Masks 22.1 - Sepiatoned Images of Florida [Cutscene] [RP]

It’s not the Dragonfly for speed, Jason muses, but it’s actually a lot more comfortable. And a trip from North Carolina to the Florida Keys should be pretty quick, and he has his license, and the autopilot takes care of most of the heavy lifting anyway. The Quill VTOL Jet has enough applications to the Foundation’s business that it’s not been stuck in mothballs like the Dragonfly. And Jason’s got enough kick to grab it for his own use even with Barbara’s cell phoned objections.

_If the Directors want to bitch about one Quill son visiting another Quill son using company resources, they can send me a memo, and I’ll tell them how to print it, fold it and where exactly to file it.

_He sips some ginger ale from the ridonculous 8 oz. cans, and watches Numina. Another reason not to fly coach on Delta. She’s still having fun doing paper doll stuff with her hair and wardrobe.

_It’s funny that someone so incredibly together, viz a viz life counselling advice, can be such a kid when it comes to playing with her wardrobe.

Says the man who always wears basic black,_ comes that whisper in his ear.

He’d been surprised Numina wanted to come with him, and almost reluctant to get her involved in what could into some nasty family business. But he’d only hesitated a few seconds. She might be just what was needed to keep things from completely blowing up. He lets his eyes rest on her. Little glitch in the reimager up around the right shoulder. Need to adjust that.

And she is fun to watch, delighted by each change, manipulating her image size so she can do pirouettes in the seat to show off to him. This flight wouldn’t be as enjoyable if she wasn’t there. And he realizes that it wouldn’t be nearly as much fun for her to be trying on all these “outfits” without him to share them with.

Leo’s words of warning flash for the two thousandth time across his consciousness, and Jason’s smile fades. What and how he feels about Numina is one huge question (counterpoised to the question about how he feels about – individuals not-Numina), and not what he wants to examine right that second.

He glances for the hundredth time at the display about how long the trip will take and the weather at the other end.

* * *

The place on the Key was never luxurious, but it was a lot better than a straw hut. A landing strip, with a small single-engine plane tied down and tarped at its endA large, well-lit lab space adjoining quite comfortable set of living quarters. He’d spent a lot of great summers there, on the beach, in the water, spending time with –

Amir. What the hell is going on? What secrets have you been keeping from me – from me_ – about all this?

No more.

------

[Assuming the SAMs haven’t already launched … what next, Doyce?]_

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6002131

The radio squawks on the hailing frequency as you get within visual distance. “Jason?” His voice sounds rough and, compared to your younger memories, uncharacteristically serious. “Good to know I’m not the only one. Welcome home.”

He is, with a young, not-Brigand corgi, standing (with a cane) by the front patio doors of the house as you roll up in the plane.

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6002253

“Roger. Down in 5. Over.” The words are terse, tense. His shoulders hurt, and the nanobots ripple unconsciously across them.

He turns over to Numina, who’s watching him closely, sober now, clothes muted in color, more formal. “That’s not what I was expecting,” he said. “I don’t know what I was expecting. But that…”

He shakes his head like a horse bothered by a fly. “Prep for landing.”

He comes down low and slow, shifting to VTOL, and maneuvers close to the end of the strip, near the house. The landing is most automatic, smooth, hardly no bump as they set down.

He sees Amir at the door, and almost automatically gives him a wave from the cockpit. “Where’s Brigand?” he mutters. Shakes his head again. “Focus,” he growls, and forces himself the rough the shutdown processes for the jet.

He finally flashes an unconvincing smile a Numina. “Party time. Come meet the family.” Helix eyes widen slightly as those words sound different than he’d intended.

“Be yourself,” she says. “Let the rest come as it will.”

“Right,” he says. “Easy-peasy.”

They debark. Jason tries to help her down the ladder, before realizing she’s still a floating figure that’s just (delightedly) making the motions of climbing down. She still flashes a smile of appreciation for the gesture as he stands there awkwardly.

They walk over.

Jason’s envisioned this reunion a hundred times before. Sometimes there was embracing and back pounding. Sometimes there was shouting and anger - - that was the version he’d been thinking of the last few days, only with him doing the shouting.

This? This stalemate of fight and flight as he stop a few paces from Amir? This tense uncertainty he’d never imagined.

Numina places a hard light hand lightly on his arm, enough of a grounding to get him to speak.

