too. Alright. I’ll get what information we can from the locals about their ‘detectors’ too, and make sure Nova gets them.”

“Just to be certain, though, Richard…” Edward watches a car passing on his right, momentarily distracted by the shade of red that it is. “The technology of the body, that isn’t a Raytech invention. The alternative possibility is that your technology is stolen by this other party if they don’t already have access to it.”

Edward’s brows furrow. “I need names. Who on your side has access to the technology to build these kinds of synthetics? Even if they’re dead or out of reach on your side, they may not be here and I might be able to piece together something from their pre-divergence actions on this side of the divide.”

“No, you’re right there,” Richard’s brow furrows a little as he considers, “Unfortunately we don’t know– exactly who’s behind the tech on the synthetics, honestly, someone over on that side probably knows better as to the investigations there. The only people we have a strong belief are involved is Lucien Crane from Renautus and Claudius Kellar of INSight Corporate Services. Crane’s emails indicate direct involvement with the ‘Galatea Project’ which sounds a lot like this. I suspect Colin Verse is somehow involved too, but he bounces between conspiracies like a trading card nobody wants to keep, so he may or may not be helpful.”

A deep breath, “Mazdak is also involved somehow, on some level, and they’re using a go-between by the name of Charles Sharrow. Ex-nazi, ex-Vanguard, the proverbial worst of all pennies.”

“Nicole and Zachery Miller on my side of things will likely have more names by now, if they haven’t gotten themselves killed,” he adds, a bit dryly, “Given that they are those synthetics now– they have a lot of reasons to pursue this pretty hard.”

Interesting,” Edward remarks in the way where he means concerning. “Lucien Crane is dead, Arthur or Samson—we’re not sure which—killed him during the early days of Pinehearst’s ascension. Same with Claudius Kellar. Colin Verse is alive, last I knew he was somewhere out in California, but I’d need to corroborate that.”

Then, Edward looks up at the clouds through the windshield, lost in thought for a moment. “Charles Sharrow isn’t a new name to me, the OEI shared it over, but we’ve not been able to track him down. Assuming he’s still alive.” He says with a hint of doubt in his voice.

“As for Mazdak, Arthur wiped them out right after he was done with the Company. It’s like he knew where to find every single member of their leadership. We’ve consulted with your side of the OEI about that, offering names and strategic information. I don’t know what—if anything—has been done with it.” And there’s that edge of dubious tension again. “This is a bit off-topic, Richard, but I get the feeling that every time I feed information about Mazdak to the OEI it falls into a black hole. There’s never any followup, never any additional questions…” and then the conspiracy goggles come on.

“They’re the ones who attacked the rig, aren’t they?” Edward asks, one brow raised. “Mazdak?”

“I assume so,” says Richard, his lips twisting in a tight grimace as he shifts positions uncomfortably, “My– father was the one who attacked the rig, or at least that timeline’s version of him. David. He’d been in Mazdak’s custody, they put him through Gemini– I assume they had some kind of Manchurian Candidate trigger or something to activate him, because I can’t imagine him pulling that off himself. Dave’s a fucking auto mechanic, not a deep-cover agent.”

“And– that’s why I’m contacting you like this, Edward. I don’t trust Raith. The man is up to something and I get a bad feeling about what it is. I didn’t live this long without going with my gut– I don’t trust the OEI’s power structure. But I– I trust you.”

“With what you just said? That sounds like a high probability they’ve been compromised. I– did you get the previous coded message I sent, by any chance?”

“I did,” Edward says as a quiet aside, brows furrowed now in worry more than any real concentration. “We’ve been down this road before, Richard. I against I,” he says with grave emphasis. “The trick then is the same now. Find someone unimportant, unconnected from everything, and put the biggest gun you have in their hand.”

For one Edward, it was Tyler Case. For the other, it was Richard.

“I’m going to recollect all my information about Mazdak, prepare it and send it secure through Ms. VanDalen’s secure connection. It might take a while for me to do that without raising suspicion, but on the off chance our suspicions are valid…” He shakes his head. “I’d rather be safe than sorry, and have this information in the right hands.”

“Good call.” Richard draws in a slow breath, then pauses before glancing out the window, “Hm. I might have a… perfect candidate for that, if you don’t know one. He could even take any proverbial gun we want to hand him.”

“As always, I’m here to move whatever pieces you think we need to move. Be careful. If Raith suspects you’re on to him– and we’re right? Well, keep your local me close for protection, maybe.”

“Or far away.” Edward says with a hint of something darker settling in. “Thankfully there’s no Raith on this side, so… one can hope his influence is minimal at best.” Edward glances over to the passenger seat, seeing Nova now more than Richard.

“We need to get back to the office,” he says to her, resuming manual drive on the car. “Tell Richard goodbye for me.”

This is the longest back-and-forth Nova has had to do, and the effort is showing. Her eyes look a little groggy as she nods, slipping one more time under to relay those last comments via the Nova back on the boat with Richard.

Yeah Bouy!
The Pelago

Flood Timeline

Thanks, Doc. Be safe.

You too.

On the Yeah, Buoy!, Nova watches Richard, her eyes wide – she isn’t as tired, having played host rather than traveler, but the act of being the intermediary was taxing, much like a translator having to pay close attention to a conversation and repeat it without error.

“Shit,” is all she has to say.

“Yeah,” Richard admits, a hand coming up to rub at his eyes, “Guess I’m back in the conspiracy business. Welcome to the game, Red King’s Bishop.”

Hand dropping down to his lap, he flashes a roguish-if-tired smile, “Let’s hope we can save the world again.”

New York City

Bright Timeline

Agent Van Dalen comes to again in the car, rubbing her eyes and stretching as if she’s been asleep for a long time. But at the same time as her other self in a flooded world, she says exactly the same thing:

Shit.” It’s her first real commentary on the conversation she’s just facilitated, eloquent as it is.

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