Rocks Chip


ff_asi_icon.gif elisabeth_icon4.gif

Scene Title Rocks Chip
Synopsis In need of an early day, Asi grabs someone else she thinks could also use a drink.
Date November 15, 2018

The Library At The End of The World, then, Marlowe's Community

Finishing unloading the last of the fresh food from Lowe's, Asi slides a crate toward Elisabeth so she can transfer it up the human chain connecting the ship and dock together. They've been at this for a while, and it seems like everything should be wrapping up with getting the shipment settled — that those from the Library can head back indoors from the biting wind, and those on the boat can head back for Marlowe's settlement.

"You stay here." she directs, hand wrapped in a fingerless glove lifted to try and keep her hair from blowing in her face. The demand is delivered how she does most things when they're in the middle of work, or she's in the middle of an idea — in a deadpan that makes it hard to gauge her state. "We're leaving with them. There's some business yet. We'll be back by nightfall."

An hour and a half later, as Asi finishes navigating them down a hall of 'local' businesses and pauses before a large conference room converted into what can only be described as a bar, it might dawn on Elisabeth to question what kind of business that is.

Despite everything they'd been advised about keeping their powers to themselves, once inside the community's walls, Liz likely would have picked up on it. Once they were checked for weapons they didn't have on them, and once they'd started heading across and up various floors, it was just small, everyday things, but things that stood out in a world that was otherwise devoid of them: An ongoing repair to a lighting fixture, seemingly occurring without any tools; Kids playing soccer in an open area, and the gasping screech of "That's cheating!" that was shouted when a ball stopped midair just before entering the goal.

Here was the first place in the Pelago Asi thought she could dare to call home. The Community evoked nostalgia for her world right after the flood had come, in that idyllic time before everything she cared about was lost to her. Unlike her hometown, this place stood, and she would do anything to protect it against those who dared threaten its right to exist.

The Community was a place by the Evolved, for the Evolved, and only open to those who were trusted. Marlowe's settlement was a haven for the people who were supposed to be dead at the hand of the Vanguard. People like Asi, who had vouched for Elisabeth before the syndicate guarding the lift to non-public areas, so they could enter the neighborhood instead of just the market.

"You seemed like you needed an afternoon off." Asi finally explains as she pushes aside the curtain beside a large wooden sign bearing the Japanese symbol for alcohol, waiting for Elisabeth to go first. Her ocean-blue eyes hook into the woman, implying there's not really an option. They're going in.

She's been happy to put her hands to any task that people need done. Especially since the exchange is usually made that she's paid in foodstuffs for the group of her people that she's feeding — they can't be a constant drain on everyone around them, after all. Or, in the case of the library, her services pay for time for Aurora and herself to be in the library. In the two weeks since their first visit to the library, Elisabeth has brought Aurora back twice and this is her own third trip. She has things she'd like to delve a little more deeply into. Not thinking to question what else Asi might need her for, she climbed into the boat and accompanied the other woman readily, holding her hair back in the breeze. In the salt-laden water and wind, she's found that she has a lot more curls than she realized.

Their arrival here — which at this point is a place she's only heard of, and heard relatively little at that — surprises her, but what she sees within the walls even more so. Glancing at Asi, Elisabeth raises her brows. She understands the trust that has been extended to her here. She won't break it. "I… probably could," she acknowledges somewhat ruefully. As they walk, she's amused to see some of what goes on. "This place… if the Sentinel ever return, it's…" She worries.

"A fortress." Asi insists. Elisabeth's worry isn't brushed off, but not exactly embraced. Marlowe and her people spent a long time building their community, and they'd fight tooth and nail for it. "With its fair share of warriors." As well as those needing protected.

Letting the curtain seal away any light from the outside, Asi starts to pull off her gloves to shove them into the pockets of the coat she wears. A lift of her head is how she greets the bartender, followed by the universal hand-gesture for 'two'. Options for drink are limited, after all, there's not really a need for anything more than that.

