Out Of Hades


asi_icon.gif hana_icon.gif jiba_icon.gif marlowe_icon.gif monica_icon.gif richard3_icon.gif otomo_icon.gif

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Scene Title Out of Hades
Synopsis Months after being put into a coma by a terrorist attack, Hachiro Otomo hangs on the threshold of life and death and his protege Marlowe stands poised to drag him back.
Date December 9, 2019

Hachiro Otomo’s Medical Suite

Yamagato Building, Medical Wing

04:17 A.M.

December 9th

Soft, steady beeps echo in the quiet medical suite, as they have been doing for some time. In the early hours of the morning, a different sound joins the steady beat, one of activity as Marlowe Terrell works on the final touches to a machine. The insides exposed show a number of delicate wirings, small gears, computer chip-like structures suspended in a gel-like substance. The outside, a shape that mimics the human leg formed from molded materials.

How many days, how many nights, had she spent on the creation under her fingers? With the aid of her ability, Marlowe has laid a unique touch to the project she’s considered a personal endeavor more than one funded by the company.

The digital clock ticking away in the photoreactive air turns. Another minute passes. She doesn’t look up from her work. Golden irises remain focused down on the workdesk as tiny blue-white energies spark and wrap around a small metal gear set into place. Pressing the outer shell together, the mechanical leg form appears complete. After, Marlowe sits back and knuckles at the side of her brow. Gold eyes close, then open, brown. A tired smile forms at the corner of her lips.

“Guess what, Jiba? I think we’re finally done.”


A fast-paced, catchy, funky beat overtakes the soft beeps of a medical monitoring machine. The voice singing out over the speakers of an old boombox shaped audio player has a live accompaniment in the form of the Yamagato Industries senior engineer, Marlowe.

Sign says, ‘Woo, stay away fools’

’Cause love rules at the love shack

Well it’s set way back in the middle of a field

Just a funky old shack and I gotta get back

The woman shimmies over to a reinforced cardboard box, lifting out a covered, sleek looking white apparatus that matches the other medical machinery in the room. The letters “SEER” are faintly embossed on the shell, and a touchscreen panel remains blank black for the time being. Setting the item down on a nearby cart, she works on hooking it to the monitoring equipment beside the older Japanese man lying in a comfortable hospital bed. Despite the music, he appears to be asleep.

Glitter on the mattress

Glitter on the highway

Glitter of the front porch

Glitter on the hallway

Marlowe glances over to the comatose Hachiro Otomo, and while the her dancing has dwindled to a few mild shakes, she remains on beat.

“Sing it, Moni!” she calls back behind her to the woman she calls friend as much as coworker when the chorus comes up.

The love shack is a little old place where

We can get together

Love shack, baby

Love shack, baby

Love shack, that’s where it’s at

Love shack, that’s where it’s at

It’s not exactly a typical working environment one might expect. Certainly not for the others who have been called to the activation of the prototype coma patient communication equipment. But this was an occasion that didn’t call for somber moments. Marlowe’s insistence of positivity bleeds through every fiber of her being now.

Monica’s role in the SEER system’s creation has mostly been to make sure Marlowe remembers to eat. And drink something other than coffee. Sometimes, though, she just comes for companionship and to watch the work being done. On something other than herself for once.

Today she’s laid out on her side on Marlowe’s futon, flipping through the pages of a magazine. Her foot taps to the beat at first, but it really isn’t long until she’s up and dancing through the hospital room, too, taking up the chorus when she’s prompted to do so.

Not typical anywhere but right here.

"Will you be taking requests?" Asi asks in lieu of knocking. She smirks in the doorway before leaning into the room, a rolling chair dragged along behind her courtesy of a few fingertips. "Perhaps something more this century next." she teases, pulling the chair off to Marlowe's side and spinning it around to sit on. For all her external lightness, her attention returns in intervals to the machine being set up, gaze sharper each time it happens.

Straddling the the chair, she folds her arms along the top of the backrest, unzipped leather jacket shifting to accommodate the movement. She was here to help if needed, but would wait patiently until invited into the process. Otherwise, there was still value in observation alone. Not to mention she could provide Monica a few minutes' relief as either a cheerleader, or a backup dancer.

Nudging her toe on the floor to shift the chair back and allow Marlowe more wriggle room than before, Asi glances to the other medical equipment, and finally to the man in the hospital bed. "Otomo-san," she greets him quietly, as it doesn't feel right not to. They said some coma patients could hear everything that was going on around them and were just unable to respond. She supposes they're about to find out if that's the case here.

She has confidence they will.

”I feel like I’m interrupting something,” Richard observes in amused tones as he comes upon the scene, his hands spreading just a bit to indicate the dancing through the room, “Should I come back later?”

The question, it seems, is rhetorical as he strolls inside; dressed formally enough for the occasion, that black suit and red tie that he usually wears around the office and to meetings, hands clasping again behind his back. He steps up closer to the hospital bed, expression growing more solemn. “Hopefully this works. I’ve got faith in my brother’s tech, but…” It’s always difficult to tell how much brain damage someone’s suffered.

Present at Jiba's request, Hana is already seated off to one side of the room, away from tech and bedside and dancing floor alike. Physical access to any of those things isn't really needed for her role here. Not unlike Richard, she's dressed formally; unlike him, the black of her suit is unrelieved by any touch of color. Dark eyes crack open to regard the last entrants into the room, each of them given a brief nod.

In this, honest assurances are beyond Hana's capacity to give — not for a device she's never actually interacted with, no matter how thoroughly she studied the documents Jiba provided. Thus, she gives none. Instead, she closes her eyes again, breathing measured. Meditating, perhaps. Listening to a domain beyond the scope of natural senses. Waiting.

Hachiro Otomo looks as though he is merely resting. He’s had the same neutral look of peace on his face since the bombing. Under the blanket covering his lower half, the absence of one of his legs from just below the knee is clear in the contour of fabric. Likewise is the hair shaved away from the left side of his head where a white plastic implant has been connected to bone behind his ear. The surgical implant is, effectively, a digital shunt designed to connect to the SEER device. It’s been years since Warren Ray designed the first SEER that was used on his father, and this revision is a sleeker and less physically impeding model more easily detached.

