A Chance to be Better


chess3_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title A Chance to be Better
Synopsis Yi-Min looks for players for her long game in an unwilling subject of Praxis' own long-term project.
Date August 20, 2019


Gyms usually aren’t a place that Chess Lang frequents. Her athleticism has been cultivated and honed out of doors — once because of necessity and now by choice. And too often of late she’s been kept indoors for her own safety or whatever one might call this voluntary residence at the Ziggurat. Sure, she could go outside, but the gray slab concrete beneath her feet and carbon emissions above her head don’t seem all that inviting.

Then there’s the trouble with other people. Gyms bring in strangers, and Chess doesn’t trust many of those. She doesn’t trust a lot of people she does know, for that matter. Better not to be enclosed in a room with them, even if they’re there just to get their reps in.

But this morning, when she finds the gym empty, she decides to take advantage of it, to hone not her muscles but her ability in a room that gives her the space to do so. A one-pound kettlebell in hands, she concentrates for a moment, before throwing; it travels farther and faster than it should be able to before it changes directions — and goes careening into one of the elliptical machines with a loud crack.


Unfortunately for Chess, she does not get to enjoy the luxury of having an empty gymnasium to herself for long.

Adam Monroe may have patched up Dr. Yeh's injuries, but that doesn’t cover the scrupulous physical conditioning still necessary to keep herself in an appropriate shape. In this wildly abnormal instance, being shot to death is not a valid excuse for her to grow lazy during this week or so of rest and preparation.

So it is that Yi-Min makes her unhurried entrance for the morning, a slim, trim figure in a light polyester jacket partly unzipped over form-fitting athletic wear, short hair tied into the tiniest of stubs at the nape of her neck. She is hardly the loudest person to begin with, but her quiet entrance becomes even quieter when the very first thing she perceives is the crash of one of the elliptical machines being bent into a comical wreckage.

"How much do they pay you to keep destroying valuable gym equipment, Lanhua?" floats the doctor's reproving voice over the open space between them as she takes a first step forward in that direction, deceptively mild enough that it manages to just hint at the heavy amusement piled beneath.

Chess is in the midst of making a wry grimace when she hears Yi-Min, and there’s the slightest hint of a startle before the blond woman turns that way, dark eyes that are identical to Lanhua’s narrowing a little in obvious irritation at being called her clone’s name.

“I’m not Lanhua, and I don’t think I’m being paid, but I should ask about that, now that you mention it,” she says a moment later, expression falling back into something more neutral. Not quite neutral — there’s distrust and wariness in her eyes, even as she flashes the smallest of smiles toward her new gym companion.

She heads over to where she’d sent the kettlebell crashing, making another face as she sees it’s taken out the display of the elliptical. “I wasn’t actually trying to hit those. They can take it out of my paycheck.” That one she probably doesn’t get. She picks up the kettlebell to bring back to where she’d pilfered it.

“Is Lanhua in the habit of destroying gym equipment? Can’t say I’m surprised,” Chess says, pushing back a strand of blond hair and, in doing so, revealing the lotus tattoo on her wrist that helps to differentiate her from her (more) destructive twin.

"So our last meeting went, anyway. I think it safe to assume that she is not my biggest fan." The drollness visible in Yi-Min’s expression suggests she doesn't think Lanhua is, in fact, a big fan of a fair number of people, even as she spends a good moment taking closer stock of the features that now more openly distinguish Chess from Lanhua.

Yi-Min appears as though she has the fleeting temptation to say something more biting about Lanhua, but a more subdued pall passes over her face instead— mellow enough to denote some shade of sympathy. But the exhalation that exits her nose still sounds wry, and she shakes her head as she observes Chess's path to return the kettlebell.

"My apologies. It is obvious now that you are not her. You may share a maker, but Lanhua was not unfortunate enough to be burdened with a sense of humor."

Without sound or ceremony, Yi-Min half-turns to unsling the duffel bag riding on one of her shoulders, her goal to angle it into a familiar and out-of-the-way alcove. She had not planned on invading the other woman’s personal space, and she still has no plans to, but she is after all still here for her own workout. "You are one of the others, then. Francesca." Formerly Yingsu. By a straightforward process of elimination.

