Spider's String, Part I


asi2_icon.gif ff_silas_icon.gif

Scene Title Spider's String, Part I
Synopsis Silas asks a favor of an old friend who doesn't know she's an old friend.
Date April 17, 2019

Nouvelle Vue

Bay Ridge Pier

9:47 am EST

Silas has always been an early riser; almost everything else in his world has changed, but that habit has stuck with him. You have to be willing to put in the hours if you want to get the drop on someone, so it makes sense that you also have to be willing to put in the hours if you want to make it honest; that's Silas's current working theory, anyway, and it seems sound. It's just that living honest seems a bit less exciting than living on the shady side had… with all the good and bad that that entails.

Still. Construction of the theatre itself is proceeding apace — he can hear the muted cacophony of the construction crew working out on the deck, through the thin walls of his office — and with luck, in a few months they'll be opening for business.

But that's for the future. Now… now he finds himself with nothing pressing, nothing he really wants to get done. There's always work to be done — it seems like he has a mountain of work to be done these days — but there's nothing really meaningful he can do right now, and that annoys him. Sure, hecould go out and watch the construction workers, but that'd only end up annoying them and giving him a headache; he could go down into the guts of the ship and work on that little bolthole he's carving out in the belowdecks… but instead he sits and stares at the walls of his office, frowning in sudden disgruntlement.

It's not really the office that's got him gnashing his teeth; it's nice enough, in a lumber company middle-management sort of way. Wood paneled walls, a desk (complete with bourbon drawer), a battered filing cabinet (also with bourbon drawer), a thirdhand desktop computer with a working floppy disk drive, a minifridge (for ice to go with the bourbon, also the occasional bit of junk food). It's not really the fact that he's got no fires to put out at the moment, either; the only reason that's got him in a foul mood is because it means he's out of distractions. It means that there's nothing else to take his attention away from something else that's nagging at him… and it's not really hard for Silas to figure out what it is.

It's the damn murder mystery again.

He'd made his peace with Kain Zarek being the one to kill Virus Silas. He's pretty sure what kind of person Virus Silas had been, and everyone's got their share of skeletons in the closet — Silas is certainly no exception — but without Kain, he'd probably be dead several times over, along with Lis and Aura and all the rest with the merry band that escaped the Ark. But burying the hatchet with Kain hadn't laid the spectre of that vision to rest; that last bit of mystery remaining around the death of his other self still haunts him… namely, why it had happened.

Silas has a theory on that. He thinks that his other self had found an opportunity — something big — and had gone for it. But whatever scheme he had put together hadn't worked out; maybe he hadn't been cautious enough, or maybe he'd just gotten unlucky, but either way Virus Silas had apparently jumped straight to the top of Linderman's dead list, and… that's all he wrote.

It's possible that the same thing had happened here, that Hometown Silas had been gunned down behind a Chinese restaurant, and that he really doesn't have anything to worry about; well and good if that's the case. But one way or the other, he wants to know. There's so many things that he doesn't know — that he can't ever know — floating around his life lately. He'll never know what happened to Robyn Roux or any of the Arkies he'd met. He'll never know if the Forthright survived, or what happened to Aces or La Zorra or any of the rest of the magnificent nutjobs he'd crewed with, and damn if that doesn't feel like a hole right in his chest… so this one mystery, at least, he wants to solve.

Unfortunately, Silas's skillset is… not really good when it comes to computerized research. Sneaking around and swiping file folders? He can do that. Computers? God no. And, unfortunately, that's where most records are kept these days, especially in the aftermath of Civil War II… which means if he wants to make further progress, he's probably gonna have to find someone to help him out. Someone who's good with computers, and someone who can be trusted.

Taking those factors together, one name leaps to the top of his (admittedly very short) list.

He hesitates a moment longer… then sighs. Fuck it. Let's do this, he thinks. He's got a business card with Asi's number on it, he's got time, and putting this off any longer is just gonna make him even grumpier. He squints at the tiny screen, carefully punching in the number.

When her cell begins to vibrate on the side of her desk, Asi slides it off still face down, leaning back with her eyes narrowed at her computer screen. The phone buzzes away with another round of ringing before she finally tears her attention away to look down at the smaller screen in her hand, at the unfamiliar American number calling her. A quiet hmph escapes her as she considers it. After another ring, she lifts the device to her ear, the call accepting without the screen being touched. “Moshimoshi, Tetsuyama desu,” she states crisply.

