Robot or Alien


asi4_icon.gif ella3_icon.gif

Scene Title Robot or Alien
Synopsis 'Ella Damaris calls on Asi Tetsuyama to discuss the enigma that is Kay's sudden transformation into Mother of the Decade.
Date February 5, 2021

Yamagato Park: ガスト

“Ah! 鉄山ーさん!”1 ‘Ella Damaris’ voice is bright, the lilt of it friendly and familiar. One hand lifts to beckon the Japanese woman to her table with a curl of her fingers under to touch her palm. A puffy teal coat is hung off the back of her chair, fur-lined hood caught between herself and the seatback.

When she’s joined, she’s quick with a bright smile. “久しぶりですね~?”2 There’s a platter of steaming dumplings in the middle of the table, which ‘Ella gestures to. “どうぞ!”3

Asi can't help but notice that there's a lack of family waiting for her at the table of this family restaurant. "お久しぶりですよ," she agrees with calm affect while she shrugs out of her winter coat. It's the left arm which pulls most of the weight, her right only playing a supporting role while she hangs her coat on the back of her own chair before even sitting. "エッラちゃん元気4

Settling into the chair, she looks across the table at the teenager, unable to hide her cautious curiosity at this range. "Is everything okay?" Asi asks with a segue into English, studying 'Ella for signs of trouble. It shouldn't be her first assumption— maybe Kay had suggested they get together to discuss colleges in Japan or something— but her demeanor is a sign of the times.

‘Ella seems to note the way Asi favors one side over the other and it dampens her bright mood for a moment. But if Asi doesn’t want to discuss it, she won’t pry. She gives a small shake of her head as if to dismiss any possible concern for her wellbeing. “あたしは元気です!”5

The shift in Asi’s own countenance gives the teenager pause. Her smile falters and, again, she shakes her head. “Things are great, actually,” ‘Ella insists with a little wrinkle of her nose. “Which is not normal in our house. Ma has been super easy to get along with since I got back for Christmas. I don’t know if she got replaced by a robot or an alien or what, but…”

‘Ella turns her face away to stare out at the other tables. “I’m kind of worried about her. The last time I remember Ma being in this good a mood, she got all weird about it and sent me off to live with my mémé and papa for almost a year.” She turns back to Asi, confusion and concern written in her face. “I’m afraid she’s about to have a breakdown or something.”

The reason behind the conflicting response makes itself quickly known and Asi furrows her brow. While she listens, she picks up a fork with her right hand, movements slow as to be perceived as thoughtful while she spears a dumpling, dabbing it in the sauce provided, and finishes it off in two bites. It'd be rude not to partake.

This is a difficult situation to be in, the concern about Kay's wellbeing held even second. 'Ella is her own person, nearly done with high school. To hear she's been gone an extensive period of time, and that she worries it might happen again at such a critical time in her life… Asi suppresses a frown down to a drawing of her mouth in a line.

"Things have been stressful all around lately. I can't even imagine how things have been for her at work lately." Kimiko Nakamura's death had to have thrown her company into disarray, despite everyone carrying on. The more Asi thinks on it, her further her thoughts stray. Shouldn't Kay technically be the interim CEO, now, how Kam Nisatta had stepped in following Kin Egami's death? Flashing back to the moment, Asi looks to 'Ella.

She remembers for just a moment the incongruent behavior Kay had demonstrated for herself when Asi had her accident.

Robot or alien, huh?

"Apart from her mood, has she been doing anything else that makes you think she isn't well? Has she had…" Asi glances off for a moment then back, like she's mentally retrieving a list of symptoms. "Headaches at all? Dizzy spells, other kind of disorientation… has she been to a doctor recently?"

‘Ella looks down at the table, fork held in her left hand like she’s going to go for another dumpling, but all she does is poke at her empty plate with worried contemplation. “Work’s got her busy, for sure. But… not as busy as usual? I don’t know what switch flipped for her, but she’s making more time for me.”

With a frown, she’s trying to put all the pieces together. “She hasn’t complained about anything like that to me. Maybe a headache here and there, but… I can tell when she’s gotten into the liquor cabinet.” ‘Ella’s nose wrinkles again. “She’s been drinking a lot of wine lately. She’s usually more about sake or whiskey, but maybe she and Nakamura-san had some kind of… sophisticated ritual that she’s observing in her memory?”

It’s easy for the teenager to imagine two very polished, grown-up women with their high-ranking status being the kind of people to share a bottle of wine once in a while. It’s a bit of a romanticized version of what she thinks her mother’s job must be like some days. “I know the death hit her really hard. She was… She was really rattled. She left for a while. Said she needed to clear her head and regroup with the others or something. It sucks.

