aida_icon.gif baruti_icon.gif tibby_icon.gif raid_icon.gif

Scene Title Waarheid
Synopsis Afrikaans; "truth."
Date June 3, 2021

The city of Baghdad has dramatically changed significantly over the last decade. Gone is the city of muted browns and bombed-out concrete from American occupation. Baghdad is once more a vibrant and colorful metropolis, filled with lush floral gardens, majestic new construction built on environmentally-sustainable designs, and a thriving economy.

Thanks to Iraq's lack of a registry Baghdad boasts a vast number of Dumuuda — "Children of the Sun" — who have bolstered the nation's workforce. The outside world's perception of Baghdad—and Iraq in general—is colored by media and foreign news, specifically that from the era of the US occupation and the subsequent years of turmoil that followed. Depictions still persist of Iraq as a brown, lifeless, bombed-out country.

Standing at the tall windows of an exquisite highrise suite, Tibby Naidu is confronted by the reality of this propaganda against the single-most powerful Expressive-friendly nation in the world. The Baghdad of the modern-world is a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious metropolis on par with some of the greatest cities and she is only now seeing that.

An exercise in trust has become an experience in truth.

The Burj Alshams Al Haqiqi

Baghdad, Iraq

June 3rd
7:12 pm Local Time

Tibby has been in Baghdad for two days and in that time her father has taken her to the most posh restaurants, introduced her to political and financial elites within the city, and given her free reign to explore one of the most vibrant cities she has ever stood in. It’s hard not to feel angry seeing all of this, to believe everything her father has said about wanting to make the world a better place, on seeing what Mazdak has managed to do in Baghdad. Had she spent so much time in the United States that she’d become inured to their propaganda machine?

Behind Tibby, the nine room suite she’s been given is in the process of being cleaned by robotic housekeepers; fully-bipedal machines that are turning over the linens, steam-cleaning her clothes, and vacuuming the floor all while politely beeping and chirping around her. On her nightstand, a phone Baruti gave her lights up with activity and a buzzing.

Incoming Call: Dad

Maybe I misjudged him and his people, my people.

These words echo through the young woman's mind as she surveys the city and all its splendor for what feels like an eternity, it was easy to get lost in the view especially with her ocular implants scanning the scene and relaying bits of information. Her form covered in loose fitting but sleek dark garments. The blonde was done away with on her first day here and her natural black hair hangs in tiny braids that stop at mid back and swing as her head turns her back on the window and it's distraction just as the phone begins to ring.

The robotic cleaners don't freak Tibby out, if anything they feel more like kin then other people. She wonders about what makes them tick, what makes her tick. Idly her hand flexes and she grimaces as a wave of pain washes over her body causing her veins to become more pronounced. Next to the buzzing phone lay an assortment of pills, she considers crushing them up for the instant feeling but declines, instead tapping the smooth glass screen and the word answer while scooping the pills up at the same time.


The warming up was taking time but slowly Tibby was feeling more comfortable with her father, more like his daughter. Her other hand picks up the water and she swallows the pills, sitting down quickly on the bed and allowing it to anchor her. The pain in her nerves makes her grit her teeth but it's easy to mask the pain from intruding on her tone. She's become adept at ensuring the pain.

«I’m sending a car to pick you up shortly. I’d get you myself, but I have something I need to take care of first.» There’s a little tension in Baruti’s voice as he says that. «The lunisuub wish to meet with you today. I think this will be a good step for you.»

Outside the window, life in Baghdad goes on unimpeded. Traffic parts for a spider-tank rolling down the street, followed by a column of more traditional military vehicles. Eventually the traffic works itself back out, and people return to their daily rhythm in spite of the pang of uncertainty that sends down Tibby’s spine.

The pills she takes for the pain are fast-acting, supplementing her morning dose of anti-rejection medication. The pain is less than she remembers, it’s possible the anti-rejection drugs here are of a higher quality than what Crito Corporate had been pumping her veins full of.

