elliot2_icon.gif wf_squeaks_icon4.gif

Scene Title Safety
Synopsis Strong external emotions cause Squeaks to double back to check on Elliot.
Date July 4, 2021

Minutes pass after Gracie’s footsteps fade away. It's kind of like the way hours pass, and also the way seconds pass. Time stretches and compresses while Elliot gathers himself, alone except for the sort of distant sounds of the other travelers.

And the pair of blue eyes watching from behind a pockmarked cement barrier.

Squeaks wouldn't say she was hiding, but she'd probably admit to spying eventually. In fact she spent a solid minute and some seconds debating in herself to check in. Things weren't right, somehow, even though Wright tried telling her everything was fine. That's really what decided for her, and how she caught the last bit about Elliot killing a bad man before Gracie left.

Those minutes start to stretch again. Squeaks hesitates, then pulls herself onto the barrier instead of walking around it. Mostly it's for the shuffling sounds it'll make, so she can announce herself without actually announcing herself.

Elliot perks up at the sound of movement, but settles back down when he determines the source. "Jesus," he says, "You really are sneaky. I should teach you some spy stuff." His emotions have mostly settled out to a sad nostalgia, the startle of her appearance passing quickly.

"Did you catch any of that?" he asks, opening the links between them since the conversation he was hoping to hide is already over. Squeaks can feel the door in her mind open again, though nothing passes through.

“Some,” Squeaks offers with easy honesty. She slides her feet forward and then down against the cement barrier as she sits on the top edge. “I didn’t…” She stumbles in her explanation, looking off toward the encampment of vehicles. “It seemed like a bad thing… I didn’t see very much though. And I won’t tell anyone.” That, she’s as honest about as admitting she heard anything at all.

“I’m sorry you had to hear any of it,” Elliot says, then adds, “or feel any of it. Is that what brought you back over here, or did you just round the nearest corner and camp out in case I admitted something I’ve never once said out loud?” He smiles, there’s no anger at the thought of her snooping either way. The worst pangs of emotion that crossed the network from him are long subsided.

Squeaks shrugs. It's something that's pretty passive and uncommitted to anything, apology or non pressured prying. "You can tell when you're ready," is what she does point out, swinging her feet slightly so her heels bounce against the pocked cement. "If you need to. To me, if you want. Or someone else you trust better? But keeping it all bottled inside?" She lifts her hands and mimes an explosion, complete with sound effects.

"I got bad memories too. From the bad place and here." Squeaks knows Elliot is aware of that, he's seen her freeze and face the edge of the spiral a couple of times. "But what I heard, I won't tell. Sometimes…" Her head tilts slightly toward one shoulder. "Sometimes you do what you need to. Sometimes it's the only way."

"It is," Elliot agrees quietly. He has no reservations about having murdered Daniel Nelson; the man's best self was irredeemably evil. He doesn't dwell on the memory, it needs to stay in the BLACK BLACK BLACK where it's unlikely to be scanned by a passing telepath and betray him. So down the memory goes, bending against his mind and falling away as always.

"You're welcome to talk about it too, when you're ready," he offers, not feeling the need to be specific about what. "Or to Wright, if you'd rather not talk to me for whatever reason. She won't share anything with me that you don't want her to." Again he doesn't elaborate, he wouldn't presume to guess what might fall into a 'girls only' conversation category, but he feels Wright agree with his offer the way he feels her sit quietly in his perspective.

Squeaks mulls over the offer, thinking real hard about it, the whole time while watching Elliot without saying anything. She doesn’t really like to talk about any of the bad things, especially not from the bad place. Those things she’d rather believe they stayed there and didn’t follow her. But she does think about sharing, wondering if it’s really safe. Wondering…

“Do you trust Gracie?” It isn’t what Squeaks was going to ask, and even she seems surprised by it. But there’s a tickling suspicion, even though it shows vaguely beyond her imploring question and contrastingly casual wonderment. “She seems kind of okay but… Robots aren’t good.”

