How Many More Secrets



Scene Title How Many More Secrets
Synopsis Marlowe's dreams lead her to dark places, shepherded by someone who wants her to punch through glass ceilings and walls for their own ends.
Date April 9, 2021

The halls here in Yamagato don't feel the way they used to. They don't hold the same sense of home; not anymore, not exactly. The white and silver curves of architecture had seemed so bright and open before, but now… such shadows hide in the light cast by that facade.

Even when working abroad, it didn't feel like this. Having to build relationships with new faces— to work through problems and process and progress with people she'd only known by email before— that wasn't so much an issue, a challenge. She didn't mind that. It was a new experience, so it was all almost to be expected.

She tries to tell herself she doesn't mind this transition period back, but… she wasn't expecting things to feel quite so different.

For all the familiar haunts and faces, in some ways, it feels like a foreign world.

When Marlowe enters the Yamagato Building this morning, not a single person smiles at her or says hello.

And yet it's a familiar feeling, if still deeply disturbing, to not be greeted or even feel noticed by her colleagues. In Tokyo, her appearance was already made distinct by the color of her skin and the texture of her hair, even when she toned down her wardrobe to fit in as much as she cared to endure of the stares and muted looks of shock and surprise.

Still, this was supposed to be easy. Her heels click a little too loudly with each step down the corridors, her own call to summon the self-confidence she needs to project in her position. A person she passes on the way to her workshop - why can't she put face to name in that moment? - who ignores her entirely gets a doubtful frown to their anonymous back.

Unsettled, Marlowe pushes on. The walk to the elevators isn't a long one. In a way, she's glad for the retreat into the quiet solitude of the elevator car down to her unofficial sanctuary.

She's not entirely alone when she gets there.

{Good morning, Ms. Terrell. The temperature will reach a balmy 23 degrees today; perfect for taking lunch outside later. Your schedule is looking busy this morning.}

Halfway to her worktable, a conjuration of light manifests itself, Jiba taking form in her space— and also in her path. But he seems as pleasantly cheery as ever, if somehow distant, too. {Your 9:00 AM with Mr. Kawahara and Hachiro starts shortly.}

Sometimes with being in management, it hardly feels like she has any time to get actual work done. Or interact with her team the way she'd like, for that matter.

"Ohayou, Jiba. Why the formality?" The engineer's response starts on autopilot herself, but something is still off in the greeting, catching her off guard as well. But there's not much time to think on the oddity too much, given the rundown of her schedule bringing an immediate churn on the inside of nerves.

Her hand reaches for the shimmery red case that holds her work tablet out of habit. "Did Hachiro add any notes to the meeting topics we're to discuss?" There are so many projects to summarize and present for the new CEO. So little time to explain, if there are questions.

Hayate Kawahara is a man of her grandfather's generation, likely full of old thought and tradition. And just like her grandfather, she feels the clash of personalities already, before she's even met him face to face.

{My apologies,} Jiba says, but even that sounds like a formality. The screen of her tablet lights when picked up, arranging to show the bundle of projects slated for discussion. The pins— sticky notes— of information Hachiro left are decorated with little in the way of details. Bulletpoints and shorthand only.

Distant, lacking his usual passion for the work they do. A few of the notes are project financial details only. It's hard to tell if it's that way because he's catering to their new audience, or…

{Marlowe? Good luck.}

When she looks up again, she's already in the elevator heading up. The Tower is tall, her destination near its top, and outside the grey skies display crepuscular rays— stubborn bits of morning bright shining between spots of dark clouds on the horizon. But in the moments she makes it to the intended floor, her view of the skies outside shifts, those last shafts of light stifled out.

Turning back to the elevator door, it opens into a floor seemingly filled with nothing but glass meeting rooms on either side of the main hall leading toward Kawahara's offices. That this isn't the way things normally look— the way things should work— isn't noted with how focused she is on the darkest point in the dimly lit areas.

