Catalysis, Part IX


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title Catalysis, Part IX
Synopsis The worst is yet to come.
Date January 15, 2021

There’s a scent of smoke in the air, even indoors.

Partly-open blinds show the skyline of Phoenix Heights where even when the sun is out the world is cast in a hazy shade of deep gray or rust brown, depending on the time of day. Smoke from the Ohio River Fire blankets the streets and the ventilator mask hanging by the door is a must-have for any safe external excursion.

Nursing a headache, Asi Tetsuyama is under no illusions about going outside today. Not when so many other plane crash survivors— the Sundered— suffered spontaneous strokes. Even something as simple as a headache could well be a precursor to something more severe. Her phone sits idle in front of her on the coffee table across from her seat on the sofa, laptop open nearby with multiple tabs of disparate research open. She is reduced to navigating the internet like a plebian.

In the dim light of her bolt-hole, there is little to do save for hope the headache doesn’t become something more severe. But what could be more unwelcomed in a moment like this than a knock at the door.

Asi’s Safehouse
Phoenix Heights

January 15th
4:04 pm

The one thing she has going for her in the loss of her ability is that halfway round the world, there's another technopath who's just as concerned about her, just as willing to help. In the three years she's been working with maj1ko, she's never had to rely on him before the way she has recently.

Truth be told, she's not certain she'd have completed her trawl of the dark web to find the information Kaylee wanted without his help.

That's over two months ago now, though, and it feels like they've made such little progress since then. Color has been painted in, maybe, on the pieces they'd uncovered thus far, but…

Asi is in the middle of grinding the heel of her palm against the side of her head when she hears the knock on her door. It falls as she turns slowly, eyes squinting. She keys a simple brb into the chat window she has open with her protége, locks the computer, and quietly comes to her feet. She nears the door with as light a step as she can, peering through the eyehole rather than asking who it is.

Hopefully it's not the landlord on inspection. She somehow figures he'd disapprove of the number of empty bottles in her living room and kitchen.

It’s not the landlord.

Kay waits outside the apartment, pacing around anxiously, wearing her hair up under a dark ballcap, mouth covered by a scarf doubling as protection against the smoke outside. She knocks again, impatiently. “Are you home?

It takes the voice for Asi to be sure. Her expression changes instantly from suspicion to confusion, but she lowers back down from her tiptoes. "へえ," she calls through the door, sliding back the chain and unbolting the lock. She slides back on her bare feet as she pulls the door open.

"どうしたんの1?" she queries right away, her voice sharp with the irritation her headache affords her. One eye remains squinted slightly despite best efforts to present a good face.

“Information,” Kay says with certainty, wasting no time stepping into the apartment, “about your situation.” She flicks a look over to Asi, then around the apartment with a brief furrow of her brows.

“I need to pick your brain about the nanotech situation,” Kay says quietly, slipping her hat off and letting her hair fall down to her shoulders. “The data leak from Kansas City raised a lot of eyebrows internally at Yamagato, but nobody seems to know where the tech came from. I’ve done some digging,” she says while striding deeper into the apartment, only to circle back again, “and I think they might be ours.”

Door locked and chained again behind her, Asi begins moving back to the couch as soon as the request for information is made. Her sink back down to the couch is a heavy one, her discomfort borne through as though it weren't a thing. Her brow furrows anyway when she unlocks her screen, beginning to pull up the notes she's compiled based on the research shared with her.

Her head snaps up, the activity abandoned halfway when Kay completes her thought. Why she didn't call or text ahead suddenly makes itself evident. "The working theory was that if InVerse's tech was still subpar compared to what was in our blood… That Weiss was the next target to investigate. The company that was swept out from under you, as I recall…"

After a pause where she's sure to take care with her words, Asi asks, "You're saying Yamagato itself has tech like this? Separate from what that company may have been working on?"

“I’m saying it was stolen from us,” Kay asserts with a tension in her voice. “My department still has access to a significant amount of information from the Renautas corporation prior to the hostile takeover by Weiss. I had Jiba do some digging for me and came up with some unusual data,” she says succinctly, still pacing the floor.

“According to what Jiba found, Renautas was working on theoretical nanotechnology similar to what was in that leak as far back as 2017. However it never made production. The materials required to actually manufacture something like that, let alone the programming challenges, were seen as insurmountable.” That’s when Kay stops and turns to Asi.

