Genome, Caspid, Lipid



Scene Title Genome, Caspid, Lipid
Synopsis Yi-Min is drawn into a complex web of shifting ideologies.
Date May 14, 2019

The New Jersey Pine Barrens are a rambling stretch of forests that cross a vast stretch of the state. Within the cloying shadow of deciduous trees, the town of Providence has managed to become a safe-haven for those unable or unwilling to move into the concrete and neon haven of the Safe Zone. But Providence is a settlement that harkens back to times long gone, to a period in history when things appeared ostensibly simpler, but simpler does not always mean the same thing to different people.

I don’t know if she’s breathing!

People picture simple as a synonym to idyllic, to the vast stretches of rural America that survived the Civil War unscathed, that maintained their quaint charm but also the creature comforts of the modern world. But simple is without complexity and the world — whether anyone likes it or not — is a complex thing. Life is complex. And so is death.

She’s in here!

In the Pine Barrens, nothing is simple.


New Jersey Pine Barrens

May 14th


The Caulfield family has been in Providence for seven years, having settled in the area after fleeing from the worst of the war further south in Virginia. The Caulfields aren’t a traditional family by the strictest definitions of blood, but their familial bond is unbreakable. Their homestead is just a half mile from what's considered the edge of Providence, an old white farmhouse with an attached barn and plenty of room for the crops they tend. The home has simple charms; bundles herbs drying from nails on exposed beams, a wicker basket of potatoes in the kitchen harvested from the garden out back, a dining room table set with mismatched plates scavenged from the remnants of nearby towns.

Up on the second floor, most of the Caulfield family have gathered around the bedroom of Amy Caulfield. The labored sound of her breathing is audible down the hall, where her two brothers stand with hands clenched into fists, ordered out of the room by their mother when they became too emotional, when their panic made Amy panic further.

“She’s in here!”

Henry Caulfield is a normally quiet man, reserved and kind. He hurries past his sons, leading the one person he could find that might be able to help this situation. As he moves through the door into Amy’s room, his wife Ana stands up from the side of a young child’s bed where an eleven year old girl lays on her back, beads of sweat collected on her dark brow, the wet and labored sound of her breathing filling the room. Ana claps a hand over her mouth, eyes puffy and red from crying. Henry’s already rambling as he comes in, leading his guest.

“She said she had a sore throat yesterday,” Henry says with a shaky voice, “this morning she was— she was tired and had a fever, so we sent her up to bed early. I— I checked on her this afternoon and she wasn’t getting better, so— so I gave her some of the antibiotics we have.” Which, if this is viral, would do nothing. “She’s having a hard time breathing. I’m— I don’t— know what t’do. Doctor Haight’s out of town…”

Henry looks back into the doorway, to Doctor Yeh, hoping for a miracle.

The call had come both promptly and with startling urgency. These two things being the case, Yi-Min had been left with no extra time to seek out Eileen, whom she would have bidden accompany her— or go in her stead— if either had been a possibility. After Doctor Haight, this probably would have been the most natural choice; one would not normally after all ask after an apothecary to fill the duties of a doctor, and the only thing that really gives extra credence to Doctor Yeh's limited formal medical training is her (admittedly impressive) knowledge of her chosen realms of toxicology and pharmacology.

It still does not change the fact that diagnostics are not her strong suit.

Perhaps this is why her opening greeting to the family is a very plain "You know I am not a physician," in place of a more friendly acknowledgement, a mild sense of doubt radiating off of her as she trails the patriarch of the Caulfields up the stairs of their home at a reserved distance. In comparison to the quasi-panicked mood of the residence, she is as calm as she usually is, noting Henry's uncharacteristic shakiness in particular.

I will try, but don't expect any miracles, says the impassiveness of her face.

Despite the short notice, she had been able to prepare an impromptu medical satchel of supplies, and this she loops off her slender wrist as she steps through the doorway straight for a spot by the bedside where she can get a closer look at the girl.

"Does she have an inhaler?" she asks first, eyes sweeping over the girl's upper torso, checking for the presence of restrictive garments and evaluating the way she is propped up in bed before anything else.

