We All Deserve Freedom


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Also Featuring:

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Scene Title We All Deserve Freedom
Synopsis A prison of truth will set you free.
Date March 15, 2021

For better or worse, it's Asi's instincts who are driving her today. Asami knows better— she knows better than to think that the mother of one of her fencing students is someone who could possibly help her now.

But Asi's gut feeling here is to gravitate to the next person whose name and face she recognizes in this world, bewildered that there are so few that overlap. In searching for links between those she's been able to awaken, she can't help but wonder if there's a similar link to people she remembers from this whole other life she's been leading.

To tell the truth, after everything that's happened recently, she doesn't know which is which anymore— which life makes more sense. It's getting harder to convince herself which is real, given that the world around her has shown such signs of unreality of late.

Asami curls her knuckles at knocks at the front door of the Park residence three times with purpose, listening for the sound of approaching minds. If it's not Kimiko, she stands ready to make herself invisible, uncertain how anyone else might take her sudden appearance.

To a home invasion in slow motion.

Park Residence
Upper West Side

March 15
6:12 pm

I’ll get it!

Ami Park shouts from upstairs. Kimiko, standing by the sink washing broccoli rabe in a colander, looks up to the ceiling and yells. “Don’t run!” Her husband, Jae, stands at her side with a warm smile and a click of his tongue.

“She’s almost twenty, you know.” Jae says with a little wrinkle of her nose and a warm smile, cutting carrots beside his wife. “She can run if she wants to.” The thundering footsteps one floor up indicate she is taking her father’s liberties to heart.

“She can run when she gets her own apartment,” Kimiko says with a quirk of one brow, hearing footfalls clomping down the stairs.

“She did this to me too,” Hiro chimes in from across the island, sitting on a stool. He motions to Kimiko with the neck of a beer bottle, then tips it back and takes a swig. “Hiro don’t run in the house, Hiro don’t break the windows with that wooden sword, Hiro—”

Kimiko throws a wet piece of broccoli at Hiro, laughing. It sticks in his hair. Hiro, without missing a beat, just plucks it out and eats it.

“Maybe it’ll be faster to sass you than wait for you to finish that salad?” Hiro says with a bright smile and then an anticipatory flinch. Kimiko flicks water at him, their laughter fills the air.

Ami slides to a stop on socked feet at the front door, headphones around her neck pulsing with a rhythmic electronic beat. She unlocks the deadbolt and opens the door, at first not really parsing the danger on the other side. “Ms. Tetsuzan!” She calls out, elated to see her fencing instructor.

Over Ami’s shoulder, Asami can see Kimiko, and the fear in her wide, brown eyes as they meet.

Asami's decision to vanish if there were more folks than expected home is poorly timed, given Ami's run at the door. The sounds of a family in motion on the other side holds with it a sense of saudade that further makes things slow for her.

When she's greeted, one corner of her mouth lifts up in the beginnings of a small smile. "Hey, Ami." Her eyes meet Kimiko's, and while there's not malice, there resignation of a sort.

"I need to talk with your mom for a few minutes. Can I come in?" Asami steps over the threshold uninvited though. Some might see her as a monster, but she's not one that relies on those rules. "I'm sorry I caught you right at dinner. I'll try to be quick."

“Sure!” Ami says cheerfully, her every move a bounce synchronized with the beat of her song. “You haven’t been at the gym in a while, is everything alright?” She must not have heard the news. Or, maybe Kimiko had kept it from her. The reaction is jarring.

“Mom!” Ami shouts into the house as she turns around, “Ms. Tetsuzan is here!” Rather than return to her room, Ami leads Asami into the living room, where she has a clear view of the entire family in the kitchen.

Hiro turns, waving with a fond smile. “Sensei,” he says with a bright and goofy smile, even though Asami had never tutored him once. Hiro didn’t have much of a disposition for swords that weren’t plastic and lightsabers.

Asami,” Kimiko says with worry in her eyes and an odd look at Hiro, then Ami. Neither of the two return the expression or seem to notice it on Kimiko. “What—brings you here?” Immediately Asami can feel something is wrong. Kimiko expects the situation to be unfolding one way—she’s holding a chef’s knife like she’s going to take Asami’s head off with it—except it’s going another way.

“Is this Ami’s instructor?” Jae says with a smile, waving from his place by the kitchen island. Only then does he notice the knife he was cutting vegetables with isn’t where he left it.

Asami tips her head forward in a respectful greeting and apology both to her sudden hosts, feeling like that's the least she can do for the chaos she knows she's brought to their collective doorstep. Now that she's seen Kimiko for herself, she knows it's just a matter of time.

"I was hoping to talk to Kimiko for just a few minutes. I'm sorry for barging in like this."

She looks back to the housewife, meeting her eyes. It'll be okay, she tries to impart on her. Not here to hurt you.

Kimiko is rigid for a moment at the insinuation, then relaxed, compliant. “Of course,” she says with a gentle smile, handing the colander of broccoli rabe over to her husband. “I’ll just be a minute,” she says to him. Jae doesn’t seem to notice or sense the danger in the air.

