baruti_icon.gif tibby_icon.gif

Scene Title Vertroue
Synopsis Afrikaans; noun; trust.
Date June 1, 2021

There is a little stretch of land between the New York City Safe Zone and the Manhattan Exclusion Zone where law and lawlessness meet. Once, it was known as the Bronx.

Little stands of what was once the Bronx except for the burned out shells of buildings and devastation that stretches far beyond the boundaries of New York City. Some people choose to live within the ruins, primarily in subterranean residences holed out in partially cut off subway tunnels or other difficult-to-access areas. Many of these individuals are holdout civilian supporters of the Mitchell Administration who have not put down arms. Others are smugglers and opportunistic criminals looking to make money off of the residents of the Safe Zone.

Some people still call this desolate stretch of land by its old name, though to those who live below the Bronx’s streets it goes by another name: the Divide.

The Divide
Ruins of the Bronx

June 1st
8:19 pm

Tibby Naidu is no stranger to the Divide. It is a haven for the lawless and the forgotten, a subterranean city of criminals and outcasts thriving beneath the abandoned streets in networks of tunnels once used by groups like the Ferrymen. It is here where the true counterculture of the Safe Zone has taken seditious root, where some of the most dangerous of criminals have fled the gentrification and policing of Staten Island, where those who refuse to abide by the post-war structure of society seek out their own way of life.

A trio of guard dogs warily watch Tibby from behind a chain-link fence as she steps through a subway car turned sideways in the tunnel, used as a chokepoint for access to a stretch of the Divide filled with bootleggers and drug dealers. A small group of Refrain addicts sit on the interior-side of the gate, their eyes flickering blue at the pupil. Armed guards watch Tibby with the same wariness of the dogs as she passes by on her way to a rendezvous years in the making.

There’s a Refrain den just off of the entrance to this stretch of the Divide, a darkly-lit hole in the wall establishment carved out of what remains of the Castle Hill Ave subway station. Dank couches line the walls of the lantern-lit establishment. Those partaking in Refrain trips sit together in the darkest corners, visible only by the blue glow emitting from their eyes in the dark, like strange monsters of memory.

There is a different blue glow that Tibby is looking for, and she finds it seated at a couch behind a partial chain link fence draped in old rugs. A pair of blue rings, not glowing pupils. They sit in deep set eyes on a bald head. Tibby Naidu has not seen her father in years, and yet he sits there by himself with the casual presence of a housecat that has wandered in off the street after years of being missing, well-fed and happy, having lived off of another family’s charity.

At first, Baruti Naidu rises to stand and greet his daughter as he sees her stepping into the dim lantern light. But there is something about her presence that disquiets him. Something that makes him stop halfway through spreading his arms to welcome her for a hug. Something that is missing.

On the outside Tibby reads as cool, calm and collected. Dressed darkly, soft soled running shoes pad on the ground. Dark eyes lined with heavy kohl scan the surrounding areas as she walks, allowing the HUD to analyze and read various bits of information. On the inside, the young woman's mind is rolling with emotion. She left after it had become too much, her fathers drinking, the grief surrounding her mother's death.

She never liked Refrain.

Never wanted to push it and only would in the smallest quantities that she could. Absolutely never partook in it, ever. If anything the alcoholism in her family made her more weary of drugs, especially of the illicit nature. The trio of dogs send a pang through the slender woman. It reminds her of former familiars, her former chosen family. Fingers twitch at the sight of the Refrain den and the glowing blue eyes within.

There he is. Just as she remembers but something is different. She wishes for Ade and Oya as she takes a step forward more into the light. Completely alone. It doesn't take a genius to note her father's reaction to seeing her and the well of emotion stirring within her begins to break. For all the anger and confusion she had for Baruti she looks at him now in pain and shame.

"Ja, ze zijn weg," Soft voice cracks and Tibby's eyes water. Something she hates and the woman briefly closes her eyes trying hard to dispel the moisture.

Behind Tibby’s eyes her HUD performs autonomous reactions to her father’s presence. A bounding box forms over his face, scanning for facial recognition. Flyaway text pops into her periphery, augmented reality highlights overlay the floor and gives estimations of his path into the room with holographic footprints. Still more analytical tools are attempting to estimate his blood pressure, heart rate, and emotional state based on pupil dilation and posture.

