As Clear As Smoke


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Scene Title As Clear As Smoke
Synopsis Ling Chao is brought before Liu Ye to be tested.
Date July 31, 2009

Golden Luck Dragon Restaurant, Red Cellar

Business in Chinatown is never as simple as it seems on the surface. A thin polish of polite courtesy that covers social interactions between the residents of Chinatown and the Triad both hides and polishes a cracked surface of fear and distrust. A decade ago things were different, a decade ago the Triad's hold on Chinatown was absolute, but in an age where men fly and cities crumble to dust in one night, the world of organized crime is changing.

The era of the crime family is dying, the era of a father and son criminal organization is an outmoded business model that is being hedged away by corporate criminals like Daniel Linderman. White collar crime, it is said, is the wave of a dark future. When Frankie Civella was put in jail, effectively destroying the last Mafia connection in New York City, many critics said that it wouldn't be long before the dynasty of the Ye family collapses under the weight of the future crushing the shaky foundations of the past.

The only thing that would save them, is innovation.

Below the streets of Chinatown, innovation thrives in the form of sadism and indulgence. A secret, private place constructed by the Ye siblings over the remains of a once private place of contemplation and criminal organization instituted by their father. The Red Cellar is a place of debauchery and sin, masked by dull lighting and throbbing music that pulses through the walls, carrying with it the masked sounds of wealthy businessmen and influential city officials behind veiled doors with any number of vices on hand.

When Ling Chao agreed to spy on the Flying Dragons Triad, she had no idea that innovation would be where the position is directing her. In the night hours, well past curfew, the subterranean halls of the Red Cellar call out for flesh and ecstacy, and it is in this profane place that Liu Ye has called for a woman that is only an assistant to a doctor in Chinatown. Perhaps both Liu and Ling know that appearances can be both deceiving, and flattering.

Just beyond the stone stairwell that winds into the den of sin, Liu Ye stands alone in a crisp midnight blue suit, a white undershirt unbuttoned with the collar raised, hands folded behind his back. A pair of small fountains burble and gurgle down over rounded stones on either side of him, dark eyes focused on the stairwell and the invited guest that was requested in this place.

Pretenses, masks and illusions exist here, even if Liu Ye seems to be suggesting that they are dropped. At least, Ling Chao has to figure, the invitation didn't come with a bullet.

It's a good a start as any.

The moment for any sort of hesitation had long since past for Ling, and despite that there was still an uncharacteristic misstep as she took her final step off of the stairwell. She eyes were darting around, despite how well she tried not to, to stay focused. The sounds of lust rang out around her, mixed with the sounds of any other number of sins, and it took so much of her energy to shut out the bothersome distractions. Really, though, what worried her most was the fact that Song Ye was nowhere to be found. From the way Kain had talked about her, and the rumours she had heard since she started working with Bao-Wei and spending time more regularly in Chinatown were less than comforting.

Another curiosity was how, already, Liu knew well enough of her presence, and her position, to invite her down here this evening. Perhaps Bao-Wei had passed off her name for something. Perhaps she had been careless that night she went back to see Kain at Rapture - that would be her luck, the one time in recent memory that she was too elated to be careful, it would come back to bite her.

Still, her moment of hesitation passed. She had a job to do, and an appointment she had no hopes of backing out of alive standing before her. She would stick to her own advice, as she always did. Remaining silent, she began her approach towards the waiting man, eyes occasionally looking to side as she moved cautiously and deliberately.

Dark brows rise slowly, and Liu takes a few steps towards Ling. As he does, the fountains stop burbling, as if he were the source of their unstilled water. The sleekly dressed man moves only a few paces as he adds, "You and I have a great many things to talk about, Miss Chao. Your life has become exceptionally valuable to me over the last few days." Reaching into his jacket, Liu produces something luminous pinched between his fingers, tossing it in a slow arc through the air.

"Catch," he emphasizes as a glowing blue vial twirls end over end towards Ling.

