RP Debriefs and Cows


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PRE ENT T ME: 2:00

Ira sat quietly in her beanbag chair. It had been a whole two days since her excursion to the outside and, to her frustration, all of her drawings since then had been of that outside world. Had she really missed the trees, the green grass, the awful smells, all of it- so much? Looking down at her hands, a green crayon held between a few small fingers, she sighed. She missed it, she couldn't deny it. Setting aside her coloring utensils, she sat back and groaned gently in the chair.

She felt so small.

In an instant, she was on her feet. A distraction, she needed a distraction! Moving toward the old bed, the black-haired girl pulled out a small box from beneath it. Inside the large wooden box was a handful of slightly smaller boxes, which she carefully and deliberately removed. Inside each smaller box was a tightly packed, single kilogram of 'Magic Sand!' Without hesitation, she dumped each little box into the bigger box, creating a small set of sand mountains for her to dig her fingers into.

Right away, she went to work molding the sand into a castle. It didn't twist or curve the ways she wanted it to, but it was good enough in this infernal plane of existence. Within the confines of her body that she had so much 'gotten used to,' she would make do with what she had. And there was no point in being sad about it, that only wasted time. Smiling, she looked down at what she was making only to find-

a cow.

Again, she groaned.
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DATE: 07/**/23
LOCATION: En route to CU-14-1003
ASSET: Dr. Cody Redd, A-Class-D, Head of Research L-14;
EQUIPMENT: ACF-255 “Redd Medal”; Gift [simple box, closed]
PURPOSE: Follow-up for “Playdate” and Incident involving ACF-1003-D

This time the box fit under Cody’s arm. He had his labocat over it – his arm – hung loosely with just enough balance that it wouldn’t quite drag on the floor, and under where it had been was 255 swinging loosely and a black T-shirt that said in Star Wars font, MAY THE MASS TIMES ACCELERATION BE WITH YOU. Hopefully he’d be able to either open or end the conversation by explaining Star Wars, just to lighten the mood, because as much as he wished for another personal visit this time he had things he actually needed to talk to her about. Which was part of the reason why he brought his lab coat without wearing it, although the other part was because he didn’t really have time to stop by his office or quarters to leave it there.

His other hand held the can of RedBull he was hurriedly finishing, which he tossed in the trash as soon as he passed it. That reminded him – he still hadn’t talked to Mr. Johnson/Sturgeon. He’d need to add that to his ever-growing to-do list. Some of it was already shared with Isaac, but Isaac was handling security issues right now. And this had turned into a research project, which wasn’t his co-manager’s department, on top of the other more significant research project he was doing on instances of contagious strands of anomalous diseases…

He looked tired. He moved with purpose, and wore a more worn-out version of his usual smile, but there were lines under his eyes that weren’t just from the grin. It’d been a busy summer already, although he could say he had a mostly-finished report for Jupiter to show for it. He just needed some finishing touches. Then he could focus on the other report that he was officially supposed to be doing.

This wasn’t about the report. The report was the outcome of his visit, not the cause. He did have some questions for Ira – but he’d also promised he’d come back, and here he was. The door came unlocked with a gentle beep, and just like last time, he stepped through.

"Hey, Ira," he said, warmly, because unlike last time he felt like it was his turn to open the conversation. He adjusted the box under his arm as he took a quick look around, as the door closed and locked behind him.
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Ira did not immediately respond as Cody spoke to her. He returned, as promised, and her head had popped up right quick when her door opened. Then, after examining his face, she frowned and turned back to what she was doing. Smashing the cow, she molded the sand around and started forming four little turrets for a castle.

She could see the tiredness on his face, the lab coat in hand, and it didn't take a Goddess to put two and two together after her most recent 'outings.' Of course, she also knew that her outings were a result of the schedule change she caused by screwing with the Foundation systems and her own files. That didn't make the subsequent follow-ups she knew were required any less enjoyable. Glancing up as she began to form the body of a cow on the four legs she had constructed, Ira spied something under the researcher's lab coat. Crooking her head, a single word escaped her-


Then, all pretense of the aloof child had been discarded. Standing up and leaving her work half-finished, Ira set about setting herself into her bean bag throne. Sitting down most 'royally,' Ira rested her chin on one hand and held out the other in a gentle 'give it to me' motion. There was a small smile on her face now. She was hoping perhaps that this meeting would not be all about her previous outings. Cody had promised to come back, and here he was. Cody had promised to bring more tribute, and here he had it. Cody had promised to be her friend, so the least she could do was not shut him down immediately.
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She tried to pretend to ignore him, which was completely fair, because he didn’t have the energy to pretend to not be here for the things he was actually here for. Or at least, until she noticed the present, which he’d hoped she would. A little of the weariness melted away from the edges of his smile as he nodded to her question.

