Fucked From The Start


adrienne_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Fucked From The Start
Synopsis New year, new wounds.
Date January 1, 2020

Miller Residence, Providence

For the last few months, there's been a rhythm to how this particular house in Providence has operated. To Zachery, it was never a home, and it functions slightly better as a workplace. Every day, at sunrise, he comes down the stairs from his bedroom, makes two coffees and two simple breakfasts, and takes the lot downstairs into the basement on a tray after a courtesy knock to make sure Adrienne is up and ready for food and then work.

Even after Yi-Min showed up, and after his workload focus shifted gradually toward checking and double-checking the others' work (important with these sorts of projects, after all), he was punctual. Even on days, more recently, where he seemed… distracted, as though thoughts of elsewhere occasionally vied for his attention from atop those basement stairs, he got things done and he get them done on time, damn it.

Every day — except today. Adrienne has been kept waiting, and hours go by without so much as a peep from upstairs.

When rumblings of life first start recurring around noon, they do so without grace; There is a shattering of glass, a muffled swearing that makes it through floorboards and two separate doors, and the clattering of a wooden chair hitting kitchen floor.

Only after that does Zachery manage to make his way into the hallway on the ground floor, shirt wrinkled, face unshaven and hair an unkempt mess as he walks brusquely toward the basement door and hopes to find it still shut.

Ideally, Yi-Min would have waited until Zachery found himself in a generally more palatable mood in hopes of entertaining a somewhat civilized discussion on a sensitive matter, but this is a state that seems to exist with less and less frequency as the days draw closer to their deadline.

Ideally, Adrienne would not be present at all in this picture. It was not that the captive woman’s reactions to even a worst-case scenario could not be dealt with. With luck, they might even be turned to mutually beneficial purpose, should Yi-Min's analysis of the circumstances turn out correct. But the less factors involved from the beginning, the less risk, the less mess.


There is nothing ideal about this situation, about any of it. And yet, at the end of it all, none of these things would really, truly matter. Nothing could change the intent she had been in possession of since the beginning—

Since long before this particular beginning.

"Zachery," Yi-Min tells him when she catches him at the antechamber to that basement door, her mask one of her customary calm. Something which looks misleadingly similar has long been her default around here, as much a part of their shared 'workplace' atmosphere as the bedside chain that Adrienne wears wrapped about her ankle at all times. Today though, there is something irrevocably and much more strangely placid about it than even her usual.

"I wish to talk to you."

"Not this again," Zachery's reply comes crisply as he's making his way down the stairs the same way he has many times before, feigning casual disregard. As if he was only just getting back in after a break and the faint smell of cheap whiskey wasn't still on him and the clothes he slept in.

"Unless it's about what we're doing today, here, and how to get it done, I don't want to hear it." Once he's made his way downstairs, shooting the briefest of possibly apologetic glances to Adrienne (and a less apologetic one to her leg and that chain), he pulls open a cabinet and starts digging around for whatever he was working on yesterday, adding just as punctuation, but without looking at her— "Enough, Yeh."

"Mmm," says Yi-Min, almost noncommittally. Almost in a way that could make Zachery believe that she hadn't quite heard what he said to her, save perhaps for that small, single, lightly dainty step that she takes towards the cabinet. Towards Zachery's busily turned back: a shaded sweetness of demeanor, of sound, drawing subtly closer to that oblivious sour tang of whiskey. "You know well that there is little to do, today and tomorrow, but to await the outcome of the latest blood culture samples. We have time to talk."

Just as they had plenty of time to talk, technically speaking, the previous times that she had asked about anything remotely to do with this.

And just as she does not seem concerned by Adrienne's presence in the room, so too does she seem completely untroubled by the abrasiveness that she hears in Zachery's voice. There does seem to be a very mild concern written into her dark eyes, but for all the wrong reasons.

Any feigned pleasantry Zachery once may have forced is gone from his voice. "You can talk all you want, but I don't do uselessly waiting very well, so if you'll excuse me, I'm going to make myself useful and recheck your work while I ignore your infantile persistence."

