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Scene Title Extra Extra
Synopsis Asami approaches Gabriella on a lead from Kaylee in the hopes of getting the truth of superpowered humans broadcast as far and wide as she possibly can.
Date March 10, 2021

Midtown, Manhattan

Times Square is a well-traversed, shining spit of concrete scattered with hawkers, gawkers, cameras near and far, and advertisements of the highest pricing that sees traffic at all hours of day and night.

The streets immediately surrounding it— not so much.

Away from the lights and silent eyes of security cameras dotting the plaza, in the space of two blocks you can find areas poorly-lit at night, and alleyways to slip into. The anonymous contact who wanted to meet with Gabriella Milos promised to meet her in one such alley, close enough to a public center it felt safe enough, but here in the moment… not so much.

Across from Yuzu Kitchen, a Japanese restaurant on 43rd, there's a parking garage structure, and an equally poorly-lit concrete overhang for shorter-term parking in the form of a loading dock. It's there a singular figure waits in the shadows, hands shoved in the pockets of her brown leather coat, the hood of the red hoodie jacket worn underneath slipped over her head.

The contact Gabriella is to meet claims to have a scoop on the unresolved Asami Tetsuzan story, including supposed proof that the charges against her were fabricated… if only she'd meet in person to discuss.

At this hour of night, nearing 10 pm, the less-touristy streets of the district might as well be dead— the restaurant across the street with its lights long-since shut off since most business went home at rush hour. Save for the odd single body of foot traffic in either direction on this chilly pre-spring night, the figure standing in the dark is the only one around.

It’s not often these days that people call Gabriella for an inside scoop — at least not one for heavy hitting news. She gets exclusive profiles, to be sure, but it’s been a couple of years since she worked on hard news. Still, with a story like this, she’s not going to look a gift horse in the mouth, especially one that might lead to the coveted Pulitzer.

A bright, apple-green trench coat wouldn’t be her choice for a clandestine meeting in the alley, but she came straight from another meeting with no time to change. It makes her easy to spot as she steps into the alley, heels clicking in staccato on the concrete. When she sees the figure in the leather jacket, those clicking steps slow but don’t stop.

“Oni?” she asks, her fingers curling around the notepad she holds in one hand as her other hand curls around a small pepper-spray canister in her pocket — Gabby’s not entirely trusting.

The shadowed head turns in her direction. The shorter woman lets out a sigh as she looks at Gabriella in the dim lighting. "Yes," she answers with some relief. She takes a single step forward into a slant of light given off from the nearly-empty parking structure.

It turns out her would-be contact is none other than Asami herself, wearing the recognizable outfit featured in the original stills once the manhunt for her began. Surely she's not been living in them for nearly two months, but instead worn for a purpose.

"I'm not armed. I'm not here to hurt you," Asami clarifies softly.

The torso and belly of the red hoodie is scattered in holes. Bullet holes.

"There's a truth I stumbled on that the powers that be would go to any length to cover over," she explains. "They came up with a story that I'd hacked the government. They spun lies that I tried to kill agents who came after me, when the reality is I never came face to face with them. When all this started, I didn't even know what secret I was on the verge of realizing, but it doesn't have anything to do with stolen data. It's…"

Asami shakes her head slowly. "It's much more human than that."

Gabriella’s green eyes scan that red, bullet-riddled hoodie, before she looks back up to Asami’s face. “Intriguing,” she murmurs, pulling a pen from her breast pocket and jotting down the words on the notepad.

She then reaches back into her pocket, not to reach for the pepper spray but her phone — moving slowly so that Asami can see she’s not calling 9-1-1.

“Okay to record you?” she asks, sliding slim fingers across the glass to select a recording app, showing her screen to the other woman. “I take notes by hand but like to have the back-up in case anyone screams ‘lies,slander or calumny,’ not that I think you would.”

“But go on. What do you mean by ‘much more human than that?’”

Asami seems relieved when Gabriella takes her seriously rather than dial to turn on her. She nods, then shakes her head in equal turn. "Yeah— go ahead." No, she doesn't mind.

She also knows that what she has to tell is more of a show phenomenon.