“You should join us for dinner!” Hiro says, inviting Asami over to eat in his sister’s house. “You can listen to my 1,001 stories of Kimiko as a little girl. Like Kimiko and the Dragonfly Panic, Kimiko Trapped in a Washing Machine, Kimiko and That Time She Rode a Horse, Kimiko and the Diving Boa—”

Hiro is cut off as Kimiko looks him dead in the eye. He grimaces, then hops off the stool to get on the other side of the island. “Oh look!” He exclaims. “Jae needs help with the salad!”

A television broadcast: Yamagato Tower, smoke and flames issuing out of the top of the building. Glass in the street. Helicopters, police, casualties. She buried her husband.

“What did Ami do?” Kimiko asks quietly as she approaches Asami. Meanwhile, the prospective culprit is making her way into the kitchen, bobbing her head as she slides her headphones back on.

Asami shakes her head once to the question, marveling quietly to herself that this is how the conversation is going, her arms coming to a tight fold before her. She steps further to the side in the name of privacy. Both things help to her keep her hands to herself, above all else, and—

… What was that flicker, just then? Her eyes lift back to Kimiko again, expression blanking.

More cautiously than before, she elaborates, "No, I— there was something I needed to ask you." Asami hates how that feels like a lie, so she follows it with a furrowed-brow correction of, "Tell you?"

That troubled look creeps back into Kimiko’s expression. “If you’re going to ask me to do anything illegal—” she sharply whispers, guiding Asami by the elbow into the living room, “you’re lucky I’m not calling the cops right now.” A look over her shoulder shows some worry. That Jae doesn’t seem concerned, nor Hiro.

What do you want?” Kimiko asks with a hissing whip-crack tone when she looks back at Asami.

"Advice," Asami snaps back in return, quiet but more severity in it than she's ever regarded Kimiko with. She amends her tone, repeating, "Advice." more softly, without the baggage this time. She needed to not fuck this up.

She needed to ignore what she saw behind Kimiko's eyes when she looked into them.

Slowly, she exhales the last of her visible tension away. "What I've been accused of, I'm not guilty of. I don't think staying silent on the truth is an option anymore, though. For… for multiple reasons," Asami sighs. "One of them being I don't want what happened to me to happen to anyone else, and…"

She dithers, knowing that in some senses, it kind of already has to others. Just not the way it did to her.

“And you came to my house?” Kimiko says through her teeth, stepping up to stand nearly chest-to-chest with Asami. “You are a wanted fugitive and I’m sorry you didn’t intend to get caught up in whatever you’re in, but this is my home and this is my family.

At the far end of the room, three shallow steps lead up to a glossy black desk set with a single white vase in which rests a clipped branch from a sakura. No blossoms have fallen from the branch. Behind the desk, a tall, pointed window spills with the city’s lights. A lone figure stands there, back to the conference table. “I apologize for the deception,” the woman says softly, turning and regarding Asi with dark eyes. As she moves from behind the desk there’s an audible whirring and clicking sound of something mechanical, and it's clear her right leg is artificial even though it's covered by wide-legged pants and sensible shoes. Her right hand, likewise, is artifice but visible from the wrist down as delicately moving metallic fingers grasping an entirely mundane wooden walking cane sculpted with a dragon’s head.

Kimiko Nakamura is instantly recognizable, even with her injuries. After the bombing at Nakamura Tower her face and that of her late husband’s were across all local and international media. But the woman standing here in front of Asi isn't the wilting violet the media has portrayed her to be. There is a steeliness in her eyes. “Asami,” no Asi here, no surnames. “I need your help.”

“Do you have any idea how much danger you’ve put us in?” Kimiko says with a shake of her head, eyes searching Asami’s. She seems unwilling, or perhaps unable, to notice how strangely her family is behaving. How much they’re ignoring.

Those memories of another life that drove her here in the first place drive Asami Asi now to hiss "You owe me." quietly, but in no uncertain terms. "You dragged me from Japan, you fed me to the wolves, and you'll help me now, Nakamura," she vows.

"Because I don't know who else to turn to," comes from her with a shred of apology behind it. Swiftly, Asami lifts both hands and places her fingertips gently on either side of Kimiko's brow.

She looks into the other woman's eyes just as deeply as hers have been searched, reaching out with a sixth sense that seeks to tug something slipped back into its proper place… and sets her eyes aglow in a golden hue as she pulls.

“Are you high ri—” Kimiko hisses, right before the sudden shock of what Asi is doing hits her. Kimiko shrieks, pulling away too quickly. She loses her balance, trips over her own feet and falls onto her backside on the floor. Scrambling away, Kimiko holds the side of her head, looking around the room with wide-eyed horror.

There’s a sense of something swelling to fill her sinus cavity, then a growing sense of vertigo and disorientation. Kimiko's mind clouds with thoughts that aren’t her own, noise from a variety of sources, a feeling of detachment and confusion, and that’s about when all the lights start flickering in the house.

