Across The Void


asi4_icon.gif elliot2_icon.gif

Scene Title Across The Void
Synopsis In a moment of crisis, Asi reaches out to a friend a universe away and just around the corner.
Date June 23, 2021

The walls of Asi's quarters in the Bastion are at once too close to each other and yet not snug enough for comfort. They're a suffocating prison, a space too short for a proper pace to and fro like she needs to— and all at once vast enough her thoughts echo back at her.

She should go downstairs, or if not there, then to Raytech's campus. Hit the gym. Punch something. Run until she can't think anymore. But somewhere safe. Somewhere contained. Somewhere she can't succumb to the running of her thoughts and let them drive her to recklessness. No, she needs structure, she needs—


The supplication made into the air is sent like a prayer, made with a pull of her thoughts as she reaches for a string of support.

"I don't— I don't know what to do with this. I don't know what I can do with this, not without help. And Epstein— I don't know that he will. We could take the life savings every last one of the victims and throw it at Wolfhound, but it won't mean a damn thing if he's panicked about the reality of the situation and refuses to do anything as a result."

With a growl of frustration, she kicks the chair pushed back from her desk and sends it tumbling across the floor. It's not as great a stress relief as she'd hoped it'd be, and she finds one hand slowly closing into a fist to ball her tension there instead, chest rising in an unsteady breath in to exhale something steadier out. "What about our panic. When do we get to be human and not have to be hypervigilant, to fight for every scrap of information, to literally kill ourselves for the chance at normal again?"

Nevermind that the revelation of the day is that she's not human at all. Never was. Never will be.

Asi suddenly withdraws a step back like she can so easily step away from the topic. "I'm sorry," she apologizes to the air. "I'm sorry, I know you've both got— so much on your plate, I just…" She manages a laugh at her own expense as she turns away, running her hand through her hair and looking down through the ground. "I'm terrified that without the right people, we stand no chance at success. And the group of people who we can put on this? They're— they're no infiltrators. The man we have on the inside is fucking incommunicado, and…" Her head lolls back, hand hanging off the back of her neck as she stares toward the ceiling. "To tell you the truth, the last time I did something this crazy, it was with his help, and even then I had my ability to help me carry out my part."

What possesses her to wedge a knife along with the other ones already sticking out of her proverbial heart, she doesn't know, but there it goes. She sighs through her teeth.

"I don't know what I'll do if we fail," Asi stresses again in a whisper.

A Universe Away

The Flooded Timeline

The Archipelago of Manhattan

Elliot responds to Asi’s ping immediately, streaming her anxious pacing from his seat on the ground. Everything smells of salt, the sea. Even in the summer the air here is brisk. Even off of the vessel that took his team from the insertion site to here, he swears he can feel the rock of the sea beneath him. The sea sickness wasn’t contagious; thankfully equilibrioception didn’t do anything too weird to streaming co-hosts.

“It’s a whole fucking lot,” Elliot agrees. “I can lend what knowledge I have from here, if you want to brainstorm an infiltration before the link grows too hard to maintain.” He pinches at the bridge of his nose, swallows, as though he’s trying to fix his body’s response to an altitude change. Whatever the effort of maintaining feels like, it only feels that way to Elliot. His burden alone, and one he’s made clear he is more than willing to hold as long as he can. “We can overclock a fair amount for it as well. As for Avi, Wright and I will do whatever we can to encourage him to act.”

As for the rest of it? He shakes his head then leans back to rest it against cold, exposed steel. “This certainly took a turn I wasn’t expecting,” he continues. He doesn’t need to ask how Asi’s holding up, because he can feel it, in her emotions, in the way they impact her body. “I can contribute funds to the effort if I need to. Hazard pay from this op. But keep in mind, you didn’t have your ability at Renautas-Weiss and you were still the most effective member of the extraction team.”

Asi takes in a slow breath, the scent of the ocean air through Elliot's senses a calming point she focuses on. Her pacing is a slower, more muted thing now. Movements rather than racing. "I sat at an unlocked screen and pushed buttons, Elliot," she balks quietly. "It's different, as much as I appreciate where you're coming from."

She brings the chair back upright on a pass, smoothing a hand over its back. "I feel like the best thing we could do would be to intercept and insert as though we were one of the contractors heading to that site. We'd get past initial security alerts that way. But say we couldn't make a same-day interception— if we needed to insert someone for a period of time. The only person I could even think of recommending…"

Asi lets out a huff of disbelief at herself. "Godfrey Wells infiltrated Yamagato as an agent of Shedda Dinu, of Mazdak. I don't know anyone else better, or who I could trust with this." She bites her tongue anyway, uncertain regardless.

"Unless we find a way to sneak in, some kind of access tunnels…" She shifts her weight hard with that musing. "I don't know what other options exist for approaching without raising the alarm, though."

"There's also social engineering," Elliot offers. It's as much a hacking tool as it is for infiltration. "Find the right employee and maneuver them to your advantage, gracefully or not. For an operation this big, somebody has to have moral reservations about the project at this point."

He thinks for a second, tapping the fingers of one hand on the back of the other. "If there's a language barrier there's a slim chance somebody here could be linked to get you around it, though translators are an easier option. Just not as self sufficient."

"Also," he says, boxing his hands in the air in a what gestures as though he were sitting across the table from someone, "Godfrey works for Mazdak? I feel like it had to be worked for Mazdak for him to have come in the op with us. But if you wanted to include him on a brainstorm I'll take it."

These moments are hardly rare for Elliot, wishing he was home, able to help more than he can from here. Counting the hours until the link breaks and Wright is his only connection to home. He scratches absentmindedly at the stubble on his jaw as he tries to avoid his other anxious behaviors.

"No," Asi balks, immediately regretting her word choice to describe Godfrey's situation. She stops in place, gesturing firmly with her hand while she talks through it. "He didn't— know Shedda was tied to Mazdak, in all likelihood. They were contained. A cell. Dinu's presence …" She lifts a hand to her head, rubbing at her forehead. "Their ties back weren't widely known. He didn't show allegiance to Mazdak, rather to something else— and he turned on them when it turned out to be false pretenses anyway."

She sounds firm, more than eager to put behind the question of Godfrey's loyalties. Quickly does she move on to the rest of it. "As far as social engineering… knowing what we know now, the InVerse analyst, Huber, seems like the most likely pull. That we could ask him back to New York to discuss a joint project following on the presentation he made last year… " Still, she can barely keep from gritting her teeth at how quickly a plan like that could be foiled. "If he comes, we close the trap, one way or another."

But there's no promise that will work.

