Word on the Wire


elisabeth_icon.gif wright_icon.gif

Scene Title Word on the Wire
Synopsis Following the catastrophe at the OEI oil rig, Elisabeth reaches out to Wright for news on the fates of the Travelers.
Date June 11, 2021

Wright had kept it together, like she always did, until right now. The lethal cool she carries into and out of combat serves her well in other emergencies, both mundane and inconceivable. Forgetting that she died today, which she can’t remember without streaming Elliot’s memories of what he experienced through her. Just focusing on the small, controllable events. Getting Gates to somewhere he wouldn’t die. The person who needs to live under any circumstance. The most important man alive.

But this? Her hands have begun to shake, she can’t stop looking at them, so alien to suddenly lose control like this. Hands she could hold level after killing people who were trying to kill her now vibrate. Then it creeps up to her wrists, her forearms, her lungs. She’s hyperventilating, sitting in this dark room, taking huge, gasping breaths. Because one of them needs to right now, and Elliot can’t. He can’t afford to have somebody ask, Why are you shaking? Why can’t you breathe? Why can’t you speak words out loud anymore? So it falls to her, in this room she only entered to use the shower.

It came back.

She brings herself back to center, fighting to keep her breathing level, hissing through her teeth. The drugs she took to not panic while Elliot made the jump have worn off, she’s angry at herself for forgetting that until right now. She grabs for her bloody clothing, pulls a small, square case of polished metal from the pockets of her bloodied pants and hears the pills inside rattle from the trembling of her hands. Finally free, several fall to the ground, forcing her to feel for them in the dark.

As they begin to dissolve beneath her tongue she pings Elliot’s attention, needing to feel him here with her, to sync her breaths to his. He’s awake, the same as she. Neither will sleep for days. Poor Asi, she doesn’t deserve the nightmares she could be dragged into because of this, because…

It learned—

No. Focus on the here and now, the job. Wright endured this to serve as a beacon between realities. She can do this job. She can stay awake as long as it takes.

Call Marthe, Elliot signs.

She goes for her bag, heart beating arrhythmically. How long since it was returned to her, brought back with the waves of evacuees from the oil rig? A light blinks an alert above the black screen. Still charged, thankfully. She swipes through her security to find more messages than she was expecting. Marthe didn’t know she would be on the rig, so…

Oh, shit.

6:11 PM
Tracy, I need a sitrep before I lose my shit. Are you alive? WTF HAPPENED OUT THERE?

7:05 PM
Tracy, please. Just drop a line to let me know you're okay. I need to know.

8:01 PM
Tracy, I am starting to fucking lose it here. Text me.

8:56 PM
Wright Tracy, I swear to God, ANSWER ME. I don't want to have to tell Marthe you're not coming back!!!

9:40 PM
These texts are going into the fucking void. You're dead, aren't you? I'm going to DoE if I don't hear from you in 30 minutes.

10:09 PM
Deployment successful. All team members accounted for.
Sorry for the silence, I just got my phone back.
Hell of a day.

Get your shit together, she thinks. You can do this.

Elisabeth has been barely holding it together since leaving Odessa. The numbness of shock at first buffered her from the terror and grief that have been trying to rip her apart. Her parents held her together when it all slammed through her like a freight train and all she could do was shake, her anxiety a constant bass hum of distress that rattled her father's whole apartment and made security nervous. She finally had to retreat to the acoustics lab until she could quell it. The past several hours with no word have been a slow, inexorable emotional retreat behind walls painstakingly built to contain all of those emotions for her children's sake.

When the phone buzzes, the blonde finds herself in a heap on the floor staring at the screen. For the first time in her life, Elisabeth understands the phrase 'knees turned to water.'

Her hands tremble so hard it takes her four tries to reply.

10:09 PM
Thank you.

It's not nearly enough to convey the immensity of her relief and gratitude.

10:10 PM
Let me know when you're back so we can talk. Doesn't matter what time.

Now it hits her anew, the tidal wave of fear and grief and hope and relief too much to process all at once. She curls into a tight ball there on the floor, wrapping her arms around her knees and burying her face against them. Her mental defenses shatter with a low, almost soundless, pulse detonation of every piece of glass within ten feet as she finally allows herself the release of tears.

10:13 PM
I’m back. Currently at Fournier Bianco, not sure where I’m staying. Moving to Fort Jay shortly if you want to meet there.

