Spider's String, Part II


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Scene Title Spider's String, Part II
Synopsis Silas calls Asi to ask her how the hunt has gone. For better or worse, she tells him.
Date May 31, 2019

The alarm comes out of nowhere, a horrible violent shrieking that jars Silas Macken — Dantes — right out of whatever disjointed dreams he'd been having; he seems to recall Maya and some kind of multi-dimensional ghost labyrinth, but it's disjointed, already fading like dust on the wind.

He groans and rolls under the covers, turning to look over to the clock. Jesus it's early. Rising early is one thing, but this… why is he doing this to himself again? A few moments of fumbling, erratic thought bring him an answer, and with that he's all the way awake.

Today he's got something he needs to do, and he means to get it started before the construction guys get here..

He levers himself up into a sitting position and lets out a sigh. He could put this off awhile longer, give Asi time to dig up a bit more… but it's already been a month. And that means he's gonna need to start the coffee now. With another groan, he drags himself out of bed and hits the lights for his suite.

15 minutes later

5:44 am EDT

May 31, 2019

Asi picks up the phone without even looking at the caller ID. There are so few people who call her, and especially at this hour, she figures it could only be one person. Maybe two.

In either case, answering with a sarcastic launch into a reply to a yet-unasked question doesn't seem entirely out of order. "へい母さん、今日もうご飯食べたり散歩を取れましたね。" It's not exactly flattering on her, but she's not in the mood. She sighs afterward.

The person she was expecting to hear on the other end wasn't really her mother, and she hadn't actually gotten up from her desk at all today. Perhaps out of guilt for that, she scales back her tone with a simple, if insincere sounding "悪い、" followed immediately by a nonchalant "どうぞ。"

There's a moment of silence. Calling Silas's Japanese horrendous is an understatement… but he likes to think his Asi-ese isn't bad…and it doesn't exactly take super intuition to tell that she's in a foul mood in any case. Christ, is this her November in this timeline? I shoulda put her together an omamori.

"Sorry. I tried to call a little earlier this time," he ventures gingerly. "Everything okay over there? I can call back, if I picked a bad time."


A clatter comes from the other end of the line as Asi shifts her keyboard in front of her. The light of the screens before her catches in her eyes as she lets her gaze wander. In the three or four different people she was pretending to be this afternoon, she wasn't anticipating actually having to put her own face on. She winces as she looks at the time. Evening. It was evening now.

"悪い、" she repeats more apologetically. "—Silas. Do you have a moment now?"

Most likely he did. He was the one calling her, after all. Asi mutters as she realizes that faux pas, glazes right over it and sets her phone down next to her after hitting the speakerphone option. "Now is fine," she clarifies with an elevated voice so it carries cleanly over the speaker. "I need to take a break anyway."

He chuckles, both relieved at her shift in mood and faintly amused at the faux pas — mostly the former. "I do, as it happens!" he says warmly; he follows that up with a gulp of coffee.

He nods at her explanation, but there's a moment of hesitation before he starts speaking. "Alright, so, uh… I was calling to see if you'd been able to dig into that little mystery of mine."

She figured, which may have fed into her query about how much time he had. "I have," Asi replies smoothly… but carefully, the subject treated delicately. "And if you believe the government listens to your phone calls, perhaps the conversation is best postponed."

Eyes close while she thinks, multitasking as subprocesses spider out from her fingertips into her machine and the servers it's wired into. "Or, I could recommend you a more secure spot online we could move this conversation to."


Well. That wasn't at all what he was expecting. In fact that's put all kinds of butterflies into the pit of his stomach. He takes another gulp of coffee in an effort to quiet them, and in a bid to give himself a moment to consider.

"Yeah… yeah. If you know of a secure spot, then by all means. Just… be warned that my texting is about on par with the rest of my tech savvy. I wasn't anticipating needing to do this much when I picked this phone," he says, a note of resigned amusement slipping into his voice.

Asi has to think about it for a moment, weighing the potential they could be overheard against leaning as hard as she'd like into Silas's previously-mentioned NDA. She lets out a sigh, resigning herself to playing tech support for a moment while he gets himself set up. Picking up her phone, she pulls it off speaker. "I'll walk you through it," she states wearily, nudging her shoulder higher to pin the phone against her face while she types. "Let me know when you're at your computer and I'll let you know to do."

She would consider letting someone remote into her computer to be an act of trust of the highest order. It's not the same for others, she realizes, but she appreciates his openness nonetheless. "I've got it from here," she assures him when he relinquishes control. Windows open, scroll, begin downloads as she works on securing his rig the best she can, given how dated it is. She mutters about it several times, works on establishing a secure chat between the machines once she's satisfied with the rest. He mentioned he made for a poor typist, so voice it is.

Once she's sure the connection has been squared away, it's just the matter of figuring out if his questionably-sourced equipment actually works.

"Okay, now say something?" she says into the receiver, and hears a reply through her computer. "Okay, great." Asi sounds relieved as she hangs up, snaring her headset around her ears, touching the mic closer to her mouth.

