The Last Of Us


sf_asami2_icon.gif sf_brynn2_icon.gif sf_daphne2_icon.gif sf_faulkner2_icon.gif sf_jac2_icon.gif sf_kaylee2_icon.gif sf_nova_icon.gif sf_yi-min2_icon.gif sf_zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title The Last Of Us
Synopsis After fleeing the seeker robots at Little Darlings, the group who made their escape on the campaign bus reconcile with how their lives are changing… and the last of them is at last awakened.
Date March 18, 2021

The Streets of New York City

Leaving Little Darlings behind was a very easy choice for those who pile into the election tourbus bearing Isaac Faulkner's name. It's he who pilots the beast while others clamber aboard and find places to sit or stand or pace or dissociate. Asami Tetsuzan make up one of the number, and she heads clear for the rear of the bus as soon as she can. To get out of the way of others who might not be as happy to see her—

and also to make her way to Nova.

"They can see through you," Asami tells her urgently, quietly. "They were using you and Zachery as eyes to find us. I didn't know until they were right in front of us that they could even—" But no excuse is going to help here, and it wastes time. Those laser toasters won't be in the rubble for long. "I'm sorry, Nova, I need to…"

She doesn't lift her hands just yet, only meeting Nova's eyes with the hopes of obtaining permission. "If I don't, they'll be on us again."

Compared to many of her fellow “travelers,” Nova’s in good shape. She wasn’t in the rubble and dust — the most damage she’s received is a spot on the back of her jeans where she sat in something while huddled with Isaac in the kitchen. Best not to question what it is.

She looks a little shell-shocked, her arms wrapped around her middle in the back corner seat she’s claimed for herself. When Asami approaches her, wide blue eyes take a moment to turn from the window and find the other woman’s face. She listens, but she doesn’t seem to react for a moment.

Finally, her gaze flicks to the front where Isaac drives; they discussed this already, in the kitchen, but she knows it still scares him. Her brows draw together and she takes a breath. Even though Isaac agreed that it was her decision and that he’d support her, even though they both know that the more power they have, the better their chances of getting out of this situation, Nova worries that this will feel like a betrayal.

Asami’s words cut through the fog of what-ifs. She looks from the driver’s seat to those seated nearby, and finally, she nods, holding her hand. It only trembles a little.

Curled into a seat against a window, Brynn Petrelli is watching everyone load onto the bus with wary gray eyes. Her heart is beating so hard in her ears that it's all she can hear — ironic, really. She almost feels like she's stepped outside of herself and is watching her whole world go sideways. She's not sure that her mother is actually her mother or if she's the other Mom. The scary one. The one whose eyes are hard as diamond chips set in a granite face, whose expression barely softens when she looks at Jac or Brynn. If all of this is not real, if there's another life out there that she's supposed to be living…. what about her family? Is her mom still her mom there, or did she never take the deaf toddler in? Is her dad still alive there maybe?

So many thoughts swirling in her mind, terror mixed with anguish. Because they're being chased now. It's like one of those sci-fi movies she doesn't really like where people are experimented on by corrupt governments. Part of her keeps insisting this cannot be really happening. That she's dreaming it all and someday she'll wake up, and her dad will be there holding her against his chest where she can feel his heartbeat and the low, reassuring rumble of a voice she's never heard under her cheek.

She's paying very little attention to those around her, suddenly feeling very lonely and alone despite being surrounded by people just as afraid as she is.

Lips pursing into a thin line, Asami nods once, silently grateful Nova seems to be coming around. "All right," she breathes out, reaching deep as she looks into Nova's eyes, seeing that broken piece of her needing snapped back into place. Her own eyes begin to lighten and swirl the color of honey before abruptly shifting to a molten, enchanting gold as her hands lift and her fingertips alight gently on Nova's brow. "This'll take just a moment."

The touch is like an electric shock, and the touch is all it takes. Nova can feel the change come over her as a pressure behind her eyes, one that sharply aches before spreading down her shoulders and arms, joints stiffening and burning with a heaviness unlike anything she's ever felt before in her young life.

Then with a sudden intake of breath, the transition is over. It feels over, anyway. Nova feels lighter. Asami is blind to the change that caused it, her hands still partly raised by her side while she stares off, golden eyes unfocused, elsewhere.

