A Path Back To The City


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Scene Title A Path Back To The City
Synopsis As the world gets upside down again for the Sundered, this time with the promise of answers and progress, there's one of their number that needs brought back to town.
Date June 23, 2021

Butte La Rose, Louisiana

Butte La Rose is only ten miles or so outside of Lafayette as the crow flies, but no matter whether you take the back roads or follow the highway out of town and then head South again, the roads could use some love. Weather happens, the nature of the wetlands aside, and much of the focus of the states has been on getting larger cities back into order. They've not had time yet to circle back to maintenance on county roads on a respectable upkeep schedule, and even before the war, it was a dodgy thing.

Luckily, those coming to call on Abigail Caliban don't need roads. Just doors.

An archway installed at the front of a neighbor's garden is picture perfect in many respects, made more beautiful and mysterious when two people suddenly walk through it without having been on the other side. They have the courtesy to shut the garden gate behind them. Operating only on verbal directions, they leave the neighbor's yard without a word or a look in the direction of the house they appeared next to. Both women are of shorter stature, making time at what one would call a leisurely pace as fireflies wink on either side of the road. On approaching the Beauchamps', one hangs back from the home while the latter heads right for the door.

Asi Tetsuyama is grateful that the off-duty DoE agent behind her was able to get her this far, rather than having to rely on less couth methods to get in touch with the member of the Sundered who sequestered herself all the way out here. Once she mounts the porch, she turns back to nod her thanks to Reeves as much as indicate she's got this, then she turns back to the front door and knocks three times.

The roads here to Abby’s home is gravel at least and the crunching sound of it underfoot as they turn from the main road and onto the one that bisects the Beauchamp fields is loud in the muggy evening ambiance. The two story white house beyond with its red barn looks positively pastoral and straight out of what one might picture the houses look like down here. Right down to the aged but still working tractor sitting in the doorway of the barn, ready to go. Only thing marring it all is the solar panels that look at odds with everything. It’s a fine home that survived the wars and has been well tended to. Short crops, tall crops. Those with knowledge would identify practical crops. Corn here, potatoes there, a grain of some type. Onions, or garlic, green beans that are just out of flower and are producing. Beets and cucumbers and near the house, tomatoes by the dozens with fruit in different colors. There’s no shortage of food out here it would be seem and she hasn’t been idle in her sequestering.

Abby’s here though. Or someone’s here. Was here. The porch swing is moving in a fashion that indicates it was occupied not that long ago and the throw blanket is tossed to one side of it. Minutes before. There’s a light on in the house, likely where the kitchen might be guessed to be located and the smell of meat of some kind still lingers in the air. A coffee cup with still warm tea in it sits on a stool beside the swing. In the barn, a cow moos, another answers and coming around the corner at an idle pace and pecking are a handful of speckled black and white chickens. There’s a crate with marine batteries on it by the steps.

Asi’s knock on the solid door is met with no answer before there’s a soft whirring and then the click of the doorhandle turning. It’s not Abby at the door who answers though. A SPOT with a canvas dog vest is there, body placed in the opening space and blocking direct entry. A blue floral kerchief around the base of the appendage that’s doing the opening of the door.

Behind the robot, the barrel of a shotgun that’s squarely aimed at Asi by default as that’s who’s on the other side of the door. Finger on the trigger, safety off and ready to pull in a heartbeat, breath held.

Abigail Beauchamp, tanned and tired in khaki shorts, blue tank top and barefoot, staring down the top of the barrel at her. Very much alive and very much where it was said she’d be.

Recognition flares in her eyes at the sight of the other woman, eyes flicking behind Asi to the agent and only then she relaxes. Finger off the trigger and the shotgun lowered. “Safe,” she calls out to the robot which after getting the command opens the door the rest of the way, whirring softly as it moves out of the way. “Mabelle, go charge.” Safety flicked on as she moves toward the door, a faint limp on her right. The robot moves off to a corner and an outlet and settling down, the dog like robot starts to plug itself back in and charge.

She looks beyond Asi again and then turns, heading out of the entry hall and to the right, a dining room and a kitchen beyond that. To the left an airy family room. Stairs straight ahead that lead to likely the bedrooms above and basement below. The shotgun goes with her and the robot remains tucked in where it is. “Close the door behind you both, don’t let the bugs in.” the SPOT gives off its hum as it charges, tucked in like some loafing cat.

Asi waits unflinching through the greeting, her eyes dropping eventually to the bandana'd bot. Useful, isn't it, for getting the door when occupied with both hands? She lets out a faint laugh, then gives one look out to Reeves before stepping inside, alone, and pulling the door shut behind her as asked.