When her voice pipes through, it's with a sigh this time. "Okay," Asi echoes for what feels like the thirtieth time, but this time it's heavier, more honest in its willingness to lead into some kind of news.

"I can't believe they let you keep his same name," is the first new piece of information revealed. "That was negligent on their part."

Silas watches as Asi messes around with his computer through the internet. It feels a little weird, watching someone rooting through his workstation from halfway across the world. It's not that he's worried about her seeing his Google history — oh no he's trying to figure out how to set up a supply line for chicken, gasp — it's just that it feels strange to see things being clicked and opened and edited with no visible human presence doing it.

Yeah, it's not like you let an actual computer do the same thing to your brain the other day, huh? he thinks to himself. Which… is a good point, no offense intended to Maya.

"Konbanwa!" is his reply when she asks him to say something; apparently it works, and then they're off to the computer chat, and…

…that is a delightfully ambiguous opening line. He's glad it's not a video connection; he's having a hard time keeping the grin off of his face. Either she knows, or she's fishing… and if she's fishing, she's using a spear to do it.

He lets out a low, quiet chuckle. "I mean, I was kind of attached to it," he says by way of explanation. He also knows he wasn't the only one in that particular boat; Kain would probably have some line about old dogs and new tricks, delivered between puffs on a cigar. He chuckles again; Kain's not here to say it, so he will. "You know what they say about old dogs and new tricks; it may not be entirely true, but there's some truth there." He doesn't have a cigar, so he takes a drink of his coffee instead.

That… wasn't an answer Asi had expected. If this were a face-to-face, it'd be all too easy to see the shift in her posture, the sharpening of her gaze, the reconsideration that's happening. Instead, all he gets to go off of is a negligible half-beat of silence.

"So you're actually Silas Mackenzie," sounds more like an bewildered accusation than a confirmation of anything, though.

There is a pause as he considers that. You're sure we're secure? he thinks about asking, and has actually drawn in a breath to vocalize it… but no. As much work as Asi went to, he's confident she did it right, and indicating doubt at this point isn't going to help things.

He lets out a long, slow breath, contemplating the abyss that awaits him if his trust is misplaced. "I was," he acknowledges. A frown touches his lips; that acknowledgement brings with it a distinct and marked unhappiness. Old ghosts stir uneasily in their graves within his memory, rattling their chains. For a moment Silas is again conscious of just how many he had haunting him.

"I wasn't sure that…" he muses distantly, but he trails off before he can finish articulating the sentiment; even he's not quite sure how that sentence finishes, beyond that he wasn't sure. He makes a noncommittal noise, casting aside that half-articulated thought and taking another drink of coffee.

"Well. I'd ask how it went, but… it sounds like you had good hunting," he says quietly, his smile audible in the tone of his voice.

In silence, Asi's expression twists as she grapples with that. There's some understanding that she needs to come to, and quickly. Why would a poorly-disguised … Just why would he be looking himself up?

There's something embittered as she works through her thoughts out loud. "So the story about the Institute — bullshit." She blinks hard, slow, trying to piece it together. "John Silas Dantes has the files behind to be a believable person until you go looking harder, but he's not, either. The government went through pains to give you as many legal, legitimate documents as possible, so you must've—" something, and that's the part that she's missing. Why would the government do that?

It's safe to say the assumptions she's laboring under don't include Silas being from another reality.

"Why the fuck did you ask me to go through that exercise for, then?" Asi asks, just as bewildered as before, her pace a deliberate canter. She sounds hurt, even, like someone tricked into picking up something foul. "What's in it for you to find out what you already know, what you did?"

Asi sinks back hard into her seat, shaking her head to herself incredulously. She's amazed at how this has played out, at what she thinks is happening here. "If you were just wanting to know if they registered a death certificate for you, they didn't."

Silas is silent for a long moment. He plays back their conversation through his mind.

"You mean you didn't—" he starts, a thread of realization mixed with horror in his voice. There's a long, exhaled breath. "Okay. My fault. You didn't know," he murmurs. There's some faint clattering as he rises to his feet; his office is small, thankfully, so he can get to the radio while still wearing the headset. He turns it on, then immediately mutters something under his breath as he recognizes Steely Dan. He hurriedly changes the frequency, tuning until he comes across some Fleetwood Mac; much better. He turns it up; hopefully it won't wake Amelie up.

He settles back in at his desk… then, for good measure, pops the battery from his cellphone and drops it in the bottom drawer of his desk, just for good measure. Can't be too careful.

"Okay. That helps," he says slowly. "There… is a birth certificate for that name though, right? An actual paper trail?" he asks, only to shake his head a moment later. "Of course there's a paper trail, you found the name," he murmurs to himself. "Okay."

He lets out a slow breath. "Okay. In reverse order: because I didn't know. I still don't. The reason I asked you is because I want to make sure that whatever it was doesn't come knocking at my door when I'm trying to build something. And what I told you? Like I said, that's what I'm allowed to tell," he says with a sigh. "I thought maybe you'd managed to…" he trails off, shaking his head. "Hrm."

