seren2_icon.gif yi-min_icon.gifzachery2_icon.gif

Scene Title Waterbending
Synopsis Two scientists go out for a stroll and are treated to a show and conversation. Both of them appreciate it, albeit in their own ways.
Date July 27, 2020


Whatever is going on in this communal green space inside the block of buildings made by the Raytech complex, it looks almost like tai chi save for the vigor in which it's executed. That, and…

"Almost had it that time, bud!"

There's water streaming through the air with each of the motions the moving figure makes, a stream of it zipping around through the air. It tries, and mostly succeeds in moving faster than a fantastic beast streaking after it. The miniature creature, bearing wings attempts to match the same crazy loops the snakelike trail of water beats through the air, and Seren Evans spins and spins to keep the water ahead of it in this game of tag they're engaging in.

"Baird, have you even thought about what's going to happen if you catch up with it?"

No, Baird argues with a bark from his decidedly undoglike being, doing a somersault to double back on himself as the water globs, then zips away as a self-contained streamer again.

The sun shines overhead during this lunch hour, a fountain burbles in the center of the space, and Seren laughs brightly— not a care in the world while they slowly circle and manipulate the tail of water with swirling movements of their arms and hands to keep it one step ahead of the imaginary creature that chases after it.

Over the course of her lifetime, Dr. Yeh has seen many fantastic things.

Over the course of her employment at Raytech, short as it had been so far, she had seen a few more.

Nothing she had ever encountered falls into the visual category of whatever is happening here. Manipulation of water alone would be one thing, but—

Pointedly entranced, Yi-Min leaves the path she had been walking down, taking a step over the boundary of the pavement onto the sprawl of green grass where Seren and the colorful mystery creature next to them are frolicking. Curiosity eventually overtakes discreetness in her approach, and before she has even realized it herself, she has drawn close enough for stray water droplets to occasionally drizzle into her from the wild energy of the closest loops.

Seren has evidently gained themselves a new spectator: one who is making absolutely no secret of this whatsoever, though standing thoughtfully at just enough of a distance to remain a careful non-imposition.

People crossing through the grass hadn't been unexpected. People getting this close, though…

It's looping Baird who notices Yi-Min first while Seren's still twirling, positively giddy that they seem to be winning this race they're playing and enjoying getting a few movements ahead. Meanwhile, his fantastic blue form slows long enough that can be seen better, and pearly, iridescent fins like ears pop off the side of his head in curiosity before he tilts it entirely, paws lifted in the air like he's midjump save for the fact he's floating.

If anything, he looks of the water himself. Down his teal, catlike form are rippling stripes of darker color, like tiger stripes if he had fur. Instead, Baird glints in the light like a fish out of water, complete with a ridge of cerulean fins down his back that tapers away down his oddly dinosaur tail.

What even was he? He appears to wonder the same of Yi-Min, leaning forward with beady black cat-nose first, sniffing at her while looking at her with wide amber eyes.

It's only then that Seren notices in their spins the new interaction that's happening. Startled, they pause in their movements entirely. "Oh." escapes them.

Just before the tension in the water breaks and the tail end of the stream collapses and breaks over their head and shoulder, darkening the white dress shirt they wear with the sleeves rolled up and the loosely-adorned white tie that matches it. Seren bites back a curse as they look down at themselves, hands held up in a plaintive gesture of what even. Baird snaps his attention back their way, laughing apparently.

Except the sound of it is like bubbles being burbled into a drink.

"Hi," Seren voices in distraction, their hands coming back to themselves and pulling out again with their palms splayed to no effect. "C'mon," they mutter to themself and try again, this time with their fingers caving in almost like they're pulling some invisible strand, and the water staining their clothes pulls away in drips and strands to hover before them again. "There we are," they sigh with relief, and with a flick of their hands, off the water goes.

It flays itself into a mist that sparkles in the air, and when Seren looks back to Yi-Min through it as it disperses, their silver-ringed eyes are bright with warmth, one that matches their grin. "I'm Seren! I don't think we've met yet. And this is my friend— Baird." Selfsame Baird sluices through the air, peering at Yi-Min with interest but remaining just out of touch. He's interested, but not sure just yet.

Yet another onlooker stands back, waiting in the path Yi-Min has already traveled and - by now - abandoned. When Zachery was told he needed more daily exercise, obligatory walks through Raytech was not what he was expecting.

And yet, there he stands, his stillness in the shade of a large wall-mounted planter deliberate. He stands out regardless of his efforts, hunched forward into two crutches and with a heavy boot still protecting a broken leg.