Wright’s breathing is easier to control when she has something to do. She grabs her bloodied clothing to stuff in her bag before thinking better of it. She holds the bundle instead, slinging her bag over her shoulder and heading to find a biohazard disposal area. She heads from the hospital room and begins walking, not sure where she’s headed. Wherever the OEI Agents on site intercept her or the cafeteria, anywhere but in that room.

The Wee Hours

Fort Jay

It's not usual for Lieutenant Harrison to sign into Fort Jay in the middle of the night. And the woman looks like maybe she's had a really hard day, and she's in jeans and sneakers and all. But it's not unheard-of either. Signed in, badge in hand, her bodyguard taking up residence in the guards' room, she heads for Wright's temporary quarters without having to request directions … she's familiar enough with where things are laid out.

As she raps on the door, Elisabeth tries to make it not sound like a cop knock, but well…. she's a cop. They have a knock. When the door opens, the two blondes stare at one another for a long moment. And then Liz is gently nudging Wright backward into her room to close the door behind them, a silence field immediately snapping into place as she says softly, "You look like hell."

It's funny — before she had her daughter, Elisabeth wasn't maybe as physical about mothering people as she is now (she fed them!), but she still worried about everyone else before herself. Now, it seems like the most normal thing in the world to draw the younger blonde in for a tight hug, letting Wright take whatever comfort she might glean from it.

Wright, to her own surprise, takes no comfort in it. She freezes, fighting a sudden and confusing impulse to not let anybody touch her. This isn’t a problem for her, physical affection has always been easier for her than for Elliot, but even in his case this would feel extreme. Even her distance from Elliot’s foray into the Palace didn’t protect her from this impulse that followed him out. Not her touch avoidance. Not even his.

It’s impossible to pretend it didn’t happen, and she can’t think of something to say to fill the silence. She swallows dryly, sure she does in fact look like hell. Easy enough to play into it to avoid questions. “Sorry, I,” she finally starts only to change gears, “it’s been a day.”

"It's okay." Elisabeth doesn't seem upset by the withdrawal or awkward with the distancing — she immediately releases the other woman and steps back. She was offering the only thing she knew to offer and she is fine with the need to not take that and have some space.

She moves to the side and her blue eyes are sharp, if exhausted, on Wright. "Are you okay? What the hell happened? He… Richard was afraid, before they jumped. It didn't… it didn't seem as simple as trepidation, Wright." Not with Odessa's reaction.

Wright shrugs, Where to begin? Though she pauses to consider what she can really say in this setting. "Half the team was through," she begins, cutting to the chase. "Somebody phased through the gantry with a knife, attacked an agent and Michelle. She'll be fine, he's in recovery." The last added quickly when she remembers Liz must know Michelle.

"I lost consciousness when Elliot dropped. When I came to…" she pauses, trying to put what she only learned after the fact in the right order. "The intruder had left a bomb beneath the gantry. The whole place was coming undone. I know the rest of the team made it through, the intruder was detained. It could have been so much worse." I should be dead, apparently. I died.

"When I came to they'd already been met by the local agent. They're still on the boat. Heading for the Pelago." Something Liz said still itches at her mind but she's too dried out to find it. She lets it run in the background.

Breathing out a slow breath, Elisabeth closes her eyes and nods, relief clear in her expression. "Thank you — I haven't heard anything from her." But… no matter what happened, she's not entirely sure she expected to. Michelle can be ultra-hyper focused sometimes. And she has no reason to know that Elisabeth would know anything had gone sideways, so no reason to hurry to contact her.

Finally able to breathe a little as Wright keeps talking, Liz gestures questioningly to a chair and then drops into it, as if she needs the support as much as Wright herself seems to need it. It leaves the bunk clear for the resident herself to use. She listens intently, her hands clasped between her knees and her expression shifting to occasional grimaces at the information. Leaning back in the chair, she rubs her face with both hands, then shoves them up through her hair to hold the mass at the nape of her neck.

"Okay." She pauses to parse all that she's been told. So many questions… "If you know they're heading for the Pelago, then it sounds like the plan worked on that front, at least," Elisabeth murmurs softly. "Once they get there, hopefully some of the people who helped before are still alive and can help now. It would be… nice to know who survived." Closing her eyes a moment, she tries to force some of her taut muscles to relax.

"Was the Looking Glass destroyed?" Because that's going to make coming home a fuckton less likely. Liz searches Wright's face, her concern for the whole team, not just her husband, apparent.

