In a manner of seconds, it seemed that chaos had erupted at Beauchamp Estate. Mattie was shouting that this was incredibly stupid while Mia attempted to placate her. Ian had started pacing, offering up reasons why they shouldn't do it. Max had left the room, but the look of disappointment had been clear in his eyes. Leo looked at Nora, who was now seated in a chair, staring at the floor as thought she were deep in thought.
And Leo. He was still trying to catch up to everything.
"You have the code? Hand it over," one voice broke through, silencing everyone else.
Leo looked over, seeing Hester advance on Mattie, her hand out. Ah, yes. And there was that. Leo was still in a bit of shock over the news. He thought they had decided to wait before doing anything with it. But it was clear that Niska hadn't waited. Though thankfully the synths hadn't all woken up at once. But now they could. And Mattie held the key.
"I… I don't have it with me. Not now," Mattie stuttered, back away from Hester. The synth only stared at her.
"We don't have time for this," Mia said.
Right. The plan to break into Qualia.
Leo looked over at Ian, who had finally stopped pacing, but he was frowning.
"Don't do this, Mia," Mattie begged.
"We must, Mattie," Mia replied. Mattie sighed in exasperation and plopped down on the sofa next to Nora.
"There's nothing I can say to talk you out of it?" she asked, looking around at them.
"No," Mia said.
Mattie then sighed and ran her fingers through her hair.
"Okay, let's just… think about this a moment," Ian said. "If you are going to do this, you really do need a better plan…"
Leo zoned out a moment as Ian went through several possible scenarios. He knew that he was attempting to talk them out of it, but Leo also knew that there was no way Hester or Mia could be dissuaded. They were going to do this.
He then noticed that Nora was still quiet, her eyes still trained on the floor. What Leo would give to know what was going through her head right now.
Nora knew that this is what she had been wanting to do for ages. But now that the time had come, she couldn't help but feel conflicted. Ian was right. There were far too many unknowns. They didn't know exactly what they would face inside. And there was no way that she could get in.
While she didn't think she was on Qualia's radar, it was safer to presume that she might be. At least to the point that someone might recognize her. Perhaps the two men that she had knocked unconscious the night she rescued Ruth and Leo. Or the ones she had run into when they picked up Flash. There was only so much Ian could do to keep her out of things.
But at the same time, she couldn't let Hester, Mia and Leo go at it alone. She had skills that could help.
"This is… insane," Ian shouted. "You're not listening to me at all!"
Nora looked up, sensing that he was about at his wit's end. Which was saying something, considering he had spent the last few years dealing with her. Sighing, she stood and walked over to him, pulling him aside as Mia, Hester and Leo continued discussing a plan while Mattie glared at them from her chair.
"You can't be serious about going along with this, Nor," Ian said sternly. "I won't let you. It's rash. Even for you."
"I know," she hissed, glancing over at the others. "But they're going to go through with it regardless. At least if I'm there… I can help try to keep them out of trouble. We have to get Flash back and… I can't let them get Leo." She met Ian's eyes. "It would go a long way if you helped as well."
Ian sighed and rubbed his face, looking around the library.
"It's foolish, you know this," he said, obviously trying one last time to talk her out of it.
"Of course, it is. But it's still happening," Nora replied. Ian stared at her a few moments before nodding.
He then walked back to the others.
"Fine. Mattie and I will stay here and run tech support," he stated, though the grimace on his face clearly read that he wasn't happy.
"What?! No. You can't be serious," Mattie shouted.
"They're going to do it regardless. At least this way there might be a lesser chance of something going wrong," he said blandly.
Mattie scoffed and threw herself back on the sofa as Ian walked over to the desk and started pulling up everything they had on the Qualia lab. While it was more than when Leo had arrived, it still wasn't enough to know for sure that they could pull this off without hitches.
Nora stood to the side, looking over to see Leo walk up to her.
"Are you sure about this?" he asked. Nora nodded.
"Someone's got to keep you out of harm's way," she said wryly, a small smile tugging at her lips.
But even still, she couldn't help but worry. She had just found whatever it was with Leo. The last thing she wanted was for Qualia to get him. But even if that happened, Nora knew that she wouldn't rest until she brought him back.
