Scene Title Shedding
Synopsis If a snake does not shed its skin, it will die. But the process of transformation is neither pleasant, nor safe.
Date March 8th — June 15th

Snakes shed their old skin all in one piece.

It is a vulnerable time for the snake, when they struggle to cast off the casings of their past and slip free into newer, supple flesh. The conditions must be just right; not humid enough, and the snake could be trapped inside its own skin and suffocate. Too humid, and it can lead to painful diseases like scale rot.

The snake sheds its skin because it cannot survive if it doesn’t. Their old skin does not grow, stretch, and expand as they age. Instead it becomes a prison, squeezing down like a vice, choking the very life out of them until the very fabric of who they once were…

…is their undoing.

Department of Homeland Security Holding Facility
Kansas City

March 8th
8:08 am Local Time

It’s hard for Yi-Min Yeh to tell how long she’s been in confinement since she turned herself in to authorities. She knows it’s the 8th of March, the day she’s set to meet with her legal representation, but the days between now and then feel slippery and indistinct.

The cell she has been confined to in a Homeland Security building in downtown Kansas City could be anywhere in the world, for all that concrete block walls and fluorescent lighting are ubiquitous. A clock on the wall covered with a metal cage tells her the time, because she has no window to the outside with which to watch the sun. Her head feels cloudy, thanks in part to the Zodytrin in her system suppressing her ability.

Today is the beginning of a long road, one that could lead to emancipation from her past, or a noose built by her own two hands.

A long road, but not an unwelcome nor even necessarily an unpleasant one.

Because the prospect of staying too long in one's old skin meant inviting in the onset of death and decay, there was thus a certain vital, freeing element to the procedure, especially when initiated on one's own terms. By this point for Yi-Min anyhow, discomfort had lost its color. Past the hollow twists inherent to the terrible lengths of such a path, there lay also the golden glimpse of a much more kindly promise — that of catharsis. Rebirth, even if only the gentle intimations of it. Without death, this was the end of this spool of her life.

And, if she was wrong. If she was wrong, and death was what awaited her after all, metaphorical or otherwise, then that simply represented a cleansing in a more final shape.

Either way, Dr. Yeh had never been one to fight against the perceived natural order. She sits in the middle of her threadbare cot with one knee drawn up inside very loosely clasped hands, her slender shoulders resting evenly against the wall behind her. Her eyes are closed, as though in deep slumber, but there is a shallowly-buried glimmer of alertness in her form that belies the illusion of sleep.

Inside the tiny world of her cell-bound enclosure, and inside the even darker walls of her artificially-murky headspace, she seems strangely content.

There is a sound Yi-Min has become fairly accustomed to, a buzzing noise down the hall that indicates when the internal checkpoint is opening and someone is coming into the detention wing. Normally that’s where things end, no one has come to see her outside of meal deliveries and Zodytrin dosing since her first day. She is reminded that, while this is a “new” America, it never revoked its anti-terrorism laws that allowed for indefinite detention. It seemed like a distant concern before four concrete walls became her world.

When the sound of footsteps stop outside the door to her cell and she sees an indistinct silhouette in the hallway, the pattern of the last few days changes. There is a buzz in the magnetic lock of her door, and when it disengages and opens, there is a federal security officer stepping inside, hand on his holstered Banshee eyes fixed on Doctor Yeh.

“That’s not necessary,” says the black-suited man coming in behind the security officer; a tall, middle-aged Black man with close cropped hair and chiseled features. He waves off the security officer, stepping past him into Yi-Min’s cell. He isn’t wearing an identification badge or a guest lanyard, he carries himself like a federal agent, not an attorney.

“Doctor Yeh,” he says, then glances over his shoulder and gives a look to the security officer, who shows himself out of the cell. “My name is Agent Harris. Do you have time to talk?”


The reminder of the scope of her reality is hardly anything new, and not something she feels much need to react to, even internally. It is just one more thing she has had ample time to come to terms with— added on to the list of things she has grown to staidly accept, even if at the worst of times, it’s a list that feels like it is getting interminably long.

The fact that she has a visitor is new, however. Slowly, her chin lifts at the cadence of distant footsteps as they draw nearer to her door, and then stop just outside. When Harris makes his entrance, Yi-Min's newly opened eyes focus coolly and curiously on him, never once bothering to travel towards the nearby security officer whom he waves off anyway.

On hearing the request, she offers up the smallest smile, as mild in shade as the answer she gives him. "Well. I suppose I can find some time in my busy schedule."

“Humor, that’s good.” Harris says with a side-long glance at Yi-Min. “Shows you haven’t lost your spirit. I hear that can happen fast in detention situations like this.” Harris doesn’t spend long in Yi-Min’s cell, instead beckoning for her to come out and join him in the hall as he steps back through the doorway.

“People in your predicament usually last well for a few weeks. Denial or acceptance is pretty strong in that period, but after about a month isolation starts to really take its toll.” Harris explains, briefly pulling a phone out of his pocket and checking the screen before returning it. “You have loved ones, friends, family, and you can’t see them. There’s a fear of them moving on with their lives because — by the law — you could be held indefinitely.”

Harris looks back through the door to Yi-Min. “But it’s good. Joking around. Tells me you’ve still got hope for the future.”

"Is that what it means?" Yi-Min replies in a tone that could doubtfully be termed one of agreement, but it sounds much too absent for that. It's also as quiet and summery as before, reflecting the somewhat truer question her countenance silently poses in the one, finely arched brow she aims at him once he beckons her outside. "Alternately, you know, I could be a complete wreck and using humor to deflect."

It's not like Harris would have any true way of knowing, uncalled-for armchair diagnosis aside, unless he was a telepath.

She unclasps her hands around her bent knee, allowing one leg to slip faintly down to the floor, and then the other. When he looks back at her, he sees her not far behind him, her gaze in his detached and calm.

