The Longest Game Of Telephone, Part II


asi5_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title The Longest Game Of Telephone, Part II
Synopsis The game of telephone isn't so improperly recited that Zachery isn't able to clearly pick out what Asi was hoping he wouldn't from the information Elliot finds at Lowe's.
Date June 22, 2021

Raytech Industries Campus

Since Zachery has formally agreed to let his memory be examined, Asi's enthusiasm was at first great– and then apologetic. There's a certain case of hurry up and wait in play as she waits out Elliot's transition in space.

"It's fine," she says at one point, standing off mostly in a corner by herself while she waits. She glances at Zachery briefly before going back to talking through her human Bluetooth. To her credit, she seems keenly aware about how awkward all of this is. "Just, um–" And how unlike it is for her to be like this. "Ready when you are on this."

Asi takes a centering breath, placing her hand on her chest for a moment while she waits for something– for the better part of two minutes, in fact– then turns to Zachery. "He's coming up on where everything should be," she says as she approaches his desk space. Her fingers drum nervously on the edge of it, and her eyes wander off for a while, clearly looking at something that's not there before she starts. She blinks twice hard and her hands shift off the table.

"All right, Miller. When you did your autopsy before, what bits did you focus on? Muscle? Organs? You– saw the brain, right?" she asks, the last accompanied by a tap of fingertip to pantleg, possibly out of nerves. Then that hand is coming up in an annoyingly-timed gesture of wait almost immediately after. "Shit," Asi murmurs to herself, and then for Zachery's benefit explains, "I actually can't see the brain just yet. It's– they've moved it."

She winces in apology, then goes back to remaining looking like she's in two places at once.

"See, this is why I don't like this sort of thing," Zachery replies unhelpfully, now seated quite comfortably. Leaned back in a rolling chair, he watches Asi with narrowed eyes and mutters, "The brain is not for other people."

But criticism isn't what he's here for. With an idle tap of fingers against a pant leg, he readjusts his course back to an attempt at assisting: "That said— I saw everything, starting with the brain. The strange, web-covered, blood-red thing that shouldn't be," said as if it were some creature. "There should be no mistaking it for your average pan-fry."

That seems to be enough motivation for Asi that that's the key they're looking for as she stresses, "The brain, Elliot," in a whisper. "Can you see where it's gone?"

Her brow furrows as she waits and listens– and then something odd happens to her. She lets out a startled something and then clamps her hand over her mouth to guard the expression. Maybe she's getting an eyeful of an autopsy.

Maybe she's listening to someone in another universe talk about peach emojis.

Either way, she doesn't seem keen on explaining, just murmurs incomprehensibly into her palm, "Be honest. The info you have that could interest or benefit her comes from here. Does she want to know more about herself here?" Asi hopes the whispering spares Zachery from hearing her. "Or those close to her? Like a background check, but sideways."

She breathes out and lowers her hand before revealing at more conversational tones, "There's a bit of last-minute negotiating happening."

Impatiently, she seizes her opportunity to begin explaining once things come back into view. She proceeds with purpose, "The parts of the body I can see, though– they took off an arm from him, and the bone– the bone is… blue? Almost blue. It's a grey-ish blue after it's been fully exposed. He died after being impaled, it looks like– for whatever that's worth. His chest is pried open if there are any telltales from internal organs we should check."

At first, Zachery leans forward when the whispering starts. Then, when he realises it's not for him, he cleans closer still.

But then, his eyebrows pop up. "Come again? I don't think I… I don't think I got a look at many bones," he remarks, like somehow he wasn't expecting that to be on the test. "The skull was… bloody, I didn't think to… and they weren't out for long. I suppose there could be discolouration? As for the organs."

He sits back again, looking past Asi as if mulling over the best way to put memories to words. "They'll look like organs, but with the webbing there, too. And small growths, imperfections, just clustered on them." He laughs, suddenly, then provides: "Does anything on the organs look vaguely… apple crumble? Bumpy."