He sat down just like before, cross-legged at the Goddess’s feet, and produced the box from under the white coat, which he then balled up in his lap. It wasn’t as nice as the monster bag, simple blank cardboard folded over itself. Cody hoped the gift itself made up for that.

It was a succulent.

A green hen-and-chicks variety in a pot full of loose compost (a manure and bloodmeal mix) and simple gravel. The orange stoneware was blank, but there was plenty of space if Ira decided she wanted to paint it.

Cody had been paying attention to the changes in Ira’s behavior for the last two days, and he’d seen the increase of other outdoor art that she’d taken up since her trip with the Locusts. The cow manure and bloodmeal were a deliberate touch, although he’d checked with botanical research that he was doing it right. It’d need at least artificial sunlight, but he’d already talked to maintenance security about providing one of the lamps they used for botanical anomalies. That would happen during routine maintenance tomorrow. The plant would make it through the night without it.

Should, of course, the Goddess accept.
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A soft 'Oooo' escaped the little Goddess's lips as she opened the gift to see what it was. The wrapping was simple and went unnoticed as the little plant inside took all attention. It was unlike anything Ira had ever seen before. Gently, as one might hold and touch something made of ultra-thin paper, Ira outlined the edges of the succulent with her finger. It wasn't very sharp, but it was a little prickly, and that was fascinating.

She smelled the dirt mixed with the plant and smiled, a mixture of familiar and new smells graced her nose and made her smile. Perhaps to another, the repugnance of bonemeal and manure would be a little to repulsive, but to Ira it was as sweet smelling as a bouquet of flowers. Setting it aside, she declared, "Acceptable." Her voice was a little softer than normal, a little quieter, as if she could feel the weight of responsibility weighing down Cody and didn't want to add to his burden.

Looking him in the eye, she frowned and asked, "I will have you speak, explain yourself. Your troubles, your concerns, your burdens. Release them before me. Concealment of these things, unacceptable." It was said in a manner of genuine concern, though it certainly sounded weird coming from the mouth of someone obviously too young to understand what she was demanding. Nevertheless, Ira crossed her arms and leaned back, ready to listen to her only subject in this world.

Her only friend.
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Ira loved the gift, which was one burden off Cody’s shoulders. He hadn’t wanted her to think he was trying to make fun of her containment by bringing in something from the outside, but she didn’t seem to mind that at all. Even the smell didn’t seem to bother her.

One thing off the list. There were far too many others, but he’d have to start.

"Well," he began, drawing out the word in a way that kept him from sighing, "there are a couple things. And some of them are… wouldn’t normally be my department, but I have to talk to you for a second as – as location management, not just as Cody."

There wasn’t much difference anymore, but he wanted to be clear that there were some things that were bothering him because they were his job, and some things that bothered him because he cared.

"First, Ira, you – you can’t hide rats in your room. I’m not even sure where you got it, but even if it doesn’t make you sick something rotting like that can spread disease. If you’re going to do things like that, don’t put other people in danger, okay?"

He did sigh, now and his shoulders curled inward. A relaxation.

"And you scared Charity. A lot. I have to talk to her about it but – if you want to see other anomalies, Ira, you have to try to…" Pause, as he tried to find the right words. Maybe he should ask Laine for a dictionary, one of these days. "You’re going into their home. They’re here to be safe, just like you. I don’t think you’d like it if I sent an anomaly here trying to make friends, and they scared you instead."

Two things that tied in together. Related, not quite the same. He decided to start there, and then give the Goddess room to speak.
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Ira listened, her eyes looking Cody up and down as if he were some kind of new abstract portrait to be picked apart. Her facial expression didn't really change while he spoke, and she did not interrupt him. There was no need. Ira was a patient, little Goddess, the other aspect within her demanded this of her, and she would not disappoint herself.