Looking back in the direction of phone rather than at Gabby herself, she says, "My name is Asami Tetsuzan. On January 15th, shortly after 4 pm, I was made aware federal agents were looking for me with the intent to kill over the falsified crimes I was accused of. I was compelled to go to the roof of the Linderman Building, and knowing death lied in either direction, I jumped in the hopes of making it to the roof of the nearest building."

"I didn't," she calmly clarifies. "But halfway to the ground, right after I'd accepted what would happen, I…"

Asami draws herself up. She seems taller than she was— no, is.

Her feet aren't touching the ground.

"I started to fly, Ms. Milos." Hovering more than a foot off the ground, she looks down at Gabby, arms by her sides. "This is a reality the government is attempting to cover up. Somehow, they were negating my ability to do what should be impossible, but it failed to contain the power. Rather than risk me realizing what I could do and coming forward about it, they tried to kill me."

"But I escaped," Asami's voice comes to a reverent murmur. She begins to descend back to the ground. "I found others like me while on the run. People with superpowers exist, and that secret is going to tear the world apart the longer we don't face it. The truth needs to be put on display, Ms. Milos…"

"And I hope you can help me with that." It's only then that Asami finally looks up and meets Gabby's eyes.

When it’s clear what Asami has to say includes a demonstration of the impossible, Gabriella’s mouth drops, and she backs up a step — but she doesn’t run. She turns her phone so that it can capture the video of Asami floating, rather than just capture her voice speaking. Handwritten notes are forsaken for the ability to record, but let’s be honest — Gabby’s hands are shaking too much to take notes either. The video quality won’t be great — she’s not a photographer, and she’s a print journalist rather than a broadcaster.

“I don’t understand. How many others? And don’t you think that secret will tear the world apart if you reveal it?” she asks, her green eyes wide as she stares into Asami’s. “Not that I’m saying you shouldn’t. The truth will out, as they say.”

It’s too many questions at once for a good interview, but she’s too amazed not to ask yet another: “Who in the government is repressing this? Who knows?

Gabby asks how many others, and it's a funny question— because looking into her eyes, Asami's found the answer is one more still than even she thought. The other questions roll off of her nearly as a result.

"The NSA must. They're monitoring us all, and what better tool for that than OPTICA? Specific names, I've never gotten that far in knowing. But the system for watching all of us is definitely in place there."

She begins to tilt her head at Gabriella, eyes narrowing thoughtfully. "As for how many of us… in New York alone I've run into a dozen other people eaasily." A beat passes before she admits, "And you're one of them. I see it in you— the broken, sleeping power."

Asami begins to frown. "If they're willing to kill to keep this secret, think of how many must have died already. An unacceptable amount."

The urge to laugh it all off is strong — surely it’s a prank or a conspiracy theory based on nonsense. But there are no wires, no trickery that Gabby can see, and she herself can see that Asami did levitate. It’s not hard to fake in a video or photograph, Gabriella knows, but there’s nothing here but alley and flat ground, no change in elevation to play off of.

“I believe you have a power, but how in the world are they keeping these powers in check? You say mine is sleeping? Surely I’d feel something, wouldn’t I? Or know if someone was tampering?” Gabby’s voice falters, even as she asks the question. How would she know? If it were something in the water or in the air conditioning, a radio wave or something pumped into the atmosphere… how would she know?

“This is all so insane. And you want me to run this story, when you say people are trying to kill you over it? What do you think they’d do to me? And my editors — they’re going to think I’ve lost it, lady,” Gabriella says, reaching up to flip the length of her long hair from one side to the other.

Asami should have an answer— reassurances— but it's harder to focus on that now that she sees what she does in Gabby. "No, I don't know how they do it— but you don't feel what you're missing. Not directly, usually." The words coming at all jog the rest of her thoughts slowly though. "But that doesn't mean there's not other ways your life is impacted. Most people say… they see things no one else around them does. A common thread is that those of us who remember Justice Quinn existed all have powers."

"If you've lost time or has strange visions, then… but it doesn't matter, because I can see it in you. I see the broken pieces of what they did to you, and—" Asami lets out a very faint laugh. "I can fix you," she promises quietly.

Then with an abrupt blink, she seems to realize what she was on the verge of. The intensity of her look shifts. "I don't know what they'd do. I just know… that keeping silent about this isn't going to do anyone good. And as for convincing them— if they don't believe it, I'll— go in and show them. I can do more than just fly. Why should a truth like that be repressed?"