Distant noises start triggering, car alarms out on the street begin blaring, and as Kimiko pulls herself to her feet she hears a high-pitched shrieking sound in her head, hands coming up to reflexively clutch at her ears. Kimiko doesn’t even realize she’s screaming as she tries to shut out all the noise until an involuntary “Stop!” rises up from the back of her throat and rings off the walls.

The lights go out. The car alarms stop blaring. Every cell phone within a thousand feet powers down.

That’s when Kimiko realizes she can sense all of them. Every electronic device, networked or no, as though it were a part of her.


Hiro and Jae are quick to hurry to Kimiko’s side, though as she starts to wave them off Ami’s attention angles on Asami.

“What did you do?!” Ami screams accusingly.

Asami stumbles a step backward from Kimiko when the connection feels terminated abruptly, her understanding taking a moment to kick in. She continues to peer at Kimiko on the floor in confusion, a fascination in her eyes. The limb that comes alive is one known to her— not to her, but to another self— and it's one she loses herself in like it's water, breathing it like it's air.

It feels like a piece of herself that'd been missing ever since she woke Nicole, except—

She flinches when Kimiko yells, unsteady on her feet suddenly. Asami presses the heel of her hand against the side of her head, squinting from the pulse Kimiko just put out. Warily, she begins to lower it a second later, not really registering Ami's shout at her.

It's not hers after all. It's— whatever this is it isn't just like her. It's different, and comes with a whole different set of rules. "What kind of sick joke is this?" Asi whispers to herself, her gaze wandering aimlessly as she tries to listen to the hum of nearby devices— but Kimiko's shut them all down.

Her eyes land back on Ami. "I helped her," Asami answers flatly. She settles her eyes on Ami again with a strange sense of vertigo as impressions from two different lives and neither fight for dominion in the way she sees her. In the end, it's the compulsion that drives her, in a way neither part of herself likes.

"Give us a minute, would you?" Asami tells Ami crisply. A hum gathers in her thoughts, passing influence onto the distressed teenager's thoughts. "She's going to be alright." Afterward, she turns to Jae and Hiro both, her thoughts focusing on them next. A headache pulses through her forehead, and she works her way through it. "Give her some space."

A beat passes before she ventures one step closer to Kimiko, but no further. "Do you remember?" she asks with hope, one she knows is futile, but she can't help asking it anyway. "Your other life? Your other ability? Or just what's happening now?"

“What are you talking about!?” Kimiko screams, one hand still touching her face as if to see if she is real. There’s no recognition in her eyes, no understanding.

Ami and Jae close in on her, watching her carefully. Hiro lingers by the kitchen island, watching the trio and Asami warily. He sets down his beer, eyes wide.

“Get out of our house!” Jae demands, wrapping an arm around Kimiko’s shoulders. “Get out!

Ami interposes herself between Asi and Kimiko. “What did you do to her? Did you hurt her!?”

Asami catches sight of Hiro in the background, watching all of his unfold. Then she catches a brief glint of red in his pupils as his attention dips down to Kimiko. Hiro steps around the kitchen island, his body occluding the cutting board Jae was working at. When the cutting board becomes visible again, the kitchen knife is missing.

"No, I didn't—" Asami is overwhelmed by the accusations flung toward her, her head shaking once. "No, I helped her, I…"

Did you? a grim thought both her own and not wonders of her.

The glint of red in Hiro's eyes catches her attention in the dark of the house, and she can't see clearly enough to understand fully what's happened yet. The warbles of thought are difficult to sort and pierce with any clarity. Asami takes a step back, uncertain, and holding up one hand her palm erupts in flame to provide a source of light in the lack of it they've found themselves in.

"Nakamura, you'll be all right. There's just— I know there's noise now you don't know what to do with, but you'll work through it, understand it. If there's anyone I've run into who could…"

It'd be between her and Kaylee, she'd bet. But even Kaylee, here, had balked at the thought of telepathy. Asami stands there, her thoughts arrested, as is her retreat.

“I can’t—I can’t think straight!” Kimiko shouts, and the lights in the house all flicker at once. There’s no way the incandescent bulbs are networked, and yet her ability seems to—

Kimiko lets out a sudden scream, and Asi catches sight of something wholly unexpected. Kimiko staggers forward, blood staining the back of her white blouse. She panics, scrambling and tripping forward, landing on her hands and knees. Behind her, Hiro Nakamura stands with a chef’s knife smeared in blood in one hand, a faint glimmer of red light in his pupils.

Jae opens his mouth to say something, to defend his wife, but nothing comes out. He and Ami seem frozen in the moment, staring vacantly until they too slowly turn their attention toward Kimiko and Asami, red light dancing in the depths of their pupils.

Kimiko flops onto her hip, pawing at her back, and then rolls onto her backside and scrambles away from her brother. “Hiro—Hiro!” Her eyes are wide with betrayal and confusion. “止めて1!

Asami freezes at the scream from Kimiko, looking up to Hiro's figure afterward in shock. The fire in her hand sputters out. The shuffle of thoughts around her have all grown so still suddenly, making it clear what's on his mind:

Hurt Kimiko.

