kaylee6_icon.gif pride_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gif zachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title Pigmalion
Synopsis There are some fascinating discoveries where it comes to the blood of the Sundered.
Date October 28, 2020

Raytech NYCSZ Branch Office

Rather than meeting in one of the laboratories today, Dr. Pride has opted to call her colleagues into one of the smaller conference rooms. She has a presentation to give today, and she’d rather have the least chance of interruption when she does. Especially given the sensitive nature of it.

When the others have gathered and taken seats at the small round table, she flashes a nervous smile to each in turn, pushing a pair of black-framed glasses up the bridge of her nose. Zachery Miller, Yi-Min Yeh, and Kaylee Thatcher. “Uhm, so…” she begins, eyes getting a bit wider as she stares down at her hands folded on the table, choosing her words.

“I’m going to skip pleasantries and smalltalk and just jump right into this,” Ourania decides, looking up again. “Your blood is deeply fucking weird.” That’s a scientific term. “As you know, I was initially checking the samples acquired for evidence of regenerative cell replication.” Her head tips to one side. “Which there wasn’t.”

And it’s clear from her expression that she thought for sure there would be. “But I obviously wasn’t going to stop there. So I started running some other tests, and your red blood cells are wild. That’s to say nothing of how absolutely alarming your white blood cell counts are.”

Pride looks rattled when she admits, “I’m not sure how you all aren’t dead, frankly.”

“Don’t sugar coat it or anything,” Kaylee comments rather blandly from her place at the other end of the conference table, though she looks rather amused at the bluntness.

Currently, their boss is leaned forward on the table with elbows resting on it with a coffee cup trapped between her hands. Kaylee looks like she’s had a rough night of it again, but at least she looks business casual… though she is wearing blue jeans and her boots… but at least she is above the waist.

“So.. we should be dead… and,” Kaylee points at Zachery, “we should also be sleeping.” There is a heavy sigh out of the woman, her head falling forward in thoughtfulness, her eyes searching the bit of her reflected back. “We’ve got to get in our heads to figure out what the hell is going on in there.”

Zachery has turned his chair around and taken a seat backwards, because he fucking can, arms folded over loosely the back of it. He has barely taken his eyes off of Ourania since he's entered the room, and even now, his expression stays largely neutral.

It's only when Kaylee points in his direction that he floats a look over at her, and answers, "A week and change, and we'll know what's in mine, at least. Sorry, can we go back to—" He narrows his eyes at Ourania again, idle thought angling his head to one side. "What do you mean wild, exactly?" Impatience drags his voice a notch lower. "Be specific."

Yi-Min is seated by far the least flagrantly of the three members of Dr. Pride's audience. Hers is a quiet, keen-eyed presence at one side with a steaming teacup close to hand; the usual for her. Reserved though it is, there is something about her cross-legged pose that provokes the sense of an unblinking eye of judgment.

"Pray, continue," she encourages very simply and mildly.

“Right. Sorry.” Ourania grimaces when Kaylee points out her lack of bedside manner, as it were. Even if the boss is amused, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t still a gaff. “I just mean… Your WBC count is consistent with terminal leukemia. This is when your bodies should be actively dying, but they aren’t. And I think it might have something to do with what I’m seeing with the RBCs.”

Dr. Pride vacillates between fascinated and alarmed as she continues her explanation. “You see, while running my tests, things just didn’t add up. You’re all healing at really incredible rates, so I expected to see cell replication, like you’d see in a subject with rapid regeneration. The immortal death defiers.” Not naming names or anything. “The process in those Expressive individuals works by the cells splitting and consuming the dead cells. Like a… cannibalistic phoenix.”

That’s evocative.

But that’s not all. “So, your red cells aren’t doing that.” Which is such a point of confusion for Pride. “Instead they’re more like…” After a beat of hesitation, she looks around the table and asks:

“You guys know Twinkies, right?”

Of the siblings, Kaylee was business smart and less the science smart of her brother Richard. So Ourania will have to excuse the look of confusion as she goes over the results. At least she does know Twinkies… There is a lot to say about twinkies and a lot of “Soooo… bear with me here. You saying we are… well preserved?” Okay… that was sort of a joke… or maybe not. Though a part of her wanted to make a joke about celebrities being jealous… but she doesn’t.

“I don’t know much when it comes to things like this… but… Are our red blood cells just… there?” That was definitely a point of confusion, but also horror. Kaylee looks at each of the scientists in turn. What the hell was going on? “They're not doing whatever other cells do? Should we test other cells in the body too?”

"Yes," Zachery is quick to answer that last question. And then, taking a calm breath as if he isn't mentally kicking himself for not having gotten that properly started months ago, he moves on.

