The two of you merge consciousness one into the other. One mind palace invades the other and vice versa. Where one palace's columns begin, another's placid pools end. Along with the visual nature of your palaces, the representations of your psyches, your very souls, there is music. A duet.June
, what instrument is playing lightly as you feel Sierra entering your psyche? What is the most prominent marker of your spirit that is reflected here?Sierra
, the rush of emotions from June are thrilling. What are you playing as you move deeper into this place? What questions
do you have for June Weaver now that she is well and truly exposed?
There's a gentle pattern of piano music playing as Sierra learns how to mesh fully with me. I haven't done this in ages..quietly, I take in the new place I'm in, looking for waypoints that I can center myself with.
Near a liminal, drowned-grass pool, there is a rose trellis next to an old bench. The blossoms are heavy and the plant itself has a few clever grafts to create a varied effect.
How can two people exist so wholly, at once?
As I wonder, this is playing softly in the background:
There are pieces of me here. A green bench in sunlight that I both want to run to and hide from. And to the left, the doors to Gloriana's apartments. In a weird way I'm home.
I turn to June, to watch her, to see what fascinates her in this new unique and impossible landscape.
June, In what ways are your character’s mind and soul vulnerable?
The world has never really had much space for me. Even when I was smaller, the empty chairs next to other people were not for me. The attention afforded other young talents was not to be spent on me. Children notice these things, even in a seen and not heard environment.
Study was always there for me, though. An indolent task I was suited to, that bothered noone. And as I found my footing among books and programs, I found my assertiveness with people. It was easy to be stronger than them in matters of will. I found that if I spoke up and grabbed ahold of what I wanted, named things for the problems they were, a majority of the time people would shrink from the easy things they wanted to do. If they didn't shrink, I could still outmaneuver them.
But it is exhausting, sometimes, being the adversary, challenging everyone. And when I'm not fully at rest, it's so reflexive.
Potential she can shape, perhaps?
I walk towards her, she's different here. Less of her is altered. I look down at myself and am unsurprised to see my self in the cream dress from my concert at the Bar. I gently touch the beading at my stomach, it feels real and unreal at the same time.
I look at the pool. I think that is supposed to be a fountain. Or was a fountain on the outside." I gently take her hand in mine and smile warmly. "Where are we, June? Where was this on the outside?"
OOC: What was your characters lowest moment?
"Oh? Interesting, you used to live near many fountains?" I squeeze her hand and pull her in. "This is my favorite trellis from my home garden. You can see where the more delicate varietals are joined to a heartier root right here.."
"These, here, you can eat. I'd put these on salads with almonds, no lie." I take apart a bloom with my hands and offer it up.
The lowest moment of my life was the raid. Waking up in a shared bed at home, alarm systems jarring my connections. Four vehicles inbound on the new highway out from the city proper.
It had been on my mind for months, gnawing at me in every waking moment, quietly or loudly at its pleasure. I'd had priorities lined up in my mind and ready to go - first, pulling the implant net out of the nanofactory bath. Getting my data drops in place, for my groggy lover. I hand over what should be enough to get her out of here, to some lawless, tropical place. She won't go.
I force her to go. It hurts, bottomlessly, but I know as she takes the old highway out to the little cropduster airport, that she's got a chance. And I don't.
Next I have to destroy my servers, and my computer. Every stack that doesn't get cooked by its own jury-rigged, battery powered partner contains private data, data that could get hundreds of people hurt, arrested, fired or killed. This takes a long time to do properly. Or at least, it's a long time when you're tracking the squad sent to arrest you. I know that I didn't finish, and for that I'll always know regret.
The lowest moment? Trying to kill at least one officer as they crashed into my home. One of them would pull the pin on a flashbang and hold onto it. Two of them would point guns at each other. They came close. If they'd died, I would have been swiftly killed, no need for any trial or imprisonment or a lifetime of miserable humiliation and violence.
Funny how things turn out.
I lift a petal to my mouth. It's groshing, tender and delicate. I can even faintly taste almonds and i realize, I'm not tasting, I'm living June's memories. I grin, "I'm experiencing your memories, this is... " I breathe out, amazed.
I look around. "The Manticore Citadel had derisann gardens. The gardeners were very clever, they rotated the garden so there was always something blooming and all the gardens were built around these trails between fountains. For most of my life, the gardens and Gloriana's apartments were where I spent my time..."
