A Traveler From Here


ff_asi_icon.gif richard5_icon.gif

Scene Title A Traveler From Here
Synopsis An unexpected encounter gives Asi and Richard a little time to know each other and philosophize as much as commiserate on the current state of things.
Date June 28, 2021

A middle floor of Lowe's

If the days wouldn't mind hurrying up, to bring the sun back again– that would be nice.

But so far the errant whorl hurled off the Stormfront has other plans for them all. And Asi has grown weary of being cooped up inside with all this energy needing burned off. She's tried drinking it off and sleeping it off and both have failed her in getting rid of the static building up inside her head, so it's time for the next item on the list.


She brings the wooden practice sword down in front of her with a fierce cry, stepping forth once, and then back again. The low-traffic corner of the building she's claimed for herself is void of most others, and her voice carries. She turns on her heel on industrial carpet that saw its last cleaning more than a decade ago, the more simple pattern of her striking practice replaced with a series of slices and 'blocks' against a theoretical opponent that leads her forward in a line, vicious war-cries filling the air with growing determination.

Asi reaches the end of the exercise and swivels on the pads of her bare feet again, facing back where she's come from and letting out a measured exhale from barely parted lips.

Sometimes you think things like this would be much more effective with a partner, though, and life provides. Her head turns slightly when she realizes someone's nearby and not moving on immediately.

“I never really got the hang of swords,” says Richard once he’s noticed, leaning against a corner of the wall with arms folded across his chest and a faint smile on his lips, “I was even given one as a gift once, ended up giving it away to someone who was better suited for it.”

His chin lifts up in a bit of a nod, and he offers by way of apology, “Sorry, just heard a racket and decided to look in and see what was going on.”

Asi's posture slacks with a huff of a breath, and she lets go of the sword with one hand, shaking her forearms. "Just cabin fever in action," she clarifies with a look ahead and then glances back to Richard to better consider him. Her brows begin to beetle toward each other before she shakes her head and looks ahead again. "Decided to celebrate healing up in the only way I know how."

The comment about what he'd done with the sword he was gifted before brings a touch of mirth to her eyes without manifesting otherwise. "Smart, maybe– but learning swords is best suited to keeping you alive around here," she advises conversationally enough despite a tightness in her voice. It's subtle, though. Her feet shift, and she rolls her neck.

"If you want a lesson, I'd not be opposed," she offers without teeth as the roll of her head ends up with her body partially positioned Richard's way again. In a deadpan, Asi proposes, "I'm sure it'd be therapeutic."

“I’ve always been more of a gun guy,” admits Richard, “A bit of the good ol’ fashioned street fighting too.” His hands come up in the classic ‘fight’ position, and he punches the air a few times good-naturedly before letting them drop.

“A lot of call for sword fighting in the Pelago, then?” He steps away from the wall and over, glancing to the sword, “Why not? Never know when I might have a need to fight a ninja, or something.”

Asi lets out a laugh that's more scoff and admonishes, "Yeah– or someone who's not rich in bullets in a world that no longer makes them." Her brows arch high as she tucks her head, providing judgment, clearly. The sword is extended out anyway, handle first after tossing it slightly so she grabs it by the rounded blade. She takes several steps back, seeing an initial look at his posture, then bends at the waist to sift through a cylindrical container dropped on the ground, tugging free a second sword, this one bound in fraying straw.

"The brawling might get you home well enough, but learning how to protect yourself from being sliced open…" Tipping herself back upright, she rolls her wrist and the blade in her hand flicks its way down, swordtip first. "That has its merits."

Stepping back Richard's way, Asi wonders, "You know anything you care to show me, first?" One foot stops before the other just out of his reach, including the new weapon, her back foot angling. "Good, bad, crazy…" She exhales another note of amusement as she lifts her sword arm slightly. "I've seen people treat swords like pipe wrenches. You can't surprise me."

The sword’s hilt is taken, and Richard leans back with it in hand. He tests the weight of the wooden blade a few times, turning it this way and that. He holds it a bit awkwardly, in a way that’d be more appropriate for wielding a cane sword.

Which he’s more used to carrying, even if he isn’t experienced in fighting with it.

