The Backup


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Scene Title The Backup
Synopsis With a trip to save the world coming up, Agent Castle reaches out to someone in an attempt to leave behind a small backup plan. Cause it's always better to have a backup.
Date March 9, 2021

Sheepshead Bay

Rather than an address, Asi had reserved coordinates for a meeting place. It had been delivered with a small simple card, with a design of a castle in black and white and a smiley face, as well as a date and a time frame. It had been for a few hours, in the mid-afternoon, if she arrived early, the small shop that the coordinates led to had been closed right up until the time indicated.

And at the exact time indicated, Castle appeared, walking up to the front door of the small shop, which they then unlocked and opened the door with a ring of a soft bell.

The Vintage Peddler

That was the shop’s name, from the handmade sign hanging over the door and window. Inside sat various handcrafted items, furniture made from reclaimed wood, knitted items, baskets, odds, and ins of all sorts. Hand-made soaps, glazed pottery, and cups. Small painted items, with little details. It had a sign that indicated a time that it usually was open— and that was not today, but Castle apparently had a key to the place, and the shop cat, a patched calico, seemed familiar with them as it sauntered over and rubbed against them, claiming them with her scent.

There’s a small canvas set up in the corner, which they walk over to, and begin to examine quietly as they wait for Asi to arrive. Whatever this painting would become, the sketching had already started on the soft canvas laying it out. A landscape portrait, by all appearances. A seascape.

At least the coordinates had lead somewhere in New York. She's not sure what she would have done had she been expected to be elsewhere for these summons. The one teleporter she's got passing familiarity with doesn't exist to be there at the beck and call of strangers from another world. He's got his own life to live.

Asi circled the block on her Mantis several times, having arrived early, uncertain that the closed storefront was the location she was meant to meet them at. She slowed while seeing Castle unlock the shop, pulling to a stop and parking the four-wheeled motorcycle on the opposite side of the street. Glances allow her to see the interaction of the cat, the approach of the canvas. She'd had a feeling the eccentric agent had been the one to leave her the message, but she's no less puzzled to see them here, and where.

She frowns to herself while she crosses the street— pushes open the front door of the shop anyway, the bell affixed to the door sounding for her, too.

"Agent Castle," Asi greets the moment she steps through the door. She's garbed against the chill, in jeans and with black combat boots tied tightly, a black leather jacket to match. One hand rests in the jacket's pocket. "What can I do for you?"

“Should have known you’d be punctual, Tetsuyama-san,” Castle responds quietly, not stopping in their painting even if they probably should. They wanted to finish this little bit first, at least, the rock they had started, dark against the water that tried to rush up toward it—

No, not a rock.

It was too uniform for that. But that could just be how they had started to paint it. Maybe it would look more natural later— or maybe it had been intended as an allusion of something else within the rock, like an artist who hides mundane things within the natural world—

Either way, it might catch Asi’s discerning eye for a moment, as the brush dabs more paint on, filling out the texture and the form. “I know things have been rough, and I’m not even sure with the way things are that you— considering the situation, but I had wanted to approach you about this before, and unfortunately time is quickly slipping away from me—” Perhaps ironic, considering their ability. “I was wondering if you could tell me how much you know about interfacing people with abilities to machines.”

Asi blinks once, looking past the painting to the painter directly. It took them a moment to get to their point, winding and wending like they've been giving too much thought to it, and only now that they're saying everything out loud, might come to realize they could work on the delivery of it.

If, of course, they cared to. The point's still made.

"Some," she answers immediately even if reticently, her brow ticking in concern before her expression smooths back down. "Though I suppose it matters what you mean to do once you've done that. I've successfully run a project before where we used an interface to help a coma patient communicate with those in the waking world…"

"Somehow, I get the impression that's not what you're looking to get out of this, though." The observation is plainly made, not bearing nearly as much distrust as she would have had weeks ago for him. If any of the DoE agents had proven their willingness to help the crash victims in their search for answers and peace, Castle was the first who Asi had believed the sincerity of, at least.

