Description: "Dreams recollecting events aren't the same as true memories. Things change: the details get embellished. The highs get higher, and the lows get lower."
The place is nominally Rio de Janeiro, though (a) it's far from the populated centers of the city, and (b) it's a few hundred feet underground. The dim blue lighting resembles that of a sci-fi set more than a scientific research facility, with cyan wayfinding lighting leading the way throughout the various passageways.
The current "room" is not stricly a room /per se/, but rather a nexus of activity, a confluence of several major arteries of the research facility. Darkness surrounds the operating gurney to which Zach Glenn is strapped -- and the silhouette of a man with glowing eyes and woefully oversized shoulders is staring back at the imprisoned figure.
"You remember me from another time..." comes the deep voice of the silhouetted figure. "And what was it about that other me that has you so woefully intimidated, Captain?"
Various staffers circulate about behind Zach. Zach and his captor are hardly the only people here -- scientists mill about, busying themselves with the displays, while a /strangely/ familiar figure in a nurse's outfit stands by Zach's side taking copious notes.
Zach makes a habit of testing his bonds occassionally. He isn't really sure how long he has been strapped to this bed; no patterns to the lights, and his "hosts" aren't really letting him sleep. "You wouldn't understand," Zach growls as he tries one of the straps across his wrists. "It's one of those 'there but for the grace of God things'." No dice. Really thick leather, no real leverage to speak of. Not to mention that his own power, usually so easy to reach, remains just out of that reach. Zach Glenn has to go back to junior high school, this time around, to remember a time when that wasn't the case.
"But you don't believe in God," Zach grunts. "So there's that."
"Wouldn't I?" The silhouette's lips part, the vaguest hints of light carving the figure's lips out of the enveloping darkness, gleaming across pearly white teeth.
Up till now, the conversation seemed like deja vu -- a repeat, or rehash, of something Zach lived through before. The questions the same; Zach's responses... idealized, perhaps improved upon for the second edition.
But, as with the various events experienced by the timeline tourist, things change.
"Then perhaps you'll be more willing to tell me about these people." Two faux-leather screens descend down the ceiling, and after a moment to let the fabric settle, images are projected upon them.
Images stored upon Zach Glenn's cellphone.
Images of Honoka and the Twilight Star cast.
"They meant something to you then. Perhaps they, like you, can be a tool for me now."
The teeth disappear, the lips close. "Your cooperation has been -most- welcome, Mister Glenn."
And the figure takes a step away.
Zach's eyes go wide when the pictures are shown, before narrowing into slits. Fear, not for himself, but for the people in the pictures. Honoka is capable, but Vega is exactly the wrong kind of threat for her to deal with. The other members of the circus? Wouldn't have a prayer.
"You..." Zach growls. Almost impossibly, energy starts to swirl around the former Marine. Golden, at first, then violet as Zach starts to tap into his own rage. "...Will not..." The gurney starts to rattle underneath Zach. Zach strains at the straps, tensing and then pulling at the straps as the energy around him erupts into violent action. "GO NEAR THEM!"
Leather and metal fly away from Zach. Some of the shrapnel lance across Zach's body. Some of it goes flying around the room. Zach, almost impossibly, sets down lightly on his feet as psychic energy wraps around his limbs, sheathing them like plate mail armor. Zach takes a stride, then a long leap, throwing the heaviest punch he can at the monster before him!
And then everything stops, Zach hangs in mid-air for a moment. "Wait a minute," he says, not even winded, not even excited despite what just transpired. "That isn't how it happened." Zach lands lightly on his feet once more, the scenery going white as he looks around. Vega, most of the orderlies, and all of the doctors fade from view as Zach scans the nominal room.
White, as far as the eye can see. No shadows can exist in a realm of pure, ambient light, and none shall be found here.
"Mm... yeah, that seemed like a bit of a stretch." comments the nurse from a position direction behind the now-standing figure. She did not vanish -- but she is still wearing a white nurse's outfit. It is not a bad look for the athletic build of the juggler Zach is most acquainted with.