“About as far as I know is,” he says wryly, eyebrows lifting over the edge of his shades, “‘Pointy end goes in enemy’.”

He shifts into a brawler’s stance, one foot back, body turned side towards her, sword held in the closer hand.

Asi seems intrigued by his stance, if nothing else. "Off to a better start than you know," she replies, somewhere between that and his words. She huffs an amused breath and sets her own posture in nearly a mirror of his, minimizing the exposure of her torso and settling down in the slightest of crouches. A fencing stance.

One he's seen her take before, in another world, engaged in after-hours training classes for his employees.

She lifts the tip of her own sword up with the expertise of someone used to the heavier weight of it. "If you're having a hard time reacting well, no shame in using both hands," she advises before tapping the edge of her sword against his, testing the sturdiness of his pose and grip by pushing it inward. "But–" The probing tap aside, the tip of her practice sword swivels around the bottom of his and shoves out, along with the motion of adjustment she anticipates him to be making. "Just make sure you're only making the moves you want to."

That's as far as she goes, chin lifting up in invitation for him to take a swing without removing her eyes off of him.

A slight tap of his sword’s edge pushes against hers, but is easily pushed back; he’s not used to the idea of striking from the side with a weapon of this length. Richard’s about to say something, then the sword’s shoved aside, and he shifts back a step.

A smile flickers to his lips at the move, and he re-levels the sword again. “In my experience, I rarely get to make the moves I want to,” he replies wryly, and no sooner does the last syllable fall from his lips that he shifts forward, dropping the tip of the practice blade and lunging forward. It’s a clumsy thrust, but it seems he’s more used to that idea than a slash.

Pointy end in first. He truly does have that spirit down.

It's not one that gores her, evaded with a step back, Asi's eyes dipping to Richard's feet. "You're staying light, not overcommitting," she notes in praise. "Sword control comes with time. We get you a harpoon, maybe, you might be better off."

Her posture shifts as she skips a step back, holding her own sword with both hands and standing squared toward him now. "Can you defend, though?" Asi wonders, and a moment later lifts both hands above her head and swipes straight down with the same downward strike she'd been practicing before– speed, power, and volume of her cry all matching the practice.

“A harpoon gun/ would probably be better,” Richard chuckles, shifting back again and bringing up the sword once more. He brings it up, but he has no idea how to use it defensively, which shows when she’s suddenly coming at him with an overhead strike and a cry that echoes off the walls.

He throws himself to one side in a quick jump, stumbling a step as he catches himself, holding up his free hand and laughing, “Warn a guy before you yell like that, you nearly scared a year of life off me–”

Watch out, Richard, she's still swinging.

The downward strike evaded, Asi has no qualms pressing the attack with a swipe to the side that has all the force of a bat being swung. Her own form deteriorates with the chase she engages in. Unlike the other Asi, she has no reason to stick to it. Motions and movements ascribed to a way of learning are wonderful– until something more effective will do in the moment, keep you alive in the moment. It reflects in the slow, but dogged continuation of slices with the practice sword.

A step, a strike that sings through the air. Another step and a swing; another moment of advance and attack.

"Are you even trying?" she finally balks, terse.

Oh, shit.

The sideways swipe goes thunk in against Richard’s side, and he winces and drops back a step, another, swords meeting each other once in a parry but he’s relying more on dodging rather than blocking.

“What part of ‘I never really got the hang of swords’ did you miss, Tetsuyama? I usually win fights by cheating outrageously.”

Even as he speaks he’s keeping his guard up, though, eyes narrowed and on her own, grip tight around his weapon’s grip.

Swinging and swinging she goes, either in a test of his endurance or an exercise to exert as much of her energy as possible in as short a time as she can manage. The blows come heavy, vibrating wood into skin with each connected parry, with enough force either implement in use might splinter, given enough time.

It isn't, though– given enough time.

Asi's blows weaken abruptly, one last one chasing the other out of sheer momentum alone. Her feet stumble to a stop, shoulders quivering. Shaking. Her head finally tilts back, and she lets out the laughter that's been building up inside her.

