lanhua_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif

Scene Title Passions
Synopsis Within the confines of the Praxia Ziggurat, Yi-Min Yeh comes face-to-face with a grim possibility.
Date August 18, 2019

Tall plumes of smoke rise up from the industrial sprawl, belching pollution high into the air. Too far below to see, thousands of workers both living and automated labor under the weight of a military industrial complex both real and metaphorical. But even that sprawling apparatus lies in the shadow of a larger structure, a looming pyramid of metal silhouette by the setting sun.

The Praxis Ziggurat is a monolith on the landscape, its sleek angles and slatted shutters over floor-to-ceiling windows gives it an imposing silhouette. Through one of those partly-blinded windows, beyond two feet of reinforced glass, lies a spacious sports recreation gymnasium. Free weights and lifting machines line a wall opposite treadmills, ellipticals, and exercise bikes. In the middle of the space, under the glow of ceiling-mounted lamps, is an octagonal ring penned in by blue and red ropes.

But sounds of violence do not come from that ring, they come from beyond it, where taped hands strike a weighted bag hanging from a support in the high ceiling. Each strike is accompanied by a strained grunt of effort and emotion, each strike followed through by a deep exhalation of feverish breath. Barely held back tears make Lanhua Chen’s eyes glassy.

But she strikes, angrily, repeatedly. Sweat beads on her shoulders and brow, slicks her hair, drips off of her chin. Her face contorts into a snarl, a riotous cry of childish anger swells up inside of her, and Lanhua’s eyes surge gold as she throws her fist forward and obliterates the heavy bag. Sand explodes out of its ruptured back, the chain in the ceiling shatters, exercise equipment ten feet away is flung through the air, sending free weights bouncing across the floor.

Lanhua stands, overextended, breathing heavy and deep.

Praxis Ziggurat

Praxia, California Safe Zone


July 18th

8:08 pm Local Time

A free weight goes clanging and clattering across the floor past Dr. Yeh's feet, narrowly missing hitting her. Fine particles of sand go drifting wispily past her face in the laziest of final dissipations.

Yi-Min tracks both this and the annihilated equipment nearest to her with one single, lightly arched, questioningly emotive eyebrow, before turning her head to properly focus her attention on Lanhua herself.

Because of course the slender Taiwanese woman is standing right there, not twenty or thirty feet away from what little now remains of the thoroughly demolished bag. The near-continuous soundtrack of rampant destruction that— until this moment— had been emanating from the spot Lanhua is occupying had also been quite convenient for masking the sounds of her own, already characteristically soundless approach.

In every aspect of her presentation, the doctor is a far cry from the last significant experience Lanhua had shared with her: clutched in the arms of Lanhua's sister-clone, tumbled onto cold, gray concrete in a spreading pool of blood. Dr. Yeh's own memory of the incident is only something of a nebulous montage, as she had lain dangerously close to death's doorstep for the best part of it. But what she can remember is enough. And, back in the present moment, a fully-healed (or near enough that it is impossible to tell a difference) Yi-Min observes the glassiness of Lanhua's eyes in a calm, contemplative silence. Those scarcely curbed tears. The rawness of her frustrations.

"Keeping busy?" is inquired by Yi-Min in a volume not too far above the level of a murmur, but which still seems to resonate out hollowly in the loud, ringing silence following Lanhua's outburst.

Fuck off,” is Lanhua’s outburst in a response, wiping sweat from her brow with her forearm. Her eyes have only just begun to cool from the hot metal glow they had a moment ago. But they do cool down to a smoky brown. Lanhua step's away from the broken bag, pacing anxiously, turning to look back at what she demolished with another coarse, “Fuck,” under her breath.

“What you you want?” Lanhua asks as less-abrasive followup to her immediate dismissal. “This isn't a fucking show, so— go fucking lift a weight or— go the fuck away.” There's tension in everything about her, in taut muscles and creased brow, in a set jaw and squared shoulders. She has not — perhaps cannot — relax. Not since what happened in Providence. Perhaps not ever.