"I can— start digging, but I don't know that we'll find anything else. The only other persons I could think to pry at would be the Van Dalens. Nova's parents, if their information can be tracked down. Certainly, they'd be the easier target to break down, given this is happening to their daughter…"

She hesitates, looking off at nothing in particular as she streams Elliot's view instead. "I don't know," Asi admits again. "Does that sound like something?"

"I," Elliot sits up a bit straighter, juggling a few memories to pin something for Asi that isn't in the Index, "May have something for that."

“Your assignment is a multi-faceted one.” Gates says, without directly addressing the map yet. “Once you’ve arrived at the insertion-point in the Root timeline, you’ll be in the open ocean. Your entry point will be close to, if not slightly above, the current sea level. We’ll be providing you with emergency gear to make the landing safe, at which point you’re going to need to signal to our in-field asset. A Root-local asset named Nova Van Dalen.”

Gates begins to pace, preparing to recite some things from memory. “Nova is an Expressive, and Agent Van-Dalen is a native to the Remote Office. She possesses a rather unique ability to synchronize her consciousness with para-dimensional versions of herself, allowing her to share information, skills, and resources across dimensional boundaries. Not entirely unlike how your telepathic network functions, Mr. Hitchens.”

“To the best of our knowledge she's never been able to make a connection to herself in our Local timeline, possibly because she has not manifested here yet. Nova is, regretfully, rather young. But I wouldn’t let her age undercut her accomplishments. She’s one of the Remote office’s best.” Gates says as a point of fact. “Nova will be coordinating with us to meet you with a ship, from there our course of recommendation will be to head here.”

"I don't know what we could do with this yet," Elliot says, "But it's an angle you probably wouldn't know to explore. It’s firmly in the territory of my NDA, but…” But that's all he can contribute.

Asi stops before the mirror in her quarters, for the benefit of Elliot being able to see the small wry smile that comes to her. "Can they really hold you to that NDA when you're in an entire other reality?" she wonders teasingly before her eyes unfocus, hands coming to fit together before her, thumb of one hand worrying against opposite palm. "The news that Van Dalen is her name elsewhere, that she exists elsewhere and isn't a figment of a person like Kirk is, will help if nothing else."

A long sigh follows. "It's something," she acknowledges, even if she's too deep in her own troubles to see how else to use the information at the moment. She turns away from the mirror, dropping into a seat on the edge of her bed.

"I should quit straining the link for now. I'm going to have to face this one way or another, so…" Distracted, uncertain how she meant to finish that, Asi sighs again and clasps her hands together in her lap, thumb worrying over knuckles now. "How's that doing, by the way? How's— how are you doing, rather?"

She sounds nervous because she is. The strain the continued link puts on Elliot is something she's conscious of, if not impacted by physically herself. And as much as she craves the link and connection especially in moments like this…

"How much longer do you think we have?"

“A couple days,” Elliot says with a gesture of his hand to say Don’t worry about it. “It’s been ages since somebody kept a link this long other than Wright but it’s not troublesome yet. Like other senses I forget about it most of the time. Like how you don’t feel your clothing touching your body all the time, mostly only when you think about it.”

“If I try stretching past a couple days it’ll probably become detrimental to my attention here. So we’ll be fine,” he says. “I’d rather keep it open so you can have my resources to plan an operation if you end up going that route. And having the company of someone other than Wright back home is nice, she can be a bit much.” He laughs, not actually believing his partner is that at all.

He stretches in place and leaves his arms behind his head, right hand gripping his left wrist as he relaxes. “Do you want to talk about the rest of it?” he asks. Having been duplicated isn’t a stressor most people get to experience. Elliot certainly never has, excepting for the maelstrom of Asi’s emotions breaking through the link like waves.

A Universe Away

Phoenix Heights

New York City Safe Zone

Asi closes her eyes, lets the thread tying her to Elliot slack. She detaches herself from her senses; allows herself to feel the dissociation that's been creeping up on her.

Just a moment. That's all it takes for her assessment.

Then she resumes inviting him to her perspective, voice quiet. "I mean, I've suspected this for a long time, haven't I?" The knit of her brow doesn't go away despite that. "What does it change, for us? We still… we still have to find a way to stop the degradation. Find who did this to us."

"But forcing them to undo what they've done… that's more complicated now, isn't it?" The fact is softly spoken. She shakes her head slightly, going on, "If I'm just a fancy exoskeleton with emotions, chances are even Gemini couldn't graft an ability back to this body. I'm— I'm changed. I'm stuck like this."

Asi lifts her brow, admitting in a small voice, "That hurts. All I wanted was for things to go back to normal. Things were… things were going so well finally before the plane crash. I finally had control of my life. I was making something of it and myself. I had the freedom to do it. Finally."

She's not able to distinguish, fully, where she ends and her source— her 'donor' begins. There feels no difference to her.

With more emotion than she means, she admits, "Maybe this is what Colin meant when he said to never doubt that I'm me. I feel like me; I don't think that will stop. I'm still me, just stuck in a body I didn't ask for, with problems no one wants to have to deal with." Her hands unlock, corner of her thumb swiping at the corner of her eye as she admits with a laugh, "At least you don't know any better. I'm the only me you've ever known."

"But if we find her, if we're somehow able to pull this off… I'll introduce you. Tell her how good a friend you've been to me." She nods resolutely down at her lap. A sudden wave of hopeful optimism hits her, or at least desperation disguised like it. "Because we're pulling through this— all of us. It's just… a couple of problems to solve before everyone's together again."

Taking in a deep breath, Asi blinks away tears as she looks toward the ceiling. "Fuck the Entity," she supposes cavalierly, on the edge of another laugh. "Why can't the bitch learn to live and let live like the rest of us?" Wiping her eyes again, she muses, "She's had, what, millennia to get her shit together? You think she'd be ahead of the curve…"

Elliot feels a wave of something he can’t really describe, fights its settling in as tears. “Thanks,” he says after a moment to gather himself, though not sadly. “I’ve been thinking about how you’re basically my only real friend. I’m glad I got to meet this you.” It’s a complicated feeling, though not unpleasant. Maybe a little embarrassed to have made the admission. His eyes water a bit despite his efforts.

He pivots on that moment to self depreciation. “I should get out more, right? Meet new friends? Wright’s been on my ass about it, not that the friend candidate pool is huge where I am right now.” He chuckles. “The team isn’t bad outside of the general crankiness born of the harsh realities of survival in a post-apocalyptic hellscape but we haven’t done much friendship bonding yet.

“As far as the Entity goes all I’ve got is Richard’s word versus Eve’s… opinions. I feel like there’s something hugely fundamental we’re all still missing about it’s means, method, and motive. That we’ll probably never understand.” With his level of involvement now it seems likely that the Entity will stay a big part of his life until the being is no longer a threat. Whatever that takes.

