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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title GALATEA
Synopsis For the survivors of that fated plane crash, life is about to become twice as complicated.
Date June 23, 2021

A black rain falls on the Safe Zone.

Beyond the city limits the sky is a murky haze of crimson lit by the encroaching flames of the Ohio River Fire. While the ruins of Manhattan aren’t ablaze yet, the fear is that they will be sooner rather than later. As James Kirk steps out onto the sidewalk from a bodega, he pulls his respirator mask up over his mouth and nose, then lifts up the vinyl hood of his jacket against the tarry rain falling from an ever-darkening sky.

Kirk jogs across the street between the sparse traffic, ducking under the awning of a local bar with a handwritten paper sign that reads CLOSED hanging in the window. He fishes around in his pocket, taking out the faceplate of a sports watch without a band, the kind with a digital compass in the rim. He holds it up, squinting, then glances up the street.

“Okay,” Kirk says to himself, “almost there.” He reaches around his back, makes sure the handgun he tucked in the back of his pants is still in place. “Just a couple more blocks.”

He looks back to the watch, to the compass needle.

“You can do this.”


The Bastion
Guest Lounge

Phoenix Heights

June 23rd
5:12 pm

“So then, I’m up like this with my hands over my head, getting ready to use my belt on the cable like a zipline, when my pants fall right around my ankles.”

Francis Harkness is in the middle of a story, slouched against the downstairs bar where Asi Tetsuyama is receiving a pair of visitors to Wolfhound’s headquarters. Nova Leverett and Isaac Faulkner have never set foot inside this compound before, and the industrial-chic decor combined with Francis’ excited storytelling at the bar is an unusual juxtaposition.

“So naturally,” Francis continues, fixing himself a drink, “I just roll with it. I mean I can already hear the gunfire behind me, right?” He says at Asi’s back, not really sure if she’s listening but still carrying on for the rest of his audience. “There I go, soaring two stories above the street on a braided metal cable, pants around my fucking ankles, holding onto my belt and what happens?”

Francis glances over to the two in the doorway, not hesitating from telling his story. “I fucking stall. Sixty feet between buildings, I stall on the cable. Not enough angle, right? So I’m stuck there, dangling like a piece of fruit when what do I hear behind me?”

Francis rolls his eyes and shakes his head, “Francis,” he says in a cold as steel voice.

At this point Avi Epstein is hunched over on his stool, laughing into his arm, knowing where the story is going. Meanwhile, Francis’ father Scott is becoming more and more embarrassed for him by the minute.

“Why have I never heard this?” Scott interjects, but Francis waves a hand in his face with a shushing hiss.

“You know who it was?” Francis asks, and Scott slowly shakes his head. He has no idea. “Hana.” Francis says with a deadpan expression.

“Here I am, ass out hanging two stories up, and who finds me? Hana fucking Gitelman.” Francis throws his hands into the air and Avi just breaks down laughing, a breathless whooping laughter followed by stammering yelps of half-formed words.

She just left him there,” Avi wheezes, slapping Scott on the shoulder. “We already took care of the ambush, so she just left him there!

All three men burst out laughing. It’s just an ordinary night at the Bastion.

Pulling away from this story has been an effort going on since before Nova and Faulkner arrived. Now that they're here, she's at least granted the reprieve of greeting them at the door, unsmiling as she looks between them. The two are graced with the tale's end willingly or not, all so Asi can graciously interject, "Are you sure you don't secretly have an ability like Ryans' partner? The shit you get into, Harkness."

It's a quick, effortless thing for her to segue away from it, too. She inclines her head slightly. "I'll be borrowing the conference room for the next while." The soundproofed one, judging by where her body is angled. "Knock if you need me."

The look Asi gives both of her guests encourages them to follow without engaging or introducing themselves. If they're lucky, at best they'll be stuck here exchanging pleasantries and suffering stories for an age. At worst, invasive questions will come.

She doesn't want to invite that on them.

Despite Asi’s irritation, Nova seems a little enthralled, wide blue eyes darting from one of the Wolfhound men to the next, and a smile on her face. Her very being screams civilian in this space, from her yellow Converse to the bestickered Hydroflask she carries to the Beatles shirt she wears under a lightweight flannel.

“Is it always like this?” whispers Nova to Asi, looking like she might sign up on the spot if the answer is yes. But she’s not so naive to think that’s the case. “I mean, between trying to catch war criminals while being badass?”

Maybe a little reluctantly, she follows, with one last lingering glance over her shoulder at the laughing trio of men.

Isaac is possibly doing a little better in the 'obvious civilian' department, with his kneelength black raincoat, jeans, and hiking boots; the Pink Floyd shirt he's wearing beneath might spoil the effect, but unless anyone here has X-ray vision they're not going to see that.

The end of the story sees his lips curving up into the barest hint of a smile, but he's here to see Asi, not eavesdrop on old war stories, so off he goes, following in Asi's wake alongside Nova.

Nova seems enthusiastic, at least, and that's good… or maybe she's just glad to be out of the rain. God knows he is.

Avi pivots on his stool, looking over his shoulder at Asi with a thoughtful scrutiny. When his attention shifts past her to Nova and Isaac there’s a moment of lingering silence which ultimately amounts to nothing. “Dunsimi and I have a call with Secretary Hesser in two hours, so if your Dungeons and Dragons or whatever goes on for longer take it to the courtyard,” he says with a crooked smile before turning back around.

Francis, not getting the joke, does a double take and starts to say, “Wait, Asi plays D and—” that’s about as far as he gets before he grimaces and levels a flat look at Avi, who is chuckling into his own sleeve.

“Make me another Manhattan while you’re up, nerd.” Avi says with a lopsided smile to Francis. Scott, to his credit, is still chuckling about the zipline story.

Jokes at Francis' expense always lighten the mood, and today's no exception. Asi answers in an undertone, some mirth to it, "No, not always like this. Sometimes there's actual work. There's a rotation of us supporting the NYPD each day, too." She opens the conference room door across the hall from the lounge and gestures the two of them in.

The room feels still, quiet, dark— owing to the black metal plates on the walls muffling sound. The door is heavy as it closes behind them, and Asi doesn't turn the lights up more than three-quarters. She's not sure about the other two, but the migraines come less for her when there isn't an excessive amount of bright light. The chairs around the round-edged conference table are comfortable, and Asi sinks into the nearest one at the end rather than fuss with spreading out across the room.