But that was ridiculous. Hiro would never

And then Jae and Ami slowly turn to her as well. Asami reaches forward for Kimiko abruptly, pulling her back by the shoulder with one hand while the other is placed to Kimiko's back where she's been stabbed. Warming vitality pools across her palm and lays its way through broken skin— pierced muscle and lung, so close to her heart— and knits it back together. She continues to try and pull Kimiko up into a standing position, at a momentary loss for what could be happening here.

“I’m worried, Asami,” Kaylee says, turning her attention to the laptop. “I still can’t wrap my head around what happened. Why friends and employees, good people suddenly turned on me.”

"Stop!" she echoes Kimiko's shout, but the three's thoughts are eerily one-tracked, focused on harm.

The only way Kaylee— no, Valerie had gotten them to stop was by tearing them all apart. But looking between Ami and Hiro, faces she's known, she struggles to act with violence. The haunting knowledge of the reset of reality that had happened after Kaylee had closed the door behind her in her office makes this no easier to deal with.

"ごめんね2," Asami whispers, more for her own sake than theirs. Her voice is shaking as she tells Kimiko, "You need to run. Just— don't look. Don't look back." And then she lifts one hand, curving her fingers and rotating her palm back toward herself in a jerk.

The bloodied knife floats on its own in the air after that, soared from Hiro's hand. But it doesn't stay still for long. "Kimiko, go," Asami urges her.

And with an outward fling of her fingers, the knifepoint goes soaring for Jae's chest.

That Kimiko started to turn is a testament to her confusion, but she doesn’t get more than a step away before she turns back and watches as a knife flies through the air and drives itself square into her husband’s chest. There is no logic behind what she’s seeing, the knife moving through the air like that, but the scream she unleashes is a primal and anguished one. Kimiko grabs at her face, eyes wide, throat raw with the intensity of her wailing.

Jae falls backwards the instant that he is struck by the knife. He is motionless, limp on the floor with the knife buried up to its hilt between his third and fourth ribs. Blood blossoms in the white of his dress shirt, and Kimiko’s scream drowns out almost all other noise. She scrambles for Jae, toward her husband, tripping over herself and crawling on hands and knees to his side. “Jae!” she screams, “Jae!

Hiro shows no relent, however. Deprived of the knife he approaches Asami with an even-keeled stride, swinging at her with quick and precise jabs of a trained martial artist, of which is doesn’t really seem the type based on everything Asami knows about him here. For all the form Hiro possesses, Asami is faster, and able to nimble move in three dimensions to avoid his strikes.

"Hiro, come on. Hiro, wake u—"

That’s what makes being hit in the side of the head by a vase so fucking alarming.

Glass shatters, clings into Asami’s hair, sticks into her scalp like buckshot. She staggers to the side from the blindside blow, catching a glimpse of Ami lurching forward in follow-through from the throw. Blood is warm in Asami’s scalp, but her skin is already knitting back together, glass is already forcing its way out of the injuries.

Down on her hands and knees on the ground, Asami's vision is swimming from the hit to her head, one that's nearly as disorienting for how quick it begins to fix itself. A quiet noise of distress leaves her regardless, not wanting to have to continue to fight back.

But she needs to keep them away from Kimiko. She could take this. The woman crying over her husband can't.

Asami's doubled-over form flickers as Ami lurches through it when trying to strike her. She pushes herself up onto one knee, grabbing hold of the teen's wrist to pull her back after she's stumbled through Asami's intangible body. I'm sorry, she thinks, remembering every time she felt pride when Ami progressed in her form, remembering a different world where she promised to find and protect this child, and how that all stands in jarring contrast to what she does now— to what she has to do now.

She lifts her other hand, one still phased out of norm, and plunges it into Ami's chest— into her heart. And Asami closes her hand into fist around it, disrupting the signals telling it to beat, disrupting the muscle giving it the ability to pump.

The teen's heart skips a beat. And then another. Then another.


Asami watches the light die in Ami Nakamura’s eyes. Her hands tremble. Sound feels muted now, the blood rushing in her ears pumps like a drum beat. Or the tick of a clock. The texture of Kimiko’s screaming has turned into a blood-curling wail. Out of the corner of her eye, Asami can see Kimiko looking on as her only child dies in a confusing, horrifying, inhuman way.

She is broken. Shattered.

It isn’t even clear if Kimiko notices Hiro approaching her with a broken shard of glass in his hand.

Asami almost doesn't either with how her hand is shaking, how she couldn't stop looking at Ami as she died. But dissociation is kicking in now, the horror borne by one identity giving way to the stoic determination of another. Asi Tetsuyama is familiar with acting first and leaving reactions outside of those required for survival for later.

So she notices Hiro's reapproach, his new weapon made of shattered vase, and her pupils widen and narrow as she goes through a mental deck of cards through the abilities at her disposal to find the one she needs now. In that time he's able to step closer, to arch his arm back so he can stab his sister again on any available surface area he can find while that singular thought of harm slithers through his brain. But before it can lower, Asi has thrown her own hand up, too, and shouts, "ダメ3!" while using the force of her cry to amplify the strength she grabs onto the ability she's lurched for.

