Racing Hearts


sf_asami2_icon.gif sf_daphne_icon.gif

Scene Title Racing Hearts
Synopsis Daphne Ayers is intercepted on her morning jog and taken on an unexpected trip out of New York.
Date March 5, 2021

Dumbo, Brooklyn

It's hard to find a good place to jog in New York, depending on where you live in it. Thankfully, there's two green spaces framing the Dumbo corner of Brooklyn, and the paths on the Pier 1 Park provide enough of a circuit it's not terrible for running.

At this hour of the morning, the air's unseasonably warm, almost sixty already. It's been a strange prelude to spring, nested in between the last fighting blows of winter chill.

Sometimes when Daphne Ayers goes running, she sees familiar faces. She passes one of her neighbors as she exits the green and heads for the concrete outcropping right along the water. "Morning, Daph," the older man calls out as she passes where he's seated.

“Shit, it’s morning? No wonder everything hurts!” Daphne calls back, face broadening with a wide grin as she lifts her hand in greeting. “Have a great day, Mr. Stanley!”

The jogging bar owner is probably the brightest thing in the park, with her shock of platinum hair contrasting with a hot-pink t-shirt, the color picked up again in her Nikes where it’s also contrasted with black and electric blue.

She can’t help but appreciate the view on the water — there really is no better view of Manhattan in her opinion, and every time she sees it, her heart swells a little at the fact she lives here, in what she’s deemed the greatest city in the world. It’s a far cry from Kansas, but it’s no surprise that she made it, to her or anyone that knew her back when she was the peppy cheerleader dreaming of the bright lights and big city so many years ago.

Over here, the noise of the big city is less, too. There's trees to diffuse the road noise on the other end of the park— and there's only water beyond the concrete platform. In the distance, there's the call of a bird.

A woman stands looking out over the water, her hands thrust into the pockets of a black coat better suited to temperatures colder than this— like she expects the temperatures to be far more chilly than the forecast called for. Lost in thought, the woman turns her head just slightly away from the water on hearing Daphne's footsteps on the concrete as she jogs in her direction.

The woman's black hair shifts in the riverside breeze, covering over her face partly. Her brow lifts and she turns with more intensity to her look than before. There's recognition in the stranger's eyes and expression, and she even takes a step back from the water, one hand partly lifting from her side.

The world almost seems to slow for a moment in that strange recognition. The sounds of the world all filter away for the space of a breath.

"You," Asami Tetsuzan murmurs in awe as she regards Daphne. She worries, abruptly, that she'll keep going, and lifts her hand a little higher, pleading, "Wait!" with the urgency one might have on a life-or-death matter.

Daphne’s head swivels as she hears the stranger call out. She looks over her shoulder to see if there’s someone else, then frowns, pointing at herself. Me? It’s something out of a movie, and it would be funny to the runner, if she didn’t see that strange look on Asami’s face, hear the urgency in her voice.

Something pokes at the back of her mind — why does the woman look familiar?

But Daphne’s short-term memory fails her, and she doesn’t know why Asami looks familiar, only that she is. She slows to a stop, walking backward, like she might turn around and run again.

“Think you have me confused with someone else. It happens!” she calls out cheerfully, turning to run again.

When Daphne turns back to her, Asami seems more convinced than ever, though, that she's talking to the right person. She can't seem to get way she wants to say all the way out nonetheless, but when Daphne starts to cycle back onto her circuit, she leans forward.

Wait! a voice calls to Daphne from everywhere and nowhere, a whisper that's insidious as it is insistent. It's both her inner voice and not, because she certainly didn't have that tone about this situation.

"No, it's you— I promise!" Asami finally stammers out. "I know you don't know me, but I just need a minute of your time." The way she stresses it, it sounds like it's harmless. Both hands come out to her side in a gesture of surrender, placating. Her eyes don't leave Daphne's figure, hoping—

With a glance up and down the empty riverwalk on this side of the trees—

That she doesn't need to make Daphne stay.

That voice makes Daphne look around, her brows drawing together into more of a scowl. She slows, but doesn’t stop, not yet.

