Basket Of Mysteries


asi2_icon.gif reeves_icon.gif

Scene Title Basket Of Mysteries
Synopsis Asi's visit from a mysterious government agent ends in some answers … but mostly more questions.
Date September 28, 2020

The Bastion

As Agent Reeves sits in the reception area of the Bastion, she has tea on her mind. She’d like a cup of it, really, and wishes she’d thought to bring some in a thermos, though that is a bit of an insult to a proper darjeeling. It’s best served in a proper china teacup, of course, with just a splash of milk and a touch of sugar to bring out the flavor all the more.

She thinks longingly of her tea jar at home and ponders popping out for it, but it would be rude to keep her meeting waiting — even if her meeting isn’t aware of the meeting just yet.

Someone went to fetch her, but it’s a large building, and she might be in the middle of something. The only hint of any impatience Reeves shows is the tapping of one toe slowly on the floor, as if she were keeping time with a metronome set to adagio that only she can hear. Other than that, the dark suited young woman seems like the epitome of tranquility.

The angle of her seat is such that when Francis brings Asi back to the lobby, gesturing to her, Reeves has a perfect view of the skeptical look of suspicion that the former technopath affords her. When the younger Wolfhound agent lifts his shoulders in a shrug, Asi only shakes her head curtly, eyes closing to steel herself for whatever manner of visit this is supposed to be.

A black turtleneck with a baggy neck otherwise clings to Asi's form, and she folds her arms before her, hands tucking behind her sleeves as she approaches. The visitor looks smartly-dressed, she notes, and if she knew Asi was here as well… some type of government agent?

"I'm told you wished to speak with me?" she asks instead of offering a proper how-do-you-do. Even without the pigment-changing color of her ability, her eyes are still intense as she looks Reeves over, looking for clues as to her purpose here, or her identity.

When Asi enters the lobby, Reeves stands, watching the silent vignette play out between Asi and Francis. She waits until the new Wolfhound approaches her, once again the very paradigm of patience.

“You were informed correctly,” the agent says with a crisp English accent, hailing from the south of the nation. “Shall we take a walk, or would you rather use a conference room? I want you to feel comfortable, of course. This is strictly about your well being, after all.”

She offers a slim hand to shake, despite Asi’s crossed arms. “I’m Agent Beatrix Reeves. I’m just following up with those who were in the plane crash in July. I wanted to check in with you, how you’re coping. That sort of thing.”

Looking down to the offered hand, Asi's tongue in cheek is almost visible as she works on holding back any sniping comments. Her arms unfold so one hand can come forth and accept the shake with a firm grasp of chilled fingers. "There's a lounge on the first floor. If we're talking comfortable, that's the best place to be. At this hour, it should be empty." Walk and talk, it'd seem.

"There's a kitchen there, as well," she offers up cordially, arms folding tightly again while she turns to lead them away. Her eyes lift for a moment toward the ceiling, as if she might be able to tell where the other Wolfhounds are by that alone and deduce how much privacy they might actually have.

She, of course, can't. Not anymore.

The doorway into the lounge and kitchen is open, so Asi invites herself in. To the left, a series of comfortable couches. To the right, an open kitchen nestles against the wall, with an island separating the two spaces. The windows filter in bright light and keep out the crisp outside air only just.

"Are you with SESA, Agent Reeves, or another agency entirely?" Looking over her shoulder as she walks for the kitchen, she drily explains, "If I should be expecting more of these visits from other agencies on a 60-day check-in cycle, it'd help to know who I've already spoken with." Her lips press together in a thin smile. "That way I can ensure the only people I'm telling to fuck off are those who come back twice and still have no answers as to what happened, who's responsible, or any leads they are willing to share."

She pauses at the island, turning back to face the agent more properly. "Tea, I presume?" Asi asks with more lightness than before, though the edge to her voice hasn't voided itself entirely from her tone. "Black with milk?"

Brows lifting, Reeves smiles, calm but amused. “Not SESA, so feel free to tell any of theirs to sod off if they come back to check on you with no more information,” she says. “Our department is one that is tasked with looking into this incident from a different lens, perhaps, than SESA, though I’m not at liberty to tell you too many details, I’m afraid. I hope that won’t affect your candor with me.”

The offer of tea earns a nod. “That would be lovely, but only if you are going to join me. I don’t wish to impose on you. Well, more than I already am, I suppose.”

Reeves moves to one of the sofas, sitting a little primly on the edge. She reaches into her blazer to pull out a small tablet and a stylus. “Can you tell me how you’ve been feeling since the incident in July? Have you experienced any symptoms or problems — physical, mental, or emotional — that you didn’t have prior to then?”

Asi accepts the metaphorical wink from Reeves with a placid expression, given she scents the evasion in advance. Her polite demeanor keeps its cool, and she delivers with a small smile, "Unfortunately, it will."