As if to give credence to Yi-min’s assertions that she has a sense of humor, Chess huffs a little laugh and lifts her shoulders in a shrug. “She’s definitely not my biggest fan either, so we have that in common,” the blond woman states.

But at the use of her name, her smile falters a little. Her eyes flit to the door and one hand finds the pocket of her leather jacket — not quite workout wear, but it pairs well with the jeans and boots that also make it clear she wasn’t here to use the treadmill or rowing machine.

“Chess,” is a terse correction.

Perhaps it feels too terse, even for Chess, so she elaborates after a small pause. “Only my bigoted adoptive mother called me Francesca. And I haven’t seen her since 2011.” She nods to Yi-Min. “Should I know who you are? I haven’t really gotten the lay of the land or read the company who’s who yet.”

"Chess," Yi-Min accepts, correcting herself in turn.

"No, you do not know me. But perhaps you would know of me. I'm Yi-Min." Dr. Yeh, though this formal address isn't the one she offers. "You were absent during the years that I worked with your sisters under Dr. Wu." That absence apparently isn't something she feels a need to comment on further, or emphasize: her matter-of-factness speaks of a certain distance that Yi-Min is happy to maintain from it.

As Yi-Min straightens to face Chess again, the end of the bag poking out by her feet until this is corrected with a nudge of her foot, she can't help but gain a truly quizzical expression. "If you are not being paid, why are you here?" There must be quite a good reason indeed given that Chess has not been "here" in around twenty years or so.

Years of working with her sisters. Chess doesn’t have much of a poker face, and her brows knit together at that revelation. Everyone in Praxia doesn’t know of every aspect of the corporation of course, but the fact Yi-Min is at least aware of who her sisters are — aside from the obvious Lanhua — makes her already-wary expression grow all the warier.

“Oh, I don’t know. Internship?” she says, in an attempt at levity meant to hide the deeper, truer answers that she can’t really talk about with anyone outside the short list Adam gave her.

“I really should look into getting a paycheck, now I know the others do. What sort of work did you do with my sisters?” Chess moves to the spot she’s left her own bag — not a gym bag but a worn, cross-chess courier bag that’s seen a lot of travel. She crouches down to get a Hydro Flask from it, uncapping the bottle to take a long drink, all the while keeping her eyes on Yi-Min.

"The work that made them all what they are today." It's an explanation that is as honest as it is clipped, with the appropriate implications for each and every one of those sisters— including, for a good portion of them, being dead.

"Must be one hell of an unpaid internship, no?" is an obvious rhetorical question, in addition to being very, very dry. But the seemingly-faraway intensity with which Yi-Min returns Chess's wariness speaks to something untold that she is feeling, and most of the wryness is gone by the next time she speaks.

When she does, the words are quieter, and interlaced with a strange kind of disquiet that seems projected past Chess into some unspecified part of their shared environment rather than directly at her. "You are brave to have returned here."

There’s another flash of anger from Chess’ eyes at the first answer, however honest, and the younger woman takes a few extra seconds to cap her Hydro and straighten out of that crouch.

“I think they save the paid internships for the clone assassins. Me, I’m just a kid from Denver,” she answers, dry for dry, wry for wry. The next words, softer, less ironic, earn Yi-Min another guarded look with narrowed eyes.

“Probably more stupid than brave,” she says at last. “And I was never ‘here.’ I was rescued when I was still in China. Most of my other sisters weren’t so lucky.”

She juts her chin in Yi-Min’s directions. “So what do you do now, that they’re grown and badass all on their own?”

"By here, I simply meant Praxis as a more general entity. I know about your sisters. And I am sorry."

Not that forgiveness is a topic that is expected or wanted by Yi-Min, and certainly not in the span of this quick, brusque conversation with a stranger. But it is the delivery of another fact. "My business these days is similar. Not clones, but I perform research for Praxis in areas that they would probably prefer to keep quiet."

There is a sigh from Yi-Min, a very small one, through her nose. She still refrains from moving, though the time on that temporary delay appears to be nearing a close. "Listen. I know you do not trust me, and you are probably wise not to. But be… careful. You do not look to be held here against your will, and so there is only one possible reason I can imagine that you would be here. All the braveness in the world may not save you from the one who called you here."