"Thanks for humoring me in coming out this way. I'm technically on call tonight, so I needed to stay close." One arm on the table, she flips her hand over so it's palm up to swivel between the other two in a small gesture. "You had questions about the memories I was able to uncover?" Her brow looks like it might knit, but she smooths away the concerned look quickly. "When I saw the message you left me on the portal, it felt like there might be… something behind you asking."

There's maybe even a bit of hope behind that. Hope some unusual experience might lead to more clues about their collective circumstance. "But maybe I was reading into things," Asi allows delicately.

“We’re clearly here to play Pokemon,” Nova says drily, with a roll of her eyes over her shoulder to Avi’s Dungeons and Dragons quip. Sorry-not-sorry, Asi.

Once they’re in the conference room, she hangs her wet jacket on the back of a chair she doesn’t intend to take, then settles into one catty-corner to Asi. She looks around, swiveling back and forth in the chair, though at least not in circles.

She has some restraint.

“I’m, um. I think my memories are all fake. Anything since the plane crash… I’m not sure it’s real,” Nova says, glancing over at Isaac, then back to Asi. “Some of us — me, Gabriella, Daphne — we’re just a little different, maybe for different reasons. We talked about me being a control, maybe, but I don’t know. I think I might never have existed, as a real person.”

The words spill out — there are no tears this time, which is probably good for poor Isaac’s sake. Nova rakes her teeth across her lower lip, then lifts a shoulder. “I guess seeing if anything that got uncovered supports that theory.”

Does Asi play Dungeons and Dragons? Somehow Isaac can't really picture it. On the other hand, he wouldn't have expected Sergeant Slaughter over there to pull out a Dungeons and Dragons reference, either, so maybe Wolfhound play-fights when they aren't doing actual-fights. Or maybe Dungeons and Dragons has been around long enough to become mainstream; that's possible, too. After all, even Isaac has heard of it.

Isaac's grin broadens at Nova's wisecrack; he just shakes his head and follows. Once they reach the conference room, he settles into a seat beside Nova laying his sooty raincoat over another. He lets Nova lay out the basics of the case before he speaks up.

"From what she's told me… Nova's high school apparently doesn't actually exist," Isaac says. "You can call the number, and she can get her transcripts, but apparently the actual physical address was a Tim Horton's, of all things." Isaac leans forward. "Someone's going to some trouble here, it seems… which means there might be something there worth digging into." He looks between Nova and Asi, looking for agreement.

The revelation Nova brings to the table sees Asi's expression change entirely, slipping to something blank. She's abruptly all the more glad for the privacy of this space. "Nova, that's…"

She blinks slowly, once, taking in the details Faulkner adds. Mulling the realization over, she finds herself leaning back into her chair. She's calm, professional when she finds her voice again. "The only logical thing to do is follow this further. What about childhood home, what address is that? Your parents, who are they? Have you spoken to them at all since the accident?" Tempering away a frown is impossible now.

"What about others who would have known you before?" Abruptly, she's relieved to not be in a situation of her own where this is even a concern. "Friends? Teachers, club counselors? We can stack up a list of persons to confirm…"

Asi reaches for a pen and pad left in the center of the table to begin drawing notes on the situation. "Are you missing any periods of time after the crash?" she asks as an afterthought.

Nova rolls her eyes at Tim Horton’s but doesn’t deny it. Maybe someone has a sick sense of humor. And a sweet tooth. She rests her elbows on the edge of the conference table, propping her chin on folded hands, and shrugs.

“That’s what started me down this path. I remember my parents visiting me in the hospital, after my birthday, and I remember my mom taking off her sweater and hanging it on the back of the chair. When she left, she wasn’t wearing it, but it wasn’t in the room,” she explains. “I asked the nurse if he’d talked to them, and he didn’t remember seeing them, at all. It was the ICU, though. Like, clear walls and all of that, the nursing station right across the way.”

She lifts one hand to gesture to her head, making a loopy gesture with her index finger. “Easy enough to explain away as just faulty wiring after a stroke. But I think back to summer, before the crash, and I can’t remember a single person who actually met my parents when they helped move me into the dorms.”

Reaching into her pocket, she pulls out her phone, thumb scrolling to a group text. “I talk to them. I call them. But couldn’t whoever did this to us be pretending to be them?” Her eyes swim with tears for a moment, magnifying them and making their blue depths seem all the bluer.

“Or any of the people I used to know. Maybe they’re all fake numbers leading to… I don’t know. Whoever did this to us.” She sniffles once. “I can make a list of people,” she adds, trying to school her voice and expression into something more professional. Something more fitting for her surroundings.

Hearing Nova lay this all out again, a thought occurs to Faulkner that hadn't, the first time around; he frowns as he fishes a clean white handkerchief from his pocket and offers it to Nova. "I wonder…" he muses.

"This… visit sounds pretty vivid for a hallucination," he points out. "Granted, I've seen your art; you've got an eye for detail, so it could have been a hallucination, but…"

Faulkner shakes his head. "Still, the fact that you didn't start to question it until after you noticed the sweater makes me wonder. Of course… if it wasn't a hallucination, that begs the question of what exactly it was. And how it got to your brain." He looks to Nova. "Can you remember anything in particular that your parents talked about in that visit? Or does it have the same impressionist quality you said your pre-crash memories had?"

Asi writes in silence, her left hand scribing in a mixture of languages. "Hallucination seems unlikely. SLC-E ability interference, perhaps? Or maybe something easier than that…" She lifts the pen, tapping the end of it against her temple. "Leveraging the multi-million-dollar cranial implant situation we have going for us, maybe."

"Either way," she sighs, pen hand setting back down. She looks across the table at Nova. "That's no easy revelation to suspect. How are you holding up?"

The answer will have to wait. A knock on the conference room door is punctuated by a beat pause, followed by Avi leaning his head in. “Hey, sorry,” he says with a quick glance around the room. “Were you all expecting another? There’s a guy outside, says his name is James Kirk, asked for you personally, Asi.”

Avi leans against the door frame, still only leaving it partially open. “Oh he uh,” Avi says with a furrow of his brows, eyes averted to the floor then back up. “He said he has information about your medical condition.” There’s a hint of suspicion in his voice, concern in his eyes, and challenge in his posture.

“You wanna talk to him or should I call the cops?” Avi asks as an afterthought.

Nova’s just about to answer the questions posed by first Isaac and then Asi, but she tips her head when the door opens, revealing all of their non-board-game or card-game-playing meeting. One brow tics up as she considers the man at the door, then looks back to Asi for her reaction to the name James. It’s not one of the Sundered, that’s all she knows.

