"Didn't think it would be so harder to get the support of my own kind than to get that of the humans."
<NYC> Washington Square Park - Greenwich Village
Behind a majestic white marble arch, a smaller cousin of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, this beautiful green space is a popular destination for the young, the hip, and the artistic. A huge circular wading fountain is the centerpiece, ringed by benches, playgrounds, dog runs, gaming tables, and lush green lawns. In fair weather, the park is almost always crowded with tourists, students, chess enthusiasts, and local families come to tire out their children and dogs.
It's a grey afternoon, warm but threatening rain. The park isn't as crowded as it might be in sunnier weather, many of the tourists and buskers kept away by the looming threat of Weather. There's plenty of other people out and about, though; business people on their lunch breaks, college students eating or studying. Flicker looks like he probably numbers among that latter, parked on the lip of the fountain with a large textbook beside him and a laptop on his lap. Dressed unimpressively boring in khakis and a blue polo, his arm (at least /vaguely/ human-shaped, today) currently stone-grey and shaded craggy and lifelike like moss growing over stone. Frowning, right now, from screen to textbook before scuffing his fingers through his hair with a huff.
There's a quiet droning hum overhead. B's sleek small blue and silver motorbike is not approaching from streetside but from the /air/, gliding smoothly down to settle light and easy beside the fountain. The tiny sharkpup (slightly more colorfully dressed in stompy black and silver boots, black skinny jeans, a purple t-shirt reading "Sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty" under an open Mutant Mongrels vest) tugs her (grinning) helmet off to reveal her entirely ungrinning blue face, ridged brows lifting to Flicker. "You want an interruption? You /look/ like you want an interruption." She's hopping off the bike regardless, digging through her pannier to pluck out a bag that smells distinctly like Indian takeout. A small metallic-blue dragonfly-shaped bot is -- or has been, anyway -- perched on her shoulder, gliding off of it to over around Flicker instead.
The smile on Flicker's face comes as soon as the humming is in earshot. It only broadens when B actually lands, relieved and grateful. "Food /and/ procrastination. You're a godsend." He tucks his textbook into his backpack. Closes his laptop, snags the takeout bag instead. "Even more of a godsend if there's baingan bharta in here. You wouldn't think infectious diseases would make me so hungry, but --" Shrug.
"Depends on the disease, I guess. Zombie flu does kind of give you an appetite." B flops down, sitting on step one level below Flicker around the fountain. "There's samosas. I want the rogan josh, though." One boot stretches out, hir elbows propping behind hirself. "I needed a break anyway. There's this new dude on my team I swear I'm having to teach them everything from scratch. I should've just got back to school, it would've been less frustrating. The new hiring team is like --" Ze grimaces. "I don't know where they think we are, /Oscorp/?"
Theo isn't wearing a suit today. He didn't feel like it. He has a pair of jeans with a green polo on, and he is taking a walk through the park doing what all people do in the park. Working. His phone is up to his ear. "Yes, I know that the Gothamist gave it a fairly nice review. The problem is that the mutant community did not. For this company to work, it takes support of the community it is trying to benefit. What happened Friday did not give this company the image that it needs to have... I think we need to scrap the current plan and do something else. I'll meet you in about an hour." He hangs up the phone, and lets out an exasperated sigh before clipping the phone onto his belt. Behind him rolls the familiar orb of Proto, and he glances up as he senses the incoming motorcycle from the skies. "Well, that's something worth looking at," he says to Proto. As it lands near Flicker, of all people, Theo grins. "Yeah you can go say hi." There is a whirr from the little robot, and it speeds up, a good twenty feet ahead of Theo in order to unfold in front of Flicker, with no regard to B's presence.
Flicker chomps vaguely in B's direction. Only halfheartedly. "Can you get them transferred? To a different team? Or do you have to settle for sticking them with the easy work?" Most of his attention is focused on digging samosas out of the bag. He doesn't open them, though, looking up with a brighter smile when the /other/ robot whirs up to him, too. "Hey! Proto!" Though he glances past Proto in search of Theo, it's the /robot/ who gets the first introductions: "You should meet my friend B." His hand waves toward the small shark. "They're great and they speak robot like. Amazing." His chin lifts after this, smile undimmed as his eyes actually focus on Theo for /real/ this time. "Yo. Sup, man."
"I could eat them." B sounds very serious about this. Hir enormous black eyes widen even bigger as the robot approaches. The little blue dragonfly that arrived with her rises, zooming forward to circle Proto curiously. "Oh hi!" Hir webbed fingers waggle -- though hir head has tilted, listening thoughtfully to the half-overhead phone conversation in the distance. Quietly, to Flicker: "That's your friend?"
Proto whirs excitedly, and glances up at B when he is introduced, his camera focusing and refocusing. When Theo catches up a few seconds later, he reaches out to shake Flicker's hand. "Hey, just trying to get back in the saddle. Was a rough weekend. How about you?" He then turns to introduce himself to B. "Hi, I'm Theo." His eyes dart down at the little flying bot, and he grins widely. "Yours?" he asks. Proto's camera circles the little robot as it circles him, making him look something akin to a puppy chasing his tail.
"Apologies, man, I heard. Some of my housemates went to the fair." Flicker's wince is sympathetic. "And -- yeah. My friend Theo -- Theo, this is my housemate B. B's on leave from MIT right now and runs an robotics team over at Stark so you all probably have -- at least a couple interests in common." He leans forward, mechanical hand reaching out to shake Proto's limb firmly. "Always good to see you. Hope you're looking after this guy." With a small jerk of head toward Theo. "You have a plan moving forward from here? Business-wise?"
"Hey." B's smile is small, closed-lipped but polite. "Yeah, this is mine." Hir eyes are watching Proto more than Theo -- it takes a concerted effort to look away from robot to /person/ when Flicker makes introductions. She extends a webbed hand shyly. "Do you want some samosas? They help me when I've had a rough weekend."
