ArchivedLogs:A Bloody Aesthetic

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A Bloody Aesthetic
Dramatis Personae

Alice Lambton, Parley


Alice summons Parley. He doesn't come empty-handed. (Part of Prometheus TP.)


Alice's Office

High atop a Manhattan skyscraper is a rooftop office. Three walls are made of floor-to-ceiling glass; the fourth is granite embedded with a single elevator door. The decor has a strong Japanese influence, all gleaming floors and low furniture. To the left, two steps lead up to a dais with a desk. To the right, a sideboard with a potted orchid and brandy decanters, with glasses. A sitting area claims the center of the office, made up of a set of soft green couches facing each other over a table decorated with an English silver tea service. A small indoor fountain burbles in the corner, and double-doors lead out onto a rooftop patio that has been turned into a sky garden. The view is exquisite.

Usually, Alice Lambton’s office is serene in its solitude. The young man seated at the desk outside of the door is tasked with maintaining that serenity; few are allowed through the double doors into the inner sanctum. But today--after Parley is cleared to arrive--he will discover that it’s three for tea today. Himself, Alice, and in the corner nearest the garden entrance, Pepe...or rather, Pepe’s twin, who has not suffered the indignity of being dressed as if he were a doll. He stands idle, staring into space, seeming to see nothing--and yet surely those present know that he sees and likely hears all.

And yet here he is, invited to this little get together much as Parley was.

It is a mystery.

Alice herself is at the desk, focused on the computer screen before her, hands making smooth passes over the keyboard. When Parley is shown in, she does not look away from the work occupying her mind. He’s given time to settle in as he will, as she knows he will.

There is preliminary activity; in the world of commoner's below, the entrance of the building allows in a wave of city noise, then muffles it again with the soft hiss of reclosing. Fingertips of a hand splay lightly over the desk of the door man down stairs, quiet words spoken, inquiries made, and then the silky slither of elevator doors closing as though by the hands of invisible spirits.

Carrying them as well; the opening elevator car seemingly empty even with Parley's exit of it visible and generally unimpressive with one hand in a pocket. Wearing a gray sports coat that places a mandarin collar around the back of his neck, terminating to either side of his throat front like corners of a picture frame, matching slacks with a muted gray-green shirt beneath, his polished black shoes have replaced his brown loafers in the ever steady leveling-up progress of attire by a young man that, prior to three months ago, owned one (1) set of scrubs to wear at any given time.

He'll endure whatever screening or waiting or general /smiling/ at the young man at the door might inflict on him and then... Well. As stated: there /is/ preliminary activity.

But his manner of drifting along the sidelines means that, after a while, Alice's office has simply... acquired an office cat on one of its green couches, his shoes slipped out of at the door and currently leaning back against the cushions beside a slim briefcase. His intent gaze is less admiring the view than he is running his eyes over Pepe II (Revenge of Pepe) with his jaw set on the folded shelf of his knuckles. "-- it's a very masculine design against your usual style." Compliment? Critique? He has this way of suggesting commentary as though slipping notes under a door. Hello, Alice.

The machine that stands guard in the office does not move before Parley steps beyond the invisible barrier that it deems the line in the sand. There's a mechanic hiss as its neck is smoothly yet swiftly turned so that the soulless eyes can feast on the entrant. Measurements and calculations are matched against images in its memory. Ding. Hello, Parley.

The mechanical guard is of a newer make than the battle-worn Pepe, he who has become moderately popular among paparazzis. No, this machine still has that fresh shine on its steel scalp, the number 47 on both temples. The black-as-night suit it's wearing sits surprisingly well on it, the bulletproof padding contributing to a more human shape where necessary. The bald automaton looks quite dapper.

When the feline mutant moves, so too does that neck slowly rotate, as if the thing were suspicious of some manner of theft. Only when Parley claims his seat does the silent android finally relent, continuing to seemingly stare into space. It looks like it comes pre-programmed with the basics of etiquette. Carry on.

“Small surprise given that it is not my design. A gift, from an ardent admirer. In light of recent evidence of danger, he felt I should be protected. He assures me this is the finest technology for the purpose..” Alice’s eyes shift briefly from the screen. The glance is so quick, marking Parley’s spot in the room before returning to the work at hand. Her keyboard is expensive; it makes hardly any sound as each key is depressed.

