New Blood


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Scene Title New Blood
Synopsis Out with the old, in with the new.
Date June 24, 2019

Kensei. «Why— »”

Beneath a starlit night sky, she stares down at Takezo Kensei with confusion. Tall boughs of pine trees rise up overhead, nearly blocking out the view of the heavens above. Fireflies dance in the warm summer air, drifting between tall blades of grass.

“«It’s traditional,»” Kensei says, looking up from his kneeling position to take one of Yaeko’s hands in his, “«where I’m from.»” In his other hand, he holds a simple band of iron, stamped in the middle with a single piece of kanji.

Yaeko’s expression shifts from confusion to disbelief, watching as Kensei slides the ring on one of her fingers. It’s loose, but when she closes her hand around his it fits just fine. “Kensei,” she says again, her voice hitching in the back of her throat. But Kensei merely smiles, shaking his head and not once looking away from her.

“«Whatever comes next, after Umakashte is defeated,»” Kensei shakes his head, “«no matter what the Dragon wants… no matter what need be done. I want you by my side.»” Kensei turns the ring on her finger, so that the kanji is pointed toward the stars.


Three Hundred and Forty-Eight Years Later

Praxis Ziggurat

Praxia, California Safe Zone

June 24th

6:47pm Local Time

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Standing by the window at the back of the private lounge, Joy holds one hand up to her chest, the other rubbing at her bare ring finger. Her dark eyes are focused on the water and the sun slowly tracking its way across the sky to the west.

In the hour since Adam left, Joy has not said much. She arranged for a proper meal to be brought up, delivered by unthinking automatons in the shape of men. The meal must have been cooked by human hands, though, given the artistry on display. It is a bounty, pan-fried chicken breast with a cream gravy and fresh rosemary. Mashed potatoes with a side of broccoli and carrots. There’s a tall, ice cold glass of water with it. Meals like this are so hard to come by in the Safe Zone. Not to mention expensive.

Lingering by that window, Joy haunts the room, more so than keeping Squeaks company.

The teen hasn't been particularly forthcoming with conversation either. She tried, a couple of false starts — small talk is hard — but gave up in exchange for entertaining herself in her own way. She's okay with being casually ignored, and there's a whole huge room to explore.

The silence is filled with the ultrasonic squeaks and clicks of her ability, and she maps out the finer details that most people miss. She's not shy about wandering either, though her path keeps her at a distance from Joy. The occasional side eye still goes to the woman, but that's all.

When food arrives, Squeaks remembers her thank you almost immediately. It's nearly given to the automatons before she realizes they're not actually people, then it's given to Joy in a vaguely apologetic tone. She wastes no time in investigating the food and helping herself to it. The luxury isn't lost on her, it's more food, fancier food, than she's ever seen that she can remember.

As she eats, working on a leg of chicken, she watches Joy.

“Are you scared of me too?” It's an innocent question, asked after long minutes have passed and Squeaks decides to make an honest attempt at conversation. “I didn't know… I just thought that… that I'd learn…” what she's already learned.

Joy blinks, breaking her thousand-yard stare. For a moment she looks confused, but as that look passes she turns her attention to Squeaks. “No,” she answers with a shake of her head, “I’m not. Not of you,” she clarifies. “It’s okay,” Joy continues, slipping away from the window and slowly walking over to where Squeaks sits, enjoying her meal.

“I’m just… worried. For you, for Adam, for all of us.” As Joy talks, she settles down in the same armchair Adam had been sitting in when he first spoke to Squeaks. Her attention settles on the sword atop the table, then down to her lap. “Your coming here might have unintended consequences for all of us. Zhao should have let you talk to your family, should have let you tell them not to worry or…” She closes her eyes and shakes her head. “Sometimes, I close my eyes and all I see is fire.”

Joy’s expression scrunches up and she looks away. “I don’t want it to end like that.”