How?” Baruti asks, though there is a tell-tale tightness of fear in his voice, as if some part of him suspects an answer. But it isn’t the truth of the matter. He approaches his daughter in spite of his reaction to this maiming, now instead lifting a cautious hand toward her like one might pet a feral stray. “What happened to you liefje?

Her eyes passively taking note of all the information the HUD relayed to her but asking Tibby what happened causes the woman's calm facade to fracture at first with tiny cracks that spider out quickly,


She chokes it out and her eyes open wide, chest rising and falling rapidly, the feeling of falling threatens to consume Tibby. Inching towards him and his hesitant hand before barreling into the giant that is her father and clings to him, sobbing in a way she had never done before. In a way that she had never allowed the dam to crack more than just enough to press on and survive, it now tore open.

"I was caught, trying to smuggle. Thrown in a prison, thought I'd die there. Until Crito showed up." Telling her story gives Tibby some kind of foundation to stand on and she leans a little away from her father to stare up into his bright eyes with her misty dark ones. "I could go free but there would be a price, I would work for them. They didn't tell me how much of myself I would lose. Not about mijn schatjes, mijn katten."

Nostrils flare, "I should have told them to let me rot." The complete shame that she feels in losing that part of herself is a dark hole that grows larger by the day, at this rate she was standing with her back against the wall and toes already hanging over the void. "Ik kan ze niet voelen… Oya is dead." The rage is gone and a hollowness instills itself through her, posture becoming more rigid. Tibby backs away a touch. Wanting to distance herself from her father, from the shame of it all, of losing the equivalent to a child.

Baruti’s only response is a slow narrowing of his eyes. He is silent, stalking around Tibby with a nervous tension in his back and shoulders that she has never seen before. Or—no. That’s not true.

Kry haar!” Baruti shouts to the estate guards, sending them scrambling toward where he points. Tibby likewise scrambles back and away from the railing, turning on hands and heels as fast as she can, sprinting back through the doorway into the villa. Her bare feet slap on the marble floor as she skids past a glass display case in the hallway containing old stone tablet etched with triangular divots.

“Crito.” Baruti says, and his voice brings Tibby back from that rediscovered memory. “They did this to you?” He motions to her with two fingers in the way he might trash in an alleyway. “They did this to you?” The temper of his voice rises, and she can see the indignation in his eyes where once there was disgust. He doesn’t even know what this is, but he knows Crito. He knows what it might mean.

When?” Is Baruti’s next, emphatically delivered question. The answer is important.

The way the memory smacks into her psyche almost has the woman reeling over backwards completely.

"Three years ago," had it really been that long?

As if just now becoming visible Tibby looks down at the many white scars on her arms and hands, up to the scars at the corners of her eyes. She was a prototype, though she had never truly realized that. "I am not the same," those dark eyes flint up to her father's face, flicking side to side: "Heart Rate elevated, posture displays feelings associated with pain or grief." She doesn't smile but frowns instead, these are things she might have inferred from her feline friends but now she had something else inside, something she was beginning to love as much as her own gift from her blood.

"I adapted."

But this wasn't the only reason she wanted to see him and that flash of a memory she had previously forgotten grounds Tibby in her reasoning. What was that place..? "How many times did you have the dreaded man wipe my memories of your activities with Mazdak?"

The way he is reacting to the state of her and the things she's learned of him, something in her mind begins to turn but her face has reverted to that mask he knows she wears when dealing with dangerous people. Baruti loved his daughter and she him but what if what he believed widen the already jagged canyon spanning between them. The question bears no emotional weight to it and the switch is as abrupt as only a conversation with your child could be.

Tibby's back is turned now with head hanging downwards, she hasn't felt right since her transformation but in this moment something tugs at her mind. What did he know?

Baruti’s expression shifts when Tibby brings up the past as she does. Whatever venom he’d been saving for those who maimed her is sucked back into his mouth. His bright blue eyes scan Tibby, then dip down to the floor in silence. He returns to his seat in silence, settling in with a casual ease that masks the tension and turmoil inside.

“Sit.” Baruti offers, motioning to space on the bench seat beside him. “How long have you remembered Damian?” He asks, and it’s a calculated risk mentioning the name. He wants to see how she reacts to it.

Slow to obey Tibby takes her time coming to the bench, reading his expression and body language. Stone walled but that was to be expected, she had learned that her father was a master at hiding. Especially in plain sight.

"One year."

