adrienne_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Unity?
Synopsis Two's company, and three's a crowd. Only time will tell if they can work as one.
Date September 5, 2019

Miller Residence, Providence

It's been a strange week in the Miller residence on the edge of town. Though a few people have swung by over the past week, their visits into the physician's office part of the home were brief and mostly in the interest of introduction rather than for the purpose of providing problems that needed to be solved. This has, in large part, been a blessing, because while Doctor Zachery Miller has had more than enough practice in wearing the disguise of someone who has other people's best interest in mind, his patience has been wearing particularly thin this last week.

Keeping up appearances is something of a necessity - but right now? He has better things to do.

Like sitting on the bottom few stairs of his basement, in slacks and wrinkled dress shirt, book open on one knee. A big mug of steaming coffee is held and balanced on one page while he skims the other with a wrinkling of his nose. "If we could isolate pVII, maybe we wouldn't need to — no, ah - actually, that wouldn't work. The whole thing would fall apart on us. How was your lunch?" He lifts his face, eyebrows lifted, staring at Adrienne Allen through a dated looking pair of black-rimmed glasses he could stand to punch the left side out of. But he hasn't.

He has, however, made his conversation partner a little more comfortable than she arrived - at least physically. Where she was once cuffed to a radiator, she is now at the very least free enough to move around within the basement; a cuff around her ankle is secured to a finger-width chain that, in turn, has been secured to the solid metal frame of a bed that looks like it was a pain to get down the stairs, and would be a few measures more if someone were to try and haul it back up. Plus, look, it's been made with crisp white sheets and everything. All it's missing is a mint.

And maybe the rest of a room that doesn't look like an extremely shady makeshift laboratory with less than ideal battery-powered lighting hanging haphazardly from tape-suspended wires. Home improvement is a slow process. Not to mention more of a bother when you're memorizing every single tool you take into a room so that you can be sure you've taken them back out, after.

Lunch, today, was eggs on toast with a side order of coffee and a few requested books from upstairs. And obvious scrutiny as Zachery does not ask but checks how his unwilling houseguest's wrists are doing.

Adrienne’s long-delayed response to Zachery is a blink of her eyes up from the plate balanced on the backs of her knees. She sits on the edge of that heavy bed, the last corner of a piece of toast in her hands, a tiny drop of egg yolk staining the cuff of her gray, cabled sweater. She stares at Zachery for a long moment, chewing the toast in a visible ball at one cheek. Then, as she looks down to her plate and sweeps up the last of the yolk with that last crust of bread, her reply is more resigned than anything else. “Honestly, it wasn’t terrible,” is the closest thing to a compliment she feels is deserving at present.

“You make proper coffee,” Adrienne thoughtfully adds after another long moment, looking to the steaming mug on the floor beside her right foot. “The coffee in the California Safe Zone all comes from machines. Powder?” She wrinkles her nose. “It’s cheap, from somewhere in China. Awful.” She finishes the last of her toast and sets the plate aside on the bed, bending forward to pick up the coffee.

"….So. Dr. Miller. What in the world do we have going on here?"


A light near the top of the landing casts the diminutive form of Yi-Min Yeh in sharp relief, sending a long, gaunt shadow stretching across Zachery at the bottom of the stairs. The query, as it floats downwards to where the former surgeon lurks in his overstated glasses, seems slightly mocking; the person doing the asking had long ceased to call Zachery anything more formal than his first name, in all the time they had known each other.

The silently-opened doorway up to the rest of the world does not stay open long, but neither does the intruder make a move to travel farther down the stairs, instead standing a step or two down and surveying the state of Adrienne with a carefully jaundiced eye. One hand had crept up to veil her mouth, fingertips up, as one might ordinarily do in horror. But the intent of the motion is softened by the fact that it seems for some reason sardonic.

It is also underlain by the daintiest semblance of a snigger.

"Is this the treatment you give to all your assistants?"

Zachery, attention still half on his book, has only just had the time make a vague noise of bitter agreement when… that shadow happens.

The voice is familiar. Cadence, too. But though the choice of words (or proper nouns, in this case) isn't quite what Zachery would expect, the very presence of Yi-Min is what causes him to kick his heels into the floor at the bottom of the stairs, standing with a start and the clattering noise of a nearly full coffee mug hitting the cold ground.

