Old Finery And Recent Memory


ff_asi_icon.gif bf_cassandra_icon.gif

Scene Title Old Finery And Recent Memory
Synopsis Cassandra assists Asi with recovering a lost detail, and they both get more than they bargained for.
Date October 30, 2018

The Library At The End Of The World

"Here? Will here do?"

Asi's lead them into an unoccupied room, one with a cot and a desk. A residence, when there's rotating help. For now, it's void of anyone else, waiting for its next occupant.

She looks back to Cassandra, not at all the collected, if guarded woman the reverse-seer had met a few days prior. What they mean to do has put her on edge, made her slightly nervous. She doesn't know what they'll find when they touch the object she's brought with her, and she's not given any context for what they might see on it.

A necklace, the pendant of it hardly more than strings of silver like wings off a diamond at its center, is cradled carefully in her right hand. It's come a long way, unbroken all this time, held onto as a last momento of someone she cares — cared for deeply. Asi doesn't offer it out yet, unwilling to part with it until she absolutely has to.

“This is just fine. My ability isn’t limited to a location, unless you want to get the reading from that location.”

Days have past since Asi and Cassandra’s initial meeting and the revealing of the potential assistance she could be to the Library at the End of the World. And Cassandra was patiently waiting, assisting when requested, but knowing that, at some point, Asi’s special request, whatever that was, would come.

And it did, one quiet winter’s day, as she knew it would. Potential answers about the past are tempting for anyone, and Cassandra was more than willing to offer them. The only thing Cassandra brought with her was a blindfold, made from a red and white stripe of the American Flag, wrapped loosely around her left forearm.

Lowering herself gently to the cot, Cassandra starts to unwrap the length of cloth, almost as a meditation, trying to get into the proper mindset for her ability. “We need to go over a few things before I get started.” The way she says this makes one think it's a standard utterance before using her ability for a person. “What you see is what you get. I'm not editing or changing whatever happened. What I get off of your object is the truth. It may be wonderful or horrible or something in between - I cant change it at all. My ability overwrites your senses, as near as I know, making you see what was instead of what is. So watch for chairs, desks, and the like as you move around, because while you can't see them, they still exist and do hurt.”

She pauses to make sure that sinks on before continuing. “The images I project aren't real. They can't hurt you and you can't interact with them. I can slow, stop, or even play back particular parts, letting you get views of books or writing or expressions.” Something Sumi has already experienced. “Be sure to tell me what you want shown again, and I can rewind to the requested part.”

Pausing, Cassandra looks to Asi and then nods towards the necklace. “Just to be clear, what I do won't hurt that necklace at all. I just need to hold it.”

"The location is clear across the world. Charcoal and ashes."

Asi's dismissal of the offer to read a space instead is given conversationally enough, but with a tinge of nerves. The explanation of what exactly is about to happen is absorbed in silence, and she seems to take some comfort from the clinical nature of it all. Clearly, Cassandra knows what she's doing. When the object she means to have read is addressed, Asi glances down at it in her hand, fingers opening so it rests on her palm.

She lifts it up by its chain, doing her best to seal up her expression again as she offers it out. It's just a necklace. "The… event would have happened five years ago. November. The week of the 13th. I don't — have the exact day. Is that something you need?"

Once it's passed over, she pulls back and shoves her hands into the pocket of her well-worn Carhartt. She'd come back to the Library specifically for this, having gone elsewhere to retrieve the item. Not even bothered to take off her coat yet.

“You're going to have to help narrow that down.” Cassandra takes the necklace gently, setting it on the cot next to her to allow her the use of both hands to wrap her eyes with the blindfold, blotting out the world from view. “It's not that easy, sadly. You need context. Clues about when things happen, and it's not day-to-day. If it wasn't worn, there might be a gap in the threads so…you'll need to speak up if you see something.”