"Honestly, I just wanted to see how you were doing," Yi-Min expresses in what is a perfectly reasonable tone of voice a moment after the second time she is addressed, the verbal equivalent of a light shrug from her, though the nondescript lilt does not really help Lanhua to pinpoint for whose benefit she is doing the checking.

The mildness that becomes more discernible in Yi-Min's disposition may be something, perhaps, that will help her to decide. For now, she stays right where she had stopped, not drawing any closer while tension still palpably radiates from every bone in Lanhua's body. The gaze of the older woman is both full and shrewd: a relaxed, if seemingly faraway, scrutiny. "You know. After everything that has happened." To her? To both of them? Both are valid answers.

Bullshit,” Lanhua spits out, flicking a frustrated look to Yi-Min. “What— possible reason could you have to care?” Lanhua is already wincing as she says that, realizing how childish it sounds the moment it comes out of her. Pride and dignity already wounded, she takes a few steps away from Yi-Min. Her dark eyes scan the gym, and as she turns back to the doctor there’s a smidge of resolve regained by the distance between them.

Distrust lays between Lanhua and Yi-Min, a minefield of conversational traps, some older than others. “You’re a fucking snake,” is what Lanhua offers, “you were a snake then and you’re a snake n— ”

“That isn’t very polite.”


The new voice has Lanhua’s back straightening, her eyes growing wide and attention moving over Yi-Min’s shoulder to the same door the doctor had entered from. Another doctor stands in that doorway, dressed in a loosely fitting black tracksuit with white trim. Shengjiao Wu looks older than the last time Yi-Min saw him, but the old member of the Chinese Vanguard is no less himself. His sense of fashion, if that is what you’d call it, hasn’t changed at all.

Lanhua’s voice is gone when she sees Wu, replaced by a furtive look to Yi-Min, trying to gauge whether she knew he was coming or not. She didn’t.

Yeh,” Wu says in greeting to Yi-Min, taking a casual pace over to join the two women as if they were having a perfectly normal conversation.

Yi-Min lifts her slim shoulders in an impassively seamless shrug, seemingly unaffected by the tirade that washes over her like a tide of anger. There is, though, a register of a mellow but real amusement at being called out by that name. A snake she had been called before, by people no more consequential to her than Lanhua Chen, and would likely be called by others still before all was said and done.

"I'll be very sure not to take any bullets for you again," she says in a bright expression of a laugh, her eyes quiet with a razor-sharp cheer. "I am so very sorry for asking. Wu Zhuren," she turns to greet the new arrival in a smooth continuation of that same breath, catching the unexpected glimpse out of the corner of her eye. Director Wu. A more polite address than the simple surname issued at her, but then of course, he is much older. "What brings you here, out to this lovely scenery?"

It goes without saying that said 'lovely scenery' currently consists of broken chain remnants, exploded sand, and a rather impressively extensive scatter of materials and equipment.

The loveliest.

Lanhua stalks away frustratedly on Wu’s interjection to their conversation, never acknowledging Yi-Min’s comment about taking a bullet for her. Though there’s a visible stress on Lanhua’s face, in the scrunch of her brows and the downward cast of her lips. Wu notices it, but chooses to let it go unremarked on.

“House arrest only lets me go so far,” Wu says casually, spreading his hands around himself and shrugging helplessly. “I’ve been remanded to the ziggurat for openly criticizing Mr. Monroe’s agenda,” is a brazen thing for him to say so openly. “So now I spend my time between my quarters, here, and my office when they need my eyes on something.” Which, judging from his tone, is an increasingly diminishing amount of time.

Lanhua stops her pacing some fifteen feet away, arms wrapped around herself and head down, dark hair forming a curtain to partly shield her face. Wu looks over at her, pointedly, then back to Yi-Min. “Mr. Monroe’s pushed her too hard,” he says quieter, but not so much as to include Lanhua from the conversation. “He’s pushed everyone too hard.”

It is a truth that both of them are aware of, and that only makes Yi-Min appreciate the brazenness of the admittance more. She does not look at Lanhua as the girl strides away from the pair of them, her own focus firmly fixed on Wu, but the strength of Lanhua's frustration is such that it is easy enough to maintain some awareness on it without even looking.

