Mutual Interest


ace_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Mutual Interest
Synopsis Yi-Min Yeh is approached by a stranger who wants to take Raytech's research regarding crash-victim blood to the next level.
Date December 8, 2021

The clip on the side of the Raytech bundle of letters came loose, leaving them scattered in the bottom of his messenger bag. With a sigh, Aman steps to the side as if to free up space for anyone else with business at the desk. But it's just him. "Sorry, Sera, one sec." It takes a few moments to pull each letter out by hand, to doublecheck the to address listed. "There were only a few today…"

"Here," he indicates as he hands over the thin stack. The letter on top is addressed to Director Yi-Min Yeh.

There's no return address.

Raytech Industries Campus

11:45 am

When it's delivered internally, cut open with the edge of a letter-opener, only the name and address on the very front is written by hand. The letter within is printed on a small sheet of paper folded over once at the middle.

Director Yeh,

I understand a certain research endeavor of yours has run into some issues. Namely, having been co-opted by the government following a leak of information to the public.

The answers you seek are too important to proceed at the speed of government-minded research. But so long as they are shouldering part of the burden, I imagine there's possibly room on your plate now to approach an aspect of this research from another angle.

I'd like to be of assistance, should you like I be too unwilling to give up just yet.

Join me this evening at Merlot Joe's. There will be a table reserved under your name at 7 pm.


The entire affair already reeks of ill portent.

The only reason Dr. Yeh hadn't simply fed the letter into her shredder within a minute of perusing it with narrowed eyes is that, like it or not, the author of the letter is correct. Given the urgency of the situation facing the Sundered, 'danger' as a concept had long ceased to mean much. Weigh much, when set on scales versus even the vaguest possibility of real hope. 'A,' whoever they are, must know this too.

How much did they know?

It's a question that only amplifies her doubt down to new depths, rather than dispelling it, but at least it makes coming to a decision easy.

After informing at least three different people of her planned whereabouts later that evening in case she ended up disappearing, she summarily delegates away the greatest of the day's busywork and instead, sets her mind towards the quandary at hand.

Merlot Joe's

7:21 pm

When Director Yeh arrives, it's with a certain fashionable lateness that does not typically characterize her meetings with others. Nor does her attire, in the form of a seashell-white beret tilted across the top of her dark hair and mink-fur coat, speak of anything more or anything less than the expectation of a perfectly splendid evening meal.

As promised, there is a reservation waiting for her under her name, and she is able to claim it with little trouble.

The windowside table for two is hauntingly empty when she gets there, but she had been expecting that.

Watchfulness isn't overt anywhere in her form as she takes the farther of the two seats; in fact, she poises herself in such a way as to gaze out through the darkened glass with minimal effort, as though this is what truly holds her interest rather than whatever mystery figure might approach her over the restaurant floor. Nevertheless, there is a certain coiled energy she exudes as she settles in to wait, like that of a quietly languorous snake.

At least the wine menu is looking promising.

"There's a Maryland cellar meadery and winery they stock from here. I'd recommend a bottle from that."

The man who invites himself to the other seat at the table must have already been here, a tumbler of amber liquid grasped lightly by its top. He settles it on his side, letting go delicately before pushing his chair back with fingertips. The suit jacket he wears is so dark a turquoise it nears navy, the low dinner lighting above helping with that shadowing. The buttondown he wears with it is of grey heather and a solid black collar, brass buttons keeping it together and the outline of large sunflowers and their leaves embroidered into the shirt.

"Always a pleasure to be dealing with someone who has a sense of taste," says the man as he settles into a seat. Cold green-grey eyes observe Yi-Min with a slight tilt of his head; a cold without sharpness, a mellow afforded by having pleasant company, if not pleasant conversation. His freckled face is kept clear of stubble, hair pommed back from his forehead in a stylish tousle. He lifts his chin to her. "My name is Ace Callahan. I'm the one who wrote you. Dinner will be on me this evening."

One leg folds over the other under the table, and he moves one hand palm out in a loose gesture. "I'm not particularly a fan of discussing myself, so if you don't mind, I'd rather skip pleasantries and head straight to our topic of mutual interest." Brow lifting, he wonders, "Is that amenable?"

"Likewise." Once Yi-Min has spent the next long moment eying Ace up and down with a sense of curious judgement she does not bother to hide, the word drops from her lips like a diamond— short, cool, yet with just enough of a glimmer of invitation. Only after he is fully situated in the seat opposite her does she lower her levelly-held gaze from his figure, returning to the wine menu with somewhat renewed interest.

Perhaps she didn't quite hate everything about this old song and dance.