Coming to sit beside him while placing her hands in her lap, staring out into the dim space before them, "I started to remember your gathering, sought out a powerful telepath. I made a friend." There's a faint smile as Tibby reminisces on just how she became acquainted with Kaylee Ray. "I was shown a memory of you sending Damian like a dog after me." There's a slight edge there but Tibby needs answers more than she needs to indulge her anger.

"What are you doing?" She hisses at Baruti and turns towards him, placing a hand on his shoulder. Plain confusion crosses her features she looks like her mother, so much so, "They say you are a terrorist… Papa…" If that were true.. but how could it not be with what Mazdak was known for? What she had seen?

Baruti rankles at the term terrorist. “The sitting US President was a terrorist when the last regime was in power here,” he challenges the notion. “Terror is waged by all sides. When the US stepped into Iraq and dropped fuel-air bombs on Baghdad to destroy weapons of mass destruction that did not exist, that was terror. I’m no more a terrorist than the Ferrymen.”

For a moment it felt like Baruti was going to slip into a rant. But he calms himself, steadies, and reflects on the earlier question that his daughter had asked. Sighing, some of the fire leaves Baruti’s eyes.

“You saw something you weren’t supposed to. Family business.” Even now, Baruti is vague about it. But he seems displeased by his own vagaries. “Mazdak. The group that fights for our kind? They stretch back in time far longer than the American occupation of Iraq. Your grandfather was a Founder of Mazdak, decades ago. When he died, I took on his mantle of Founder. I have been fighting for our rights from the shadows since I was your age.”

Baruti looks down at the table. “Fighting for freedom often requires fighting in secret. Others tried to destroy us once. Took your grandfather’s life in the process. I had to protect you, protect our family, and the best way I could do that was making sure you knew nothing that could be used against us.” He shakes his head. “I am sorry you had to find out the way you did.”

Tibby blinks and rears back a touch, eyes set forward.


Silent and full of shock Tibby sits now, arms wrapped around herself as she is told of her dark legacy. But was it that dark really? If anything the only true darkness lived in the lie her father has orchestrated her whole life. "And what did oupa think of mother?" Her mom had no power, "Aren't people who are without an ability considered lesser?" She's trying to make sense of it, reckon with her bloodline's part in the history of Mazdak. That last statement held a trace of the fear she held now in her heart. "What would he think of me?" She whispers and bows her head.

Baritu casts a side-eye at Tibby, then looks out beyond their booth with his neon blue eyes. It takes a moment for him to formulate a response, but Tibby can see the regret in his eyes. Not regret that she asked the question, but regret that she had to at all.

“We don’t all think like that,” Baruti admits, “but sometimes a simple message helps rally simple people. No, normal people aren't inherently lesser. They’re just less fortunate.” He shifts in his seat, scooting down to sit closer to Tibby in the booth. “There are forty million people in Iraq. That’s roughly four hundred thousand people like you and I.” He says, still counting her among them even if she’s been maimed. “We are, and will always be, the minority. A nation cannot be built by numbers that small, no matter how great they are…”

Tibby can feel the but lingering at the end of her father’s sentiments of equality.

“That said,” Baruti inclines his head away from her, “some of our gifts make us inherently better at specific tasks. You can use a butter knife to turn a screw, but a power drill will do it in a fraction of the time. Telepaths, empaths, precognitives… they make competent leaders because they have unique tools at their disposal. We are Gifted—Blessed—and that blessing should be recognized and celebrated.”

Baruti looks down at the table. “Your grandmother, Iyawa, did not have an ability. Your grandfather still loved her. Still cherished her like a gift from God.” Smiling faintly, Baruti looks down at the table and folds his hands. “Your oupa would have loved you then, and he would love you now…” Baruti turns neon blue eyes up from his hands. “…and he would rain hell down on whoever did this to you.”

Behind her eyes, Tibby’s HUD continues to run biometric scans of Baruti’s perceived vitals based on the throb of his pulse at his neck, the dilation of his pupils, and his posture. Readouts indicate he is stressed, has an elevated heart rate. Analysis: anxious.

The inclusion of Tibby in the flock of the other Expressives moves the young woman and her pupils visibly shake as the emotion sets in that her father truly doesn't look down upon her. Not for her transformation. Taking a moment to compose herself as she nods and smiles at her father, "I have been so afraid you would want nothing to do with me," Even though she's more than sure Baruti has similar fears from how he reads. "It has clouded my mind, kept me awake at night." At the end of the day she's always wanted to impress the man.