To his credit, she neither ends the call nor jumps straight to vindictive action. The Asi he knows wouldn't be as merciful to most, forcefully pushing back, the only opportunity for vocal self-defense being the spaces between her swings.

Luckily, though, they're not face-to-face, and this Oni has greater patience. She knows there's more than meets the eye here, and she harbors some reassurance he'll tell her just what it is. After all, she has the insight he had been searching for — for whatever reason.

"I managed to find a good deal," Asi clarifies, the same deliberate pace to her words. He doesn't seem to know where to begin, though there's indication he's trying — the music, the clatter of the deadened devices. Her eyes flit to her screen, her attention stern in checking for any listeners that might try to worm in, any odd processes that might start up on his computer.

"What you're allowed to tell," she parrots back. "Is there even an aspect of truth to it?" It sounds like no, but maybe it'll help him springboard his way to the truth.

There's a half second's consideration — part of it's him being mildly surprised that Asi hasn't unloaded on him any more than she has, and part of it's him comparing the official story to the actual truth. "No," he says, firmly. "It's a plausible story to explain…" he makes a broad gesture, then grimaces when he realizes she can't see it. "Well. What you've been poking at, pretty much. Why I have his face, but not his memories," he says quietly, Stevie Nicks singing her heart out in the background. He hopes that SESA hasn't managed to bug the damn place, but if they have he's counting on Fleetwood Mac to drown out his furtive mumbling. "Well. More than that, even. And I'm only calling it plausible in comparison. The real explanation is fucking late night SciFi channel bonkers."


There's a long pause from the other side, nothing as easy as acceptance in it. Asi's taking her time in weighing what she thinks of him. There's still a chill and an unease running underneath her skin.

"You asked me how much crazy I can handle in one sitting. I told you to be open."

Running the tips of her teeth across her lip, she takes another tentative wade. "Explain how you are so close to the mess on record and don't even realize it?"

There's another momentary silence. "A mess, huh," he says; it's more a thought that's slipped out his mouth than an actual comment directed at Asi. He's starting to get uneasy about this. He can almost visualize Asi peering at him inscrutably, assessing him.

It's an uncomfortable feeling, and it's starting to worry him.

"Okay. Don't say I didn't warn you," he sighs. Despite that, though, there is another moment of silence before he starts as he tries to figure out where to start on this. "That book you had the last time we met, 'Wolves of Valhalla'. I went back and nabbed a copy. It was good reading. But the relevant bit here is their genius plan to nuke the South Pole. Reading about that one getting stuffed was comforting for me… because where I come from, it wasn't," he finishes, his voice only barely audible even through the microphone; in the background, Blue Öyster Cult is starting up Don't Fear the Reaper on the radio.

"I lived in a flooded world. The seas had risen nearly a hundred feet; the parts of America that hadn't been drowned were an ongoing disaster area. I lived on the Pelago — short for the Archipelago of Manhattan — until about four months ago, and I worked mostly aboard a ship called the Forthright, a converted yacht. The captain — Mad Eve, everyone called her — pulled me out of some… bad times," he finishes with a grimace. "Keeping the boat afloat was a constant trial, but… the work kept me sane. Kept me alive, maybe." He doesn't like revisiting those times, and even with the measures both of them have taken to try to prevent anyone from listening in, this whole conversation is making him deeply nervous.

He reaches out with his ability, searching for any eavesdropping minds to cloud… but there's no one listening in, it doesn't seem like. That, at least, is a relief.

For a long time, Asi just soaks it in in silence. It sounds crazy, and yet…

"What did Richard Ray call it?" she murmurs, practically unheard. That the self-talk happens in English at all is owed to that the memory she's searching for is stored in English. Her hand lays on her keyboard, old files spiraling open and being searched through rigorously. "Time… other realities… divergent choices."

She scoffs at her own notes from a certain meeting, realizing how heavily she'd honed in on Adam Monroe and taken scant notes in comparison on the thing she was now trying to recall. (Though she notes with faint humor the light, hesitant notes she'd taken on the Entity that had been named then, as well.)

Her hand slides off the keyboard with a clatter, and she looks at some point off her screen like Silas himself is standing there. "You passed through the looking glass," Asi realizes, the defensively-held dagger in her voice lowered now. "From one… 'superstring' to another. To here."

If anything, she sounds relieved. "You never worked for Linderman where you come from." is the source of that relief.

Silas chokes on his coffee at the phrase 'through the looking glass'. "So you did know about that. Jesus," he exhales, relief clear in his voice.

"Anyway, no. I never worked for Linderman where I came from. Selling pirated DVDs, unlicensed plumbing and electrical, bootlegging cable, yes — and the occasional childrens' birthday party, even — but as to Linderman, I'd never even heard of him until I got that vision of Kain Zarek putting me on the all-lead diet," he grumbles.

