Scene Title Union
Synopsis The Union operator combines the results of two or more queries into a distinct single result set that includes all the rows that belong to all queries in the Union.
Date June 29, 2021

Phoenix Heights isn't on fire, but it feels as though it should already be for the flame-producing livewire ticking away in Asi's skull. The headache she's working through today is something else. But she keeps going, because she has to. This isn't just her she's looking out for. It's—

There's an order of operations to it. Obtain Aisu. Secure Kirk. Locate Marthe and Ames. Sync back with Wolfhound on their wider evacuation plans and regrouping. Then, get the hell out of dodge.

Aisu's leash is wrapped around her hand, and she trundles up to the second story to the building of her hideaway apartment. She hadn't seen Kirk's truck outside, but she hadn't exactly looked hard either, more focusing on getting into the apartment. The door is banged on with the side of her free hand. "We gotta go," she yells through the door.

No answer.

Keys are fumbled from her pocket into the lock, turned over. Taking hold of the handle, she opens the door in on the apartment. Instantly, she hears someone inside speaking.

A familiar voice demands to know, "«Do you want my help—»"

Somewhere Familiar

Somewhen Else

"«Or don't you?»" Genki asks her, one hand on the corner of her desk, and like so many times before, Asi has to hold her tongue. She stares over the top of her screen, jaw so tense it feels as though it could crack. One hand tightens around the end of her office chair armrest as though it were a stressball.

Her silence is taken as acquiescence, which it is in a respect, and Genki swivels his eyes back to her computer screen to go back to what he'd been reading. This time, he takes note from the spat they'd just ended and gracefully keeps his commentary to himself until he's had a chance to review the data a bit more thoroughly.

"«I don't know,»" he finally pronounces slowly, wary of her reaction as much as what he sees on her terminal. "«Just because you've never seen anything like this before doesn't mean that it's…»"

Asi slams her fist down on the edge of the desk, her ability flaring in her eyes as she looks up at him. "«I know what I saw. I know what I felt. I know that three other technopaths have gone offline, Nagano! One of them was my own.»"

Genki begins to arch an eyebrow at her outburst as much as the content, lips parting to question what exactly she means before Asi shoves back from her desk and comes back to her feet. She doesn't offer an explanation on that point.

"«The last note I had from him was that he'd fallen in while investigating, couldn't communicate with or reach the parts of himself that were trapped. He said he figured out what method they'd used to do it and was going to go pry himself out. I'm lucky he said where this happened at all, so I could go see for myself.»" She feels the emotion begin to enter her voice and steels it instantly, sharpening it into a weapon to both defend and attack with. "«I would have fallen into this by tracing his path, Nagano, but my ability doesn't work like that. I got into what hurt him with my head, not my ability.»"

Asi realizes just by looking at Genki that she's losing him, and one hand closes into a fist at her side. "«Genki,»" she asks him calmly, and the use of his given name recenters his focus. "«Are you going to help me with this, or not?»" She meets his eyes as he starts to look unsure, a little helpless. This was so far outside of their jurisdiction. That much can be seen on him without needing to read his thoughts or have them aired.

He tries to meet her in the middle. He really does. He's thinking about an angle they could pursue this with, and she watches him work his jaw, looking over the data again. "«We'll have to find an airtight angle to go at this at, to convince my superiors this is a national security concern…»"

That's as far as she lets him go. What's the point? The bureaucracy of it would take too long. And people were actively disappearing now.

Asi lets out a tch and shakes her head, pulling her coat off the back of her chair. Her computer screen winks off as it powers down, and she recollects the subprocess that she'd used to do that with by sweeping her hand briefly against the tower like to say farewell to it. "«No,»" she overrides him. "«To hell with that.»"

"«Where do you think you're going?»" Genki demands to know without any real punch of authority behind it. Not today, not this time.

"«To find out what happened to him for myself. To see it with my own eyes.»" Asi turns back to meet his gaze, letting her power shift the color of her eyes in that way she knows he finds to be unsettling.

She dares him, "«Fucking try and stop me.»"

Asi's Safehouse

Phoenix Heights

She loses her balance and one hand automatically flashes out in front of her to break her fall as she stumbles down onto one knee, head swimming. Breathing is a process she restarts manually, dizzy and unaware of her surroundings at first. Asi comes to realize the leash is slipped from her hands, that her fingers are in the greying cream-colored fibers of her apartment's carpeting rather than the darker, shorter hairs of the one in the hall.

In a moment of sheer panic, disoriented by the memory, she tries to ping for help. Her ability isn't there, though. Doesn't work. Her phone doesn't call anyone on its own, and even if it did the odds of her actually connecting a call are so slim right now. Her second instinct is to pull for the Network, trying desperately to reach for Elliot or Wright, but…

They're likewise out of reach. Right.

"Kirk?" she croaks next. She only hears Aisu's tags shift on his collar in the kitchen, around the corner where she can't see him. The door a few feet behind her is closed, and she wishes it weren't. That someone, anyone could help get her back on her feet now. She turns to look back at the door, notes the shoes sitting on the floor beside it, and her brow begins to furrow. She swears they're there, and all the same she loses sight of them.

