Catalysis, Part I


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Scene Title Catalysis, Part I
Synopsis Yi-Min Yeh makes a choice.
Date January 15, 2020

The executive suite of Yamagato Industries CEO is a palatial space. A pair of opaque black glass doors lead into the office. The floor is marble-tiled, with tall columns along the walls, stone planters filled with tall ferns, and antique paintings of Showa-era landscapes along the walls. The left wall from the entrance is angled nearly forty-five degrees floor to ceiling, given the shape of the building, and is entirely glass. It affords a dusk panorama of Yamagato Park, with its purple and blue neon lighting contrasting against the midnight blue and starlit black of the sky.

Kimiko Nakamura looks significantly better than when Yi-Min Yeh last saw her. No longer bereft an arm and leg, she bares obvious prosthetics of polished chrome, intentionally shown off by rolling up the sleeves of her blazer and wearing a skirt and strappy shoes. Kimiko has paced the room for some time now, listening to Yi-Min Yeh’s proposal. It is at once bold and reckless, things that remind the corporate leader of her younger brother and better times.

“It’s an interesting proposition, and one that you seem to have considered the ramifications of,” Kimiko says as she steps in front of her desk, nearby to where Yi-Min is seated, and leans back against it.

“You have considered the risks, yes?”

Yamagato Building
Executive Office

November 10th, 2020
11:03 am

"Of course."

The expression on Dr. Yeh's face does not change when she delivers that answer. From her granted seat, she watches Kimiko pace with her typical placid gaze, with its merest suggestion of surveying the proceedings from some calm, far vantage point.

Raytech's director of biotechnology is not known for stepping into anything without carefully considering what is on the table. Risks, ramifications, any other limiting angles.

Seeing them all, and still choosing to throw them into the wind based on a highly personal set of priorities— well.

That really was something else, wasn't it.

"I would argue that leaving these things inside our heads indefinitely poses a different, and possibly greater, risk. We do not know what this machinery is capable of. We still do not even know from where it comes. You may be of a different mind, but I would rather not sit around and wait around to suffer a stroke like the others. Or worse."

"Besides," Yi-Min adds to this a little more mildly, and also a little more lightly, tilting her head to one side just so. "Miller just had his out, and he is not dead yet. I trust your people to know what they're doing."

Two days is a bit early to call Miller’s particular brand of recklessness a success,” Kimiko notes as she looks at the doors to her office, then back to Yi-Min. “But let’s say I authorize this — all necessary disclosures of liability aside — I’ll be providing you with access to a multi-million dollar medical facility with trained surgeons specializing in cybernetics.”

Spreading her hands, Kimiko looks to each of them. “As you are to be provided with a value proposition, I want to know what the value in this is for me. Because if I wanted to see the success rates of implant removal, I could watch Mr. Miller. I’m going to need something more substantial than that, so let’s talk possibilities.”

"The implant itself." The look in Yi-Min's eyes fades further into a sort of shrewdness. "Even if you are for some reason not personally curious about the chip that has been shoved up into here without your leave," Here she taps a single, slender finger onto the base of her skull, "in your head as well as mine, I imagine your cybernetics division might derive some benefits from examining the technology involved. I have been told that it was so cleverly hidden inside Miller's own cranial tissue that no scans picked it up."

"This is the whole point of my making an approach to you, rather than just going to the hospital Miller went to." Yi-Min's gaze stays steady, centering on Kimiko through and just above the spread of those hands. "Should I do so, my chip would presumably disappear forever into the grubby little hands of the DoE, never to be heard from again. Just as Miller's did. However, this is a chance to pool our resources and minds in what ways we can. Examine this piece of the puzzle together, before it is too late for us."

"That is what I offer."

For a moment Kimiko stares at Yi-Min, as if trying to stare through her, but then her expression twists into a tiny look of frustration followed by a quick sigh. “The chip will be of interest. That said, given your willingness to come here and allow our surgeons to work on you, I was wondering if we might be able to extend this exploratory surgery’s parameters.”