... all of my time. It wasn't until Gloriana was older and could be trusted herself, that I was allowed to walk the citadel with her.
OOC: What are your character’s secret pains?
Rolling Weird: (Rolled: 2d6+3. Rolls: 3, 6. Total: 12)
Marking XP (4)
I smile at Sierra as she pontificates. "I think that's the nature of an adult life, to build a more chosen self that one has control over."
"That's the nature of gardening, too." I offer her my arm as an invitation to walk. "To always be managing things for the better, and to plan carefully so that things happen in their appointed time."
I was not untouched by the intake process. I know that I don't remember the people who were closest to me, their face and names. There are some exceptions, at least for faces. My mother's face, my grandfather's. I'll sometimes stare at someone in DVFP.
I can't quite tell the fragments of people in my memories apart. It's uncanny and disturbing, and I'll admit I rarely have the courage to dwell there long.
A dusty, turned-over coffin of a memory is this; the suit I've been wearing most days here in the DVFP is the one I wore to my wedding. It wasn't official. Just a small affair in a small church my family knew, where I got teased for wearing black. I recall the intake officer pushing the fabric across an aluminum table, but I don't remember this.
Sierra, I'll turn this to you - what are your secret pains?
Part of me blames myself for what has happened and seriously doubts every interaction I have with people. What if, because of what I am, Gloriana can't help what she does? What if, because she has loved me for so long, been with me for so long, been under my "spell" for so long, that it has literally driven her to these zaridann actions? What if no one would choose to be around me otherwise?
Reese's loyalty - fake.
Fleece's desire and love - stolen from Esco
June's patience and help - hiding her true adversarial feelings for me.
What if I never had and can never have a true honest human interaction?
No one truly knows what I am and no one knows what I can do. Including myself. And that terrifies me. And even more terrifying, what if one day I lose what ever this is and I find out that all my fears are real. That no one would willingly choose to associate with me. That all this pain has been my fault. Simply by existing.
I pat her hand briefly and lead on with a soft laugh. "Governable. How ironic is that coming from me? But I do believe in self-governance, and the freedom afforded by self control. Autonomy."
We walk into denser areas, overgrown columns and elegantly broken marble flooring. Perhaps I'm being unsubtle, but I'll begin. "You know, it is impossible to have a worry that's unique to the world. Even with meshing like this, we can't truly know what others are thinking and use that to shore up our self-belief. We must choose ourselves, and believe in our own value, day after day."
Ahead of us, machinery clings to both masonry and thick woody vines in an elegant blend of light, dark and neutral tones.
Sierra, in what ways are your mind and soul vulnerable?
I smile and nudge her a bit to start walking again. "It's strange to know so much personal details about you, and for it not to feel strange at all. Miraculous. If I were to uncover something you may not remember..." I say with a quick glance to my side. "...would you want to know?"
To my left we pass a mirror that a recognize from a hallway, gilded, glass shining brightly between the overgrown vines.
If you could see the twisted shape of my love for her, it would look like an ancient tree. It's impossible I think, even when emeshed, to properly understand what Gloriana is to me. She was my whole world.
It's easy to look at our lives together and for outsiders to judge it as unhealthy and abusive - and sometimes, it was. But not always. Gloriana was nice to me at first, a child, alone in the world. She took care of me, at 13, she was practically my parent.
She fought to teach me how to read, how to play music. She would find things that would make me happy and make sure to have them delivered to the room while she was off with her tutors.
There was the incident with the old woman, but it was never repeated. And Gloriana was always insanely jealous, but she always framed it for my protection - and maybe it was or maybe it was to protect others from me.
Simply, she loved me.
We were lovers for years before it got bad, before little jealousy ticks and the stress of her position had her taking out her frustrations on me. Years before I was old enough to attend her at functions, become somewhat of a display piece for her.
Still, she loved me. She wanted to make me hers. Wanted to recognize me... and I was so happy. Even when it hurt, I was so happy. Till I learned what that would mean...
So I ran. I ran away, even though I still loved her. Even though parts of me still do. How do you hate your lover, your parent, your sibling, your best friend. How do you stop loving the person who made you? Wouldn't that just be self hatred?
All my feelings twist together, mangled - hate, fear, love, loathing, faith, betrayal - I don't think I'll ever be able to untangle them.
"I would do it all over again, if you're thinking that I would take any of it back. Perhaps I'm being oblique. You can choose yourself and still do for others, you know." I look down at Sierra, just as directly, as she stops me. "But..no regrets." I smile as we continue on.
