if [SCENT] == peanut-butter then



Scene Title if [SCENT] == peanut-butter then
Synopsis A scent largely unfamiliar to Asi turns out to have far more meaning to her other self.
Date May 31, 2020

Neutral Grounds

With Asi's name tentatively being in the clear— at least as far as the US government was now concerned, owing to her efforts in taking down Praxia, additional information offered by remote interview, and her contract position with Wolfhound— there was life to be getting back to. Part of the transition to life no longer on the run was the freedom to engage freely with her surroundings.

She took full advantage of it, never establishing much in the way of routine. There was an entire city to explore if she let herself do so.

Today, the Mantis pulls her to a stop in front of a place calling itself Neutral Grounds. Not every single place she came to acquaint herself with was … showroom perfect, let's say. But when she'd asked for a recommendation for a coffee place from one of the locals, they'd shrugged and indicated this was one of the only ones near the Bastion. But even looking at the outside, she finds her head instinctively turning back in the direction of the skyscrapers of Yamagato Park far to the southwest.

Asi palms a thin package from within her jacket, letting her palm lay flat and waiting for it to spring to life on its own. "«Keep an eye out, Migi,»" she tells the drone as it takes to the air, a twitch of her fingers after it leaves her palm giving it all the directions it needs to tell her if trouble comes upon the shop or her Mantis. And then she slips in the alley to the side door for the small cafe, eyes taking a moment to adjust to the dingy lighting once she steps inside.

"Can I help you?" the barista tending the bar asks in a bored voice, sounding inexplicably annoyed that there's another customer now on top of the one he'd put on a pot for. When Asi looks his way, he grows a little more wary, letting stereotype and prejudice lead him to wonder if she was some kind of gang member with the way she looked; the way she was dressed.

The technopath sees the shift in him, and likewise makes no attempt to rid him of his misconception. "Looking for a morning cup of coffee," she tells him in a quiet deadpan. The man tending the coffee sighs, replying, "I've only got the special right now, unless you want to wait a few minutes for that to finish up and to—"

"That's fine," Asi assures him, stepping closer to the bartop. She rests her hand on it, not bothering to address the glance the man seated at one of the wall-hugging tables gives her while he looks over a book he's only half-interested in reading. The barista moves away to take hold of the pot that's brewing presently to pour a mug directly. The continuing-to-drip coffee hisses on the heating element for the time the pot is gone, but it's replaced quickly before being presented on the bar.

"Here," the barista says helpfully. "That'll be six fifty." There are no offerings made of either sugar or cream.

Asi's head cants in a long look toward the man before she pulls the ceramic mug closer. "Thank you," she tells him coolly, knowing already she'll likely not be coming back to show this particular place custom again. Its unfriendly outside was matched by its interior. The coffee, though— it at least had a touch of character to it. Unexpected notes of scent waft up from the mug as she lifts it up. "What kind of roast is this?" she asks, then takes in a proper—

—smell of the coffee pierces straight through to Asi. It's unique, odd, out of place for the paper cup it comes from.

"It's uh…"

Maybe it stands out all the more for how hungry she is. She shoves down the ache, tries to ignore the overwhelming smell, and looks up to the woman holding the cup.

The barista's aloof manner breaks for something dismissive to cover embarrassment for not really knowing. "It's the special blend we've got this week."

"You won't get away with this," she swears to Erica Kravid.

The barista blinks.

Erica smiles primly before taking a sip of her coffee. Once that's done, she opines openly, "I think you'll find I will. And I think if you're not yet seeing that, maybe you need a change of environment to come to your senses." Her head turns to one of the guards attending Asi, and she indicates the negated technopath with a tilt of her head. "Let's introduce her to Geopoint."

Asi's free hand has slowly closed into a fist on the counter, the ethereal grey-blue shift to her eyes that have come on taking a step more sharply toward concerning as a red pinpoint of light appears in her pupils. The barista has taken a step back.

"I'm sorry?" He's not. "The hell did you just say?"

She can barely hear him.

"You know, we get nice shit on occasion here, too, lady— I don't know what your problem is."

His words suddenly overlay the struggle happening in Asi's mind, and the mug she's holding hits the table. The still unresolved, unusual scent from the coffee sits in her sinuses and on the tip of her tongue. She snaps a look up to the barista. "Thanks," she indicates distractedly. "But I'll pass on this one." She pulls out the bills in her back pocket, only two singles, and moves quickly for the door.

"That's not full price, lady!" the barista calls after her, more annoyed than before. She was leaving rather than making him reach for his gun after showing off that weird flicker in her eyes, but still.

"That's two dollars for a sip of some shit-tasting coffee," Asi snaps from the door. "We're done here." And then heart still racing, she shoves her way through the door back outside, finding the Mantis. She senses the agitation, the overlay and the disconnect, the her that is not her trying to take action against a threat that no longer exists to her.

The drone Asi left hovering outside the building veers sharply to the side in a loss of control of its functions. She shushes herself with a hard close of her eyes, hand against the quadrupedal bike to steady herself. It's okay. It's all right.

No! The roar of the thought is accompanied by an attempt to seize more subprocesses for her own control in defense against— against—??

Asi counters it with a setting of her jaw and a bowing of her head. She focuses hard on the images that give herself the most peace. The eventual, wonderful colors of fall; the face of her sister… and finally, she opens her eyes to drink in the reality around them both— one where the events that tore the red ON1 apart and forcibly put her back together again can no longer harm her.

Safe? that piece of herself wonders. The other her cautiously draws back from the panicked fervor she'd slipped into, returning to what's explicitly hers. The subprocesses she'd wrested control of, tinged differently than the electric blue that was Asi's ability alone, continue to remain their altered shade even after she lets go. But….

We're safe, Asi nonetheless promises herself. We'll find a different spot for coffee. Some place that serves our favorite.

It takes a second longer for her to feel in control enough to move again, but then she mounts the Mantis, speeding away from the dingy cafe and its questionably-sourced coffee.

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