“No,” Henry says with a shake of his head. “She's never really been sick before, not like this.” Though he's afraid, the fact that Yi-Min is even doing something remotely resembling an examination seems to be calming him, as if the reassurance that anything resembling a doctor is better than none was what he personally needed. His wife seems less assuaged by Yi-Min’s ministrations, and hovers by the doorway with one hand over her mouth.

Amy looks up at Yi-Min, clearly able to recognize her but only in that she's another person in the room. She's never met Yi-Min before, but the unfamiliarity doesn't register. Her breathing is labored, wet and heavy. Nothing external seems to be restricting her breathing, but Yi-Min can smell the sweat in the air around her, can feel the heavy quality in the air. Her cheeks are flushed, pupils dilated, but she's trembling.

“You're one of them,” Ana says from by the door through a cage of her fingers, “please, please just fix her.”

One of them.

It suddenly dawns on Yi-Min why they'd chosen an apothecary. Whether they'd somehow found out on their own that she was an Expressive or just assumed most everyone in Eileen’s close personal sphere was isn't clear. Ana seems certain of it, but perhaps that just desperation talking.

Yi-Min does not respond straight away when Ana appeals to her as an Expressive, though she does give the other woman a piercing glance. There is nothing useful to be read in the look: it speaks of a sharpness that is only nebulously tempered by an empathy for the family's situation. "That I am one of them does not mean I can work magic," she says reprovingly, her attention at this point focused on thinking about what she is able to do.

She unhooks the lid of her satchel, putting it aside once she has retrieved the object she desires from within: a small, flat, squarish thing of smooth white plastic and rounded corners. A nebulizer— a new and unused one, judging from the clear wrapping she takes it out of and crinkles away. It does not take long for her to assemble the parts of the contraption, pouring a cloudy liquid from a round phial into the medicine cup and hooking everything up together.

"Keep looking at me," she instructs Amy gently, sinking to one knee by the bedside as she does so, unreeling the tubing and offering the mouthpiece up to her lips. "If you can, put your lips around this— top teeth and bottom teeth. Like so." She may not be able to get to the root of the problem, but this is at least a small remedy that she can offer to the child, even if it only alleviates the surface symptoms that she can see and nothing else.

Keeping her eyes on the child's face, she moves her free hand off of the switch of the compressor to take the nearer of Amy's hands into her own, giving it a light squeeze. Her hold is an encouraging one, unexpectedly benign despite the coolness of her overall demeanor.

"Just focus on breathing."

The nebulizer is a wise choice from Yi-Min’s particular bag of tricks. Though it takes Amy some effort to comply and get her mouth around the pipe-like nebulizer, the sublimating albuterol sulfate vapor she inhales through it works rapidly to open up her lungs and relieve the construction in her chest. Much as it has a physical benefit, the psychological effect of even minor relief causes her panic to subside, which in and of itself makes it easier for young Amy to breathe.

By the door, Ana stands silently with a hand at her mouth, watching Yi-Min do her work. While it doesn’t solve the underlying illness that caused Amy to asphyxiate, Yi-Min’s educated guess is that this may be an athsmatic episode brought on by a flu or flu-like disease. Treatable, and the symptoms can be managed until the settlement’s proper doctor returns. Henry, having watched Amy calm and hearing her breathing become normalized, fixes Yi-Min with a steady and relieved look. Moreover, it’s a grateful one. Amy is alive, likely due to Yi-Min’s expereise alone. She clutches the nebulizer for dear life, watching Yi-Min the whole while, breathing in slow and deep.

“I’m glad we listened t’him and called you,” however, is something that Henry says which elicits a pang of suspicion from the doctor.

"You're doing well," Yi-Min tells Amy in that same curt but somehow soothing manner as she observes the apparent alleviation of the girl's breathing problems, careful to miss no details that might signal a necessity for further action. She does not bother turning to the parents to observe their own reactions as this is going on; the hints of what they are doing and feeling are obvious enough even out of the bare edge of her vision. The telltale angling of Amy's hand. The subtle shade of relief in Henry's next exhalation.

Henry's curious statement does merit a light shift of her eyes towards him from her position by the bed, however.