Much less stupidity.

There’s a flicker of something across Chess’ face when the word clones is used. Clearly she doesn’t like that word, not in such close context with it being about her. Even in the abstract.

But the admission Yi-Min works for Praxis followed by the warning draws another narrow-eyed look from the guarded woman. This one is more curious than angry.

“Are they forcing you to do it?” she asks, bluntly. “Blackmail?” She pauses. “Worse?”

Chess’ gaze flickers to the door and back, and she lifts her bag to her shoulder, fingers curling around the strap like one might hold it to guard against purse thieves and pickpockets. Like one who’s used to carrying all of her worldly possessions in that bag might do.

“Don’t worry. I haven’t drinken the Kool-Aid. Just trying to protect other people if I can,” she tells Yi-Min, studying the other woman’s face for tells of motives and intentions.

A look strangely reminiscent of pain flashes across Yi-Min's own face when Chess mentions her desire to protect others. It’s a subtle thing. A ghost of a ghost. Yet it also leads her to smile, just as imperceptibly, and it colors the expression that stays on her face afterwards.

"Worse, perhaps only for me. Playing the long game, so I believe the wording in English goes." Yi-Min's gaze does not follow Chess's to the door, but a serenity born of swift awareness glitters like an icefall in the way she returns her attention to her accoutrements. She unzips her polyester jacket the rest of the way down and then unworks the jacket from herself, revealing her bare shoulders as she slips it off.

The smile grows; a little bit less of a ghost now, if only just.

"In time we shall all get what is coming to us, no? It is a fact of the universe. I am not exempt, of course. And… well." Dot, dot. What a beautiful spiritual mystery.

The words and their implications, riddlelike as they may be, make Chess narrow her eyes a little more, her head tipping slightly as she regards Yi-Min quietly. Appraisingly. She glances around the corners of the gym, before looking back to the other woman.

“Despite my name, I’m not much of a game player,” Chess says with a wry smile. She’s well aware of the ironies there. “I never had the patience for long games or even Monopoly. But if that’s what you’re playing, be careful. I don’t trust anything I say anywhere in here not to be heard. But…”

She lifts her shoulder . “I’m a fan of karma. I don’t expect a lot coming to me that’s any good, but I can maybe help balance the scales for those who are worse, in time. For now…” she lifts her shoulder again. “We’ll see.”

"Join me for a drink. Tonight." It's phrased as an innocent suggestion, but Yi-Min's eyes are bright in a particular way that makes it seem more of an instruction.

Maybe Chess had good things coming her way in the distant future. Maybe not. At least on a more practicable timescale, there was always the dependable comfort of alcohol.

"Outside Yíheyuan.” One of the larger restaurants inside their radius— not in the Ziggurat, but out in the rising spires of Oakland’s new Chinatown. “You know where this is? Perhaps also, while we are there, you can teach me this graceful, amazing technique you have demonstrated." Even as Yi-Min says this, she casually slides the elliptical machine Chess had wrecked at the beginning of their encounter into the center of her vision, tone lightened by a levity of the daintiest sort.

The request-slash-directive earns Yi-Min a curious look, Chess’ head canting a little as she tries to appraise the motives behind it.

“I don’t but I can find it, I guess,” she says, with a lift of her shoulder. She glances at the elliptical and huffs a short breath of a laugh. “Oh, that’s easy. Aim for one thing and miss entirely. At least it wasn’t set to explode.”

Yes, that’s an option.

“All right. Nine?” she asks, even as she makes her way for the door.

Oakland - Waterfront
8:57 pm

Nine it was.

As far as Chinatown sights go, Yiheyuan, the Summer Palace, is not difficult to find. The restaurant rises head and shoulders above various other buildings like a crown jewel on a restored crown— a superimposition of new onto old, paying deference to the old.

There is a reason Yi-Min had specified meeting outside, however, grand as the edifice was. Just as there was a simple reason why she had wanted to meet outside the entire Ziggurat in the first place.

Here, out in this brand-new Safe Zone that spreads out from Praxia's feet, there are far fewer cameras.