Which is a succinct way of putting it.

Two and two come together to make four, and ‘Ella doesn’t like that number at all. Pale blue eyes meet Asi’s honeyed brown. “Is my mom sick?” Suddenly she looks more like a child again and less like the young adult she truly is.

"No, honey," Asi says with every reassurance, confident and calm. "It doesn't sound like it."

But beyond that, she doesn't know what the hell to make of this. Of Kay.

Kaydence Damaris, who passes biometrics checks. Kaydence Damaris, who has eyes and fingerprints as a Kaydence Lee Damaris should.

Kay, who doesn't respond to her in Japanese when she asks if everything's okay. Kay, who left her on the floor when she fell. Kay, who's making time for her daughter outside of helping manage her group activities. Kay, who drinks wine now instead of whiskey, and goes out of town to coordinate with 'others' who Asi suspects abruptly may not be Yamagato.

What the fuck is going on?

Asi smiles to 'Ella, small but no less real in her desire to reassure her. "Everyone deals with stress and grief in different ways. It's okay to be worried about her and see all these things she's doing differently. I don't think she's drinking wine as a ritual, but maybe as a… coping method. You know?"

"Is there anything else she's doing that's been unusual for her?" the former technopath asks, the same soothing calm to it as before.

It takes ‘Ella a few moments to recover from her momentary sense of panic. The sudden fear that maybe her mother is dying and that’s why she’s suddenly trying to be present for a change. She still can’t quite shake it, but it only takes closing her eyes and pressing the pads of her first two fingers against the neutral shadowed lids to quell the prickling sensation that comes from the threat of tears.

The teenager nods her head quickly, dropping her hands back to the table and offering a smile in place of all that. “Ma’s always thought I can’t tell when she’s coping.” ‘Ella snorts a soft laugh through her nose. That’s wrong. “It’s not like it usually is. But I can’t really explain why. Maybe because I don’t catch her crying when she thinks I can’t hear her.”

The fact that the mother-daughter dynamic in the Damaris household is an atypical one means that ‘Ella rarely talks about her mother in anything other than vagueries. Not with her friends, where she earns judgemental looks. Certainly not with any authority figures, who seem to wonder if she shouldn’t be living with her grandparents after all. That second one she learned before she turned ten.

It makes her self-conscious now to be airing Kay’s dirty laundry like this, but ‘Ella’s worried about her and Asi isn’t someone who can get her mom fired from her job. Or wouldn’t, she believes. She’s seen Erizawa in the building often enough now, but never had the courage to tell him anything. Especially not with everyone in Yamagato leadership having so many problems of their own.

But Asi… Asi’s different. “There’s been one other really weird thing.” ‘Ella presses her lips together a moment, contemplating how to explain this so that someone outside of the context of her family history can appreciate it. “So when Ma was young, she moved to New York from Louisiana, and I guess people used to make fun of her accent. She used to try and hide it a lot. Very inoffensive newscaster, you know?”

Tapping her finger restlessly against the tabletop, ‘Ella frowns. “But something happened when I was a kid, after my dad died. It started showing up here and there, like a slip-up. I usually only heard it after she and Papa had a couple beers together on his front porch. I laughed at her a little, because it wasn’t normal.” Pausing, she needs another moment to think, giving Asi a chance to comment.

Asi bides the time with another dumpling while 'Ella shares what's wrong— a well-needed object to occupy herself with especially during the moments she discusses that her mother not crying when she thinks she's alone is an issue in this case.

Absorbing rather than judging, she chews slowly. The mention of Kay's accent brings Asi's eyes back up. "I've heard it, too, every now and then. Again, it's like you said— usually when she's drinking."

“I mean, she hasn’t been hiding it for a while now,” ‘Ella confirms. “We left the city about ten years ago, when the riots happened.” She begs off trying to explain what that was with a wave of her hand. “I was really little and I was upstate at the time. But Ma quit the NYPD and sold the house and we moved in with Mémé and Papa until the war was over.”

‘Ella turns her head one way, then another, as if looking to see who might possibly be listening in on the conversation. She leans toward Asi just a little bit. “I guess something about the world going to shit made her hit the fuck it button and stop caring about her accent.” She leans back again. The swear was delivered quietly and her mother hasn’t suddenly materialized from the ether to scowl at her.

“But that’s just it, right? She stopped caring. Sure, if she was on camera for a press conference, she’d tone it down to be all Smooth Bad Bitch PR Lady.” The first success has emboldened her, it seems, but she still lowers her voice for the curse. “But otherwise… Nah. She lets that cajun flag fly.” And ‘Ella’s accent is New Yorker through and through, the city having taught her to form her words to fit in.

