What Tomorrow Brings


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Scene Title What Tomorrow Brings
Synopsis The day before some of the PHAROs leave on a rescue mission to save both themselves and their originals, Nova and Brynn spend some time together forging bonds that only two of their kind can forge.
Date July 9, 2021

Red Hook Tea Shop

The little tea shop in Red Hook is a cozy spot to wait for a friend; it’s a newer addition to the area, boasting a wall full of loose-leaf teas for purchase in their dry form, or to be made into beverages hot or cold to be enjoyed in the shop or in a to-go cup. Of course, there are add-ons like boba as well, along with dainty pastries and cookies and candy. It’s a very pretty little shop, painted in a cherry blossom theme, and a favorite place for meet-ups with friends for those who live in the area.

Nova’s texted Brynn to join her, and she waits in the corner of the shop in a cherry-blossom-pink vinyl booth. She’s already got a mug of tea in her hands – hot, despite the warm and humid day outside – along with a plate full of assorted macarons to share with Brynn once she gets there. As she stares out the window, it’s clear she’s distracted, no doubt thinking about the trip she’s about to embark on, and how it might impact both of them.

She was happy to get the text, honestly. Brynn is still not getting around as easily as she used to – who knew that not being able to feel your foot meant that you tripped on things All. The. Time? So she walks slower to avoid it and she continues to carry a cane with her to help when she does trip up. It translates to not getting where she wants to go as fast as she wants to get there and to not being able to walk everywhere for long distances.

So a meet up is a welcome invitation to be able to get out and about. She and Doodlebug, the goldendoodle at her heels, stop at the counter to get her drink, an iced tea with something else that Brynn didn't catch in it. Then she looks around and spots Nova, and when her drink comes up, she joins the other young woman.

And then for a moment, she can't remember if Nova knows ASL. Oh crap. Embarrassing. She types the question into her phone's notes app and shows it to Nova apologetically. I'm losing brain power along with everything else, clearly. Do you know Sign or should I type it? An expressive roll of her gray eyes accompanies it, along with a sheepish grin.

Nova waves when she sees Brynn, along with throwing her a wide smile, despite what struggles await them both. She shakes her head, making a sad face at the question. “I’m trying to learn,” she says, making sure she faces Brynn fully, and while she doesn’t speak s l o w l y, she does make sure not to cover her mouth or speak too fast, which is definitely a possibility with her.

To show her efforts, she makes the sign for how are you, but then laughs and adds, “if the answer isn’t ‘fine,’” she makes the sign for ‘fine,’ “I won’t know what you say, though.”

The problem with learning languages, in a nutshell.

“We can both text?” she asks, brows lifting with the question. “Or do you like it this way?” Nova gestures between them, to indicate her talking, while Brynn has to answer via the phone.

Laughing with a mostly silent chuckle, Brynn shakes her head and uses her phone app to just type out her stuff. I'm used to it, don't worry. It was a big change, coming here - back home, everyone speaks ASL cuz there are several of us who need it. But almost no one here! So I learned quick to get alone. :) I'm fine with you just talking to me and me typing. No point in slowing you down. Mostly I can keep up. If I miss something, I'll ask. It's just commonplace for her.

She gives Nova time to read what she speed-typed with thumbs, and then takes it back to ask, How're you doing? Feeling okay mostly? After the strokes and stuff, some people seem to have had it just a little easier, depending on how it hit them.

Nova reads what’s on the text, and smiles. “That makes sense,” she says. “And you do type way faster than me. I usually voice-to-text, which…defeats the purpose here, since you read lips.” She is very careful to speak clearly, face to face and not at an angle.

The question draws her hand up in the universal sign language of a wobbled hand. “I’m okay. I get migraines sometimes, still, and some numbness in my fingers. I hope neither of those happen on the trip.” She makes a face. “I’m already nervous, but I did good at the weapons training. Hopefully we won’t need it.”