The meeting room cubes and rectangles she passes by and large have the glass set to be frosted over into privacy mode. It provides a silhouetted view only of persons within, the brighter light in those room casting shapes against the frosted glass. So many of these are filled with people murmuring through business, though one definitely holds a more boisterous group. Multiple people are laughing somewhere in here.

Their voices sound familiar. It's an amalgamation of people she knows, from a space off to the left of her path.

No thank yous spoken, only a faint acceptance from Marlowe that the formalities are a part of the changes that are being implemented in her corporate world. Even if she doesn't like it, it's a variable to be accounted for in her life now. Corporate culture dictates action like a hive.

Yet she always felt more like the queen, even if disguised as a worker. She uses her faint reflection in the glass displaying the sky as she rises to remind herself.

Back to business as the elevator doors open. As she steps out of the carriage headed towards her intended destination, her inspection of the path ahead lures her along. After all the chilled formality of company workers in the levels below, the sounds of laughter is a curious, welcoming event. She is drawn to it, angling her steps at least for a pass at what hopefully can be a friendly respite before the real work begins.

A step off the main path brings Marlowe into dimmer light as she navigates toward that cell of brightness. When she rounds the corner to see into a meeting space where the fog of privacy doesn't hang, she can hear the individual voices with more clarity to the identity of them, even if she can't make out the topics.

She can see through the glass— see where Monica of all people stands in front of a conference table, smiling and commanding the room as though she'd never left. Those in the room with her likewise see nothing out of place about her presence, Kay sitting next to Kam who even wear small smiles of their own. The other suits in the room are all just as affable to the discussion happening around whatever is being presented— a far cry from the cold distance Marlowe's morning has seen her with.

It's Monica who notices her first through the glass, her smile arresting. Kay and Kam notice the shifted mood quickly, one of them reaching for a control on the table.

Hayate Kawahara turns around in his chair to glance through the window at her right before the glass walls of the meeting room sheen opaque, cutting off visibility of those inside and darkening the lighting surrounding Marlowe even further. The hall is quiet, the sounds of laughter cut off now.

Hidden, maybe, like the rest of whatever meeting was happening here— a meeting impenetrable not just from the social distance but the seeming lack of doors into the room. The fishbowl of the room is made deliberately difficult to enter, but…

"Are you going to let that glass stop you?" a presenceless voice whispers in her ear, so softly it might as well be a passing thought in her own mind. "It's no untouchable, intangible ceiling. What they're keeping from you is so close you could touch it."


"Moni?" The flash of surprise that shoots through Marlowe when she sees Monica Dawson present inside Yamagato's HQ is, at first, pleasant. But as dear and trusted a friend as Monica is, the pleasantry sloughs off when Marlowe sees the rest of the group taking in whatever fun presentation might have been coming from the charismatic former colleague. Confusion overwrites her smile when none other than Hayate Kawahara suspends her view into the room.

Thoughts swirl. Her morning meeting was scheduled with Kawahara and Otomo, wasn't it? Was Monica back with the company? And Kam Nisatta was supposed to be… indisposed. The whispered voice lingers in her mind. She reaches a hand up, fingers reaching for the opaque glass wall. No material has stopped her from gaining access where she's wanted, not since she learned of her supernatural power years ago.

But. She stops shy of pressing her fingertips to the glass. Her own wall of confidence cracks at the edges, hesitation to intrude rears up with a sense of polite resistance that stays her from contact. Her fingers curl halfway into a fist as her features take on a faint frown of doubt.

Hold the fuck up.

As suddenly as the drop of self-esteem had stopped her, so surges a pique of anger at her exclusion. Outsider, she has been, sometimes willfully and self-inflicted. That was then. And now, no longer. Her hand opens up and presses to the glass. Her irises flare golden as the material starts to loosen its solid bonds and tiny crackling arcs of blue-white energy sparks over the window's surface.