After Cody finished speaking, she stood up and approached him. Bending down, she reached out and attempted to touch his medallion, examining it closely with her eyes. While she did this, she decided to respond to at least a few of the things he said, "If upset you- upset others, death does. Why live? Not point. I know. No more dead rats, I promise." She did not lie. "But, Charity, I- not mean to scare. She is, uh, not sure how to say. Bigger than me? At least here. But, she thinks she is small. So she is small. She could be more... Not my place, no. She will learn. She has to... learn it for herself. But I understand. I am, mhm, the word, for feeling bad." Not sorry. She knew what 'sorry' was, and she wasn't sorry. But she did feel guilty.

Then, stepping back, she sat down in her bean bag throne and picked back up the succulent. Her eyes examined it closely, the way it grew, the formation of its leaves, the extra nodules that grew about the main mother. Like a greater beast and its children. Running a finger about the dirt, she continued, still speaking quietly, "These things, these statements, not the reason you come. Your steps, brought -YOU- to -ME- Why? You are stressed. Explain, Cody, what stresses. I will understand." She lied, "I will, promise."
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Cody listened patiently as Ira told her side of things. He didn’t necessarily understand everything – although he did note what she’d noticed about Charity, that seemed important – but he listened, because she’d listened, and listening to each other was what friends did. She seemed to want to be friends with Charity. She didn’t explore the concept of death, which was good, because Cody was not ready to have that conversation with her right now. Other times, maybe, but today wasn’t the day for it.

He let her touch 255. It was a harmless interaction, and she knew better than he did whatever his connection with it was. He didn’t take it off to give her, this time, because that would’ve been a distraction, and she was already having some trouble expressing herself.

She wasn’t sorry. He had a feeling she knew what sorry was, and if that was the word she was looking for she would’ve found it. But he could tell that she felt badly, and so he just gave her a little smile and a little nod in reply to that.

But she also knew what he wasn’t telling her. Was it that entanglement thing she did, or did he really look that bad? He was getting ready to reset his sleep schedule to go talk to Charity again, and he’d be better after that. Something else on the to-do list. Another problem, but this one was for tomorrow Cody, and maybe tomorrow Cody wouldn’t be as tired.

Yeah. Right.

"It’s just job stuff, that’s all," he told Ira, with the same smile and a wave of his hand like it was nothing. "Stress is just part of management. I’ve got a couple projects going on, and normal paperwork stuff. It’s very mundane, it’s just a lot of stuff. Some unexpected, some not. These things come in waves – this too shall pass. My steps just brought me here for a break."

Isaac was way better at going with the flow of things. Cody was better at jumping in and finding out what was making waves. They made a good team, but when one was tired, the other couldn't always pick up his slack. Especially when they were both busy.

"I do have some questions about what you and Locusts brought back –" in multiple senses "– but that could wait, if you want. I know how much you love researchers. And this wouldn’t be a break if I hopped right into asking you."

That’d be normally be true for researchers, but research – not reports, but proper hypothesis-and-experiment – was something he well and truly liked doing, and could do with all the feral energy of a passionate doctor if it wasn’t for physical limitations or his reports. But he could do reports, and he usually did with time to spare, if a little grumbling. They just felt more like work than the questions. That’s what he’d choose to blame, anyway. He couldn’t just be pushing himself too far, because he saw plenty of managers deal with way more every day. And he had Isaac to help.
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While Ira did not look at Cody while he spoke, she did listen to him. His euphemisms were a little lost on her, something about waves and something about passing, but she understood his last statement. He came to her for a break from his stresses, this made a great amount of sense to her. Ira found her presence to be very relaxing, it was only natural the smaller minds would observe such an obvious truth. She stood up and moved to go place the little plant on the table next to an old radio while Cody continued.

She did not stop, not even hesitate, as he brought up the topic of what happened with the Locusts. The weird ones, she wasn't sure how she felt about them. She didn't hate them, which was a step up from most of humanity, but she didn't like them either. They were efficient though, she made sure to note that. Shrugging and making her way back to her chair, she replied quietly, "Not oppose talking. Do not love researchers. Hate them. You are exception. But the Husk not research. Not to me. I can, talk, if you want."