If Ling had wanted to muse to herself over what exactly Liu Ye had meant by that comment, and exactly what it meant for her - and she knew it was nothing good - she didn't have to time to think about it before something strange and blue took to the air from the Flying Dragon's hand. In any other situation, Ling's first reaction probably would have been to revert into the ethereal mist form she kept so well hidden, but she had a feel exactly where that would get her if she were to play such a card now, and it's not somewhere she was willing to put herself at the moment.

The blue vial spins in the air, rotating several times before it finally reaches Ling, the businesswoman just able to catch it. It fumbles a bit, but she's able to keep hold on it, silently exhaling in relief. If she hadn't been able to stick that catch… well, she figured she'd be joining the bight blue liquid, splattered on the floor.

Tightening her grip on it for a moment, she holds it up, examining the blue vial herself. It's blue glow fills her vision, luminescent in a way she'd never seen such an otherwise plain looking liquid be before. It was mesmerizing, in a way. She lowers it from her face, looking back with focus on Liu, an eyebrow raised. She continues to remain silent, instead letting her facial expression speak for her. It was clear Liu had no interest in pleasantries, and it was best to wait until she had something appropriate to say to speak.

"When you signed up for employment at the Cong Clinic," Liu states simply, waving one hand for Ling to follow him as he turns and starts to walk, "there was a mandatory drug test that you participated in. I apologize to inform you that I had no concern over your indulgence in narcotics, but it was a necessary ruse." A glance is afforded to her over his hsoulder, no explanation of the vial she holds yet.

"Your blood test was used to identify the Suresh Linkage Complex in your cells. It is a process I use on all employees of my organization," somehow indirectly implying that by working for Bao-Wei, she works for him. "I have been performing these screenings for months since my father's demise, utilizing test kits from the New York Police Department," there's a pause in Liu's stride under an arch hung with red velvet cloth. He turns, looking back over his shoulder to Ling.

"You tested positive." Both dark brows rise slowly, "what this means for you is a world of opportunity. I have no way of knowing if you were aware of your status as an Evolved before you applied for work at Doctor Cong's office. It doesn't, ultimately, matter." His dark eyes settle on Ling's, arms folding across his chest.

"I would like to make you an offer to join the Flying Dragons." The name is like speaking of a local sports team. The Flying Dragon, New York Triad, the last criminal family in the city. "Your skills, whatever they may be, are the future, Miss Chao. Myself and my sister possess these exquisite abilities, and we have long strived to create a gathering of like-minded people who possess such abilities…" A smile finds Liu's lips, unconsciously.

"You can follow me past this curtain, and find out what the world has to offer someone like you…" His head inclines towards the vial in her hands, "or you can inject yourself with what's in that blue vial. Either way, you will wind up being useful to me."

It was somewhat surprising how straightforward Liu Ye was. It was something Ling honestly appreciated. Despite all the rumours and hearsay, it seemed that Liu did, in fact, conduct himself like a businessman. It did wonders to make her feel that much more comfortable, that much more at home. She ran the blue vial between her fingers, gaze centered squarely on Liu. She hadn't thought that the blood test could, or would, be used for such a purchase, and once again she felt foolish for having not properly covered her basis.

None of that mattered, though. What reallymattered was that Liu knew where she stood on the evolutionary chain. Anyone else likely would have stood at a sort of moral impass, but Ling knew that there was only one real decision for her. She had been hired to do this, afterall, and she had already come this far. There was no sense in backing out now.

Besides, Liu had spoken that golden word that she always loved to hear.

Holding the vial back up, she looked into it's blue reaches for a moment longer, before taking a step forward with the container held out. "I'm afraid I have no particular interest in placing something like this in my body at this point in time, Mr. Ye," she replies, taking another step over, adding a distinct, purposeful swagger to her movements. "The other half of your offer, however, is… intriguing, to say the least." She slips the vial into her other hand, a moment of quick contemplation crossing over her mind as she steps forward again.

Plucking the vial from her, Liu affords Ling with a predatory smile, pulling the curtain back to reveal a dark meeting room with a long, black table bearing an emblazoned logo of the Flying Dragons; a serpentine red dragon surrounded by a crimson ring. He leaves the curtain open long enough for her to step in, then follows in behind her. The sconced lighting in the walls shine upwards towards the matte black ceiling, giving a warm golden illumination to the meeting room.