”I had a weird idea just now,” he says. “I’m not sure how feasible it would be. But if you can find a way to interface your onboard tech, maybe when the other you is rescued you can link with her technopathically.”

”Then you can be like me, stuck to Wright who can’t make new links but can benefit from the ability. Different-kinds-of-networks buddies.” It’s probably the weirdest thing he’s ever suggested, really. “Be careful with sharing memories of your respective perspectives during the last year though, that can get messy. I have a memory that is simultaneously a deescalation of a confrontation with a jilted lover and also a mercilessly boring baseball game Wright went to. It’s an absolute fucking mess in here.” He taps at his temple with a laugh.

"Tough call on whether you should make new friends now," Asi admits once she's cleared the last blink of stars from her own eyes. "It'll make saying goodbye harder later. But as for the people you're with… Eve is sometimes hard to get along with if you try to exert any amount of control on her. She's too much of a free spirit that way. Richard seems like us; friendless, but with the capacity to be a good ally. He's always stuck in something, trying to do better for himself and the world."

"Chess, though," she segues in a softer voice. "She's young. She's lost a lot, from the war and otherwise. Her history is her own to tell," she admits carefully, "but she's one of the closest friends I have. I didn't want her to go, but she felt like she had to. Because if she didn't, who would? There being too much on the line, and…" Suddenly, she cuts herself off, supposing, "Well, you know that pretty well from your own end, don't you."

An uneasy sigh leaves her following that, thinking about the opposition in Richard's view of the Entity over Eve's. "I'm somewhere in the middle on those viewpoints, I'm sure," she admits. "But Kam Nisatta insisted the same— that we can't ever understand its reasons, and trying to humanize it just leads to dead ends. Accused me of making the same mistakes the Company did, in that regard."

It's enough the rest of the memory from then slots into place.

Kam motions her ahead, but Asi watches her instead. Gaze going to the gloved hand that directs her, and then back to the person it belongs to. One hand makes its way into her jacket pocket while she idles. "Who brought you back?" she asks in a gentle calm, unhurried for all the impatience she harbored earlier. Sometimes more important things come up.

“God,” is Kam’s flat and undecorated answer. “Or the Devil,” she adds without hesitation. “If either actually existed.” Her mouth twitches, not a restrained smile but something else. “They don’t. We’re alone.” She takes a step toward the door, tension in her shoulders as she regards Asi out of the corner of her blue eyes.

“You want to come of your own volition,” Kam suggests. “Otherwise he’ll come to you. You don’t want that, Asi. It’s better to comply.” In that, Asi now understands what that twitch of her mouth was. It was a nervous tic. It’s fear. She is afraid of Baruti.

Asi lingers a moment longer before her gaze shifts past Kam to the door. "After how long I waited, after everything done until now," she asides, brow lifting. "He can wait an extra two minutes."

But she follows after anyway.

"Neither exist, but here you stand anyway," she says as she pulls the door open herself. "Have you figured out whose side it's on?"

Kam snorts, halfway between a scoff and a laugh. Her blue eyes track back to the technopath and she impatiently turns to face her with a growing tension. “This isn’t about sides, Asi. You’re trying to put things into contexts that you understand. Like any person would do. But you’re making the same mistake Adam did, the same mistake the Company did, the same mistake Richard Ray did. You’re trying to contextualize something as a person when it isn’t.”

Swallowing down a lump in her throat, Kam goes momentarily quiet. “The universe doesn’t care about you, or me. It simply is.”

"No," Asi affirms with a small smile as she looks back. "It doesn't. That's why we need to look out for each other." Pulling her hand from her pocket, she turns on her heel with the door half-opened. "It said the world was not meant for humankind, and I am unconvinced a power like that does not see us as anything but a more interesting flavor of human."

Gently, Asi posits, "But I think it was human. Once. Long ago…" Her brow knits as she thinks back to a dark night. "I don't know how much of Baruti Naidu's education was tinged with a certain point of view, but the Entity started somewhere. And…" She looks off, hesitating a moment. Then her shoulders settle.

She reaches for the memory without question.

Turning slowly, Baruti fixes a blue-eyed look on Asi under the silvery moon. “Do not trouble yourself with worries of he, or us. That affair will sort itself out in time. Concern yourself with this moment, here and now, and what your heart tells you. Whether it is to run, to walk…” his brows rise slowly, “or to fly.”

What her heart tells her?

It tells her he's offered her his back twice now.

It tells her he's right that the only path forward for their people is to fight for it, despite the quiet, seething spite she still harbors for what was done to her to spur her on this path.

It tells her…

Asi rises to her feet, hands by her side. The knife in her boot remains in her boot. "It bids me to remain concerned with the larger picture. I am done," a word punctuated by a step forward, "being anyone's pawn. All blindly obeying has earned me in this life is a knife in my back." It's a flat and unapologetic observation, unaccompanied by any gesture. "Answered questions build faith. I am sure in the discovery of your god, you posed yourself them time and time again until you found your facts."

"So tell me this - there have been whispers since the new year that a resurrection is upon us." Asi pauses at Baruti's side, glancing to him. That she already has a suspicion is evident in her look. "Do you know whose?"

Unsmiling, she allows with a touch of levity, "Were it Nisatta, I imagine she would be revered, not relegated to the role of a mere messenger." Her voice lowers as she adds, "No— it does not seem like a thing that would bleed into the dreams of many if she was the end of it." Whether or not the answer is satisfying, her curiosity wouldn't let her make her decision without asking.

“Nisatta was a gift,” Baruti says with no indication of sarcasm. “Of sorts. We were in the right place at the right time, which…” he smiles to himself, “is easier than most things. As for the resurrection…” that elicits a direct look, and once more Asi finds those blue eyes squarely fixed on her. “That is a matter of much debate. We have all heard it in some form or another, that you have means that the message is spreading. What it means, though, everyone has their opinions.”

Baruti paces back from the stairs, coming to stand near Asi. “I believe it means Uluru’s resurrection, because I am of the belief that while they are here they are not whole. Others believe it to be a spiritual resurrection, a meeting of the minds by which all the world will see as one. There are still more who take personal meaning to it. To a literal resurrection of…” he spreads his hands, “I don’t know.”

Baruti briefly looks at Asi’s drone, then back to her. “I’m curious. What do you think it means?”

Asi smiles abruptly, a small thing she guards the appearance of by letting her gaze fall, wander to the side, and then return back to Baruti again. "That speculation isn't sacrilege is a touch encouraging," she admits freely. Her expression sombers shortly after as she carefully remarks, "Your god created itself a family, but to Sargon it lost one of its members. Perhaps it—"

And her demeanor softens. "Perhaps she seeks a reunion. A resurrection."