Yiheyuan boasted a spreading waterfront view, and Yi-Min stands gazing out at the dark outlines of Praxia's architecture across the quiet strip of water, and the pyramid looming above all of that. This is a wait that she does not seem to mind: it was a beautiful sight, and a more beautiful night, all things considered. Cool evening air flutters across her like the touch of an invisible bird as she lounges.

Never mind the rottenness at the heart of it all.

The arrival of Chess is a quiet thing. Outside the seeming safety of the Ziggurat, she’s aware she’s wanted for crimes she didn’t commit. Her longer blond hair helps to distinguish her from Lanhua, but there are other tricks — ways to embellish the Caucasian side of her features. Colored contacts, tricks of makeup, colors that make her look a bit more pale, and she doesn’t really resemble the destructive woman in the gym of just a few hours before.

“Hey,” she says quietly. “Nice night.”

It’s not not suspicious to lug around an old courier bag as she usually does, so today she’s found from one of the shops a big slouchy bag that’s much more fashionable, along with a wine colored blazer, new jeans, new tennis shoes — nothing that resembles what Lanhua wears. Nothing that looks like someone on the run might wear. All on the card Adam gave her for poking around the Ziggurat.

“It’s nice to get out,” Chess adds, nodding to the gray pyramid across the way.

"It really is." Though reiterated softly, Yi-Min's agreement couldn’t sound more frank if she tried. Her eyes sweep Chess up and down to take stock of the details of that changed appearance.

Yi-Min seems a little different too, and it isn't just because she's also in a radically different outfit from the morning— athletic things exchanged for a gaily colored, jauntily-cut asymmetrical skirt and high-necked blouse. It is subtler than that, in that the very way she carries itself feels changed. Her manner is still so tranquil as to border on imperturbable, but at the same time, she seems also much more approachable than before. It's as though being out from the oppressive atmosphere of the Ziggurat is all it had taken to loosen her reserve.

"I am glad you came. Here, we can speak a little bit more freely. Would you like some rum?" Even as she says this and proffers a glittering little glass bottle for Chess to take, she is already using her other hand to re-open a similar one she had been carrying. Judging by the crystalline cut of the bottles, these are some of the pricy shit. Dr. Yeh had never been one to skimp on an advantage like this, when it presented itself.

One of the perks of being a Praxis employee, in the heart of Praxis's empire.

Beware of Trojans bearing gifts is not a phrase that Chess knows, but it seems it’s an axiom she lives by, given the narrow-eyed look she gives the little glass gift she’s presented with. She turns it in her hand, lifting a brow at Yi-Min.

“Is there a Bev-Mo nearby? I must have missed it, coming in,” she says wryly.

“I’ve had probably my weight twice over in sake,” she admits, fingers turning the cap to break the seal. “Not that I can’t get different drinks at one of the bars in the Ziggurat. When in Rome, though.”

Chess looks out across the water as she lifts the bottle to her nose, smelling it — for poison or to be sure it is, in fact, rum, it’s hard to tell. Not that she would be able to tell if it was poison; such is not her skillset. She takes a sip before turning to look at Yi-Min. “So what is it you wanted to talk — freely — about?” The tone isn’t sharp, but blunt and guarded.

It's definitely rum. With a lacing of honey and chocolate mint atop the well-aged medicinal tang, if Chess has a nose for such things.


That's hardly less blunt. In the meantime Yi-Min is already taking a long sip straight from the brim of her bottle, her own gaze already returned shrewdly to the sea, a murmur of a salt-breeze blowing the folds of her skirt in that direction as well. She seems just as unconcerned about whether Chess actually drinks her offering as about whether she receives any kind of useful answer, particularly in a prompt time frame. As though to acknowledge the doubt natural to such a situation in a more visual way, she shrugs one slender shoulder. "Or me, if you'd like. Either or. But as for you, as I was saying before, I think I have a strong idea of who called you here. What I would like to know is why."

Chess’ brows draw together, and she too looks to the water. The thought that it’s a completely different ocean than the one back ‘home’ seems somehow a profound and heartbreaking revelation. Long strands of honey-blond hair catch on the wind, and she shoves them back impatiently, before turning back to look at Yi-Min through those blue-lensed eyes.