“Thanks, I already accepted Jesus Christ as lord and savior and/or I’m well on my way to becoming an Operating Thetan, and/or I’ve already signed all the petitions to free Willy and all his fellow whale brethren,” she calls out again cheerfully. “But good luck, you!”

She finger-guns Asami and then turns around again, intent on making her way around the curving path and hopefully out of Asami’s spiel zone.

But she trips, the ground beneath her suddenly uncertain and unsteady. Before she has time to wonder what even happened there, she's facedown on the ground, and when she starts to push herself back up, Asami is there in front of her now.

"Here, let me help you," the stranger says, laying a hand on Daphne's shoulder as she starts to come up. Her other hand lifts as well, but also doesn't actually move to help Daphne back to her feet.

Her wide, brown eyes shift violently in hue, becoming a vibrant gold.

And she touches her fingertips to the side of Daphne's head, a simple thing that sends a jolt through her.

When Daphne scrabbles back to her feet away from her, they're no longer by the waterfront. The two of them find themselves in the middle of a busy— crosswalk? People pass in all directions in the middle of a large city intersection, everyone around them dressed primarily in dark colors and busy on their way to where they're going. They pass around Daphne and Asami like river to stone. Above them shine bright advertisements on the sides of buildings, like one sees near Times Square—

But this isn't Times Square. None of these are in English. They're in Japanese? Asami's eyes return to their usual hue as she turns her head to look at where they've abruptly found themselves.

"Would you look at that," she breathes out in awe.

They're standing in the middle of Shibuya Crossing.


The buildings are there. The facades of what amounts to the Times Square of Japan. The massive intersection, the sounds of traffic and people but it’s—empty.

There are suddenly no cars, no people, no birds, no clouds. She can hear the sounds of cars moving, the noise of people, the chime of crosswalks, but in the blink of an eye there is no one around. As if everyone ceased to exist at once.

Daphne isn’t casting a shadow, it’s a small detail but one she immediately recognizes. None of the buildings are casting shadows either. The sky is a blank slate of featureless blue and though it is daylight there is no sun.

Adrenaline spikes, and Asami starts to notice the one-dimensional nature of their reality. The facades of the buildings are there, but with even the slightest change in perspective there is nothing. The moment Asami changes her sight-line, all she sees is porous half-formed stone where buildings should be, coral-like growths traced with luminous blue grid lines like some kind of trick of the light.

Even the noise of invisible traffic and people starts to change. Starts to distort, stuttering and jittering, dragging out like the mournful cry of some long-dead phantom.

It is horrifying.

“Don’t touch — what the fuck is wrong with your eyes?” Daphne yells, pulling from her pocket the personal alarm that some well-meaning person gave her ages ago and she only put on her keychain to appease them, no doubt with a roll of her eyes at their overprotectiveness.

When she pulls out the pin to activate it, the chirp is faint, warbly, its unused battery having died out over time. But Daphne doesn’t notice, staring with first wonder and then horror at their surroundings. Her eyes dart from one thing to the next — the people, the buildings, the cars.

Everything is wrong.

Daphne takes a step back, then turns in a slow circle, looking for some way back to where they started. Nothing is familiar. But it’s worse than unfamiliar. It’s jarringly wrong.

She whirls back on Asami. “What did you do?” Her dark eyes fill with rage as she grabs for Asami this time, fingers digging into the other woman’s arms, to shake her.

Asami's wonder is such a short-lived thing when everyone, everything except the buildings around them vanishes suddenly. Like a bad render, everyone except her and Daphne just… disappear. The sounds still carrying on around them somehow make it even worse. She stumbles a step back when she realizes the sky is suddenly the wrong color— it should be nearly midnight in Japan. That sets off another things to notice, then another, then…

What the fuck was going on here?

