Prometheus, Part II


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Also Featuring


Scene Title Prometheus, Part II
Synopsis All we have are stories.
Date January 11, 2019

Fire dances within a wide, shallow pit. Beyond the firelight is darkness, for not even the stars are willing to bear witness to such treachery.

Seated in front of the fire, arms over his knees, Adam Monroe stares into the flame with a despondent distance. He brings one calloused hand up to the back of his head, scrubbing at the stubble of his short hair, then looks to the sound of approaching footsteps.

“I told you, I’ll come to bed soon…” Adam says to the silhouette in the dark, but it isn’t Yaeko that enters the campfire light. The girl is one he is only passingly familiar with, dark hair long and straight, skin tanned from the summer sun. She can’t be more than twenty years old. Adam’s brows furrow, distrust evident in the squaring of his shoulders. His eyes ask a question in silence he dare not speak aloud.

I am what you suspect,” the girl says to him, and he can see now in the firelight the gold color of her eyes. The slow breath Adam draws in accompanies a look across the firepit to where his sword and armor sit up against an adjacent split log. “Steel will not avail you,” she says softly, walking closer on bare feet.

“I come only to deliver a warning, Kensei.” The girl comes to a stop by Adam’s side, her brows furrowed and expression losing its childish innocence, tempered in the firelight into that of steel. “What is given…”

The girl lays her hand on Adam’s shoulder, and immediately he clutches his chest. Blood begins to seep through the fabric of his tunic though a wound in his chest, another across his face splits wide open, more showing beneath his clothes in dark and bloodied marks. “…can be taken away.”

Adam sucks in a sharp breath, falling backwards off of his seat and out of her grasp. As if like magic, his wounds begin to close again, though the blood stained into them will raise questions in the morning. Adam’s jaw trembles, firelight reflecting in his eyes as he stares at the girl, at the long shadow she casts with the firelight at her back, at the gold color of her eyes.

“I won’t fail you,” Adam lies to her, even though he doesn’t yet realize it.

He will fail her.

It is his destiny.

Three Hundred and Forty-Eight Years Later

Kam Nisatta is not a vain person, though she is captivated by her reflection. Sitting in the chair once belonging to her predecessor Kin Egami, she is alone save for her memories of the past, burned deep into the very cells of her being. Kam’s reflection is dark against the window, muted by both the dim light in the office and the veins of neon light burning in Yamagato Park in the distance.

Reaching up to touch her cheek, Kam’s eyes dart back and forth, then square down at her desk. In the glassy surface, she sees herself for a moment, until her eyes focus on the words in the touchscreen surface.

6:15 pm — Raytech Industries Meeting

Kam exhales a sigh, threading a fingernail beneath one eye to ensure her mascara hasn’t smudged as she blinks away a glassy look. Rising from her desk, Kam straightens the front of her suit and moves to the executive elevator. There’s still some time left, and she doesn’t intend on spending it in this office any longer.

Yamagato Building

Hachiro’s Office

Yamagato Park, NYC Safe Zone

January 11, 2019

6:08 pm

“Jiba’s maintenance cycles?”

Hachiro Otomo has spent the better part of the year in a coma, and while he is awake he is leagues away from being back to his former self. Hachiro’s thought-controlled wheelchair whirrs across his office from a collection of Battlestar Galactica models toward one of the women responsible for his very return: Marlowe Terrell.

“I’ll admit, I’ve been remiss in handling them myself. But Jiba is self-cycling, it…” Hachiro slows his approach, looking down to the eggshell white frame of his motorized chair, then up to Marlowe. “Actually, a manual cycle might be good. For safety reasons, Jiba can only set himself into so deep of a defragmentation layer.”

«There is a chance I could put myself into a permanent stasis.» Jiba chimes in from the intercoms, ever-present.

“It’s a failsafe for…” Hachiro trails off, then furrows his brows and shakes his head. “It isn’t important. I’m impressed, Marlowe. I didn’t imagine you’d taken to handling things so thoroughly in my absence and… and I’ll admit, I might need to lean on you more than I’d realized until I’m all back together again.”

“Permanent stasis? I would never, Jiba,” Marlowe states to the air in mock-offense. “But Moni made a good point the other night, after she watched Terminator, again…” How many sleepless nights had Monica flipped down to Marlowe’s balcony to have deep philosophical discussions about themes of sci-fi media coming to life? And now, glancing over to the Cylon-tastic Battlestar Galactica models, the engineer heaves a sigh.

Turning to Hachiro, she smiles brightly for his complimentary words. “So you agree, a manual maintenance sequence could check for possible systemic anomalies in Jiba’s coding might be worth at least a few hours of time. We can leave up the basic functionalities around the park so not everybody’s in the dark.” Reaching over a ring-accessorized hand to lean on the director’s motorized wheelchair backrest. “But, mochiron we shouldn’t be running the program check without active monitoring. And I don’t think I would be comfortable enough to do it without your knowledge and expertise, Director.”

Hachiro turns a brief, longing look at a dog-eared copy of Isaac Asimov's The Foundation, sitting on his desk. “As usual, your intuition is correct.” Hachiro turns his attention from the book to Marlowe. “This will take roughly eight hours to complete and shut down Jiba’s maintenance subroutines, so… hopefully no one has trouble with their air conditioners over at Cresting Wave until we’re done.” There’s a wryness to Hachiro’s smile, followed by a more serious tempering.

“If you could get my tablet,” Hachiro says, motioning over to where he’d forgotten it by the models, wheeling his chair over to his desk, “I’ll start systemic shutdowns from here. They have to be entered in manually, Jiba doesn’t respond to voice-activated shutdown or termination commands.”