Ira found talking very difficult, she didn't really do a lot of it. In the last week, she had spoken more than she had in the last ten years. It really was a skill that could be lost over time if not used. But she had a friend now, and this world did not communicate via emotions carried upon the winds. She could not think of a desire and have it met instantly, she had to actually open her mouth and create the necessary sounds to acquire that which she wanted. Tiresome, but there were no other options.

That aside, Cody seemed to want to know about her world. The Husk was of it, after all, and she wouldn't mind sharing a little with him. Only a little. There was another, she knew, that she should NOT share with. But Cody was not the other, so Ira didn't see the harm in it. "Ask, and grace you I shall. Explanations."
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"The Husk," Cody echoed Ira, when she was finished.

It felt important. He already knew her feelings about researchers, but he’d forgotten that she didn’t always hear sarcasm. He had a theory about linguistics, but that wasn’t his department, and that’d be important to another researcher somewhere else. He wasn’t in here to study how Ira spoke or what other languages she might know. He was here as her friend.

As if to indicate that, he set his labcoat aside on the floor, still in a rumpled ball, and then looked back at her. "If you’re comfortable, then yeah. I’d like you to explain the Husk to me."
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Ira did not smile very often. It was not that she couldn't do it; it was something she simply did not do. But when Cody asked her to explain the Husk, she smiled. He could not know, but Ira felt that she had stolen away a little student for herself. Back home, She had Enki, but Ira had no one. It was definitively a point of jealousy between she and She, but now she hoped that She might feel that little point of jealousy over Ira.

Sitting forward, Ira started to explain. "Yes, of course. Teach you, I will. Listen carefully. Talking is- not favorite thing. So repeat points, no. Of my world, three things exist. I categorize them- Feelers, Thinkers, and Husk. Feelers are all. The things that sing, things that breathe, they bend-and-grow-and-spread-and-again." She moved her fingers as she spoke faster, like a conductor to an invisible orchestra, "Here, you have, uh, trees? Yes, trees. Grasses, fruit, vegetables, chickens-" An eye roll, "Cows. These, Feelers. They contain the body, not the whole."

She pulled her box of magic sand over at this point, groaned as she saw the 'castle' she was making had begun to take the shape of a very large cow, and smashed her old creation. With her fingers, she quickly molded a few items in a corner, a weirdly shaped tree, an animal of indeterminate genealogy, and a cow. Then, she drew a line on that third of the box and began forming new shapes in the middle. Strange symbols and odd amalgamations that looked almost as though a blind man were attempting to create animals from the memory of touch alone. Additionally, she molded a human shape in this category. Gesturing to these things, she continued, "Thinkers, most complex, but simplest understood. You are Thinker, you possess body and whole. To feel and to be, immutable, inimitable, indomitable. Copy you, I could, but you it would not be. This is to be Thinker."

A devious grin spread across her face now, it waS a grin unlike any facial expression she might have ever had on her face. In the third section of her box, she molded three human shapes, "Now, knowing this, what is Husk? Stupid question, better question-! Take three Thinkers, cut them up-" She separated the limbs of the shapes, "Mix around-" Dashed the sand, "Then reshape." Finally, she reformed them. "Now, which is Which? Each, a body, but which contains which whole?" Again, she dashed the sand, laughing this time, "Trick! NONE! You cut them up! They DIED! No more Thinkers, but yet- they think! Never once Feelers, so they feel-? Not! Purposeless, empty, body without whole. A 'Husk.'"

Feeling very pleased with herself and her great teaching ability, she looked back to Cody and studied his face for reactions and questions.
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Cody’s face betrayed a tidal wave of questions that he was taking his time to sort through. He had already come to a few conclusions, but he needed to find the threads that didn’t have a suitable end, because Ira very much so liked teaching about her world.