When he continues, mentioning that medical condition, both of Nova’s brows rise, and she looks from Asi to Avi, lips pressing together like she wants to be sure she doesn’t spill any of the information, lest the boss man be in the dark.

Isaac's eyes widen when Asi's medical condition is mentioned, and his gaze, too, immediately moves to Asi… but he, too, says nothing. This James fellow had asked for Asi specifically, after all.

The lack of recognition in Asi's expression over the name is telling enough, and she studies Avi's posture for his take on the trustworthiness of this individual before he gets around to airing it. Her tongue finds itself placed into her cheek before words slowly roll from her.

"Unexpected, and unfamiliar. But if he has information, possibly not unwelcome." Still, she sounds reluctant about allowing this person in just as much as she wants to not run them through any authority. She begins to come to her feet, slipping a thin case from the inside of her jacket. It's popped open to pull a single card free, which she offers out to Avi. "Bring him here, but give this to Francis. Tell him to call the number on my behalf, ask that Reeves come here."

Asi holds onto the card a moment longer. "Epstein," she asks firmly but quietly with a lift of her brow. "I can't turn someone down who may have more information on what has been happening to me, but I need you present. If this is some ploy, an attempted kidnapping in progress, I don't want to be alone." It goes unspoken she's uncertain if this expert on her medical condition might also know how to flip her off switch.

She lets go of the card only then, and looks back to Nova and Isaac. "If that's all right?" she asks opaquely, dancing around directly saying that they also are involved in the same circumstance she is unless they want that information to come out.

Nova glances from Asi to Isaac, brows lifting, then turns back to Asi to nod her silent consent. She draws her hands into the sleeves of her flannel, then folds both arms across her chest, quiet and watchful.

Epstein? Isaac blinks at that, scrutinizing Epstein again. Huh. There is a bit of a resemblance; maybe he's related to Agent Epstein.

Small world.

When Asi asks his opinion, though, his attention swivels to her. He arches an eyebrow and gives a faintly amused smile, partly because this guest is here to see Asi, not him, but also because… well, he'd already let himself get killed and dissected for more information about their medical condition; he's not inclined to draw the line at an unannounced guest.

"I've got Castle's number; you want me to give them a buzz, too?" Isaac asks.

Avi eyes the other two in the room before looking back at Asi. He nods, that silent and subtle nod that she’s seen when he slips into business mode from casual. Leaning away from the door, Asi can see him angle a look over to Francis, but doesn’t say anything. Instead, he just motions with two fingers and suddenly Francis also slips out of his lackadaisy casual posture into something more alert. Then, Avi shuts the door to the conference room.

Asi manages at least to turn from the door back to the other two, unwanting or unwilling to have a seat again. "Texting couldn't hurt," she tells Faulkner. Returning to the table, she flips the notepad face down to prevent other eyes from peeking at the contents. Nova's business should remain hers alone.

"Got it," Faulkner murmurs, pulling his phone out and tapping out a quick text to Castle.

When Avi returns, there’s no knock. He opens the door and standing with him is a man no one in the room recognizes. He’s Avi’s height, but decades younger. Blonde, square-jawed and stubbled with a hint of a beard. His clothes are beaded with rainwater that stinks of smoke like a campfire, and in his eyes is a hint of nervousness.

“You just go on and pretend like I’m not even here,” Avi says as he looks down at the man who’d introduced himself as James Kirk at the door. “We’re all friends here,” Avi says to him with the firm clap of a hand on his shoulder, and James casts the Wolfhound Commander a nervous glance before stepping into the conference room with shoulders hunched and a grimace spreading across his face. Avi shuts the door behind himself, then releases Kirk’s shoulder and crosses his arms over his chest.

“Oh.” Kirk mumbles as he looks from Asi to Isaac to Nova. “Three of you. Wow, that’s—okay. Hi.” He smiles, nervously, as if waiting for something from them. “Ah…” Kirk glances over his shoulder to Avi, then back to the others nervously. “So, like this, then… okay.” He says more to himself. “Okay. All on the table yeah.” His voice is now a self-assuring whisper. “I got this.”

The wide eyes of Nova watch the goings on like she’s at a tennis match, moving from player to player, though there’s more than just the usual two here. But when Kirk enters, she seems to ease up in response to his nervous and affable presence; she leans back in her chair and lifts a hand to wave at his hi.

“Take a load off,” she says, gesturing to the many chairs to choose from, like it’s her living room and not a conference room she’s never set foot in before. “I believe in you,” she adds in a stage whisper in response to his self-affirmation — if it’s a ploy to get them to trust him, it seems to be working on the college student.

Three of them. Faulkner would have been interested even if this guy had just come in to blow smoke, but that comment right there establishes that he knows at least something of what he's talking about, which means that Faulkner finds that very interesting. "Hello," Faulkner says with a confident smile. "I hope you won't mind if we sit in on this; we happened to be here to speak with Asi anyway, but… well. Any information about our condition is extremely relevant to our interests. I trust you don't mind?"

Asi waits out the nervous mumbling with an impassive expression, her dark eyes settled on the self-invited guest with a certain amount of expectation. Her arms don't unfold from low on her torso, grip on either elbow reaffirming invisibly when Faulkner speaks in the inclusive. All cards on the table, as the stranger said.

"Perhaps you can start with who you are," she suggests in a deadpan. "And how you know about our situation." It was a situation efforts had been gone to to conceal, after all.


“Kirk,” he says with a gesture to himself, “James T. Kirk.” Then, with a smile. “Yeah, like the Captain.”

Avi angles a look over Kirk’s shoulder at Asi with a squint and a mouthed, what the fuck?

“I don’t mind uh, you all here. Honestly this makes it a lot easier for me.” Kirk says as he looks back at Avi anxiously, then pulls out a chair and takes a seat. “Uh, as for who I am, uh…” He looks around the room, clearly uncertain about what he should say, but then just goes for it. “I’m a PHARO synthetic lifeform, like the rest of you.”

Avi’s stare becomes a thousand yard one.

Nova’s brows furrow at the allusion, and she looks to Isaac to mouth “Captain who?

But there are more important things to worry about, like why this stranger is here to talk to Asi, to all three of them.
Her eyes widen at the naming of things, the naming of what they are, and her lips twitch twice for something to say.

“How do you know what we are? Did the ones who did this send you?” she says suddenly, then glances at Asi and Isaac, before leaning forward toward him, fingers gripping the edge of the desk. “What did they do to the real us? Is there a real us?”

