Shared Trauma


asi4_icon.gif richard4_icon.gif

Scene Title Shared Trauma
Synopsis Richard and Asi finally talk about what's happened to her since the Event.
Date September 4, 2020

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

Asi doesn't normally invite herself into the Raytech in-house gym unless she's leading one of the training courses she's been offering on a biweekly basis. With those, it's been a series of starters. Self-defense, kendo, fencing, firearms training— provided a la mode to pair with other offerings that the company has started providing in earnest since the events in Detroit.

This morning, though, she's not here for others. The methodical slugout she's performing on a punching bag is something she's doing all on her own. For herself, most likely. There's a rhythm to it, a process kept firmly in check, but also something more fierce than a simple exercise.

Still, she goes in the same square of hits. Cross high, cross low, jab right, jab left. Cross low, cross high, jab, jab.

The last two months, she's been withdrawn and her progress with her work has slowed to a crawl. The second week of August, she could no longer avoid addressing it— she'd sent an email, stating she would be unable to use her ability to help speed progress in development and testing. Asi has been, at best, distracted ever since then— engaging minimally, devoting her attention to nothing for long.

She's drenched in sweat, no clear indication of how long she's been here other than that.

It’s hard to tell as well how long Richard’s been watching her, at least before his knuckles rap sharply against the doorframe of the gymnasium. He can move surprisingly quietly even without using his ability - the legacy of a misspent youth.

“I think you got him,” he calls out, a playful joke. Behind his glasses, he’s watching her more carefully.

Asi throws two more punches still before she loses her momentum, shoulders rising and falling in breaths she takes through her nose. Her hands fall to her side, at rest for barely a moment before she adjusts the gloves on her hands instead. She steps to the side to take the punching bag out of her immediate view, the urge to seek some kind of satisfaction through pummeling the bag temporarily put aside that way.

She should say something, she realizes.

"It's been a while, Ray," she calls out without looking his way, voice light. Amiable, even. "How are the kids? Are they back to school now?"

“Yeah, school got back into session the end of August,” replies Richard, pushing himself through the doorway and approaching at an unhurried walk now that she’s no longer pummeling the punching bag as if it’d insulted seven generations of her ancestors.

“So how are you doing? It’s been awhile since we caught up, really,” he admits, looking to the punching bag and then back to her.

Asi bites back the urge to brush off the question, teeth brushing over her bottom lip. For all that she's avoided openly stating what happened, his sister was involved in the same assault-come-accident. She imagines he's put it together by now, in one way or another, what's happened to her even if she doesn't want to address it.

"I'm coping," she admits tacitly. Her arms fall back by her sides, her right swinging back just slightly. "I apologize for the … slowdown in updates to the SEER system." Asi exhales hard, looking off rather than at Richard even as she turns partly to him. "It feels as though every time we make significant progress, a setback is just around the corner."

“Trust me, I know that feeling. Every time I see a light at the end of the tunnel, it turns out to be a glowing mushroom… or a train coming at me head on,” replies Richard in somewhat dry tones, a hand coming up to rub at the side of his neck in a rueful manner, “One step forward, one step back, it seems some days. It’s alright. I don’t expect this to be a … quick project anyway. If we had one of those technopath traps it might be easier to figure out, but if wings were wishes, eh?”

He nods a little, then, “You’re coping better than Kaylee has been.” It’s a quiet admission that, perhaps, he has figured out what’s going on.

The mention of technopath traps is one that brings Asi to still, her visual attention finally landing on him.

Despite the hollowness in her eyes, the frame of her face makes them sharp regardless as she seethes reproach for such a suggestion. It's silently done, words clearly mulled on the topic, but her jaw settles rather than ease into a snap. Quietly, mildly, she suggests, "Not a joke I would recommend you repeat anywhere near your technology Chief."

Asi looks away again as she shakes her head to herself, ripping the velcro strap off her glove entirely. Coping better? "That's subjective," she supposes stiffly, but doesn't move to outright counter the view. After all, she didn't spend weeks entirely uncommunicative.

Well. She did, just in a different way.

"What we lost…" At the risk of sounding mournful, Asi instead bares her teeth briefly in a fierce grimace as she pulls off the gloves one by one. "It's different for each of us." There she goes, stern and put-together. "It's easier for some than others."

Richard holds up a hand. “You misunderstand me there,” he says with a shake of his head, “The— basis of the technology, it has everything necessary to accommodate a human psyche in a digital environment. So, of course, a bunch of psychopaths immediately weaponized it in a horrific way.” He grimaces, “Seems the way with every promising technology. Someone always fucking looks for a way to hurt other people with it instead of enriching the world.”

“I can imagine it’s not easy for any of you. I lost my own ability for… years,” he admits, glancing at the punching bag, “It wasn’t easy for me, either.”