Suitably blinded, Cassandra slips out of her mismatched shoes and draws her legs beneath her, sitting cross-legged on the cot. The necklace is taken from where it sits next to her and is carefully placed into her right palm, her left going on top of it to hide it between them, the shine of the pearls glinting out, a hidden treasure promised. “It's going to take a second, but eventually it will get very dark - that's part of my ability. Don't be alarmed.” And then, she pauses and, almost as an aside, shares one final thing.

“What we see here is for you only. What I see is not shared. You have invited me into your past - it would not be polite to tell what I have seen, unless you wish it to be so.”

And with that subtle warning, she begins.

As she said, for the first few moments, nothing happens. The light from the window still shines and the sound of the waves can be heard crashing far below, but as Cassandra concentrates the sounds start to become muted, like a heavy snowstorm is starting to blanket the world outside. If Asi looks outside the room, nothing seems to be amiss, but as time passes and Cassandra's power builds, the sounds fade away into nothing, with the light starting to follow. Eventually the pair are seemingly adrift in an infinite black abyss, lit by a glow from their bodies - the glow of Self, as Cassandra likes to put it.

“Let's see what we can see…” the seer murmurs, lifting her left hand from her right. With a pop, threads start to burst forth from the necklace in an infinite array of colors, drifting off into the invisible distance like a crazed embroidery machine exploded, sending its threads everywhere. Reaching up, she grasps a single thread, drawing it down to examine through the blindfold, letting it float free after a second, getting another one. “Tell me when this is…”. Cassandra turns to Asi, letting the memory play just a bit to give context. “It generally goes chronologically, so if you can tell me around when this is, I know which direction to go in.”

The necklace wasn't worn many times after the flood happened. Or it must not have been. The vision that springs to life around them is warmly colored, lamps letting off a soft glow in an open-aired evening.

The scene is centered on a petite Japanese woman — smiling, mid-laugh, wearing an imperial red gown and holding a golden clutch. Her hair is in a formal updo, golden droplets hanging from her ears. The silver necklace and its wings are in contrast with the rest of her outfit's accent color. As the rest of her surroundings fade in, she's encircled by other well-dressed men and women standing in what appears to be a temple, with high, sloped ceilings. Turning to look, Asi can see a lit pagoda in the distance, and soft light filtering up through autumn-tinted leaves. Turning again, the platform they stand on is on the edge of a cliff, looking out toward a similarly-lit mountain area. A fairyland of light and color surrounds them, creating a spectacle of life in a pool of night.

Asi swallows away a tightness in her throat, hesitating before she looks back to the woman in red. There's a clear resemblance between them that becomes noticeable as she approaches the figure, reaching out for the younger woman's face … and stopping just short.

"… Too early. Years early." she forces herself to say, still entranced by this moment in time. She's tempted to look back and observe a landscape that's lost to time, one last time, but the preserved image of the woman in red holds her attention. "This is before the flood. I'm looking for the last time she wore it."

It's not Cassandra's place to comment or question. In her time across worlds, her ability has been a boon and a hindrance to many, but her words - her integrity - has been the bedrock that she rests her sense of self on. This must be Asi’s mother or grandmother, but without context, the peaceful scene is all she can observe, a moment frozen in time.

She lets the thread linger between her fingers for a moment or two until finally the image drifts away, the infinite black filling the void around them. With the admonition or too early, Cassandra begins methodically going through large chunks of time, sweeping through them easily with her left hand. Each thread, more or less, is a time that the necklace was worn, and pinching them between thumb and forefinger brings he image to the front for just a second, giving context until she moves forward again and again.

The smiling woman is a constant, showing ranges of emotion, perhaps even growing older as the life attached to the necklace is slowly seined through until a thread with her absent appears. Cassandra stops almost instantly and starts moving backwards, combing through the memories until the woman comes into view again. “This…” She turns to Asi. “Appears to be the last time this necklace was worn by this woman.” Cassandra holds the thread loosely, wrapped around her index finger, gleaming in the pale light. “Are you ready?”

And if she is, the memory plays.

