As Good As New


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title As Good As New
Synopsis …doesn't always mean better.
Date August 14, 2019

“As good as new.”

Sometimes, coming home means discovering for yourself where home really is. Whether it’s the places you’ve been and need to return to, or the places you’ve yet to find. Under a gray sky promising rain that has yet to come, Colette Demsky is exploring those definitions. Though the sound of another voice doesn’t immediately pull her attention away from a small detail like a faded cigarette but sticking out of a crack in the asphalt, a hand on her shoulder does. Turning to the brief touch, Colette’s vision only wheels around after her head does.

“Sorry, thought you were listening.”

Scott Harkness might as well be family, with how long Colette has known him. Even if the old dog keeps up enough walls to prevent people from getting to know him too well, there’s still a sense of familial bond that surviving a war together affords people. Scott’s other hand is on one of the handles of a motorcycle, freshly washed and — more importantly — good as new.

“Thanks,” Colette says with a sheepish smile, reaching for her wallet in her back pocket, “how much do I owe you for the replacement parts?” Scott rebuffs the offer with an upturned hand and a shake of his head. “C’mon, you didn’t have t’do this, go buy yourself a fucking drink or something,” she grumbles, fishing through her wallet for a few bills.

Sighing, Scott knows better than to fight some battles. He takes the folded up money in calloused, grease-stained hands and tucks them into his shirt pocket. “I’d have done it for free. Hounds get repairs for nothing,” he says with a lopsided smile. Even if he didn’t see as many Hounds at once up north these days, not since the Bastion opened and centralized the Safe Zone operations.

“I’m not— ” Colette starts to say, but Scott isn’t having any of it.

“It’s in your blood,” he says to her. “No matter how far apart everybody gets, we’re still a part of the same group. We spilled blood together, we risked our lives together. A change of vocation doesn’t change who you are on the inside,” he says with a motion of one hand toward Colette’s tattoos on her arms. “Yeah, you’re a cop now. You used t’be a soldier. But Wolfhound,” he lets go of the bike once Colette takes a hold of it

“That’s forever.”

Five Hours Later

The Dog House

Williamsburg, NYC Safe Zone

August 14th


The rolling garage door lands with a slam and Colette rises up from shutting the door, turning to look back at her motorcycle sitting in the middle of her small garage. Dutifully, she goes about covering the vehicle, making sure none of the chrome is exposed. The feeling of her cell phone in her right front pocket brings her thought back to earlier, to what Scott had said outside the Bunker in Rochester.

With a sigh, Colette settles down onto the old bench seat on the floor, once a part of an old car. She shifts to pulls the seat buckle out from under herself, legs stretched out across the concrete floor. Fishing her phone out of her pocket, screen cracked worse than she remembered, she looks at the small antenna. One bar of signal. Sighing again, this time lighter, she swipes up into the messenger app.

Colette stares at her list of contacts for a long time, phone held in both hands, expression a passive mask of something more tempestuous inside. Thumbs work across the tiny, cracked screen.

To: @Wireless

She stares at the blinking cursor under the recipient. Closing her eyes, Colette breathes in deeply and tips her head back, eyes shut but still seeing as she keys in a message. It takes her a while, revised and edited time and again. The last time she’d tried this, it was intercepted by a proxy she only fleetingly understood. Now, she’s worried she won’t even get that far.

But she has to try.

Ramadi, Iraq

August 14th

8:07 pm (Local Time)

Hana hasn't put on this kind of armor, for this kind of purpose, in a long time. A very long time — in fact, precisely as long as she recalls. For all that, the memories and the skills they inform are near rather than distant; it's a deft hand that applies eyeliner and color, that draws highlights to sharpen cheekbones and shadows to soften the stern line of her jaw. Not to mention tempering the scar track across her forehead, fading it into comparative insignificance.

She pauses, then, to study her reflection and the impression it evokes. The makeup, the dress beneath it: two-piece, ivory in tone, covering everything it needs to and nothing it doesn't. Not something she'd wear during the day in Ramadi, cosmopolitan though the city may be — but it isn't day, now, and she doesn't intend to remain past tonight. Sensibility is no part of this parting venture, this resurrection of old habits — old mechanisms — that in another context, another lifetime, had long since been laid to rest.

The impression that looks back at her from within the mirror is deemed satisfactory enough, suitable enough for the persona Hana intends to wear. Setting the makeup aside, she takes up other finishing touches: the earrings that are delicate falls of copper chain, the copper flower strung on monofilament such that it will appear to float in the hollow of her throat.

She's in the process of securing the first earring when the message hits her subconscious filters.

To: @Wireless
So, I don't know if you'll get this. If you're still out there, or if you want to talk. I went up to Rochester today, picking up some stuff I forgot there. Ran into Scott, he helped me fix my bike. I don't think many of the Hounds come up that way for long anymore, he's like a Lighthouse keeper, though.
I thought about you a lot. Drove down to the cemetery where we had that ceremony for your mother. I haven't seen you or Noa in so long and I'm not even sure I found the right space. The whole place looks different in the summer.
I guess I just miss you.
I'm sorry.