The conversation's direction has suddenly veered out of the lanes of vagueness and distance Asi is comfortable navigating. She more hurriedly shoves gloves in a bag set on top of a weight rack she's using as a shelf. "You're right," she says in reply to something he's said. Whether it's to the lot is uncertain.


As sharply as she starts, she cuts herself off with a shake of her head, zipping the gym bag shut. The words end up breaking through the dam as soon as she opens her mouth again, though she'd meant to say something different entirely. "It's different, for everyone. I acknowledge that. I respect everyone's loss for what it is. But no one else lost their livelihood in what happened." She pulls the bag off the rack, slinging it over her shoulder. "You didn't lose what enabled you to do your job."

This probably wasn't a chat to be having with an employer of hers, but if they're ripping off the band-aid of topic avoidance… Asi looks to Richard directly, still terse. "I lost what made me desirable, and kept me safe from those who would seek to take advantage of me. It was more than just my grounding in reality, it was my place in it. Some technopath-for-hire I am, without my ability."

A humorless scoff of a laugh comes from her. "Wolfhound is within their rights to end my contract since I can no longer fill that role for them, and if that happens?" She only shakes her head. "I'm unsure past deeds alone will be enough to keep me shielded from prosecution. And without my ability to help me stay ahead…"

The loss of her ability could very well mean a loss of her freedom.

"Yet here we are, no closer to answers as to what happened, no sooner to knowing if what happened is permanent or if we stand a chance at getting our lives back again." Shoulders dipping, Asi shakes her head. "I would not say I am coping better, Ray. I just don't have the luxury of falling apart."

“I wouldn’t say that you’re the only one that lost their livelihood. Abigail’s job requires her to have an ability as well…” Richard’s head tips in a bit of a nod, admitting, “But it’s not the same, no, I’ll give you that.”

He regards her for a moment, one eyebrow lifting, “So what are you doing to find answers? I know some of the others are digging to see what they can find out. Have you been in touch with them?”

Asi stops short of actually walking out on the conversation like she'd been preparing to. She keeps her tongue glued to the roof of her mouth until she trusts herself to speak, looking off in that meantime to avoid saying something unuseful out of hand. With a slow exhale, she wills the last of her punchy energy to calm, looking back to Richard.

"Some, yes." That admission is easy. "There are a small group I've come into contact with. The more medically-minded are pursuing an investigation into what's wrong with us aside from the obvious," details she must not be keen on elaborating on, "and I know the SESA agent who was caught up in this has been working with their agency to push for results in their investigation…" A deeper exhale, a tired sigh slips from her. "But we're given to understand the physical evidence left behind from the event offer few clues. Forensics supposedly have been useless. The—"

For a moment, Asi nearly stops herself short, but with a narrowing of her eyes overrides the instinct to withhold information. "There was no flight recorder located in the wreckage. It likely was removed before the flight, if the plane's purpose was to ferry victims from one clandestine location to another. Worse, the size of the plane and its fuel tank effectively sets the radius the plane could have come from anywhere from forty-five to forty-eight-hundred kilometers from the crash site. It could have come from Alaska, South America, parts of Europe, at its most extreme distance…" She shakes her head in an attempt to ease off of feeling how overwhelmingly large a potential area that is.

"The most I can do at the moment is help arrange points of data our extrajudicial investigations are meriting, what little they might be." Asi leans a bit pointedly into, "So, I am working on that."

“The plane…” Richard brings one hand up to rub against the curve of his jaw, his brow knitting slightly, “…well. While I’m sure SESA doesn’t have any way of knowing where the plane came from, there’s a ring of eyes around the planet. I’m sure something saw.”

He motions a bit with his hand, “You might want to talk to D.Crypt about that. She may be able to hack into some of the spy satellites up there, maybe pull up some records. I’m not absolutely sure, but it’s worth a try, eh? If she can’t do it, you could try asking S.Attva, although they’d probably want something in return.”

The most Asi is willing to concede to that at first is to let out a single tone of acknowledgement. She's weighing her privacy against the benefits of looping in those better equipped to scan that information. "We're not even talking about feeds, at this point, we'd need to find a set of eyes that monitor the area, then hope it has a store that goes back far enough in time…"

She's not saying no. The way she dissects the problem suggests thought given to it, even if she's certain not to hitch any hopes they'll find such a thing.

Looking back to Richard, she adjusts her grasp along the bag she carries. "While I'm being patient and letting the medical minds try their hand at finding ways around brain scans that aren't impacted by the changed fields we're putting off … I would like to keep usage of the SEER device as a backup option if standard tests fail to help us understand what was done to us. Do I have your approval?"

“If all you have is a series of slim hopes, best to check all of them, just in case,” Richard observes with a tip of his head, and then he looks back to Asi with a single brow’s raise, “Of course… changed fields?”