As Liu walks in, a curtained doorway on the other side parts open, allowing a slinking, short woman to slither her way in from the opposite side of the room. Tiny by all standards of height, Song Ye is a recognizable face in that languid expression she wears, and her penchant for outlandish outfits. The black feathered collar and red leather corset she wears is no exception to this rule, down to the black lace skirt and knee high vinyl boots that give an easy four inches to her diminutive height.

"My sister," Liu notes with a motion of his hand, "Song." Sauntering across the room, Song leans against the high-backed chair at the head of the table, while Liu meanders in that direction. "This vial," he wags the luminous fluid encased in glass between two fingers, "is part of your future, Miss Chao."

He sets it down on the table, still standing, and turns with arms folded towards Ling, "and also everyone's past. It is a drug," a nod is afforded to it, "called Refrain. A hallucinogen that works only on the Evolved, and affects their memories, forcing them to relive pleasurable past events. In a world as ruined as ours, I think you may be able to see the business applications for something this valuable."

Moving to his chair at the head of the table, Liu takes a seat and crosses one leg over the other, folding his hands in his lap. "I would like you to aid Cong in marketing this drug to the city. Finding places — nightclubs — high class affairs where it can be given out for free in these first few doses, and then later for a steep fee." A smile creeps up on Liu's lips. "I want you to push this to upper-class clientele for me. Socialites, the rich and powerful. I can have my mundanes handle the lower class of society, the dregs. But I think you would fit in somewhere very different, Miss Chao."

Ling is a bit taken aback as she steps into the meeting room, a strange sensation of both being surprised, and not at all at the same time. The entrance of Song Ye, however, wipes thoughts from Ling's mind, her attention brought fully to the Ye sister, a visible frown briefly coming appearing on her face before it was wiped from existence in the footsteps of the thoughts that had proceeded it.. So, she was here afterall. This only brought more mixed emotions; with it came the relief of having the sister within her line of vision while she spoke with the brother, and with it came the uneasiness that her very presence brought to her. Like her brother, Ling had heard many a rumor about the female Ye sibling, and unlike her brother, she couldn't properly gauge what to expect. And that, more than anything, worried Ling Chao, unnerving her to her core.

She persisted in her attempts to not show her true thoughts, however, as she let her eyes drift back to Liu as he walked, as he addressed her. Every word he spoke only further raised her suspicions in the same manner it did her questioning eyebrow as she glanced down at the vial, then back up, looking her gaze with Liu's eyes. She only had a previous few seconds the consider what he had said. Frankly, her idea of a passable life in business had never, at any time, consisted of being what for all intents and purposes amounted to being a drug pusher at any rung of the ladder. She wanted to grit her teeth, follow with a condescending remark, and either demand better, or simply walk out.

But Ling was smarter than that. Instead, her eyes shifted to the vial, narrow. "A new designer drug is a tough sell," she replies, admittedly running on assumption. But, a good bluff was as much a part of business negotiations as anything. "I'd imagine exceptionally so to clientele of… my caliber," she continues, a bit haughtily. "What you offer, Mr. Liu, is quite the challenge, from both a business and marketing standpoint." As she finishes, she looks back to Liu. Her face shows a frown, but only for a moment as it shifts, forming into a grin that, in the last few weeks, has almost become a trademark of hers. She would have to remember it for future endevors.

"Perhaps…" she began again after a long pause, "It is fortunate that I am not one to turn down such a challenge." She honestly couldn't believe the words coming out of her mouth. But she believed in the best. She believed that this was going to be her largest stepping stone et, and if she could make the leap from it, she might finally find herself at the pinnacle she so desperately sought.

"You continue to appease my sensibilities, Miss Chao." Liu turns to look over to Song, one dark brow raised as he notices the half-lidded stare his sister is giving the other woman. There's a faint incline of his head, in a very not now motion that sends the woman slinking around to the other side of the chair, her fingers curling against the wood when she comes to a stop, black eyes settled disappointedly on her brother.

"Refrain is going to be big, very big, and it's going to be the boost this organization needs in order to innovate itself, rather than wither away like so many others have." Tracing his fingertips on the surface of the table, Liu's dark eyes meet Ling's again as his head tilts to one side in quiet consideration.