The necklace is clasped carefully about the woman's neck, and she looks up into the mirror to adjust it carefully. She wears a pensive expression, and sound floats in from afar, almost unheard. "まだ帰らなかった." is the only thing clearly heard, before the voices continued on in hushed tones. She listens for a moment before speaking in a hushed tone of her own, something like a prayer whispered in the confines of a well-kept bedroom.

It seems none of this is going to be in English. Save for Asi's direction.

She's somber by what she hears and sees already. "Slightly forward. What I'm looking for happens outdoors." Despite the direction to not move, Asi paces for a moment, arms folded. Once she's settled, she looks back in the direction of Cassandra's glow with a nod.

Different languages often have a musical quality to them. A pattern that, more often than not, can be followed and felt and learned with time. Germanic-based languages are what Cassandra grew up with, so those she can generally get the gist of - except German because that's just an insane word salad - but chalk Japanese up to that one as well. She glances to Asi through the blindfold, almost seeming to see as she approaches the woman.

Cassandra nods to the direction and lets her thumb and forefinger release slightly, the memory spooling out faster, the scene blurring, then changing to the outdoors. A quick pinch and the scene stops again before playing out at a normal pace.

It's eerily quiet without the sounds of summer bugs. Even the birds have gone quiet, not even the pesky caw of a talkative crow able to be heard. It's almost silent, save for the wind and the rush of feet in the grass and what remains of this year's harvest. A community in colorful civilian garb is gathered on a hillside — farmland surrounded by forest — being circled by armed men and women wearing uniformly black body armor.

Once they're in place, a few, indistinguishable words are exchanged between several who are gathered at the bottom of the hill, standing in front of a high-tech arsenal of equipment and armed and armored vehicles. All of it speaks to a group ready for war. An older man, bearing aggressively high cheekbones, shouts in not Japanese, but in Mandarin, asking some question. When no one steps forward or otherwise indicates they understand him, he shouts again.

"俺の名はシェン・ゴン・ウ." he shouts authoritatively at the crowd on the hill. "我々は前衛—


The man goes on at length, explaining with equal parts pride … and then disgust something he deems of great import. There's a discomfort that grows among those herded up onto the hill, glances exchanged, some people deliberately trying to become less of a presence in the crowd.

Except the woman wearing the silver necklace tucked under her shirt. She's livid, and steps forward from the crowd. In an instant, weapons are trained on her.

"ガオちゃん, ダメ." Asi utters urgently. There's nothing she can do to change what happens, she intellectually knows that. But knowing what the Vanguard are, what they mean to do, and seeing her step forward to challenge it with nothing is heartbreaking.

Before the scene follows the object further down the hill, an older couple have the same visceral reaction Asi does. "Kaori," the man hisses, trying to get her to return. Kaori, however, is too furious to listen. Her voice is clear as she shouts back a challenge, gesturing an arm out to the area around them. She carries on at length, making a passionate case for something.

The man who's identified himself as Shen Gong Wu looks unimpressed, if slightly amused. He's unshaken in his belief, just as Kaori is unshakeable in hers. He asks her a simple question — one which she answers with something unquestionably decisive. Gong Wu smiles, tilting his head to the sky and lifting his arms.

Asi's brow twitches as she watches the scene, sensing something off. What was he doing? "Is that bastard…?"

He laughs then, just as a machine-gun mounted to the back of one of the jeeps parked at the hill's bottom whirrs, turns up in Kaori's direction. No one is standing behind it to have directed it to do that. He speaks again, no humor in the words.

Asi covers her mouth with her hand. "いやな." she whispers. The man wasn't just Evolved, he was…

"No, no, no—" Horror's built up in her eyes. The mounted machine makes corrections for its aim, and as the gun begins to whine, she seizes. "Make it stop."