Most people would argue quitting time should have been hours ago, and indeed the state of the office reflected that opinion as well — all of the lights on the floor are off save for a standing lamp set up between a certain cluster of desks. And even among those, she is last man standing. A physical board tacked with photos, copies, and handwritten notes is off to the side of the area, and it's what Asi turns toward while she waits for a reply.

"Konnichiwa, Tetsuyama-san!" Silas exclaims cheerily — not all of it is an affectation, either. Then, after a second's pause. "This is Silas. From the market. Did… did I get that right? Like I said, sailor's grasp at best," he says, sounding a bit sheepish.

Asi peers off at the exclamation, eyes narrowing sharply after while she listens. There's only silence that greets him in return, which prompts his need for elaboration. She's already sidelined the phone app, looking up information about the number that's called her, long before he stammers out what sounds like an apology.

John Silas Dantes is the name that comes back from her search, right as he properly greets her. Vague recognition lights up in her expression, for all the good it does the person on the other end of the line. There's a long period of silence as she places the name with a face.

“—Oh,” Asi emits, sitting upright in her chair. It's a small, but polite gesture for someone who isn't even there. “Yes, I…” she starts, and then lapses into silence again. The line goes quiet as she glances up to see if anyone is around.

Then she lets out a laugh.

“Well, no, actually. It's a bit late for that.” In her amusement, in her recent distance from the language, her English is more accented than usual. She chuckles nonetheless. “Konbanwa, Dantes-san. It's a surprise to hear from you.”

Not an unwelcome one, judging by her tone.

The silence on the line seems an uneasy one to Silas; it's not to hard for him to visualize Asi giving him seven shades of scrutiny from the other side of the world. It's a relief when she speaks again, and doubly a relief to hear the warmer tone.

"'Konbanwa'," Silas echoes thoughtfully, making an effort to commit that to memory. "Got it," he says, smiling.

Then he frowns. "Hope I didn't get you too late over there; I wanted to thank you for the card, but… life's been kind of a madhouse of late. The boat came in, and we're working on renovating it now; hopefully in a few months we're gonna have our grand opening," he says, a mix of pride and worry audible in his voice; he lets out a breath as he leans back in his chair, spinning around in it once.

Then, catching himself, he chuckles. "Well. Better late than never, I hope. How's life been treatin' you lately?"

Asi opts to appreciate his commitment to attempt her language rather than than comment on his ‘kon’ pronunciation. The corners of her eyes lift, as much of an indication of her smile as the ghost of an upward tug to her mouth. “Not too late,” she confirms deadpan. Her voice sounds too loud to her on this quiet, empty floor. “The call is appreciated.”

Him asking after her own wellbeing should be expected, but it takes another pause before she responds, glancing sidelong at the board near her while she works on framing it. “Work, work, work.” Asi tells him, voice light and airy with none of the gravity she eyes a certain photograph with. “I can relate to the ‘madhouse’ of affairs.”

But, she decides, perhaps she shouldn't let it rule her. Better late than never, right?

Grabbing her coat off the back of her chair, she pinches the phone to her ear with her shoulder while she locks her computer with a touch. “It is good to hear things are going well. It sounds as though you're doing everything you need to make your vision a reality.” Asi pauses by the window, looking at the skyline while she adjusts her jacket. Streaks of an earlier shower dry on the glass. “Have you decided on a name?”

"Not yet. But the frontrunner right now…" he pauses for a moment, a genuine smile coming over his face. "Fiddler's Green," he pronounces, with a sort of quiet pride.

Then he laughs. "It's supposedly a place where sailors who've served their time can take their well-earned rest. Seemed appropriate, given we're building it on a boat," he chuckles. There are other reasons for it as well, but that'll do for now.

"There… was another reason I was calling, as well," he says, sounding a bit reluctant. "I was hoping to ask for your help with something… or, if you've got too much on your plate at the moment, I was hoping that maybe you might be able to point me in the direction of someone who could help."

“An interesting name,” Asi acknowledges, one mental foot in the conversation while the other seeks to make sense of the metaphor that wasn't immediately clear to her. A nautical reference like that would have gone over her head in her own tongue most likely. She lets out a note of interest as she takes in the context. “But a good one.” It wasn't unheard of as an establishment name, which would have been a concern of hers. “Understated, a nod to those who might know its reference. If you offered a military discount, it could earn you a few loyal customers, with a name like that.”

