asi2_icon.gif delilah_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif wright_icon.gif

Scene Title Cooldown
Synopsis After a stressful memory dive, those most closely involved in the experiment retreat to a quieter place to cool down and reflect on what was learned. At the end, Elliot trolls Asi with his choice in music.
Date January 29, 2021

Raytech Industries Campus

Asi's probably just not going home tonight, given the drugs in her system. At least Raytech has a campus with residences, including temporary ones generally used by those visiting from the Detroit office. There's likely not a safer place to ride out this high.

Sitting slumped forward onto tented knees on the couch in the standard-decorated apartment, the former technopath has her arms wrapped around her shins and a pillow shoved between her and her thighs. Her eyes flicker open and closed. She's calming, gradually, from what she's seen. Leaving the lab seemed to help a lot in that regard.

"Miller, do you really believe that we are who we're supposed to be?" she wonders faintly, belatedly, all while staring at a perfectly smooth concrete wall she swears is undulating in waves. Just like she has trouble wrapping her mind around the truth of the wall's flatness, so too does she struggle with the thought the plane crash victims aren't elaborate replications of themselves somehow.

The bottle of water Delilah gave her previously is both very close and so far away from where she's curled up sideways on the couch. She reminds herself to sip from it again, a little failingly given she doesn't actually move.

"If we have… 'millions' of dollars of cybernetics in our head and body modifying our genetics, how are we at all still ourselves?" Chances are she should pick a topic less likely to make her spiral, but it's what's on her mind.

Dr. Miller may be a doctor, but Delilah's the one that seems to have manifested herself as caretaker. A phone call or two makes sure that she's able to stay with Asi without worrying about her son or her job on campus. The empty rooms on campus are familiar ones, and it took Lilah about five minutes to make them right at home. Setting Asi down on the sofa with a pillow and blanket, rifling around in the kitchenette, making a couple of in-house calls with phone against shoulder and hands busy while she watches over Asi and Miller in the living room.

"…I'm making executive decisions on what I'm feeding you." Asi's existentialism earns a more mundane reply, though not out of ire. It's a gentle disruption to the thought processes that lead back down the warren.

"There's more to you than meat, you know…" Dee hangs up her call and returns to Asi's side, a tight smile dimpling her features. She plunks a straw into the bottle of water, sitting down at the other end of the couch and placing a hand over the other woman's ankle.

Miller takes a while to respond, given that he's been milling about.

He's been restless, currently disappeared just around the corner and into the adjacent, humble kitchen from which his sigh can be heard just over the rummaging around for a spoon.

"It's not complicated," he argues curtly from just out of sight, pulling open a drawer with the telltale tiny clinks of stainless steel. Success! He emerges a moment later, leaning a shoulder against the doorway to the living room, holding a Raytech branded cup of coffee. He stirs it while his eye finds Delilah, first, then settles on Asi.

"It's like the ship of Theseus, isn't it?" He asks, casually, in spite of the tight grip on his coffee. "A ship preserved. Its parts replaced, bit by bit, plank and oar and sail and insides and all, slowly, over a century. It still serves the same function, is perceived to be the same thing. So is its identity any different? I would argue no."

His stirring stops, attention drifting off to the side, words slowing with thought. "Granted, our process was… slightly less gradual."

Wright nestles into the couch next to Asi, drawing her legs up under her. She doesn’t really know where to begin with what’s happened to Asi and Miller, but that’s never prevented her from volunteering wild conjecture. “The impression I got from the memory was that cybernetic augmentations were added to your body, not that parts were removed. Is it possible that the tech is actively suppressing your abilities? Maybe spoofing different forms of analysis like your brainwaves?”

Elliot pings for Asi’s attention from in front of a vending machine full of assorted snack-sized junk food. His report to Dana complete, he’s been moving without rush toward the babysitting gathering. It’s cold where he is, though he’s warm in his hoodie and jacket. “What do you want for junk food?” he asks. “In case Delilah’s executive decision about what to feed you is vegetables.” He asks quietly, as though his aside may somehow disrupt the greater conversation.