Nonetheless, she takes the steel teapot off the range on the stove, swings it to the sink and opens the tap to begin filling it. While Reeves settles on the couch, Asi sets the teapot back on the stove and flips the heat on. "SESA should be aware of my medical results and can pass those along to you," she informs with something nearing disinterest. "Physically, they're aware of the issues being faced, even if they, nor the involved medical professionals, have an answer what kind of infection our bodies seem to be fighting."

"Mentally?" Asi echoes back with a faint laugh. "Emotionally?"

She looks to Reeves plainly. "Agent Reeves, are you SLC-Expressive? Have you ever undergone the unfortunate experience of being negated?"

Reeves lifts her brows again, and says, a little cheekily, “Well, that was very candid of you.”

She watches as the Wolfhound sets about making the tea, her head tipping curiously. “Infection is an interesting word choice. What makes you think it’s an infection? Do you feel symptoms of an infection — fatigue, fever, achiness?”

The young woman holds up a finger, as if she realizes she’s getting ahead of herself, asking more questions before she’s answered the ones posed to her.

“Yes, I am in fact SLC-expressive. And yes, I have in fact been negated,” Reeves answers, tone matter-of-fact but not unkind. “My ability is not one that I use constantly, but it is one that I feel constantly, so I am aware of how the lack of something is very, very palpable. And I am truly sorry for what you are going through. We are trying to help, and I know this seems like an invasion of privacy, but it is necessary. I’m sure you understand that sometimes we have to do things we would rather not.”

Asi begins to arch an eyebrow after the agent holds up a finger to silence an immediate answer. But, at least she does so in the nature of courtesy, ultimately. She recovers with a deepening of her smile.

"Imagine, if you would, being negated. Numbed to those senses you find second nature." She takes a moment, tongue to cheek again as she resists extending that thought exercise out as long as she might like. "And imagine," she segues straight to the end with a hollow laugh, "That that feeling is not just permanent, but worse. That you have nothing left but a hole where the numb was. And when you reach for the echo of what once was, the loss is the strangest, deepest pain of the soul you could possibly imagine."

Her brow furrows as she looks down for just a moment, and when she looks back up again, the light in her eyes has changed. "Heightened white blood cell count typically indicates infection of some kind being fought, Agent Reeves. Even I know that. But despite that— no other symptoms. No signs in any other tests performed." Her expression becomes slightly pointed as she reiterates, "Tests that, should you actually be working with SESA, you should have access to."

Asi leans back against the counter by the stove, hands braced on the edge as she looks to Reeves expectantly.

“Fair point,” Reeves says, dipping her head in a small bow of concession. “I only found the word choice interesting, not inaccurate. Without other symptoms of infection, I’m not sure I would call it that, myself, but I am not the one we’re talking about. Connotations are interesting things, I find.”

She makes a few swipes of her stylus against the glass of her small tablet. “I do sympathize with you. That must be truly awful,” she says, tucking a strand of dark hair behind one ear while she writes a few notes, before looking up and studying Asi again.

“So I think that covers how you feel emotionally, and physically, I do understand that SESA has done their own tests, so we will skip any physical questions. You seem in good health, though I imagine not as good as before — trauma and the related emotions do impact so much of our health,” she says with a sympathetic shake of her head.

“Can you tell me, then, if you’ve noticed anything that simple negation, depression, and other related problems wouldn’t explain, even if it doesn’t seem related to your ability or any injuries from the crash? Things like an increased feeling of someone watching you, or perhaps deja vu, or any lost time that you couldn’t account for?”

There is, in fact, a sense of deja vu that arises from the last set of questions.

But all Asi says is, "That's a peculiar thing to ask."

“Perhaps,” Reeves says. “But it’s a peculiar set of circumstances, is it not? I’m simply trying to get a full and thorough understanding of the situation. I’m not here to make you unhappy or uncomfortable or angry, though I do sense that I’m doing so. I apologize for that.”

Reeves stands, tucking the tablet and pen into her pocket, and moves to the kitchenette to lean against the counter cattycorner to Asi’s chosen spot. “I’m not here to be your friend, but I’m not here as your enemy, either, Ms. Tetsuyama,” she says, her brown eyes seeking Asi’s, brows drawing together in a look of concern.

“I feel as if maybe you think I do know what happened, and am collecting data on you for that reason.” Her brows lift inquisitively. “I can assure you that is not the case. I’m quite flummoxed, really, and I know that’s also upsetting to hear, because I know if I were you, I would want answers more than anything else. And I simply do not have them to give you, and I’m sure that makes you hate the very sight of my face even more.”

The brunette heaves a sigh, crossing her arms as she considers her terse interviewee. “Yea or nay to deja vu? What about songs in your head that you haven’t heard recently, or seeing something you could have sworn was spelled one way spelled a different way — small things like that.”