The images that they are viewing can't be changed - they've happened, and time that has past might as well be frozen in ice, amber, and solid steel. Cassandra’s power, however, can be stopped with the relaxation of a finger. At the word from Asi, the spinning machine gun, the man known and named Shen Gong Wu, the crowd, the hillside, all of it, simply vanishes like a reality bubble bursting, the potential terror melting away, leaving the pair sitting in peaceful darkness.

“I never show the end of horror if I can help it. It does no-one any good, and rips open wounds that are left best healed.” Cassandra’s voice is soft as she reaches over to hesitantly tug at Asi’s sleeve, very nearly standing and hugging the other woman but thinking better of it, only sitting, offering a quiet sort of comfort.

“She was your mother? She was very brave, choosing to stand against that murderer.”

Asi's hand swipes under her eye in the darkness, the afterimage of what they've seen still burned in her eyes. She starts to reply not in English, and catches herself, clearing her throat. "Sister. My younger sister."

In the lapse of conversation after, she slowly folds her arms, processing what she's seen. Once the initial horror of it wears off, anger radiates off her in waves, similar to how Kaori had presented in her stand-off. "That…" she growls through grit teeth, finding no words suitable. "That fiend." is spat out regardless.

"I don't recognize his face. Not anyone we killed in Kobe when … when we caught up with them." It takes effort to keep her voice level. "I wasn't… there when…" The fold of her arms tightens even more. No, she hadn't been present when the scene unfolded. And seeing just how it had happened, there wouldn't have been anything she could have done. It takes some of the fire out of her.

Her visible frustration fades, lapsing into something quieter. "Putain, il était spécial." she swears quietly, the other tongue letting her give voice to that realization in a way that felt more meaningful.

Cassandra visibly brightens - well, as much as one can wearing a blindfold, at least - at Asi’s utterance in French. That’s the one thing that she does recognize that’s been said out of all of this. “I don’t know what your ability is, Asi, but if you were there…” Cassandra trails off, looking into the darkness, the threads swirling around her in a maelstrom of faded color. “I don’t know what good you could have done. There is a very good chance we would not be having this conversation right now. You..you and your sister…would probably have died on that hillside at the same instant.” Her language changes fluidly, a little bit of Cajun mud in the tone but certainly understandable as French. “Ne scie pas la branche sur laquelle tu es assis, oui?”

After those words, Cassandra sits in silence, watching Asi unerringly from beneath her blindfold, her ability allowing her to pinpoint where people are in relation to her. It’s mainly used for conversation - staring at a wall or the back of someone’s head while you’re trying to have a conversation can be a little unsettling. “There may be no avenging her. The waters are deep and, as you said, across the world. Burned to charcoal and ashes. The best victory you can reasonably gain now is to live the best life you can. To remember her and keep her alive in the stories you tell to those you care about.” Cassandra leans back on the wall behind the cot she’s sitting on - it’s an interesting look, floating there while reclining, rubbing one eye through the blindfold with the heel of her hand. “Chances are very good that something went wrong, he was blamed, and was put up against a wall. And if he wasn’t and you actually find the bastard?” She doesn’t say the words but the implication is there. Make him pay for what he took from you. From your family. From all of us.

"My ability?" Asi laughs, something broken about it as she turns toward Cassandra's light. "I might as well have killed her myself." she says as she looks back toward the image that's no longer there, but she still sees regardless. "He was like me." An unsteady breath is drawn in, angry tears running down her face in the dark.

"A fucking — technopath, or something. He caused that." The fold in her arms tightens, and for the moment, she's grateful they've not returned to the rest of the world. The slow transition happening in the aftermath gave her a chance to process, to make her vows in a space where they won't feel lost as soon as they're said. "If he's not already died an excruciatingly painful death, he will."

"Je ne comprends pas comment quelqu'un comme nous pourrait le faire." The information's unhooked her from dock, and set her adrift in a maelstrom of emotion. She sounds fascinated by the fact, despite the undercurrent of anger still present in her. If she's taken heart any of the advice that Cassandra gives her, she gives no indication of it. Some of it touches a truth she's already come to accept, but it's nothing she feels the well-intentioned woman should be passing any sort of commentary on.

