Just Zeroes And Ones


asi_icon.gif avi_icon.gif jiba_icon.gif sattva_icon.gif

Scene Title Just Zeroes And Ones
Synopsis Following Kirk's revelation, Asi is called into a meeting with her superior officer and unexpected guests.
Date June 23, 2021

Outside, a black rain falls, streaking gray down tall windows.

From his office on the second floor tower of the Bastion, Avi Epstein watches a trio of guests climb into a battered pickup truck glistening with sooty rain. The glow of Avi’s cigarette is reflected back to him in the glass, the head glowing brightly before he finishes sucking it down to the filter. As the truck starts up with a rumble, Avi steps away from the door and flicks the butt into an otherwise clean ash tray on his desk. It’s been months since he smoked last, but today seemed as good a day as any to start again.

Stepping out of his office, Avi hits the stairs and jogs down to the ground floor, catching sight of Asi Tetsuyama stepping out of the conference room alone. He stops three quarters of the way down the stairs, pointing with his thumb over his shoulder.

Tetsuyama,” Avi calls down to her.

“Let’s talk.”

Major Epstein’s Office
The Bastion

Phoenix Heights

June 23rd
5:47 pm

Asi shuts the door behind her gently on the way in before turning to face Avi properly. For all that they've poked around each other's respective histories, there's no preamble that could have made what he overheard easier to face. Not personally, not professionally. And that said, they don't know each other well.

She can't decide if that will make this ultimately easier or harder to talk through.

"Do you want to go through your first impressions first, or do you want to hear the rest of what Captain Star Trek had to say?" she asks calmly.

“Let’s go with yes.” Avi says as he steps around his desk, looking out the rain-streaked window behind it. “Because from where I was standing, Mr. Obvious Alias seemed to be throwing too much specific information around to be some off-the-street yahoo trying to pretend to be involved in shit for fun.” He turns from the window, putting his hands on the back of his leather office chair. “But he also said you were a fucking decoy robot. So.”

Avi slides his tongue across the inside of his cheek, unblinking stare never breaking away from Asi. “I’d really like to believe he was just an Expressive whackjob who pieced together enough shit to be dangerous and go all Art Bell on you. But the other part of me knows enough weird shit is happening to you…” Avi cuts himself off and breathes deeply through his nose. He closes his eyes and sighs, lifting a hand up to pinch the bridge of his nose.

“I want to hear from you what’s going on.” Avi says plainly, slowly lowering his hand from his face.

"Yeah," Asi replies slowly to the notion wouldn't it have been nice if the stranger who came in was just some crazy off the street. She slowly shakes her head around the time he lifts his hand to his face, parting from the door to approach the desk. "No," she admits as she sits down across from him. "He said all the right things— knew all the right information, and shared things we didn't know. He said Colin sent him, v.iris, and we were…"

She finds she needs a moment, so she looks to the side and sighs before looking back to Avi, to look him square in the eye. "I've suspected I wasn't myself anymore from the moment we found out our abilities weren't taken by Gemini, from the moment we started receiving the first abnormal medical readings back. At the very least, Yamagato, practitioners at Fournier Hospital, and the CDC have known since November a secret the other crash victims took into their own hands to find out at the end of February, early March." She frowns, her shoulders lifting into a shrug. "We're us, and the bodies we're stuck in are passably human, but fundamentally not. Our brain activity, our blood spoke to it first."

"What the kid confirmed is that due to the plane crash, we're missing hardware, which is what lead to the stroke in January. The people who did this to us can't find us anymore, can't see through our eyes, so we're safe there. Everything since Colin caused the plane crash to keep these fucking people from replacing us without a trace, they don't know."

Asi shakes her head once. "Somewhere out there, my body is still there— my real body. The people who kidnapped us did it to exert control over the abilities we all had, and are…" At this point, she runs out of breath, rubbing a hand along her face now, fingers digging into the side of her nose before she holds it up and away from her with a hard sigh. "There's a lot. The bottom line is, my body's still out there, the corporate fucks who did this are using my and the other kidnappees' abilities for who knows what, and may just panic and kill us if they sense us coming before we arrive to take them back."

"It's a fucking conspiracy come to life, and either we get our bodies back, get us back, or this shell I'm stuck in continues to deteriorate until…"

She only shakes her head. "Until we all end up like Kimiko Nakamura," Asi posits.