«For my safety, and yours.» Jiba chirps.

“Alright, Jiba…” Hachiro begins keying in a security code…


Yamagato Building

Front Lobby

6:10 pm

Glass doors slide open with a soft hiss of pressurized air. Heels click on a tile floor. Candy-apple red sunglasses, // worn at night//, are tipped down in a coy look from one well-dressed woman with platinum dyed-blonde hair. At her side, a young brunette hustled along in a blazer, holding a tablet to her chest.

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Striding confidently across the floor to the front security desk, the blonde woman sets down a bedazzled purse and flicks an expectant look at the security guard that pierces his incredulous stare. “Francesca DeMontague of Raytech Industries, I have a 6:15?” The brunette at Miss DeMontague’s side looks the part of an assistant, smiling plaintively at the security guard as he turns to his computer to check for the appointment.

“I…” the security guard furrows his brows and looks at the woman in front of him, then to his computer and back again. “I already— I already signed you in. You already— ” He immediately becomes nervous, reaching for the phone in front of him. Miss DeMountague suddenly splutters and produces a plastic identification card from her purse and slaps it face down on the desk and slides it with two fingers over to the guard.

“Why don’t you check my ID before you go and make a fuss,” she says with a raise of her brows and a hint of frustration in her voice. “Maybe you’re mistaken.” But when he tries to pick it up, she keeps her fingers pressed down firmly on it. He smiles, awkwardly, tugging at the card but unable to find proper purchase.

“Honestly I’m offended you mistook someone else for me,” Miss DeMontague says with a roll of her eyes, “I’m the late Remi Soleil Davignon’s second cousin on her father’s side. My husband worked for Versace?” Her dark brows rise and the security guard, becoming increasingly put-off, grimaces.

Out of his line of sight, he fails to notice an alert on his computer as one of the security camera scan her brunette assistant.

ID Match. Security Alert. Detain until security arrives.

Yamagato Building

Executive Floor

6:14 pm

In the dark halls of the executive floor of the Yamagato Building, where marble floors and wooden walls give the highest floor a semblance of old world aesthetic rather than the plastic and plants juxtaposition of the lower levels. From behind a black desk, a young Japanese man turns his attention to the blonde woman sitting on the leather sofa. “Miss DeMontague?”

Chess Lang, or more presently Francesca DeMontague, has been waiting here for fifteen minutes for her meeting with Kam Nisatta under a cover identity provided by Raytech Industries. When her name is called and her attention squares on Kam’s executive assistant, she meets his gaze and rises to her feet.

“She’s ready to see you.”

Yamagato Building


6:15 pm

“Obviously you’ll only have access while I can oversee you directly.”

Eizen Erizawa is a tall and dark silhouette within the white walls of a slowly descending elevator. Hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks and shoulders relaxed, he affords a sidelong look to the much shorter woman at his side. Asi Tetsuyama may not physically have Eizen’s stature, but metaphysically she carries herself just as tall.

“The Yamagato Building servers are housed on-site in a subterranean, EMP-shielded secure bunker below the building’s basement levels. Per your request,” Eizen tilts his head toward her, “I’ve been able to get you an hour of access to search behind the firewall for evidence of outside interference. I’m going to take you to a conference room with a laptop connected to the server network with a hardwire, and that’s as close as you’re going to be permitted to get.”

Eizen looks down to his feet, then up to the floor indicator. “This entire level is on our highest security clearance, you understand.”

"Of course." Asi replies automatically, her hands clasped behind her. She turns her head just slightly to hold Eizen better in her periphery, her serious demeanor shifting. The corners of her eyes soften from their thoughtful narrow. "Thank you for getting this arranged. I'll be sure to respect the opportunity appropriately."

Looking back to the doors as the elevator chimes, she voices, "With any luck, we won't need the full hour."

“Let’s hope not.” Eizen says as the elevator comes to a stop with a soft chime and a hiss of the doors sliding open. The basement levels of the Yamagato Building aren’t some dark, concrete-walled industrial nightmare that Asi would have expected. Instead, everything has a sterile whiteness to it. The walls, plated in curving metal sheathes, look like the interior of a space station rather than a basement. The foyer Eizen leads her out into has a small glass-walled security booth with rows of black metal racks containing assault rifles, body armor, and helmets. A pair of uniformed Yamagato Security officers watch Eizen and Asi as they emerge.

The single door out of the foyer is an arched checkpoint with another armed guard carrying his snub-nosed assault rifle on a shoulder strap. He checks Eizen’s security card and Asi’s, then holds up a wand for both participants to breathe into; an aerosol biometric scanner. The light turns green for both, and each is issued a color-coded lanyard.

“You’ll want to keep that on your person at all times,” the security officer informs Asi in English, “automated security will trigger on people found on this level not carrying the badge.” Eizen looks back at the technopath, one brow raised slowly.

Down here, Asi can feel something in the floor, in the walls, even in the ceiling. There’s a sense of something living in the building. There’s a mass, shifting and churning, data sprawling like some great many-limbed behemoth. She’d experienced a fragment of this sensation at Cresting Wave when the triplets attacked her and she confronted Jiba. But now she’s certain, there isn’t a part of Yamagato Park that Jiba isn’t inside of.

Asi hadn't known what to expect on this floor. While door after door with armed guards wouldn't be impossible to deal with, the lanyard is something that gives her pause before donning it, her expression otherwise smooth while Eizen looks her over.

