Hotseat, Part II


sf_asami2_icon.gif sf_gabriella2_icon.gif

Scene Title Hotseat, Part II
Synopsis A second source is sought for cross referencing.
Date March 18, 2021

Petrelli Mansion

“Hey, do you have a few minutes?”

The question comes from the doorway, where Gabriella Milos leans, dressed minimally in yoga pants, a t-shirt, and socks, all borrowed from the women of the house since her own garments are in the dryer. Her hair is in a ridiculous and messy topknot held in place by a green scrunchie found somewhere.

Gabby taps the notebook she holds, a pen stuck through the spiral at the top, against her leg. She looks down, then bends down to pull the left slouched sock up to match the right’s height at half staff, mid-calf.

“Are you doing okay? Today was nuts. Sorry I bailed earlier, but you know, also not-sorry I bailed earlier.” She left before the grand finale ending with injuries and destruction, after all.

Asami looks up from the meal prep she's doing, chopping peppers to go into omelette first thing in the morning. It's a brief look and then she goes back to finishing dicing the slice she's currently working on. "Hey," she greets in return.

The question seems to take her off-guard, leading her to swipe her finger carefully along the blade's side to slip off any clinging vegetables so she can set it aside entirely. "I'm…" she supposes as she lays it down carefully along the edge of the cutting board. "I'm not doing great. Batting a thousand when it comes to trying to…"

She looks off and then back to Gabriella with a grimace of a smile. "Rally everyone toward survival. Escape." One hand lifts in a vague gesture at everything. "Faulkner says … safety in traveling small, and everything in me screams against splitting our numbers, but…" Both hands coming to rest on the counter, shoulders lifting in a shrug.

"More importantly, how are you? Did someone see to your wounds?" Asami wonders.

The question draws a short, unamused laugh from Gabriella as she nestles herself into the corner of the counter and cabinetry. She uncaps the water bottle she’s holding and takes a swallow before she answers.

“I ran before it got bad, so I don’t have any,” she says. Gabby isn’t sheepish about it — she ran at the first sign of danger and left them to fend for themselves. But then, most of them are better equipped to deal with danger than she is, she reminds herself, as she recaps her bottle and sets it aside.

“Can I ask about the other world? You have all our powers, right, so you have memories of the other world? I have some questions. Just rattle off the answers, don’t overthink it.”

She lifts a brow to see if she has Asami’s agreement to this experiment, and tugs a pen out of the metal spiral of the notebook where she’s tucked it for safekeeping.

"Ah," Asami acknowledges when Gabtiella reminds her she left earlier than that. "Right." There had been so much going on, it was hard to keep track of everything and everyone, despite best efforts.

Her head lifts again when asked to provide details about the other world, and she dips her chin just slightly in agreement. "Sure… what kinds of questions? I only have my own memories, so I can do my best on general answers. If you're wondering about you in the other world like others were, I can't really answer that." Her brow slants momentarily in sympathy. "The only person I had any kind of relationship with was Kimiko."

Gabby chews on the end of the pen, and then grins. “No, I’ve already decided I’m the obituary writer for the Des Moines Register or some other terrible fate like that. If neither of you remember me, I’m sure my life is terribly boring and not worth remembering, anyway.”

Her tone is decidedly chipper, which is decidedly not like Gabriella, but everyone deals with stress in their own way. At least she’s not imbibing a second bottle of wine, which is the other choice.

“I guess some easy questions. What’s New York City like there? Who’s the president? Is technology the same or are we all riding the hovercraft we were promised in that reality?”

The corner of Asami's mouth kicks back into a small, rueful smile at Gabriella's underhyping of her potential role in the real world. "Or it could be that you're simply not Japanese or technopathic," she counters the fantasy delicately, in a voice so quiet it could be a thought aside. Since she's been asked to answer on the fly with this, she goes back to focusing on the prep she had been working at, pulling aside a bowl to begin cracking eggs into them.

"New York City as you know it is gone," she answers with her eyes down on her work. "There was an explosion in Midtown over a decade ago— a man who could explode caused fearful destruction. When it became public there were others out there with superpowers, your country went to war with itself over the treatment of them. One percent of the population, one powerful percent, were systematically targeted and locked away for the crime of their genetics. New York City was ground zero for the civil war that was to come when they and those who supported them pushed back." She trails off for a moment, her head turning southward— to Manhattan. She hesitates for a moment and then shakes her head. "Before that, there was another war. One where the US invaded several countries in the Middle East over a terror attack that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The climate overall in that world is… much different than it is here."