“You okay?” Nova reaches to tap the cane as an indicator of what she means. “I’m sorry if it’s been hard. Especially when you need hands to sign.”

Shrugging, Brynn smiles the soft grin that is her usual expression. Doing okay, she types. I just trip a lot cuz I can't feel that foot, so I use it mostly for balance. And yeah, the migraines do suck. Mine come with noise too, so that's fun.

She shows what she typed and then rolls her eyes to show her sarcasm. Then she adds, I guess getting the ability to hear out of it is a good thing, but … I miss the quiet. It's so loud, all the time, I honestly don't know how you do it.

Nova’s nose wrinkles in sympathy, and then she squints, sort of looking around, like she’s noticing noise for the first time.

“I guess it is. I think you just sort of filter out anything that’s not relevant to you, when you grow up hearing, but I can see how suddenly getting your hearing you wouldn’t be used to it,” she says thoughtfully. “Like… only when I think about it, I can hear the electrical stuff?”

Over behind the bar, there’s the hum of refrigeration and a dishwasher, and overhead the slight hum of lighting fixtures. “But because that’s always around and rarely important, it’s just like a layer that I don’t have to worry about. And there’s all the layers, like background people, and street noise, and all of that, but the only layer that really matters is what’s right in front of me. Most of the time,” Nova explains.

She lifts her mug to take a sip. “Do you,” she begins slowly and quietly, “know what you are going to do? If our other selves come back?”

Brynn toys with her tea, taking a sip and realizing that the thing she missed was some kind of fruity infusion in the stuff. She looks startled for a second but seems to decide the flavor is okay. After another sip, she responds.

Not really. My siblings are all pretty supportive, but… I feel like I stole her life. Her family. For months. On the one hand… she's going to know it wasn't my fault or anything.// Because she is the other girl, she feels confident in that part. But it doesn't mean she's not going to resent me and be angry and hurt that she got replaced.

She pauses and adds, They're all she ever had and they couldn't tell it wasn't her. I think in her shoes, I'd be feeling pretty… lost. I don't want to lose the only family I know. But they're not really mine, are they?

It's so complicated.

Nova’s expression turns sad as she reads the words, and she nods, then, as she reads more, shakes her head, but with a smile.

“You are so kind,” she says, reaching to touch Brynn’s arm lightly. “And if your friends couldn’t tell the difference, that means she is kind, too, and I think will understand. And I think your friends… can be both of your friends. They won’t want you to be alone. They will care about both of you. I’m sure of it.”

The smile fades, and she looks out the window. Her situation is different – which makes it less complicated, in a lot of ways. “I don’t think I’m really based on someone real,” she murmurs. “There are things… it’s hard to explain. But I don’t think my memories of seeing my parents are real. And I did some Nancy Drew sort of bullshit trying to call my school for transcripts, that sort of thing. I got people on the other line, right, which makes sense if they’re trying to cover their tracks? But when I looked up the address, on GhostNet street view and all? There’s no school there. It’s a donut shop. Never was a school, you know?”

Nova lifts a shoulder. “I don’t know. I’m not that sad about it now, though… because if there’s not another me, it makes things easier, I guess. You have more to worry about in that regard. I just… don’t know where any of us go from here. Just try to fit in with society? I worry the government’s not going to be okay with us just running around, though. It’s just…”

She sighs, lifting her mug and looking into it, “…Complicated.”

Brynn's expression is a bit uncertain but game at Nova's assurances. I hope what you think is true. My siblings thinks so too – just going to be hard and very awkward.

Then as the other girl continues, Brynn tips her head with a frown. She might not have entirely followed part of that but she's able to follow the gist. Nova, of course you are someone real. Her touch on Nova's arm is urgent and she types fast. Just because what you're remembering doesn't match what you found, that doesn't mean a thing. We know about people who had memories changed on them, just because they saw something they shouldn't have! There might be a whole lot more to it than you know. But you ARE a real person.

