Into Your Hideout
Standard Disclaimer Applies: I don't own Fringe, I don't earn money from this, please don't sue me.
Thanks to DixieGirl for the fast edit.
(Fixed two minor mistakes. That's what I get for trying to edit on an iPad.)
Staring at the rapidly receding lights of The City and fingering the misshapen lead slug that hung around her neck, Etta felt her father approach. She turned to face him, looking into sky-blue eyes that mirrored her own.
He was saying something kind and hopeful about Simon, but the exact words didn't sink in. Etta was too busy memorizing his face – she didn't want to ever forget it again.
"Do you...know me?" she asked.
A silly question, she supposed. The last time Peter Bishop had seen her, she had been barely as tall as his waist, bawling her eyes out and reaching for him as Aunt Rachel carried her away.
Surprise flickered across his features, followed by puzzlement at the question.
"I don't see how I could. I was in that amber for twenty years...you look barely old enough to..."
He stopped and looked at her intently, intuiting the meaning behind the question. In succession, recognition, shock, and then wonder crossed his features.
"Henrietta?" he asked.
Etta smiled. "Hi, Dad."
He put his hand on her face and caressed her cheek as he stared into her eyes. Etta wondered how he could still be as tall as she remembered.
Their embrace was everything Etta had imagined for twenty years.
When they broke apart minutes later, a misty-eyed Peter held her at arm's length and looked her up and down, then gently hooked the chain around her neck with a finger and pulled the necklace up to examine.
Before he turned away to join Walter and Astrid, he smirked.
"You're still wearing my bullet."
The safe house where Etta took them was really more of an abandoned shack, but it was the closest one she knew. As a matter of operational security, no one member knew the locations of all the bolt holes and weapons caches shared by the resistance. If one resistance member was captured, it wouldn't put the whole movement out of business.
Of course, any Observer who tried to read Etta would only see what she wanted him to, but she kept that little ability to herself, lest she be hunted. She'd never even told Simon.
Her grandfather gingerly put down the satchel he'd been hauling, and turned to Peter.
"Do you have it, Peter? The Archive?" he asked.
Peter looked at him, then cocked his head in his daughter's direction.
"Walter, this is your granddaughter, Etta..."
Walter glanced at her, then returned his gaze to Peter.
"That's nice. Do you have it?"
Peter sighed, then dug something out of his pocket, holding it up for Walter to see. "Yes, Walter, I have it."
Walter gazed at him like an owl looking at a field mouse. "Well then, you should get started, don't you think?"
Peter frowned. "Sure, fine, whatever..."
Walter turned away and fussed with the contents of his satchel. Etta was somewhat insulted on her father's behalf, but Peter seemed unfazed, so she let the matter drop. He turned to her and grinned.
"Is there some sort of computer here, Henrietta?" he asked. "And don't mind Walter... he's a little focused right now."
"Yeah, I'll get you set up," she said, motioning toward the back of the house. "Archive?"
"Uh huh," Peter showed her the small object in his hand. It was black plastic with some sort of metal connector on one end.
"Some sort of information storage?" she asked as she led him into the back. She removed a concealed panel from the wall, revealing a small plastic box which she removed and set onto a nearby card table.
"Yeah, USB thumb drive, 128 gigabyte. Before we got ambered, Walter and I collected all of the technology and some general information we thought would be useful, then encrypted it and put it on this. We're gonna make copies and spread it around to the general population."
Peter raised an eyebrow when she activated the computer and it projected its bootup sequence messages into thin air. Apparently he'd never seen a holographic tactile interface before.
"Of course, technology marches on." he said, smiling as he waved his hand in the air, playing with the unfamiliar system while the holograph cast green light and shadows across his face. "I anticipated this, and brought everything I need to make an adapter."
He sat down and emptied the contents of his many pockets onto the card table; that was when Etta remembered that Peter was an inveterate tinker. He was carrying a set of watchmaker's screwdrivers, a multi-tool, a miniature soldering iron, rolls of wire - everything he'd need to start futzing around at a moment's notice.
"Have a seat, Etta." he said. "We can catch up while I work. Unlike Walter, I can do two things at once."
"Why is granddad, so..." she shrugged. She glanced into the living room, where Walter was castigating Astrid about something, then settled into the chair next to Peter, scooting it a little closer.
"Well, you put the not-so-nice parts of his brain back. This isn't the same Walter you knew as a kid; this is the one I had when I was growing up. You get used to it."
Etta learned more about electronics and computers in an hour of watching her father work than she'd learned in her previous twenty-four years of life. Part of that was the schools' fault; creativity and independent thought weren't encouraged these days. The Observers wanted the Natives to simply consume information related to their employment, not experiment or invent.
At the end of that hour, Peter had successfully uploaded the content of the archive and was showing her what he thought were the interesting bits. 'Archive' didn't describe it adequately; it was a literal encyclopedia of subversive topics.
He seemed to be particularly amused by the section on information warfare, which he apparently had written himself.
"So the plan is to just circulate this among the general population?" she asked.
Peter nodded. "Information wants to be free. That's the mistake we made... we kept the existence of the Observers secret for too long. Of course, we were hoping everybody could just go on with their lives while we kept the monsters at bay. When they struck, we were the only ones in a position to fight them, and it wasn't much of a fight."
Etta had an epiphany and grinned.
"The people will start using the information. They'll start building weapons and writing malware to infect the infonet. They'll read and discuss the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence..."
Peter grinned and nodded. "Bright girl. And it'll all happen spontaneously. The Observers hate disorder, it repels them like garlic to a vampire. They want a nice, ordered universe where everyone does as they're told. And of course, it will all be a smokescreen."
Etta looked at him. "A distraction?"
"Yeah, this is really all just spam, something to keep them occupied while Walter builds the device that locks them out forever."
There was a long moment of silence while she digested that idea. Etta could barely remember a time before the Observers had come, before they'd taken over. She thought it would be worth any sacrifice to have that again.
Suddenly, Peter yawned, then swiped his hand through the air, shutting off the computer.
"Long day," he said, then chuckled. "Twenty years long."
Etta looked at him and decided to ask the question that had been burning for twenty years.
"Dad? How did Mom die? I remember... she just wasn't there anymore. And then Aunt Rachel raised me."
She looked over at Peter, found his face a blank mask, his posture stiff, defensive.
"I'm sorry... if it's too painful for you... " she stuttered.
"You should tell her, son." Engrossed in their conversation, neither of them had noticed Walter standing at the entrance to the small room. "She has a right to know."
"Not your call, Walter." Peter growled.
Walter shrugged and wandered away, leaving two cups of tea on the card table.
Peter sighed, and brushed his fingers across the back of her hand.
"He's right. Etta... your mother isn't dead, as far as we know. She was seriously injured, but our Observer ally took her away to recover, and keep her safe. But we don't know where, or more likely, when, she is."
Note: The title is simply the song I was listening to when I started writing, Into Your Hideout, by Pilot Speed. Titles are just labels for convenience, anyway.