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Scene Title Apoptosis
Synopsis Apoptosis (from Ancient Greek ἀπόπτωσις, apóptōsis, "falling off") is a form of programmed cell death that occurs in multicellular organisms.
Date February 10, 2020

A silk tie is draped over the back of an antique chair.

“She’s gone home.”

Italian leather shoes tread softly across a century old Persian rug drawing together the antiquities on display in a sprawling dressing room. “Where home is my definition of it to her.” Rolling one shoulder and then the other, an immaculately tailored suit jacket of rich, patterned black is shed like snake skin and draped over a folding screen depicting a three-legged bird standing silhouette against the sun with its wings spread.

“She can interpret that however she’d like.” Dark, calloused fingers work at the buttons of a patterned silk vest that matches the suit jacket and accents the tie. Once it’s unbuttoned, it joins the jacket draped over the screen. Partitioned by that screen-printed display, he continues to undress as little more than a muscular silhouette. “We don’t need to do anything else. That is, in essence, the nature of faith. We believe things will work out.”

A button-down shirt is added to the clothes draped over the screen, and Lanhua Chen looks down to the floor rather than watch that dark silhouette move behind the screen. “Now, unless you have any other questions…” a garb of midnight blue and black fabric is pulled off of a hook and disappears behind the screen. The heavy fabric rustles loudly as it is draped over bare shoulders, as wide sleeves are filled with muscular arms.

Baruti Naidu emerges from behind the screen, tying a cloth sash around the waist of that dark, hooded robe.

“I have business to tend to.”

Three Days Later

Praxis Ziggurat
Praxia, California Safe Zone

February 10th
7:03 pm Local Time

“Actually, I’m not going to be here.”

Claudius Kellar is in the process of packing paper documents into a briefcase, the dim lights of the California Safe Zone visible out the partly-closed blinds of the Ziggurat’s blast screen at his back. “I’m leaving for a business trip to Hong Kong tomorrow morning. Yao wants me with her while we go over the financial— ”

Bullshit.” Lanhua says through her teeth, making the floor vibrate as she does. Kellar looks up, not out of surprise or shock but with the stern and paternal gaze of a reproachful father. Lanhua’s expression immediately softens as she stares into those yellow eyes, taking a half-step back from his desk while murmuring, “sorry.”

“You’re not wrong,” Kellar admits as he looks back down to his desk, rifling through paperwork. “But there is business to do and it’s probably better it be done as far away from here as possible, given how things are escalating.” He glances back up to Lanhua. “Bubblegum Pop delivered the bioweapon while you were playing in the sandbox.” His brows kick up, and then he goes back to filling his briefcase.

Lanhua runs a hand through her hair, pacing around the front of Kellar’s office. “What the fuck am I supposed to do? Adam already suspects me,” she says as she lowers her voice. “I didn’t think I’d have to come back here after we killed Zhao.” Kellar slams a hand flat on his desk so hard that Lanhua jumps back with a startle, eyes wide.

“You aren’t supposed to think,” Kellar says with barely restrained anger, slamming his briefcase shut. “You’re supposed to do as you’re told, and you know what the fuck that is.” He angrily snaps the locks shut, then takes the briefcase with him as he starts to circle around his desk. He doesn’t leave, though, but comes to stop next to Lanhua with a stern look.

“You know what you have to do,” Kellar says in a low, conspiratorial tone. “You follow the pattern like you’re fucking knitting.” He relaxes, letting that angry countenance drain away from his expression in a manic shift to smiling and polite. “Otherwise, there won’t be anyone to save you when that clock runs out.” He looks Lanhua up and down and then steps around her.

Lanhua, frozen for a moment, whips around and stares wide-eyed at Kellar’s back. “Please,” she yelps, “don’t— I’ll— I’m following orders. I just don’t want to be alone.” Her voice cracks at the end. Kellar pauses by the door to his office, hand on the doorknob.

“Well, you aren’t.” Kellar says with a cheerful smile, looking over his shoulder to Lanhua. “You’ve got your sisters.” That hurts her more than anything, and as he leaves her behind in the office, Lanhua takes several steps back and sits on the corner of his desk. When the door shuts, her shoulders curl forward and her head dips down, hands coming to rest over her face as she

Twelve Days Earlier

Reflections Nightclub
Praxis Ziggurat
Praxia, California Safe Zone

January 29th
9:23 pm Local Time

cries uncontrollably, hunched over the bathroom sink.

The small mercy in this entire situation is that there is only one stall and the bathroom door locks. The music outside is loud enough to hopefully drown out the choking sobs coming from the bathroom. Lanhua can barely hold herself up as she braces against the sink, legs partly bend and hands gripping the porcelain. Her long hair hands in her face, tangled in strands of mucus from her nose. Her shoulders heave with each shuddering cry, followed by a scream as she winds up and smashes her fist into the mirror. Then again, and again.

Broken shards of glass come clattering down into the sink, some embedded in the knuckles of her right hand, blood rolling down between her fingers. Lanhua exhales a shuddering sob, slouching backwards against the tile wall. She looks at her reflection in the mirror, fractured into so many pieces, and swallows awkwardly. Her sobbing stops and she leans away from the wall and approaches the mirror.

Leaning toward the glass, Lanhua pulls down her right eyelid, and a well of blood fills the space and rolls down her cheek. She chokes back a scream, blood continuing to blossom up at the underside of her eye. Her right pupil dilates more than the left and her vision blurs. Trembling, she frantically reaches for her jacket pocket and retrieves a slim metal case. Inside, a trio of syringes are all the remains of five. She jams the syringe into her thigh, depressing the plunger with her thumb.

Lanhua gasps, chokes back another sob, and looks into the mirror, then down at her hand. Glass shards slowly force themselves out from cut flesh, wounds seal shut, and her pupils return to proper dilation. She exhales a shuddering, trembling gasp and hastily throws the needle in the trash.

Fuck,” Lanhua whispers to herself.


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