Feelers were plants and animals, and probably microbes. Things that behaved and didn’t think. Thinkers were, well, sapient. And Husks were zombies. Cody knew a thing or two about zombies – it’d been one of his past projects. Except the husks were apparently capable of thinking, and just not feeling, so that was more vampirism? Which despite being disease-adjacent, was not Cody’s department. Except they weren’t consumers, either. They were exclusively thinkers, even more so than the Thinkers, who also felt and grew and expanded like living things. Husks just seemed to be. That was it. And, powers, that sounded like a horrible existence.

And that wasn’t even touching on the questions about Ira’s world.

But he could build up to that. There were good ways to build up to that, and probably bad ways, and Cody hoped he was picking a good way. She seemed to enjoy making the husks, which might be concerning, but that might also mean she had the most to talk about with them. Best thread, given his circumstances, and probably the most important actual answer.

"If they’re purposeless," he said, deciding to jump right into the questions, "then why make them? They think and don’t feel, and it costs thinkers to make them. And their existence seems… sad. To think and never feel, to know you were part of a whole and you’ll never be a part of one again. Why make something like that, Ira?"
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Ira's smile faded. It was not replaced by any look of disappointment or confusion, rather, her face adopted a more neutral tone. Cody was asking the right questions, and she was confirming this by nodding along with his words. However, Ira really wasn't used to smiling, it was starting to hurt her face. So she stopped.

Tapping her head, Ira began to speak. As she spoke, she began separating the colored sand as best she could. Cleaning it up and putting it all back into the appropriate little containers to occupy her hands while she taught, "Good question. Very good. Why? Simple. As known, -murder- extremely rare. No one kills, too painful! Experiencing murder is- nearly impossible. Most die even in attempt! Thinker cannot kill Thinker. Yet, still, abnormality occurs. Thinkers born wrong- it happens. What if Thinker enjoys self-destruction? What if- Ah! Perfect example. Annihilation. Born wrong. Must be stopped. In this, I use Husks. They cannot feel, so cull abnormality, they excel."

Ira was quiet for a moment, as if contemplating whether or not she should elaborate. Then, deciding to do so, she continued, "Husks are born purposeless. Yes. But need not stay purposeless. Upon birth, they are- impressionable. Anything told, they imprint. Say, first thing told, 'grind meat.' Then, unless told else, they do. They do and-do-and-do until-! They die. It is 'new truth.' But, careful, must be. Because innate, I make them with two truths. Perhaps, I do not imprint- perhaps, born outside of me. Happens! Abnormalities. I make, made, failsafes. So, two truths is- ah, innate to them..." She thought again as she finished boxing up the sand. Then, very solemnly, Ira asked Cody a question.

"Cody. Explain. The corpse, what did -you- do? Destroyed it, right?"
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Ira didn’t know very much about murder.

Or war.

Or the general acts of violence most Thinkers could do to each other and justify without another thought.

Something flickered across Cody. It wasn’t the senseless violence of the anomaly, not the clean deep cuts 255 had inflicted. It was the deep hole in the dead center of his chest, sucking and bloody. He didn’t dismiss it immediately, this time. He looked down at it, pondering. Ira would know where it came from. She’d learned in their entanglement, and he’d let her learn. It was easier than talking about it.

People hurt people. It wasn’t an outlier. It didn’t hurt to kill, not physically. And mentally– there were wars that proved you got over that, or you died. Cody’s father…

No. This wasn’t the time to let dad come in and shatter the optimist. People were better than that, could be better than that, given the chance. People hurt people, but that wasn’t the default. Ira’s world just didn’t have the opening for things like that. He didn’t know enough about it to dispute it.

Besides, despite all his questions, there was a much bigger problem.

There was always a bigger problem.

The bullet wound disappeared.

"IX-S brought it back to their location with them," he decided to say, and then waved his hand firmly. "And before you say anything about it, I can’t stop them. I’m important here, but half of the Locusts are higher rank than me and would still do whatever they were going to do if they weren’t. It’s secure at L-9, but it’s there for study and recovery, unless Strings got very bored, but he’s been busy with other stuff. It’ll be well contained, but – your truths, your tenets. I think it’ll be important that they know about those before they try to talk to it."