Avi rolls his tongue across the back of his teeth, slowly stepping away from his desk. He walks up to a somewhat dusty mini bar where a decanter of whiskey and several glasses sits. His eyes track over the glass, and he takes in a sharp breath, then sighs out his nose. Turning back to Asi, he struggles to maintain a neutral expression. Frustration, anxiety, and anger are bleeding through. It’s just hard to say what emotions are aimed at who.

“I tried to call Wireless,” Avi says as he circles back to his desk. “After I left the conference room. After I heard all that bullshit. I figured if anyone could… could help piece this shit together it’s her.” He looks down to the floor, for a moment seeming lost. Untethered from a support system he’d come to rely on.

“Someone answered in her place.” Avi says as he looks back up to Asi, then reaches for his phone on his desk. He double-taps the screen with two fingers. The phone is in the middle of a call that’s been running since Asi came into the office.

Hello, Oni. A digitized voice echoes from within the phone. I am S.Attva. It is a pleasure to speak to you in a physical space.

“He said he wants to help.” Avi adds, looking at Asi expectantly.

That Avi doesn't pour himself a drink while his frustrations mount is a thing quickly noted by Asi, who glances back at the minibar in a doubletake. Both for the fact he's done it, and a silent lament that she really could use a drink herself after this news.

But the drink is a crutch, clouds the mind, and it's one she's been leaning on too heavily since last summer. She knows this, and yet it makes it no easier to silently square with in this moment.

She keeps her seat, brow lifting when Avi admits to attempting to reach out to the missing technopath she'd essentially been hired to replace. She begins to lean on the armrest, hands folding over her knees as she crosses them. Just as she's about to pose a question to him, the phone speaks.

Whatever she was about to say falls quiet when a familiar meddler proves themselves to be present once more. "Hello again, S.attva," she greets the air evenly. "I recall that you wanted to help. I also recall I asked if you could locate or otherwise contact Colin Verse. Have you had any luck to that effect yet?"

Rather than look at Avi for the response, she looks off at nothing, waiting. Listening.

Not as such. S.Attva replies. Avi raises a brow at the inquiry, more so that the two already know each other. He snorts in silent consternation at that. All evidence I have gathered points to Colin Verse being dead, based on extant electronic communication records. However, I do not have access to any official death certificates or visual confirmation of execution. So, these data points could be misleading.

Avi pulls back his chair and takes a seat with a protesting groan of springs and leather. He sits forward, folding his hands in front of his mouth, listening to the two technopaths converse with one-another.

That said, my pressing concern is for your safety and well-being. Major Epstein has filled me in on what he knows of your predicament, and I am reasserting my offer to help a fellow synthetic lifeform.

“Okay and—” Avi starts to say, voice hitching in the back of his throat. “That’s—where I’m gonna butt in.” He looks from the phone to Asi. “What the fuck is all this shit?”

A fellow synthetic lifeform. It's no less chilling than when it came from Kirk, minutes ago.

Asi closes her eyes hard, her voice even when she reopens them. "That's where it gets fucked, Epstein." The plain language us as much for his benefit as it is for her ease, allowing her to build up momentum. "The short answer is we don't have the full picture. What we do know is that whatever Mayes was working on before she was killed got into the wild, providing a foothold for other bad actors to create synthetic humans— ones that don't, and I presume cannot, have SLC abilities."

"It's your country's fucking racism come to poison the world in its refusal to die, and it's bled into other watering holes now," she states with a wedge of frustration propping the words up. "The list of companies involved in our making span the globe. I would presume the people who made us are a people who want to do the humane," heavy sarcasm, "thing and not kill the Evolved, just replace us with versions of ourselves that don't have abilities."

Her voice takes on a harder edge as she continues, "It gets worse, because from what I can tell— from what we've learned about the Renautas company— Mazdak for some fucking reason also has their hand in this bag." She preempts an inevitable question by looking harshly up at Avi. "To what end I could not begin to tell you, because I've known all of this for five minutes, and am rapidly reaching the point where I need a whiteboard to keep it all straight."

With tension still in her, Asi settles back in her chair, hands loose in her lap. They feel useless in all this. She feels useless, and shoves the feeling far down. "What I need is help, from both of you. There's a location of interest, a fabrication site. We need to know everything possible about the comings and goings of various personnel and what companies, which my hope is S.attva may be able to discreetly obtain for us. From there, I haven't figured out how we're funding it, but Wolfhound is the only organization I would trust to help in…"

She trails off, tongue pressed to the roof of her mouth before she looks down. The what, specifically, there hasn't been time yet to consider. No consensus yet had with others. "To help," she repeats coarsely.