"Of course," she breathlessly whispers to the ceiling, pulling herself back from the spar entirely. Her sword arm swings down heavy by her side. There's a suddenly bitter edge to her chuckle as she notes in a mutter meant more for her than him, "Of course you'd know my 'evil twin'."

Asi cycles a step back with that, wounded by absolutely nothing and her gaze roaming everywhere but Richard himself as she wonders at the serendipities of the universe. She catches herself in what she'd been doing, doggedly pursuing after Richard's defense the way she had– as much as she could lie to herself about the way she'd pressed him, it was a thinly-veiled excuse to take up aggression against him. At least she found it with one of them, having wanted to visit violence upon the lot of them for bringing their troubles to the Pelago's shores.

Now who was the evil twin?

The swordswoman gives up her chase entirely, leaning to the side against a support pillar and sliding down it. She turns her back into it, the damp cool seeping into the sweat-soaked back of her shirt. "Fuck," she proclaims to nothing.

Her head rolls to the side just enough to put Richard back into full view, conflicting worldviews present in her eyes before they begin to glow– a seagreen foam of color rather than the stark neon blue of the other world. There's an apology present in them before she closes her glowing eyes and shakes her head, biting it back from being spoken aloud.

There aren’t any more chances for Richard to strike, so he’s forced on the defense– backing up, circling through the room, jaw tightening as he doesn’t bother talking again. Maybe sensing that she’s trying to work through something as much as ‘practicing’. His arms are getting tired, though, every shock going through the sword and passing through him in a way his muscles aren’t used to fighting. Then she pulls back, and he relaxes– though his guard doesn’t entirely drop until she slumps against the pillar.

The wooden ‘sword’ drops to the floor with a clatter, and he drops down to sit as well, dropping onto his back with a grunt. “Well, I definitely–” A panted breath, “–need more practice if I’m going to be doing that much.”

A bit of time where he just breathes, before he pushes up to his elbows, offering over a wan smile. “I wouldn’t call her ‘evil’, but I know her, yes. Guessing you got issues with her.”

"Well," Asi notes as generously as she can, eyes still closed. "From what I understand, she's a terrorist." Her brows arch, head leaning back against the pillar. "No matter the reasons," she adds more quietly still. Her eyes work their way back open again, facing ahead for a moment as she pulls one knee up to herself and lays an arm across it, short nails flicking at the ends of her fingers absently. "So I'd like to imagine I've got a moral high ground where she's involved."

She turns her head again in Richard's direction to note, "With how many of her self-reported few friends are here, I'm surprised she had the restraint to stay behind to dig your 'very deep hole' to survive the end of the world." Rolling her lip under a canine, she almost bites back a comment before acknowledging, "Then again, if she's like me, like I was… she'd pick the option most likely to keep her alive in the end."

"As much as I might hate every last one of you, I have to acknowledge your bravery," Asi admits, pride swallowed in favor of admiration, however fleeting. "You came here to a dying world on a slim hope it might turn out better for you than the 'dig a hole' option."

“A terrorist? Ha. Aren’t we all…”

Richard watches her as she speaks, as she explains her line of reasoning, and even that facade of playfulness fades– his smile fading with it. “Ah. So you know, then.”

“About the sun.”

Asi's look pulls, then, her own ability to keep a straight face going right along with that open acknowledgement of just what looms ahead of them all. The line of her forearm tightens as her hand balls into a fist. It suddenly becomes hard not to imagine what was her motivation for such spirited solo exercise in the first place.

"Silas put it together first," she notes, something like pride in that. Admiration for his wit. "About just what could cause… you know, both this place and that, and…" Trailing off, she shakes her head and her knee falls to the side, arm collapsing down into her lap. "So when your Elliot connected me to her, I couldn't help but ask."

Tongue to cheek, she notes, "I'm working through how to feel about all of it. Pissed, mostly. It's getting harder to stay angry at all of you for coming here, but I need something to be angry at. Someone to fault for ruining the bit of paradise we fought hard to defend, here. To grow into something more than it is." Lips purse before Asi supposes, "But it's more important to stay alive than to be angry."

