Second First Impressions


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Scene Title Second First Impressions
Synopsis Elliot crosses paths with another Asi, and it goes worse than it did the first time, maybe.
Date June 12, 2021


The Manhattan Archipelago

One sore point about the end of the world that carries into the current age is the frustration inclement weather brings with it. Asi meant to be elsewhere by now, afloat rather than moored, but there's little else she hates more than stormy seasickness. The Captain of the Nine Tales didn't deserve her foul mood owing from the storms rolling through, both literal and metaphysical.

So, teeth gnashing, she's bound to Lowe's for the day, and who knows how if the day will really be just one day. She sighs, looking out the window to the choppy seas, and knows she's made the right choice. "This fucking swell," she swears to nothing but herself. "And the chill it's brought with it." It's the chill that bothers her most— makes her wonder how long this thunderstorm will carry on for.

God, she hopes it's a simple storm. That it'll clear up by tomorrow. She doesn't think she'll last if it doesn't.

She lets out a disappointed grumble at the sea which has no control of itself, turning away from the windows to roam the halls and see if she can't find something to keep her entertained for the day. If she's a mind to be social, maybe she can head down to the Tavern to see if there's any table games forming to pass the time. Or, if nothing else, she can meander up to the residential levels and nap in her closet space.

Asi thumbs the pendant made up of several keys she wears from a simple tie of twine around her neck while she roams, destination undetermined.

Elliot has been wandering with purpose, half of which is in the wander looking purposeless. He’s added a blanket to his otherwise limited clothing options, thrown about his shoulders as a stole rather than a poncho. No sense cutting a hole in an already rundown blanket. The thread is coarse, a striped pattern of offwhite and tan that likely spent most of its life folded at the foot of an otherwise appropriately covered bed.

When Asi comes into view he’s already beginning the small behaviors that keep this feeling spur of the moment rather than lying in wait. He looks at her foggily, easy to pretend it takes a moment to recognize where he’s recently seen her, because he really is exhausted. He nods politely, the nod up of one passing an acquaintance in public rather than the nod down usually reserved for accidental eye contact with a stranger.

He also takes a half step back and leans against a ruined interior wall to avoid any ideas that he might restrict her movement on if that’s her intention. This type of cold meeting can take numerous passes before springing the trap, and he’s got nowhere to be currently. In case it takes longer—or if she has any better ideas for the approach—he pings the Asi he knows.

She wasn't awake during the earlier brush, but she is now, tuning into his stream absently but with anticipation all the same. It does not help her one bit in dealing with the surprise of seeing herself. She narrowly avoids inhaling her coffee rather than drinking it, a hard swallow nonetheless. "Elliot," she whispers in a hiss, like her other self might hear otherwise. "What are you doing?"

Taking advantage of a once in a million lifetimes opportunity, girl. Duh.

One the Asi in front of him is oblivious to. She comes out of her reverie at Elliot's acknowledgement, eyes swiveling to meet his. Ones that carry green in them. She slows her pace to return his greeting with a slight tip of her head, and plans to move on. But she stops, hand on her necklace letting go in a gesture of thought as she looks away, and then back.

"oh my god."

Beginning to squint one eye, she remarks, "I remember you. The Alaskan crew, right?" Asi arches an eyebrow afterward, an invitation to be countered if she's misremembering.

Elliot nods and places his hands in the pocket of his hoodie. "Yeah," he offers without extending a hand to shake. "Elliot. Hopefully heading there soon, weather permitting." His eyes and ears tilt to acknowledge the storm raging outside.

"Forecast currently grim," he says wryly. "The Pelago has been favorable so far at least." Aside from his inability to sleep, from his fear of falling asleep. Normally he'd feel free to lie with abandon in this situation, but he'd rather not have to retract anything if this operation (as much as it can be called an operation) goes anywhere.

"Yeah," Asi agrees with a slant of her eyes sideways in a dark look at the proverbial outside while her arm swings back down to her side. "These fucking storms… they play by their own rules."