"Yes," that pervading voice encourages her, letting out a bright, youthful laugh. With the dancing of Marlowe's gift across it, the glass cracks, and so too does that voice break. Darkness closes in as the barrier spiders, light from the other side breaking through. The cracks go across the entire wall, and then beyond—

Before reality itself shatters, the darkness and oppressive, exclusive structure gone with it. There's no light here at all, and still somehow it seems brighter— perhaps owing to the woman standing opposite Marlowe, a middle-aged woman shrouded in white, dark hair worn free around her head. Her eyes are clouded with grey, and she smiles warmly— sharply— knowingly at Marlowe's transcendence.

"They can't stop you. Don't even let them try. Own your p̶͚͙̀̒õ̸̼ẘ̷̘̱͂e̸̡̮̓̕r̸̟͈͛͘. Tear down anyone who'd challenge your right," the woman encourages her, voice a fractal of tones. Young, frail, old… something else more sinister lurking in it too.

"Bring all their s̴̮͙̽͑e̸̼̖͖͌c̶̝̣̗̓̑r̷̻̘͍̓͝ȩ̵̹̙̚t̸̠̦̅͠s̸̤̭̪̊ to light."

Ever since she'd come into her power, Marlowe has had few things be a barrier to her. At least, physically speaking, really the only thing to keep her from barging her way forcibly through things has been a strong sense of said boundaries; who has set them, who enforces them, and when, if ever, to break them.

"Who are you?"

The question comes out rudely poised from Marlowe's otherwise confident stance. Her hand previously pressed to glass lowers slowly back to her side, the small crackles of energy petering off her fingers, golden irises fading back to their normal, darker brown. Even if she were to notice the shift in their surroundings to a vast void lit only by the strange woman, she bears little fear of strangers. Her head angles slightly as she warily watches the other woman, searching for some familiarity.

The question doesn't seem to register for the woman at first. Then her smile breaks after a beat, cogs turning in her mind. The grey swirl of her eyes looks… uncertain. Maybe even disbelieving. "You mean you don't…?"

The dark, groomed shock of short hair framing the stranger's face greys as she drifts a step closer. Worry lines pronounce on her face more intensely as she ages with proximity, her expression turning anguished. "What do you mean who?" she challenges indignantly.

Her hair silvers to white as she nears, the layering of her voice an additional sign of her mounting anger. "You d̷̻̈́ǐ̵̘d̵̡̦̋ ̴̛̪̬̏t̴̳̿͜h̸̠͗̎i̸̾ͅs̸͍̈͆ ̷͓̞̏̓t̶̜̅̕͜o̷̤͑̈́ ̷̬͈̅̕ḿ̷̻̼͛è̵͎̼͋ and you don't even know who I am?!" The older woman's face perhaps had a kindly bearing in life. Certainly more kindly a one than she has now.

Gone is her conspiratorial encouragement. In its place is something fouler, more true. "ยามากาโตะแย่ที่สุดแล้ว," the old woman swears bitterly, a haunted sunkenness taking over her features with the expression of that hatred. In it, Marlowe can hear one word that sounds familiar: Yamagato.

The curiosity cracks away along the edges of Marlowe's expression as the transition of persuasion to anger takes her aback. "Sumimasen. I'm afraid I don't," she replies evenly to the strange, now-older woman. The phrase she hears is unknown, but it produces a natural wariness to the exotic and unfamiliar face.

The last time she'd faced a stranger with a foreign language, her colleague had ended up completely altered in genetic makeup.

"So," Marlowe continues gently, "what did I do to you?"

The darkness around them shifts. Warms, where it's not crisply cold. "You came in the night," the woman answers. Streams of smoke begin to weave between their feet. "Just before New Year."

Overhead, a sparkle of fireworks boom and shimmer in the air, and like a fingersnap, the both of them are surrounded by stone building on fire. They stand in the exterior, and on seeing this scene again, the older woman's face relaxes from the transformative anger and anguish into something more neutral. She takes in the dreamlike, hazy recreation like she's seeing it for the first time anew.

The white shroud over her being doesn't disguise the hand by her side that tightens into a fist in a gesture more human than ethereal as she has been. "You came with fire and bloodshed, without warning. With all the decency of some two-bit street gang, and for what I—"

She lets out a laugh, bitter, looking off from Marlowe as she tries to think. "I don't even know," the old, dead woman realizes with self-deprecating humor that threatens to crisp once more into the anger that's consumed her.