Kimiko rests her hands behind herself, her cybernetic hand scraping softly on the glass top of the desk. “My counter-proposal is that we gain access to the chip and perform a full exploratory surgery on your brain. The mass in our Thalamus, the one that is of unidentifiable origin… I would like our surgeons to be able to take a biopsy of it, see what it is that’s contained there in the hopes that we can more fully understand what we’re up against.”

There’s something in Kimiko’s tone that implies that she has an idea of what it might be, something that hasn’t been shared with the other survivors. “Obviously there would be a risk of loss of life, to which point Yamagato Industries would be willing to draft up a…” she waves her flesh-and-blood hand in the air, “liability fee. Sizable. To be delivered to next of kin or an individual or charity of your choice, should the unthinkable happen.”

“Of course, Yamagato Industries would prefer to take custody of your remains in that case, so as to properly study them.” Kimiko adds, as if it were a byline on a contract. “All information we uncover would obviously be shared with you. The risk of your death is minimal, but… real.”

For as long as it lasts, Yi-Min technically matches Kimiko's stare, though her own stays much too quiet— and much too solemn— to denote interest in contention. Her brow is likewise furrowed with the weight of whatever is going through her mind, but as she processes this offer, just a trace of that weight seems to ease from around the corners of her mouth.

Into the barest of smiles.

"Ah. Yes. You know, I was hoping that you would suggest a direction like this. I will have you know that loss of my own life is no concern of mine. Therefore, do not let that be an obstacle. Explore. Find your answers. In fact, I might even have a proposal or two of my own to add to a list of things your surgeons might try on me. All I would ask is that if I should happen to die, you also forward this information on to those I am working with, such that they will not be left in the dark."

Kimiko’s eyes crinkle at the corners as they subtly narrow. For a moment she is unable to form a response, looking at Yi-Min as if hoping to stare a hole straight through her. Visible frustration manifests in a vein at Kimiko’s brow and a tension at her jaw, and she pushes away from the front of her desk to circle around it and pace toward the tall window behind the desk.

“I was under the impression you had a significant other,” Kimiko says in a tone that is uncomfortable. She does not like needing to be under an impression. This is a woman who has always been in control and has had that control stripped from her. She turns, dark eyes fixed on Yi-Min. “If that’s the case I assume you’ve discussed this with them?” She leaves Yi-Min’s proposed additional trials to the side, for the moment.

"Yes, and yes." Yi-Min answers these two things simply and without bothering to elaborate on either. Kimiko's hated impression on the matter is thus verified, but she also isn't going to get much more than that.

Perhaps as a natural response to seeing the other woman’s rise in agitation, Yi-Min lets the tone of her voice grow a little mellower yet, as she watches on. "It is a risk that we are both aware of. Do not worry. There will be nobody coming after you for revenge, or whatever else, should something happen to me."

Kimiko closes her eyes and exhales a soft sigh, threading an errant lock of dark hair behind one ear with her prosthetic hand. “Very well,” she says in a hushed tone of voice.

“We’ll draft up the releases.”

Two Months Later

Medical Wing
Yamagato Building
Yamagato Park

January 15th
6:11 am

The lab room in which Yi-Min Yeh lays in sedation is walled in by glass on three sides, with a single glossy black wall facing her. She lays on her stomach on an operating table, face pressed through a padded ovoid opening. Surgeons dressed in matte red uniforms with matching masks and eyeguards assemble around her like a conclave of cardinals.

Where all the colors are

The chief surgeon, holding an illuminated tablet, presses a series of buttons that activates an enormous pair of mechanical limbs that unfold and extend from a hub at the ceiling. They whirr and click softly, cycling through a series of surgical tools before arriving at their desired configuration. These smooth, delicate, and precise mechanical arms begin a descent like the limbs of a spider down toward the back of Yi-Min’s head.


Through one of the glass walls, Hachiro Otomo stands in silence, one hand clutching a string of matte black beads tightly. His countenance is as intense as it is concerned, lips downturned into a frown as he watches the surgical apparatus prime itself for operation.

The silent ocean knows

One tool-laden mechanical arm extends down to a circular, shaped spot on the back of Yi-Min’s head, and from the protruding chrome end a single flickering blue-green spark of laser light ignites with a spark. The laser beam fires in quick, rapid bursts that each emit a puff of smoke from Yi-Min’s scalp as it traces a circular pattern over the back of her head, cutting through and cauterizing flesh in a smooth loop.