Wright sits on the edge of the bed carefully. She glares into the middle distance, blinking away sleep she doesn't want. She only nods in response at first. "Yeah," she manages. Though even if the Looking Glass hadn't been sucked into an aggressively expanding spacetime anomaly they still wouldn't have had a way back home.

She isn't sure why it feels worse regardless. She lowers her gaze and sniffles, wiping tears from the corners of her eyes. "Richard said you were the original Traveler," she says just to fill the silence. "This is still pretty new to me. Any advice for Elliot?"

Glancing toward the door, Elisabeth is quiet a long time. She may be digesting the idea that the Looking Glass is gone, or perhaps she's simply struggling with her own emotions about it all.

"Can you see through his eyes?" she asks softly. Elisabeth remembers the one time she was linked into their connection but it was a pretty specific instance and she's not sure of the extent of it.

Wright nods. "I can feel every sensation he experiences the way he experiences them," she explains. "When we built the composite memory last year he had most of the links locked out to keep things from getting out of hand, but the sensory link is really comprehensive. It takes effort to maintain, but it's kind of like hiding in someone else's body."

She grimaces. "But slightly less creepy than that sounds. You always know if somebody is sharing your senses, and with practice who. Though there’s generally only a couple of possibilities there.”

“Memories have broader use too,” she says. “More than just the composite-building. Skillsets can be shared; languages, knowledge bases. Any expertise that isn’t muscle memory basically.”

“Emotions always share,” she adds. “Whether or not you want them to. That can be overwhelming, but…” But it didn’t seem as simple as trepidation. She pauses, and doesn’t finish her sentence.

“What did you mean when you said Richard was afraid before the jump?” she asks. “Like he told you that he worried something like this was going to happen?”

Now Elisabeth is the one who pauses. She waves a hand at the door and says, "Nothing of this can be heard out there — I have a field up. There was someone empathically connected to him until they hit the portal." Her voice peters out a moment, as if her throat tightened. "I've known something was wrong with the jump since the moment it happened."

It might explain why she kept texting — and the amount of restraint it took to just text once per hour. "Similar to you and Elliot, but empath only. We didn't know what was happening, only… that he was afraid and in a way that wasn't just… you know, 'oh shit, here we go.'"

Elisabeth drags her hand through her hair one more time, seeming uneasy. "The things that I could offer for help, I told Richard before they left. Who to look for that might remember us kindly and be willing to help. But… the only thing I can really offer Elliot is stay dry. It gets fucking cold when you're wet. The temperatures there are not like here — so much more water, wind all the time. It's easier to stay cold. Oh… and any fish recipe that someone's never heard of is valuable as shit for trade." She forces a small smile, and it clearly takes effort.

It occurs to Wright to wonder why an empathic link made by somebody else would break when crossing the divide whereas Elliot’s didn’t. She has no idea what could be different about them. Despite the fact that all of the emotional traffic between them is decidedly stressful at the moment—Asi appears blissfully unaware, asleep—she wouldn’t break that link for anything.

“Jesus, a link suddenly going cold like that,” she says, rubbing her hand over her eyes and forehead. Like a sudden monolith of green glass stomping her link to Elliot shut as the bombs were going off. The damage they purposefully did to their memories of that event is a poor substitute for therapy, but it keeps most of the panic out of the recollection.

“I’m sorry it took so long for me to get back to you, that must have been torture. From the moment I woke up I was bringing the injured agent to medevac and keeping him stable for the trip. I didn’t get my bag until the third wave of evacuees came in. Gave me plenty of time to do some crying in the shower.” It seems like she meant the last bit to be a joke, though she’s too exhausted to apply the wry amusement it needs.

"There's no need to apologize, Wright," Elisabeth hastens to reply. "No one knew about the link — I didn't even know until today." The forced smile holds sympathy. "You got back to me as soon as you could, that's all I could ask. Your text … gave me hope. That is priceless in this." Only because Wright shied away from the earlier touch does she refrain from reaching out this time to squeeze an arm in reassurance. Instead she says simply, "I've done my own share of crying today." A sheepish look accompanies the words. "Maintenance will be replacing some glass… you know it's bad when your husband has a budget line item for that." She, too, is trying to offer a little levity despite the seriousness of the situation.