The long room is half-lit, stools at the repurposed island serving as a bar foiled by assorted tables with folding chairs. A single table set-up near the back has more comfortable seating, but Asi seats them at a table closer to the bar, her coat swing across the back of her chair. "This is a rough time of year. For many. For me personally." Her eyes lift to Elisabeth for a moment, considering her one last time before she takes a seat. "You're welcome to share your burdens for a while." It seems she means to, as well.

As they make their way through and take seats, Elisabeth is still looking around. But while shrugging out of her jacket, she pauses before replying. "My burdens tend to be… far more complicated than can be shared over drinks," she admits wryly. Settling in, she seeks out the best way to describe her thoughts. "My family has suffered some significant losses recently. One of my sisters is gone… another has learned things about herself that are difficult. My niece and nephew have been stolen from us. The man I trust with my daughter's life in his hands is reeling from the loss of my sister and others that he's loved." She takes the drink that arrives and toys with the glass. "And I had to pack up my daughter and take her from the only father she's ever known to make this journey in the hopes of actually getting to my own home again." Her tone is dry, and she sips from the glass in her hand while she contemplates. "That's…. Pretty simplistic, but I suppose it's an apt enough description of most of my issues."

The house brew arrives at just the right moment, it seems. Elisabeth's a waterfall of information, even after she says it's all more complicated than can be explained. Asi listens with patience, taking in a healthy draw of the alcohol to warm her bones and loosen her spirit.

"Loss isn't simple." is the first bit of advice she gives, however rough it might sound coming out. "Parent, child, sister, friend, lover — it doesn't matter."

She pauses before continuing with explaining her own losses, keyed in on something. Her glass lifts up, two fingers prying off of it as she gestures toward her drinking partner. She starts to echo back some of what's been said. "'The man you trust', 'your daughter', 'your sister' … you're wearing their burden. Not yours."

Her brow arches as she looks pointedly at Liz. "Here's a bad metaphor — being a rock for others is dangerous. Salt, wind, force … plenty can chip away at you. Some things can even slip in, and hollow you out. Like the waters and ice of love and loss."

She takes another drink then, finally looking down at her glass to make sure nothing is off about it. Not like she'd send it back if there was. "It sounds like you've had a lot of both."

As if there's anything off about bathtub gin… or whatever the hell they're going to call this stuff. It's pretty much rubbing alcohol in a cup, Elisabeth's pretty sure. Not that she's going to send it back. The heat of the first sip has settled into warm glow in her belly, and the second is burning its way down to join the first. Pulling in a long breath, she purses her lips as she lets it out slowly. "Do you mind if I ask why you care?" It's not offered in a nasty tone. There is honest curiosity there. She talks… talked… to Kaylee sometimes when things got tough. Or to Izzy. But truth be told, her primary confidantes, Ygraine and Felix, have been lost to her for months. And while it may be easier to talk to a stranger, it's also far more dangerous.

"You're adrift."

Asi shrugs as she looks back up, finding it simple enough. "You're Evolved, or at least your daughter is, you have no ties here, and you'll be moving on. I don't make a habit of unloading or connecting with those that are going to be sticking around. You're the perfect person for me to swap stories with." She gets distracted halfway to taking another drink, one she'd embark on likely earlier than she should be, and gestures with her glass again. "Also." There's a pregnant pause as she weighs saying something less than simple.

"You fight for two." There's a touch of interest in her expression as she amends that to say, "Or more."

"That's admirable. People like that need their support too. Even if it's just taking one day off."

There's a subtle tension at the mention of Aurora, and Elisabeth says quietly, "Evo or not, my daughter is six… she's never had reason to live in fear of anyone, powered or otherwise." Neither confirming nor denying anything. It's the latter part of that statement, however, that makes her smile faintly.

"They're mine," she says simply. "I'll fight for them until I'm dead, and I might just spit in the devil's eye and keep on fighting afterward for them too."

Turning the glass in a circle on the tabletop, she admits, "I don't have a lot of time for my personal bullshit. Mostly that's a good thing." Her shoulders shrug up and then down slightly. "No one else really needs my crap on top of their own." Does she recognize the irony there? Sure.