"Do not worry," Wearily eyeing the tank and running a hand down arm as the drugs take effect. Tibby originally had thought she was only alive and able to use her body despite all the pain because of Crito but here, she was free. The dampener from Hana still hangs at her neck and she plays with the pendant on the silver chain.

"I am with you." Though meeting these people of her fathers did make her skin crawl, she had to know what he had gotten himself into. She had to gain as much intel as she could if she were ever going to get Baruti out of here. But was here so bad? Tibby had almost forgotten what it felt like to be in a part of the world where you didn't only hear English around every corner. A piece of her had yearned for some feeling of home and it was beginning to seep in that maybe anywhere with her family could be home.

Before she left Tibby was a good daughter, she took care of her father. "Did you eat? Bibi always says you have less meat on your bones than a freshly skinned gazelle." Trying to lighten his mood with words from his mother. Both of the Naidus had been trying to bridge the gap, of that the young woman could be grateful for.

There’s a grumble on the other end of the line. «Yes, I have eaten.» Baruti hesitates before adding. «Lunch. I suppose it is late now. We can have dinner together, later.» He knows not to argue the fact with her. Their time together since arriving in Iraq has reminded Baruti of what a spirited woman his daughter has become. «We will see each other soon. Lief vir jou.»

Three soft beeps indicate a call ended, leaving Tibby waiting in her hotel room for the appointed hour.

To stalk in a circle like a cat.

One Hour Later

The Parliament Building
Abu Nuwas, Baghdad

8:17 pm

A long and quiet night-time car ride across Baghdad ends at the looming silhouette of the Iraqi Parliament Building, a towering white skyscraper graced with delicate, curving angles and photovoltaic windows that turn the brilliant desert sun into green energy. In the verdant courtyard outside, Tibby is greeted at her limousine by her father, waiting with a patient smile and a neatly pressed suit.

Standing on tiptoes with a smile of her own Tibby hugs her father and takes in his scent as she does. It felt good to smile at Baruti, it felt good to be close and not smell the liquor emitting from his body. He was no longer a broken man, she should be grateful in the very least in that regard shouldn't she?

Drawing back she lets her eyes do the work reading the building. Eyes on windows and the doors they face. "Is there anyone that I should know about? Anyone… spicy?" Using the term with a lift of her eyebrows and shrug of her shoulders. She was sure someone inside was listening and watching their every move. This sort of conversation was to be expected.

"I don't know much of these people." Which is what this meeting was to remedy.

“They are all spicy,” Baruti says quietly as he gently puts a hand at Tibby’s elbow and leads her from the limousine. “But there are just two of them. Ra’id, who is very formal and traditional, and Aida who will very much treat you like the most overbearing grandmother you could imagine. She is less formal but will gut you with her tongue if you step out of line.”

Baruti’s assessment of the lunisuub isn’t necessarily unflattering, but it does belie some small level of informality that her father has. He is far from what anyone would call a “traditional” person in any cultural expectation, and he seems to chafe at the expectations Mazdak’s leadership has. Though none of that shows on his face, with his bright smile and alert eyes as they approach the tall, glass doors of the parliament building. He can pretend to be whatever they want, and the expectation in his smile is that Tibby should as well.

"Excellent, bibi will be happy someone is keeping me in line." There's a light chuckle and Tibby doesn't directly stare anywhere since she doesn't need too. It also makes it easier to scan, beyond that she is as on her guard as you can be without showing it.

Why were they interested in meeting her, what use did they have for her? Did her father even know?

The doors open for Baruti and Tibby of their own accord, and the lobby of the parliament building that they walk into is nothing short of a modern-day temple. White stone floors are dappled in city lights from the tall windows. High chandelier lighting casts the structure in a warm, moody illumination deeply distinct from western government buildings.

If security is present in the building there are no theatrics of it like in America. No metal detector turnstyles to walk through, no armed guards. There is a security desk of curving oak inlaid with carved trees and set with glowing monitors, but the people behind it look more like hotel concierge than armed security officers.