"Oh. That guy I told you about… he was actually Kain Zarek. The one who actually did shoot me, as it turns out, in yet another string. We, uh. We had a drink over it," he says, taking a moment to marvel at how crazy that sounds, "But he didn't know why Linderman had me moved to the top of his kill list."

The moment of hesitation that falls at the end of that sentence hints at exactly how uneasy he's feeling right now; the quiet, stoic tone in his voice when he does speak again confirms it. "I'm guessing you might have an idea."

Asi lets out a long breath as she comes back around to the moment. "Yeah, I do. We'll come back to Zarek here in a minute. There's a lot to go through, here."

An image flashes on Silas's screen — easily recognized as his own. Perhaps less recognizable is the card his younger 'self' holds in front of him. His name, a date, a 6-digit string of numbers.

It's a mugshot.

"Silas Mackenzie was born December 24th, 1972 in Alabama. At 19, he became associated with a drug dealer and criminal known as Lawrence Pickering. In 1991, he was arrested as a mule during a bust, and spent some time behind bars." It all sounds very distant and cleanly, and for her, it is. She's already holding this other Silas away from who he is. She has to, to get through this.

"After he was released from the Las Vegas detention center, he stayed in town. He started out as a dishwasher at a hotel and casino, ended up marrying someone else working there. Despite his record, he made his way up the chain, swapped to the casino first as a dealer, and was promoted all the way to pit boss." The image flips at this point, overlaid by several others: a photo of a suited man with dark hair, the other of an elderly, kindly-seeming man. Names flash for each— Harry Filmore, DEA; Daniel Linderman, Linderman Group.

"Mackenzie made his way up the chain, but his personal life didn't fare well. Numerous debts accrued from business ventures gone poorly saw he was approached by a DEA agent and asked to inform on the Casino's owner — Daniel Linderman. He was promised for his efforts $1,000,000 over a five-year period. That was 2001. Mackenzie's contribution saw the DEA was ready to make its case to take Linderman down for drug trafficking, and he was promised security for his testimony."

"Then November 8th, 2006 happened. The Midtown Incident, if you're unaware. It saw that Mackenzie and his family, his wife and his daughter, were never attended to." Asi settles back in her seat, brow furrowing. "Linderman found out who the mole was in 2008, and twisted his arm hard. The safety of his family in jeopardy, Silas Mackenzie found himself in a new role with the Linderman Group directly."

Her tone hardens. "Public relations, they called it."

One by one, images flash onto the screen. Crime scenes, each and every. Bodies, some sanitized as chalk outlines, where others…

And the pictures keep flowing.

"In the two years before the Linderman Group was outed, it's estimated Mackenzie killed nearly 200 people under Linderman's orders," Asi speaks as the files continue to flip by. Her voice is dark, grim, despite efforts to present the information neutrally. "His work as a hitman was investigated and documented with the intention of bringing him to justice at the Albany Trials. 175 to 177 murder cases were tied to him. However— Mackenzie was never located to be brought to justice. In the November 2010 riots, his wife was murdered, and he fell off the radar about the same time."

Shifting her weight, she frowns unseen at her screen, seeing the same thing he is. "Kain Zarek, a Public Relations coworker of Mackenzie's, also died in the riots. Another coworker of his, Kaydence Damaris, is still stationed in New York." Asi sounds more troubled at that, brow furrowing. "She works for Yamagato, and under the same job title. Avoid Yamagato Park and you'll safely avoid brushing against her… and everything that she might bring with her."

It takes her a second to move on from that, thoughts lingering on her former neighbor. The parade of crime scenes images wipe clean off the screen, replaced with a driver's license image of a brunette woman. In the polite smile she plays for the camera, the edges of her eyes crinkle the same way Silas's do when he grins.

"As a part of the trial research, they tracked down his daughter. Antonia is married, one child, and lives in Virginia. She broke off all contact with Mackenzie in '08 after she learned of his profession." Asi lets that sit for a moment while she works her jaw, thinking about her own 2008 briefly.

"As for Linderman, he died awaiting justice. Cancer, 2010. Died in prison. So he may not come calling, not him directly. But Mackenzie's acts…"

You could take your pick. A skeleton could fall out of a closet, someone might try to recruit him for similar work, someone might try to take revenge. The list goes on.

A beat elapses before Asi murmurs, "It sounds like out of all the realities you've heard of… yours might have stood the best by you." It's meant to be something like a joke, a statement of fact made to lighten the mood. It falls short, considering how sobering the news is.

After Asi's last comment, silence falls; Styx is playing Renegade on the radio, but Silas himself sits silent and unmoving. He stares blankly at the screen, where the image of Antonia Mackenzie still smiles back at him. After a few moments, he makes an executive decision; it's early in the day, but for this, mere coffee will not cut it. He opens his bottom drawer and pulls out a bottle of the good stuff, using it to top off his cup.