The sigh that slips from Avi feels like it takes an hour to end. He is otherwise silent, head in his hands behind his desk. It leaves some room for S.Attva to fill the silence with his own brand of inquiry.

Rhetorical: how is any of this more cost-effective than chemical negation implants? The technopath wonders aloud. Last year, Weiss Evolved Nanotechnology prototyped a sub-dermal negation pump that provides permanent non-chemical negation to its installed users. The overall production costs are, I imagine, a fraction of a fraction of the cost of something as elaborate as bespoke, ambulatory copies of sentient beings.

Avi glances at his phone, dragging his hands down his face. “KITT’s good point aside,” he says with a long-suffering sigh, “I don’t even know how to wrap my head the fuck around this. You’re telling me that kid that walked out the door—fuck, all those kids that walked out the door—are some kind of fucking cyborg imposter? That you are?” He snorts. “I don’t—I can’t fucking believe that. It doesn’t make any god-damned sense.”

“If they’re—if this was some sort of test, why pick the most conspicuous fucking people on the planet?” Avi asks with a shake of his head. “How the fuck, if you didn’t crash, were they supposed to keep this covered up for more than an hour? Like, the second you went to a hospital like hey Doc my ability stopped working do I have the Five-Ten?” He throws his hands up in exasperation. “The fuck was their plan?”

Frowning, Avi shakes his head. “None of this makes a fuck of sense. Nothing other than Mayes’ fucking hag-claws being on this. That I believe. You didn’t see the fucking horror show at Fort Irwin. The fucking—the fucking corpses they reanimated with tech. You telling me that mother of all cunts is involved in this from beyond the fucking grave? I buy that.”

“But the rest of this?” Avi says with a slow shake of his head. “It strains credulity is what it does.” But none of this is what Asi asked for. Not the help she requested. Given the way Avi is staring a hole through his desk, he doesn’t seem immediately inclined to circle back to that request just yet.

"I don't have an idea why Crito Corporate thought facilitating the design of an overcomplicated exoskeleton with emotions was somehow a better idea than chemical negation, no," Asi answers as patiently as she can muster, repressing a sigh of her own. She looks back up to Avi as he struggles again with the topic overall.

"As far as the obviousness of the people who were kidnapped… I can't help but wonder if that was by design. As… fucked up as it might be, maybe Colin intervened there, too. So even if he hadn't crashed the plane— it's like you said, we would have found out anyway." A sigh finally explodes from her after all as she goes on, "Which begs the question why he'd… change course on that, but—"

Asi stops abruptly, sitting properly upright to hold up both her hands. "This is all conjecture," she argues against herself. "And beside the point."

"S.attva, can you help look into the site info I was provided, or no? I can give you the list of companies I know had some involvement in this— give you keywords to listen for, should anything escape protected space."

Absolutely. S.Attva confirms. Additionally, there is a second party that wishes to participate in this endeavor, who has a vested interest in the well-being of one of the captured. Is it permissible to allow them to join this call?

Avi raises one brow, looking from Asi to the phone and back again. “Who?” He asks a bit exasperatedly.

The Leviathan. S.Attva affirms. Jiba.

Avi’s brows furrow as he meets Asi’s stare. The name means nothing to him.

It does to her. Her hands back in her lap, one tightens into a fist. She breaks her look off from Avi, more tense than she was when she walked in the door. "Jiba is a Yamagato construct," she reminds no one in particular. "Shackled to Yamagato interests. I cannot trust that anything said here will not make its way there."

Her brow twinges with the deeper concern— how is Jiba communicating past Yamagato's network? It's a thought that leaves her with her lips parted to question it before she finally sighs and asks something else cautiously, still not looking up, "What value do you believe Jiba has to bring to this conversation to begin with? This endeavor, as you've put it."

Strength. is S.Attva’s immediate assessment. Jiba’s handler, Hachiro Otomo, has released this intelligence from its walled-in shackles within Yamagato Park and is now free to venture beyond its boundaries. But, your factual data on Jiba’s origins is incorrect.

Avi, tense enough to be a statue, glances down at the phone.

Jiba was a human being. The guise of a construct is an illusion cast to protect their true identity of who they were in life, and how they came to be as such.

“I’m sorry—” Avi splutters, “what?”

Jiba was a human consciousness, digitized after death, six years past.

What the fuck,” Avi mumbles as a statement of emotional condition into the palms of his hands.