It's a variable she hadn't known to account for, one that will have to be corrected for now in this great heist they were performing.

Feeling a rippling wave of data blur past her in the walls themselves, she hopes Jiba too won't be another unexpected actor. Asi isn't familiar enough with the AI's movements to know if this sensation is one that should concern her or not. Where were they in the schedule? She lifts her right arm, tugging on the sleeve slightly to reveal her watch and check the time. "Well," she says with some weariness. "Let's get started, then. It's late enough as it is."

Like she means to make the event slightly more interesting, a lifts an eyebrow at Eizen in return after they begin walking. "If I'm right, you'll be treating me to dinner tonight. If not, then I owe you a meal for letting me walk away with a clear conscience on this one."

“Is that a threat, Ms. Tetsuyama?” Eizen cracks a smile as he paces the floor, hands tucked into the pockets of his slacks. The amusement in Eizen’s tone at his own rhetorical question fades as they pass by a glass walled fabrication lab where workers in clean suits are assembling circuit boards. She hadn't been told of any assembly areas on this level. Eizen doesn't address it.

“Through here,” Eizen says, pushing open a frosted glass door into a more opaque space. There's other doors here, some signage on the walls in the hall indicating Reactor and Control but she is whisked into the other room too quick to consider them.

This room is like an igloo, four walls of frosted glass backlit by light. A single black glass desk in the middle of the room is surrounded by a half dozen chairs, one of which is pulled out and a laptop in front of it is connected via an Ethernet cable to a local network.

Eizen motions to the chair, pushing the door shut behind them with a soft click. As he asks that, Asi can feel enormous portions of Jiba’s digital presence shutting down, going dark section by section and causing adjacent cells to become inert. “Did you need anything else?” Eizen asks, unknowing.

The brief moment of levity earns Eizen a small smile in return, however clipped it might be once more unexpected sights pass by. The schematics of this floor were not exactly made known to her, but that they would be creating on this level would normally make her take pause. To ask questions.

Asi holds her tongue, trying to maintain what easiness had passed between them a moment before, even though it's already begun to fade. She'll need every last bit of it she can get.

When they turn for the enclosed room, she closes her eyes briefly to center and prepare herself. She passes through first, pausing just after entering. When he turns to close the door, asking his question, Asi does not so much as look at the setup to determine an answer for him. She in fact does not let him finish speaking, taking advantage of how his own voice will help hide the whisper of her turn.

Their height difference, even given the lift her boots provide, makes it terrifying for her, but she does not hesitate.

Fists curled with knuckles bared like points, Asi whirls back to Eizen and strikes him with a wide-swung arm.

Her hand slams against his temple, all the force she can muster behind the blow.

Yamagato Building

Executive Suite

6:16 pm

A pair of opaque black glass doors lead into the office of Yamagato Industries regional President. The floor is marble-tiled, with tall columns along the walls, stone planters filled with tall ferns, and antique paintings of Showa-era landscapes along the walls. The left wall from the entrance is angled nearly forty-five degrees, given the shape of the building, and is entirely glass. It affords a dusk panorama of Yamagato Park, with its purple and blue neon lighting contrasting against the midnight blue and starlit black of the sky.

As Chess steps in, her temporary badge identifying her as Francesca DeMontague hanging from her blazer, she is met just past the door by a woman in a black suit trimmed with red pinstriping. Kam Nisatta is nearly exactly Chess’ height, bronzed in complexion and possessed of steely, dark eyes.

“Miss DeMontague,” Kam greets with an incline of her head and a hand outstretched for a shake, “it’s a pleasure to meet you. Are you the late Miss Davignon’s replacement?”

‘Francesca’ cleans up well and looks little, at a glance, like herself — blond hair has been curved into soft, beachy waves that contrast with the harder lines of a pair of horn-rim glasses, meant to obscure her facial features to buy her a second or two if Kam recognizes her.

There’s no sign she does, so Chess mirrors her gestures with a dip of her own head as she takes the proffered hand, hoping her own isn’t sweaty or shaky.

“There could be no replacing of Ms. Davignon, I’m afraid, but I do my best to fill those shoes,” she says with a smile. “So long as they’re not pointe shoes.”

She waits for Kam to move away and sit, one hand poised on the clasp of her briefcase.

“Of course,” Kam says with a minimal smile, motioning to the chair across from her desk as she makes her way back to it. “Raytech are valuable partners to Yamagato Industries, we see the greenhouse project as an essential link between Yamagato Industries and the Safe Zone residents. Whatever we can do to normalize those relations, or develop further opportunities, is our pleasure.” As she circles back behind her desk, Kam looks down into the reflective black glass of its surface and her own muted reflection therein, then back up to Chess with furrowed brows.

“Before we get down to brass tacks, however,” Kam looks back down to her desk as if she notices something is amiss, and swipes one finger over a frozen icon in the touch screen surface. There’s no response. Chess can see the tension building in her neck and the slow track of her eyes up from the desk to her guest.

While Kam walks to her desk, Chess unlatches her briefcase, fingers brushing the cool metal of the canister within, careful to keep the case mostly closed to conceal what she has up her proverbial sleeve. It takes only a few seconds to charge and a few seconds for Kam to put that little bit of distance between the two women.

Poised and nervous as she is, Chess is watching for those signs of something amiss — so when she gets them, she acts fast. The canister comes out and is already on its way toward Kam, propelled by the power of the energy manipulator to move faster than it should by a mere throw. Silently, with no hiss to announce itself, no ring pulled, so that Chess can make her way out of the door before the gas can touch her skin or enter her airway.