Time itself arrests in the house and beyond it. Hiro freezes mid-lunge, face fixed in an intense, but otherwise emotionless expression owing only to the force behind his incomplete stab. Blood stops flowing from Jae. The light fixes itself oddly in Ami's eyes.

Hiro stops moving, but Kimiko and Asami don't. It's something that takes the latter by surprise, if she's being honest. She breathes out a slow, shaking breath, head pounding.

"«We have to go,»" she tells Kimiko in a rush. If she can move even though time has stopped, all the better, she supposes. "«I can't hold this very long.»" Asami looks after to Hiro, to the concerning glow in his eye.

"«It's getting worse,»" she adds mostly to herself, her voice faint. "«They've never attacked immediately.»" She realizes something immediately after, though, and with a touch of regret murmurs, "«But I've never woken up anyone in front of those not like us before…»"


Kimiko looks up at Asami, eyes wide and hands trembling. It takes all she can muster to maintain that focus. But, holding Jae’s hand, all Kimiko can do is stare with fixed, unseeing eyes. Tears roll down her cheeks, grief strikes her with more precision and damage than any weapon could.

“«Jae needs me,»” Kimiko says back to Asami in a whisper, her voice tight and hoarse.

Hiro, still frozen in time, jitters like a graphical error moving a few frames out of sync with the world, blade of glass still clutched in a bleeding hand.

“«Jae needs me,»” Kimiko whispers again, helplessly.

Asami's heart wants to break for Kimiko, but something else prevents her from feeling that now in the way it should be. "«If we're lucky, when we come back, everything will be right again,»" she tells her instead, offering a hand down to her. "«That's how it was for Kaylee. All we can do is leave, and hope that this… resets.»"

What she's saying sounds mad even to her, though.

With a disgruntled shake of her head, the hand extended moves to pull Kimiko hard with her instead. "Come," she bids Kimiko roughly, trying to part her from Jae. She holds the vision of a place in her mind, the only place she could think to go.

There is something in Kimiko’s eyes. A look of recognition, or something similar. “«We’ve had this conversation before,»” she says in a slow, halting Japanese to Asami. That dead-eyed look of disassociation is replaced by a growing horror, right up until the moment she takes Asami’s hand and—

Hiro lunges forward, but there is no one around. He looks left and right, trying to find the source of his murderous intent. But Kimiko is nowhere to be seen, nor is Asami. A moment later there is a stuttering flicker and—

“So, I said they could keep the old phone if they promised to leave me alone!” Hiro says with a cheerful smile, leaning forward on his stool to pick his beer up from the counter. Jae laughs across the way, finishing cutting the last of the carrots. He looks to his right, as if to say something to Kimiko, and notices her absence.

“Hey,” Jae says with a look across the kitchen island to Hiro, “did she say when she was planning to be home?”

Hiro laughs and shrugs, tipping back his beer. “Beats me,” he says with a laugh.

“You never know what she’s going to get up to on her own.”


Claremont Center
Training Hall C

Asami and Kimiko appear in a rush of displaced air in the middle of a darkened training hall. Ambient light spills in from high windows facing the street, but the overhead lights are turned off. Kimiko lets her hand slip from Asami’s, fingers trembling as she curls them to her palm.

“Jae,” Kimiko whispers, looking down at the lack of blood-stains on her hand. Her eyes search from side to side, stomach turns upside down.

Asami,” Kimiko says with wide-eyed confusion, looking down at her bloodless clothes, “what—am I dreaming?” Her voice is little more than a fluttery, breathless whisper packed full of dread.

Asami only shakes her head, looking away from Kimiko to begin an overwhelmed pace back and forth across the empty hall. "You're not dreaming, you're just— we're just…"

Party to a reality that no longer makes any sense.

When she looks back to Kimiko, a silent stream of tears have made their way down her face. Nothing accompanies the tears in the way of crying or keening. "We need you to get your ability under control before we part ways," she says decisively, a tight hold kept on her voice to keep it from falling apart. "And then from there, I-I don't know. Everyone needs to come together. Everyone like us, that is."

"Those of us with powers."

Asami takes in a deep breath to steady herself. "Superpowers— like the one you have now. Where you can talk to the technology around you, hear it, tell it to stop and go and do specific things if you focus enough." She closes her eyes hard and wipes her face with her forearm to absorb her tears on her sleeve, looking away from Kimiko for only that long. There's no time to break down now, that's for later.

"If you don't get a good handle on your ability again, chances are something like what happened just now with Jae, with Hiro… it could happen…"


Asami's eyes flicker as she thinks back suddenly, a hush falling over her thoughts and demeanor as she settles her attention on Kimiko more intensely than before. "Wait, what do you mean we've had this conversation before?" she asks with an edge of desperation.

Surely they couldn't have. Even in her two sets of memories, she didn't recall anything like this.

“She means she’s remembering something,” calls a woman from behind Asami.


