Regarding A Curious Cat


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Scene Title Regarding a Curious Cat
Synopsis After her encounter with the AI, Jiba, Hana confronts its creator.
Date April 23, 2018

Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe

Yamagato Park has two distinct personalities and identities. There is the daytime Yamagato Park, a neighborhood of gleaming white and dull concrete with glittering glass, verdant park spaces, and freshly paved streets. It is a bustling place of thriving economy, cutting edge technology, and a vision of what the future could be. It exists opposite of the city at night, a dull silhouette of buildings with deep shadows contrasting against the brightly-lit colors of neon lights, when the steam exiting from sewer grates fluoresces with vibrant color and makes everything seem just a touch otherworldly.

In the golden hour of sunset, when the neon lights are just coming on and the city is still gleaming as it casts its long shadows, Yamagato Park straddled these identities. It is at this hour of day that Hachiro Otomo finds himself at the northern border of Yamagato Park where 86th street is divided by an overpass and partitioned by a chain link fence. On the Yamagato side of that border, a streetside noodle stand named The Cherryblossom Noodle Cafe is just opening for dinner service. The neon sign of a tree with flickering pink blossoms buzzes overhead, and Hachiro Otomo sits on one of the many stools, hunched over a steaming bowl of Ramen as he idly keeps mind on his cell phone.


E. Erizawa

If he’s asleep remind him that he has an apartment.

E. Erizawa
He and Marlowe are like a 暴走族.


E. Erizawa
You’re a bad influence, sir.

Otomo cracks a smile and dismisses the notification, turning to look back at his steaming bowl of Ramen.

Day or night, Yamagato Park might as well be a foreign country to Hana — not in technicality, which it is, but in atmosphere. There are plenty of borders in the world where crossing them means nothing more than transgressing an invisible line, one side hardly distinguishable from the other. Here, that is very much not the case… but even if she were inclined to sightsee, the major has other reasons for being here.

Hana has broken with her own conventions today: she wears light blue jeans, heather-gray shirt, and a plum-hued cardigan. Gold glints at her ears, tassel-style earrings sparking where their strands catch light through the drape of loose hair. She carries a small black leather satchel over one shoulder, keeping it definitively pinned between elbow and ribs as she studies the knickknacks on offer at a small artisan shop. It's mostly the carved-shell art she dwells on, birds and flowers and landscapes made from pieces cut and shaped and layered together on plain backdrops.

Her actual attention, though, is rather elsewhere — on a phone the technopath has become quite well-acquainted with this past week and change, once she managed to identify it out of all the devices floating around the Park. Its owner's routine, she found to be surprisingly simple; Hana's own, never. But today she needed to come to the Safe Zone anyway, and that meant today she could track Otomo down as well.

As Wireless listens to the messages flitting back and forth through that phone, she buys a little picture — two bluebirds on a branch, red-edged white flowers underneath. By the time she's done, the exchange has ended and then some, digital silence reading loud in technopathic ears… inasmuch as there is ever silence, for her. Exiting the shop, sliding her purchase into her satchel, Hana walks down the street at somewhat less than her usual ground-eating stride, letting minutes tick past before she finally reaches her actual destination.

"Good evening," Hana says to Hachiro as she seats herself on the stool next to him. "I don't suppose I can trouble you for a few minutes of your time?"

Of course, she actually does suppose exactly that. Not that she won't get dinner while she's at it, too.

The voice isn’t one Hachiro recognizes, and when he pivots on his stool its evident there’s no facial recognition either. He looks down the bar, to empty stools with a furrow of his brow, and then back to the woman taking the stool at his side. Slouching forward so as to rest his arms on the bartop, Hachiro quietly palms his phone and moves it out of sight in the way someone worried about a pickpocket might.

“I happen to have an abundance of spare time,” Hachiro admits with an incline of his head toward Hana, “though… I’m not certain what a moment of my time could offer you, unless you’d like my opinion on the food.” One of his brows raise and a smile crosses his lips. “On that account I believe I could speak for quite some time. Do you know how hard it is to get enokitake mushrooms in New York?” There’s a laugh behind his words, casual and relaxed. He has no idea who she is.

There's a smile from the woman as Hachiro sequesters his phone away, decidedly amused. "Just as hard as it is to get anything else truly ethnic these days, I'm sure," Hana replies with rueful tone. In marked contrast to her companion, she sits straight, though with relaxed posture. "I haven't eaten here before," she allows, "so if you have a recommendation, I'd welcome it."

Hana glances down the street, taking in the view. "Actually, I don't make it down here often at all. Last time was for the charity gala," she remarks, looking back to Hachiro. "Which I will say was certainly an experience."

There's a moment where she seems to consider his hands and the bowl of noodles, then decide not to offer a handshake. "I suppose I should introduce myself. Hana." Tone casual, no hints of expectation there.

