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Sau Sun slams his glass against his desk hard enough to rattle it. Not that there’s anyone around to hear. He’s sitting alone in his home office, staring out at the floor-to-ceiling window that overlooks the city. Skyscrapers rise from below, an intricate web of bridges and platforms linking them together. Despite the late hour the night sky is nothing but a muddy yellow blur. He keeps staring at it as if he might see past the light pollution by will alone, to the stars beyond.
He can’t, of course.
He lets out a loud sigh, running a hand through his short, salt-and-pepper hair. His usually impeccable suit is open, the holographic SunTech logo on the chest of the jacket distorted, tie discarded on the desk. For a moment his gaze travels to the message that fills the screen projected near the corner of his vision.
I am well aware that I am probably the last person you want to hear from but-
He’s barely a sentence into re-reading the message he wrote when a pleasantly smooth synthetic voice interrupts the quiet:
“The board is expecting you in 30 minutes.”
The VIs words elicit only a tired sigh. A silent gesture mutes the VI before Sau reaches for the bottle of Serrice Ice that sits on his desk, refilling his glass as his distant gaze returns to the sky.
The truth is on here somewhere. Just a few more pieces of data and Changying would have the proof she needed. Just a few more runs. The whiteboard is a tangled mess of crossing bits of thread connecting to magnets holding up printed pictures and documents, or surrounded by marker writing. It is a mess that only she can really make sense of.
Yan had suggested digitizing it, but she always had a preference for the physical. It's easier to get an overview of things this way, plus it can't be hacked. Spending the last few years surrounded by people that know how to crack almost any system has made her more than a little paranoid in that regard.
There isn't any one around to bug her about digitizing anymore. No one by her side bouncing ideas, giving her a different perspective. No one encouraging her on the late nights when she wonders if she's wasted years on a futile quest for justice. No one questioning her decisions...
Okay, that one definitely isn't true.
Hotaru announces herself by clearing her throat. She's leaned against the doorway behind Changying, arms crossed.
"Is this really the time to be staring at that thing?" she asks with a skeptical look and a gesture towards the whiteboard.
"The utility installation records seemed like a promising lead. I could really use your help if-"
"Are you fucking kidding me?" Hotaru's voice immediately turns sharp and thorned, her eyes flashing a fiery orange as she steps forward. "You think I'm gonna go along with any more of your stupid goose-chases after what happened to Hiro?"
Changying winces, sucking in her lips as she looks away from Hotaru's scowl. "You know I didn't know-"
"You knew Blue's not around to maintain the cloak. What did you expect would happen?"
Changying's expression darkens as she turns to face Hotaru, returning her scowl. "Yeah. Yeah, of course I know. But she's-..." she trails off and swallows. "She's one person. We're still a team without her, and we can't just shut down and stop going out because she's not around anymore. We have to adapt."
"Adapt? By acting like nothing's changed? My brother should never have been out there. I told you after the mansion that I didn't want him involved in your shit anymore." Hotaru's words are accompanied by an accusatory prod at Changying's chest.
Changying looks taken aback by the aggression, but her surprise soon turns to anger, hands clenching into fists as she straightens her back to stare Hotaru down. "You're gonna bring up this shit? Seriously? Are you gonna bail on me too? Is that it?"
Hotaru's expression wavers, a bit of the anger leaving her as the hurt beneath Changying's anger shines through. "I'm-... I'm not leaving. You guys are my family. You know that. But-..."
"...but you're worried about Hiro. I know." Changying's anger is fading alongside Hotaru's, both of them moving back slightly. "You think I'm not? It's on me. I know that." she admits, shifting uncomfortably with that bit of honesty before summoning up fresh confidence. "But I have a plan. You just... need to be patient. Just a bit longer." she says, voice softer now as she gives Hotaru's shoulder a squeeze, seeking out her gaze for confirmation that she understands.
Hotaru retains a faint frown, staring down an arbitrary magnet for a couple of tense seconds of silence before meeting the taller woman's gaze and reluctantly nodding. "I know."
Another moment passes in silence before Changying flashes a small smile. "Let's see if we can scrounge up enough people for a game night or something, yeah?" she suggests with a nod towards the door. "Sounds like you could use a distraction. I know I could."