asi_icon.gif elliot_icon.gif melody_icon.gif

Scene Title Kaleidoscopic
Synopsis Elliot provides training in the use of his telepathic network to Wolfhound's newest recruit.
Date October 7, 2020

The Bastion, Officer’s Lounge

October 7, 2020
8:55 AM

Elliot has made himself comfortable in a chair at the table in the officer’s lounge. There’s a French press on the table, mostly full of steaming coffee—good coffee. There’s also a carafe of cold orange juice, slick with condensation, and a large plate of assorted pastries, fruit, and other breakfast staples. The food and drinks are arranged to the sides, leaving an open surface across the table between Elliot and the opposing chair, which has been pulled out.

He checks his phone, and spends some time idling through social media and drinking his coffee. “Yeah,” he says to the empty room. “Should be any minute.”

Today he intends to link one or more Wolfhound officers into the network. Some of the existing officers have already experienced this, but that was well in the past. Elliot has grown highly proficient at creating and maintaining links, and is well-adjusted, or at least just adjusted, to an uninterrupted decade of sharing the network with Wright. Very few people are aware of that fact; Wolfhound’s own Huruma among them.

To anyone who doesn’t know, Elliot’s network links are broken easily, and if not actively maintained they break on their own after a day. He rarely keeps hosts in the network for more than a few days. In rare occasions where it might last longer than that, he enforces a cooldown period before he’ll let the host return to the network.

Today he’s prepared a few exercises to demonstrate some of the finer points of network use. Some behaviors which seem perfectly innocuous can cause strain on the network, and it’s good to practice these habits away as early as possible.

“Oh my god,” he suddenly laughs, halfway to sipping his coffee, “That’s evil, I love it.”

After a few more minutes of waiting, he hears someone moving toward the lounge. He locks his phone, and sets it down on the table beside him. “Contestant 1,” he says quietly.

Melody looks a little lost as she makes her way into the lounge, a single wireless earbud logged into one ear. Or at least, that's the goal - the way she keeps pushing at it seems to indicate that all is not going as planned on that front. She nearly walks into the lounge sofa, cursing to herself as she stops at the last second. Even after almost a month, she still doesn't seem to have the layout of the Bastion down particularly well.

"Fucking hell," she mutters to herself, before looking up and seeing Elliot. She blinks once, and then smiles. "Oh god, am I late?" Settling on pulling the earbud out, she pulls out a small case and slips it into it.

Her eyes scan over the moved aside food and the table. "I feel like I'm walking into an inquisition, and I swear if you make that joke…"

“You are not late,” Elliot assures her. “I merely assumed somebody might get here early, and didn’t want to have to get into a fist fight over a claim to the table. And I would never be so boorish as to quote Monty Python in the workplace.” That doesn’t explain all of the food, but there is a tumbler and a coffee mug, both empty and upside down, on a plate on her side of the table.

He gestures to the chair across from him and says, “Please, take a seat. Though, this might take a bit, if you’d like you can fetch the comfy chair.” He makes no attempt to hide his satisfaction at not using the obvious quote, but managing to find a use for the other quote.

Melody's expression turns a bit flat, eyes narrowing. "This has inquisition written all over it." Despite that, the slightest smile creeps up on her face. "Oh no, not the comfy chair!" Her hands raise in faux horror, shaking her head as she indulges the joke. When the moment passes, she slips the case of her earbuds into the pocket of her jeans and she huffs out a breath.

Eyes half lidded, she slips past the couch and over to the chair Elliot sits at, slipping down into it with a languid flow, hands placed flat on the table, one last look offered over to the rearranged food and drink. "Alright, you have me. I'm ready for my torture."

Elliot follows her movements with amusement in his eyes, and when she sits he motions to the food around them. Most of what’s here is either baked goods on a large plastic serving dish, or fruit, still dewy from being washed, in a ceramic bowl. “Feel free to eat. Most of this is to test the sensation aspect of the link, but breakfast is also good on its own merits.” He takes a moment to sip his coffee, and seems to bask in the experience of it. “Fuck that’s good.” The coffee in his mug is black, but he gestures to an open, hinge-lidded jar of partially crystalized, raw honey in a way that communicates, I enjoy mine with this.

He gives her a moment to settle in before he continues. “Alright, I’m going to run through some of the basics, feel free to jump in at any point if you need clarification or a moment to think. The network can be overwhelming at first, and it’s not uncommon for somebody who’s sharing to get stuck holding the door open. Can’t stop pulling someone else’s data, that is. Usually this is the worst with shared sensations and, if you’re not acclimated to using it, the split perspectives can be very disorienting. With me so far?”