Her chin trembles, and she adds, in a smaller voice, because her worry is more for her than for her friends who know one another, who had lives here in the Safe Zone before the plane crash, “A real me?

Kirk. Isaac nods as he processes the newcomer's last name… then he catches the reference and blinks. He wonders, briefly, if it's an alias… but no, apparently, someone actually had the remarkably poor taste to name him that.

Then their guest says what he is, what they all are, and Isaac Faulkner's whole world changes. A synthetic lifeform. He is… a synthetic lifeform. It's strange; he'd known that this body was artificial, but hearing it stated flat out like that evokes a feeling that it takes him awhile to place. Relief.

Because now, once again, he knows the answer to that old, old question — who am I? He knows the answer now… he is a synthetic lifeform. He isn't Isaac Faulkner, stripped down and shoved into some artificial shell — he is… something else. He is himself — he is a PHARO synthetic lifeform, whatever the hell that might be. God, isn't that wild? It's like chains breaking. His future is his own… so now, what does he do with it? He laughs softly to himself, shaking his head.

Nova failing to catch the Star Trek reference, though, makes him frown; the fact that she doesn't remember something as ubiquitous as Star Trek is… worrisome. Maybe she was into Star Wars instead… but it feels like a stretch. Still, her questions are pertinent. "Nova's got some good questions," Isaac admits. "Let me add a few more, if I could. Who… made us?" The question feels strange; here's the darker side of being a synthetic lifeform, it seems. "God, I have a billion questions. Who made us, what does PHARO stand for, how'd you find out about us…"

"But we should probably handle the important ones first. What about the originals? I'm pretty sure I — Isaac — " he corrects himself, grimacing, " — wasn't born a synthetic lifeform. Do you know if they're still… out there?" He pauses as something occurs to him about that future of his. "And, uh… we keep having strokes and such. Do you know anything about that? Maybe about how to stop that?" he asks, sounding hopeful. It's a Hail Mary, but nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Asi's aware, peripherally, of Avi's reaction even if she's not looking at him. First to the introduced name, then secondly to the revelation. She knows there's no leaving this room without giving him the chance to get a shouted what the fuck or three out once everyone else has gone.

The good news is they're already in the soundproofed room in the building.

After the series of questions are issued in Kirk's direction, she lifts one hand from the fold of her arms to gesture a pause, or maybe demand attention to what she finds to be the most immediate question: "So you were also Expressive— kidnapped from your home, stripped of your ability, shoved forcibly into some other body— and somehow made your way back into the world?"

Her hand tips over as she asks even more harshly than the brusque tone she's taken on, "Or did you choose this particular brand of hell willingly?"

“Uh…” Kirk suddenly looks like he regrets all of this. Casting a glance to the side he considers Nova and Isaac, then Asi, then looks at his shoulder to Avi who is—

heading for the door.

“I gotta call someone,” Avi says as he opens the door and steps back out into the hall without another word, leaving Asi and the others alone with Kirk. The moment Avi leaves the room, Kirk seems to relax just a bit, but wrings his hands together in front of himself.

“Okay so, he said you’d have a lot of questions.” Kirk admits with a nervous laugh. “But uh, okay let—let me try and answer these all in an order that might make sense.” Shifting his weight in his chair, Kirk looks over to Asi.

“First and foremost, I wasn’t kidnapped, nor was I a volunteer. I’m completely synthetic from top to bottom, my personality is a composite identity made from a number of cognitive memory imprints available to my creator. You could say I’m… new?” Kirk raises his brows and looks around the table. “He sent me here, secretly, to find you all and try and explain what was happening before it’s…”

Kirk sighs and shakes his head. “PHARO—the name for what we are—is an acronym. It stands for Pygmalion Hybrid Artificial-Recombinant Organism. Pygmalion was the project name we were developed under, based off of some old story about a sculptor who fell in love with his creation.”

You all are… like me, in a way. Not new, but… copies.” Kirk explains with a slow spread of his hands. “Your bodies are a composite of organic and synthetic components utilizing DNA harvested from donor bodies so that you’re a one-to-one genetic match. Your brains are a combination of synthetic cerebral tissue and hardwired electronic components upon which a web of consciousness is imprinted based on synaptic maps from your donors.”

Kirk looks down at the table, brows furrowed. “Your donors,” he says with an angle of his head to the side, “are being held somewhere else, kept in a state of… suspended animation isn’t quite the right word? Kept in a state of waking unconsciousness, inhabiting an artificial world intended solely for them. As… far as I know.”

“Your failing health,” Kirk continues with a motion to Isaac, “is a part of a flaw in your biological system’s designs. You weren’t finished when the aircraft you were on crashed, there were final catalyzing agents that hadn’t been delivered to your cerebral systems and your cognitive software, so your wetware and hardware are going out of sync…” he says, putting his hands together and then shifting them apart at an odd angle, “causing catastrophic cerebral decay.”

Biting down on his lower lip, Kirk folds his hands in front of himself. “Part of the reason I came to find you was to warn you that it’s only going to get worse, that until the catalyzing agents are inserted into your cerebral tissue and you receive your final firmware update, you’re going to continue to backslide until… well until the system fails, and we don’t know when that will be.”

“Now, I know all of this because I was imprinted with this knowledge before I was activated,” Kirk explains. “My creator, Colin Verse, ensured that I had mission-critical knowledge to relay to the lot of you, while maintaining enough operation security that I don’t uh, how’d he phrase it? ‘Get him fucking killed’ before he can ‘figure out how to un-fuck all of this.’

Kirk grimaces, wringing his hands together. “The only outlier is you,” he says with a look to Nova. “You weren’t kidnapped, because from what Mr. Verse was able to tell me, you’re… the daughter of the scientists that designed our cognitive mapping matrix.”

Nova’s eyes narrow at the word donor, and murmurs, “That suggests consent, and I’m pretty sure none of us agreed to any of this.” It’s more of an aside to herself than a correction she expects to be remedied or responded to, and one hand gestures for him to keep going.

The rest of it is fantastical enough, and her nose wrinkles at the word wetware, but all of the discomfort she feels at his diction choices is nothing compared to the last of his comments, directed at her.

Her hand drops on the table with a thud — not a deliberate slap or smack, but lax from the shock of the words. Her eyes widen and she shakes her head, first slowly, then more vehemently. “No,” she manages to whisper. “No.

Any questions she might have fall away, and she seems incapable of any other words for the moment. Nova rises from her chair, but it’s not a dramatic jumping up that she might like it to be — she’s shaking too hard for that, and her weakened hand has to grip the table to make sure she doesn’t stumble. Where she’s going, it isn’t clear, as she turns away from the table and the door, staggering a few feet away to simply lean against the wall where she buries her face in her hands.