"You've been sorting out your memories for the past... gosh. I don't even know how long." Honoka Kawamoto steps forward, biting her lower lip, and lowering her eyes to the ground. Or whatever the white substance is they're standing on. "I... I hope you don't mind my being here, I saw you in so much pain... We've all been worried sick about you, Zach. I had to check on you from time to time to see if you were okay..."
The light fades to some degree: images of the circus tents and trailers emerge in the far distance, with sounds and voices vaguely visible -- as if they were a hundred, maybe two hundred feet away. "I shouldn't have come, you really need to sort these things out for yourself." The 'nurse' juggler's cheeks flush red with embarassment as she focuses on the barely-resolvable ground.
Zach sits down on that not-ground, his legs crossed indian style as he places his elbows on his knees. "Only most of my life," he says almost flippantly, but there's a weariness to the comment. He clasps his hands together as if trying to keep things from flying apart. "But I hear you," he says seriously, his own eyes downcast. "It... was a bad time," he admits.
Zach has spent most of the time since showing up at the circus asleep. To the senses of anyone trying to get a feel of Zach's mental state, it's as if Zach were wrapping himself in a thick blanket in an attempt to keep the cold away. Honoka wouldn't, and clearly did not, have a lot of trouble getting inside Zach's headspace.
"But this, just now... it was instructional," Zach says after a long moment. "I shouldn't have come here."
Nurse Honoka listens, pacing around silently -- because what sound -does- it make when walks in the absence of reality? -- until she is squared up with Zach from the front. She does not interrupt, or cut Zach off in any way, waiting until he finishes this thoughts. There is no rush to conclusions, no urge to continue spouting off.
Honoka is here to listen. As a guest. And she seats herself in front of him, adopting a similar pose -- well aware that it works better for folks not wearing a miniskirt.
"You came to /me/. Is it alright with you if I take that as a compliment?"
The dreamlike Honoka rests the backs of her palms upon her knees, her fingers clasped as if holding figs. "I've done almost all I can to stem the psychic trauma. It may still... /hurt/ to use your talents for a while until everything heals. You're welcome to stay here as long as you need to."
To the eyes, she is seated two feet away from Zach. But her presence seems... more prominent than that, somehow. In a dreamscape, true spatial inter-relationships may be closer than they appear.
Zach smiles tiredly, giving Honoka a glance before looking back at the not ground. "It..." Zach considers things. "I..." Zach is reaching for some way to put words to this. "I have a house in Yokohama now. Legally acquired, paperwork, everything. On public record. In my name. I could have gone there." Zach scowls. "It would have been /easy/," Zach loads this word with so much emotion, anger at his own weakness in the face of the kind of threat Shadaloo represents, into that single word that it might be painful for Honoka as mentally close to Zach as she is right now. "For him to reacquire me." He takes a deep breath, a slight hitch betraying some kind of lingering torso pain. "Coming to you... he would have had to move more openly to get to me. He doesn't..." Zach scowls. "He's not afraid to do something like that if he has to, but it's not his preferred method." Zach stands up, not quite smoothly, but pretty close.
"I shouldn't have come here," he says again. It's not meant as an insult; Honoka can tell that. It has everything to do with Zach's sense of responsibility. He didn't want to put Honoka, or anyone else at the circus for that matter, in the potential crossfire. But he didn't see any other acceptable (which is not the same as good) option.
Honoka listens quietly as Zach considers his responses, stammers out half-formed thoughts without considering their full import. It's understandable, considering (a) what he's gone through, and (b) this is, as Honoka well knows, a Zach with all conscious preventative filters disabled.
Her words come a few seconds after she's sure he's said what's on his mind. She looks up at him, a faintly detached and slightly weary smile across her face.
Honoka's presence is warm and comforting -- as if her arms are wrapping about him, even without her having to move a single muscle.
"You have to understand that he wants you to second-guess him. To become so immobilized with fear of what he -could do-... that you do nothing at all."
Her presence is so enveloping that a gentle thrum can be heard, felt -- her heartbeat. It is not so loud that it causes an earthquake, but it is there, nonetheless.
