Business Relations


eileen_icon.gif iago_icon.gif monica3_icon.gif

Scene Title Business Relations
Synopsis Monica presses her luck.
Date July 26, 2018

Mid-State Correctional Facility, New Jersey

The office is large, and very barren. There are faded places on the walls where framed things once hung — qualifications, photographs, artwork, these things can only be guessed at, removed during what Monica could guess to be a hasty evacuation, long ago. Dust dances in the air, each mote lighting up from the late sunlight angled in through windows that are grimy on the outside, a view that looks over New Jersey state forest, trees crowding view. There is a heavy desk, and wooden chairs, and empty filing cabinets, and a door with a frosted glass window which has, on the outside, printed: SUPERINTENDENT.

To get there, Monica was led past rows and rows of empty jail cells, and her footfalls — and Iago's, behind her — echoing through the main chamber bouncing off unforgiving brickwork and iron with paint peeling off raw metal. Outside had been a wasteland of weeds coming up through concrete cracks, chain fences and razor wire. No prisoners, no guards, but the occasional patrolling armed sentry. One day, someone will make an interesting documentary on the way prisons and such institutions were used as makeshift strongholds during the brutal Second Civil War, and it seems as though the Horsemen have had the same idea.

It also seems like they haven't had that much time to settle, if they intend to settle at all.

Behind them, Iago closes the door of the office, and guards it from within. Although Monica has had the weapons they borrowed to her confiscated, he still wears a rifle, big and war-like and unnecessary in the dimensions of this room. As far as she can tell, he's barely condescended to have medical attention see to the wound hidden beneath his jacket and haphazard bandaging, but he bears that weakness as if it doesn't apply to him.

When Monica picked a story on the plane, she did not think forward to this moment. The first one where they were out of immediate danger and would definitely have questions about her. If they had an empath nearby, they would know she's nervous, but it doesn't show on her face. She follows her escort along as if being led on a tour, glancing here and there with a tourist's curiosity. As if she were blissfully unaware of what's ahead.

And once they get to the room, she strolls across it, a finger trailing along the filing cabinets, kicking up more dust in her wake. She moves to the far side of the desk— the side the superintendent would have sat on— pulls out the chair and twirls it around before she drops into it, propping her feet up on the desk. Looking over at Iago, she gives him a smile, even though she can obviously see that he's armed and she isn't.

"Is this the part where I get paid?" she asks, smile growing into a cheeky grin.

The lettering on the outside door is a bit of misnomer, but this is something that probably became apparent to Monica the moment she found the chair unoccupied. Eileen is there, of course, and Monica sees her around the same time her mouth is broadening to show teeth; she’s sitting in the window frame on the opposite end of the office, back flush against one side and a foot braced against the other in repose.

Her body fits neatly in the narrow rectangle of light, emphasizing her size — or notable lack thereof.

A cigarette lit to pass the time and keep her company hangs loose between two knuckles. She’s smoking, because that’s what Eileen does (and because she needed something to keep her anxious hands occupied while awaiting Iago’s return).

“That depends,” she says, without moving except to drop her hand and blow smoke into the empty space between them. “Iago, has Ms. Dawson done something we should be compensating her for?”

It's been a day and a night, perhaps longer than that, and at no point does Monica remember Iago having slept. Perhaps more than just his leg is robotic; more likely, he's someone used to certain kinds of deprivations when required, but regardless: there is no patience left in him, and as she smiles at him, he doesn't smile back.

He looks to Eileen, then, and it seems as though he takes some cue from her — his guarding the door turns into him leaning back against it, and he wanders one big gorilla hand beneath his jacket in search of an inner pocket.

"She earned her life," he allows. On the plane. Maybe even in this room. "She says she is Nica, a friend to Dominic and petty thief." Flatly; "She disabled a Hunter with her hands."

In his hand, now, is a cigar, one end already burned black from prior use.

"Eileen," Monica greets as she turns her chair enough to see her, "Just who I wanted to see." She didn't come to Jersey to sightsee, that's for sure. Even if she did get a little sidetracked. Iago's words get her attention, though, and she turns back toward him with her eyebrow lifted. "If it had gone another way," she says, as far as her earning her life, "I think you would have found out mine's pretty difficult to take."

To Eileen, she nods, "Your boy Dominic met me when I was living under an alias, I had to kinda roll with it." She does, from time to time, disappear and live as another person. Often at Yamagato's request these days.