Baruti briskly leads his daughter to a glass elevator across the lobby, one that he activates with a biometric lock from a thumb print. He presses the button for floor 37 and the door slides closed and the lift begins to rush up the tube with surprising speed and smooth ascent, never once leaving Tibby’s stomach feeling like it’s a few floors below.

“Do not lie,” Baruti says without looking at Tibby. He stares ahead at his own reflection in the glass of the elevator wall. “They will know, but they will not call you out. They will hold it against you. Be honest, be yourself, ask questions, accept boundaries.” He glances over at her, one brow raised in challenge.

Tibby does her best to scan the area but comes to the conclusion that they are surveilling this place by purely Expressive means. The young woman is hit by an immense wave of grief and she almost staggers, catching herself on the wall of the rising elevator. There was a time where she would have been one of the best Expressives to keep this place under watch, but that time was gone. She was something new. Something else entirely and it was time she made her peace with it.

At first she doesn't raise her gaze to meet her fathers eyes as leans against the wall, her reaction just now wasn't at all subtle.

"Sometimes, I feel the loss of their presence so much… Oya.." Her feline companions, both of which Baruti had known well. One of which he had gifted her himself. "Forgive me. I am fine now." Squaring her shoulders back and nodding her head to his previous instruction. She will be ready. "I will be honest."

She will be calm.

When the elevator comes to a stop, the glass doors slide open revealing not a stuffy governmental office, but a private lounge. Sleek white and black furniture is set against darkly-stained wood floors. Slatted vertical blinds partially obscure the windows and thin, cylindrical chandeliers cast off warm light.

Baruti pauses in the elevator only long enough to give his daughter the time she needs to compose herself, then steps out with her arm in his, guiding her across the floor. There is no one else in the lounge at present, save for a man at the bar on the far back of the lounge and a small gathering at a round table at one corner overlooking Baghdad’s skyline.

The moment Tibby sees the two people seated at the table, there’s a shock that runs through her. That memory, one repressed, bubbling to the surface again.

“Brothers and sisters,” Baruti says as he draws back his hood, “I am so glad we could commune, here, in my home. It is a great honor to host this union, to see your faces again and know we walk the eightfold path together.” Another guest pulls down his hood, a thin and tanned man with more gray than black in his beard and little hair left atop his head.

There is an elderly man at the table with a long white beard streaked with black, sunglasses covering his eyes. But in spite of that, Tibby recognizes him. From the past. From her visions. From what was hidden from her.

“It is kind of you to welcome us into your home,” he says with a look around the courtyard, to the illuminated fountain nearby, to the armed guards at the perimeter by the wrought-iron gate. “But you would be wise to keep your eyes on your blood.” The old man says, turning a look directly up to where Tibby perches in the balcony. Baruti’s blue eyes go wide and he flicks a look immediately in his daughter’s direction, but he can’t see her for the ivy curtain wrapped around the railing.

Ra’id Abdul-Jalil Sabbagh slowly stands, beckoning Tibby and Baruti over to the table where he sits with an unfamiliar, dark-haired woman. That must be Aida. But the older man’s resonant voice rings through her mind.

“Kry haar!”

Get her.

“Kry haar!”

Get her.

Internally Tibby is screaming while pupils widen a smidge and she dips her head in a bow from the neck up, taking the chance to blink and then return to the cool, calm expression she had been wearing upon walking out of the elevator doors. Thinking of the repressed memory reignites the fires of anger towards her father and she didn't want to fall back from the progress they had made over their recent time together.

She remembers Ra'id, his voice. His face and the face of the man with the dreads that siphoned away her memory for time.

"Hello, it's nice to see you again." Remembering her father's instructions not to lie and smiling shyly at the duo. Who appeared old back when she first saw, she wondered how old he was now. "I wondered how you spotted me all those years ago."

Ra’id raises one brow, his expression neutral through Tibby’s introduction. Aida, however, wears the smallest of smiles. “Memory manipulation is a pernicious thing,” she says with a voice that is at once silken and gravelly. “It is never as secure as the manipulator believes.”