It's Asi's turn for her lips to quirk in faint amusement. If Liz's daughter wasn't afraid of the world, she should be. But she's not here to run her designated drinking partner off with barbs, however well-intentioned. "A determined woman." she remarks to Elisabeth's flagrant disregard for her own bullshit, leaning back into her chair. The electric space heater radiating red light off the side of the bar provides a wave of warmth, one she takes a moment to enjoy.

She remembers to drink again. There's not much left of her first round.

"That's the beauty of giving it to someone who won't give a shit in the end. Someone you leave behind." There's something softer in her now, either from the alcohol beginning to settle in, or the weight of knowing from experience.

Her nose burns from the taste and smell of the alcohol, a sensation she tries to blink away. "My own 'personal bullshit' rears its head every November. Every fucking November. No matter how hard I try to bury it." Asi shifts a look back to Elisabeth with more of a smile than before, glass lifted in cheers. "Fuck the Vanguard." she declares, and polishes the last of the drink off.

Elisabeth listens, thoughtful as Asi talks. And then she can't help the feral grin as she lifts her glass. "Oh honey… fuck the Vanguard, from here to fucking eternity," she agrees wholeheartedly. Slamming back the rest of her drink, she has to put the back of her hand to her lips to keep it in while she swallows. Her eyes water incessantly. It's like drinking gasoline.

"November sucks," she wheezes as she sets the glass down. "Fate keeps trying to kill me in November. I can't even begin to explain that, so don't ask." She rolls her blue eyes, studying her glass. "Although to be fair, I did die once in like August. When a fucker put a bullet in my head." Liz shrugs slightly, as if it's just not even a thing.

Asi actually laughs as Elisabeth chokes back the drink, hand slapping the table. "That's it, that's the way." she encourages her, happy to have a chance to air her grievances with the world with an equally-drunk party. She looks up to wave for two more, grinning broadly now.

"Oh, you know, just things people casually bounce back from." Asi's grin turns into more of a smirk as she shakes her head at Liz. Now that sounded like a story.

"I was not present when my bullet came up. It's where most of my bullshit comes from." Her brow ticks up, no hard feelings clearly felt as she adds, "But hey, your friend helped shed some light for me there, so at least I'm—" The words stop coming suddenly, and she looks to her empty glass. Its emptiness is a tragedy. The lack of a refill, although it was on its way, is also a tragedy. "Mmm."

Tilting her head, Elisabeth looks curious. "Trade you," she offers with a small grin. The warm burning in her stomach is making her finally relax a little. Aurora is safe, and she's far enough away from all her responsibilities right now that she doesn't have to keep up the constant vigilance for anyone but herself. "You tell me about your worst Vanguard moment and I'll tell you mine."

"Need more in me first." Asi replies tacitly, waiting until their next round is delivered, the glasses from the first scooped away. The bartender, for their part, is blissfully involved with the book she's reading and heads straight back to it, and the bar is empty. All the better to air the bad moments into this cold afternoon.

She grimaces after taking another long drink, settling the glass back down carefully. Teeth bared while she puts her thoughts together, Asi finally shrugs. "The worst? I … saw they were coming, and I didn't do enough."

Her humor's gone, replaced by a pleasant numbness the alcohol affords her. "I was brushed off by my family when I tried to warn them, and paralyzed by fear, I ran instead of facing them." Asi's shoulder twitches again, and she looks back toward Elisabeth with blurred eyes. "My worst moment." Not just a Vanguard one.

Elisabeth nods slightly, leaning on her elbows while the next round comes. She hears Asi's confession and then nods slowly once more. Looking down into her glass, she says quietly, "I led a team on to rescue someone from a Vanguard stronghold. They were holding a cage full of kids. We burned them to get to the Vanguard." Her tone is grim and her blue eyes grimmer still. "Shoot the hostage." There is no pride, no accomplishment. "And in the end it didn't even matter… Epic fail. We couldn't save the person we went after."

Want to compare dark spots? Liz has plenty.