She lifts a brow at the older woman’s blunt query, then shakes her head. “I wasn’t called here by anyone. I came of my own accord.” This is sad adamantly (so to speak) — as if more to convince herself than Yi-Min, maybe.

“If you know what my sisters and I are, why we were created, then you probably know more than I do,” Chess adds, a little more gently, before she caps the little bottle of rum once more. “There are things I can’t talk about, and not because I’ve drunk the Kool-Aid and not because I’m afraid of retaliation from Praxis.”

"Would it surprise you to know that I do not? I know only the pretense that the program was given, at least in the later years, but the beginnings were always shrouded in secrecy. For that matter, I must wonder if Adam himself knows for certain. What he may have told you and what may actually be the case might be… two different things, given that you all were created before he and Praxis entered the scene." Yi-Min stays facing the direction of the dully gleaming waters, and Praxia beyond, but her own brow furrows very slightly.

"If you really came of your own accord, like you say." Such foolish bravery. Chess had not been lying. Yi-Min shuts her eyes with a creeping touch of solemnity, a buildup to a sigh that ultimately goes unexpressed. "I only wonder if you are aware just how deep of a web you may have been drawn into."

“Why did they tell you we were made?” Chess says, with a jut of her chin in Yi-Min’s direction. “What possible reason could they have given you about making human clone babies could have made you sign on to that project and said, ’Yeah, this is a good place to work. I hope they have a 401k?’”

Apparently, out here where there are no cameras to capture covert conversations, her emotions are a little less reined in as well.

She looks like she might apologize for a moment. “Do you know there are seven of us alive? Out of twenty-seven. Our mortality rate’s not great. And I know he wasn’t a knowing part of the program,” Chess says, crossing her arms and studying the other woman intently. “I’m sure there are things Praxis isn’t aware of, despite its… omniscience.”

She leans back, looking back to the gray pyramid across the water. “Like I said, there are things I can’t say. If anything I’ve been told is true… it’s not out of blind allegiance, though. I promise you that.”

It's an articulation of emotion, of openness, that Yi-Min does not seem offended by. On the contrary, in the way she accepts it without word, it seems almost as though she welcomes it.

She knows too well that only seven of them remain.

"We were told only that we were taking over the work from Yamagato, who were experimenting with synthetic SLC-Expressives for scientific purposes. That Praxis took it on for applications related to the Chinese military." When they reopen, Yi-Min's eyes are dark and clear and intensely calm. There is also a sort of wryness in them now, there on top of the older layer of ruefulness.

"No, that isn't any better. Trust me, I am quite aware. In fact that is the moment when I started — planning, in my head. Sure, I could have quit. But what good would that have done? The program would have continued on with or without me, and I would have removed myself from my one position of advantage." 401k plan be damned.

Chess listens, defensive gaze dropping groundward at Yi-Min’s last comments. “Fair enough,” she says quietly. “I can’t be sure I’m not being used in some way either, I guess.” Of course, she knew that chance going in, and took it anyway. Calculated risks that she can’t be sure will pay off in any way.

Her eyes lift to meet Yi-Min’s again. “There’s more to the story, but as much as I don’t trust Adam Monroe, I believe him in the need to classify this information,” she says quietly. Honestly.

“If I could share it, I would have already with the handful of people I trust more than I trust anyone in this…” she gestures to the area around them, pausing to encapsulate the area in words. She finally lands on “entire half of the country,” with a short huff that’s a facsimile of a laugh.

“And then maybe I’d tell you, too.” Chess’ lips twitch into a small smirk.

"Oh, you are most certainly being used. Have little doubt about that. The tradeoff is, I suppose, if you feel that whatever that brings about is worth it."

The news that Chess hasn't even told those closest to her gives Yi-Min a degree of pause, even as she takes another measured swig from her rum. She gives her head the tiniest of shakes afterwards as she recaps the bottle again, as though to drive home the point that she still isn't fazed by, much less bothered by, Chess's reticence. Smirk, meet just a shred of a dry, gentle smile. "It is well. In the grander scheme, my curiosity is not really important. I just want to be sure you aren't lacking in… certain contexts."