It's a delicate situation. Cassandra could obviously guess at the motivation of that man and why he gunned down a crowd using telepathy and a large-caliber machine gun. There's always the question of him being evolved at all. There were conspiracies back from her string of a formula that gave non-evolved people a taste of the abilities that their evolved brethren enjoyed on a daily basis. Vanguard would certainly see a non-ironic poetic justice in using the hated foe’s abilities against them.

Sadly enough, it's not the first massacre Cassandra has witnessed, either - just the first one she hadn't physically been a part of. “Je ne sais pas. Je voudrais avoir fait. Mon cadeau me permet de voir et de montrer le passé sans le comprendre. Tout ce que je dirai sera une supposition.” Her voice is quiet, the woman remaining in her seat on the cot, her hand dipping to one of her pockets, taking hold of something inside. A slight lowering of her head and an exhale of breath indicate her power taking hold again.

The scene changes now, the darkness lightening. A pastoral scene appears - mountains, trees, a lake nestled in a valley. Birds chirping. Something totally unlike the flooded world that exists outside her ability. Cassandra’s fingers move deftly, replaying a minute or two of the scene in a loop, making it seem like world is just them, there, alone in the mountains. A peaceful, quiet scene - one that Cassandra retreats into sometimes to relax. A meditative place for her.

Finally, she speaks. “I do not know a great deal, Asi, and I do not wish to offend by assuming things. I am very young, but the world has a way of forcing people to grow up extremely quickly.” There's probably an unsaid ‘but’ there in the middle somewhere that Cassandra doesn’t add out of respect. And she's quiet for a time before she speaks again. “What happened there is horrible - and I am sorry that it was something you needed to see. I am grateful that I could assist you in seeing, though.”

The unasked question? Why?

The entire exchange that occurred in French from the result of a quiet swear to herself had been unexpected, but not unwelcome. When the scene changes to the unfamiliar landscape, Asi looks up to take it in for only a moment. There's less comfort in that than there had been in the non-English conversation. "It was more a rhetorical question." she says stiffly, and takes a moment to breathe deeply. Judging by the change in scenery, Cassandra clearly thought she needed to calm down.

She wipes her cheek with her fingertips again, confessing, "I don't know what I expected. I had hoped the face of my family's killer would be the face of a dead man. I thought perhaps that information might give me some peace."

"Now, though?" Asi's uncertain, and it shows. "I don't… know what to do with this. Not entirely." She starts to bite on the inside of her cheek, her gaze losing focus. Even as she says she's not sure, she's planning. Weighing. She almost lapses into silence completely before she comes back to the moment, abruptly turning back to Cassandra.

"The — first moment you showed. Can you bring that back? Can you let it play?"

“I wish I could give you the answers you needed if I had them - I truly do.” Cassandra’s tone is apologetic. “And to recognize rhetorical questions easier. Growing up if someone asked something like that, my first instinct was to try and answer the question. To solve the problem they’re asking about and they all kind of…yeah, like that.” She nods her head, blushing a bit from embarrassment from beneath the blindfold.

Having some hesitation and trepidation on what to do with information - even scant information such as this - is to be expected. Without Cassandra, the man’s face would be lost in time and having the face to go along with the act may be a thread that’s forever left hanging overhead, unable to be clipped. Asi’s request is granted wordlessly, the pastoral scene of the Rocky mountains drifting away like a snowflake in the breeze, the individual thread of memory first discovered is taken up again, the smiling Japanese woman bubbling into view a second time.

Asi goes still at hearing the sound of laughter, at hearing her sister's laugh amongst them. Her arms remain just as tightly folded before her as before, tears threatening to overflow again. "As brave as she was, this is how I want to remember her." Conversation in Japanese floats all around them, the wealthy mingling. There's nothing particularly remarkable about the moment, aside from the lit mountainside creating a memorable view, and the juxtaposition of the modernly-dressed against the background of the ancient temple.