«Hachiro’s vitals are stable» A voice emits from thin air, manifesting in the photoreactive gas as a series of concentric circles orbiting around one-another in blue and white shades. Jiba has started taking to presenting a face in the building, so to speak. Something for meat-space people to focus on during conversations. It doesn’t emote, per-se, but it pivots and flickers with the syllables of Jiba’s speech, making it an effective focus for the eye. «I have confirmed with the chief surgeon that his implant is ready for connection when we feel it is appropriate. An emergency medical team is waiting on hand, should we require their assistance.»

For Asi and Hana, Jiba’s presence is that of a behemoth wrapped around the room. There is information swelling in the walls, moving through the networked hardware, infiltrating every fiber of what makes up this building. So much of Jiba’s focus is here — not out of necessity, but seemingly out of choice. Hana, who has had more contact with Jiba in a digital space than Asi, notices the subtle changes in the intelligence’s personality. Jiba is less wooden, less synthetic in their approach to conversation and managing their digital presence. Curiously, Jiba also makes simple and easily correctable mistakes. What at first may appear like a flaw in their programming, feels more like the burgeoning presence of something like consciousness.

But it isn’t Jiba’s consciousness that is the focus today. It’s Hachiro Otomo’s.

"Perhaps at the next commercial break," Marlowe looks up with a light laugh to Asi, glad to see the other technopath and a short wave of her hand bids the RayTech CEO in. It's not a stretch to say the engineer pauses briefly to appreciate the sleek suited man in their presence for sheer appearance's sake. But then she refocuses on setting up.

Despite the raucous portion of the work, Marlowe appears to have focus down well into it. The hardware connections are each attached with care and attention. She doesn't dance through that part. And once those are complete, the engineer steps back with a deep exhale of breath she'd been holding. "Bomb squads have it easier than this," remarks the engineer in much quieter dark humor, given the circumstances that put the man where he is in the first place. Words that maybe only Otomo can hear underneath the bopping beat of Love Shack.

"Kanshasuru, Jiba," Marlowe says with a look up to the orbit. She's taken a shine to the face of the AI. "Oh, Moni, if you would?" She indicates the boombox, a quick tap-motion to have the other woman press pause on it. Or stop. Whatever works.

When Marlowe turns back to the others, looking to each face present in turn, she musters a smile and for once, looks a little nervous because she's launching into something of a speech. "So, first thank you all for coming. Thanks to Richard's brother and his generosity, we were able to build up a device that potentially allows us to communicate with the Director. He's been in a coma since April."

"We're confident, once activated, the device will function," Marlowe continues, using the inclusive we. "And we should expect the Director, if he's capable of communication, to also actualize a visual form of himself while doing so. Human nature, you know, we're kind of visually focused creatures." A quick bob of her head indicates Jiba's face as well. "Are there any questions before we begin?"

“After, Asi,” Monica promises their resident technopath as she scoots herself over to the boombox to stop the music. The silence that follows is a little too much for her, perhaps, because she hums the next few bars before letting it go. She comes over to Richard, nudging him softly in greeting. “It’ll work,” she says, apparently full of confidence, “don’t worry.”

She might worry a little more if it had been Warren himself who built it.

When Jiba speaks up and appears, Monica smiles warmly. She might have encouraged Jiba’s desire for self expression. And self-actualization. But to her, Jiba has always been more than just programming. “Thanks, Jiba,” she says in an echo of Marlowe’s, “it’s gonna be okay.” The last is added as reassurance.

Asi places a hand on Marlowe's shoulder as a silent reassurance as she maneuvers back around her so her chair is behind the machine, all the better to be in a position to interface with it if needed. It's not her first time seeing the device, having checked in throughout the build process to make sure she was familiar with it. She's comfortable with the silence that falls after Monica shuts off the boombox. For her, even though the music has been turned off, there's still a certain hum.

She doesn't look toward Jiba's projection, doesn't need to. She feels him — it around them to the point looking any one direction would feel ridiculous.

Hana's presence is given a return nod, Asi's gaze lingering more on the other technopath in the room than the CEO that joins them. One is simply more interesting than the other. Additionally, she hadn't expected Hana to actually come.

"Ready if you need me," is how Asi replies to Marlowe's last check. No questions from her.

Richard offers a slight nod back over to Hana, acknowledging the technopath’s presence but not wishing to disturb her focus. His shoulder nudges back to Monica’s as she steps over, and he says in quiet tones, “I’ve never actually seen it work. Ezekiel didn’t have any interest in letting me anywhere near my father, after all…” ‘My father’ is a new turn of phrase that he’s never really used before. It even feels strange on his tongue, as if he were getting used to the idea.

Then he’s looking at the floating image, both brows going up. He’s never met Jiba before. “Well, I wouldn’t mind an introduction to your friend here,” he notes casually, “But that sort of thing can wait, I suppose. “ With less personal interest in the moment, he moves off to one side and out of the way of others who do, hands clasping behind his back as he observes.

«Unfortunately, you are not authorized for introductions Mr. Ray» The words not authorized are punctuated by Jiba’s icon turning red for four syllables. After that lightly teasing rebuke, Jiba turns their focus to Hachiro.

«Now that the SEER module is connected to Hachiro’s cerebral shunt, the data connection should immediately become available.» Hana can feel its presence in the room by merit of her wireless attenuation. It feels like a door, waiting to be opened, but the texture of the SEER device is colored by the way cerebral activity is converted into data. It, remarkably, feels very similar to the presence of someone she was once very close to: Richard Drucker.

«I will perform a cursory scan of the device and ensure integrity of communications and act as an observer in the event that there is a complication.» Jiba seems confident in their role in that.

Beside Jiba, a holographic display of the SEER device’s mechanisms explodes out into a piece-by-piece view. «Hana will make first contact through the device at her discretion, which will be displayed back to those of us in the room via this display. Once Hana has confirmed that Hachiro is stable and the connection is safe,» the holographic display disappears and leaves just Jiba’s icon behind, «it will be clear for Asi to connect and maintain observations on data integrity. I will then be able to broadcast your conversations into information that Hana can translate for the device.»

