Mysteries And Mischief


asi3_icon.gif monica3_icon.gif

Scene Title Mysteries And Mischief
Synopsis Life on the lam isn't so hard when you've got friends like Monica to keep you company.
Date August 22 - October 31

Somewhere in the New York City Safe Zone

For a long period of time, there's only the sounds of keys clacking, the fans of the computer not registering over the din of the fast-paced cacophony. It's a stream of clattering broken only by a sigh, and then Asi is flopping back on the bed she's sitting on, arms sprawled above her head while she stares at the ceiling. Restlessness is overcome by the need to process the information she's uncovered thus far and take mental stock of what tasks remain needing done. Physical sticky notes are plastered to the margins of her laptop screen, scrawled with cryptic bulletpoints like Ghost triad trafficking?, maj1ko, and Hiroshima 2001.

They're guiding totems, reminders of what she's learned and what she still has yet to do.

Asi groans at it all. "ビールちょうだい。" she calls out lazily into the air, one leg hanging off the side of the bed while the other is bent carefully to prevent the laptop from sliding away. She'd reached that point of the day where motivation and enticement was needed to continue working. Nevermind she generally speaking was the one holding both the carrot and the stick for herself, the vehicle.

Monica doesn't speak Japanese, of course, but she lived in Yamagato Park long enough to pick up a few key phrases. So it isn't long before a cold beer finds its way to Asi's hand. She brought one for herself, too, both bottles held between fingers somewhat unsteadily until Asi takes hers.

While Asi has worked, Monica has been preparing in her own way. Which is to say absorbing. And working out. With someone like Asi around, any contribution she could make to the research part would be redundant at best. So she's mostly been a sounding board between sessions. But otherwise making sure she's ready for the parts where her particular skills come into play.

"If you get drunk, does the internet look better or worse?"

The question brings a stifled laugh from Asi, in the midst of her overall ill-advised act of trying to drink while lying down. Self-modulating, she rocks upward into a sitting position and avoids any incidents while finishing her long drink. A satisfied sigh punctuates the small effort. "I mean…" is as far as she gets before needing a second smaller sip to help her with her thoughts. Maybe the question was better answered this way, after all.

"It makes everything look easier than it actually is. But it certainly alters your— fine motor control, too." Asi looks back Monica's way, smiling with her eyes without so much as a twitch of her mouth. She adjusts the seat of the machine on her lap with a nudge of her bottle, disappearing mentally. Leagues pass in the moment she's gone, a shift in her expression by the time she comes back to the present. "Makes crazier ideas seem more plausible, too," she asides.

With a tip of her chin, Asi asks, "Want to hear the latest conspiracy theory?"

"Knocking down firewalls like the Kool Aid guy," Monica says with a crooked smile, "I have a very clear mental image.”

Monica doesn't seem to mind when Asi's attention shifts away from the moment. She can be patient. Plus, she understands a power that pulls you out of reality. She fills that space with a drink of her beer and waits for her friend to come back around. And when she does, Monica replies with a laugh first.

"You know I do. Is it about lizard people? I love when they're about lizard people."

Asi lets a corner of her mouth curl up at the mental image Monica describes— It’s one they’re both sharing now. Another long drink from her bottle is taken before she leans forward, setting the bottle down on the ground for a moment.

“I’ll let you be the judge on lizard people,” the technopath confides, her mood growing serious again in a heartbeat. “Because this latest theory? I’m wondering where it is Komura’s granddaughter came from.” Her jaw works for a moment, wondering where to begin. “I was able to get ahold of her government file. Her adoption case was— unusual, let’s call it. They believed she lost her parents in the 2001 earthquake in Hiroshima, but they weren’t able to confirm. This six year old girl was found on a highway just outside of town; she was nonverbal and couldn’t explain where she’d come from, who her parents were, who she was.”

“It could have been a case of trauma that prevented her from sharing any of those details. But for some reason it’s stuck on me… “ Asi peels away the corresponding sticky note from the screen, holding it up. “The earthquake. Hiroshima. The fact they could not ever locate her parents.” She looks at the note with a frown.” This SLC-E orphan, Chess’s age, shows up right at the time the Yamagato facility was destroyed, right in the same city. And they never found the girl they thought survived.” Shaking the sticky, Asi knits her brow. “It’s a hell of a long shot, but it keeps bothering me. What if, what if Shuku was the girl?” She strikes her other arm out to the side, gesturing vaguely in the direction of China. “What if — hell, what if all of this started because Praxis’ people figured out who she was? And the rest, for Mazdak, was just bonus points?”

The last part she seems less certain about, but the rest of it, there’s a passion to it. Asi frowns, seeming as tempted to keep preaching with the sticky as she is liable to ball it up and throw it across the room.

