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46.3 - Days of Future Jasons Past

1533252523

Edited 1533301331
Jason Quill is lying on the table in the conference room off the base control room. Nobody really wanted him in what passes for a medical center here, let alone giving up their bed for him to lie on. Not surprisingly, nobody really felt like treating the man in charge of the global dystopia like an honored guest -- at least not until they learn how the Heart Machine process has gone. It's been an hour or so since he was bundled in here after the battle with Leo and Adam. Enough time for the few others here -- AltFuture!Harry and Vector in particular -- to be updated on what we've done. A suggestion is mooted -- I won't say by whom -- that it might simplify things if Jason never woke up. Well, it would. But simple isn't always best.  That said, I ask to be there when he wakes up. In part, because I may be the best qualified to understand what he's going through. In part (and if anyone guesses at this, or shares the same sentiment, they're mum), if he's still a power-mad tyrant, more drastic measures might need to be taken, and I'm the one least likely to hesitate to take them. I'm not sure how I feel about that. There's some rapid eye movement. Dreaming. I wonder what he dreams of. World conquest? What he did to Leo? The Swexy AI that got away? The Swexy AI that didn't? Does he ever dream of me? Hell, with the crappy climate control in this place, he's probably dreaming he's in a swamp somewhere. Appropriate, that. I study his face while he lies there. I've gotten at least a bit used to it -- to the lines, the bags under the eyes, a couple of small scars on the left cheek, even the awful beard. It's still Jason, even if it's not. I can see his father more clearly now than in the younger version, but there's another influence, and I wonder, not for the first time, about his mysterious mother. We talked about it a few times when we were kids (it being something we had in common), and Jason (back home) had mentioned the other day, very in passing, that he'd recently learned more about who she was. I'll have to -- His eyes are shifting under their lids. He's awake, or starting to awaken. I need to time this right. And two, one ... "Hello, hero." His eyes snap wide open, and his head pivots to stare at me in a panic. I can almost see the cocktail of adrenaline and other fight-or-flight chemicals flooding his body, churned to a froth by confusion and, if all is well, a tonne of memories and unleashed emotions he's now carrying.  He flings out an arm toward me, but the nanobots he's encased in don't stir, and his eyes boggle out still further as "flight" elbows its way to the front of his brain, and he scrambles away ... over the edge of the table, crashing to the floor with an audible thud. I can't help it. I burst into laughter. I knows it's rude, but it's too damned funny, and I suddenly realize I haven't laughed in a while, not in this way. Comfortably.  It feels weird. Especially when I realize it's because I'm with Jason. Even if it's corrupt-evil-old Jason. [To be continued] #Cutscene #Jalycia
Jason clambers up to his knees, awkwardly, peering over the table to where I sit in a creaking office chair, and the expression on his face is enough to engender still more chuckles. I hold up a hand, "Sorry, sorry," and do make an effort to hold it in, but it's only partially successful -- likely because I'm really not sorry. Jason trips over a rock in the path Chichen Itza -- the only rock for meters around, and he trips on it, and the laughter comes from both of us. I remembered that event, but never understood why I was laughting, until now. He's glaring, but his expression is shifting with every second. "Alycia?" "Jason."  "You're -- young? Wait, like -- Leo. From the past. The other Jason said you were on the team. I ... remember ..." Jason suddenly squeezes his eyes shut, collapsing his kneel down to the floor, turning away, rubbing his temples furiously.  