When Daphne grabs ahold of her, she responds to the shake much like a ragdoll would, numb and eyes widened while she wobbles to and fro. "I didn't do this. This is your power, your… ability. But even that— that shouldn't have…"

Shaking free, Asami looks left, then right, and holds up a hand. "There's something wrong. This is all wrong. It's…" She breaks into a jog, pacing away from Daphne down the perfectly empty street. "It's not supposed to be like this." She can hear the sounds of traffic she should be running into, until that too starts to break, falling apart like a horror movie…

Or a bad audio file.

Asami doesn't make it more than a hundred yards before she suddenly stops, arms pinwheeling back as she lets out a startled scream. She takes in one panicked breath after the next, like she's scrabbling away from a ledge. On getting closer, Daphne can see it really is, in a way that doesn't make sense at all.

The road just ends, even though the facade of buildings continue onward for a while yet— strange and hollow things that are grey lumps of what they should be, the gleaming of blue lines present on them, too. Once Asami's crawled away from the ledge— one which drops straight down into flat, waveless ocean several hundred feet below it— she clasps one hand over her mouth in horror in an attempt to keep herself together.

"Violette told me not to leave New York…" Asami says out loud, haunted by this information.

“Whatchu talkin’ about, Willis?” Daphne says, her face scrunched up in disbelief. “My ability?”

But then her abductor is flailing like she’s falling and Daphne frowns, reaching for Asami’s hand to pull her away from whatever it is that’s terrifying her — really, she’s the worst assailant, acting like she’s the one in trouble!

But then Daphne sees that nothingness below. Her eyes widen and she looks at Asami, dark eyes wide and questioning.

“Well, it seems you’ve broken an inviolate rule,” she quips, not so horrified she can’t make a pun on the spot, “so what the hell do we do now? Can I just… click my heels and return home, if this is my power?”

Daphne actually clicks her heels of those bright Nike sneakers, three times, and thinks desperately of Brooklyn. Corbin. Corbie. Her bar.

“Goodbye, Tokyo?” she says questionably, nose wrinkling a little as she concentrates. “Let’s blow this taco stand.”


Asami's too overwhelmed by the edge of the world she's seen to do much except look Daphne in the eye as she begins to focus. When the blonde squints her eyes shut in focus on the place she wants to return to, the world around them darkens and grows quiet again.

By the time she opens her eyes, she knows by the familiar smell that they're in her bar, currently closed with the chairs flipped up onto tabletops from last night's mopping.

The stranger from the park is with her, too, looking no less shaken than before. Asami suddenly grabs Daphne's arm in return. "Whatever you do, whatever you do, don't try to leave New York again. If someone comes for you over your ability, just— imagine yourself suddenly on the other end of town. Not another state, city, or country."

"I'm so sorry, Daphne," Asami says as she lets go, even though she's definitely not introduced herself.

Daphne takes a deep breath, never so glad in her life to smell the slightly mildewy scent that all old Brooklyn buildings get, by virtue of being old and by the water. One shaky hand reaches out to grip the wooden bartop — the barkeep is happy to be reunited with this solid, familiar item, but she also needs the support.

Daphne’s visible relief doesn’t reduce her anger or confusion, though, and her head shakes adamantly at Asami, turning back with flashing eyes to look at this stranger, this bringer of chaos into her life. “I didn’t try to leave New York the first time!” she protests. “What do you mean, again? What do you mean by ability?”

Daphne’s voice crescendos with each question until she’s shouting, the sound of her voice echoing in the empty bar. “What do you mean come for me? Who are you, and what did you do? What the hell is happening?”

The apology Asami had most certainly was a blanket one, for all the unanswered questions being put to her now. In the face of the rising agitation in the questions, she looks like she'd prefer to just vanish. But something, a memory of a better her than the one who put Daphne in this situation in the first place, keeps her from leaving irresponsibly.

"My name's Asami Tetsuzan, and I woke up a superpower that was sleeping inside you— broken, hidden. I fixed what was keeping you from it." She lifts a hand to tap the side of her brow indicatively, this time without the unnatural shift in eyecolor. "You— what you can do is…" Her eyes narrow as she looks hard at Daphne again. She calms, sinking back into an easy fascination with the subject. "Your ability deals with time and space. You clicked your heels and thought real hard and suddenly you were home, Dorothy. Normal people can't do that."

