ArchivedLogs:Mutants of Late Capitalism
|Mutants of Late Capitalism|
"One day it will be better."
<NYC> Chimaera Arts - Brooklyn
This is one of the many converted warehouses in DUMBO, but unlike most of them, it does not have some corporate developer's sign out front promising transformation into luxury condominiums or a boutique shopping center or the latest concept restaurant. The entrance to its grounds is marked by a wildly colorful double helical arch with a steel scroll sign that reads "Chimaera Art Space!" above "chimaera.org" in smaller letters.
The warehouse is moderately large and heavily decorated with graffiti art in various styles--some of it recognizable as the work of renowned local street artists. A pair of monstrous scrap metal sculptures, perhaps still works in progress, flank the entrance. The building itself has undergone significant renovation recently, complete with wiring, plumbing, and a modular partitioning system. The grounds, too, have been cleaned up, ramshackle fences torn down and rusting detritus removed in favor of reclaimed (and brilliantly repainted) outdoor furniture ringing an impressively engineered firepit.
Although there is no event happening at Chimaera today, the overhead lights in the warehouse are at full power. The partitions and furniture are all stowed away, leaving it empty but for which a single half-painted wooden horse (unicorn, actually) about two meters tall, throwing the sheer size of the cavernous space into stark relief. It presently looks a bit like some sort of postmodern cathedral to Art Itself.
If so, Tag could well be taken for its high priest as he steps out of the smallish "office" by the entrance (the door is actually labelled "Chill Space", in English, Spanish, and Chinese). Or possibly priestess. It might be a bit hard to tell at the moment, since he is arrayed in glittery pink boots, a knee-length rainbow paneled skirt and a black t-shirt with wispy trails of color, shoulder-length hair an uncanny shade of iridescent metallic blue.
Much less glittery-bright, Ryan trails after Tag, tapping the door closed with a heel as they exit. Much /like/ Tag, he /looks/ like he belongs here -- in a very different strain, perhaps, of playing at Art Deity, black skinny jeans full of buckles and dangling straps, a tight-fit t-shirt in black and white stripes, tall heavy stompy boots (also very buckle-laden) coming halfway up his shins, cigarette tucked behind one ear. "You're small," he's -- evidently protesting to? cajoling at? Tag, "we could probably fit at /least/ five you-sized people in it."
Sometimes, when a person walks in, it is clear that they don’t quite mesh with their environment. The first thing that doesn’t mesh is the roar of a red Ferrari 459 Italia. It does not arrive at any type of safe speed, and settles from 60mph to 0 as close to the parking space as possible. No one has ever accused Theo of being a safe driver. The next thing that doesn’t belong is the pin striped navy armani suit that steps out. Italian shoes, and a power tie that matches the car.
Theodore Fegenbush has his hair slicked back, his shave is fresh, and whatever that cologne is, it most likely is expensive. He carries a small laptop. Very small. It could be mistaken for a phone if one was not closely looking at it. He examines the outside of the warehouse before stepping up to the door.
Theo is not alone, however. A small basketball sized robot exits the car with him from the other side, and rolls after him. “This is the place, then,” Theo says to the small companion, and he opens the door. Slight professional smile fixed firmly on his face, he walks in followed by the rolling ball, who unwinds into a four legged mechanical creature. A snaking camera extends, looking around at all of the surroundings. Theo spots Tag and Ryan, and makes a path straight for them. “Hi, I’m here to meet with Tag, Is that you?” He tries not to notice the strange outfit on Tag, but in doing so it causes him to do a doubletake when sizing up Ryan. He looks remarkably like a famous celebrity.
"Those five me-sized people would have the me-sized comfortable with being squished, but...probably," Tag concedes, tapping at his chin as he regards the Trojan Unicorn. He turns when Theo enters, offering him a small bow and a dazzling smile. "Yeah, I'm Tag! This is another one of our co-owners, Ryan. Glad you were able to make it today; it would be a /lot/ busier over the weekend. Sweet!" This sudden tangent is clearly directed at the little robot. His entire person literally brightens as he waves at the bot, the colors in his hair and clothes and even skin growing more vibrant in his excitement. "Oh, and what should we call you?"
"Hey. Appreciate you stopping by." Ryan takes a step forward, offers out a hand to shake, his smile bright. "Weekends do get kind of A Lot around here. Oh, man!" He's eying the robot with delight -- even if he snaps his fingers in exaggerated disappointment afterward, looking back toward the giant unicorn. "He's got a camera, now the whole thing is gonna be blown. Maybe we could try a wooden Pegasus?"
Theo can’t help but smile a bit at the two characters before him, shaking Ryan’s hand firmly. “You two have me feeling very overdressed,” he admits, loosening a bit. He glances back at the robot. “That’s Proto, my… secretary. don’t worry, your plans to fool Troy I think are safe with him. He is just getting layout for the floor setup team. I wanted to thank your group for agreeing to host this event.” As he speaks, it’s clear that he is a little distracted by Tag’s shifting colors. It’s been a little while since he’s seen extreme mutations like that. He shifts his attention to Ryan to avoid staring.