“That said, Renautas suffered a security breach in 2019 that appears to have been swept under the rug, likely to avoid a hammer coming down on them from Nakamura.” Kay makes a few motions with her hands, indicating the sequence of events. “It wasn’t a technological intrusion, but a meat-space one. An employee of Renautas named Brandon Patenaude — an IT guy — downloaded a trove of Renautas research before leaving his position without notice.”

Kay paces back and forth still, one hand coming up to the side of her head as she does. “Patenaude vanished without a trace. No forwarding address, no booked travel. He up and abandoned his apartment in Toronto. No contact with family. Just gone.” Kay looks back to Asi, one brow raised. “I’m suspecting whoever got their hands on the data from Patenaude made the nanotech.”

Unlike most situations these days when Asi is bombarded with information like this, she has a keyboard underhand, and she makes use of it. There's a lot of— a lot to listen to, a lot to note. The things she notes includes Kay's cadence, her emotional state about all of this.

"Have you talked about any of this with Nakamura?" she asks, though she suspects she knows the answer. "She may have additional insight she can shed here."

With a small tsk, Asi looks back down to her screen, her typing breaking. A few seconds of scrolling later, she taps her mousepad with some finality. "I just texted you a link to an article containing some early Q1 Renautas-Weiss reports. I've not read it yet, but I invite you to skim it for hints of this nanotech being made public…" Distractedly, she goes back to typing. "Now would be the time to strike with such an announcement, would it not? While all the world is still abuzz with wonder."

She waits to hear that ping from Kay's phone, something to help settle the niggling feeling in the back of her mind.

"Or are you saying there's someone else out there theoretically with the resources to complete the insurmountable?" Asi frowns with the question. "Do you have a direction to point me in, someone you suspect?"

Kay’s phone buzzes in her pocket. She pulls it out and unlocks it with her fingerprint, then swipes away the notification from Asi’s text. Dark eyes flick back to the once-technopath, angling her head to the side. “Nakamura’s been unreachable,” she says with a hint of disdain in her voice.

“I’m hoping you might be able to piece the connections together for me, actually. Jiba’s going to run entirely off of data on hand, he’s smart but he’s just a virtual intelligence, there’s no creativity there. I need a human mind.” Kay takes a step over to Asi, then sits down on the arm of the couch. “I was figuring if there was anyone with the contacts necessary to put together something out of this… mostly nothing I dug up, it’d be you.”

There’s a hint of admiration in Kay’s eyes. A crinkle of her brow, a ghost of a smile. “I feel like I’m on the cusp of something here. My gut jumped to Weiss, but I don’t have anything to back that up. Barring you sending me a silver bullet in that text,” she admits with a crooked smile.

Whatever it is Asi can't put her finger on eases some with seeing Kay go through the motions of proving her to be herself. She manages a faint smile in return to Kay's, one silently tinged with apology. Paranoia wasn't a great look on her, but it's one that keeps her safe.

"I mean, no harm in hoping for the best, right?" When she looks back to the laptop screen, even that amount of light bothers her head, a discomfort she fights against with a tightening of her expression and lifting her hand to grind the knuckle of her thumb against her temple. She sighs, self-conscious of the darkness of her apartment as much as the show of pain.

"This fucking smoke, Kay," Asi excuses herself. Because it was just the smoke. She hopes.

"I can see if I can find any other ex-employees who might be able to talk… try to connect with Patenaude's family as a sympathetic voice, express concern that someone might be after him. See if they hadn't heard from him." She keys a short reply into the chat window and sets aside her laptop entirely, just for now. The reply of Migraine to being asked if she's all right is unfortunately all she's got for the other technopath right now. But maybe what she and Kay are discussing might prove to be the interesting project he's hoping for. She muses while she settles back into the couch, "If push comes to shove, could work with Raytech to craft a legitimate reason to request a demo of services from Weiss… or go the exact opposite direction, get a hand pinning down their email servers, and see how many credentials I could skim with a phishing campaign."

"We've got options, I think," the former technopath confirms wearily.

“We do,” Kay suggests, continuing her pacing. “We could have everything if Jiba was able to get outside of Yamagato’s intranet. Just smash through the whole goddamn Weiss network to find out what the fuck is going on.” Kay spreads her hands. “But that isn’t possible. The genie is in the bottle.”

Running a hand through her hair, Kay looks over to Asi. “The family angle might be worthwhile. They may not have wanted to talk to Renautas reps. The other alternative is to see if we can get our hands on an Expressive with an ability to find out precisely where he is right now. But that might be hoping for too much.”