After a moment, they seem to have decided that they have finished enough of the structure in the water to stop, and Castle puts the brush down entirely, finally looking over. They definitely did ramble and might continue to do so, by the look of things, but there’s also something antsy about the way they stand there. Time was running away from them. All of them. And it might be difficult to ask this of her now as it was.

“That’s good, it’s not quite what I’m looking for. But— You know, I know a little Japanese. We briefly docked up near the Kuril islands for a while.” There’s a small grin that tugs on the corner of their mouth as if they found those years to be interesting, and likely they were considering. “But when I was learning Japanese they made us all pick Japanese names— They had a hard time with my real name.”

Which Chess may have revealed.

“I picked Shiro,” he explains, because for the moment, it is he talking, specifically. Taking up the paintbrush again, he dips it in black paint and begins to draw a kanji in the corner: 城1. “My sister was always better at it than me, but I did learn how to write my name… I always liked how Japanese was like picture words, and how they’re compounds? The first part, the radical is dirt or earth or ground. The second part is a verb, to become, to succeed, to turn into— so together it’s like ‘to become like the earth’. Solid. A castle. Two parts that mean something completely different to create something completely new.”

This seems like a complete tangent.

But then they look back up at Asi, with eyes that seem to have shifted in the dim light to something mixed between green and blue. “That’s what I am looking for. Something that can be used to allow people with abilities to use their abilities together— to make something that is both a combination of the two, but something new at the same time.”

Asi's expression slips to something more neutral, the realization about what he's asking for dawning in her eyes only. Her lips eventually part, but have trouble finding and forming the words. Eventually she just lets out a a bewildered breath— half of a chuckle— and looks off for a moment. She wears half a smile, but it's more a grimace.

"Something like that, Castle…" she remarks slowly. "I'm not sure such a thing like that exists. The world is more interested how to tear people's abilities down, not…"

But she furrows her brow as she looks off of him again, sighing hard. "The, um— the work with the SEER device is the only project I know of that comes halfway close to this. On the opposite end, you have the Gemini project, which takes abilities out of one person and puts them into another. But merging abilities together, without taking them away from either party…?"

Asi lifts a hand to rub at the side of her neck, thoughtful for all her disquiet. "I have been working on programming to modify the SEER to allow two minds to connect, but that is still very new. Any work to that effect is essentially only theoretical at this point. There is still much testing to be done." Now that she's done her due diligence in providing an answer, she finally wonders aloud, "But— why? What are you hoping to achieve?"

“The world in general likes to tear people down, abilities or otherwise— but it also has interest in using people for their own desires,” they muse quietly to themselves, looking back toward the painting for a moment. Castle may have done his best to use their ability to help others, and they may have played loose with rules to help in ways that, perhaps, they maybe should not have, there’s still a well-meaningness about their manner, the way they hold themselves.

“At this point, we can consider what I’m thinking of insurance. In case the worst happens. I don’t want to give details, cause we don’t know who’s listening.” And they’re not worried about eavesdropping governments, in this case, but whoever might have— well— built Asi. “But I wanted to know how far you were, and if the technology might even possibly exist.”

There’s a grin. “We call it my back up plan.”

Asi slowly lifts her brow in reply. A back-up plan for…?

But maybe she's not meant to know. Regardless, she frowns thoughtfully.

"I've— recently run into a case where the SEER was being misused, where a person's mental ability was being manipulated through the SEER while they were unconscious," she admits warily. Her head cants slightly to the side as she peers at the wet canvas. "So we've established that one person while under could have their ability accessed… connecting two people needs properly tested first, and any external manipulation ventures into an unacceptable area of ethics for me…"

Her head rights while she studies the painted image. She allows, "But it's possible. Theoretically."

“I mean almost anything is possible theoretically,” Castle says with a wink, one that gets the whole face and both eyes involved— it’s really more of a blink than a wink, but the thought is there so it works. As someone who has an interesting past, they have a strange idea of theory, after all. Not that Asi knows all of that. But Asi knows quite a bit all on her own. She, in theory, is also unique herself. “I know about that SEER incident, but I’m hoping that someone not— formally beholden to any major corporation could start looking into technology for this. An independent mind. I know that’s a lot to ask of you, considering the circumstances, but— like I said… options are time to find them are quickly becoming limited.”