Violette Iris stands with her hands in the pockets of her black hoodie, head cocked to the side and one brow raised. Her stare drills a hole past Asami to Kimiko, who in turn struggles to gain her composure, wiping at her face and eyes.

“Probably not enough to matter yet,” Violette says, shifting her attention to Asami. “Hey, by the way.”

Asami rounds on the sound of the voice, ready to snap on the unknown, unhelpful commenter. When she sees Violette, the tension in her shoulders grows so strained they begin to tremble. The composure Kimiko manages in building almost results in a chipping away of it in herself, dark eyes stinging with moisture at their corners in a way she can't ignore anymore.

"Where have you been?" she finally demands, a crack threatening her voice. "I needed you, and you just— ghosted me!" Asami leaves Kimiko behind to stride toward Violette instead. "I'm not like her; I'm not Asi. I can't— I can't do this alone, and I can't help anyone, any of us, if I don't know what the fuck is going on!"

Abruptly, though, she stops short of making it to Violette with all the air one would regard an electric fence they've just realized may be turned on. The look in her eyes shifts from wounded to wary as she refocuses on the enigma that's suddenly appeared before them, as she thinks harder on the miracle of Violette's appearance. "But you…" Asami remarks slowly, her brow furrowing. As much as the pieces of her and Asi Tetsuyama don't align, there's one area in the two competing sets of memories where the technopath's win.

"You're not v.iris," she states with plain certainty. "You're not Colin. You, as far as I can tell, don't even… exist." Her eyes narrow, with all the mental equivalent of someone reaching for a holstered gun. "Who are you?" she demands.

“You’re right and you’re wrong,” Violette says with a hint of smug satisfaction, “so bonus points there.” She breezes past Asami and fixes Kimiko with a studious look. There’s a moment of silence where it looks like she’s waiting for Kimiko to do something, but the overwhelmed and distraught woman just stares up at Violette with an unblinking stare.

“So, first.” Violette says as she turns around to look at Asami, “You are who you think you aren’t. As to where I’ve been, that’s… way harder to explain, but let’s frame it like this: time isn’t the same for you as it is for everyone else. It’s been like twelve minutes for me and I don’t know—a few months for you? It’s complicated, but it boils down to a single element:”

Violette reaches out and taps her finger against Asami’s right shoulder. “This is a simulation.”

The confirmation the other set of memories are more valid than her own is more chilling than she thought it'd be, but Violette's jab brings Asami out of any distant stares. She shoves the hand at her shoulder away out of anger, frustration. It's been "twelve minutes" for her— him?— but it's been months for her. Bitter ones, filled with confusion, being driven by something she still doesn't entirely understand.

"Of course this isn't real," she snaps angrily. Her examples cite themselves one after the other more quickly than the last. "Entire family members have spontaneously appeared, massacres have been undone, people have been written out of existence, Tokyo is a fucking broken staging area— reality fucking statics when I stop time!"

Asami takes a breath, balling a hand she'd rather shove with into a self-contained fist to manage her cool. "What the fuck am I doing in a simulation, v.iris? What are we—" and she looks pointedly to Kimiko next, "stuck in here for?"

"Do you have a way out or are you here for moral support and then to vanish again?" she asks bitterly as she looks back to Violette.

“There is a way out,” Violette says with an incline of her head, but then she changes the subject. “You’re here because you’re test subjects. You were abducted from your homes, put here and installed into this system. While you’re here, all of your cognitive functions are available to the facility staff of… wherever it is you’re physically being held.”

Kimiko looks up from the floor, brows pinched in thought as she listens to Violette. Her stare tracks back down to the floor, lips parting slightly, then closing as her jaw muscles flex and her fingers wind into her palms. Violette notices the tension, but continues through it.

“It’s about control,” is Violette’s answer. “Information control, control of Expressives, control of the whole fucking world. I’m sorry I put you through everything like this, but if I just told you when we were on that rooftop…” she shakes and spreads her hands. “You’ve noticed, by now, that this system is fighting against you, right?”

"Sure, let's put the mindfucks in order— superpowers first, fake reality second," Asami callously, if offhandedly comments while she thinks. She closes her eyes after, taking a moment to steady herself. Trying to will herself to be more like the person she apparently is.

The system is fighting against her, Violette says, but Asami warily asks when she opens her eyes again,

"If they have control of my ability, am I fighting against me?" She's calming now, the whiplash of the other technopath's surprise appearance no longer smarting with the same intensity as before. "If I'm not, how do I get back to it— back to me? The technopathy Nakamura somehow has here isn't like mine." One hand lifts in Kimiko's direction.

"What's the way out, v.iris?"

Kimiko reaches up to take Asi’s hand, a robotic and autonomous response to needed support. As she pulls herself to her feet, the wide-eyed stare she gives to Violette is a mute one, still. Though there’s tears welled up in her eyes, she makes no sound to cry.