Yi-Min's expression is highly considering, but there is a vague sense of commiseration underlining it as well. Mainly for Wu after his words, of course— but perhaps not exclusively for him, either. She had not been lying to Lanhua earlier.

"I don't foresee any of this ending well if he continues to do so," she says in a voice lowered to his, echoing her short but frank agreement with his sentiment. "What do you know about why he's doing this? He must surely know what… consequences it is bringing about."

Wu sighs and spreads his hands to show them empty. With a shake of his head he starts to walk, allowing Yi-Min to catch up before putting more distance between them and Lanhua. “I don't even know if Adam knows his own agenda.” There's frustration in Wu’s voice, but also concern. There's no contempt for Adam, but rather something closer to respect.

“When the Vanguard collapsed, it was clear the world was changing,” Wu says in what feels like a great diversion. “When I joined the Jīn Jièzhǐ Corporation I thought perhaps I'd be able to make some measure of good in the world. But instead I inherited Lanhua and her siblings. “There's more going on behind the scenes than you know, but I can't make heads or tails of it. There's a woman,” Wu leans in and speaks quietly, “Joy. She is the material genetic specimen of Lanhua and her siblings. There's something… I don't know. Something more to her.”

Wu looks over his shoulder, then back to Yi-Min. “One of Adam’s inner circle, Claudius Kellar, has been quietly amassing power while Adam is busy with all of this…” he motions around as if to address everything. “Kellar is the one who has remanded me to the ziggurat. He's running unchecked and Adam is too busy with whatever he's planning to notice. I don't even know for sure if Adam authorized by house arrest. I haven't seen him in months.”

The outline of Wu's motivation and the goals he had endeavored towards after the fall of the Vanguard is a familiar one to Yi-Min. The path she had chosen had, after all, largely followed the same trajectory. She accepts his delineation of the issues with a brooding stillness at first, sparing but one preoccupied glance sideways towards Lanhua from the new position that they had taken up farther away from her.

Then her attention is all Wu's once again. Concern is written anew in the wordless details of her expression. "I suppose that doesn't surprise me," she says of the very general circumstances of Kellar's power play, but that's about the only thing she can with such surety. "It does not really bode well if you do not have a clearer picture of things either. If they mean to purposely keep you in the dark—"

She pauses, a slight lull vibrant with distant reflection before she adds a more dubious end to that thought. "I don't think it would be unreasonable to surmise that whatever is being planned, whatever the larger picture is, it is something they know you would not agree with." Genetic experimentation towards darker objectives than that entailed by Lanhua? "Whatever it is, this virus they will have me working on is another piece to that puzzle."

Virus?” Wu says with a tremor in his voice, realizing too late he may have said that a touch too loud. Lanhua affords him a momentary look from across the gym floor, but then turns her attention back to a tall mirror and wraps her arms around herself. Wu lowers his voice, stepping in closer to Yi-Min.

“This is the first I've heard of something like that,” Wu says with quiet but intense concern. “The basement lab technicians have been working on some kind of vaccine for months. Doctor Cong and his understudy Doctor Morrison are trying to develop some sort of immunization treatment. I don't know to what but Adam has been throwing millions of dollars in discretionary budget at it. I'm reminded of what happened when Kazimir started work on that virus in the States. How it threw the entire Vanguard into disarray. Decades of planning pushed aside for something unexpected…”

Wu steps in to as close to Yi-Min as he dares. “Tell me everything.”


Wu didn't know about the virus?

Yi-Min doesn't step backwards when Wu steps in to close the gap between them, but she does narrow her eyes at something that lies impossibly far behind the trembling of the old man's expression. "He asked me to work on the old Gorgon virus," she confirms quietly, the continued steadiness of her words masking her doubt as to what to make of this. "He has come to possess a sample of it; do not ask me how. The strain is to be modified into targeting a vector that has not been made at all clear. Purposely? Again, I do not know. I can only pray that you may have some better insight into this than me, now that I have told you this."