"Who are you, and what is this about?"

“You don’t crack easily, Doctor Yeh.” Harris decides to comment, rather than answer her question. “Someone who worked for the Vanguard as long as you did, survived the collapse of that cell, and went on to help bring down Praxis Heavy Industries isn’t someone who uses humor to deflect their emotional state after less than a month in prison.”

Folding his hands in his lap, Harris tilts his head to the side. “I told you, my name is Agent Harris. I’d like to have a candid discussion with you about a few sensitive topics, and depending on the level of your compliance I may be able to arrange for certain clemencies and reductions of sentences, up to and including commuting of potential sentences.”

Reaching inside of his jacket, Harris produces a small rectangular electronic device. “You’re free to step out of this room and return to your cell at any point. I know that because of your non-citizen status and historic connection to the Vanguard, you’ll likely face trial in a military court, and… between you and I, any assistance you can get before setting foot in a military court would be beneficial to your cause.”

Harris glances to the device as he sets it down on the table, but leaves it deactivated. “But if you have concerns, I’m more than happy to address them.

"You told me your name, Agent Harris. But, not whom you work for. I'll admit I am not terribly familiar with how you Americans do things, but I assume it is customary to show some kind of identification? At the least."

Looking down to the device Harris had placed on the table, Yi-Min's expression gathers concentration, attesting to some distantly passing cloud of thought. "A candid discussion is something I am happy to have, with someone who is at least passingly candid with me."

From her view, an exchange of intentions didn't seem like terribly much to ask. He would still be holding her at a massive power disadvantage regardless. Her avowal is plain, but doesn’t not lose its soft, sunny ease as she matches his head tilt with a smaller one of her own.

“I’m not at liberty to discuss the agency I work for,” Harris says, picking up the device from the table. “But you’re right, you’re not familiar with American litigation pertaining to terrorism charges. In spite of the current administration’s very liberal stance, certain conservative laws are still firmly in place that provide you with an extremely narrow margin of liberty, Doctor Yeh.”

Harris stands up and buttons his jacket closed. “Are you certain you’d prefer not to proceed with our conversation? I’m more than happy to get several hours of my day back. But I’m not precisely sure what you serve to gain on your side of the fence, so to speak.”

"For someone who purportedly knows so much about my emotional state, very little you have either asked or assumed has so far been correct," Yi-Min can't help but point out, mildly, as she watches him do up his jacket buttons. In her posture, that same casualness is delineated in that tip of her head as she holds it there, and in the looseness of her shoulders.

"Never once did I actually say what you just said. You came all the way out here for a reason. Say your piece, Mr. Harris."

Harris smiles, setting the device back down on the table. “Of course,” is his answer, and he eases back into his seat. “Do you mind if I record this conversation?” He asks, one finger hovering over a glowing green button on the device.

"If I said no, would you threaten to pack up and leave again?" It's a totally stony question. Yi-Min straightens her head again, not looking directly at the device anymore despite the digital glow in the periphery of her vision. Her eyes have narrowed a little at Harris now, with any expressions of either cheek or seriousness kept in check beneath the fluid surface of her still, watchful mood.

"Go ahead."

“You’re starting to get it now,” Harris says as he taps record, eliciting a soft beep from the device.

“Agent Harris, recording session 1. Subject, Doctor Yi-Min Yeh. Variance 0.” Harris says toward the recorder, then folds his hands in his lap and looks at Yi-Min. “What we discuss here is confidential, privileged information. It will not be used against you in legal proceedings and will be classified to the highest levels of security within the United States government.”

Taking in a breath, Harris looks Yi-Min up and down. “At any point within the last year, were you made aware of the existence of an SLC-Expressive by the name of Uluru or otherwise referred to as The Entity?

Whatever Yi-Min had expected of the content of Harris's questioning, this isn't it. There is a notable pause before she answers in a single, short word. Surely that wouldn't hurt— before all was said and done, a fair few people had become aware of the existence of the Entity. "Yes."

Harris nods, glancing to the recorder, then back again. “At any point since 2019, has anyone tried to explain the existence of parallel realities to you. Realities that exist simultaneously but imperceptibly, to our own?”

The answer from Yi-Min this time is swifter this time, no less tense. But it's wry. "Tried to explain? I suppose that's one way to put it. Yes."

“Have you at any point been presented with proof of the existence of alternate dimensions or parallel realities to our own?” Harris asks, pointedly.

Yi-Min's tension ticks up. Another moment goes by, and it's not because she's evaluating whether she can meet the specifics of that question.



“Variance 1.” Harris says into the recorder, then looks back to Yi-Min. “Do you believe this proof?”

Good god. Barely three questions in, and already this is going in a direction that—

There is a barely perceptible exhalation from Yi-Min as she takes in Harris's words, both to her and to the recorder.

"It wouldn't exactly be proof if I didn't, would it?"

“Please answer the question with a yes or no,” Harris clarifies.


Harris nods, leaning back in his chair and resting one arm on the table. “Let’s change the topic,” he says, then turns to the recorder. “Variance 2, Branch 1.”

When Agent Harris looks back to Yi-Min he offers her an apologetic smile. “This is going to be a bit more involved than the last round of questions. To the best of your ability, tell me everything you know about the entity called Uluru.”

The next look that Yi-Min offers Harris is simple, resolute, and she shakes her head in a way that seems apologetic in its own right.

"Honestly, I do not know if I know anything about it with 100% certainty. My body of awareness regarding this consists of conjecture and hearsay. If you are asking about this thing you call the entity, then you must know that by its nature, it is not something that went talked about often."

“I’m willing to entertain your conjecture,” Harris explains. “It isn’t up to me to verify the truth of your statements, only to take them. But any information you can provide will be significantly helpful, whether or not you are certain of the accuracy.”