"You're lucky, or the news would have taken days, if not weeks to get to you out here," she says rather than a hello. She's dressed for an AC interior rather than the heat of a southern summer, a black leather jacket worn unzipped over a visible tank underneath a sheer blouse. The former technopath casts a look around the home in a cursory sense only before she finds Abby again.

No sense in not getting right to it. "New information came today, finally," Asi explains with a firm calm, remaining by the door. "We have a lead on what's needed to fix us, and it may even be where our human selves are. We're getting everyone together now to explain amongst ourselves what we are, now that we know the particulars, and determine what to do next. If you have questions, we now have a punching bag for answers. He doesn't have… many, and he might have just as many for us…"

Her brow lifts. "But this is it. This is where things change for all of us. I came here to ask you if you're with us, or if you plan on staying here."

“Five days, give or take. The ferry’s gotten better across the Mississippi. Best to bring your own gas for the stretches where there’s no gas. You need a truck or an SUV.” She’s pouring a cup of tea into a simple mug with no decoration and places it on the butcher block counter in offering to Asi, then a sugar canister is moved over and she makes her way to the fridge to get out a glass bottle and the milk within. “It’ll taste different. It’s from the cow, not the store.” She warns.

The home is neat and tidy. There’s no television but there’s radio’s and Abby’s phone is there, sitting plugged in and on. Everything in its place and the dishes even washed. There’s not much else to do at night. A book rests on the kitchen table with a worn cover that shows it’s well read and of no surprise to those who know her, it’s a bible. “Last I heard at the store was that the fires got worse.” But Asi didn’t come to tell her about the fires and Abby listens, hands resting on the counter that she makes sure to keep between her and the woman unconsciously.

“I know what we are. We’re golems. Made by someone playing god to take our place.” Abby states. “Aberrations.” She’s more like her mother these days in mein and countenance. “I presume storming a castle, some of us might die but the more hands the better?” She asks, her attention focused on Asi.

Asi didn't come to talk about the state of the Safe Zone, no, but there's no sense in not confirming what's been broached. "Fires are worse. Smoke is a concern. Evacuation orders are being talked about for Roosevelt Island residences. They're trying to round up help, but…"

She shakes her head, leaving the topic in favor of the one more relevant to them both.

"We were," she says of their strange circumstance, because there's no sense in arguing against it. "We were made by someone who wanted to replace us with versions of ourselves who don't have our abilities. It's true." Her brow lifts as she adds, "But we're still us. Our skills, our knowledge, our memories… our identities are unchanged. We aren't going to suddenly have a switch flipped in us, we aren't sleeper agents waiting for activation." That she's been told anyway, and given that they're incomplete works, she's inclined to believe it. "As it stands, we are the only us that's out there. And if we want to stand a chance of rescuing our human selves, we need to stop the degeneration, then spring our bodies loose from our captors."

Tilting her head slightly, Asi poses carefully, "The number of people with military or military-like training in the crash victim number are small. Having you there to help would be a boon. It lessens the number of people outside us we have to involve in order to do what needs to be done."

“We’re not us. I don’t care how much people want to insist, I am not Dean Beauchamp's little girl or Kasha Beauchamp's mother. I am…” Palms still rest on the counter, lips pressed thin. “I’m an aberration.” But she has the skills and everything else that Abigail possessed. “So you need skilled numbers to get them back. Get Dean his daughter back.” She looks around the kitchen and deep in thought.

“When? I need to get the chickens and the cows to the Bernerdsons' and make arrangements for Dean's crops to be brought in when ready so they don’t spoil. That’ll take me a few days and then another week to make it back. If the fires haven’t blocked that drive.”

For all that she doesn’t consider herself Abigail, the willingness to help and step into the fire is there.

For all Abby insists she's not herself, denies herself her own identity, Asi can't help but note how she continues to look out for the people most important to her, even if she's afraid of being who she means to them anymore. She furrows her brow at it, the offered drink still not taken.

"Were I you," she states carefully, "I'd leave that to phone calls you can make when you're in New York." Asi shifts her weight over to her stronger leg, a simple and casual lean. "You can be there in five minutes if you come with me now. Can have the advantage of hearing all the details with everyone else."

To that effect, she tips her head back in the direction of the door. "I didn't plan to stay here for more than a minute. I need to get back. This is just… one stop on this long day, and a long night to come."

“Imma have no car to get around in the city and if one could make calls to here Asi, you’d have called me instead of digging up a teleporter.” Abigail points out to the woman. But lips purse again. “Can..” She’s thinking. “Give me an hour? The both of you can sit and have dinner. I can take the car to the store and get a ride back here. Matthew can let the right people know and make arrangements.” It’ll cost the Beauchamps. “I need an hour at least.” They can pay to get the SUV driven back to the city. Someone would do that.