A long breath finally escapes Asi as she listens. While a heavy moment, it definitely takes the edge off of her own. Her hand doesn't leave the glass on the table, holding onto it for support in case she needs to drown out any errant feelings. "When I came back, saw our …" she has to pause to find the appropriate word for it. "Our community burned, our families slaughtered, I snapped. I took my drones, insisted that we could fight back somehow. We chased them, from the ruins of Kyoto, to Hyogo — to Kobe."

She pauses for a moment to consider that accomplishment. "We did. We did fight back." Her voice hardening, "All the good it did. They destroyed the infrastructure there too, and following … wasn't an option afterward. They knew we were after them. And we didn't have any more resources to fight back with."

"All the anger, all the grief was gone by then."

Asi's silent for a moment, not exactly morose. She leans her head to one side as she asks, "Did you know? Kobe, it's surrounded by hills. Before, there were herb gardens stretched all up and down one of the hills. It was a tourist attraction." Her eyes glimmer briefly at the memory of it. "A natural resource, after. It wasn't the same at all as the community … but the sight of it put its hooks in me. Reminded me of her, everything she built."

Her mouth hardens before she hoists her lifeline, taking another drink. She looks back to Liz with a half-smile. "You failed. So did I. Did you take a few of them down, at least?"

The feral baring of teeth she gets in return, after Liz has listened with all solemnity to Asi's tale, has little resemblance to a smile. It's all predator. "Oh yes," she replies softly in a purr that would have done Huruma proud back home. "Oh yes," she repeats quietly. "We killed many." Over several timelines.

Asi looks positively put at ease by that news. She lifts up her glass to celebrate, but doesn't drink again just yet. "Fuck the Vanguard." she reiterates, clearly proud of Elisabeth's accomplishments.

"Hopefully you killed enough that no Sentinel are left to rise where you come from."

"So far, so good, I guess," is Elisabeth's reply to that. At least as of last year, they didn't seem to be a threat. "We can only hope, Asi."

She looks down at her glass, nursing this drink. The slow sips will keep her warm without making her more than tipsy. "They seem to keep turning up, like cockroaches," she observes softly. "Every time you think you've managed to put them down, something happens." She swallows some of the drink and then looks at Asi. "I'm sorry. For all the losses."

"A cockroach. Or a hydra." Asi agrees, far less reserved with her own glass. Her breath will stink of the stuff for some time after they leave. "A right mess, either way."

She looks back to Elisabeth as she apologizes, genuinely confused, and it shows. She'd suspect that the woman had something to do with the Vanguard, if she hadn't just confessed to killing many of them herself. "It's not your fault, though?"

Elisabeth quirks a brow and then wonders if it was lost in translation. "I meant that I empathize with the losses you've suffered," she replies gently. "Obviously I didn't do it and I can't fix it… but it hurts my heart that any of us has these tales to tell."

With a long sigh, she leans forward on her elbows. "You said I seemed adrift. It's a good word for how I feel," Elisabeth murmurs. "I've seen … so much in the past few years. So many things that…" She trails off, looking for the right words. "I am just one person, you know? But somehow… I was in the right place at the right time to stop certain things from coming to pass back home. And I feel like I've been living in a bad remake of "It's a Wonderful Life." You know… the old movie where the main character gets shown what would have happened if they'd never been born?"

She grimaces, taking a long swallow of the burning alcohol. "Some part of me finds it utterly ridiculous that I am in any way significant enough that my being in these places made a difference. And yet… everything I've seen in my journey points to this conclusion that I had an important part to play in the fate of the world." She looks at Asi. "How arrogant is that to believe?" It causes her great conflict, truth be told. "I am just not all that and a bag of chips."

Instead of actually laughing out loud, an approximation of it can be heard in a long breath exhaled from her nose. She smirks a little sadly at Elisabeth before shaking her head. "As someone who's lived it before, I can tell you, there's a difference between arrogance and appreciating your own value." She swirls the swill in her glass thoughtfully, as if it were fine wine. "Before the fall," she says more carefully, like it's a memory that's sometimes hard to recall, "I singlehandedly spearheaded projects. Sold my designs to my government. I…"

Now she does laugh, slowly, incredulously. Normally, she never went this far back in time. But this stranger wouldn't be around long enough for it to matter, with any luck, and it wasn't like it mattered anymore anyway. "And on the side, I made things happen." Asi smiles fondly, eyes glazed over as she recalls the past. "I helped bring to light corruption in public online media, helped influence people to think harder about what was going on around them. I didn't just keep it to myself, I taught others to see the way I was seeing the world, and how to seize it for themselves."

