Business Relationship


milena_icon.gif warren_icon.gif

Scene Title Business Relationship
Synopsis Warren and Milena meet for lunch, and they settle on a business relationship as a more comfortable thing for her than friendship.
Date October 3 2010

Piccoli's Delicatessen (More like Piccolo's)

Everything about Piccoli's is welcoming. There's a large, cheerful neon sign mounted on the roof, the interior is brightly lit and spotlessly clean, and the old-fashioned decor is more reminiscent of mother's kitchen than a successful business. Since the doors opened in 1946, Piccoli's has been best known for pastrami, hot dogs, corned beef, and salami. The wait can sometimes be a little long, but the prices are reasonable and the food is always worth it.

Despite the fact that Milli has made the forest her home, she wasn't always so keen to live there. The sights of the city are a welcome change from the static environment of Staten Island. New York is always moving.

And so is she, while she's here. As a Tier 2 Registered Evolved, there are people who know who she is. It's cool enough outside so that she can wear a hoodie with the hood pulled up loosely over her head, but that doesn't stop her from wondering if maybe she's being watched. Logically? Probably not. But her mind says otherwise, and her heart is understandably beating a little faster than normal. It's right around three o'clock that she finally reaches the agreed-upon spot and shoulders her way through the door.

She's dressed a lot differently now. Jeans instead of dark track pants, a nice shirt under that hoodie, and her bleached-blonde hair - recently streaked with a little auburn for the traveling-from-Staten occasion - has been pulled back into a ponytail. Looking considerably more at ease, she looks around for Warren.

Warren doesn't make any changes from the last time she saw him. He's still wearing a black suit with the unbuttoned jacket, and the matching tie flowing about with the gust of wind that blows in from behind him, he leans in to take a look at the face under the hoodie from the side. Confirming that it is indeed her, he moves a white gloved hand around to offer a cosmos flower in a tiny pot. "It means peaceful. I know you like plants, and I felt I should bring something. Let's go sit down."

Well, this is a good start. Milena does, indeed, like plants. The only way that Warren could have impressed her more would have been if he were able to capture a star from the sky and hand it to her. He does actually receive the tiniest of smiles at the gift. Next time he finds himself in the forest - despite the cooling temperature - he will find them all over the place as if they magically sprung up from the ground overnight.

Still, she reminds herself, this is the man that scared her enough so that she felt it was necessary to cage him. With that thought, the smile fades. "Yeah, let's…" She heads over for a table, sliding into a booth and ensuring that there's no room on her side for him to sit down next to her. She wants to be able to keep an eye on him, hence necessitating that he sit across the table. "Look, I should probably explain…"

Warren slides into the booth on the opposite side of the table, grabbing a menu so he can start looking through it. But when she starts to speak, he immediately turns his blue eyes up to her's, intrigued as he gives his full attention. "I'm listening."
She really doesn't tell many people this.

"Look, there's just something about you. I dunno if it's because you've…" She pauses, inserting a humorless chuckle, "…been through more than I have, or whether it's just that you can really spin an interesting lie. You… Didn't do anything to me. Just being there was enough." Milena shugs out of the hoodie, setting it next to her on the bench. Underneath, she's wearing a button-down long-sleeved shirt. It looks like silk. Red.

"You know what Humanis First is, right?" She, too, grabs for a menu. Though she isn't really hungry, she could eat soup or something, just so she's not wasting the deli owner's time.

"I know who they are. Evil and senselessly scared people." Warren states with a hint of distaste, motioning to her menu. "You can order whatever you want." he assures, but otherwise just continues listening.

"Yeah…" Milena remembers the one who got away. She couldn't kill her - or him, she was never really sure since she was so delerious at the time - but she'd love to find the rat now. Thank her? Kill her? Who knows. Unbuttoning the cuff of her sleeve, she looks around before pulling it back. Close to the wrist, all around it, are cuts similar to the one on her jawline. Healed, though obviously deep at one point. Within a couple inches, though, they become something else.

She pulls the sleeve back to her elbow. Written all over it in ugly scars are words - FREAK, INHUMAN, BASTARD - a whole manner of derogatory terms. "These are all over. They were starting on my face." She turns her head so Warren can see the line that runs from her chin to her ear. "But they didn't quite get that far. It's worse than if they woulda just killed me, you know? In the summer… I have to wear long sleeves. It…" She shakes her head. She's silent for a moment as the waiter comes up to the table. "Just a coffee for now."

"People treat Evolved as if… I don't know, like we're disposable and not even people, even though we could be doing so much good for the world." Warren cautiously reaches over, giving her a look as if to ask for permission to take her hand. "I understand why you're so afraid now. I could help you feel safer, if you wanted that."

Despite her openness with Warren so far, Milena isn't willing to allow him to touch her. She draws her hand back quickly, irritably, though the sentiment dissipates once she feels safe. "I don't … like being touched. Sorry." She feels like that's a reasonable request. all things considered. It wasn't just physical pain she went through. It was some serious psychological bullshit that she doesn't even want to think about, and touch - even the slightest amought of it - brings back those memories. It was hard enough to merely brush her fingers against Warren's the night before.

"But…" She trails off again as the waiter brings her coffee. "I would like to feel safer. If you can help with that."

"I'm an inventor and an engineer. Your ability must have limits, otherwise I'm sure you wouldn't be as afraid as you are." Warren apparently accepts her request of no touching, but keeps his hands extended, raising his jacket and shirt just slightly so she can see his robotic left wrist. Gears spend over the cracks, and there's even the slight sound of little mechanical things moving and turning inside of it.