He regards the cup absently, staring into the black liquid within as if hoping to see the future at the bottom; no revelations seem to be forthcoming, but anything is better than seeing that beautiful smile on the screen. "I understand now why you were so angry. I thought it was because you thought I'd sent you on a wild goose chase, but if I'd been that Silas… it'd have been worse than that, wouldn't it?" he comments, his voice carefully composed, his expression blandly nonchalant; Aces might have been able to pick up on the carefully restrained panic and crushing despair hiding behind that mirror-smooth facade, but he doubts anyone else could. Well. Maybe Amelie, but that's cheating; he's rather glad that he made this phone call early in the morning, before she's up.

He swirls his coffee around, the portion of his mind that is not preoccupied with gibbering in terror methodically moving onwards to the next item; reluctantly, he raises his eyes back to the screen. "I… never married. Had the odd fling here or there, but I never knew about any kids that came of it. Where I came from was kind of a harsh place to live; would've been harder still, raising a kid in the Pelago…" He takes a drink, grimacing at how his hand is shaking. "Strange. Here I am, basically infinitely boned, a man with a freaking professional murderer for a Siamese twin… and that's the thing that really hurts in all this. A daughter…" he sighs, letting out a long breath. "Well. Doesn't really matter, I guess; I'm not her dad anyway. Probably for the best that she doesn't want anything to do with me. Him. Us. Whatever," he concedes. Now I know what Lis was talking about. The pain of not being able to go to your other's loved ones…

"So. I'm wanted at Albany. Ain't that a bitch," he sighs. "Too late to keep clean out of Yamagato Park, though; I've already been there. Hell, I was catering the goddamn Pink Tie Gala. One of the party crashers ate an entire tray of my karaage. They interviewed me after the fact, even."

He exhales slowly. "Now what I'm curious about is, what happens if someone happens to run across my fingerprints, tries to run them for… whatever? Or when someone from Hometown me's past line of work recognizes my ugly mug and gets the idea to start poking around my past and — just like you did — figures out that I didn't exist before February? How long's it gonna take for someone else to put two and two together? I'm practically a walking timebomb at this point, primed to explode into headlines the instant someone bumps me too hard. And somehow, in the weeks while I was just sitting around in quarantine, chilling at a SESA safehouse, no one ran across this? They just… sent me on my way, without telling me any of this? God," he lowers his head into his hands. Not that there's gonna be an answer. Silas knows well that there is no man behind the curtain, only… possibilities.

Coincidentally, a thing that he seems to have a vanishingly small number of at the moment.


Asi lets her head lift, trying to pull him back with that lilt in her voice. She softly says, "You are not wanted at Albany. You can solve the issue of fingerprints one way or the other. You… You have a chance at that life you are trying to build. His mistakes are not your own; need not become them either."

She brings her arms to a fold before her, still leaning back in her seat. Head shaking, she continues a little more firmly, "But you asked, and now you know." With a quick reach forward, she taps her fingers to the keyboard, and the image of the young woman is swiped away. "You have the advantage in knowing that you need to run immediately if anyone looks as you as though you were him."

Easier said than done, she realizes now, given the givens. He doesn't just bear the man's face, it's… much more than that. Asi rolls her thumb against the meat of her palm. She's reached the end of everything she planned on saying. Now what?

"I am sorry," she murmurs, surprising herself. "I don't think they thought this through. Either that, or they intended to do something nefarious through negligence— perhaps use you as a lure for him, to have him come forth and see who it is bearing his name and face." In the dark, lit by the light of her screen only, she tilts her head. "I'm beyond assuming people have the best intentions behind their mistakes."

Asi blinks, expression inscrutable. "Are you all right?"

Asi's speech is not without effect; the picture of Antonia not being there anymore… helps. Her question at the end, though, draws forth a quiet chuckle. "I… I dunno. No, not really," he chuckles helplessly… then he sighs. "But I guess I'm gonna have to be. It's either that or roll over and die… and I can't do that. Too much work to do on the boat." It's a weak joke, but it's the best he's got after the carpet bombing Asi just dropped on him. He suspects that it's going to get worse before it gets better, too, as the life she's laid out — the life his other self had lived, that he could have lived — really starts to sink home.


There's nothing he can do about that; he's a dimensional traveller, not a time traveller, dammit. What he can do something about is maybe cleaning up his Hometown version's mess. That is… admittedly still a daunting task, but at least it's theoretically possible. Two hundred murders though, Jesus. And that's just the ones they've managed to tie him to. How many people just stepped out in front of a car because they didn't see it coming? Or suddenly couldn't recognize a red light and got broadsided? Ugh. I'm spooking myself with this line of thought. Change the damn channel.

"Well. Glad to hear I wasn't the only one toying with the possibility of that little oversight on SESA's part being deliberate. Maybe they're looking for him… or maybe they're setting up something down the line," he muses. "I'll try to keep an eye out for anyone who recognizes me; my trick might help with that, or at least with getting away. But I think I'm gonna have to talk to some people…"

He shakes his head. His focus is drifting; he sees a job ahead and he always wants to dive in immediately. That's always been his go-to for stress management. And probably what your Hometown version did, too, a traitorous thought whispers in the back of his mind; he bats that aside. "Thanks, Asi. This couldn't have been any easier to dig up than it was to hear… but I'm glad I know it. At least maybe it won't blindside me. I owe ya one."