"Beyond that, I have a question I would like entertained." There's a motion of one hand towards Ling, two fingers gesturing indirectly at her. "What is it that you do?" Both of his brows rise slowly. "A test can show the potential of power, but never really gets to the details of what makes you superior to most men." Leaning back with a creak into his chair, Liu's hands fold at chest level.

"Elaborate on that for me," his brows rise, "if you would."

She raises her head a bit in response, almost as she was looking down on him. Her grin fades, her arms crossing across her chest as her eyes look between the two Ye siblings. Every second she looked at them, reservations slipped away by pure, simple virtue of the fact that she didn't have a choice anymore. "A fair enough request," she replies, still looking down on the pair. "I have no qualms with telling you. However…"

With every word, the air around Ling seems to become hazier, quickly growing to look akin to a smoky bar at the hight of the evening. She extends a hand to Liu Ye, slowly, and as she does visible wisps of smoke wafting from her hand and arm become visible, and as she sees Song motion towards her hand, something happens - quickly, starting with the fingers and moving back, her entire arm breaks away, blending into and passing into the air with the smoke forming around her. The effect passes up her arm, continuing to the rest of her body, her arm disappearing from beneath her dress, the rest of her body following.

Ling couldn't hold the concentration at the moment to convert her clothes with her like she had been able to do at some points before, but it was something she would have to worry about later - her own privacy was the least of her concerns. As her whole body finally vanishes into the ethereal mixture that now permeates the air, a whisper in the air can me heard on the air.

"A demonstration is always better, isn't it?" It's quiet, but distinctly Ling's voice. The smoke that now filled the air swirled as the dress fell, half folded over the chair Ling had been leaning over. It moved through the air, a deliberate, noticeable movement for several moments, before it seemed to stop, Ling slowly seeping through the air, down to the ground.

The quickest way to impress someone was to show them their weaknesses, and perhaps against her better judgment, Ling took this thought to heart as the smoke took a humanoid form a bit to the side of Song, Ling's shape very recognizable as the it held out a smoking hand - and flesh once more formed across it, the woman holding the back of a chair and her other arm to cover key parts of her body. She made a distinct effort to remain aware as possible, so she could change again in te event that either of the Ye siblings didn't take too well to her appearing so close to Song, arm extended and eyes narrowed. If Ling had been the type and possessed the skills, she imagined there might have been a chance she could have brought harm to the woman. That, however, was not her job.

"So," Ling began, backing back a bit, eyes glancing to her dress. "Are you satisfied?"

"Getting there…" Is Song's immediate answer, one that elicits a sharp look from Liu, and a wave of his hand at his sister to perhaps take a step back, or perhaps a cool shower. The dark-eyed leader of the Flying Dragons breathes otu a heavy sigh, regarding Ling with uncertainty as one hand comes to rest on his chin.

"That," he notes with a quirk of one brow, "is a fantastic ability you have." His fingers brush across his mouth, index tapping on his lips in a moment of thought. "Like smoke on water… and twice as deadly." His brows rise, considering the implications of what he's actually just been witness to

Scowling slightly, Song moves around the chair restlessly again, eyes flitting from Liu to Ling and back again. "Going to play with one of the dolls," she says in a hiss of a voice, slinking along one side of the table, eyes drifting back to Ling again with one brow raised, and then towards the doorway she had originally emerged from.

Liu can only sigh, calling after his sister, "Please do not break them?" It's hard to tell if they're truly discussing dolls, or people. But Liu doesn't let the room for question linger as he calmly, if though slightly distractedly focuses on Ling again. "I may have been hasty, in assigning you your job. But… I don't want to fall victim to haste twice, or second-guess myself." Lips pursing together thoughtfully, Liu points one finger out towards Ling.

"I may have further arrangements for you in the very near future. For now, though, I will tell Cong to expect you to be fulfilling other duties in your spare time, as well as whatever tasks he prefers you perform." Twitling that finger in the air, Liu cracks a smile; proud and pleased with himself.

"Welcome to the Flying Dragons, Blue Lantern Ling Chao."

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