I immediately hop out of the chair and slide across the table in one smooth motion, dropping down next to him, a bit behind. I hesitate, then put my hands lightly on his shoulders. "Hey. It's okay. I understand, believe me." "What -- what did you do -- to me?" "You know. He talked with you. Somehow, he talked with you." "The other Jason. Memories --" "The memories your father stole. Memories of me. Of things your father didn't want you to remember." "It's like -- old stuff and new stuff. All mixed up. I can't even --" "The human brain doesn't remember things like recordings. It integrates thoughts and emotions and experiences and associations into a gestalt ," I tell him. Anyone else I'd have snarked it, but not him, not now. I do understand, in my own way . "You've got some memories now that don't blend in yet, associated with feelings from many years ago. It would disorient anyone. It did me, and all of it was a lot closer to me, chronologically, than it is for you." He opens his eyes, turns, squints at me. There's more recognition now, a play of expressions. As weird as it's been seeing that half-familiar face, being able to identify some of the emotions running across it now is even more ... strange. Disturbing. I wish my Jason would sometimes --  "He said that ... you went through this process." I shrug. "My father didn't steal my memories, but he wiped the emotions about our times together. Most of them. I got those emotions back weeks ago, more, but I still --" Haven't had the nerve to really think about them? Haven't had a chance to sit down with Jason and figure out what it all means? Am still a mess? "-- haven't quite assimilated them myself. I --" I pause. "I know this is tough. But you're Jason Quill. You can do this." "I feel like -- Jesus, I feel like ... drunk." "The past always leaves a hangover. But you've been given a rare gift, a chance to see an alternative. How things could have been. And a chance to revisit your past and understand it better. The question is --" "Oh, great, questions, too? Will this be on the test?" A sudden surge of anger ripples through me, and I push him back to the floor. "-- the question is what the hell you're going to do with it!" I get to my feet, looking down at him. Old and worn and blood on his hands. More even than mine, and at least I'm goddamned doing something about it. "Jesus Amaterasu Fuck, Jason. You have screwed things up so badly ." He winces. "You sound like him." I sound like my Jason? That would bring a brief smile, but I'm too busy glowering. "Are you behind this?" he asks. "Why? Why did you do this to me?" "You screwed up, Jason," I answer. "This is -- I hate saying 'intervention' because that sounds so irritatingly stupid, but it's just trying to give you ... perspective, I guess. To give you the leg-up that my -- that our Jason figured out for himself, whatever the reason." "You want me to be him." I snort. "I've already got a Jason Quill, thanks, and he doesn't have bloodshot eyes and crows-feet. But if you learn a bit more about him, and his world, maybe, just maybe, you'll get your head out of your own ass and fix the problems you've made." "That's what we Quills do," he says, voice soft, eyes looking at something other than me. "We fix things." "Well you sure have a lot here to fix." [To be continue ...]
His gaze snaps back to mine. "I remember Chichen Itza." Okay, I have to smile at that one again. "Well that's a start." "I mean, knew about the trip. I remembered the ruins, that treasure hunter with the eye patch, the secret chamber -- but nothing more. I just knew I enjoyed being there and didn't know why." Meanwhile, I remembered it all. But like pictures in a book, as if it had happened to a stranger. Which was the greater cruelty? That said, he enjoyed being with me. That's -- huh.   "And now?" "And now I know to watch where I'm running when we play tag." "See? Life lesson you can now apply." Jason slowly climbs to his feet. He moves like an old man. "What else do you remember?" He closes his eyes. "Coconut drinks in the Mercado de Brujas. That copy of Aleph and Other Stories that appeared on my headboard at the Keys house on my 13th birthday. Some moments in Amsterdam I'd --" He stops, shakes his head, then opens his eyes. They're wet, as he looks upward. "Jesus Christ, Dad, you really fucked me up." I snort again. "Welcome to the club. I sometimes think that's the informal motto of the Menagerie. Except for Adam." Jason looks at me again, his gaze narrowing. "Who are you?" Blink. "I -- thought we had that settled." "Alycia Chin -- the enemy, the counterpart, the shadow Me, the daughter of that Satan-on-Earth Doctor Chin." I feel a chill, but I nod.  "Alycia Chin -- the competitor, counting coup, who gets the drop on whom, winning or losing on points." A snort, and another nod. "Alycia Chin -- the friend, the one I can talk with about demanding fathers and aspirations and being a genius. The one I was -- jealous of." I start at that. "The one I envied for her independence, and the time she spent away from her dad." I nod again, though a lot of those times weren't much to envy. And Krishna knows I was just as jealous of Jason and family, his brother ... "Alycia Chin -- beautiful and sexy --" He stops, opens his mouth, stops again. My God, he's blushing. And, in return, I feel my own face get hot.  "Um. Antarc--" "I know!" He turns away, takes a step. "Jesus. And now I feel like a perv because you're still under-age, even if my memories are of when we both --" "Don't worry," I say, quickly but making my tone as dry as I can, "I'm not expecting or inviting a repeat performance." "And then there's Alycia Chin -- the menace, the assassination threats, the public oath of vendetta." I shrug, slightly. "Yeah, that was ... well more cover than anything else. Eventually. Trying to keep Father's organization focused and together. I could have --"  The room is dark. Jason lies on top the sheets, even in the air conditioning, in boxers with some sort of pattern I can't make out in the dimness. He snores, but I knew that. It's madness to be here, and it's something I can't repeat, but I had to see if I could. And, knowing that, I know what other things I could do right that moment. Instead I turn and leave. "-- but, well, I didn't." "So who's the real Alycia Chin?" I hold up my hands. "All of the above? I've been all those things. Our relationship was ... complicated. And, maybe --" -- it was unhealthy? Yeah, I'm not discussing my relationship with my Jason Quill with this version of him. Enough of that. "But you've been a lot of things, too -- so who are you? Jason Quill -- inventor and scientist? Jason Quill -- heir to the Quill Foundation? Jason Quill -- happy-go-lucky adventurer? Jason Quill -- super-hero?" I pause, then continue, "Jason Quill -- dictator of the world? Jason Quill -- killer? Jason Quill --" "Stop!" He glares at me, and I glare back at him. Just like old times. Then his eyes widen. "And if I haven't learned to work and play well with others, which Alycia Chin comes out next? Is that why you're here? Is that why my nanobots are deactivated?" I pause. "I think that part is because some of the nanobot code got patched both by you and by the Heart Machine -- the young Jason. It didn't happen with the Jason back in our timeline. I'd guess the use should come back soon, once your brain has adapted." He puts his hands on his hips. "And the other part?" Another pause. "I seriously doubt it will come to that." "You'd kill me?" "Not unless I had to. But I might be quicker to think I had to than other folk." Brave words. Could I really kill him? Easier to convince him I would than convince myself. "This world is broken. You're either part of the solution, or you're still part of the problem." "Things would fall apart again without me. I'm the only one --" "Jason, you're talking to the wrong person. I grew up with that kind of ends-means / irreplaceable-man rhetoric. It doesn't work on me any more." "Great. So how do I prove I don't deserve a quick dagger to the eyeball, Alycia? What oaths do you want me to swear? What enforcement mechanism to you suggest? What --" "I don't know!" I hope the soundproofing here is decent, because that was a bit louder than I'd intended. I force myself to calm down a scosh. "I don't know, Jason. Maybe just ... how do you feel? What do you remember? Did any of this make a bit of difference?" He sags back against a credenza with dusty plastic crates stacked on it. "I -- don't know, either. I'm remembering stuff. But until I actually pay attention to it, I don't really, y'know, remember it. If that makes any sense." I nod. "I just --" He closes his eyes again. Draws in a deep breath. Lets it out, slowly. "It's -- I remember stuff. Things the other Jason said, his experiences, little differences that ended up making a big difference in your timeline." He seems to be accepting that much, at least. "And a lot about you. Us. Things we talked about. Stuff that wasn't you pointing vortex blasters at me or stealing things. Stuff I didn't --" He opens his eyes again. "Most of which makes me realize how lonely I've been, Alycia. All these years. I had to -- the things I did, the steps I had to --" He stops, corrects himself. "The steps I thought were the right ones. And maybe weren't. But each one of them took me further away from people. From my friends. From ..." He trails off but looks at me. "I watched my father," I say, slowly, "turn into a monster by being the One Person Who Knew How to Save the World. By valuing the world above the particular people who live in it. By turning the Greater Good into a fetish that let him ignore the smaller, individual goods that are messy and inconsistent and take extra, inefficient time to deal with. It's a trap, a terrible, terrible trap. And when you're alone, there's nobody to point it out to you." "Especially when you -- when someone does try to point it out -- I --" His shoulders sag and he drops his face into his hands. "Oh, God, Leo ," he sobs. "What did I do?" [To be continued ...]
