Having just been released from a classified military prison only a few days before, Xú Song had developed somewhat of a new lease on life, in spite of the harrowing ordeal she had subjected herself to in her seemingly futile attempt to obtain psionic powers. She had begun to appreciate the circumstances of her life more. For one, after nearly killing a pair of minor celebrities during the first part of her excursion, Song realized that she had superhuman gifts which made her stronger, faster, and more durable than nearly all non-Taianese individuals. As such, she had begun to exercise more, so as to improve her already impressive physical abilities. Every day she lifted in the gym with massive weights which to most non-Taianese, seemed impossible for a woman of her size to carry. Though her psionic powers were underwhelming, she had come to appreciate the superhuman gifts that she had taken for granted before.
However, Song was still aware of the psionic gifts she had been given by the symbiote in her spine. Her psionic powers were laughably impotent, but she knew that she had an obligation to use them, or else she would have wasted the last five months of her life. Though her abilities were weak, she had learned that she could make them stronger, though only with dedication, training, and practice.
Unfortunately, she knew no one that could train her. After all, she couldn’t just post an ad on Dregslist seeking an instructor who specialized in psionics. That would attract plenty of charlatans, along with a lot of unwanted attention. As such, Song knew that she would have to train herself, and for that, the ‘Net would be her best friend.
After buying a rich and chocolaty dessert to justify her taking up space in the coffee shop, Song connected her laptop to the establishment’s public connection and initiated her search. In her class with Bob Gunson, she had learned that one could find social groups and guides for almost anything on the ‘Net, including things that were illegal or socially taboo. Nonetheless, it took her almost twenty minutes before she found anything that was even remotely related to what she was looking for. Unfortunately, the page that she had found was likely to lead her down a rabbit hole of links, which may or may not pertain what she needed.
With a deep breath, Song looked up from her laptop and took a bite from her chocolate sundae. She noticed that the coffee shop was filling up, but luckily, she had chosen a seat at a secluded table in the corner of the room so that no one could snoop on her screen without her knowing. Nevertheless, it was only a matter a time before someone would have to sit across from her at the table.
As her vibrant heterochromatic eyes took in the appearance of each person standing in the long line at the checkout area, Song placed her hand beneath her chin and gave an exasperated sigh as she waited anxiously for the inevitable intruder to arrive...
She found Piyapon, and so she ran to Piyapon.
She didn't have a plan for how long, nor where she would go next, she rarely did. All she wanted was an escape from the confining coffin that her daily habits slowly suffocated her with. The unconscious tying of experience to a location, the immediate recall of events that came to mind when one saw a familiar spot; both of the good and the bad. It was naturally the bad that haunted her. Particularly one thing had brought Piyapon to her list, and that was the Taianese; more specifically it was the propaganda ideal of the Taianese that she had been told of. Here, she would find the lower rungs, the more realistic aspect of them as a whole, without somehow slinking into some high ranking establishment that she wasn't meant to be in.
The last few days of transit and moving into a temporary spot had become a blur, and no matter how much sleep she got the travel had given her the extreme space-age equivalent of jet-lag. What better way to wake up, than to visit a local coffee shop?
The line was full of interesting looking people, Taianese and other folk alike, and each of them oddly stood out in their own bizarre way. Ori, for example, stood out by having the least interesting look about her. She was short, thin, dressed conservatively in plain colors. The most that stood out was her comfortable looking poncho and the burns that covered her left side in its entirety. Once she left the line, overly pleased looking over her unfittingly large cup of coffee and an equally disproportionate muffin, she paused as she looked at the available tables. They were slowly filling, mostly in pairs or groups, and those that weren't were either waiting for the pals or were too intimidating or noisy. That was of course, until Ori saw Song.
Ori could not tell her height but it was obvious from the way her body simply looked that she was an artificially designed one, and Ori had to blink a few times to keep herself from staring. Looks aside, she was quiet and kept up in her work, perhaps she could...
Building up her quaint reserves of courage, Ori quietly slipped up to Song's table, pausing by the available chair. "Um, excuse me..." She began, trying to keep her voice. "Do you mind if I sit here?"