What she doesn't comment on is the robot. It's almost like she doesn't think that particular moment was remarkable.

The phrase petty thief earns a similarly raised eyebrow and the ghost of a smile threatening to manifest in the corner of Eileen's mouth. She's incapable of preventing it from reaching her eyes.

"If this is about the bombing at Yamagato," she says, "you've come to the wrong woods looking for the wrong monsters."

Emphasis on the word bombing. Let there be no mistake, no lies of omission. "Richard Cardinal has us dead to rights on what happened near Snoqualmie, of course. That was us."


Match set to matchbook, and Iago sets flame to the end of his cigar, more interested in nursing it into its proper ember than he is with the conversation. So it would seem, anyway. He waves the match to extinguish, attention tracking then from Eileen to Monica.

Silent, for now.

"I wasn't looking for monsters," Monica says with a quizzical tilt of her head, "just information. I didn't think it was you. But I wondered if it was linked to Praxis Heavy. If you could shake some trees and see if there was anything to find there. Or hand me a name and I'll shake the tree myself." She glances over to Iago, taking in his silent form for a moment. But after a blink and a shake of her head, her attention turns back to Eileen.

"I didn't come for retaliation. As far as I'm concerned, this is all just business. Out west, the bombing— barbs traded back and forth."

"Business," Eileen repeats, like she's experimenting with the way the word feels and tastes in her mouth. "Mm."

She looks out the window, past the glass and her reflection in it, beyond the dense pines for which this region of New Jersey is named. New York City's skyline isn't visible from the warden's office, but maybe they can imagine it looming somewhere in the distance where the trees meet the hazy summer horizon.

"I could have been in that room as easily as anyone else," she says. "My contact at Praxis gave me no warning, but maybe that was the point."

As Iago begins his cigar, Eileen finishes her cigarette. She taps the last of her ash into an empty glass near her foot and leaves it propped against the rim to burn the rest of the way to nothing. "You're right, though. Yamagato and Praxis are very much the same. Corporations who lined their pockets with gold by profiting off other people's suffering."

"And their debts."

This, from Iago, eyes heavy lidded and cigar turned in slow rotation between his fingers. It is about as amiable as she has experienced so far, save for moments of combat and aligned focus. Maybe that in itself counts for something, still.

"That's what corporations do," Monica says, spreading her hands in a helpless manner. "I feel like they used to be more subtle about it, but what can you do."

But something in Eileen's words catches on, and she frowns for probably the first time either of them have seen. "Have they tried to move against you here?"

Her hands press together, a thoughtful look comes over her, and she pushes up to her feet. To pace. "There's something else odd about the bombing. I'm not sure about the New York office, but in Japan… I think it might have been to cover a very specific target. Compass tech. Evolved trackers."

Eileen turns her head to regard Iago rather than Monica, even if the majority of the Englishwoman's focus still rests on the Yamagato representative on the other side of the desk. She seeks out his eyes with hers.

"There are two sorts of people who might be interested in that kind of technology," she says. "Men like Kazimir Volken and Andrew Mitchell, who saw the Evolved as an existential threat that needed to be eliminated."

Past tense, Ramirez.

"Then there are those on the other side of the divide," she adds. "Men like Rupert Carmichael— or Adam Monroe.

"Which do you think it is?" And it isn't clear whether Eileen's question is for Iago, for Monica, or for both.

Iago looks at Monica as she mentions compass tech and Evolved trackers, familiarity for the familiar without immediate explanation — but that idling fidget of his cigar ceases, and he can feel Eileen look to him. He is slow to return that look, barely a flicked glance of acknowledgment, before he pulls in another mouthful of smoke, and releases it again.

He would rather know Monica's answer than give his own.

"Oh, I'm pretty sure it's specifically Adam Monroe. Someone didn't want something like the hunter bots coming back around and made sure they wouldn't. Violently. And also someone stole that sword Hiro used to carry around during the explosions. He seems likely." Monica lets out a sigh and perches on top of the desk this time, instead of in a chair.

"Not that I want hunter bots or anything like them ever again. But whatever his motivations, it's obvious he'll hurt anyone he needs to for his personal goals. That part I'm concerned with, you know, even without the target being my work." She glances over at Iago, and then back to Eileen. "I guess your home timeline wasn't too different than this one, if you had the same list of assholes as we have."