Barely a breath elapses before Asi glances back to Baruti. "But that assumes much," comes from her dismissively. "There is the present to consider first. Beginning with this moment." A thin exhale comes from her, her jaw rotating as she feels the weight of her words both said and those yet unspoken. Her gaze remains fixed on him.

"I maintain it's a simple revenge story. The nuance of the why doesn't matter in the end, does it? It's merely… personal. She was hurt by humanity and wants to see something better installed in its place." Her voice stays even the whole while, refraining from demonstrating nerves over sharing a moment she's never discussed with…

Anyone. Not even Godfrey or Silas knew the details of what happened in Iraq the way Elliot now does.

"As for me," she abruptly segues. "The me who still has my ability— there's time yet to figure out if she could network me in somehow. But that'd be a nice consolation prize, wouldn't it?" The smile she dons is stiff, small— brief. "Still being able to be connected to what's mine at least in that way."

"That'd be a strange setup process," Asi supposes as she leans back on the bed, propping herself up on her hands. She sounds thoughtful and light, at least. "I have to interface directly with a machine before I can submit remote commands. I don't know exactly how that would work out."

Elliot remembers with Asi quietly, then lets out a surprised, "Huh." He considers it, looks for confirmation of his own fears. Lets it go for now.

“If anybody could use their knowledge of technopathy and telepathic networking to accomplish it, it would be you,” he says instead. “You picked up the quirks of the network faster than Wright did. Though, to be fair, I also wasn’t great at it back then.” Did a lot of the early work on unsteady legs in the dark.

“And don’t think of it as a consolation prize,” he suggests tongue-in-cheek, “Wright would be the first person to tell you how awesome she is. At least you wouldn’t have to cope with my bad habits on the daily.” He laughs a bit at that. Keeps the manic edge out of it.

In return, Asi lets out a chuckle of her own. It helps her keep her own nerves tamped down, the levity. She takes a second to close her eyes, exhaling deeply before returning focus to the conversation.

"I don’t think the Entity was ever a person," Elliot says with a shake of his head, "A human. Not in the way you're thinking. Bear in mind this is wild conjecture. I think it has inhabited a person before, maybe even people, and eons ago. And if it experiences the universe from the perspective of a person, using the brain and sensory mechanisms of a human, its perception is colored by human limitations. The pathways of a human brain can only funnel information in specific directions. It anthropomorphizes itself by experiencing life in the physical world through human means."

“And maybe it does want revenge for something that happened to it in a human life,” he concedes. “Because if it lived and loved as a human, it would grieve and hate and crave revenge as a human. But it could be above those things too, when it’s living for millennia as a squirrel in the walls. When its thinking is truly and unknowably alien.”

It aligns with the warning Kam gave her, after all. Asi lets out a quiet hum, sinking back onto the bed entirely and letting her arms fold loosely over her abdomen. "I mean… maybe. I don't necessarily know that… I mean, there's no way for us to even know, right?"

Elliot takes a moment to prepare a memory, carefully cutting it down, paring out the parts too personal, too dangerous, to share. Of the night in Sweden, of Wright sitting in the dark as Joy leaned against the window, a silhouette against the breathtaking aurora.

Then, softening, Joy slips away and starts to pace the floor. “It changes you, all the time. Constantly. If a body is made up of cells, it knows that and it is each and every individual cell given memory, reason, and purpose. It’s horrifying. While it commandeers you, you feel—I felt both in control and not at the same time. Like we were two sheer pieces of fabric overlaid.”

“Eve sees Uluru as a mother to us all, a progenitor of who and what we are. But I—I never felt that. I don’t know what it is, but I wouldn’t describe anything it does as a gift. The nightmare that it tried to enact when I was young… thousands died before it was stopped. And the cost was—” Joy closes her eyes and shakes her head. “So high.”

Wright nods solemnly to Joy as she speaks of the conflict of her youth. She leaves the room in silence for a while before asking, “Why does it want to destroy all life across multiple timelines? What tangible benefit could possibly be gained from an act so horrific? Is it spiteful, or just alien and unknowable?”

“I don’t know,” Joy says in a whisper with a shake of her head. “All I remember from my time as its host of—of what it wants? It’s just… so much anger.” She swallows down a noise in the back of her throat, threading a dark lock of hair behind one ear. “It’s entirely possible that, given how it lives, it doesn’t see what it is doing as murder.”

Joy turns to look at Wright again. “If you lived stretched out like a spider across the web of time, seeing infinite lives and possibilities, your perspective would be skewed too.” She looks down to the floor, wrapping her arms around herself. “Maybe it’s not what’s happening now that it even cares about, but what comes after.”

Joy closes her eyes, wrapping her arms tighter around herself. “I don’t know,” sounds more fraught than a straight answer should be. “Adam… Adam was networked to himself, copies of copies. But he—” She shakes her head and blinks her eyes open, looking at Wright with pain in her eyes that matches her voice. “I think he’s gone.” Not dead, gone.

Asi blinks up at the ceiling, her hands tightening in their lay. Something— skipped. Joy had moved just slightly between one thought and another in a way that felt like watching a film reel splice a moment together. Something was skipped past, and…

She lets the feeling go quickly. It wasn't her place to dictate how much Elliot let her in.

“It took him.” Joy says with a whispering quaver to her voice. “The doom upon all the world. He’s its host now, and I… I don’t know where he is.”

He gives Asi a moment to reflect on the memory, but something about it itches at him still. He takes half a breath in, stops, starts again. “If Mazdak created Galatea to replace Expressives,” he wonders, “Maybe the Entity isn’t the source of the SLC in humans. Isn’t the parent to the lineage of mutants. Maybe those human mutations are caused by exposure to the thinning of the barrier between the strings itself. Indirectly and indifferently. That would mean the Entity could possibly also have gained its abilities that way. It would explain the sudden emergence of new Expressives and Mosaics across the world where there was no local exposure to the Entity’s machinations.”

"Now, that's a theory," Asi allows, brows arching. "I don't think for a moment we were created to … fulfill quite that purpose. But I can't intelligently argue against it, either. The spike in manifestations might be from a thinning between the worlds, but that red wave was also directly caused by the Entity, so…" She wobbles her head. "I'm listening, though…" she indicates as she feels herself guided to another of his memories.

“I don’t believe Doctor Suresh needs many introductions,” Gates says with a wave to him. As he does, Kravid slips into the room and lingers in the back, arms crossed over her chest. “We tracked Doctor Suresh down to cooperate with this project,” is Gates' way of very pointedly breezing past the issue of how this wanted fugitive—one Richard last saw in the care of the Monica Dawson—wound up here.