"Shit- fuck," he breathes out, peering up at Yi-Min with a look of wild confusion. It's only then that he realises he also had a book, and looks down to see it covered in proper coffee. "Fuck- SHIT." He snatches the book off of the ground but leaves it hanging between index finger and thumb, unsure what to do next and just… staring at it in bewilderment before — just barking out a laugh.

He just laughs. Increasingly nervously as his lungs empty themselves. He looks back up to Yi-Min, still holding up the book as it drips onto stone, and laughs even as he says, "Wait, this is nnn- what- excuse- what the FUCK?!"

Zachery’s ostensible prisoner looks startled in more reserved ways, the kinds of ways deer express fear in the wild. Eyes wide, back straight, mirror still. Doctor Allen has nearly forgotten the coffee mug held between her hands, watching the exchange with Zachery and the clearly unexpected arrival with at first nothing in her eyes. Then, as panic subsides to something more tempered, eyes that show calculation.

We’re down here,” Adrienne calls out in that French-lilted accent. Her tone is just shy of a cry for help, sounding plausibly like someone who is too busy to come up and greet guests with an edge of housewife forced to take care of Thanksgiving dinner herself by an uncaring family mania.

Calm amusement glazes over Yi-Min's eyes as she finishes taking in the scene before her, allowing herself to commence descending the staircase one short, deliberate step at a time once she is fairly certain of what it is she sees.


"This is such a mess, Zach. I feel quite sorry for anyone who must live under these conditions." That sounds more like her. Her equally-calculating gaze lingers on the quagmire of spilled coffee puddling forlornly across the ground at Zachery's feet only for a second, sweeping past the mess and back up to Adrienne with a mixture of strangely officious sorrow and curiosity.


"The poor thing—"


"…What has she even been able to accomplish like this?"

Step. Creak.

Drops of coffee slide off of the book's pages, flung sideways as Zachery twists around to shoot Adrienne a look, eyebrows low over mismatched eyes.

He throws the wet, coffee-soaked book onto a stainless steel countertop near the bottom of the stairs and and yanks the glasses off of his face to point them at Yi-Min. But as if there's too much to say all at once, an inhale hits a dead end in a quiet breath of "Hhh-?"

A shake of his head later and he manages to laugh out some real words that manage to sound equal measure surprised, proud and defensive all at once: "Plenty, actually! We're on schedule." Someone's schedule. As more comes tumbling out of his brain seemingly without thought, his words become increasingly and pressingly urgent, "We've actually been getting along quite nicely, haven't we, all things considered. The weather's been lovely, and also what in the fuck- what in… why - are you here?! Why are YOU here."

Then, one more time, smacking a hand onto his face and looking at Yi-Min through his fingers as though it might help him measure the madness he's contracted, "Why are you HERE."

Adrienne slowly sets down her coffee cup down beside her feet, then slowly rises from the bed with a soft clink of the long-spooled chain leash around her right ankle. With a quiet and subtly judge mental expression the Frenchwoman assesses Zachery and Yi-Min’s posture, then rolls her forefingers and thumb together as if considering offering a handshake but thinking better of it.

“Doctor Allen,” Adrienne chooses to introduce herself instead, a hand motioning at her collar. “You apparently already know Doctor Miller, oui?” Her dark brows rise, attention flicking between the two.

At first, Yi-Min seems more than a little puzzled by Zachery's apparent complete lack of knowledge as to why she is present, but it is a puzzlement that retracts somewhat into a tune of amusement as she neatly finishes off her descent. Really? Nobody had told him?

She reaches the bottom of the stairs at around the same time that Adrienne's cup clinks onto the floor, and it is not long before she has paced to a patient standstill before the figure of the taller woman, examining her as would a concerned mother checking on the condition of her possibly-sick child.

"Doctor Yeh," Yi-Min says towards Adrienne, very fluidly ignoring Zachery for now. She does not extend her hand for a handshake either, but instead graces her chained counterpart with a polite incline of her head. More of a nod than a bow, in essence.

"I do know him, and I am sorry you have to witness this. Has he been treating you with the respect that you deserve?"

Zachery's question goes ignored.