The reaction to simple coffee gets a bit of raised eyebrow as Melody follows it's movement from the table to his lips, unable to hide a curious squint. Eyes alight from the cup to him as he sets it back down and starts to go over what she imagines is a spiel he's had enough practice in giving that he knows it by heart. "Shared sensations makes enough sense." She certainly thinks so at least, though she doesn't vocalize to Elliot that she's probably done the right drugs in the past to understand the concept. Split perspectives, however, earns a furrowing of her brow. "Split. Like living in second person, or…?"

Shaking her head, she leans back in her chair and looks into Elliot's eyes, letting a somewhat feigned steeliness fall over her. "I think you should just- go to it. Easier to understand with context, I think. So yeah, I guess I am with you so far." A small hint of a smile draws up on her lips, reaching over for some water, breaking the seal with a twist as she pulls it close. Anything with telepathy sounds overwhelming, there's no expectation that this will be any different.

“Fair enough,” Elliot says. “To begin with, fresh links are the most difficult to maintain. If you’re fighting against the link it creates lag in the network which kind of pulls it apart. Which is a good thing, because it’s easy to leave if you’re uncomfortable, and it’s easy for me to see who’s straining and either drop them or help bring them back into focus.”

“Also it requires physical contact,” he gestures at the empty space on the table between them, “So usually we’d hold hands. You are always welcome to let go.” He lays his hands, palms up, on the table between them.

Raising an eyebrow, Melody practically snorts as she chuckles. "Why would I ever want to do that?" she inquires, only sounding half joking as she reaches out and takes both of Elliot's hands. There's a clear implication in the tone and cadence of her voice, but she breezes past it like it never happened, the smirk fading from her face as she looks back up at Elliot.

"I've handled a lot," she admits in a low voice. "But this is definitely something new. Is it weird to be kind of excited?" Another chuckle slips past her lips, leaning forward a bit as she shifts in her seat. "No promises on not feeling… strained or whatever. But… I think I'll be plenty comfortable. I hope."

What Elliot reads as flirtation from Melody draws him away from his politely curated professional routine and coaxes out a smirk of his own. He clears his throat and reigns in the smile before it pulls him fully off-track as she asks her follow-up question. “I don’t think it’s weird to be excited,” he assures her, “But then I am a storied weirdo.” He waits a moment as if he expects someone to burst in and agree strongly with him on that topic.

Elliot holds her hands only hard enough to maintain contact, thumbs and middle fingers wrapped just slightly around her wrists. “This process is fairly difficult, so I’m not going to talk much for this part, but as I said you can interrupt me. The process will stall but not end. I’m going to fire off some random-sounding words, and however you react to them flags the areas in your brain where the link needs to sit.”

“The important thing to remember is that I can not read your mind, or hear your thoughts; two things people generally associate with telepathy. I can scan for things you are actively remembering, which is how I index people’s skills to share across the network. On that topic, what are some of your skills? Languages known, topic expertise, anything that could be written down and presented to someone else for their use.”

Asi has done her part to observe in silence as she's slipped in, especially now that the closed-eyed focus portion of the mapping is beginning.

But the tiny chink of glass carafe against ceramic mug gives away that she's nearby, pouring herself her own cup of coffee. When she's set the pot back on the heating element as quietly as she can, she turns to lean against the counter and listen— watch— Melody's first experience.

She murmurs over the top of her mug with deadpan mirth, "Do you know hacking? He really likes hacking." The needling is short, at least, redirected into enjoying a sip of the fresh coffee.

"Well, that's probably good. Or a shame." Yes, that's definitely flirtation, but it's hard to tell if it's serious or halfhearted — the way her wedding ring catches the glint of the light only complicates that particular matter. "Though you're not any weirder than the rest of us." Particularly not her, but she keeps that particular thought to herself. His question causes her hands to tighten a bit around his, huffing out the smallest of sighs as she scrunches her eyes shut.

"Not as many as people think," she admits. "I'm not a trained medic. I learned everything I know because I was shoved into the role during the war. Same with learning how to shoot. Before that, I just waffled between transient and socialite." Her shoulders rise and fall in a quiet shrug. "But I guess the medical knowledge would cou—"

And then she gasps and jumps, eyes widening as she squeezes Elliot's hands tight, looking around over her shoulder at Asi. "When— Don't do that!"

Elliot’s certain that it’s flirtation now, though when he glances at Melody’s wedding ring it doesn’t seem to get any altered reaction from him. His life partner Wight has been married to her wife Marthe since the war was winding down. Elliot also has a girlfriend? Maybe, still figuring that one out. Either way he’s not one to judge, and he certainly isn’t rude enough to ask.

Melody’s flinch when Asi speaks from the other end of the room, even though Elliot saw her there, makes him flinch as well. He laughs it off with a sigh. “She’s not lying, I do love hacking, and she’s so much better at it than I am,” he says. He looks to Asi and indicates with a couple nods of his head that it’s okay to take a seat closer to the table if she’d like. He adds a whispered, “She’s still mad about the time I broke in here just to see if I could.”