Jiba pauses, pivots, and focuses on Hachiro’s still form. «Effectively, we can all be in the metaphorical room to converse with him. Provided the strain isn't too much. Hana’s expertise with this field is what gives us such an opportunity.» What Jiba is saying is somewhat drowned out for the senior technopath, as a thread of something more tantalizing has made itself revealed to her. A device to bridge the gap between body and mind, flesh and purusha

Working perfectly, so far.

The silence of music's absence seems momentarily deafening; the back-and-forth of conversation murmurs past Hana's ears resembles the ebb and flow of waves. None of it stands out as needing her attention, not after the prep that's already been done. All that's left is the actual rising of the curtain — the moment where a different conversation is initiated, one mediated by the to and fro of electrons, shifting magnetic fields, and the distinctive tonality of radio waves.

It's the last that Wireless seizes upon, giving her entry into the now-activated device. To the outside world, the technopath's transition is most visible in absence — a muting of the formerly-measured cadence of her breathing, an indistinct leaching of vitality and presence from her posture.

For all of that, it's her entwined other that sinks awareness most deeply into the SEER system, setting itself squarely in the midst of the interface — intercepting what data the system seeks to send into quiescent mind, or to decipher from it. Hana's own awareness lingers in the higher system layers, monitoring what it has to say about the interface and conditions all around.

She resolutely spends no thought on any similarities to other circumstances.

"Everything seems in order," the technopath says at last, not from her own lips but through the room's speaker system. "Attempting contact," she continues, borrowing Jiba's term for sake of simplicity.

What they do is rather more complicated than that. Hana remembers what it is to wake from oblivion to a medical bed; she's done so altogether too many times, the first of those in particular forever burned into her soul. Tenzin weaves those recollections into a dialogue with the actuality of Yamagato's specific environment, building a composite more likely to speak to Hachiro's experience and expectations.

Sound, first: the hum of building fans, the nattering of monitors. The subtle acridity of photoreactive gas, ever-present and easily disregarded for it, yet essential in that ubiquity. The sensation of pressure under heels and hips, elbows and shoulders; of relative softness under cranium. The evanescence of somnolence and the lethargy it imparts; the impetus to open one's eyes — all backed by a clean visualization of the room should Hachiro choose to heed that prompting, a room with only one virtual figure at the bedside, the most incongruous part of the entire construct.

All of these are things Tenzin itself has never directly experienced, in the same way Hachiro does not now.

As it stages that data through the interface in a carefully-gauged trickle under Hana's alert oversight, they broach the second moment of truth: whether the comatose man will register provided stimulus… and respond to it.

The reassuring hand on her shoulder earns a bolstered smile from Marlowe, tempered by the anxious lines she fights off. They'll cause wrinkles. Can't have that. Nodding to the others, Marlowe moves to within touching distance of the SEER machine. "Junbi dekita. Setsuzoku kaishi," she announces as Jiba and Hana begin the connection process.

When Wireless' altered voice comes over the speakers, Marlowe looks up. That's something to marvel about quietly, though she sends a quick look over to Monica and Richard as if to say with a simple arching of brows, 'Ain't that something'. She stills in stance, gaze turned to the man of the hour. Those same brows furrow, eyes focused in hoping for some registry of consciousness, any awareness or active thought.

"So long as it doesn't turn into a dinobot," Monica asides to Richard, "I think it'll go smoothly. Marlowe is very thorough." She lifts her own cybernetic arm, as if to offer it as evidence of the engineer's prowess. Because it is.

When Jiba responds to Richard with a tease, Monica can't help but chuckle. There is some serious business going on here, but her role here is in the moral support capacity. At least until investigation gets a turn. "Maybe we'll have a moment to ask Hachiro if we can skip the paperwork, yeah?"

“God,” Richard mutters, regarding the machine for a moment, “I really hope it doesn’t.”

His brother didn’t make it, so it probably won’t.

As things begin to run, he folds both arms across his chest and leans back on a foot to wait, to watch, and observe.

Curiosity keeps Asi from doing what it was she had meant to, and instead prompts her to reach forward. One elbow on her knee, she touches the device with her other hand, eyes closing as she watches, listens to the process Hana undergoes in trying to make contact. Like an observer on the other side of a two-way mirror, she lingers weightlessly, waiting. Hoping. Deaf, at the moment, to the conversation between Monica and Richard.

Simulations of waking, translated through a technological marvel, accomplishes a miraculous feat for the second time in nearly a decade. Through the uplink, Tenzin and Hana — and by proxy of her curiosity, Asi — can feel a stirring of data intended to be fed back to the room but interceded by the primary technopath. It isn’t quite consciousness, but what it registers as is a desire for consciousness, like an animal trapped in a net looking for the way out, pawing and grasping at what it can in order to sustain the sensation of being awake. What neither Tenzin nor Hana sense is confusion, which in itself isn’t promising. Hachiro seems wholly unaware of his predicament, and while his mind is responding to the stimulus, it does not appear capable of differentiating that from truly waking.

Whether that is a testament to the refinement of the SEER device or an indictment of Hachiro’s condition remains to be seen. But based on the data she is seeing, Hana feels confident that Hachiro would at the very least be able to interact with his surroundings though, much like in a deep dream, perhaps unquestioningly accepting of the nature of his reality in spite of its unreality.

All perception of reality is a simulation, in the end — the translation of stimulus into electrical signals and the subsequent interpretation of meaning from those signals. The input from the SEER interface is no different in that regard. That Hachiro's mind is willing to accept the input as if it were the product of his own senses is all Wireless expected.

The digital probe that scuttles down into the SEER system like some inquisitive spider — that's something she did not expect. Its intrusive presence is pinned behind a firewall, access to the flow of information within the system blocked. The subsequent brush of technopathic awareness through its code is brusque and brief; and while that examination approaches overzealous in its defensiveness, it doesn't include an immediate attempt to exterminate the bug.

Fine, is the impression conveyed a moment later by Hana's silent withdrawal from Asi's probe, the opening of new firewall to again allow information out. Not that much beyond the simple fact of Hachiro's active connection is going out, at present.