“If I had any way to save this world, I would take it,” says Richard quietly in response, his head falling back to look up at the ceiling for a long moment, studying it, “This is my world, you know. I was born here. You’re the Asi I should have known… every face I see here, they’re the faces I should have known.”

“It’s my home, even if I’ve never lived here.”

There’s silence for another minute before he speaks again, “I… tried to think of any way. But there just isn’t the time. I don’t even know if there’s enough time to pull this off, or if we’ll be able to get home. I tried to talk as many people as I could into coming with us, just in case… in case…”

He drops silent, eyes closing, and just shakes his head. “All I have now is hope and faith.”

That piece of knowledge, that Richard was robbed of his life here, likely doesn't speak well toward Asi's long-term thoughts regarding the reality he now hails from. But it does speak a lot toward how she views him, as does everything he says after.

Despite that, she doesn't say anything for a long moment, letting go of the sword by her side and shifting the posture she sits with until she's in a better position to rock herself back to her feet, weapon left on the ground for now. "The thought that at least someone might make it through all of this… has its own sense of appeal to it, doesn't it," she sympathizes as she walks over to where he lays. Her hand is outstretched down to him whenever he opens his eyes.

"I'm tired of fighting. I was so ready to sow instead of reap," Asi admits, the words heavy before she moves on from them with a voice that hardens. "But I'll fight from here until the end if that's what it takes to have a future at all. To be a part of that 'maybe', if we get lucky enough to have it."

"I'm glad to hear that's why you've been trying to get others to go– that hope."

“It’s all we’ve got, sometimes. It’s all we’ve got now.”

Richard reaches up to accept the hand, gripping it firmly before pushing himself to his feet with a grunt– despite keeping in shape, he’s not as young as he used to be– and reaching back to brush off his backside and lower back of anything that’d ended up on him.

“If I’m going to hope that we can find a miracle to at least save some timelines… and I’m going to hope that we find a way back… why not hope we can save as many people as possible on the way out?”

He offers her a faint, tired smile, “Liz managed it, after all.”

"Silas came back to us, thanks to that," Asi acknowledges, fixing her hands into the pockets of her half-worn coveralls. She shifts her weight, the dangling top half swaying like a skirt in front of her. "After we'd never known all that time whether or not he and the rest of them had died down there. So…"

She tries to muster a smile, and perhaps one does exist for a moment on her, but it's fleeting as she looks down at her feet. "We've got hope, and the will to fight until the end. We can rest when it's done," Asi supposes as she looks back up, companionship for that fact in her look and her posture.

“Heh.” Richard tilts his head back to look at the ceiling, murmuring, “Another man told me that once.”

He looks back to her, and nods once seriously though that faint smile never fades, “And it’s still true. We can rest when we’re done.”

"You've got more than hope and faith now," Asi assures Richard as she sidles a step back to pick up what she'd left dropped, by its middle rather than with an offensive grip. "You've got allies." She keeps her eyes down on the practice sword, turning it over to observe it for new nicks in it caused by her earlier overzealousness. "And you can count me among them."

Finishing her review, she passes the sword from one hand to the other and looks back to Richard, brows arching. "We really do need to get you something to defend yourself with before we set out. Even if you can't use it for shit, it'll make you look less like an easy target." There's no malice in the suggestion, or even the heaviness of her truly believing that he can't defend himself well. "Besides, we'll need every edge we can get."

No pun intended.

After stooping to collect the other sword, she glances back up at Richard again, less eager to meet his eye than before with all this earnestness. "And if you have trouble before we leave town, you can find me and we'll sort whatever it is out. Everyone knows who the Oni is, they'll point you my way."

That's as much as she seems to mean to say, as she lets out a tone of finality with a stiff nod, then looks off. "I'm going to go find something to eat."

“I can defend myself just fine, just not with a sword, Asi,” Richard observes with a rough chuckle, though he doesn’t seem offended by the notion even as he waves it away, “I’m a street brawler at heart. I can handle myself even if my abilities are negated, and if they’re not, well…”

He lets that trail off, shaking his head, “Ah, maybe you’re right though. I usually prefer to go the ‘underestimated’ route but sometimes a deterrent works well enough.”

