Out of Phase


chess3_icon.gif miles2_icon.gif

Scene Title Out of Phase
Synopsis Chess and Miles escape Japan for a few minutes but it's no escape from their realities.
Date July 13, 2019

Tokyo Restricted Zone and New York Safe Zone

Miles hadn’t gone to the mountain with the others. It had probably been pretty quiet in their absence in the little rental house the group had made their Japanese home away from home. But it’s just as quiet in the aftermath, despite the fact they brought home Tae. The displaced time traveler doesn’t have to be an empath to pick up on the tension, anger, and unease in the group. Maybe some will be explained at dinner.

Miles has learned not to expect anything normal with this lot. He’s probably not expecting the knock on his door, and when it’s answered for Chess to be standing on the other side. Especially after midnight.

“Can we get out of here? I need to… “ she pauses, then just shrugs. “I need to not be here for a bit and there’s too many people in this house.”

Before he answers, she adds, “We can just port somewhere and not talk, if you want. I just need to get away, and if I walk out, people will try to go with me. I don’t want that.” She tips her head, examining a knick in the door jamb. “Not that you’re not a person.” Smooth.

Miles is definitely not expecting any of that, and so it’s several seconds before the door actually opens — probably more seconds than the walk from wherever he was in the room to the door should actually warrant. However, he does open it eventually, and when he does his eyebrows raise in clear surprise.

“Oh. Hey.” He does not open it further to let her in, but he also does not shut it in her face, so that’s nice.

He does not have time to answer before she goes on, as has been noted, but he listens, and the clarification gets a little huff. “The jury might still be out on that,” he replies wryly. “I’m not really sure how Social Security and IDs work with clones.” Is there a thread of bitterness in what was probably meant to be a joke? Possibly. However, he eventually adds, “Yeah. Sure.”

He reaches to put his hand on her shoulder, and almost as soon as he does they’re shimmering out of existence — to anyone who’d be watching. Since there is no one, does it really happen? Well, yes, because an instant later they’ve reappeared at the edge of the Safe Zone.

When he says the word clones, there is the slightest flinch around her eyes. That word carries more than its own weight for her, no matter how facetiously he uses it.

She’s beginning to answer when he touches her shoulder. “There were a lot of people presumed…” she pauses as the strange sensation overtakes them and she sees the familiar cityscape surrounding them. Her eyes close and she takes a breath of air.

New York was never her home. Just a place she’d wandered to because she had nowhere better to go. Still, it’s familiar, the closest thing to a home she’s had in a long time, and the familiar scents, the air itself, is a welcome reprieve from all of the unfamiliar.

Dead is the word she was about to say, but it still feels too soon. And the other Miles is dead.

“They didn’t verify every loss. And there were also cases of mistaken identities. And a lot of places that had records,” Chess says as she flashes her fingers as if a bomb was going off, exhaling in a poof sound. “So it’s a bit of an honor system, really. You can claim to be him — no ones going to argue with you.”

Only a few people will know it’s not the truth.

Does Miles feel badly when he is suddenly reminded that maybe that wasn’t the most thoughtful thing to say? Well, it’s hard to tell. It’s broken up by the teleport, anyway, and once they’re where he intended for them to be he takes his hand away. He doesn’t jerk it away, but it certainly doesn’t linger.

Instead, he looks around, squinting up at one of the taller buildings. “Yeah,” he says after a moment, “maybe. I guess I’ll figure it out eventually. I’m not sure how much it’s going to matter, anyway.” Whatever that means. Maybe he’s still used to living in a watery dystopia.

He lapses into silence then, and it’s an awkward one — at least on his side. He shoves his hands into his pockets, his shoulders hunched, as though in an attempt to make himself shorter that doesn’t actually work very well.

Chess glances up at him with those cynical words. He’s right; if what Adam said on the mountain is true, it might not matter. She isn’t going to repeat that, though.

Instead she moves to a bus bench to sit down. It’s daylight here so she turns her face up to the sun, shaking back her blond hair to let the rays fall on her face unhindered. “I mean, you can definitely live off the grid if you want to, but,” she lifts a shoulder, “eventually you might want the things identification can do for you. It’s probably easier to do it sooner rather than later.”

Chess glances up at him, squinting a little. “You could go to SESA and they’ll help you out, I think. But they’d put you under their NDA. It’d be easier but you’d be gagged. Just something to think about. You might not wanna work for Lynette forever. You could probably make a shitload of money teleporting people everywhere, but if you aren’t registered, that’ll cost.”

Whatever’s bothering her, she doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to discuss it. She looks down again and scrapes some old nail polish off her thumb with its opposite. “If you wanna go do anything while we’re here, you can. I just need a lift back, is all,” she murmurs.

“Maybe.” Miles shrugs, and one hand slides out again to run back through his hair. He’s a little antsy, it seems; shifting from foot to foot, fiddling with his hands. However, eventually he stills and looks over at her again. It’s a brief look, but not so brief that it’s as though he’s trying to be furtive about it. It’s just…a short look. Yes.