The look in Wu’s eyes says everything. There is guilt, decades of it, guilt from a life spent serving Kazimir Volken’s view of the world. Guilt for the hints he'd done serving Adam. Shengjiao Wu is further put-upon by this news. “I know Gorgon,” Wu says in a whisper, looking Yi-Min up and down and noting that she maintained a certain distance between them. Wu reflects her physically distancing herself by doing the same conversationally. “It was in the news after the war, a crisis averted. A biological weapon. Genocide of the Expressives.”

Wu’s eyes narrow slowly. “The last work of Doctor Mohinder Suresh,” he says with a crease of his brows. “The nerve agent the United States would have used to exterminate everyone like you.” But Wu’s eyes drift to Lanhua, to her frustrated circling of the room and furtive glances to the clandestine conversation. He looks back to Yi-Min. “Adam Monroe wouldn't kill his own kind, not with the rhetoric he's been spouting as of late.” Wu shakes his head, sliding his tongue around in his mouth like he tastes something foul. “I caution you to consider the side of history you want to stand on.”

But it wasn't distance that Yi-Min had intended. Not quite. And if it was, it had not been meant for him.

Wu catches a glimpse of something new in Yi-Min's look that is too subdued for sorrow, and too curt for guilt— whatever she feels regarding her time in the Vanguard is not the same as him. It does, however, intimate a sigh. A slightly-softened barrier. "Shengjiao," she murmurs out very plainly. Plaintively, if the note of exigency he can clearly see behind the unbroken calm of her eyes is to be believed.

That bold use of his first name, too, seems to declare precisely what she thinks about all other cultural affectations of distance right at this moment. The asymmetries in regard between elder and youth, between executive and employee.

None of those formalities matter to Yi-Min. Not now, and not here, beneath the shadow of the elephant in the room.

"I have always known what side of history I have wanted to be on. But neither of us seem to know what game it is that Adam is playing, and that, more than anything, is what has me worried. I never thought he would kill his own kind, no; presumably, this is why he wishes for Gorgon to be altered from its original form. But then in our stead, who is it that he wishes dead? Are there alternatives that could possibly be better?" She has heard the rhetoric of which Wu speaks, and none of the possibilities that spiral from it make her feel any more at ease.

Wu looks down at his feet, shaking his head and closing his eyes. “Were our history on a long enough measure, I would say that people like myself are more akin to Australopithecus, in Adam’s eyes. An evolutionary dead end. I’ve flirted with the notion myself,” he says with a rise of his brows, “in my darker hours. Doubting on the whole of human accomplishment in the face of unbridled wonder. It doesn’t take much to turn on the news and see the same,” he says with a hitch in his voice.

“Adam isn’t the only one preaching his own genetic imperialism,” Wu admits with regret heavy in his voice. “The rise of things like Mazdak in the Middle East, of supremacist groups pushing for people like you to rule those like myself,” he touches a hand to the middle of his chest to emphasize the point. “Would it be so far-fetched to see someone so obsessed with their own strength,” he flicks a look at Lanhua’s distant silhouette, “to accept those ideas into their heart? Would Adam? Could Adam?”

Shengjiao knows the answer, and he presumes Yi-Min does as well.

Yi-Min does.

While Wu is occupied with gazing downwards, Yi-Min casts the gentlest shadow of a smile over his bowed form. It serves as a quieter, non-physical replacement for her reaching out to place a slender hand on his forearm, which she does not do. "Ease your mind, zhuren. If this is the path that everything is headed for, so be it. Have the small assurance that I, at least, am as you know me." For her impressive laundry list of moral deficiencies, even the mere idea of such a framework of power is anathema to anything she'd ever desired. Ever worked towards, in years past.

For a few seconds, her eyes also flicker to Lanhua, and her look is much more peaceable than his. "Do not speak of this folly of evolutionary dead ends; someone like you ought to know better. Man's wonder is nothing. 天生我材必有用. You still have much to do here, before the end. And, I… I think I do, as well."

Wu hangs his head, nodding once before looking over in the direction of Lanhua as she stalks out of the gym with the snap of a towel over her shoulder. When his dark eyes settle back on Yi-Min, the downward cast of his frown is pronounced in agreement. The worry in his eyes mirrors that which she can’t show. “Let’s hope for both our sakes…”

“…that the end is further than we think.”

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