Accepting the shift of their surroundings comes easily to Marlowe, for she remains unaware of this being anything of a manipulation. Her focus is still on the unfamiliar woman, and a spared glance up to the boom and crackling pops of fireworks above. Another sudden shift in scenery to a building on fire draws a short gasp from her. Whether through trained reaction or instinct, she takes a couple of steps towards the flames. Her ability does nothing to fire. But it does work on stone.

But still, in dreams, the best of intention doesn't always translate to logical action. Marlowe hesitates, her hands lifted but paused, suddenly self-conscious about a flashy display. Hands drop back to her sides. A feeling of offense taken enters her tone as she turns to the old woman, reflecting the insult. "Excuse me? Street gang?" Marlowe's stance stiffens with the urge to cross her arms petulantly, but she holds off the motion. Forgotten for the moment are the flames licking up along stone walls behind her.

"You're right," the old woman laughs with a facsimile of gentle warmth. "You were worse than that. Vermin. Your employer was a foul woman… and now that she's gone, all that's left to do is tear down her legacy. The poisoned body of it… until it's a husk, I won't rest."

The smoky grey of her eyes shimmer as she realizes how much she's said, turning to look back at Marlowe. The scenery around them becomes more hazy, Marlowe's gaze blurring even the woman in the end as she tries to extinguish this moment and memory with it.

"You'll help me," the woman seems assured. "H̸̯̎ḛ̵̑l̴͕̄p̸̫̓ ̷͎̋m̵̰̍e̴͍̕ ̶̺͝è̷̪x̸̥̀p̵͉̀ô̷̲s̶̳͆ê̶͓ ̵̳͗â̴̞l̶̹̐ľ̶ͅ ̷̠̆t̵̲̅h̷̕͜é̸͇í̷̧r̶̞̊ ̶̜̏t̴̹͋è̵̬r̵̻͝r̵̯͗i̷̛̮b̵̰͠l̸̤̋e̴̝̎ ̶̘̀s̸̥̀ë̶̥́c̴̪͝r̷͎͘ẻ̸̗t̸͝ͅṡ̴͓."

The words press down around Marlowe, trying to find purchase. The old woman's face suddenly floats closer, horrifically and starkly lit— and less human than ever. Her hair is thinned and long, skin sunken and eyes gone save for that grey wisp of power where they should be. Demonic and dead, she whispers, "Won't you?"

And her small hand lunges for Marlowe's throat.

Cresting Wave Apartments

4:09 am

Hand flying to her neck, Marlowe starts awake with a gasp. It's still pitch black outside, droplets of rain clinging to the glass and refracting the light of nearby buildings in Yamagato Park. Seconds tick by in the dark while blinding images continue to play behind her eyes, all of them still very much present despite them having been a dream.

Despite what felt like a very clear attempt to blur them out.

It's only lying awake that she can picture the old woman's face and have the clarity of mind to think back. Not to this New Year's, but the one before it, on Staten Island. To the face from an article posted by the Safe Zone Siren regarding mysterious New Year's arson activity that destroyed a restaurant and left several, including its ownership, dead.


Marlowe feels her hands quiver as she lies alone in the dark, the image of the old woman's grotesque grimace of anger caught like a still frame. For nearly a solid minute, she has nothing but her slowing pace of breath and heartbeat to accompany the ebb of fright brought on by the nightmare.

She recalls the Staten Island mission to recover the stolen Yamagato property in jumbled moments, some vague and some with harrowing detail. Mostly, Marlowe finds herself questioning the presence of the older woman in her dream. And, eventually, can find little reason behind it beyond guilt. Such is the way of dreams. Gradually, she stirs beneath the wrinkled and balled sheet wrapped around her leg. Fingers reach down to curl into the soft fabric, drawing it around her bare form like a robe, and she moves to rise from her bed.

It's too early to go back to bed. But never too early to find something to work on and dilute the fading memory of a bad dream.

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