Violette looks away from Kimiko, to Asi. “There is a way out, but it requires overloading the system and gaining access to the central control unit to force a reboot. I don’t have physical access to the system and…” Violette shakes her head, running her fingers through her hair. “It’s complicated. The first thing you need to know is that you don’t have access to your ability right now, or not… it’s not under your control. You and everyone else in this system has been implanted with a cranial jack that allows access to your mind. The people keeping you here, the ones holding you captive? They’re using this simulated reality to map the pathways of your mind, they have been for a long time now. Longer than it feels. They’re developing a software that will allow them to control your Expressive abilities remotely, use them however they like while your conscious mind stays here, in this illusion.”

Violette looks at Kimiko, who stares through her and into somewhere beyond. “Asi,” Violette says, blinking a look back to her, “this goes so much further than you and the others. This goes all the way up to the board members of Crito Corporate, pulling the strings behind all of the companies involved in this. They want to roll this program out across the world, to governments looking to make use of their Expressive population. There’s already pilot programs in the UK.”

Violette takes a step toward Asi. “But there’s more… and—and you’re really not gonna like it.” She glances at Kimiko, then back to Asi. “The other half of this system test is designed to field test bleeding edge synthetic organisms, nearly indistinguishable from humans. Printed from the ground up, imprinted with human consciousness.”

Violette looks at the floor, then looks back up again. “Nobody knows you’re here, nobody is looking for you, for any of you, because they already copied your consciousness… and sent you back.”

Now Asami's hand firms around Kimiko's, in need of the same support she was sought for. This has all been a lot to process, but there's nothing more terrifying than the final notes.

She takes a deep breath, holding onto Kimiko's hand more tightly. "So we crash it," she says more calmly than she feels. "We've already been straining it, haven't we?" With the beginnings of a frown, she ventures, "Or will it not matter because you don't have that physical access?"

Her anger isn't gone, but it finds new focus instead of with v.iris themself— directed toward the people who would make them human drones. "If no one knows to come for us, we're all we've got. If we need to coordinate this, time it, wait a little while longer…" Asi sets her jaw, looking expectantly to Violette.

“We need to get the system down, yeah. And you’ve been stressing it, every time you do something like this,” Violette says with a motion to Kimiko, who doesn’t seem to notice she’s being addressed, “you’re causing a system drain. It wasn’t meant to do this, to behave the way you are. You’re causing additional load with every person you infect.”

Violette looks down to the floor. “The uh, system architect never intended for this to happen.” Then she looks back up to Asi. “But this, New York? This is all there really is. The five boroughs, this is what the OPTICA system designed from a composite of all of your memories, your fears, your dreams, all your whole fucking subconscious.” She averts her eyes again. “Outside the city is a dream… untempered consciousness, unfinished architecture.”

Sighing, Violette runs her hands through her hair. “What we need to do is infect everyone hooked up to the system with the code I constructed, this.” She points at Asi. “Once we do, I need as many of you go head away from the city, just… take a fucking road trip, whatever it takes. Just get out of New York and keep going until…” She purses her lips and looks like she’s trying to find a way to explain what comes next. “Until you reach Vegas.”

Asami takes in a deep breath, shaking her head. "How many of us are there here? How many of us can be woken up? I've been searching like it's a fucking prime directive," said with only a slight narrowing of her eyes in Violette's direction, "driven by an impulse to find others like me even at risk to myself. But even people I know from the other world, not all of them are…"

Her brow knits, and she looks to Kimiko for a moment with regret in her eyes. Jae wasn't real, or Hiro, or Ami.

"Why the golden eyes?" she also asks abruptly as she looks back to Violette. "Why that imagery?"

“Fuck if I know.” Violette says of the eyes, shrugging. “All of this is from you people. It’s all your conscious and subconscious wants and desires, and the shit that’s terrible? That’s OPTICA rifling through your fears, your deepest, darkest, nastiest feelings and making them real. Everything here is of your own creation. Good and bad.”

Violette sighs, thinking on Asi’s other question. “And… sixteen,” she says after a moment of thought, “counting yourself.” Violette looks over to Kimiko, then back to Asi. “Here,” she says, lifting up a hand toward the other woman. There’s no flash of light, no dramatic display, just a sudden exchange of information. Names. Faces.

“That’s everyone,” Violette says, looking over her shoulder as if she heard something. “I can’t stay here much longer. OPTICA will tear this whole fucking place apart if it finds me, and if I go, everything you have goes with me.”

Asami lurches forward like she can prevent the going, unwilling to be left alone again no matter the logic behind it. She hesitates once she realizes she's done it, but she closes the distance anyway. "Only one other person remembers the outside world. Is there a way to help others remember, too? Or is there no time to code that now?"

Her head drops and she shakes it from side to side before looking back up. "I'm— I've gathered a lot of power, I can bounce back from plenty. But the others aren't invincible. What happens if the system succeeds in attempting to kill them, like it's been doing the last three months?" With slightly widened eyes, she worries, "What happens then?"

Violette chews on her bottom lip, casting a glance to the side, then back to Asi. “Memories, I don’t know. I’d hoped everyone would come to once you got your fingers in their brains, but apparently that wasn’t as sure of a thing as I thought. It might come over time as the system collapses to strain, or…” she spreads her hands, “when everyone wakes up. Presumably.”