And then after a moment or two of letting Nova read that, she pulls her phone back and types fast again, this time showing it with a sly smile. If I'm living in a fake body with someone else's memories and I'M real, you can't be any LESS really than me – either someone messed with OGNova's brain or they messed up the download. I refuse to believe that I'm real and you're not. And don't for one minute think that people we know out there aren't already scrambling to cover our backs and make sure we don't get black bagged or anything. We're FERRY. It means we don't play those games with government jerks.

Nova tips her head to read what Brynn wrote, then smiles, looking up to see that sly grin from Brynn, then reads what the other woman speed types into the phone. She chuckles, and makes the sign for thanks, touching her chin and then moving it down and toward Brynn.

“Thank you,” she says, wrapping both hands around her mug. “I don’t know anyone besides you guys and the people i’ve met at college here… not surprisingly, my ‘parents’,” she uses air quotes, “told me they’d pay for me to stay here for the summer because they’re traveling for work. I didn’t argue because I don’t think they’re really real, like I said. I half wanted to demand to go home and see what they came up with, but it was simpler to just stay here so I could try to help.”

She spins a spinner ring on her middle finger for a moment. “What a weird world, huh? Honestly, I don’t think I’d be surprised at learning anything is real at this point.”

Brynn seems saddened at the thought of what Nova is describing. She can't imagine having that sense of unreality not just from finding out you're not who you think you are cuz you're a robot but also because there are secrets and lies in your past. She takes the time to sip from her drink before typing again, this time with a thoughtful look.

Do you want to dig into it? She tips her head studying Nova's face. My brother works at SESA and could probably dig a little. Or even Miss Nicole or Aunt Gillian. They're both already at least known to Nova.

She types one more thing before setting the phone in front of Nova and reaching out to hold her wrist firmly. WE are real. And you're not alone here. Even if you think you have no one else, you have me. And my siblings? We sort of tend to absorb friends and make them family.

The first question draws an unhappy shrug from Nova, but she waits as Brynn types. At the sudden touch on her wrist, Nova presses her lips together, and swallows, looking up as her eyes well up with tears in a rush of emotion, like gravity will keep the tears in.

Her other hand lifts to cover Brynn’s – it’s warm from holding her mug around its circumference. “Thank you,” she murmurs, voice a little thick suddenly. “That’s so sweet of you.”

Withdrawing her hand, she lifts both to use the fingertips to sweep under her lower eyelashes for any moisture. “I figured we might get answers on the trip, and then I’ll go from there. It’s probably not as weird as it seems… maybe just a paperwork mistake or something on their part, and just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get me, right?”

Oh dear, she didn't mean to make Nova cry. They're all scared, but Brynn had no idea until now that Nova had no one. She squeezes gently, a silent gesture of support, and then nods firmly. Honestly, Lighthouse Kids don't believe in paranoia. If your gut says something is off, you should listen to it. It's saved our lives more than once.

It's not meant to be grim, but without actual tone it could come across that way. It's just that these kids literally grew up under siege. I'll help you if you want to start digging, she promises. If we all survive this, it doesn't matter what you find out – you can get through it. I'll be here, okay? She grins a bit. This is how we inherited Jac too, you know. We just absorbed her right in, now she's ours. Seriously, they're like a real-life Katamari.

Taking a few moments to sip her tea and let Nova think on that, Brynn considers something. You said you were doing okay with weapons training. Who have you got teaching you?

Nova’s hand finds Brynn’s again, and she squeezes back. “I really appreciate it. It’s always been a little weird, since I wasn’t from here like the rest of you, just here for college with no ties to anything yet. It’s sketchy. Gabby too. We’ll figure it out, though. And you have me, too, even if you have a huge gaggle of people behind you already.”

She reads the questions about weapons training, and nods. “Oh, like Asi and the Wolfhound people that are helping us. I don’t remember if Isaac or Dr. Miller knew already but Kaylee, Abby, and Nicole are badasses from the before times. Like the war and before the war. My memories have me from Canada back then, so not so dire straits, I guess. Compared to you guys in Lighthouse.”