Now it's my turn to gaze sidewise at Sierra..taking in her little offer. I catch the two of us in the gilded mirror and think about it honestly. "If it helps us move forward to our goal, yes. Otherwise, no, now isn't the time."
You have a long road ahead of you, assuming that we live. My last question; for what does your character crave forgiveness, and of whom?
I take a last look at the memory - June in her suit, crisp and new, the shabby little dust worn church, and her lover. She really was pretty. I shine it up and put it away for safe keeping.
"Then let's move on." I say as we step into an arch, leaving the gardens and coming onto a hallway I mostly recognize. "I can still hear the violin and cello,
you played them," I say it like a fact, not a question, smiling brightly in her direction. "... remind me to show you something after dinner."
About our goals, what are you thinking?"
You were there.
I crave forgiveness from the dead. For those who have been hurt or killed, because of what I am.
I used to think the old woman's face, beaten bloody in front of me would be the thing to haunt me for the rest of my days - but not. That I could always blame
myselfGloriana's jealousy on. I crave forgiveness for those that Esco killed, while I held them still with my power.
I don't even know why I did it, looking back. I was scared. Scared for Reese who had been nothing but kind to me. And scared because Ziggy had alluded to Gloriana. And I didn't know then, didn't know if I was strong enough to go back to her. I simply reacted. I wanted it to stop...
When Esco slit the first one's throat... I kept going, just slowly removing my coat, button by button. In a way that one moment kicked all of what came after into motion, but I regret it. I regret the deaths of those people. It's the blot on my soul I'll never be able to wash clean.
I wonder if I would regret my choice here, if I knew. But still, I nod back, knowin' I can't risk some new period of grief right now. It's hard and cowardly at once.
"I did. You can't be a properly cultured young woman without playing an instrument. Although the cello 'was a little masculine for me'." I brush some accent onto the quote to thicken it and deepen my voice to point to the sort of person who would tell me so.
My brow rises up. If there's somethin' I can play available, it'll have been a long time. Too long.
Ah, I was there.
Idly attracted to Sierra, feelin' like I needed to protect my stake in the Irons and maybe turn over some jingle. I'll always miss the Diamond as a gambling spot, gettin' lit with JD and havin' a laugh with some of the girls.
My plans..they're rough, and I find Sierra demands some smoothness when I inform her of things. "I'm thinkin' we expose Gloriana. On top of that, I could do some nasty things if I can get a samplin' of the code she has at her disposal."
I swear, every little rock that turns over makes me wish I had more time.
I lean into her. "All the feed blocks should come down. She most likely has one for herself, I am positive she has one for me. I wish I could know what the message boards were saying, if we have an idea of what the outside's temperament - it would help me plan my set."
We walk past a picture that makes me pause. I can feel my lips stretch into a thin line. It's a picture of a beautiful memory and it's more than a little uncomfortable to see.
I turn to June, looking away from the picture, "Would there be a way, to...to code a message into the feed?" I'm not even sure what I am saying makes sense, but it sounds possible " A message that could be triggered from something I play or something I say? I know this sounds sinfully like pride, but I am sure there will be a large amount of views for this event. The Fat Man has done us a favor, advertising in the Depot, there should be quite an attendance." Both in person and on the feed.
Reflectively, I smirk back at Sierra. "Pick your set for you, they'll pick up on it if you're trying to say something."
I put on a few variations of thinking face, running through scenarios and resources. They end with a sigh. "Possibly but I'm going to be taxed enough spotting people cloaked to the Feed and tryin' to bite their code. I take it that you mean load something into the Feed now and trigger it later? That risks discovery but distributes resource time. Hmm."
That picture..it disturbs me a little, but I wonder if now is the time. Still, with Sierra all tied up in Gloriana, will she lose her nerve in the moment? She's had no firm correction of her original childhood notion, that like herself Gloriana approached their connection levelly, in good faith.
I bite my lip, I can feel June's discomfort.
"I know you want to expose Gloriana, but I'm not sure how you plan to do so... without something like I am suggesting. I am sorry June, I don't understand the feed like you do, maybe I am not understanding..."
Her doubt and discomfort are making me tosky. "Tell me how I can be helpful, what it is I can do."
I look over my shoulder at the picture she is trying not to stare at. I wish she'd just ask. Perhaps we should move on, but this might be the least disturbing image here - and I am not sure we should continue our walk if this innocent image causes her stress.