"Twinkies," the word is said with some derision, "have a shelf life. So do we, sort of, obviously, but— that's beside the point. Twinkies don't sustain themselves. Everything you're saying, everything we've found so far, makes it sound like we've been optimised. What for, if not…" He lifts a hand, and taps a finger twice against the back of his head.

And then, because why did he join in on talking about Twinkies, he drags that hand down his face for good measure.

"This is sounding more and more like a Praxis experiment gone fantastically wrong." Yi-Min murmurs. Also not naming names. All the more troubling, then, for the complete lack of any apparent connection to Gemini.

"So, what are you saying, Dr. Pride?" she puts forth much more directly, tapping her fingertips once on the table— because an analogy like that is of limited use where the smaller details are concerned. "Please. Describe to us exactly what our cells are doing. Feel free to be thorough."

Even if what ends up being given is the ELI5 version. Yi-Min can't help but slide a not-very-hidden glance to Kaylee.

“Yes!” Pride points to Kaylee when she makes her comment about being well-preserved. “Sort of! Basically.” Now that the non-scientist has the overview of what she’s laying out, she starts going into more detail. “Your blood just isn’t… breaking down. It’s not feeding off itself because it’s not dying. And it doesn’t… coagulate properly.” Which is very fucking alarming, but if it wasn’t coagulating at all, Drs. Yeh and Miller know this would be a vastly different conversation.

“So, I looked into that. The thing is, it’s not…” Again, she turns to Kaylee to give the more broad explanation, “In ideal conditions, stored blood samples can last a month, give or take a couple days. After that, there’s not really much you can use it for. No transfusions or anything.” To the rest, she continues, “But your blood isn’t deoxygenating. I won’t know for sure until more time has passed, but I hypothesize that your samples can be kept for… four months? Maybe even longer!”

A wide smile spreads across the blonde doctor’s face. “So! I got to thinking…” Her hand comes up to her chin, tapping her index finger at the corner of her mouth thoughtful. “What if, I performed a transfusion with your blood? Would the subject’s blood adapt? Become like the donor blood? Would it be rejected? Things like that.” The smile fades, but the light stays in her eyes. “Now, ideally, I’d have liked to have tried this with a human subject. But ethically speaking, that would be… really dodgy.” Spoken like she believes that’s a darn shame.

“Enter Jana, Kermit, Nanette, Oliver, Yorick, and Zona!” She’s just listed off the names of the pigs she had brought in last month. “I named each one of them to correspond with the sample subject I was transfusing from. Jana for Jac, Kermit for Kaylee, et cetera. With Oliver being the control subject.” Oliver for Ourania. “So for the past month, I’ve been transfusing the blood into the pigs. And the results are… Incredible.

She doesn’t leave them waiting in suspense on that note, but forges on. “So this stuff is… great. The pigs had no issues receiving.” Pride’s smile grows a little hesitant. “So your blood… mu…tates.” Haaa… Isn’t that exciting? No? Yeah, sorry. “Uhm…” After stumbling a moment over not really knowing how to make that sound not worrisome, she just presses on ahead. “I mean, the donor blood changes itself to match the host.

Which shifts her right back into the realm of excited. “I’ve been checking the results against my own blood, because I’m a universal donor. Your blood doesn’t work quite the same, since it takes a while before it transmutes? But… But.” But it’s still exceedingly remarkable. “So it’s been a month of testing, and… I’m about as far as I can go with this experiment. What I really need is an electron microscope.”

It’s then that Ourania turns her attention back to Kaylee. “They’re… sixty thousand dollars for a cheap one.” Meaning this is one hurdle she doesn’t believe Raytech can clear by stacking straps of cash like bricks until it can be stepped over. “However… There is one at the university in KC. If you could negotiate me access…”

The examination could continue.

“Consider it done,” Kaylee says with a nod, no questions asked. It would be faster anyhow, with enough of a donation pad the urgency. Though the request for an electron microscope of their own might go into the next board meeting of things they needed to procure yesterday. “Make sure I have copies of all this, just have it sent to my office.” Her old office has been seeing some use while she’s been on administrative leave from SCOUT. “Because, this is pretty fucking insane.”

Kaylee looks at her fellow victims with fresh worry and no small amount of anxiety, “Why do I feel like we’re someone’s shady as fuck trial run?” The woman sighs and rubs her hands over her face. When her hands fall away, she looks tired. “Okay… so synthetic blood… possibly. Or whatever.”

She can’t help but give Ourania an incredulous look, “It mutated?” This seems to be a sticking point for Kaylee. “Like… into pig blood?”

Fingernails tap on the table and she looks at Zachery, “They never told us our blood is weird. Think Nicole could look into what they might be hiding from us?” She is quick to hold up a hand, “Without damaging her job.” It was wild to think something like this slipped by the governments. Didn’t seem feasible.