"He wants you to feel that the only 'right' path to defeat him is the path of the martyr. To face him alone."
A pause. "Where he will, of course, have the highest odds of success. And you will not."
Honoka looks down for a moment. "Was that... the secret? That you'd left the Marines... ? Was it out of concern for them, too?"
Zach is quiet for a moment, taking in the embrace. "No," he finally answers. "Leaving the Marines was a family matter. I'm..." Zach considers for a moment. "The job I'm doing now isn't that different from what I was doing in the Corps. Just not tied to any one nation or government. Maybe a little more specific in the case matter."
"Okay, that's... different." The idealized, dreamscape version of Honoka isn't -that- different from her true self, at any rate: particulary in the mild sarcasm department, apparently. "It's your family, then? Making you earn the right to wield that ipetam?"
Honoka breaks her lotus pose to place a hand over her mouth. "Sorry, that was a bit too sharply-phrased, wasn't it?"
Zach sits back down, his posture and pose matching Honoka's somewhat. "That's okay," Zach says quietly. "First off, they aren't /making/ me do anything. Second, apparently the fact that I can use it at all means I have the right to wield it." Zach shrugs a bit. "A lot of it's wrapped up in story and legend, and not a lot of fact, but the sword's kind of particular about who can or can not use it."
Zach closes his eyes, and leans his head back until he needs to place his palms on the ground behind him to support himself. "But the sword was made to kill monsters. Like the things that attacked Metro City. Like the Butcher."
Honoka listens, and nods. She has heard some of this before, but she's okay listening all the same -- it's her own fault for poking the hornet's nest.
"But... I take it you didn't get a chance to try it against that man... Vega, was that his name?"
"Nope," Zach says simply. "Vega's careful. Right up until he isn't. As far as I can tell, that happens when either when he's desperate or he thinks he's already won." Zach pauses, still staring at the not-sky.
"You know," he says with a hint of tease, "It occurs to me that someone who is all about preserving her family's culture shouldn't be giving a guy guff for taking up a family job." Again, there is an element of teasing there, but also an element of curiousity.
Vega. She's heard -of- the shadowy figure, but has nothing to really act upon. Zach's description, similarly, hints at danger without elucidating exactly what -kind-.
Of course, Honoka's already encountered the aftereffects. It wasn't pretty.
"Oh, was that 'guff?' It just seemed odd that your family effectively voluntold you to go spend happy fun time with a megalomaniacal dictator type, is all." She adds, without any real mirth or happiness: "... I wouldn't really -know- the lengths to which my parents would have me go for them."
She does smile, after another moment.
"So... to beat him. You need friends. A team, or at the very least, a partner -- just like I can't beat Butcher alone." She sticks out the tip of her tongue. "Which, sadly, either means letting people -know- when you're marching off to certain doom, or... at least allowing for a bit more... flexibility. More options."
"They," Zach says almost frustratedly as he sits upright again, "Didn't volunteer me. I get the choose the jobs I go out on. This one... there was something familiar about the situation." Zach scowls as he looks away. "And he wasn't even really /there/. He was teleconferencing with us while we were fighting his people."
Zach sighs, and falls to his back, splaying his limbs out wide as he stares not-skyward again. "I didn't... I wasn't even sure I would /find/ anything, let alone certain doom. For all I /knew/, I was just sticking my nose into a drug war."
Zach is quiet for a long moment. "I'm sorry," he says quietly. "For making you worry, I mean."
The Ainu woman reaches forward to place a hand upon one of Zach's. "I'm not saying you -need- to let me know. You're a big boy, I trust you. But this... keeps happening to both of us, this thing where we each think we're big fish in the sea and don't need help from anyone else."
Outside in the real world, her hands are rarely ever this warm. But now, they're probably -quite- hot. Whatever she's saying, it's clear she's keeping something hidden -- and yet, she is the very image of control. Of comfort.
"What's important, though... is you're back. And I... we've been able to help you recover." A faint red streak appears across her cheeks as she looks down, pursing her lips. "... You were writhing about quite a bit in your sleep."