“I’ll flag my own ability in that area as we do this,” he says louder, for the benefit of the room. “Also American Sign Language, which you won’t really be able to test until we’re not holding hands. Behavior analysis is another one I like to share, always helpful in pre-combat scenarios. Infiltration has some shareable uses, and cooking is a big hit at parties. Also Wright has combat medic experience as well, I’ll loop you two together in the latter end of this.”

“Now,” he says as he rolls his hips forward for better posture, loosens up his arms. “Are we ready?”

Asi lets out a dervish laugh when Melody proves startled, taking more enjoyment from it than she ought to. She smiles apology, possibly, before sipping again from her mug. Once invited over, she takes her time in pulling out a chair, becoming comfortable.

"That I understand, the worldview shift involved in homelessness might be an applicable skill for the network," she suggests not unkindly, for all that she's direct. "You'd see value in items, in areas, that other people might not. It's not exactly at the level a survivalist might see, but it's a level of knowledge above what the average person has." Her hands rest poised around the rim of her mug, forearms on the table edge.

"Don't undervalue yourself. Ask what experiences you have that others don't."

Asi settles back, relenting on the topic with a quiet, "I'll quit interrupting."

Melody's cheeks burn red as she looks down at the table in front of her, and it's not from flirting. The sheer level of embarrassment she feels after being so thoroughly surprised is overwhelming, eyes focused downwards on her own hands. "You're fine," she replies in a voice a bit more quiet than before. "I just— didn't realize you were there. I startle easily." Sure, that sounds like a good excuse.

With a mildly ragged sigh, she musters a strained smile back to her face as she looks up to Elliot. "Sorry. Anyway, yeah. I'm ready." Of her own skills and valuation, she thinks it better than to add anything else, self deprecating or not. They'll figure it out one way or another. She simply braces herself for whatever it is that comes next.

“In that case,” Elliot says, any lingering amusement or startled anxiety melts from his face and in the lowering of his shoulders. “I’m going to start saying some words that should help me locate meaningful data in all of the hash, so to speak. I can then index it for easy access across the network. That startle had the unintended benefit of tracking your emotions, so we get to skip a step. I’m going to start with sensory and then move to memory.”

“And Asi is correct, there would be many uses for that knowledge, some of which I have, though mostly outdated. We don’t have to index that unless you are comfortable doing so.” His eyes flutter closed, though there’s little focus to them when they flutter back open. He works his tongue in his mouth as if to clean his palate, breathes deeply in through his nose.

“Blue,” Elliot begins.

Eyes. A woman's pair of blue irises framed by black hair floods into Melody's memory. The emotional reaction is like throwing paper on a fire, flaring with rising sadness and falling despair - brief, but intense. Her nose wrinkles, eyes closing as she tries to force the thought away and concentrate on whatever Elliot has next.

“Sunlight,” he continues.

Warmth, the kind that brings just the slightest smile to your lips as you let it envelop you comes to Melody. She's unable to keep from mimicking that smile physically as well, the sensation attaching to a memory, one of resting on a penthouse balcony in the summer with a book in hand, reclined in the sun without a care in the world to be found.


Plum and vinegar, distinct tastes mingling in the back of Melody's mind - sweet and sour sauce, from her favourite place in Manhattan. The taste, dredged up by Elliot's words and hyperawareness of her own thoughts, leaves just a tinge of that taste on the tip of her tongue, familiar enough still that she can practically taste it.

Suddenly there’s a pop, like from the pressure changing while driving over a mountain, but it’s everywhere. She isn’t flooded with anything else, no sights or sounds from anywhere other than here. There is a slowly blooming point in her mind, A doorway she knows that she can open, though it feels irised shut.

Elliot’s eyes come back to partial focus, and he gives Melody time to process these first two events. “When you are ready to continue,” Elliot says slowly, “Let me know.”

Asi has shifted back in her seat, phone in hand and shifted to complete silence. Allowing for that bonding to be completed seamlessly, without any distraction from her, would be important for them both.

But letting Melody get used to the idea of there being someone perpetually present was also a part of that. Once that door was open, you were never really alone after that.

When Elliot announces they're on the verge of the next step, she looks back to Melody.

At the pop Melody's eyes open again, wide and unfocused for just a moment as she pulled out of her momentary revelry. Lips quirk side to side, tongue rakes across teeth as though that taste were real - a desperate attempt to savor something familiar. For a moment, she still seems lost in a strange sort of keen awareness of her own thoughts and memories.

Taking a deep breath, she huffs air out her nose and looks back up at Elliot with a smile. "Well, I can comfortably say I haven't felt something like this before." Even though he isn't adding anything to her perfection, the awareness that something has changed is all encompassing. "No use in… just sitting here though. If nothing else, I'm sure Asi's about to get an amusing show."

She doesn't seem too ill at ease, though maybe a little disoriented. This is something entirely new to her, after all.