Gabby squints and tips her head at the mention of seeing things no one else has. “Just heard,” she corrects. “I never saw anything weird. But… but I overheard something once. A conversation in the background of my phone’s dial tone. They were speaking Russian. I understood it.”

She shakes her head, slowly. “I don’t speak Russian.”

The confusion doubles, her brow creasing as Asami continues. “Of course I remember Justice Quinn. Why wouldn’t I?” she asks, an irritated tone coloring her words at what seems to be a non sequitur.

But she pushes past the question. “I can try to run a story on this, but I can’t promise it’ll see the light of day. Not if my editors think we’re crazy. But, sure, show me what else you can do.”

Gabriella repositions the phone, which she’s lowered at some point in the conversation, not being a camera person in the least. She gestures, with a flip of her wrist, for Asami to do something.

Gabriella's irritation brings with it a bit of relief and a knowing smile from Asami. "No one else does, Ms. Milos. If you try to look her up, it's like she never even existed. People she worked with don't remember her. She saw and approached something odd in a park on the same day I jumped from the Linderman Building, and two others saw her just… twist and stretch until she vanished out of existence."

But the phone is lifted up at her and she's gestured at to perform another strange thing on the spot, and Asami cants her head at Gabriella with a look that says really?

She looks left, then right, finally looking down at a trampled paper cup from some nearby store. With a sigh, she lifts one hand and opens her fingers in the direction of the trash, which flies of its own accord to her hand. She catches the cup in the flat of her palm, curling her hand around it. "Watch," she says, like the flying object wasn't the trick itself.

Asami holds her hand up clear to see, and the middle of the back of her hand catches on fire first, trailing up to her fingers where she has the wax-lined cup pinched. It takes a moment for the flames to catch on the object, and then it too lights up. She holds onto it long enough it starts to wilt, then drops it to the ground before her.

Even stomping on the burning trash, her palm is still facing up, flames rising from her skin without her seeing that as a concern. Once the flame below is put out, only then does she close her hand, and fire in her palm is smothered out too. "I'm not just going to— stand around and perform tricks all night. You already believe me, it's everyone else I need to."

Her head lifts and after a moment, she shakes it. "Shut that thing off," she asks, waving her hand loosely at the phone. She waits until she believes that's happened.

“That - how?” is all Gabby has to say about Justice, but then Asami does as she asks, and she watches, entranced, but also irritated. All of these things could easily be edited into a video. There’s no proof that will satisfy the cynical readers or viewers of today’s media, not with the sophisticated editing tools that even a novice can use to make something look realistic as…

… well, this.

Her scowl doesn’t leave her face, and she scoffs a little at Asami saying she isn’t going to do more tricks, but she does follow directions, turning off the phone and sliding it into her pocket. She doesn’t back away, but looks up to meet Asami’s eyes with an apologetic look.

“I don’t know if I’ll be able to publish anything on this, Ms. Tetsuzan. I do believe you, but I don’t think anyone else is going to believe me, and if what you say is true… I’m not the type of journalist who puts my life on the line for the truth, you know?” Gabriella says, lips tipping sideways in a rueful smirk. “That’s noble and all, but it sure isn’t my jam, or else I’d be a war correspondent or something more exciting than going around doing feature stories on someone’s prize-winning Pomeranian. I’m sorry if i wasted your time.”

Asami's heard the shape of Gabby's frustration before it was even spoken, but she'd hoped it wouldn't come out like this. Her own look caves with frustration, the look down she gives the embers at her feet filled with its own sort of rue. She stuck her neck out for this. No, she won't leave empty-handed.

She shakes her head as she looks back up. "That's a shame," she snaps impatiently. "You know it really is. It took a lot, you know, to come this far." Her head cants slightly to the side, brow furrowing deeper.

"But I won't let you make this a waste of my time."

One of Asami's hands lifts, fingers splaying in an odd shape. Something swims in the dark of her eyes, head tilting a shade further as she takes a step forward. Invisible weight places itself to Gabby's shoulders, to her feet, a heavy force vying to keep her in place and still.

"I'll at least fix you before I go," she says with chilling clarity. "If you won't publish my story— at least you can help me like this."