"And there's more abnormal people out there like you and me than you'd think. Enough that the government watches a number of us— when I woke up to my power, they knew before I did. They want this secret kept to themselves." But here she sounds less certain, because…

"That's— that's assuming all of this is still even real," Asami segues with caution, looking away from Daphne. "Because weird things have been happening. People vanishing from or being brought into existence— people seeing things that don't make sense. Then there's… whatever the hell we just saw." Unease a shade of the horror she had back wherever they were claws its way back into her voice. "The world just broke apart and stopped working all because we ended up in Japan for a few minutes. We— we broke reality in a way that shouldn't be possible."

At some point Daphne stops looking like she might punch Asami, and moves behind the bar, finding a couple of shot glasses and a bottle of the good stuff, pouring one for each of them. She might still punch Asami, but she’ll do it after a shot of whiskey.

Or two.

“Stuff that doesn’t make sense,” she echoes. “None of any of this makes sense. I didn’t go to Japan. I hallucinated being in an A-ha video or something.”

She pushes the glass toward Asami, but her expression is still dubious, mistrusting. “Why the hell would I decide to go to Japan in the middle of being accosted by some weirdo on the street? That was you. Whatever happened, it was you.

Daphne’s dark eyes narrow. “How’d you know my name, anyway? DId you stalk me?”

Asami cants her head to the side carefully, taking ahold of the poured shot first before she provides her answer. "No, I tripped you so I wouldn't have to stalk you," she answers in a mutter, not exactly proud of herself, but she tilts back the shot anyway before setting it down. "I can do…" she gestures vaguely with the glass hand before setting it back down. "multiple things, and one of them is read your mind, so I just…"

Completely skipped pleasantries after failing to convince Daphne to stay and talk with her, apparently. She looks off and then back.

"Okay, so maybe Japan was me," she admits, still not one hundred percent sure, owing to having been lost in the moment. "But it's one hundred percent you who brought us back to New York." One hand lifts to gesture with the flat of her palm to the bar around them. "I've never even been here before."

“It’s my bar. The Breaking Pint.” Daphne tosses back the shot and then pours a second, first for herself and then for Asami. The pour for herself is a bit more generous, but it’s free whiskey. And good whiskey at that.

“So how many of us are there, wandering around with these hidden valley abilities you’re running around unlocking? I'm not one hundred percent sure I believe any of this. I think I might just still be in bed and dreaming, but humor me, I guess,” Daphne says, narrowing her gaze at Asami. “And who’s going to come looking for me now that I have one? And why can’t we leave New York? Does everywhere turn into white noise and nonsense? I can go anywhere I can think of with a blink of an eye but only if it's in New York? That’s pretty shitty, not gonna lie. Do you take exchanges?”

Daphne has so many questions. Good ones. Asami can only begin to smile despite herself at the question of do you take exchanges.

She knows a couple people who might've preferred that.

"There's at least a dozen I've found. Three— four cops. A family. Linderman Group leadership. I've found most of them in clusters, except…" Her brow begins to furrow. "Well, there was one of my fencing students… and now you. I'm not sure how either of you fit into the picture yet, but there's a thread of connection between all of us."

"It's like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, except with superpowers, or something." Part of Asami recoils from what she just said, having no idea where it even came from, but she doesn't take it back. She hopes it resonates at least somehow with her audience. "I don't have a strong answer as to who might come after you aside from the government, which sounds— cheesy, even to me. But they fabricated a whole story where I hacked the Pentagon and should be shot on sight or something, so watch out for things like that, I suppose."

She sighs hard, looking down at the reported shot. Her fingers open and the glass moves of its own accord across the table toward her hand, like it's drawn by a magnet. "To tell you the truth, your ability might be the most important yet. It… it proves there's something wrong with the world around us. Pushes it to its limits."