“I asked.” Squeaks sets the bit of chicken down on a plate, brushes her hands off on the legs of her jeans. She doesn't go into how all Zhao would say was no. It's plain on her face, that lingering sadness while she dwells for a minute on the conversation in the ruins. If she could've had just two minutes to tell her mom… “But I needed to know. I need to understand.”

She pauses to reflect on Joy’s worries, and a small frown forms. “I don't want more fighting to happen.” She was a little kid during the civil war, but she lived on the streets, on the scraps of whatever she could find. “Last time… last time it's how come I lived in the Underneath. It was safer, lots of hiding places.”

Looking up from the plate of half finished foods, Squeaks studies Joy. She doesn't try to be subtle about it either. “Do you for reals see fire when your eyes are closed? I just see dark.”

Joy makes a soft sound, not quite a laugh but close. She looks up to Squeaks, shaking her head. “I can see many things. It’s not always fire, but recently…” her brows furrow and she looks away, “recently everything I’ve seen has been troubling.” She takes in a deep breath, then exhales a tired sigh and looks back to the sword. “I’m sorry to tell you that… one way or another, there is more fighting to come. I don’t know who the war will be between, there’s so much uncertainty, but I know it’s coming.”

Joy turns her dark eyes back to Squeaks. “I’m sorry to… burden you with that. You seem so young, and so kind. Kensei— Adam— does not trust easily, and the fact that he trusts you in spite of everything is… it’s nice to see him able to open up to someone, even if just.”

Squeaks nods slowly in resigned acceptance of the fact. There is another fight coming. “Maybe it won't be like the last one,” she offers, hopeful. What else it could be like isn't something she speculates on, but she can wish for a better, less violent solution. “I don't know why there's people who… don't like others. Just everyone should let everyone else be what they are.”

A huffed breath follows the statement, and Squeaks looks like she's thinking on things. Her eyes wander from Joy and the meal to the windows and bookshelves. “He doesn't have any reason to not trust me,” she says slowly, thinking out loud. Her attention circles back around to the sword on the table. Adam had started telling the story about it. “How come you called Adam Kensei?”

Joy looks disarmed by that question, drawing in a sharp breath and then exhaling an uncertain sigh through her nose. She looks away, over to the sword on the table, then back to Squeaks. “A very long time ago… that was his name. Or, a title. One he earned through selflessness and determination. Through honor and…” she glances back at the sword, “through sacrifice.”

Shaking her head, Joy takes a few meandering steps away from Squeaks. “It’s a long story, not a particularly pleasant one either. Also… dangerous to tell. But, in as much as you asked, Adam and I have known one-another for a very long time, and… yet he still manages to find ways to surprise me.” Her dark eyes settle back on Squeaks, and in them there is some sadness. No resentment, just something like longing.

“I imagine he might have looked much as you do, when he was a boy,” Joy says softly, her attention drifting back to the sword, even as she seems to be drawn back toward it as she slowly walks in that direction. “Don’t let his demeanor give you the wrong impression, Jac. He is concerned for you, if nothing else. He does not treat people this way unless he cares, and the number of people of whom he feels such a way for is vanishingly small.”

As Joy talks, Squeaks pulls her legs up onto her seat so she’s sitting criss-cross. She doesn’t watch the woman while she listens, but studies the sword. Just as before, maybe there’s some message hidden that she’ll find as she learns a little bit more.

Her elbows rest against the bends of her knees, and her chin is propped up against her hands. The teen’s eyes lift when Joy touches on Adam’s boyhood appearance. For a second, her face scrunches slightly in an effort to imagine the man she’s just met looking a bit like she does now. Maybe. She can’t really guess or judge, but she can take Joy’s word for it, since she’s known Adam for a really long time.

“He just seemed really busy,” she observes thoughtfully. “But he took time to talk to me. And… he’s going to find answers maybe, for the thing we’re not supposed to know about.”

For a minute, Squeaks sits quietly to think about that thing. There’s a strangely large number of things she isn’t supposed to talk about. “He seemed really worried about it and… Everything connected to it. But… but I guess…” Her eyes focus on Joy again and she shrugs slowly. “Do… do you think he’s… not mad that I got here?”