Moving away from the sunlight, Asi heads back to her quarters with coffee in hand, a mixture of the disparity between the two realities and the fact the conversation is taking place at all bothering her. "Do I really sound like that?" she asks only herself, her sounds more crisp nearly in defiance of the more casual register she hears through Elliot. "Never mind— what's your plan here?"

"I'm Asi, with the Second Star," she says of herself. "The resident Oni, if that happens to come up somewhere." But just as quickly, she segues to a detail she finds more interesting. "You know— we swung out your way last year, our crew." The corners of her eyes tighten with amusement that doesn't make it all the way to mirth as she admits, "The Stormfront nearly shut the trip down before it began. We had a hell of a time breaking past to get to the Northwest Passages. We opted to go South on the return back from Japan rather than deal with that again."

"Can't say I envy you the trip back," is what she means to relate, apparently.

"I suggested we try sailing east instead," he says, "How big could the whole planet be really? Now they don't let me leave the kitchen." He's amused, only partially by his own joke. Mostly by Asi's surprise panic, which he had limited options for addressing.

With his hands in his thin hoodie, there's not much room for finger spelling Index keywords. Instead he finds a memory the old fashion way. "So," Ames says, clutching small, spiral bound notepad and a pen, "What should I ask you?"

"I have no idea," Elliot replies, "you called this kangaroo court to session."

"That's a hell of a trip though," he continues for the local Asi. "How's the opposite side of the world doing? Did it flood there too?"

Asi finds initial amusement in his joke for what it is, a corner of her mouth tugging back in sympathy for him. Her flicker of a grin fizzles out when he asks if the flood made it to Japan. Her willingness to make small talk shrivels.

A world away, her twin in likeness flinches in sympathy for Elliot's situation. This being her fault is something she'll argue vehemently against, but she can't help but feel bad for the withering look he's being given, knowing exactly where this is going. "Ah, shit," she mutters, focusing briefly on the door of her quarters to pull it closed.

"Antarctica didn't pick to flood only places populated by Americans, no," she answers flatly. She looks off to mask her irritation for the sake of being polite enough. There's a lot of things she supposes about Elliot after the comment he made, but what good would it do to take it out on him? "The delegation we brought back with us is waiting out the storms, too. Trying to see if the same trick we pulled is possible again, or if the southern route will have to do."

Asi rests one hand on her hip as she slowly levers a look back at Elliot. "I never actually thought about what I'd even say," she also says in a hurried rush during that lapse. "I don't—" "Batting 500 over there, aren't you?" She starts to frown, unimpressed. "I did mean to ask, though— your Captain have any more salmon she's brought down?"

"Apologies," Elliot says with a wince, "My morbid sense of humor rarely does me any favors." But what else does one do with all the apocalyptic dread?

He imagines most people turn to alcohol. He has very little to work with as far as a background goes in this world. He'll need to talk to Nova to pick up some of the finer details of the life and times of an Alaskan. Maybe after a nap, it's going to happen sometime, might as well be on purpose. He can hide out the terror in one of the safe spaces between one room and another. Or maybe be blessed with dreamless sleep.

"The captain appears to have kept a private stash of the salmon," he says regretfully. "But I'll see if she's saving any for barter and let you know." He shrugs, unsure what else to do in the spotlight of social faux pas when he's this far out of his depth.

Alcohol is a very good guess for what one does with the end of the world, and Elliot's been here only a day. Asi's considering a drink herself, all things told, all things seen.

"You do that," she tells him and then continues forward, no longer participating in a quiet aimlessness, but a direct desire to create distance.

"Shit," Asi breathes under her breath. "Just— let her go. It'll be easier trying to talk later once the mood has passed." It feels eerie to know that about this stranger, as it's something she knows about herself. She rubs the side of her neck before setting down her coffee.

"That was more unnerving than I thought it would be. Seeing myself. Sorry, I—" Might as well call it what it was. "I froze."

Elliot nods in parting to Asi, slouching further down the wall and into himself. He doesn't move from the spot or watch her go, staring blearily into the middle distance. "That one's on me," he says to address Asi's apology. "Can't keep my foot out of my mouth today. Also I didn't give you much notice."