"Spoofing our blood? Our responses on genetic tests?" Asi sounds helpless in response to Wright's comment, owing to still feeling that way. Helpless to change her own stars, presently, and helpless to change Colin's. The walls are moving, and she's helpless to do anything about that, either. She swallows hard, thirsty and becoming more aware of it.

The dry-of-mouth sensation comes from the thought that they're still somehow themselves in spite of an entirely different body. "Different cultures believe the soul resides in different places. Different parts of the body. If the entire body is replaced…" she counters to Zachery and Delilah, but even then her argument sounds weak to herself. She begins to frown, her eyes roaming back and forth across the selection that Elliot's in the process of showing her. "I thought for some time we were surely copies. That even if we are ourselves, that whatever we're in now is— is something false."

"How do you explain Nicole's loss? Everything else about us may be the same, but on what earth does she have no signs of her pregnancy unless we are not our physical selves? And what happened to our real bodies?" Only then does she reach for the water she's been offered, delicately, daintily. "Thank you," she murmurs, trying to shake off embarrassment at needing minded.

"Would anyone else want a Reese's?" Asi asks abruptly, unable to think of any other way to signal her selection and also show politeness to the others.

"I'm going to be the wet blanket just a little bit and say hold off on the junk." Listening and watching takes little energy, so Delilah seems more able to sass in exchange. She laughs partly to Wright as much as Asi, Zachery's presence seemingly a neutral one. "I ordered some real food. I promise that will blow your mind a little bit more, if you're still in the clouds."

"Isn't there a rule of nature that your cells are replaced over time anyway? So you're never really the same, are you? On a cellular level. Or something." Ms. Trafford is not a scientist, just the one with the pen. "And that whole. Made of stardust. Thing. Souls are funny. I've— met a few untethered ones." Her commentary slips into something a touch more sober at the last.

"You know, the whole… astral, psychic stuff. MK Ultra shit, except now it's real?"

Regarding Wright with a half-lidded stare, Zachery offers an equally helpless, single-shouldered shrug. Asi's mention of Nicole dulls his gaze, before he lowers his attention down to the coffee he's holding.

"I don't… particularly care to talk about souls," he interjects at a low volume, but with clipped words. "But if the tech was merely suppressing our abilities, it's highly doubtful we wouldn't still have retained genetic expressivity. This was never precisely my field, though."

He cracks a grin, which widens in staggered steps as it fails to be fought back, the confidence in his voice growing. "But even if I knew more, what, at this point, are the chances of us knowing what's going on, really? The first one of us is dead already and the steps we're taking to solving the puzzle at large are miniscule." He looks back into the room again, from face to face. "There are people in this world who can heal that which shouldn't possibly be recovered, people who can reverse the effects of time itself. Even if only locally, focused on the state of one specific individual, that alone could explain—…"

Suddenly, he goes still. His grin stays, an absent thing, gaze slipping halfway toward the door out.

Wright gives Zachery an alarmed look at the mention of one of them having died. Perhaps not the best moment to mention that considering the unpredictability of the drugs Asi is still on. But his theory is interesting. “During Eve Mas’s ill-begotten festival last year somebody used an ability that did something similar. A green barrier surrounded the area,” she says, unable to hold back a shudder at the reminder of how unpleasant it was, “And then injuries and damage which occurred after the barrier went up where undone when the barrier went back down.”

She follows his eyes to the doorway, wondering what distracted him. She checks on Elliot just in case, but he’s a ways off yet.

The reminder that one the victims' number has already died from their injuries sombers Asi again, shifting her weight from one him and to the other. The water is held, not drank. "Nakamura is dead, and what Yeh sacrificed may not even be shared with her as a result. Her replacement is a cipher to me— and knowing how tightly Nakamura liked to play her cards to her chest— who knows if Yamagato will even remotely understand the importance of the release of those records to us." She lifts her hand to rub over the side of her face.