Seeming certain of Parley’s ability to entertain himself for a time, she works. And works. The minutes drag by. When Alice does finally power down the screen, she does not rise to greet her guest. Instead the chair is turned to allow a better view of him. One leg crosses over the other.

“You’ve been well, one hopes.”

Parley doesn't seem concerned to not be Alice's subject of immediate attention. His briefcase, not designer, sadly, though it could be described as prudent, sufficient and not trying to be, dark in exterior with a pair of sturdy latches, is positioned on the low table before him. Quiet 'chks' mark its opening.

For a time, the room is filled with the noises of quiet industry; against the soft tick of Alice's typing, Parley harmonizes with the neat arrangement of shifting papers. There's a chapel reverence here; the celestial city light bathing this small modern moment.

"And who would that one be?" he inquires absently down to the last minute scan of printed text. This final item then crowns his display. There are two stacks; neither large, but a few sheafs each. He leans back from them to lace his fingers behind his head, tilting his head to look over the slope of a cheek at the woman on her dias. "I've been considering what you said to me."

Alice steeples her fingers, elbows resting lightly on the arms of her chair. “I would have thought you’d have recognized his craftsmanship. He will be hurt, I’m sure.” Finally, finally, she smiles though the reason for her amusement is left a private thing. It lurks behind the curiosity roused by the sight of papers emerging from the briefcase.

But she would never be so gauche as to ask about them outright. Not immediately.

“What have you been considering?” she asks, allowing the smile to focus purely on Parley.

"I should think steel flesh would be thick enough to withstand it," the smaller collection of information is gathered, Parley tapping it's ends to align them before rising, "But no, I was more questioning your well wishes. I'm being uncharitable. Forgive me." The slant of his mouth into a cheek, creating a slight dimple, adds a trace more sincerity than the brisk monotone would otherwise hold. "It's a generous gift. Does it make you feel safer?"

On approaching the raised altar where Alice sits, his head is turned, unashamed of his open interest in the prosthetic sentry when he passes by it, "Mh. The nature of small-mindedness, you could call it. My employer never contacted you back." Up and down, eyes climb the mechanical marvel until he reaches the desk, folding his hands over the bundle of papers, "I owe you an apology for that."

Such a minute gesture, an opening of either thumb from their overlapped position on the paper: indicating what tangible aspect might come with spoken word - an inquiry underpinned as well with the raise of his brows, seeking permission to hand her this light weight tithe.

“You have a great many new friends. I’m certain some of them must wish you well?” She makes an inquiry of it, coupling raised intonation with a lifting of her eyebrows. A little game for him, or as near a game as Alice is ever likely to enact openly. Mention of his employer does /not/ lower those eyebrows. Perhaps she overlooked the question. More likely she has chosen not to answer it. “I can’t say that I am very surprised. She seemed rather hostile for someone who had been referred to a potential avenue of assistance...”

Alice unlinks her hands and turns them up to accept the token being offered. Her eyes remain fixed on Parley rather than the papers. “You feel responsible for your employer then, to be making apologies for her behavior.”

"I'm sure they do, from time to time, if my well being so suits them. I'm responsible for your /introduction/ to Claire Basil." Not quite a correction, there is a polite wall Parley lays behind it, "I think we all would prefer the dishes we serve to be enjoyed by those we serve them to? I believe this seasoning," the small assembly of papers graces politely into Alice's palms, stabilized until she takes them, "would have been more to your flavor. She didn't get terribly /French/ at you, did she?"

Names, Alice. A glance at the information offered are three rather prominent names and the little breadcrumb trail of words that lead them back to...

Parley's wandering off, intoning, "That's not really what I came here for, though. You didn't invite me here out of loneliness, I'm guessing." He's making his way to the window; Alice may not have a direct line of sight of his expression, though her security 'bot might - it's blank, in studying the skyline. "You have far more friends than I." Hoist? He pushes up onto his toes, hands lapped behind his back, over the base of his spine, where a bed of scarring beneath his clothes marks the point where vertebrae had once extended further. "Humans First..." he murmurs. Perhaps a billboard is visible to read the words from.

Papers are turned, slowly. Studied. Wheels immediately begin to turn as the offering is digested. “I dislike having my time wasted. This goes some small way towards making up for my having to tolerate your rather frustratingly Gallic friend. Employer. Whatever you consider her to be at the moment,” she says, admittedly with some distraction.