"If we lived normal lives I'd say you were reaching. But we really don't and we know Yamagato and Friends were up to Some Shit, so I say chase whatever leads you can find. Let's find out if our girl really is a lizard, you know?" Monica lifts her shoulder because who knows. "I don't know what Mazdak's angle is in all this yet, but I'm pretty sure it isn't going to be obvious from the surface. We gotta dig."

Digging, of course, always seems to land her in trouble, but she's also pretty sure she can dig herself back out of it again, too.

"Do we have any fresh leads on where Shuku is now? Whatever they're planning, we have to pry their fingers off Japan's throat." Japan's and whoever else's.

“There’s a grossly messy overlap in Adam Monroe’s pies when it comes to their upper echelons, based on what I saw in Keihin. A Ghost Triad leader, one of the clones working for Praxis, and the Mazdak leader all in the same place at the same time.” Asi wrinkles her nose for a moment, withholding commentary that such a gathering sounded like the beginning of a bad joke lest she draw up any more memories of that night. It’s still a sore topic for her. “It could be certain operatives were in the right place at the right time to strike, and they found a way to work the situation so it benefited all parties. They were working close enough at the Steelworks, and that was an event in the aftermath of the kidnapping, so who is to say they were not working together on that endeavor, too?”

“Why is an entire other question,” the technopath remarks, the thought of it making her fingers itch for a cigarette that would assist her in thinking the whole thing through. “But I get the feeling if we had real context to that,” she mutters. “we’d have the answer to plenty of other things surrounding Monroe, too. We’d have a better map.”

She blinks rapidly, looking back to her screen as she focuses back on Monica’s question about fresh leads. “I can’t find the girl anywhere,” she confesses. “And I’ve spent good money and too many favors digging for her. Made more noise about it than I would have liked to in the process, too.” Drawing her mouth into a line, Asi lets a desire to pull up a file filter out through her fingertips and result a moment later in the presentation of a security camera screenshot. She turns the laptop out so it can be better seen. “This is the last time she was caught on camera. Two days before the reported kidnapping, she went into a shop, alone, in Hong Kong. Someone followed her in. Neither of them came back out.”

A tap of her finger reveals the someone that followed her in — and he doesn’t look like a local.

“Cameras outside the shop got a few different angles on him, and I was able to get together a hit for him on an older American registry published on the dark web. His name is Cyrus Karr. Linderman Act had him registered as a photokinetic.” A beat elapses before Asi concedes, “Which could possibly provide a reason for why they were never seen leaving, depending on how good he is at what he does. And I mean, he has a rap sheet— was incarcerated at Moab.”

With a sigh, Asi arches her brow. “Long story short, that’s the freshest lead I’ve got at the moment, and it’s over half a year old.” She doesn’t sound happy about it. “It’s not for a lack of trying. Maybe it’s time to start combing other countries for information, but I don’t know how much I could expect to find outside a surveillance state, much less where else to look at the moment.”

"It's old, but it's not nothing. If Karr helped take her, he might be easier to find than a kidnapping victim. Her, they'd keep off the grid. If he's an agent, he'll be doing work. We can put feelers out for him. Can you send me a copy of the footage? I'll tap some people in the US and see if they can find him." Monica knows a few people who were in Moab. And people who know how to find things. "Discreetly."

She can hope, anyway.

"In the meantime, how about you take a break? We've got beers and there's some wild game show on TV." And she thought American reality TV was crazy.

Asi arches an eyebrow at the suggestions, from one to another. For a moment, she just sits. Then she relents with a small laugh under her breath, setting everything aside. "All right," she says quietly.

Cat's Cradle: Basement

September 1, 2019

10:15 am

"You're on." Asi had laughed, grinning when Monica set the bet for this little sparring match.

She's not laughing now.

Sweating and on her way to being out of breath, she throws aside the stick she'd been using as a staff, picking up a shorter sword instead. With a flourish of it to test its weight, she keeps her eyes on the top of it as well as her target.

Land a clean hit, and lunch is on her, Monica had said.

Okay, Asi, so hit her already.

Monica spins a bokken in her hand while Asi swaps weapons, a crooked smile on her face. She's starting to sweat as well, a fact that isn't helped by the fact that they're in a basement. She isn't laughing, either, but isn't hiding the fact that this sort of thing is fun for her.

Of course, that's hardly a fact she needs to hide from Asi.

Landing a clean hit on Monica isn't an easy task, so maybe it was a bit cruel of her to put a wager on it. But she believes a little motivation can make a person fight better, even if it is just lunch. She readies her stance when Asi looks ready to start again and gives her friend a wider grin.

"You can always yield, you know, if you're getting tired."

Lunch and pride.

Asi lets out a huff of laughter, the corner of her mouth lifting just a touch. Not a chance, Monica.

The staff was a weapon she was familiar with, but decades of kendo practice sees her stance both strengthen and become more fluid with the shinai-like sword in her hand. Her footwork is tighter, posture level. She looks visibly more powerful for her comfort, focus on Monica renewed.