Then Yi-Min listens to those opening words, her dark eyes bright and placid with a spark of something that is hard to read. Whatever it may be, it's ostensibly just as warm as the mellowness he is showing to her in turn, but there is a message she isn't saying. "Ah, yes. I will listen to your proposition, Mr. Callahan. I can even completely sympathize with your desire to avoid talking about yourself. Just know that it will be difficult to agree to something from someone whom I know nothing about. So… perhaps consider it something more than a pleasantry, if that shall help you."

Surely he could understand. Life required such small sacrifices from time to time, did it not?

That's the funny thing about ostensibly— it's so often not. And the cool warmth Yi-Min regards him with seems as though it must run cooler than on the surface, given the calm warning in her words.

"Allow me to elucidate you at least partly on my position, then," Ace counters with a small smile. Never let it be said he's incapable of rolling with the punches. "While I may not be remotely an expert in your field or what you have been studying, I do have a vested interest in it. After learning about the frustrations your team encountered at the top of the month, I began to wonder to myself if anything could be done. And lo, I found an area where my expertise and your expertise might finally merge."

His eyes narrow a hair. "Being as we're unfamiliar with each other, it wasn't my intent to approach you at all. I'm rather more familiar with the likes of Zachery Miller, but to put it to you plainly— he can't be trusted with this matter."

Ace's eyes don't leave Yi-Min. "And I need someone trustworthy. Someone who won't fuck this up either on accident, or on a whim."

Brushing down the thigh of his pants with the back of his knuckles to rid it of any perceived blemish, he goes on with a touch more discretion, "Especially where the lives of human subjects are concerned. Because this is what I would like to bring you, and what I would like to see the results of— human interaction with the blood you've been experimenting with." Focusing on the woman across from him with sharper intent than before, he adds, "And while I would not mind the slightest if you decide to incorporate Miller into whatever you trust him with, under no circumstances should the… other member of your team— Doctor Pride?— be involved."

Ace begins to look up out of the corner of his eye when the waiter approaches, gesturing that way with a tilt of his head. "What'll your order be?" he asks preemptively.

"Mm. I think I shall take your advice. A glass of the Orchid Cellars Cabernet Franc for me then, to begin." That comes from Yi-Min with only a mildly meaningful lift of her eyebrow in the direction of the label as she reads from it, snapping the wine menu closed once that's accomplished and placing it down before her. She waits for the initial business of ordering drinks to conclude before speaking up on her thoughts about the previous matter, that same shrewdly distant light flickering behind her gaze in the interim.

"An excellent choice," Ace decides. "I'll take some of the mead from the same." He flashes a polite smile before the waiter goes, his attention more shrewdly returning to Yi-Min after.

“Understandable of you to be wary of Miller," is the first thing Yi-Min allows with a genuine smirk of a laugh, once the table is cleared and privacy theirs again. "Honestly, he is about as trustworthy as a weasel trying to hold a butcher knife. Though, I hope you will not mind my asking why you are vehement that Dr. Pride be excluded, too… from whatever this is that you are after." From her lack of terseness, it doesn't seem like she takes offense to the prospect any more than she does to that of excluding Miller. There is still only curiosity through and through, now unmistakably sharpened by the bold mention of blood experimentation.

Whatever Ace thinks of Doctor Miller, a visual read on it is tempered by the mention of Doctor Pride again immediately after. "It's her the Exterior have interfaced with, and her they'll be looking most strongly at," he points out with certain disdain. "And this is something that should most definitely be kept from their eyes."

"Don't you agree?" Seeking that confirmation, there's no smiles now, just a fixation of pale green-grey eyes on her being.

"Mm. I don't think I can say whether I agree or not before I form an actual idea of what it is you want me to do." Yi-Min points out with her sunny mildness, her brows only slightly furrowed now. Leaning onto her forearms, she lets her slender fingers thread together into an introspective clasp. Her dark eyes remain as piercing as ever, but unlike Ace, she doesn't seem to feel the need to keep her gaze trained on his form; instead it dips down to rest on the surface of the table, the shadow of a patient smile forming on her face.

"For the sake of simplicity, for now, I shall forego the question of how you appear to know so much about the area of my research. However, I would appreciate some elaboration on the… 'human-blood interaction' you would like to see. What is it you want, exactly, and what is it you get out of all this?"

Her smile remains a small, subtle ghost of a thing, but as he watches, it becomes more pleasantly rooted. "Feel free to go into detail. I promise you will not bore me."

Ace flashes a hint of canine in return, knifelike smile a thin thing. "What I want you to do, Dr. Yeh, is whatever you feel necessary to further your research. Outside the bounds of morality and ethics, as the only ethos I ascribe to is to not give a damn about what makes others squirm. What I want, I take. Those are my rules, but I tend to not act without purpose. I know how to hedge my actions to …" His lips purse, tongue running over his teeth before he admits, "get my kicks out of things at mutually appropriate moments rather than just for the hell of it."