He looks curious, leaning in slightly, “What do you mean? That’s the first I’ve heard of this.”

Oh. There's a flicker in Asi's eye as she realizes she's overspoken as much as why this information likely isn't known to him already. "Right. Thatcher's been…"

"Uncommunicative." she carefully qualifies Kaylee's state. "They…"

It takes a long pause for her to get past the discomfort of the mention, shutting her eyes hard before they're steeled when she looks back to Richard, looks him in the eye. What happened happened, and hiding it away in shame wouldn't help solve the mystery of it.

She speaks clearly and without particular emotion when she picks back up. "Following the crash, cranial x-ray scans picked up some potential damage, as far as I know, in multiple of us if not all of us. Attempts to get a better look at the area affected— the… cerebellum— were inconclusive. MRI were not possible due to an electromagnetic field we seem to be putting off. From ourselves."

"So there's that," Asi intones dryly.

“Now that’s interesting…” Richard draws back, his brow furrowing, one hand coming up to rub against the curve of his jaw, “…I mean, worrying, but it’s a lead, even if a strange one. What if it’s not damage at all, but some sort of implant that’s putting off the field?”

He frowns in thought, glancing across the room, “Damn it, if Miller hadn’t been affected, his ability could’ve gotten right to the bottom of this. I have to assume that was purposeful. I’ll have to get the details on this field— did you know that all Evolved emit a very faint but distinct electromagnetic field naturally? It’s not normally strong enough to interfere with anything, but the right equipment can detect it. It’s the basis of the Compass technology.”

Attention firmly caught, Asi arches an eyebrow. "An implant?"

It may not explain their changed genetics, but it could explain something if that were the case. She begins to frown. "That most likely would have shown on an x-ray," she counters carefully, "I would think, at least, but…" With a slow shake of her head, she lifts her shoulders and admits, "To tell you the truth, I'm really not sure."

"As for the Compass devices, I was aware, but hadn't made that connection. It's strange— I wonder if even though our genetics are changed, perhaps a Hunter robot simply would not give a damn."

Morbid and dark as that flat attempt at humor might be, it gives way to another thought. "The… Company used to use an injection of radioactive isotopes to track 'tagged' individuals, come to think of it. Abruptly, I'm wondering if the field isn't an intended outcome meant to help whoever did this to… better keep track of us."

She begins to frown at that.

“Or more than one of the above,” Richard says with a slight tip of his head, “I’ll get some electromagnetic scans from Kaylee or Miller, see what we can come up with on that end. We can run them past a Compass too.” Not that he’s supposed to own one. “Last ditch effort would be a surgical examination— I imagine Miller might volunteer for that if I asked him.”

“That might get us some answers,” he observes, “If nothing else does.”

Asi finally cracks, letting out a faint chuckle. "He might be ahead of you on that," she remarks with a wry sense of knowing, but with a heavy exhale she sinks back down to a more muted state. "If there's additional toys in your toolbox you'd like to throw at this, count me in as well. I would relish an opportunity to feel less useless in this."

Not to mention, being pinged by a compass in a lab scenario would be so much better than potentially triggering a leftover Institute robot in the wild. Not that she has any plans to leave the Safe Zone anytime soon, but…

You never know.

"Thanks," Asi offers up more quietly. "For checking in."

“I wouldn’t be surprised, but without a… supervisory hand he tends to go a little extreme,” Richard observes ruefully, shaking his head, “Also he’ll probably try and do it behind my back, when there’s honestly no reason to do that. I think he just expects everything he’s doing to be illegal or something.”

The legality of exploratory brain surgery is, of course, somewhat dubious all the same.
“And hey,” he flashes her a smile, “We’re all this in together, after all.”

"Some people like their privacy when it comes to their trauma," she suggests in reply to Richard's ruefulness regarding Zachery's 'impossibility'. "If our shared experience is anything to speak from, that is. It's hard for us to know who to trust."

"Who knows, perhaps it's simply a defense mechanism for something else yet." Asi tilts her head with that one, that being as far as she's willing to dig into conjecture. There's not overmuch she knows of Zachery to say one way or another, but reactions like those come from somewhere.

At Richard's last comment, her eyes flit back to him when he smiles, her own expression hard to read. Any sharper comments like the one she made earlier fail to come to her. "You're too close to it all not to be," she acknowledges in a softer voice, nodding in return. Both personally and professionally, proclivities for getting involved in concerning affairs like these besides.

She seems more at ease after that, some of the tension in her being lessened from where it was before.

Asi still looks like she'd be down to punch the sand out of the bag, but she's opting to take that energy elsewhere now. With a lift of her voice, she says as she heads past him for the door, "See you Monday, Ray."

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