The hesitation in his voice tells her whatever it was he was after was important to him, and so far, the distraction was refreshing. Asi gives it only a moment before she lifts her chin, lets her eyes roam toward the stars instead of merely observing the skyline. “You went through the effort of calling someone halfway around the world for help?” she asks deadpan. “I'm curious what you'd need my help with.” Of all people.

"Research," Silas says, deadpan. "I've been trying to dig into something in my free time for the past few months; cruisin' libraries, looking up microfiche, stuff like that." He leans back in his chair again, sighing. "Problem is, Civil War Two destroyed a lot of stuff; these days, seems like everything is digital, and that's… definitely not my strong point," he admits.

"Whereas you are a 'technology specialist' or 'technical specialist' or something like that with the JSDF, which I'm hoping means you're better with tech than I am." Actually, he knows damn well she's better at tech than he is, but that's beside the point. "I mean, I know how to use The Google and which button to press to make the dial-up gremlins start screeching, but that's about it, and… I'm hoping for someone with a bit defter touch than that," he chuckles.

Asi blanches at hearing the absolutely archaic methods that Silas has gone through, leaning her head back as if away from the conversation. She turns halfway away from the window, brow furrowing as he admits his shortcomings with technology, and entreats her assistance. Again, there's a distancing and a suspicion held for the lengths he goes to but then…

But then…

For the second time tonight, Asi lets out a laugh. This one is ugly, honest, caught by surprise. She wasn't expecting to ever hear a phrase like dial-up gremlin spoken aloud in her life, but what an image it paints. Don't forget, he also knows how to work The Google. Someone needs to tell the poor man it was never called that, but it won't be her. No.

She finds it very endearing.

"Silas," sounds like a reprimand it's so severe, all awe and amusement underneath. She chortles again because she just can't help it. "Yes. God, it sounds like you need the help."

Even though she's not smiling, it sounds like she is. Her expression is already smoothing back over by the time she speaks again. "What are you looking into?" It's late, it's been a long day — but she feels a certain space in the back of her mind begin to wake in anticipation of stretching her legs one last time for the evening. Surely it was a quick ask.

"A guy by the name of Daniel Linderman," Silas says, his voice dead serious. "Supposedly he used to be a big shot, back in the day. Rich and powerful… but he was dirty. Real dirty, I think. He died of cancer a few years back, apparently."

"I'm trying to nail down everything I can about this guy; in particular around January of 2009. Known associates, that sort of thing. What he did, how he did it," He lets out a heavy breath. "Hopefully this guy bein' dead means no one's gonna care about poking around in his dirty laundry, and if that's the case… great. But if not… I want to make sure that if anyone goes digging in there, they're someone who won't get their leg caught in a digital bear trap."

"That's why I asked you on this. I was hopin' you'd be able to dig into it… or, failing that, would know somebody who could dig into it."

“Linderman?” Asi echoes back almost as an interruption to his words. She doesn't need to touch the Internet for that one. “Company Linderman?” She blinks slowly was she waits for him to finish explaining himself, her weight shifting. Something about the nature of his ask finally unroots her from her spot and sound her to leave the building.

“Hm,” is her only acknowledgement of it for a long moment while she stands in the elevator, waiting for it to hit ground floor.

“Why the interest?” It seems like a fair ask. “Why that particular timeframe?” She steps from the lift and sees herself out the front door. The air is still, and mild enough this evening there's no need to hunch her shoulders against the cold. She weighs for a moment letting someone handle this dig, and pushes the thought aside just as quickly. The diversion of it could honestly be sanity-guarding.

Silas grimaces; of course she'd ask that. Hell, in her shoes, he'd ask that too. The hard part here is going to be walking the razor's edge between giving her enough of the truth — because be damned if he's going to ask someone a favor and lie to their face — and earning himself a nice long stay at Club Fed until Hell freezes over.

He takes a deep breath. "This is gonna sound a little nuts. It sounds nuts to me, even, sometimes… but other times…" he trails off, letting silence fall for a moment… then he takes a deep breath and starts again. "I saw something, once — a 'vision', I guess, nutty as that sounds — and it scared the hell out of me. I saw myself — a guy who looked exactly like me — die. Gunned down behind a Chinese restaurant of all places."