Yi-Min smiles wanly. "Even my conjecture is thin. I know that this thing is ancient, though I do not know exactly how much so, and malevolent. I know that to speak its name, even as we are sitting here doing now, is supposedly a terrible idea. And I know it— she, or whatever it purports to be— is extremely dangerous."

“Dangerous how?” Harris asks.

"Dangerous in the way that anything else is, really. It wields tremendous destructive power." Incredibly helpful. "Again, I cannot give you the detail you seek. Only that if the rumors were to come to life, you would be looking at the sort of destruction that is written about in fanciful tales."

Harris makes a noise in the back of his throat, then turns to the recorder. “Variance 2, Branch 1.” He looks back to Yi-Min. “Tell me about the biological weapon you developed under orders from Adam Monroe.”


At least that's a topic that would conceivably come up during whatever future trial she is slated to receive.

"I was given little initial information about it," Yi-Min begins, her eyes narrowed on Harris's again. "I was assigned a cellular sample, and the instructions to modify the strains of a given virus to target the biochemical signature of the sample."

“Do you know where the biological sample came from?” Harris asks with an incline of his head to the side. “Failing that, do you have a theory?

"Oh, trust me, I repeatedly attempted to find clarification on this." Yi-Min's lips purse into a finer line, almost imperceptibly. "This is information that was explicitly denied to me. I was expected to work with what I had."

Her gaze growing cooler yet, she finally deigns to ask what had long gone unspoken— "Why are you interested? In any of this?" Not that she's expecting any kind of remotely useful answer here, but even a pretense of one would be something.

“National security,” Harris says in a blanket obfuscation. But then he turns the recorder off with a tap of two fingers, looking up to Yi-Min. “But between you and I? If Godzilla existed? I’d want to know how to kill it, if I had to.”

Harris taptaps the recorder back on.

“Do you know the identity of any individuals who live in this reality who are not native to it?” Harris asks, tilting his head to the side again, keeping one hand close to the recorder now, index finger bouncing up and down like the beat of a metronome against the tabletop.

See, that is a principle that Yi-Min can fundamentally agree with. Roundly support, even.

Unfortunately, she also has no way of knowing what Harris and his people would classify as a kaiju in need of eradication.


"Not that I could confirm, no. The prospect is fascinating to me, however." Yi-Min lets her gaze fill with the slow light of an empty, yet thoroughly engaged curiosity.

Harris taps his recorder with two fingers, turning it off. “I think I’ve heard enough for today,” he says thoughtfully, sweeping the device into his palm and then the inner pocket of his suit jacket. “If I think of any more questions,” he says, pushing up onto his feet, “I’ll be sure to let you know.”

And just like that, it was over.

Department of Homeland Security Holding Facility
Kansas City

March 22nd
7:03 am Local Time

The snap of an electric buzzer signals to the checkpoint guard that they can open the inner gate. A barred metal door slides open, allowing Yi-Min Yeh to walk through at the pace of the security guards both ahead of and behind her. The shackles around her ankles make it difficult to walk at a steady pace and the handcuffs around her wrist with a linking chain to her leg restraints limit her overall mobility.

As Yi-Min is escorted through the facility, she passes by a glass-walled security checkpoint where she sees Agent Harris talking to a DHS officer. Harris looks up as Yi-Min passes, but does not acknowledge her presence as he looks back to hsi conversation. She hadn’t seen Harris since their first and only meeting, and today would likely be no different.

Yi-Min is escorted out of the secure holding area and into a confidential meeting room with soundproof padding on the walls, no windows, and a long conference table in the middle. There is an elderly white man waiting for her inside, dressed in an expensive three-piece suit. He’s easily old enough to be someone’s grandfather or, likely, great-grandfather. Now she finally has a face to the name.


“Doctor Yeh,” he says as she enters, waiting for the security guard to unlock her cuffs and restraints so she can sit and move freely. “My name is Bryant Kotch,” he says without standing or offering his hand for a shake. “Whenever you’re ready we can talk about our strategy for your case.”

The security guard slowly steps out of the room and shuts the door, and once that has completed Kotch flicks a look back to Yi-Min. “Please,” he says with a gesture to a chair across from him, “have a seat.”

The restraints Yi-Min had been wearing had not been made for someone her size, and the continuous rattling of oversized metal around her thin, bony limbs had gradually worsened from a source of benign aggravation into real pain. Her release from them is followed by an unabashed, if succinct sigh of relief, and once the security guard is out of the room, she settles into the offered seat with her eyes lidded.

This doesn't last long, though. When she inhales a silent breath and flicks her gaze back up to Kotch, it’s sharp and calm and bright. She tucks her neatly folded legs away beneath her, using the lull to take in the old man's appearance in full.

"It is good to meet you. I've heard a lot about you, Mr. Kotch. And, I am certainly ready to begin."

“Good, good,” Kotch says as he looks over the files laid out in front of him on the table, moving them around in an order he’d like to address them in. “Well, I’m going to start this off by saying that we’re fighting an uphill battle, Doctor Yeh. We have some uncomfortable conversations we’re going to need to have, and some difficult choices you’re going to need to make.”

Kotch opens the first folder, full of legal documents and affidavits. “These are transcripts from the Albany Trials that were hosted here in the United States shortly following the Second American Civil War. Now, these transcripts name you as a member of the Chinese Vanguard. According to an interview with…” Kotch adjusts his glasses and leans in to read the line, “a retired CIA agent named Epstein.”