Realizing she's lingered too long on that question, she shakes her head at herself and looks back down to the bowl, taking a fork to whisk the eggs to an airy lightness. "I presume Praeger won a second election. Otherwise, I don't know who leads the country at this point in time. There were more parties fielding contenders than ever in modern American history." She resists a frown before moving on with, "As far as technology… in some areas more advanced, and in others, less. OPTICA, the way we understood it to exist here— a monitoring system for our lives and businesses— doesn't exist out there. But we live in a world where technology has been advanced by those who can commune with it. I'm one of those people in the real world. I used to work on prosthetics, then drones, and then— well, America happened."

The cutting board is tipped, peppers piling into the eggy mix. Asami narrows her eyes for just a moment and looks back over her shoulder, the stove knob turning of its own accord to come on. She blinks when it's done, seeming to regret the casual use of a power that's not hers, but it's a look quickly stowed as she looks back to the work of her hands. She stirs the eggs once more for good measure, tapping the fork on the bowl's side when done.

Gabby chuckles at the first comment, shaking her head. “Pretty sure I’m neither of those things,” she says a little wryly, but then she listens, taking notes with a swift, bespoke shorthand that dances across the page in indigo ink.

“That’s… wow.” She stares down at the words as if to comprehend the truth of them. “A lot. I can’t imagine any of that. So you’re one of the one percent of the world with real superpowers? Shit. Like, an X-Man or something? Do politics just revolve around what to do about the ‘mutant problem’ then?”

Apparently not all her reading is belles lettres though she might give that impression in her brunches and luncheons.

“What kind of cell phones do people use? What’s the big water cooler television show everyone has to watch?” she asks, pen pausing as she catches up to the current lull in the conversation.

"Exactly, tiringly, like an X-Man," Asami says with a weary laugh as she turns back to the stove, shearing butter into the pan she's picked and waiting for it to melt. "But the politics aren't supposed to work like that in your country anymore. The mutants, so to speak, won. But a lot happens in the space of so many years when the war was never really over for many people, even though it reshaped the country. It's like your first civil war all over again in that respect."

She sighs at the next question, seeming stumped by it. That one's stupidly simple as to be deceptively cunning. "I don't know— cell phones. Smartphones, like here. Yamagato put out one that has a folding screen that makes it tablet and phone both, other companies will start to emulate soon enough. There's variety, though. But television?" That's one she wrinkles her nose at. "I don't… really… keep up with that."

She pushes the butter around the pan to encourage it to melt in an even spread. "People complain about River Styx every now and then, I suppose? Some BBC unfaithful reproduction of events."

Gabby smirks, and lifts a shoulder. “I kind of understood some of the anti-mutant sentiment in those things. Sure, you have people like Rogue and Wolverine saving lives, but you have the bad guys, too. And it’s not like normal bad where a bad guy with a gun can be killed easily by a good guy with a gun.” She makes a face at that verbiage, and shakes her head. “We’re talking earth bending, reality warping powers that even the good guys can’t take them out easily, let alone the 99 percent of the population who isn’t powered.”

Her mouth twists into another grimace, and she looks up from her notes to Asami. “Annnnd I realize I just said this to someone who, if you’re telling the truth, is one of those X-men, and I’ve probably offended you. Sorry. I just mean… I rooted for the X-Men but I could understand why people were afraid. Survival of the fittest really means survival of the most evolutionarily adaptable, and if you’re the one not adapting, it’s normal to worry for your place on the earth, I guess.”

Gabby falls quiet, and her pen taps the paper as she considers her next question. “Who’s Violette? Have you actually met her? Do you know her in this other world?”

Gabriella's apology brings Asami to crack a small smile. "You're… okay. Understanding both sides of the issue doesn't make one offensive. It's insisting that we're less human for it, or subhuman, and should be treated as living weapons deserving to be in faraway cages for eternity that becomes problematic."