His other questions could wait. Besides, he felt like this might distract Ira from his… moment. She seemed very adamant that the Husk should be destroyed, and he doubted she’d be happy that it wasn’t even on this plane of existence while still kicking. Not that she actually... knew that, about L-9, but still, she had to know something was up with the Locusts. Even for Foundation they were weirdos.
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Ira said nothing for a very long time, her eyes simply fixated on the hole that temporarily formed in Cody's chest. The revelation occurred to her then, a revelation she really should have had before now but could be forgiven for not knowing. This place, this world, it was not her home. Cody and Ira had shared memories for a moment on their first meeting, exchanging feelings in the way she would back home. She knew then what she knew now.

This place was not home.

Back home, thinking beings rarely killed other thinking beings. It was not done, because Ira knew once of a world that was just like this one, a world where thinking things killed each other just because they could. It was not a good world. Ira had changed that in her reality. To kill in Ira's reality was to experience everything the murdered being experienced. It was not enjoyable, few could even do it and live through the experience. But here, well, it didn't work like that here. Because- this place.

It wasn't home.

Perhaps Cody had either not known this or had not processed the memories from Ira. She couldn't blame him for either of those things. Ira's memories were of eons, most of them would have been forgotten. Ira herself had not known of the horrors of this world, or rather, she had known but chose not to think about it. In her vastness, she sectioned off that part she received from Cody and filed it away where it would not disturb her conscious mind. But now, it came like a wave, and Ira felt an intense sadness.

Standing up and reaching out, she gently brushed his hair to comfort him. Like a little sister to a big brother. "I, ah, feel- mhm. Sorry. Yes, sorry." It was difficult for her to get out, physically so, but she forced herself to say it anyway. Wordlessly, she stood before Cody and allowed him to continue speaking. She would not sit, not right now, that would be disrespectful. Instead, she waited patiently for him to finish speaking before nodding herself and replying, "Yes, should know this. They, uh, should. It is fine. I admit, truth, the corpse's form is-" Ira paused, then groaned as a second revelation came upon her with memory.

"The form is me. UUUhhhgg. It is me. Damn it! Damn it all! How humiliating!" Stepping away, she started pacing the room in frustration, "In vanity, I want it destroyed. Know they won't. I know. But still! It is me! Agh! Annoyance and frustration. How feel you if- think on this- they make another Cody? No memories, no feelings, only thinking! Then -[EXPLATIVE]- prance it about! Humiliating! AH!"
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Too late, Cody remembered Isaac.

Not Cotta. Holtzheim. He didn’t think of her home that he’d learned about through her memories, he thought about the last sense of home she’d had here, before Jupiter told him to visit her. Isaac’s death was an accident, Cody fully believed that. But it was still senseless. It’d been – awful, of him, to assume she didn’t get violence.

And Ira apologized to him, and ran her fingers through his hair, and he let her.

According to the records that he knew, she’d never said sorry. Even now it seemed to hurt to say. He watched her stand, and he wanted to stand, too, but she gave no indication that she wanted that, so he didn’t. They were close to eye level, here, now, and he studied her dark eyes with sadness and curiosity, even as she comforted him. He wished he was better with kids, because he saw the same sadness in her face.

He did reach up and put a hand on hers with a smile clearly meant to distract from the sadness behind it, then let go without a word.

Now wasn’t the time for irrelevant questions, as her guilt turned into fury. He didn’t really have to wonder where she’d learned that kind of language – she’d been here for half a century, and security agents weren’t careful around anomalies, even when those anomalies were children.

Or maybe not children, but at least close enough. Cody had seen the body when the Locusts had returned Ira. He now tried to remember the details, placed them in his mind over the young face. It was…possible, but it helped to check.

"It’s what you look like? Back where you’re from?" He kept his voice gentle, kind, open, his eyes on her. He did let a little smirk pull up the corner of his mouth. "You’re a lot taller over there."

Maybe the joke would fall flat, but he hoped it would break the tension enough. He’d recovered some of his feelings, and he didn’t know how to tell Ira that he’d probably join in with the prancing himself around and also probably poking him a few times. He was a researcher, after all. But maybe he just didn’t have the same degree of vanity and self-respect she did. Man, that would’ve been depressing if she wasn’t probably literally a goddess.

"So– what, it just exists now? Can they command it the same way you can? Can anyone give it new tenets, or ones that override yours somehow, or does it have to be something like you?"