Licking his thumb to leaf through some of the papers, Kotch settles on a line from the transcript. “This is a relevant portion of Epstein’s testimony. And quote: Every single operative we sent to China died. We still don’t know what happened there. Daofei Kung died in Madagascar, but we don’t know how he got there. Delta Team was massacred inside the Shanghai vault.” Kotch looks up, “end quote. And it continues on page sixteen…”

Kotch turns the page and keeps reading. “In the months that followed, the CIA swept through the Shanghai facility with the cooperation of the local government. They had a massive pipeline into the Chinese internet, backbone access. With their technopath they controlled information flow. We also found evidence of a chemical weapons laboratory and evidence of a doctor named Yi-Min Yeh who doubled as an assassin for their organization. The paper records, the ones still intact, indicated Yeh was responsible for several high-profile assassinations in the two years leading up to Operation Apollo. End quote.”

Closing that file, Kotch breathes in deeply and folds his hands atop the file. “Obviously, this is old news.” He says with a look up to Yi-Min. “But this is the predisposition you’re going to face at trial. These records have been sealed since the Albany trials,” Kotch admits, “but I know that the prosecution is going to leverage them in the closed circuit of the court. Additionally, the federal government has decided to try you in a military court, due to your Taiwanese citizenship.”

Yi-Min listens to most of this motionlessly, only her dark eyes flickering on occasion as she watches Kotch flip through file after consecutive file. When she hears the confirmation of the decision to have her tried in a closed military court, she takes in a quiet breath of air through her nose, only the now-slightly tensed clasp of her hands where they rest together on the table betraying the amount of thought she is processing.

"I suppose none of this is a surprise to me," she declares impassively after several seconds longer have elapsed, returning Kotch's look without fanfare. "This is what I made the decision to come back and face, after all."

This is really more to herself than it is to Kotch. It was less strange than she had thought it would be, to hear this much of her past laid out before her in one place.

A small, curt exhale seems to purify any lingering traces of tension from her, gaze as meditative as ever. "So," she picks up from there, now noticeably a little more wry. "What all do I have going for me? I do hope Epstein has had some slightly kinder words for me since then." Not that her fate hinged on the opinion of a single man, but she imagined that the leader of Wolfhound could certainly influence opinions on this matter if he so chose.

“He hasn’t been subpoenaed yet,” Kotch says with a brief glance up to Yi-Min, “and depending on how the US decides to handle this, he might not get the opportunity to be.” That’s when her attorney switches to another folder. “I started with this older Chinese information because of what I’m suspecting might be the government’s strategy here to circumvent a trial altogether, depending on what their actual goal is.”

Kotch opens a folder, flipping through a few pieces of paper until he finds a document with a significant amount of Han characters at the top. “The Department of Justice sent me a copy of a drafted — but unfiled — notification of apprehension for you to the Chinese government.” Kotch slides a copy of the document over to Yi-Min.

“In it,” Kotch says, looking down to his copy, “the Secretary of State informs the Foreign Minister that you have been taken into custody and is offering you in exchange for two detained American military officials who worked for the Mitchell administration that were apprehended in China on espionage charges in 2012.”

Kotch exhales a sigh through his nose. “It’s very obviously a threat of intent,” he indicates, setting his copy down. “Being that if you don’t play ball in whatever manner they prefer, they’re going to release you to the Chinese government and I can assure you that they’re not going to go easy on a Taiwanese terrorist who murdered Chinese nationals.”

It's not like Kotch has to finish elaborating on what China would do to her. "Chin bô lay mah,1" Yi-Min snorts very softly, turning over one of her little hands in the other with an officious air as though to begin giving her palm an airy but absent visual inspection. Before that happens, her eyes flash back up to Kotch.

The very tips of her fingertips curl inwards on themselves, her gaze never once leaving the features of his face.

The stoic judgment she fixes him with is not for him.

"’Play ball,’ hm? What on earth is it they want from me at this point?"

“I’m not sure,” Kotch says with a slow sigh, sifting through documents. “But I have a feeling you’ll know when they want you to.”

Department of Homeland Security Holding Facility
Kansas City

April 8th
8:08 am Local Time

The past few weeks have blurred together. Weekly defense meetings with Kotch, forming a list of character witnesses to defend her at a presumed trial, but always having the threat of deportation to China hanging over her head hasn’t made focusing easy for Yi-Min. Kotch is a skilled and venerable attorney, but she can’t help but shake the feeling that he knows something he isn’t letting on to.

But, maybe that’s just paranoia from nearly two months of incarceration talking?

There is a sound Yi-Min has become fairly accustomed to, a buzzing noise down the hall that indicates when the internal checkpoint is opening and someone is coming into the detention wing. Normally that’s where things end, no one has come to see her outside of her weekly meetings with her attorney and daily Zodytrin injections, neither of which are scheduled right now. She is reminded that, while this is a “new” America, it never revoked its anti-terrorism laws that allowed for indefinite detention. It seemed like a distant concern before four concrete walls became her world.

When the sound of footsteps stop outside the door to her cell and she sees an indistinct silhouette in the hallway, the pattern of the last few days changes. There is a buzz in the magnetic lock of her door, and when it disengages and opens, there is a federal security officer stepping inside, hand on his holstered Banshee eyes fixed on Doctor Yeh. A sense of deja-vu kicks in.

“That’s not necessary,” says the black-suited man coming in behind the security officer; a tall, middle-aged Black man with close cropped hair and chiseled features. He waves off the security officer, stepping past him into Yi-Min’s cell. He isn’t wearing an identification badge or a guest lanyard, he carries himself like a federal agent, not an attorney.

“Doctor Yeh,” he says, then glances over his shoulder and gives a look to the security officer, who shows himself out of the cell. “My name is Agent Harris. Do you have time to talk?”


He didn’t need to introduce himself, she knows him.


When Harris makes his approach this time, Yi-Min is standing still and silent behind the crude, immovable setup in her cell that amounts to a desk and chair, her back presented to the entrance of the cell. Her gaze is slanted downwards at the thin, lined sheaves of notepaper all gathered at one end of the little desk, covered in sparse columns of spidery Chinese characters. The tension in her posture, in the rigid, snaking curve of her shoulders, indicates something like profoundly hypnotized alarm.