“I wanted to see if you were suitably contrite yet. Are you?” He might be able to feel the way her eyes settle on his back, during a pause in reading. “One apology does not contrition make.”

<<(why don’t you tell me)(what you mean by that)(by this)>>

"I have regrets." Still on toes, still peering down at the street below, Parley picks along the window's wall until he finds the fountain. Then his head turns - for a languid movement, his eyes are /sharp/ and swift to leap to Alice's, "Some of them regard yourself. I am," he smiles, so slightly, "a creature of versatile sentiment, Alice. I can say whatever words I think might please you. But would they?"

His arms abruptly then fall away from behind his back and he walks towards Alice once again, stooping to scoop up the second pile of papers, murmuring as he does with a sense of nearly detached - energy. Urgency, possibly, if not excitement, his dark eyes remaining half mast, "I want to show you something."

When he reaches her desk, he remains mindful of whatever objects are kept on its surface, but in whatever space is clear he's setting down -- fliers. "GlaxoSmithKline. MDS PharmaServices. Celerion - pharmaceutical and biological research facilities that all specialize in translational medicine. Privately owned third-party research centers that are commissioned to gather bioanalytical information through clinical trial on human test groups."

He opens up his hands, hovering palms over the fliers in an encompassing gesture, looking down between his open fingers at the words, "Clinical trial subjects sign consent and release forms, are insured full confidentiality of their identity for any information released to companies and their /incentive/," he sets his hands down on the desk, looking intently at Alice's face, "for undergoing these procedures is limited medical coverage over the time they are committed, access to all information regarding their own systems and a /stipend/ for anything from fifty dollars to /thousands/ of dollars depending on their length of stay and the intensity of the procedures they undergo."

He pulls in a slow breath, lets it out, "Do you have any idea what the unemployment rate is among the mutant demographic in America?"

“Staggeringly high.” He will have to content himself with this response only at first. Alice sets the original sheets aside--away from Parley--to begin gathering up the pamphlets. She is mildly amused...but also interested. Within the sanctuary of her cool glass mind, panels are shifting, lifting, moving, rearranging themselves with thoughts provided by this proposal. He needn’t even finish before she’s already considering the cost-benefit analysis.

“You are suggesting the privatization of mutant research. A daunting proposal, given the stigma attached. And the expense. Facilities appropriate to the study of...wild abilities do not come cheaply. In addition to whatever outlay you would consider fair for the subjects.”

Alice’s eyes shift, shrewd and cold, to Parley’s. “You are also perhaps overestimating how many might be willing to volunteer. Your case, I believe, was unique.”

"As you are, perhaps, underestimating the motivation of desperation." Parley answers back without drama. He indicates the fliers absently, "These are left out at libraries, campuses, cafes - /shelters/. They're sent to half-way houses and offered to citizens on work release programs. Quick money for unskilled, hungry people. It's clean, warm, sheltered, there is food and showers and beds. - and in this case, an environment where a carrier of the X-gene might learn to control their abilities with a far lower chance of harming themselves or the people around them."

He's wandering off again, heading towards one of the couches and leaning back against the farthest armrest, to cross his socked feet - argyle, new, clean socks - up on the cushions with Alice in his foremost view. "What I'm suggesting is that your people better manage their resources. It's very true that, at the moment, 'experimental mutant testing' are words that send ice through their veins. In every alley and meeting place where mutants gather, they whisper the same words of warning from one ear to the next --," his eyes are cool and even, watching Alice with his hands folded behind his head, "'Mutants disappear off the street every day'."

"The beauty of this idea is that it's a self-cleaning oven. Word of mouth is a powerful thing," so thinly does the empath smile, "The more mutants go in and come out alive, healthy, /richer/, with better understandings of themselves, the more will want to go, and the more you /neuter/ the negative arguments against it.You already /have/ the facilities, Ms.Lambton. I'm not suggesting you drastically change your entire system overnight, but you /could/ alter one, perhaps. Into a test model." One hand waves... lethargically up from behind his head, "And just see how much of your funding you save on security measures alone. Much less restraints. Sedatives. Retrieval efforts." He doesn't flinch or adjust in anyway when he adds, "-corpse disposal."

Seemingly at random, he inquires, "Should mutant registration come to pass, will you be adding we intrepid survivors to your roster for us?"