Asi only lets out a chuckle at the thought of phoning this news. "No, more I'm not one to deliver sensitive messages through unsafe channels," she explains with a patience that's pressed when she's asked to stay a while longer. Her mouth firms into a line before she shakes her head. "We'd have sent a courier with a vague enough charge, but Agent Reeves kindly reminded me she could help."

"I need to go back, though. I can't impress on her longer, and I'm also supposed to be in Park Slope in…" She turns her wrist over to look at the inside of it, glancing at the watchface resting there with the beginnings of a frown. "Soon," is all she clarifies.

"The hope was that you'd come with me, but if you need time, then, well…"

Agent Reeves. The woman outside. “H E double hockey sticks.” She looks annoyed. A hand comes up and she runs her fingers through blonde hair. “I need ten. Can I at least have ten minutes Asi or is the world going to end in ten minutes? Someone’s coming by to pick up batteries, I can leave a note with them. Worst is…” She doesn’t know what the worst is. “There’s instructions already in town on what to do if someone came and found me missing or found me—” Dead. She doesn’t wait for a yes or no from the other sundered. She's reaching over for her phone and then heading back to the front hall and grabbing a backpack there. “There’s a milk crate by the fridge, Grab it. It’s got eggs in it, put in some of the milk from the fridge, should be some bags of green beans too that I didn’t run to the store yet. I’mma grab what I need and I’ll meet you out front yeah? Might as well take advantage of the fresh food I got on hand and not let it go to waste.” She’s kneeling down to unplug the robot next. “Driveway, Mabelle.” Giving it orders with a pat on the rump as if it were a real dog when it whirs to life. It heads for the door to open it and then lumbers toward the waiting agent, bandana and dog vest adorning it like some absurd contraption.

To the family room next for Abby, ballpoint pen and paper and she’s scribbling. Whatever she’s written, she’s digging into the backpack and bringing out an envelope and starts counting out twenties, a whole bunch of them before sliding it into the folded up paper. “For the best really," she notes. “I’m outta medication for my head. Last one knocked me on my arse for two days.”

Asi supposes she can handle a few minutes longer if they're actively getting ready to go. She stands there for a moment before taking a long drink finally of the mug that had been set out for her. She dumps what's left in the sink, rinsing, grabbing the milk crate to load up on perishables as requested.

All in all, it takes her roughly three minutes before she heads out the front door, crate settled on the SPOT's back rather than held for much longer. Asi checks her phone, finding it as signalless as expected, then looks back up to the house.

The summer bugs hum away in the light of early evening, and she takes a moment to lose herself in the sound. It reminds her, slightly, of her own family home. She can't remember the last time…

Asi clears her throat, fixing her eyes on the ajar door once more.

Abby’s there when Asi looks, coming through with shotgun and rifle over her shoulder and dangling from their straps on one shoulder, the backpack from the hall over her other shoulder as she closes the door but doesn’t lock it. The envelope is then tucked into the battery crate to be grabbed when it’s picked up by their respective owners. Keys for the car too. Then to the SPOT to load the bandana’d robot with her pack and leans the weapons against it.

“Gotta get the chickens in or foxes’ll eat em,” she apologizes to Asi and Reeves. “If'n you just walk em this way, they’ll start heading there.” Even as she is stooping to snatch up one starting to walk away. “I don’t think so, Colette.” Tucked under her left arm that chicken goes, a green plastic anklet around it’s one foot. “Asi, grab Liz over there. She goes running off cockeyed too. The others’ll follow,” she promises, though giving no indication as to who is Liz. “Agent Reeves, can you close the barn door?” She juts her chin in the direction of the red barn and the tractor and SUV inside. There was a reason she asked for an hour.
At first, all Asi can do is stand there when Abby stalls again. There's clearly a moment of mental disconnect, if not worse. Of all the balls she's metaphorically juggling in the air by being here, wrangling a chicken is both unplanned for and undesired. She closes her eyes as the addition to her mental circus goes soaring over her shoulder, tapping onto a silent network, a thin connection still holding true in her mind.

Her jaw works in silence— or something near to it. A moment later, she takes in a deep breath, bringing with it the scent of salted air that's nowhere near hers to sense, her eyes fluttering open again after she takes enough peace from the distant, disparate sensations.

"For all the things we don't have time for," Asi mutters under her breath, but nonetheless steps forward to go off in the direction of the most wayward of the chickens. Grabbing will not be taking place, but she'll kick a leg out to block its path forward and shoo it off the direction it ought be, sure.