Elliot isn't sure what to say in response to that, craning his neck to look up at Squeaks. "I don't know her very well," he admits. "I am keeping her at arm's length because I'm dating my world's version of her and it is too confusing." Among other things, which the girl may have overheard.

"Are you saying you don't trust her because she's pro-robot?" he asks, confused. "Or because she is one?" He's momentarily horrified that she might be a PHARO imposter, but he can't for the life of him guess how Squeaks would even know to make such an accusation.

“That's…” Her expression says it all: not just confusing but weird and probably kind of gross. Squeaks shakes her head and moves on.

“I didn't know she could be a robot.” That's even more reason to be suspicious. “Because she… so robots hunt us. People like us.” Squeaks points to Elliot and herself. “And also she said… she used slang that I never heard anyone here use except me and Lance.”

"No, sorry," Elliot says, waving away his joke. "I don't think she's a robot. I'm just confused about what she has to do with the topic of robots at all. I understand that they were a problem in the bad place, but how do they relate to Gracie? And if she's using your slang, do you mean you think she's from there as well, or…" He isn't sure where Squeaks is going with this, and doesn't want to hypothesize for her.

“Maybe.” Squeaks’ speculation isn't based on much, and she knows it. “It's just…” Face scrunching a little, she digs around for a minute when she really started wondering — Gracie leans over and grabs her canvas bag from where it sits next to her seat, rummaging through it for a moment. “So, guy I used to know, real brainiac — he used to build robots or some shit.” — but then she shakes her head instead of saying anything else.

“It's weird. I just wondered.” She will probably do her own investigations later. Squeaks flaps her hands one time against her legs. “What does… you said you need to test with Chess? To make sure she's safe?”

Squeaks can feel Elliot viewing the offered memory. He realizes that he must not have been paying attention at the time. "I would guess that she meant more traditional robotics," he says. "I can dig into that with her if it would make you more comfortable to know for sure though."

As for the rest, he remains stoic but can't hide some discomfort and embarrassment from moving through the network. "Chess is a good person," he says by way of explanation, "and I have no reason to believe she would harm me. But the trauma I inherited from Bastian doesn't let me act logically all the time. Back when I first manifested and we were just learning to use the network together, I didn't know how to compartmentalize things, and we didn't have rules for when it's okay to stream memories. It's safer now, you don't need to worry about it passing on to you." At least not until she's begun forming behind the 0bservaton Room's two way mirror, anyway. He'll make sure it doesn't come to that. Asi got too close in their shared dream, and thankfully wasn't exposed in the days leading up to breaking the link. The days leading up to never being able to break the link again.

"So Bastian didn't like to touch people, or being touched, because he was afraid of being abused," Elliot continues. "I'm experiencing that touch aversion right now. It's not always a problem, and it's not always severe. But Bastian's rules for who is automatically safe come with the trauma. You're safe, which means I'm not reflexively afraid that you're going to be abusive to me."

If understanding is an emotion, it diffuses throughout Squeaks’ connection in the network. She probably can’t put to words how she understands, how deeply she just gets Bastion’s fears without even ever having met him because of her own fractured childhood. But it’s there, as plain and open as her concerned curiosity.

“Like no sharing unless asked,” she surmises. And in her understanding it goes both ways, she won’t share unless she’s asked and then only if she wants to. “It’s a good rule. I’m not worried.”

Whatever Elliot feels through his connection to Squeaks causes him to feel relieved, and it becomes visible in his posture. “Exactly,” he says. “If you ever do have worries about using the network, I will be happy to explain anything. I don’t want this to be uncomfortable for anyone, and the reality is that sharing this much with another person obviously requires a lot of trust. I won’t tolerate bad behavior, so if you’re ever linked with someone who isn’t following the rules, I can cut off their access to you. If you want time alone without breaking the link entirely, I’ll close your links until you say otherwise. I want you to feel safe.”

“I feel safe.” Squeaks straightens as she makes that claim. It's as good as honest, if her willingness to explore the network is anything to judge by. “Can we go see the movies now?”

Elliot is happy to hear it, and as she can feel that he doesn’t bother saying it out loud. "Absolutely," he says, levering himself up from the ground and leading the way.

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