He watches the movements from a distance, as if counting the precise amount of seconds he needs to stand here before he carries on by himself.

As utterly engrossing as the daily chore of babysitting Zachery is, Seren will find that they have now captured the attention of Yi-Min completely. The little Taiwanese woman stands there off the path as though transfixed, her slightly-tilted gaze filled with a bright if distant curiosity as it moves from Baird to Seren, and then from Seren back to Baird.

"Hello," she offers back, a mellow but genial echo of Seren's own greeting. "No, we have not. I am Dr. Yeh. Your friend, Baird. Is he— ah. Some sort of genetically engineered creature?"

There is knowing doubt in her eyes as the words leave her, but it seems one of the most likely prospects to her on such a short moment's notice. At the same time, she seems to be searching for an unknown, but corresponding, quality in Baird. He seems content and playful enough, which means that she remains more intrigued than concerned, but still.

Seren looks up to Baird, and Baird looks back at Seren from his slightly higher position floating mid-air. After consulting him, they reply knowingly, "Yes… and no." They turn back to Yi-Min to begin providing an explanation in the form of, "He's actually a…"

But then they spot Zachery, and they light up all over again. "Hey, Dr. Miller!" they shout across the greenspace. Enthusiastically, unironically, with boldfaced joy. Respect, even.

If they are at all dissuaded by his sag, if they notice it at all, it's impossible to tell. They've seen him around campus with his broken leg, attempted previously to politely ask what happened, and respected his privacy on receiving a non-answer. But, those were those days, and today is today, bright and sunny.

Likewise, Baird perks on hearing a familiar face is present. His golden eyes snap up, trailing after Seren's silver ones. A bubblish note comes from him before he sets sail with a thrash of his tail, off to say hello. He keeps his distance, despite the joy reflected in his eyes and the silent inquiry as to Zachery's wellbeing, remembering a now-unnecessary rule regarding social distancing. Very mild-mannered these days, this figment. He's just grateful for his new lease on life.

"Baird's my best friend," Seren gets back to relating to Yi-Min, stepping by her side and facing the sidewalk. "We've been together as long as I can remember. He's normally more cat and bird than this, but I try to let him do what he wants so he's most comfortable. Every day, a new Baird. I'm— lucky to still have him," they acknowledge a touch more quietly. "It's thanks to Bella and Zacher— sorry, Dr. Sheridan and Dr. Miller."

The one change that takes place in Dr. Yeh's expression is a very fine arch of one her brows upwards at being met with the proposal that somebody is unironically so happy to see Zachery. She actually briefly turns her head back to look back at where he is standing behind them on the path, as though to verify that they are indeed addressing the correct Dr. Miller.

But then she turns back to Seren, the exact same patiently quizzical look in her face as before. "He's actually a…?" she prompts gently but inflexibly, much more interested in that abandoned sentence fragment than Seren's decidedly less-informative gushing about how much of a friend Baird is.

"Hello, Baird," a hoarse greeting is scraped forth from Zachery's throat like roadkill off of asphalt - though the glance in the creature's direction is, likewise, curious in how keenly alert it is despite his posture. After a cursory visual inspection from where he stands, his gaze lingers on Baird's face, as if he's only willing to look over at Yi-Min and Seren once he's determined that distance is maintained.

When he starts moving again, it's with a jut of his jaw forward as if to motion for Baird to do the same. C'mon. Between plods of the crutches into the grass, he raises his voice to say more loudly but no less flatly, "They're two in a pair, Yeh." Plod. "A mental projection with haptic feedback," plod, "and smell-o-vision built right into it. Imagination entered into the world."

Yi-Min's insistence leads to a sheepish duck of Seren's head, canting it to the side slightly with a, "Well…" that doesn't appear to have more helpful words following after. They struggle to put words to it; both words that are true, and ones that don't sound like embellishments. While sometimes they can put together a hell of a presentation to argue something they're passionate about, Seren's a doer, ultimately. They're in the process of thinking through how best to demonstrate when Zachery and Baird come loping their direction, the latter with graceful, bounding leaps through the air.

Baird comes right to Seren, who lifts their head and their arms to cup the face of the figment between their hands and brush their nose with his, accompanied with a face-scrunch of affection. They ruffle the finlike ears around his head before letting him go, and he sweeps in a circle around their shoulder settling on it, leading them to need to raise their left arm up to provide enough surface area for him to stand on through their bicep.