Collecting neatly paperclipped together sheets to throw them onto a counter nearby, he adds, "Honestly, how anyone can stand to be around you is a mystery. It's a wonder Dr. Allen hasn't chewed her ankle off to get away from you." He angles a look over his shoulder, only to find Yi-Min in his blind spot.

"No, I don't do uselessly waiting well, either."

This is the last exhaled murmur of half-businesslike, half-sorrowful reproach Zachery hears, feels on the hairs on the back of his neck, just before the sudden agony of a syringe


directly into the slim invitation of his jugular vein,

at the end of Yi-Min's quick, measured hand.

To Drs. Yeh and Allen, what occurs next after the swiftly emptied plastic clatters to the floor does so with a certain grim visual briskness, like the sped-up timelapse of a fruit rotting and then shriveling right off the vine.

The first of Dr. Miller's senses to flee away from his body is his muscular coordination, as though he is being assaulted internally by a heavy, inexorable, radial force. Clumsiness ruins the integrity of his movements in a frame-progression of increasingly jarred breaths, then drops both of his knees very squarely onto the hardness of the basement floor— even as Yi-Min herself dispassionately oversees all of these details from the position she had quite promptly disengaged herself to, comfortably removed from any hope of his immediate physical reach.

The last thing that Zachery perceives, before the rest of his consciousness leaves him without ceremony, is the sound of Yi-Min's light footsteps just starting to pick up and head back towards him again

in an endless


of rapidly-dissolving echoes.

then the tranquility of nothing.

Twenty-Seven Minutes Later

When Zachery reawakens, it is with a burning sensation around the pit of his neck and the perception of a world that only gradually swims back into his view, as though through a lens of filthy pool water. He is tied tightly with polyester rope, wrist and foot, to the seat of the metal folding chair he had once hauled into the basement from upstairs. Whatever studiously-mixed cocktail of uncertain substances Yi-Min had injected into his veins is not gone; he can feel a dark buzz of torpor inside his brain, but at the same time it is clearing rapidly enough for him to get his bearings.

Moving his limbs more than several millimeters in any direction is out of the question. The knots that hold him in the manner he is being held in will not be undone easily.

But he can speak.

It is a silence that Yi-Min does not appear intent on breaking first, though he can see her slender, unmoving shape still lingering by the countertop on the side opposite to him, simply watching him.

The barely functioning consciousness that finds itself sitting in that chair does not do so motionlessly for long. As awareness trickles back into being, the nervous system is reintroduced to what identifies as Zachery Miller. With a twitch of shoulders and a strained pull of limbs, instinct has him twist his wrists with enough frenetic energy to prove that those few millimeters and the threat of breaking bones without breaking free is all that he can stand to get.

Only after these initial movements cease - muscles still pulled taut and limbs set awkwardly in their locked position against the ropes - does any personality seem to make its way back from the tranquility of nothing.

Once he's finally managed to focus his one eye on the familiar shape of a person up ahead, slouched forward as much as his body allows, he swallows dryly and a single croak of a word escapes his mouth, confusion filtering through still recovering cognizance.

"… Why?"

“Why?” The voice doesn’t come from Yi-Min, and out of the blurry corner of Zachery’s vision he can see a white-jacketed blonde-topped blur. One asking why in a French accent. There’s no rattle of thin chain as the blur moves closer and into focus of weary eyes. Doctor Allen cradles a chipped mug in both hands, keeping it just under her chin to enjoy the aroma of the last cup of coffee from the pot. Adrienne flicks a look across to Yi-Min, then back to Zachery and quirks a smile. “I would have asked how Doctor Yeh is so good with ropes,” one dark brow rises, and she can’t help but laugh. “Maybe she was a scout, non?”

Lifting her coffee up to take a sip, Adrienne comes to settle beside Yi-Min, no longer tethered to the reach of the chain restraint. It becomes abundantly clear to Zachery that part of the why behind his surreptitious injection was treachery.

The more exact nature and depth of said treachery, however, as well what part Adrienne might have played in it, are particulars left for him to only guess at.