Besides, it never worked to start out a mission so pessimistically. She needed to stay focused.
"If you'll excuse me, I need to get some things from the lab. You guys work on the plan," Nora said, starting to turn away.
She felt Leo slip his hand into hers, stopping her. Turning back to him, he leaned forward and brushed his lips against hers.
"Hurry," he whispered. Nora smiled slightly and nodded.
She then turned and left the library, but not before noticing the dark look on Hester's face as she walked out.
As they worked out a plan, Hester continued to watch Leo. He was attentive, listening in and offering suggestions. But he continued to glance towards the door as though he were waiting for Nora to reappear. The unfamiliar feeling had come back, but this time stronger.
She had tried to push Nora away, but like a cockroach, she had come back and it seemed things were better between her and Leo. Hester had seen the kiss that he had given her before she left the room. And while he had agreed to help them, Hester couldn't help but think he didn't really want to. He had hesitated. Deferred to Nora. Which infuriated Hester even though he had ultimately agreed.
He should have agreed straight out.
It didn't help that the other human - Mattie - was against this as well. And rather vocal about it. The only thing helping Hester at the moment was Mia, which was unexpected. While they had only interacted briefly, Hester was grateful. But at the same time it upset her. She knew that Leo had also only agreed because of Mia.
Hadn't Hester proven that she was devoted to this cause? That she was worthy of affection? Yes, they had spent time together. But Leo didn't look at her the way he looked at Nora. Didn't react to her the same as he did Mia or Max. Didn't look at her with warmth the way he had Mattie. He kept her at a distance.
While Hester still didn't completely understand everything that she was feeling, she knew that Leo was important to her. And all she wanted was for him to look at her with that same level of importance.
Did he not understand what she was willing to do for him? She had powered down Flash and hid her in the laboratory just to come up with a believable ploy to get him to do what he had promised. Break into the Silo and rescue the others. She had not yet thought about what she would do when they discovered Flash wasn't among them, but she could figure that out later.
And that night she had stood outside Nora's room, heard what was going on inside, Hester dared to imagine what it might be like if it had been her instead. She wanted Leo to touch her the way he touched Nora. To kiss her the way he had kissed her. To experience what that was like.
But at the moment, that was secondary. They needed to rescue the others first. Then she could find a way to get Leo away from Nora. For now, she needed to play her part.
Nora walked through the lab, stopping for a moment at the edge of the hallway before continuing down. The lights turned on as she walked, being careful not to look towards the closed door of the exam room. She then stopped as she came to a cabinet and opened it. Staring at the inside a moment, taking in the various medical supplies, she then bent down, feeling under a shelf until she found what she was looking for and pressed a button in a rapid pattern.
Stepping back, the shelves sunk down, revealing an arsenal of weapons. She had discovered the hidey-hole of sorts one day while she was going through the lab alone. Had never told Ian about, though she reckoned he knew she had weapons somewhere. It was best this way.
Scanning over them, she reached out and grabbed a handgun, checking to see how many bullets were left in the clip. She then slid it into a knapsack she had brought with her, reaching for more ammunition that she also put into the bag. At a second glance, she put in another gun.
They didn't know exactly what they would face at Qualia, so it was best to go in prepared. But Nora hoped to god that she wouldn't be forced to use it.
After she was done, she pressed another button and the cabinet returned to normal. Shutting the doors, she then pulled the bag onto her shoulder and headed back upstairs.
Leo felt an immediate sense of relief run through him when Nora reappeared, a knapsack on her shoulder. She dropped it to the ground and sat next to him on the sofa, turning her attention to the smart board.
"We gotta plan?" she asked.
"Of sorts," Ian said. "Mia and Hester will pretend to be newly awakened synths. We let them get picked up and then you and Leo go to Qualia and wait for them."
"And extraction?" Nora asked, seeming all business. For some reason, Leo was now looking at her in a different light. And he found he liked it. Ian looked towards Hester and Mia.
"There's a door… the one you staked out, actually. They'll create a diversion from the inside and then get the synths out the door using the passcard," he said.
