Date: July 7, 2010
An important and irreversible step forward in the plans of the man called Amuro has taken place. He has chosen Datura to reveal what that step is to…
"Broken Memories Pt. 2 - Life Insurance"
Tao Shih Base - Unknown
This huge cavern is mostly dark. A dim illumination of undefined source manages to allow those present to see, but it is mostly centered around a pair of giant stone hands, with the wrists chained together. On the edges of the sourceless light, there are ordinarily many people working in near-silence. But Amuro has asked that the doctors, medic-nin, scientists, and similar all vacate the premises for now. So there is only the steady beeping and other noises of medical equipment to fill the emptiness. The machines are far more advanced than what has been developed for this time period. And there are people — or at least >things< — hooked up to most of the equipment. Lying on hospital beds and gurneys and such, there are many different shapes, though most are obviously human(ish). They have IVs and various other things plugged into their bodies, or attached to their skin with adhesive to give readings, and so forth.
The automated breathing of the people/beings is the main sound audible in this cave. Air pumps hiss as they deflate, forcing lungs to operate, and then hiss in a different way as they suck in air from the chill cavern, only to again sink downwards. All of this lies in the shadows, however. In the light, seemingly carved from the cavern wall, is a giant, stone creature. Only its upper torso and arms are visible — the stone hands belong to the statue. Its back has a number of rocky protrusions, like bladed bone shards. Its face is altogether terrible to behold. An inhuman head with a blindfold, sharp teeth, and a bit in its mouth, not unlike what one would put in a horse's maw to control it.
Nine half-spheres of blank stone lie in the blindfold, rather than eyes.
There is no immediate sign of Amuro, but he called Datura here. Ordinarily Datura would only have been here via Amuro's 'Seal Technique: Magic Lantern Seal', that allows him to receive long-distance communication from those allowed onto his 'network' by transforming the Chakra-emitted thoughts of his allies into spectral images. But for some reason, Datura is wanted to come in person this time. This would be the first time physically entering the cave, and the trip through the underground tunnels would have been not entirely pleasant. The tunnels mostly seem to be empty. Very few signs of inhabitants. But this base is so vast that there could easily be thousand or ten-thousand people living down here, and they might not run into another living being for days or weeks at a time.
Still, there would at least be a guide for Datura, to ensure she reaches this central chamber safely and promptly.
Considering the last encounter the group had had underground, entering a cave was not very high on the list of Datura's things to do. Luckily, for once, rather than immediately running back to a familiar place of refuge, comfort, and revelry for herself, such as Fuuma Alley, the outcast Yamanaka hadn't gone much farther than a nearby village, where she'd remained and kept an oddly low profile, seemingly more withdrawn since her experiences within Ankoku Cave. She hadn't spoken to anyone about how or why she'd been separated, and always gave evasive, noncommittal answers when asked. It was obvious she was holding something back, as the liklihood she'd just 'took a wrong step down the wrong tunnel' while being near the front of the group wasn't high, but thus far no one had cared enough to pry out the truth. Probably figured she'd been subjected to the same horrors the others had.
And now she was being asked to return underground.
Though she'd followed the guide readily enough, it was clear from the expression on her face that she wasn't happy. Why couldn't their leader take a page out of her book and set up his base of operation in some posh hotel!? The lap of leisure and decadence was much better to plot from. But as she's abandoned within the strange chamber, with the strange shapes, machines, and stonework, she stops thinking about hot baths large enough to fit eight and oiled massages, and starts wondering just what was going on down here. As self-absorbed as Datura tended to be, she never really asked many questions beyond 'where do I go' and 'what do I do when I get there'. As long as she had money rolling in, the 'details', as she called them, were unimportant.
As the minutes tick by, the blonde sighs, and follows her blue eyes towards the statue, which she stands in front of, frowning up into it's face as she scrutinizes it, as if trying to memorize it's every feature. Considering her penchant for inflicting horrific images, that might just be what she was doing! But eventually she either has a enough of a look, or enough of it's presence, and moves away from it with a small shiver, rubbing her hands up and down her arms as if she were cold, in order to approach the unconscious, machine-supported shapes in the shadows.
With a mixture of curious playfulness and morbid fascination, she pokes one of them. "Ugh, just how long do I have to wait down here?"
"I would not touch those if I were you," calls a voice from the entrance into the dim cavern. It is not a voice that Datura is likely to recognize, and yet… There might still be something familiar about it. The voice is deep enough to belong to a man, but still has some elements to it that indicate the one speaking may be somewhat young. The barely-visible outline of the male that has entered the cavern is seen in more detailed — but brief — glimpses, as he walks past the various operating tables and beds. The glow of various screens and machines cast dubious luminance upon him. He appears to be tallish, with white hair, and is at least fit, if not muscular.