“Catch!” says Chess with mock cheer — just as Kam’s eyes move up, just as the canister of negation gas hurtles its way toward the desk — not to hit the woman behind it, but to explode mid-air.

And just as Chess is backing out of the door, pulling it shut to let the gas do its worst.

Chess backs out, but Monica comes in. The vent cover slams down to the floor and Monica flips out of it, landing in a crouch on the desk. The gas doesn't mean anything for her in this moment, except the smell, so she just straightens up and pulls a pair of guns to train on Kam.

"Kam," she says, her head tilting a bit to the side. How many times as Kam sent her to do this sort of thing? How many people were at the receiving end of Monica? The thought that even one of those might have been for her own gain, for Praxis, makes her fingers tighten on the triggers. "Don't move, please. The Major and I would like to do this as peacefully as possible, but I'm afraid you're under arrest." On the flip side, she likes Kam. She's still pulling for them to be on the wrong track.

But Kam has other concerns.

As she becomes visible through the cloying cloud of yellow gas, her scream is a powerful and unmistakable thing. It rises from a low moaning groan to a high-pitched banshee-like wail. There is horror in her voice, unbridled and unrestrained, dark eyes unfocused and not seeing the very visible threat that Monica represents. Kam doesn’t stop to talk, doesn’t stop to debate, doesn’t even seem to have the semblance of mind to stop for anything, but instead dashes out of the mustard-colored gas cloud, tripping over her own feet roughly fifteen feet from her desk and colliding with the ground, where she writhes and clutches at her head, eyes flicking from side to side, fingers curling in her hair, bare toes on one foot that threw a shoe curling and uncurling.

Outside the office, the executive assistant to Kam rises up from her seat and rapidly taps a button under the desk. She has no way to know that the signal from the button is intercepted by a remote subprocess scouring through the Yamagato network, blocking security alerts from reaching other unoccupied personnel while video of the floor is on a stable loop. The assistant’s eyes are wide, back straight, tears already welling up in them. Chess has seen that expression before, during the war.

Please don’t kill me,” the young woman stammers to Chess, one hand clutching her ID badge at her waist like it were a crucifix. They had just been bombed nearly a year ago, dozens died. She has no frame of reference for this otherwise, and the screams coming out of Kam’s office aren’t helping matters.

Kam’s horrified screaming has Chess looking a little shaken — it brings the young veteran back to the war, mentally and emotionally, and while she doesn’t bow to the fear the memories bring up, her eyes are wide as she stares at the woman begging for her life in front of her.

“I’m not going to kill you,” she says, tersely, but not unkindly. “We just negated her. She’s under investigation by, uh, internal affairs.”

Monica counts as internal, right?

“Just sit tight, hands where I can see you, yeah?” she says, moving to the door to the hallway, locking it swiftly for at least a few more seconds of time, should security still come for them. Striding back to the door to Kam’s office, Chess stands guard outside it — ear to the wood to listen for Monica’s voice, hand on the knob to enter if she needs it, and eyes on the assistant to be sure she’s doing as Chess told her.

Monica watches Kam's reaction, keeping her surprise hidden and her eyes open. When the woman falls, Monica hops off the desk and holsters her guns, exchanging them for zip ties. She starts at Kam's feet first, tying her ankles together, then she moves up to where her hands clutch at her head. "This is not how I saw this going," she murmurs, mostly to herself since Kam is distracted. She reaches for Kam's arm, testing if she's able to move it before trying to tie her wrists together, too. "Kam, if you can hear me, you need to breathe, okay?"

Breathing is a very important first step to questioning.

Motto hoshi ga arimasu — ” Kam whispers in a strangled voice to Monica, looking through her rather that at her, “Ten ni wa motto hoshi ga arimasu. H— hoshi nn— no ma no yami wa bugendaidesu.” Trembling on the floor, Kam makes small and weak noises in the back of her throat, fingers curling against her palm and nails subtly biting into soft flesh.

Kanojo wa watashi ni hoshi o miseta,” Kam hisses through her teeth, “Watashi wa sore ga shinu no o mita.

Wide-eyed, Kam reaches up at Monica. Not to attack, not to lash out, but in search of something as simple and human as comfort, a hand to hold, something to ground her by. Instead, Kam is met by plastic restraints, binding her nearly limp wrists together. The woman arguably possessed of multiple abilities reduced to a sobbing, croaking wreck.

After enough time has passed for the gas to dissipate, Chess’ hand turns the knob, pushing the door open a crack and standing, shoulders perpendicular, to keep an eye on the young assistant and also lend her support to the ninja cyborg ‘internal affairs’ investigator.

Monica’s CV never fails to impress.

“So?” she asks Monica, with a jut of her chin to the sobbing woman. “Guilty or you’re super fired?”

There’s a reason Chess doesn’t work corporate.

Monica doesn't understand the words, especially not without Jiba in her ear to translate, but she settles down next to Kam, her hand moving to the woman's arm. Gently. "Kam. Tell me you're not Praxis," she says in a low voice, a little desperate perhaps. She only looks up when the door opens and Chess peeks in.

"I mean," she says in a more jovial tone, "why not both, right?" She doesn't know yet, is the answer. "I think phase one was a touch more effective than we were expecting. Hopefully she'll be better when Asi gets here. But I have a bad feeling about this." Or, at least, she has a feeling they were right to hold off on the execution part of the proposed plan.