After it goes on for a moment, she turns slightly toward Cassandra. "She was so mad at me this night." she says with a short chuckle. "I made the donation, not under my name, but hers. I wouldn't tell her where the money came from, and I wouldn't go to the donor celebration with her. I didn't want the spotlight." Asi emits a thoughtful note as she looks away for a moment out toward the mountains. She turns entirely, moving to step to the edge of the veranda, but remembers at the last moment none of this is actually real.

A quiet sigh escapes her. "She didn't bring her husband, she was so sure I would show up at the last minute. It was an uncomfortable evening for her." Asi looks back over her shoulder at Kaori, a small smile on her face. "Not that you could tell. She was always the socialite, always best face forward. She had such a heart underneath, too." She looks away again, trying to temper her emotions before they get out from under her. "I was too stubborn to put aside my pride, too busy playing oni." She pauses for a moment to take in the landscape, saying more softly, "I loved this view, though."

She turns back fully then, attempting another small smile. "Welcome to Kiyomizu-dera. Should you want, I could give you the tour. I know… far too many things about this temple." Asi laughs at herself, not self-deprecatingly. "It may be gone now, but it is no less beautiful."

What is most remarkable about this moment is its unremarkability. Scenes like what Cassandra is showing simply can not happen anymore, due to the flood waters rising and engulfing the remembered locations. Cassandra remains silent and lets the scene play, the thread of memory wrapped around her fingertip, following Asi’s sister through the crowd while remaining still. In this case, Cassandra has chosen an out-of-the-way vantage point - the pair of them way by the edge of the veranda, blocked by a bench so people don’t end up passing through them as the memory plays. It doesn’t hurt when it happens, but it’s just odd to have someone suddenly go through the space you’re inhabiting. This allows them to watch as the woman makes her way through the crowd. It’s peaceful, watching her interact with multiple people and maintaining that politeness and aura that Japanese people often expressed in public, with no indication of the anger that Asi was certain her sister had boiling beneath the surface.

“You can’t tell that she’s uncomfortable at all.” Cassandra says after watching silently for a few moments more. “She’s the picture of calm and refinement. Like a swan on a calm pond.”

Asi's arms slowly begin to unfold from their tightly knit ball, her hands moving to find her pockets instead. Something that still brings comfort, but is more natural. She at least looks like she's less liable to go off, this way. "Yeah," she agrees distantly with Cassandra's compliments. She watches the red-gowned Kaori make all the correct comments, introduce the right people to each other, and smiles thinly. "She took it all in stride. I hated all of this, every second of it. This was the life my parents wanted for me, to be refined and on someone's arm. Kaori-chan took on the burden instead." She has to pause, taking a step back mentally to chuckle. "I say 'burden', because it was for me, but she enjoyed this." she gestures forward toward the scene with a shoulder, since her hands are occupied.

A slow breath escapes her as she notes the tears starting to dry on her face. She doesn't know why she's telling Cassandra all of this, but it feels cathartic in its own way. "I'll never regret being ON-1. Only hindsight, only because she's gone do I wish maybe I hadn't let her down this night. That I let her drag our family together more often. I was dedicated to what I did. It served its purpose, and put me in touch with…"

Asi blinks rapidly, almost instantly snapping from her reverie. She looks dazed almost as her eyes dart around the scene, to different weights in her mind, and then finally back to Kaori, right as she spares a glance for the scenery off the side of the veranda. A piece of her puzzle she'd almost forgotten in her grief slides back into place, just as important and as powerful as it was the last time she'd regained sight of it — when she'd rallied a crew to sail to the ruins of New York.

She no longer looks like she's spring-loaded, ready to sail back across the work immediately to find her family's killer, but neither has Asi been brought any sense of peace by the memory.