“Adam reserves his anger for the deserving,” is how Joy chooses to answer, threading a lock of dark hair behind one ear as she does. “That isn't you,” she clarifies.

But there's a moment where Joy reconsiders something Squeaks said, and her brows crease together with worry. Dark eyes move from the sword to the girl, and Joy watches her for a moment in silence. Pupils widening, it feels as though Joy is staring through Squeaks. “What did you mean by that?” She asks, leaning forward slowly. “The… thing we’re not supposed to know about?”

“Not me.” Squeaks weighs the answer as she says it out loud. Adam didn't seem mad, and he didn't seem fake nice when she was able to ask questions. Her reservations about him are still seen as valid, a little bit. But maybe she doesn't need to be so worried.

The staring prompts her to look over her shoulder, just in case there's something there and it isn't her that Joy is staring at. There's nothing there, of course, and when she looks back at the woman, it's with a little bit of suspicion. Slowly, her feet come off the seat, like maybe that's the reason for the look. She doesn't expect the question that follows.

“The thing,” Squeaks emphasizes because that makes it way more clearer and easier to understand. “That they did to me… tested. Why Adam had to go.” She hesitates, turns slightly to glance at the door. “The… the Umbra thing.” The last bit is practically whispered, as if she's afraid to say it too loudly, and she looks guardedly at Joy.

Joy makes a noise in the back of her throat, looking down to the floor at Squeaks’ explanation. “Ah,” she says quietly, wringing her hands together. “That explains…” she starts to say, then shakes her head as she trails off. For a while, all Joy does is look at the ground, her jaw set and brows furrowed. It's the look of someone struggling through a silent trauma, reliving a moment of time.

Exhaling a short sigh, Joy looks back up to Squeaks. But there is no hollow look in her eyes now, but rather a silent worry. “You've seen it,” doesn't sound certain. Neither does, “You've heard it's voice, too?” There's very little uncertainty in Squeaks’ heart over what Joy is referencing. The voice on the tape, the gold eyes, the being of energy that came through the Looking Glass.

“Can I ask a favor of you?” Joy asks, tension in her shoulders and arms as she sits up straighter.

“Explains what,” Squeaks begins to ask. She's still cautious, not sure about the subject that made Adam get all worried and then run off to find answers. But the half started statement has her leaning forward, practically scooting from her seat to approach Joy. Probably to gently tug on an arm in hopes of jostling an answer free. She doesn't, though, as something in the woman’s expression keeps her from making that jump.

The questions that eventually follow aren't ones the teen expects, and it makes her both puzzled and suspicious. How would anyone here know about that. She looks aside, taking a few seconds for herself before deciding how to answer.

“We shouldn't talk about that either,” she states. In its own way, it's a confirmation. She knows exactly what Joy is referring to. The request that follows draws her full attention, and some suspicion, back to Joy. “If I say yes, would you tell me how come Adam got all worried about the Umbra thing?”

Joy’s brows furrow, her expression taking on an opacity that wasn't there before. Where once it felt clear that she was invested in Squeaks and her well-being, it now feels like those thoughts are a million miles away behind her eyes. Joy stands, walking over to Squeaks and leans over the young woman, one hand on the arm of the chair. A curtain of dark hair hangs like a screen down the far side of Joy’s face, making Squeaks feel as if, for a moment, only she and Joy existed.

“It explains why I didn't know you were here,” Joy says in a husky whisper, her dark eyes searching Squeaks’ far paler ones. “And… you're right, normally we shouldn't talk about— ” she closes her eyes, and the intensity of the moment seems to pass as she cuts herself off. When Joy opens her eyes again, there is gentle compassion and concern in them once more, coming with a featherlight touch of two fingers against Squeaks jawline.

“If I tell you,” Joy says with a slow rise of her brows, “I'm worried you'll do something a young woman would do. Knowledge is like a knife,” she says, letting those fingers fall from Squeaks' chin. “Give a knife to a child, and you only have yourself to blame if they get hurt.” Joy looks away, still looming over Squeaks. “I do not want you to be hurt. Neither… does Adam.”

