The Oni And The White Snake


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Scene Title The Oni And The White Snake
Synopsis Yi-Min enlists the help of technopaths to assist with carrying out her plans.
Date January 10, 2020


Think three times before you move.

Dr. Yeh had not technically moved anywhere while composing the message in front of her, but she had not ceased thinking once in the course of that time. The decision to seek out the personality familiar across the technosphere as ON1 had not been made lightly, even though Yi-Min knew it was a sensible one. Every new hand she extended represented a new risk. A new thread on an increasingly cumbersome skein of secrets that, if untugged wrongly, could lead to a calamitous unraveling. She had followed the instructions ON1 had given to initiate secure contact with them to the letter, and still she harbored fears that it would not be enough.

But it would have to be.

In the early hours of an innocuous winter morning on the East coast, while New York is still entombed beneath the gray of a leaden, pre-dawn sky, a heavily encrypted message arrives in the inbox of one Tetsuyama Asi.

Date: Fri, 10 Jan 2020 06:07:43
From: ten.wt|nehzusb#ten.wt|nehzusb
Subject: PHI

To ON1,

My name is Dr. Yeh. I have the ability to grant you access to systems lying at the heart of Praxis Heavy Industries, where I wish to see as much damage done as you are capable of.

I have seen that you bear no great love for Chinese overreach, and thus, what it is that Praxis represents. So I come to you.

If the temptation of such an offer is not enough, I am also willing to pay you well.

For a recipient who could be anywhere at all in the world, a swift reply might be unexpected. Given the encryption, doubly so. But it's easy to unwrap a tightly-bowed package when you were the one who wrote the instructions for it. Given the topic, there's motivation to try and catch the sender immediately.

Subject: re: PHI
do you have time now?


Pinned to the message is an attachment, a zipped file holding an executable. Even without instructions left for this stage of contact, the technopath must feel like the intent behind its presence obvious.

The response that comes back to ON1 is hardly less swift, as though the sender had been waiting for just this, and is composed of only a single word.

Subject: re: PHI

Cold screenlight flickers over Yi-Min's face, a stark and narrow window into the gloom of the subterranean room that she currently inhabits. It finely delineates her features under its unfriendly glow, catching the clear moment she narrows her eyes a little at the unzipped file now sitting before her. Well, there is only one way to find out its contents.

And so she opens the invitation, whatever it is that it holds.

Much like one might expect on opening a strange, vaguely labeled file from a stranger on the internet, the screen before Yi-Min immediately shudders black after the initial interaction.


The view returns, though, a muted dark covering over the rest of the screen, including the previous email exchange. Simple blue text advises that the computer is


and then

_hello, dr. yeh. i would like to hear more about this access you claim to have.

Yi-Min gazes on motionlessly as this scene constructs itself, her curiosity and careful cognizance masked beyond a veil of impassivity as a matter of course, even though physically she is alone. Several silence-filled moments later, she sets her long, slender fingers to the keyboard again at last, eyes trailing smoothly over that austere line of text once again.

Why, hello. Oh, I bet you would.
Tell me. Is there something I should call you? Or do you prefer ON1?

_ON1 is my nom de guerre. i see no reason to abandon it now. it is what called you to me and gives you faith in my ability, my motivations.
_i have an exceedingly low tolerance for having my time wasted in recent months, so you will forgive me if i keep us on topic.

I understand. Honestly I am surprised that you left directions for contacting you in such a public place. Your inbox must suffer.
I shall start with myself, that you may gain some confidence in what you are dealing with. Once more, I am Dr. Yi-Min Yeh, and I have been in the employ of Praxis since 2010. I wonder, how much awareness do you possess of Praxis's structure, ON1?

_you'd be surprised again. there are few who would *actively* seek to waste a technopath's time. especially a vindictive one.
_as for praxis…

There's a pause greater than it would take to type, or otherwise spirit across the internet through supernatural means. Perhaps the connection has lost its strength, or maybe the response requires that much thought before submission.

_but i imagine what i know is very little compared to what there *is* to know.

Though her conversational partner presumably cannot see it, Yi-Min takes a brief pause of her own to allow a small, serene smile onto her face, there in the dark. There is a rather far-off twinkle in the space behind her eye, one of purpose, when she returns to typing—

Good. Vindictiveness is exactly what I am looking for, and much more. You will not be sorry that we have established contact.