"I'm sorry," she hears herself say and she's not even sure who to. Or if she does it at all. Her vision is going in a haze of black spots and technicolor lights, her arms weakening.

"I should have done more to help him."

Asi's eyelids flicker back open only to shut as everything suddenly grows all too bright again.

Someplace Remembered

Somewhen Else

The room is kept with the blinds open, like the stark sunlight glaring off these white-painted walls might be the thing that calls the sleeper back to reality. Asi knows what the mother doesn't accept— that there's no one left in there to wake up at all.

Her eyes sting momentarily and she blinks from— the brightness, she tells herself. For having to see this sight at all, and not over the failure she apologizes for even now.

"I'm going to bring him home," she promises the mother of the young man lying in the hospital bed brought into their humble if spacious house. A computer and modem sit on a cleaned desk in the corner, both remaining on like candles lit in vigil, attempting to draw the missing spirit back. The thin curtain drawn back from the window on the opposite side of the room shifts as a breeze brings the scent of the outdoors in, a fresh rain having recently fallen. Chickens cluck in a nearby yard.

The dark-skinned woman next to Asi, dressed in a warmly-colored salwar kameez with a sheer chunni worn across her collar and shoulders with almost regal pride, doesn't answer the ludicrous thing she has just said. Her son already is home. "I promise I will find who did this," the technopath swears instead, and that draws the woman's gaze away from the bed.

Her green eyes prickle with tears as she looks down at Asi. She takes in a shaky breath. "Good," is all she has to say to that.

Asi looks back to the young man with wispy, lengthening locks and steps forward to the bedside to take his hand one last time, to look down at him and wish she'd taught him better so that he wouldn't be in this situation at all. "«I'm sorry, majiko,»" she whispers for her own benefit only. "«But I promise, you'll be free again. I swear it.»"

"«I'm coming for you.»"

She lifts her hand to thumb a sudden errant tear from where it's sprinted to settle at the corner of her nose.

Present Day

Asi's head jerks back from the lapping sensation on her cheek, her hand instinctively coming up to wipe at that sensation as much as the tears she instinctively knows he must be licking at. Her eyes are blurred with them, after all.

"だめ1," she protests weakly, and opens her eyes properly to look at her fingertips.

They're bloodied with red that runs like watercolor owing to the mixed tears. A horrified shudder of a breath later and Asi elbows her way awkwardly up into a sitting position from where she'd collapsed entirely down onto the floor, staining the carpet with her nosebleed. Her head is swimming and she looks up for help the dog can't provide.

She doesn't understand the memories feeding through her. They could be her… but they're not. Are they?

God, they feel like her. Like something she's forgotten that has just been waiting to climb its way back to the surface again. Deep down, it feels right to remember again.

On a self-protective autopilot, Asi pulls herself to the couch, bloodied fingers smeared on her pantleg. Her phone is retrieved, Kirk's number navigated to with a quivering thumb. There's only one bar of service on the GhostNet, but she hits dial anyway.

The phone never makes it to her ear.

Someplace Hated

Somewhen Else

Her phone sits in her hand, Colin Verse's number dialed. Her thumb hovers over the green call button, but she never presses it. The phone never makes it to her ear, and she slides it away into her pocket. The last thing she tells it is to factory reset.

Whatever happens now, happens. Passing the torch again would just lead someone who's tried hard to stay away from things like this to potentially fall into the same trap that snared her protégé.

Asi lifts her eyes, a faint red glow shining off her pupils as she sees through her ability rather than just with mundane senses, allowing a small drone to do the scouting ahead for her. The forest around her calms her and centers her as she prepares to emerge from the treeline to the domed building below. She wears a paramilitary uniform grey in color, sleek and different from what she dons for her work with the Mugai-Ryu. The sidearm in the holster at her hip makes her feel slightly more secure in facing what lies ahead.

The Stillwater Solutions badge clipped to her torso bears not her name. As she verifies the coast is clear, she walks down to an unmanned exit on the side of the structure and pulls down the badge on its retractable line to swipe it directly on a pad next to a door with no handle. Returning from patrol. She keeps her head down, cap over her brow guarding her line of sight.

The door beeps pleasantly and swings open. Back in the trees, the owner of the outfit she's taken as her own lays dead in the prespring dirt next to the silenced weapon used to facilitate her murder.

Asi breathes out as she steps beyond, aware she needs to move quickly. She's done what she can to disguise the slightly-off fit of the outfit; moves with crisp precision in the direction her senses tell her to go. There are a hundred different things of interest she'd investigate here were there more time, but it's the server hub humming with so much power behind it that she navigates her way to. She passes a pair of scientists in labcoats while enroute, and doesn't make eye contact.

The locked doorway between her and the secured server storage is gatekept by another card reader, but this time, her stolen identity doesn't get her through. Adrenaline spiking, she lets go of the badge and slaps her hand directly onto the interface before the badge can finish ziplining back to her chest, the brown of her eyes shifting to a pale and ghostly red as she reaches out to quash the notification of the failed access attempt and manually trigger the door to open.