“Mohinder’s role is ensuring that your traversal through the Looking Glass doesn’t cause undue genetic damage, and to field test the suits we’re reverse-engineered from the designs of the Remote Office’s Warren Ray. The, late, Warren Ray.” Gates adds with a clearing of his throat. “These suits were originally commissioned by Arthur Petrelli to breach the Looking Glass in his timeline to invade others. They protect the wearer from the shearing effect of travel through the Looking Glass unprotected. Without Mateo Ruiz to create a stable wormhole, this is our only option.”

“So we know there is a genetic effect from exposure. Maybe the Entity isn’t reneging on its ‘gift to humans’. Maybe it’s trying to eliminate the competition for a source of power it doesn’t control.” He’s deeply unnerved by the thought.

Asi might be, too, but she's frozen still on the moment Mohinder Suresh appeared in the memory streamed to her. Her eyes are widened slightly, heart hammering in her chest. He is not supposed to be where he is.

"Fuck," she breathes out, rocketing back into a sit while her mind whirls. Her eyes dance back and forth between nothing visible.

«What you do there is up to you. Liberate the prisoners? Certainly, we'd love that. We could even provide an escape route for you and the prisoners. Bare minimum? We need all the data that's contained on their research systems. You see, they have a genocidal maniac working there — Mohinder Suresh — the man who tried to wipe us out. Now, we’re figuring dollars to donuts, that the government is looking for a failsafe to use against our kind if we get too uppity. We want all the data from their secure servers, and if you can rescue our kind? All the better.»

"Fuck," Asi breathes out again, unsteady. Her panic claws at her, the thought her betrayal might be found out.


“What proof do you have that’s what their research is focused on?” Her pace slows once she hits sidewalk again. “Your civil war, which you won, has barely been put to bed. I would not jump to that conclusion without considerable evidence for it.” Evidence hopefully this god of rational arts and wisdom would be willing to impart on her.

«I'm not a judge and this isn't a trial, I don't need evidence. Suresh is there, that's enough. The fact that he dodged the gallows once is insult enough.»

Eyes practically unseeing, Asi comes to her feet. Her thoughts get ahead of themselves, faster than she can possibly review them. She makes it to her desk, reaching for a pen.

«And if you put a bullet in Suresh’s head? I'll find something nice to give you in return. You do this? Our blue-eyed friend will meet with you personally, to talk about the future.»

"That fucking—"

Baruti’s answer is a smile. “The world isn’t binary. It is multifaceted, multicultural, multidimensional.” He walks a few paces, coming to sit on the corner of a slab of ancient stone, resting his hands on his thighs. “But the side I spoke of was a historic sense and a political one. Aligned with Mazdak, or not. The world may deal in gradients, but we don’t have that privilege.” For a moment Asi’s drone steals Baruti’s attention, but it doesn’t break his concentration. “And, for the record, I didn’t bring you here.” His eyes flick back to Asi. “You sought me out. Just as it would be.”

Asi's scrawl is an angry one across the pad by her closed laptop. The fire of her fear, long held too close for review until now, burns away to revelation:

“There is a simple logic behind Mazdak. We were born to rule,” Baruti says with no hint of humility. “That isn’t to say that ordinary humans have no place in our society. Iraq is full of ordinary people. But our kind have talents and gifts that no ordinary person could ever hope to achieve no matter the technology they try to use to emulate it. Other nations of the world see this truth and struggle to hold on to the old ways, and in turn subjugate our kind.”

Smiling, Baruti seems so much more affable and personable than he did in Japan. “Mazdak isn’t about spreading a religious ideology. That is merely what unites us. We aim to spread liberty for our kind, speak truth to power, and prevent the genocide of our people. And… like you, we will do so through any means necessary.”

All this time, Baruti has not once mentioned Mohinder or the PISEC raid. He hasn’t brought up anything that she was asked to do. It is an elephant in a room full of other elephants.

It wasn't Naidu. Nabu manipulated you.

"They've just got a knife for every back, don't they?" she realizes in a whisper. The fractious splits within Mazdak might go all the way to the top. And once again— she'd been a pawn in someone else's plans, helping fulfill someone else's goals, potentially used to blind… Naidu himself?

Just who was Nabu?

Asi blinks once. "I'm— sorry," she tells Elliot, recalling herself back to the moment finally. "I got distracted." She lifts her posture, but not her gaze from the notes. "It's fine. I'm sorry for the concern. Mohinder's fine— probably. Probably fine."

She runs her hand back through her hair.

"I, um— your theory's possible, but the science it'd take to confirm it hasn't come out yet. If there's a second mother-source for Expression… the genes haven't been caught for it. But the surprise manifestations— maybe you're right. Maybe it's not a genetic manipulation caused by the Entity. Maybe it's a ripple from an attempt to return us all to stardust. An Overlay of selves unlike anything we've seen so far." She sounds like she's switched gears back to that topic, for her focus on it.

Except for the "Holy shit," she breathes out while still looking at her separate revelation on paper. "If only Elaine wasn't dead."

Elliot feels Asi’s panic, and sees her frantic scribbling, but doesn’t intrude on her remembering. “I never spoke to Suresh while I was there,” he says. “Didn’t have any idea what I’d have said to him either way. But he wasn’t being mistreated. Even Kravid got pretty good treatment there, even though she probably should have been punched in the face a few times because she’s such an asshole.” He leaves it to Asi to say what she will about Mohinder. There’s clearly a connection there, considering her heartbeat.

“Why the Mazdak backing at Renautas-Weiss if not? Why target Expressives exclusively for the project?” Elliot asks. “It would be a lot easier to hide what happened if everyone didn’t wake up… thinking they weren’t Expressive suddenly.” He sighs, not wanting to draw Asi into that strange sense of loss only the Sundered really know. Especially not with today’s revelations. “Sorry.” Chagrined.

Looking at the paper with Asi, he says, “Who’s Elaine?”

Asi only shakes her head when Elliot provides assurances about Mohinder's state of being kept. "I— it's—" She clears her throat, eyes closing as she works on wrangling her emotions back down. It takes a flutter of a breath before she gets some success. "It's a long story. When I was still on the run, someone with Mazdak… promised me something if I found and killed Mohinder, that it would curry me favor." Opening her eyes, she lifts her head to peer at the wall. "I— didn't." Obviously.