Aida motions for Tibby to join them at the table, and Baruti pulls out a chair for Tibby and pushes it in when she sits. He joins the table at her side, and reaches up to a clay bottle stamped with a copper disc. From it he fills two squat glasses with a dark amber drink, and serves the glasses to Baruti and Tibby.

“In ancient Sumer,” Ra’id says in English, “wine was the province of the goddess Ishtar. It is called iskaranu, and it had the properties to restore life to the dead. There is nothing mystical about this drink,” he says, motioning to the glasses, “but it is a ceremonial binding. A sharing of life in good faith. You may find it tastes somewhere between a sour beer or mead, more so than wine. The honey gives it a round flavor.”

Aida raises her own glass. “When you were younger, you witnessed a ritual of our faith. One that, due to the depredations of western interests, we were forced to keep secret. We no longer need to hide our faith, and may practice it openly.” She explains. Ra’id raises his glass as well, focusing on Tibby as he does.

“I brought you here to bring you into the fold, Tibby.” Baruti says, lifting his own glass up. “To show you our faith, to give to you the future I have been working your whole life to create. I am sorry you had to suffer as much as you have at the hands of barbarians,” he looks down to the table, then nods to her glass. “But let this drink wash away the past, and bind us together in a love for the future.”

"I am grateful," Tibby has lived in mostly silence and suspicion for years especially after the trauma of being taken in by Crito and having her body change, here with her father and his friends she was feeling herself open up with each passing day. "That it wore off. It gave me the push to find my father."

It's unnerving in a lot of ways, she had so many preconceived notions of these people and has been waiting for the other shoe to drop. "Isit? What was the ritual about?" Nodding her head along as she lifts her own glass and takes a small sniff before she drinks. It tastes exactly how it's described.

Her eyes remain on the two near across from her. The woman's voice has an almost hypnotic effect on the younger woman. Something is radiating off of Aida, she feels like one of the mystical women back home. She feels like her bibi. The talk of being treated poorly makes Tibby stiffen and she takes another sip of wine. "I have been neutered." Using the term she used before with Baruti. The anger in her voice still feels fresh, like an open festering wound that is in danger of becoming infected.

“We know,” Aida says with both certainty and remorse after taking a sip of the ceremonial wine. “Your father informed us of the cruelty inflicted upon you by Crito Corporate, and we would have that undone.”

“We have cutting edge sciences at our disposal,” Baruti explains. “You can keep your augmentations, if you want them, but the inhibitor they put in you to negate your ability?” He shakes his head. “We can have that removed.”

“The ritual,” Ra’id interjects to answer after his sip of wine. “It is about forming a covenant stronger than blood. Iskaranu is a sacrament, intended to unify families under more than the bond of the womb. By drinking with us, you are becoming a part of our family. A part of Mazdak.”

Baruti finally sips his wine, then sets his glass down. “I had to wait until we were ready to expand. I’m—I’m sorry I’ve kept you in the dark so long. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for you when you needed me.”

It all begins to feel like a dream now, something beyond her comprehension. To be returned to her true self is something she's left to the pile of: absolutely never going to happen. But now? There was a chance and any thoughts of resisting whatever this is, of pulling her father from their clutches, begin to be in danger of being thrown right at the window. The connection. Just the thought makes her heart ache in ways that not even a ruined romance could.

Tibby takes a noticeable larger gulp of the wine. Considering Ra'id's words. "A family…" She whispers in reply, still thinking. "I would very much like to hear them again, feel them. Talk." Humans were so complicated. Cats were intelligent but more simple, easier to be around. She missed them. Her father's guilt elicits a rare display of vulnerability in front of near strangers though they were bonded by the sacrament, she places a hand over Baruti's. "But you are here now. This is when I need you most. We have grown." Before she can shed any tears she takes another sip and looks over to Ra'id and Aida.

"Mazdak is a religion. Who is your god?"

Baruti defers to Aida and Ra’id, the former of whom spells it out. “Mazdak has always worshiped the Sumerian goddess Ishtar. But what many do not understand is that the story of Ishtar is one with roots in history, the forgotten history of our kind. Our inheritance, as children of the eclipse.”