Cassandra gives a short intake of breath at the mention of Asi’s previous personage, leaning back against the invisible wall behind her as a piece is put into a puzzle that she didn’t even know she was carrying with her through the worlds she passed through. She’s looking at Asi, through the blindfold, as odd as that is, her head tilted at a curious angle before she speaks, studying the Japanese woman. “This….none of this should be about regretting past choices. Life is too short, time is too precious, to dwell on what might have been. What could have been.” She’s trying to keep the subject on Asi and her memories, but the time spent in her timeline, but this little tidbit of information was something that she wasn’t expecting. To be able to meet the woman, in the flesh, who’s digital remains she buried in the darkness of the Wasteland future, is completely out of left field.

“I…” she begins, looking away for a moment, down and off. “I don’t know if I should tell you any of what I’m thinking. If you’d believe me or just think I was crazy.” Her free hand comes up to clutch something around her neck, hidden by her shirt. “I think I met you before. Briefly. Not here. I was told ON-1 was there and…” she trails off. “God, you’ll think I’m insane.”

The turn in conversation helps Asi to look away from the scene, and start to let go of it. She's calm enough, though a light surprise is evident in her expression. She lets out a quiet laugh. 'ON-1' and 'there' implied she was somewhere physically as an identity she never flaunted in real life. "And where was this?"

“Colorado. About…three years ago. Maybe four.” The scene of the pagoda, the world before melts away and another one starts to build, based on the disk Cassandra carries around her neck. An old world war 1 dog tag that she’s worn through her adventures, one that acts as sort of a living record. With it following her on her journeys what she sees is unconsciously recorded for posterity’s sake. A sleek, ceramic-lined chamber in the depths of a mountain, the thrumming of machines, the harshness of fluorescent lights against dark steel plates.

The doors behind Kravid and Cassandra open again, and a technician in a clean suit emerges carrying a large rectangular metal case with ports on the bottom that could be connected to multiple eSATA cables.

That contains a recently acquired technopath asset who we were able to artificially extract from her body and place her mind here in the storehouse.” Kravid motions to the solid state drive plugged into the array. “It goes by the name ON-1. We’re going to transmit it through the aperture to the other side and set it about the systems. Hopefully,” Kravid bobs her head from side to side, “ideally it will be able to find a way out of the Geopoint facility to give us more data.”

“Just a copy of the technopath. Right?” Cassandra sounds a little wary as the clamps are buckled, the focusing lense of the laser bouncing a little in its mounts as the chassis is attached. “You’ll be able to get ON-1 back, though, right? This is just a copy or something, isn’t it? You were able to retrieve these logs, I’m guessing through a wireless signal of some kind. Is the signal strong enough for us to get ON-1 back, and can we leave the gate open long enough to transfer….”

“We won't know until we try,” Kravid says with a raise of her brows, turning to the team that awaits her orders. She says nothing to confirm or deny this technopath is a copy, of such a thing is even possible. Raising one hand, Kravid gives the technicians what they've been waiting for: “Open it!”

There is no dramatic lever to pull, no fanfare, just the click of two keys on a noisy keyboard and then the Looking Glass does all of the rest. There's a bright flare of electricity that explodes around the triangular frame, arcing from the conductive coils to the wall and floor. In the middle of the triangle, a shimmering distortion of bent light begins to form like the rippling surface of water.

Reality bends like fabric, twisting into a spiral and warping into a swirling funnel of bent illumination that turns to an infinitely dark singularity at a narrow locus in the middle of the triangle. Air is sucked out of the room, papers fly off of clipboards and are incinerated the moment they reach the threshold.

“Starting particle accelerator!” A technician shouts, tapping two more keys as an electric whine fills the howling wind sucking toward the singularity. Lightning bends inward, swallowed toward the middle of the gate and drawn in by the minuscule event horizon. But as the particle accelerators fire up, these coils of electricity flash with heat and steam that, too, is sucked into the perimeter of the gate.