Despite Yi-Min's general focus on Zachery, it is Adrienne's remark she addresses first, if rather offhandedly. "You may be surprised by how often such a skill comes in handy," she offers with a whimsical-sounding vagueness that merges strangely with the more pointed coolness behind her gaze. Would highly recommend. In a different setting, she might have flashed the tiniest of knowing smiles in the window of opportunity given by those quick few seconds. Instead, her expression stays a veil of keen, simple unconcern.

"Anyhow, I still have questions that I wish to have answers to." That at least is as straight as Yi-Min has ever been. And as they are both quite aware of the job Zachery has done of answering those questions in the past, there is no hesitation before she follows that up with, "I recommend that you be more forthcoming, this time around. It will spare you a good deal of pain."

What she’s talking about soon becomes evident.

Though at present partly obscured by the curve of Adrienne's profile, something resting on the shadowed forefront of the countertop between the two women grows apparent to Zachery's single eye. A surgical tray, judging by coloration and dimension— but what's on it is harder to immediately discern with his blearily reforming vision, save that it gives off multiple, fine glints of sharpness from an immaculately arrayed line of edges.

It is Adrienne's laugh that seems to prompt Zachery's senses to return to him a little more fully, enough to have him drag himself upright - albeit with his wrists refusing to let his shoulders rise as much as he'd like.

His expression sinks into one of visible, wide-eyed distress as more of the reality of the situation dawns on him - but in spite of himself, the sound that leaves his throat as a result of it all sounds suspiciously more like laughter, the exhale heavily weighted with uncertainty.

"I should, ah- warn you." After a glimpse of the tray's contents, he shoots a look at Adrienne, searching her expression with a questioning and groggy tilt of his head. After one more fruitless tug at his bindings, he slumps to the side and swivels his eye over to Yi-Min instead. "My last therapist caught fire and died a little while back, so I'm a little out of practise divulging."

In spite of her relief at her release, Adrienne looks nonetheless queasy when faced with the prospect of something even adjacent to torture. She eyes the tray, then Yi-Min, and plays an improvised role as Good Cop to Yi-Min’s very Bad Cop energy. “I know this all involves Adam Monroe,” she says as though Yi-Min and she had already discussed some of those details. “A biological weapon — nerve toxin — targeting non-Expressives. But,” she looks down to Zachery, leading a little with her own admissions, “I never saw you in Praxia, don't think you were ever in California…”

Adrienne has no plans to finish her precious sentence. Instead, she takes a sip of coffee and looks back at Yi-Min with a silent stare. “So either he doesn't work for Adam, or he does and we've both been kept in the dark.” Her dark eyes angle back down to Zachery, one brow raised. There's tension in her brow that goes all the way through her shoulders. She can only hope her own reprise of some events loosens the doctor’s tongue.

Though Yi-Min surely feels Adrienne's uneasy eyes on her, her concentration appears to be centered on Zachery's face alone, even as she retrieves a lean blade from the side of the tray nearest her without quite needing to turn her head to do so. "That is the point," she responds mechanically, trailing a single fingertip demurely over the point where the blade begins a short, very gentle trend downwards into its cutting edge.

By its angle and profile, Zachery can identify the implement Yi-Min is holding as a #15 surgical blade— one meant for small and precise incisions. It gleams even more pointedly now that it has been brought directly out into the cold basement lighting.

"You are correct. I can assure you that he is no part of Praxis. Yet, he does Monroe's bidding. Logically, this would mean that Monroe's web extends out further than Praxis—" Which should be an unsurprising suggestion, given the time the immortal has had. "—and I wish to see how much this is so."

The words spoken by Adrienne have Zachery raise his eyebrows in mild surprise. "You should listen to her, Yeh, she's smart," he offers in cheery sing-song, without managing to suppress the tension of discomfort that pulls at his tone. As if to try and shake some leftover bleariness away, he gives a small shake of his head, blinking real and fake eye shut. "Would save yourself a whole lot of time if you weren't letting your emotions get the better of you."

