Not As Alone


hull_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Not As Alone
Synopsis Yi-Min Yeh comes to Providence to do something long overdue.
Date February 15, 2020

Dumortier's Residence
Providence, New Jersey Pine Barrens

Dr. Yi-Min Yeh is no longer in Providence. Though still lined by the stock of medicinal sundries left behind, her little laboratory in the Sunken Factory has been sitting empty otherwise, an aging industrial shell once again devoid of either light or life.

From the end of January on, both of these things have been common knowledge to the folk of the tiny settlement.

Which is why the figure who raps rhythmically on Dumortier's door on this nippy, overcast February afternoon doesn't look anything at all like Dr. Yeh, at least from anything that approaches a reasonable distance— something simple enough to maintain out here in these backwoods. The clothing is all wrong, just for starters. Yi-Min had always been more attentive to her appearance than she would have ever cared to put into words, and she wouldn't have been caught dead wearing these things: baggy men's coveralls that might easily be harboring a frame much more generously-sized than her own. A rather comically droopy raffia hat, its ample brim jauntily pulled over both her eyes and a mass of thick blonde hair.

And if a certain green-haired devil had shown up on Rene Dumortier's doorstep several days prior, this newer devil apparently possessed the temerity— or at least, the blind luck— of approaching when the homeowner himself was not around.

Shame, that.

Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock.

Everyone’s dead,” comes from inside, a young woman’s voice. “Gas leak, fucking horrible. We’re all ghosts now,” the voice sounds a little closer, “so you should probably go before we haunt your shit or something.” This, of course, is followed up by a woOOoo ghost noise about as close to the door as someone could get standing exactly on the other side of it. There’s no peephole, or this whole situation might be different.

"If this is a ghost, I cannot imagine you would mind letting me in." From equally up close, Yi-Min's voice comes filtering through the thick wood of the door. Light and leisurely in tone, it is also distinctly unlike the regional accent the occupant might have come to expect from living in these parts.

"'Haunt my shit.' I do not mind."

There’s no peephole in the door to Dumortier’s home. No way to see quite who is out front without going around to a side window or upstairs. Instead, the door cracks open a touch and a dimly lit shadow of a young woman peeks out from inside. Yi-Min sees the dark eyes looking up at her, followed by the door slamming shut almost immediately. On the other side of the wood there’s labored breathing, hasty, panicked breaths. A fear response. Clover Hull has no memory of Yi-Min Yeh, but she has seen her photograph in Praxis Heavy Industries personnel dossiers.

"Ai-ya, what manner of reception is this? You are not a very friendly ghost, are you."

Yi-Min's voice again, a few long seconds after the harshest vibrations die away from the door slamming in her face. She sounds more reproving because of that, but not in a way that points to actual offense— it’s not a real admonition, but a lighthearted one. If Dr. Yeh had come with ill-will as her intention, it certainly doesn't carry in the way she sounds.

But as though she understands that she may need to be more reassuring, she lowers her volume into something gentler for her next attempt at getting through to the person behind the door. "Really, though. Please let me in so that we can talk properly. I assume you have not already forgotten about the conversation between Oni and you and I."

Besides that, Hull can guess that Dr. Yeh really isn't going away. She can stand on this doorstep for a very long time.

It takes a minute for Hull to respond. Yi-Min can hear her breathing slow down. A calmness returns enough that it can’t ready be heard on the other side of the door. Another few minutes pass and clouds start to gather, casting everything around Dumortier’s house in dimmer shades of diffuse, wintry light. Eventually, Hull opens the door and steps out of the house, bundled up against the cold in a winter jacket and wool scarf.

“Can’t invite you in,” Hull says in a small, timid voice. “It’s— not my house.” Her dark eyes search Yi-Min’s shoes, for lack of a want to look her in the eye. For all her bravado and posture on the internet, Hull herself is a small and relatively meek figure when presented with the long shadow of Doctor Yi-Min Yeh. “Lemme guess, no cell signal out here?” She says bitterly of face-to-face conversations.

Dr. Yeh may cast a somewhat long shadow metaphorically, but she hardly casts one now in this lighting that is growing more dismal by the second. Even if she did, hers would still be shorter than Hull's by a fair amount. Any imposing qualities Yi-Min possesses do not come from her height.

The full sight that greets Hull once she steps outside is an odd one, in any case. She can see Yi-Min's quietly piercing gaze thoroughly shadowed by the brim of her raffia hat, enveloped on either side by generous golden curls which are— quite clearly not her own. Despite the appraising nature of that gaze, it is still, in essence, as gentle as the voice Hull had just heard. "Something like that," the visitor says with a hint of a laugh as Hull takes a place beside her, turning to overlook the gray countryside that spreads from Dumortier's doorstep. "I did not know you knew Rene. Friend of yours?"

Hull flings an assessing look at Yi-Min, then glances back over her shoulder at the house. “Recent acquaintance,” she says before looking back to the doctor. “He was nice enough t’give me an alternative place to sleep other than the back of Noah’s truck. In February.” She wrinkles her nose and manages a discomforted expression.