Tipping her head, she says softly, "Wright? Dealing with the sheer immensity of the reality of what we know… there is no real way to wrap your head entirely around it." Elisabeth waits until she has Wright's eyes. "I've lived in five timelines, counting this one, and after dealing with all that and the gold-eyed bitch… I promise you, it still doesn't get easier. Is there anything I can do to help you cope?"

Wright shakes her head slowly while she tries to dredge up something in response. "I don't know," she says. The only thing that she feels like she needs to cope with can't be talked about out loud. Their burden to deal with, to the end. In comparison to the return of the minotaur, being separated from Elliot by an uncrossable chasm is no big deal.

"You didn't tell the empath about Elliot and me, right? I'm getting a protective detail, I don't want to worry about somebody saying something that gets me or my family kidnapped and ransomed, or worse." While she looks like she's had a rough day, the idea of other people knowing seems to genuinely distress her.

"No," Elisabeth assures. "No one knows anything about you guys and they don't know about Richard's link either. You're safe."

She pauses and asks, "Do they have any ideas about who did this and why specifically?" It's not like there's not a list a mile long, though she's expecting to hear a particular name. "I know I'm not specifically read in from their viewpoint," she grimaces. "But then again, they like to pretend they know more than they do too." A roll of her eyes. "Getting these folks to collaborate is like pulling teeth. And I include my husband in that assessment, just so you know."

“Oh I’m well aware they act like they know more than they do,” Wright says, showing at least some of the bitter humor she’s meaning to convey. “We were approached for this job with the promise of information that Elliot has been looking for. Marcus Raith was just straight up lying about having anything at all. It seems more spiteful than short-sighted and heavy-handed manipulation, which it also is.”

“Like we would have decided to not help save the world,” she says, incredulous.

As for the rest, she shrugs with her hands, unhappy to not have much else to offer Liz. “I didn’t recognize the intruder.” Though, when she thinks about it for a moment, she remembers Michelle’s look of recognition. “I think Michelle knew him though, she seemed shocked to see him. White guy, about my height, brown hair. His pupils were glowing orange and flickering, kind of like candles.”

Elisabeth stiffens slightly at the name Raith — that's something Richard may have conveniently not mentioned. She grimaces about Elliot and Wright being duped and sighs. "Right," she murmurs. "Because somehow they always seem to think they need to strong-arm people into helping." Blue eyes roll expressively.

Her brows pull down and she looks thoughtful. "Chel knew him?" Interesting. The glowing eyes thing… she pauses. "Orange or gold, Wright?" The general physical description isn't too much help as yet — if Chel knows him from here, it narrows the field, but who knows? "Looks like I need to see about getting my mother-in-law face to face to chat." If nothing else, it'll let her feel like she's doing something useful.

Dragging her hand through her hair, Elisabeth sighs. "God, I hate all of this. Fighting insane interdimensional beings is actually a bit easier than what they're off doing now, if you can believe that shit."

“Orange,” Wright says. “Just the pupils, like there was an image of a fire playing behind them. It stood out under the hood, I’m not sure what color the irises were.” She shuffles on the bed, fighting her body’s desire to get comfortable on its way to sleep.

“You know about the thing?” she asks, “the Entity? Basically all we know about it is what the OEI released and the indecipherable ramblings of Eve Mas. Which, I’m sure there’s truth in there somewhere but she talks in a way that implies that she assumes the listener has a lot more data to go on than they usually do. Or at least we do. We don’t know shit.”

"Yeah," Elisabeth replies quietly. "It was trapped between the timelines and unfortunately… when we ripped them open trying to get home, we brought it with us."

She'd be amused if it weren't important. "Best we can gather… it's been around a long time. It may have been the first Evo. Or it may have been something else entirely. Given that it was able to be trapped between timelines like it was, I'm not sure that it even views time in any kind of linear fashion as we mostly understand it. We know it's been around since at least feudal Japan. Honestly… get Elliot to talk to Richard about it. He tends to be the research arm of the two of us. I'm more or less the one who does the destroying." Her grin is wry.

"This all started way before we were all here, obviously… but Richard and I were both born in the world Elliot's in now. I'm very curious about what they'll find at that world's Natazhat facility." Elisabeth's tone is thoughtful… and she leaves the door open for Wright to ask whatever questions she might choose to ask.

Wright nods at the suggestion she pass those questions on to Elliot, though she doesn’t make any sign that he’s listening to this conversation. She wonders if she should go make a pot of coffee and bring the entire carafe back here to drink herself.