Your face

The second arm lowers, delicate and spidery fingers spreading out as it moves down to the smoking ring scarred into the back of Yi-Min’s head. The paper-thin wafer-like fingers slide into the laser incisions, latch on to something, and pull a circular plug of flesh and bone back from the rear of her head revealing the glossy, pinkish-gray surface of her brain as viewed through a one-inch diameter hole in her skull.

Your reality

Yi-Shan slouches against his sister, resting his head atop hers. The light from the television illuminates the living room, reflects in mirror in a nearby window. Yi-Shan has drifted asleep, but Yi-Min is awake. He is light against her, but his presence is comforting. A half of the whole, and together they are greater than the sum of their parts. She closes her eyes, turns her cheek toward his arm, and is secure.

Haven't been the same lately

A snaking fiber of nanomaterial extends out of one mechanical limb as it lowers to Yi-Min's exposed brain. A thousand tiny legs like those of a centipede bristle forth from the hair-fine thread, and it snakes across the exposed brain before slithering between the skull and brain line. One of the surgeons tracks the probe’s movement across the surface of Yi-Min’s brain on the tablet, while others apply suction to welling blood around the aperture in her skull.

Wonder could it be a lack of devotion?

“It is good to meet Eileen's… friends here.” Such as they were.

Seeing in monochrome

The surgeons talk among themselves, conferring around the tablet. On a small screen a black and white image of the probe’s path in predictive 3D model shows it moving like a worm through the earth, using its tiny legs to crawl across the surface of Yi-Min’s brain toward her temporal lobe. A camera on the end of the probe shows a monochromatic view from the serpentine machine’s front.

Who taught you emotions

Though she does not have much room to work with, Yi-Min's modest frame does not need it, her small hands tucked in her lap and both legs neatly folded beneath her. She also appears far less uneasy than Eileen does, her dark, unperturbed eyes alternately settling between the path being swept out by the truck's headlights and - noticeably, but rarely - the face of the tall American woman occupying the back seat with her.

"Did something happen to you?" she nonchalantly asks without taking her gaze off the darkened length of road, tone probingly curious. The residual winces of pain had been difficult to ignore upon first meeting, regardless of the degree to which Kara may or may not have tried to hide them.

Who taught you emotions

"Chivalry happened." Kara summarizes the event succinctly, turning to look at Yi-Min for the first time since she'd made that odd comment about meeting Eileen's friends. The Taiwanese woman can see the glint of light from the dash shift in her eye as she's looked up and down. "What about you?" she asks deadpan, some distance to it. "Aren't you a little surprise out of nowhere."


The probe comes to a stop at the front of Yi-Min’s brain, and on the camera the surgeons see a dark mass attached to the front of her temporal lobe. A round, inorganic looking shape almost like a tumor, but nearly invisible against the material of the brain. A micro laser on the probe activates, beginning the process of cauterizing the sample while delicate folding arms expand from within the detach the small mass.

Can you feel

"I chose the room," Kara replies knowingly as she looks across the room, content with its arrangements. She'd likely remain content with it regardless of whatever Yi-Min's looked like, but the banter had been worthwhile to make. It takes a moment to circle back and realize she may have meant the decoration, rather than the room itself and its placement in the factory. She blinks, the connection being made, but her look of content does not falter.

Though the shrug is just on the verges of perceptible, it is possible for Yi-Min to discern the context from the smallness of the gesture itself. She herself catches it and smiles, meaningfully. "…Then we may have to rectify this. Red Hook has a number of nice things the last I saw— perhaps we can look together. You may live in a home that you have built from nothing, but it does not have to look like it." There is a genial inflexibility in her tone that presupposes Kara's likely refusal, and an informality that indicates she does not care.

Might be why colors disappear

"Come again?" escapes Kara plainly, even though she heard perfectly well the first time. She blinks slowly at Yi-Min's insistence, her weight shifting as she considers the smaller woman. There's not a clash of wills that happens, just a general confusion about the insistence behind the declaration.