Her gaze loses focus as she looks more to Elliot's viewpoint than her own. "Well?" Asi asks aloud to him who is not there. It takes her comparative beats to pass before she blinks, expression growing disturbed. "It…" She struggles to put words to it, but it's clear she's seen something unsettling.

Like a direct hit on that description provided.

"The webbing– the bumps are there. On pretty much every organ that Elliot can see inside the chest there. It's not like–" Asi lets out an unimpressed sigh. "I don't know what these are regularly supposed to look like, but I can see the same texture across all of them. They're kept frozen to preserve them, but I can see it," she affirms, then looks back up to Zachery.

It begs the question, though.

What the fuck were people like them doing in a place like that?

"I can't believe it," Asi mutters in her astonishment.

"Not to add more unnecessary ballast to your proverbial gondola," Zachery replies, the slack that's now entered his posture belying the interest level still evident in how closely Asi is watched again. "But what can't you believe? That it's not butter? The nerve of children these days? The wilful neglect of the great thylacine decline? Oh," he cants his head, and looks more pleased with himself than he has any right to. "That one sort of rhymed."

With a flare of impatient irritation, Asi clarifies with a measured tone of voice, "That there was someone else like us out there, Miller." She fails to stop it from sounding accusatory. "Dead now, obviously, but…" One hand comes back to smooth back over her hair, and she has to take a step back, holding up one hand, finger raised. Handling two streams of information was a lot.

"—Okay the guide helping him look says there's other weird things she's noticed," she goes on, focused on that far distance. "Intestines are singular, no upper and lower. Spleen, gallbladder, pancreas– singular organ? The heart…" Asi trails off with a blink, head tilting almost violently. "Closer look at the heart is weird. It has– too many holes in it. And she says the muscle fibers are like steel."

She pauses a beat, wondering aloud, "Prototype, maybe?" and the lie of that wondering comes out so smoothly, given what she knows from having spied on Elliot's first encounter with the body he examines now.

Asi rubs at her face and relays, "He's asking about the brain now. I feel like… we've confirmed well enough they were one of us, but I guess I'm just wondering at this point if there's an aha. Something they have that we don't, which might help with the degradation."

Zachery's face holds the same expression as it has, somewhere between entertained and fascinated. It does dip slightly downward when he begins to say, in a more thoughtfully slow cadence, "If we're certain there aren't any direct competitor companies - and… let's hope there's not - a prototype could be likely. The only other thing I can think of is effectively a mark 2 - less deep subterfuge as real human, more efficiency as machine. If I were building humans beings from scratch, the executive decisions I'd have to make would be starkly—"

He clears his throat, then turns his attention back onto Asi with his hands briefly gripping the arms of his chair. "Anyways. I'm not honestly sure, unless it's programmed into the cores of us. Or in the bit of metal I had taken out, in which case, bad news for me." He chuckles dryly, lifts a hand, and taps a middle finger twice against his head where a faint scar runs upward and disappears into his hairline.

Zachery's thoughts regarding the other being a mark II bring Asi's expression to grim. He's right, after all. He's likely right, given how the body was found in the first place. A breath slowly, measuredly leaves her, and she glances back up at him as he points out his scar.

"In your defense," she feels the need to point out. "At the time, we didn't know what it even did. Still–" Asi sighs more openly as she admits, "Still don't."

Sympathetically, she reaches up to touch her own hand to her brow and rubs her forehead.

Zachery's grin widens with another sharp exhale in amusement. "Wouldn't it be a funny twist of fate if I'm the last one left, after all this?"

Then, still holding eye contact, the amusement seems to sour on the spot — the grin remains, if a little tighter, but the rest of his face no longer provides it with any sort of legitimacy in sincerity when he says, a little quietly, "I… think I'd actually prefer not to be."

As if immediately realising a mistake, he straightens again and rushes to add more curtly, "I'm sorry, was there more?"