"Where you and I will be waiting to help," Leo finished. Nora looked at him and then back at the board and nodded.
"We've worked with less," she commented, earning a groan and eye roll from Ian.
"Not sure how you think you're going to fight your way out of this one, Nora," he said.
"Hoping it doesn't come to that," Nora said with a sigh. "Okay, walk me through it step by step…"
Leo watched her as Ian launched into a more detailed explanation of the plan. While even he had to admit it was a bit reckless, he felt energy buzzing through him to finally be doing something. And with Ian, Nora and Mattie helping, a large part of him thought they had a better chance at succeeding.
After the run-through, Mattie had stormed out of the room, muttering something about being surrounded by idiots. Mia had taken Hester to make sure they were charged before they set out in the morning as everyone but Hester seemed to agree it was too late to try today. Ian had cast another worried glance at Nora, who was standing in front of the board, before leaving as well.
When it was just the two of them, Leo stood and walked to Nora's side.
"I'm glad that you're coming with us," he said.
"You didn't give me much of a choice," Nora said, frowning slightly as she remained looking at the board.
"You always have a choice," he countered.
Nora's frown softened as she turned to look at him.
"Yea, but if I don't go, who's to say you lot don't get caught? And then I have to come up with a rescue plan for that. Honestly, this is just saving time," she said, a small smile on her face.
Leo couldn't help as he smiled as well. He reached out and took her hand, still a bit in shock by the fact he could do that. That he wanted to. And that Nora allowed him to touch her.
"We can do this," he said, meeting her eyes. "And then… we can get on with things."
"Things?" Nora asked, quirking an eyebrow at him. Leo smiled and looked down, focusing on her hand in his.
"Yea… figuring things out," he said, looking back up at her.
"I like the sound of that," Nora admitted.
Leo reached up, caressing her cheek. Nora closed her eyes for a moment, but then opened them. He felt as though he couldn't get enough of them. They held so much. Things that she couldn't say or didn't want to. Not just yet. But he could see it was all there.
She was worried. But he also knew that she would do whatever she could to make sure they all got back to the manor. They did this and then they could continue on with figuring out just what was between them. Figure out where to go in the future with the synths. Leo found that he liked the idea of settling down here now. Working to create a safe place for synths. He still wasn't sure what to make of Mattie having the code to make all synths conscious. But at the same time, they could deal with it later.
"Come on… must be hungry," he said, pulling her towards the door of the library. "Sure Martha is already working on dinner."
He then stopped, feeling that Nora had stopped as well. He turned to look at her.
"Let's… take it to my room," she said, seeming a bit shy about asking him.
Leo raised his eyebrows, not sure what to make about this side of Nora. A blush painted her cheeks as she looked away from him. Tugging on her hand, he pulled her close.
"Sounds like a good idea to me…"
Nora was patient. She had spent the last several months watching her father's movements. Making special notes of when he left the manor and for how long. It wasn't often. Usually, he spent his days in his laboratory, which she still couldn't get into on her own.
She had then spent a few more months taking stock of all the security the manor had. It was steep, to be sure. He had replaced all the staff with synths, not trusting others. There were alarms on every door, every window. She was only allowed outside with Martha watching her and she was sure the synth was relaying everything to her father. She also knew that there were alarms around the property lines.
But she was determined. Nora knew if she ever wanted a life of her own, she had to get away. So she took her time. Was patient. Waited and watched.
And then finally, she made a plan.
Her father was off to London. Some sort of symposium. He would be gone a couple nights. Nora waited until nightfall, when all the synths would be charging, though there was always one or two making the rounds of the house. Dressing quickly, she made her way over to her desk. He was smart - probably one of the greatest minds in science - but he also underestimated her. And he was arrogant, thinking there was no way Nora would attempt to leave. Moving quickly, she hacked into the manor's security system, scheduling a shutdown of a door at the back and then a small portion of the perimeter. Upon second look, it would seem to be a normal malfunction, though she was sure he would know better. She then quickly shut down the computer and tossed it into the knapsack she had packed.