He stands, starting to pace. "I mean. It wasn't me. Couldn'ta been me, on account of the fact that, last I checked, I'm not dead. But it felt real, Asi. As real as me and you talkin' right now. And I keep thinkin' to myself. Wonderin'." He pauses in his pacing. "Not so much wondering if someone out there might spot me and try to finish the job; I mean, I'm thinking this happened ten years ago, and the guy who ordered it's dead and gone. But… I just keep wondering: why?"

He sighs, flopping back into his chair; it creaks at the sudden weight. "I… I dunno. Heh. This sounds crazy, doesn't it. Wantin' to go diggin' up old bones over something crazy like this," he asks, sagging a bit.

Unlike before, Asi waits for him to finish speaking. She doesn't interject about the Overlay visions made what he saw sound perfectly plausible — doesn't ask him to confirm if that's what it was. She pauses by the usual place she and her teammates usually spend happy hour at, wonders briefly if they're still there, and keeps walking past. Silas' concern sounded fresh — but old. She can't put her finger on it, but there's something more here. It grabs her interest, if nothing else.

"This man who looked like you, the one that died — they didn't happen to give him any last rites using his full name, did they?" she asks, her voice still a little too serious for her lightness of speech. She bites on the inside of her cheek a moment before she presses, "In your vision, was Linderman there himself, or did another pull the trigger?"

She realizes she's sounding like she's taking the possibility this happened in this reality, that there would be anything to investigate at all a little too seriously. Asi lets out a short sigh that carries along the line. "It does sound a little crazy," she concedes, only so the words go said. Because this is about as left field as it gets.

"No… there weren't any last rites or anything," Silas says at her first question; there's a hesitation there, though, and he doesn't doubt she'll pick up on it. On the other hand, that might be too much to give her. "And no. Linderman wasn't there. It was… another guy pullin' the trigger."

He's silent for a moment. "How much crazy can you handle in one sitting?"

A short crackle of laughter comes back across the line in lieu of a proper response. Now he asks.

“Try me,” Asi says.

Silas grins despite himself. Shoulda known.

His expression sobers quickly. "Alright. First off… understand that there's some things I can't talk about, on pain of a potentially extremely long stay at Club Fed; I'm sorry about that, but I had to sign some pretty serious non-disclosure agreements."

"What I'm allowed to tell you is this," Silas begins. "Basically… I was abducted by some nutjobs — the feds called em the Institute — and got my face reworked. I don't know any of the whys — why me, why this face, whatever — but I wasn't the only one in that boat; there was a group of us. Feds busted up the operation in January; we got out of custody in February. One of the guys, hilariously enough, has got the face of the guy who killed me; I think he's trying to get started doing construction work now." He snorts. "We chat now and then. Cigars and bourbon."

He shakes his head. "Anyway. The guy who I saw killin' me… I did run across his face when I was pokin' around. His name was Kain Zarek."

There's a long pause.

Enough to the point one might wonder if the line had been dropped.

“Sounds like you dodged a bullet,” Asi finally says to acknowledge his brush with the Institute. She's not sure what else is off-limits to talk about if he's said all that. Because it sounds like Silas had been being groomed to replace someone. After another beat she asks, “How many other memories do you have of his? The man who died? Anything that might give me something to dig through?”

Her gaze shifts off to the side as she walks, looking at something metaphysical. “Just a quick Google search is all I need to confirm the link between Zarek and Linderman. Zarek used to do PR for him. Were others involved in your… Incident also suspected to be Linderman associates?”

She's got the absent clarity of someone talking while taking notes.

"Just the one. Just gettin' thrown out into a back alley and shot in the chest. Then Zarek marchin' up and puttin' another round in my — his — head," he says glumly, and that is also not entirely an affectation; considering visions of one's own death tends not to be a rewarding exercise.

At her question about whether any of the rest of the group was Linderman associates, he blinks. "I… don't think so?" He thinks back to the time he'd spent with the Travelers on the Ark. The feeling of being constantly surveilled, Darth Kenner's shadow looming over all of them. All the ones who'd survived, anyway. "We… didn't talk as much as you might think…" he murmurs distantly. He shakes his head after a moment, cutting short that reverie before it can really get rolling. "It was a bad time," he says.