Elliot tugs at each sense memory, tags their locations like lifting one thread in a knit scarf to place a pin beneath it. With three points of reference he proceeds with practiced efficiency, tracing the pathways of Melody’s senses.

“Next and last is memory.” His speech is still sluggish as he holds all of the pins in place, ready to set more. “As before.” He’s calm, his hands and arms relaxed like he’s sleeping, though still in contact with hers.

“Gunshot,” Elliot begins.

Pain. Hers, emotional. The woman in her memory's, physical. In the memory, Melody stares down at a woman, blue eyes framed with black hair, splayed out on the dirt covered ground as blood pumps out of a gunshot wound in her chest. Melody yells, but the words are unintelligible nothing - lost in time and muddled even in the sharpness of the memory. Hands grasp at the woman's collar, tears steaming Melody's face as she watches the light fade from her eyes.

In reality, Melody closes her eyes and winces, lips pressed thin as she turns her gaze away from Elliot.

“Binding,” he continues.

Apprehension. Melody wraps gauze around the leg of an injured soldier, reaching up and putting a hand on to their shoulder. The assurances she offers them about their wound and the fact that they'll be up again in no time ring hollow, and both of them know it.

As she sits across from Elliot, Melody's shoulders tighten - it seems the memories as more evocative for her than her earlier associations.


Regret. Melody sits at a table out in the sun, face in her palm as her thumb and her forefinger rub at her temples. Two empty bottles of whiskey rest on the table, one tipped on its side with whatever once remained inside dripping into a small, brown puddle. Sunglasses sit next to a barely touched breakfast plate as a voice speaks to her, fingers parting to view a hand with a drink that looks rather like a bloody mary - or V8 juice, it's hard to tell right now - slide into view as a reassuring voice tells her to "drink up, it's the only way you'll recover from last night".

Melody groans at that particular memory, rolling her eyes even though they are shut as she takes in her own immaturity - despite knowing she hasn't outgrown it.

With an incoming wave of sensory information, there’s a sudden flicker back and forth. Melody can feel Elliot’s hands where she holds them, but she can also feel her own hands where they’re held in his. She can see the tapestry he’s made by placing those pins in her mind with a new, telepathic sense of what is marked. What is being looked at, knowing where this new door leads. And with a flourish Elliot draws all the pins back to him at once, like a tassel passing between closed fingers. Leaving only the door, open but untraveled.

Elliot blinks back into the here and now, closing his hands just slightly around Melody’s should she suddenly tip. “The link is set,” he says. The next thing Melody can feel through the link is Elliot’s vigilance, the emotion passing from him to her as he prepares to help her through the disorientation of sharing.

When Elliot speaks again, her eyes open. Unfocused, indistinct, before finally everything becomes sharp again. Not just her vision, but her awareness. The touch of her own hands is the strangest sensation, causing her to waver a bit in her seat as emotion passes over her, eyes widening. Anguish, residual from her earlier memories, is the first thing to wash over him, but it is ephemeral in the face of new experience.

"Whoa," she whispers, lips slightly parted as she tips her head. "This is… different. I've never felt anything like this before." And Elliot can tell that, apprehension mingling with curiosity, the sort felt when discovering a new food you like for the first time, or when a twist in a movie really catches your imagination. The former slowly melts away and gives way to a new feeling: excitement.

Elliot allows Melody’s negative emotion to pass over him without judgement, though he is concerned at first. When Melody’s emotional response shifts toward positive, Elliot echoes it. “This is the part where someone can get stuck, accidentally starting to stream someone else’s sensations,” Elliot says. “You’re not pulling blindly through the link, which is always a good thing this early on. So, I’m going to start by showing you what it feels like when I share your senses.”

There’s a brief loss of focus in Elliot’s eyes as he reaches through the link and pulls her sensations toward him. The room momentarily splits in two, images overlapping and turning around each other with the small movements Elliot’s and Melody’s heads make. He lets the sensation wash over him and the shared perspective gradually settles into place. The perspectives are now separate, distinct.

The little things aren’t startling to him. He doesn’t feel sensations that her brain is ignoring. The mind stops sending sensory information in order to not overwhelm you with the feeling of your clothing touching your skin. The sensation of his hands in hers is the strongest now, not flickering back and forth like the moment the link set.

Of all of this, the only thing Melody feels is the telepathic sense that someone is currently streaming her sensations. Not like she’s being watched; like someone is watching with her. “You’ll need to reach for my sensations,” Elliot says, directing her to look, with her new telepathic sense, where to pull. “When you do, you’ll be able to feel how to pull. Keep in mind that if the room starts spinning and overlapping itself, you’ll want to stop pulling before you get to the kaleidoscope stage and puke. Just let go of my senses, let them fall back through the link. You don’t need to let go of my hands.”