“Oh no, not at all! Please, take a seat.” Song replied in a sweet tone which belied her growing sense of discomfort. As she spoke, she idly moved her laptop closer to herself as if she were making space for the newcomer, though it was a needless gesture given the large amount of open space on the table.
Distinct from the cool air in the room, Song could feel the extreme heat wafting from the large cup of coffee in the woman’s hand on her hypersensitive ears as she placed the cup on the table. As expected, the cup was still completely full. Based on the burn scars that marred her appearance, the Rabbit surmised that the woman was especially careful around hot things. As such, she deduced that the coffee would remain untouched for a great deal of time, unless...
She silently told herself that she would not attempt to use her powers here, especially when they required such an extreme degree of effort, focus, and willpower that she would almost certainly hurt herself in the process of doing so. However, a part of her craved the opportunity to flex her meager psychic power, even if the risk of injury was great.
“That coffee seems really hot, by the way.” Song continued in an inquisitive tone as she directed her gaze towards the woman’s blue eyes. “I might be able to cool it for you, if you'd like.” The sentence spilled from her lips quickly and without restraint. She regretted saying it immediately after uttering the last word. Regardless, she did not intend to renege on her offer.
“Thank you so much, miss!” Ori delicately placed her coffee and treat on the table, before pulling out the chair and taking her seat. She was neither too close to nor too far from her stranger companion, obviously not wanting to seem too friendly or too distant. The whole air of being cautiously social was something that seemed to emanate about Ori like a thick fog; not skilled enough to be a social butterfly yet not wanting to be the odd wallflower of the room either. Ori wasn’t about to interject conversation on the woman who appeared to be busy on her device, but she did perk up when she offered a seemingly innocent act of kindness.
“Oh! Sure!” Ori carefully moved the large cup towards Song, before retracting to the comfortable pocket of her side to the table. Personally, while she was more than happy to socialize, Ori herself did have some reserves about simply allowing a stranger to do something with her drink. “They serve it so hot here that I usually end up waiting a good twenty minutes for it to cool, regardless of which planet I’m on.” She cheerfully droned, trying to keep the backwater worry in her subconscious where it belonged.
“I’m Ori, by the way. I just arrived from the last public transport.” One thing was apparent, especially as she continued to speak. To Song, it was clear that Ori couldn’t even pretend to be a threat, even if she wanted to. Too frail, too damaged, too… Innocent.
“Oh please, don’t worry about it!” Song replied as she gently pulled the cup closer to herself, slightly wincing at the sharp heat on her hands. “I’d hate for you to have to wait so long just to enjoy a cup of coffee. It’s the least I can do.” The Rabbit added, before closing her laptop and sliding the device to her left, so as to prevent it from being drenched in hot liquid in the unlikely event that she accidentally spilled the coffee.
“Well, it’s a pleasure to meet you, Ori. You seem very kind!” Song continued. “My name is Song.” The Rabbit extended an arm across the table for a handshake. “Where did you come here from, if you don’t mind me asking?”
Like many stores that sold coffee, the drink was far too hot for anyone to rightly drink it. The wisps of visible vapor trailed upwards from the lid, and simply holding the insulated cup gave an idea to the unbearable heat within. To some of the stronger users of odd powers, it would be nothing to go as far as freezing it solid- Unfortunately Song nor Ori were said individuals. It was a challenge, for sure, but certainly not one that some underpaid barista had anticipated when the small woman had ordered it with vigor, pointing out some oddly named brand of coffee blend. Upon close inspection, the cup even had Ori's name scribbled upon it in darkened marker, with a small childish smiley face sitting in the large 'O'.
"I'm originally from a human colony named Shear." Ori responded. Shear itself wasn't famous, but it wasn't unheard of. Cold, windy, mesas and ravines gave its landscape something that looked good on laptop backgrounds and advertisements. "But I've been all over- Always in safe space though. I'm not that kind of adventurous." It brought something to light if Song managed to catch it. Shear was a colony that was doing quite well for itself, people were still moving there for its growing economy and the jobs it needs filling, yet Ori had left, and not for some grand dangerous adventure. Something had driven her, of course, but it didn't quite seem to add up.