"Between Otomo and Erizawa," names she's not even sure anyone else here will recognize, but Elliot and Wright at least have the benefit of picking up glimpses of through Asi's memories. "We'll hopefully not lose all our progress. But if Kawahara enacts an iron fist rule as CEO…" She shakes her head, reflecting on the two men she hopes will continue to be their allies.

Eizen Erizawa— tightly-composed, stern Security Chief; leading her through the depths of Yamagato's secured underground; haymakered to the side of his head to render him unconscious; a frustrated getaway driver draped in black on another night the sky opened up in the bloom of fireworks.

Hachiro Otomo— a brilliant engineer given a second lease on life thanks to bleeding edge technology; a man trapped in his own mind in a coma until two technopaths came together to guide him back to the surface using the very device they'd reviewed code for earlier this evening; an avid working-while-karaoke artist with a warm grin; the only one present when she woke up in the hospital after her stroke.

Asi returns lost from her thoughts with a slow blink, finding Delilah right in front of her. She tepidly reminds herself to take a drink of water. "Fun fact," she volunteers to no one in particular while she navigates the straw. "If not for that ability rewinding time that day, I would have been the first casualty among the crash victims."

Afterward, she just as easily segues back to Dee, one eye squinting. "Indian food?" Asi ventures. There's suspicion in her voice that suspiciously sounds like hope, to be honest.

Delilah is silent while they discuss the loss of one of their number, and the subsequent thinking out loud from Asi; she knows the rough explanation of what happened at the festival, but the specifics of how many people survived it, that's news to her. It's not hard to put things together, and the stony displeasure she emanates for a few long moments is palpable.

Thankfully, the reminder that she is supposed to be looking after Asi is something that wrangles her back again. Prompts on the type of food get a small laugh.

"No, but I can fix that if you want." Give the lady what she needs. A smile for Asi runs a tad crooked, amused at the same time she pulls her phone out of her pocket. Delilah hasn't tried the combination of these drugs and that food; might be worth it for Asi, though.

"As for that idea," Brown eyes move away to lock briefly on Zachery, only moving away to skim the screen of her phone while navigating it. "Fucking around with time? I don't advise it, under normal circumstances…" these aren't, she knows. Still. "How about this place, love?" Dee leans over a bit against Asi, showing her the picture of a plate of food on the review page of a restaurant. Easier than reading.


Though Zachery remains distracted, his brow knits at Wright's explanation of the festival, and the green barrier detail in particular. He nods, his expression clearing as his mind seems to wander, until… "Idea?" He repeats to Delilah, meeting her gaze with a flicker of genuine confusion, before frustratedly muttering, "I… I don't remember what I was talking about— but I don't know any temporal fucking wizards either, so we're probably safe." Not technically a lie.

He turns, disappearing back into the kitchen with the coffee that feels suddenly not anywhere strong enough. "Do these fucking residences come with any fun drinks?"

Wright is momentarily stunned that what had happened to Asi at the Festival was probably in fact a lot more damaging to the psyche than Wright and Elliot’s momentary schism. She wants to say something to that effect. But that would point out the fact that her trauma from the event, and the subsequent repair work to her and Elliot’s memories, was vastly different than that of Melody, the other Hound on the outside of the barrier. It’s strange to think of that as a lesser harm. Those memories are thankfully barricaded behind Elliot’s firewall. Instead she feels honest sympathy for it, keeping her emotions above water for Asi.

She doesn’t want to overstep basic network etiquette while Asi’s tripping, either. She streams the memories that are deliberately shared, remaining out of Asi’s head otherwise. The turnover at Yamagato is deeply unnerving even just from the perspective of a safe zone resident. It’s high-tier political change at this scale.

She leans forward enough to look at the meal Delilah is suggesting, and is happily surprised that it’s something she’s never tried before. She prods Elliot, always better at this sort of thing anyway, to form a flavor in his mind for her to sample, and hums in satisfaction. “I will absolutely get one of those,” she tells Delilah, fishing for her wallet.