He is wearing a black, sleeveless tanktop, and some baggy black pants, with black combat boots on his feet. His face remains shadowed until he gets closer to Datura, allowing him to be seen in full. He has an average face. Nothing hideous or weird about it. He has a kind of inherently sarcastic look to him, as though he were born with disrespect and irreverence built into his physiology. He stops nearby, but allows a decent degree of distance between himself and Datura.
"I am pleased that you could make it," he says.
"Who says I was touching anything!?"
Datura defensively, and reflexively, covers her actions with a lying denial as she spins around to face the speaker. For a shinobi, she seemed remarkably easy to sneak up on, and looked both surprised and startled at the sight and sound of someone else over the hissing and minor beeping of the machines. The gentle hum of computers barely conceals the male's footsteps from her ears, and she crosses her arms as she scowls at his shadowed approach, whether it was intentional or not. She has the distinct urge to search the chamber for the dimmer switch and turn the lights on high. Sadly, she didn't think she'd find one.
"I'm so happy to pleasing you. Whoever you might be." As she typically did when in a sour mood and speaking to someone she believed didn't really have anything she wanted, Datura turns her nose slightly up, giving the impression that she was looking down on him, whether she was the shorter of the two or not. "I was summoned by Amuro-kun, not by you. Where is he? If he was going to send a messenger, do me the service of telling him that he can just have the message delivered to me on the surface. I'm not in the habit of spelunking for things that aren't face-to-face. Do you know how badly stone scuffs leather boots?" For emphasis, she points down at her toes. "These things aren't cheap."
Finally, just when it seemed she was going to endlessly communicate her displeasure to the young-looking male without abating for breath or chance for reply, she folds her arms and rolls her eyes, as if this wasn't really something she should have to bother with. "Oh, very well. Since I'm here, and you're here, and he's not here, just give me the message."
The youth watches Datura with his vividly purple eyes, shoulder-length white hair incongruous with his apparent age. As the blonde woman rants and sniffs and acts haughty, he seems unmoved by the display. Towards the end, his mouth quirks up at the side as a smirks. "Hmph," he lets out when all that >talking< is finally over. "What a bother it is to deal with you sometimes, Datura."
Does this guy know Datura from somewhere? He certainly seems to be at least passingly comfortable in her presence, and further he seems to be very familiar with her manner of speech. Also, did he just say 'What a bother'? That's a familiar phrase…
"'Amuro-kun' is here in this cavern this very moment. For all your youthful ignorance, I believe you at least have some measure of wit available to you, or else you would not have been invited to join the Tao Shih. Those with dull-wits are not the type to be kept close at hand… They can be useful tools, but once their usefulness is at an end, they must be disposed of."
Crossing his arms over his chest, the young man says, "So, I ask that you prove you are still useful. Show to me that you are not merely a tool. Let us see if you can determine where in the room Amuro is."
"A bother? What a rude thing you are, to speak that way to me!"
With an open-mouthed look of feminine outrage and disgust, Datura looks about ready to say more, likely much more scathing things that she used to cut the men she came across down to size. Or, given her volatile nature, perhaps even a few not-so-bluffing threats. It wouldn't be the first time she had committed, or attempted, to eliminate someone for an otherwise minor transgression. But it looks as if all of the insults and threats collided on their way out of her mouth, stuck in the doorway of her vocal cords, each of them jamming the other up, and providing time for the young-looking male to continue.
There's a long moment of terse silence as the young blonde's mouth snaps shut and she glowers, her mouth twisted into a tiny scowl of displeasure as if she'd just tried eating something sour, her eyes narrowed to mere blue slits, at the male a few feet away from her.
"Oh, you just think you're so clever, don't you? It's you, you just henged. At least it's an improvement in aesthetics." Dropping the scowl and the narrowed glare, she holds her hand in front of her face, as if pulling something over her head. "That whole mask thing, it's really not working out. Nobody likes it. They'd tell you that if you asked them. Well, they probably wouldn't, because they're all scared of you, but they'd think it."
After a moment, as if it had just occured to her, she props a hand on her hip and cocks an eyebrow, gesturing vaguely at the surrounding machines. "Wait, what was that about 'prove I'm still useful'? Last I checked, you don't have a lot of body-snatching tarts working for you. Unless you're breeding them over there, you're always gonna need me. That's why you put up with me~."
"…But seriously, a cave? Again?"
The youth Datura has identified as Amuro grins even more, tilting his head forward slightly. The way the glow from a nearby monitor is cast on his face deepens the shadows further, and he no longer looks simply amused. There's a dark — almost cruel — tinge to his expression. "Close enough, Datura. However, this is no henge. It is the reason why I called you here. There has been a rather drastic shift in the dynamics of our relationship. Previously, you were employed because you were valuable. But my researchers and other allies here in this base have accomplished something I set out to do approximately thirty years ago."