His gaze follows hers, then a brow lifts, “Mind company? After that I could use a bite.”

She seems genuinely surprised by that– the thought he'd still want to spend time around her after her earlier roughness. Asi's gaze wanders hither and to between two meaningless points before she lets out an acquiescing tone. "The– um, the main floor here has a number of people selling this and that, usually." With a gesture across the empty hall, she doesn't longer than that to begin moving.

Once she enters the main area of the floor, she veers off for a closet she produces the keys for, weaving a twined necklace off of her head before she tosses the swords inside the darkened, crowded space. They land on something soft, is that a bed amongst all those shelves–? but she's swiping something off a shelf by the door and then pulling it shut without further explanation, sniffing idly as she locks up once more.

"What do you–" One gets the impression she's particularly bad at small talk, but she's trying her best. A dip of her head indicates the stairwell she's headed to, leaving behind the slighter warmth of living spaces for something colder once more. "Make of all this anyway? I imagine it's very different from… where you're from, obviously."

He follows. When the door’s opened briefly his gaze sweeps the interior– but then she’s locking up, and he doesn’t press. The question, though, stirs a chuckle from Richard as he walks along with her towards the stairwell.

“In my– in the world I grew up in,” he admits as they go, “The heart of Manhattan’s a nuclear-blasted ruin. Staten Island spent decades as a no-man’s land swarming with thieves and scavengers. I spent years in both, and more in a bunker. And worse places. I’m…”

A glance around as he walks, “Adaptable.”

After a beat, he adds wryly, “Admittedly, I do miss some of the modern amenities. I can do without, doesn’t mean it’s fun.”

"Silas mentioned 'civil war'," Asi says slowly as she begins to descend the stairwell, glancing back up at Richard afterward. "I don't remember nuclear explosion being mentioned…" Her head shakes itself back and forth once as she tries to wrap her head around that. "That's…"

She lets out a choked chuckle. "What, so you got your nuclear bomb in the heart of New York and we got ours underneath Antarctica?" Rounding a landing, hand on the chipped-painted rail serving as the anchor point she turns herself about with, she remarks, "Funny, that."

“It wasn’t a bomb, was an mosaic– ah, an Evolved that could copy abilities– that copied a nuclear ability they couldn’t control,” says Richard with a little shake of his head, hands off the rail as he makes his way down, “Although we did get a few nuclear missiles during the war. Stopped most of them. Not all of them.”

“But technically,” he adds deadpan, “We got both. I just ate the Antarctic one.”

A laugh more like a wheeze leaves Asi, and she dares not ask for clarification or spend any more time thinking about that than she already has. Worst-case scenario ends up being that he's not lying about somehow stopping a nuclear bomb, and his being in the timeline he was kidnapped to was perhaps the reason the Vanguard succeeded here.

No, no– better to think on things like–

She struggles with finding a topic to divert things to, though. "With prior experience with scavs– you're probably better off than most," is all Asi can surmise as she hits a landing and pulls the door open for herself and Richard, waiting for him to go first. The sound of the marketplace wafts in their direction even from here, and a guard by the door looks back their way. She lifts a hand to greet them.

The fact that the flood may have been caused because he wasn’t here? He’ll take Things That Add To My Gnawing Guilt for $1000 there, Alex. There’s a game of Jeopardy playing somewhere beneath the layers of reality, after all. He’s been in it.

“I’ve been at the bottom and the top of the pile,” Richard admits as he steps through the door into the marketplace, chin lifting in an easy enough nod towards the guard - act casual and nobody ever questions you, habits die hard, “Weirdly enough the bottom’s easier to work with most of the time.”

Pulling the door shut behind her rather than waiting for it to swing noisily, Asi steps out after Richard and stretches her posture up as much as possible to get a look at which vendors are here today– how many of them have trawled, fished, or otherwise scavenged goods over foodstuffs. She smells something nice as she finds the aisle against the back wall, and she lets her nose begin to lead them that way. "Funny way of putting it, but I don't disagree. Certainly more humanity happens when dealing with those who don't already have a lot to their name."