“It was a lot easier to make money when I didn’t have to worry about getting all my documents in order,” he admits after a moment. “I used to jump around salvaging things in…you know.” He waves a hand a little vaguely to encompass their surroundings, and also perhaps what they are not surrounded by anymore. His New York. “They weren’t really checking papers.” His tone there is a little bit dry. In contrast to what he’s talking about, which is quite wet. Or was.

There’s another shrug, one-shouldered, at the last. “I don’t really have anything to do,” he replies after another moment. “It isn’t like I have friends to see or anything. But if you want some space I can get lost for a bit.”

She looks where he gestures, trying to envision it a waterworld. “I probably seem like someone who’s always caught up in their own drama, and, like, totally unaware of anyone else’s,” Chess says, making a face. “I can’t really imagine what it’s like for you. At all.”

Bending down, Chess picks up a small fragment of broken concrete, something to curl her fingers around, fiddling with the energy as a way to release her own nervous energy.

“I don’t really need space. I’m going to be gone for a while, so company would be nice.” Her words are quiet, and she glances up at him. “But sit or something. You’re too tall to look up at.” She tosses the chunk of concrete into the air high and in front of them, where it becomes a tiny explosion, breaking it into a cascade of pebbles.

“Did you choose to come back with the others to get away from the flood?” she asks, curiously. “Do you regret it?’

“Everyone’s caught up in their own drama,” Miles replies. “Right? I mean, there’s plenty of it to go around, and you have a bigger helping than some people. It’s a strange situation. No reason why you should really understand it well, or think about it too much.” There’s no bitterness there, or any particular judgement of any kind. It’s just matter-of-fact. He looks back at her again, though not at her face. His eyes settle on her hand, and the piece of concrete in it.

It’s just in time for that comment, and the toss. A short laugh escapes him as his head turns to follow the trajectory until its inevitable conclusion. Or not so inevitable, really — it isn’t everyone who could make it explode in mid-air. “That’s handy,” he says, and after another second or two, he just crouches down, then rocks back to sit on the ground. He pulls a knee up to his chest, resting his arm on top of it as he considers the question.

“Sort of,” he finally continues. “It was kind of…complicated.” There’s another silence, and it stretches longer than might be considered comfortable, but this time it’s not quite as awkward, at least not on his end. He’s just thoughtful. “I don’t regret it, though. There was nothing for me there. There was nothing for anyone there,” he continues with another little huff of amusement. “I didn’t exactly choose it, but I kind of ended up in a situation where there wasn’t really another option. But even though I got a little swept along, it ended up seeming pretty okay. If that makes sense.”

Chess is quiet, though she huffs a small laugh at his compliment of ‘handy.’ “I’m good at destroying things,” she says lightly. For once she doesn’t seem to mean it in a self-deprecating way.

The rest of his words draw a nod from her. As he sits on the ground, she pulls her feet up onto the bench, crossing them like a pretzel. “Is there anything you miss?” she asks quietly, apparently deciding to focus on Miles and his drama instead of her own.

She’s really really tired of her own.

Squinting up at the crumbling, sooty buildings here on the edge of the Safe Zone, she adds, “It must’ve been prettier, even if there wasn’t enough land.” Chess pushes a lock of hair behind her ear and tips her head. “Were you still from Colorado? Did you ever see the Rockies? I miss them a little. Not that I miss anything else there.” Besides the memories of meeting another Miles in another time.

That laugh draws another from Miles, too, and in the same vein. Light, amused. Skimming the surface of something that under the right circumstances could possibly take an unfortunate turn — but those circumstances do not materialize today, thank God.

They have enough problems.

“Honestly? Not really.” He shrugs, glancing up at the buildings that are at once familiar and starkly different. “I guess sometimes I wish I’d brought more of my things, but I think that’s more about…the finality. I don’t want to go back, but knowing I don’t even have the option, ever, is a weird feeling. It hits me sometimes, like…I’ll never look at another picture of my mom, or read some letter I saved that a friend wrote me. Things like that. But it passes.” The corner of his mouth pulls up again and he adds, “Some of it was pretty. In a very ‘end of days’ kind of way.”

As for being from Colorado, there’s a tiny note of surprise that shifts in his expression, before it smooths out when he remembers why she knows that. It’s subtle, but there for someone to see who was looking. Still getting used to the, ‘someone I don’t know, knows me.’ That may not pass quite as quickly. “Yeah,” he confirms. “And yeah, I did. I do miss them a little. I guess I could try and jump there, here. If they’re close enough to how they were.” Another pause; then: “How did you end up here, and not out West?” Colorado is closer to California than New York.

“I mean, they’re not surrounded by water, for one,” Chess says with a bit of a wry smirk, eyes widening in his direction.

But the smile falls away at the question and she traces with her fingers the letters carved into the bench. DM + KF. She taps her fingers a couple of times as she weighs the scales of answering honestly or not.