“Amir. You’re - - looking well.” He cocks his head. “You’re ‘not the only one’ what?”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6002414

The corgi had been barking throughout your approach (happily, you note, unlike Brigand, who would have been warning strangers off his patch), but stops as you near Amir and sits, dog-smiling and barely out of puppyhood. You’d guess it’s around two years old.

“Brigand’s fine,” Amir says, watching your gaze. “Just not as mobile as he once was. This is Buccaneer.” Amir’s eyes flit to Numina, a hint of confusion ghosting across his expression.

_“Ah. You’re – looking well.” You cock your head. “You’re ‘not the only one’ what?”

_Amir nods, as if expecting the question, opens his mouth, then closes it, pursing his lips. “Let’s be comfortable before we dive into all that.” He steps to the side and gestures you through the open patio door. Buck circles the both of you like a herding breed, hopping on his forepaws in excitement, then follows you in. Amir is last, moving carefully.

The house is much as you remember, though Dad’s lab has a new stool, a lounge chair, and about a half-dozen new high-end video displays.

Brigand is in the family room, on the low couch, and - like a family patriarch who would prefer to sit but won’t shirk his duty - pushes himself to his feet, hops down, and pads over to you to receive his pats. He burrows his silvery muzzle under your hand and licks your fingers but, after a moment’s hesitation and a tilted head, backs away from Numina, growling uncertainly, his eyes fixed on her torso, where Chin’s repurposed assassin bot floats within Numina’s hard-light shell.

“Odd reaction,” Amir murmurs, already sitting down. “Please, the host would like to rest his leg.”

He waits while everyone sits (Brigand back on his couch, watching Numina; Buck on the carpet, watching Amir), raising his eyebrow only slightly when Numina joins you.

“When the … ‘Vyortovian Veil’ fell away last week, it seemed as though a curtain had been drawn back from my mind,” he says, finally answering your question. “A curtain not on a window, but a doorway, leading into an entire wing of a house I’d thought of as my home - revealing rooms with which I’d once been familiar, but had forgotten.”

“Within those rooms,” he says, “I found my family. Father. Rusty. You.” He waves a hand, both dismissive and reassuring. “Not that I’d forgotten anyone entirely, but the memories were older. Distant. Nothing new. No drive to connect. To talk. To see you or… anyone.” He shrugs, a slight movement. “It took days to notice, and when I did, I could only assume that it was in some way connected to the Vyortovian… situation which, even though I can’t explain it in any way, still makes sense for a number of reasons.”

“I could only assume - hope, actually - that since you had also not contacted me in the last two years, you were under a similar effect, and here you are, before I could decide how to reach out to you myself.”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6002536

[Edited to correct autocorrection from writing on my thrice-bedamned phone.]

Seeing Brigand again is almost more of an emotional body blow than seeing Amir. Feelings about humans get complicated. Seeing your dog…

Jason blinks back wetness in his eyes as he pets him. “Good boy,” he says, softly.

“This is Numina. My friend.” Jason offers no further explanations at this point.

Numina smiles, as she does. It warms his heart to see it. It doesn’t help Brigand’s reaction, but dogs can be funny that way.

Jason really wants to believe him. He really, really does. This is his brother, fergoshsakes.

But there have been too many fake outs lately. To much deception to pivot to trust so quickly. And after last time…

Jason sits in a casual pose, but it’s still a pose.

“When Dad and Rusty were lost, and you were --” He gestures carefully to Amir’s leg. But wasn’t he a paraplegic? More lies? “-- injured, I tried to talk with you. You --” He pauses his already slow and careful wording. Numina can see even his breathing is deliberate and controlled." – blamed me for their deaths. You made it clear you never wanted to talk with me again. You --" He stops again, shrugging painfully." I respected that wish." His voice isn’t flat, but holds far less emotion than it should.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6002697

[Bill, no obligation to chime in, but if you feel the creative need for Numina to do/say something, please feel free.]

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6002706

I’ll jump in if someone turns and looks at her expectantly or finishes with a direct question for her, but you both seem to have a handle on her and are doing fine. :slight_smile:

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6002831

Amir’s eyes are wide - not shocked, or not only shocked - pulling everything in. “This will sound like the worst kind of denial, but I have no memory of -” He stops and shakes his head. “I was going to say no memory of saying that to you, but the truth is I have no memory of you, at all, following that day. If anyone had asked me more than 5 minutes ago what happened after that day, I would have calmly and probably quite bitterly explained that my brother never came to me or communicated with me through anything other than a Quill Foundation proxy, in the last two years.”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6003172

“I want to believe that – believe that you’re telling me the truth, more than I can --” He’s shifted position, sitting on the edge of the sofa, leaning forward, hands gripping his knees.