"Well, my first draft plan is to disable the programs hiding any operatives I discover from the Feed. That's small potatoes compared to revealing the DVFP's sub-warden herself, right in the middle of your show. I'm not saying your plan is impossible or bad, I just wish I'd gotten the workshop together even a month sooner." I suppose my methods of 'thinking out loud' and harshly reviewing ideas (my own and otherwise) looks much different from the inside. "What you need to do.." I regard her more fully.
I put a hand on her shoulder and then slide it along to rub the back of her neck with. "You don't have to hate her, you know. But you do need to let go of any sense of obligation the good times gave you. She certainly has."
Then her whole focus is on me, her hand on the back of my neck and it's... Frack, kindness? I want to kiss June in thanks, I want to cry for my broken heart, I want to scream at Gloriana, I...
The sunlight dims as the sky becomes lightly overcast. I swallow and I can feel the trails of tears on my cheeks. It's only a few but they're there and the water stays in my eyes.
I take a shakey breathe and unable to resist any longer, I fold myself against her chest, wrapping my arms around her. It's my turn to confess.
"Gloriana hired Motley to kill Fleece, in front of me. There will be others. She's... she's... why would she do that?"
I shake my head, I don't mean that. I know why. "She's never going to let me live without her. "
I stroke Sierra's hair and then slowly down her back and back again, making soft noises. "The things she's done aren't your fault. Her polluted mind fixates on the ownership she feels for you, but.." I pull back to look Sierra in the eyes. In these moments, my eyes are the cool green I was born with.
"Girl, people like her do those things because they like it, they think it's right for them to do, and they benefit from it." With our connection right now I can't say I'm shocked at the revelation..I don't think I would be out in the world either.
I wipe Sierra's cheeks dry, at least briefly.
June wipes my cheeks and I shudder, searching her steady green orbs. I cannot fathom why anyone would be scared of June. Her soul shines.
I move onto my toes and kiss her, softly. "You don't have to worry June," I whisper against her mouth, "I won't flinch. Whatever my feelings, I've said goodbye to Gloriana."
Of course, it's not that easy, and yet, it is.
I step back and away. The sun comes back out, but not the bright sunshine from before, the light is dappled on the tile, obscured by clouds.
"So I'm bait?"
Kissin' her back softly, I nod with understandin'. Sayin' it helps.
I straighten a bit of her hair that probably doesn't need it and huff. "So you are. Bait, but also a messenger. Hmm, honestly it would be fun if you played some illegal songs. Always funny when they leak through the DVFP."
I smirk to lighten the mood and keep walking. "Be alert and work the crowd. We don't really know what we're getting into, just that we'd like to get back out of it once it's started."
I let her lead me on, into new place, away from the misplaced memory. "Perhaps we should pick a song in case you have time to encode something? You Don't Own Me? I learned that one in secret, I liked the jazzy sounds. Gloriana would have a fit." I smile at her, "Or is that too on the nose?" I let my question lilt at the end let her know I'm joining her in her bit of levity.
"I think on the nose can work pretty well if it's done earnestly." I grin and lead her on into some of the more built-up areas, curious what we'll see.
"I also wonder what sort of performance of Jump Into the Fire you'd put on, but I'm not sure it's the right touch. Sounds like you know what gets under the right skin without advice from me. You pick the song and I'll keep it in mind if I get a chance to code." I duck under a low awning of a stone door.
The piano in the background takes on a haunting melody and I can hear the cello resonate with it, filling in the darker underbelly of the song. "It should get a good reaction regardless."
I only have a few hours to construct a set and, I suppose, a message. "Should I worry about Miles' - he probably wants me to play songs that will soothe the masses,
not inspire a revolution."
"He wants songs about unity and strength. Those aren't necessarily soothin'. Not on their own." Inside, old aspects of myself feel new and strange, like my memory of meetin' the inventor of the first dive-capable interface at a conference in House Phoenix territory. The kimono I got to wear still hangs here, an imposing black with a red river and white cranes pickin' through it.
"For that kind of song I quite like Diamond Heart."
I look at the kimono as we pass it, it's beautiful. I wonder if any of my "costumes" are around here somewhere.
I smirk. It makes me think of another song, potentially an act opener. I move my finger, up and down, against the inside of her elbow. "Regardless, it's going to be a show they are never going to forget."