Brynn laughs her almost-silent giggle, and nods. That huge gaggle, some of them aren't as close as others, but they would all still help. It's who we are. The outcasts. We have to take care of each other because no one else can be counted on. For someone usually so quiet and seemingly low-key, she is fierce in her own way.

Aunt Kaylee and the others are absolutely badasses. Aunt Abby, Aunt Kaylee, and Miss Nicole weren't around us as much; they were out there kicking butt. Aunt Gilly helped train all of us kids… her and Brian. It's why me, Lance, Joe, and Hailey can all shoot and scav and fight the way we do, she tells the other girl.

I'm way better with a rifle shooting at distance than with a handgun, but …if I don't have to shoot, I don't like to, she admits. Lance either, really. And I'm kind of a liability on a battlefield even when I'm not having balance trouble. So… I can't say I'm sorry not to be going. But any of the people you said are good for weapons training, for certain. I'm really glad you have them. It's important to her that they all have each other's backs.

After reading the words, Nova smiles and nods. “I’m sure you’d be just as badass if you came. I don’t know why the stuff impacts some of us more than others,” she says quietly. “Hopefully I won’t get a numbness attack or a migraine during the actual raid or whatever we’re calling it.”

She takes a sip of her tea, and her brows draw together in a little moment of something like melancholy; but she forces a smile. “I’m glad you had those people then, and also now.” Even if they were just a memory of then, it’s a part of this version of Brynn’s history. “And I’m glad to have met you all. I hope the real Nova has people who are as good to her in this life as you’ve had.”

She exhales, shaking her head, and forcing a brighter smile onto her face. “Anywaaaaay,” she draws out the syllable. “Hey, can I commission you for a tattoo design? I want something to separate me from her, you know? And from you, not your other you.”

Brynn looks surprised at the request, and there's a hint of uncertainty. I'm not exactly up to par with my drawing lately, she admits. Or at least it's her own opinion of her work – then again we are all our own worst critics, right? What do you want it to look like? She can't help the thrill of being asked to do it… she used to do them as one of her jobs, back before the— No, she didn't really. But she pushes that thought aside.

Tell me your ideas and I can try to sketch out a couple of versions of them? I can't do the ink part anymore but I bet I know someone who can!

“Hopefully by the time I have time to get it, you’ll be healthy and your drawing will be steadier,” Nova says with a smile, twisting that spinner ring again as she considers the dangers that may await her in her trip overseas. “But even if you just design it…”

As far as ideas, she purses her lips over to the side in a pensive expression. “Honestly I’m not sure yet. Just something that’s just mine, you know? But I’ll think about it and text you when I know. Maybe get super meta about it and get a cute chibi robot eating a Tim Horton’s doughnut.”

She laughs and shakes her head. “Okay, maybe not the doughnut. That’s going a bit far. Probably. Maybe. But I could see it, in New School style, definitely.” She grins at the thought. “What do you like drawing, though? Like, what’s your style?”

Brynn, tipping her head thoughtfully, admits, I don't really know. Before the crash… I did a lot of realism. I loved drawing people's expressions, shading a sketch with all of the subtle complexities so that when you look at them… you can see the things they lived. Hands are incredible at telling the story of a life, but faces… faces are whole stories in an instant. But that was Original Brynn, too.

My friend Wright took me to a concert recently and I learned that music, especially in person, has feelings. Or… it makes you feel things, sometimes really strongly. I've been experimenting a little with abstracts, trying to paint what I felt there while they played. She looks a bit self-conscious and shrugs. Not very good at it yet, but Wright sent me some acrylics and canvasses to try more with.

She pauses then adds, Tattoos, though, that's different. It's personal to the person doing it. It's a reflection of something inside you that needs a physical expression on your skin. Something … visceral. A memory aide or an image intended to make you feel something every time you see it. You should definitely think about it. Although if we get the originals back, Brynn can change your tat anytime you want, she grins.