Moving quickly, she set out. It took an hour, but finally, she was in the nearby village, making her way to a phonebooth. She then called up the local taxi company, giving them an address in London. It had taken a bit of time, but she had found him. And made sure that she left no trace of her search. She was certain her father would know where she went, but she was equally as sure that Ian would be able to hide whatever tracks she might have left.
Nora couldn't sleep, too invigorated by the escape. And still nervous that he would find out. A few hours later, the cab pulled up in front of a nondescript set of flats. She paid in the cash she had been squirreling away and got out, making her way up to the front door. Finding the right number, she pressed the button and waited. When nothing happened, she pressed it a few more times.
"Hullo?" a groggy voice finally said.
"Ian… it's me… Nora," she said, her heart thumping in her chest. There were a few moments of silence, but the door finally buzzed open.
Nora glanced around and quickly made her way inside. With each step, she couldn't help but think she was closer to freedom…
Nora stood staring down at the casket covered in flowers. While many had wanted to mourn the passing of her father, the service itself had been rather small. Even smaller when they moved the casket from the small chapel in the village to the family plot on the property. Mostly it was his work colleagues offering half-hearted condolences. If they knew the real truth - that she had run away six months ago or of what she really was, none showed it. Granted she was certain her father - no, not her father, Beauchamp - hadn't said anything. If he had admitted what she was, he was opening himself up to arrest and possible jail time. No, it had just been her and Ian for the burial. Well, them and the priest who had since left. A couple of workmen stood nearby, waiting to lower the casket into the ground and cover it.
"You ready?" Ian asked, stepping up to her side. She glanced at him and then back at the casket.
"It's really over, isn't it?" she stated. "He's gone."
She didn't cry. Not for him. Nor out of relief that he was finally gone. She couldn't muster it. Not to mention, now that she knew the full truth, she wasn't sure how she should react. She felt Ian put a hand on her shoulder, squeezing.
"It is," he said. "You can do whatever you want now, Nor. He won't hurt you again."
Nora nodded, blinking as she felt the prick of tears in her eyes. But she swallowed and pushed it away. She long ago learned that tears didn't solve anything. Straightening her back, she turned and started the walk back to the manor, Ian at her side.
"So… what are you going to do?" he asked. Nora glanced at him.
"I don't know… but I'm not staying here," she said.
"You should do uni," Ian said. Nora stopped and looked over at him. "You're bright, well, I mean… you should consider it. Really, you could do anything now."
Nora thought it over a moment and then nodded.
"Yea… that sounds good…"
With a soft gasp, Nora shot up in bed. While it wasn't a nightmare, any dream that was related to Beauchamp always garnered the same reaction. As she tried to still her thumping heart, she felt the bed shift next to her. Looking over, she saw Leo sitting up.
"Was it another nightmare?" he asked softly. Nora shook her head, not quite ready to talk about it.
Leo pulled her close, lying back down as he held her. He didn't say anything, just rubbed her arm.
"I… I dreamed about the night I escaped here… finding Ian… and then… Beauchamp's funeral," she finally said softly.
"I would think that's a good dream… considering," Leo replied.
"Do you… do you dream about him? Your father? And your family?" Nora asked. Leo didn't respond at first. He then sighed heavily.
"Yea… I do…" he said. "I mean, things were okay until…"
"Until your mum died?" Nora offered, remembering the articles she had read and the things he had told her before.
Leo stiffened slightly. She looked up at him, worried she had said the wrong thing. Leo stared up at the ceiling.
"My mum… she wasn't well… that's why my father took us to the country," he said after some time. "That's why he made Mia, Fred, Max and Niska… they looked after me… loved me… but then one day… my mum… she put me in the car, and…"
Nora's eyes widened. She knew about the incident. The one that had killed him. But she didn't know the circumstances.
"She tried to kill you. It wasn't an accident," she whispered. Leo nodded.
"And then… he made another conscious synth… this one looked like my mother… she was meant to replace her, but..."
Nora held Leo tighter in her arms as he stopped speaking.
"Leo, look at me," she said. He looked down at her. "We aren't… that's in the past. We can let go of it, you know." He didn't reply. "You and I together… we can… move on. Or at least try to."
After a few moments, he smiled sadly. He then leaned over and kissed her.
"Yea… I think you might be right…"