04 - Ebb and Flow

20 – Asynchronicity

It wasn’t unusual for there not to be a lot to read up on when inducting a new recruit – most of the people he’d taken through this process were brand new to this side of the world, so other than relevant civilian records, and maybe the incident report that got them involved with the Agency, the fae, the Solstice or some combination of all three, it was usually a fairly slim file.

People, as a rule, didn’t transfer to Brisbane. There were exceptions, of course, he was walking proof of that, but mostly recruits were locals who had just been swept up in the bigger world that was hidden just left of what they knew. 

An existing recruit, however, should have come with a lot of information, but a good deal of it was being gently held back – would probably be obtainable if he asked for it, but wasn’t being offered – in the time since Kendall had lost his memory, Phoenix and the Regional Director’s office had tried various techniques to jog anything that might still be caught in his grey matter, but had largely come up empty.

They had decided, therefore, to mostly not offer Kendall information on a lot of his older cases and missions. Some he knew, but they wanted to limit how much he was able to quantify that he was missing, especially if it wasn’t critical to know right now. 

The personal information was similarly grim, though not from gatekeeping, just by virtue of being yet another member of the Agency who didn’t have a lot of personal connections. 

It wasn’t a universal thing, there were recruits with absolutely normal family lives – for whatever normal meant – and friends that weren’t just their co-workers and colleagues. But it was a noticeable trend, particularly for those who lived “on campus” that they were less likely to have a lot of strong connections to their old lives. 

Both Newbie and Sacha had deliberately put half a world between them and their family, though he understood that Sacha at least did have a decent relationship with his family, albeit one that was made better with distance. 

They might have been on the more extreme end of the scale, but for good and bad, this was a career that tended to attract people who didn’t have two-point-five kids to go home to every night, or who had to choose between a job they’d been in for a decade and putting on the suit. 

And Kendall was reinforcing that, aside from it being a safety issue for him to get some space from Phoenix – though in conversation, both he and Ryan had both quietly acknowledged that was more of a hope than a reality if Kendall’s former Director really did have the desire for vengeance, or to fuck with him further. 

Even disconnected from the System, fairy stairs made global travel something reasonably achievable within a few hours, at least to get you into the right general area, though once you exited into your country of choice, you would then be stuck with whatever transport options were available there. 

But Kendall wasn’t leaving a family behind – there were a few various cousins and whatnot noted in his biographical data, but more as points of reference than people he had any close connection to. Parents dead, tragic, but maybe a small blessing of the amnesia that he didn’t have to think about their loss. No known siblings. No partner – either of the romantic or recruit variety – nothing that really tied to him to Phoenix. Nothing that would make his transition to Queen Street harder than it needed to be. 

And adjusting to a whole new country was going to be hard enough. Especially with how…reductive the views of some Americans were towards Aussies. 

He wasn’t going to make any assumptions that that’s what Kendall was like, as that was just as reductive, but he was bracing himself to debunk all the most common myths, possibility to the cultural shame of partaking in the long-honoured pastime of “bullshitting the tourists”. 

It was just what you were supposed to do. You should have, by your mid-teens, an entire spiel about the dangers of drop bears, how deforestation had impacted their habitat, the areas where they were more or less likely to attack humans, that they were definitely real, mate, they’re a more primitive form of koala, you know we’ve got a lot of weird shit in this country. You could even chat up the reality of drop bears while slyly letting on that there were certain things Aussies did bullshit about, like hoop snakes, they were made up to fuck with tourists, you’re too smart to believe in hoop snakes, right?

Then again, this was a country where Mags’ brethren did spend a couple of months a year divebombing anyone who didn’t wear an ice-cream container covered in straws or zip ties, to the point where the local councils had to put out alerts about particularly aggressive birds or streets, so truth could be stranger than fiction. 

And it was easy to get certain things in order. Usually, he didn’t bother with something as mundane as room assignment, but as he figured that his particular-

That was going to be another problem. 

Ever since he’d joined Queen St and taken on this role for Ryan, he’d used “newbie” just like Mags had done with him, something completely unoriginal, but something he’d stuck to – if it was good enough for the aide, it was good enough for him. 

But now…well, Newbie seemed to own the word “newbie” in his head. It had gone from something generic to something that carried meaning, and thus, lower-case-newbie would have to be replaced with something else going forward. 

Kendall’s room assignment he’d discussed with Ryan – roughly there was a cross of rooms that the Field recruits had – two intersecting corridors, though most of the current recruits occupied the longer approximately-north-east corridor that lined up with the street rather than the shorter intersecting corridor. 