Theo shakes the webbed hand without any hesitation. "I think we might," Theo agrees. "I graduated from MIT a couple of years ago. My focus was in A.I. and app development, though you might see that I dabble in robotics." he points at the small flying robot. "That's impressive. I haven't the skill to make anything that could fly by wings. I've played with some of the standard drone technology. That's really impressive," he compliments. "I don't know if I've ever had a samosa. I grew up in Virginia, we weren't well known for being a foodie town where I was." He shrugs to Flicker. "I am not sure, really. There was some positive response from the mutant community later in the evening, but it's amazing the damage an internet troll can have. That's what I get for trying to be balanced, I guess. I am meeting with my PR manager later. Didn't think it would be so harder to get the support of my own kind than to get that of the humans."
Flicker offers the bag of samosas out toward Theo. "It's like a turnover stuffed with potato and peas. Pretty delicious." He sucks his cheeks inward, nibbling slowly on their insides. "I don't," this comes slower, "think it was really one internet troll. I mean, they were just saying what most of the people I've talked to were thinking. Most of the mutants, I mean." A slight flush of pink has colored his cheeks.
"I used to live in Montana," B confesses. "New York is definitely on a different level." Hir cheeks have flushed just a little bit darker as well -- more purplish than pink. "It took some work. People get more impressed by the bike," hir hand waves toward the hoverbike, "but the bugs were trickier." Ze quiets for a moment after this, taking the container of lamb curry and a plastic fork. Nibbling on a piece of lamb as Flicker speaks. Ze fidgets, hir gills fluttering briefly; there's a considerable hesitation before ze pipes up quietly: "If I were in the market for a job, I would have felt pretty uncomfortable even coming to your fair." It sounds a little apologetic.
"Huh," He looks in the bag, and pulls out one of the pastries. He takes a bite and chews, slowly starting to nod in agreement. "It is pretty good, thanks." He uses the rest of the pastry as an extension to point at the bike. "That would be a great deal of fun to ride I imagine. I love good rides." He takes another bite before responding to the second half. "Yeah, I know. The later part of the fair went fine, there were no hecklers so there was a lot less drama. Had three that we can place immediately, but... I dunno. I have spent the last several years trying to make this happen /for/ the mutant community, trying to carve someplace for a truly neutral environment. But I guess there is no neutral environment anymore. One of the people there said that felt it was too aimed at keeping humans at ease rather than mutants. It's hard, because the company has to keep the humans at ease, or else there are no clients. If there's no clients, there's no jobs. I've been planning workshops and awareness groups for threats to mutants. Maybe I should have opened with that instead of the job fair. Tell me, what about it made you feel uncomfortable?" he asks. "Honestly."
"It's silly amounts of fun." Flicker also plucks out a samosa, chewing over it slowly in lieu of immediate reply. "I think that might be part of the problem, man. Being neutral in a hostile world is --" He bites down on his lip, pausing -- more thoughtful than hesitant. "I get what you're trying to do. And I don't think it's an easy line to toe. But I'm not sure there's any such /thing/ as neutral, anymore. If the world is really unjust, not taking a side is always going to alienate /someone/. If it helps, though, I still know plenty of people who are -- theoretically interested in the services you're providing. Plenty of people who it'd /help/ a lot. Folks are just hesitant with -- the way things have gone down. I think some really decent outreach could get you back on a good footing."
"Flicker helped me test it a lot. It used to have a lot of problems with, um." Kind of bashful, B dips hir head. "Falling out of the sky." Less of a problem for Flicker than many other people. Ze's quick to add: "It doesn't do that anymore!" Food procrastination seems to be a theme, now; B dawdles over another piece of lamb. "Honestly?" One booted foot bounces restlessly against the marble step. "I wouldn't have felt safe. My experience as a mutant is going to be a lot different than -- say, Flicker's, you know? We're both registered but nobody needs to look at my card to know that. And the kind of ventures that say they're aimed at helping the mutant community but try really hard to tiptoe around talking about us, it -- doesn't feel like they're taking into account what the experiences are of those of us who /can't/ hide. I can't tiptoe around what I am. I can't try catering to the humans even if I want to. And people like me are the ones who are going to need your company the most of anyone."
Theo nods. "Hey, if it doesn't fall now it sounds like you are doing something right!" he encourages. "I hear what you're saying. In Michigan things aren't as intense as they are here. But you're right. A majority of the people with physical mutations which are obvious that I have employed are employed with my company internally. If you had gone to the fair you would have seen many people who looked different. I'm not going to give up. Not only am I a stubborn ass, I've also invested a lot of money into making this work. Gotta keep it moving forward. I think I'm going to need a new PR manager for the New York City branch." He quirks a sideways smile. "I hate to run, but I do have to meet the current PR guy shortly. It was really good to meet you. If you ever have time, I'd love to get your input on Proto, and if you ever want some A.I. tips, let me know." He pulls a business card from his pocket for Effective Staffing, and pulls a gold pen from his pocket. A fountain pen. He scrawls his cell phone on it. Dawson, it's great to see you again, see you again soon, all right?"
"Yeah, things around here are --" Flicker shakes his head. "Well. Intense. Good luck, though. I hope you make it work." His smile is quick. "I don't doubt you're stubborn enough. Take care, yeah? You too, Proto."
B reaches out, taking the card and looking over it with a nod. "I'd like that." Ze sounds earnest, hir eyes a little bigger when ze looks back to the robot. "And I hope you find a good new PR person. Someone who knows New York good, I hope. It's a strange place." Ze gives Theo a quick small smile. "I"ll see you." It's hard to tell if ze is talking to Theo or Proto with this, though.