Numina starts to reach out a hand toward him, then pauses he continues, “There’s been so much --” He breaks off into a vague, angry gesture, unwilling to open up further than that, but –

“Tell me what happened that day, Amir. Dad. You. Rusty. Chin. I want to hear it from you.

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6003287

Again, Amir nods; either expecting the question or fully understanding the reasons for it.

“The first thing I will need to explain is the presence on this world of a small cadre of … I suppose you might call them ‘interdimensional saboteurs’ known as the Hidden Family of the Vyortovian Throne.”

He stops at your short, sharp bark of laughter. Brigand raises his head, stands, pads to your end of the couch, and settles himself against your leg.

“I… can see you’ve already encountered them. I suppose that makes sense, and I would very much like to know what you’ve learned, in turn, but for now, I’ll tell you only what I knew - what Father and Rusty explained to me at the time.”

“The Hidden Family were - are - members of a royal caste from the country of Vyortovia - the land once native to another dimension entirely - who determined that the best way to save their world was by folding their reality onto ours. Madness, except for the annoying fact they’d apparently discovered both the theory and eventually the means with which to effect such a thing. This relatively small group crossed the dimensional barrier between our two worlds several hundred years ago and began the long work they’d determined necessary to ultimately collapse the two realities into one.”

“Father and Rusty had encountered them in the past but, as I had it explained to me, the clashes were always minor things - their individual goals so inconsequential, their activities never warranted further investigation; just another doomsday cult. It wasn’t something they had hidden from us - which I accused them of when they first explained it to me - but something they’d never really thought important enough to mention.”

“That all changed, as I understand it, only weeks before the events that unfolded in July, two years ago. Father received a message from Achilles Chin and, although obviously suspicious, was unable to ignore it as some kind of trap - there was simply too much corroborative fact presented.”

“He and Chin met, alone - Rusty was still angry about this at the time they caught me up - and compared notes.”

“What had prompted Chin to reach out was his almost accidental discovery that the Family had, years before, used an entrance to what Chin called the ‘inner earth’, in Iceland - the Snæfellsjökull, if you like - where they’d planted what they called a “world seed,” and which Father called a Keynome - not a word that made any sense to me at the time, though it makes a bit more, now.”

“Father and Chin mutually decided on the need for cooperation in light of what it seemed to be the impending destruction of everything they knew, and made plans to ground out the energy of whatever the family was planning using another Keynome.”

Amir rubs at the bridge of his nose. “You can, I think, imagine my response. They dropped all this in my lap as we were en route to Washington, and I’m still quite certain Rusty was only a few hours ahead of me in receiving the news. They barely spoke on the flight.”

“I was there when everyone met. I remember wishing you were as well, but Father had been adamant about that - you were not to be involved.” He squints, as though trying to bring something far away into focus. “Chin even… asked after you, I think, almost right away. Not to ask where you were, but to verify you weren’t anywhere around. Father responded in kind, with regards to Alycia. It was… very odd, given the circumstances.”

He rubs at his hip, then his left leg. “They had determined they couldn’t stop the dimensional collapse - not entirely - so in order to prevent the entire world being lost, they planned to diffuse the energy of the Family’s efforts to the point where the collapse became unsupportable. The main problem was they needed a keynome to accomplish this, and they of course didn’t have a keynome.” Amir’s expression is wry. “A problem Rusty solved through the fairly simple expediency of charging into the nearest of the Family’s secret sites, killing everyone, and taking the site’s keynome over. It worked.”

“I, meanwhile, had been sent across to the opposite dimension’s corresponding location through one of the weakened spots in the dimensional barrier - the result of some superpowered brawl or other - with instructions to plant a sort of ‘arc conductor’ that would allow them diffuse the dimensional energies even further.” He looks at you. “The place was a nightmare of destruction - a haggard ghost reflection of our own world, even if you ignore the world’s larger doom. It’s as if the inhabitants there have lost all hope, and have turned on one another - I cannot imagine what might have caused such devastation.”

“I installed the arc conductor, and had been told to evacuate the area, but I was worried the local scavengers might have followed me and would take the device, so I settled in to guard it. I assumed that if Rusty and Father were on the other side at the same location, I was in no more danger then they were.” His smirk lacks any humor. “I was right.”