“Why’re you up in my face?” Hull asks defensively, keeping her arms wrapped around herself. The technopath’s attitude in person is a bit more prickly and insecure than her online persona presented. Her dark eyes track Yi-Min’s, trying to find unsaid meaning in them. But Yi-Min isn’t a computer, isn’t a piece of software that Hull can just assess. She’s a person, more complex than any computer. Twice as frustrating.

Past their nominal softness, Yi-Min's eyes don't carry much for Hull to read. "We don't have much time," she says quietly, almost as though this is more meant for herself. Whatever her thoughts behind that, she is accepting of the hardness of the look that is flung at her. The defensiveness.

All of this she expects, and much more besides.

"Sorry for getting up in your face. But with you being in my neighborhood—" Yi-Min isn't even going to comment on what a small fucking world this is, to have that happen, "it seemed a good chance to talk with you about a certain housewarming party we have coming up. Settle some details. Get to know who I will be working with, you know?"

When she spreads one small hand, half-hidden as it is beneath an unshapely sleeve, it seems a little apologetic. "I hate having to come when Dumortier is out. I would have, under normal circumstances." These are hardly that.

“It’s fine,” Hull says. It’s a lie, it’s not. But she’s going to roll with it. “I always thought the next time I saw your face it’d be in an obituary alongside Wu.” Hull’s dark eyes track to the ground and she opens the door to Dumortier’s just long enough to grab a jacket from off the coat rack just inside, throwing it around her shoulders against the cold. She shuts the door, then motions with her head for Yi-Min to walk with her.

“Why does any of this matter to you?” Hull asks, setting off on a small footpath that leads to an overgrown garden beside the house. “Any of this. Hell, why’re you here?” There’s genuine confusion in her voice. She doesn’t mean here in the here and now sense, but the broader placement of a backwater settlement like Providence.

"The possibility of that still exists, depending on how things go," says Yi-Min, sounding deeply amused. Her head tilts as she watches the younger girl donning the more weather-appropriate coat. In that moment, beneath her hat's facetiously drooping brim, her face might as well only be that little slanting smile.

"I have people I care about here," she lands on for a reply, deciding that this is a quick and accurate enough summary for all the different reasons she is here. She slips into stride beside Hull when motioned at, her languid, easy demeanor serving as an indication that she is content to follow wherever the other might feel like leading. "If you'd like the longer version, I'm not adverse to telling it, but I also doubt you'd care."

Hull’s quiet for a time, hands tucked into the pockets of her jacket and shoulders hunched forward. “It’d help,” she admits after a few meandering steps through the garden. “You know,” she fires a quick look over to Yi-Min, “make sure you’re not completely full of shit.” Her attention goes back down to the path she walks. “Oni thinks you’re legit, and she has a lot of street cred, so maybe you’re not some piece of shit eugenicist…”

Hull hesitates to continue, considering her tone and Yi-Min’s general helpfulness. After an awkward moment of internal reflection she asks. “Will you be honest with me?” About the longer version.

"Absolutely." It's subtle, but there's a certain weight Yi-Min presses into those syllables that seems to go beyond the mere desire to dispel notions of subterfuge. Given all she has gone through, this call for honesty presents itself to her as a rare burden lifted from her shoulders, as opposed to one imposed. Hull, of course, is still free to interpret the external signs however she will.

What can be seen of Yi-Min's smile still glows with the semblance of amusement, too. "Do not be afraid around me. Call me whatever names you please— I promise you I shall not be offended." Such a trivial indulgence was the least of what Hull deserved. She rests on that for emphasis before moving on.

"And, so be it. You may be aware that like Dr. Wu, I served the Vanguard in Shanghai. After this period ended, we were both taken up by Praxis. We were in need of… shelter, and I suppose they saw an opportunity." If Clover has any knowledge at all of this area she is passing through, she might immediately pick up on that hint of who it is Yi-Min might care so much about here.

"Despite that, I will not pretend that I never had a choice. Of course I did. As we all do. But in those days, I suppose I hoped that Praxis might afford me an opportunity to do something new, and good, with my life and my research."

Oh, how she was wrong.

“What made you stop drinking the eugenics kool-aid?” Hull asks without a filter, looking up to Yi-Min. “You’re a lucky bitch, you know. You never came up in Wolves of Valhalla. You slid under the nose of the zeitgeist, but I don’t need a documentary to know what those folks were all about. Viral apocalypses, genocide, trying to flood the whole fucking world?”

Hull’s eyes narrow and she stops walking, stepping in front of Yi-Min with her hands tucked in the pockets of her coat and shoulders hunched forward against the cold. “You joined them, whether you’re like me or not, and I don’t know which one’s fucking worse. How the fuck do you justify that? What makes anything you’re doing now not fucking tainted by that? What makes you deserve a second chance, when the Vanguard denied that of so many fucking people?”

"Trust me, I know all this." Hull hasn't said anything Yi-Min hasn't heard. The Taiwanese woman appears keenly entertained again for some hidden reason, one which she brings to light before long: "You know, your sister Chess used that exact wording on me when I had a talk with her back in Praxia." 'Drinking kool-aid.' These youths.