"But we— you shouldn't just go and do that without a plan," Asami stresses. "If the world outside New York starts glitching while you're alone, what if it gets hole in the middle of the street dangerous and you can't click your heels fast enough while you're falling? I was reckless in not wanting to let the opportunity pass to wake you up to your power, but that doesn't mean I want you to go falling through the center of the earth or something." She looks distressed, maybe at herself, and lifts the second shot.

“Well. Cop bar, so that might be the six degrees. Not by my own devise. They just keep showing up,” Daphne says, gesturing around the Breaking Pint. “I mean, it’s good custom, but at the same time, it keeps away other people. Some I’m okay with being kept away, to be honest, but others, well. I’m not a criminal but I also don’t judge others.”

She tips her head thoughtfully. “Much.” She shrugs again. “Anyway I’d be willing to bet your cops have come through here once or twice. But still — I’m not anyone important. Not a Linderman, by any means, just a girl from Kansas who owns a bar, ya know? Why me?”

The bottle is capped and put back on its shelf. “I won’t try to leave the city. I don’t know if I want to go anywhere besides by my own feet and maybe Uber, to be honest with you,” she says with a sigh.

“But… I have a friend who’s seen weird shadow people — person — that is and isn’t there, like Schrodinger's Cat or something. I had a day where it was like everyone was standing still and only I was moving around. Stuff that doesn’t make sense, like that… like that place in Tokyo didn’t make sense.”

Her dark eyes study Asami’s, and her brows draw together. “What am I supposed to do with that? Like… the fabric of our reality is ripping or something, and what, I’m just supposed to open the bar at 3 o’clock like normal?”

Asami pales a little at hearing she's standing in the middle of a cop bar. "Oh." Good to know, she supposes, in case she needs to come here again to find Daphne later. She's silent a moment longer still before she gets her footing again. She just shakes her head. "I'm not anybody either. Or at least, I didn't think I was. But I don't think the universe went around deciding who was important and who wasn't when it decided to start handing out superpowers."

With a sigh, she admits, "As far as what to do from here… I don't know either. Pretending everything's normal as long as you can seems like the best way to stay safe, if you ask me, but things will keep getting weirder of their own accord anyway. I don't know what the right moment is to stop pretending. I guess you'll know when it comes to you."

After tipping back the second drink most of the way, she squints her eyes against the taste and asks, "The friend of yours… can I ask who?"

The question evokes from Daphne a pursed-mouth, are-you-kidding-me sort of look. “Sorry, pal. I may not be trying to kick your ass anymore, mostly because now I know I can’t, but we’re not besties, and I’m not about to give you the name of my bestie, so that you can assault her and then set the Men in Black after her.”

She tips her head. “I’m sure you understand.”

Daphne reaches for the water hose this time, spraying a bit of that into her glass, because she was jogging, and hydration is important. “You got a way I can reach you, if I learn anything else? Or find myself in the middle of nowhere again?”

"Not really," Asami hates to admit, but staying hard to find kept her head above the water. It takes her a second to think hard on it, but she finds a middle ground, hopefully. "If you need to get in touch… post something on the Missed Connections board for Brooklyn on Craigslist? Target the message to the 'oni who tripped you' or something."

She rolls her lip, trying to resist from digging any further— into Daphne's head, for one. With a sigh, she looks down, trying hard not to listen to her thoughts.

"I'm not exactly carrying a static phone number anymore," Asami apologizes.

“Craigslist,” Daphne echoes, eyes widening. “Oni. Got it.” She reaches for a pad of paper to jot the words down, though it’s hardly likely she’ll forget.

“I feel like I stepped back in time and not just jumped to another city. Suddenly I’m partying like it’s 1999 and worried about Y2K. Do you have a Geocities website I can look at?” she quips while writing it down, before looking back up.

“You know your way out, or do you need me to print you up some Mapquest directions? Just kidding. I don’t have a printer.” That might be her kicking Asami out of her bar.

With a sense of humor like that, something tells Asami that Daphne will be just fine. Nonetheless, she cringes anyway, light but well-deserved, maybe.

"I'll fuck off now," she promises, suitably humbled.

And then from one blink to the next, she's gone.

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