Hachiro goes still, like a cat found eating out of the garbage, tail in the air and oblivious. He looks at her with a level, narrow stare and then over to the menu above and behind the chef preparing food. Once more to his phone, and then finally back to her. “The… shoyu tonkotsu is good, if you aren’t averse to chicken and pork broth.” One hand moves to protectively cradle his phone, as if that would do anything in this situation.

“I…” Hachiro straightens some. “Heard you would be at the gala, yes. One of my direct reports was practically frothing at the mouth about it. He’s… quite familiar with your exploits, which— I am by proxy? Though I will admit only the most notorious of details.” Which makes for a bad first impression.

Smiling, if only nervously, Hachiro watches Hana with the wary eye of someone who isn’t sure what is happening, only that every fiber of his being has him suddenly on alert. But there’s no rational cause for such alarm, save for the presence that Hana Gitelman radiates and the sheer notoriety someone with her ability maintains. That she’s not in any sort of uniform, visibly armed, or accompanied by anyone sets most of his more rational fears at ease.

Hana inclines her head at Hachiro's suggestion, seeming completely oblivious to his sudden alert. She isn't, of course. Even the chef isn't that oblivious, save by deliberate choice. "I haven't kept kosher in a very long time," she says, implicit confirmation of identity. Thus taking his advice, she places her order. Her mug of tea is handed over promptly; the ramen takes slightly longer to prepare.

A quiet sigh escapes the woman at mention of exploits. "Yes, I do seem to have some measure of fame these days." Taking a sip of tea, she glances over to Hachiro, her manner still eminently conversational. "Actually, it's the gala I wanted to talk to you about. Or rather, the puppy of yours that took — quite a bit of interest in me."

Another glance, this time with a raised brow. "I have a feeling that didn't get passed along to you… and that you might like to know."

There's a noise Hachiro makes, something one-note in the back of his throat. It's not quite a grunt, but close enough. It's accompanied by his head settling into the splayed fingers of one hand, and a side-long look at Hana in long moments of silence. “If Jiba disrupted anything of yours or otherwise violated your privacy… you have my most sincere apology. They aren't… the most subtle when it comes to curiosity.”

Shifting to sit more to the side, facing Hana, Hachiro finally stops cradling his phone with one hand and lets his head come out of its fatigued rest against his fingertips. “I assure you, Jiba is… perfectly harmless. But, if they caused you any discomfort I'll… make it right.” Somehow.

As silence enshrouds her companion, Hana's ramen is placed before her. She thanks the chef, but leaves the dish itself untouched for the moment, taking another sip of tea with equanimity under Hachiro's weary regard.

When he finally speaks, Hana huffs a quiet, very brief chuckle. "I found them quite subtle in some respects," she disagrees. That momentary levity, mild as it is, fades as Hachiro continues. She studies the contents of her bowl for a moment as if they in any way merit inspection.

"Discomfort is an interesting choice of words," Hana responds at last, tone neutral, as she plucks a length of bamboo shoot from the bowl. There's another pause, and then: "It's less what Jiba did that brings me here," she allows, which is true inasmuch as she expects the very opposite of recompense for that particular discomfort. "More that I promised I'd come back."

It’s clear Hachiro wasn’t expecting that response. He relaxes when it becomes clear this isn’t an analogy of your dog bit me and more your dog sniffed me, the latter of the two is considerably easier to discuss. It’s clear he isn’t sure how to take the technopath’s presence now, and instead reclines subtly on his stool and regards her in his peripheral vision before leaning in to take a mouthful of noodles and broth, slurping quietly.

As he sits back up straight, Hachiro regards Hana again, one brow raised inquisitively. It’s clear he’s baiting her to explain further, and that back-foot posture implies some level of defensiveness. It’s evident that Jiba isn’t a widely known figure to the outside world, and Hachiro is testing the waters to see just how much Hana is aware of, and why.

Hachiro's relaxation does not go unnoticed by his companion, who applies herself to eating as the tension between them takes on different quality, conceding to him time to consider the puzzle she's presented. Silence reigns as Hachiro contemplates Hana, as Hana contemplates her own ramen… and that silence continues in spite of nonverbal prompt, expectant attitude, social pressure. To all outward appearances, the technopath seems utterly indifferent to that baiting look.

Inside, she might be smiling, but only one other is in any position to estimate that — and they aren't about to complicate this conversation.

“Well,” Hachiro awkwardly asserts, “that was a… lovely meeting,” he clears his throat, nudging a few noodles around in his bowl with a pair of chopsticks. “Though, I… perhaps should— get back to work? You never know what my unrule housecat,” and by housecat he obviously means Jiba, “will get up to when I am not expressly looking.” Clearing his throat, Hachiro smooths a hand over his jacket until he finds his bill fold and plucks out what is very clearly yen and slaps it down on the counter.