The slim, suited figure of Beatrix Reeves turns at the sound of the women coming out, and she offers a smile and about to offer a hello, before she’s given a task to do. She blinks, but nods, moving carefully through the barnyard to avoid stepping in anything unseemly, to close the door and latch it.

She brushes her hands off, and waits until all the animals and things are accounted for, before tipping her head in the direction of the neighbors and their lovely garden gate, giving the robot a narrow-eyed and untrusting glance as well as a wide berth.

Once they get to the gate, Reeves walks ahead, glancing over her shoulder. “I need to open it, of course,” which seems a strange thing to say for an open arch. “Follow me, then,” she adds, stepping forward and disappearing once she crosses the threshold.

Once they’re all on the other side, it’s a labyrinth of doors and rooms and locales of various sizes — a bathroom, a hall closet, a junkyard’s metal-structure archway, a barn, a few hallways, and at last, a garden arch not unlike the one they stepped through first, in a park in Phoenix Heights.

“Here we are. Right across the way,” she says, pointing to the Bastion, Wolfhound’s headquarters. “Look at us, we’ve come full circle!” she tells Asi with a small smile, given it’s where she first met the other woman. “I’ve a meeting in,” Reeves glances at her watch, an actual analog thing she wears, despite having the best tech available at her fingertips, “oh, bollocks, ten minutes. I better get back. Text if you need anyone else!”

“Always time to put the chickens where they’re safe.” Abby replies, intent on making sure that they’re safe and that Dean doesn’t lose a chicken on her watch. But soon enough they’re corralled back into their house for one of the family friends to deal with in a day or so and on the road to the neighbours. Before they disappear, one of the bags of green beans is placed beside the garden gate. As if it’s payment.

Crossing through like this though, likely not the strangest thing that Abby’s seen and when they finally make their way to Wolfhounds’s Headquarters, Abby tips her head to Reeves. “Thank you for the lift Agent Reeves.” A wince when it seems Reeves will have to swiftly take off to make a meeting. “Be well, God bless.” She offers and then looks to the SPOT and to get her bearings. “Suppose I’ll have to call Dean.” Get a ride. “Do you need anything?” She asks of Asi. “Before I call her Dah.”

Asi looks up from her phone only then, having been glued to it from the moment they got back into the Safe Zone. She's been scrolling new messages, trying to figure out where things stand, where they're supposed to go. "Yeah, take care," she mutters distractedly to Reeves, hoping she knows at this point it's not her fault for Asi's demeanor. Finally, her shoulders slump, and she lifts her head to look properly out over the block with bleary eyes as she tries to reorient herself. "We're meeting tomorrow, apparently," she explains, part of her rush no longer so… rushworthy. "Out in Park Slope. There's an address— I can write it down for you."

She gestures vaguely in the direction of the Bastion. "Come in while you wait for your ride. You can grab a mask from inside for when you head back out. You'll need it."

The air is thick, and not just with summer heat. The smog is already such a different atmosphere than the countryside air they just left.

Her head starts to turn to Abby once, and then a second time as she decides to say something after all. "Go hug her daughter," she suggests. It's not a need, necessarily— not of hers. Not exactly. "I'm sure she doesn't understand any of it. Just doesn't want to be alone. Could use… something even pretending to be normal." Asi's brow ticks up just slightly before she steps across the street to head for the Bastion. "Even for a minute. Especially if you leave again… and no one comes back."

“I don’t know that Kasha’s ever experienced normal to be fair. She was found in an alley. Her name literally means Box in Huruma’s milk tongue.” Abby points out. “She grew up in exile in another country after her first year in the lighthouse and then pollepel.” She shakes her head, looking at the robot with it’s bandana that waits passively for a command. “Then back and forth between here and Butte La Rose with Dean and then Abby.” But the air is indeed thick and inside is probably better before eggs and beans get sooty and she takes a step forward to the headquarters.

“I’ll ask Dean what he’d like me to do. It’s his granddaughter.” And she’s bringing out her own phone too, to look down at it as suddenly it starts to ding and ding and… ding. Non-stop. As if messages and emails that had been sent while she was gone suddenly catch up with her and she scowls. “I hate technology.”

Kasha's background heard, Asi only quietly counterposes, "She's still only a child." There's no follow-up she has for that, either because it deals with something she doesn't have the language for, or because that's the full breadth of the argument.

When the phone in Abby's hand starts to be bombarded with notifications, no small number likely due to her sudden departure in the first place, Asi represses a smile as she looks back, mirth gleaming in her eye nonetheless. "Yeah," she commiserates offhandedly, cavalierly. "Well…"

After tapping in a keycode at the brick Bastion's front door, she pulls open the door. She supposes, "Welcome back." before gesturing a hand for Abby to go first inside.

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