"I'll be strong and continue to refrain from drinking if you will," Asi says into her own palm, rocking to her feet. Her nervous energy abounds now, in a way she decides no longer to conceal. She turns on her heel, pacing slowly back and forth across the room. She turns over the information like it's a bomb, considering it carefully, because in many ways it is just that. "If Jiba's out in the wild, what the fuck does that mean for…"

For Kimiko is how that thought would end, but she's not so far gone she'll slip that far. Asi's gaze hardens as she looks back down to the phone like it were a person.

"I don't want Jiba obtaining the coordinate information. I trust that Jiba wants to be helpful, and know they have— a large pool of information on our condition as it is, owing to Yamagato Park, but this…" Asi shakes her head once. "That piece of information doesn't spread. ARM, InVerse, Crito— none of them can suspect we're coming until we already have a knife at their throat."

The look she gives Avi is passing apologetic as she indicates, "Put Jiba through."

“Yeah sure let’s hear what the bad guy from fucking Tron has to say.” Avi grumbles as he sits back in his chair, still reeling from the digitized human consciousness comment.

{Greetings Asi,} chimes Jiba’s deep and firm voice through the air from the phone. {And to you as well Major Epstein.}

“Yeah uh,” Avi says uncomfortably, “hi.”

{The Gestalt has shared your concerns with me. I am here to avail myself however you would like. I sympathize with your desire to be whole.}

“Firstly, just—for my own fucking peace of mind I—” Avi clenches his jaw shut. “No, you know what. Nevermind. It’s probably too fucking weird.”

{Wireless said you were like this.}

Avi stares up at the ceiling, taking in a deep breath. “Of course,” he mumbles under his breath. Then, suddenly, something hits him. “Hey, either of you two fucking digital genies.” He waves broadly at the phone. “Do you have records about what happened to the material assets from Fort Irwin after Operation Ziptie?”

For a moment, both digital presences are silent.

Assets from Fort Irwin were seized by the US Military. I see a chain of custody that implies some of the hardware was transported to the care of a classified steward whose identity is not contained in formal records, but I infer to be a government agency. Other data appears to have been sold.

Sold?” Avi asks, sitting forward.

I see records of sales for computer hardware, cadavers, and electronic hardware in January of 2019, fourteen months after Operation Ziptie.

“To who?” Avi presses the issue.

That information is not available.

{I believe I have it.} Jiba chimes in. {Confiscated technological hardware of an undisclosed nature was purchased from the US Government by Yamagato Industries on January 8th, 2019. The goods were delivered to the New York Yamagato Industries branch at Warehouse 13. I have no record of it being moved after this time.}

“The fuck’s that warehouse used for?” Avi inquires.

{It is a material shipment depot used for the import of cybernetics-related hardware by Yamagato Cybernetics division.} Jiba explains. {The order was signed by… Kam Nisatta.}

And that was mere days before Asi watched Kam die.

Hearing Avi start to engage after his lock-up for so long brings Asi to finally look back in his direction. This level of specificity isn't something she'd be able to ask about, but the moment he says it, she realizes where it's leading. She doesn't go as far as holding her breath in terms of dramatics, but she waits tensely for the answers to come.

Her eyes narrow at the mention of cadavers being sold. Likely for the hardware, too, but…

She resumes a slow pace across the room, arms folding low on her torso. "Kam's involvement," Asi announces with a furrow of her brow, "is a flag of its own. That potentially throws the anchor for work that Renautas was doing on Praxis or Mazdak's behalf back into Yamagato's territory…" She turns her head back in the direction of the desk, not focusing on anything in particular. "Jiba, what's the Warehouse's address? Who works there regularly? Does the roster match the location's purpose on paper?"


Only a moment passes before Jiba chimes back in, though Asi imagines that moment felt longer to a digital consciousness.

{Warehouse 13 is located at 1700 Shore Parkway on the western-most side of Yamagato Park. It is accessible by land and water. According to corresponding payroll files, the Warehouse is staffed by a team of 70 contract workers, 10 full-time employees, and 5 management-level full-time employees.}

As Jiba goes over the details, Avi folds his hands in front of his mouth and creases his brows, listening intently.

{On paper I see no discrepancies between the listed employees and the stated purpose of the warehouse.}

“Tenure.” Avi says over his knuckles. “How many people have been there for, let’s say more than a year.”

{Two, Major Epstein.} Jiba replies. {Larissa Barsukov and Akiho Nagata. Barsukov has been at Yamagato Industries for two years and six months, Nagata for seventeen years and two months.}

“Can you get any financial records? Credit information?” Avi continues to press the AI for information.