When it pops unlocked, Asi doesn't dare breathe relief yet. She pulls the door open and steps inside the loud room running powerful fans to keep it cool.

The door is let shut behind her, and she steps toward the banks of servers that all… feel distinct to her. A coldness claims her chest as she realizes various towers hold various people, some of them familiar– some more familiar in feel than others. "Majiko," Asi breathes out, lurching in his direction first. The cages are all individually locked, a problem she opts to solve by producing a thin crowbar. All she needs is to touch the terminal. It doesn't matter how easy or clean a thing it is to achieve it.

A stubborn creak of barrier's metal barely registers over the din of the server room, a brutalization made by bending the thin panel back purely out of panic and need. She doesn't think ahead and past this moment. She doesn't stop to think that even this, here, could be booby-trapped. Even if it were, maybe she figures, so long as maj1ko escaped and did better on the third try, that's all that would matter.

Asi reaches her arm awkwardly inside the caged server tower and touches a cable leading to the controlling terminal. The color of her eyes shift from pale to neon as she silently, weightlessly attaches herself to the transfer of information in that system, pulled in by the weight of a structure that still feels like her protégé. She sees the network rules that keep him held here, the locks that bind him, and she silently splits her focus.

Tiny, lighter-than-air spiders of intent and malice creep their way through the intranet to get into place— positioned to punch a hole to outside networks, to throw open the gates and let one trapped mind escape. Attempts to connect with the servers surrounding this one prove they're all isolated. She'll have to repeat the process here with the rest, and there was only so far she could spread at a single time.

A note of hesitation leaves her in the din, and she opts to try and reach out directly before throwing the gate. If he wasn't ready to sprint, who knew quickly the vulnerability would be noted and patched. She breathes in, holds it. Makes her move into visibility in a way she believes is done as safely as possible.


Her world erupts into pain anyway. Her scattered subprocesses are lost in contact as a painful, terrible shock goes through her, an answer for her call immediately received. The reply comes in the form of a concentrated attack from the boy she tried to reach, the trusted connection abused. Asi screams in agony, instinctively calling out for help in a pulse of her ability that ultimately doesn't reach anyone thanks to past choices she's made.

"Wake up!" Asi begs the trapped technopath, not yet breaking the physical connection. It's too late by the time she realizes what she felt of him all along wasn't anything… living, or active. She'd approached the equivalent of a body suspended on meathooks, artfully positioned in such a way to hide that it was dead. What is still recognizably him explodes apart each time she futilely reaches for more bytes of it, hoping to at least capture and save some of his wonderfully unique presence from being trapped here forever.

Then even the last echo of him is gone, her own system so fried from the fragments of the bomb pelted into her being that she can barely keep her eyes open. She mourns what happened to him, what he was made to become. Her arm falls away and is awkwardly wrenched out of the server rack, limb numb.

Asi tries to stumble to the door, to get herself together and get herself out, feet unsteady beneath her. She resolves the need to escape from here with what she's found, and to communicate with her now-abandoned subprocesses remotely and see if she can extract more information that way. Staying here, though– staying here any longer would invite danger. Staying here would consign her to death, she's certain. Her ears are ringing as she places her hand on the handle of the server room door and pulls down with her numbed arm.

Her hand slips off the end of the handle as it proves itself locked, and her heart enters her throat. Asi doesn't even have time to reflect on the latest developments, though. Active thought stopped for her a few moments earlier, and it's only now that her last intent has been executed that her eyes roll back in her head and the exertion she's taken on finally overwhelms her.

Present Day

In a lot of ways, the disoriented way Asi reawakes reminds her so much of how she woke up then: in a small room where she was told she would help the people who mutilated her fellow technopaths achieve their goals in the name of the 'greater good'. She remembers, now, how she'd played along and feigned empathy for the importance of their work, all for the sake of them not harming anyone else after her.

But the impossibility of what they were asking worked against her. Genuine attempts to progress the project were thrown back in her face as though she weren't trying hard enough. As if cooperation under threat of death were not a strong-enough motivator. Then, after finally putting the pieces together enough to realize what the ultimate goal of the project was… she knew she couldn't allow it to come to pass.

Her earnest attempts at progress became skillful masking she wasn't doing anything for them any longer. Then, as she moved to actively sabotage data…

The scent of wet, tangy metal, envisioned to belong to a dripping cell, startles Asi back into proper awareness. In reality, she's right where she was before– in the apartment, blood still dripping from and filling one of her nostrils. The phone in her hand is emitting a noisy busy tone. Disoriented, she looks left, then right, and realizes Aisu is lying down tightly snug against her side. She lowers a hand to rest it on his back, to better remind herself she's in the here and now and that she can't stay like this.

Blindly, Asi moves to redial, and by some miracle this time the line connects. "Kirk?" she asks, hearing herself still as though she were in a long tunnel. "Where the hell are you? We've got to go, and I need–"

She pushes through the moment she knows she blanked out again. "I need your truck," she repeats.

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