Zachery's explanation seems to meet some level of satisfaction, and it's then that Seren looks back to Yi-Min, a little more confident than before. "Baird and me, we've got other friends, too. And visitors, who come and go. It's a little— if I focus too hard, I can still stretch myself too thin. But if I just go with the flow…"

Out of the corner of her eye, Yi-Min notices a shift on the vest she wears. The handwrought petals of the orchid pin Kara Prince had gifted her shift, lifting, becoming less a thing of metal… and more an actual flower. The ripples on the edges of it smooth away, the silver at the edge of the petals the only sign of the silver base it had sat on.

"Sometimes," Seren remarks softly, "Amazing things happen."

Zachery's interpretation of the matter is thought-provoking enough that Yi-Min forgets whatever she had been thinking about being addressed as 'Yeh' instead of 'Doctor Yeh' in this environment.

"Imagination. So, this is the work of an ability." That's the simple capstone Yi-Min slides onto the top of what Zachery had just said. Though it's spoken in a matter-of-fact way, further behind the scenes, her voice has filled back up with marvel. There is something somewhat dreamy in the way she glances back at Baird again, the curve of a vague smile taking shape as she re-ascertains the beautiful fluidity of his form.

And then she spots the flower that Seren creates from her pin, and actually gasps as her mind processes what her senses are telling her.

Her eyes are drawn down to the place on her vest her flower pin is occupying. She brings up one hand to enclose her fingertips gently around each side of the space, coming close to touching it on all sides but seemingly afraid to.

This vision of a living orchid, out of enamel and metal.

"不可思议,"1 she says with quietly vibrant solemnity, then breathes a laughing huff of wonder.

Though his approach is decidedly less than stealthy, Zachery remains quiet all the way until he's caught up enough to speak at a more comfortable volume. He straightens his back a little once he's arrived at Yi-Min's side - but maintaining a few steps' worth of distance between them.

One of these days he'll go a full six months without injury. Not that he looks overly concerned with that at the moment, choosing to look Seren over rather than watch what they've made happen on Yi-Min's person. He takes a breath to speak, but then immediately reconsiders his words, swallowing back an unspoken question before saying, matter-of-factly, "You seem well."

Seren doesn't understand what Yi-Min says, but her tone imparts it well enough, bringing a small smile to their face. The petals of the flower, brushed, are as soft as reality in their raised state above the flat, actual surface of the pin.

"It's my ability," they confirm finally, content with the explanation of it. Part wonder, part science: all magic.

Baird bumps his head against the side of Seren's face, by all appearances happy that they're happy, and they curve the hand on their lifted arm back to stroke his neck. The observation from Zachery draws their eyes back to him, something in his tone sounding…

But they can't put their finger on it.

They meet his tone just as matter-of-factly regardless, if more polite with their intonation. "Yes, I've been doing well lately. The initial adverse effects seem like they've gone away. Now if I get a migraine, it's because I went too far. Me and Baird have been seeing what trouble we can get into when we've got a few moments to spare, but I'm trying not to force anything."

They don't seem content with leaving it at that, though, coming to an uncomfortable ending of that line of smalltalk. But with a renewed light in their silver-gleaming eyes, their brows lift and they enthuse, "I've made a new friend. Her name's Nix. She's a harpy— she talks and everything. I get to see her on the weekends and we hang out and go shopping and see movies and such." There's a quiet, happy been that comes with the end of that thought. After a pause, they shake their head. "I never thought I'd meet another friend like that."

"It's been especially nice since Rue…"

But they're not sure how to end that thought. The hue of mauve on the orchid becomes a darker purple, silver edges becoming more metallic despite the soft appearance of the rest of the flower. The stripes on Baird's body become a greyer blue than before, but his mood overall appears unchanged— assuming he's noticed the shift at all.

Their ability is still very much impacted by their state of mind, he notes.

"It's just been nice to meet new friends like that, you know?" Seren's recovery is quickly done with a smile. See? they mean to convey. Everything's fine. They've not seen the evidence otherwise, therefore it doesn't exist.

"How about you?" they wonder, the question warm.

Yi-Min doesn't understand everything that is being referred to, but she listens with some interest all the same, just as she notes the subtle darkening of the colors in both orchid and Baird when Seren's mood appears to drift into something more uncertain. The change in the flower is what causes her to look back up from its petals, the edges of which she had been observing softly and critically.

She remains quiet, respectful of letting these two apparent friends converse, her eyes traveling to Zachery to await what his response will be.

With all eyes on him, Zachery's delayed response seems preceded by a longer silence still. If he's at all aware of Yi-Min's attention on him, he doesn't show it when he looks from Seren to Baird, then calmly back again.