Then he pauses as something occurs to him. "Any questions I can answer for you? Now that I know that you actually know about this crap anyway, I don't have to be evasive."

"You went from taking care of one boat to another," Asi remarks with a faint note of mirth, trying her best to find something at least like humor in the irony of it. She lets her eyes drift shut while she listens for his reply, trying to judge how nice the bottle of whiskey she'll send him needs to be. He's planning for contingencies, so that's good, but…

His question to her, though, is so open-ended she's not sure where to approach it. It doesn't seem like it'd hurt to just pick up where she left off. "What was the previous one like? In the … Pelago." Perhaps it's vague enough he'll say more, if the mood strikes him. If it doesn't, then he's not obligated to say much. "What brought you from there to here?"

Silas chuckles. "I'll answer those questions in reverse order," he decides. "Leaving was… a hard choice. On the one hand, the Vanguard Fleet was burning a path up the coast, heading dead for the Pelago; on the other, the Forthright was leading a charge out into the Stormfront and through Dread Pirate Sawyer's territory to try to get the Travelers home. Eve thought it was important enough to risk her life and the lives of her crew for, and that was something she never did lightly."

"In the end… it came down to where I thought I could do the most good. At the Pelago, I'd have been just one more handyman, and Queen Lowe already had a legion of 'em," he says offhandedly… then pauses as he realizes there's some information that Asi's not privy to. "Ugh, sorry. 'Queen Lowe' is what everyone called her, but her real name was Marlowe Terrell. She was a recognized authority figure in the Pelago; she ran kind of a 'repair mafia' type organization. When you're living in the ruins of skyscrapers and everything else is either underwater or an ongoing disaster area, everything needs repairing," he says with a shrug.

"Anyway. At the Pelago I'd have been just one more jury-rig repairman… but on the Forthright I was chief engineer. I hoped that… maybe if I went with them, I could make a difference. And from there… I just kinda got caught up in things, and it was move or die."

He falls into a contemplative silence for a moment, musing over how everything had played out… and then, shifting his attention to on the Forthright. What was the Forthright like? Hmm…

Asi finds herself listening with more curiosity than she expected, slowly coming up into an upright position as she listens and wonders about it. But then she blinks once, twice, and lets out a scoff of a laugh. It tears away from her unexpectedly, especially given how serious a topic they'd been discussing — and arguably still were. "待って待ってくれ," she begs with some amusement. "Marlowe Terrell was a Queen in your world? おもろいね!"

She gets her language faculties under control enough to clearly point out in a language he understands: "She is a friend of mine! Marlowe is the new Technology Director for Yamagato USA." With thought, she adds, "Should you ever run into her in less than ideal circumstances, tell her you know me. It may buy you time." Because of course, they are talking about serious things still.

She lets her gaze wander back to her screen, as though she were refocusing on him. A blinking notification catches her eye and she wordlessly leans forward to read through it. A beat later, she wonders aloud, "The Eve of yours sounds very…"

Silas chuckles a little despite himself. "I'll remember that," he says. "And yeah, I saw her onstage the other day! Seems she's done well for herself here, too." There's little doubt in his mind that she has it better here than in the Pelago; comparing a high station in a living world and a crown in a dying one seems like no contest to him.

At Asi's cautious comment on Eve, he laughs aloud. "Eve is very, yes. To give you an idea… I recently saw this world's version of her coalesce out of a cloud of red lightning wearing nothing but roller skates, and my main thought was that yes, this was on brand for her," he notes, sounding drily amused. "'Mad Eve' was what everyone called her. We met when she just showed up one day, when I was having… a bad time," he explains, and for a moment the mirth in his voice fades just a bit. "She just would not go away and let me…" …die, he thinks, but does not say. "Well, anyway. She came along and kinda dragged me out of my hole and into her orbit. Eve kinda has that effect… but life on the Forthright was never boring. There was always something that needed doing."

"Monica was the first mate. She was probably one of the better people I met, after the flood. She was also a legitimate badass; I once saw her get in a seven to one swordfight and win with barely a scratch. She called me Lassie; never did figure out why. I called her La Zorra — the fox — like in that old TV show. She saved my life more than once. She also had me install a hot tub fed from the bilge; we had to dance a merry jig to find the parts for that, haha…" he trails off at that one, laughing aloud.

"There were others, too. Atticus. Walter, after he fell out of the sky. A rotating cast of fellow drifters who, for a time, found a place aboard the Forthright." A half second's pause. "And there was Aces, too." He chuckles hollowly. "'Partners in crime'… though that particular turn of phrase has soured a bit," he says glumly. "She was… probably my best friend, before or after the flood. Not to say we never fought; she could be prickly sometimes… even vicious on occasion, if I'm being honest. But most of the time… thick as thieves. I trusted her with my back, and she trusted me with hers," he says, sounding happy.