Isaac's expression mirrors Nova's at the word donor, but everything else is met with a grim expression and nods in appropriate places.

At least until the end. Nova's absolute horror at Kirk's revelation is met with a widening of his own eyes. "Hey," he says, reaching for her hand, but she doesn't even hear him — she just lurches to her feet and staggers blindly to the wall.

Faulkner gives a nod to Kirk — he's grateful beyond words for the information the man has imparted — but right now Nova needs some emotional support, and be damned if he's going to just sit here and let her cry by herself.

Faulkner gets up and walks over to her, putting an arm carefully around her shoulders. "Hey," he says again, and he can't think of what else to say there so he just holds his handkerchief in his other hand, ready to offer it whenever she should decide she needs it.

Avi slips out of the room before Asi can stop him, and where Kirk relaxes her anxieties spike. What happens from here feels precarious, even before Kirk continues and explains the full length of their situations.

The sudden lack of questions from Nova and Faulkner in the face of this reeling news, though, gives her perfect opportunity to charge ahead. "And how do we get these updates to survive, without falling back into the hands of the people who did this to us in the first place?" With a tense frown, she adds with more emphasis, "Who did this to us, Kirk?"

But the back of her mind is buzzing over that name. Pygmalion. It rings bells, thinking back to the information uncovered by Elliot's dive into Renautas' systems back in February. Her eyes harden as she starts to line the pieces up, even if it requires some jumps on her part…

And she levels a look expectantly on the man across from her.

Kirk shifts awkwardly in his seat, brows kicking up for a moment as he wrings his hands together on the table. “Well, see, that’s a complicated question,” he says with a look up to Asi, trying to ignore Nova’s own emotional distress for lack of knowing what to do with it. “I guess the answer is… everyone? But that’s—also not really accurate.”

“The long story is, it started with Crito Corporate,” Kirk says with a motion to Asi. “Back a few years ago, they were in bed with a group called Humanis First. I’m told you all would already know who that is.” He notes with a quick glance to Isaac, then back to Asi. “They were coordinating a deal with a woman named Georgia Mayes for some bleeding edge technology she’d smuggled out of the Commonwealth Institute and refined at Fort Irwin out in the Dead Zone during, and after, the war here in the States.”

Kirk takes a breath, shaking his head. “Before the government hit the place, Crito exfiltrated Mayes’ scientists. One, a pioneer of artificial consciousness named Marvin Whitlow, the other, my creator Colin Verse. Crito had a lot of reasons to want to design and develop this technology, and of course I only know what Mr. Verse knew… which is that they wanted these bodies—you—constructed, and they wanted a distributed consciousness domain to keep, uh…” he makes air quotes with his fingers, “undesirables locked away in.”

Kirk bobs his head from side to side. “Thing is, Crito doesn’t want fingerprints on any of this, so they outsourced most of the development to a subsidiary called InVerse Technologies. That’s who Nova’s parents—Jacoba and Gerrit VanDalen—work for. InVerse stands to make billions off of this technology through their deal with Crito, but they lacked the manufacturing resources to, y’know, do this on a scale.”

“That’s how we get to a company called ARM.” Kirk says, and the pieces in Asi’s mind continue to slot into place. “They’re a Japanese company; Advanced Robotics Manufacturing.” He says for Isaac’s sake, picking up that he likes acronyms disassembled. “ARM has worked with almost every major tech company in the world, from Yamagato to Praxis. They have facilities all over the world, and there’s an ARM facility in the Czech Republic where I was manufactured. See, the original model for your bodies was fabricated by a man named Maxwell Huber, who works for InVerse. ARM was able to synthesize a machine that does some of the work Huber’s ability does, but in a faster production state.”

Spreading his hands, Kirk sits back in his chair and grimaces. “That’s how we get here. As far as getting the catalyzing agents, we have a supply of them at the ARM facility in the Czech Republic, but security there is tight. If we disrupt things there, it’ll start a cascade of events. InVerse might liquidate your uh, you know selves. Try to hide the evidence. It’s a lot of players and Mr. Verse isn’t sure he knows all of them, either. Because there’s some parts of all of this that don’t add up, as far as he says.”

“This is getting to be a habit,” Nova manages to murmur to Isaac with a wet-sounding laugh, accepting the handkerchief with a trembling hand. She wipes her eyes and nose with it, but doesn’t offer it back. She turns her eyes back on Kirk, trying to follow the complicated chain of custody that James explains.

Her brows draw together at the names of her parents and she shakes her head — they aren’t names she knows. The last name isn’t her last name. She slides down the wall to sit, drawing her knees up and wrapping her arms around them as the words become nothing but a fog she can’t see through.

Still, some cut through. “Liquidate,” Nova echoes with an incredulous shake of her head.

Isaac sighs and leans back against the wall as Nova slides down it. He doesn't sit down beside her — this conversation is important enough that Isaac wants to be able to really think about what's being said, and he thinks best on his feet — but he doesn't leave her to her own devices, either.

He listens, though, as Kirk leads them through the tangled web of everyone responsible for this. ARM, InVerse, Crito. "So… the plane was carrying us to a facility in the Czech Republic when it crashed, then?" he muses, then shakes his head, looking back to Kirk.

"Okay. So we have to save the originals first, which means InVerse. And we're also on a death timer until we get the catalysts and firmware, which is at an ARM facility in the Czech Republic. And that's just what you, and by extension Verse, know about; there may be other players with their hands in the mix." He is silent for a moment, then shakes his head. "I… I don't even know what to do with this. What I can do with this," he admits, glancing to Asi for a moment.

His gaze swings to Kirk again. "Did Verse have any ideas on what we could do to help him, uh, un-fuck this?" He frowns as something occurs to him. "Also… not to be ungrateful, Kirk, but isn't creating a new person from scratch an awful lot of work to go to in order to deliver a message? Even with all the information you're bringing us," Faulkner muses. "Just how tight is security wherever Verse is at?"

This is a lot to take in, and Asi bides her time in quiet. She takes in a breath and begins to shake her head when Isaac asserts the plane was carrying them to the Czech site. "According to what Thatcher learned, our bodies boarded that plane from an Eastern European country… it may be that we were being brought someplace local, first. Unless the plane was off course for longer than we thought before it went down."

She wishes they knew more there. But maybe they don't have to.