"I didn't realize you were both from that timeline," Wright marvels, eyes seeming to clear from their sleepiness at the thought. "How did you end up here?”

Elisabeth pauses at that and she notes Wright's exhaustion but also the interest. "So… this isn't the first time the Looking Glass has been used. Chel developed it back in the 1980s. Just… when it activated that time, in 1982, something went apeshit wrong. About 15 of us were ripped out of the Flooded timeline and landed here. The incident was covered up by the Company."

She rubs her forehead. "This kind gets way into the weeds of physics… but of the four timelines I traveled through after the 2011 explosions in Alaska, three are offshoots of this one, whereas this one is actually an offshoot of the Flooded one. So… although from our perspective we call this the prime timeline, it's kinda not." She shrugs just a little. "The four I went through are just, as best we can understand it, the ones in closest proximity to us — one split off from us, the next from that one, and so on, traveling mostly in parallel with us right now because the splits were all pretty recent. It's convoluted as hell."

“Elliot’s been trying to make sense of how the timelines work,” Wright says with the tired shrug of somebody who can’t contribute to the theorizing but can’t escape either. “Every time he thinks he has a handle on it the rules change, which keeps things interesting. I’m sure he’ll continue to bother Richard about it until they get back or Richard strangles him.”

She sighs, eyebrows quirking in wonder for a moment. “How did you manage to get thrown between realities without being burnt to a crisp?” she asks. “I’m guessing you weren’t all wearing adorable baby interdimensional shearing armor.”

Elisabeth starts to laugh. She cannot help it. "Sounds about right. Richard might be thrilled to have someone to talk to about it, I don't know." But she blows out a breath and adds, "And no. The first time I did have armor, but it was Horizon armor. My Frontline gear, really. It wasn't intended for that use … but I didn't go through the Looking Glass either. One of our team kind of went supernova with his power — turned into something along the lines of a living black hole. I intended to kill him or die trying because I thought he was about to destroy the whole damn place and all of us with it. Instead… we landed somewhere else."

There's a brief pause. "I've always speculated it was some kind of combination of Magnes's ability going out of control and linking up with someone else's portal ability on the other side, maybe also tapping into the solar phenomena. But we don't really know the how or anything. Just that it happened. From there… it was kind of a variety of methods used, mostly tied to the person who could make portals. Until the last jump landed us in the Flooded world and we found Chel. That trip home started with the Looking Glass but ended with the portal that our friends made and tapping into the Looking Glass Richard was using here." So… no, no armor. "But there was no real aiming in what we were doing. Mostly it was jumping blind."

She sighs, slapping her hands on her thighs in the age-old sign of getting ready to get out of someone's hair. "You look like you need to collapse. And Lord knows… Now that I know they're okay, I might actually be able to sleep. If you want to ask more, the door's open anytime, Wright. And just… keep me in the loop best you can, okay? I won't ask you to play telephone too much." She smiles just a little, moving to stand. "Just know I'm here if you need to talk… and NDAs and whatever? I'll keep it confidential, okay?" She's been through so much of this.

Wright’s eyes open wider throughout the course of Liz’s answer until there’s nothing she can do but blink. She manages a breathy laugh. “Wow that sounds crazy,” she says. “But yeah, you’re not wrong, I’m probably too tired to fully appreciate all the details there.”

She claps her hands softly, straightens her back as she takes a deep breath. Little signs to communicate the conversation is coming to an end without having to say as much. “I may sleep in tomorrow,” she says, “but I’ll make sure I keep you up to date. Anything you want Elliot to tell Richard in the morning?”

Elisabeth laughs outright. "It really does, doesn't it?" There's no awkwardness in her leave-taking. Her smile is soft, wistful even. "No," is her soft answer as she leaves. "You can't tell him anything right now that he doesn't already know. Get some sleep."

“I will,” Wright says with a warm smile that doesn’t betray the lie. She nods her head from side to side, stretching, cracking her neck. As Elisabeth excuses herself she doesn’t get up to check the door to make sure it’s closed. That a soft push won’t grant a sharper click of surety. Because what can a door do in this new age of terrors? What can locks do, when, suddenly—


‘HELP␇,’ she sends with a drum of her fingertips against her arms as she clutches herself and slides off the edge of the bed to the floor and curls her head down into her knees.

’HELP␇,’ Elliot sends with a flutter of his fingertips against the back of his skull as the ship rocks, as he reels in darkness, another falling, another not flying, another never safe in the Palace again.

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