It would be easy to conclude that Isaac Faulkner is entirely unaware of what's transpiring between Asami and Nova; certainly, there's no overt reaction. His hands remain loosely on the wheel of the bus, his handling of the vehicle adequate, his eyes not even straying to the rearview mirror.

But maybe that impression isn't quite accurate. His eyes sweep across the road ahead naturally enough, looking for paths through traffic, but the way they never go to the mirror is a bit unusual for him, given that he usually tries to be very aware of his surroundings. There are other details that are off, as well, though only someone who knew him well (read: Nicole) would be able to pick up on them — his expression is a good affectation of concentration, but the slash of his mouth is just a bit too grim for it to be sincere, and though his hands are loose on the wheel, the way his fingers occasionally ever-so-gently flex and unflex calls to mind the attitude of a cat debating whether or not to claw.

The Nicole that Faulkner grew up with would be keeping a close eye on him right now; even the Nicole of the past few weeks might have it together enough to be concerned…

But she's not here at all right now, anyway, which is probably a good thing; Isaac is definitely aware of the fact that it is Nicole who saddled him with driving the bus, so that Asami could do what she's doing now. It's a very neat little bit of manipulation, very consistent with their means and methods so far… and it's done an excellent job of clearing up a number of sentiments that have, up until now, been clouding his judgement. He can see clearly now, oh yes; the scales have fallen from his eyes, and his mind is as smooth and clear as the surface of a placid lake… or the bright steel of a knife.

The question of what to do with that newfound clarity is another matter, but that's best suited for another time. For now, he drives the bus, his mind mostly empty save for the occasional detached musing of the qualities of his passengers.

Zachery is having some trouble. One hand gripped tight onto a chair at his side, he's taken a standing position near the front of the bus as if looking out through the windshield might give him some amount of control over the vehicle or the situation. Still, his expression shifts easily to different shades of jaw-tensing uncertainty, nose wrinkling as his gaze fails to hold its focus.

After he lifts his chin ever so slightly in response to what he hears behind him, he turns his head in Faulkner's direction to ask somewhat severely, "What are we leaving behind?"

It isn't Faulkner who answers, but Yi-Min, sitting in the foremost seat directly behind him with her arms folded and one rail-thin shoulder nestled right up against the window. It's a reclusive posture that manages to make her look even smaller— and lonelier— than she already is. Sunlight occasionally stripes and unstripes her empty expression as the road trails on, but she does not turn her head away from the view to address him.

No: she seems dead focused on staring through the glass at some phenomenon that had long been lost to physical sight, if not memory.


"Everything you ever…" Faulkner murmurs, his voice only just discernible. There are a lot of different ways to finish that, and most of them apply.

Everything you ever wanted.

Everything you've ever done.

Everything you ever were.

Everything you ever hoped.

Then Faulkner straightens, just a bit, and his eyes look into the mirror for a moment, looking first to Yi-Min, then to Zachery behind, then back to the road — after all, he is driving this particular mobile shrine to bitter irony. But he does not lapse back into silence.

"My father once said that there were two different paths a life could take. You could have a life of happiness, or a life of meaning," he says easily. "To live a life of happiness, a man must live absolutely in the present, with no thought of what's gone before, and no thought of what lies ahead… whereas living a life with meaning meant being condemned to wallow in the past and to obsess about the future."

His voice is the smooth, cheerfully polished voice of a politician speaking to a small crowd, a facsimile of cheerful relaxation… but his face in the mirror shows something different. In the tightness at the corners of his eyes, the twist of his mouth, there is, for a moment, a ghost of something like grief.

"I chose to live in the hopes of leading a life with meaning; the choices I've made… maybe not everyone would agree with. I've made mistakes. But it was always my goal to lead a life with meaning."

He takes a breath, smoothly turning the bus and accelerating; the traffic is playing nice today, for the moment. By New York standards, anyway. "But that's what we're leaving behind. We're leaving behind the past," Faulkner says quietly. "We're leaving behind the future. Everything we've done. Everything we'd hoped to do. Everything and everyone outside our happy little band," he finishes, sounding forlorn.

His eyes stray back to the mirror, to Yi-Min, to Zachery… and then, for a brief moment, further back still. To Nova.

Nova’s eyes widen at that spark, and the more indescribable feeling of something coming into being within her, a filling of a void she didn’t know she felt.