“You’ll have to pardon my curiosity. You said Ryan? As in Ryan Black? I was just going to say that you look remarkably like him, I guess now I know why.” The friendly mask dips for a moment, revealing a slightly apprehensive… but the moment is past. “I suppose there is little reason to disguise my motivation for this operation here. I hope that this will be a great success for those in the X-gene community.”
Proto, meanwhile, shifts toward Tag, examining up and down the colors present, and starts to make a full circle with a whirring coo sound.
"No worries, we don't have a dress code or anything," Tag assures Theo, very earnestly. "Proto! Cutest of secretary. And I should've been more specific, but I was actually asking what we should call /you,/" he leans on last word as he turns his smile back towards Theo. The wisps of color on this T-shirt are actually moving, if rather slowly. "Anyway, our collective is happy to host events that benefits the..." He trails off there briefly, uncertain. "...community. So, um...how stealth are you trying to be about this, in terms of your advertisement and stuff?"
"That's me," Ryan confirms easily. "Don't worry, I'm just here on behalf of the collective. I'm totally capable of being discreet." He /may/ have already been taking out his phone for a moment as he watches the robot going about its business... but he puts it away quickly enough, Adorable Robot left un-Instagram'd. His brows hike up, smile quirking a bit more crookedly. "You want this to help mutants? Is that what your business is generally about? I saw some stuff about -- 'Marketable Talents'?" He does not actually /make/ air quotes here, but his tone definitely suggests them.
"Oh! I’m sorry,” the businessman apologizes, “Theodore Fegenbush, you can call me Theo. And take all the photos you want!” He calls down at the little robot. “Proto, say cheese.” Proto turns to present a magnetic sticker that shows the logo for Effective Staffing and makes an electronic beep that seems to mimic when a person says ‘cheese’ for a photo.
“I would not say that I am being particularly stealthy, and this event is not exclusively for those of us with the X-gene. We are an equal opportunity employer. I have leaned our advertising toward a more liberal audience, and placed some advertisement in particularly strategic locations to generate the effect” Yes, he used the first plural. “In my organization, we do not use the word mutant, though I know it is a commonly accepted term. Mutants are genetic devolutions which have trouble surviving due to one defect or another. We don’t use the term ‘evolved’ either, to impose a concept that we are somehow more of a person over those who were not born with a particular gene. We refer to those with the X-gene as ‘people.’” He does use air quotes for people with a rueful grin. “They just have notes with their resume that they possess a unique marketable talent, as you seem to have heard.” He smiles at Ryan proudly. “Tag, I have actually heard of your business, Neon & Chrome, and commend you for your entrepreneurial spirit. What you have done individually, I do for everyone.” He looks between Ryan and Tag as he explains. “This job fair is to collect those who have not been paid well for their need to register with the government and the unfair discrimination they have received. Companies can benefit from X-gene abilities. They can save a lot of money. Thus those who possess those abilities should likewise benefit from a higher compensation for resource conservation.” As he speaks, his business professional demeanor seems to slip, and bit by bit, he turns into someone who is just excited about what he is doing.
Tag chews on his lower lip, drawing in a deep breath and letting it back out. The color of his hair and clothing seems to dim subtly, though this effect is much slower than what happened before. "Alright," he says, after a brief pause. "Like, to be clear, I totally grok why people wanna go stealth, I wasn't asking to judge. But Chimaera Arts does have a /bit/ of a reputation locally. We're definitely not a /mutant/ collective, but some of our members are prominent activists--" He accents this with jazz hands in Ryan's general direction. "--and we've hosted high-profile mutant community events in the past. Just...you might want to take it into consideration is all."
He gives a small shrug of skinny shoulders, matter-of-fact. "Anyway, I might quibble with your science in terms of the word 'mutant' cuz I'm a giant nerd, but there's no disputing that it has negative baggage in common use. Heck, /I/ don't put 'mutant' on my business cards." His smile returns, somewhat wan this time. "As for my own business success...I'm flattered, but honestly I was just frakkin' lucky. I don't think you /can/ do for everyone what I...what my whole community did for me."
His shirt is slowly turning gray. "The X-gene is a fickle mistress, and most of us /don't/ have talents that can be monetized, unless you've figured out a way to sell being blue or causing nightmares...in a way that isn't profoundly unethical," he adds quickly, sucking in air through his teeth. "Don't get me wrong, I think this sort of thing will be /great/ for a lot of people. I certainly could've used it when I was starting out! But you might not garner much goodwill in the community by saying everyone can be like you, or me, or Ryan even."
Ryan listens to all this quietly, vaaaguely leaning back on a heel in a slow (slow, slow) shift of weight as the conversation continues. His arms cross loosely, one hand lifted to splay fingers lightly against a cheek, pinky tapping idly at the corner of his mouth. "I don't know from science, but words have meaning outside a dictionary. Mutant isn't a bad word, the way society /treats/ it is." His hand drops back to fold into the crook of his arm, a growing note of /drawl/ lengthening the vowels in his languid words. "And this, I don't see mutants, I just see another opportunity to monetize thing -- it might make financial sense but it sounds pretty set up to leave a lot of our community behind. Are people required to register to look for a job with y'all? If they /are/ a mutant, are they required to be willing to farm out their /powers/? There's a lot of mutants out there who aren't really profitable. X-Gene wise. They're still going to be discriminated against, though. Do they have a place here?"