Especially for them.

“I’ll be leaving soon. For a while. Hopefully I’ll be back. I am very much planning to be, which is why I am laying down some ground work… Because if Plan A falls through, and if all the other plans disappear into the Abyss, I’m hoping to come back to a hint of an option…”

The Back-Up plan, as he had called it.

“If the SEER is used how I want, those involved will be willing individuals only. They will know what they are getting into and agree to it fully. I wouldn’t allow it any other way. I wouldn’t have allowed your friend Faulkner to sign up for what he did without knowing what might happen to him, either, and I wouldn’t in this case either. But that’s also why I don’t want any major corporations or government groups involved until the last minute. Even if they mean well, too many people involved can often lead to hairy decisions.”

Distancing her image of Castle from the government agency they represent has proved a challenge, one emphasized in the hard look Asi gives them now. Her hands find themselves slipped both back into her pockets, jaw rolling slowly in thought.

There were so many ways this could go poorly for them both. It was all dependent on how much trust, how much faith she wanted to put in Castle— in Basil— and their goals.

"イーブらしい2," she finally pronounces slowly, a wry lift to her expression after. Her brows arc at them. "You know that?" The long look at him, at them, continues for a moment longer before she glances back to the painting.

"I'm technically beholden to Raytech in this effort, you know. It's their tech, no matter how much of me is in the work at this point. But…" She dithers, hesitating. "I'll start doing some research on the side. Some investigating."

"I can't promise a solution, but you'll have my word I'll look into it," Asi vows.

That comment in Japanese seems to make the Agent laugh— probably more than a comment like that should really. Castle doesn’t clarify, but how much does part of him wish he could sometimes. “Don’t get me wrong, I trust the people I work with, but— there’s always other goals and other things that can happen. I do understand you work with Raytech and others though, but what you’d be developing mostly is the software, I’d think— ways to use what’s already available…”

After a moment, the Agent reaches into his pocket and pulls out a small folded badge and flips it open. “As a sign of trust, the group I work with is actually a branch within the the Department of the Exterior— The badge is flipped around, until it shows something under it, a shiny black holograph that, for a moment, seems to show a lighthouse— and then a new badge can be seen under it. Office of External Investigations. OEI. With an Eagle and a Triangle.

“Soon, I won’t be reachable for a while—” and he hopes that a while isn’t forever… “—but I’ll leave you the number to a few agents that I trust fully in case you need to contact someone in an emergency. Reeves especially is good for quick getaways if you need her.” A little too much if one asked Basil— but he supposed if Mister Miller wanted to leave that badly at least he had someone who was willing to take him somewhere he had a set of eyes on him rather than somewhere no one would…

The card he pulls out next has Reeve’s number written on it, as well as an Agent Sommerfield, Agent Bright and another name that Asi hasn’t heard of before.

Agent Placard.

It's the triangular shape that stands out most to Asi and her eyes linger on it. Her thumb flicks the edge of the card. Nearly does she say something, but she stills her tongue on that particular matter. There's battles to choose here. Instead, she slides the cards instead into her pocket, lifting her head to regard Castle properly.

"I can't fathom," she admits, "the depths of what you must be up to during your work hours. But… even wrapped up as I am in my personal situation… I have wondered how exactly things fare."

"In the fight against it and what it aims to do," Asi clarifies plainly.

“We have an idea of what its aims are, at least, and a plan on how to prevent it. We will be working with some people that you know well in the near future to stop it. That’s the most I’m going to say about it right now, but this— isn’t really about that,” Castle says, waving at the space between them. What they had been talking about. “I mean it is, but it isn’t. This is a secondary idea that I’m working on, but all the pieces aren’t really together and may never be. It's just an idea right now.” After a moment, they look quietly back at the picture again, adding wistfully, “Trying to save one world is hard enough, you know.”