She looks back, brows raising. "Lowe, though– Queen Lowe isn't like some of the assholes you'll find out there. Lowe's is a reasonable place for trading goods and services no matter where you fall in the… pile." Asi starts to trail off as she realizes what she smells. "Someone's still got eggs left at this hour. Something's going on over there in batter." A hand lifted loosely in the direction of the smell and sound is a more silent indicator of that, too.

“Queen Lowe.”

Richard can’t help but smile at the title, shaking his head as they walk, “Still getting used to that. Back on the other side of the Looking Glass, she’s a friend, an engineer, someone who texts me mostly in emojis. Seeing her as the head of her own little empire, well…”

“Maybe she’d be a good successor for Kimiko after all,” he muses, then glances over, “Eggs and batter? I’ve been living on garbage lately. Well, after you…”

Asi holds up one hand and warns, "I say Queen Lowe in the most fond and familiar of senses… however she asked you to call her, I recommend that." But she's easing forward, curious for where the food is. Stepping around a corner, she sees the vendor in mind and closes her fist in victory.

It's some kind of fish– because of course it is– but it's frying with some kind of mystery fixing to go with it.

"Hal! I call dibs," she calls out. "Two here." The cook in question glances up mid-preparation of his current order, shifts his eyes to Richard and ultimately nods. Asi seems relieved.

"Our lucky day," she chimes, and shoves her hands into the pockets of her coveralls. Turning to Richard, she wonders, "So, is Lowe the most surprising person you've met here that you know from there?"

The scent of the food was good– the sight of it has Richard’s stomach rumble and remind him that it’s actually been awhile since he’d eaten. At the look from the cook he flashes an easy smile, nods up to the man in gratitude after the order’s made.

“The most surprising? No, probably…” He looks away, across the market, silent a moment in musing before admitting, “Probably Valentine, honestly. I didn’t expect to see her here at all, didn’t even think of it– but there’re a lot of coincidences like that.”

He chuckles suddenly, “Not that they’re really coincidences. That’s how reality works, weird as it is to say.”

Asi arches an eyebrow. "And how does it?" she questions dubiously. "Work, then."

It’s a question that gives Richard pause– not because he doesn’t know the answer, but because it’s hard figuring out how to phrase what he’s come to grasp about how differences between superstrings work.

“It’s– reality wants to all be running down the same lines, I think,” he attempts finally, his brow lining in concentration, “Like– even when everything has gone so much differently I’m likely to find the same people in New York in every timeline, or at least most of them. Even if they originated from far, far away and the original reasons for them to have come here– reality tends to bend to come up with a reason.”

“You can find it in other things, too. There’s almost always an Ark, even if the details differ. Other events happen as closely as they can, funhouse-esque reflections sometimes but the timeline tries its best to match up. You see it with time travel and precognition, too– once an event’s been observed it becomes even harder to make it not happen. We call that one ‘temporal inertia’ but honestly I think this is all part of the same phenomenon.”

He smiles faintly, admitting, “If there’s one thing that could make me believe that the universe isn’t purposeless, that it isn’t just random events, it’s this. Something has a plan, and it’s trying its best to stick to it, even if we mere mortals keep fucking it up.”

Asi thinks on it for a moment, watching as the vendor finishes up the order for the man before them and starts to work on theirs. "Same people in New York– the same as your Asi making it here just like I did. A different Nakamura guided her way, but a Nakamura did all the same." She cants her head for a moment before begrudgingly acknowledging, "I see your logic."

"I feel as though the funhouse mirror portion particularly shines through in her case, with how it beat the shit out of her until she became a terrorist to get her back there," she notes with a twist of her nose in the driest of humor. The language and cadence doesn't sound at all like anything her Prime counterpart would say, certainly. "What a shitty constant we've brought down upon her."

For a moment, it sounds like she at last might be sympathetic to her other self on some level.

"Is the, ah… 'something' that has a plan the thing that's going to… you know…" Asi glances away to Richard while the cook places one mystery-battered filet to skillet after having wiped it down with oil.