They had a lot of somethings-like-her in there. Which made it very important that Cody tell them before one of the gods or monsters or whatever discovered the John Wick shaped like Ira with shark teeth would do whatever it told it to.
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Ira's head whipped around at 'You're a lot taller over there.' Her face was practically screaming 'Was that a joke?!' But she did not speak up yet. Instead, she moved over toward her drawer and pulled the thing open. Rummaging through waded balls of the same exact shirt, she searched for something as she replied to Cody's questions.

"Mhm, no no, not like that. Give them few, ah, 'underlying precepts' I think called. So- at birth taken not by madness. Anyone can give commands, yes. Anyone. But- prefer me." Then, a little flippantly, she added, "Or someTHING like me." As if that was entirely an idea that would 'never happen.' "No overrides. Once established, 'new truth,' permanent. You understand danger? 'Grind meat'- wide interpretation. Careful with phrasing."

She stopped searching for a moment as if debating whether or not to reveal more information to Cody. Deciding to do so, she continued speaking and searching. "Saw into me, you did. Know I remember everything. Do you remember? Through my memories? Not- not big. Not taller. Not sure how to- uh, explain. Your husk is not me. But, looks like me. But, also, I look like me. Remember not life like that. Remember life like me. Because- it was me. Make sense?" Ira knew her concepts might be going over Cody's head. She remembered everything that had ever happened to her as if she was this child body, because that's who she was. But she knew she was also the adult, and also the beast, and they too experienced everything the same as Ira, remembered in their own heads as their own forms.

Three people, one body. Three memories of three bodies. One person. It made sense, at least to Ira.

Then, finding what she was looking for, she moved back over to Cody. In her hands was a small design of old strings, pulled from white shirts, finger-knitted together into an esoteric pattern. Showing it to Cody, she studied his face very carefully as she asked him, "Answer me now. Many things, I have taught. More I can teach. However! Teach me now. Who is this? Their form- not enough strings. But eyes, blue and green. It is a person. It is. Who is it?"
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So the bigger Ira they’d brought back was pre-programmed with certain rules, from what Cody could tell, but it preferred new rules from things like Ira, a theoretical Eldritch goddess. That was– not good, especially at 9, unless that Councilman had a way of enforcing his own power over some of the stuff stored there.

He was drawn away from those worries by Ira’s mention of the memories they’d shared. There were so many memories from her, most of which didn’t stick, the only ones held in any clear detail the ones that almost halfway tied back to this version of Ira in this reality. He’d really want to review these audio tapes later just to see if he could actually puzzle some sense from them on repeat, because he didn’t want Ira’s lesson to be given without proper thought. And also because he was a researcher and had a lot of questions.

She fiddled with the shirts, and Cody was so used to her doing things while they talked that he assumed it was some kind of craft project – maybe she was making creatures out of thread back in her world. That actually gave him an idea for a gift, since he didn’t think sewing or weaving or knitting or anything was actually among the crafts she’d been given here. He did remember how husks were made, and that they took three things to create them, and Ira seemed to be talking about herself like a trinity – but then she held up the strings, and Cody squinted at them until she mentioned the eyes, mismatched blue and green.

Oh, Expletive.


The word was very quiet, for Cody. The way it was said was a Name, a proper Name, if Ira could recognize that, but it wasn’t the kind of name that could be given, as it was tethered to an anchor. Deliberately tethered, even before the man’s True Name was fully hidden even from the Foundation. In many ways, it was one of many safeguards. A string itself, a thread in a complicated and tangled web that caught anything looking to grab it instead.

SV-5’s specialty was the Eldritch, sometimes called the ultimate anomaly in occult circles within the Founadtion. He did a lot of fucking around and finding out with them. He did have access to the cultists Ira had attracted in her time away from ACF, and now the Husk. There was obviously some kind of connection here, but Cody didn’t really understand what that was yet. Strings had also been at L-14, a long time ago – but if he’d ever interacted with Ira, it was very likely they would’ve known about her abilities long before the Breach.

He would’ve followed what Ira was saying, Cody was sure of that.

Right. This was concerning, and while anomalies were allowed to know about the Council’s existence and even the pseudonyms of its members, he wasn’t sure he wanted to touch that without knowing a little more about the connection between the weird dreamcatcher, the weird goddess, and the weird Councilman.