"I saved him instead. Tried to keep him off their radar… as close to impossible to find as possible." With a distressed flick of her hand before she rubs her neck, she clarifies, "Clearly that didn't work. But now— now I don't know if it mattered to the person I thought it did. Just another. Which… " Her eyes fall to the name on the paper, and she taps it once with her index finger. "Nabu's gain through the loss of Suresh's knowledge was averted, but he seems to have his own agenda."

"It…" She struggles to put words to it, what she wants to do with that information. Concretely, she doesn't even know yet. It's a conspiracy amongst the sea of them that make up her life, and she looks off again with a buzz in the back of her head that will threaten to become a migraine overnight, surely. "It's never not complicated when it comes to such topics," is as much as she's willing to say at the moment.

"Elaine was an omnilingual historian who worked for Yamagato, as the Fellowship Center curator," Asi admits with a shift of her weight onto her sturdier side. "There was a bus accident a few months ago, but before that, she'd been helping me try to track down a Renautas employee who stole what I believe was some of the same data we happened on when we raided them. He appeared to be radicalized by Mazdak on a trip to Egypt three-ish years ago and ferreted the data to them. She was helping me delve into Arabic-language sites for them … discover more information."

"But as seems to be the case for us all, any break we catch is never one we catch for long," she laments.

“So Mazdak infiltrated the projects after they’d already begun?” Elliot asks. He taps out a rhythm with his fingertips. Something he does out of sight of other people in a room, absentmindedly and with no discernable pattern. To someone sharing his sensation the gesture is hard to miss. He looks at his hands as if only just realising somebody else is looking at them with him, fingers splayed.

"It's a long trail of one bad actor picking up the others' work," Asi interjects, sounding unhappy to be unhelpful in providing specifics there. "Starting, honestly, if I had to guess— back with the Institute. A seed of an idea becoming something terrible because it grew like a weed."

“Also,” he says, looking away from his hands and blinking himself back to attention, “I’ve only been here a couple weeks and I can’t stand the rations. Any chance you could go into the top right desk drawer in my office and eat a bunch of my jelly beans?” It’s a lie, the food options here are surprisingly robust for a decade after the end of the world.

She lifts an eyebrow, taken aback by the request. "The…" It takes only a second to catch up, at which point she blanches. "Aren't you just going to hate it as much as I do? It's … I'm tasting it. I hate things that sweet."

It's also not a no.

“You don’t have to eat the beans by the handful,” Elliot chides Asi, as though anybody would think it was ever a good idea to do so, “Like I do. Each singular bean is its own sensory experience. And while you might not like sweet things, I do. And I can taste things in my head and build composite flavor profiles to guess what something tastes like. Like,” he pauses, giggling quietly and digging around in his mind for flavors to smash together, drawing her attention to a sense memory composite, “This is what a pine plank covered in mango habanero salsa tastes like.”

“So even if you don’t enjoy it, I can just paste my estimated flavor profile over your experience and honestly you’d be doing me a huge favor here.” He laughs fatally, “I keep complaining lately that I can’t find good fish at the Red Hook market but holy Christ I’ll die before I eat another crusty spoonful of salted cod right now.”

Asi's skepticism fails her in this case, a sagging thing of resignation. She's checked in before while the salted taste was still in his mouth. Even sensory tourism made it seem wholly unappealing.

"All right," she grouses, turning on her good leg for the door. "Hold on."

A Universe Away

The Archipelago of Manhattan

It takes a while for her to get there, to set up herself with the left-behind back in a comfortable, cross-legged seat so her other experiences distract less from the taste.

"Okay, you said one at a time?" Asi asks while rustling her hand in the bag to snare a precious few of the 'beans'. She sighs as she looks down on them, this great task before her. For his sake, she tries to let go of preconceptions about their taste, then goes about popping them one by one, smushing the tiny explosion of sugar against the roof of her mouth so it can be tasted as much as possible before moving on to the next. From here, she doesn't complain, just closes her eyes and does her best to savor the flavor she'll try hard to scrub-brush away later.

“That’s the good stuff,” Elliot says with satisfaction. “Just think of it like taro or red bean paste, except every bean does lasting damage to the enamel of your teeth.”

He relaxes where he sits, shrugging off more tension than he’d realized he was holding. After a few moments of silent reflection, he says, “One of the unexpected benefits of only having a couple days left linked is that you don’t have to experience how progressively more filthy I get without regular access to a hot shower.” Not that he’s been able to perfectly maintain his usual fastidiousness, over the last two weeks. He’s certainly done everything he can to feel clean in a world that refuses to accommodate.

Asi lets out a scoffing snort of a breath in response to Elliot's encouragement. She only shakes her head, popping one bean after the other slowly. It takes scraping the flavor off the roof of her mouth after a handful have gone down to feel safe enough to speak again, the taste of something pretending to be blueberry still overwhelmingly on her palate. "You're insane if you think that's a sensation I remotely focus on, Hitchens," she deadpans severely, staring at the ceiling. "But if you want a surrogate shower, you'll have to ask Wright to help you with that satisfaction. I'll take my lot as jelly-bean eater and live with that, thank you."

“Yeah, my surrogate shower needs are being met,” Elliot says with a chuckle.

She rolls her jaw for only a moment before admitting more quietly, more candidly, "It's going to hurt when you're gone." The thought is rewarded with another trio of jelly beans. "I know I'll know you're all right, but…"

Asi flutters her eyes closed and open again. "Not to disparage this extra time and experience and the miracle that has been," she apologizes. "It's helped me more than you know." She looks down into the bag to rustle it with a shake, trying to distract herself from feeling the depth of that sentiment. "In a world where I wasn't an android replicant, I would have made the dive with you. Demanded it, given the people involved. But… you know that, I'm sure." The conflict in her eyes as she'd had to talk herself back from it given her medical state had been plain enough to see when she'd first been let in on the secret of his travel.

Elliot nods, and he does know. A strong emotion kept from the edge is a sensation that he and Wright have been working on for years. The step back from it is a level of communication most people will never understand. Never imagine. So far beyond merely reading somebody’s body language, and on top of feeling someone’s body language acted out in perfect detail. Even apart from the Index, what can be said without words creates layers of subtlety, chained inexorably to intimacy and its foundation, trust.

Elliot’s own emotions momentarily dip toward the slippery slope of bittersweetness before he too steps back from them. A flurry of the complex feelings adjacent to it follow. Gratitude, regret, frustration that he can’t do more to help. That he had to leave her to deal with it. “I’m glad I get to be there for as long as I can.” Happy to help, without expectations. “And it’s been great to share the network with someone who takes to it so proficiently.”

He does feel a soft guilt that even Rue didn’t get to stay in the network this long, despite her honest determination to learn it. He doesn’t push the emotion down, but lets it pass in a comfortable silence. “Replicant androidity considered,” he says, “I’d still be happy to have you here. Though I couldn’t recommend the dive. Holy fuck, what a shit-show.” Levity to keep them both from dissolving into something else.