Her meticulously handwritten entries were not the same as they had been.

She knew what had been there yesterday.

Specific characters and dates were changing— mutating in the manner of an illusion that would lay innocuously still while being watched, but warp like water the instant she shifted her focus from it wholesale.

The pull of this lure is such that she doesn't even bother to turn at the sound of the nearing trail of footsteps, though she does straighten further. A single breath slips out of her, her eyes dimming into a deep coolness as they settle further upwards on her wall.

"I have the same amount of time to talk that I had before, Agent Harris."

“That’s a well-conceived answer,” Harris says, walking into her cell. The security guard shuts the door behind them with a resounding clang. Harris stays by the door, giving her the seven or eight feet of space the total length of the room provides. “I was hoping we might be able to talk more candidly about your experiences with the Entity, the biological weapon you created, and your work with Doctor Wu Shengjiao in the Flower Garden.”

Harris moves his hand to rest on the door handle to Yi-Min’s cell, but doesn’t yet move to open it. “You’re free to say no. But you might find you trap more flies with honey than you do with vinegar.”

Yi-Min's gaze stops roving once it reaches the point on the wall where it becomes level with her eyes. There, it picks up an odd flicker of light from somewhere in all of this canvas of dreariness that extends away from her in every conceivable direction.

Though Yi-Min still doesn't turn around to face him, Harris can practically hear the shape of her narrowed eyes reflected into her voice.

But the emotion she lets slip from her tone isn't despair, or even anger, but a form of musing that has anything less than benign about it turned perversely inwards.

"Oh, Harris," she laughs in the way that one does when there is nothing else to do, glancing down at her journal pages again. "I will admit, it isn't bad having someone apparently so eager to see me. After you."

“Certainly.” Harris says. “Why don’t we step into my office?”

A drop of water falls and lands on Harris’ shoulder from the ceiling as he’s speaking. Harris looks down at it, then turns the handle of Yi-Min’s cell door and opens it into a lightless corridor that absolutely is not what is outside of Yi-Min’s cell. There is an electric buzz when the door opens, and fluorescent lights come on one at a time, moths fluttering around them.

Harris steps out into the hall, holding onto the door handle, gesturing for Yi-Min to cross the threshold into the narrow, concrete-walled hallway that was not there a second ago.

If Yi-Min has any more energy to be aghast at things not physically being what they are supposed to be, she is either quite good at concealing it or it's literally all been used up for the day.

Like an acquiescent child, she steps beyond the threshold of reality just a pace or two away from Harris at all times, taking in all the aspects of her new environment with a curiosity that never rises beyond the kind of inquisitiveness that would be natural here.

More or less, anyway.

"So," she says down the length of the concrete hallway they're looking down, eyebrow raised a hair now. "This is where you work?"

“Sometimes,” Harris explains. “It’s complicated.” Harris carries a rhythmic pace with an uneven click of his heels on the floor with each step. It sounds a little like the arythmic beat of a jazz tude. As Harris passes under each of the hanging lights, they one by one flicker out for a moment, only to return once he has passed.

Moths flutter and flap their wings, creating blurry shadows on the walls and floor as they swim around the lights.

Tall glass windows line the corridor Harris leads Yi-Min down, each of them rising from floor to ceiling and view into a two foot deep recession in the wall where a canvas is hung in the middle of the wall. No two of the canvases are the same size or shape, save for one commonality:

They all depict moments in Yi-Min's life.

There is a painting that shows Yi-Min as a child with her parents, sitting on the floor of their home in front of a television. Another of she and her late brother sitting on a couch together as children. A painting depicts Yi-Min as a young woman in the armed forces, sitting in a mess hall. There is a grayscale painting in pop-art style of her in a lab coat with Kazimir Volken looming behind her and blood at her feet. Yet another painting shows her embracing Kara Prince, both their eyes shut, forehead-to-forehead, nose-to-nose.

Some amount of skepticism manifests as a faint shadow behind her brow the longer they continue onward, but it isn't until they turn into the latest corridor that her surplus attention slips away from Harris's figure entirely—

…and into the niches in the wall containing what should be an impossible tableau.

With a candid but incredibly muted kind of feline wariness, as though witnessing something sacrilegious beyond even the possibility of decorum, she takes a step forward towards the paintings — then another, scanning over their contents and colors in turn. In her chest, she becomes aware of her breathing slowing into a dark crawl.

But it's the sight of the final painting that makes Yi-Min stop in her tracks, audibly sucking in the longest of breaths.

Arriving at the foot of the painting, she raises one slim hand to the corner of the canvas as though it might melt away if she touches it, her heart in a strange flutter on the cold cusp of pain. For the next few moments she can only stare up, eyes wide and open, at this intimate, close-eyed depiction of Kara and her.

"…So. I do very deeply hope I am about to get some amazing explanation for all of this." For the second time, Yi-Min's address to Harris is made without looking at him. The sound of her voice seems to cut through some kind of personal spell: while it is devoid of contention, it's devoid of most anything else, too.

It's mostly just on the dead side of deadpan.

“Prepare to be disappointed.” Harris says with a hint of humor in his tone as he reaches the door of scuffed, water-stained metal at the other end of the hallway. But before he reaches out for the handle of the opposite door, he pauses and looks back at Yi-Min, then to the paintings, and back again. There’s a question, almost asked, but instead buried beneath silent action as he puts his hand on the doorknob.

A buzz echoes from the other side of the door and the lights to the hall all shut off at once. Harris turns the handle and steps into the room, lit by flickering fluorescent lights in the ceiling. The room beyond the hall is another seemingly impossible space; a concrete room some fifteen feet on each side, a perfect cube. There are square, recessed fluorescent lights in the ceiling.