"What about you? I'm not synthetic at all but, I'm sorry if this is rude to ask, are you Taianese?"
Nevertheless, Song was determined not to let down sweet, innocent Ori. She would never sleep peacefully again if the poor girl even slightly burned her tongue as a result of her inaction. In spite of the fact that the girl had obviously been burned before, Song intended to do her part in ensuring that her other half remained unscorched by the indifferent fires of nature.
“Shear? Unfortunately, I’m not familiar with it, but I recall hearing the name. I’m sure it’s a wonderful place.” She replied. “It’s a bit...cold and snowy, if I recall, yes?”
Auspiciously, the thought of icy glaciers and frost-covered plains was exactly what Song needed to begin directing her willpower into the hot liquid in the cup. The Rabbit immediately placed both hands around the hot cup. Her nervous system unconsciously processed and tempered the pain from the searing heat on her hands, allowing her to dedicate more of herself towards the daunting task at hand, Ever since she had returned home from the prison, Song had experienced severe difficulties in channeling her psychic powers. She surmised that she was dealing with a mental block of some kind as a side effect of the change in scenery. It was something that she would have to work past on her own in order to continue developing her powers, but it had already severely lowered her morale and created a gnawing sense of self-doubt. However, with the kind and innocent stranger sitting across the table, eagerly looking to see how the Rabbit would cool her coffee, Song felt spontaneously empowered.
Song channeled a burst her psychic energy into the caffeinated liquid. Over the next two seconds, the temperature of the coffee decreased from almost boiling hot to lukewarm. The act would seem extremely easy and effortless to the young woman sitting across the table from Song, but the truth was far from that.
“Annd, it’s done!” Song spoke in an uncharacteristic delirious tone, which belied the slightly constrained smile that came over her features as she pushed the coffee across the table . “Also, I apologize. I didn’t get what you said just now. Could you repeat your last question, please?”
"Yes! It snowed fairly often but was never too heavy, the wind was really strong though. We had a warning system of whether or not it was safe to go out into the open mesas because the wind could pick up so heavily that it could barrel people and small vehicles over. Some people made these winged suits and made a sport out of it!"
Ori watched with genuine enthusiasm as Song applied her magic with both hands clasped to each side of the cup. She clearly had no understanding of what Song was doing, but Ori didn't argue with an obvious result. "Woah!" She let her excitement with the experience show as she whispered her amusement. She took the coffee back as offered, feeling the much cooler outside, then taking a cautious sip of the once burning liquid. To her surprise, it was practically the perfect temperature. "Thank you so much, miss Song!" The coffee itself was absolutely delicious, thousands of years of perfecting various strains of coffee grind had paid off. It was an ancient art, and it was delicious art.
"Oh! I was just asking if you were Taianese, or overall just where you came from."
“Oh! And yes, I am Taianese.” Song added as the slender woman took a sip of her coffee. During that brief moment when Ori had turned her gaze away from Song to savor the rich flavor of her caffeinated drink, the Rabbit felt the nigh-uncontrollable urge to blow her nose. With the same napkin (she had not had the chance to pick up a new one from the box), she quickly pressed the soft linen against her nostrils and blew her nose. When she finished, the Rabbit glanced down and saw that she had almost completely stained the napkin red, along with the whipped cream topping of her chocolate sundae. More alarmingly, she also felt a strange warmth in the area beneath her eyes. Song slowly pressed a delicate finger against her cheek and sensed a thick wetness on the tan skin. To confirm her suspicions, she raised her finger in front of her eyes and saw that it had also come back red.
When the poor sweet innocent Ori looked up from her savory beverage, she would see the horrifying sight of Song bleeding in copious amounts from all of her facial orifices as the Rabbit stared at her own finger in disgust...
"Oh-my-gosh! Miss Song are you alright?!" She cried out in a voice that wasn't exactly subtle. It was like a hallucination that came from the depths of her nightmares, but it had been a long while since she had been in a state to see something that wasn't there, and she certainly couldn't recall the last dream in which she felt the awakening slip of coffee begin to take her. No matter how much of her was asleep before she looked up, as her horrified eye inspected Song, any sense of sleep or rest evaded her. She stared at the table, reaching for the small box of cheap throwaway napkins that sat on every table, but standing up and, almost shaking, trying to move to Song. "I'll-I'll- um, I'll call someone, is there someone to call? Oh geez, I'm so sorry!"