As the particles spin around the three-loop accelerator, the singularity is drawn out, broadened and flattened like a rolled out ball of dough. At its center an aperture becomes visible, a four inch wide peep hole surrounded by a tattered edge of infinite blackness, like looking into a room through a narrow and infinitely black tube.

“Do it!” Kravid shouts, just as a mirrored view of the same room they're standing in — sans heat shielding and the Looking Glass technology — comes into focus. Technicians at the laser click a pair of buttons, and the laser charges up with a crackling whine, then begins firing a steady stream of light through the opening at the middle of the singularity, where the other world’s Geopoint is visible.

“Data transfer started, we have uplink to the server. Transfer at 7%.” A technician confirms, and Kravid’s smile spreads from ear to ear.

“Fifteen percent!” A tech shouts over the noise, looking up from the makeshift computer banks to the portal

“Thirty percent!” Another milestone called out, though after this one there is a fluctuation in the iris as the aperture flickers. The lights in the room, likewise, flicker violently. “That— it was just a power surge. We’re holding!”

A moment later, a massive shower of sparks erupts from the coils around the Looking Glass and sprays coolant in the wall. A billowing cloud of electricity-lot fog blossoms into the room from the piping, and the power flickers again. “Sixty percent! I don't think— ”

Then there's a loud, electrical snap that throws the room into darkness except for red emergency lighting. The fog clings to the floor and rises up in red-tinted clouds. The gate has gone dark, all power lost to all systems. The technicians back away from their consoles, looking around.

“I— I think we blew something major,” one technician says in disbelief, looking around the room. “We… we’re… we lost ON-1.”

Through all of this, Cassandra sits silently, holding the small metallic dog tag between thumb and forefinger. She moves quickly past this to something later. After all, it’s not always that you show someone their death from another world.

The scene changes to show Cassandra in in a small, cramped room - her room at this facility, it seems. A familiar-looking case rests on top of her desk. Wordlessly, she bumps through scenes, showing hours and days of work with a monitor and keyboard plugged in, replacing parts on top of parts, backplanes, drives, and the like. It shows her moving it to a major lab and powering it up, starting a disk rebuild that progresses glacially slowly - 14% lasting for over a month before clicking over to 15%. Trying to save ON-1. Or what was left of her.

And then another scene - her leaping through the gate in a black-clad suit with a bag of stuff over her shoulder, landing in a similar room, unfinished and blackened, the remains of the drive burned to a crisp. Hours of despair and tears for a bit of steel and plastic.

And then finally, a scene of Cassandra burying the drive in a small plastic box, marking it not with a cross but a shard of motherboard and a pile of stones in the shadow of ruined geodesic domes, stepping back and speaking a eulogy for the machine.

“I did my best.” An apology, it seems, to the technopath. “I'm sorry for what they did to you. I didn’t know. I didn’t think they even could. I tried the best I could to fix you, but I couldn’t. I hope, in some way, you knew that I tried. Sleep well.”

And then Cassandra goes silent, waiting for the inevitable explosion.

Asi has never been to Colorado in her entire life, something she doesn't get around to refuting before real-life sci-fi drama starts playing around them. "What?" escapes her in a flat hush as she hears her name, sees what is supposed to be herself, trapped in no way that should even be possible

And then it all just gets worse.

She turns to Cassandra to question her just as the scene flips away from the shocking conclusion of her own death, watching her more than the scenes that go by in the minutes that follow. Her brow knits over time, and for some reason, she stays until the end.

It's possible she means to say something and it's just that no words come.

Very slowly, she turns away from the eulogy and the grave and to the real Cassandra. One hand slides free from her pocket to collect Kaori's necklace from the younger woman, and she pauses again. It's ultimately wordless, as Asi turns, and navigates forward with her eyes closed, fingers touching the wall to help her make her way out of the room by touch alone, even if the vision fades and it's unnecessary.

She'll be starting November early this year. No better way to ring in the awful month and its various new revelations than with an excessive amount of alcohol, and the first of many trips to the Palisades Sill.

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