Zachery sinks back in his seat. The meeting's barely begun and he already looks more tired than when he walked in. "If they would have noticed in the first place," is his only response to Kaylee.

"The pigs," he takes a deep breath, and a moment of staring into nothing before he's able to process that they just have those now, and only then turns his eye on Ourania again. "They were a very good idea. Do they have the same anomalies as we do? White blood cell count, potassium, chloride, all that…" He waves a hand, like he's recalled it one too many times for it to still be interesting enough to properly list. There's something to be said for intuition and engagement.

"Specifically, please make sure you order an SEM. A scanning electron microscope," Yi-Min interjects placidly before that line of thought can get too much further, transferring her thoughtful flicker of a glance onto first Ourania, then Kaylee. After all, it wouldn't do to spend upwards of sixty thousand dollars for the wrong kind. "I will note down my preferred make and model for you later. But, I can already promise you it will be a sound investment in numerous other ways. One that shall find great use in our other departmental projects."

Aside from. Well. Just pigsticking, even if that by itself was a worthy goal. Overall, Yi-Min appears quite pleased that the suggestion has been brought up in such a way now.

No, it's more than even that: she is pleased generally. "The pigs were a very good idea," she agrees with Zachery. "Excellent work, Dr. Pride. If you would be so kind, forward your full test results and analyses to me when you are next able. I wish to peruse them thoroughly later. Now… the natural next question would be, as you said, seeing how these results might compare when applied to a human subject."

What a fascinating theoretical question, hmm?

There's an oddly light glint that dances in Yi-Min's eyes when she makes that comment, though. It contrasts with the subtle, sweeping mildness of her smile.

“It’s very probable,” Ourania begins by addressing Kaylee, “that the blood samples weren’t held on to long enough to notice this sort of phenomenon. There are procedures in place to dispose of them before they’d have gotten to the point of noticing that there’s something incredibly strange.” Meaning there might not be any intentional obfuscation of this particular development on the parts of either the American or Canadian governments. In this specific case.

Pride beams with, well… pride when she’s praised for having thought of her experiment with the pigs. She gestures to Zachery as she speaks. “See, that’s what I was expecting to happen. That the subjects would become more like you. See the same issues and such. I wanted to see if they would end up with… I wanted to see if they would show signs of illness the way that you all don’t. But instead of that, it’s just… adapting to them instead of the other way around.” She shakes her head, seemingly a little disappointed in that result.

The young doctor nods her head quickly to Yi-Min. “Of course, Dr. Yeh. Once I have my notes organized and all typed into the system, I’ll have them shared with you.” She still does a lot of notation on paper, they’ve noticed.

To the theoretical, Ourania tips her head to one side slowly. “I think that’s really what we need to consider next, pending what I’m able to determine from the study of the samples at KC. But… being able to do so above the board would be… tricky.” Unethical and illegal, she means. Probably immoral as well. Still, as hesitant as she is to properly address the subject, she doesn’t actually look uncomfortable with it. Her gaze falls back on Kaylee. She’s the boss, after all.

“You have a point,” Kaylee says to the others with a sigh.

Leaning back in her chair Kaylee lets out a soft woof of air, “Do you know the implications of something like this?” She looks at the other three and rolls her eyes at herself, cause.. Of course they do. “Just the idea of never having to worry about a blood shortage again. Someone is poised to make a lot of money.” Cause whatever it was, was clearly working.

Just saying that, Kaylee turns thoughtful, leaning forward again, “I’ll work on the microscope, toss me your recommendations.” That at Yi-min. “Then I’ll look into patents and ask Asi if she’d be willing to look into the black market, see if there are any mumblings there.”

Resting her hands on the table top gently, Kaylee considers her words. “If this is what is affecting our abilities, you three might be the ones to find a cure.” There was one more thing to consider. Kaylee looks at Ourania, “As for the how… let’s see what we get from Kansas first, but you’re right we need to know what happens… ” she trails off, lips pressing together. This was tricky territory.

There is a small shake of her head, before Kaylee says, “Honestly, I can’t give you a yes or no as your boss. That might be one step we have to consider outside of Raytech’s umbrella.”

Any glances cast in Zachery's direction go suddenly wasted, with him staring down at the table in thought.

Occasionally, there's a nod - a sign he's still listening, even if his mind may be half elsewhere. Eventually, whatever is brewing in the back of his mind bubbles over, and he looks back up again, consideration for his next few words bringing a keenness to his gaze that hadn't been there previously.

An idea, of sorts. A direction, at least. Voiced by asking somewhat too brightly, "Do we have any access to cadavers?"

"This is why I get along with you, Kaylee. However tricky things might be, I think we will be able to find a way." Given Yi-Min's unchanging, peaceable cheer, this might as well be a discussion about nothing out of the ordinary at all.