Don't push, is what's actually verbalized, warning terse yet almost dispassionate in comparison to the interaction of a moment prior. I'm trying to start simple. Only then is a direct link offered to the probe, a read-only stream of the virtual reality Tenzin is mediating, shared with the monitoring technopath and not with the greater system.

Room interaction will come later, if Hachiro proves up for it. They have to get there first.


The human mind has a way of transforming from trauma; adapting, changing, interpreting in new ways. The human mind also possesses an abundant capacity for imagination and visualization of abstract concepts. It is both the former and the latter that is waiting on the other side of the SEER system’s translation of a bodiless technopath into the conscious mind of a living human being.

Within the digital emulation of the medical suite, Hana turns flat regard upon the hospital bed's occupant. "So are you going to open your eyes," she asks, "or just keep lying there?"

A sudden, sharp breath comes from Hachiro as his eyes flash open, heart-rate briefly spiking on the silent EKG at his bedside, mirroring a very real reaction registered on the actual vital monitors he’s attached to in the physical world. In this space, Hachiro Otomo is whole, capable. He presses the heel of his palm to his brow, turning to look at Hana with wide eyes. Then, as he pivots in the bed and swings both of his legs around, looks down at himself in both wonder and mild confusion. His sense of self-image hasn’t yet accounted for what reality has done to him.

“How long was I out for?” Hachiro asks aloud, his voice dry and hoarse. He scans the room for something as simple as a pitcher of water and a glass, finding the plastic carafe on the table by his bedside that contains a few separate vases of flowers likewise mirrored from the physical world. Hana hadn’t put those there. Hachiro did. Perhaps, in some small way, he was aware of some things.

Hana's expression is pensive, evaluational as Hachiro orients himself within the room. The appearance of the carafe is met with a raised brow, much too mild a note to be termed surprise. She remains seated in her chair, posture relaxed but not crossing the line into casual.

"It's December," she provides, straightforward and to the point. Seven months and change, that would be… and perhaps not even the most disconcerting aspect. "And if we're being technical, you're still out."

Silence is the response Hachiro chooses to give. His eyes wander Hana’s face, then divert down to the floor. He stops reaching for the water. After a moment of thoughtful silence, Hachiro looks down at himself, then around to the hospital room, looking for contextual details to fill in the technicalities Hana has laid out. Ultimately, he pieces it together well enough. Why she is the one here.

“That bad, huh?” Hachiro tries to stay positive, affecting a reluctant smile. When he settles his attention back on Hana, he’s nonetheless standing up out of the bed. “Are you the Ghost of Christmas Past, then? Or Marley?” The smile grows just a touch more genuine.

"Not in the slightest," Hana replies without any hint of smile, reaching for a cup that wasn't on the table a moment ago. She doesn't bother to pour water from the carafe; she skips straight to taking a sip. An odd expression passes over her face, a hint of exasperation that seems directed elsewhere. "Janus, perhaps, if one insists on being allegorical."

Clearly, she doesn't.

"You have a prototype brain-computer interface, courtesy of Raytech," Hana continues more seriously, refocusing on Hachiro's now-standing presence. "At the moment, nothing is going in or out unless I let it." She takes another sip. "You picked up on the input immediately," she adds offhandedly, positivity of another sort.

“So…” Hachiro considers the implications of that, fingertips ghosting over the top of his head and down one side. He, without realizing it, touches the exact spot the implant is connected to his cerebral shunt. He can’t feel it, doesn’t seem consciously aware of it, and yet the mind knows at some level. “You’re interfacing with my mind, via the implant, on an entirely…” In spite of everything, Hachiro’s eyes light up. “Ms. Gitelman, I believe we may be making medical history here. If I’m in a coma or…” he stops himself, brows furrowed. “No, I can’t be dead, that’s too extreme.”

Attention flicking back to Hana from a point in space he’d started staring at, Hachiro has more questions than answers. “Why, then? All this?” He looks around the simulation, fully aware of his condition now. “Is anyone else aware of this? Can you… are they?” Too many questions.

Hachiro's declaration of making medical history gets him a distinctly droll look from the technopath. She just lets him work through his consideration, his excitement, and finally come back around to asking actual practical, relevant questions.

"The interface hasn't seen much testing," she remarks. "I was asked to make sure it didn't do damage. We can discuss the details later," Hana offers as she sets the cup aside, rising from her chair and facing Hachiro squarely.

"Right now, there's five people waiting to find out how this goes," she states. "I've given Tetsuyama a feed. The rest aren't receiving this." She pauses momentarily. "If you think you're ready…" The look she gives him is more challenge than invitation. "I'll open the interface up."

Smoothing his hair back, ever concerned with appearances, Hachiro affords Hana a subtle nod. He looks distracted, certainly, and as he takes a few tentative steps toward Hana there’s a disquiet in his appearance born of further contemplating the nature of his reality. “You know,” Hachiro says softly, “if you hadn’t told me… I’d never have been able to tell the difference from the real thing. It’s like… an optical illusion. The mind fills in the gaps, makes it acceptable.” He looks to Hana, nodding once with resolve. “I’m ready. I’d like to see my team again, let them know the old man is doing just fine.” Just fine.

Then, a moment later.

“If you’re Janus,” Hachiro’s chin rises, “you’d have three faces.”

One brow arches. "That was the point," Hana remarks. Though if not for Tenzin's assistance, it wouldn't have been so complete — or it would have been completely different.

Both brows draw down, Hachiro's parting shot countered with a flat glare. Perhaps because of that, Hana offers no warning, no advice; she simply lets her other half take its cue, silently lightening its hold on the data stream — though it still continues to supplement the interface, and remains poised to reassert filtering if needed.

Physical Space

To Hachiro, as real data supplants its simulated counterpart, it seems as though the people physically present simply fade into his view, along with the equipment supporting and monitoring the SEER interface. To the rest of the room, it's Hachiro that appears, standing not far from his own medical bed.

For her part, Hana remains quiescent in her seat; her awareness is still in the digital system, and she does not project her own avatar into the room.

«Woah. What's with all the long faces?» is the first thing Hachiro Otomo chooses to say, offering a casual wave to the room on the other side of the divide between consciousness and physicality.