"Do we have options outside the Czech Republic? Someplace local?" She frowns as she probes, "Canadian?" Her arms finally unfold, one hand gesturing stiffly. "We can't go rescuing ourselves if we're falling apart, and we can't go on living as though we're the only us if we continue to fall apart. It's a delightful Catch-22."

“From what I know Mr. Verse wasn’t aware of what your final destination would be,” Kirk explains with an apologetic tilt of his head. “He was the cause of the crash, though. He knew the only way to reveal what was happening was to break the chain of custody. He didn’t know how any of this would go down… but he was terrified of what would happen if he didn’t stop this.”

Kirk looks down at his hands, brushing his thumbs together. “As for security, Mr. Verse is monitored twenty-four hours a day, except for brief maintenance cycles that last roughly thirty minutes. That’s the opening when he was able to sneak me out of the facility, and send me on my way. On paper I was a test to bugfix the problems you were all having, because—that’s how he’s presented it to his handlers. A bug. I think he indicated that I was non-operational and scrapped.” Kirk looks down at the table.

“But I know I’m a last resort.” Kirk says with a small shake of his head. “Mr. Verse tried to go through corporate channels to recover one of you using the original extraction team that kidnapped you in the first place, but they were intercepted and they never reported back. Had the plan worked, he would have repaired the damage done and sent them back with information instead of me.”

Shifting awkwardly in his seat, Kirk tilts his head to the side. “As for where your original copies are held, I’m not sure. If Mr. Verse knows he didn’t share that information with me. What he did share is that if you can get to the ARM facility he’s in, he can supply you with the cure to your condition. In exchange, he would very much like to be liberated from his captors. I believe there may be an information exchange as to your physical selves’ whereabouts as well. It all felt, uh, transactional?”

“But the point of that is,” Kirk says with a raise of both of his hands, “that going there puts everything on a short countdown. We don’t know how fast people will move to clean up evidence of wrongdoing once it becomes clear the cat is out of the bag, but obviously you all can’t wait forever either. So that, in itself, is tricky.”

Glancing down at the table, Kirk wrings his hands together. “But even if you did infiltrate another ARM facility, there’s no guarantee they’re working on Pygmalion. You might break into a secure corporate fabrication lab for nothing. The only one I know, for sure, is involved is in the Czech Republic, and most of their fabrication work has been diverted to a parallel project while the bug fix is being investigated. Mr. Verse is buying time, in essence. I think he’s also trying to get your uh, primary selves out of the OPTICA system… but I don’t know how well that’s going.”

Sitting on the floor, Nova seems to have pulled herself together, though now and then a fresh set of tears streams down her face. She’s listening carefully, though, and watching under a sullen scowl that deepens when it seems that Colin Verse is working on their behalf in exchange for help for himself.

“So he knows where they are but he didn’t tell you so that we won’t just go storm that castle instead,” she points out.

Sniffling, Nova wipes her face again with Isaac’s loaned handkerchief and tips her head at the last word. “He couldn’t have given you the recipe for the, what, catalyzing agents? Or maybe even given them to you to bring to us so we don’t have to play the world’s worst game of ‘Beat the Clock?’”

But angry sarcasm isn’t her style, and Nova rubs her hands over her face. “Sorry. It’s not your fault, James. Don’t shoot the messenger.” She smiles apologetically at him, but it’s a shaky, fleeting thing.

Isaac's gaze swings to Nova as she speaks, his brow furrowing, but thankfully her better nature gets the upper hand quickly; he nods. "At least we know more now than we did," he says. Then he grimaces. "At least we know something now; if you hadn't shown up, we'd still be about a hundred miles behind," he grumbles.

Then he frowns. "Just how is it that no one could find any traces of any of this?" Faulkner asks, rubbing at his forehead.

"Shell games," Asi answers, distant if not vacant while she ponders what Kirk's revealed. "No company working on more than one component. Chances are, knowing this, maybe InVerse really is responsible for our blood; selling a watered down version to the public. And…"

She trails off, abruptly placing her fingertips at the corners of her eyes and pinching the bridge of her nose. "Verse," she breathes out, weary. "InVerse? Is it that… fucking…?" On the nose? Visible? A cry for help? That sounds and feels like a stretch, but what part of this doesn't feel too unreal to be real?

And yet, it's their situation.

Her arms swing back down to her side as she lifts her head, looking directly to Kirk again. "So what I'm hearing is, we'll need to organize a covert assault directly on your place of manufacture and somehow manage to bypass security until we're already inside and have secured our bodies. We'll need to infiltrate or pass as one of the subsidiaries or contractors to get past the front door, most likely, unless we apply military surgical precision to achieve this."

And all this with Elliot physically out of reach to help, she thinks to herself. After a moment of hesitation, she sends out a tentative ping through the weak connection to him and Wright.

"There are other players in this," she realizes and voices. "Renautas, now Renautas-Weiss Nanotech, had a team in their employ working on a project codenamed Galatea— also named after the Pygmalion myth. They were partnering with ARM, too. Though the issue with Renautas was— they were working on a project they called Structure, and their initiative was almost certainly a front for a Mazdak interest." Asi begins to frown. "So we have… two massive corporate conspiracies, one tied to Humanis First interests, and the other to Mazdak…"

"The bigots and their reasons speak for themselves. But why Mazdak?" she wonders quietly. "And where do we find in Renautas the line between work done for Structure and work being done related to…" The word struggles to come, but she manages it. "To PHARO production?"

Is the data they pulled from Renautas possibly more relevant than even she'd first thought?

“Galatea?” Anything else that Kirk was going to say dies when Asi mentions that by name. He sits up straight in his seat, hands flat on the table, eyes wide. “Do you know what Galatea is? That—that was the other thing I was sent here to find out. That’s the parallel project that’s been stealing resources from Pygmalion. Mr. Verse doesn’t know what it is, but there’s engineers at InVerse working on it right now.”

Kirk glances around the table, then back to Asi. “He didn’t mention anything to me about a Structure or uh, Renautas-Weiss?” The name comes off Kirk’s tongue imprecisely. “But he was hoping you all knew what Galatea was. Because nobody else seems to.”

Nova shakes her head at the question. “I just know the myth, not any of this corporate stuff,” she murmurs, glancing up at Isaac where he stands beside her. “And as far as Mazdak goes… why they would be tied to it, you have to consider that they were able to somehow access the memories from our organic selves.”

She refuses to use the word donor.

“Or at least yours. Mine doesn’t match.” Her lower lip wobbles but she manages to push aside the wave of existentialism and continue.