Hana has let so many messages from her non-past slip by, her automatic response is no response at all, and yet she hangs on this one. Unthinking reflex guides her hands through the motions of finishing her present task, setting the second earring into place, following with the floating pendant. Her thoughts scan through the words a second time, probing at the void of memory as one might an empty tooth socket, though these intangible contours have long since become familiar to her.

Nothing miraculously falls into place, no context for the mentioned 'ceremony'. The very idea rings foreign to her — but that, too, is paradoxically familiar.

She doesn't ask.

To: Colette
Limadha 'ant asif?

It's only after that Hana realizes she answered from within the mantle of this evening's persona, in a language she — so far as she knows — cannot expect the woman on the other end to understand. She hesitates for the span of a heartbeat before leaving it to stand as-is; the phrase is, after all, simple enough to search.

The response back isn’t immediate. In fact it feels pointedly delayed. The reason for which becomes immediately clear when the response does finally come.

To: @Wireless
Look I’ve got exactly one bar of signal
so it took me forever to google translate that
I’m sorry because, like

It takes a moment for the reason to come.

the last real conversation we had was an argument
because I feel bad about fucking up your birthday because Noa and I are functionally twelve years old
because i’m bothering you when you clearly like
had enough

Then, just a beat afterward.

it feels like you’ve had enough

There are a number of things that could be said in response.

To: Colette
Consider it forgotten.

To many, that might read as a reassurance, but Colette knows the cadence of Hana's responses, can hear in her mind's ear the most likely tone these three words would be spoken in: curt, clipped, dismissive. It is not, cannot be, forgiveness.

It is not the response that would have come from the woman Colette remembers, either — not for her.

To: @Wireless
great response
Look I’m sorry. For everything. For Liberty Island nearly getting us all sent to fucking prison, for leaving, for… whatever I did to push you away.
You were the only thing I had during the war that made sense.
The only family I had left after Judah
well, the only family who understood why i couldn’t stop fighting, even if i didn’t understand either
ok maybe the only family who understood why i couldn’t stop fighting who also wasn’t a precognitive
you know what i mean

For a moment, it may seem like the rapid-fire barrage of messages is done. But

i love you and i’m worried about you

Silence follows, the kind of silence built on kinesthetics, on discomfort made into motion — at least when the source of the silence is Hana.

It stretches. That cadence is familiar, too.

To: Colette
I am not her.
I thought you people might finally have gotten that.


Colette bolts upright out of her seat as if a spider had dropped into her lap, phone clattering down to the floor to add to the already extant cracks on the screen. Eyes wide and heart racing, that wasn’t the answer she had expected to come from the other end of the line. Interpretations swim alongside a sense of vertigo and momentary panic. The spiritual equivalent of new phone who dis? is at once jarring and horrifying.

Taking a moment to calm herself after a few gulping breaths, Colette scans the garage as though expecting to see someone standing in a corner of the room. With a few shaky breaths, she steps off the cushions of the floor-level seat and circles her phone like it would bite her were she not careful enough. Possibilities blossom and wilt behind her eyes in the most simple of complexities: who to call, who to tell, who would care?

Without any of that forethought, she takes a knee and snatches up the phone and flicks angry thumbs across a screen that is becoming very hard to read.


To: @ Wireless
who the fuck are you??
because when Wireless finds out you jacked her number
she is going to kick your ass
through a fucking window
into fucking SPACE
because she’s BEEN THERE
you have no fucking idea
how much trouble you’re in

Hana stops mid-stride at the message that splashes across her awareness, rolls her eyes, and does not deign to respond. She has more useful things to be doing. Like putting on her shoes.

Someone else answers in her stead.

To: Colette
Are you who you were eight years ago?
Who you will be eight years from now?

That gets a prompt response.

To: @T.Amas

But that’s about as far as she’d thought the response through. The remainder takes a couple of minutes to come, but the constant “…” acknowledging that someone is typing on the other end is a peripheral reminder that something is coming.

the fuck is going on
First you try and give me some Bruce Lee advice after I fuck up her birthday and now you’re throwing down riddles like you’re some kind of like cell phone SPHINX
Are you saying that’s Hana from the PAST?

That’s not—

Who brought her here? Was it Walter?
Where’s the actual Hana? Is she OK?

To: Colette
Did Epstein not tell you?

The pause is so brief, its existence is only marked by the fact that two messages are sent.

When she said 'forgotten', that was not only dismissive.
Neither of us remember the birthday you mention — or the advice.

That earns a long pause too.

To: @T.Amas
I asked him and the most he told me was that he “didn’t fucking know what was going on” and sounded confused and frustrated. I figured he was just pissed at me for retiring.
So this isn’t a time-travel thing?
Then… she got memory wiped? Like what happened to me?
We have a healer maybe if it’s cerebral scarring we can repair the damage?
Jesus Christ how much did she forget?
how much did you all forget?