Draping her forearms over the metal railing that divides them from the length of the shoreline proper, Yi-Min leans into it, foot crossing and resting against the opposite ankle. Her gaze is still placid as it inclines away from the surface of the water, coming to rest again on the face of the younger woman. "How long have you resided here? I must wonder how much knowledge you have of the security breach that took place a few months ago.”

“Just a couple of weeks,” says Chess, vaguely to the last question.

It might seem she’s waiting for Yi-Min to continue the conversation, ignoring the implied question. She reaches up to push another errant strand of blond hair out of her eyes, flashing again that tattoo that helps to differentiate herself from her identical sisters. One far away by land, the other much farther in spirit or whatever one might call it.

The tattoo on her inner wrist, a lotus flower, a nod to her Chinese name, along with the words i belong deeply to myself.

“I know about the hack,” Chess says finally. “Not from anyone here. I know what they did and I know how they did it and I know that my sisters have died at their hands. You don’t have to convince me Praxis is evil, if that’s what you’re trying to do, Dr. Yeh. I’m convinced.” She lifts a shoulder, as if to say, ‘so what now?’

The smile on Yi-Min's expression turns a shade sunnier, even as the already small line of it shortens further in a soft flux of introspection. Her gaze falls onto the spread of the tattoo, studying it in greater fullness now that she has a better opportunity to.

What she says aloud to it is, "So. Are they forcing you to do it? Blackmail, worse?" It's an incredibly blatant repeat of what Chess had asked her earlier, if at once more delicately and more wryly spoken. Chess might be unwilling to talk of the matter directly, and that was all well and fine, but Yi-Min sees no harm in exploring around the outskirts of it to see just how much she could.

To the tacit question of ‘what now,’ she also just shrugs. Lazily, elegantly— an abbreviated lift and fall of a flowing line. "If your resolve is set thus, I think there is little else I can do for you in this save pray you have made the right decision. This night is young, and I intend to enjoy this bottle of rum." She might suggest that Chess does too, and that’s just as tacit.

After all, unlike the case with most of Chess’s sisters, Yi-Min had never been her keeper.

“No one’s forcing me to do anything,” Chess says flatly. As Yi-Min looks merrier, Chess looks more sullen, and probably more like Lanhua despite her attempts to distinguish herself from what she has dubbed her ‘evil twin.’

“I can’t promise I haven’t been lied to and manipulated, but the offer was made, and I took it, to come find out answers. To meet Joy. To try to make a difference.”

Chess toys with the bottle, fiddling with it in her hand — charging and uncharging it though that’s unnoticeable.

“I haven’t drinken the Kool-Aid and I don’t plan to be like Lanhua. Or the teenager.” Squeaks. “But thanks for your ‘thoughts and prayer,’ Dr. Yeh. I hope your long game plan works out for you.” She doesn’t intend to sit and drink with the other woman, but the rum is pocketed again as Chess turns to go.

Whatever limited sentiment Chess had interpreted in Yi-Min as merriment is already receding, pooling back beneath the surface of her more ordinary mirror-like composure without so much as breaking a ripple. What remains lingers on in the tracing of thoughtfulness she adopts, like an afterglow.

There it was again. Answers. What was it about wanting answers that turned girls into fools?

"I don't know how much longer the game will last," she says truthfully. Carefully, despite how casual she is being otherwise. It's an answer of her own, in some form, even as she recognizes Chess’s imminent departure. "Once it is up… you may not want to be in the same room as your answers, still."

That would apply to both her and her sisters, one might assume. The side note of rather elusive forlornness in Yi-Min’s gaze, already turning away from Chess back towards the stillness of the water, alludes to this without confirming it outright.

Chess stops mid-step. Her back turned, she takes a breath. Fingers tighten their curl around the glass bottle within them, and she turns back to look at Yi-Min with one brow lifted.

“Threats dressed like warnings don’t play well with me, Dr. Yeh,” she says, voice unnaturally even, though there’s a flare of anger in her eyes that probably makes her a little more similar in expression to Lanhua, despite the blue contact lenses hiding the dark irises.

“You trust me enough to keep that from him?” she asks, the him no doubt unnecessary to clarify. “And if I don’t get out of the way quick enough… what? Me, my sisters… we’re fucking expendable?”