Her eyes turn toward Isaac when she hears him speaking. He sounds far away, like she’s underwater, his words audible but not understandable to her. She’s too far away and too distracted by whatever it is she feels inside.

As he finds her eyes in the rearview mirror, he sees — as does anyone looking at Nova — a strange effect. For a moment it’s like she’s splitting apart, but then it’s clear: she’s not splitting, she’s multiplying. Like a ctrl-v’d image on a computer screen, there’s an overlap for a second of a second Nova before the second steps away. And then a third, and then a fourth, and suddenly the van is a lot more crowded as they take up the aisle in the center.


What,” all five of them gasp out in unison.

But they’re not all identical copy-pasted versions. One has long dark hair, much like the one Nova saw burn to ash in the park. Another long blond hair, another shorter dark hair. The fourth red. But they’re all dressed as she is, and all have the same stunned look in their wide



Hm?” Turning around from the adjacent console, Maxwell Huber first looks at the dark-haired woman standing at the foot of the examination table, then down to the woman laid out on it. Huber’s expression shifts to one of confusion, then concern as he reaches for a foldable tablet, prying a panel open to look at a flyout menu, fingers gliding over the glass screen.

“Her eyes are open.” The older woman says with tightness and concern in her voice. Huber doesn’t look up from the tablet, instead scrolling through a live feed of input represented as strings of information packets.

On the table in front of Huber, Asi Tetsuyama lays motionless with her eyes wide open and unblinking. Her dark-eyed stare is fixed not on the ceiling but the machinery between her and the ceiling, a humming apparatus of dangling cables and smooth white plastic over steel. The cables dangle down like tentacles of some great sea monster, attached to sockets in her shaved head.

“I’m going to call—” The other woman in the room begins to say, but that draws Huber’s attention from the tablet. He takes her by the arm, hard enough to bruise. She doesn’t flinch, but instead freezes and looks down at Huber’s hand. A warning silence hangs between them, and Huber reluctantly lets her go.

“It’s a feedback error.” Huber lies, snapping his tablet closed. “Muscle spasm.”

“She’s not awake?” The woman asks, glancing down to Asi. Waving a hand in front of unblinking eyes rimmed with tears.

Huber hesitates. “No,” he says with feigned confidence.

Except she is. Awake in a prison of flesh.

Awake enough to see the ID badge dangling off of the woman’s lab coat.


Awake enough to see into her


Asi’s heart skips a beat. It’s Nova she’s looking at. She is not a prisoner in her own body and yet, for the most horrifying of moments, she was. Not just a prisoner, but awake. Momentarily free of the system. And now, once again, a prisoner in her mind.

Asami Asi Asami's widened gold eyes flicker and with a hard blink return to their normal shade. Her head sways back before she comes to, one foot shifting slightly to better brace herself against the ground. "Breathe," she offers up soothingly to Nova. (To herself, really, but to them both.)

"You're all right," Asami stresses. "You're … free now." She has to blink again quickly to bat away tears before they can form. "From the system's immediate sight." Her chest rises and falls with more volume than one might expect, and she looks away to the front of the bus with a slow flex of one hand.

That's it. That was all of them, awoken or reawakened. "I don't think they'll find us now. If we lay low for a while… we should be safe." She swallows nervously, lifting her voice. "I know this has been a lot. And I'm sorry. The outside world is out there and it's hard to see, but the farther we get away from New York … the easier it might become to envision."

"It'd be safer if… if we went together, but if West is a trip some of you want to make…" Alone? Separate? She doesn't know what word she wants to say here.

Asami only says, "I'd understand."

Nova's change — her split — sees Isaac's eyes widen as he looks at the five of them suddenly occupying the middle of the bus, for once completely at a loss…

… which is not a good state for the driver to be in, he realizes with a spike of alarm. He lets out a muffled curse as his gaze returns to the road and he sees that the bus is just starting to slip into the next lane; hurriedly he checks the mirrors and then taps the turn signal and accelerates, slipping into the lane without issue.

He keeps his eyes on the road then, but he isn't deaf; he can hear Asami's little speech quite well. Go fuck yourself, is the immediate thought that precipitates from the depths of Isaac's mind when she says she's sorry. No, you're not, is the more refined version of that sentiment that it shapes itself into as it bubbles upward from the visceral depths to the higher levels of Isaac's mind. Being sorry means that you'd do something differently, and Asami… well, her actions speak for themselves, don't they?