It's mid-reach for a spatula that the next question is aired, and Asami's fingers tense and pause. A moment later she scoops the spatula up after all, eyes half-closing in a narrow down at the eggs while she gives Gabby mostly her back. "Violette is…"

She finally shakes her head. "To be honest, I'm beginning to worry she's just an avatar of my friend v.iris, for a lack of a better word. Why he's chosen a different form than his own I don't know, but Violette exists outside the system. When I saw her a few days ago, I was furious with her for abandoning me. And she said, 'it's been two months for you but like 12 minutes for me' and that hurt, but it…" Unhappily, she pushes the egg around the pan. "Also makes sense?"

"It's v.iris who I know from the other world. We were close friends once. I'd like to believe we still are, but the 'mutant'-hating racists of the world are the ones with their hands on him, more often than not, and perpetual captivity makes it hard to keep in touch. That this— Crito seem to have him is sad, but not unexpected." Asami looks back to Gabby, emerging from her own thoughts to admit, "It may very well be that when we wake up, I'll have to look for him. Free him, too. But he's my friend." She looks down to the stove again. "That'd be on me, not on anyone else."

“No, definitely not subhuman,” Gabriella says softly. “Superhuman, maybe.”

She’s quiet, but she raises a brow and shakes her head with a laugh that’s a bit on the cynical sound. “V.iris — like virus — is not a name that fosters a lot of trust from me, if I’m honest. So he’s on the other side of this simulation? Are we sure they’re not using him to manipulate you somehow, and just making it seem like he’s trying to help? Is there a chance that’s a scenario they’d want to see play out, for some reason?”

Gabby sets down her pen, and goes to the refrigerator to find a bottle of water. “Really, why do this to us at all? What could they possibly gain from any of this? Does Violette or Virus have anything to say on that matter?” she asks, as she closes the door and leans against it.

Asami has to bite her tongue when Gabriella throws out Violette might be a ploy to get something their captors actually want. It's a thought needing weight given to it. She finally lets out a slow, long breath.

"They have us here in this dreamworld to keep us occupied while they map our brains— while they figure out what needs done to use our powers without our active involvement. If they wanted to manipulate me— if it was them doing this, I don't think they'd have bothered with this alter ego step. They'd have just used my memory of him against me."

She supposes as she sets the spatula on the side of the pan while the eggs slowly cook through, "And I somehow doubt the simulation falling apart was part of their plan. What's happening here challenges and breaks apart the narrative we've been meant to follow, and the system is trying to reintegrate us. I have to believe that what we're doing— what Violette means to lead us toward— isn't a part of their design."

"And if it is?" Asami lets out a soft, broken laugh. "Then we've already lost. But…"

She turns to look at Gabriella. "I have to believe we haven't. That what we're doing now matters and will lead to freedom."

Gabby uncaps the bottle of water, taking a long sip, then lifting a brow to read the bottle. She chuckles. “This tastes like Kirkland water. What a scam,” she says, maybe in a small effort to lighten the mood.

She’s quiet for a moment, fiddling with the cap in her fingers before she speaks. “They definitely are trying to stop us from something, unless sending those things after you all is part of the brain mapping thing. I guess it makes sense.” She laughs, then, the sound seeming too loud in the small space, and she grimaces in apology.

“Makes sense,” Gabby repeats herself. “I mean, nothing makes sense, but I guess that makes as much sense as any of it. Or as little sense as any of it, which is probably closer to the truth. But, in the words of someone smarter than I am, ‘Not truth, but faith, it is that keeps the world alive.’”

Asami only shakes her head in response to the situation makes sense as much as any of this can make sense. In her own way, it's a sign of agreement, even if she's not sure what to say. Gabriella's line of questioning has given her plenty to think about whether she realizes it or not.

Her gaze refocuses when the quote is brought up, thinking back— and falling short. Looking back to the stove, she picks up the spatula again to carefully shift the pan's contents around without breaking it into pieces. "I can't say I've heard that one," she admits. "Who said that?"

Gabriella straightens from her lean, preparing to leave Asami to her omelette making. “I think it makes sense. If we knew the logistics against any matter of things out in the world, none of us would even be able to get out of bed, I think. Even in this fake world without second civil wars.”

She caps her water bottle. “A poet named Edna St. Vincent Millay. I might have gone into literature if I had any sort of personality for teaching, but as Millay said, ‘I love humanity, but I hate people.’ I think that might be a little strongly worded for my taste. I’m not sure humanity’s all that great either.”

With a grin, she picks up her pen and notepad. “Thanks for answering my questions, Asami. Enjoy your eggs.”

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