A twitch of Asi's brow is the only indication of her irritation at the brush with the other technopath, at being walled in, however briefly. Patiently, she waits out the period of being pinned in, not immediately resuming her crawl through the system. Creating disruptions wasn't her intent. So when Hana offers the feed, there's no response for the other technopath save for taking it.

As contact is made, Asi takes stock of the system's reaction to Hachiro's consciousness, monitoring for fluctuations out of the norm. She's tense for a moment when he first comes to, resisting the urge to ready other subprocesses. She trusts the other technopath, her reputation precedes her, but she's far less confident about Hachiro's state. Seven months was a long time for a mind to be inactive.

Her shoulders visibly relax as the conversation flows, as Hachiro comes to terms with his state — and doesn't crash from it. An amused breath forces its way out at some bit of the exchange, her expression otherwise flat and unchanging as her hand remains pressed to the machine. A few moments after, as Hachiro starts questioning if others can see him, she blinks and sits upright, the glaze in her expression mellowing. "Marlowe, your tablet," she gestures with the hand removed from the machine, palm closing in on itself twice, rapidly.

"So far so good," she explains, taking ahold of the tablet with a semi-urgence. "I think we'll be seeing him shortly." The SEER device is touched briefly again, Asi's subprocess inside it splitting into a second that devotes its efforts toward projecting to the tablet an array of statistics about the system's health based on the subprocess' observations both of the device and the interaction taking place through it. The details aren't displayed on the screen in a manner one would call 'visually pleasing', but the statistics are updated in real time. Within a blink, a simple graph detailing change over time is created underneath that, each fluctuation in state marked.

For now the tablet remains in her lap, its current wielder looking toward the projector expectantly. When Hachiro's form blinks into existence, she's unable to suppress a small smile. So far, so good.

The urge to ask Jiba what's happening comes on strong once the SEER system activates and both technopaths within the room go quiet. Marlowe quashes the feeling, but she can't stop the worry, the doubt, the bated breath she holds. It's not an unfamiliar feeling to the engineer. Plenty of projects have gone wrong before. Engines haven't started. A fire alarm set off here and there. Ok maybe a lot of fire alarms.

She's so caught up watching Hachiro that Asi's call of her name draws a startled gasp from her. It's telling, just how absolutely invested the engineer is. The tablet is surrendered to Asi, and then Marlowe retreats to Monica's side, one comfort exchanged for another.

Then. Then, Hachiro's form appears in reactive air particles, and his voice speaks. Marlowe's eyes shine wetly, tears welling, then escaping. Her hands come up to cover her mouth. A faint, incomprehensible noise caught between shock and elation escapes her. A few moments of speechlessness pass, and her hands drop slightly as she utters softly, "Hachiro. Ohisashiburi."

When Marlowe comes to her side, Monica puts an arm around her shoulders. She doesn't seem to mind being the support in this moment. Especially given how often it happens the other way around. Her eyes widen when Harchiro pops into view and she utters a quiet whoa of her own.

She glances to his physical form, then his projection. That's a little strange, but a smile follows surprise fairly quickly. "Hey," she adds to Marlowe's greeting, "it is very good to see you." Her free hand gestures to him as she turns to Richard. "Not even a little robot, look at that."


“I’ve really got to get my hands on this holographic air you guys have in here,” Richard comments, lips twitching in a relieved smile as the man’s ‘avatar’ appears, hands spreading a bit to Monica, “Then we might have fewer robots. Oh, who’m I kidding, my brother’d make more robots anyway. They’d just have holographic skins or… huh.” A pause, and he files away an idea for later.

“A pleasure to finally meet you, sir,” he offers over, though he doesn’t step forward— this isn’t his show.

Richard Ray,” Hachiro calls out, smoothing a hand over his own head and feeling for where the SEER implant is in the material world. He looks disquieted by its absence and Hana measures a small stress spike, but it quickly normalizes. It's easy to surmise that incongruities like that cause the brain to react poorly. “I’d say ‘to what do I owe the pleasure’, but I'm told by Ms. Gitelman that it's your company’s brainchild that has made this possible.”

Looking at his hands, Hachiro seems both mystified and amused, as though this situation weren't as serious as it clearly is. But after a moment, he sets aside business sensibilities and moves over to Marlowe’s side. “Nakanaide,” he says softly, “koko no iru yo.” Reaching out at first to rest a reassuring hand on the young woman’s shoulder, but then startles when there's no physical contact and his hand seems to pass through her. Another small spike of stress.

“Right,” Hachiro says softly, “I've become Obi-Wan Kenobi,” is added quietly as he turns to regard Hana and Asi. The former is viewed with less surprise than the latter, to which Hachiro regards with a furrowed brow and a modicum of tension. Again, Hana registered a spike of stress but this time not in the same region of the brain as before.

«Welcome back Hachiro,» Jiba’s voice finally chimes in, bringing a look of eminent relief and emotional instability to Hachiro’s eyes. He chews on the inside of his cheek, looks up to Jiba's hovering icon, and reaches up as if to gently caress the symbol. Closing his eyes, Hachiro draws in a deep breath, and then opens his eyes and looks to Hana.

“All of you?” Hachiro asks, as if to also say for me? There's disbelief, visibly, flashing across his face. Humility, too. But he puts all that aside.

“The Mugai Ryu isn't here to arrest me, is she?” Hachiro says in an irreverent tone, but that tension in his eyes is still there. Nervous and fleeting. It's a joke, but perhaps also not.

Still ensconced within digital system, Hana observes the reunion not through her own physical eyes, but from the perspective of cameras and the comprehensive angles they capture. The stress signals are captured, correlated against Hana's interpretations of physical and vocal manner.

"Jiba might be able to emulate a level of physical interaction for you," T.Amas offers, though it's Hana's voice that's projected through the room's speakers, matter-of-fact tone carrying no particular inflection. A bit of a technical puzzle for the engineer, perhaps offered up as a momentary diversion.

As Hachiro looks to Hana afterwards, no physical reaction is forthcoming to indicate her awareness of his regard — a state that parallels his in effect, if only temporarily. "You're surprised?" provides dry counterpoint to disbelief. On the presence of Tetsuyama, neither Hana nor Tenzin offers any commentary at all.