The pamphlets are collected after she’s scanned through them, tapped neatly together and deposited on top of the other papers her desk has collected. Then Alice rises to step smoothly down from the dais. Her target: that same couch, to take a seat on the opposite end. She arranges herself comfortably, an arm resting along the back of it, the other curled along the armrest. Legs crossed, pump-clad foot tapping thoughtfully at thin air.

“Were you always this enterprising, Parley, or is that another symptom of your genetic malformation?” It would be so easy to take this as an insult--anyone listening would likely interpret it as such--if it weren’t for the refined caress of pleasure that radiates from her thoughts. “You have an inventor’s excitement. I can tell. The solution to so many problems, directly from that wicked little mind of yours.”

Her lips are tugged by a half-smile. “That, sadly, is not my department. It it were, you would certainly be registered. As it is, I cannot say. Worried you might not be able to volunteer?”

"Would you like me to?" Parley asks with the slightest smile playing his only acceptance to those edged words of praise, watching the graceful arch of Alice's foot as it makes its idle bounce. "I expect I will, either way. This whole... mnh. Fiasco with the city police is only reminding me how small and," his eyes raise ceilingward, "petty the world becomes when you fight at street level. I'm frankly amazed there's not been any retaliation yet. All we need now is," augh, he's putting his hands over his face, yawning, "-a /race/ riot, the national guard, martial law. He gave me a book, you know."

His hands, on lowering, are idly settled on the silent third company of the room, the security robot so eternally diligent where it stands.

Alice might be able to shield many of her thoughts and feelings from him but direct questions are far more difficult--<<(like is immaterial)(with you)(know you would)>> is already racing through her mind before the glass can shift to conceal it.

“Perhaps cooler heads are prevailing,” she theorizes, “and they recognize that retaliation would only bring the blade down on their necks.” Not that she entirely believes it. Or, rather, not that she believes that at all. “Depending on the book, I might have preferred that. Less...ostentatious. What would our friend like you to read, Parley?”

"The history of Latveria," Parley answers, one eye curling at its corner because truly - what else would it be. "He wrote it himself. Would you be shocked if I said he writes with an aggressive narrative? Not unpoetic, but bruising - I wonder if he would consider himself an angry man." He pulls in his legs somewhat, to make room for Alice should she so desire further couch space, watching her from beneath his half-descended eyelids. "It's in Russian however, so its reading is going slowly. I try to translate a sentence or two a night. I can send you what I have, so far, if you like. I can't promise I'm doing it justice."

The invitation offered by the retreat of his legs is not taken--not immediately. Alice will make him wait for it because she can. “Angry, rather than forceful? You should ask him.” And she would enjoy observing that. Her lips twitch again.

“My Russian is passable, if you would like some feedback. I rarely have opportunity to use it these days, it would be a welcome exercise. What have you learned so far about Latveria, Parley?” she asks him. And then, with the same delicacy shown while descending from the dais to consort with him on the same level, she slips her feet free of the pumps and curls her legs beneath her. As if she were in a living room, rather than an office, dressed in pyjamas instead of business attire.

"For how much power he has," Parley watches the shift of Alice's skirt over her knees as they fold to complete her repose, "he uses remarkable little force. Have you noticed that? He opens doors and then simply... steps aside. To see if you'll go through. Though it begs the question - if you don't, will he slam it shut, or merely grab you by the neck and throw you?" He says this with humor, though it's somehow in a slight thickening through the front of his neck to put a bit of throat into it, than any particularly adventurous shift of expression. "Like playing with a puppet that somehow has no strings..."

His gaze, perhaps naturally flicks past Alice to the robot once again - and then then snap back to Alice. For a sole moment, his eyelids raise to fully open, brows rising a hair, "-could we?" He composes himself with a passage of thumbpad over the inside of his finger, an edge of chagrin slipping in, "It might be difficult, in person. I can blunt my ability to some degree, but finer syntax tends to smooth itself over, whether I'm doing it justice or not." A trace of cheek suggests, so mildly, "You could put me on speakerphone." /Skype/. "Latveria is..." He leans the corner of his jaw down to terminate an itch on the edge of his shoulder, "Mm. Not unlike its ruler, I suppose. It's not without its bloody aesthetic. You would appreciate its architecture. I wouldn't say it was your /style/," /nearly/ laughter, this, fading quickly. "But it's... communicative."