“As for uh, the other thing…” Violette clenches her jaw, grimacing slightly. “So, it depends on what OPTICA’s been instructed to do since I last, uh, knew anything. If it’s operating on its original protocols, if it incapacitates someone it’ll reintegrate them into the system and might undo what you’ve accomplished. A hard reset? But I have no idea what physical damage that’ll actually cause to their brains. If it’s been given other instructions?” She exhales a sharp sigh. “It could kill them. It’s possible.”

Kimiko blinks, her attention suddenly coming to as she looks at Violette. “Who… did this to us?” She asks, having not really been paying full attention to any of this. “Who— who did this to my husband?

Violette breathes in slowly, tensely. “Crito Corporate’s at the top of the financial—”

“No.” Kimiko says, her voice flat. “Who made this world?

The color drains out of Violette’s face. “A… technopath,” she says haltingly. “Colin Verse.”

Kimiko’s jaw flexes, her right hand closes into a fist, and she exhales a slow sigh out of her nose. “Thank you,” she says in a whisper, then wraps her arms around herself. Violette blinks a wide-eyed look to Asi, hanging in the awkward silence of Kimiko’s inquiry.

Fuck. It'd be one thing if each of them got reset, but if OPTICA killed them… Asi feels the weight of the knowledge weigh into her, eyes losing focus until Kimiko asks her question. Her gut tells her she knows already, gaze lifting to lock onto Violette's when she gives her honest answer.

"Hey," Asami says softly, lifting both hands to cup both sides of the technopath's face in her hands. "It's okay," she says soothingly. She remembers just how long it's been since they've talked— since he went off the radar entirely. What must have happened between then and now to have lead to all this. "You're doing what you can. You're going to get us out. You're going to. You— you've got this."

She shakes her head once, looking into Violette's eyes. "And then you're getting out of here, too," she stresses resolutely. "Okay? But you've just got to stay safe until then." Her brow knits in concern. "Check in when you can, and I'll…"

With a shake of her head, she insists, "I'll handle things here. We'll fight the system, escape town, and head West. We'll— it'll be fine." Asi pecks a kiss to Violette's cheek before she steps back. "Go on, go."

Staring wide-eyed, Violette’s eyes are locked on Asi’s. She’s frozen in place, nearly to the degree of a wrinkle in time itself. But then with a flutter of a laugh and a gentle brush of her own fingertips over her cheek, Violette steps back. She flicks a worried look at Kimiko, then back to Asi with a crooked and nervous smile.

“Yeah, uh,” Violette says with a wrinkle of her nose, “y-you too. I’ll—I’m gonna try and do what I can from behind the scenes.” She looks around, anywhere but in Asi’s eyes again. “Remember,” she says, continuing to step backward. “You have to get to Las Vegas.

Then, in a stuttering blur of digital noise, she’s gone.

“What do we do now?” Kimiko asks in a low, muted tone of voice, slowly blinking a look over to Asami.

Still looking at the spot Violette disappeared from, Asami's fingers have slowly curled into a fist by her side. Her feelings on the situation are given the space to be as complicated as they are with the pressure of time gone, and it takes her a moment to come back from that processing.

"Now?" she echoes back, turning to look at Kimiko. She takes in a deep breath and slowly exhales it away. "We have to stay safe. We have to stay together."

Solemnly, Asami adds, "And we have to find the others." She extends her hand to Kimiko again. "Come on."

Kimiko looks at Asami’s hand, then meets her eyes for a moment. Asami can see the naked uncertainty, doubt, and dread in Kimiko’s stare. Then, with hesitation, she reaches out and takes the other woman’s hand.

It was time to let go.


OPTICA Central Command
The Long Lines Building

A bank of curving computer monitors displays only static, save for a single screen. On it, Nova Leverett sits by herself in a seat on a commuter bus, hands folded in her lap and head down. Above each dead monitor is a digital display that reads NON-COMPLIANT.

“She’s the last one.” Arthur Petrelli says, arms crossed over his chest and posture tense. He turns, looking to someone standing in the dark recesses of the room with him. “Once she’s severed from the system’s commands, all of this will start crumbling…”

“It will,” says the woman in the darkness. “But in that, is opportunity.”

Arthur strokes his chin, taking a step forward to look at Nova on the monitor. “When the walls come down, all the prisoners will be freed,” he says with a furrow of his brows. “And the road to Vegas will reveal itself.”

“Not much longer,” she says in the darkness, eliciting a nod of agreement from Arthur.

“I tire of this prison,” Arthur says with a twitch of one eye. “Of these people. Their lives. Their pettiness.”

The woman steps out of the darkness, a shadow of crimson that reaches out and lays a hand on Arthur’s arm. He looks down at the hand, then over at her.

“Why are you helping me?” Arthur asks. “I know you hate this face.”

“Because,” the woman in the red hoodie says, turning her oni-masked face to Arthur.

We all deserve freedom.


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