He focuses his eyes and ventures a look down both ends of the hallway, then hides a yawn in his hands. "I'm way out of my comfort zone here, infiltration-wise," he laments. "I'm torn between talking to people who look like people I know and trying to hide from everybody I meet in case this world has a me who's not well loved by a violent crime lord or something." Or so much worse.

Asi narrows her eyes briefly in sympathy. "As much as I'd like to offer up evidence to the contrary, I don't know. I do know my friend from— from there— he was a completely different person here." She sits down on the side of her bed, gaze toward the ground. "Silas Mackenzie in our world was a man who betrayed the wrong people and paid for it in his morality, becoming a hitman for the Linderman Group, where the Silas from there was…"

She trails off before she finally finds her end. "He never ran into those issues, and was a much better man. Kinder, certainly." Asi takes in shallow breath and sighs it out far deeper than that. Only then does she look up, righting the straightness of her legs to reduce her lazy lean back against the mattress as well. "That being said, the world there is supposed to be a smaller place, with practically nothing in ways of communication. The only reason I'm there is because of guidance left by Kaito Nakamura."

There’s a tired quiver at the corner of Elliot’s mouth as Asi describes a man of two worlds. Elliot himself never got close to performing assassinations on behalf of the Linderman Group, any of his own hypothetical past crimes being merely organizational. Come to think of it now, there’s little chance that none of his human transportation assignments never followed past his sending them there to kill somebody. But it was another life.

He’s queueing up a memory as she explains the Local Asi’s presence in the Pelago. His distraction is obvious. “I gotta tell you,” he says as though he’s offering an opinion that he knows will rub Asi the wrong way, “Honestly I could see this guy as a hitman.” Then draws her attention to the memory.

Slowly Silas straightens, fixing Elliot with a gray-eyed regard. "Watery mac and cheese?" he echoes slowly. "And what misbegotten vagrant leechspawn told you such a vile lie as that?" he asks evenly.

"Snickers," Asi balks, long and slow as she regards him out of the corner of her eye. "You can't disparage strangers their lack of knowledge regarding the local cuisine." Her eyes are half-lidded in an effort to disguise her mirth with him, her arms folding across her chest as she leans toward him.

“I won’t lie, he’s kind of terrifying.”

Asi's feet scuff on the short-haired carpet and suddenly she's slipped off the side of the bed to the ground. Later, she'll be relieved she wasn't holding her coffee still, didn't spill it, but for now she's still working past her heart living in her throat. Still working past wanting to replay that moment over and over, to examine it more closely.

"That's impossible," she breathes out, eyes unseeing and wide nonetheless. "That's— you must have hit a different reality after all. One where he's still there. Because Silas left there, and came here— he was lost at sea when Eve confronted Adam." Even as she says this, she knows there was no body. The Entity had smote him from existence for killing her host.

Asi's hand comes to her mouth, wondering if maybe things weren't that simple. "I-if he survived, if that's really him, that's…" Her eyes glaze over as she focuses on that moment. "He seems different. Better, worse— I don't know." Her hand slowly shifts down, not muffling her sounds any longer. She reminds herself to breathe in, to push past being mired in layers of guilt, shock, and timid relief. "Shit," she whispers.

A beat later and she's stowed her shock, speaking more calmly, logistically. "If that's the Silas I know, though, he's… you can trust him. She does, explicitly. And she could likely arrange an introduction, so you have a reliable local resource while you're in the Manhattan 'Pelago."

Elliot doesn’t feel guilty soaking up some of Asi’s relief, anything is better than his own tightwire of dread. “I feel it’s unlikely it isn’t him,” he says quietly, dropping the memory into the Index along with the resulting conversation between Silas and Richard. “Unless there is another version that Richard somehow also knows.” Come to think of it, he wouldn’t put that past a man who seems to have such intimate, if hoarded, knowledge of the intricacies of temporal physics.

For now he lowers himself into a seat on the floor to give Asi time to see the rest of the conversation between the other two. He left the tavern to find the Local Asi out here, so it’s incomplete, but it shouldn’t be difficult to track the man down again. His eyes lose focus, not from the sharing, but rather the fatigue. He closes them reluctantly and briefly, as though any prolonged pause might return him to the sleep he’s avoiding.