Leaning forward to look at the proferred dish on the screen, Asi hmms pleasantly. "If there's nothing in the fridge, there's nothing here," she answers Zachery while she mulls the review-suggested entrée. "We can Fetch some, surely. They've got to deliver. If not, Thatcher lives in this building and would surely let us borrow."

No offense to Kaylee, but since she's lost her ability, she's joined the ranks of those who occasionally or more than occasionally drown themselves in alcohol to deal with their thoughts. The once-dry telepath has turned over such a leaf in regards to liquor.

"I'm willing to try anything they've got. Familiar, new. Mild, spicy. Bring it," Asi pronounces with a very quiet boldness. Whatever food brings surely can't be better than what she's already subjected herself to… Right? "Elliot, what do you want?" she asks the phone.

Delilah can't help but laugh; she didn't know Asi Tetsuyama save by mostly reputation before this, but somehow there's already a level of kinship from the redhead. Gregariousness manifests in many ways.

"Leeet's maybe leave Kaylee out of it. I can Fetch something, unless he wants to." A motion towards Zachery; Delilah can't particularly espouse the use of alcohol in tandem with coming down from a high— she's just as liable to give Tetsuyama a glass of cranberry juice and say it's wine. It's worked on other people before. Time tested. "Alright, miss Bring the Spice. I gotchu."

Asking the phone what it wants comes off as odd until Delilah remembers the whole— network thing. "Can he see that?" She turns her head towards Wright.

"What's the strongest drink you can get brought over, you think?" Zachery calls from the kitchen, over the noise of every single cabinet and cupboard being pulled open and shut again.

And a few drawers, for good measure. "If I don't get any work done the rest of the day, I can blame it on the migraines I'm not having!"

“Oh, I forgot,” Wright says to Delilah, “You didn’t get the whole package when we linked for that Red Hook Market investigation. Yeah, he’s streaming me at the moment, so he’s experiencing everything I am. Anything sensory. Sorry, I feel like I should have announced that earlier. And he says he’ll have one of the same.” She doesn’t go digging for money while orders are being collected, but she sets her wallet on the table to show she intends to pay.

Asi grins her reply to Delilah, leaning her shoulder toward Wright's in a momentary gesture of support in return for what's been offered to her. Normally, she would indicate it silently, the same way Wright extended hers, but this feels— at this specific moment in time— more appropriate somehow. "You don't owe anybody anything," she assures very warmly.

Zachery's sound-off from the other room takes a second to sink in with its meaning, but her expression dours, mouth drawing in a hard, wide line that slouches gradually more to one side. Like the words themselves are sour drops being suffered through.

"I was a fan of removing the chip until the android theory took hold. On one hand, maybe you're safer without it. Whatever it does certainly doesn't seem to be helping. On the other hand, ripping out hardware to any piece of technology tends to result in catastrophic failures. Maybe not immediately, given you appear to be fine, but eventually."

This isn't something she's brought up before to him, or anyone out of fear that speaking the horror might somehow bring it to life, but her inhibitions are a funny thing about now. "After all, what if the chip informs the nanites, and the nanites prove to be what nourishes your blood so well. But then again, what if it's what's being pinged by external parties?" Asi bobbles her head to one side, then the other, then lays it on Wright's shoulder. She frowns to herself.

"Are you really not experiencing negative symptoms after that?" the technopath asks the doctor without lifting her head or looking his way. Clinging to the conversation helps to avoid becoming overly focused on whatever fascinating thing is happening over Delilah's shoulder.

"Like VR?" Delilah squints in response to the explanation, having been only a little familiar with it all before. It makes a little more sense now.

Asi's own response to Zachery and whatever he's going on about is cause for her to keep more of an eye on him for the time being. She best does this by sliding away from the girls on the couch and padding into the kitchen for a pad of paper and a pen; Dee immediately scribbles down a few items, raising a look to Zachery.

"What do you want to eat?" Not if he's hungry, or wants to eat. What he's eating. "And is that asshole you have for a mouth a negative symptom, or a genetic disorder?"