Asi doesn't know how to react to Zachery professing he'd like to not be the last of them standing. There's little she could say that doesn't sound contrite or belittling of the thought in some way. She knows she doesn't envy whichever of them happens to land in those shoes, though, if they fail to obtain what they need to fix themselves… doesn't envy them at all.

Her gaze has slid unfocused though, attention a literal world away as she sits in Elliot's skin while he tells another Marlowe the truth behind why he's come asking about the corpse.

"It wouldn't," she answers abruptly, belatedly. "Be funny. As far as the brain goes, they had it in a specially-sealed container, I'm just now getting a look. There's the…" Asi has to close her eyes to focus on it, sides of her fingers lying along her nose and pressing into the bridge of it. "Pearl? The metal piece in the center of it. It…"

With great focus, she goes on to describe what she's seeing, hoping that some detail may stand out. When she's done putting as many words to the object she possibly can, she opens her eyes to look to Zachery in a silent question of if there's anything different.

Her eyes find Zachery looking in between thoughts - his gaze still locked onto her face, but his hands now gathered in front of him, fingertips of one hand pressed to the knuckles of another as if he's trying to figure out how to broach a subject.

"I understand this is complicated," he replies, brow knitting as his grin dissipates entirely, his words growing sharper. "And I understand you've got a reason you're doing things this way. But while I don't think I can help you very much more beyond telling you that I can see this is a newer us even from where I'm sitting — I trust you'll relay it to everyone who might be able to actually do something with it."

His grip on his own hand anchors down a little more with expectation. "Yes?"

It's Asi's turn to take a moment to respond, her expression grimming. She doesn't bother to hide it this time, how she turns to begin to pace the lab once and back, one hand running through her hair. She lets out a hard sigh from her nose by the end of it, and looks back to Zachery with a grim expression. "Who the fuck would we tell?" she finally wants to know. Seemingly seriously seeking a suggestion, she poses as incredulously and sarcastically, "The OEI? Who– haven't been able to help us a fucking inch with any of this to begin with? Who might still be responsible for suppressing the results and remnants from your operation in the first place?"

She can only shake her head, bewildered. "I'll tell someone once we figure out who's even safe outside of us. And even then–" With a snap of clarity, her expression hardens, voice taking on a gravely serious edge. "Miller, this has to stay between us for now. What happened to us is bad enough to know about, I need– I need time to figure out how to phrase this to any of them."

"Just give me some time," she pleads a little more strainedly.

The sarcasm elicits a sideways tilt of Zachery's head, and a squint in Asi's direction.

He looks like he's about to interrupt her, twice, but a hand that lifts to gesture at her instead ends up being dragged along his jawline in frustration. Because she's right, of course. Who?

"You don't have to worry about me," he says, the tension gone from his voice. He takes a deep breath, looking down as if considering something, then nods slowly and meets Asi's gaze again. "This stays between you, me, and the mirror."

Asi's brow crumples up in an unfettered expression of gratitude, pushed to her limit in all of this. "Thank you," she tells Zachery sincerely, and lets out a breath from where she stands only a few paces away. One foot shifts back as she lets that loss of tension also enter her posture, requiring a more relaxed stance. She looks away and then back, supposing, "I've… got a lot to think about with this."

It's an understatement.

"I'll leave you to your business," Asi offers quietly.

Shifting in his chair to push a heel against an unused seat, Zachery shoves himself off to wheel across the floor, half turning, then slamming both hands onto a desk once he's reached his destination by way of momentum.

"Very kind of you." He raps a knuckle against a computer mouse, blinking a previously sleeping monitor back to life, and begins to type away at a document already on the screen while continuing to say, absentmindedly, "Swing by the cafeteria on your way out, tell them I sent you if they give you guff, grab a breakfast bar or— something. Avoid the things that look like tuna sandwiches. I'm going to need you to be alive to make use of that time."

Asi doesn't need to know he's typing into a document titled, 'From 2 to 1.' Mirrors can be metaphors.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License