With Friends Like These


asi2_icon.gif genki_icon.gif

Scene Title With Friends Like These
Synopsis Asi turns to an old friend to find out if what happened to her has also happened to anyone else overseas.
Date July 29, 2020

The Bastion

Crickets sing in the night air, almost loud enough to drown out Asi's thoughts.

She flicks the spark wheel on a lighter while she stands on the roof of the Bastion, looking up toward the sky. The light pollution's returned so much more compared to this time last year, when she first landed in New York City. The rolling blackouts have ended. Power is a certainty, and more and more growth springs up each passing month.

Yeah, she thinks to herself as she exhales away the first breath of smoke. Yeah, it almost drowns out her thoughts.

It's pushing ten in the evening, and her gaze slowly comes back down to earth. Dark, almost lifeless. When a particularly persistent thought rears its head again, now at an hour where it could be reasonably acted upon, she loses the fight against it. Cigarette pursed between her lips, she reaches into the pocket of the jacket she's wearing to stave off any bugs in the night air and pulls free her phone, navigating it purely by manual input. The loss of being able to manipulate it with her ability is keenly felt, but at least tonight she's not made the mistake of attempting to engage what's no longer there.

She hovers for a long moment over the name in her Contacts list before she finally presses to call.

The crickets sing almost as loud as the phone rings, held loosely to one ear with one hand while she pinches the cigarette with her other, clearing her lungs for the conversation that lies ahead.

She wonders, briefly, if no one will pick up at all, but then the line clicks.


Asi breathes out, and the sound of the crickets seem louder. So loud they must carry over the line.

The voice on the other end of the phone waits only a beat, sounding impatient even as he sounds out again a rushed but polite, "もしもし?"

Eyes lifting to the stars, Asi breathes in again. "あたしよ、永野くん。"

She can hear the sound of him shifting back in his chair, the old wheels of it creaking and giving it away. He's thinking, but he knows already.

Genki always does. "テツヤマ?" he asks, sounding surprised.

"«I just said it was, didn't I?»" she chides him, settling into an old coolness that's familiar as her own skin— and just as foreign, given everything she's lost. "«Who else this pretty would be calling you this hour of the morning?»"

He chuffs on the other end of the line, and she imagines it clearly: The way he looks up to the ceiling, rolls his jaw, and debates hanging up. He must give it serious consideration— must wonder if it's not illegal for him to be corresponding with her like this. But things have changed, and it's less damning now than it was before. Charges haven't exactly been dropped against her, but neither are they being pursued. They're not pushing for her extradition from the United States, owing to an agreement that was struck.

It looked like she'd finally found powerful friends after all. Ones that meant she'd never come crawling back to the Japanese government to negotiate reinstatement along with forgiveness.

So what was she calling him for?

"«Well, I did just get off the phone with Kitada…»" Genki finally responds, giving into curiosity as much as giving into the need to needle her endlessly.

It works, for all that Asi doesn't give any indication of how the mention of her former teammate makes her heart ache. She glosses right past it, leaning immediately into, "«I had a question for you. By any chance, there haven't been any strange cases there recently, have there? Shinka-jin waking up no longer Evolved?»"

Genki doesn't bother holding back a bark of laughter. "«Is this a joke? There's more of you now, more than ever. More of you waking up1 every single day, not the other way around.»" He lets out a mutter after that, nothing kindly in it. "«Haven't you been keeping up with the news?»"

Eyes closing, Asi does her best not to crumple the filter of her cigarette as her hand wants to tighten into a fist. She considers glossing past that, too, but her voice drops low, all pretense of friendliness absent. "«Yes. Must be terrifying for you, isn't it.»"

Now that takes him by surprise. He's wary as he comes back around to asking, "«Why do you ask, anyway?»"

Her eyes open to slits— only enough so she can begin to pace the rooftop, flicking away embers while she walks. "«Not that I expect you to pay any attention to matters overseas that don't involve villainization of the Evolved, but something's happened. A not-insignificant number of SLC-E were kidnapped directly from their homes and shipped across international borders. It was only discovered because the plane carrying them crashed.»" She does her best to keep her voice even again, direct and professional. Detached. "«The event involved American citizens, primarily, and the crash occurred in Canada. If there's no reports in Japan of people mysteriously missing their abilities— have there been an increase in missing persons reports for SLC-E?»"

She can hear that creaking chair again as Genki sits upright, latching onto something right away. "«Hold on, what do the two have to do with each other?»"

Asi's mouth hardens into a line, biding her time by taking a drag from her cigarette. He hears that, she's certain, and she imagines the way he must read into it, because he presses her for more details. "«Asi?»"

She rolls her jaw before she finds the words for a reply. "«You're not an idiot, Nagano— you don't need me to connect the dots for you.»"

"«When was this?»" he fires back, reaching for a pen and paper. Always low-tech when he was taking notes about something he shouldn't.

"«About a month ago. Details about it are only just starting to emerge. Story was leaked to the public a few days ago, with less than what I've told you, so if you can just keep that to yourself—»" Asi's pace grows agitated, and she flicks the filter of her cigarette again prematurely. "«Do some digging into what's publicly available. Make it look like you discovered it on your own. Make the concern official. Are there similar concerns in Japan that you need to worry about? Plant the question. Let them let you dig after they get thinking about it.»"

They've not had a conversation like this one in a long time, but Genki doesn't argue against it— doesn't argue against her or the tone she takes. He's a little too surprised by this call coming to him out of the blue to argue against any suggestion that doesn't sound completely unreasonable. He lets out a tone while he takes his notes down, thoughtful and neutral. "«All right,»" he finally agrees. "«I'll see what I can turn up. Can you send me somewhere to start with this? You know I'm no good with English.»"

He's the laziest smart person she knows. Asi scoffs as she exhales, relenting with, "«Sure. I'll send you an article once I get back to my desk.»"

There's a sound like he's on the verge of a reply, but he cuts himself off. Rather, something does it for him. "«Back to your desk?»" Genki intones with a hint of skepticism. "«Not now?»"

Her jaw sets.


"«You'll have it shortly.»" she restates, colder than before. He sees right through it, knows something is off.

He always does.

Good night, Genki.»"

"«Asi, wh—?»"

When the line goes dead at the tap of her thumb, the sound of the crickets ease their way back to the foreground with no difficulty. Asi lets her phone arm swing back down to her side, looking off the side of the building, eyes flitting up momentarily to the shape of the moon above the skyline. She takes one last drag off her cigarette before dropping it to the rooftop to grind out beneath her toe.

If she didn't want to suffer insistent and invasive callbacks, she'd need to send him that lead quickly.

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