The teenager lifts a brow as if to ask Asi, Are you following me here?

“She’s neutral again. Do you remember how atrocious her accent is when she speaks Japanese? She said konnichiwa when I got home from school the other day and it…” Blue eyes get big, brows furrowed in the universal expression for that’s fucking weird as she shakes her head. “Her inflection was fine. But when I tried to continue the conversation, she switched right back to English.”

Her left hand comes out to one side of her, then her right, frazzled as she weighs the possibilities. “Robot? Or alien?”

Asi only looks at 'Ella for a moment. Alien's clearly not the case. But robot?

She thinks back to what she thought of herself until just recently, sitting uncomfortable with that information. She trusts nothing these days, but that doesn't mean she knows what the truth is any more clearly for it.

"I had an accident last month, and your mother was there. She called the ambulance for me. I didn't remember a lot of what happened at the time, but I— had someone help me recently with things I thought I'd forgotten." Asi looks to the side and then back. "I remember thinking she'd been acting strangely that day, too. Didn't answer me in Japanese when I asked her if something was wrong."

But this isn't something she should speculate about with Kay's daughter, is it?

Should she?

Her dark gaze refocuses on the girl across from her. "Can you keep an eye on her for me? If she takes another trip outside of town, or starts talking about sending you away again, can you please let me know? Your mother…" Asi's mouth firms into a line. "She's not been herself recently, so if it seems like it's getting worse, maybe we have an…"

"Intervention?" The venture of the word is cautious. "But otherwise, let's see if she starts acting more like herself again soon?"

Kay's trip away took place November 8th. Something about that timing doesn't sit well with her, that being the date that the Sundered experienced strange visions and experienced seizures and strokes. The date they suspected a code push was meant to have taken place, which could have changed them.

A thought in the back of her head ever since the beginning, repeated by select few close to her, has been what if this wasn't the first time they took you? What if others had been taken as well, except they'd been slipped successfully back into their beds without any noticing? They'd already established that Yamagato's security system hadn't caught the details of the initial kidnapping adequately. Whatever ability was used in Jac's kidnapping attempt at Raytech had simply laid one place over another, stitching together two very different locations as if they were one whole.

God, she feels like a conspiracy theorist for even thinking this could have happened. But what if it had?

"Don't let her know you're worried about her any more than usual, though, all right? She might get freaked out if she realizes she's concerning you." Asi manages a small smile. "And you can reach out to me any time you want if you need to talk."

‘Ella’s mouth pulls into a nervous little smirk. “An intervention? I’ve never even had one of those for her drinking.” Mostly owing to the fact that if she had, she knows she wouldn’t have been with her mother anymore. If there’s one thing that’s always been important to her, it’s to stay with her remaining parent.

But she circles back, because what else Asi had to say was important. “You’re doing okay now, right? Ma helped you?” The woman across from her seems okay, but now she’s noting little things that are making her feel a bit self-absorbed for not having noticed sooner.

The teenager darts a nervous glance around again, then re-settles on Asi. “So it’s like I’m a spy?” There’s a little hint of excitement to that, even though it’s her own mother she’s being asked to spy on. Pfft. Like she’s never done that before. “I… think I know the perfect way to sniff out if something’s really wrong with her.”

Asi's smile strengthens, a quick and hollow thing before she shakes her head. "I'm doing just fine," she assures convincingly, regardless of the reality. Her expression remains in that mellow even as 'Ella likens what she's asked to be done to being a spy. Yes, she is asking something like that, isn't she?


Her brow lifts as the younger girl declares she's got the perfect test. "What's that?"

Looking slightly uncomfortable, ‘Ella bites at her lips, like she isn’t sure that she should divulge this one secret about her mom. This is the ultimate secret in her book. The one neither of them talk about. The one Kay herself pretends is nothing.

“There’s this shoebox in the bottom of Ma’s closet. I came across it when I was a kid, trying to sneak a look at my birthday presents.” Her shoulders hunch up a little, she tries to make herself smaller in her seat. “But it was just a bunch of newspaper clippings. At the time, I thought they were about my dad, since it was about a murder. But Dad’s murder wasn’t a mystery. They caught the guy who did it.”

Something doesn’t add up. “So I got curious a couple years ago and decided to have another look one day while she was at work. They’re not just news articles about the murder, but also about some restaurant or club grand opening? Some photographs of the same guy… I’ve never seen him before. But according to the article, he died right around the time Ma sold the house.”