"That's just my upbringing, I'm afraid." Ill-inclined to be part of this conversation at all, Zachery continues his rummaging. He's just in the middle of peering into the crisper drawer of a pulled open fridge when Delilah comes into view, shooting her a look that suggests dashed hopes and annoyance. The drawer is shut again.

"Tequila sandwich, thank you," he offhands, before addressing the question he's been asked with, "I'm fine! I'm a— little forgetful, but I take notes when I need to. Triple check my work. I'm still healing at an accelerated rate, still otherwise feeling fantastic." That last word is said as though he needs to pull it out on a hook through tar to get it out into the open.

He pulls the same crisper drawer out again, with doubled vigour, and then also doubled disappointment when the result hasn't changed since ten seconds ago.

“It’s not unlike VR,” Wright says as Delilah retreats to the kitchen. “Less motion sickness though, unless the person you’re streaming is experiencing motion sickness. Which sucks.”

She takes a moment to stream Elliot to get an idea of how far off he is. Then she sits in silence to contemplate the news that Asi apparently thinks that the survivors of the kidnapping are literal androids. Cybernetics and nanites and chips. Did Zachery have a chip removed from his head? But that makes her wonder.

“Is it really cybernetics if it’s installed in an android?” she asks. “Elliot’s vast knowledge of nerd shit leads me to believe that cybernetics are technological augmentations to a human being, whereas in an androids they’d just be… Android components.”

Vast knowledge of nerd shit brings an involuntary quirk of a grin to Asi, but she just as quickly shakes her head. "No… no," she laments. Her hand lifts to her forehead. "I'm not explaining it… well." Her voice lowers now, like she remembers she's not keen on saying any of this out loud and somehow keeping it just to a volume that Wright and Elliot can hear makes it less likely to invite danger just for having said it.

"Clones, of some kind," she explains in a mutter before chasing that with an equally emphatic, "I don't know."

"We don't show signs of Gemini being used on us, we read as non-Expressive. Medically, we shouldn't be alive with the way our blood, our brains — likely other major organs too are reacting…" Asi sighs hard, her forehead dipping for the pillow laying over her tented knees. "What is the word… shin… sin?… synthetic. It feels like we're synthetic, somehow— how our normal is not causing total system shutdown." Her emotional state dips, though, the swing back and forth dipping more to one side the longer she exhausts herself with explanations rather than oddly-freeing endless what ifs.

"V.iris said I'm me, so…" Her brow furrows against the throw pillow, voice muffled into its surface. "So sure. Fine. I'm me. But explain literally any fucking thing else about this?"

"He doesn't. It doesn't." The sudden bout of frustration ends with a deflation. She repeats in defeat, "I don't know."

Delilah can't help but watch Zachery as he rambles his way around the kitchen, circling back to where he started, with his nose in the fridge crisper. She proceeds to type out an order on her phone this time, the list on hand.

"You're as bad as my son, opening and closing the fridge and hoping for a better result. There's no such thing as Schrodinger's Snack." The redhead does, however, offer him a tight smile despite all of his— all of it.

"You're right, it doesn't explain the rest." Asi's mumbled deflation is answered by affirmation; Delilah understands the frustration, and once done typing and ordering, sets her phone aside to return to the living room.

"But it does say you're you, and even if you can't say anything else for sure, being you is kinda big, isn't it? You have more than what you started with… and a person to find too, sounds like. Just cause you didn't learn what you wanted to, doesn't mean you failed, love. I've been in those shoes." Delilah, ever comforting, flumps herself down on Asi's other side and throws her arms playfully around both Asi and Wright, insistent on a group Hug. Bring it in girls, ya gotta do it, let's gooo. "When you can't do anything, it doesn't hurt to wait it out. I have to tell myself that all the time."

Though Zachery fixes Delilah with as sharp a look as his one eye will afford him, concern flashes briefly across the knit of his brow when she turns to sit.

Seconds later, he re-emerges from the kitchen, folds his arms over his chest and looks toward the couch to add, matter-of-factly, "Presumably, it hurt quite a lot, for Nakamura."