“Call...SpaceUber and...touch the home icon when it asks where you want to...go.” She slurred. “Just charge my...card.” The Rabbit added.
Something was very wrong with her. She feared that the tumor that the doctors at the Alliance prison had extracted from her spine had returned. Even if it had not, she pondered whether or not it would be a better idea for her to go to the hospital, to be on the safer side. However, even before the doctors removed the tumor, she had never shown any bad symptoms. The diagnosis had been an unexpected and terrifying surprise, that had only came up during the last routine medical check-up before her release. Upon receiving the news, she had been immediately wheeled into the operating room, where she underwent a twelve-hour long operation to have the tumor removed.
When she woke up, she had felt just as fine as she had before.
Truth be simply told, she was afraid of sending a possible new friend off to the hospital, and just like prior times, simply have them never come out. This was just blood, these things happen, right? One look at the excessive leak that threatened to close down even the ruttiest of bars via biohazard told her that these things did not simply happen. Magic was fickle, though she knew little, but did such a simple spell and aftereffect really call for a Hospital?
She knew was she was doing, arguing with herself in her own busy head trying to convince herself that they didn't need the hospital, that the magically gifted woman would know how to handle herself. The fact that she knew how her brain was turning its gears made its efforts all the more ineffectual. "Here, Miss Song, please just let me uh, clean you up until the ride home gets here-" With that her hands busied themselves, dabbing and wiping off blood from the woman's pale face. It smeared and spread and took up the napkins too easily, though with an unpleasant jerk she pulled a batch of wet wipes from her pocket, and tried her best to clear the mess from Song's face. It was damp to the touch, but they were a multitude more effective. "Are you alright to stand? Should we wait outside, or...?"
Song appeared to be in a seemingly catatonic state as Ori wiped the crimson fluid from her discolored features. It didn’t take long for one of the shop’s employees to join in the effort, a small scene emerging as others arrived to assist as well. After a few moments, Song’s mini-tablet vibrated, indicating that her ride had arrived. Upon seeing it, the employees began to pack Song’s laptop into her bag, along with her other personal effects. However, they seemed to work with a sense of urgency, seeking to remove the bleeding psychic from the premises of the establishment as quickly as possible. None of them dared to touch Song, forcing Ori to bear some of the short-statured Rabbit’s surprisingly heavy weight as she guided her into the waiting taxi. Fortunately, Song could still stand and support most of her own weight, but she was extremely dizzy.
“T-thank you Ori.” Song slurred as she caught her breath in the cabin of the taxi. By that point, her perception of her surroundings was extremely distorted. She turned her head to the side and squinted to look at Ori. In the haze of her deliriousness, for a brief moment, her brain reflected the unmarred right side of Ori’s visage onto her heavily-scarred left side.
For a tortuously fleeting moment, Song stared at the most beautiful woman that she had ever seen in her short life.
“I know we just met but...y-you’re a great friend, you know that? Also...please don’t take this the wrong way, but...I think you...would...make...a great...mod-”
With that, Song slipped into unconsciousness.
Ori did not trust the sanitation of the Taxi, nor did she want the already delirious and unconscious girl to hit her head, so she buckled herself, and the girl up, and pulled Song close to have her head rest on Ori's shoulder. You're a great friend. The words echoed, and she swallowed hard. She wasn't used to having people so close to her, even unconscious. Was she just growing delirious, or was there something real in that statement? They hardly knew each other, after all.
"Think, think, think..." She muttered quietly to herself, staring at the cab ceiling as she listened to Song's breathing. She couldn't leave her alone, that would be irresponsible. She didn't have a job to go to, and there wasn't anyone waiting up for it, so she had no excuse to not be there for this strange woman. At the same time, she felt far from qualified, like someone with a doctorate in literature standing up in public when someone cries out for a doctor. "Fine, fine, fine..." She sighed heavily, glancing to the woman as she held a napkin to her nose. "At least until you wake up..."