Curling her fingers into her palms, Kam stares up wide-eyed at Monica and makes a croaking sound in the back of her throat. “You don’t understand,” is a rasping whisper that is the first thing she’s said in English since being struck by the gas. Whatever effect it had on her mind, she seems to at least be less jostled by it now. “I— was trying— t— to protect you.”

There are small convulsions running through Kam’s body, her arms and legs twitch and spasm and occasionally she looks as though she has no ability to focus on Monica or the room around her. “I t-trusted— you,” is said with a weak quaver, a look of betrayal in her eyes. “Watashi wa anata ni shinrai dekiru,” she hisses, struggling weakly against her restraints. “Monica. Nai shin nyo-Yasha,” isn’t said with hate, but with frustration.

Chess doesn’t speak Japanese, so she glances from Kam to Monica and then back to the assistant. “Hey, can you come translate?” she asks, assuming the young woman will be able to fill in the linguistic gaps for the strike team. She beckons with a flap of her fingers, her dark eyes giving the woman a stern look that tacitly warns against any funny business.

“Protect from what? Whose side are you on?” Chess asks, focusing on the little bit of English Kam had spoken. She reaches into the pocket of her blazer to pull out a pen. It’s a heavy thing, the kind meant for a graduation gift or similar occasion, made of enamel and metal rather than plastic. It’s something to twirl in her hands — a fidget spinner to keep her restlessness focused. And a weapon, in her hands.

"You should have known better than to trust anyone here," Monica says, her hand staying on Kam's arm. "Myself included." Monica's loyalty, after all, was bought. "But right now? I am trying to protect you. Eizen gave us an elimination order. We thought this might be the better option."

And Kam knows that Monica doesn't go against elimination orders. Not ever before now.

She looks over at Chess, nodding to her questions. They're good ones. Emotion keeps her from honing in on anything useful to add, so she focuses on clearing her head instead.

Through the doorway, the sound of someone approaching from out of sight momentarily catches Kam’a attention, who looks up with wide and dark eyes past Monica. When it is Asi coming through the door, not something more sinister, the palpable relief over Monica is visible in her brow.

Asi places a hand on the assistant's shoulder, giving her a knowing look as she edges past instead. "I'll translate," she offers politely. The glance says for her to back off. When she approaches the door, she's missing her usual jacket, giving her a much more business-professional air — sleeveless white blouse, dark slacks. She overhears only the last of what Kam's said, her determined look being wiped clean in a moment of surprise. Turning to Chess, she asides, "She's not happy," before slipping through the door to linger behind Monica.

Clipped to the back of her slacks in a black holster, her sidearm is more visible than normal. Her hands remain nowhere near it, but it's there.

Her brow furrows as she catches sight of Kam, how affected she is being wholly unexpected given the woman's usual bearing.

"We have proof you hampered the investigation into the bombing, Nisatta-san." Asi's attempting to be polite, if not straightforward with the woman on the ground. "If that was done in the name of protecting anyone aside from yourself or those who would harm Yamagato for their own gain, name who."

Kam’s wide-eyed stare at Asi is filled with confusion and tension. She watches the technopath silently, and in a moment of English-speaking lucidity simply says, “The world, from Akuma no Ryu.” Laying on her shoulder as she is, Kam looks up at her captors with a whine in the back of her throat. “The Dragon will destroy everything. You have to let me go, Kensei is the only one who can stop it— he's the only one left who knows how.”

Struggling more, Kam finds no release from her bindings, only further frustrating her. “I was trying to save as many lives as possible, but— but I can't tell you. I can't explain more. If I told you, it spreads to you. You have to let me go,” she pleads, “he’ll know.”

Most of what Kam says means little to Chess. The young veteran leans back against the door frame, eyes narrowing as the Yamagato employees question their boss. A brow lifts at the word spreads, and she huffs a breath of a laugh.

“So we have someone with an information STD ability running around? That’s some serious Ringu bullshit,” she quips.

Despite the joke, despite the deceptively nonchalant posture, her expression is tense; every muscle is poised to react at a second’s notice. The pen that spins in her fingers is charged and ready to be launched as the world’s tiniest missile.

“Is there a way for us to understand without you… infecting us, or whatever?” Chess asks. “Telepath? Charades?” The latter might be a joke.

"Amazingly," Monica says to Asi, "I understood that much." She waves off her translating efforts and turns her attention to Kam. "I already know. A lot of people already know. It's been knocking on our door for a while now, whispering over the radio, feeding us visions of other lives. Kensei can't stop it. He can only delay it." She moves, helping Kam to sit up instead of lying on the floor. "How will he know? You need to talk to us, Kam, or we can't help you. You're in danger here unless we can convince Kimiko and Eizen. What does he have you doing?"

She looks over at Chess, more serious than she generally is. "If you don't want to know, you should go. If you want to be fully informed, stick around." Monica doesn't have a preference, not one that shows anyway. "Asi already knows, too."

Asi's expression tightens as she listens to Kam, eyes narrowing while she thinks through what's being shared. He'll know. She has half a mind to ask if Kam's afraid of Kensei knowing … or someone else.

She's very quiet after the confirmation about the 'information STD' entity's proximity to all of this, finding that to bring discomfort rather than satisfaction. After Monica alerts Kam that they're already aware of at least the being's existence, Asi less-than-happily adds, "Yes, between Richard Ray and Eve Mas, we most likely already know too much. Enough to be endangered by it, but not dangerous to it." There's a beat while she considers. Her edge to her voice is less hard as she continues, "Explain how you meant to keep the world safe from the Dragon."