Shaking her head, a sigh is blown out past puffed out cheeks. “Maybe he was Ma’s last case? Something that went unsolved. Whatever or whoever this Kain guy was, I can always tell when she’s been looking through the shoebox, because she drinks more. It’s more obvious she’s been crying. I try to pretend I don’t notice either, because I know she’s trying hard to keep it together for me.”

Which brings ‘Ella to her point. “If I snuck that shoebox out of her closet, she’d know it. I’m sure she’d know it in an instant. I know my mom, and she knows when something’s out of place. Especially something important to her.” Her shoulders come up in a shrug. “If she loses her mind about it, then she’s definitely my mom. If she doesn’t react… then something’s wrong with her.”

Asi has years of experience keeping a deadpan, professional expression to keep her from blanching at the unexpected mention of Kain. She's not thought about him since …

It feels like a lifetime ago that Silas was still here.

She can't help but find the calm 'Ella treats the situation with remarkable, in any case. With a gentle lift of her head, she agrees, "Based on what you said, that sounds like a good test. Let me know when you're getting ready to pull it and what her reaction is— how long it takes her to notice, all right?"

Setting aside her fork properly, Asi nods her head carefully to avoid aggravating the headache she's been nursing today. "You're a good daughter, 'Ella, wanting to look out for your mom like this. We'll get this figured out, okay?"

‘Ella’s young enough that she doesn’t remember the world before the bomb of 2006. The world she’s grown up in is vastly different from the one her mother and father expected to raise her in. It only went further and further sideways. Both Damaris women have faced challenges that have forced the eighteen-year-old to grow up long before now. To pick and choose the things that make her cry and panic.

That this somehow doesn’t rate, or that she’s gotten practiced enough at divorcing it from her reality, something that’s happening around and not to her, speaks a lot to how she’s had to learn to cope.

“Let’s hope I’m just being weird about this for no reason, right?” There her nerves show a little. If she is right, and something is wrong with her mother, well then…

Then something is wrong with Kay.

There’s a sudden sharp intake of breath and she brings one hand up quickly to brush away a tear as soon as it’s found its escape from the wells of her eyes. “How screwed up is this, anyway? That when my mom’s actually good at being a mom, I think it can’t possibly be her?” The other eye is given the same treatment when a second traitorous tear tries to break free. “I must be the worst kid ever, huh?”

Asi's eyes soften, her expression shifting soon after to follow. "What you've told me points to the situation being more than just that," she counters, trying to avoid directly addressing Kay's parenting style. The other issues— her drinking choice, her accent, her loss of language development— speak to something else entirely, after all.

"You're a good daughter, 'Ella, to see what's happening and be concerned on her behalf," she reiterates gently. "You're not just thinking about how the situation benefits you."

She hesitates a moment. "Who else have you told about this? Anyone living in the Park or working with her?"

“Thanks…” It helps to hear it from someone outside of her. Who else would even believe such a thing anyway? Who wouldn’t assume it’s just some teenage pettiness? There’s a lot of ways this new situation has benefitted her, so to question that leaves her feeling ungrateful. That Asi doesn’t see it that way quells some of her guilt.

There’s a quick shake of ‘Ella’s head to Asi’s question. “I learned real early on that I don’t tell people in authority when Ma’s being…” She waves a hand in the air in lieu of the right word. “Ma.” A couple more brushes wipes away the traces of her brief bout of tears. “I would’ve told Terrell-san, but I didn’t want to risk Ma getting in trouble at work. So… I’m telling you.” She shrugs. “You’ve always seemed— I mean, you are cool. And Ma never got all squirmy when I said I wanted to learn how to do computer stuff from you, so I know that means she trusts you.” So ‘Ella is trusting Asi in return.

All the composure in the world genuinely doesn't help Asi know how to handle being told this. Being trusted— looked to— is a luxury novel to her outside of a few select persons. Hopefully, she proves worthwhile of it.

"I understand," she says with a small smile. "I don't want to get her in any trouble either if this does turn out to be nothing."

Normally, at this point, she'd excuse herself and leave. But that doesn't feel right here, and for once, she's aware enough of that point to do something about it before she's made the wrong choice. Asi lifts her head, chin tipping to 'Ella in a gesture of invitation. "Go on and order some real food. It's on me. I think these gyoza are getting cold anyway."

"How have things been lately, otherwise? School— the coding courses I put you onto?" she wonders.

‘Ella nods, returning the smile. She’s not comfortable with the situation, but it’s a start now, and they can go from here with this plan they’ve agreed on. There’s only a beat of hesitation before she grabs the menu to start looking it over for something more substantial than gyoza.

“School is… awesome, actually? I thought I’d hate being the boring kid at the gifted school, but, dude. There’s a kid in my shop class that welds with his fingers. It’s wild…

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