"I think I told you about her, when we met before," he sighs, his voice darkening a bit. "When the Forthright shipped out for the Stormfront, she wasn't aboard. She'd done the same math I had, I guess, and for her it'd come up the other way. She was a vicious fighter, and I think she was hoping that her skills — and her ability — could be of some use in fighting off the Vanguard."

He smiles sadly. "We got to say goodbye, at least, have some parting tea. It was with the hopes of meeting again, once all was said and done, but…" he trails off, shrugging.

The remarkable amount of overlap in persons known between them does not go unnoticed, but neither does it go called out either. Asi types in silence, the corner of her mouth tugging in a smile as she listens. "She is very insistent," is all she says, and in regards to Eve only. "It's funny to hear that she is the same anywhere."

Her work pauses as he continues on, voice darkening, and her gaze blindly searches the screen for a piece of context she only suspects, but can't know. Not without confirming. Asi considers it for a long moment, eyes narrowing. Finally, she realizes there's little point in avoiding the topic.

"How long did we know each other?" she asks. Fingertips are dragged one by one against the pad of her thumb in the pause before she follows with, "How did I get to New York?" She's doing the math in her head, and it doesn't make any sense. Laying her offhand on the keyboard, simple website simulators begin running as she wonders what her home must have looked like in his world. It's a sobering thing, watching the blue flood encroach on the green and yellow land in the simulator. Her head cants to the side for just a moment. Okay, maybe there was barely any land left to stand on.

She can't see his face, but Silas is smiling broadly at that question. Asi is sharp as a knife, in any timeline. His smile fades a bit as he works out how to answer it, though; her story is not exactly a happy one. "Aces showed up in the Pelago in around 2015 — not long after I did, actually. Well. I called her Aces, anyway — because I like nicknames, and because she was the best — but she went by Asi. Just Asi." There's a glum emphasis on that last phrase, marking it as a prelude to something she's not going to like. "I didn't find out her actual name until the last time I saw her."

"As to how you got there…" he sighs. "You talked about it, sometimes. Usually when one or both of us was drinking. About your family," Silas says; he doesn't even notice that he's slipped into using second person pronouns. "Your sister, especially; you were proud of her," he says, pausing to shift in his seat; the Bangles are on the radio now, the opening notes of Hazy Shade of Winter playing.

"The Evolved weren't exactly public knowledge then — that's one of the big differences between here and there; no Midtown Man, so the whole thing about the Evolved stayed quiet. Anyway… your sister apparently decided to step up after the flooding; you mentioned her using her ability to help keep people fed, so I assume she was an agrokinetic or something? I got the impression you were using your trick to help out with the technology end of things, but mostly when you talked about those days it was your sister — Kaori — and your parents. Your family."

There's a moment's hesitation there, as he considers how best to move forward. "The thing that Wolves of Valhalla doesn't tell you, though, is that nuking Antarctica was just the first part of Volken's plan," Silas says, and now there's a hard edge of bitterness in his voice. "Four years after the flood, after the worst of the storms had died down, the Vanguard came busting out like the Horsemen of the fucking Apocalypse and just… ruined. Ruined everything. All across the world. Not every government had been swept over the edge in the flood; the ones that were still teetering on the edge, Volken and his fucking cronies came and gave them a kick right into the abyss. Kickstarting war across the globe, sowing disaster… and especially going after the Evolved. It was only then, after they'd wiped out god knows how many, that Volken declared his fucking mission complete and went and fucked off; if there's any justice in the world he back to whatever corner of Hell he crawled out of, but more likely he found some little island to sit on and garden or something," he all but spits.

He lets out a heavy breath, and his voice softens. "As to how this ties in with your voyage to New York… you — Aces," he corrects himself, "— Aces lost her family when the Vanguard rode. It was in November, I think; she never told me that outright, but November was always her worst month. She'd kinda… fall into herself in November. She'd get… moody, reckless. Maybe even a little self-destructive," he says, frowning. This simultaneously feels like confronting a friend about dangerous excesses and tattling on them. "I tried to be there for her, when I could," he says, shrugging with a feigned casualness that does a poor job hiding his concern for a friend who's now a world or more beyond his reach.

"Once, when she was really drunk… she told me she felt responsible for her sister's death." He pauses for a moment. "Maybe… that's part of why we got along so well, you know? Not the grief… not the guilt… just the knowledge that someone else was living with the same pain. That someone understood it," he says, closing his eyes. Remembering. The scent of blood. The knowledge that he'd gotten there just too late, and now all he could do was watch as his sister bled to death.

Silas lets out a long breath, pushing that old, bitter memory away. "Anyway. At some point she set sail for the Pelago, along with a few others; when I asked what brought her to Manhattan… she said she was looking for purpose. That someone she'd trusted told her she could find it here. I dunno if she ever found it… but she worked with us on the Forthright on and off for years," he says. Inwardly, he wonders if maybe the Battle for the Pelago was what Asi had been waiting for — a chance to meet the Vanguard in battle again, to fight for her home and the innocent. That… tracks, actually. Huh.