“There’s also the possi—” Kay cuts herself off and stares at Asi. “Hey are… you feeling okay?” She asks, then swipes her fingers at her upper lip and points to Asi. “You’re bleeding.”

She's also not really heard anything Kay's said in the last few moments. But the movement, the stare, that gathers her attention. Asi raises an eyebrow and dabs below her nose with her fingertips. When they come away with red stains, she blinks heavily.

Time seems to slow in the moment her stomach sinks. At once, she can't help but jump to the worst possible conclusion. The resignation she has toward it feels nothing like peace or acceptance.

"Call an ambulance," Asi requests numbly. She turns back to her laptop, bloodied fingers smearing the L key as she locks her machine again, closing it and shoving it hidden into the couch cushions to get it out of her way. To make sure no one can easily grab it while she's gone as much as keep her from damaging it if she falls shortly.

For nosebleeds, you're supposed to elevate your head; apply pressure. But she can't help but prepare for the worst— the possibility she might seize.

“An ambulance?” Kay’s eyes widen, dawning realization hits her like a truck. “Fuck, fuck.” As she reaches for her phone and steps aside, there’s someone standing behind her silhouette. Asi’s head swims as she sees a child in the apartment, one that Kay seems wholly unaware of as she unlocks her phone.

It’s a little girl, maybe eleven or twelve years old — on the precipice of becoming a teenager. Japanese, disaffected, dressed in a carnation red hoodie and dark jeans, black headphones over her ears. She stares at Asi with purposeful intention, eyes narrowed.

"Intrigue isn't something I intend to create or be anywhere near, Ms. Nisatta. I've spent a good deal of my career avoiding all that."

Asi hears her own voice as if outside of her own body. Her head throbs, stomach turns, fingers tremble and her right leg starts to jitter.

"I should get back to my friends. But it was amazing to meet your daughter."

Blood drops in spattering blotches on the floor.

"Stay rad, Asuko."

Kaydence is on the phone, but the tinnitus whining in Asi’s ears makes it hard to hear what’s being said. The young girl with the headphones in the red hoodie stares at Asi, unblinking.

The words that flood Asi's ears are familiar in ways they shouldn't be. They're hers, until they're not. In the rapidly overwhelming situation she's coming up against, the appearance of the girl means so many things to her. She sags down onto one elbow as she begins to shake, but instead of lying back for her own safety, all she can do is return that look on the girl.

Asuko? Or maybe—

"助けて2," she breathes out, pained and longing. Her eyes flicker shut but she forces them back open. "出来ないなら, 逃げて.3" If the girl somehow is a manifestation of the piece of herself she's been missing, she aches to think what could happen to her as the result of a stroke.

"危ないよ." It's dangerous here.

“No, she’s— fucking bleeding and on the floor!” Asi hears Kay say. In her peripheral vision she can see Kay turn, looking down at Asi with wide eyes and a hand over her mouth like she’s watching a stranger collapse on the sidewalk. “No I don’t fucking know what’sAsi continues to stand next to Luther, a vaguely concerned expression on her face though she’s not certain how to reach out or bring him back to the moment. A lifetime ago, she worked on prosthetics meant mostly for war veterans, but it’s not an experience she’s lived herself. The reverie isn’t something she’s equipped to approach or handle, and she’s not even aware of that until Monica returns and offers her words of comfortsomething here ASAP.”

Asi’s mind reels, her limbs fail and she collapses down on her side, beginning to feel the involuntary convulsions in her extremities as muscles in her abdomen and back begin to tense. A blind spot begins to form over where the girl is standing, a swirling blue-black void followed by an icepick stabbing sensation behind Asi’s right eye.

“She’s seizing, I don’t"Mutual friend," Asi can't help but echo back with a casual dryness to it. She pauses by the streetside once she clears the alley, checking for traffic by habit before she proceeds with jaywalking across the street anyway. She slides her free hand into her pocket, letting it go flush with her phone while she warms her hand. "Are you talking about the one who framed me for murder or the one that smuggled me out of Japan?"

The search on her phone pulls back a name steeped in history—Mesopotamian history— which feels like an answer of itself. But she feels better having madeello, yes. Yes I need a medical evac in Phoenix Heights. No, it’s not for me. Tetsuyama, Asi. I know she’s not a fucking Yamagato employee for Christ’s sake!

“Just send an evTibby grabs her phone and looks down at the message keenly. There's nothing more to say but there is so much in that one word. This is what she came for though and so with a steady hand she downs the last of her beer andyou hear me?”