“The war.” Her eyes lift from the bench to find his face again. “We made our way east. Ended up in Pennsylvania when it ended.” Her chin wobbles once before she locks her jaw and lifts her eyes to the sky again, studying the way it makes up the space between the buildings. “We were just freshmen in college when they wanted to round us all up. So we fought instead.”

“That’s true,” Miles admits. He taps his fingers against his leg as he waits for her reply — but when she does his smile fades, too, almost in time with hers but slightly delayed. Out of phase, just like they are.

“Oh. Yeah.” He looks down, too, focusing on the tapping fingers, the slightly restless energy easier to channel when he’s not looking at her. “Right.” Another pause — tap, tap, tap — and then he adds, “Sorry. Don’t mind me.”

Chess shakes her head. “It’s not your fault.” She lapses into another silence, only marred by the sounds of the city and the slight noises they make in their nervousness.

“My other sister was there today,” she says suddenly, the non-sequitur loud in her ears. Unnatural, since it’s hardly small talk. “And Adam,” she adds, in case he’s curious. “The one that looks like me, I mean.”

Her fingers move from the carved wood to the laces of her boots — still the hiking boots she’d had for the trek up the mountain. “I’m going to go with them for a bit. Apparently it’s safer for some of us to know about the entity than others. Because we’re Adam’s biologically, I guess. I don’t understand yet. But he said he’ll explain, if I go.”

She realizes this sounds like a terrible idea, when she puts it in those words and rolls her eyes. “Sounds like a cult or something. But I mean, it’s… well. Science, I guess, just fucking complicated science that we don’t understand yet.”

Her smile turns wry. “Like parallel universes, I guess.”

Miles nods, though he doesn’t quite seem to believe that it isn’t his fault. He doesn’t make any further comment on it, though, and he’s happy to let the conversation lapse, even though it’s swung right back into awkward territory now.

“Oh yeah?” When she breaks that silence, he looks back over, studying her face briefly as though this will help him comprehend what she’s saying. Since her ‘sister’ has the same one. His expression has reverted into a rather blank one, but surely he can’t have that many feelings about her going somewhere else. After all, he barely knows her. “Well, I hope you find what you want to find.”

One of the hallmarks of their conversations, of course, have been that they are punctuated by these bouts of silence — brief or otherwise — but this one more than most. There’s another one now, before he speaks again. “When you get back,” he says, “if you want to pass a message to Lynette so she can let me know, I can try and stay out of your hair.” It’s offered like a white flag of truce.

The silence stretches, and she looks like she might be about to speak when he finally does. Her brows draw together and she tips her head, replaying his words in her own head.

“So you want me to have Lynette let you know when I’m back so you can avoid me?” Her words are slow, careful, quiet. Just so that there’s no misunderstandings.

That way she can decide how hurt she is.

She keeps her eyes down on her boot laces, fingers working at untying a knot. At least it gives her someplace to look other than his face.

This time when Miles looks at her, his expression is a little taken aback. Why it should be is anyone’s guess. But she doesn’t see his face, so it doesn’t really matter anyway, does it?

“That’s not what I meant,” he replies, and he starts to say something else, but then stops. Opens his mouth, closes it again. Tries once more. “I don’t know how to do this.” No shit. “I meant that if there was some asshole walking around with my dead boyfriend’s face, I probably wouldn’t want to see them around all the time. That’s all.” Probably not the best way to phrase it.

He pushes himself to his feet, running a hand back through his hair as he takes a couple of steps away, but not that many. It’s just pacing, not running away. Yet. He still has to take her back. “Or not. I don’t know. I’m not you. I like you fine.” But he doesn’t know her. Maybe that’s the point buried in there somewhere, even though he’s expressing it about as well as if he was speaking another language.

She looks at him, surprised to see him surprised. She almost looks contrite, but the words dead boyfriend hit her like a wet towel in the face.

Chess spent four years not talking about him, the other Miles, to anyone. The words don’t come up often.

Her lips press together and she looks away, like maybe there’s a place she can go. There’s not, of course. And he still needs to bring her back.

The fleeting thought he doesn’t have to crosses her mind. How easy it would be to leave everything behind — Miles (the wrong one), Adam, everything. She could easily slip back into her life off the grid. She could reclaim the Armory in Park Slope.

It’s tempting.

She stands up instead and offers him her hand.

“Let’s get back,” she manages to say, eyes tearful as she looks up at him. And then away. He does, after all, have her dead boyfriend’s face.

Does Miles wish he had shut his mouth instead of saying any of the things he’s said in the last minute? Possibly. Of course, it’s difficult to tell, since one of Chess’ powers is not mindreading. If only. Though that would probably cause her a bit of trouble all by itself. What she does know is that he winces at the look on her face, and then glances away again, off into the middle distance. There’s nothing particularly interesting over there, unless he’s a budding dystopian architect. Probably not.

“Yeah,” he agrees. His voice sounds a little bit far away, as though there is something worth knowing that’s going on in his head, even though she can’t possibly know what it is. He does not offer it. He only looks back, and closes the distance between them just enough to take her hand. “Sure.”

An instant later, they’re back where they started — almost like this little interlude never happened at all.

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