"Great," he says, "fantastic," he also says, "wonderful good, phenomenal, yes. Stunning." As Yi-Min moves beyond the stairs and into the basement properly, he moves back to the lowest step and plants his hand on the railing nearby. Then, reaching his other hand up to rub at one of his temples, he just closes his eye(s) for a moment. When she addresses Adrienne with the question, he interjects quickly with: "I swear to god, Yeh, you're like when children leave toys out in the hall. You're crumbs in the bed. You're that bit of seashell that manages to find itself into the fibers of your sock and when you reach for it it's not there but it is absolutely there."

His words trail off. Maybe he's accepted the fact that he's just talking to himself, now.

Adrienne blinks a look up at Zachery, still tense but feigning comfort. It’s like being afraid of a dog but trying to be friendly when it comes nosing around your soft parts. The look she gives Yi-Min is absolutely the look you give that animal, trying not to show fear in spite of the internal screaming.

“It isn’t California,” is Adrienne’s somewhat opaque answer, “but I understand the precautions.” Slowly, she nudges her coffee cup under the bed with the side of her dirty tennis shoe. “So you’re…” she eyes Yi-Min up and down, “Praxis?”

"Correct," Yi-Min confirms over the top of Zachery's background grumblings, neatly tucking a strand of short hair that had slipped astray behind her ear as she straightens her head to look Adrienne in the face again. Her silent response to the other woman's latent fear is strange— a flat, glittering smile that seems like it is filtered from a vast distance away. As though she too is feigning something, or perhaps weighing something in her mind about Adrienne, but it is impossible to tell what.

"I shall be working with you and Dr. Miller on your little project from now on. I know we'll all have a really wonderful time together. Isn't that right, Zachery?" She swivels fully back towards Zachery as though he had been included in their conversation all along. When she does, her smile has evolved further into the infuriatingly bright expression that he has come to know so well.

It's one of the worst things Zachery has ever seen, if his sneer is to be believed.

"This, ah - this whole thing, that you do? The thing between us? It's cute." Spoken decidedly less like a compliment and more as a thing one might tell a bloated, dead dog blocking a doorway. But then he just… chuckles again, humourlessly, disbelief still solidly on his mind. He scrubs a thumb against the railing he's holding, and remains in his spot - blocking the only way out.

"So - what," he starts, looking down at Yi-Min, "They thought I needed help?" Ridiculous. He fights back another laugh and grins, though amusement does not seem to be fueling either action. "Sorry to send you back again, but we're doing fine. Aren't we, Doctor Allen." He levels a look at the other woman, now, unblinking. The tone of habitual pleasantries from before Yi-Min arrived is gone now. This isn't a question so much as a demand for confirmation.

The soft, mildly distressed noise in the back of Adrienne’s throat is unhelpful in that.

“We’ve been working on this for a long time,” Adrienne says in hushed admission of guilt, “I… it might be best if we get another pair of eyes on things. I think we keep talking in circles.” Only now that Yi-Min’s allegiance appears to be remotely assigned does Adrienne pick her coffee up off of the floor and cradle it between her hands.

“I blame the circumstances,” Adrienne adds, as if trying to give Zachery an out. “Poor equipment, limited resources,” she glances down at the restraint on her ankle as a silent third circumstance. “I assume you’re a molecular scientist?” It makes the most sense to her, given their needs.

"Neither of you have a choice in the matter," Yi-Min says with an airy scathingness, the visual approximation of a direct, curt laugh resting deep inside in the field of her serene gaze. The diversion of her incidental familiarity with what pushes Zachery's buttons does not preclude the next shift in her expression, however, which mellows into something that is harder and a little more austere yet.

"That is close, Dr. Allen. May I call you Adrienne? I am a biochemist by specialty. I also have an extensive background in the creation and alteration of lethal substances, knowledge which I believe may be of use to you both. We must all make do with the things that we have together, because you— we are not in possession of a great deal of time in this endeavor. Late January, if I am to understand."

A date of endings, she is certain all three of them are aware. In one way or another.

"You're a pain in my ass by specialty." Both of Zachery's hands find themselves on his face again. Maybe if he scrubs his face hard enough, the annoyance will stop showing on it. "But," regretfully, "you understand correctly."