"Who is him?" she questions, feeling as though she somehow already knows the answer.

“The old British fellow who came here a couple weeks ago,” Henry says distractedly, but Yi-Min already knows who it is Henry is speaking of. “He's been staying two houses down the street, in that farmhouse,” the one no one had lived in prior due to its partly collapsed roof. Most of Henry’s uncertain response is circular, nervous conversation. He creeps to the bedside opposite of Yi-Min, watching Amy with a father’s cautious eyes, even though Amy looks nothing like Ana and Henry. The war broke families apart and forged new ones out of necessity.

What's left of Amy’s condition appears to be symptoms of a fever, and what she's suffering from is likely viral. Whether it exacerbated her otherwise mild, pre-existing asthma or if that diagnosis isn't correct doesn't matter. Much of the medicine needed to treat flu-like illnesses is in short supply in Providence. But the presence of a flu in late spring is worrisome. A particularly virulent flu this late in the season could impact the settlement soundly.

But Yi-Min can't help but feel manipulated in being here. She can't help but feel Charles Sharrow’s unseen hand on her shoulder.

Neither one is a prospect that leaves Yi-Min thrilled.

Recognition without surprise creeps across her face, but she does not otherwise acknowledge Henry's ramblings about Sharrow and the old man's current living conditions. "I'll leave this with you," she says once he lapses into silence, indicating the nebulizer, withdrawing her grasp on Amy's palm once it appears that the girl will be able to continue holding the implement and using it without her help. "Instructions for use are on a pamphlet in the box. She may have more reactions like this while she is sick with what appears to be flu, so keep it on hand. As well—"

Here, she rises from her bent knee, reaching to scoop up her heavy leather satchel to herself again in the same movement. This time what comes out of it is a single, fat brown pill bottle, which she offers out to Henry with a short, meaningful look. "This is some of the last of what I have. For now. One dose every twelve hours, over the next five days. Do not stop, even if she feels better before that. And call Doctor Haight in, once he’s back."

More accurately, some of the last of what is available to the entirety of the settlement upon short notice, but she does not word it so precisely.

Even as Amy continues the occupy the backdrop of her mind, she is making the mental note to confer with Rene immediately about the plausibility of successfully growing a crop of star anise in the environment of the barrens with the aid of his ability. If she can obtain a reliable source of shikimic acid from which she is able to synthesize more of this type of flu medicine— well. This situation may still be salvageable before it has the chance to blossom into a real problem.

Or outbreak.

From Henry and Ana’s perspective, much of what Yi-Min says is a blur punctuated by important keywords and instructions intended to save their daughter’s life. They nod as if they understand, then stop Yi-Min on the way out and ask her to repeat some of it over again. They’re shaken, this whole situation has been a whirlwind for them, and each time she tries to disengage from it they come back wanting another piece of her, incrementally smaller each time.

By the time Yi-Min has extricated herself from their household it is near dark, and Henry is escorting her out of the front door with a cloth-wrapped loaf of fresh rye bread and two bottles of homebrewed beer for her troubles. It isn’t an equivalent exchange by any stretch of the imagination, but they also aren’t taking no for an answer. “If you want, I can drive you back. Ain’t much daylight left…”

But Henry’s offer is shot down. Though not by Yi-Min.

“That won’t be necessary,” comes from across the dirt road, where the dark silhouette of Charles Sharrow looks forbiddingly like the Ghost of Christmas Future in his long black wool coat that keeps the misting rain off of him. “But I’m sure she appreciates the offer none the less.” Sharrow makes his way across the street, from where he’d been haunting the post and beam fence by the Klein family’s field.


For how detached she acts, Yi-Min doesn't appear to mind patiently reiterating her words to the family, even when pressed for them multiple times— indeed, she is not comfortable with leaving until it is abundantly clear that the pair have actually absorbed what has been said to them. Once the simple gifts are thrust into her arms despite stern protestations, she offers them a low parting smile that reveals some true measure of warmth for the first time that evening.

Still: her mind isn't really there, and hadn't been. Any thoughts of taking a prompt detour to find Rene in town are promptly dashed, however, when a familiar, frail voice drifts over to her ears from across the path.