A delay of another few seconds, and then:

You have named Scylla. I have heard of what she has done, but I do not know how to reach out to her, as I have to you. Do you have a way of bringing this about? If so: I would ask that you do this.
I have my suspicions that she might be rather interested in this conversation that is happening here. There is much to tell, and I do not feel like repeating myself. Like you, my time is precious.

_a moment.

Lifting one hand from the side of her laptop, Asi rubs at the side of her nose, eyes dark from lack of sleep. Sure, she can reach out to another technopath. They all knew each other, right? They could just do that.

Muttering an invective under her breath, her eyes shift to the side as she tasks subprocesses to return to the last place she and Scylla had been in each other's orbit. They'd never spoken directly before, but she found it hard to imagine the other technopath wouldn't leap at this kind of opportunity … maybe with more focus than Asi would be able to afford it herself.

She had a lot on her plate, after all.

@scylla: i have a potential line into praxis' system. are you interested in it? regards, ON1

Setting aside her laptop entirely, Asi reaches for her pack of cigarettes, thumbing it open and rifling around in it. Only one left after this. It gets a muttered swear too for its audacity before she purses a cigarette between her lips. She glances back to her screen while sparking her lighter to life, waiting for the flame to catch.

An animated gif of Homer Simpson smoothly emerging through a wall of hedges is the immediate response given.


scylla: fuck yeah
scylla: they burned all their off-site archives after my last stunt
scylla: are we talking their secure site?
scylla: who is the source?
scylla: is this legit? Mazdak has some scary mind-eating tech.
scylla: i don’t want my fucking mind eaten
scylla:jesus christ is that what happened to v.iris?
scylla: ON1 you’d tell me if you knew somebody who had their brain eaten, right?

It’s a fucking firehose of text response. Scylla always had a reputation for being high strung, but this is more than Asi anticipated.

The immediate string of replies brings Asi to furrow her brow, blowing away a cloud of smoke before she reaches out a hand to lightly tap the side of the device. Even then, it takes a moment for her to decide which piece of that she wants to address first.

_that better not have been what happened to v.iris.
_though it bears mentioning wireless has been mia for the better part of a year, too
_at any rate, the source is an internal resource. i can put you through to them

Asi's blue eyes glow a little brighter as she works on bringing the strands all together, faster than she had even expected.

_the only warning i can give you is that she is energetic.

{{scylla has connected}}
scylla: i know!! wolfhound comms aren’t running on their usual encryption because she’s gone so i picked up. she got the fucking BRAIN EATER
scylla: they’ve got fucking brain-eating technopath traps
scylla: praxis locked up their data in blade runner fort knox
scylla: my only in is a fucking kid with a fucking cell phone
scylla: who is your source?
scylla: spill the beans ON1


The 'beans' are quick to reassert themselves, in all their skeptical glory. It may be a quiet mercy that text alone does a poor job at conveying whatever Yi-Min's actual reaction is to— whatever this is, behind her screen.


This is all the two technopaths see from their third wheel for a moment, one which has slowed into all but a crawl inside Yi-Min's mental eye. Her cursor blinks invitingly at the beginning of the next empty line for the long eternity of seven whole seconds.

You… are Scylla?

_scylla, this is doctor yi-min yeh, a 10-year veteran of praxis claiming access to their systems, and a dislike for the chinese mainland. beyond that, i'm not yet sure what's motivating her to turn on her employer now.
_she was about to explain.

For a few moments, there’s no response from Scylla’s side of the conversation. Until…

scylla: are you fucking kidding me?
scylla: are you seriously fucking kidding me right now?
scylla: yi-min yeh’s name is all OVER the Flower Garden

It’s not the first time Asi had read that phrase, Flower Garden.

scylla: praxis’ cloning project
scylla: doctor go-fuck-yourself wu’s baby
scylla: are you fucking shitting me?

Given that Scylla had drilled hard into Wu’s research, dumped his emails into the public eye, her star-struck surprise is perhaps to be expected.

scylla: okay, i’ll play ball
scylla: hi, i’m scylla
scylla: you murdered my sisters


The replies from Yi-Min's side come more promptly again now, one after the other. Whatever novel surprises keep being splattered onto the screen, she is apparently working briskly to take them in stride.