Then, moving away from his spot, he pulls open a cupboard and starts tearing pieces off of a huge roll of paper towels, throwing them one by one at the spilled coffee on the floor. Some of them hit their mark. "I have so many questions," he tells the coffee through gritted teeth, swallowing back the bitter amusement that still pulls at his words, "but it's fine. This is fine. Nobody tells me anything and it's fine."

Adrienne swivels a look to Zachery as he grouses into his coffee, rattling the links around her ankle as if to remind him it could maybe be worse. Cradling her own coffee between her hands, she levels a look back to Yi-Min and walks from her spot beside the cot and over to a counter space where a pair of microscopes are arranged along with heavier lab equipment set up on the floor beside the counter.

“I’m not sure how briefed you are on our work,” Adrienne says as an aside, glancing briefly to Zachery, “but we’re working with a heavily modified strain of clostridium botulinum,” a botulism bacteria, “developed by the US government to be used on SLC-Expressives. The toxin was tailored to produce little more than mild skin irritation in non-expressives, but is designed to react to the Suresh Linkage-Complex like a key, activating another layer of properties within the toxin and causes neurological degeneration and death.”

Doctor Allen motions to one of the microscopes set to examine a small culture in a sealed container. “We’ve been working to invert that receptor, to ensure with 100% accuracy that the neurotoxin only affects non-expressives, but it’s been slow going.” There’s a weary detachment when Adrienne speaks of genocide, as though she were no longer phased by the concept. “Toxicogenomics isn’t my strong field.”

Yi-Min has already turned the spotlight of her attention back onto Adrienne, who is, at this point, the only person in the room actually saying something useful. "Delightful," is the extremely matter-of-fact pronouncement she utters after the quick tour the captive woman gives her of the facilities, eyes sweeping critically over the crisp lines of the countertops, the arrangement of all the various tools available to them.

"As I thought. It seems that my particular area of expertise is something that you will be needing. But, first things first. You did not answer my question from earlier. Have you been treated adequately?"

Leaving the machinery aside, Yi-Min returns her attention to the face of the Frenchwoman with even more interest than before, her dark eyes shrewd and clinical. "I know it is rather difficult to do one's best work when one is under unnecessary duress, and I daresay that we will be needing the best of our combined efforts in the days to come."

"She's been fine!" Again, Zachery answers the question that wasn't meant for him, by now bending down to gather up mug shards. "The chain is precaution more than anything else. For when the door is open. Plenty of bathroom breaks," even if it comes with the price of being escorted to the door, "and - yes, alright, the more I say the more it sounds like a kidnapping, but guess what?"

The look he casts over towards Adrienne borders on apologetic, before it falls right back into annoyance. He rises to his feet with a collection of still dripping ceramic pieces in one hand, and turns to head for the stairs. "It is what it is." With no beat's pause, he adds on his way up and out, "I'll sort out the schedule."

“It is what it is,” Adrienne says with a vaguely sarcastic lilt to her voice, taking a sip of coffee after the fact. “I understand what I’m doing, and I think at the moment that’s all I need to. Non?” One last sip of her coffee, and Adrienne sets the cup down. “We all know each other now, we’re not total strangers. What else is there to do, other than stare at our own navels, than work?”

Adrienne steps away from where the left the coffee up beside some lab equipment, picking up a paper journal. “Why don’t we compare notes, and get this done in time for Christmas.”


That's it. Yi-Min evidently does not feel the need to press any further, sparing only one coolly momentary glance over the bridge of her nose at the sight of Zachery attending to the shattered remnants of the mug he had dropped. The assurance of Adrienne's capability to work is everything she had wanted, and she will trust it.

"Words well spoken. There is much to do. I shall return after I have had lunch for myself, and we shall see what we have, then, in terms of a schedule." It isn't a direct contradiction of Zachery's insistence that he would be the one mostly sorting out the schedule, and quite possibly isn't meant to be.

But it is certainly an implication that Yi-Min intends to have a hand in it, whether Zachery is happy about that fact or no.

One last, light smile containing no warmth to speak of is cast wide over the mismatched pair of them, and then she is already beginning her return to the stairs, crushing one of the outlying shards underfoot with an innocent little tinkle on her way out.

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