"Shuo Sharrow, Sharrow dao", she comments aloud dryly with her new acquisitions in hand as she marks both his interruption and his approach towards her, not bothering to mask her voice in the darkening evening air.

Speak of the devil, and he shall appear.

As far as both the idiom and its English analogue are concerned, Sharrow might be neither devil nor mythical tyrant, but his intentions are presently as dubious those of either allusion.

"Mr. Sharrow. What can I do for you?"

The response Yi-Min gets is a grandfatherly shake of Sharrow’s head and an easy, if practiced smile. “You’ve already done it,” he says with a knowing look to the house. “I wanted to see if you were still the same woman I knew of back in the days we were colleagues, and I am relieved to find that this is not the case.” His eyes drift up and down, then square back on a firm amount of eye contact.

“You’ve settled in well here, in such unlikely surroundings.” Sharrow takes a step closer to Yi-Min. “A survivor. Much as that young girl will be, no doubt. What I want to know, is what I can do for you?” Though she feels there’s another question waiting in the wings, something that while unstated, rests like a shadow beneath them.

The brazenness of that first assertion makes Yi-Min laugh outright, if quietly, and she has to stop to contemplate whether she considers it to be valid or not. "What kind of woman was I to you, in the days of the Vanguard?" She knows well what sort of woman she had considered herself to be, but to hear it from the mouth of another, particularly one such as Sharrow: such was a different beast entirely.

Yi-Min casts an eye on the isolated stretch of road curving away from the pair of them, a gesture born of idle curiosity to detect if other souls may be present. When it appears to be only her and Sharrow, for now, she meets his eye contact evenly.

"There are many questions surrounding your visit here. You know what they are, or you should. Some of them were touched upon, but not answered, the night you came to the factory."

It may not quite answer Sharrow’s question of what he can do for her, but it is a necessary start.

The air is crisp and cool on Yi-Min’s cheeks, biting in a gentle way. That sensation is the only response she receives for a long while. Sharrow’s focus is past her, up the dirt road to where a bank of mist rolls out of an overgrown pasture. Eventually he sighs, letting his stare drift down to the ground, then meander back over to Yi-Min. He never answers the question of what kind of woman she was to him, it is left on the side of the road with whatever thought long-consumed his voice. Instead, with the distant cawing of a crow at his back, he focuses on the present.

“I am here because the tide has turned, Sága.” When Sharrow names Yi-Min by her old Vanguard call-sign, there is a sense of electricity in the air. It is a name not often spoken in the present, and Sharrow uses it with purpose. “History has changed course, and in the end of all our former master’s plans… it was not failure that should have been our lesson, but change.” Brows furrowed, Sharrow briefly looks away from Yi-Min, as if having difficulty looking her in the eye.

“When the dust settled from Apollo, I learned of what happened to our cell in China.” Sharrow says, flicking his attention back to Yi-Min. “Moreover, I learned what happened to Kazimir himself. That he had not died, as we all had thought, in New York City. But that he had moved on… transcended his physical form into another. And another. Each time, adapting… changing.” Lifting a hand to rest against the splintered wood of the old post and beam fence, Sharrow mindfully plucks at a long sliver of once-painted wood.

“My spy told me much. Heard much. Of how Kazimir betrayed each and every one of us. At first, I was filled with an anger and a doubt greater than any crisis of faith,” Sharrow says with a slow shake of his head, eyes once more looking distant. “But I have had much time to think. Much time to reconsider where we all stand and that it was the man we believed in that turned on us. That it was not Kazimir that failed us, but we that failed Kazimir by not understanding that his vision — the Work — had changed with him.”

Sighing softly, Sharrow lets his hand fall away from the fence post. “I spent my entire life, believing that it was people like you who were a doom upon all the world. But the truth of the matter was, it was I all along. I feared change, the change of humanity to something more ascendant, just as our brethren feared change within our own organization. We had become so locked in our ways that we were incapable of understanding that you…” he motions to Yi-Min, “…and all those like you, are the future.