Feeling Elliot's regret and frustration brings Asi to lift one hand and rub the heel of it against her chest over her heart, like she can smooth away the errant emotions and assure that no matter what, it'll be okay. She takes a deep breath to steel her— maybe steeling him in the process. "We can always want more. And we'll get it, in due time."

Nevermind that a way home might be impossible before the clock runs out on the end of the world. Nevermind that a new one would need built, or somehow otherwise achieved. She just sighs, flattening her palm against the left side of her chest as he allows his guilt to come and go. "You know, if only I knew more that could help you where you are. At this point, I wish I had asked Silas more of what life was like out there before…" Before whatever had happened to him on the sea happened to him. She sits reflecting for a moment before shaking her head. "Instead, all I know are strange facts like the Terminator has a different actor there. OJ Simpson? I think?" She lets out a laugh at the absurdity of it as much as at herself for a lack of knowledge. "But, at least there's… 'friendly' faces to ask." As friendly as that world's iteration of herself can be.

Asi takes a moment longer to look through Elliot's eyes before letting out a slow breath and digging into the bag for one last pair of jellybeans before wrapping them away. "Thanks for helping defuse my panic earlier. You've helped me through an isolating situation and made me feel more human for it. The… disembodied technopath conglomerate that is S.attva did a terrible job at that, earlier, when trying to commiserate."

"Anything I can do to help a fellow synthetic lifeform," she repeats in an attempt at mimicry of the electronic voice from the phone, levering off the bed to stow the bag back in the drawer where it was found.

“What an asshole!” Elliot laughs, “Thanks for the existential crisis consolation, Skynet. Totally takes the edge off.” He’s proud of tying one joke to the previous. He giggles for a moment, then his mood pivots, now unsure, shy.

“I’m always happy to pull someone out of a panic spiral,” he admits quietly, still a bit nervous. “Back in the day, I could go into a meltdown pretty easily. Couldn’t talk.” The reason we learned Sign. “Wright’s idea, actually. She found a book about it in a library one town south on a field trip.”

He presents a memory, faded at the edges, more concept than structure. A clocktower. A fountain full of shining coins over blue-green mosaic tiles. A wall of windows. A book with a soft cloth cover, more yellow than green with age, words indistinct except American Sign Language. Wright’s small hands, her excitement. Elliot’s slow realization.

“Couldn’t talk at all,” he explains. “Total lockup. It helped a lot, having that. It was rough when she got sent off to Patriotism Academy.” It seems unconnected to whatever he’s been working around, preparing in the background, until he shares it. “Coalesce,” he says, tagging a memory from the Index.

Elliot is trying desperately not to cry in front of the room’s other occupants. Wright has him in a bear hug, he thinks she’s whispering big breath to him. The Ferry operative who brought Wright to the Brick House quietly gets Elliot’s charge—another young teen bound for Canada—to leave them alone in the room. It’s Wright, he thinks, confused and so relieved as to feel almost heartbroken. He finally brings his attention to her alone. ”I’m here,” she’s saying, “I’ve got you. Time to take that Big Breath In.”

It carries with it a wash of profound relief, of companionship, of home. A memory, like all others, changed by repeated use. Refined by the remembering, layers upon layers of bringing him back to center. A pure and impactful moment of letting go. In the here and now he takes the Big Breath In reflexively, compulsively. There’s only a soft ripple of embarrassment, not of any fear of being shamed, just in the vulnerability of the memory. Of the current moment.

The introduction to the important memory is met with a lack of anything from Asi's end as she calmly opens herself to the experience that isn't hers— that's so far from her own as to nearly be foreign. In that time, the bag is stowed and she's in the center of his quarters. When she offers her perspective again, it's to share soft understanding, appreciation for his vulnerability. "You're passing it on," she ventures quietly.

It gave me the outlet I needed, certainly. I didn't feel like I can talk about this… with anyone.

The borrowed skill takes a moment to exercise, followed by a fumble of hands instead of yet another thank you. Her hands flex, shove into her pockets, and she takes a moment to look around the room that isn't hers. "What a fucking day," she murmurs, eyes bleary with the emotional weight of it all as much as from the headache which hasn't been aided by the sugar intake. "And we get to do it all over again tomorrow."

“We can talk about it whenever you need,” Elliot says. “I get that it’s not easy to wrap a head around. And anything you can get me about a target I’ll think up what I can. Or at least underclock so you can process on your end. Assuming I’m not running from bullets.” He shifts himself in his seat on the floor, stretching his arms and neck.

“Even after I have to let the link go,” he says with a reassuring quirk of his eyebrows that fades into a smirk. “Wright is always happy to speed text, so it’d be digital, but she’s generally pretty good about transmitting my actual words without editorializing it. Not that I could do anything to stop her if she felt like making me seem more sociable.”

The corner of Asi's mouth worms its way back into a grin. "It'll be an adventure of its own, seeing which messages are tampered with and which aren't." She opts to leave the middle of the space that's more familiar to him than her, heading for the door, stepping through and pulling it closed slowly behind her. A glance up and down the hall reveals no one else around at the moment, and she'll content herself with that.

"Same here as always, as you can see," she does the courtesy of informing him. "The fires from Philadelphia are creeping closer, but I question if they'll be able to successfully jump the Hudson. Manhattan and its walls should serve as a buffer, theoretically, for it crossing the East River… but should it not, then things might get interesting around here."

"It's strange, the strong opposites of the situation. Surrounded by water, surrounded by fire," Asi murmurs while she makes her way down the hall.

Elliot imagines what’s left of Manhattan burning. He wonders if Tala’s restaurant made it through the first round of fires. What would be left of it either way. Would the CD walkman still be sitting on the stainless steel countertop where she’d left it, kept as a relic of remembrance by coworkers immortalising her the same way Elliot did. Not the same way at all.

It’s not a long moment. “Having been on the ocean,” Elliot responds, “I can’t say I entirely recommend it. But if the fire does rip through Manhattan it might not be a bad idea to buy Wolfhound an emergency yacht. We can name it Don’t Shoot the Motor in honor of Avi’s impeccable aim.” Hard to suppress the memory of anxious giggling between Kill Devil Hills and the Mainland as Avi rowed furiously, grumbling a fascinating array of curse word combinations.

“If the fire does jump,” he says, “And the Bastion is safe but Wright’s apartment in Phoenix Heights isn’t, could we direct Marthe and Ames there in an emergency? Wright would love it if we could avoid a situation in which her awful parents try to get the family to stay at their place. If neither are safe they have a key to my townhouse, it’s just further away.”