The moment the teapot begins to sing with steam, Asi snaps the heat off, pulling a set of mugs closer and pouring hot water over teabags within them. It lets her not look directly at Reeves while she lays out her situation, listening to her words and the tone of them rather than any adorned expression. She pulls the milk from the fridge, shutting it it closed with a rattle of beer bottles lined in the fridge door.

"No, I'm not experiencing Berenstain syndrome," she answers swiftly on the heels of that particular question. "And if I'm at all uncooperative, I can assure you it comes from the return opportunity to not get a full understanding of why these questions are being asked, and who it is that's asking them. Even CIA agents tend to offer the courtesy of identifying themselves and the context of their agency." Setting the gallon of milk on the counter between them, Asi takes a step back.

Her brow furrows for a moment before she goes on to point out, "Some of your questions are suspicious, some of them are innocuous— but that last one, though…" Asi shakes her head as much as sets it at a cant while she studies Reeves. "That one is curious indeed."

Deadpan, she wonders, "Are you asking, Agent Reeves, if I have reason to believe I'm out of place in this reality?"

“There are quite a lot of theories as to the Berenstain Syndrome, as you call it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that,” Reeves retorts, with a shrug. “I’m not asking if you believe that. I’m asking if you experienced it.”

She reaches into her inner pocket to retrieve a badge wallet, letting it fall open to reveal the identification within. “Department of the Exterior,” she supplies. The logo for the DOE is prominent. Her photo reveals the same woman in a mustard-yellow sweater rather than the black suit she wears today.

“I apologize for seeming a bit dodgy but the name is offputting to some, so I don’t like to use it, but not using it is a little troublesome because, well, then I look dodgy. Catch-22, you see,” she continues conversationally. “I’ll mark that down as a no then, to strange spellings, shall I?”

At first blush, the producing of identification does raise more questions than it answers. What, after all, would the DOE want with this case? But Reeves gave an answer, and for that, some of Asi's hostility does ease back. She makes a note to look up the agency better later.

"That's correct," she replies more mildly in the now. "No strange spellings. And the only sense of deja vu I can confess to having is you are not the only one who has asked me recently if I am 'missing' any time. I can report that the answer is not really. If I've been drinking heavily I may nod off without meaning to, but that's more of an expected condition than a surprise one."

With that, she gives Reeves a pursed-lip hint of a smile before looking down to her tea. Asi picks up the bag by the string, dunking it again to ensure the tea's mixing fully with the water.

"It's been difficult since the event, to tell you the truth. Between the lack of answers about the increased electromagnetic energy coming off of us and the heightened white blood cell count, I get the feeling something must be wrong, physically. Yet, nothing. No signs of it. No lethargy, no fever." Mouth pulling back in the beginnings of a frown, Asi cuts it away by wringing the hot teabag by hand, tossing the remains of it in the sink for now. "Learning to live without my ability has been… harder than I thought it would be. I still reach for it by habit."

"The first few weeks, I had headaches," the former technopath admits. "Strain— from a muscle that's not even there to pull anymore. Didn't keep me from trying."

Reaching for the cup of tea, Reeves follows suit, adding the splash of milk and lifting it to blow a breath across the surface of it before taking a small sip, brown eyes peering over the rim as she listens.

She sets the mug back down on the counter, one hand wrapped around it still as if to absorb its warmth. “I will concur that it’s strange, and I do quite empathize,” she says, mouth pursing crookedly to one side in a look that’s a mix of confusion and sympathy.

“Was it another agent or a friend who asked about missing time? I suppose there are other possibilities — family member, coworker. Possibly a member of SESA, given they are investigating the incident, of course. Out of curiosity of course. If you’d rather not say,” her mouth tips back up into a very small, proper British smile, “I will not be offended.”

Asi sips from her mug first with the tea left black, appreciating it for what it is, as it is, for just a moment. She lets her attention focus on that, rather than any potential distress about discussing her loss or the discomforts associated with it. "Someone concerned that perhaps this was not the first time myself, or any of us, were taken. That this was just the first time they were caught, and perhaps any previous missing time would… point to when it might have happened again."

Looking up, she admits, "For what it's worth, I don't believe that theory. The theory that most concerns me is that Mazdak is not yet done farming abilities, for some unknown purpose." Eyes half-lidding as she pulls the jug of milk closer to herself, Asi supposes more quietly, "But that doesn't explain what happened to Nicole Miller, does it?"

Lifting the mug, Reeves takes another sip as she listens to Asi’s answer, nodding thoughtfully. “An interesting theory,” she replies, but her expression turns to a frown at the mention of Mazdak.