He only speaks when she's finished. "Good," he says mildly.

Brynn's sort of half paying attention… right up until there are five of Nova. And then her gray eyes go wide like saucers and she stares. "Holy crap," she breathes out. "Nova…. which one is the real one??" She climbs up on her knees facing backward in the bus seat — it's almost funny how young she looks right now. Very much a fascinated teen-ish gaping at something totally primal on a bus.

Nova stares at the other her that looks like the one she saw burn and disappear before her very eyes not so long ago — the day her reality seemed to stop feeling true, looking back. The others all stare at one another in much the same way, their features mirrors of one another despite the differences in hair color and length; one has a scar bisecting her eyebrow and another one across her open palm.

“Me,” says the first Nova, but so do all the others, to answer Brynn’s question, and then they all laugh — it’s mostly the same, a bright and airy thing, though one doesn’t open her mouth, her shoulders shaking instead.

“Weird,” they all say again, and then the first of the Novas reaches to touch one’s hand — instinct tells her this is how to do this. The others reach out, like a chain of girls cut out of construction paper, to touch one another’s hands, and they all fan-fold back into one another like an accordion closing, until only the first remains.

The sole Nova sits stunned, cheeks coloring a little as she’s well aware everyone is watching her, and finally she lifts a hand to simply wave. Hi.

Asami lets out a small laugh made of incredulity on watching Nova fold back together into one person. It's a wild thing to see, a nearly-lighthearted balm against the sobering reminder of their reality.

"In either case, we need to hurry," she states with calm certainty. "The longer we stay here, maybe the more we tempt reintegration. Whatever happened t…" Her head lifts and turns to Zachery at the front, her fingers slowly curling into her palms. "To… Zachery, we don't want to invite on the rest of us. Violette warned me we're risking brain damage to our real selves if that happens, so…"

She blinks hard. Damage. Injuries. Right. "Where's Daphne," Asami stage-mutters, turning to find where on the bus the blonde has slipped off to.

“We’re going to need supplies,” pipes up Kaylee reluctantly from where Valerie left her, seated just behind her girls. Hands gently resting on the seats in front of her in a gesture of unconscious protectiveness, she’d been quietly watching everything. Though she may still be staring at Nova in amazement, while trying to push back the worry and anxiety. “Take me and the girls by the mansion, I need to get some things…. For… for the trip. There’s food stuff and everything, we’ve been safe there for a while… so if need be we can regroup and figure out how we’re going to get the rest to leave with us.”

Kaylee chews her lip thoughtfully, ignoring the woman in the window's faint reflection. “We don’t want to delay much longer though…” She focuses on Asami. “I agree though that every moment we are not on the road is a risk.”

Zachery still stands half turned with his hand on a chair, his attention blearily gliding between the driver and the sudden extra passengers. He manages to get his wits about him enough to finally blink when said passengers reconstitute into one, but only when his name is said aloud does he seem to breathe again, eyes refocusing.

The arm affixed to the chair next to his bends at the elbow, and proves to be the only thing keeping him upright. He sinks heavily down into the seat, blinking out of sight in the midst of burying his face in his hands.

"Fuck—" He interrupts himself before he can finish, wheezing a laugh into his palms that's still on his disembodied voice when he continues to say, "Fuck food! We're not even here— we're just some binned fucking files waiting to be punted back to…" His words trail off, anger slipping in more quietly for a last note of, "They fucking ended me."

Jac, who’d been making every attempt to sleep — or appear like she’s sleeping in lieu of being able to hole up in her room — since being deposited into a seat on the bus, can’t help but rouse noticeably when there’s suddenly extra voices. Actual voices and not just the ones people use when they think. She turns, twists full body, in her seat to look to the back and the extra Novas that are just… there.

Her mouth opens, but her mom and then Zachery’s statements have her looking from one to the other. The both of them are treated to a huffed breath, just as Jac sinks back into her seat and closes her eyes.

Faulkner does not immediately respond to that, and not only because he's driving the bus; that is definitely a part of it, yes, but he's also considering his words carefully, trying to find something a little more articulate than the fuck you say?

So, the silence stretches. No one else seems inclined to follow up on that huge bombshell… so, for all of his reservations, it falls to Faulkner. "They ended you?" Faulkner asks, not taking his eyes off the road. "Did you run into those… pyramid things before?"