"I am aware of the reputation Chimaera has, that is why I selected it,” Theo assures. “Those with the X-gene are not generally given true equal opportunity, here they will be less concerned about condemnation. Those who wish to hate, well, they won’t attend a job fair here anyway, right? This gives companies who are afraid to hire us can still take advantage of our abilities through my company. They do not need to worry about the insurance baggage, long term employee relations, or other undesirables, because all of the employees work for my company. We can, of course, talk about how horrible these companies are to take that stance, but the plain fact is that this is the world we are in, and we have to play the hand we are dealt.” Theo motions around the building. “This place was once a run down warehouse. It was not a place that was viewed as something that could be monetized. Your co-op changed that. Some of us have greater advantage than others, this is true. I can’t change that. Non-Xers are welcome in my company as well, so those who truly cannot capitalize on their ability still are going to be given just as much right as those who do. Many have lost that ability despite hard work and education simply because of their genetics.”
Theo pulls a pen from his shirt pocket. It is gold and has his company logo on it He in caps it, revealing that it is a fountain pen. “This pen cost me $1,400. I can write with a pen that costs fifty cents. I don’t carry it so that I can show off how much money I make. I carry it because it reminds me that all things are only worth what people agree they are worth. Some people think I’m just in this to make as much money as I can to be some sort of tycoon. Make no mistake, I want to make money. But this company is not about making /me/ money. I could doubtlessly make easier money running an ordinary staffing company. But this is about putting fair wages in the hands of people who are being cheated.”
Tag inclines his head. "This place is a labor of love, and what we make on it goes back into the collective...and into funding community events that /can't/ afford to pay venue costs. I appreciate that we're coming from very different places; you're not a charity or a worker's co-op and we're not asking you to be that." Slowly but surely, the fading of Tag's colors continues. Even his irises are, perhaps somewhat distracting, turning gray. "Anyway, you don't have to see eye-to-eye with us, as long as you can abide by our nondiscrimination policy, which it sounds like you can. Though it doesn't just apply to generics." He sweeps a hand toward the 'Chill Space'; as he does so, the colorful words vanish from the sign on its door, replaced by 'Office' in an elegant serif font (still in three languages). "We can go over the paperwork with you real quick, but it's /pretty/ basic. Then whoever's setting up for you can schedule a time to come over and someone will show them where all the partition and drapes are, if you wanna cover up the ah..." He jerks his head at the nearest wall, which is taken up by a mural of a tree whose every nook and cranny is occupied by fantastical creatures. "...all that. We'll also make sure one of us is on site or at least on call the day of, in case you trip a breaker or something."
"Right. I mean. It does sound like you're filling a gap that nobody was working on before," Ryan allows, hand now dropping to his side. "And the event should be fine for this space so long as -- right, lemme get y'all set up with the paperwork, I got that together before you came." He's nodding back toward what is TOTALLY now the office. "It'll be interesting to see how this all goes. Don't think we've ever had a job fair before."
Theo pauses, watching Tag’s colors fade. “I hope I have not upset you,” he says, eyeing as the “chill zone” becomes the “office”. He places the pen back in his pocket. “I might come across as just a guy in a suit that’s here to make money, honestly, I’m not much of a salesman and I have a bad habit of rubbing people the wrong way. I really do appreciate you working with me on this.” He glances over the mural. “I think the mural is part of this place. A lot of love went into that. I wouldn’t dream of hiding it. People who have not been here before this event should not know it as the job fair, they should know it for what it is.” Proto seems to have disappeared, “Hey Proto, don’t get distracted,” he calls out. The little robot ambles out from under a palette. It pops back into a ball, and rolls over to Theo’s side before extracting itself again.
He follows Ryan toward the office. “And, in answer to your question about registering, the answer depends on the client. If they want to capitalize on their powers, the answer is probably yes. I don’t like it, but I can’t determine the policies of other companies.” There’s a certain resignation to his tone. “I tried to avoid that with everything that I could, unfortunately right now, most companies who are willing to have us work for them also require us to register. One day it will be better.”
"/I'm/ not registered," Tag points out, smile returning quick and fey, "neither is this guy." This as he nudges Ryan in the arm, walking with him toward the office. "But I mean it's probably different for an independent contractor or a sole proprietor. Maybe I /could/ get more work at higher rates if I did register but..." He shakes his head, ice-blue hair so pale that it's practically silver now. "I dunno. We're not gonna get where we want to go by playing their games, but in the meantime folks still have to live." He opens the door to the office and sweeps an arm, welcome the two other men--and one small robot!--in. "If your company can give some of our people an opportunity to do that--it's better than nothing."