The only furniture in the room is a glossy black wood table with a chair on either end in matching color and finish. Harris holds the door open, much as he had before, and motions for Yi-Min to step inside.

And just as before, Yi-Min enters through the opening Harris creates for her without so much as looking back once at the terrain of the seeming dreamscape they had just traversed.

"To be truthful, I am not sure I can get more disappointed," she remarks once she's completely inside, the cut of her words still fine and dry as an excoriating curl of sand, striding in the direction of one of the chairs at the end of the table without sitting in it yet. The time she takes to note the impossibilities of the dimensions of the room around her is growing shorter now, too.

"Are you trying to impress me? Threaten me, by showing me all of these fantastical uses of somebody’s power? Well. Congratulations. I am extremely impressed. And now? What?"

“I thought we could talk more,” Harris says as steps inside, a droplet of water hitting him on the shoulder. He turns, looks down to the spot of moisture soaking into the fabric and shuts the door.

There is a single word painted on the door, crisp lines of black on red. As much a description as a warning.


“It’s been some time since we spoke last, and I thought perhaps you might have recollected new information that may be helpful to us.” Harris slowly makes his way over to the table, pulling one of the chairs out and sitting down in it. “You may have noticed that the surface-level information I was given last time didn’t do much to move the needle on your current predicament.”

Harris sits forward, elbows on the table, motioning for Yi-Min to sit before folding his hands in front of himself. “I don’t have any desire to intimidate you. I have a feeling the American judicial process is doing that all on its own.”

Is that what he thought?

Yi-Min does not sit.

Instead she remains standing where she is, her gaze tugged towards the motion of the door when Harris moves to shut it and staying on that spot for a moment longer to study the ominous signage thus revealed.

If she is still thinking about what to say, it does not take her long. "Before we 'talk,' Mr. Harris, first I would like to make something completely clear. This is, if I may."

“You’re free to do what you want, here.” Is a very specific thing for Harris to say.

And so, Yi-Min does.

It seems like she might something specific to say as well, if indicated by the coolness in the silence she allows herself before she speaks.

"First. As you seem to already know most things about me," at least judging by the personal abomination they had left behind in the last chamber, "I shall remind you that I have lived my entire life freely up. I am not an idiot, Mr. Harris. I did not willingly turn myself in to your government in recent days without first making my peace with the possibility that I might never get to see daylight again.

Somewhere in the midst of this, Yi-Min's gaze has attached itself to Harris’s again, and neither that nor her voice contain the vitriol that her word choice might have suggested. There isn’t even displeasure. It’s just a sheen of impenetrable mildness, all the way down.

"I understand that you belong to some kind of secret club where it is apparently a cardinal sin to tell anyone outside of it anything remotely useful. This is fine. I have been there. Yet I shall also tell you this: my days of being kept in ignorance by shadowy authority figures, fumbling around in darkness and struggling to piece together my own guess about the right path to take so as to not somehow inadvertently help said shadowy authority figures bring about genocide or some other major disaster, are over."

Here, there is only a pause so Yi-Min can prop up her forearms on the back of the seat in front of her, canting her head a neutral degree at Harris as she does so.

“I guess what I am telling you is this. This is to save us time right now. If you are not interested in having a conversation with me like the civilized human beings that we are — no, I do not expect club secrets, but I would like some basic answers out of the courtesy of letting me make the bare minimum of an informed decision about what devilry I am dealing with here— you may as well march me back to my cell straight away, throw away all of the keys in existence, and stop pestering me forever. Or, just serve me up on a platter to China and get it over with."

One of the two. Either is fine.

At this point, death of any speed seems vastly preferable to having to deal with this utter nonsense with Harris one more time.

Yi-Min stares. Calmly.

“You’ve been thinking about that one a while, haven’t you?” Harris asks, one brow raised.

“It’s fair,” he continues, picking up a lit cigarette from an ashtray that wasn’t there a moment ago, “to want to have some measure of control over a situation you put yourself in. That’s fair.” He looks down at the smoke twisting off the ember of the cigarette, then back up to Yi-Min. “But that’s not what this is,” he explains with a motion between himself and her with the cigarette-laden hand. “Fair.”

“If this wasn’t a civilized conversation, there would be a man in that room with you.” Harris says with two fingers pointing to the door, “rooting around in your mind with an ability, against your consent. If this were uncivil, you’d be brought to god-knows-what international black sites the CIA still has, to be tortured until you spill whatever they want to know.”

Harris moves the cigarette to his mouth, draws in a breath, and then exhales out his nose. “I can’t tell you anything about myself, my agency, why we want to know what it is we know, or what we intend to do with that information except that there are two facts in front of us.”

Harris motions to one side of the table. “We have reports of a being that exists between or beyond this dimension, one with Expressive abilities beyond anything the world has ever seen, and according to you has lived for hundreds of years.” Harris’ brows rise, and he motions to the other side of the table. “On this side, we have the incontrovertible proof of multiple worlds that exist beyond our own, each with terrifying levels of divergence from our own known timeline.”

Harris takes another drag off of his cigarette. “I’m here to find out as much about those topics as you’re willing to share, Doctor Yeh, and if I can provide something valuable to my superiors they will permit me to intercede on your behalf, and spare you what will undoubtedly be a one-sided trial that ends with you spending the rest of your life in a Chinese prison. Or a lab.”

Setting down the cigarette in the ashtray, Harris looks looks up at Yi-Min and leans forward, folding his hands in front of himself. “What happens with the rest of your life is a choice you make right now. You can either talk to me, or you can walk out that door. One way or another, today is the last day we see each other.”

“But if I were you, Doctor Yeh?” Harris interjects before she can respond. “I would think very carefully about what is most important to you.”