With an arc of an eyebrow throughout the adjustment period, Asi gradually relaxes. The ghost of a smile plays over her, visible more in her eyes than her mouth. She comes slowly to her feet, patting the table near Melody rather than her shoulder directly.

"You got this," she murmurs reassurance, slipping behind her. Once behind Melody's back, she lifts her non-mug-bearing hand to point two fingers at her eyes, then flip them out in Elliot's direction.

If the new girl is already pulling perspective, maybe it'll make her laugh. Either way, the resident foreigner makes her way back to the coffee pot to top off her mug.

A low chuckle escapes Melody's lips, eyes going half lidded as she tries to stay focused. "I think you underestimate how much I've had kaleidoscope vision before." You don't need superpowers, just to be high as hell. Still, there's a tense edge to her that mingles with her excitement. Eyes flick over to Asi, and then back to Elliot.

"Okay, so… take it one step at time." Her eyes unfocus again, trying to understand how to feel through the link, to take hold of Elliot's senses and make them, in a sense, hers. The not getting overwhelmed part, well, that's always the hard part, isn't it?

"It's good to know that it's easy to break," she offers distractedly. "No one wants to be linked when I use my ability, so."

“Unless it’s a mental ability there probably won’t be any weird side effects when you use it. Somebody could feel physical effects of an ability that you were feeling, but they could just stop streaming your feed, so to speak. You could still be in the network. For instance, if I was injured and you shared my senses you’d feel my pain, but you could just let go but still be in the network.”

“But here,” he says, targeting his own sensory information and directing it to Melody with mental intent, “Is what you’re looking for.” It’s invisible, but in some way tangible. It’s offered up like a cat’s cradle, two people holding a tangled loop of string and passing it back and forth with their fingertips. It remains raised in the network, and it’s hard to pay attention to anything else along the link while it’s being offered. Melody can instinctively feel the edges of it, and how she can take it. As though she has an invisible pair of hands that can transfer the complexity of the sensations to herself with only a thought.

All of this is a new sensation in and of itself, and it's clear Melody needs a moment to adjust as her eyes unfocus and refocus, mouth slightly agape. "Whoa," she repeats, blinking as she focuses on reaching out and "taking" the offered sensory information. "I think- I think I understand?" She wrinkles her nose, trying her best to stay focused on Elliot and not let herself get overwhelmed.

"So, I reach out for it- and I experience what you are? Like an overlay?" These are questions she maybe should have asked earlier, but now that they're actually in the moment, they become that much more pertinent. Still, she pulls in what she can from Elliot - not too much, trying to not open the full floodgates, but mentally steeled for a bit of a sensory overload.

“It usually starts overlaid,” Elliot says, “Though after a little adjustment the different perspectives separate. You’ll experience yours and also mine, but kind of like they’re on two separate televisions. It’s the first few seconds that are hardest to adapt to, though. It can help to close your eyes for one less sensory input.”

“I can feel you at the edge of it, so you just need to pull and then you can take it at your own pace. We’re being paid to do this and there’s a fuck-ton of snacks, so no rush.” There’s a ripple of humor that passes faintly through the network. He closes his eyes and focuses all of his attention on his breathing, limiting what he senses to just the feeling of his own breath.

Unable to keep a smirk from spreading across her face, Melody closes her eyes again. "I do like snacks," she notes, mirroring the humor she feels both from herself and from the network. It's that feeling, though, that allows her to finally find something to take hold of and pull, slowly like someone trying to thread a internet cable or untangle the cords behind the TV.

Slowly her eyes open, almost immediately widening as she experiences a new sort of dual screen vision. She reels back a bit, clearly needing the moment of adjustment. "Jesus," she breathes out, her pulse quickening slightly - less out of panic and more out of excitement tempered with uncertainty. "This is wild, Elliot. And you and Wright do this all the time?"

“Not all the time, that would be fucking exhausting. But certainly for more than with any other person who’s ever been linked in.” Elliot laughs and looks around the room casually, not jarringly, to test Melody’s reaction. His eyes meet Asi’s for a moment and he gestures to the table of food in another wordless invitation to help herself.

“I have to do daily maintenance to keep a link functioning, and beyond a couple weeks it’s basically impossible to keep active, so everybody gets a cool-down period.” He’s lying, but it’s a lie he’s told so often it’s second nature, no trace of duplicity crosses with his words. Elliot and Wright have been mulling over the idea of telling their coworkers that their link is, for some reason, permanent. But for now they’re comfortable pretending, on and off, that they spend time unlinked.

Confident that Melody has a handle on the link, Elliot draws back his hands, though he keeps them close in case he needs to make small corrections. But now another short test. He pours himself a small glass of orange juice. Melody can feel his movements as though she’s in his body. The weight and smoothness of the glass pitcher. The chill of the drink as he sips it, the way his mouth works as he swallows it.