“For mine, and my guest’s,” plus gratuity, but Hachiro doesn’t need to explain that. As he looks over at Hana again, there’s an uncertainty in his eyes, one that isn’t certain he knows either how to react around Hana, or what to presume of this meeting. “I will make certain that my cat doesn’t… crawl all over you the next time you visit. I would hate for them to get fur all over your clothes.” Hachiro rolls his shoulders, “Impeccable fashion sense has its vulnerabilities. Nothing a lint roller won’t fix but— I digress.” Does he?

Hana pauses in the act of drawing up noodles as Hachiro speaks. When he's done, she chuckles softly, briefly. "Fashion sense is not something I'm often accused of," she remarks dryly, setting her chopsticks down, regarding the man and the uncertainty in his expression.

"You might find your cat disappointed," Hana continues, and while her tone remains light, there's a solemnity underlying her manner. "It went looking for curiosity's sake, and for a friend." She lifts her chin slightly, giving Hachiro a sidelong look before picking up her tea. "I'm here not because your pet has 'cooties'— " To borrow an eminently grade-school term, and not even one from her own childhood. "— but because I can just begin to guess the investment Jiba represents, and it would be ill-considered of me not to bring any further interaction above-board… or to give you the opportunity to decide whether it happens in the first place."

She takes a sip of the green-tinged liquid, then gives him another askance look, one that hints faintly at rebuke. "And it seemed rude to open that conversation under Jiba's own nose, all things considered." Though she fails to elaborate on what those considerations are, at least some might be inferred.

"Now. If you want to break out a lint roller, that's your privilege," Hana continues, setting her tea aside. Instead, she picks up her chopsticks, applies them to noodles.

"I suppose it depends on just what you're wanting to achieve — or to explore."

There are no questions posed there, not even implicit ones; she's not fishing for information in the slightest.

Hachiro slowly lifts his hand from the money on the bartop, regarding Hana with a sidelong look, then the cook, then back to the technopath. “A great deal of personal sacrifice went into making Jiba a reality, but…” his voice becomes more conspiratorially hushed now. “There’s still a great deal that Jiba can’t do, that…” he closes his eyes and sighs, rubbing one hand across the side of his face for a moment.

“Jiba is a work in progress. What’s baffling to me, is that you’re not the first technopath that they’ve encountered, but you are the first one they’ve gone out of their way to interact with.” Hachiro considers Hana for a moment. “You… are the first female technopath. Perhaps that mattered…” his eyes wander away, down to stare at the ground, then over to the money on the bar again. He seems conflicted, and also hasn’t outright answered her question yet in either way.

This time, Hana regards Hachiro while he speaks, but does not reply immediately afterwards; instead, she takes the time to eating a mouthful of noodles… though that's not to say he has anything less than her full attention, staring at the ground or not.

After, she takes up the mug of tea again, fingers curled around its warmth, but only gazes through the bar and towards the building behind. Hesitation, but short-lived; this possibility was discussed long before they ever got here.

"I don't believe so," Hana says quietly. She looks to Hachiro, expression resolute. "But what I do believe, I'm not telling you without an NDA."

And if Otomo balks, seeks other sources — she'll just have to hope Jiba's as good at omission as they promised.

There’s an almost imperceptible rise of one of Hachiro’s brows at that play. His lips purse to the side, eyes scan the noodle shop as he considers the other patrons. “Do you have a business card?” Hachiro asks plainly, “Or do I just whisper your name into a microphone three times?” One hand comes out, expecting the former, rather than the latter. Whatever Hachiro is willing to discuss, it isn’t here, and it isn’t now.

Hana snorts softly at the jest. "That won't work," is the dust-dry response given as the mug is relinquished once again. She takes a business card from her satchel, hands it over. It even has a normal phone number on it.

"I'll look forward to hearing from you," she says, inclining her head to Hachiro. She doesn't give any indication of minding the implicit postponement of decisions — or further discussions.

Hachiro takes the card, turns it over to inspect both sides and gives it a little flex as if he were expecting it to do something other than be a card. “Hm,” he vocalizes, then slides it into his pocket. Stepping around behind Hana, Hachiro contemplates something and slowly turns to look back at her.

“Between you and I, Jiba’s existence isn't public knowledge and in spite of my best attempts at ensuring that they keep it that way, curiosity will always prevail. I know we haven't signed any NDAs yet, but…” Hachiro grimaces and shrugs. “Perhaps we can keep this between ourselves for now?”

Hana is somewhat amused by Hachiro's inspection of the card. She turns to watch him go, and thus is already looking his way when he turns back. Her lips quirk sideways at his request. "Granted," she replies, gesturing slightly towards him. Not that she intended different at any point, thus far.

"Enjoy the rest of your evening."

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