Nova glances down at her hands as if she hadn’t thought about them as a subject of art before, turning them over to look at the palms and the creases and angles formed by holding her fingers just so. At the talk of music, though, she looks up and beams.

“I draw a little – not as good as you – but music is more my thing,” she says. “Pretty much anything stringed - cello and guitar mostly. I sometimes play at this little cafe on Ocean and X – it’s all like amateurs, not like I have a gig there. But you should come sometime, if you are exploring music. It’s mostly the college kids and we play a lot of stuff, all acoustic. I do mostly ’90s stuff, like grunge or punk meets indie folk sorta vibe.”

Nova realizes that this all might be moot in not-much time, if those heading to Europe are successful. Or if they’re not. She frowns and looks down at her hands as they wrap around her mug again.

“Or maybe the original me will do it when she gets back, I don’t know. But you should check it out, even if I’m not there,” she says, her excitement dimmed a little.

The grin Brynn offers as amused as she types out, You realize I have no clue what any of those things are, right? But she hates seeing the smile go dim. Reaching out again to touch Nova's wrist and make sure she has her eyes, Brynn adds to the screen, Regardless of whether she comes back, and Brynn hopes they all get back safely certainly, we don't have to give up the parts that we got from them even as we build our own lives. One of my brothers said to try and think of it like a twin you never knew. You didn't ask to be plunked here and they didn't ask to be taken. We are all going to have to figure things out. Not just us but them too – we have to figure out how we fit and they have to figure out how to handle all the resentment and anger.

No, it's not going to be simple or easy. And maybe it's moot anyway, if some or all of them stroke out before they can rescue the original ones. But Brynn in any form tries to look for a silver lining.

A smaller smile returns, and Nova nods, then murmurs, “Funny you should say that.” Reaching into her bag, she pulls out a notepad and flips to what almost look like fashion designer sketches of four women in four different outfits. One with dark brown hair in a yellow raincoat; another with longer black hair, wearing all black. One blond in what might be office attire; another brunette in an army coat.

They all have the same impressionistic version of Nova’s face.

“When I had my stroke on my birthday, I saw these… people. And when I was recovering in the hospital sometimes, and even now and then when I look in the mirror,” she explains. “I don’t know what it means. But I wonder if I do have a twin – twins? Quads? Quints? I don’t know. It’s weird.”

She lifts a shoulder in a resigned shrug. “You’re right, though. We are here now, and we have to make the most of it. I just don’t want to get in the way of anything she wants, either. But I hope if nothing else the real me is kind, and will understand.” Nova dips a chin toward Brynn. “We know yours is.”

Brynn reaches out to take the sketch and she studies it, looking just a little unnerved. Knowing what the Lighthouse knows about time traveling and overlays… did Nova see twins or more? Or did she see another self? It's not something she's going to suggest… but she remembers the year of dreams of "other selves."

Filing the thought away, she simply hands the pad back to Nova and offers, I feel the same way about Brynn. I want her to have her life and her family back. I just… don't want to lose everyone that I remember loving just as much as she does. She shrugs a little.

People keep telling me that she won't blame me. I have to believe that if I'm her, if everything was overlayed on me the same way it exists in her, they're right – and we'll figure it out somehow. And if the other you is anything like this you, I think you don't have anything to worry about either except that she's going to be just as scared as we are … and resentful that she's lost all this time. But I bet it will help if she knows you have made friends, and that those friends are going to stick by BOTH of you.

It's a lot to handle. And although this Brynn is afraid of it just as much as Nova is, it helps knowing they're all scared and worried about the same things. We should come up with names for ourselves. I can't be called cheesehead by my brother, which he will if I try to go by Bree, but 'Brynn' is her name. My sister suggested 'Bee', and no one else is being helpful, she types with a grin. This is a chance to claim who you are and be whatever and whoever you want. Let's do it.