Asi comes back with a mug of coffee adorned with more fixings in it than it has any right to. It's doused and lightened with cream that scents of vanilla, has a stick of cinnamon poking from the top of it. If the invitation for food is open, she'll take it, thanks.

"The real trick of it is learning to respect what's just background noise to avoid versus something relatively important," Asi chimes as she slowly retakes a seat. "It's— not intuitive at first. Sometimes it feels like you notice so much more because it's not your own experience directly; like watching someone else navigate a video game. Learning to trust what you're guided and not try to direct the experience at all…"

Picking up a chocolate-drizzled pastry, she admits, "But being shown a 5D painting and being told don't look at everything on it just sounds counterintuitive at first, doesn't it?"

Maybe not now, when the differences were so similar, but…

Elliot can seem Melody's fingers moving like they're rubbing against something - the glass sensation of the pitcher most likely. Subtle movements and ticks give away how she experiences each of the sensations he shares. The slight shiver she feels from the unexpected coolness of the drink, her tongue running across her teeth as she feels it splash, tinges of the taste dancing inside her mouth.

A hand presses against the base of her throat, like she's expecting to have to swallow but realizes she doesn't. "This is… bizarre," she admits at first, wrinkling her nose as her slightly unsettled feeling washes over Elliot. It's brief, quickly giving away to a sense of wonderment. "But amazing," she adds after another moment of coming to grips with what she's experiencing.

"The idea of using this to share experiences, skills… I think I'm starting to understand why this is such a big deal." This even as she adjusting to not having her visions overlaid, watching herself for a fraction of a second as her hand lowers from her neck.

“The sensory data is great,” Elliot agrees. “If we’re both streaming the other’s we could have a conversation, out loud, from opposite sides of the planet. Theoretically, I’ve never tried it at that range, though I’ve never noticed lag at any other distance. Which is good, because lag could be very disorienting.”

He switches back to his coffee, the hot liquid just short of uncomfortable in a mouth so recently chilled with juice. “Another helpful feature is that there’s no feedback here. You don’t sense me sensing you sensing me like infinite mirror reflections. That’s another thing to grow accustomed to. When you’re looking at yourself through me right now, you see what I see, not a reflection.”

She can feel movement in her mind as he fusses with a few finishing touches in setting the link. “I’m pretty confident you won’t accidentally drop out of the network. You still can, don’t worry. Just try pulling away from that door and you’ll take yourself out.” There’s a rustle of curiosity in the network, somehow immediately distinct from Elliot’s calm watchfulness.

Asi reserves a small smile, visible only in the crinkling of her eyes, for Melody's experience. She settles in, tearing a bit of the pastry. "If you want to jump into the deep end right away… you should see if you can say good morning to Wright," she suggests, regardless of how wise that might be.

She's lived a lifetime of being thrown into the deep end of things and being expected to figure out how to tread water on her own, though. Training wheels of any kind aren't in her dictionary or experience.

“Wright is in the network right now, you may have just noticed her. She’s decent if you want to stream her,” he reassures. Elliot’s eyes momentarily lose focus, only for Melody to become aware of a second door in her mind. “You don’t have to try both at once, you can drop me.”

"That sounds a little overwhelming," Melody admits in a slow voice, the curiosity she feels a bit infectious as she studies Elliot. It gives way to amusement, punctuated with a slow chuckle. "Do you have anyway of knowing if someone's, uh, tapped into at any given moment? Or is it the honour system that you're not doin' anything inappropriate?"

Her tongue runs over her upper lip as she tries to focus on ahead, searching for the proverbial threads that will lead her to Wright, a desire to follow Asi's suggestion welling up in her. She takes a deep breath and focuses, eyes closing as an eyebrow quirks up. "Can you hear me, Wright?"


When Melody draws Wright’s perception, there’s a feeling of pulling it toward her, though the effect is immediate. Confusingly, she sees Wright. Things become clearer as Wright is currently brushing her teeth in the locker room adjacent to the Bastion’s exercise facilities. As Elliot said, she’s decent, wearing a black polo shirt, though her hair is still damp. Melody can feel the steam of the shower settling out of the air, the familiar sensation of a toothbrush navigating Wright’s mouth, the fresh minty flavor of the gritty toothpaste.

Wright’s eyes lose focus with her reflection in the mirror and Melody feels a presence in her mind. It answers Melody’s question to Elliot, the distinct knowledge that Wright is there and that she’s sensing what Melody senses in return. It feels a little different than when Elliot shared her senses a moment ago, but it’s impossible to miss. There’s a feeling of excitement, also from Wright it seems, or maybe anticipation.

Wright smiles at Melody by way of her own reflection, pausing to spit out toothpaste. She winks, then, from outside her own line of sight, picks up a small cardboard carton of orange juice and rinses her mouth with it. It tastes exactly as awful as everyone says it does. Her anticipation dissolves into what feels like laughter.