Wright joins Delilah and Asi in the strange, couch-long hug. She does turn her head to look at Zachery with a look of amused astonishment. “Jesus fuck, you must be fun at parties,” she says. “Can we try to keep in mind that one of us just did LSD and is trying to wind down from the stress of it while still high?

Delilah is great at this warm fuzzies thing, Asi is rapidly coming to realize. The former technopath finds herself beginning to smile, even if she's still feeling rapidly too much at once. Something keeps her just above the water, gets her to lift her head instead of disappearing down into it.

"Whatever he said, he's always like that. Since well before our predicament."

She didn't hear, it seems, the specifics.

Letting her feet slowly slip from her to slide off the couch to the floor, so she can sit more in the approximation of a normal person, Asi peers toward him. "We should be fine," she suggests up at him. If not Asi herself, then Delilah and Wright in keeping her from having an impossibly bad trip. "It's not tequila, but there might be some vodka, back at the lab." She quirks an eyebrow up at him.

She's well-aware how exhausting and terrible continuing to face their agonizing reality is, and how deep into despair one can sink between hare-brained ideas to try and crack the mystery behind it.

She also leans a little into that look, trying to indicate in silence he should go, but also bring it back. Asi at least has the grace not to wink about it. But she still is not a telepath, and all she succeeds in conveying is that he should definitely check out the lab-drawer vodka.

"Maybe he needs in on this hug too." Delilah suggests, though she's not as serious as to actually try— just laugh quietly to herself and loosen her embrace. She stays comfortable in Asi's bubble, however, warm fuzzies and all; this includes stifling a noise when Asi tries to more or less send Zach on an errand.

Past Asi's head, Dee gives Wright a somewhat resigned look. Don't worry, there are mom friends here to be responsible. That's us. Whoop whoop.

"I'm thinking… a little music while we wait for our food." Delilah interjects once that's passed. "Maybe save the rest of the heavy shit for tomorrow?"

"I'll have you know, I'm a delight," Zachery tells Wright as his gaze drops to the floor, wrestling back the beginnings of a wry smirk.

Just as a look of resignation settles back into sagging shoulders, he catches Asi's hint, and then her look. He does not immediately answer, but holds the stare back all the way until he manages to look suddenly a little more alert again. Promptly and briskly, he begins to walk toward the way out, announcing with more energy than he's shown all day so far, "I'm going to take a hard pass on that hug, and be right back."

“Music would be nice,” Wright agrees.

As Zachery approaches the exit, she debates saving him from being startled. “Elliot’s at the door,” she says, deciding to not take revenge for the bio department. The door opens into the room, Elliot already standing to the side to let Zachery out instead of jamming up the doorway. He gestures with one hand to say, After you.

Asi looks pleased that maybe her subliminal messaging has been picked up on after all, since Zachery includes the words be back in his farewell. She settles back into the couch, tension in her head and her jaw slowly relaxing under the melting warmth granted to her by the closeness of others nearby. She's tethered to the present, to the surface, and the wavy surface of the rigid concrete wall near the front door bothers her less.

"お帰り, Elliot," she lifts her head to say, voice blanketed in the warm fuzzies she herself is draped in.

"See you soon," Delilah raises a somewhat suspicious look as Zachery departs, wondering if he'll actually be back. Elliot's arrival gets a smile, and Asi's mumuring under the surface of her bettering experience. At the least they can make the last chapters more fuzzy and less troubling.

"Elliot, could you do us a solid and get the radio on?" Dee is reluctant to leave her newest charge without her presence, though she does lift a hand to gesture a knob-turn at the small stereo across the room. "Or pick a stream, I'm sure you can think of something chill." Elliot is, after all, a chillest cat.

Elliot waves and smiles to Asi as he comes in, hoping to distract Delilah with one hand while he pulls the corner of a package of Reese’s peanut butter cups from his jack pocket. “I can do that,” he says, fishing for his phone next and tapping through his security. He glances around the room for a system to sync to as he slides off his jacket.

“I’ve got just the thing.”

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