When Hull cuts her off on the path, Yi-Min stops there too, as unfazed as though she had expected this to happen. Her expression had been soft, but now there is a layer of matter-of-factness on top of it. "This is not justification, but I did what I did in the Vanguard for someone I once loved very dearly. I will be honest with you, since you asked me to be: I have no regrets about what I've done. None. Nor do I harbor any illusions about it. Tainted, monstrous; say what you like of me. It is true." She flickers her fingers in the air in a calm, conciliatory gesture.

"I am completely accepting of whatever fate awaits me, in the end. But until that day of judgment comes for me, comes for us all, all I can do is what I can while I yet live." There is a tiny shrug embedded somewhere in the way she says this. What else is she expected to do?

The flash of anger Hull experiences at Yi-Min’s unrepentant tone is drowned in a sea of confused emotions when she finally latches on to something else said with — perhaps — the exact intent to disarm the young woman’s anger. “Sister?” Hull says with a hitch in her voice, brows knitting together and head craning to the side.

Hull approaches Yi-Min closer, hands trembling. “Chess?” Her dark eyes search Yi-Min’s for signs of truth or lies. “Who the fuck is Chess?

In reaction to Hull's surprise, it’s Yi-Min's turn to seem genuinely surprised. She reaches up to set her hat up at more of an angle at last, giving her the ability to meet Hull's eyes more readily. There is a keenness there, as there has been, and no intent to lie— which is also as it has been.

"Yes," she affirms. "You had three pods of sister-clones. In one of them, there were but two survivors. I suppose you may be more familiar with her by the name Yingsu. I'm sorry, I thought you knew." Yi-Min had, she is only now realizing, been operating under a kind of unconscious assumption that all the so-called lost clones would know each other. Well, time to do away with that notion.

“Yingsu is dead,” Hull asserts, stepping up to Yi-Min as if in challenge of her both physically and emotionally. “She— that whole pod died except Lanhua!” Though there’s anger in her voice, tears in her eyes, Hull’s vitriol isn’t so much directed at Yi-Min as it is the likelihood that she could be right. That someone Hull despises as much as Yi-Min Yeh could have possibly revealed something good to her. Hull’s stomach twists into knots, reflected in a nauseous look on her face.

“You’re lying,” Hull continues. “She— she can’t be— ” she shakes her head, dark eyes flitting from side to side. She doesn’t have a device connected to the internet on her, she can’t get free, she can’t get the space needed to process this information, to verify it with search queries or—


Hull is having a panic attack.

"I am not lying," Yi-Min asserts without moving, observing the intensity of Hull’s emotional reaction with a stoic face. “Two of Lanhua's sisters lived past the fate that befell the rest, and one of them now calls herself Chess. Cell service here is beyond terrible, but. Here. I can even give you her number." Even as she says this, she is already slipping a hand into a back pocket, searching for the cell phone she has stowed away there.

"I'd be rather careful about using it now, though. As I said, from what I know, she has been holed up in Praxia." Under the nose of Adam Monroe. And, as it goes without saying to Hull, also under a great deal of technological security.

Hull’s breathing is a rapid-fire thing of absolute panic. It takes her a moment to focus on Yi-Min’s phone, another to calm herself down enough to do anything about it. Tentatively and without the layers of caution she’d normally exercise in a clear-headed state, Hull reaches out and touches the phone. A flicker of blue light dances behind her pupils, then fades as she removes her hand from the phone. Her brows crease together, eyes cast to the side, and she rather suddenly calms.

“Her number,” Hull reiterates, swallowing down the bile that had risen into the back of her throat a moment prior. “My…” she doesn’t say the word sister, it doesn’t feel genuine to her. “Whatever she is,” also comes out as awkward.

“Why are you doing this?” Hull asks, her voice tight with emotion.

Yi-Min keeps the phone loosely held out in her palm long after Hull appears to have finished with it, an incidental offering in case Hull decides she needs it again for whatever reason.

Her expression is as calm as it ever is. But it isn't devoid of sympathy.

"Because it needs to be done." After a moment, and with more thought, Yi-Min amends her own choice of wording slightly. "Because it has always needed to be done." The way she holds the younger girl's gaze in her own for a moment, static and silent and even a little sad, speaks of an unvoiced wealth of meaning beyond the skeleton of her words.

Maybe it really is that simple. Some things have been a long time coming.

Blinking away tears, Hull sucks in a breath through her teeth and exhales a sharp noise. She takes a step back away from Yi-Min, wiping at her eyes with her sleeve. Now, after years of assuming Yingsu was dead, Hull is presented with both an undeniable and inexorable truth that she may not be as alone as she’d previously thought.

In spite of that, Hull takes a step back, staring wide-eyed at Yi-Min. She’s still in a state of fight or flight, still unable to thread thoughts together coherently. One day, if they all make it out of the next few months alive, she might thank Yi-Min for this.

But as Hull wordlessly turns away and practically runs back to the shelter of Rene’s house one thing becomes clear.

Today won’t be that day.

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