There are no Mistakes, Only Happy Accidents
Location: Townsend Tower - Atlanta, Georgia
Timeline: The Year of the Apocalypse - 9 January 2012
Dom finished the last piece of now stale bread and brushed crumbs off of the large schematic he was working on. After 10 minutes of waiting for Athena and Syn to come back, he’d asked the room technician for some paper and various pens and pencils.
It was 5 hours later, and he’d finished all the food and drink at the table, and moved the plates, cups, bowls and various other dinner paraphernalia to a corner of the room, stacked into piles. His paper was now covering the table, taped together in certain places.
He’d never been a particularly great artist, but his new focus and lack of distraction had quickly tempered his hand into something that was passable. Various parts of the paper had diagrams on, surrounding a large central building that jutted up and was surrounded by smaller buildings. Some of these were darker coloured, but large portions of the central building had to scale representations of corridors, buildings, and sometimes the equipment inside of them.
Stepping back to examine his work for a moment, Dom used a large ruler to draw a line to a certain area and then started work on a separate sketch for the comms tower.
In all, it looked like a pretty accurate rendition of Lorde’s Spire, and some of the layout inside.
In a pile on one of Syn’s chairs sat a stack of papers, mostly filled with drawings for Dom’s devices, including the IAD.
Athena crept back into the room looking uneasy. She didn’t want to be here. She really didn’t want to have to talk to Syn again. Despite Susan’s help, she still felt uncomfortable in this place, as though she expected a threat to come around every corner and do everything it could to destroy what few vestiges of sanity she had left.
The man at the table was one of the more recent destructions. Still, whatever else had happened to him, he was Dom. She couldn’t just abandon him. With luck, she could talk him into leaving with her when her father came for her next week. They could go back into hiding in the Iles de Madelene like they had before and everything would be okay. Presuming, of course, that he snapped out of whatever this was that was making him act like a robot.
“Hey Shill.” She said quietly.
Dom looked up briefly from his drawing. “I hadn’t expected you back so quickly, or alone for that matter.”
“Yeah, well...” She shrugged as she moved over to the table. “What are you drawing?”
“A map of Lorde’s tower, as best as I can remember it, including some schematics of the technologies I saw there, as well as some of my own.” He rested his pencil on the table gently and clasped his hands, looking at her in the eyes.
“I realise this is difficult for you. If there is some way I can ease your transition, let me know.”
She looked at him for a moment, trying to decide how to respond. Was this a sign of genuine caring about her well-being, some sign that her Dom, the one that wasn’t practically a robot, was still in there somewhere? When she spoke again, her voice was quiet and more than a little vulnerable. “I know you’ve gone through more... changes... than I have, so I need to ask. Do you still love me? Are you still... able... to feel that?”
“I can recognise that there is an emotional bond between us, created by a chemical release of oxytocin, dopamine and serotonin. I have awareness of your attractiveness, both past and present, as well as knowledge of our past relationship status and activities. My body still reacts as expected, even if my mind is able to filter out distracting emotional information.”
She rolled her eyes. “Distracting emotional information is what makes love MEAN something, Shill. Look, I... you obviously like it here, but this... this isn’t for me. My father’s coming in a week or so. He’s going to take me with him when he leaves. I can’t stay here, not without thinking that this place, this woman Syn, all of it, that it’s just another prison like Lorde’s Spire. I’m going back to Canada. If you want to leave with me, you can... we can go back to the Madelene Islands if you want, or you can find some meta-friendly rig to work on - my father has connections, maybe he can see if...” Her voice trailed away and she closed her eyes tightly. “I don’t want to leave you alone somewhere you aren’t safe.”
“I will remain here, where I can be most useful. This place affords the best way of understanding what I am, and has all the amenities I require to sustain myself. I firmly believe the same is true for you.”
She was silent for a long moment. “So you’d choose them over me.”
“It is not a question of choosing, Athena.” Dom stated firmly. “At the back of my mind, constantly there, is the awareness that I have changed. The best hope for finding out why that happened and if it is possible to fix it, or even if I want to, remains here.”
He paused for a moment. “You would be useful in helping the individuals here understand who I was before my awakening, to better aid in that research.”
She took that in for another long moment. “Is this your way of asking me to stay, Dom? Of telling me that part of you wants to be, well, the way you were?”