I'm not big on comforting and supporting people. Nobody looks to me to do it, and probably with good reason. It's a reason I was never a good squad leader. But this is Jason, no matter how far removed from my Jason he is. And I've seen him in tears before. Once.  I step forward, put an arm around his shoulders, lightly. He responds by hugging me tightly, clamping onto me, and crying into my shoulder. Which ... yeah, this is awkward . At last, Jason pulls away -- I don't stop him -- and sniffs and wipes his face with his nanobot sleeve. "I --" he begins, hoarse, then after a moment continues, "Sorry. I've been -- an idiot . An irresponsible idiot with a freaking gun . I've --" He shakes his head. Shudders. "What I've done can't be forgiven. It -- I can't -- but, dammit, I need to do something to fix this. It's my responsibility." "And if nobody helps you?" "I'll do it myself if need --" He stops and looks at me. I smirk and raise an eyebrow. "Yeah. Right. That easy trap again. I need to fix this with others . I need to --" Jason shudders. "I need to make this good with Bot -- with Leo. Somehow. I don't expect him to forgive me. I just ..." He trails off.  It's quiet for a long moment. Then I shrug. "Don't underestimate the Newmans -- Leo and, um, Pneuma -- and their ability to forgive and look through to see the better side of you. But, yeah. That's a necessary start." "How can I make it up? How can I take back the things I did?" "You can't," I say, a bit more abruptly than I'd intended. "Redemption isn't about 'making up' for what you did. It's certainly not about trying to make it that it never happened. No take-backs. It doesn't work that way." I shake my head. "It's about making things better. It's about changing your course. It's about not repeating the past. It's about ..."  I'm talking too fast, and stuff is tripping out of my mouth faster than I can control it. I have to rein it in before I say too much. "It's ... about maybe starting with where you've done harm and trying to fix that. But not to make it so that it never happened. It happened . The blood, the pain, all of that, it's on your hands. You can't get rid of it. You can only not add to it, only work to ..." I trail off. This is stuff I have trouble articulating to myself at the best of times. Trying to convey it to this Jason is -- madness. I feel conflicted in multiple ways. Keeping my own secrets. Wanting to help this Jason. Being afraid I'll mess up this Jason further. Odin knows I'm the last person who should be lecturing about this. But Jason nods. "It's not a transaction. It's not a ledger. It's not paying off a debt. Perform this penance, make this pilgrimage, work off this many years of Purgatory." He huffs his breath. "That's ... hard." "I know." He cocks his head, and actually looks at me for the first time. "You do, don't you? That's why you're here. With this group." I nod.  He folds his arms. "What do you think I should do?" "The weakness is in trying to stand alone. Find friends. Make friends. People who can advise you when you start being all hypergeniust. People you can trust." "Who would trust me?" "I didn't say they had to trust you. They won't. They know what you are, what you've been, what you've done. Or enough of it. They'll look at you dubiously. They'll talk amongst themselves about you. No, you have to trust them . Their trust, if it ever comes, will come with time, based on your actions." "Leo." "That's where I'd start, if I were you." "Jesus. That's -- hard." "If it were easy, everyone would do it." He snorts, nods. "I wish ..." "Yes?" I say after a moment.  "The other Jason. Yours. He has it easy. I wish you'd been -- around. Here. Maybe I wouldn't have screwed up." A slight twist of a smile from me. "Oh, you would have. Just not so bad. And you'd have had someone to poke you with a stiletto when you did." A moment, then I take a breath and plunge into the question I knew I needed to ask him. An extra reason for my being here when he woke up. "What happened to her? To me? Here?" He looks sad. "I don't know. After Dad and Rusty and Chin died, she was publicly threatening me, like on your world. Then one day it ... just stopped. I -- I did look for her. And I have a lot of resources to look for someone. It's possible she dug a hole and pulled it in behind her. But it's more likely, probability-wise, that she's dead. An old enemy. An accident. Something." Would I have gone to ground in a Quill/Rook dictatorship? Gotten sufficient liquid assets to end up on an island somewhere, spending the rest of my days drinking caipirinhas and tanning on a beach? Unlikely.  More probable I'd have been in a resistance cell like this. Or in a tower somewhere, with a long rifle and scope, waiting for the king to process past. Most likely -- "But the other Jason, the nanobot program thing -- he said that Dad and Rusty and Chin -- your dad -- that they were actually over in the Sepiaverse. So ...?" "I knew Father was there," I tell him, my voice soft. No need to tell him how I knew. "I was trying to find my way over. In my timeline, you helped me. In this timeline --" I shrug. "If there was a way, I found it. So she'd be over there." I think of the storm of ghosts, of Doctor Infinity, of the layered and lethal defenses around what had been that Wound Between the Worlds. "And I have no idea who might still be alive there." Jason nods, watching me.  "So, yeah, probably dead. But --" I pause. "-- maybe not. So maybe that's someone else to talk to. To try and find." "What would this Alycia think of me?" I roll my eyes. "How the hell would I know? She might be in Father's pocket. She might have killed him. She might be insane. She might be dead." I point at him. "Ultimately it's up to you to figure this out, Jason. I'm heading back home. All I'm saying is ... we had something. Me and the Jason who was my age, you and the Alycia who -- you get it. If you think what you guys had, what your memories tell you about it, is worth it, if whatever you had with your Alycia makes her someone who might help you be the better Jason you want to be ... then go after her." He raises both eyebrows and looks at me over his weird glasses. "And you don't have any prejudice in the matter." I shoot him a grin. "Of course I do. You're damaged goods, but I can't imagine that if my AltFuture!self is still alive over there, that she wouldn't be better off back here with you, fixing the world." He matches the grin, if not quite as sharply. "Jesus, Alycia, you'll turn my head." [To be continued]
"Like recognizes like, Jason," I reply, softly. "I'm not going to get into a pissing match about whose sins and brokenness is worse. But if I recognize it, it's because I know it myself." He looks at me. It's hard to see him both as Jason and as an adult at the same time. "One last thing." I hear stress notes in his voice. "The nanobot Jason -- I got the impression that these aren't quite my actual memories." "Those memories are gone, Jason. Your father destroyed them. What you have are my memories of events we shared. Your brain eventually squishes them into feeling like your own recollection. Same thing for me. The emotions I feel about those shared events, what the Heart Machine fixed -- they were your emotions. They just feel like mine as they drop into place." "So they aren't real." "They feel real. And they feel like they're mine . If the emotions I got from you conflicted with the memories I had, they wouldn't ring true. As it is, it's damn better than just a puppet show with no emotions associated.  But ... well, call it collaborative memories. There's a bit of me in you. A bit of you in me." I raise an eyebrow. "Not like in Antarctica." "More than a bit, I hope," he mutters, then closes his eyes, bows his head a moment. When he looks back up, it's with determination in his face. "Right, then. Everyone loves a redemption arc. That's because they're not inside of one. Build relationships, listen to advice, fix the world, hope ..." He trails off. "Nowhere to go but up," I tell him softly. "Well, that's a hell of a pep talk." He snorts, then his expression changes. "I'm assuming we're in Bot -- in Leo's super-secret base." He sniffs. "Maybe -- you could go get him? I'm not sure I should be wandering around loose here until he agrees I should." "Not going to disagree there," I tell him. "Everyone here knows you're here, but they might not be thrilled to see you until -- well, until you and Bot -- your Leo -- have a chance to talk." I turn to go and am almost to the door when he calls out, "Thanks, Alycia. I think you won this encounter on points." "I usually do," I say, turning with a smirk. He looks at me a long moment, then blurts out, "You were my first." I blink. "Your --"  "In the Antarctic." The penny drops. "Oh. Your 'first.' Huh." Fancy that. Well, in fact, I do. "For what it's worth, it was a reasonably good premiere endeavor, especially given the circumstances." "Well, it's not like I hadn't, uh, done research ahead of time." He's blushing again.  "In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice, there is. Or so they say." Yes, definitely blushing. "I hope I wasn't your last as well." He grimaces. "Nnnnooooo," he says slowly, shyly. "Though -- I've been ... busy." I think of my father, his paranoia, his obsession with security. "Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown?" "That, too." "I'm sure an enterprising ruler of the world could create the opportunity --" "I'm sorry I said anything," he interrupts, a bit nervously, but with that boyish grin I still know him by.  It's a charmingly goofy moment, and it's a struggle not to chuckle at him. But I recognize he's made himself vulnerable and, even if he isn't my Jason, I won't dig at him any further about it. "Fair enough. Well, I --" "Was --" he says, quickly, then stops. "Um, was I ... your ...?" "... 'first'?" I laugh."Maybe that's another reason to track down whatever happened to this timeline's Alycia Chin. So you can ask her ." I shoot him with a finger gun. "So long, hero." I make my exit before he asks more questions along that line. And then stand outside the door for a long moment. Your first, eh? Oh, Jason, I can't wait to fit that into the conversation during our date. I smile and walk away. -fin-