He sighs. “The plan, as near as I’ve been able to determine, mostly worked. Iceland couldn’t be saved - the core collapse there was too far along, too long in the build up and, according to Chin - too well guarded to prevent. But despite that, they mostly prevented the catastrophic juxtaposition.”

His face is haggard and almost gray. “But they couldn’t diffuse all the energy, I think. There must have been too much. The point of the grounding arc - where Father and Rusty and Chin… and I, on the other side - were standing, was… exchanged, I suppose, for lack of a better word. The energy backlash was --” He cuts himself off, head down, and the younger dog - Buccaneer - hops up and runs to him, propping himself up with his front paws on Amir’s knees. Your brother reaches out and scratches at his ears almost automatically.

If there’s more (and you can’t decide if you hope or dread there may be), it seems Amir is at his limits, sharing it.

Numina stands. “Would anyone like anything from the kitchen, while I’m up? Jason? Show me where the glasses are?” Her look is expectant, and her expression is easy to read.

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6003741

“Glasses, top cabinet left of the fridge, lemonade, thanks,” He says it almost absently, eyes still fixed on Amir, and assuming that things can’t have changed that much since he was here less than three years ago.He blinks, looks over at her, says, “Thanks,” again, alive, with a half smile, then turns back to his brother.

“Jesus, Amir.” He shakes his head. He can’t not believe the story. It fits too many other puzzle pieces, terribly too many. Keynomes, the Hidden Family, Vyortovia. “We – we always thought the Vyortovians were somehow … inadvertently grabbed by whatever Chin had done. In the cover story, that is. That Chin opened the portal as a death trap, that Dad and Rusty and him and his bodyguard whatshisname go sucked through, that you --” Jason stops again, bites his lower lip.

“We’ve been there. Some of us, the – team, super team stuff, I’m on. The Menagerie. We – a couple of us have crossed over to that other side. I haven’t, but Harry, Charlotte – we nicknamed it the Sepiaverse. We know they’re from there but – this was all to stop them, Dad and Rusty and Chin – and you. I --”

He rubs his fingers through his hair as though trying to massage his brain into working. “I’m sorry, Amir. I’m --”

Jason gets up, gently dislodges one foot from under Brigand, steps over to where Amir is sitting. It was Dad’s old chair. Jason kneels there in front of him, to be on eye level. “I’m really sorry, man. That this happened. That I didn’t help you through it. That you thought you’d been abandoned. I mean, I know it’s not my fault, but I’m still just really, really sorry.” He shakes his head. “Is there anything I can do for you now that I am here?”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004105

He squints, as though trying to bring something far away into focus. "Chin even… asked after you, I think, almost right away. Not to ask where you were, but to verify you weren’t anywhere around. Father responded in kind, with regards to Alycia. It was… very odd, given the circumstances.

By the way, this had me laughing way out loud in a parking lot as I waited for my mom to come back out from chatting with someone. Thank you.

_
“Ah. Doctor Quill. So good of you to show up.”
“I came, Chin. As I said I would.”
“Good. Very good.” He cocks his head. “Your blood son. He is not present?”
“No, I made certain of that.” Byron raises an eyebrow. “Your daughter?”
“Otherwise engaged on an ‘urgent mission.’” He smiles.
Byron’s eyes narrow, but he gives a sharp nod in return.

_Oh, that’s going to come up in the future …

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004173

Numina, seeing Jason miss the hint, opts for the next best thing by going for supplies.

Jason gets up, gently dislodges one foot from under Brigand, steps over to where Amir is sitting. It was Dad’s old chair. Jason kneels there in front of him, to be on eye level. “I’m really sorry, man. That this happened. That I didn’t help you through it. That you thought you’d been abandoned. I mean, I know it’s not my fault, but I’m still just really, really sorry.” He shakes his head. “Is there anything I can do for you now that I am here?”

“Don’t worry about me on that account, Jason,” Amir says. “The foundation and some of father’s friends have helped with my recovery, such as it is.” His expression sags into something like… longing? Fear?

"You’ve been to the other side? Or your teammates have? Do you know – " He closes his eyes, then speaks in a rush. “I survived. Is there any - do we know anything about Father and Rusty?”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004422

[Oblivious Jason is oblivious.]

“God, I wish I knew.” He shifts to a seat adjacent to Amir’s – Rusty used to sit there, and the leather arms still show the cigarette burns. “Harry – Mercury – saw the Dragonfly there. Or the Sepiaverse version of the Dragonfly. Our assumption is that they all got shifted there somehow. We have a beacon in place, telling them where to come and when – since we have a way across, we should be able to then make contact and bring them home.”