Hachiro's apparent stress at seeing her there leads Asi to quirk her head to one side while she takes in his reaction. The tablet in her lap is passed off to its rightful owner, the flurry of statistics it has continuing to update even without her active guidance. She comes to her feet to better conduct the conversation, forgoing formality. Mostly. "No, that was not the plan. Unless you believe I should, in which case, my plans are flexible." Mouth pressing into a thin smile, Asi inclines her head slightly toward the projection.

"I did have a few questions for you, Otomo-san. First, can you tell us the last thing you remember?"

Marlowe receives her tablet back from Asi, giving the technopath a short nod of thanks for its return. The device is clutched to her chest, a security blanket of sorts, but the presence of Monica’s arm acts as a second. Wordlessly at first, the woman nods again to Hachiro’s reassurance, to his comforting remarks. “Of course,” she says finally once she’s regained her composure, “none but the best guests for this party.” At that note, she finally regains a smile. It’s not an expression that lasts too long, however. The tech director’s joke about being arrested tilts Marlowe’s expression towards confusion, and her gaze turns to Asi briefly. The arch of a curving brow upward is indication enough, the engineer tenses as well.

Matte,” she suddenly blurts, but with it comes a hesitation, realization and feeling that she’s now the one interrupting rather than facilitating the interaction process. To cover, Marlowe blinks several times and asks, “I mean, before that Tetsuyama-san, maybe we should be asking… how are you feeling?” The question posed to the director, laced with concern.

"Don't mind her, Hachiro," Monica says with a crooked smile for Asi, "she doesn't know how to relax properly yet. We're working on it." It's an ongoing project. "But no one's here to arrest you. We are trying to investigate the bombing that put you in here. When you've got your footing— uh, so to speak— Asi has about five million questions. We'll see if we can get her to narrow it down to her top ten." The teasing is mostly meant to lighten the mood. Marlowe's especially. "Some of us are here because we missed you."

He gets one guess which is which.

“I’m glad that we were able to help,” Richard replies to the image of Otomo, inclining his head respectfully, then shifting his weight back slightly to let the others speak — this isn’t really his business, that he knows of. He’s just here for moral support and to make sure the machine works.

“Don't pat yourself on the back too hard yet,” Hachiro says with a lopsided smile. Slowly, his expression turns bittersweet as he looks back to the bed his body lays in, brows creased and lips curving to form a slow frown. “I hope you all brought a Prince to wake me up.” He looks back to Richard. “Perhaps you, after all, Mr. Ray?”

Hachiro’s eyes light up with amusement as he smiles away his own concern. With some resignation, Hachiro steps around his virtual space, meandering over to where Hana is to reach out and seemingly place a hand on her shoulder as a token gesture for all her efforts. The haptic feedback he gets from that gesture comes from Jiba, talking Hana’s suggestion and applying it broadly. After a moment, the surprise shifts to a slow look of uncertainty, as his dark eyes move to Monica and Marlowe.

“I've felt better,” is Hachiro’s professionally opaque assessment. Hana’s more in depth analysis agrees, however. The comatose state has not done well for his body, worse the connection with the SEER unit is causing cognitive strain presenting as a slow rise in blood pressure. Nothing worth raising concern over, yet, but as tongue in cheek as it sounded, Hachiro’s assessment is correct.

“I saw who was there,” Hachiro says, then backs up the train of thought. “At the bombing. It was a girl, white, twenties. Pink hair. She didn't look… happy. Regretful, perhaps? After that it's…” Hachiro shakes his head. “I don't remember the blast.”

«I was able to assume control of the demo Tetsujin to shield you.» Jiba notes, seemingly as a point of clarification but Hana — able to sense just a little more of the technopathic entity's digital expression — sees it also as a show of pride. Jiba is proud to have shielded Hachiro.

“I'm not sure how much more help I can be,” Hachiro admits reluctantly, looking over his own prone form like an out of body experience. “But… I've got no other plans,” comes with a wry smile and a look back at Hana. She has him as a captive audience, so to speak.

"You've looked better," Marlowe confesses audibly enough. Her tone quiets, listening to the description given and glancing to the floating sphere of Jiba's avatar. "I can corroborate that description," she adds to Asi with a short nod. "Even without having seen the recordings and security footage later. There was some kind of rainbow when she disappeared."

"I remember her sweater, too. Rainbow. And pink hair." The note comes with a slow trailing of her right hand against her left, tracing a faint, light line of a lingering scar. Jiba's point pushes her attention back into the present moment, and she smiles with pride to the A.I., and back to Hachiro. "Oh you've got plenty of plans, Director. We're all waiting eagerly for you to see what we've done. And we have a lot of work to do still. Together."

That is, unless something happens here. The Yamagato engineer glances over at Asi, at Hana, at Jiba, in turn studying the effects of the technopaths and AI on the SEER machine from an external, visual perspective.

"Unfortunately," Monica says to Hachiro, "there's a lot left to determine. For example: we've been operating on the assumption that this was an attack on Yamagato, but do you think it's possible this was an attack on you using the meeting as a cover? Were there any odd threats or strange people around in the weeks leading up to the bombing that you remember?" She glances over at Marlowe, extending the question to her as well. She might have noticed something he didn't, or perhaps now that they're together, something new will come to light.

"Was anyone on staff here acting unusual?" she adds a beat later. She wants to be clear that she is leaving no stone unturned. "Any detail would help."

"So you do remember what happened," Asi notes with a positive lift to her tone. "That's encouraging, Otomo-san. And your recollection of the bomber is helpful, thank you. That description of her corroborates with another brush we've had with her recently." Her arms come to a fold before her as she mentally files the information about Val away for later, expression remaining stiff. She gestures with a nod of her head toward Monica and her questions in a silent echo of them. A momentary glance is given for the room and its occupants before she looks back in the hologram's direction.

"The bomber is believed to be working for Praxis, and suspected to be acting at the behest of a man known as Adam Monroe." she supplies in addition to those questions, her attention raptly fixed on the projection of Hachiro. "Are you familiar with the name?"