Asi's footsteps meander, slowing with that thought. "Well," she answers carefully, "I'm not sure how much longer we'd be safe here, but without a doubt, they'd be welcome here. Make sure they have my number. Huruma will immediately agree, and Avi will be made to be a good host, even if being a great one is beyond him." She slips her hands into the pockets of her jeans and resumes her without her feet weaving in and out of each other. "With Wright out of town, we'll look out for them."

"A boat isn't an altogether terrible idea, even if it is an ironic one. There's safety to be found in mobility," she notes. "It could also be a great vacation idea, for planned trips, or emergency escapes from oppressive family members." Her brows arch, a smile repressed at the corners of her mouth. "You know, options."

“It’s greatly appreciated,” Elliot says. “Wright will let them know.” There’s also the new safehouse, bought with his ill-gotten Raytech payout, but for security purposes nobody knows of its existence other than Wright. A place to ride out the blow-back from anything related to his recent transaction with d’Sarthe.

“And I’m not too worried about Avi, he’s clearly trying. Well, worried about him in the Ames is mischievous as fuck sense more than the Avi is a curmudgeon one. Lock up the offices. Actually, we could probably convince him to get a submarine before a yacht,” he muses with a smirk, rambling like Wright. “Maybe an armored assault yacht if we can make him believe those exist. Luxury battleship. I’ll bring one back as a souvenir.”

"Christ," Asi blanches, borrowing a word she's heard too much of. "Definitely armored assault yacht before any submarine considerations. What are we, supervillains? No, first we'll have pirate ships like proper mercenaries, thank you." She snorts in a gesture of thinking she's so funny, eyes squinting at nothing like Elliot's there himself to be looked at in such a way. She begins to glance off to her side as though at him before catching herself and walking forward again.

She hears Aisu before she sees him, bounding down the hall from another open door. "Now what kind of trouble have you been into?" she asks the pup, bending over to cup his face between both hands and muss his fur. Then she sets her hands on her knees, looking down at him while his tail wags. "What do you think, kid? Are you luxury battleship material?"

After he lets out a soft, excitable huff of a woof in reply, Asi arches an eyebrow at nothing. "I'm still new at speaking dog. What'd you get out of that one?"

Elliot shifts his posture but knows there really isn’t anywhere he’ll be more comfortable. “I am actually fluent in dog,” he says matter-of-factly. “He said, ‘I, being a tiny baby puppy dog, can intuit from the tone of your voice that you are asking me a question. However, the words that you are using are but strange squeaks and squawks to my ears; birdlike in cadence yet carrying unknowable, even alien, purpose,’ or something like that, his accent is weird.” His seriousness dissolves into a soft chuckle.

"His accent is weird," is the only thing Asi can wheeze before she sinks to her haunches in an attempt to stave off unexpected, strength-stealing laughter. Aisu, completely oblivious to the conversation but very aware of !!face he can lick!! wastes no time in trying to clamber into her lap and lap at her face. "Oh my god," she gasps, attempting to fend off this most gruesome attack with only minor success. This is too much at once for her. "No! Get down!"

Asi, you're gonna have to try harder than that. That's not even the right tone to make him listen. You can't laugh at the same time you do this sort of thing. Perhaps she knows that, because she sinks to the ground entirely to give herself better balance to fight back with, even if that means she's essentially fallen on her butt in the hallway owing to a puppy attack. Hopefully no one is peeking out in the hall at the moment, or watching the cameras.

She wrangles the youthful dog into order with a more properly-dispensed command of sit, wiping her face with the back of her hand when she's sure she's free from further assault. "What a day," she sighs, looking at the happy mutt. Her brow knits and she reaches out to ruffle the side of Aisu's head, scritching his ear in the process the way he likes. "Almost time to call it a night," she acknowledges aloud warily, quietly. It's a thing once again meant for only her, Elliot, and the creature that thinks human speech is an alien language. "And then we get to… do it all again tomorrow."

Elliot sits in a happy haze of Asi’s laughter, eyes and ears more in her world than his. The sea will still be there. He considers a flippant response, but something closer to encouragement would do them both good. “But we don’t do it alone,” he says.

He could use the sleep too. “What do you say, want to stretch out the link a couple more days, or go out on this high note?” he asks. “I don’t think I’ll ever top the dog language joke so it’s fair if you rather not hear me embarrass myself trying.”

There’s a rapid pull of various facets of the link as he tests them. He dips in and out of her senses fast enough it feels like a flicker, memories they’ve indexed pull only far enough to register they’re being viewed before releasing them back into the safety of Asi’s mind. “I’m feeling up to it though, if you want to make it last.”

The way Asi's hand stills on the pup's head speaks more than any words could. Her heart slowing in a single thump, any intent to reply like cotton in her mouth. Her eyes flutter in a rapid blink to begin controlling her response better right as he ceases pulling her other senses.

"We might not top this moment, but … let's make it last," she suggests slowly as she runs her hand down the back of Aisu's head to assist with the calming she's trying to do for herself. It's not just a simple break— it's not like they can sync again during next week's shift together. It's not like she'll be able to talk to him regularly after this. Who knows if he comes back at all, if they'll ever see each other or share each other's experiences again.

Wright's not as out of touch, but it's also not the same. Talking as a group when only two of the three are present always feels… isolating.

"I'm on Team Make The Most of Every Last Moment We Can. Who knows, maybe I can return the knowledge transfer favor for you before time runs out."

“I don’t trade favors with friends,” Elliot says with a relaxed smile as he recalls another time he said as much. His shoulders relax, his eyes drift closed comfortably. Bad dreams be damned, moments like these—sharing, honesty, vulnerability—are their own remedy. He doesn’t say the rest, sure she remembers.

A Universe Away

Asi's only able to smile in return, a meaningful moment shared in silence before she stops streaming her perspective, and in turn stops pulling from Elliot. She lets a bittersweet sorrow— a grief take hold once she's sure she's alone, so it happens now instead of later. So she can prepare for the feeling of being alone as much as possible in facing what comes ahead, even if for now there's still the reassurance of that door she can open back to Elliot and Wright at will. Her fingers sink into Aisu's growing mane of fur, arms wrapping around him in a much-needed embrace. "You're heavy," she complains of him as she hoists him up, leading them both back into her room.

"He's gotta come back," Asi whispers to herself and the dog, clinging to that hope out of desperation more than anything else. "They've all got to." She shuts the door behind them with her foot, feeling the clunk-thud of it closing reverberate through her head.

"If we keep losing half of all the dear friends we make… I don't know what I'm going to do."

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