You know, those emotions that have been kept so tightly under wraps.

When he looks up again, the blade is eyed with scrutiny wrinkling his nose. "Is it because I said you were barren? It's because I said you were barren, isn't it."

“It's like he wants to lose the other eye,” Adrienne hisses under her breath with one hand pressed against her forehead. She looks over at Yi-Min with some mixture of uncertainty, then levels a stare back at Zachery. “Do you really want to die for that genocidal lunatic?” She asks with a stronger French lilt at the end. “Do you really want to make Gorgon? Kill all those people? This is a war crime,” Adrienne’s voice wavers as she motions to the equipment across the room. “…one we’re making possible.”

"Which genocidal maniac? You'll have to be more specific." Zachery counters sharply, sinking back in his seat. "Besides, when I do die," within the beat between words, there's a twitch of an eyelid, "it won't be for an employer."

"Adam Monroe." The utterance from Yi-Min is beyond patient, beyond the possibility of being perturbed, seeming to drift off in the air behind her when she takes steps forward towards Zachery. She curls a somewhat rueful smile at him, quietly placing her free hand atop one of his larger, tightly-bound ones as she bends just a little to search his eyes with the full frankness of her expression.

One last chance. Whether out of whatever meager respect for Zachery she had may have had remaining, or some other source of courtesy she doesn't elaborate, it is there.

"Don't do this," she murmurs to him in the aftermath of Adrienne’s words, in a tone at once conveying a deceptive softness of concern and the austerity of a breath of fall wind. Besides, she does not herself say aloud, though the glitter of the slender blade in her hand does it for her. The edge is now uncomfortably close to his arm. Do not be quite so sure that you will not be dying today.

"Do what?" Zachery questions with confusion knitting his brow, even if anger has made itself readily visible in the intensity with which he stares back at Yi-Min's face. It takes its place alongside ill-timed amusement when he opens his mouth again to add, "Don't force your hand?! You're barking up the wrong tree and you're whipping out a chainsaw."

He laughs, coldly, pulling tighter at the bindings to push his face just ever so slightly closer to Yi-Min's, offering nothing but a look of fear stretched thinly over both disbelief and stubborn opposition driving the brunt of his actions. "Make your own fucking mistakes."

All Adrienne can do is gape at Zachery, then level a look of uncertainty at Yi-Min. She'd expected him to crack, or at least concede once presented with a suboptimal situation. It hadn't crossed Adrienne’s mind that Zachery might actually be loyal to the cause. To the ideal. To the nightmare they've been concocting in this makeshift lab.

“This was your idea,” Adrienne says to Yi-Min with a tight swallow and a look over to Zachery. She shakes her head again, scrubbing a hand at her mouth as she paces away from them.

It was nothing less than what she had expected from either of them, but Yi-Min still gives her head a scarcely-perceptible shake as she withdraws her hand from his— and along with it, all remnants of that chance. With a sense of conclusiveness, she kneels down by Zachery's roped feet, beginning to roll up the right ankle of his slacks with a meticulousness that almost approaches tenderness. The corresponding shoe and sock are disposed of in the same manner, eased away and unhurriedly placed together off to one side of her without the least signs of distaste. Or care.

It would be exactly as he wished.

With a reserved kind of artistry that would not be out of place for a chef gutting a fish, she draws the razor-sharp blade adroitly and deeply across the now-exposed skin of the bridge of Zachery’s foot, leaving behind a thinly flowering line of thoroughly opened, seeping redness.

But before Zachery is given much time to process the pain of this first cut, Yi-Min takes something else out from a carrying case beneath the hem of her jacket. Another syringe full of some dubiously murky fluid is chosen from the midst of a long chain of them. Primed with swift care.

And then, after a deliberate positioning of the needle— injected straight into the raw, gaping trough of the incision she had created.