"I was an oni to some, a protector to others. I …" she closes her eyes, amused at a particular memory. "It felt like at times, I could do anything. Online. If there was something that couldn't be done, it simply needed to be learned. Another language to pick up, another method to try. Because if nothing else, I could brute force my way to what I wanted." Her head tilts thoughtfully, and with a blink she returns to the moment.

"… But that was another time." A time she attempts to put behind her by taking another, if smaller sip of her drink. There had been a point to all this.

Even under the influence, the abnormality in the way Liz tells about where she's from, just like she and Cassandra had when they first met, is impossible to ignore forever. "There's a phrase…" Asi pauses to find words to it. It's taken some remembering in her own language, much less to translate it. It's been years since she thought back to old teachings she tried to forget when she was younger. "'A frog in a well does not know the great sea.'"

The thought is left to marinate for a moment, like such thoughts usually are.

Tilting her head, Elisabeth rests her chin on her hand and studies Asi. "Why don't you just ask me what you want to know?" she lays it out on the table. Beating around the bush has never been her style.

"Sometimes you need to go elsewhere to see what was right in front of you before, is my point." Asi ventures. Her normally sly smile is a little more on the side of a cheeky grin, her face warm as the alcohol sets in. That Liz saw there was a question in there at all seems to amuse her.

Her head lifts up as she gently tips her chin toward Elisabeth indicatively. "If you had an important part to play in 'the fate of the world', did you play it well? Did you succeed in what you set out to do?"

"I suppose the answer that depends on who you ask…" Elisabeth retorts, her own smile just a little sly. "And on which world you ask it." She takes a swallow of her drink.

Asi laughs a little louder than she means to, leaning forward over the table as she holds onto her drink. "I'm not drunk enough for this." she informs Liz with something like glee in her voice. Her eyes are bright as she looks back up, elbow on the table, hand suspended in the air before her as she leans in. "I figured the answer was no, and it's why you look so fucking sad all the time. I was going to be clever, Liz."

She grins a little more broadly. "There's another saying. 'Fall down seven times, get up eight.'"

"I'll wait." The wicked imp that has appeared in her expression perhaps looks more at home on Elisabeth's face than the drawn look she usually wears, soft laugh lines creasing into being around her eyes. "Cuz, darlin, this story just doesn't make any damn sense at all unless you're drunk as a skunk with your head tipped sideways and one eye closed."

She swirls the liquid in her glass, amused as hell. "Believe me… I'm about on my twenty-seventh time getting up."

"Oh no," Asi chortles, taking another drink as ordered. "Well, keep talking, it'll take me a while to get that far gone. I'll just nod and smile 'til we get there." She lets her arm lay down on the table, still leaning over it. "You tell me where you're from, and I'll tell you more about me."

Elisabeth never knows exactly how to talk about where she's from, aside from just laying it out there. In a world (or many) where powers are an accepted part of life, it's actually a lot easier than it may seem. Far more people just accept the explanation than would have ten years ago, that's for sure. But … "Neverland," she murmurs to Asi. "It might as well be Neverland." And just as far away. "A place two steps to the left of here, where things didn't happen quite the same way." She shrugs a little. "Case in point, this fucking flood." Looking down, she swirls her glass again, her formerly amused expression back to the more drawn look. "We stopped this horror." The subtle emphasis on 'this' might be lost in the alcohol. They stopped a lot of horrors, truth be told. Although what her world looks like now is anyone's guess — Dessa's descriptions in 2013 gave her some hope, but she's never lost sight of the fact that basically in these years while she traveled, home was going through a civil war.

