Flowers In A Walled Garden


alix_icon.gif chess3_icon.gif kimberly_icon.gif

Scene Title Flowers in a Walled Garden
Synopsis While one group investigates rumors of a cave in Hokkaido, Chess and her clone sisters spend time sightseeing.
Date June 28, 2019

Everyone is screaming.

Inside, it might as well be raining. Water falls from above in torrential downpour. Broken glass falls out from demolished windows into the street, glittering in mid-air as they fall. The displaced water of an olympic-sized swimming pool rushes away from the plume of white water rising to the ceiling. Dozens of teenagers in red short and swimsuits are scrambling away from the water, some inside the pool struggle to swim away before they’re caught in the backlash from the explosion.

Legs scissoring beneath her, feeling weightless, helpless, and terrified Francesca Lang can only watch in horror as the wall of displaced water rushes against the sides of the pool, splashes over and draws her in before the crashing wave comes down on top of her and sends her slamming down to the bottom of the pool. Air escapes her lungs, a scream muffled by the water, limbs thrashing, blood bright red in the pale blue where it billows in a cloud away from her head.

She can’t tell which way is up. She can’t tell which way is down.

Her entire world has changed.

Ten Years Later

The East Gardens of the Imperial Palace

Tokyo Restricted Zone

Tokyo, Japan

June 28, 2019

2:05pm Local Time

“…Earth to Chess…”

Staring down at the placid water of a lillypad filled koi pond, Francesca Lang couldn’t be any further away from that terrible summer as she is now. The air is hot around her, the warm sun of a summer day on her skin.


Alix approaches her quietly, placing a hand on her arm. None of the other tourists notice that anything is wrong, though Kimberly has, but she’s kept her distance on the red-lacquered wooden bridge that crosses the pond. “Do you want to go back to Asi’s?” Alix asks quietly, her brows furrowed. She was the one who needed to get out, to stretch her legs, to see more of the city.

Chess thought a park would be comforting.

But nothing about this trip has been.

“I’m fine.”

The words sound more terse than she wants them to, and Chess shrugs, pulling a hand out of her leather jacket that doesn’t help her look less out of place. She shoves her honey-colored hair out of her eyes — dying it back to something like its natural sable would have probably helped her blend in, too, but clearly that’s not in her itinerary.

And being a bottle blonde helps to differentiate her from Kimberly, which makes things a little less confusing in their strange group of travelers. Not that it’s hard to tell them apart on demeanor alone.

“Just thinking,” Chess adds, a little softer. “How many places my life would have gone in a totally different direction, you know?” She knows it must have been Praxis or their predecessors that kept her from being labeled Tier 3 that day. “I guess that’s true of everyone.”

Alix sighs quietly, lost under the sounds of chirping cicadas and the conversational voices of nearby tourists. Kimberly, crouched by the waterside, snaps a picture of one of the koi with her phone, then looks across the length of water over to where Chess and Alix stand on the footbridge. She rises up from her crouch and walks along the water’s edge, coming back to the foot of the bridge.

“There’s a tea house over there,” Kimberly says with a motion of a thumb over her shoulder, pointing to a large dark wooden building just visible through the manicured trees. “It’s from like the late 1600s… might be cool?” Her dark eyes flick between Alix and Chess, hoping to redirect the tension back toward sightseeing.

Smiling quietly at Kimberly, Alix looks over to Chess and gives her arm a gentle squeeze, then lets her hand fall away. “Shoulda, woulda’, coulda,” is her belated response to Chess’ thought. “Right?”

“For some things. Others, we never had a choice,” Chess says to Alix, a rueful smile curving her mouth upward. “You less than me.” A reminder to herself she’s had it easy compared to her sisters.

She looks past Alix to Kimberly, to include her in the smile. “I wouldn’t have pegged you for a nature lover.” It’s said lightly, not meant as an insult in any way. She’s still getting to know both of them. The months with them can’t make up for a lifetime apart, after all.

She tips her head in the direction of the teahouse, a concession to Kim’s request. As she begins to walk that way, she glances from one to the other, and offers another smile.

“I know I’m not one for being warm and fuzzy, but I’m glad you’re both here, for what it’s worth,” Chess says, eyes on the wooden planks beneath her feet.