To: Colette
The mechanism of this loss is not purely biological.
We do not think it was purposeful. A side effect of a prototype device designed to be used against technopaths.
All available evidence is that we broke free, but not without cost.

A pause follows, brief but measurable.

I remember nothing from before.
She lost years.

The number it mentioned previously was not chosen at random.

To: @T.Amas
Jesus Christ
Is there any way to put it back together? Like a data backup or something?
Did Hana back up her data? She was always complaining to me about doing that on my laptop.

She wasn’t.

Is the information kept somewhere? Maybe we could find it?
I don’t
want to lose her like this

Silence stretches again; if this were a Hana silence, it too would involve motion. Mediated by digital communication, there is only stillness.

To: Colette
Memory is not so straightforward as data; it is a surprisingly complex construct. Especially for a biological mind.
Some few data points were recovered from the device, but they are in effect something like scenes clipped from a movie of someone else's life.
Distant. Detached.
Also, the content is almost entirely insignificant.

Another brief pause ensues.

We do not believe the information will resurface. Not in whole.
But sometimes flashes of association arise.
I expect this is meaningful to you:

A picture follows after, one that is not a photograph — or if it is, the photograph was processed, everything blurred into insignificance except an open box perhaps the size of a flattened hand. The box is white; its sole content is a strip of rusted iron pounded flat, surface etched with five Hebrew letters.


Rain had started falling sometime during the conversation, but Colette only noticed it in that moment. The way it patters on the glass of the garage door windows draws her attention, like a thousand nagging thoughts asking to come in. She looks back to the photograph, then reaches up to thread a lock of hair behind one ear.

Blinking away tears in her eyes, Colette nods as if the phone could see her, and swallows back the lump in her throat.

To: @T.Amas
It’s in her office
On her desk
Nobody has closed it
Maybe nobody’s even gone in
I think Epstein’s afraid to

Worrying at her bottom lip with her teeth, Colette contemplates the truth of the matter. The truth that a fragment of Hana’s consciousness has shown her.

It’s all that’s left of Grand Central Station
I got it for her
as a gift
because we’re family

Exhaling a sigh through her nose, Colette closes her eyes.

were family
i guess

Some time passes before a response is forthcoming.

To: Colette
Are you giving up, then?

A dangerous question, were it coming from Hana.

To: @T.Amas
is she?

Family isn’t blood, it’s a choice. The letter Colette wrote with that gift said as much.

There is a smart-aleck answer to that. T.Amas doesn't make it.

To: Colette
We move forward, not back.
Given the situation, to what extent 'forward' includes you will depend most on you.

Pacing the floor of the garage, Colette stares down at her phone’s cracked screen, jaw set and shoulders tense.

To: @T.Amas
Hana never moves forward without good intel
Everything you’re operating on is bad data from 8 years ago
Sure, you can google what Wolfhound’s done or whatever you do
But that’s where she’s always failed
Because the interpersonal data is just as important as the factual
There is no back and forward, there’s just NOW

Exhaling a sharp sigh through her nose, Colette’s pacing only grows more intense.

Where are you?

If T.Amas had a head to shake, breath with which to exhale a sigh, it would do so about now.

To: Colette
And you are operating on incorrect assumptions.
I think all the benefit that might be achieved from this conversation, has been.

Which is more of a parting than Hana might be inclined to give, in similar circumstance.

Raking a hand through her hair, Colette exhales a groan and throws her head back, then hastily keys in a response.

To: @T.Amas
god you’re as stubborn as she is

Her lips purse, brows furrow, eyes cast to the side toward the sound of rain.

If she’s ever curious about that scar on her head
and why she has it
i’m here

She whips the phone into the cushions of the old bench seat, then turns around and slams the side of her hand against the garage door with a clang of metal.

Ramadi, Iraq

T.Amas does not respond to Colette's remarks, but lets digital silence fall absolute, at least as concerns their particular line of communication.

Other noise rises to preeminence in its awareness: the sounds of a summer night in a city yet rebounding from the ravages of war, the rhythmic click of low-heeled shoes on concrete. The non-aural noise of visual and tactile sensation, the internal awareness of the biological processes that host but not house its existence.

Did I miss anything important? its host and parent and near-alterego asks of the interaction that occurred beyond the scope of her awareness.

No. The conversation progressed much as expected. It passes her the transcript so she can make her own determination of import nonetheless, but Hana will not read it until later — perhaps much later. For now, she merely acknowledges and continues on, her attention on the immediacy of the here and now. On moving forward.

Seen from an objective perspective, the forward she has chosen may be less than optimal, less than perfect. But perfect is only a goal, and one that can blind the striver to good enough, at that. Too, there is no going back; Hana Gitelman is at once both less and more than the woman she had been six months before. Even did her memories return in full with the next dawn, the world has moved on, Wolfhound has moved on, she has moved on. Those pieces do not, cannot, fit together as they once did.

Not to mention, when it comes down to it, scrabbling after pieces of the past by definition does not build a future.

The future, for good or ill, is something new.

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