Moving with a briefly stuttering shimmer of the holographic systems, Otomo shakes his head and paces the room. “No, I've never heard the name before. And I… I can't recall anyone acting suspicious within our department. Security in the building is top-notch, save for the… now glaring hole.” He smiles away a valid concern.

“I've never been one to make enemies, if that's what you're asking. I had rivals in school, but that was a boy’s game and…” Hachiro places a hand at his chest, “long enough ago to be insubstantial. But that doesn't mean I don't have an enemy I'm not aware of. My ego is not so large that I think myself universally loved. Just,” He smiles faintly, “mostly universally?”

Waving a hand dismissively at his own joke, Hachiro looks over to Monica. “If Praxis Heavy Industries is involved in this, it was likely a two-faceted attack. Nothing they do is what it appears on the surface, in business or otherwise. But who am I to profess that information to you? I am only an armchair…” he searches for the American idiom, “armchair quarterback.”

“I fear I lack the missing piece of the puzzle for this mystery,” Hachiro admits with a slow spread of his hands. “But such are the nature of mysteries and life. Easy to get started, a lifetime to resolve.”

«We are just glad to have you back Hachiro.» Jiba chimes in, their voice emanating from the floating pane in the air. «It has been too long.»

Attention bouncing from between the pair of women and their investigative queries, Marlowe nods her head along. All very good questions. The mention of the run-in with the bomber again gets an alarmed lift of her brows, the engineer sitting up straighter and looking over to where Otomo's physical body lies. Marlowe clenches her teeth lightly, biting down useless (she feels) comment.

Instead, she echoes Jiba, "It has been too long. And we can't wait for you to be back up and at it." Given that turn of phrase, Marlowe slides up to her feet and crosses over to a nearby desk where the box of items she'd brought with her sits. Pulling out a sleek case, she eventually unlocks the item and reveals the encased prosthetic limb designed and built for Hachiro's replacement foot. One can assume, based off the aesthetic of said prosthetic, the designer is the same as Monica's cybernetic arm.

The engineer crosses back over, holding the substitute limb for inspection by Hachiro's holographic form, the edge of her lips curling up. "I'm afraid there will be no sitting around in armchairs for you, Director."

At the mention of Hachiro's ego, Monica can only smirk. Amused, but knowing. There are a lot of egos, in this room especially, but she does feel like he's earned his. "Well, that's good. If it wasn't about you specifically, that helps too. And hopefully means you're safe when you leave here. As safe as any of us are." Security assessment is a big job these days— one she's glad isn't hers.

"As for Praxis, we're investigating on multiple fronts. And trying to shore up our own." She glances to Asi there, since she is one of those prongs. But then, back to Hachiro. "You just get better before Marlowe loses her mind entirely. It's been a wild few months, believe me."

The talk about 'being back' earns a shift in attention from Asi, who quietly picks up the tablet left aside by the engineer presenting the cybernetic. Just because they'd made contact…

Her expression is muted as she reviews the information being relayed from the SEER device. The change in his vitals, gradual but steady, merits attention. Without lifting a hand to type a message, one appears on the tablet anyway, awaiting notice from the other technopath in the room should she be inclined to check on the tethered device. «What's your assessment? Would pushing him to regain consciousness be too much strain?» Asi knows what she believes on the matter. She's always tended toward being conservative with her acts when lives were in her hands.


She glances back up at the interaction, letting the conversation continue to flow.

“I’ve certainly not seen anyone speak poorly of you, and the ladies here have been very worried about your well-being,” Richard notes with a tilt of his head towards Monica and Marlowe, a smile tugging up more at the corner of his lips, “So I’d say you’re rather high on the popularity list right now.”

It took a moment for Asi’s question to register a response from Hana, and it comes in the form of a digital communication rather than a verbal reply. Small steps, is Wireless' terse reply, concurrence implicit.

I concur, is Jiba’s quick digital response to Asi and Wireless. Based on the data that Wireless is monitoring, Hachiro is on the verge of consciousness, he merely requires a gentle hand to guide him back. So to speak. It's only now that Asi really notices the difference in the synthesized voice that Jiba uses to communicate with the physical space as compared to their more digital voice in technopathic space. It sounds distinctly feminine.

“I'm flattered,” Hachiro says to Richard with a wry smile. “Maybe when all this is over, Yamagato Industries might be wise to partner with Raytech on a few more ventures. This… SEER system…” Hachiro looks back at his physical body. Momentarily wordless. “It may have more applications than either of us realize.”

Such is always the case with Warren’s designs. They are puzzles and devices, one purpose clearly defined, others more opaque. That this was able to communicate with Edward Ray, and now breathe life into Hachiro Otomo’s mind speaks volumes to other things it may be used for. Some more unsettling than others.

Marlowe gapes incredulously at Monica and Richard for their pseudo-teasing. “Shitsurei desu,” her tone carrying the appropriate ‘excuse me?!’ needed. But for all the mock-bluster, the engineer moves to where she can lay the cybernetic prosthetic up against the missing section of the director’s limb, and turns back to Hachiro’s projection. “We’re going to need to work in a few test runs to work out the bugs, but first thing’s first, Director. And that’s to get you better. Prepare for all the okayu you can eat.”

She might mean it too. Heaven help Director Hachiro.

Asi winces sympathetically on Hachiro's behalf at the mention of an okayu diet. She looks down at the tablet, fingers tapping the side of it in thought before a message goes through in reply.

«Let's try. See how far we can get.»

"What do you say, Otomo-san?" she asks genially, the hint of a smile on her expression as she looks up to the projection. "You up for that kind of torture?" She begins to prepare for what she hopes his answers might be, thinking as far ahead as possible with steps to pull him back. Measures and countermeasures.

“I haven't met a noodle I wouldn't eat,” is Hachiro’s toothy rejoinder. But in order to bring Hachiro back piece by piece, it requires his current forward presence to take a step backwards. “Remember, Marlowe,” Hachiro warns as he feels his tether to these external perceptions fading, “being my food nurse was your idea.”

Then, piece by piece, Hachiro’s projected image fades away, sending his consciousness back…

…into another space.


The sky is painted in shades of pink and violet.