“He is a man gifted with the virtue of most things. I believe he might well hold that door open a little longer, if you’ve sufficiently intrigued him.” Alice does not flick towards the robot. She remains focused on Parley, save for the small tactile pleasure of the nap of the upholstery beneath the pads of her fingers--she strokes it forward, rubs it back, turning silvery green to a deeper shade before returning it to its original hue.

Discussion of the finer points of his ability leave her looking thoughtful. “That would introduce difficulties. You could also send me your translations. I might have the time to return them with corrections. \{First to read, then to speak. Once you have mastered its alphabet, it is easier\}”, she says, sliding into the language in question. Lightly touched with a British accent, of course. Even in the harsh cold of Russian, there is no escaping /her/ edge.

“A bloody aesthetic does not sound at all like my thing. But if it might reveal some of the man...I suppose it’s worth a look. An entire country decorated with one man’s vision. So rare, these days.”

"That, or the man has forged himself in the identity of his country," Parley folds over onto the side of his hip and burrows his feet behind the cushion Alice sits on, "Or maybe both; a sort of symbiotic governance. Bloody doesn't bother you." He's not asking; he's stating. "Mh. That's assuming there's even something behind the door one might want. Are you asking to be penpals? I'm hardly up to being able to say {the blue chair sits in the corner}. Though --."

He /stretches/ his spine, which slips his feet deeper behind Alice's cushion.

"--please do correct me."

So she does: “I did not say that blood bothered me. I said that it was not my aesthetic.”

Alice lifts the hand she had been stroking against the couch and lets her fingers rest against the curve of her cheek, as she smiles faintly at him. No recognition shows for the way he’s changed position. Just her own small shift and continued regard. “Come now, Parley. Do you really believe you’ll improve without being challenged? Could you be growing complacent?”

"Would you like me to?" Ever a habit, to answer question with question, though from Parley it always resembles more an offer. Solemnly, he's meeting her eyes, "I have never asked you to spare me, Alice Lambton. Then, nor now."

“Then do not say you aren’t up to it. It’s as simple as that, Parley. Do not allow yourself that luxury. That is how people stagnate. That’s how they’re left behind, mmm?”

Alice lowers her hand, fingers sliding easily through the gaps in the cushion. She finds his foot, she gives it a firm press through his new argyle sock. And then she rises, stepping away from the couch. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I do have work I simply must finish. I’ll expect that translation at your earliest convenience?”

The compression of foot will feel the arch curl through a pull of solid inner tendon, toes fisting in a reflexive squeeze. Parley's eyes have closed. "...Mh." In English, merely a neutral mouth sound to fill a cap; in Japanese, an affirmative. The translation that washes with it, from him to Alice, possibly suspended somewhere in between. His very /lack/ of response perhaps being a more telling communication.

"Of course."

Like that, a spell is broken and he's a contained network of rapid fingers, seeing all items in his briefcase are orderly and then rising once its locks are re-engaged - with a single paper more pulled out. The direct exit would be towards the elevator, but he veers off course to lay it on the far corner of Alice's desk, "This is the rough draft of a proposal highlighting the core social and economic benefits that might be found in converting a trial laboratory into a clinical study center. Obviously, I do not know even an eighth of the processes behind the running of these systems - but I am certain if you would care to enlighten me, I would be happy to better elaborate and revise." Yes, his bland smile says he /is/ aware there will likely be snowmen in Hell before he's fed such a rich meal. "I'm sure you understand - I want my name nowhere near this."

And truly, it's nowhere to be found on his laid out paper. With briefcase held at his hip, his other arm straight down his side, he folds at the waist in a shallow businessman's bow. "Douzo. Thank you for your time, Ms. Lambton."

And then he turns his back to her, so vulnerable a target, narrow and soft-furred, undefended from the high ground, and slips towards the door. If Alice has returned to her work, it's an exit as softly existential as his entrance, shoes sipped on on the way out.

Alice has indeed returned to her work--computer on, fingers moving brisk and clean over the keyboard. She does not look up to acknowledge his bow. Just says, “Parley,” in the same soft, disappointed tone a mother would use to express dismay at a child. <<(I am certain if you would care)(to assure me)(that you were mine)>> whispers inaudibly beneath that, for his senses alone.

And then, a dismissive, “Do tell Giles I’ll have my tea now.”

Supplicants, it would seem, are not to be offered the refreshments.