Zach knows he's not a /small/ fish, and going from the fight he had had with Honoka, he knows she's at least as capable as he is. However, sometimes people need to be reminded that there are always bigger fish. Zach enjoys the warmth for a moment, and then Honoka's comments register a little more.
"...We?" Zach asks after a long moment. Zach's eyes go wide and suddenly Honoka is ejected from his mind somewhat forecfully as he wakes up.
Honoka's thought is aborted, her mouth left agape as she and the entire white dreamscape melt away.
The ceiling should be familiar: Honoka's trailer, with the army of stuffed animals arrayed as a peanut gallery around Zach's reclined form. A familiar weight is pressing down upon him: the reason Honoka's heartbeat was so omnipresent in the dream was because she, in fact, has herself wrapped around tightly about his arm. From her state of dress -- a camisole top and baggy pajama pants -- it would seem she's been there for a rather long while.
But perhaps more troubling is that the sheets are wrapped around Zach rather tightly -- keeping him from moving much at all, really. Only his arm and head are outside the protective veil of sheets, and Honoka is...
Well, she's not moving much. She's still asleep, though not -deeply- so.
Zach glances at Honoka for a moment, a gentle smile forming as he starts to line information up. Then he tries to put an arm around her. And can't move. There is also the fact that his field of vision is... oddly constrained. His breathing speeds up as his mind tries to seperate the memories from the scenarios he mentally experienced with Honoka with what is right in front of him while he tries to get himself free of the sheets.
These are not gentle movements.
It's not long before Honoka is awakened by the strong motions. She had been afraid that he would react violently on finding himself bound -- and she -had-, to her credit, been in the midst of telling him more about it when he decided to wake himself up.
She'll get a chance to do this in person, now that she's awake -- albeit a bit drowsy. "zach... zach... it's fine, it's just me..."
Taped to the dividing wall next to the bed is a nondescript black phone, with a note in Honoka's handwriting that reads 'Zach, call me if you need out, it's for your own safety' -- Along with the number, just in case he'd never bothered to memorize it. Damn technology.
But he won't need to call her, she's right there. And he won't need to try -too- hard to pull the sheets away from the bed -- though from the wide securing straps that might be seen on a nearby table, perhaps this wasn't the -full- arrangement after all.
"zach... " she repeats, her half-awakened voice soft as the pressure she applies to his arm becomes a bit more insistent. "... You were thrashing around a lot, like... like you are -now-."
A measured breath passes as she starts to pull away. There's only -barely- enough room for the both of them on the bed as it is, but she feels he'll calm down to the point that she doesn't need to get up.
Or, perhaps she simply -hopes- he will.
Honoka might see the eye that isn't covered in bandages. It's wide, and showing a lot of white around an almost pinpoint of emerald. She can certainly feel the rapid rise and fall of his chest. It seems, for perhaps a terrifying moment, that the non-event that played out in Zach's mind might come screaming into reality now.
But there is that gentle calling of his name that breaks through to his mind, that slips past the almost primal need to escape, to fight free of whatever is going on.
Zach lets out one last gasp, and then stills himself. He is quiet for a moment, before a small sob rips itself free from Zach's chest.
The pink highlights in Honoka's hair catch the light in an odd manner as she looks back at Zach's uncovered eye. She remains quiet, gauging his level of paranoia before venturing to respond.
And then, after a long moment, she smiles, and sighs. "C'mon, you have to admit, there are worse ways to wake up than -that-..."
She knows there's more to the wakening than just -that-, of course. She can feel the panic begin to subside, supplanted by... sadness. An aftershock of emotion that demanded release.
Honoka draws her hands back, folding them upon one another as she looks Zach, still lying beside him with as much room as the small confines will allow. "... Do you need a moment alone, Zach? I'm... sorry. I know you probably need some space, I just..."
Her emotional state is guarded, difficult to parse.
Zach lays there, not answering right away. The sobbing continues for a another minute or so, the pent-up emotion needing some kind of release. Tears flow as Zach tries to work through the tangle of emotions. "No," he croaks out after a sniffle. "Please. Stay. I..."