"Monica," Eileen says, "if I've learned anything from this stupid fucking adventure? It's that anyone can be a hero, or a villain. What we are depends entirely on the circumstances that shape us, not our families of origins — or a genetic marker."

She swings both legs over the window's sill and draws herself upright. She watches Monica pace, opting to ignore Iago now. Or pretend to. In some ways she hasn't changed from the sensitive teen she was when they first met.

"So asshole is subjective." Her feet touch the floor. "Do you have a plan?"

"Alright, fair enough," Monica says, tipping her head toward Eileen. "I suppose I've learned that, too. All things considered." There was that double Cardinal situation, after all. Even if she has a time thinking of them as two possibilities of the same person.

"Well, of course I have a plan, Eileen," she says with a crooked smile. "But you guys have that unfortunate connection to Praxis and Adam has this unfortunate connection for Praxis, so…" She lifts her hands and tilts them back and forth as if weighing her options. "It's difficult to get into specifics. But, I also don't think that genetic markers make the man, so to speak, and I'm not super keen on letting someone who does just run wild without any opposition. Whether they're for Evolved or against them." She looks over at Eileen, asking for her opinion on the matter with a curious look.

The words I also don't think that genetic markers make the man fractures Eileen's hard-fought control over her facial expression, and she finds herself flashing Monica's smile back at her whether she wants to or not. She's given her an idea.

It may or may not be a good idea, depending on who you ask — especially if you ask the someone Eileen is thinking about now. "Praxis hasn't been entirely honest with me," she says, "so I'd certainly like to know more about what's going on, if only so we can make informed decisions. Why don't you ask Emile if he'd like to go along with you?"

It's more the way that Eileen chooses to put that proposal that gets a response out of Iago: a half-growled exhale, at the idea of Monica making that request to Emile Danko personally, an offer of partnership — disbelief at Monica accepting it, disbelief at Danko doing anything anyone says of him that doesn't come from Eileen Gray directly. He is fluent in English but can only guess at the subtext and the actions it'll manifest.

He taps away some ash and ember.

As far as subtext goes, Eileen can probably translate that to mean that they're going to be discussing this later.

When Eileen smiles, Monica glances over at Iago, as if to make sure someone else witnessed it, too. But she looks back to Eileen when Iago turns out to be mostly wall. But later, when she tells people, they will not believe her.

"Emile Danko?" That particular name being dropped is something of a surprise and Monica takes a moment to consider it. "We'd all like to know what's going on. So I can understand that, certainly. If he wants to come back to New York with me, meet with the others involved, see how that goes… well, so long as he understands that it's my car and I control the music… I think we can work something out." She pauses a moment, her hands on the edge of the desk.

"Has he seen what happened to his statue? Because he might need a heads up before he sees it."

"Heads up. You're hilarious." Eileen's tone suggests she doesn't find it all that funny, but she hasn't stopped smiling either. In fact, she has to keep smiling so she can keep thinking about that and not the edge of (what she imagines is) disapproval in Iago's sigh.

"He's not the man you remember," she says, "not exactly. If you give him the chance, he may surprise you. Not with a knife in your back, mind. Or his sparkling personality. You'll see."

There are no further barely there suggestions of insubordination from Iago, this time. Cigar smoke creates a hazy screen between himself and the conversation that he presides over rather than participates in. Listens, thinks. Speaks.

"We found things."

Now, Iago interrupts. Maybe a savvy move to cut Monica off at the pass for protesting Eileen's insistence, if that were in the cards. Maybe not. "In California," and each syllable enunciated by way of his accent, prettier than the treatment it gets from its own Americans. He gestures a little with the hand holding the cigar as he addresses Eileen directly. "More than only Steel. More than only Steel's work."

From Eileen, he looks to Monica. "Just business," he says, echoing her. "Perhaps we do more business."

Monica grins at Eileen’s first words, because she would very much like to think of herself as hilarious.

“Don’t worry, I’m willing to see who he is now. It isn’t like it used to be, either. War. All that. It’s a lot more chill for the most part. Give or take a bombing,” she says, wryly but also genuinely. Once upon a time, she would never have given someone like Emile Danko such a chance. But.

She looks over to Iago when he speaks, nodding to corroborate. “Yeah, that place was a proper nightmare factory. I did get to punch a robot, though so… ultimately a net positive.” She tilts her head as she considers those last words.

“I like business.”

Eileen Ruskin reaches across the distance between them and opens her bare hand to Monica, because apparently she likes business too.

Shake on it.

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