In the face of the darkening curlicues of smoke from Harris's lit cigarette, Yi-Min lets her eyes lid from across the table. "Not anywhere near as long as you might think," she says dismissively, leaning into the delicately balanced weight of her forearms just a little more. "Forgive me. Perhaps my English is not as good as I thought it was, and I did not find the correct words to use for this. 'Fairness' is not exactly what concerns me. Unless you can pry answers out of a corpse, I think you would find it rather difficult to force me to live long enough to confront this intriguing man who can root around up here." With two fingers of her own, she gives a casual tap to the side of her skull before settling them back down on her chair.

If they are so interested in her answers, for whatever reason, so too could she find a way to deny them this one thing.

There is renewed sense of curiosity to the way Yi-Min is looking at Harris now, cold and aloof without hostility, and seemingly unrelated to at least the most recent topics.

"I have always known what is most important to me," she says quietly, tone flatter than ever. "And it is not me. It has never been me, so I am not quite sure why you keep on explaining what might happen to me, as if this would change my mind. On the ‘other side of things,’" she gestures to the space of the table between them in a pantomime of Harris.

"It just may be your Godzilla that you are so interested in, or at least that would serve as a much closer approximation. If you will not tell me any more than you have, I must absolutely know that what little you have given me, has been given in good faith."

“All you’ll have on that is my word, Doctor Yeh.” Harris responds coolly, folding his hands in front of himself at the table. “I do come to you in good faith, and I don’t like to make promises I have no intention of keeping. But I will share something with you that has nothing to do with my work, but perhaps will ingratiate you into my perspective.”

Harris reaches inside of his suit jacket with his free hand, retrieving a pair of gold-plated antique scissors. He sets them down on the table in front of himself. “I don’t imagine you recognize these,” he says with a look down to them, trading scissors for cigarette. “They belonged to Shengjiao Wu, a man I know you’re familiar with.”

Sucking on his cigarette, Harris lets that fact linger between breaths. “Eleven years ago, before you joined Praxis Heavy Industries, I was a test subject of Doctor Wu’s. He was studying me, my ability. Wu would use those scissors to cut samples off of me. He’d start at my fingers, work up knuckle by knuckle.”

Harris swallows, audibly, then sets the cigarette down in the ashtray again. “I escaped in the middle of winter in 2009. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about what happened to me in that lab. What Wu did to me in the name of science.” Harris looks away for a moment, then back up to Yi-Min. “I’m not Shengjiao Wu,” he says, retrieving the shears and putting them into his pocket again.

“And I am not your enemy.” Harris says with a gesture to the chair in front of him, one last time.

"All I would have needed is your word," Yi-Min confirms, still more placidly than ever.

When Harris recounts his tale of what he had suffered at the hands of Wu, she listens without any apparent emotion save for a small, steady light of contemplation that grows in the distance of her gaze. Still, it is clear he has her undivided attention, or at least those gold-plated scissors do for the duration they are out.

If sympathy had been what Harris had been trying to elicit from her with those gruesome details, it is unclear that this is what he has in fact managed to garner from her, in any capacity at all.

But there is more that Yi-Min thinks she reads into what lies there, unwritten on any line, yet possibly much more vital than anything Harris had actually said.

"Thank you," she voices in the following silence, the sound of it soft and empty, made without any specification of what it is she might be thanking him for.

Lifting herself off her forearms, Yi-Min slides the chair out towards just enough so that she can easily and comfortably sit.

“Now…” Harris says with a deep breath, “let’s start from the top.” He leans back in his seat, then looks like something comes to mind. “But first, if you don’t mind my curiosity…”

“What did you see in that hallway?” Harris’ eyes slowly narrow in scrutiny.

Hearing this question shades Yi-Min's face with just a tinge of incredulity that she barely bothers to hide. Never in her life, or at least the last ten minutes of it, had she felt quite so pleased about seeing one of her assumptions destroyed.

It seems to be becoming a recurring theme.

"Scenes of my life, through various points in time." Another beat, with Yi-Min squinting at Harris a fraction: "Loved ones. ….You?"

“Nothing so pleasant,” Harris quietly answers. “Everyone sees something different,” he adds.

“Now,” he says, resting his elbows on the arms of his chair, fingers steepled in front of himself.

“Let’s talk about this Entity.

Department of Homeland Security Holding Facility
Kansas City

April 8th
9:42 am Local Time

Yi-Min sucks in a sharp breath, eyes snapping open to focus on the ceiling overhead. Her long conversation with Harris feels slippery in her mind, a vivid dream that was only as real as the illusion of sleep. The last thing she recalls, after they had talked for what felt like hours, was Harris telling her to show herself out.

Touching that handle on the office door, and… waking up.

As Yi-Min had come to learn elsewhere, though, sleep could hide inside it a good deal more truth than just the illusion of a dream.

After awakening like this, she doesn't arise at first, nor does she stir from her initial position. There is only the occasional blink from her eyes as she stares up at the blankness of her ceiling— focusing on reeling these stray strands of memory to her core before they had a chance to fade, like winding thread securely about the shuttle of a loom.

That's a tapestry project she could come back to later.

For now, her simultaneous awareness of the hard, narrow cot resting beneath her is almost comforting.

At least, in the reality that it should entail.

Department of Homeland Security Holding Facility
Kansas City

May 18th
7:07 am

There’s less paperwork waiting for Yi-Min in front of her attorney than usual today.

When the door to the confidential meeting room is shut and locked behind her, Yi-Min sees Kotch look up from a freshly printed document. There’s a pen waiting across the table from him at her seat and a tab-marked copy of the same document.

“I’d like to know what it is you did between last month and this month,” Kotch explains, though it sounds rhetorical. “Take a seat.”

Yi-Min had already started to do so, pulling her usual seat out towards her with an abbreviated scud across those now-familiar few inches of concrete. She finishes settling herself all the way into it, before turning her questioning look onto Kotch. "What do you mean?"