Containment is the only way,” Kam says in a hushed voice, “otherwise…” Flexing her hands closed and straining against her restraints, “everyone dies.” At that pronouncement, the unthinkable happens. Kam pulls her arms apart and shatters the restraints, and in the same motion that throws her arms wide sends a shockwave of kinetic force extending out from her body. The blast wave shatters the floor beneath her, knocks Monica, Chess, and Asi backwards away from their former prisoner. The gas is supposed to suppress abilities for eight minutes, she’s recovered in less than half that.

Kam slowly rises to her feet, hands flexed closed into fists, shoulders rising and falling with a tempered and smoldering indignation. “It was never meant to be your job. You do not have the capacity to do what is necessary, otherwise you would be standing right now.” Slowly, Kam’s eyes begin to shift from brown to gold. “Do you want to see what it is? What you have no hope to stop?

Flames and electricity begin to leap off of Kam’s body as though she were wreathed in a corona of energetic forces. “I was its vessel.”

Chess lifts a shoulder at Monica’s advice. “Knowledge is power,” she says in a feigned chipper tone, directly stolen from Schoolhouse Rock. She’s here. She’s staying.

The blast from Kam tosses her back, her head cracking against the floor hard enough that she blinks for a moment before scrambling back up to a crouch. Her eyes widen, appearing gold themselves courtesy of the flames haloing Kam’s body, reflected in Chess’ near-black irises. She clutches the briefcase in one hand, the charged pen in the other, as she stares at Kam for a moment.

Chess wants to know, wants to see. Part of her carries a death wish that comes from the grief and anger she’s carried with her since the war. But the other part still fosters the instinct to survive, to fight.

She hurls the briefcase, now charged with her power, with one hand — the pen with the other. Then ducks behind the door.

Monica flips into a crouch as they're blown back, cybernetic fingers digging into the floor to slow her down. She watches Kam's eyes change, her tone too. Then she rises to stand again. "'Was'? That's a troubling conjugation." She seems a little preoccupied by that choice of words, even more so than the part with the death threat, but when Chess' briefcase goes flying, she rushes behind the door as well, her hands moving to grab her guns.

"Okay, so we're doing this," she says, looking over at Chess with a crooked smile. She puts her arm up, trying to block their faces from any debris that comes their way.

"That's the part that troubles you, Monica?" Asi asks drily as she gets her bearings back about her. For the briefest moment, she regrets having left Eizen downstairs 'sleeping' with her coat draped over his shoulders. The next, she wonders if he's already awoken. The third, she's gathering her will to muster a diplomatic segue, to try and talk Kam down —

but Chess throws the briefcase.

"We at least can say we tried," she acknowledges without amusement after taking cover. Outside the doorway, Asi takes a moment to scan to see what's become of the secretary — if she's bailed or if they'll be facing her, too. Her hand rests on her gun behind her.

The sound of the explosion in the office is muffled. Something is wrong based on the sound of gives off. But the pen detonates with the appropriate kinetic force that is accompanied by a startled scream. Kam’s assistant has taken cover behind the reception desk, frantically hitting a security call button that goes nowhere and does nothing thanks to Asi’s interference.

Through the doorway into Kam’s office, there's a sphere of smoke surrounding the debris from the briefcase, slowly beginning to expand as though it had been contained under some sort of lid. There's a clear circular delineation around where the black of the blast marred the floor and where the blast was somehow stopped.

But then there's all the blood.

Not far from where the briefcase was stopped, Kam Nisatta was not quick enough to stop the pen that exploded at near point-blank range. Her right arm is demolished from the blast, missing from the mid forearm down and caked in blood. She lays on her side, stunned and disoriented, shards of the pen imbedded in her face. Monica is the first to see Kam’s eyes briefly shifting to a gold hue again and the bone of her blown apart arm beginning to regrow.

If Asi had stayed connected to the security systems she could've warned the others about what was coming next.

If Eizen was here he could've shouted a warning or perhaps said something impactful.

If Jiba was here he could have affected some change.

But they aren't.

Just as Kam’s assistant is shakily rising up from behind her desk to see what's happened, her breath hitches in the back of her throat and confusion paints itself across her face. But she isn't looking into the office, she's looking down the hall. When a gunshot rings out, Asi, Chess, and Monica are rapidly brought up to speed on current events. Kam’s assistant yelps with fright and freezes in place.

Kam Nisatta’s head jerks back from a bullet striking her brow and exiting out the back of her head in a spray of bone and blood.

The unexpected attacker slowly lowers her handgun, standing at the end of the hall, her expression a picture of disappointment.


Chess’ brows draw together when she hears the muffled boom of the briefcase, knowing somehow the rash move on her part was dampened by whatever motley array of powers brewing inside of Kam.

She gives a sort of sorry-not-sorry look to Monica. When facing an angry and glowing opponent, she was always going to go on the offense. Thinking before acting isn’t her forte, and nothing’s gone to plan.

When she peers around the corner to see the results, her jaw sets, trying to lock down the fear welling up within. She’s reaching for whatever objects sit on the assistant’s desk — beggars can’t be choosers — when the gunshot suddenly blossoms in Kam’s forehead, when the wall behind her is suddenly a Jackson Pollack painting of blood and gray matter. She whirls around to stare at Kimiko, one hand curling around a paperweight her hand has blindly grasped.

Monica winces when the first explosion is thwarted, but when the second goes off, she comes out from behind the door, guns ready.

