The Real Ones


asi4_icon.gif devon4_icon.gif

Scene Title The Real Ones
Synopsis If they're the only them that's roaming the world, does that make them the…
Date November 27, 2020

The Bastion

Compared to the liveliness that occupied the lounge and kitchen last evening, the silence pervading it presently hits differently. The white lights strung on the walls are all dimmed, but morning sunlight streams through the tall windows, highlighting the fall garlands twined around the rafters and piping. The day is a lazy one, the world outside a distant thing.

True to a routine performed at least once a week, Asi stands next to a pot of brewing coffee, one of the cabinets opened. By feel alone she reaches back into it, fingers grazing the top of a plastic jar. Lifting it up and over other items in the cabinet, she unscrews the top once it's pulled out and to her chest.

She lifts the jar of peanut butter, and closing her eyes, takes in a deep inhale of its scent, the brewing coffee backgrounding it.

Nothing happens… save for a reaffirmation she doesn't care for the scent of it. But it's not the reaction she was hoping for. The one she's been trying to provoke for several months now.

With a sigh, she begins tightening the lid back on the jar, and it's then that she hears footsteps.

Everyone has their morning routines. For the technopath it’s apparently sniffing peanut butter while the coffee brews. For Devon Clendaniel, it's to round the corner into the lounge in search of breakfast after an interlude in the gym after an early morning spent in front of a computer.

Still dressed from a workout, in a hoodie, basketball shorts, and running shoes, he's less than a half dozen steps into the room before he realizes he's not alone. And possibly interrupting some very bizarre ritual. His steps falter slightly.

“Morning.” There's an obvious question in Dev’s tone, and a matching one on his face. The purposeful pace he'd taken is slowed almost to a stop. “Am… I intruding?”

"No," Asi clarifies deadpan. She slips the jar back into its hiding spot behind other items in the cabinet. "I was simply checking something." Fingertips close the cabinet again with measured grace, sure not to rush the action and cause it to slam, or otherwise give off the impression she has anything to hide. She doesn't, after all.

In fact, she realizes, maybe Devon knows precisely how she feels.

"You found me in the middle of hoping to remember some piece of myself I've lost. Do you ever find yourself doing the same, in your situation?" Never has she approached the topic directly, save for the few times it's been discussed in vague. She turns away from the counter and to Devon directly, her dark eyes studying him and his.

A single brow ticks up slightly at the answer, but Devon takes no offense from it. A shrug lifts one shoulder, and his path to the fridge resumes. As Asi continues, he slants a look in her direction, but doesn't actually answer until he's foraging for something to eat.

“My situation.” The word is tried like something foreign, lacking any familiarity to what's actually meant by it. He straightens, with a couple of containers with some of last night’s leftovers. “I mean… I've seen some specialists for concussion and memory loss. They've said to look at notes I wrote down before, but…” He looks over at Asi. “I'm undecided on how well it helps.”

With a quirk of her mouth to one side, Asi stops from pulling more of a face than that as he's equally as dodgy regarding his circumstance. She looks past him to doublecheck once more that they are in fact alone before returning a look back to Devon a little more pointed than before. "You can't recall what there's not there to replace. What they didn't put in you."

It might sound aggressive if not for the follow-up to that statement.

Uncertainly, with great if hesitant need, she asks, "H-how do you handle that? Do… you feel any less you for it?" She looks at him so intently, but it's almost like she looks through him as she goes on. "… For missing some part of you that you know ought to be there?"

The containers are put on the counter so that Devon can next find a plate — there's probably some paper ones still from the night before — but Asi has enough of his attention that he doesn't get that far immediately. He turns, his back to the food, and leans against the counter he'd just set the leftovers on. Arms cross and fold against his chest. But he looks more contemplative and less defensive.

“I've had to learn to live with the gaps.” His explanation is slow, like he hasn't given it a lot of thought, or has given it so much that it's hard to determine what's been useful and what's useless. “It's frustrating at times, feeling like I should know something that I don't. But… no. Missing parts of my memory doesn't make me feel less like myself.”

Asi's hanging on his answer too much to even make a tone of acknowledgement for his answer. She takes in a deep breath instead, looking down.

"This stays between us, obviously," she says quietly, thumb of her right hand pressing into the pad of her palm between her second and middle finger before slipping against her middle for want of a cigarette. "But I read the files I recovered on what was being done at Praxia. The— research. What they did to you, among other things." She looks off to the side and then back to Devon. There's a flicker of something like regret on her features, but it's too late to take this back now even if she realizes on review that any perceived similarity she saw a minute ago is likely far from a parallel.

"I have not said much about what happened when I vanished in July. I came back without my ability, but it wasn't…" Asi exhales shortly, willing herself past the lock-up. "I was kidnapped. I don't even remember it happening. I woke up in the remains of a plane crash, me and a dozen or so others, all without our abilities. And ever since then, bit by bit, it's become clear to me whoever forced this upon us, they did more than just take our abilities. I'm—"

She forces a small smile, pained as she meets Devon's eyes. "I am not so sure I'm myself anymore. Somehow, I thought you might be able to relate. That you would know what that felt like." She shakes her head before losing her nerve, gaze shifting slightly off of him again. "That you might have advice."

Something in Devon’s core prickles with foreboding when the former technopath admits to knowledge she possibly shouldn't have, but he keeps a thoughtful expression. Becoming upset wouldn't do well for anyone right now. He’ll have to trust that discretion has kept her silent about her findings for now.


The word draws long and fades as he considers how to approach Asi’s concerns. “Just getting back to normal takes time. I'm… definitely not there yet, just really good at faking like I've got my shit together.” He half grins as he says that, trying to make light of his own recovery. It fades after a beat. “But… I mean, I understand the violation you've been through. I know what it's like to’ve been experimented on and to come out of some of the worst experiences not knowing who I am anymore. But.”