The answer given hadn't been a straight up no. Therefore, it's a yes.

As for Zachery's question, then. "Of us all, you would be the one to know that, would you not?" she has to say with a curiosity that is also a little dry. "After all, you were a coroner."

"I was," Zachery replies, easily and openly, shooting Yi-Min a stare as though he's challenging her to say any more on the matter. "In some ways, I've learned a great deal more from the dead than from the living."

It is pride that not only brings a smirk to his face, but also allows him to feel comfortable enough to beat anyone to the punch by adding, quickly, "Aside from my manners."

An inhaled breath, a laugh from Yi-Min: "I'm surprised that you learned anything from the living at all," and she recedes into silence with her bright, too-narrow eyes resting on anybody now but Zachery.

With a supreme scathingness, she takes a sip of tea.

Back to business. “Did you have thoughts on that point, Dr. Pride?”

Now, there’s a sort of uneasiness that’s crept its way into Dr. Pride’s posture. “Cadavers might be possible,” she admits. “But the application of the process to a subject that’s not living… That’s all—” There’s a moment of hesitation, her head tipping from one side to the other as though she might dislodge the correct wording. “Nitty gritty details.” The blonde flashes a quick smile. “We can discuss that at our breakout meeting, yes?”

Not in front of Kaylee. Plausible deniability is a wonderful thing.

Kaylee can’t help but smile a bit at the conversation, especially Ourania’s comments. “Mmm… Well, unless there is anything else I need to know about these, I should let you all plot your next move.” Was that a tease? That was probably a tease.

“I’m going to emphasize again… anything too… mmm… illegal needs to be done off campus.” Not that some of what they did was legal. Kaylee looks between them all, especially on Zachery. Still, there is a confident smile when she adds, “I’m trusting you, just let me know what you find. Especially, if there is something concerning we need to address to protect people.”

"If I'd been planning on anything illegal, I'd have offered to crack our heads open on day one." Zachery, his smirk now gone, sounds like he's had enough. It looks like he's about to get up from his seat and get ready to leave when he suddenly looks up and meets Kaylee's gaze.

"Actually, that reminds me, before we continue plotting — a cure, you said." He narrows his eyes. "Is that really our end goal, here? Doesn't that seem short-sighted? What if we're not aging, or getting sick or…"

He darts a glance to Ourania, confusion clear on his face.

"Yes. It is." Yi-Min does not seem keen on debating that from Zachery, and she cuts it off right there. "Short-sighted would be allowing a still-utterly unknown process to come all the way to fruition without making some sort of plan should things go wrong."

Even if the intent of their mysterious kidnappers had been wholly benevolent where they were concerned, which is a truly fantastic doubt in and of itself, there would still surely be… other effects.

There was no gift without its price.

"But yes, we can discuss more specific details later. I shall see to it that your trust in us is not misplaced."

“Maybe it seems short-sighted to you, but I don’t appreciate being yanked out of my life, stripped of what is mine, and then thrown away as trash, Dr. Miller.” The words are louder and harsher than Kaylee probably meant, but the question somehow triggers emotions that the former telepath has been trying to keep tucked away. She was seeing a wash of red.

It was a button and he pushed it.

“I want back what was mine or to find out who did it and let them know my feelings on the matter.” Somehow, one could imagine that Kaylee didn’t really plan to talk about the issue with whoever did it. “Only way to do that is understand what is going on with us and yes…” she looks at Yi-min giving her a strained smile, “plan for the if something goes wrong, because it always does.”

Pride’s eyes dart between speakers like she’s watching a ball fly across the court during a tennis match. Woof. “I see nothing wrong with anyone volunteering to, ah… Stay in their current state in order to study the long term effects of this condition,” she posits diplomatically. “Although I suspect that’s… largely what’s going on in the first place.” That is to say, she reckons they’re all some science experiment. Not that they haven’t already come to the same conclusion themselves.

“I’m going to do everything I can to understand what’s going on, and find a way to reverse it for those who… who want it.” Kaylee receives a look of concern from the other blonde. It’s full of sympathy, commiseration. It speaks to someone who’s been down this road before.

Rising from her spot at the table, Dr. Pride starts gathering her notes. “I’m going to go Xerox these for you,” she tells Kaylee, “and I’ll bring them to your office right away. That way you’ll have copies still while I’m working on getting these into the computer where they’ll hopefully be a bit more legible. If you have any questions about anything, please send me an e-mail or text me. I’ll clarify whatever I can.”

A somewhat strained smile is delivered to the other two scientists. “We’ll reconvene after lunch to discuss this further?” Even though she’s far and away from being the one in charge, she doesn’t wait for a response before pronouncing, “Great. I’ll see you both in the lab.”

Meeting adjourned.

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