“That’s the million dollar question, isn’t it…” The smile fades, and Richard shakes his head slowly in response, “I don’t know. I don’t– I want to say ‘I don’t think so’ but I can’t say if that’s true or if it’s just what I want to believe, if that makes any sense? I tell myself that if it is, there’s no point to it crashing around in our world being a right asshole to everyone– if it was that omnipotent then it could do all this without needing to.”

"I can see that point," Asi interjects mildly without further seeing need to speak on. She lets the weight of that thought settle on them both for a moment.

He watches the skillet sizzling, ignoring the hungry rumble of his stomach for a moment, “I used to track down old myths. Find commonalities. I found plenty. If I didn’t have– kids, and a business, and everything else to keep me busy I might have ended up becoming a theologist.”

A laugh escapes him, and he looks back to her wryly, “I was raised Catholic. Something about the idea that I could literally solve the question of ‘what is God’ seems blasphemous even to think.”

That's enough to set his conversation partner's nose at a wrinkle, turning her head to look at him as she disguises a balk at the idea, settling for only peering at him quizzically. "Well," she allows delicately. "I wasn't, but I can see the appeal in looking at old stories– seeing how they're the same, seeing how they're different."

Looking back to the ongoing fry, she supposes, "And for my part, I come from a theology where even the gods make mistakes. Where there are gods upon gods."

"Where, chiefly, you don't need to be omnipotent to have great power. World-creating, world-destroying…" For a beat, her tongue glues to her cheek and she shakes her head. Then Asi admits, "Though there's a thought I've never really had before. If any old myths are… well, and how many…"

Midway through trailing off, she shudders. The thought feels like some kind of Pandora's Box. "Is that something people debate about where you're from?" she wonders instead. "I can only imagine the arguments."

“There are a lot of religions like that,” Richard admits, one hand coming up to scratch at the hair growing along his jawline. The lack of a good razor is felt. “Take, say– the Zuni, one of the Native American tribes, but one that possibly had contact with Japan back in the old, old days before well-recorded history. They had myths that I’ve indirectly connected to certain… very old but indisputable facts about our history that convince me that we were the source there.”

“They believe in the kachina which are living spirits inhabiting all things. Some of them think that we inspired those myths, but I have some more– esoteric suspicions,” he admits, then chuckles, “But these are just– it doesn’t really matter I guess, except to philosophers, they’re just things I’ve had coiling around in my brain for a long time. Even back home we’re mostly rebuilding, not focusing on questions like that.”

“Whether or not we inspired myths or not, I’m convinced there’s something greater - whether sentient or not - pushing events across the strings towards synchronicity, so call it what you will. And I’m laying my money that it’s not the entity in question.”

The news that there's some ancient Native American tribe that had contact with Japan brings Asi's eyes to narrow slightly with suspicion… but then he goes ahead and explains a concept that's very familiar to her, and that tension eases away.

With a click of her tongue, she wonders to the subject of the Entity, "Do you think it's fighting the Current, then," she wonders idly, their current surroundings momentarily forgotten. "Or enforcing it?"

“Another million-dollar question,” Richard sighs, lifting his hand helplessly and then dropping it down to slap against his side, “I don’t know. What it’s done, it makes me feel like it’s– trying to turn back the clock. We found a place in Antarctica where it’d literally turned time back to the– like– Jurassic period, there were plants and such that have been extinct for ages. It collapsed before long, but…”

He grimaces, “I’ve wondered if the idea is, if all the Earths are just…” He waves a hand vaguely, since she knows what he means, “…then all the timelines will come back together, since there wouldn’t be any difference anymore.”

If anyone standing nearby them is following their conversation, there's little indication of it. Asi's aware of someone behind them turning their head as they go past, but they don't stop to wonder what the fuck, and that's fine by her. She waits until they've moved on before she lifts her chin and composes her answer, one spoken in quieter tones meant only for them. "Making everything the same everywhere is a bold ploy, but it doesn't change the past."

She looks sidelong at Richard for just a moment, and then looks away from him. It's not him the venom in her eyes is meant for, after all, it's meant for this petulant Entity. "All it does is destroy what hope we've managed to eke out after surviving an actual apocalypse. It takes allies who might also want to see a better world and decides we're just the same as the people who destroyed it."