Kay is leaning over Asi, one hand on her side, staring down at her.

“It’s going to be okay.”

She can't feel the hand on her shoulder, but Asi tries so hard to hold onto consciousness— to sight. Fear takes hold when she can see nothing but Kay, and her eyes turn with such force they take her head with it, helping her see what was beginning to be blocked by the agonizing, sense-claiming pain in her head.

The girl in red is still there. Staring.

No relief comes from seeing her there, and a new, fresh wave of agony brings Asi to cry out, tearful eyes squinting shut while blood streams down the side of her face.

It’s not going to be okay.

It’s not g

Some Time Later

Medical Ward
Yamagato Industries Building

It all feels like a terrible dream.

The sterile and white backdrop of a Yamagato Industries medical facility greets Asi as she awakens from what feels like a living nightmare. The world lacks depth and perspective, the dim lighting feels sedate. She can see the neon-lit nighttime cityscape of Yamagato Park out a window to her left. The passage of time feels like an instant, and yet with day turning to dark also forever.

Asi can’t see much out of her right side. It becomes clear when she reflexively tries to blink that she can’t see at all out of her right eye.

It wasn’t a dream.

She feels her heart begin to race, but takes in a deep breath to begin to help it calm. The next time she blinks, she tells herself she panics less. In some way, maybe she doesn't. Instead, she's overcome by a sense of grief.

Losing her ability had felt like the loss of one type of sight, and now…

The color on the skyline blurs as tears come unbidden. Asi tries to lift her right arm out of habit to cover her mouth and stifle her crying, and the lack of response in it only brings her to sob more openly.

A sudden gasp comes from her as she remembers to breathe in again, and with pain, she tries hard to come back to the moment. With her left hand, she blindly begins pawing the side of the bed. For the bar to try and pull herself up, for the call button to have someone to talk to, whatever she gets to first. Her lips begin to move in silence in an attempt to coax herself through the process. It's the call button she finds first and easiest in the end.

There’s a few moments where no one responds, and it feels like an eternity. Asi’s heart flutters in her chest, a pang of isolation and emptiness. But then when the door slides open, a familiar face comes with a wave of relief.


Hachiro Otomo isn’t the first person Asi expected to see when she hit that call button. He strides into the room with the soft whirr of his prosthetic legs, moving swiftly to her bedside to take her hand. He doesn’t say anything right away, but the worry painted on his face is palpable.

Behind Otomo, a nurse comes in and looks over at Asi. “Are you alright? I’ll go get Doctor Mori otherwise,” he says with a hint of awkwardness. Hachiro looks back at the nurse, then Asi in silence while holding her hand.

Once, it had been Hachiro bound in a bed, Asi helping to guide him back from a lonely state into the world beyond. That it's him that appears now brings her to grit her teeth and fight additional tears, her left hand grasping onto his tightly.

His presence helps solidify knowledge of where she is. And when she looks past him to the nurse, all she can do is shake her head. "Get them," she rasps out.

She needs answers. Maybe they've been given to her already, maybe even multiple times, but she doesn't remember them. Her eyes lift to Hachiro in a silent plea for him not to go.

The nurse quickly slips out of the room leaving Hachiro with Asi. “Marlowe was in here for quite a while, I’d just convinced her to go get dinner. You know how she is. You gave us all quite the scare.” He squeezes Asi’s hand again, reaffirming his presence to her.

“You’ve been out for a few hours. Yamagato Medical picked you up wherever you were at. You’re lucky Kay was there with you.” Hachiro looks down at Asi’s hand, then back up to her. “I don’t know all that’s going on, Kay told me a little. But we’re all here for you. You might not be Yamagato, but you might as well be family to Marlowe and I.”

There’s something else, though. Something Hachiro isn’t saying. The look in his eyes is a tell. He knows something.

Asi swallows hard, reassessing her grip on his hand. Her mouth presses into a thin line. Try as she might, the words won't come in the language of the land. "死んだと思った4."

It's a heavy admission, and she fishes for his gaze after making it. "«What happened?»" she asks, her voice even rather than imploring as she holds onto his hand, hoping that will help encourage him to tell her the truth. If her heart didn't stop, she worries something near enough to it happened.

“«You had a seizure,»” Hachiro says gently, adding another hand atop the first. “«Kay called for a medivac, I don’t know the specifics of your condition. But…»” Closing his eyes, Hachiro battle an inner demon. Doubt. When his eyes open, there is apology in them.