Ra’id nods, looking to Tibby. “Ishtar was, is, one of our kind. The first of us. She has lived through many lives, in many hosts, and been the victim of those who would see our kind shackled and brought to heel.” He says with a motion to Tibby, indicating by proxy people like Crito Corporate.

“Most importantly,” Baruti says with a brief look down to his glass, “Ishtar is real. Walks among the members of Mazdak today and, in time, you may be able to meet them in their current incarnation.”

Ra’id makes a noise in the back of his throat. “Perhaps a more agreeable form, in time.” He says off-handedly, earning a sideeye from Aida.

“Suffice to say, our faith is a tangible one. Our abilities are our inheritance of this faith. We are, all of us, united by a common ancestor who will lead us into a golden age for our kind where the wonders you see around you,” and he gestures to the skyline of Iraq, “are shared with our kin the world over.”

A living god? They sounded insane, maybe the spiritual side of her family would chide her for initially thinking so but the statement is a grand one in the least. Tibby leans back a bit and blinks, drinking still before setting the glass on the table. This is what she wanted, "I would like to meet her one day, she must be very wise." Taking note of the side comment from Ra'id.

So everything wasn't perfect with this religion that had saved her father.

The only thing left for her to do to solidify her place here would be to offer herself up. In the lessons by Crito it was a strategy she had learned well given her size, how to infiltrate and foster trust. This wouldn't be considered a great assignment to test her true limits given the easy in with her father and their wanting to patch the broken past but infiltrating a group of this magnitude surely would have given her a high score. There's a moment of mental punishment at Tibby thinking fondly of what her oppressors put her through.

"How can I be of service to the cause?"

Aida and Ra’id both smile at that question. Tibby is precisely the kind of soldier they want. Their reaction draws a proud smile from Baruti, who while eager is patient to listen to their assessment.

“First,” Aida says, “we need to remove that horrific shackle from you. We will introduce you to some of our doctors, have them do a thorough review of your body, of your implants. It will likely take a month for us to reverse-engineer what they did to you, after which point, we will bring you to Telmun for surgery.”

“Telmun is an arcology,” Baruti explains. “A pyramid in the mountains to a north, an unassailable fortress where we keep our most precious resources.”

Ra’id nods, taking another sip of his wine. “I have also taken the liberty of reaching out to one of our associates overseas in America, one who shares your former gift. I have sent him to locate your missing son/.” He says, and Tibby knows exactly what Ra’id is speaking of: Adze.

“It was a simple matter for us to do,” Aida says with a smile. “But we know it would mean so much more to you to be able to have that reunion.”

This is not feigned.

Tibby grips the table and her fathers hand tightly at the first utterance of Adze, gasping for air and tears do now begin to fall down her cheeks. Overcome with emotion and shaking from it all. The glacial wall she has painstakingly erected to surround herself has a long wide crack in it now.

"I thank you, I am so grateful. Words cannot express-"

The young woman bows her head and allows the tears to collect in a pool in her lap. One single drop lands on the table and another wobbles on top of it soon after. Vision blurred and heart full but utterly broken.

“Words do not need to.” Aida says plainly. She glances at Ra’id, who seems content to finish his wine and give as much of an approving expression as he is capable of.

“It is settled then,” Ra’id says as he sets down his empty glass. “I will send word to our doctors at Telmun, we will clear you for entrance, and then we will undo what crimes the world has done to your body.” He looks at Aida, one brow raised as if to ask is this sufficient?

Aida hides her smile behind the brim of her own wine glass and a dab of a napkin at her mouth. “Now then, why do we not celebrate this union of family with a proper meal. I have given the chef several of my family recipes,” she says with unrestrained pride. “You should try the Ash-e Reshteh,” she says to Tibby, motioning across the table to her.

Baruti, relaxed for the first time in what may be years, actually smiles. “One piece of advice I have learned to live by here…” he says to his daughter with a toothy grin.

“…never turn down a seer’s dinner recommendations.”

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