"I'm glad," he finally says of himself, voice lifted just slightly out of the register of boredom, even if possibly by design. For a conversation between supposed friends, his words don't enter it easily. "To have been able to work with Doctor Sheridan's… work - and to hear you're progressing in the right direction."

As if he's just become aware of how much he's talking and how little he's actually saying, he breathes sharply outward, and makes a prompt decision to change the subject. "I'm working for Doctor Yeh here, now, apparently."

Something seems off with Zachery more than before, Seren notes. Like he's not himself.

Their smile fades, brow instead creasing with some concern. He didn't really answer, but the deflection's sort of an answer, too. Sort of. Baird's nose twitches in the air as he tries to silently ferret out what's wrong, leaning forward some. His amber eyes peer as though he'll actually be able to do it.

In the meantime, Seren looks to Yi-Min at the semi-introduction of what she does. "Oh!" comes from them with polite surprise. "I think I saw the welcome email when you joined the company, come to think of it. It's wonderful to see the areas Raytech's looking into keep expanding. I actually— I put forward the idea for Project Lattice, initially, where we first started looking into the higher-energy algae. So it's pretty exciting to see work in the biochemical area in general, even though it's all a bit above me."

Baird in the meanwhile is slowly creeping down Seren's arm, getting one paw after the other closer to Zachery. Because he doesn't seem okay, and that doesn't sit well with him.

"I joined the company because I was hoping to do something worthwhile with my degree. I'm— an architect, but I needed a few years of practical experience before I could finish up." Seren huffs a slightly self-conscious laugh as they go on to admit, "I'm not sure … if I might've messed up chances of becoming confirmed with all the other work I've been doing aside from designing buildings, but it's been fulfilling being here. Lots of different things you can get involved in."

Baird steps off the side of Seren's arm, straight onto thin air to head into Zachery's space bubble.

It’s funny, because little of Zachery's behavior is pinging Yi-Min as particularly odd. It's possible she has gotten far too used to getting nothing but deflection and useless answers from him.

So, most of her attention stays directed towards Seren. Well— and Baird, too. The delightfully illusive creature is rather hard to ignore for long, and Yi-Min finds herself keeping close track of him out of the side of her vision.

"Ah! So you were the one first responsible for Project Lattice. Excellent. I shall have to talk further with you at some point. You are completely correct that there is much to get involved in, and I am looking forward to being able to accomplish a good deal here with bright young minds like you." Yi-Min, whose gaze is still quietly radiant with interest from the introduction to Seren's ability, now seems even more pleased by their energy. Still, she can't help but follow their visible line of concern back to Zachery, a brow of hers very lightly arched upwards with decidedly less concern.

Seemingly content to let everyone else do the talking in this exchange, Zachery's attention wanders, and continues to do so all the way up until Baird enters his limited peripheral vision.

Zachery's jaw tenses, white-knuckled grip on his crutches pushing down as he straightens further and conjures a tight smile. Baird is watched right back - the way one might watch a child reaching slowly for a cookie jar's wobbly lid. Don't you fuckin' do it. "Seren is one of the most creative minds at Raytech," he opts to say, many measures more sincere than his expression. "I think that might be the first time I've complimented anyone at work, actually. Perhaps it takes a good amount of creativity to get along with me."

He turns his head, just so, toward Yi-Min. "It would explain a thing or two, wouldn't it?"

Seren meets Yi-Min's enthusiasm with a sheepish smile while she goes on, biting back the urge to downplay their own importance just barely. In the meantime, in their periphery, Baird continues his journey forward, step by step. He loses some of his altitude, head ducking, clearly not wanting to invade too much of Zachery's space.

But also, to definitely do so.

The compliment from him brings Seren to turn, brow lifting in surprise. At the same time, head below Zachery's shoulder, Baird glances past him with a determined headbutt to his bicep. The haptic, as he'd put it, is stronger by grades than it used to be. It— despite Baird's hollowness and his odd shape— feels real. Like being headbutted by a particularly energetic cat, and the subsequent drag of neck and body.

Seren notices the breach of personal space too late to stop it from happening, their words catching. They shoot Zachery a look of apology, hesitant to call it out, but willing to put a stop to the behavior if needed. It's not as bad as it could be, of course.

Baird hadn't decided to go for the face. And if nothing else, at least he was allergen-free.

Yi-Min just laughs airily, the look in her eyes utterly wry and unbothered. "If it takes a creative genius to get along with you, Miller, then I think the problem might just be you, not me."