She gestures to Asi, standing up finally to lean beside Isaac. “Your memories. The Millers’. Kaylee’s. Yi-Min’s. Kimiko’s…” Nova takes another breath at the last name. “So they have information about Wolfhound, Raytech, SESA, Yamagato. And as long as we’ve been here, almost a year now, they have access to the new memories we’re making in these… synthetic suits. They know what we know.”

“That’s where you’re wrong, though.” Kirk says with an index finger on each hand raised. “They have no idea what you’re up to. There’s no remote connection, because that sort of thing can be hacked, intercepted. You weren’t supposed to wind up like this, and now that you’re free? They can’t even find all of you.”

"Well, that's a plus, at least," Faulkner grumbles, rubbing at his forehead. "Pygmalion and Galatea… heh. Seems a little off that we'd be Pygmalion," he says, with a smirk…

But even he can't hold nonchalance for long in the face of something like this. "Even if they don't have access to what we've done after we got kidnapped… they do still have access to our original bodies. And our original memories." He pauses as something truly upsetting occurs to him. "God. Galatea was a parallel project. What if Galatea is something they're doing to the originals?"

Faulkner's gaze swivels to Kirk. "This… OPTICA thing you mentioned. An artificial world, you said? Might that have anything to do with Galatea?"

Asi hesitates and then shakes her head. "Yes and no?" she ventures, her eyes unfocused. "Galatea, if it's truly a counterproject, its equivalent to OPTICA would be Structure. Galatea, as far as I could tell, was some kind of advanced… drone project, which—" Her only rejoinder is to make a gesture at her entire person. "And what Renautas was working on, this project run by a man named Lucien Crane, who had fugitives including Claudius Kellar working for him…"

Abruptly, she looks back to Isaac, realizing the word salad made up of names isn't likely to help. "There were signs Mazdak was involved through his presence, and it would align with how Adam Monroe via Praxis had been intent on not just destroying, but tearing apart Yamagato's secrets. They— Renautas— kidnapped another high-ranking Yamagato officer looking for some secret so secure not even their seers have dug it up."

One she's beginning to suspect has less to do with the company, and maybe more to do with acts of the Company, many years ago.

"To Nova's point, Crito have our memories. And know them well. They made us from them, so it's…" She furrows her brow for a moment, trying to cycle back. "So… so what do we do? Report the security breach to all affected parties now that we know the extent of what's been done?" Assuming that Avi wasn't on the phone with someone right now to that effect.

Her frustration mounts with someone who's not even here. "Why didn't v.iris send a fucking message? To warn about the latest kidnapping attempt? The… apparent good that would have come from it?" A breath tears from her explosively before she lifts a hand to run it back through her hair. "We could have worked together, but no, he had to create an entire other person," she snaps with a rough gesture of that hand to Kirk before looking away from him, "to come talk to us to avoid facing me again after he did this to me."

The frustration in her voice gleams with hurt against her will, heard for all that she adopts a hard expression.

“Would you believe me if I told you this was the easiest way?” Kirk says with an awkward laugh and a crooked smile. “I mean, I’m not sure I believe it either, but that’s what Mr. Verse told me and who am I to question it? I mean I’m less than a year old.” He notes with a wrinkle of his nose.

“But from what Verse gave me,” Kirk says with a slow spread of his hands, “I don’t know anything about Renautas or this Crane guy. That means Mr. Verse might not either. I’m as in the dark as you all are, uh, respectively.”

Slouching forward, Kirk folds his hands on the table in front of himself. “What you do from here, I mean, that’s all up to you. But Mr. Verse had a warning, and it’s one he made sure I memorized because it’s an important one.” Kirk looks around the table at the three gathered. “Remember all those years ago, when Nathan Petrelli got up and stood in front of a press conference with Officer Parkman and a handful of other people?”

Kirk’s eyes slowly track back and forth among the three people whose lives have been forever changed by this conversation. “Remember how afraid people were, when they learned there were people who looked just like them but held power they could never dream of? Remember the tragedies, the loss, and the wars we’re still getting into over it?” Kirk looks down at the table. “Now imagine that, again, but we tell governments that there are life forms that mimic other people, intruders that could have infiltrated communities around the world for all they know. Now imagine the paranoia, the fear, and the killings if that information gets out.”

Slowly sitting back in his chair, Kirk sighs. “Imagine what they might do to you if they think you aren’t a person and don’t legally have any rights anymore. That you’re just a machine.” There’s genuine fear in Kirk’s voice, not just for the scenario he’s outlining, but for himself.

“You have just as much a right to exist as the people you were modeled after do.” Kirk says with a furrow of his brows. “But do you trust your government to see it the same way?”

“Small favors,” says Nova, regarding the fact the new information can’t be accessed. “They still know too much.”

Her eyes narrow at the warning, blue eyes flashing with a cool anger, in sharp juxtaposition to the heat of the tears she’s already shed. She shakes her head. “We don’t, though. We shouldn’t exist,” she says, almost sharply, but it softens at the sound of the fear in Kirk’s voice — despite herself, despite the terrible news he bears, she cares how he feels.

Empathy, because he’s like them, and yet not.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I don’t mean to…” she shakes her head, and the anger has faded, just leaving her with that weary sadness.

“So we don’t say anything and go rescue Verse and hopefully our originals, in our rapidly decaying bodies that might fall apart at any moment.” She looks back up at Isaac. “This’ll make North Brother look easy in comparison so there’s that.”

Drones? That's both the least and most confusing thing Asi's said. Isaac doesn't really see see how drones fit in with artificial people — unless you're going to start getting into Manchurian Candidate territory, anyway. But everything else — even with her attempts at an explanation — lies far enough outside Isaac's knowledge that it's incomprehensible.

But Monroe… that's a name he knows, though how it fits in this context remains a mystery, a known piece whose edges don't quite seem to line up with anything else. Ugh.

It's that edge in Asi's voice that sees Faulkner's full attention come back to her; for all her expression shows nothing but sternness and frustration, the hurt that tinges her words is palpable. Faulkner wonders, briefly, what connection those two had; maybe he'll ask about it at some point. But the seriousness with which Kirk issues his warning draws Faulkner's attention again his way.

The press conference. Yes, Isaac remembers that, remembers the power they'd shown, and for a moment, there's a hint of something distant and almost wistful in his expression — he remembers it, oh yes. The wistfulness turns to pain as he remembers, again, what he's lost… and, as Kirk reminds them of it, he remembers the tragedies. The loss. The war.

Nova's argument draws Faulkner's gaze to her, and now there's a sharpness to his expression.