"Why would you -" There's some judgment in Zachery's voice, in the sentence that never comes to fruition because when the sharp pain of the cut follows, he reflexively pulls that knee up the small amount his restraints allow and inhales on a hiss of clenched jaw. Panic is threaded through his words more clearly now, as he pushes a shoulder forward and down, cracks more clearly beginning to form. "Jesus, Yeh! What's your endgame here, exa-"

But again, he does not manage to finish his sentence. This time due to the effects of the foreign substance forcing him to press his shoulderblades against the metal folding chair's back, eyes shutting as if in some attempt to find answers in the dark behind his eyelids. Or eyelid, as it were. "What - the - FUCK- is THAT?!" He yells, finally, with excessively generous exhales for the words that are leaving him, an intense pain wrenching his expression into one of attempted (and failing) focus.

Hand still over her mouth, Adrienne watches this unfold with wide eyes from the back of the room. She wants to ask questions, wants to know what precisely is happening, but she is too transfixed to do more than stare. Occasionally she will shift focus from Yi-Min to Zachery and back again. But there is a nagging feeling every time she settles on Yi-Min that maybe — just perhaps — she chose poorly in this scenario.

"Platypus venom," Yi-Min explains perfunctorily as she tucks the now-emptied syringe neatly back into place in its carrier. She straightens back into her former standing position, resuming her meditation on Zachery's face with a notable absence of any type of distress. "It hurts," she affirms coolly in what is surely the understatement of the hour, judging by the crests of excruciating pain visibly wracking Zachery from the epicenter of his afflicted foot. Already the skin around the bloody injection site is puffening into what promises to be the inception of a massive swelling. "But, this is most of what it will do. Unlike so many snake venoms, it will not cause tissue necrosis or cellular damage. Nor shall you sustain… permanent marks from this."

This last part is fairly obviously more for Adrienne's benefit than anyone else, but it serves Zachery just as well, in a clear warning of what could yet be.

In other words: Yi-Min is being kind.

Her voice becomes decidedly steelier now, as well as raised somewhat in the necessity to overcome the shrill volume of Zachery's outcries. "I do not know why you insist on questioning my endgame as though it were some perplexing puzzle. I want answers, Zachery, as I have asked you so many times before. On Garza. On the details of your employment."

On really, literally anything that could be bent to a more useful purpose than his sarcastic insults.

Fucking platypus venom. One of Zachery's exhales lends itself to a choked back laugh, bitter and brief. Okay. Sure. Another thing he doesn't know a thing about. Beyond this experience.

He cracks open his eyelids, looking to Yi-Min as he tries to shift his weight to be somehow more comfortable, without success. "Everyone keeps assuming I know, but it's all just been fucking guesses, Yeh," the bite in his voice has scarcely lessened, but desperation has trickled into the way he holds himself. He balls his hands into fists at his sides, half-relaxes them again, then repeats the process. A small bit of control. "I took a look at the world for a good long while, and someone handed me the blueprints to a-…" He stops, as if to breathe for a moment, darting a look to Adrienne.

She will have seen this look on his face before. A look of momentary doubt, of sledgehammer cracks in cement before the mixer tips and covers it back up.

"Sometimes," he whips his attention back to Yi-Min with a sneer of annoyance and pain robbing his voice of stability, locking his eye on hers, "a gun is just a gun."

Adrienne’s brows furrow, dark eyes darting to Yi-Min on consideration of the unfamiliar name: Garza. She steps forward, lips downturned into a frown. “N'est-ce pas triste?” She mutters to herself. “I was lied to by my employers, imprisoned in a laboratory for eight years, separated from the woman I love, arrested for crimes I did under duress, and fucking kidnapped by your friends.” There’s a shrill quality to the rise of Adrienne’s voice, a lack of tempering, an unbridled resentment.

Yi-Min hadn’t seen this anger in Adrienne when they spoke while Zachery was unconscious. It wasn’t until he started slithering around the truth that her patience began to chip away. Now the cracks in her facade are much clearer. “You don’t get to— pick and choose your— fucking answers. This isn’t a negotiation.” Emboldened by the current state of power dynamics, Adrienne spirals out a bit from her prescribed role of Good Cop.