He gestures at the various bodies on the tables with one arm as he uncrosses them both. "And I, as well, have made a breakthrough in regards to my own knowledge. I have long been able to plant memories in the minds of others, just as I can extract memories from the same. But there was a barrier to be overcome. I could not place a full set of memories from a given individual into the body of another. I had to do it in pieces, and only the specific memories I felt were most important. This had to do with the difference between how the neural pathways were formed in one person, as opposed to the original. I risked damaging the brain tissue of someone if I put too many memories they were not physically prepared for in at once."
"But now, I have discovered how to synchronize with the bodies of others," he offers, a bit of excitement or even gleefulness in his voice. "The scientists and doctors and so forth working for the Tao Shih have been able to gradually modify certain… 'Volunteers', let's call them. These slow alterations, combined with synchronizing my Chakra with someone else's, allows me to do the previously impossible: I can copy my entire life's experiences into someone else's body, and then take over that other person completely. I am, in a sense, >duplicating< myself. Where once there was only one Amuro, now there are two. And if there are no side-effects, then soon there will be >more<."
Amuro takes several steps closer to Datura, looking at her with eyes that now show the full depth of experience in more than a hundred years of living. "Being able to temporarily possess a given person is a nice trick. But >now< I can do it in a permanent manner, and I can >remain myself< at the same time. Two bodies; two minds; one person. However, I do not wish to be hasty. I have lived long enough to understand the virtue of patience and you have not yet done anything to earn my enmity… So I will not declare you 'obsolete', Datura. Instead, I will give you a job. This job will show that you are still valuable to the Tao Shih."
A pause, and then this… Amuro-clone or copy or whatever this abomination should be considered, indicates the entrance to the cave. "On the other hand, if you would rather leave the Tao Shih completely, because you are not confident that you are valuable enough to keep around… Well, the exit is right over there."
One of the blonde's eyebrows lifts as the male mentions a change in their working relationship. Her blue eyes follow the gesture off to the side, locating the bodies that are indicated, the corners of her mouth turning downward slightly in a thoughtful frown. Listening to the way in which he's discovered his new trick of duplicating himself, a wry, sardonic smile finds it's way onto her expression, though only lives until the moment he call her hidenjutsu a mere 'trick'.
Immediately, the frown is back.
Big blue eyes gaze steadily at the young-looking male as he finishes speaking, flicking momentarily to the exit, then back to him. One can practically see the wheels turning in her mind, her gaze and expression both calculating, after a moment, she snorts, lifting a hand up over her lips as if she were hiding a smile, a giggle, or maybe both.
"You've been trying to copy my techniques? I didn't know I was in that high of a demand. Maybe I should start charging you more. But you've overlooked one thing, Amuro-kun." She holds up a single finger as she looks away, stepping lightly around the male, towards one of the tables holding the humanoid creatures. "When I take control, there's only one of my mind. When you do it, you're creating duplicates of yourself. Permanent duplicates. Two beings who can go separate ways, do separate things. But one of them isn't really you, just has all of your memories, all of your knowledge, and all of your skill. You're creating clones of yourself. You're creating future rivals, not servants."
Placing her hands on her hips, she scowls down at the sleeping and/or unconscious form prone before her. "From the moment they take their first breath in their new life, they'll start gaining new memories, won't they? Their own memories? Thus becoming slightly different people. Each of you will probably think you should rule over the others, using your knowledge of seals to overcome whatever control is placed upon you, yadda yadda. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Let's not be hasty with all the details and the renegotiations."
The young woman casts a glance over her shoulder. "I'd be strapped to one of these tables if you didn't still need to employ my skills. Or rather, if he didn't still need my skills, since based on what you're telling me, you're not even my employer. Just his probably inferior copy. So tell me what the next job is before I raise my fee just for aggravating me! Damp caves aren't good for my skin."
The Amuro-copy's smirk slips away at some point during Datura's response. He does not seem terribly impressed, nor does he seem angered by her retort and dismissal. He looks, in a word, bored. Sort of incredulous. And yet at the same time, he understands Datura's thoughts, even if he can not read them, and feels that she is likely trying to blow off all this as irrelevant — at least appearance-wise — in order to make sure she continues to look confident, in-control, and powerful enough to not be pushed around.
He understands, or imagines he understands, all of this. But Datura still does not grasp the enormity of what Amuro is trying to do. And by the time she does, it will likely be too late. So it is time for some more manipulation to balance out the huge dose of truth that has been given to the youngest of the Tao Shih's core membership.