The full memory rather than the snip of a moment gives her plenty to consider, too. Asi draws her legs up to herself, forearms on knees. "I don't understand," she whispers when it's done. Her hands clasp around each other tightly. "How did he survive?"

Ultimately, she's grateful for it. A silently-harbored guilt that her absence that day had lead to his death is absolved in the strangest of ways. Perhaps everything happened as it needed to so he could end up back home. His jumping worlds— it hadn't exactly been his plan to begin with.

The longer she thinks, the more complicated her emotions become. It doesn't take long for her to sweep them up like a hand of cards and put them away for later. "You haven't rested," Asi notes gently instead. "You should. It has to come sometime, and it should be on your term. The world will still be there when you wake."

Elliot knows she’s right, and nods in agreement. “I’m having really vivid nightmares,” he says, a half-truth. He goes to the Palace in his dreams, but it’s different. He’s not there with intent in his dreams, though the long shadow cast by the thing that patrols the corridors of that place still percolates into night terrors nonetheless. He’s safe, just moving and being found. Moving and being found. Running and falling and waking up gasping for air.

“I don’t know if it’s because the network somehow works across the void of the divide for whatever reason,” he theorizes, “I’ve never tried this before. For obvious reasons. But I’ll try.” He won’t, not yet.

His eyes widen with another inconvenient realization. “Sorry in advance if we collide during a nightmare,” he says with a shake of his head. “it’s unlikely but possible. We have Index callouts for these circumstances, if you can remember that. Coda.” The word comes from a place in the Index Asi hasn’t been shown before.

The book is rough between his fingers, cloth cover worn with a century's time and stained by days of rain. "But I, being poor, have only my dreams;" he reads to Wright in the quiet of the library, "I have spread my dreams under your feet; Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

The memory shared feels strange in the waking world, as though there’s the expectation of utility here that doesn’t manifest. “That can usually give enough acknowledgement of the unreality of a dream to take a little control out of the chaos. Like a bad dream wakeup button.”

Asi's eyes flicker in their focus before she nods carefully. "I'll do my best to remember, even should I be dreaming, too." Her hands shift, one closing more tightly than the other. A gesture of sympathy, a gesture of thereness. Understanding.

Her fingers twitch out of it quickly enough, for reasons she does and doesn't understand.

Rocking to her feet to recollect her coffee, Asi chastises him, "Off you go, then. Before you get a sympathy caffeine buzz. I'll give Aisu affection for you."

Elliot scrubs his hands over his face, stubble already annoying him. He puts a hand on the floor to lurch himself back into a standing position, then stretches. Gotta stay awake. “First I think I’m going to see if I can get any of that salmon as a peace offering,” he says. “Maybe rustle up the other components of a traditional meal if you think that would be well-received. With almost certainly nontraditional components. They must have rice here. And seaweed.”

He laughs suddenly as he takes to the halls. “This will be my second apology breakfast to an Asi who I annoyed the first time I met her,” he says. “Richard’s temporal inertia theory may be true after all.”

Asi tries to resist a smile the best she can. It's poorly done. "I've got bad news on the rice front. Something tells me using that much fresh water on a single crop might be seen as a waste when they're on the sea directly…" Sympathetically, and with muted cheer she adds, "But seaweed's a guarantee. Who knows— perhaps you get lucky, and a properly made rice ball…"

She trails off, remembering the shape of the ball in her hand, wrinkling her nose and asking her mother why hers was triangle-shaped when Asami's wasn't before blinking past that moment to remember more clearly pressing the rice into the correct, desired form and wrapping the dried nori carefully around the bottom, creating a bed on which the rest of the meal is cradled. She looks up and smiles warmly.

"Good luck," Asi advises, reaching for her cup.

“Thanks,” Elliot says with an airy laugh. “So far I have had very little of that on the vacation cruise. Maybe I’ll track down the local Erin Gordon, she’s apparently not a cop here.”

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