It doesn't take a genius to realize what's playing out. It starts with the wide smile that forms on Melody's face and the small wave she gives to Wright, if only out of some sort of innate reflex. Next comes an arched brow, curiosity crossing her face. Widening eyes and a slight recoil back. Finally, a retch and cough as the sensation of the orange juice and the toothpaste mixes, eyes wrenching shut as her lips pucker like someone stuck a sour lemon straight into her mouth.

"Oh my god, you bitch," is a choked and muttered curse, though clearly meant in a lighthearted manner - she should've expected something like this. What better way to prank someone than do it when they're new to the web and aren't expecting it?

"Of course you realize, this means war," she says with a laugh, reflexively rubbing at her lips even though there's nothing there. Whether it's meant for Elliot, Wright, or both is anyone's guess.

Asi rolls her lips under, trying to bite back a smile, the pastry she's snatched folding in under her palm and the legs of her chairs pushed back rapidly. Time to make an exit before she can be fingered as a combatant in this war. "Good luck with that," she offers up with warm mirth, then takes her luxurious breakfast and makes for the doorway.

Wright giggles to herself before spitting out the orange juice, “Oh my god that’s so gross,” she says, grabbing water to purge the flavor combination. Melody is lucky in this as she only has to stop pulling Wright’s feed to make the taste go away.

“In her defense,” Elliot says with an apologetic smirk as he watches Asi retreat, “I did that to her like nine years ago, and she’s been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share that pain with someone else.” Another giggle in the network is followed by revulsion.

“So, to answer your question,” Elliot laughs, “You’ll always know if someone is sharing your senses and memories. Including which memories, as the mechanism used to transmit the memory relies on your own ability to remember something. And who, though that takes a little more familiarity.”

“Generally it lasts up to a day, though I can stretch that up to a couple weeks max. We can end this session whenever you want to, I realize it’s a lot to take in. If you want to test it out throughout the workday though, we can think of some creative exercises.”

Melody's teeth still rake across her tongue even as she disengages from Wright's perception, the phantom of revulsion still dancing across her taste buds. "I stand by what I said," she remarks as her lips quirk side to side, the taste finally vanishing from her mouth. "And I'll tell you, I am hell in a prank war."

It seems even with new blood, some things never change at Wolfhound.

Severed from Wright, her attention turns full back to Elliot and what she can pull from him, her head tilting to the side a little bit. "I think I- have a basic understanding at least. Maybe." Probably not from the look on her face, but could anyone expect her to her first time? "But it's good to know who's in my head. I mean… I know I would anyway, but it still puts me at ease."

Slowly, she pushes back her chair and smiles. "I have nothing going on today. Exercises sound good."

Perfect, let’s start with a weird example, Elliot signs as he directs Melody to his knowledge of American Sign Language. This is a helpful illustration of the types of memories that can be shared.

ASL relies on muscle memory more than most other languages. So none of that is innate when you’re sharing it. I have a lot of practice, so it comes naturally to me. I can share the lexicon with you, but bridging the gap between understanding and performing is a totally different thing. So you can easily understand what I’m signing now but your accent will be atrocious. Same goes for spoken languages; If you’re not accustomed to using specific phonemes, your mouth will have trouble making the words sound correct to a native speaker.

He leans back with a smile. So, tell me about your day.

"Oh. Oh!" Melody's eyes widen a bit as her eyes flit between Elliot's hands as he signs. It takes her a long moment to reach out into Elliot's memories and pull that ASL lexicon to her perception, just in time to see him explain further how sharing these sorts of things works.

"This is amazing," she whispers, a wide smiling spreading across her face. "Um…" Raising both her hands, she's slow to move as she tries to pull the motions - and Elliot is absolutely correct, there's a stark difference between understanding and actualizing. Her lips purse, and she offers an apologetic smile, before trying once more.

Kind of boring. She opts for short form motions to help her learn, but even then her movements are incredibly imperfect. Studying before breakfast. Food. This. Her face shows her displeasure with her initial attempts. "This is hard."

Elliot gives Melody all the time she needs to feel out the words. It is, he agrees, But the more you do it while linked the faster you learn it for yourself. You don’t lose what you learn when the link breaks. You’re putting in practice, and that’s happening in your own brain.

What are you studying? he asks, genuinely curious.

So I am learning through you? Melody's facial expressions make clearer the questioning tone of her signed words, trying her best to stay focused on both keeping the skill pulled as well as her hand movements. Neat.

Taking a deep breath, she glances back up to Elliot and then back to her hands, watching for errors as she continues. Medicine. There's a bit of a sad smile on her face when she signs that. Never been licensed. Learned all I know in war.

A moment of hesitation comes before she continues, slower this time as she tries to properly parse all the words and motions. Wife wanted me to be a nurse after the war. It's a bit of a hard admittance, Melody now intentionally casting her eyes from Elliot. Doing this here, it makes sense too.