Curiosity as much as caution makes her eyes widen, but Squeaks remains riveted to her seat, captured by the change in Joy’s expression and movement. Her head tips back as the woman gets closer, upper body leaning a tiny bit when Joy leans in. She stares, studies the darker eyes that search her own. Eyebrows push together with uncertainty, but words fail to form.

Her focus remains on Joy, fixed as if looking away would be the start of catastrophe. Even the touch to her face, a thing she would normally shy away from, is left without acknowledgment.

The woman’s words are absorbed the way a sponge takes in water. If there's weighing and measuring, it's so deep within that even Squeaks is unaware of it. The cost of face value is accepted after a few seconds, and while her wonderings churn below the surface they aren't allowed to manifest into words. It seems better, more important, to listen just now. And ask another time. She won't forget.

“I don't want to be hurt,” the teenager says quietly. It's meant to be an assurance. She's only seeking understanding. “Or hurt anyone.” Squeaks pauses and takes a small breath. She carefully sets a finger on Joy’s forearm, underscoring her response. “What's your favor?”

Joy had nearly forgotten she’d used those words. Her gaze flicks over to the Kensei sword, then back to Squeaks. “Remember,” is what she chooses to say. “Remember, when the conversation we have today is a memory, remember that no one person can be distilled to a single sentence. No one person's motivations can be so clearly explained in an anecdote or by knowing them a brief time. Remember, when there is no one else left to remember, that we believed ourselves good people capable of good things…”

Looking over to the windows, Joy wraps her arms around herself and looks distantly again. There's a long while where she stares in silence at the setting sun, nearly disappeared behind the horizon. The sky all around has started to turn shades of purple and violet, fiery wisps of orange following the sun’s departure into the west. Joy swallows, audibly, and turns to look back at Squeaks.

“Umbra is— ”

The doors to the suite click audibly and slowly swing open. Though he had not been gone long, Adam Monroe’s return feels like a rush of cold air coming in to an otherwise warm room. He can see the tension in the air, in Joy’s posture, in Jac’s brows. He slowly closes the suite doors with one hand, looking briefly to the Kensei sword and then back to Jac again.


“I hope Joy kept you company,” Adam says quietly, offering her a momentary look as he walks past her to Jac. “But you and I need to talk about something very serious, Jac.” He levels a look over at Joy, who takes several steps away and nervously threads a lock of hair behind one ear. Adam settles his attention back on Squeaks again. “Can you be strong for me?”

As Joy beings speaking, Squeaks allows her eyes to drift to the windows, to the Kensei sword. Even though her attention seems to wander and she doesn’t feel confident she could explain their importance, she clings to the words. Maybe she’ll understand their purpose one day. For now she makes the effort just to remember, committing them to memory.

When Umbra is brought up, she looks up at Joy. Her seat is finally abandoned, maybe to move closer to the woman’s side. Maybe to follow the other’s gaze out the window. She doesn’t get that far. Adam’s return stalls movement as easily as it does conversation. Her head swivels to face the door.

“Yes.” They might have started out like two strange cats meeting, but the teen would say it turned out to be a good conversation. “She’s nice.” Her tone slides with uneasiness when Joy moves away. Her head tips slightly so she can look up at Adam, nervousness is plain, the questions of what and why are obvious.

Squeaks nods slowly. “Okay.” She’s afraid, but she can be strong. Hopefully. “I think so.”

Adam nods once, looking from Squeaks to Joy. Whatever the look means, Joy takes it as her cue to leave. She in turn looks over to Squeaks and gives her a small but inscrutable smile, then looks back to Adam and wordlessly makes her way to a door out of the lounge. Only once she’s gone does Adam speak up again, taking a few steps over to Squeaks with a troubled look in his eyes.