Evanescencent clouds in colors of blue and gold twist through the sky, encircling the slow sides of Mount Fuji, rising high above forested hills to its snow-caped summit. Hachiro Otomo observes this sunset landscape from a wooden porch, extending out of the side of a tree-lined hill, curving at the edges as if distorted by a fish eye lens.

“What an ephemeral thing,” isn't English, but neither is it really language. Asi understands the concepts clearly, likewise that she isn't who Hachiro is talking to. Rather, he's addressing the dark-haired woman seated at his side in a sunset pink yukata.

The woman smiles, inclining her head to Hachiro, then offers a look up to Asi’s presence within Hachiro’s mind. It is not unlike perceiving a network as a series of tubes or boxes, but the mind is able to believe so much more. Hachiro, here, is at home within his own consciousness that Asi is now a guest of. The other woman, however, remains a figment of unclear origin. At least, until Asi makes eye contact.

Her irises are blue, luminous, symbols. The same holographic symbol that represents Jiba in the meatspace of the real world.

Eye contact is an odd concept for Asi, both inside and outside the space simultaneously. She's aware of the environment like it's a pool she's submerged her face into. The projection of her is as real as real is here with some differences; her hair is longer, blonde, the blue of her eyes amplified with a similar neon glow.

"Everything is," Asi agrees, her voice distant. "And yet it makes things no less worth fighting for; no less beautiful." After she glances fleetingly toward the twilit landscape, she turns fully toward Hachiro — and the woman beside him. For her, Asi offers a warm if small smile.

The woman, a decade younger than Asi, smiles at her with familiarity in her eyes. Hachiro places a and on the woman's shoulder and then slowly rises to stand. “Tetsuyama,” Hachiro intones with a slow nod, looking back to the sky spread panorama behind them.

“I suppose I'm ready,” Hachiro says as he looks down to the woman who remains seated by his side. “The world waits for no man, let alone one with so many people waiting on him to get out of bed.”

Reaching out to take Asi’s hand, Hachiro closes his eyes and acclimates himself to the subtle trickle of sensory data of the outside world that Hana has been feeding into him through the SEER unit. “Marlowe arranged all of this…” he says in a hushed tone of voice, “for me.

He looks back to Asi, smiling more earnestly now. “I owe her a surprise party. Or a cake. Or both.”

As he reaches for her, the area around Asi's shoulders splices, pinpoint lines of blue light siphoning away from her form and into the ether without so much as a wisp. For all the different ways her attention is split as subprocesses splinter off of her, you'd never know in the attention she affords Hachiro, the warmth in the small smile she gives him.

She squeezes his hand firmly as the world they're in starts to blur further at its edges. "That and more," Asi agrees about what Marlowe is owed. "But I think she'll just be happy to have you back, to start."

“Like that Coldplay song,” Hachiro says without really thinking about it. “The scientist. Because the lyrics…” he shakes his head and presses the heel of his palm to his brow, even as the young woman with Jiba’s symbol as her eyes smiles and laughs and shakes her head.

Nevermind,” Hachiro says, leaning in to the ephemeral stream of data felt like a strong wind. “Pretend I didn’t say that.”

The Physical World

It has been nothing but silence since the process began, backed by the subtle hum of machinery. The occasional beep of a machine, the rhythmic hiss of Hachiro’s respirator. But then, there is a steady beeping noise coming from the SEER device connected to Hachiro’s skull. There is a flutter of Hana Gitelman’s eyes behind her eyelids. There is a tension in Asi’s shoulders. There is a twitch of one of Hachiro’s hands.

Slowly, Hachiro Otomo’s eyes open for the first time in months.

Against all odds, it worked. They did it.

One could mistake the process as having been easy, for how quietly it all externally appeared to have been done. Even after Hachiro wakes, Asi remains interfaced, waiting in case of a proverbial slip needing corrected. Only after a few long moments of reading the statistics that report his wakefulness does she actually open her eyes to see it for herself.

She lets out a faint breath, a small incredulous laugh hidden in it. "Marlowe," she whispers to gather the woman's attention, assuming she's not already noticed. Who knows what kind of noises all these machines had been making while her attention was elsewhere.

She had been holding it together - mostly - for the whole day. The whole night before. The whole month. Months. Everything about the attack on Yamagato, the attack on her people, had lead the young woman to a breaking point and then backed off. Largely in part to Monica's dedication in keeping the engineer from self-destructive plunges into her workspace. But that is what she knows. Within those silent moments, the engineer has retreated to her friend-slash-coworker's side. A hand has reached for the other woman's, and Marlowe waits with bated breath and thoughts tumbling rapidfire.

Some factors she can't account for, like how long it has taken to reach this point. How well or not a project such as this would succeed without the help of others. Whether or not Hachiro's will to live would overcome the obstacles. Those variables, as much as she could try to account for them, are still unknown to her.

When Hachiro's eyes flutter open, she chokes back a sob. Eyes glimmering with tears, she swallows down the thick knot in her throat and releases the heavy, shuddering breath she had been holding. "Welcome back," she manages after steadying.

Monica holds onto Marlowe's hand and, as Hachiro's eyes open, she moves an arm around her as well. Like she might need to hold her on her feet here in a minute. But when she looks over at the man, she smiles brightly. "The FOMO got to you, I understand," she says, giving Marlowe a squeeze as she speaks. "Maybe Marlowe can stop harassing the nursing staff now."

Brows furrowed together, Hachiro stares up from his bed at the faces of those gathered around him. Richard and Hana, back behind the trio at Hachiro’s bedside, allow for this moment to be theirs. The projection of Jiba’s avatar image floats to the head of Hachiro’s bed, flickering once or twice. Briefly, Hachiro’s eyes track up to follow Jiba, and then his attention comes to settle on Monica, then slowly over to Asi, and then finally Marlowe.

Hachiro smiles softly, fingers on one hand twitching as tries to move, but finds such a monumental effort too much. Instead, he tries to speak. “Who…” he whispers, voice hoarse and dry. But he pushes through. He has to, he needs to power through this moment of difficulty.

“Who… are you?” Hachiro asks of Marlowe, letting that awkward question hang heavily in the air.

Then, with a ghost of a smile fluttering across his lips Hachiro adds:


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