"What I get out of this," he further elaborates, still sitting just as still and relaxed as before, "is that I get to employ skills I so rarely exercise since the war's end. I'll obtain for you your stock of subjects. Picking them, crafting the moments that lead them from my sights to yours…" Ace's eyes gleam at that pleasant thought. "Well, what's not to love about that?"

He leans forward slightly toward the table. "The specifics of the science go beyond me. That's your area. All I know is that your testing remained ethically compliant previously. You didn't use human subjects to test the blood's interaction with other living creatures. And the question I pose to you is, why not try after all?"

His smile grows more fond. "Is the answer not worth the trouble?"

With little uncertainty, conjectures are already forming in Yi-Min's head regarding how Ace might have discovered all these things. After all, this is information that had never been issued in public. Only a few individuals were in possession of the power to advertise it.

Following from that, the possibilities are rather limited.

Yi-Min blinks at Ace once, her slip of a smile vanishing into a much more natural, neutral expression. It also advertises her slant of genuine curiosity from before— overall, the only slightly oblique look of a professor trying to surmise what could be going through his errant student's mind. "So. You are saying to me that you want nothing out of this, and nothing out of me, other than the kicks you will get from whatever our working relationship ends up being? I want to be sure I have this all correct."

Contrary to looking patronized, Ace appears pleasantly thoughtful when his mouth firms into a line and then softens again. The glass of wine for her and mead for him is brought to the table, and he clarifies while reaching for his, "Unless a profitable angle exposes itself through the results, and you agree to such an entrepreneurial endeavor, I believe you have the heart of it." A finger lifts off the side of his glass while he raises it, an important afterthought needing added. "Though if we must split hairs on it, it bears reiterating what I want from you is your discretion in these matters as well. We each scratch the other's back and keep the details of said arrangement to ourselves."

A smile flashes behind the rim of his glass. "And Miller, if it pleases you," bears repeating, too, cementing the knowledge that he's at least peripherally aware of Ace's designs here.

After inviting himself to a healthy sip that drains more of the glass than it seems like it should, he looks down on the glass to give its contents a moment of silent appreciation before returning his gaze to Yi-Min. "I have a location on Staten Island that could be suitable for our needs. I don't think that long-term the bolthole Miller had in Sheepshead will service us well." Swirling the mead up the walls of his wineglass, he supposes, "With a firm statement of commitment from you, we can part ways and begin on our separate tasks— you in securing the blood and any peripheral medical equipment you'll want for the transfusion and subsequent monitoring, and I in orchestrating delivery of the other stock you'd require and its subsequent sustainment and detainment."

Ace's expression falls as he moves on to a less pleasant point. "I'd like to have all of this set up in advance of Christmas. I'll be spending a few days out of town, therefore I'd like to make sure you're underway by that point." His eyes half-lid before they return to Yi-Min. "Can you make that happen?"

"Staten Island," Yi-Min repeats with musing acknowledgement, leaning back with one slim forearm outstretched as the wine glass is placed down before her. It’s another moment before her fingers move to curve around it.

Her tone drifts, as though she is reminiscing about topics of greater breadth than just that particular location. Now she sounds loosely, pleasantly absent, even as her eyes remain hard and cool. "If my measure of you is correct, I… have worked with individuals like you in the past, Mr. Callahan. It has been a while since I have done so. But do not fear that I have forgotten how."

Her countenance stays stonily unchanged, save for a moment when she briefly closes her eyes. As reassurance, it is somehow clearer than a more visible motion from her would have been. Dryness brushes her next words— "Be assured that I am quite accustomed to keeping secrets. Better, it would seem, than some of those who work under me."

Ace smiles at her from across the table. "Rest assured, Dr. Yeh, you've never worked with anyone like me. But let's hope the good manners from past professional encounters of yours lead us to that mutually-delicious outcome we both desire."

The glass of wine is drained the remainder of the way, and Ace produces a crisp fifty-dollar note to lay under the base of his emptied wineglass.

"I'll look forward to exploring our relationship together. Expect a note with details soon regarding where your equipment can be sent." He gives it a moment of consideration, one corner of his mouth curling back when he figures that's about that.

"Until then," Ace supposes. "Ta."

And the corners of his being begin to blur for one unsettling moment. By the time Yi-Min can blink, her tablemate's form begins to smudge in a left-to-right swipe. There's hardly enough time for his grin to widen before he disappears entirely, no trace of him left save for the glass he's left behind.

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