Jason stops. The whole idea of Dad and Rusty (et very much al.) being “home” hasn’t really hit him until he voices those words. It’s daunting, and, maybe, not altogether a great thing – but there’s no question in his mind that’s what he wants to do.

Then he adds, “Alycia is trying the same thing her own way. I’ve been trying to – well, get in touch with her. As far as I know, she only knows the public story. If I can let her know what’s going on. how we could --” He trails off. Talking about Alycia with Numina in earshot is … uncomfortable on multiple levels, including even acknowledging that it’s uncomfortable. He decides to leave off a more detailed account of his outreach to Chin’s daughter.

“Anyway, we’re working on it. And with the ‘Veil’ lifted – we did that, by the way, my team, long story – there might be other resources we can bring to bear.” His face darkens. “But there’s more to it. Someone was … swaying me from going after Dad and Rusty. I think I know who. But she wasn’t the one responsible for the Big Lie about what happened in DC. That was AEGIS. But more importantly --”

Jason grabs the arm of Amir’s chair. “We need to figure out who did this to you. And to me. Convinced us that we were at odds, that we hated each other.” His shirt ripples. “Was it the person who did the whole Vyortovian Veil thing? If so – well, I have a name. But if not, I do not want to let that son of a bitch off. I owe them – we owe them. Big time.”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004700

[Stray aside proposition: Quill and Chin didn’t make sure Jason and Alycia weren’t present for fear of their furthering their relationship, or even to keep them safely out of the matter. They were, individually and jointly, “Plan B”. As, it turns out, they are turning into.]

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004708

*** Dave H. said:

[Stray aside proposition: Quill and Chin didn’t make sure Jason and Alycia weren’t present for fear of their furthering their relationship, or even to keep them safely out of the matter. They were, individually and jointly, “Plan B”. As, it turns out, they are turning into.]

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004713

*** Dave H. said:

Jason grabs the arm of Amir’s chair. “We need to figure out who did this to you. And to me. Convinced us that we were at odds, that we hated each other.” His shirt ripples. “Was it the person who did the whole Vyortovian Veil thing? If so – well, I have a name. But if not, I do not want to let that son of a bitch off. I owe them – we owe them. Big time.”

“It seems impossible for it not to be related to the Veil falling,” Amir says. “Ever since it happened, there was always some reason not to talk with you, some distraction demanding my attention away from working to find Father and Rusty, or some overwhelming resentment and confusion at my memory of your behavior toward me. Could it be anything but the same effect that prevented anyone from remembering what really happened, or related to it? Tied to it somehow? Why else would that… compulsion suddenly fade away at the same time as the veil?”

He smirks, and it is a real thing, if a bit wan “for that matter, what did you do to bring the Veil down?”

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004732

[If there’s anything move-related you want to access here - provoke, pierce the mask, assess the situation - just let me know. I don’t need it, to be clear, but I want to make sure we have the option.]

author: Doyce T.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004737

I do have one thing for near the end of the conversation, prior to any departure, so leave me some room for that. :slight_smile:

author: Bill G.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6004855

Jason has been going slightly paler than normal as Amir talks about distractions and confusions that pull one away from subjects of interest.

He smirks, and it is a real thing, if a bit wan “for that matter, what did you do to bring the Veil down?”

Jason manages a wan smile of his own, along with a roll of the eyes. “I’m not clear on all the details, but it was, I guess, kind of a Truth Bomb. Which is just as goofy as it sounds. But it unraveled all sorts of metaphysical deceptions, including the one emanating from Halcyon that had everyone in the world thinking that Vyortovia had always been around, and Iceland was a goofy name for a fantasy country.”

His face sobers. “But – I’ve learned some other deceptions. Dad – messed with my memory, too. Took out chunks of it. For my own good, I’m sure he thought, but --” He sighs. “Stuff about Alycia. That whole thing you described, weird exchange between Dad and Chin? I think he was afraid that I was … attracted to her. And, maybe, vice-versa. And it sounds like maybe Chin felt the same way, which is --” He shudders, then snorts. “He tried to manipulate my memory so that I wouldn’t. Hell, I need to rescue him just so I can give him a kick in the ass about it.”

author: *** Dave H.
url: https://app.roll20.net/forum/permalink/6005119