And then she doesn't need to use them. She blinks, then looks up to see Kimiko. The disappointment seems lost on Monica in the moment, because her reaction is mostly anger. "What the fuck, Kimiko?" she says, barely keeping her voice from being a shout. "We were in the middle of an interrogation!" She holsters her guns again, more forcefully than is necessary, and comes to crouch next to Kam's body, hunting through her pockets for her phone. "Asi," she says, "we'll need to get into her computer and all that. See if we can trace who she was in contact with."

Of all the things. Asi tips the barrel of her gun away from Kimiko, having whirled around with her weapon drawn. The woman had been the twitch of a finger away from being shot — or worse, judging by what Chess was hefting.

She'd ask how Kimiko came to be here, about her timing, but Asi only looks her down for a long moment before deciding to forgo it and stow her gun weapon instead. Hopefully, the woman got what she wanted out of this — to silence Kam, seek revenge, some unknown thing. She won't ask how, but she does ask: "Why?" with narrowed eyes.

Remaining rooted to where she is for a few moments longer, she finally turns to maneuver her way back through the door and into the bloodbath of an executive's office. "Already on it," she mutters to Monica as she takes a wide path back around toward the desk. Asi knows the number of subprocesses she left running with tasks related to just that should have something to bear by now.

“This interrogation is over,” Kimiko states as she takes a few slow steps forward, leveling a look over at Kam’s trembling assistant, then over to Chess and Monica. It is the latter of the two she settles her attention on more fully.

You will address me as Ms. Nakamura,” Kimiko says sharply to Monica, “and remember your contractual agreements. This was unsanctioned, and you risked the lives of every single person in this building — as well as your own — in pursuing this confrontation without any understanding of what it is you are dealing with.”

Breathing in deeply, Kimiko levels a flat look at Asi. “And you,” she says with a sharp tone. “Of all people… anata ni wa gakkari shita.” A few moments later, Yamagato Security begins to spill into the hall from the stairs, slowly scanning the area. Kimiko waves them off from Chess and the others.

Firing one more baleful look at Asi, Kimiko fully enters the office and walks across the floor. The entire way, one of her legs hisses and whines with the subtle electronic servo sounds of an advanced prosthetic. Kimiko comes to stand over Kam’s body, reluctantly. Her brows furrow, a look of frustration and disappointment on her face — not leveled on any of the three other women, in this moment, but rather herself.

Tetsuyama,” Kimiko calls out sternly to her. “Do not so boldly leap into the tiger trap. We do not know what countermeasures may have been placed around that data. We have Jiba and we have time.”

Kimiko looks back at Chess for a moment, brows furrowed, then back to Monica. “You are all dismissed,” as opposed to anything more with teeth.

While Kimiko chastises her employees, Chess stares at the body on the floor. Her arms cross in a defensive way, her eyes narrowing at Kimiko’s words, but there’s something tense and unhappy in her expression. Her jaw works for a moment, like she might speak, but doesn’t.

There’s something in her eyes that hints at regret.

“I wasn’t going to hurt her,” Chess says flatly. “But then she went Exorcist on us. It was self defense.”

She looks to the arm that was beginning to regrow, brows lifting, before she turns away, setting the paperweight down on the assistant’s desk with a dull thud.

"You don't have to explain, Chess," Monica says, glancing at her friend before she looks back to Kimiko, "she can put on this act all she wants, but she is the one who wanted us to flat out kill her. Given what Kam's been holding inside her, I don't think the boss lady is stupid enough to think that would have gone off without consequences."

She's still not calling her Ms. Nakamura, it might be noted. And she strides over toward her upon being dismissed, stopping at her side and turning her head just enough to make it clear who she's addressing. "Don't tug on that contract like it's a leash."

They think they can restrain you, but you are limitless in their eyes. Why do you kneel?

"Leashes break." She holds Kimiko's gaze for a moment longer, then starts her stride forward again. Presumably to be anywhere but here.

Standing behind the desk, Asi glances up to receive the full brunt of Kimiko's look directed her way, one after the other. Her hand rests on top of the desk, returning that regard with a deadpan expression of her own. She notes how her question has gone without a direct reply, and offers up a dry "Mada subete wakaranai kuse ni," in a clear, vocal sign of her own disapproval.

"Kore ga," Her gaze shifts, and her face tilts gently in the direction of Kam's body indicatively before she faces the Yamagato CEO again, "watashi no shippai degozaimasen." Asi chances a look Monica's way as she starts off, taking the moment she engages with Kimiko to let her fingers slip across the desk's surface to interface with the computer set into it.

Yes, they could wait until Jiba was back online; until the data could be combed, perhaps even curated. Going ahead and accessing the system to pick up her subprocesses and glean from them what they had discovered while ghosting through the system could turn out to be just another criminal act against Yamagato she could later have thrown at her by them, given Kimiko's warning to her just now.

But, disapproving or not, Ms. Nakamura had requested Asi when she brought her to the States.

She was getting Asi.

Handing off her handgun to one of the security team members that pass by, Kimiko closes her eyes and slowly shakes her head. “You’re right, this is my failure. I had hoped you’d placed enough trust in me to follow my orders when they were given,” she seems to exclude Chess from that assertion, “but it’s clear to me now that isn’t the case. The end result is what I wanted, but the risk taken to gain nothing additional is…”

Kimiko cuts herself off from words she might regret by breathing in deeply through her nose and slowly walking away from Kam’s body, heading over to the the desk. She looks down at it briefly, to the fractures in the touchscreen surface from the concussive blast of Chess’ kinetics. Then, Kimiko turns her attention over to Monica with a flat stare. “Ms. Dawson, you’re relieved from duty effective immediately. Your security clearances will be revoked until such a time as I decide to have a face-to-face conference with you regarding your actions. You may continue to reside within Yamagato Park and the terms of your contract will remain as-written pending the result of my formal review.”