With Melody looking away, Elliot feels guilty for broaching what is obviously a difficult subject. “That’s how Wright learned,” he says quietly. “During the war. She learned a lot of what she knows from her wife Marthe, who’s now a school nurse at Winslow Crawford. It would certainly be good to have another medic with the team, networked or not.”

He thinks for a moment before trying to change the subject. “I have another exercise we could do,” he says. “We’d need to go outside for it though.”

"Oh!" Melody seems to light up quite a bit, whatever dourness she possessed a moment ago gone in an ephemeral wisp like it was never even there. "I didn't know that! I'll have to talk with both of them, then."

A little scoff of a laugh escapes her lips as she rises up to her feet, a half cocked smile on her face. "I also kind of cheat because of my ability," she remarks in a sly tone, as if this were some kind of secret she was sharing. "I don't like using it too much, but… there's no denying that it's handy when it works. And it doesn't sideline me for a while."

Looking past Elliot, she looks around curiously, an eyebrow raised. "So, what do you have in mind for our next trial?"

Elliot stands from the table and gestures toward the door. “I wouldn’t consider that cheating,” he says. “Cheating would be taking a medical exam while linked into the network and having Wright help you with the answers.” He laughs quietly. “I could have made a killing with my ability if I went to college.”

He quirks his eyebrow as he grapes his coat from the back of the couch and slings it on. “Or finished high school for that matter. I heard you were a healer, I take it that using your ability is exhausting?” He grabs his coffee and leads the way from the room as he talks, headed for the stairwell.

"It's—" Melody's nose wrinkles, wobbling as she starts moving. Realizing she still has Elliot's perceptions running, she releases that particular thread but doesn't yet break the connection. "It's complicated," she continues, shrugging slightly.

"When I heal someone, I get sort of— a kind of feedback. I either take on part of what ailed them, or otherwise get some sort of negative repercussion. Like a polarity thing? It has to balance somehow. It's not fun and sometimes it puts me out of commission for a few weeks, depending on what I healed or how much."

Stepping into the stairwell after Elliot, she pauses and looks up at him. "Assuming it even works. It's… pretty volatile." A glance down at the ground, and she starts after him. "That's part of why I'm studying. I can't always rely on my ability."

Elliot nods as they descend to the first floor. “Sensible,” he says. “Save your strength for the important stuff. It will be good to have another option for sharing medical skills, but simultaneously I should probably actually do some emergency learning of my own. If only to make Wright stop hassling me about it.” He shrugs. Too lazy.

Elliot glances around the lobby as they arrive on the first floor, then heads for the exit. “Every ability certainly has its quirks,” he continues. “There are some drawbacks to the network as well. Sharing sensation only to feel another person’s injury. Outside mental abilities feeding back through the network and affecting people other than the target.”

He opens the front door, and steps toward the sidewalk. “Practicing letting go is important, and leaving the network entirely. Never good to share hostile telepathic commands with your friends.”

"I hadn't thought of that," Melody responds a bit more quietly. "Makes sense, though." Her face scrunches up a bit as she follows behind Elliot, looking somewhere between thoughtful and perplexed. "Quirks. Maybe that's what we should call them instead of powers and abilities. Certainly full of them."

Hands slipping into her pockets, she also glances around as they step into the lobby. "So… what do you have in mind next? Or does it get to be a surprise." She's hoping for the former, surprises aren't really her favorite thing in the world.

"Maybe after that I can practice letting go and looping back in." That sounds important enough to warrant it's own lesson after all.

“Next is a lesson in a more nebulous area,” Elliot says as he holds the door open. “Skills like your medical knowledge are indexed together so it’s just the data without having to sift through every medically-related memory trying to remember what to do. Obviously this works better with some skills than others, depending on how much muscle memory is involved.”

As Melody follows him outside he lets the door click closed, but immediately begins patting down his jacket pockets. “I have a knack for stealthy… Shit,” he says mildly, “Can I borrow your security badge for a second?”

"Seriously?" There's a bit of disbelief in Melody's voice, rolling her eyes as she roots around in her pocket for a moment before producing the requested badge. "If you lose it, I'm telling Huruma." There's a grin on her face as she hands it over, clearly amused by this.

It doesn't occur to her as she hands over the card that whatever this new test is, it may have just begun.

"So like skills are filed with like. That also makes sense. A lot of this makes sense if you think about it logically." Which, admittedly, Melody is not very good at but here they are.

“Thank you, I’ll try to hold onto it,” Elliot says with a chuckle while accepting the badge. “And honestly I’d be more worried about Asi finding out than Huruma. As I was saying—” He uses the badge to unlock the door, opening it only far enough to toss the badge onto the reception area floor and closing it again.

“Exercise two,” he announces with a look into the door’s security camera, queuing up a large pool of knowledge in the network for access. “Infiltration.”

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