"To produce an exact replica of my own mind in every instance would be foolish. Why do you suppose that no one is born exactly the same? Even twins or triplets and so on have extremely minor variations. Even they will have different memories, and thus different personalities. This is not just random chance. This is a survival mechanism. Imagine that every single person on the planet was exactly the same genetically, physiologically… All of that. What happens if a fatal disease is transmitted to one or more people, and that disease is one which not a single human being has any inherent defense or resistance to, or any idea how to cure? I guarantee you that even if not everyone on the planet died, >most< would. Meanwhile, the variations in development, genetics, etc. that seperate people from each other in our world would provide the chance that, whereas one person might be 100% susceptible, another might be only 70% susceptible, or 50%, or even be completely immune, simply because a virus that is effective against an individual is not guaranteed to be effective against a different individual or a group."
"Similarly, a drastic climate shift could cause animals that are not prepared to deal with cold or heat to die quickly, while those who are resistant or susceptible to changing in accordance with their environment would be able to live through the shift and propogate." He looks Datura in the eye, to make sure she hasn't glazed over or spaced out. "I have taken these facts into account with my technique. I do not plan to produce identical copies of myself. By allowing there to be slight differences I can ensure that what weaknesses one body might possess, another would be free of. This also includes mental make-up, since each of these volunteers had his or her own memories that have joined together with mine. What one might fall for or be ignorant of, another will likely not be."
"But this is all just a stepping stone on the way to my — or, I suppose I should say 'our' now — real goal. I do not plan to replace everyone with copies of myself. That is, first of all, impractical. Second, most people would not agree with such a practice, and would try to stop me. Further, I am not the sort of person to try to dominate everyone around me. I have no reason to struggle with either my original self, or any other duplicates, over control. The real reason I have taken such drastic steps is this…"
He says, "My original self is very old. Over a hundred years old, infact. I have done all that I can to stay alive up to this point, and may yet live another decade or two. But the fact remains that I am dying… And I do not want to see all my work, all my dreams, and all my life's experiences lost over something as trivial as mortality. So I'm creating 'insurance' — just incase something unfortunate happens before everything is ready."
The Amuro-copy then turns away and starts to head back amongst the tables of unconscious bodies. He passes right down the middle aisle, allowing his hands held out at the sides to gently brush over what are likely to become more copies. "The job is simple:" he calls back without looking as he continues walking away. "Bring a Daimyou under your control, so that he or she can be used as a resource by the Tao Shih. Control over travel, trade, military, politics, laws, foreign policy, and information — these are the things to be gained from taking over such a prominent and powerful individual's life. And they will be ours."
It's hard to fight. In fact, it takes superhuman willpower, all of the mental strength Datura could ever want to muster, and then some more that she'd found lying on the side of the road somewhere. It takes all of it in order to NOT yawn in the Amuro-clone's face during the overly-long explanation. Good thing he was checking her for signs of weariness and boredom, because those bright blue eyes had become glassy and lifeless, with their owner crossing her arms and perching a hip against the table, staring not so much at faux-Amuro, as through him.
She snaps back to attention with an overly articulate "Huh?", pulling herself out of whatever thoughts she was currently occupying, likely involving some kind of warm bath in a very, very expensive hotel. "Wait, what? Oh. Oh, yeah. Yeah, I know. …What? I heard every word. Diseases and climate changes and stuff." And people thought that Datura was the long-winded one! She probably wouldn't have been able to stay attentive and alert through a speech like that on her best day. Unless it was on footwear, the latest fashions, or similar topics of interest to her flighty mind.
"You know, clones aren't really the answer to immortality. Those bodies aren't really you. Or him, I should say, since you're not him. But don't you worry, Other Amuro, I'm sure your original version will live for a long, long time. Or at least long enough to help me pay off some of my more troublesome bills. Which reminds me~!"
With a small hop, the young woman pushes away from the table, clapping her hands together before her as she gives, and holds, the tiniest of playful bows, closing one eye in a small wink as she smiles winningly. It was a favorite pose of hers when begging for favors. "I have a teeeeeeeeny-tiny," Which likely meant it was big, if not outrageous. "Little bill at the Emperor's Palace in Fuuma Alley. I couldn't possibly travel all the way back there in order to take care of it, not and finish the job Amuro-kun wants me to. So you'll take care of it for me, won't you? Thanks~! I think I know just how to pull off this little trick."
Considering the matter of her 'teeny-tiny' bill already settled, Datura folds an arm across her trunk, cupping her elbow as the other cups her chin with a thumb and forefinger, narrowing her eyes as she stares back in the direction of the statues, an unpleasant smile working it's way onto her features. It was the smile she typically got when she was going to inflict pain. After a moment, she snaps her eyes back to the young-looking clone. "It may take some time to get everything prepared. Of course, I'll need you to cover some… expenses."