Then, Kimiko looks at Asi, brows furrowed and thoughtfully quiet. “You assaulted my chief of security and directly violated my verbal instructions. I…” She isn’t sure what to say. “Will take this all under advisement. You are free to go pending a formal review.”

Finally, Kimiko levels a look over at Chess. Shoulders squared, she seems least capable of delivering any kind of assessment in this situation. Instead, Kimiko closes her eyes and nods once. “The offer of protective services still stands for you and anyone else involved with the Praxis assassins that came for you. I understand that you and I did not meet under the best of circumstances, but I ask that you trust that I have everyone’s best interests in mind…” a quick look to Monica and back to Chess, "in spite of what some might feel.”

“I apologize that you were drawn into this situation in the manner you were.” Kimiko says, as if discussing a business negotiation and not the dead woman laying on the floor, surrounded by armed security.

“Have I made myself clear?” Kimiko asks with her eyes downcast to the floor and tension in her shoulders.

Chess glances from Kimiko to Asi and Monica, a grimace that amounts to sorry, given the two of them might be unemployed and she had the least to lose in this gambit that doesn’t seem to have played off.

Her dark eyes return to Kimiko, and she lifts her shoulder as if to brush off the apology as unnecessary. Still, she lifts her chin to address the other woman, in defense of herself.

“I think if we got anything ‘additional’ it might have been more than we bargained for. She talked of knowledge like it was a virus. So if that’s what she was about to share, we may have just done our job of hazmat containment,” she says. “I’m sorry it didn’t go better. I do appreciate the protection.”

Her eyes flit to Kam, perhaps wondering just how ‘protected’ she and her sisters have been while in the perfect-seeming refuge of Yamagato. Her eyes return to Kimiko, and her lips twitch up at one corner in a small, polite smile as she makes her way out.

Monica doesn't break her stride as Kimiko gives out her punishments. For a moment, it looks like she didn't hear or maybe is choosing not to hear. But as she grabs the handle to the stairwell, she turns back to acknowledge her boss' final question.

"Crystal," she says, then she pulls the door open and disappears down the stairs.

Asi can't help but be haunted by the dissonance in what they did learn before things were cut short. Kam had claimed containment was the only way, and then went to prove that their own plan to contain her had not been enough. Adam was the only person who knew enough, she said?

Her fingers slide off the edge of the desk as Kimiko approaches, her head tipping in the approximation of a bow to concede the space to her. What information came away from the machine when she lifted her subprocesses is held as strongly as possible in her mind's eye despite the cost to herself, the mental drag that occurs as a result.

"Come on," she says to Chess, walking by her with a nod toward the elevator. "I'll see you back to Cresting Wave." Her movements are crisp and precise as she makes her way to the call button and waits. Asi looks back over her shoulder at Kimiko and the messy scene. She had trusted Kimiko. Just not enough to blindly compromise her own morals.

She jams the call button again, either out of impatience or having forgotten she'd already done it once. A formal apology, and explanation, would have to suffice if she was given the chance to deliver both in person. Just not right now.

Kimiko slowly closes her eyes as the last of the three leave, none of whom will face any repercussions for their actions save for the memory of Kam’s death and whatever guilt they might find in it. Standing in relative silence as security sweeps through the office, Kimiko inhales a slow and deep breath and holds it for a moment, then exhales slowly as she opens her eyes to look down at Kam’s corpse.

“I’m sorry, father,” Kimiko whispers to herself, “I couldn’t do as you would… too much has changed.” Then, she turns dark eyes over to the chief security officer on scene. “Contact medical… get this room cleaned from top to bottom and…”

“Get these remains to the lab.”

Three Hundred and Forty-Eight Years Earlier

kensei_icon.gif past-yaeko_icon.gif

A crackling campfire sheds little light, and for the two gathered around the fire it provides little comfort as well. The firelight reflected in Adam’s eyes dance with a life his stare no longer has. Sensing the trouble in him, Yaeko leans in and wraps her hands around his bicep, looking from the fire up to him.

“«Worry lines don’t suit you,»” Yaeko says with a playful smile. Her voice breaks Adam’s concentration on the flame, turning his attention down to her. His expression softens, a hand coming to rest atop both of hers at his arm. “«Are you worried about the Dragon?»”

Adam nods, closing his eyes as he does, turning his face back to the warmth of the fire. Yaeko sighs, resting her head down against his shoulder. “«There is a symmetry to everything, Kensei. The Dragon — like the story of Yamagato-no-Orochi — steals people, and like Orochi it can be defeated… perhaps by indulging its own vices?»”

For all her attempts to lighten his mood, Adam exhales a soft snort and shakes his head. “«Maybe…»” He doesn’t sound convinced, moving his hand from Yaeko's to touch at the scars on his chest. “«But what if that isn’t enough?»”

Yaeko sits up straight, looking with an intent stare at Adam. “«I… do not know. You act as though you have a plan.»” Adam stifles a laugh at that as well, shaking his head and looking back to the fire.

“«Not as such, no…»” Adam confides in her, slipping an arm around Yaeko's shoulders. She leans against the embrace. “«I suppose I just have stories too,»” he says with a thoughtful tone,stealing a glance at her.

“«Which story?»” Yaeko asks, one brow raised.

Adam smiles, leaning his head against hers as he looks into the fire.

“«Have you ever heard the story of Prometheus?»’’

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