What does surprise her, relatively speaking, is the magnitude of the compliment he bestows upon Seren. That’s some unprecedented positivity from him, to be sure. It causes her to turn and study their form just a little more intently yet, acutely interested in this physical drama that also seems to be playing out between Baird and Zachery.

Zachery visibly stiffens against his crutches at Baird's intrusion, but for all intents and purposes, it is endured. Only after the connection is broken does he look at his arm, shoulder pushed forward ever so slightly as if he might catch some residue left behind.

But of course there's not. Or there shouldn't be, either way. He shakes his head. "I…" he starts to answer but stops, finding himself caught momentarily off-guard. It takes him clearing his throat before he's able to return his gaze first back to Seren, then Yi-Min, his voice level as if to match her nonchalance. "I can only be expected to keep track of so many of the problems that surround me," he argues, his forced smile disappeared and his words a dead sort of rehearsed, "So we may simply never know."

Except for the fact that they probably do, and he sounds fully aware of this.

Less rehearsed is the movement of fingers loosening from the crutch's handgrip, a Bairdside lifting of his arm just barely away from the upright bars.

Just like a particularly determined cat, Baird similarly finds Zachery's exposed palm instantly after turning back for round two of passes of distraction-affection. His neck and back curl to chase the hand that's been chosen for pats while he glides past, then with a look from Seren that issues a subtle but stern reminder about personal space, Baird flicks his tail and swims through the air back to his summomer's side quickly.

"You know," Seren supposes aloud, "if you don't have the ability to go with the flow and still somehow impose order on it, it's a skill you'll have to pick up fast in order to stay comfortable here at Raytech. There's, um, a variety of personalities here."

To say the least. They let out a quiet laugh as they look back to Yi-Min. "Some of them more excitable and demanding than others, and some of them stand-offish to a fault. Some make sense, some don't." With a shrug, Seren quietly muses, "Just a matter of finding that right blend on a team."

Suddenly sheepish, they look back up and the silver gleam in their eye becomes less strong in the sunlight. The orchid lays back down and resumes its mundane, metal form once more. "—Which is just a roundabout way of saying welcome!, I guess, and to not try too hard to make sense of what can't be made sense of, when you run into it."

"Don't worry, I have already become well-acquainted with many of the personalities here," Yi-Min replies with some mild amusement to the vehement article of advice. "I have had the misfortune of learning to be comfortable in much worse environments than this one, so I daresay I shall likely be alright. Though, I thank you for your concern. And your welcome."

Her gaze takes on a slightly more reflective bent towards Seren, clearly settled on a different topic. As the orchid pin on her vest dims back into its usual form, she strokes it slowly and absently. "If you are having any troubles with your ability, I may be able to help you," she says, calm. "Forgive me, if it is not my place to offer. But it is a song and dance I have known well through my own life, and so I am happy to leave it to you."

The half-shrug that follows from Yi-Min is the breeziest thing. "Though I would love the opportunity to talk further with you at some point, whether about that or no. Perhaps over tea?"

There is no complaint from Zachery for Baird's shenanigans, in word nor change of posture - indulging the actions undertaken only in that he chooses not to stop them or object.

Still, compared to when he wanted to try and cut the summoned creature open, it's something.

Only once Baird is returned to his creator's side does a corner of Zachery's mouth pull outward, amusement just barely showing past the unease when he grips the crutch again and leans into the supports so as to start the arduous process of turning around. "I'm heading back," he announces, apparently not interested in tea and leaving Yi-Min to her own devices to start plodding his way to the lab. "You know where to find me."

A twist of Seren's wrist to look down at the watch cinched to the inside of it reveals the time, and they note it with a tic of surprise before looking back up to Yi-Min. "Tea would be great," they confirm. "But I need to run back to my apartment for something before my break's up, so I should probably head off, too."

They lift a hand to wave in farewell as they begin to backpedal back across the greenspace. "But definitely! Let's get together! I'll see if Nix wouldn't be up for it, too." Looking to Zachery, their arm lifts up above their head. "See you later!" they call out.

When the other two peel off, Yi-Min seems content to stay standing at the center of this little crossroads in time where the paths of three very different humans had converged— Seren flying back across the green lawn one way, Zachery limping away like a severely injured hermit crab the other.

For a long minute, she remains a small, still, silent figure at her speculative midpoint, watching Seren's dwindling back with a shrewd look to her expression.

Such promise, in such a wonderful multitude of forms.

Then, she turns to be on her own way as well, following Zachery's exit at her own unconcerned, knowing pace.

There was much work to be done before anyone had time for tea.

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