Your sisters? That… No. I know who you are. There is only one possibility.
You are Mu, of our so-called lost pod. Everybody presumed you were dead.

That was one mystery solved, after all these years. Of everything she had expected to parse today, this was not one of them.

Well. I am glad that somebody seems to already be in the loop. No offense to you, ON1.
You are right, Mu. Rather, Scylla. In some manner. I did not "murder" your sisters, but I played a role in their deaths and I do not deny it.
Anyway, if you want to level some personal hatred at me for this, I invite you to do it later. I can only presume you would like to take revenge on more than just me.

It's Asi's turn for shock. She blinks twice, cigarette in her hand burning long at the end while she stares at her little screen. "What?" she voices aloud, less at Scylla herself and more at the revelation of who she is. Mù? But Scylla's motivation for hating Praxis so makes such sense in that light. For a moment, Asi looks in the margins of her screen for a post-it she'd finally torn off, though it had lived there for weeks.

She's like you, Komura had told Asi. She'd thought he simply meant Expressive.

But no.

_you've got to be kidding me, scylla.
_i'm aware of the clone pods, for the record, doctor. continue.

There’s a long pause on Scylla’s end of the conversation. Just a flashing cursor. Asi can tell she hasn’t logged off, but it feels like she has. She doesn’t reply, but the connection stays open. She’s willing to hear Yi-Min out, but Asi can tell that the other technopath is struggling through a wide variety of complex emotions at the moment.

From Yi-Min again:

There is a fair amount of incriminating information I can give to you. Access points. Things you might imagine, coming from someone in my position.
All of this you shall have from me in due time.
But, I can offer more beyond this. To either or both of you. Provided you are interested, of course.

Scylla's wide variety of complex emotions may possibly have to be set aside until a later point, because neither of them have to wait long for the bombshell.

I can arrange passage for you into the Ziggurat.

_i cannot speak for scylla, but i work best when able to analyze a system directly. access into the ziggurat would certainly ensure that.
_it also comes with a considerable amount of risk.
_i will need you to qualify the type of 'damage' you want done, your timetable for accomplishing that task, and what its success is worth to you.

The nature of Asi's ability makes it hard to read the exact nature of Scylla's silence, but she doesn't need to read her mind to know that the silence isn't a favorable direction for the chatterbox to be heading in. A subprocess spiders away from her, then performs the equivalent of sliding a card face-down across the table in the form of a message directly to the other technopath herself:


Without any break in her cadence, Asi lets herself continue on in the general space:

_do you want data extracted? leaked? do you want specific projects targeted, such as any data relating to the flower garden, or gemini? are you looking to shear any of praxis' finances away for yourself? did you have a disruption of operations in mind? are you looking to take down their internal communications? destroy the data collection hubs for their consumer device data? shut down the AI in their self-learning tanks? i could go on.
_"do as much damage as you can do" leaves too much open to interpretation, dr. yeh. with a company with so much space to cover as praxis, with what little time will be available to us, you must be more specific with your desire.

scylla:burn it all the fuck down

Perhaps Scylla isn’t fully pulled together.

scylla:the guardians are in position to move on Praxis the second they show a vulnerability.
scylla:i’ve worked almost my whole fucking adult life trying to get to this point
scylla:if we go in there it’s with a fucking flamethrower
scylla:scorched earth

The next delivery from Yi-Min isn't an answer to ON1 or any of her extremely pertinent questions.


As long as we are playing the gif game.

That was very important. Now, moving on.

I believe Scylla has already done quite a magnificent job of leaking- for which I must thank you, by the way. I would be lying if I said I didn't learn my share of things from it.
No. I wish the focus now to be simply on impairing the raw ability of Praxis to function at its deepest levels. Destroy all data related to Hydra, Heisenberg, Gemini, Flower Garden, and whatever else you can within what time frame you have. Ruin the mechanical capabilities of their high-tech munitions, if this is something you are also capable of.
If it is possible, it would also be tremendously helpful to disrupt their internal communications on the day that a physical assault might take place.
This is obviously something that requires further planning, but some wheels are already in motion. It may be wise to hold off on actually doing any of the above until much closer to then, as well, to maximize the amount of damage done simultaneously.
Scylla….. what ability do you possess to actually mobilize the Guardians?