Nova reads, considering all that Brynn’s written. “I’m both sort of jealous of all the people you have, but also relieved that I don’t have to worry that much about losing them,” she admits, grimacing in an exaggerated I’m sorry expression.

“Mostly all this shit kept me from making good connections in school. I consider you guys my friends. Yi-Min is amazing, and Peter Parkour – Isaac? Is a good friend. He absolutely will pick up the phone and agree to weird shit in the middle of the night if you ask him to, which is a good quality,” she says with a laugh. “And a couple of other people that I’ve met, but even then… after I had my stroke, I didn’t really try to see anybody else, so it’s just been a lot of me.”

She taps her fingers against her mug’s rim a couple of times. “A new name is a good idea. I’ll have to think on what I’d want. Bree is cute. So is Bee. But don’t narrow yourself down to being close to the one you have. If we’re re-inventing ourselves, we may as well go for it. I bet Nicole will help us get IDs and stuff, so.”

She tips her head in a thoughtful pose, holding it for a moment, then shaking her head with a bubbly laugh. “Yeah, I got nothin’.”

Tipping her head thoughtfully, Brynn taps out, My middle name is Kathleen. Not a name she's ever considered using. And I'm quite sure Miss Nicole would do that. Pretty sure if we really needed it, my guardian Brian would be able to get us one in Canada too. He's got crazy amounts of contacts, even before the war.

She does grin at the idea of totally reinventing herself. I looked up in old books once what my name meant… it's boring. It means 'Hill.' But I thought it was neat that it was Welsh and kind of unusual. I thought about something crazy like Ceridwen… it's related to a Welsh goddess of poetry or something. Which I'm totally not a poet… but the short version of it, Ceri or Cari… it means loved. The flicker of the same uncertainty that Nova feels is evident in her face when she says that, but the girl shrugs it away. It's kinda stupid, but it was a thought.

“It’s not stupid. I think Cari is cute, and you are loved,” Nova says sternly, “but keep thinking if it doesn’t feel right. Kinda like a tattoo, right? It needs to be something you’re willing to have for a while – well. Maybe not with original Brynn around, but for most people. You can change a tattoo but it takes time and is a pain, just like changing your name.”

She finishes the rest of her tea with another sip. “If I went with similar vibes for mine, I guess Star or Stella or Estelle or something, but those don’t feel right for me. The first one sounds a little too… I don’t know. Try hard, or something, and the other two sound a little old. I need something in between.”

Reaching into her bag, she pulls out a wallet to leave a tip for the servers, which really serves as a table tax in this case, since they didn’t need to do much.

“Come on. Let’s go back to the dorms and I’ll teach you about grunge, punk, ska, and all the things, now that you can hear the music,” Nova says with a grin, standing and offering her hand to Brynn to help her out of the booth. “I’ll get you set up and leave you homework for while I’m away. I’ll share you my playlists and make some that I think you’ll like, once we figure out what you like.”

Brynn tips her head and observes, Danica means star, although why she knows that is up in the air. So does Vanessa. They're just random thoughts though, and she grins as she moves to slide out of the seat. Just before she stands, she taps out another tidbit.

Just as long as it is not like jazz and doesn't break my eardrum, I'm willing to listen. I figured out that I like smooth transitions of sounds and I like deep voices. But that's as much as I've got so far. She gathers up her backpack and slides it on, slips Doodle's leash over her wrist and is on her feet.

It's strange to realize that for all the people she knows, all the people she lives with and loves, Nova is one of the first people she feels like she's actually learning to be a friend with all by herself. It's different from everyone else in her orbit; they were all Original Brynn's people. Even Wright and Elliot. Nova isn't seeing the old Brynn… she only knows this one. It's a subtle thing, but very real to her. When you get back, I'll teach you Sign, if you want, she offers shyly. A little bit of trade, a little bit of give and take, and a bit of hope that they have a tomorrow as the two young women make their way to hang out.

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