“The Voice might publish something like this, or the Post,” Gabriella suggests, seemingly eager to help. “I can maybe send it to one of my friends at those places?”

Her green eyes narrow a little as Asami brings her hand up, as that weight seems to settle around her, keeping her in one place.

“I… you know your whole spiel could probably use a little work,” she advises, glancing over her shoulder. Surely if Asami turns out to be a murderer of some sort, she can scream for help? Her fingers slide into her pocket to find the pepper spray again, curling around the thin canister and slowly pulling it out of her pocket. Just in case.

“Sure, unlock my hidden potential, Tony Robbins.”

Asami holds when Gabriella says she might still be able to help in some way, her frustration curdling into something less insidious. Her hand remains held in the air, the weight on the journalist still present. She considers for a moment.

"Yeah, I'm aware my delivery could use a little work. It's a character flaw of mine. I hate it, too." Her eyes go off for a second and then back, the intensity to her fading by grades yet again. "Just… hold still."

When she looks back into Gabby's eyes, it's deeper than before, almost like she's looking past her. She ventures a step closer, her other hand lifting. The dark of Asami's own eyes shift, a rapid change in color swirling in her irises. Brown lightens, then coalesces to a glowing gold.

"I̵̛̱͉̍'̶̧̳͚̍̚l̵̡̛̛̩̭͖̒̊͆͜l̴͖͎͍̗̤͗͗ ̸͔̬͊̓̔͜h̴̲̥̞͕͆̅̾ê̴͍̝͙͕͋͝ĺ̸̛̠̎͗̏p̶̛̯̣̻̹̈́̈́̇̀ ̵̪̬̝̩͓͂͌̕y̶̡̱̋̒̀͠ͅò̴͔̫̩̐̾ü̶̬̩͔̳͂ ̷͓̻̓͜s̵̡̮̽̎ë̵̢̫̫̬́͋̈́̕ȇ̷̟̞̭̼̬͝," she promises, the fingertips of her other hand connecting with Gabby's temple.

The effect is near-instant, coursing through her like a static shock that's run her whole body and vibrates in her head. There's a pressure that settles behind Gabby's eyes, a tingling that works its way up the top of her neck and into her skull. The pressure grows, blackness edging in at the corner of her eyes…

And with a silent, almost imperceptible pop, the pressure fades. Sight returns. The invisible hands on her body peel away, and Asami lowers her arm back by her side, her eyes still glowing that unnatural color a moment longer.

The corner of her mouth curls up in a small smile.

"Run the story, Ms. Milos," she says as she slides a step back again. "It'll be the most important piece you've ever published."

Held in spot, Gabriella smirks at the self deprecation coming from her would-be informant, but that amusement fades as the pressure begins to build, as she sees the impossible shift of color in Asami’s eyes. She is a believer, in that instant, and she’s afraid. Asami can see it, but once the moment ends and Asami steps back again, Gabriella tosses her hair over her shoulder and steps back as well.

She glances down at herself, down at her hands, then shakes her head. “Am I supposed to be able to do something? Because all I felt was the world’s shortest migraine.”

With a look at the phone, Gabriella frowns — she’s sure it wasn’t at an angle to capture any of the strange changes in Asami’s eyes. It might have been a trick of the light. Maybe this whole thing is a strange dream, like that time she mixed melatonin and CBD gummies.

“I’ll see what I can do. No promises,” she manages. “It’d help if you gave me some sources to verify with.”

With that, she turns to go, tossing over her shoulder, “Email me.”

Maybe it's not good form of Asami to just let Gabriella walk off without explaining anything, but honestly, she's just relieved that for once waking up someone's ability didn't go terribly. Her shoulders relax.

At the call for more sources, all she can do is let out a faint laugh under her breath. "Yeah," she agrees in a voice too quiet to really be heard. "I wish they'd respond to me, so I could."

The muttering is a muted thing, followed by a fall of her gaze. When she looks back up again, it's in time to see Gabby already heading off. She feels what she hopes is sincerity in the journalist's thoughts as she goes.

Should she look back, there's simply no one there anymore, not in that spot, nor up the block. The correspondence that started it all is still there on her phone, though— evidence that perhaps this wasn't all a waking dream after all.

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