Honoka gets the impression that he'd at least wipe the tears away from the unbandaged eye if the arm were free.
Honoka stares back for a few moments, before realizing that moisture is a thing that can be addressed. She reaches up with the side of her thumb, drying his cheek in the quickest way she can think to...
And then realizes he hasn't quite worked himself free yet. Because she's still lying on the sheet.
"Ah, right..." Shimmying her way off the bed, she then pulls the sheet away from the mattress -- it wasn't wedged in any particular fashion, but it was put in -tight-, and the weight of both twentysomethings on the mattress was so not allowing it to come undone. Now, it is.
"Didn't want you getting hurt on the stairs again," she offers with the hint of a smile on her lips.
Any other time, that shimmying of Honoka's might have caused certain other emotions to stir in Zach. It's a testament to his exhaustion and injuries that he merely appears grateful for Honoka allowing him to ease his way clear of the sheets, his breathing mostly calm as he sits up a little. "I don't know that I could have handled stairs just yet," he says with an almost playful seriousness in his voice. "I'm not even sure how I managed to get here." Zach pulls his arms free, rolling each shoulder carefully, testing range of motion as he does so.
"Well, Sudo and Yamada helped with that much. You didn't make it that far, and once you were sleeping soundly at the first-aid tent... well." She grins. "You sleep like a -rock-. I'm not surprised you slept... ummm" She looks at the clock. "Three days? Really didn't even mean to wake you, but..." With a faint smile, Honoka admits, "When you weren't having nightmares, you were so still I was afraid to fall asleep from how quiet you were. ... Of course, the nightmares tended to away the closer I was, so there's that."
She opens up the mini-fridge and pulls out a bottle of water. "By the way. You're gonna need this." From the impish smile upon her face, it looks like she'd considered tossing the cold bottle to him .. before settling on bringing it over to him herself. "You're bound to be dehydrated somethin' fierce."
"Three... days?" Zach asks almost incredulously before glancing at Honoka's phone. The time and date line up with that, though. He mulls that over as he accepts the bottle. "It's like bears hibernating, I think," he finally says. "Where the sleeping allows them to go longer on less for a while." He fumbles with the bottle for a moment before opening it.
He takes a small sip of the water and groans with appreciation though. "But it doesn't mean they don't still need it eventually." Another sip. He knows better than to simpy down the whole bottle on an empty and weakened stomach.
"Something like that, yeah." As Honoka switches on a reading light -- just to shed -more- light into the trailer -- it becomes obvious she hasn't really slept all that well. A perfect complexion is but one of many attributes glossed over in the dreamscape.
"Your... mind was a jumbled mess. That Vega guy... he was looking for something. I'm not even sure what. It's like he just went into an office and emptied all the desks and file cabinets onto the floor."
Honoka turns to the breadbox and pulls out a couple slices of sandwich bread, which she places on a plate. "I really ought to cook you up some rice, but you've -got- to be starving, and I don't think it'd be good to shock your system too much..."
"I..." Zach says quietly. "He wanted to know how I knew about his organization. About him." Zach shudders, and takes another sip of water to try and calm his nerves. "I'd... faced him. Before." There is a subtle weight on that last word that should put all of the previous words into their proper context, to let Honoka know of what exactly he speaks.
"He had worked through pawns in the Chinese government to start a world takeover, using a terrorist incident to gain control." he continues. "Which might be why the situation in Mexico felt familiar."
Honoka keeps an even keel while Zach explains the conditions of his imprisonment. She gets is meaning exactly, and nods dispassionately -- Vega's reasons for knowing about the past seem eerily similar to her own.
The similarity is disquieting, as it's her turn to shudder when he mentions a world takeover via a terrorist incident. Wasn't that...
Honoka grows pale, looking down at the floor with a nod. "Yeah, I can see how it would earn your interest. Still..." She looks up, attempting to mask her unsettledness with a slight shift of topic. "I'm surprised... weren't there a lot of people there at the Mexico thing with you? I heard some big names were down there as well. Were they all -in- on it?"