After a moment, those green eyes return and slide back to her, “One last bit of advice. We’re inside my Castle right now— I put it up a while ago after you entered. I can be subtle with it when I want, so if anyone was listening, they wouldn’t be able to hear this unless they got some trans-dimensional tech built into you too—” Which is why they had planned the whole thing with Isaac and Zachery inside the Castle, too. Just in case.

“Try to stay close to the others. The ones who were in the accident with you. The Sundered, as you’ve been calling yourselves. I know you can’t with all of them, a couple ran off after the revelation, but keep an eye on the ones who stayed close. You, of anyone in existence probably, have the most potential to understand what’s happened to you, so use that. If you need tech that Raytech or Wolfhound does not have access to, call one of those numbers.”

Hearing that they have privacy doesn't seem to moot Asi's desire to talk in vagueries about the Entity with any kind of specificity, given the supposed danger behind that. She lifts her head in acknowledgement, toying briefly with continued discussion on the topic.

Until that last comment, that profession of confidence in her abilities, undoes her train of thought. The light in her eyes shifts, poise and comfortable confidence in the situation, in herself slipping.

Her jaw works as her eyes go to the floor, attempts at speaking failing for a moment. Without her ability, she questioned her capability more than she's ever let on. She withdrew, drank, and felt underqualified more than ever into figuring out their issues. Worse, when their situation became more and more technological, the kind most technopaths couldn't cut into, but hers could have…

For just a moment, the last 9 months of despair are plainly read on her. Then, her eyes harden, and she takes in a sharp breath to shirk the signs of weakness and doubt.

"Understanding it won't mean a thing if we don't find who did this," Asi states with clarity. "And find out a way to undo it, before it's too late. And I worry we don't have enough allies. That there are too many forces who should be helping us instead pushing back against us in the interest of keeping their secrets." A bitter huff of a chuckle leaves her. "They're uninterested in justice. They're interested in controlling the spin on this, when lives hang in the thread."

She shakes her head once. A smile would prove she'll continue to fight, maybe, but she instead dons a grim determination instead. "Perhaps it's time to stop asking and start taking," she suggests lightly. "When it comes to their 'help' versus the resources they can offer, too."

There’s a small laugh, but Castle doesn’t look like he really finds any of this situation funny. It’s more a laugh of, well, that’s one way to put things than anything else. “With us it was more secrecy because we literally thought you were from another dimension at first, and that’s supposed to be one of the biggest secrets of all time and none of you were even supposed to know about it. Someone high up decided that it would break the little brains of most people if they knew multiple worlds existed so it should be kept a secret at all costs.” Which is why they had skirted the topic of other dimensions until, low and behold, the subjects themselves started talking about it like it was nothing new.

Then it was suddenly an okay topic of discussion because the NDAs only said you couldn’t discuss it with people who didn’t already know most of the time.

“Once we knew your tech was from this world it suddenly became fair game. But with certain corporations… I'm sure they’re interested in intellectual property rights and the like, and that’s why they’re keeping their secrets, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t screwing you over. They are, and they need to answer for it too. With what happened to Kimiko, they definitely knew before we did— and possibly before even that. The information could have answered a lot of questions months ago. I know SESA is sending a team overseas to try and find out who did this, but they probably won’t touch Yamagato directly. The Safe Zone depends too much on them.”

Asi goes as far as letting out a chuckle at Castle's airing of his superior's thoughts. "Well, the world learned there were people with superpowers and one of the superpowers went to war with itself over it…" she supposes.

But it's a weak argument, one even she finds to be bullshit. The world over was discovering new powers constantly, and what hadn't yet been discovered — well, sci-fi has imagined it before. How could someone not truly know at this point what possibilities were out there?

"Though," she supposes, "What someone would do with that information, in terms of committing uncouth acts with it … knowledge of the particulars of those other universes, and knowledge of how one person traveled from one to another— that information is worth being kept secret."

Especially for what it does to the fabric of reality.