She lets out a slow sigh from her nose, deciding this is not a battle she wants to take on. "Guess we'll pencil it in soon, then."

The place we call our soul

The probe comes back from the opening in Yi-Min’s skull with a small, circular nodule of fleshy matter. The mechanical arm swivels to the right and deposits the mass in a clear glass dish, which one surgeon steps over to inspect. He lifts the dish up, looking at the nodule of brain matter, then hands it off to another red-clad technician who places it in a hermetically sealed container. The assistant surgeon nods to the lead, and they send the probe back in.


Yi-Min wraps one of her hands around the base of Kara's neck to deliver the next kiss, slender fingers splayed, the fingers of her other hand joining it on the back of Kara's cheek a moment after. This one is much stronger than the first. Hungrier. As she had intimated to a certain close friend only recently, it has been awhile, and longer yet since she has found someone worthy.

When Kara leans away to get a gauge on Yi-Min's reaction, her gaze flickers unreadably, studying that coy expression intently. Lips part to ask a question of her before the smaller woman is grabbing hold of her, pulling her back in. Whatever query she had is immediately dashed away into a surprised, pleased exhalation before she leans back into the kiss.

The cyber ocean sees

They could stop, if they wanted to. There's no time to even pose the ridiculous question of it, being snared again into another deep kiss thanks to the hand woven into her hair. Kara slides her fingers beneath the hemline of Yi-Min's shirt, brushing her fingertips along bare skin. It's not much longer before her hand wanders up again, dragging the shirt with it until her fingers pause at the tiny clasp again she'd paused at previously. Kara realizes only after she's undone it that she lifts up a small prayer—

One for the miracle of this moment to not end. One that heaven will not betray those who are just trying their best.

Their kiss is broken long enough only to strip the shirts off of each other, skin on skin as they lie down together in a tangle. It's Yi-Min's hands that first past south of any waistlines, Kara's eyes rolling shut as she murmurs softly, breathlessly into her partner's lips.

Neither of them have ever been the type to hide what they want.

Your dreams

The serpentine probe goes back inside, this time on an exploratory course as it slithers down between skull and brain along the base of Yi-Min’s skull. The surgeons gathered around the tablet watch sensors building a map of regions of Yi-Min’s brain unimpeded by the EM field it radiates. This sonogram provides a route for the probe to take, directed by a gentle touch of a gloved finger over the screen. Down to the brainstem.

Your totality

"'Looks…" Kara muses, resisting the urge to shrug as she turns to behold the space. To shrug would be to demean the efforts they've both put in. Besides, her shoulders were too stiff for it by this point. The skies had darkened with twilight the last time she'd poked her head out, moving out the footlocker that had been replaced with a proper trunk. "Homey," she's forced to concede, a hint of appreciation creeping into her voice. If not for the decor, then for the thought put into it.

The entire exercise had been akin to buttering a cat's paws, and here they stood at the end of it— yowling ceased from both the person applying it and the stubborn ass receiving it. "Orderly," Kara adds, an additional sign of her approval. There were a few loose items still needing placed, books needing shelved — she graciously overlooks them.

Coming from someone like Kara, this is high praise indeed.

Nothing stays the same

Yi-Min will take it.

These more minor alterations are things that Kara can take care of on her own, also, and this is something that Yi-Min knows well. The lion's share of the work is done; the rest might as well be considered done as far as she is concerned.

"I'm glad you think so," she says dryly, cheekily, radiating one last audacious little smile before she turns a narrow shoulder towards the door.

"—Because you'll be living in it for a while."


An unnaturally straight seam along a section of the cerebellum catches the attention of one of the surgeons, pointing it out. The lead surgeon pinches the image on his screen, then flicks it out as if to throw it off of the tablet. The image then appears a hundred times larger on one of the glass walls. Hachiro watches the 3D model, eyes narrowing. One surgeon points at the seam, draws a circle within his finger, then makes a probing gesture at it.