Hai bu cuo. Yi-Min meets Adrienne's eyes with a dark kind of knowingness, showing her surprise at the other woman's anger only in the deep, stilled breath of time in which she lets her gaze remain joined there. "This is where we begin. Our starting point." she states through the tension in the room when she flicks her gaze back to Zachery at last, a kind of callous satisfaction in the sweep of her posture.

They can pick up the sense that the starting point she means encompasses a plurality of things. The entry point of the topic, the first 'harmless' category of venom, the acts so far performed with the blade.

"You are wrong, also. A gun is never just a gun," Yi-Min whispers into the darkness of Zachery's ear, tickling his earlobe with the acute, tapered point of the surgical blade so delicately as to almost not be doing it all. "…Speak of what it is you do know."

Zachery bends at the waist, slightly further to the side of his steadily swelling foot, as if despite rational thought he still wants to reach for it. The gradually spreading effects of the venom reaches a high point that has him doubling over fully not long after, locking him as close to a fetal position as his binds will permit, a shuddering whine leaving him involuntarily as he fails to pull himself back upright.

By the time the blade touches his ear, his breathing has gone shallow, reflex only just managing to angle his head to one side. "Ffi-," he breathes, but it leaves him too quietly. Eye-watering pain nailing his gaze to the floor, he struggles to inhale as much air as he can, and yells- "Fine! FINE! LET'S PLAY." Then, with just the barest excuse of a melody added through straining vocal cords, his cries continue even louder with, "I H-hhHEAR THE TOE BONE'S CONNECTED TO THE - FOOT BONE!"

This is why you specify the nature of the knowledge you want to obtain. He'll keep going, too.

Jesus Christ,” Adrienne breathes into the hand over her mouth. When Zachery begins shouting as Yi-Min continues the agonizing torment. She backs up further, eyes wide, until she bumps into the counterspace on the far end of the room. “Just tell her what she wants to know!” She shouts at Zachery, as if he would somehow listen to her, as if Yi-Min had asked the pointed questions in just the right combination to unlock Zachery’s mouth.

Trying to find her courage, Adrienne looks to the doorway to the stairs, uncertain of whether fight or flight rules the day. She and Yi-Min had talked, but the reality of the situation and the hypothetical of it feels wholly incongruent in her mind. She was fine with this, glad to inflict this on her captor right up until it started to happen. Now, though, is palpable and impotent regret.

Doctor Yeh,” Adrienne tries to call out, but it sounds creaky and muted. A croak of a whisper. It isn’t quite stop, but the hesitation exists in tone rather than words alone.

That was the wrong answer on every count possible. In retrospect, later, Yi-Min would reflect that it was rather impressive.

The surgical blade vanishes from Zachery's eartip.

It reappears back down at the bridge of his foot, which is undergoing the provocative spectacle of ballooning into something coming to resemble a perfect, plum-colored golf ball. What remains of the original incision in the distortions of cramped-up flesh on either side of the developing swelling is dribbling out lines of blood with some force towards the cement, as though in escape from an unbearably accumulating internal pressure. Serenely unheeding of Adrienne's desperate address to her, Yi-Min tactfully and viciously punctures the apex of the already overly-plump swelling with the point of her blade.

A pinprick drop of bile-colored pus squeezes from the miniscule pop of the cleft, after a moment of delay intermingling with the dark, bloody rivulets as though in a soup laced with liquid thickness. Dr. Yeh's hand hovers over her work, poised to continue extending the newest slit as far as necessary. "This may be a long night for you, if you continue thus," she expresses in a crisp, perfectly level tone of voice. Informatively.

"You will start at the beginning, with how you were first recruited into Garza's service. And then you will continue from there. Every single detail that you know, or have been told, about the subject."

Otherwise, Zachery's body still had rather a lot of square footage to work up towards beyond the scope of but a single foot. And Yi-Min could do this literally all day.

Zachery goes quiet. This is due to the fact that he's stopped yelling, though he also stops doing much of anything else after a twitchy exhale, pulling himself forward with a further cinching of the ropes against his wrists.