“There are complicated things at work in this world,” Adam says with a tremor in his voice; nervousness, maybe fear. “Complicated enemies, moving at odd angles, doing things that can’t easily be explained and require unconventional lines of approach that, likewise, aren’t always easy or possible to explain to an outsider.” When he says outsider, Adam motions to Squeaks, indicating her role in this. “I’ve had to make… hard choices. Ones that other people would judge me harshly for, ones I judge myself harshly for. But the outcome remains the same, I’m invested in protecting this world we live in…” though Squeaks feels like there may be some qualifier to that which has gone unsaid. A circling around the truth of the matter.

“So, when I tell you this,” Adam lifts his chin up, regarding Squeaks with a more serious expression than he had before, “remember that.” His blue eyes track to the door for a moment, then back to the young girl.

“Stefan is here,” Adam says flatly.

The girl’s eyes flick to Joy, track her movement to the door. Whatever passed in those looks is missed entirely. Adam’s voice brings her attention back to him, and with it a searching gaze.

Of everything that could have been said, that Stefan is here wasn't anything she expected. For what might be an eternity, Squeaks stares up at Adam. She barely moves, shallow breaths almost not even shifting her shoulders or chest, eyes unblinking. Inside, her mind reels. The information ricochets through every solid understanding of what is possible and what isn't. It would be easier to accept a just kidding about being your dad. That information hasn't even had time to sink in yet.


There's no force in the word, only a matter of fact tone. Her head shakes, denying any possibility that Stefan could be anywhere but in the ground. “No, he died. He died a long time ago…” The words trail, voice straining a little. Her brows knit tightly, head lowers as she shakes it again. It can't be true. He was dead, him and Carolyn both.

“It's not…” She almost denies it's possibility again, but she's talking to someone who’s also literally ancient. Squeaks drags in a suddenly shaky breath. “I think I have to go. I have to go home now.” Feet shifting, she begins to creep backward an inch or less at a time.

Disappointment paints itself across Adam’s features as Squeaks begins to inch away from him. Brows knit together, Adam shakes his head and takes a step toward her. “You aren't wrong,” he says thoughtfully. “He did die.” But then Adam motions with one hand toward himself. “But it wasn't his time yet.”

Exhaling a sigh through his nose, Adam stops his advance and shakes his head. “Zhao warned you, Jac. This trip would be one way. I wasn't going to lie to you and pretend like Stefan wasn't here, pretend like nothing was amiss. But if you want your answers… if you really want to find out what you've been wondering…”

Adam slowly motions to the door out of the lounge. “You're home now. Forever. And let me tell you,” he says with a softening of his expression, “forever is a long time.”

Her retreat stalls. Squeaks chances a look to the door. Every scrap of instinct tells her to run. To hide. Everyone keeps saying she can't, but…

Slowly her head turns, eyes finding Adam again. She takes a breath against the crushing weight of her choices, swallows down the queasy feeling that's risen into her throat. She said she could be strong, so she will be. Somehow, somewhere, she'll find that strength.

A full minute passes before the girl nods, head moving slowly with acceptance of her own decisions. Her eyes squeeze shut against a stinging, but no tears fall this time.

Eyes opening again, Squeaks searches Adam’s expression. Uncertainty for the disappointment in his eyes casts a shadow over her cautiously hopeful search. “Okay.” She takes a step forward, hesitantly reaches for Adam with a hand, much like she had earlier with her offer of assurances, this time seeking reassurance for herself. “Okay, but… but… I don't like him.”

“I'll be honest,” Adam says with a rise of his brows, “no one does.” His blue eyes sweep to the Kensei sword, then back to Squeaks. “But up until you showed up on my doorstep, I needed him. Now?” Adam takes a step closer to Squeaks. “Now, not so much.”

Stopping before he gets too close, Adam looks to the doors out of the lounge, then back to Squeaks. “Why don't I get you set up with a place to stay. A room of your own, with a door that locks… from the inside,” he feels he needs to clarify. “Because, you're going to be here for a long while.”

“You may as well be comfortable.”

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