“Most want to be what they once were, Athena,” Syn said from the doorway. She moved further into the room, slowly, clasping her hands behind her back, saying, “I cannot relate to that, as I was born the way that I am. My mother was so frightened of me that I was left on the doorstep of an ancient monastery not long after my birth. I have no idea what it was like to change in such a way. But, I work with those that have changed, every day. I wish that I could tell you that there is some way to reverse the process, but most attempts have been horrific failures, at best. So, we’re here to help people to adapt, learn control, get a true education. We offer nothing more than a safe haven. Yes, we fight for mutant rights in the halls of congress, and in other ways. But we are not building armies, we are not set on world domination. I apologize if I frightened you. It truly was not my intent.”
Athena, startled by Syn’s unexpected appearance, jumped at the sound of her voice. She turned toward the woman, backing up a few steps and her eyes flickering with fear. She listened to what she had to say, but listening and truly hearing were different matters entirely. “I don’t trust you.” She said quietly. “I’m never going to trust you. My father is coming for me the weekend after this one, and if he can’t see me, if I can’t talk to him, I swear by Shiva that he’ll rain hell down upon this place. If you hurt Dom in any way, I’ll rain hell down myself.”
“So it’s agreed that you’ll be present for a few days yet. Good.” Dom mused aloud.
“Trust is something that is earned. Perhaps, over time, I will be able to earn that,” Syn said, giving a short bow to Athena. “I have no problems with issuing your father a teacher’s pass while he’s here, nor will I stop you from seeing him. And, whether you believe this or not, all who choose to dwell here are under my protection. No harm will come to him, or you, for that matter. I will assign you both rooms near to each other, and you will have free reign of most of the facilities, save the school, and research areas, as we do maintain strict security when it comes to our students, as well as our research and development labs. I do not recommend leaving the Tower proper at this time, but that’s really more to do with the protesters that are perpetually camped outside. Some of them can become rather violent, and I would prefer to avoid direct conflict with them.”
Athena’s eyes narrowed. “How do you know that my father is a teacher?”
“I won’t lie to you, as that does nothing to build trust. I am not one that gives trust blindly either, Miss Singh. Too many lives in this place depend on me for their safety and security to be able to turn a blind eye to anyone. We have looked into your background,” Syn said, her tone even, her eyes never leaving the young woman. “Both of your parents are intellectuals, your father has been an outspoken proponent of mutant rights, which only makes it easier for me to accept his presence here. Just as I know that Dom was one of two survivors from that oil rig disaster last month.”
“What, you’ve been studying us?” Athena exclaimed. “Spying in to our past? That is an invasion of our right to privacy! What would you have done with us if we hadn’t measured up then, huh? What if some meta whose father ISN’T a metahuman activist stumbled on your doorstep, or someone who was an active adversary of metahuman rights? What then? Are we just lucky enough that my family passed your completely unsolicited and uninvited inspection?” She frowned, a little bit sulkily. “Even employers doing background checks need to get approval to do them. I sure as hell didn’t give any approval. Is this how this is going to be here, then? Screw basic human rights?”
“Do you only hear what you wish to?” Syn asked with a soft laugh, shaking her head. She sighed, “In case you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m one of the many people here that are fighting for mutants to have any basic human rights at all. I have to know who the people are that are brought here. I have to know if there are any threats to the people that already entrust me with their very lives; those that live, work, and study here. When we arrived with you, of course I did my due diligence. It would have been negligent not to. And if you don’t like that, I don’t know what to tell you. You are not my only concern, as I’ve stated many times over. I have a city’s worth of people living in this building, that depend on me and my staff to keep them safe. Or perhaps you would prefer that I simply swing the doors wide and allow just anyone in here to wreak havoc against those under our protection? There are reasons that Lorde could not infiltrate the Tower proper, and attacked an open, public venue instead.”
“Oh, now who’s hearing what they want to?” Athena forced a laugh. “Did I say you should throw open your doors and invite everyone in? No. All I said was that you violated my rights by conducting a background check without my approval. But, hey, I guess that lets me know who you are, doesn’t it? Whatever. You do your thing - but I’m watching, and I don’t trust you. I’m only still here because that girl, Susan, talked me in to sticking around until my father comes, and because Dom asked me to stay for a bit. Needless to say, any further violations of basic human rights will be reported to the appropriate authorities.”