Kendall had been slated for one of the rooms on the shorter corridor, as that was just had been automatically assigned as Ryan had processed the paperwork, but he had asked for the new recruit to be amongst his peers, rather than taking the chance that the random room assignment might make it seem like he was being pushed aside. 

And for someone who was going to need an entirely new social circle, they needed to start off on as many right feet as possible and avoid any potential bad optics, even if it might be taking things to a slightly Newbie-esque level of casual paranoia. 

Which brought him to his next task.

Normally, to get to the Infirmary, he used the little bit of space-bending trickery that allowed an entrance straight in from each of the primary departmental floors, but for some reason, today he felt like taking the slow route. 

The elevator rose with its usual speed up to level seventeen, and let him out into one of the widest corridors that he knew of in this Agency, probably four metres across, space that could – in the event of the end of the world, or some unfathomable attack – allow beds to be lined up on both sides of the wall, holding injured recruits awaiting treatment, while still having enough space down the centre to run more beds or equipment. 

As it wasn’t currently the end of the world, the space was dim – the lights only coming on as he approached each section, in some weird…there was probably some proper word for it, but it a lot of the things about the Agency conformed to the expectations of the primarily human recruits, as to not take them too far out of their comfort with the small things. 

The elevator took time to arrive, and he was sure that it didn’t have to. It travelled at a fast pace, but one well within the expectations of that of a modern office tower, there were vending machines in all the recruit gyms, even though you could just require whatever you wanted. For all the things that made the Agency the Agency – that dust never collected, that – for most recruits – your room cleaned itself, that water from the shower was immediately hot and would stay that way, even if you let it run so long that it would drain the Pacific, the intentional “less perfect” touches allowed you to keep some touchstones of what was familiar. 

There were photos on the wall of the corridor, nothing remarkable if you didn’t look too closely. Black and white photos, in square black frames with a white mat, spaced a few feet apart from each other – and spaced so that where there was one on the left wall, there was a space on the right wall, which also might not have been something that granted any deeper meaning if you didn’t know the twins. 

But the more you got to know them, the more you saw…them, the “synchronous, but discontinuous” being that Two had described them as being, once upon a midnight with his hand in Curt’s gut, digging out a bullet, several shards of glass and some other bits of shrapnel whilst gently complaining that he was missing out on the late Parisian lunch that he had planned with his better half. 

The twins were…the twins. As much the same person as they were different people. They weren’t the easiest people to get to know, though for some reason he’d been able to skip past whatever barrier they kept up with a lot of people, not that they were unfriendly…well, not that One was unfriendly, to recruits, and they were both professionals…well, One was much better at presenting professionalism. But they were in a very deliberate and very self-imposed way, probably the most isolated of the agents in the building. 

Jones was like a beloved teacher amongst his recruits, Taylor had always had Mags, Ryan was pleasant if bland and though hadn’t obviously sought friendships with recruits from what he’d observed, wasn’t opposed to them, whereas the twins always kept to themselves. 

No recruits – no nurses – though apparently, that was something that they were very quickly losing the battle on, as it had been one of the outcomes from Agent Jane’s assessment that had been non-negotiable, though they’d still managed to hold off for weeks since. 

And keeping most people at arm’s length was something common among their “family”, of the other sets of twins that existed, from what he’d been told, and what he’d read on the Agency intranet. For so much, they were able to completely complement and fulfil each other’s needs that expanding their social circle wasn’t seen as something necessary.

It also required people to be able to be able to approach and treat them as the same and different all in the same moment, which he’d honestly never had a problem with. 

They were, on a fundamental level, from the creation of the twin glitch, simultaneously one person, two people, remnants of that original herald and his lover, and whatever random personality traits had been dialled in for whatever job they’d been created for, and whatever they accumulated along the way.

It was very similar to how he was, every person was, themselves, their ancestors, their expectations, dreams and fears, and the various ways they brought those aspects to the surface depending on the situation and their company.

Everyone contained multitudes, the Parkers just had four hands and two faces to express a bit more of themselves a little more easily than most. 

For some reason though, a few days into his time at Queen Street, Two had simply barged into his room, swigged a beer and made it clear that he was invested in his health. He had always assumed that Farnshaw had said something – said enough – to make it clear that he needed a little care, a little kindness. 

And that kindness had come from Two, as wrapped in prickliness and assholery and sarcasm as it was, was real. One was a lot more openly gentle and kind – of the pair, only One was credited with having any kind of functional bedside manners. But whatever consideration One showed, Two was just as capable of it, though he seemed to be more choosey with who received it. 

Two, however, was an acquired taste, and often not the best impression for new recruits.