She's not bitter. She's not bitter at all. It's not as though her voice bristles with it at its edges the longer she speaks, not at all.

"Perhaps it is powerful enough to compress different worlds back down into a singular. Perhaps it's easier done when everything is very similar," Asi allows with that same prickled cool. "But what the fuck comes after?" She watches the fry get flipped over to make sure both sides are cooked before she glances back to Richard again, considerably less knives in the look. "What promise is there that turning back the clock doesn't just start the same story over again?"

She gives the question only a moment before her expression twinges in the apology of knowing it's something he likely doesn't have an answer for.

"I don't suppose this thing has been very communicative with anyone, either," she digresses ruefully. "How has trying to deal with this not driven any of you insane?"

“Oh, well, there’s your mistake, Asi,” Richard replies dryly, reaching into his jacket and pulling out a dented, scratched-up flask. He unscrews it, raises it up in a bit of a toast, and then he takes a hearty pull off it. When he lowers it, he wipes his mouth with the back of his sleeve, “Assuming any of us are sane anymore. We’re all badly mentally damaged, every fucking member of this team, I think Robyn’s got a death wish, Elliot’s a bunch of complexes in the shape of a person, Eve’s… Eve. I’ve at least got seventeen degrees of PTSD after all the shit I’ve been through. I try not to see my therapist too often, she might have me locked up or try and put me on drugs or something.”

He shakes his head, “It’s talked to some people. It hasn’t talked to me. Sometimes I think it’s avoiding me.” The ghost of a smile touches his lips, the flask’s mouth hovering before his lips, “That’s probably pretty arrogant of me to say, though.”

Asi lets out a snort at the mention of Elliot, and a second one over Eve, because there's nothing else that can be said there and it's funny to hear this near-stranger somehow also know that. Her humor fades when Richard begins counting all that he's been through, and all that he avoids in the name of actively living in the reality he's subject to.

Half-hearted smirk replaced by a grimming of her mouth, Asi looks askance at him and agrees, "Probably." to the assertion that the Entity is avoiding him personally. But she looks away and draws a long breath in which makes its way out just as slowly.

"I suppose the people who sent you knew what they were doing when they sent people who wouldn't be fazed by all of this through, at least," she comments off-handedly. "Not the state of here, nor the reality of there." She slips a hand into her pocket to produce some tokens which she exchanges with the vendor, leaving her with two skewers of fried fish. One apiece for them, naturally.

"Small consolation, surely. But… at least it's not worse than it is. At least it's the lot of you when it could have been– I don't know– those with less flexible minds."

Offering Richard the skewer, Asi offers, "Whatever happens out there… we'll have your back." But no, that's not what she meant to say, is it. She wrinkles her nose and amends, a moment of eye contact made, however brief. "I'll have your back."

“I suppose you’ve got a point there,” Richard admits as he accepts the skewer, offering her a faint smile, “God knows we’ve been through enough that all… this is just something we can take in stride.”

He raises it in a bit of a toast, nodding to her gratefully, “And I’ll have yours.”

In another life, that smile would be returned easily. Those don't come the same way here, the vow made just now more solemn than friendly. Asi finds herself surprised she's made it at all, but after speaking with Richard, it feels… right. She feels the human side of the burden placed on him and the other Travelers in a way she didn't before.

It still sucks. This all still sucks, but at least someone might manage to give the plan to end all life the middle finger. If it couldn't be their people, there's worse ones she figures it could go to.

Asi returns the gesture of raising her food in salute, and realizes she has nothing to say to properly illustrate the full depth of what she meant just now. With a nod that tucks her chin somewhat in, she abruptly says, "I'll see you around, then," and bringing the skewer to her mouth so she doesn't chance saying anything awkward, she suddenly turns and heads off at speed.


Richard watches her leave, bemused, before looking down at the skewer.

“Was it something I said?”

The dubious meat has no answer, so he shrugs and takes a bite of it. “Out here winning the hearts and minds of the people, Richard,” he chuckles under his breath, turning to walk his own way, flask in one hand and skewer in the other.

Places to go, people to see. He can rest when he’s done.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License