With an exhale, she mentally prepares, hands lifting just slightly. When she pushes forward, she glides across the floor, sword arm lifted and flourished back down to swing for Monica's side within the same breath. It's a far cry from the more easily-telegraphed moves with the staff.

But she knows Monica has a quick eye. Asi leans into the swing, pushing the sword out with her grip firm to shove her sparring partner back if she doesn't manage to land the hit. It's a precisely-executed action, certain not to throw her center of weight in the process of trying to disturb Monica's.

Sometimes even Monica can quietly acknowledge that it really isn't fair, how her ability works. That she picked up kendo mere months ago and can match the stance and confidence of someone practicing their whole life. She really should feel like being an arm down is a problem. She doesn't. She's been in enough scrapes to be appreciative of every advantage she has.

The grin probably isn't necessary, but she can't help it.

When Asi makes her move, Monica shifts enough to meet the swing of Asi's sword with her own. She isn't expecting the shove, though, and stumbles back a few paces before she regains her feet again. Once she's balanced, she moves back toward Asi, only to slide low and take a swing at Asi's legs.

Hit or miss, she rolls back up to her feet and spins back to face her friend.

Asi just needs to land a hit. Just one. She doesn't even care if it's with bad form at this point.

A leaping strike sort of falls in that category.

When Monica goes down and it's clear she's going low for a strike, Asi springs into the air to avoid the charge… all while bringing the sword down at her friend's shoulder.

The shout she gives off probably isn't necessary, but she can't help it. It's tinged with a laugh. For how frustrating this is, it's also fun.

Spinning to the side at the shout, Monica echoes the laugh. She has to lean out of the way to avoid the hit, but with a lunch bill on the line, she can't just let Asi win. She also seems not to be too worried about keeping to clean forms and perfect execution. Because her next move is to lower her shoulders and run at Asi.

A football tackle has no place in a martial arts bout.

And yet.

Monica just hopes the floor isn't too unforgiving, in case this works.

Just having gotten back on flat feet, Asi's gaze flickers in surprise when she notes that dip in posture. Monica can't be serious, she thinks. Oh, but she is. Crazy American.

She slides a step back, feet kissing the floor the whole while. In a blink, she decides her course, weapon still held at the ready. If standing her ground gets her the shot she's been looking for finally, she'll take it.

Asi lifts the sword one last time, bringing it down swiftly as Monica barrels the short distance between them.

It happens too quickly to shift her trajectory, when Monica feels Asi's sword hit her shoulder. It hits, then she hits Asi and both of them end up on the floor. Monica puts her hand next to Asi's head to lift herself up enough to look down at Asi. She looks at her shoulder, then back to Asi.

"Tie?" she asks, with a far too innocent look on her face.

She really can't sell that one.

Asi coughs when she tries to laugh, roughly shoving Monica off of her as she pushes herself back into a sitting position.

"Best two out of three?" she jokes airily, shoulders rising and falling with each breath. She grins broadly before sinking and falling back into the mat again, looking up at the ceiling.

Hey, a tie wasn't bad. It could work. Even if she knew she won.

October 31

6:19 pm

Outside, the sun is setting. For Asi, it might as well be rising. Cyberspace doesn’t give a damn what time of day it is, and it’s where she’s spent a good portion of her time lately. Currently, it’s being spent with her feet kicked up on her desk, ankles crossed by the side of her monitor, and her keyboard laying across her chest like it’s some kind of musical instrument, delicately propped up at one corner by her knee. One arm half-hugs it while she scrolls, letting out a sigh while taking in the screen’s contents.

Bored with what the rest of the world currently has to offer, she turns her attention local. The online iteration of the Safe Zone Siren is pulled up, absorbing half her screen while the New York Times dominates the other half. It was local enough. Both scroll idly of their own accord while she leans back in her chair, head tilting to the side.

An image of a boat with a queue in front of it snares her attention, bringing her to expand on the Siren’s page. She blinks slowly while reading about the limited-time attraction down in Ferrymen’s Bay, the successful floating haunted house run out of a ship named the Novelle Vue.

Asi’s hand slides down the keyboard in stutters until it falls in her lap. The article is left open while her gaze goes unfocused, head beginning to turn away as her thoughts begin to lead her elsewhere. She takes stock of what she has in the space she’s claimed as her own.

“Monica?” she lifts her voice, uncrossing her legs to set her feet back on the ground. “Hey, do you have any plans for tonight?”

The silence that serves as her reply would indicate yes, it seems.

After another moment of consideration, she sets the keyboard aside and tells the computer to turn itself off while she comes to her feet. Her brow twitches into a furrow in another burst of indecision at something, her gaze finally coming to find the Halloween mask she’d jokingly bought when they last went out to the store together. Perhaps she should make like Monica and spontaneously develop some plans.

Maybe get that mask some use after all.

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