"Well. I would beg to differ on that point," he says to Nova, that old smirk of sardonic amusement touching his lips again. "But, as you've pointed out here — we are on a timer, so as much as I'd enjoy debating with you, I'll have to table my counterarguments on the worth of our existence for a later time."

"So… moving, for a moment, back to our new friend's warning…" Faulkner begins… then, abruptly, he frowns. "SESA said much the same thing, didn't they? Back when we first started getting anomalous test results back," he muses, glancing to Asi.

But that hadn't been the point he'd meant to bring up. "Anyway. What I meant to ask is… who was your…" Faulkner trails off, realizing he doesn't know exactly what the relationship between Avi and Asi is. "Who was Avi going to call, again?" he asks Asi, again searching her expression for signs — this time as to how worried he should be.

Kirk's answer does little to assuage Asi's heightened emotions until he gets to his fears for them all. Her arms return to a fold across her chest, a deep breath taken in as she easily imagines the kind of fear someone could have— it's the same kind of fear she worries Avi is out of the room acting on right now.

"We might as well just tear off the band-aid and tell them all about the other realities at the same time. Time, and dimensional travel. Get it all out of the way at once so they can't so easily make up their minds what to panic about or be bigoted against first."

She's joking, but she's also not.

Asi looks back to Faulkner, expression unchanging. "I should go see about him, and Reeves— presuming Francis got in touch with her." Her arms unfold, posture losing none of its tension. "You two should take him and go; get him back to your place. This information came out as securely as it could in here," she says with a vague gesture of her hand up at the soundproofed walls. "But it needs to get to every last one of us, now, and that's not going to happen if the DoE decides it's curious about everything our new 'friend' Kirk has to say and sequesters him away from us."

She looks back for just a moment at the newcomer android, brows lifting at him. "Unless, of course, you want to be confined to a room like this or smaller for an indeterminable period of time," Asi asks, sarcasm impeccably light.

“You could try telling them about aliens, too,” Kirk says with an awkward laugh, assuming he’s one-upping Asi’s science-fiction plan. Because, parallel realities, right? Sure.

“And uh, yeah I—as a relatively new member of society—would really like to remain a part of it for as long as I…” Kirk starts to say, then looks somewhat distant. His eyes track from side to side. He hadn’t considered the future beyond this moment yet. The weight of that reality presses down on him, sags his shoulders.

“Hold on,” Kirk says, reaching into his jacket to both distract himself and fulfill a promise. He retrieves a nub of a pencil and a Lucky Strikes matchbook that he lays out on the table. Quickly, Kirk scribbles something on the inside of the matchbook cover, then slides it across the table to Asi. “For when you’re ready.”

ARM Facility 2

50.803018, 14.151537

Sitting back against his chair, Kirk looks over at Nova and Faulkner. “I have a truck outside, don’t know if either of you need a lift. But if we’re going to be, uh, laying low it might be good to do it in a vehicle nobody knows.”

Isaac’s sharpness is something Nova isn’t used to, and her eyes dart that way, widening, then dropping. She murmurs softly, “Sorry,” because really, James T. Kirk is a very lovely non-human and she doesn’t want to hurt his feelings, nor the rest of their kind’s.

“Please tell me there’s not also aliens,” she manages to say, back to her somewhat-cheery self, though her eyes are red-rimmed and her face paler than it was when she entered the room. There’s no reaction to the mention of other dimensions though, since the Sundered have explained that one to her some time ago.

“So, your place or mine?” Nova turns to Isaac with a smirk — there really isn’t an option. “I don’t suppose you want to go live in a dorm room,” she tells James wryly. “Or we can find somewhere to squat in Park Slope or something, unless one of the others has a better solution.”

"Aliens. Sure, why not," Faulkner chuckles, shaking his head. At Nova's question, Faulkner grins in amusement, though it fades to a more general-purpose sardonic smirk soon enough.

"Funny that you should mention Park Slope," Faulkner says drily to Nova, before his gaze shifts to Kirk. "I know a place there. Not really a great place — no power or running water, bad cell service, occasional wild animals if you're outside after dark — but the people there are good, and it's furnished and clean," Faulkner shrugs.

"For tonight, though… I can introduce you to my roommate. Hopefully Aman won't kill me for bringing a friend over," he says.

Asi's gaze remains locked on the matchbook for a long moment, fingers hovering just over the scrawl in such a way it doesn't impede her from trying to commit the numbers to memory. Her shoulders slope in a relief she didn't think she'd find; not now, not yet.

She takes in a breath, closes the matches, and slides them into her palm. In short order, she retrieves a half-smoked box of cigarettes from her jacket pocket, flips it open, and slips the book inside there before stowing the secret and its dual container away back in her jacket. "Head out now. I'll catch up with you later, once I've sorted things here."

She takes a moment to look from Faulkner to Nova to impress the importance of getting a move on before she pulls the door open and leaves it ajar, stepping out into and across the hall to find Francis first, Avi second.

Kirk angles a look at Asi, then Faulkner and Nova. “College sounds cool and all but…” he trails off, looking down at the table as he slowly rises to stand. “The less people who know about me, who know where to find me…” an undercurrent of a grumble runs through his words.

“…the better.”



Soft piano flows through the air, lilting melodies interspersed by arrhythmic brass notes and the twang of a stand-up bass. Amid the trumpeting, a gentle voice speaks in hushed tones from behind a bank of old CRT monitors.

“No, no, I understand. Totally.” A dark-haired man, cord phone cradled between shoulder and chin, talks distractedly into the receiver as he keys in a series of long strings of alphanumerics into one of the monochromatic terminals. “Thanks for forwarding it.”

On the computer screen, a blocky message appears:

Hey, are you there?
Please, I need your help.

Exhaling a sigh into his hands, the bearded man shakes his head. He keys in a response, brows furrowed in worry.

She is not going to answer. But we are trusted by her. We know you.

Waiting for the reply, the bearded man glances to his roommate coming in from the hall. “Hey, we might need to roll on something.” He says, standing up halfway out of his chair. His roommate waves a peace sign at him, distracted by something on his phone. “Cool, great. Awesome. Sounds good.” Then, under his breath. “Kids.”

Who is this?

The man returns to the keyboard, taking a deep breath as he keys in his answer.


The Bastion
Major Epstein’s Office

Avi’s brows furrow as his phone vibrates, another text message popping up.

That is complicated.

He narrows his eyes at the phone, about to write a frustrated response before another comes.

But you can call us… S.Attva


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