Wringing gloved hands together, Sharrow nods once in recognition of his own words. “That is why I am here. In part. But also because I know that within Eileen… He lives on. I wish to serve Him as I always have. No matter what form Kazimir Volken takes.”

If nothing else, his usage of the name Sága tells Yi-Min beyond a shadow of a doubt which world Sharrow's frame of mind resides in.

It is one that is dangerously different to their current one.

The Taiwanese woman is still, even more than she had been, as she meticulously watches Sharrow's wizened frame. There is no more warmth in her gaze than there is in the breath of wind that ruffles at her short hair then, but there is something else: intrigue.

If she has a reaction in particular to the rather alarmingly religious rhetoric Kazimir's description is couched in, it does not show. Perhaps she had become too accustomed to this kind of language, over many hard-forgotten years.

"This certainly is a change, Sharrow," she puts forth openly after she absorbs all of this— and there is much to absorb— a tidbit added to the serene air of evaluation already sitting as a centerpiece between the two of them. As it would seem from this, Eileen's assessment of the matter had been correct. The pendulum had swung from one extreme end to another. "And, so then? What is your plan? Do you wish to eradicate all those who are not like us, to bring about this future that you envision?"

Any fool could see that Sharrow had some plan in the works. His visit to Providence was certainly not one founded on charity.

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Sharrow concedes in the way someone might talk about not wearing a jacket because it’s too warm, not the topic of genocide. “If all things are measured equal, humanity will do that to itself long before a man such as myself could concoct a design to do it.” Sharrow takes a few steps around Yi-Min as he speaks, slow as they are, but it comes with an assessing look from him. “As I said, I am here to serve Eileen. My goals are her goals, though I would not be so ineffectual as to say I will not attempt to advise her when she seeks council.”

Stopping at the half-circle mark around Yi-Min, Sharrow looks up and down the road, then back to her. “I am not alone in this devotion, as you’ve undoubtedly noticed. Those who were loyal to me in the old days are still now, and a few newer flock. We’ve come here because we believe that your kind are the future, and understanding that is important. It does not need to come to genocide, when all humanity need do is stand aside…” he looks down to the ground, to the faint puddle of rainwater collecting in his shoeprint in the dirt. “One day or another.”

One day or another. That might leave Sharrow waiting a very long time indeed, if he even had so many days remaining to him. The old man isn't getting younger, unless he himself had received some mitigating superpower sometime in the decades in which he had been absent.

But, that aside.

"And what happens when Eileen tells you something that you don't want to hear?"

It seems an obvious question to ask. From the very first night Sharrow had arrived in Providence, she had seemed less than impressed by the points of view he had put on the table. "She may be inhabited by the imprint of the man that you— that we used to serve, but she is her own person. Her viewpoints are her own." And somehow, Yi-Min feels, even the suggestion of the necessity of genocide may not be one that is received well.

There is a beat, and then an exhalation from her that is marginally lower and slower than a sigh. But her eyes never stray from Sharrow's face; more than ever, they are now alight with an interest that has become almost hawklike. "Praxis Heavy would agree with this mindset, however. As would, for that matter, much of China. It is not one that is unfamiliar to me. I would… be interested in talking with you and your fellows further."

Sharrow’s brows crease together at the mention of Praxis Heavy Industries. He looks down, briefly, and then back up to Yi-Min. “As I said, change is inevitable. It isn’t up to me to resist that, just to try and guide and instruct and… if Eileen chooses a path less traveled, we are all the wiser for following her down it.” There is that hint of impermanence in everything though, the way in which Sharrow follows Kazimir from host to host, more so than Eileen as a person. It lays uncertainty at his feet for the longevity of his loyalty to Eileen as a person, over Kazimir as an ideal.

“I have a feeling our ideals align closer than you may realize,” Sharrow admits, “more than I realized. But that may be a conversation for a later time, on a day where the weather is more conducive to talk, perhaps over a cup of tea.” For now, Sharrow seems content to leave her wanting, if even in just the pretenses of.

“We can talk more, then. For now,” Sharrow lifts an arm with his elbow crooked, “would you care to escort an old man back into town?” The weather was not yet right, he’d said.

But eventually the season would turn.

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