"Ira," he said, slowly, as he touched the web of threads with a fingertip. "I promise I’ll explain – teach you. But I need–" pause, rephrase. "It’s very important to how I explain it that you tell me how you know this man, where you’ve seen him. He’s dangerous, but he’s also very important in the Foundation. I can give you more – if I know what you already know. Do you understand?"
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Ira was watching Cody very carefully for his response. She was not disappointed. Cody hadn't been really good at hiding his emotions in front of Ira, not that Ira was particularly any better at hiding her emotions, but this was still something that could be taken advantage of. Then, quietly, he whispered a name. Ira couldn't stop herself from letting a little grin slip. But, as quickly as it graced her face, it disappeared.

Turning around, she placed her little strings back into her drawer and closed it up after Cody finished speaking. He had been trying to tell Ira something in code, that much she could understand. Although, whether or not she really understood what he was trying to get across was unclear. Turning back to Cody, she maintained eye contact with him as she returned to her place of rest in her beanbag throne. Resting her chin on her fist much like a king before a subject, Ira nodded slowly and responded in a strange sort of 'sing song' voice, "Sounds almost like you're afraaaid~ You're not afraid, are you? Codyyyy~?" It was a voice so very much like Ira's, but very much not her's.

But, as quick as it had spoken it disappeared. The little change in pitch and tone slipped away with a grin. Her voice returned to its regular dead-pan seriousness. "Do not answer. Unnecessary. I understand," She paused, eyes closed and head nodding, then continued, "I understand. Dangerous man. Important man. Mhm mhm. I have, seen him. Encountered something of his. Watched it split to flee. Let it burrow away. Through dreams, followed it. Back to him. Now, revealed all I want. Reveal no more. Teach me. I demand this. No more stalling."
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To his credit, Cody took the weird shift of tone from Ira in stride. She was an anomaly, after all. Besides, it wasn’t fear that creased his brow – fear often carried a bloodier shift than that. No, Cody wasn’t afraid. He was concerned. Worried. If Strings had touched on Ira, then Strings definitely knew who and what she was. And what did she mean, he’d sent something?

She didn’t tell him when the dream was, but she did tell him enough that he could dig up the rest, or have Isaac ask Dr. Hobbes the rest, because Dr. Hobbes knew one of the few people who could make demands of Strings. Or at least, the few he’d listen to when demands were made.

Unlike Cody, who had become amenable to demands from all sorts of things. He actually smiled a little bit as Ira made her demand and accused him of stalling. He got up and waved silently for her to follow. She had asked him to teach, after all. The dynamic had shifted – teacher and child, not Goddess and student. He understood that, and his face didn’t give much room for her to misunderstand that as he stepped toward her craft table. He folded himself into one of the chairs, a little awkwardly, and then reached for a handful of Ira’s crayons and a piece of paper. Whether she sat in a chair next to him or across from him, he’d angle the paper so she could see past his hands.

"Most of the Foundation has a hierarchy of agents and researchers. Locations have directors, or managers, but we answer to people at higher locations." He drew a simple tree diagram, with little stick people for demonstration. When he got to the top, he drew five people in different colors – red, green, orange, blue, and purple – although the diagram itself pointed to the red one. "The whole Foundation ultimately answers to these five people – the Security Council. SV-1 is Leviathan – they’re always Leviathan, and nobody actually knows who they are. When the last Leviathan retires, the next person to be SV-1 takes that name, and only that name. The other Council members have more… flexibility. SV-2 is Butterfly, a researcher; SV-3 is Jupiter and SV-4 is Hack, and they’re both agents."

He sighed, and then put a little hat on the fifth figure, the one in purple.

"SV-5 is Strings. He’s a researcher who studies the esoteric, or magic. His specialty is the Eldritch, specifically the Azathoth family. I know he’s a powerful occultist, but I– honestly, Ira, I don’t follow a lot of what he has to say about it, but I can try to answer other questions."

And maybe ask some of his own, if he could. He really didn’t want to bring the old bastard in to talk to Ira, but he couldn’t stop him if he decided to come by. Might as well get as much info as possible, without resorting to that.
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