He stepped in through the sliding glass doors of the Infirmary, hand automatically raising to half-shield his eyes against anything that would inevitably sear itself into his brain for a week, as well as…to avoid any potential splash zones. 

Though as bad as fears could be, even he could admit the worst he’d had to touch was the time he’d stepped in lube, on the morning he’d walked in and the entire floor had been wet, and given both doctors had actually been fully clothed when he’d stopped slipping on the spot, he’d been able to glean it had been more of a thought experiment than anything they’d actively been participating in. 

No one was visible through his spread fingers, so he lowered his hand and looked around. Unsurprisingly, the main area was empty of patients and was clean, smelled vaguely of lemon and eucalyptus and was waiting for injured recruits to walk in with anything from a bad papercut to half their skull missing. 

Through the large windows into the office at the back of the space, he saw One look up from whatever he was doing at his desk and wave him in. 

He wasn’t sure when it had become an instant ability to tell which was which, even at a distance like this, but it had been second nature for months now. When they were talking, when they were interacting with people, it was easy enough to tell them apart, but at rest, physically they were identical – they didn’t even do that thing so common amongst anime twins where they would part their hair on different sides – but their personalities always shone through, something about the eyes, the set of the jaw was enough that even with the briefest glance, he knew who was who. 

‘My other half,’ One said, ‘is out right now, doing something that requires just his attention.’ This was another little bit of asynchronicity that he found frankly…cute, in the “aww, the married couple really loves each other” kind of way, in that One tended to call Two just his “other half” but said it with a lot of affection, whereas Two always went with “better half”, wearing his heart on his sleeve for at least this element of his life. ‘Though I should be able to help you anyway, Aide. How can Medical assist?’

‘Incoming recruit,’ he said, ‘whose turn is it?’

‘Mine, so it happens,’ One said, ‘though if that’s a problem-’

‘No, preferred outcome, actually.’ He required and handed over a copy of Kendall’s file. ‘We’re getting a few things in place, I’m getting a few things in place before you’ll see the official transfer orders, but it’ll be pretty instant once it does happen.’ 

‘Ahh,’ One said as he looked at just the first page of the file, ‘so we’re getting wrapped up in this disaster.’ He smiled. ‘I’m sure you have been told it’s hush-hush, but unless you take extreme measures, there’s only so much you can do to stop the rumour mill, and even when people don’t say anything, the specific way they don’t say anything, or what they don’t say can speak as much as if they didn’t play silly buggers and just said what they meant.’

‘How much do you know?’

‘Not as much as we will when those transfer orders go through and we’re cleared to know the bloody and grisly details, but enough to know that there are bloody and grisly details. A director falling isn’t something that happens every day.’ One tapped on the file. ‘There was an anonymised version of this case available for wider consumption, above a certain security level, of course, memory issues are interesting, and there was a call for a set of twins to give their opinion, as there are some unique ways in which our minds work, but we let our siblings from Stockholm take it.’ 

‘I do wish,’ Two said, walking into the office, letting his hand slide across Curt’s head in a way that was half-slap, half-pat, all goodwill in its usual twisty package; ‘that sometimes we got to see the fruits of these favours that Ryan does.’ Two leaned down to kiss his twin, and Curt looked away, giving them their privacy for a moment before Two settled in to lean against the wall beside his better half. ‘Clarke plays it so close to his chest that- One time when he was absolutely pissed, he told us he’d wagered the deed to this building, and I can’t tell you if he was joking or not.’ Two’s face clouded, but some of the thunder cleared as One reached to touch his hand. ‘Later. So many thoughts for later. Never do a deal with that man, because whatever-’

‘Doc, I am rarely in the same room with him.’

‘That’s probably going to change, now that you’ve gone up in the world.’ 

‘Love,’ One said quietly. ‘Focus.’ 

Two’s shoulders rose, and One let out the breath that his twin had been holding. 

‘You don’t want me to be fresh meat’s physician?’ Two asked, picking up the file. ‘I’m insulted, O’Connor?’

‘I needed your approach,’ he said, letting long-felt gratitude slip into his voice, ‘but going by what I know, which I know isn’t the whole story, I think we should try and give him a soft landing.’

 

Authors

  • Stormy

    She/her Bi nerd, originally from Brisbane, currently in Melbourne.

  • Shade

    Shade has a strange sense of humour. He met Stormy mostly by accident and, shortly after, wedged himself into her world like he'd been there forever. Again, completely by accident. Living in Utah most of his life, he's come to loathe snow, casserole, and traffic, and enjoys gaming, puns, and gaming puns. He intends to take over the world some day, but is, quite frankly, too lazy to do it.

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