Kotch raises his brows and motions to the paperwork across from Yi-Min. “That’s a Conditional Motion to Commute Sentence.” He sounds incredulous as he says it. “It was filed yesterday morning and I had to contact several people to make sure it isn’t a misfiling.”

“What that means is that, if you agree to the terms contained therein, the United States will find you guilty of the criminal acts listed on the following pages, but agrees to commute your sentence and punishment indefinitely provided you adhere to a rather standard set of behavioral patterns; parole officer, limited international movement, and the like.”

Kotch flips to a later page of his own copy. “You find the list of charges on page seven through…” he leafs through more pages, “page fifteen. It covers everything from Conspiracy to Commit Murder through Unlawful Development of a Chemical Weapon. Charges for acts outside of the United States aren’t covered, your time with the Vanguard is bundled with the conspiracy charges, given that none of them were carried out on US or US Territorial soil.”

Shaking his head, Kotch closes the document. “Typically these kinds of agreements are only given to someone who has turned into State’s Evidence. I’ve never seen it in a terrorism trial. Now, it doesn’t exonerate you of any wrongdoing, but given that you aren’t a US citizen it will not impact you since you already didn’t have a right to vote. It does bar you from ever obtaining citizenship, but…” Kotch shrugs, not putting much value in that.

“Additionally,” Kotch says, pulling out another stapled packet of documents, sliding it across the table to Yi-Min. “These are papers for asylum within the United States, allowing you to remain in the US as an SLC-Expressive asylum seeker, preventing China from extraditing you and indicating that the US will not be deporting you in spite of the charges you will be sensibly pleading guilty to.”

Kotch spreads his hands, looking dumbfounded. “It looks like we didn’t need all that trial prep after all.”

One brow arching silently, Yi-Min takes the documents that Kotch slides across the table, scanning over the first page before flipping to the second. Then, the third.

After a minute, she lifts back her gaze up to Kotch and places the packet back back down in front of her, her curled hand coming to rest just on top of that. "So, there is to be no trial at all?" she asks, seeking a second and more concise confirmation of everything she had just heard. She doesn't look as dumbfounded as Kotch does; instead, she looks somewhat impressed, as well as only slightly concerned.

"…It'll be interesting to tell Miss Tetsuyama and Miss— Mrs. Miller that all the good work they have been doing on my behalf will not be needed," she says, more openly thoughtful. "If, that is. I truly understand all that you just said."

“As well as I understand it,” Kotch says with a rise of his brows. “There will be no trial as you are pleading guilty, there will be a sentencing hearing, followed by the processing of these documents. It will still take a month or so, but overall…” Kotch shakes his head. “Provided you don’t find a way to get up to trouble in your cell…”

Kotch doesn’t finish his previous sentence. Instead, he just smiles away the concern. “Still, all things concerned, I’m glad you had my counsel. You have a surprising wealth of people who are willing to take significant financial and reputational risks for you, Doctor Yeh.”

"Believe me. I have about as much intention to cause trouble as you have seen from me." Yi-Min would have to be a special kind of fool to throw away this boon now, and additionally all of this progress she had worked for, with or without it.

"I am glad as well," she replies more easily on the subject of receiving Kotch's counsel, honesty in her tone. A hint of quiet, solemn regard deepens in her expression when she hears the last comment, and her reply she forms to that is just as honest. "Yes. I am blessed to have the people around me that I have."

Kotch’s gaze lingers on Yi-Min for a moment, then diverts down to some paperwork in front of himself. “It seems you have a guardian angel watching out for you,” he muses, pulling a stapled document out from a folder. “Now you just need to review this affidavit and sign it,” he says, sliding it over to her. “I composed it based on our previous conversations. It should all be familiar, but read it over anyway.”

As Kotch lays the paperwork down he muses, “Unless your guardian angel also does legal representation?” Delivered with a sarcastic smile.

Department of Homeland Security Holding Facility
Inmate Processing

Kansas City

June 15th
8:12 am

A loud buzz emits from a white-painted iron-barred gate. Through the bars, a blonde woman in a blue and black uniform slides the gate open, morning light reflecting off of the badge pinned to her chest that reads DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY. The lobby beyond the gate is lined with scuffed, old tile. The drop-ceiling looks decades old and in need of renovation. Nearby, the reinforced glass of a window serves as a partition from the foyer to the security station beyond.

«Please step forward,» the wiry man behind the glass says into a microphone that repeats out a speaker near the glass wall.

A simple pair of white, canvas sneakers carries Yi-Min Yeh to the partition where the young man sets a plastic-bagged bundle into a metal tray. “One pair of shoes, one pair of slacks, one white jacket, two rings, one necklace, a flask — empty, one clutch, identification cards, twelve dollars and sixteen cents in assorted American currency.”

The entire contents of Yi-Min Yeh’s life when she turned herself in to Homeland Security months ago. The young man behind the glass pushes a lever sliding the parcel through into a bin that opens below the window. Yi-Min is able to take her bundled belongings in hand, to which the man behind the glass says.

«Please have a good morning,» and then motions to a guard.

It all feels unreal, like a dream within a dream. There is a part of Yi-Min that half expects to wake up in that concrete cell after blinking. Perhaps that’s why she stares ahead, at what feels like blinding morning light coming through the tall glass windows and door at the front of the holding facility.

A DHS officer escorts Yi-Min through the remainder of the lobby, past a metal detector and security checkpoint, and out to the front lobby that is nothing but bright morning light, sun reflecting off of cars, and a silhouette waiting for her by the door. A dark figure, bathed in radiant morning light, motes of dust dancing around their form.

Yi-Min steps forward, her worldly possessions cradled to her chest, but her head is held high as she approaches that figure.

The shadow may be long, the light may be blinding, but she knows them. She—

You’re free to go, Doctor Yeh.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License