The woman across the table nods, taking it all in stride. Neverland. Okay. Two steps to the left instead of second star to the right. That seems to be the only moment she has a visible reaction to what Liz says, like she might want to correct her to that nuance, but she keeps it to herself. A place where the flood never happened sounds too good to be true, and Asi blinks lazily through considering that reality, her good mood never leaving her thanks to another long drink she takes to ensure it. "Someplace you didn't have to hide your powers either, I'm guessing." she ventures, sucking in on her teeth as she feels the alcohol cut a warm slice down her esophagus.

"We hid them," Elisabeth contradicts mildly. "For years. There was a big anti-Evo push in the late-two-thousand-oughts. By 2010, we were actively engaged in fighting them, even though a lot of them were in high government positions, including the presidency of the US." She goes quiet for a minute, remembering. "Other things were going on beneath the surface too… including the Vanguard. And there were… a lot of good people who fought and kept fighting." She doesn't raise her chin from her palm as she rests on the table. "Eventually, I guess we won." She wasn't there to really see that.

The retelling is regarded with a hint of fascination, like one would have for a particularly interesting movie plot being explained to them. Asi's brow arches as she hears how high the corruption went, silently weighing one world for the other. "You guess?" she asks, disappointed for the lack of a clearer answer. Was her world really better than this one, or wasn't it?

"I wasn't there to see it," Elisabeth replies after a long pause and swallowing the last of her second drink. Setting the glass back on the bar, she looks at Asi. "Someone's power went out of control and sent me through a wormhole." The story really is way the hell longer than what she's giving. But the short-short version is just a lot less complicated. "I've been world-jumping ever since." Her smile is just a bit bitter. "How'd that old TV show go? 'Leaping from life to life, hoping each time that the next leap will be the leap home.'"

She has the eyes of a much older person along with the watchful, hard expression of an old soldier. This might explain why.

In another world, Asi would be able to look up the quote in an instant to fill in her gaps in knowledge. American pop culture was not her thing, after all. Instead, she takes the words at their face value, and they're enough. In her next slow blink, her eyes drift off to look toward the heater and its red light, considering it as if it might have all the answers. "You have any faith you'll get there? Back?" she asks a little more solemnly than before.

That's … maybe the most difficult question of all. "I want to," Elisabeth admits softly. "I desperately want to believe that." Whether she actually does … or even if she can … maybe she herself doesn't even know. The blonde swallows hard, her mouth pulling sideways into a moue that speaks of uncertainty. Her jaw is tight. "Can you ever really go home again?" she asks, almost in a whisper.

"Not to the same one, no." Asi has no qualms about being honest there. "Time moves. Things change. People change most of all." She rolls her tongue against the side of her cheek as she thinks something through.

"Maybe you get back. Maybe it's not home anymore." A glance is shifted to the reality-traveler. "You… kind of have to decide what home is for yourself. If you hang up on it being a moment, or a place, or a feeling you get, then no. You'll never go back home, if you're chasing something that fleeting." Heavy advice it sounds like she knows something about. It doesn't say anything for what home should be like, though.

"… No. Time moves. Things change. People come and go." Asi takes another, long drink.

"Then no," Elisabeth says quietly. "I guess I don't think I can go home. I just hope I can… bring my daughter to her father. And maybe… somewhere in there, I'll find the missing pieces of myself, too." She sets the glass down and pushes it back toward the far side of the bar. "If you don't mind, I think I'd like to get back." The hard knot in her chest, sometimes smaller than at other times, feels like a lead weight in her ribcage right now. There are no right choices. There's just the path that she's on… and that path, she hopes, will take her daughter back to a father who loves her. And maybe, if she's lucky enough, it'll take her back to at least a father who loves her too. Because God, she's really tired.

A quiet click comes from Asi as she glances to the unfinished glass. "I do mind. I'm not paying for alcohol to not be drank." She lifts a hand to rub at her face, trying to judge how far along she is. The answer: Getting drunker. The information brings some delight from her, knowing that unlike Liz, she'll be suitably numb to the heaviest of her emotions for a good while yet. Whether or not she'll be able to walk in a straight line is another matter entirely.

"Rocks chip, Liz." she reminds her. "But it sounds like you already know that." Asi says nothing of the rest of her own story, as it sounds like the other woman's had enough.

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