Devon tips his head forward, meaning to draw Asi’s attention away from introspection. “You are you, ability or not. And if anyone says otherwise, all of us here’ve got your back.”

Asi lets out a faint sigh of a laugh, smiling without humor. "Thanks, but…" She shakes her head momentarily. "They changed my genetics. They changed my blood. I put off an EM-field now that would make the day of any passing hunter bot. I…"

"It's more than just my ability," she stresses, sounding helpless. Defeated. And then the former technopath turns to the pot of coffee to begin pouring herself some, because what else is she going to do? "But if nothing else, knowing I'm not alone here does… some to help." Cupping her mug between both hands, she looks back to Devon, thumbing over the side of the drink.

"I haven't…" Her expression pains for a moment before she moves past it. "I haven't told Epstein the full of it. He knows after what happened November 8th to the others I was kidnapped with that I'm at high risk to develop a stroke any time in the near future, but as for the rest of it, I've kept the details minimal." Her shoulders lift in a slight shrug. "We still don't have enough answers. Only speculation. And the speculation is fucking terrifying."

To that point, she takes a careful sip, biting on her lower lip afterward. "Your… double. I know there were attempts to form a connection with them. A mental one. Did that ever…?"

“It… yeah.” Reluctance to talk about his experiences is a physical thing. Devon looks aside, even though he answers the unfinished question. “There was a connection between us.”

For a beat, he loses himself to the subject, staring at a fixed point in space before he turns away fully. Brows pull into a deeper frown, but the reason for it isn't fully clear because he finally takes up a plate and breaks into the leftover containers.

“Tell me the full of it,” he invites once he's dropped a glob of mashed potatoes onto a plate. The act of getting food seems to distract a bit from his discomfort. “Talking really does help. Even if you don't have explanations for anything. You don't even need to speculate, just say what you know.”

Asi begins to frown. "I don't even know how much more there is to say. Medically-speaking, we shouldn't be alive. We survived a crash without sustaining injuries somehow— our white counts in our blood are beyond end-stage cancer, our red blood cells don't die, we appear to have biomechanical technology in our craniums, the purpose of which is unknown." She pauses to drink from her coffee, realizing there was apparently more than she thought.

"One of the victims who seized on the 8th, he said he witnessed something. Some place, like a hospital. He heard words spoken as if they were right in his own ear." With a glance up to Devon, she gently segues back, "So I feel that is strong evidence we are not our only selves. That there is… a second, kept captive somewhere. And that perhaps that connection between us could or is being accessed."

"If you have any suggestions for how to access that connection, anything you learned from your own experiences…" The mug lowers, held between both hands. "It could be invaluable to helping us solve our mystery."

Ham and other fixings are added to the plate with about as much ceremony as was given to the potatoes, but Devon's attention is undoubtedly on Asi’s descriptions. By the shift in his expression, his confusion begins with the medical findings and sharpens to a scholarly interest when the victim’s experience is described.

“That’s…” He cuts himself off to look at Asi. It isn't the subject that causes him to hesitate, but trying to find how to explain. “So, it… when it began, it was like… I could remember doing things that it was impossible for me to have done. Because it was the other me. So I would sometimes wake up, remembering a conversation with someone I'd never met before.”

It, in his own mind, doesn't sound like a complete explanation. But his understanding of what was done is lacking, and the ones responsible are dead. Devon makes an apologetic sound and looks back to his plate. “I don't know if it has to do with time, or proximity, or both, but… when I crossed paths with myself it was… overlapped. I saw myself seeing myself seeing myself.”

Asi begins to frown as she tries to follow what he fails to explain in its entirely. So it deals with dreams, in his case. "That's the other anomaly that doesn't make sense about our situation," she remembers to add. "Our brain waves show we're dreaming when we're perfectly awake. So perhaps… maybe dreaming does have something to do with it."

She turns her head with a small frown, tapping the side of her mug. "It's worth a second follow-up, at any rate," she mutters to herself.

"Could you, at the end, peer across the connection at will? What did you have to do to see through it while not dreaming?"

“That's….” Weird would be the long and short of it, but Devon only shakes his head. It doesn't need to be pointed out, the whole situation from the group that was kidnapped to what has and hasn't been found.

“Sorry, I'm not a dreamer and couldn't point you to any. I'm sadly the guy who knew a guy who knew someone, before the war.” If Kincaid hadn't dropped off the planet. Those from the Wasteland future had a dreamer among them. Dev lifts a shoulder apologetically. “As for the connection? I never intentionally tried to reach my other self. I don't even know if he ever had memories of me, or if it was just like a two way mirror. Closest thing was, like I said, when we met in the Ziggurat.”

While Asi looks disappointed, she's also understanding. "I'm sorry for dragging up this nuance of your reality," she offers up abruptly. "I sort of… blindsided you with it, in a way you didn't deserve. My desperation for answers is getting to me." She takes another quick sip from her drink to gloss past the apology rather than linger on it.

She shakes her head when she lowers it back down in front of her. "I have something for Raytech I need to finish up this morning. Enjoy your leftovers, Clendaniel."

Devon shakes his head, masking the flash of surprise at the apology. It's an uncomfortable topic, sure, but in some ways he can understand the desperation. “No harm, no foul. I'd be doing the same.” He turns back to his plate, taking a fork to make some space on it by squishing servings closer together.

“You ever need to talk, you know where to find me.” The invitation is made without him looking back.

"Likewise," Asi offers in return. She leans away from the countertop, mug cradled in one hand as she heads for the stairs. Halfway up them, she glances back to Devon, the gravity of what she revealed to him finally hitting her. But he seems to have taken it in stride.

So she hopes for the best, and makes her way back to her office.

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