“Yeah, well…” Kimberly folds her hands behind her head and walks lazily beside Chess. “It beats being back in the crappy old Safe Zone. It’s nice out here, an’ if you don’t look up it's easy t’miss that you’re in the middle of one of the biggest cities in the whole damn world.”

Alix follows along beside them, contentedly quiet to listen to the two talk. Kimberly, having been the more reserved one since they got here, surprisingly continues to talk as she leads the small group toward the old tea house. “I had a garden back home, before the war. Little thing, tomatoes and herbs, but I liked it. It wasn’t always so bad… but things… changed.” Her hands come unwound and slowly Kimberly lowers her hands to hook her thumbs through her belt loops.

“I kinda’ just came because it seemed exciting. It doesn’t really…” Kimberly stops herself, reconsidering how to say something. “I don’t honestly know why someone’d do what they did. Make more of us. But it also doesn’t bother me none that it happened. I guess… I’m just taking it day by day. M’just not sure why we were ever separated… Havin’ a sister doubled my wardrobe.” Kimberly says with a crooked smile.

“I don’t mind the safe zone,” Chess murmurs. She prefers it to what she’s referred to as the ‘gilded cage’ of Yamagato, and for all its beauty, Japan seems more like that then the remnants of New York City that she’d called home for a few years. “I guess coming from where you’re from, though, so much open land…” she tells Kim, looking perhaps a little contrite from taking the woman from her home.

At the other musings, Chess sighs, and shakes her head. “Someone was trying to save us. I think they had to separate us to protect us. I don’t know how many of us got out.” She glances at Alix, brows lifting — maybe she knows.

“One of us didn’t,” Chess adds, suddenly. “I…I had a memory, of the night we left. I haven’t told anyone.” The path before her suddenly blurs as tears fill her eyes until she blinks them away. “Maybe she got away later. I don’t know.”

Her hand swipes impatiently over her eyes, and she looks back at Alix. “Do you know?” It’s asked gently, not accusingly. But she was on their hit list — so were the others, presumably.

Kimberly is silent as Chess poses the question to Alix, who stops in her tracks and looks stunned by the question. For a moment she can’t even speak, guilt flashing across her features, and then shame as she shakes her head and looks down at the ground. “I didn’t even know there were others until we… until we were ordered to go after you,” Alix admits quietly. “The Director never told us anything in full, just enough for us to do what we were asked and nothing more. We…” her brows furrow and she takes a moment to compose her thoughts, looking like she’s trying to work through something.

In that moment, Kimberly looks from Alix to Chess, also coming to a stop in such a way as the three of them are nearly in a line. As Alix struggles through something, Kimberly makes her way back to Chess, offering a concerned look up at her and then over to the half-sister she never knew she had.

“I remember some stuff from when we were kids…” Alix starts to say, quietly. She’d never spoken of her upbringing, other than vague mentions of hospitals and doctors. Her stories have always been more present-oriented. “When I was little, maybe… five or six years old, my sisters and I — all nine of us, back then — we lived in this campus. I don’t know where it was, but it was like… it was a school. My first memories are there. They — the people there took good care of us. They spoke Japanese,” she says with a pinch of her brows, “we were taught Japanese. It was our first language.”

Kimberly looks over at Chess at that, worry in her eyes, then back to Alix. “Was that… here? Were you in Japan?”

“I don’t know,” Alix says quietly. “That’s— one of the reasons I wanted to come out here. I was hoping I’d recognize something. But we never left the campus. Out the windows were just— it was just a city. We were so high up. They never asked us to do anything, or hurt anyone. We had tests… like, medical tests? Sometimes they’d have us solve puzzles together, sometimes in pairs? I don’t really remember it all that well.”

Slowly, Alix starts to approach Kimberly and Chess again. “When we were older they’d have us exercise, they taught us English and Chinese. We had regular school classes, lots of medical examinations. But they were always kind, the doctors were…” There’s a noise in the back of Alix’s throat, and she shakes her head. “They were kind. When we each manifested our powers, they weren’t scared or surprised, they helped us understand them. Which— that came with more tests. But they never treated us like animals. It was always… it was kind.”