“«Isa and Shaw did as well. They’re both here too.»” Hachiro’s words run cold like icewater through Asi’s veins. But what comes next is the coldest. “«Kimiko did as well. We don’t know how many more.»”


Asi's eyes lose focus with that murmur, her grip around Hachiro's hand slackening some. Her mouth hardens into a line after, head leaning harder back against the pillow. "«I can't see, Hachiro. My right side… it's numb.»"

"«I-I don't…»"

She swallows hard abruptly, eyes closing. A deep breath is taken in to manage the helplessness, the dread. Abruptly, a thought from before surfaces. Something that stayed with her stubbornly even when everything else became a blur. "ね," Asi wonders faintly. "«Can I ask you something?»"

Hachiro’s brow furrows and he looks at Asi with visible emotion in his eyes. Gently brushing a thumb across the back of her hand that she can only barely feel, Hachiro nods in simple wordless assent. He will listen to anything she has to say right now. It’s the only thing he can do.

"«Do you remember…?»" is the last thing she says in any kind of expected territory. "«Do you remember when Nisatta was still here? Do you recall if she had a daughter?»"

Asi's brow furrows strongly too, even with her eyes closed. She tries to bring forward the memory of the red-shrouded child. "«Was she named Asuko?»"

“I… didn’t know her well,” Hachiro says quietly, brows furrowed with concern. “I don’t think anyone did. But she never mentioned children, or a family. If she did they’d be back in Japan, with—”

The door to the room opens and in steps Doctor Mori. He’s a little younger than Asi, hair looking disheveled and glasses partly hiding the dark circles of fatigue around his eyes. Hachiro looks over his shoulder at the doctor, then back to Asi.

“Miss Tetsuyama?” Doctor Mori says with a faint smile. “Mr. Otomo,” he adds with a nod, and Asi can already feel Hachiro’s hand slipping from hers. “We should go over your status.” Dr. Mori says with a concerned look to Asi.

Asi grabs hold of Hachiro's hand once more, head turning to him. "With who?" she asks urgently, hoping to catch him before he slips away.

The doctor might be here to discuss what happened to her, but in a way, because of what happened in November, she already knows what to expect, even if it's a more severe instance of it. This information, though— this glimpse of a girl she shouldn't know

She refuses to believe it's nothing. She refuses to let go of that thread.

Hachiro lingers long enough to unknowingly break Asi’s hope. “If Kam had a daughter, she’d be with her, in Japan.” He says matter-of-factly. Because Hachiro never learned the horrible truth. Because Hachiro never learned that Kam Nisatta was summarily executed in this building.

As Hachiro lets his hand slip from Asi’s with an emotional smile of apology, Asi feels more alone than she ever has before. That thread snaps.

And she is left with nothing.


Executive Office
Yamagato Building

Kimiko Nakamura's office is dark, save for the lambent glow of neon lights flooding in from the wall of glass on one side of the room. Back to the window, a lone man sits at Kimiko's desk, hunched over a faintly glowing screen displaying a photograph of Kaydence Lee Damaris from her recruitment file. Head in his hand, Eizen Erizawa looks at the image, then double-taps a small symbol on the desk, bringing up Jiba's holographic display. "Status?" Eizen asks quietly.

Jiba's image rotates for a moment, showing that he's thinking. When it locks back into place again it comes with the synthesized chirp of the AI's voice. {Ms. Damaris placed a phone call on her company phone to an unknown number prior to contacting Yamagato Medical.}

Eizen nods slowly, massaging the bridge of his nose with forefinger and thumb. "Trace?"

{The number is associated with a mobile device currently geolocated in the city of Toronto, Ontario in Canada.} Jiba replies smoothly. {There is a correlation on the data indicating a geographical overlay with the Toronto Headquarters of Renautas Incorporated.}

Jiba's response elicits a deep sigh from Eizen, who closes Kay's personnel file. "Has she placed any calls since?"

{None, Sir.}


{Ms. Damaris is currently located in her Cresting Wave apartment. Shall I detain her?}

Eizen closes his eyes, steepling his hands in front of his mouth. With a slow shake of his head he says, "No." Then rises from the desk. "I need to talk to Kimiko. Continue observing her activities. Notify me immediately if she leaves your area of influence."

{Affirmative, Sir.}

Sliding his tongue across the inside of his teeth, Eizen looks out to the neon-lit city, his face awash in shades of blue and violet.

But, slowly, he smiles.

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