"I will see if I can find your face out there, maybe even who it belonged to. As far as finding out anything concrete about Linderman," Asi sounds less certain about that and more all at the same time, one foot in front of the other. "I am sure to find something, but targeting so specific a time for his less-than-public affairs … there may not be anything left to find. Either nothing networked, o—"

She stops talking, but doesn't stop walking, intrigued by something. "Huh," she sounds out, gaze wandering. She might as well be on autopilot, because she's not overly paying attention to what's going on around her.

"… I will try this and that," Asi reiterates, a little more slowly. "But I don't expect to find much aside from what is already public record, or downright conspiracy theory. And those aren't good for your health." It's a joke, delivered in that deadpan way Silas is used to. It's nothing hard-thought, and not even funny. But it's her own sense of humor showing through, nothing like the overexerted, polite thing she might have thrown out otherwise.

There's a pause after it as she considers the familiar nature that the casual utterance implies. Her brow ticks down at the realization.

"How— long did that go on for?” Asi asks with more care to her tone than before. “The imprisonment.”

Silas snorts in amusement at her comment about conspiracy theories… but when she asks her question, he exhales sharply. Bless you, Asi, he thinks, with a mix of exasperation, concern… and, most strongly, a genuine fondness. Aces had always had a very sharp nose for bullshit; despite everything, it brings a smile to his lips that this version of her would be able to put him on the spot like this. Of course, the fact that misstepping here runs the risk of earning him a long-term reservation for a cushy private cell at (the hilariously inappropriately named) Liberty Island kinda counterbalances that. To an extent.

"About… three weeks, probably… though it seemed like a hell of a lot longer at the time," he says, again recalling his stay at the Ark. "Then the feds nabbed us and poked and prodded us for awhile longer to make sure we hadn't been turned into secret communists or something," he says with a grimace. He hesitates for a moment. "Also, so you know… we're getting real close to NDA territory here and I'd rather err cautious on this."

He falls silent again for a moment, reflecting; his free hand finds the omamori in his pocket, lifting it out and studying it for a moment. "I… regret that I can't be a little more helpful. It gives me a bad feeling, you know?" he says, his tone unusually somber. "Asking someone to dig into a snarl like this, and then not even being able to give them — to give you — a straight answer. But the best I can do is tell you the bits I can talk about, and hope that…" he trails off for a moment, not quite sure how to finish that. Does he hope that she's able to piece together the truth? Or does he hope that she doesn't?

"…and hope that it helps."

"You've not given me a lot to start from," Asi acknowledges, "but I have been in a worse bind before, in that regard."

He sounds sincere, she decides. Or, sincere enough, at least. Talking over the phone makes it hard to confirm, after all. She comes to a stop outside the building next to hers, taking a moment to look up and down the street. Damn. She'd been paying attention to the conversation and hadn't bothered to check for tails. With a glance down at her watch to tell her how unfortunate that mistake was, she silently resigns herself to keep walking, to make a large loop back around.

"If I can find anything, I will be in touch. In the meantime, I would try not to worry. If trying not to worry involves keeping your head down until you know for sure, then find snacks. It may take some time to confirm."

Silas nods, exhaling. "Heh. I'll try to keep my head on my shoulders," he chuckles, rolling the omamori in his fingers.

"But… thanks. I owe ya one for this," he says, a grateful smile on his lips… then he chuckles. "Next time you're Stateside, give me a call! I'll cook for ya," he says, his normal sunny grin popping back on his face.

A smile touches Asi's expression too — briefly, ruefully. She closes her eyes.

"I'll do that," she promises earnestly.

Silas grins. "I'll hold ya to that. Sayonara, Asi!" he says, waiting a moment before hanging up.

The smile remains for a few moments longer before it starts to slowly fade. Gently, he lowers his phone to the tabletop, his free hand wrapping around the omamori, squeezing it carefully.

He's worried, now. Much more worried than he'd been when he'd started the call; maybe he'd forgotten how much of a bulldog Tetsuzan Asami could be, but he remembers now… and if, just if, that nagging doubt at the back of his mind is right, if there's something hiding in the shadows at the end of the thread he's pointed her at…

"Be safe, Asi," he whispers aloud, squeezing the omamori once more… then, slowly, he turns to regard it. Aces said it was for luck; well, it's worked so far. He'll be the first to admit that he's damn lucky to be alive. "Heh… maybe I oughta get you an omamori, too…" he murmurs quietly, the words nearly lost amidst the muted cacophony of the construction going on outside the office walls.

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