It's not an uncommon thing to use a crisis situation as an excuse for a power grab. Honoka can tell Zach wasn't meaning anything personal by it. He sighs, takes another sip. "I was late to the party, so to speak," he finally answers. "Some of them... got caught up in it. Got used. Some of them may have honestly been there to help. Some of them may have had a idea of what was really going on. But the event organizers? The event staff? Definitely in on it."
"It's strange, then... I would've expected to hear more about it by now, but it kinda fell off the radar." Honoka shrugs faintly, setting the plate where Zach can reach it. She pours a few cups of rice into a rice cooker bowl, and starts flooding the bowl with water so that she can rinse out the grains.
"I guess you and that Indian girl forced their hand a bit earlier than they would've liked...? I wonder if we'll ever know what his true plan was for that."
Finishing up the first rinse, she dumps the dirty water into the sink and goes for a second round. "I'm just glad you managed to get free. How'd you -manage- that anyway, weren't you... like... underground and such?"
Zach reaches for the bread and takes a few nibbles, washing it down with some water. "You... I think you saw some of that. That Marine, she got loose somehow, get me free," Zach says, fatigue creeping into his voice. "And I've learned some things about the sword since the last time we saw each other. Apparently I can... call it to me, I guess is the best way to put it. It's got a chamber worked into the hilt. I kept a couple of things in there in case of emergencies. Cash, and that feather. Works like some kind of magic radio. Used it to call for help." Zach shrugs and leans back with a yawn. "We ended up in Japan," a dry chuckle. "Saved me some airfare, at least."
Saw some of that. Yeah -- it's pretty clear that Zach knew she was present for -some- of his dreaming, if not all of it. Honoka nods, slowly -- but corrects, with a raised finger, "I knew what you -recalled-. Dreams recollecting events aren't the same as true memories. Things change. The details get embellished, the highs get higher and the lows get lower. The more times you experience an event in a dream, the less accurate it is. So I've no idea if what you dreamt about was how things actually went down."
She thinks for a moment, then looks around the room. "I don't even know what I did with that feather. Creepy-ass shaman. I'm still mad at him, you know. Did he even say hi to you?"
"We..." Zach draws out the vowel a bit, trying to find the right phrasing. "We talked. Most of it was civil. Not all of it. If I had any other good way to make good our escape, I'd have tried it. Neither of us were in any shape for more fighting, or piloting any kind of vehicle if we could have found it. Panesh had taken a few rounds, and you know what kind of shape I was in." Zach frowns.
"Anyway, those memories I showed you," he says getting back to the other thing. "That was the only way I had, at the time, to tell you what happened. Best of my knowledge, that's how it went down." Zach frowns at his water bottle. Sip. Nibble of bread. "Then again, things were pretty intense." Another yawn.
Honoka bristles somewhat. "Yeah, I can guess on that." She finishes rinsing out the rice and places the bowl into the rice cooker, and starts it up. "Yeah. It sounded like fighting was what got you stuck there in the -first- place, so... yeah."
The juggler listens as Zach explains, and can sense his growing fatigue. "Hey, you... probably want to catch up on news events or somethin', rather than wearing yourself out talking to me, huh?" Or maybe go back to -sleep-, she figures, from how he's talking, but she doesn't want to put words in her boyfriend's mouth. She pulls over a small stack of newspapers and sets them down beside Zach on the bed -- and steals a quick kiss on the cheek before she gets -too- far away from him.
"If you're up for it, I can grill up some eel? Should be light and easy on the stomach..."
Zach makes no move to evade the kiss, glancing at the newspapers. He takes another sip from the bottle. "I think," he says a bit wistfully, a bit tiredly, "That I'll sit here, and enjoy whatever food you see fit to put in front of me. The world will just have to move on without me for a bit, I'm afraid." He yawns again, stretching a bit. "Though I can't think of too many things I'd rather do right now than wear myself out talking to you." There's a bit of a tired grin on his face as he sets the water bottle down.
Log created on 21:23:04 09/06/2015 by Honoka, and last modified on 09:15:49 09/21/2015.