I hope you will make more lasting connections

"Sorry," Kara finally says, something to both break the silence and give limited insight to her current thoughts. It does little to elaborate what she's actually apologizing for, but she doesn't get as far as voicing that. She's been tripped up after seeing Yi-Min's expression, the softness and the summer of it. She wonders only briefly at the warmth of it before she reaches out, brushing the backs of her fingers against Yi-Min's cheek to feel it for herself.

Yi-Min's hand glides up along Kara's wrist in response, slender fingers interlacing with the ones that are brushing her cheek, holding them there— just so, just for the moment. The soothing, contemplative quality of her expression does not change, but some of that pensiveness does blossom into the beginnings of a smile.

Perhaps there is nothing to make sense of. Perhaps everything is much simpler than Kara is making things out to be.

Feeling in monochrome

"Don't be sorry," she admonishes just before she turns her head enough to plant a quiet little kiss on the back of Kara's fingertips, mindfully aware that her assumptions of whatever the other is apologizing for are just that— but also willing to encompass every single one of the unknown possibilities and throw them all away. In the end, she does not really need to know what the answer is.

It does not matter to her, because she trusts Kara.

"…Just be."

Who taught you emotions

The probe’s surgical laser cuts along one side of the mass, opening a hair-wide slice into Yi-Min’s brain. The probe crawls to the opening, then scurries inside. It continues to extend out of the machine, additional spidery legs scurrying across Yi-Min’s cerebral tissue as it delves into the surgical opening.

Who taught you emotions

Even in pre-war days when enjoyment of such spaces had been far more prevalent, Bianchini Beach had been a modest, relatively quiet location, usually uncrowded at the best of times. Visible landmarks along this stretch of sandy land are sparse, and aside from the two vehicles, the most prominent feature in their sights⁠— if 'feature' it can indeed be called⁠— is a dilapidated children's playground some distance away. Monkey bars and curling slide with peeling, hydrant-yellow paint and all.

It is this sight that Yi-Min angles herself towards once she has finished shading her eyes, slipping her hand cozily (and a little cheekily) into Kara's own once the other woman lets go of her arm. "This way," she indicates cryptically, also merely as a formality, because she is already taking steps that way, her low-heeled sandals leaving light, half-filled imprints in the little hillocks and drifts of sand behind her.


The first time Yi-Min had ever slipped her hand unexpectedly into Kara's, she had reacted poorly. Like brushing against a live wire, she had rapidly withdrawn, breathless with the cold anxiety of what if someone sees unconsciously driving her behavior. Were it not for her gentle persistence and firm determination, the act would never have gotten to be as natural as it is now.

Kara laces her fingers through Yi-Min's while they walk, on one step swinging both their arms forward and up to plant a chaste kiss on the back of her hand.

Can you see

On the lead surgeon’s tablet a 3D map of the interior of Yi-Min’s brain comes into view. The probe follows a fissure in her brain, following a branch of fibrous tissue like a tumor. The surgeons look at one another in confusion, trying to discern what the screen is displaying. It isn’t until the probe reaches a barrier that they truly look bewildered. Projected up on another glass wall, Jiba’s predictive modeling tries to map out the barrier. A mass, somewhere near the Thalamus. On the screen it looks more like a cellophane wrapped puffy with fluid.

Colors that the ocean offers

Kara’s hardened expression mellows as she goes with the gentle pull of Yi-Min’s fingers, searching her eyes as her own are searched in return. Her own stubbornness is subdued in light of the determination, the devotion she sees in her partner. The longer the revelation about Yi-Min’s work sits with her, the more time she has to worry about it, and worry for her… as well as her approach to the topic.

The kiss stops her before she can issue any protest to Yi-Min’s course of action, and perhaps that’s her point. There’s a certain sense of peace and finality it imparts.

But Kara blunders on anyway almost as soon as it’s ended. “Your safety matters, too.” she murmurs, resting her forehead against Yi-Min’s. “I understand enough about what you’ve just said to be afraid I can’t protect you from it, if everything goes wrong. Or if everything goes right.” She lifts her hand, thumb brushing against Yi-Min’s cheek while her remaining fingers push locks of hair back behind her ear. Her voice lowers to a whisper, as weary as it is full of fight. “I am so tired of feeling this way, Minni. Powerless to protect the things I care about.”