"Aces gave me two things when we said goodbye — three, I suppose. First, she said she'd kill one or two of the Vanguard just for me, which I appreciated. Second, a pearl, for luck — she said that she'd have bullshitted me together a proper omamori, but there wasn't enough time. And third…"

He grins. "A toast. We drank to the Vanguard variously burning in Hell and drowning in their own blood, and to fortune: that it may favor the bold, the mad, and the Archipelago of Manhattan… and may it serve the likes of Silas Mackenzie and Tetsuzan Asami," he says happily. A part of him had wanted to drop that on her as a surprise, but she'd been too quick to put the pieces together; he can't really be upset about it, though. Despite the fact that it was the last toast they'll ever make… honestly it'd been a pretty good one, as far he's concerned. "Heh. Years after we met, and she finally told me her name," he chuckles.

There's a tension that builds in Asi's chest when she hears he knows her name, an immediate need to scrabble for a defense she can't provide because he already knows. She doesn't have time to reflect that the shoe is on the other foot in terms of revelations — she's too busy trying to keep her torso from feeling like it's been ripped open.

Silas is describing her sister before he even says her name, but it's no less of a jolt when he does. Kaori. Thump-thump goes her visible, bared heart.

The distance between herself and that other world feels as though it's suddenly vanished while he talks, holding her secrets and a story that's not hers but it could have been. Asi doesn't realize she's lost touch with the task she was performing in the background, a half-typed message patiently blinking as it awaits its resolution. She doesn't see it, and in this moment, neither does she care about it.

No, she's a little busy somewhere torn between remembering to breathe and deciding how much she trusts Silas. By the time he gets around to describing his final farewell with 'Aces', she's honed in intensely on what he says. Her brow twitches as she wonders at the significance of the pearl he was given. She lets out a quiet breath of amusement at the thought that she would have made anyone charms, but she supposes in the next moment that there would be no one to judge her for it.

It's yet another piece of insight into how much Aces must have cared for Silas.

When he actually says the name she'd cast off, she's more prepared for it, but still stoically silent as she works through how she wants to address him, or if she should at all.

"Had it been here, you never would have learned it at all," Asi finally says. She shifts in her seat as she considers it, letting out the breath she'd been holding. "That name died more than a decade ago."

After a moment of thought, she decides to extend her trust after all. "I will not mention Mackenzie if you do the same, and never speak Asami to anyone." The hesitation is brief, a thin layer over her voice before she leans into the offer.

Silas snorts. "'course I won't," is his instant reply.

"Someone keeps something that close, there's a reason for it; I may not have known what it was, but I don't have to know to respect it. There's only one person in this world I'd say that name to, and I'm speakin' to her," he states.

"If the existence of the Evolved remained a secret in your world, there was likely an entirely different reason," Asi guesses, though she frowns as she says it. Odd that she'd go after the name on her own. But she doesn't linger on it.

She shakes her head, letting out a faint, mirthless laugh. "If I didn't believe you before about your story, I certainly do now. No one… no one should know that name anymore. And Kaori…" Asi cuts herself off, realizing she's on the verge of a ramble. She laughs again, a bit more humor to it as she tangents away from thw personal topic. "I guess between the toast and your pearl, it was enough to get you through the impossible. Welcome to this new reality, Silas. My number is always there if you need it."

Thinking ahead to how he might invite her for drinks, she decides now is as good a time as any to address it directly. "I don't know if I'll ever make it out of the country again, and Japan is very strict about letting in Evolved gaijin. Barring some kind of miracle, I'm not sure we'll ever meet again. My work is very Tokyo-centric, and I have doubts about ever being allowed to leave my position." There's a heavy pause before she thinks aloud, "Or at least, about any freedom I'd have afterward."

She clicks her tongue. "Things are very different here in Japan than in the US." Asi elaborates, careful in her phrasing. "So… Before you get your hopes up, it seems pertinent to share that much."

"Yeah. I probably shouldn't be attempting international travel in any case," Silas says grimly. As to her work… about that, he says nothing. Not now, anyway. This conversation has already been a voyage through some very stormy waters, and what little she's saying about it is enough to make him suspect that that topic would be a hairball and a half. A time for all things, after all, and there's a time to stop pushing your luck.

"And so East is East, and West is West, and never the twain shall meet," Silas says quietly, and with some regret. "I never liked Kipling much…" he murmurs… but then he laughs. "Ah, but just think! If I hadn't gone shopping that day in Red Hook, we'd never have met at all, and that… that would've been sad indeed. I suppose you're right. That pearl's bringing me fortune still," he says, smiling; not without a hint of sorrow, but it's a smile nevertheless.

"More seriously, though… thank you, Asi. And that offer goes for you, too; you've got my number. Call whenever. And I know it's unlikely, but… if a miracle happens, and you do make it to this part of the world again, I'd be glad to buy you a drink."

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