Curled up with her head resting against a window, Daphne is awake enough, if barely, to hear Asami and lift a hand and call out. “Over here.” Her eyes remain closed, her brows knitting together in her wan face.

Nova moves out of the way and then decides to carefully navigate herself down the aisle toward the front of the bus to slip into the seat beside Isaac. She doesn’t speak. But if they’re effectively driving to their demise, the end of these binned fucking files as Zachery put it, she wants to be close to him for as long as they have left.

Asami turns her head back at Zachery's description of what happened to him, something in her expression hollowing. She starts to bring up her own experience, an attempt on her life by the system, but it feels wrong now. Instead, she hovers over Daphne's side, calling Isaac's ability into her palms and letting them lay soothing warmth down into her injuries. "This should help."

She manages to swallow her pride and reservations both to answer Faulkner. "That's the first time I've seen those, personally. Before, it's just been people suddenly losing their will and attacking like it was their only purpose in life. Sometimes strangers, sometimes people close. They, um— the throughline has been seeing gold eyes." Except for what happened with Kimiko, she thinks to herself.

Zachery gets a flat look, despite the sympathy she feels for his ordeal. She doesn’t back down from her own request. “Even if we’re just ones and zeros in a computer we need to take care of ourselves. We don’t know what we’re going to find out there or how long it is really going to take to Vegas,” Kaylee argues calmly. “Besides… Between my father-in-law and husband, I believe there is at least a shotgun… maybe a hunting rifle tucked away somewhere. I want those.”

No doubt they’ll need protection.

“I’m not saying stay there, just a stop off.” Letting hands slide over the backs of the seats to her, she flops back in her own seat heavily. Kaylee adds sounding tired, “Besides, I have a cellar full of alcohol… it would be a shame to let all that digital booze go to waste.” Turning her attention back to the road she ignores the scowling reflection. “Lord knows I could use a stiff drink.”

Isaac says nothing as Nova arrives, but his eyes find her in the mirror as she sits down… and the warmth in his expression is subtle, but for someone who knows him as well as she does, it's unmistakable. The faint uptick of the corners of his mouth, the softening of his eyes…

Which only makes his reaction when Asami answers his question instead of Zachery all the more noticeable. Immediately his shoulders tense, his facial expression smoothing away to nothing as his eyes find Asami in the mirror. "I see," he replies, his tone carefully, emotionlessly polite. He very much wants to leave it at that, but after a moment forces himself to continue. "I've heard of that sort of thing before, but it hasn't yet happened to me directly, thankfully."

Kaylee's interjections prevent him from having to spend any more time addressing Asami, which is good; Faulkner nods. "Chateau Petrelli is as good a destination as any, for the short term. From there, we can… consider next steps." It takes all of his well learned politesse to avoid infusing that with sarcasm, but he manages it.

Still out of sight, Zachery's voice sounds again after a near lung-emptying wheeze of a laugh that sounds as amused as it is panicked. "I'm staying on the bus. Whether you die out there or not."

He pauses. Then, frantically, "I- might make an exception if you're bleeding out and right there nearby and on your way back but— they had me caring for children that never fucking existed," he laughs again, as if it takes him by surprise before it dwindles to noting. All the same the words that follow are added as grim punctuation. "Anyone not us, not… awakened, or whatever we want to call it, is the enemy."

"There," Asami murmurs as she steps back from Daphne, relieved the injuries caused to her were in fact able to be healed from. She lets out a short breath of relief and looks back up.

Having the ability to still see Zachery grants her only the slightest boon to his state, as his tone speaks enough. She solemns, at once relieved to have someone else who understands just how serious their predicament is … even if she wishes it hadn't come at the cost it did. Her eyes flicker away from him and then down.

"Back to the Petrellis, then," she inputs, even though her thoughts are not asked for nor wanted by the man driving the bus. "And from there…"

They'd splinter apart or stay together how they would. But if nothing else, at the very least, the last of them were freed from OPTICA's oversight. It'd still take a while to escape its control entirely. The road to Vegas would be long, sure to be filled with its own challenges… but it was better than staying here.

It had to be. Escaping from the system, no matter where it lead to, had to be better than being stuck in lives that only pretended at providing fulfillment.

It… had to be, Asami hopes.

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