"As for Yamagato, I've luckily got contacts with the organization. Several high-ranking ones." She looks off from Castle, looking grim to have to lean on those persons, but one of them in particular owes a favor after a recent rescue from the pits of hell, does she not? "I'll see what I can find out."

Asi dithers a moment longer, a tic in her brow before she turns back to them. "Have you told Chess you're leaving, yet?"

“Not yet, no.” Castle says quietly, but there’s a moment where they sound slightly guilty about that, perhaps telling Asi before Chess— however, as they continue, “If things go the way I want them to, though, she’ll be one of those recruited to come along with us. You might have been too, if it wasn’t for your special conditions.” Being a robot now changed a lot of things, after all. “But she’s been on their radar since Detroit already, and the recent joint mission that she went on helped with that… It’ll be her choice, in the end, if she decides to go or not.”

It is obvious that they hope she will choose to go, though. “I need someone there to watch my back. A Castle’s only as strong as those it’s protecting.” Which might sound contradictory, but to them it makes perfect sense.

“Either way, she’ll know about it soon enough. And if she decides to stay— maybe she can help you instead.”

While he cries himself to sleep somewhere far far away?

Asi's brow lifts when Castle shares Chess, too, may go to wherever this is, before her mood settles out. What she can piece together in context clues makes the idea of where they're going concerning. Somewhere… out of touch. Dealing with the Entity?

The Middle East? Farther?

She slides her tongue along the inside of her cheek, knowing there's likely little more she can be told, even if she asks. "She's finally built a life here, Basil," Asi finally says in a stern voice that's like to come off as warning. "One she can be content with. Maybe even proud of, as she keeps growing."

"Jeopardize that for her, and Luther isn't the only one you'll need to worry about." She lifts her eyes back to his, the dark of them calm as her measured tone. "She's been through enough. She deserves…"


Better. At the very least, Chess deserves better than the lack of satisfaction and comfort she's had to deal with in her life.

Asi lets out a sigh, finding herself done— satisfied with her warning, and expecting nothing particularly productive to come from further posturing. "Should I reach a point where I need coordinating with your people, I have your card," she says with a polite righting of her posture.

“I understand… It didn’t take me even a whole night of knowing her to know that her world was one I wanted to protect,” Castle says with a hint of that same wistfulness. “Maybe it’s terribly selfish of me that I hope that she agrees to come along with us just so I can continue to be a part of her life a while longer.” And perhaps it was a selfish hope, but it was what it was.

No promises that she won’t ever be hurt, or that things won’t get fucked up somehow— life was unfortunately unpredictable at the best of times…

“It’s good to know she has such good friends.” Ones that he can trust with a backup plan that he can’t even fully explain.

Another Time

Location Unknown

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Agent Summerfield didn’t like this branch very much.

The building always smelled like dust, no matter how clean it appeared, and there was always a hint of— something else in the air. She wonders if it would give Agent Bright a headache if he had been the one who came calling. But he wasn’t the one who had been asked to visit this time around. The rooms were filled with strange objects, from various times and places. Even the furniture looked like it could have come from many a decade. Emmie sipped lightly on the tea she had been offered while she waited, from a teacup that— also looked like it belonged on an old estate somewhere around the world.

Then again, maybe she was in a little old estate somewhere around the world. It was hard to tell with Reeves opening the doors.

A soft click of shoes announced the return of one of those who watched over this place, a woman she had seen before, but did not really know, carrying a small object in her hands. A book wrapped in plastic and rubber bands. It was old, but it probably wasn’t as old as it looked.

“I believe this is what your fellow Agent was asking about,” the woman says with a soft smile that didn’t quite touch her one visible eye, the other was covered by a simple dark eyepatch. Auburn hair hung around her shoulders.

Taking the book. “I don’t even know what they want it for, but thank you so much, Agent Placard.” Even with the thanks, Emmie couldn’t help but muse with frustration, “I wish they would have picked it up on their own, though.”

It earns a gentle laugh. “I understand they can be a little difficult at times, but difficult people can sometimes be the most rewarding.”

It sounded like soothing advice, but Emmie also noted the other side, “Or just the most difficult.”

“Or that.”

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