“No,” she says briskly at the mention of Nicole, her expression grim and apologetic. “It certainly doesn’t. Unfortunately, theorizing in these interviews isn’t quite in my job description, though I’m happy to listen to yours.” Reeves smiles, setting the mug down again.

“So to recapitulate, nothing out of the ordinary besides what’s already documented, except for some added stress that can be chalked up to the frustrations and fears that come with such an occurrence. Would you say that’s an accurate summary, Ms. Tetsuyama?” she asks, lifting her brows. “Have you begun or restarted any activities as a form of coping with the added stress?”

After mixing her drink, Asi leaves the jug of milk aside on the counter in favor of the conversation. While it's unspoken whether the former technopath trusts that agent any, she's at least a better conversation partner now. When Reeves points out swapping theories isn't a desired outcome of his meeting, Asi can only shrug in reply. "To be honest? I would rather hear any theory you might have rather than continued silence from every involved institution. From where I am sitting, the investigation looks to be stalled. Which…" Her look settles before she offers up mildly, "Well, that is a worse look yet."

She sips from her drink, leaning her hip against the counter as she lowers the mug back to rest on a saucer made by cupping her other hand around the bottom of it. To the request for confirmation, she nods her head once as an answer. "You mean apart from drinking?" Asi asks with a hint of mirth. "I'm also smoking far more than usual. Beyond that?" Appearing to give it some thought, her mouth firms in a line and her eyes cringe in a subtle grimace. "Nothing worth mentioning."

In that moment, she seems keenly aware of her own social bristles, and just as keen on not delving into them.

To avoid it, she finds herself looking back up to Reeves. "What will you do with this information, exactly?"

Holding the mug in her hands, Reeves has at least the grace to look apologetic for not sharing the theories, and that expression shifts into sympathy when Asi mentions drinking and smoking more. “Understandable,” she says lightly.

The question is taken in slowly with another sip of tea, before Reeves rests the mug back on the counter. “The purpose of this visit is to check on your well being. That part isn’t a lie,” she says. “And of course there are theories. I’m sure you can come up with most of the theories on your own without me telling them to you, given your connections and intelligence. Some of the information we take in might help determine which of those theories are rubbish and which are more likely.”

Her brown eyes sparkle just a little. “Some of them are proper rubbish.”

Asi lets out a faint noise of amusement, even if she doesn't show any other signs of finding this humorous.

"My wellbeing will be restored once this mystery is resolved," she says not unkindly, not with the sharpness she might have at the beginning of the conversation. "And if we are lucky, with my ability restored to me." Her gaze holds for a moment yet before she takes another sip of her own tea before letting her arms relax while crackling the mug between both hands. "But if there are other specific questions you had that you must ask…"

Well, here's the chance.

“I do hope that is the case for you,” Reeves says, pulling out of her lean and picking up the mug to empty and rinse.

“I think you’ve answered everything I have for now, if in a roundabout sort of way. Some of the assessment is about observation,” she says, turning the water on and letting it fill the mug, emptying it, and refilling it again to repeat the process. “Just seeing how you are goes a long way.”

She sets the empty mug in the sink. “I’ll send you some good darjeeling. Loose leaf. Can’t beat it,” she says with a smile, offering her hand. “Thank you for your candor.”

Setting aside her own drink, Asi considers, a bit discomforted, that the flow of conversation gave the agent what she was looking for anyway. Usually she did better at being opaque.

But usually, she was feeling more herself. And she'd not felt that way in some time now; not since her ability was ripped from her.

"I'll look forward to that. Getting good anything in the Safe Zone can be a bit of a challenge." She reaches out to accept the agent's hand with a nod. "The way out is the way you came in, Agent Reeves. I'll leave you to it."

As for what she'll be doing, she picks up her tea again as an indication of it. Asi pulls her phone from the back pocket of her slacks with her other hand, thumbing it open to scroll.

“I think I can manage,” Reeves says with a smile. “It was a pleasure meeting you. Wish it could have been under better circumstances.”

She turns to find her way out of the kitchen and back to the lobby. She opens the door and steps out of the Bastion toward the afternoon sunlight on the other side of the door…

…and into a London tea shop, just in time for their afternoon tea service. Reeves gives the shelves full of loose leaf tea a glance, her gaze alighting on the bags she’ll buy for herself, Emmie, and, as promised, Asi.

But for now she smiles thinking of the devonshire cream and raspberry preserves atop of a proper scone she’ll enjoy as she heads to the tea room.

Back in New York, Asi lowers her mug and looks down at her phone, at how the camera system lost track of Reeves' presence. She had been in the lobby, opened the door to the light of day, and then…

"What in the world?" she murmurs, setting aside her mug to re-examine the systems. She'd been hoping to see which direction the enigmatic agent went off in, but the camera out front didn't even show the front door opening at all despite what she'd seen from the inside of the lobby.

Just another small mystery to add to the overflowing basket of them.

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