She shakes her head ever so slightly, forehead still pressed. “A future without you is one less bright,” Kara protests, eyes closing hard. When they snap open again, she admits, “I lost sight of myself without you. When I thought you were—” Her voice fades before she amends wearily, “when you were gone.” Still looking toward Yi-Min, she adjusts her trunk, shifting her legs to turn properly toward her and lean her shoulder against the headboard. Her calf stretches across Yi-Min’s leg, a different kind of embrace. Her protectiveness flares in the quiet of her voice. “Without you, I do not feel like enough in any of this. I don’t want to lose you again, Yi-Min.”

There’s no attempt to dissuade her from her path. Kara can see the immutability of it, just as she can see she’s an inadequate shield against the consequences of it.

“You have no idea what it did to me when I thought I had.” she whispers.

Can you be

After a brief discussion the surgeons make a call. They direct the probe to make a microscopic incision in the diaphanous mass. The laser sparks to life on their screen, but when the barrier is penetrated the probe’s camera gutters as it becomes awash with something. The surgeon applying suction to Yi-Min’s surgical wound suddenly steps back from the table as clear fluid begins bubbling up from the opening in her skull, running pink with blood. Alarms sound, blood pressure spikes, Yi-Min begins to convulse on the table.

Something more than black white and gray

"It is too late now," Yi-Min points out with a kind of heavy faintness, voice calm to mask the emotions inundating her core. The right time to have made that decision would have been months ago. Now, the natural consequences of it could only carry her forward.

After some hesitation, she paces forward too, in soft little steps that are forlorn with a level of deepest misery. "The only way I could still choose this thing now," and thus enable herself to stay in Providence by taking the path of least resistance, "is to give Adam the biological weapon that he seeks from me. I refuse to let the horror I saw in that dream come to pass. I will not let…"

Being in monochrome

"…anything happen to you." Yi-Min is whispering now as she reaches forth to touch Kara's cheek, desperately, the tips of her slender fingertips curling around those familiar contours. She closes her eyelids and shakes her head very slightly, unable to see anything anymore through her misted eyes.

"I will not place you in the path of any harm. The only thing I can do is ask for your forgiveness, because I love you — I love you, one of the dearest treasures in my life, far too much to even consider this as an option."

For Yi-Min, the notion of good options had ceased to be long ago.

There were only choices like this left.

Who taught you emotions

Panic spreads like fire through the surgery theater. Hachiro steps close to the glass, watching the red-clad surgeons struggle to try and stop the trickling tide of clear fluid and blood leaking from Yi-Min’s skull. Two more doctors rush into the room, one providing Yi-Min with a spiral injection in her lower back that quells her seizing, the other checking the surgical machine for impairment. Voices are raised, shouts ring off the walls, Yi-Min’s EEG readings spike in angry red lines.

Who taught you emotions

A filmy glint, a tear of pain forms briefly behind Yi-Min's gaze even through her smile at the implication she had just made. "If I expected this to be permanent, I would not think about going, but it is a way to put everything behind me at long last. You know? I have voices willing to speak on my behalf because of my actions against Praxis, and in undoing Monroe’s bioweapon, so I do not expect a harsh sentence. Then when I am out—"

Then they could properly start their lives anew. Without running, without hiding. With a completely clean slate, on Yi-Min's part. But in a real sense, that first part is something she is leaving up to Kara.

Who taught you emotions

Some faint protest rises in Kara's throat at the thought that whatever happens to her, it'll be a short thing. How can she say that? How can she know? But she understands, in some way, wanting it to all be over. Wanting to have something more stable, and to put behind her having to be in the shadows. So Kara's gaze drops and all she can do at first is just shake her head.

Only after Yi-Min tapers off does she look up, meeting her gaze. "Put yourself in my shoes," she challenges her softly. "What would you do if it were me in your position?" Then she lets out a tss of a scoff. "No— What was it you did when I was gone?"

She searched. And yearned. And waited. And never moved on.

"If you think I love you any less than that, Yi-Min Yeh…”

Who taught you emotions

”…you're a fool."

Who taught you emotions

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