Chess jerks her head to toss her hair back when it creeps into her face, courtesy of the Pacific wind. “Like the others?” Those words, sharp, are meant to cut.

Her eyes narrow. “Are you fucking vetting me for him? All of this? That makes more sense than giving away your cards now. You wouldn’t risk telling me otherwise. Did I pass the test?”

"Why, I don't know. Are you?" Though this reply to the expendability question is said just as softly as before, it feels as though it is thrown back. Without losing the flitting sense of forlornness, Yi-Min's eyes take on a smoother and more piercing quality, even still faced away from Chess. "Trust that he entertains patience for you so long as you are helping him to further his goals." The ex-Vanguard operative cannot pretend to have sight of all the pieces on the board, not by half, but those that are available to her judgment can be arranged into a clear enough picture.

The implication of the inverse is obvious enough that Yi-Min figures it does not need to be spoken aloud.

And then she shakes her head. Whether that's a form of late response to Chess's intent to cut her with those words, she does not say. She seems amused at the same time as very faintly bitter, all under that unchanging cloak of calmness.

"It may well be that telling you these things today was a mistake. No, I suppose I cannot prove I am not part of some twisted, paranoid test. Yet call me a fool, but I felt that you deserved to know for a few different reasons. Regardless of the consequences that might follow." Here she aims an offhanded nod towards the bottle of rum being clutched tightly in Chess's hand, followed by a milder snort— of appreciation?

"One of which at least I am fairly certain. When you have been in my position as long as I have, you end up with some… sense for reading people. I do not think you will tell him any of this. You are not Lanhua, much as you look," and occasionally act, "like her. Tell me if I am wrong."

Chess listens, though her defensives are up, almost visibly — narrowed eyes, that fight-or-flight tension in her body. The way it seems she might hurl that glass bottle at the wrong syllable on Yi-Min’s part.

She is not Lanhua.

She lifts a shoulder. “We’ll see. If I don’t…” she glances across the water to the Ziggurat, then back, “I’d appreciate at least some sort of warning if I’m in danger just by being present. For now, as much as I don’t trust him, I do believe him that survival is his priority — and not just his own. I guess I’ll see what happens after that.”

There’s too many ‘Chess doesn’t like it. She pulls out her cell phone, peeling off the cover to pull a plain card tucked inside. There’s nothing but a number.

“Text me or something if I should get the fuck out,” she suggests. “If you actually care.”

"You know. When the time comes, you are more than welcome to join in." This Yi-Min says with an immaculate but meaningful arch of her brow. It seems like this may have been a well-entrenched thought versus one that had only just occurred, judging by the calm energy of her posture and the way it hones in a little further yet on that bottle Chess seems on the verge of throwing.

Y'know. If Chess maybe felt like helping to dismantle the machine, both literal and in a larger sense, responsible for the creation and blood and suffering of her and her sisters and preventing such atrocities from ever taking place again.

But only if you feel like it, that gaze underlines, quiet and innocently vibrant. They all had busy schedules.

"Otherwise," she extends out one slim hand for the number.

"I will get a message to you. It probably would not be from me directly, but, ample warning you shall have." That's a promise, as much as she had ever made one.

Chess stands still, hand extended with the card. Her brows draw together as she listens to Yi-Min’s offer in exchange. When Yi-Min’s fingers make purchase, her hand drops, then lifts to tuck her hair behind her ear once again.

“We’ll see. There might not be anything left anyway,” she says, one shoulder lifting as she clicks her phone case back around the device. “I appreciate the warning. My sisters,” those words are tentative — but for Alix, they have been her enemies until recently — “deserve a chance to be better. I’d like them to have that chance And there’s other innocent people here.”

The request for warning is more for them than her, it seems.

“Use the name Dworkin so I know it’s you,” she says over her shoulder.

Dworkin, indeed. Yi-Min breathes out faintly through her nose when she hears the name, even as she takes the small card and tucks it safely into her possession. "Zhu ni cheng gong," she cannot help but murmur under her breath in Chess’s direction, long after the window of opportunity for being heard has already closed.

A chance to be better might be the best any of them could hope for.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License