His half-lidded, half-vacant stare at the floor does not make it immediately clear whether he's even heard what's being said, and by the time he manages to unclench his jaw, the only way he's able to breathe in is with a shudder and an immediately interrupting chuckle that leaves his throat raw and wrong - like a nervous tic that he looks immediately annoyed with.

Doing his best to ignore the current state of his foot and the alarm bells in his head, when the words do come again, they do so slowly and quietly, with just the barest amount of control in the face of the the agony pulling at his every ounce of attention. "They- came to me." There's an unspoken 'of all people' punctuating the sentence behind the strangled efforts of his voice. "With— honeyed words of…" A pained noise in the back of his throat has him lift his unfocused gaze back up to Yi-Min with hatred clear on his face. "Fate. Events decided. I picked - a side."

He shudders out another breath and a weak grin at something echoing in the back of his mind, given voice through gritted teeth: "'To certainty'. To - Shedda Dinu."

Adrienne’s expression is flat the moment Zachery starts to talk, more so once he mentions something — a word, a phrase? — that might as well be word salad. Her brows knit together in confusion, casting a furtive glance to Yi-Min to see if this is revelatory. It is, just not in the way Adrienne expects.

The name Shedda Dinu is something Yi-Min hasn't heard in more than a decade. Not since she responded to the codename Saga. Among the Chinese cell of the Vanguard there were rumors of a secret society that operated in Western Asia and the Middle East by the name Dinu. Like the Vanguard it was cell-like in structure, and one such cell was believed to be named Shedda Dinu. But this is where Yi-Min’s knowledge begins and ends. The Vanguard was never able to find whether the society was fact or fiction, or some blend of the two. It had been careful, deliberate, and if it was real it operated in the deepest of shadows. The name would pop up from time to time like a boogeyman when a member of her cell of the Vanguard went missing. They ran afoul of the Dinu. But it was tongue in cheek. It was all so unlikely.

It doesn't seem so unlikely now.

Juice and blood ooze along the lower edge of the blade, gathering together and plopping back down onto the naked skin of Zachery's foot in large droplets. Yi-Min is noticing this take place, at least ostensibly, but it doesn't appear as though she cares. She is watching Zachery with an expression nearly as flat as Adrienne's. It is also much colder, and bereft of movement for a few moments.

"How long ago did they come to you? And in what circumstances?"

"March! In a BUS!" Zachery barks the last word out abruptly, the ridiculousness of it an undertone to his progressively unstable voice. "I had no idea what they were even offering! I just- I just fucking went for it! A- mystery. An open- … door-"

The pauses between his words cut into them more and more sharply all of a sudden, sweat beginning to collect on increasingly clammy skin with his efforts to keep his breathing in check. His gaze trails vacantly back down to the cement floor, and there's a twitch of the corners of his lips as he does his best to pull himself up a little straighter and explains, "Fractured- ribs."

“None of this makes any sense,” Adrienne says with a shake of her head, fingers coming away from her mouth. “Just— just stop it already. He knows we’re serious, I think we've made our fucking point.” Taking a few long strides over to Zachery, Adrienne takes a knee at his side and grips his face with one hand, using thumb and forefinger to tug at the eyelids of his one good eye, looking at his pupil.

“Just calm the fuck down,” Adrienne breathlessly exhales to Yi-Min, looking away from Zachery and over to the Doctor. Exhaling softly, she moves her hand to cup Zachery’s cheek. There's no outward sign that anything is going on, but inwardly Zachery can feel a warmth spreading in his face, slowly bleeding down through his body toward his foot. There's something else going on, something inside of Adrienne and if Zachery weren't so distracted he might be able to identify it. But as she moves her hand away, she blinks a lookup to Yi-Min, expectantly.

Though Yi-Min can't see exactly what it is that Adrienne's doing, nor the effects that are beginning to circulate underneath the surface of Zachery's skin, she can make a fairly good guess of it based on witnessing Adrienne close her hand around Zachery's cheek. As though in an innocent show of concern.