A flash of anger lit in those red-reptilian eyes. Syn took a deep breath, then said, her voice even and composed, “I am a protector of those that most of the world would gladly lynch, or burn in effigy, if given the opportunity, yourself included in that number. You have no idea what I would do, and have done, to protect these people that the world despises and judges out of fear and misunderstanding, just as you are doing right now. You really haven’t figured out that you have no rights at this point in time, have you? Just who are you going to report me to? The governments of the world? Those that are hell bent on destroying people like us? Neither you, nor Dom, are safe out there. Nexus still hunts you, SHIELD would gladly lock you away and throw away the key, in the name of keeping everyone else safe. At least here, we offer you the rights and freedoms that the rest of the world would deny you, just because you now look different, or because you can do something that they can’t. I think you can tolerate a simple background check that’s available to anyone with access to the internet.”
Athena glared at the small Asian woman. “And I think you're awfully defensive about your human rights violations for someone who claims to protect people.” she spun I bet held and marched arrogantly from the room. Her hands were trembling at her sides as she moved, her bluster barely concealing her fear. She knew Syn was right... and she knew there wasn’t a damned thing she could do about it.
Syn gave a frustrated sigh and looked at Dom. “I am truly sorry that Lorde was your first introduction to metahumans. I wish that we had gotten to you first. I have the feeling that her experiences at the Spire have tainted her view of others. We truly want nothing from either of you. I will see to it that your rooms are prepared. You are an engineer and we have another of that bent that has his own lab in the Tower. I would gladly introduce you to him. He’s a bit...challenging to deal with at times, but he is a fourteen year old genius that has just as many degrees as Stark did at his age. He is young, impetuous, and driven, but he is a good sort.”
“There is nothing to be sorry for. Athena, as you’ve no doubt discovered from her history, is anti establishment. She is extremely prone to emotional outbursts, and an expert at using straw man arguments.”
Dom indicated to his drawings on the table. “This may or may not be of use to you. I cannot vouch for their accuracy but it may give you more information than you had previously.”
“Be that as it may, she needs to learn that sometimes, people really are just trying to protect her,” Syn said with a sigh. The diminutive administrator shrugged slightly, then moved to the table and looked over the different drawings that Dom had been working on.
“These are actually rather impressive. I’m quite certain that you could work with Sean, on a technical level at least.” A slender brow arched above one of the Asian woman’s strange eyes as she saw the drawings of Lorde’s Spire. “I got a minor tour, but nothing quite this detailed. Ao, scan these and enter them into the archives. They may well come in handy at some point.”
~Of course.~ Ao responded to Syn alone.
“He seems rather proud of himself, I must say. His Spire seems to be a twisted version of the Tower, which is more than disconcerting. If that’s what he thinks that we’re trying to accomplish, he’s got more screws loose than I originally thought. Which is saying something,” Syn admitted. “I’ve known him for quite some time. He’s always been an enigma, don’t get me wrong, but he’s never displayed this kind of madness in front of me before. I had no idea that he was even building that place, but then, I haven’t seen him for a couple of centuries.”
“I can provide some limited descriptions of his Commanders, as well. I did some level of digging when I was working on my IAD, to be able to understand the nature of awakening. Much of the information was restricted.” He stood back from his drawing. “I believe otherwise, I have completed what I can at this juncture.”
“Well, we don’t tend to restrict information about awakenings. We’re not in the habit of hiding such things from our people. And any information that you can provide will be most appreciated. We’re facing a new threat, so anything that you know may be of use,” Syn said, chuckling a bit. “We will be debriefing Bethany as well. I’m certain that her point of view is going to be rather intriguing. She gives reports about as well as most military officers I’ve known.”
“Understood.” He clasped his hands. “For the record, I will remain here, regardless of what Athena decides to do.”
“I appreciate your willingness to stay and work with us,” Syn said, bowing her head briefly. “I hope that we can break through with Athena. She seems hellbent on getting herself picked up by Nexus or SHIELD. I would really like to avoid that possibility.”
Syn paused, then motioned towards Dom’s drawings. “Gather these things up and I’ll have the guards escort you to your room. I realize that rest isn’t something that you’re getting much of lately, but I’d still like for you to try.”
“Understood.” Dom nodded and began gathering his drawings.