_they have technopaths of their own, it goes without saying. once inside, we can expect resistance. possibly physical resistance, because that's what i encountered at their facilities in japan after breaking in last summer. 'abril', they called her.
_to do such damage, we will need time both to prepare, and to execute. i can prepare as many subprocesses as possible to be ready to go the moment we get access, but…

Asi's eyes lift to a strip of sticky note affixed to the corner of her laptop screen. 2/2, it reminded her.

_i'm uncertain what my schedule looks like after the beginning of february.
_count my interest level, otherwise, as high. destroying their capacity to support or conduct military operations will be my primary interest. too many countries employ praxis tech in their collective witch hunt against the evolved.

Scylla’s been quiet. When she rejoins the conversation, some of that fire has left the unspoken context of her words.

scylla:i don’t know
scylla:about the guardians
scylla:most of them left washington to scout out the CSZ
scylla:it was going to take months
scylla:i can try and send messages, but they’re low-grid
scylla:there should be two in NYC somewhere
scylla:cyrus karr and transceiver
scylla:transceiver is another technopath. young
scylla:basically an egg
scylla:cyrus is off-grid though
scylla:you’d have to reach him through transceiver
scylla:we use moc.atsivatla|ecilam#moc.atsivatla|ecilam as a dead drop for him
scylla:fuck if i know why

By contrast, Yi-Min's much more coolly-lit flames seem in little danger of going out— not even in her light interval of bemusement when she reads the alta vista address.

If I can trouble you to do so:
Please try and send these messages.
To the Guardians. To these technopaths. To other trustworthy contacts you may have afield. Unless you think that it is better that I be the one to reach out; if that is so, then tell me and I shall do so. Whatever it takes.
All I ask of you two is that you attempt whatever practical preparations lie in your reach.
As the days count down to this intended goal of mine, there is less and less room for uncertainty.
Praxis is a formidable foe, as I’m sure I don’t need to tell either of you. I need to be able to see what we can array against it.
Is this the best and most reliable means of maintaining future contact with you two, or is there another?

Asi's gaze sharpens as she sees Malice's name float past her screen. Maybe Scylla wasn't old enough for that name to mean anything to her. Maybe Transceiver wasn't, either.

Or maybe he was.

At any rate…

_i would feel more comfortable pressing the attack if there were a suitable distraction. an assault by the guardians would do just the trick. that they are already in the area is just a bonus at this point.
_make the proposal to them, scylla.
_assuming i'm not dead by the third, the end of next month should give enough preparation time.
_dr. yeh, if you are able to produce a drone or robot without anti-technopathic measures installed once we are onsite, that could prove useful. if not, i will bring what i can.
_in the meantime, i suppose i will extend an introduction to transceiver.
_try not to ruin your in with praxis until then, yeh. if anything changes or you require an update, reach out to me how you did initially. there's rarely a time i'm unable to check email.

Without giving Scylla a chance to respond, Yi-Min slips in another few swift lines of a reply.

I have been keeping this under my belt for a decade, my darling oni. I will do my very best to last a few more weeks.
For my part, I have my own plans to reach out to Wolfhound soon. I have no more to say on this yet. We shall see how things go. 人算不如天算
Do not wait for me to update you. If you have something to tell me, even if you do not think I will like to hear it, please do so.

And if I did not say so before: thank you.

Scylla doesn’t let the thanks have time to sink in before she smashes out a response.


The response feels flat to Asi, like deadpan.

scylla:you two haven’t met april
scylla:yeah, we can do distraction
scylla:i’ll try to send up a flare
scylla:i’ll be in touch
scylla:tell no one you talked to me

Youths. So dramatic.

Asi's eyes roll back up into her head, something she tries to remedy by grinding the side of her palm against the side of her forehead. In light of the exodus on scylla's part, she releases the hold she has on Yi-Min's computer as well, letting the screen flicker back to how it was before, the files wiping themselves. Like nothing had happened at all, save for what each of them now knew.

What a nightcap this turned out to be. Rocking herself to her feet, Asi heads across the apartment, hand trailing down to hang off the side of her neck. Where did she leave that stack of post-it notes …

She had a few more items to add to her already spidering to-do list.

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