But, something darkens Alix’s expression. A shadow of trauma haunts her eyes. “I remember when I was… sixteen? Something happened. All the doctors had to leave the building and a lot of men in suits came in. There was shouting, I saw one of our teachers crying in a hallway. My sisters and I were loaded onto a bus. It was the first time we’d ever left the city…” Slowly, Alix exhales a sigh and shakes her head. “We were on a windy road in the woods when the bus was attacked. People were shooting. We were rounded up, each one of us, by some… by security? I don’t know. I think the people who were attacking us were killed?” She doesn’t seem convinced.

“At the end of it all…” Alix closes her eyes and shakes her head, “everything had changed. We were brought to a new campus, different doctors, they all spoke Chinese. Our training changed, and that’s when we first met the Director. That’s when… when they started making us do things. Hurt people. They’d told us it was to protect other people like us… that we were— I don’t know— heroes.”

Kimberly brings a hand up to her mouth and looks away, mumbling, “Jesus Christ,” into her palm.

Chess looks down, brows drawn together, looking like she wishes she hadn’t asked. But it’s better to know. She reaches out, pinky finger hooking around Alix’s first, and then does the same to Kimberly’s with the other hand, linking them together for a moment.

“Ivy hated me so much,” she says quietly. “It wasn’t just an order to her, but personal. But with that sort of childhood…”

Her head shakes, and she bumps Alix’s shoulder. “The fact you’re the sane one is terrifying,” she says lightly, to bring in a touch of levity to the tense situation.

“My parents were not pro-Evolved,” she adds after a moment. “But until I was 16, I had it pretty easy, I guess.” The years after that have mostly been hell, but she’s trying to look on the bright side.

Kimberly smiles softly at Chess, squeezing back with her linked pinkie. Alix does the same, though it’s clear something is still bothering her. “Hurting isn’t a competition,” she says in spite of herself, stepping in and slipping her finger free of Chess’, but instead going in for a hug. Kimberly smiles again, looking down to the ground, then over to the water. “We’ve got family now,” Alix says quietly into Chess’ shoulder. “That’s what matters.”

Watching the sunlight play on the water, Kimberly is quiet for a moment longer, then glances over at the two and asks. “Who’s Ivy again?” The question has Alix disentangling from the embrace, straightening her shirt and looking over at Chess’ double.

“Like me,” Alix says with a motion to herself, “but… “ she quickly looks at Chess and then back, “violent. I think she knows something I don’t. When she found out we were going after you, that we found you, it was like something snapped in her. She had to be the one to— ” Alix exhales sharply and shakes her head. “I don’t know.”

The sudden hug is absorbed for a second, before Chess’ arms come up around Alix’s, and she nods against the other woman’s head. “We do,” she agrees, voice a touch husky. “Thanks for choosing me,” she adds, before letting go.

“The way she said my name. So much hate,” Chess remembers. “I wonder what she knew.”

She shakes her head, as if she could clear the memory the way a dog shakes off water. “Whatever. Teahouse!” she says more brightly, perhaps for Kimberly’s sake. “And a selfie for prosperity,” she decides, pulling out her cell phone from her back pocket, finding their faces in the frame to snap a shot of the three.

Alix grimaces as the cell phone is brought out, making a further awkward face as she leans back in to the frame. Kimberly looks across Chess to her, squinting. “Stop making that face, you’re going to look like an idiot.” To which Alix raises one brow and looks over at Kimberly, then nervously over to the phone without saying so much as a word.

In the frame of her phone, Chess can see Kimberly slide her a look. It occurs to them both that this is a first for Alix. For being the same age as Kimberly and Chess, she’s lived a life apart from them, a life apart from the normalcy of ordinary people. Something as mundane as a selfie is something strange and new for her. That thought has Kimberly’s expression shifting to a smile as she hooks an arm around Chess’ back and rests her hand on Alix’s shoulder.

“Just smile,” Kimberly says with a wink, “don’t worry about the rest.”

Alix looks over at Kimberly quickly, then over to Chess, then as she turns her attention to the camera manages an awkward (but valiant) attempt at a smile.

Selfies certainly aren’t the norm for Chess — they were once, when she was still that easygoing high school athlete with friends, parents, brothers, when her biggest worries were studying for a chemistry test or choosing between two snowboards for her birthday present.

Phone cameras have come a long way since then, at least.

She manages to get the three of them in the shot, and even smiling when the phone makes its synthetic shutter sound. The picture can’t capture the emotions of the moment — on the surface, they look like any trio of sisters.

But they’ll know better.

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