For her part, Dr. Yeh uncoils once again from her own kneeling position by Zachery's foot, seemingly made content by some unspoken, mysterious aspect of this. She moves off a small distance, setting about the chore of replacing the thoroughly-bloodied blade of the scalpel she is gripping.

Whether Zachery had actually absorbed their fucking point remains to be seen. She had known him for much longer than Adrienne had.

"Besides yourself," she intones evenly over her shoulder, not bothering to turn around from her task, "you will name everyone you are aware of who is also involved in this. In… Shedda Dinu."

Zachery's head falls heavily out of the hand slipping off of his cheek, and if he's got any idea what happened, he's not showing it.

He, too, is trying to calm the fuck down, taking the brief time between words to right himself with a creak of metal chair, trying to find a more comfortable position in which to breathe. And to think. Maybe if he knew the meaning of bedrest, he wouldn't have this bonus on top of the cuts and the shrapnel-like pain that's still pulsating its way up his leg.

"I have- a question first." He jerkily pulls each limb in turn against the ropes just for a second, testing for change, pulling and pushing as if without thought, bracing himself for speech with a twist of a shoulder as he inhales somewhat more fully. "What reason do I have to think that you'll keep me alive after I answer?"

I'm not a murderer,” Adrienne says, with just enough doubt in her voice to punctuate the look she gives Yi-Min. “And I'd like to think given the choice Doctor Yeh wouldn't want to be one either.” Slowly rising from a crouch, Adrienne offers a hand to Zachery while keeping her dark eyes trained on Yi-Min.

“There's three people in this room,” Adrienne says to both Yi-Min and Zachery. “None of whom I think actually wants to commit genocide.” She blinks a stare down to Zachery, that hand still outstretched.

“Why don't we start there.”

There is no direct answer from Zachery, whose eye drifts over to the hand in exhausted recognition of being addressed.

Much of his mind still preoccupied with the pain coursing through his body, he slumps slowly forward again, catching a glimpse of his foot with a flash of teeth in a nauseated sneer.

His answer comes in clipped words between sharp inhalations of breath. "We can start - and end with that. They're aiming to commit mass genocide, and you're asking me to - betray them? And - to think this won't get back to them? Loyalty or pre-determined fate not…" His voice is different from before, now. A pitch lower, resigned to trusting neither side, and deciding ultimately, with a grim cant of his head as he looks back up to Yi-Min, "I'd rather just die here."

There is an incongruous breath of levity in the moment of silence from Yi-Min that follows. A brush of lightness in the heaviness.

"I am in the same boat as you," Yi-Min says quietly, just before dropping the newly detached, blood-drenched blade out of a pair of forceps into the waiting mouth of the nearby sharps bin with a tiny plip, looking at neither of them while she does. It's a claim that seems somewhat incredible, given Zachery's position tied up to a chair and hers standing at the counter with the remnants of a bloody scalpel, until she continues. "Do you not think that, if word got back to Praxis of what I am doing behind their backs, my life would not immediately be forfeit?"

Calmly, Yi-Min sets the now-bladeless handle back down on top of the surgical tray. Within the arc of this motion, she pauses. "No. There are no plans in place to murder you. You shall be kept alive, protected, in a matter of speaking, until the allotted time comes. What happens beyond that is entirely up to you." Something escapes her then. An insinuation of a sigh. A meaningful stare at the wall facing away from them.

"Help us, and we will help you. I… will help you. This is not the first time that I have dealt with matters of mass genocide. That was not fate back then, though I similarly believed it to be so. And do not be fooled: this is not fate now. Do not make it yours."

Zachery shudders out a breath as Yi-Min's words are considered in wordless contemplation, wrists still braced against the ropes as if he simply cannot help but fight— what, exactly? If not her, then something else. If not something else, then himself. This line of thinking pulls his thoughts momentarily elsewhere, eye unfocusing, breath catching.

Adrenaline pulls an exhale from him in an ill-timed, pained laugh of a sentence. "Someone recently told me- that here matters. But this was fucked from the start, wasn't it."

He grits his teeth, swallowing back a chuckle. "Alright, let's talk."

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