I already took the liberty.} S.Attva replies. Barsukov shows no notable data. Nagata has several outstanding debts accrued between 2012 and 2021 totaling $245,000 USD.}

Avi grunts in response, nodding at the same time. “Where’d Barsukov work before Yamagato?”

{Advanced Robotics Manufacturing in Prague. Her role was as an International Shipping Coordinator.}

Avi looks over to Asi. “Any of that raise any alarm bells?”

The shape of her name already did, and then comes the previous employer. Asi stops in her pacing. "Jiba," she asks more calmly than she feels, the stillness in her posture giving away just how unsettled she is. "Barsukov— does she live at Cresting Wave? Do you have a profile built of her usual activities? Does she ever leave the Park?"

But a single person alone couldn't cover up and move the materials, and she doesn't dare to assume they're still there after two years. Someone had to stand in, especially with Kam's 'recall' happening only days later.

She shakes her head slightly. "Given his tenure— is Nagata one of the management-level employees? He seems like a likely accomplice. Trustworthy perhaps in Yamagato's eyes, but with an easily twisted arm in the form of his debts."

{Ms. Barsukov does indeed live in Cresting Wave, apartment 2C. Mr. Nagata does as well, apartment 10A. I see no obvious pattern of departure from the park for Ms. Barsukov. Notably, she only has Czechian citizenship and is in possession of a working Visa issued by Japan. Mr. Nagata is a Japanese citizen.

“Surveilling someone inside Yamagato Park isn’t easy,” Avi admits, mostly talking through the situation for his own benefit. “Lots of internal security, ubiquitous cameras…” A possibility hits Avi about the same time Jiba speaks up.

{I am very familiar with the security of Yamagato Park, Major Epstein. My access to the security systems of Cresting Wave are unrestricted and unilateral.}

Avi’s brows rise slowly and he shifts his look from his phone to Asi. “Well, that makes things easier. Can you intercept phone conversations?”

{Provided they are on a Yamagato network, yes, easily.}

I can intercept those not on Yamagato networks.

“Right. Terrifying.” Avi mumbles. He looks at Asi, one brow raised. “Thoughts?”

"We surveil her." For her it's that simple. They have the tools, after all. She looks his way. "If she doesn't seem like she's going to bolt, we listen for a few days. The difficulty comes in confronting her. If she's on Park grounds, Yamagato security won't be as kind to our interference as Jiba is, I'm certain." Her tongue presses into her cheek, accompanied by a small shake of her head. "My team with the Mugai-Ryu are in charge of security now, and while one of them might be willing to turn a blind eye… the other two I don't think would."

"But if her communications don't reveal an intent to leave New York, we have a few days to think on that problem," Asi notes.

Avi nods in approval of Asi’s plan.

{As the most familiar with Yamagato’s security system, I volunteer for that responsibility. No one will find it suspicious if I survey the network, as it is my responsibility.} Jiba indicates with a hint of eagerness in his voice.

“Before this goes any further,” Avi says with a motion to Asi. “We’re talking about a surveillance op on one of the most powerful corporations in the world in our own back yard, Pro Bono,” he adds. “This is the sort of shit Dartwell will get up our asses sideways about and potentially report us to ethics committees over if I can convince him otherwise. We have to be extremely careful how we go about this, because it has all the fucking earmarks of a boondogle that tanks this entire company.”

Avi turns his palm out in a gesture of pause. “That said I’m not saying we shouldn’t. But I’m saying we might want to leave the conspiracy conversations to off property. If this looks even remotely like Wolfhound using its paramilitary resources to surveil a corporate nation, prison will be the least of our worries. We need to do this carefully.”

Asi meets Avi's look with a deadpan expression of her own. "Let me take the concern off the table. This part of things? Wolfhound doesn't need to be engaged in. There are plenty of others involved with this, hungry for answers, and who don't have to worry about the US government agent installed in their front hallway." Her arms come unfolded, hands digging into her pockets. "All Yamagato-related discussions— off-property."

"But the job I want to hire Wolfhound for… that's something we will need to figure out, Epstein." Her brow lifts. "Whatever dance needs done there… we'll need to figure that out on our own."

Her hands being hidden gives her leeway to tighten them out of sight. "We can talk on it when I get back. I need to catch up with the kids and figure out how we're securely disseminating the information Star Trek brought to our doorstep to the other crash victims." She waits only a moment. "Or do you need anything else for now?"

Avi slouches to the side, running a hand through his hair. Huruma is going to have opinions about all of this.

“Just a fucking day off,” he says into the palm of his hand.

That’d be a no.

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