It's the root of her leaving on her own, she had to make a name for herself. She also had to get away from Baruti's grief surrounding her mother.

"My hands aren't clean, my employers have made sure of that…" And she herself had taken it upon herself to commit a number of dubious actions but not at the rate of Mazdak.

"But is all the violence so necessary?" This, Tibby hadn't rehearsed in her head. This she just feels in her heart. "Can we not coexist? Use the gifts of the blessed, the precognitives and the like to stir the world where we all live…" It sounds so naive she almost laughs aloud.

Baruti sighs, a relieved, small sigh. Of all the things he had imagined Tibby saying right now, this was the least concerning of them. These problems are not insurmountable. And, perhaps most important of all, she still wishes to be his daughter. That was the fear that kept him up at night.

“We do coexist,” Baruti says with a shake of his head. There’s a gentle, fatherly patience in his tone of voice. “Iraq may have its problems, but people like you and I…” he says, still considering Tibby one of his own even if divorced from her ability, “…we coexist alongside those without. But we recognize that we with abilities may be specially suited to specific roles, careers, or fortunes because of what we can do. It is no different than, say, recognizing a doctor who attended a medical college is more suited to practice medicine than a back-alley surgeon going off of medical tutorials from the internet.”

In spite of his confidence in his message, Baruti is still nervous. Nervous for how his only child would react. “Our message of superiority is…” he dithers some, eyes averting from her, “it may be strong, yes. But it is the forward face we must put out to the world. We must be perceived as strong or we will be taken advantage of as weak. We attract those like us with a message, then we teach. Of course, those who cannot be taught can still fight.”

Liefje,” Baruti says softly, extending a hand across the table to Tibby, “no one’s hands are clean in this world. Not mine, not yours. But perhaps… together, we could build a world in which the next generation? Their hands would be.”

His daughter looks at his hand, listening to his words. It all sounded so good, he seemed better than the last time they had seen each other but anything was better than the drunken stupor her mothers death had left him in. Slowly Tibby takes his hand and squeezes it, looking him square in the eye.

"You seem fulfilled, no longer lost. If this cause has given you that much then I will want to see it." Her answer is slow but she does not let her of her father's hands. Allowing her fingertip to idly lay over a pressure point, no need to press to feel his heart beat.

"But if it…" searching for the right word Tibby bites her lip, "Is too dark, you must promise to come with me to visit gogo." Maybe his mother could talk sense into him if Tibby could not. All of her thoughts in this moment are centered on keeping her father alive. History was not kind to groups like Mazdak, people weren't kind.

"I promise to see this world you are trying to build, I offer my help…. deal?"

Her breath is heavy but it's only now she's realizing how much she's missed family. Her own flesh and blood, even if she felt inferior now because of her augmentations.

Baruti nods, squeezing Tibby’s hand in his, then slowly lets it go. His pale eyes avert to the table, then away and focus on a distant point in space. “Yes if… if you wish we can see her.” There's a weight in Baruti’s voice when bringing up his mother, but he does not give that weight voice.

“If we could leave now, would you?” Baruti asks, letting his stare fall back on his daughter and soften. “If we could be there now, would you promise to come?” Knowing Baruti, knowing Expressives, Tibby can't imagine that offer is an idle one. It isn't a hypothetical, it's real.

She holds her breath as she gently holds onto her father's hand. Flashing back to when she was a little girl and he would lead her among the crowds in the city back home. How he protected her.

It had been so long since she had been near any family. So long since she had felt protected, truly and not just a woman half way on the run. Before she answers Tibby knows what she will say, you don't take the feeling of the weight coming off your shoulders for granted. There's something she can't shake about her father's… people but she knows she'll never have all the answers unless she goes.

It's time to relearn her father, to better be able to protect him when this all comes crashing down. To drag him out of Mazdak as the walls come crumbling down when it is time, if that were to be his future. Tibby would save him from that. "Yes." Said simply in reply as she locks eyes with the man who raised her.

Tibby’s only indication that anything has changed is the subtle shift of Baruti’s pale eyes to look over his daughter’s shoulder. In that same moment, a man steps away from the nearby bar, down to their table, and places a hand on Tibby’s shoulder. She catches just a sliver of his face in her peripheral vision, his eyes glowing bright and gold


and then they’re all gone.

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