"I built this, it's an arm that extends up to my elbow. I can build things for you, not just weapons. I have one particular device I could give you, a button that would let me know where you are if you need me there, or call the cops with just one push." There's a brief pause as he pulls his shirt and jacket down again, trying to reassure her with a smile, even if it's not much. "I could teach you to defend yourself."

"Yeah, it does." She chuckles. "You've probably noticed already, I have to root into something in order to control it." She runs her hand over the surface of the table. There's hardly a thing in the world that doesn't have some sort of plant matter pressed into it. Even the tiniest seed, the tiniest wood chip - a sliver. It'd be so much easier to show him with the flower that he gave her, but pressing her fingers into the table - which she does - is much more of an obvious demonstration. Nothing grows - she doesn't want to ruin the deli's property - and a minute later, she's able to free her hand again.

"You know, in an ideal world, no one would ever know where I was. I mean… If they got hold of me again, whatever you build would be the first thing they'd destroy, I'm sure." While Warren's talking, she buttons her sleeve again, hiding the ugly scars from the world once more. "…What happened to your arm? I mean, you didn't… You didn't go cut it off or— " Milena seems fairly disturbed by the very idea.

"You shouldn't hide from the world. I know it's scary, I know there's a lot of people, but there's more people who want to be your friend than want to hurt you. I know it doesn't help, but you still need to hear that. I want to give you security, the ability to go out and know that even if someone tries to hurt you, you can do something about it. But I guess before anything else, we could just try being friends, I think you need one." Warren looks down at his left hand when she asks about it, opening and closing it. "I can't remember, it's one of my missing memories. I remember building it, and only having one hand when I did, but I have no idea when it happened. There's this gap of having an arm, and then not having one."

There was one point where she told Warren she couldn't be his friend. It still stands, despite her more laid-back demeanor when she's surrounded by other people… Who could very well take his side, should this rise to conflict. She doesn't expect it to, but she still can't help looking around at the others nearby. Wrapping her hands around her coffee, she says, "I know it seems like I don't know what I'm doing, but… I still have to… I don't think it's something that friendship is just magically going to solve." It's a way of letting him down gently, and she feels awful for it.

"You had your head messed with. You could be crazy. You could… Snap at any moment. Hell, this could be some sort of trap right now. That's all the crap that goes through my head when I even think about… friendship. And maybe that works for you, but… I'm not ready to be a friend. It'd be one-sided." The fewer people she lets into her life, the better. "It'd be more like a business relationship."

"There's never a magical fix, but there's always steps, baby steps. Whatever you want to call this is fine, I just want to help. I won't suddenly snap, I work for the government. They're the ones who did this to me, they're who screwed my head up so badly. You know Linderman? The one they named the Linderman Act after? He personally gave the order to gave my entire childhood dumped when I was around seventeen. They've been working towards controlling me for my entire life. If they made me sane, then I'm sane, they think I'm too valuable to lose." Warren lets her in on all of that for reasons he's not entirely sure of, leaning his forehead into his hand with an elbow on the table. "But, baby steps. Business relationship if that's best."

"That's what worries me," she says dryly, looking into her so-far untouched coffee. Milena has a goverment-sanctioned task, too, and she's not sure she likes all this stuff about how they've been playing with Warren's head. There must be someone she can talk to about that… To discover what's in his past that they decided they had to hide from the world.

At least labeling this partnership as strictly business means she's perfectly within her rights to keep Warren at arm's length, or terminate it entirely if she becomes too uncomfortable. She can always go back to hiding in the observatory if she needs to, right? "Just make sure you respect that. No— Touching, no joking around, no…" …No trying to take this business relationship to a more friendly level, in other words. "None of that. Understood?"

"Whatever you're comfortable with." Warren leaves it at that, perhaps wanting to just hurry up and move on to more casual topics. No point in having her think about her problems the entire time. "So what do you do exactly? Or, what do you want to do? I'd guess something with plants. I really think you could fix the world with that ability."

Okay, good. That's good. Maybe this can work, and he can show her a little something about not being so afraid anymore.

"What I do and what I want to do are kind of mutually exclusive," she says. Looking out the window, her eyes focus on the sky. "I was really into astronomy for awhile, you know? I thought maybe I'd go to the moon one day. One of those kid dreams that I'd be an astronaut that didn't pan out… Except I never really grew out of it." She shrugs. "Now I just make things grow. I dunno about fixing the world, but it sure makes dead land look a lot better than it used to. The trick is to keep things growing, though."

"One day we'll all be able to go to the moon, if I have my say in it." Warren holds up a finger once a waiter comes, finally deciding the order. He orders two simple hot dogs with sweet relish, and waits for her to order and the waiter to leave before he continues. "I think that with help, you could do a lot more than make dead land look better. But that's a talk for another time. So… you really don't have any friends at all? I guess you could say I have one. I keep thinking I remember friends, but every time I meet them it turns out I remembered it the wrong way, and they actually hate me."

Milena orders a turkey and cheese sandwich. She hasn't even really touched her coffee yet, so she's good on a drink for the time. "I used to," she says with a shrug. "I had roommates in college and, you know, a few people I'd hang out with." Then things changed, blah blah blah, and she never talked to those people again. "Some… people just don't really get what I can do, you know? It makes me weird." There are other people who probably miss her, of course. "Don't you think that if you had all your memories, you might be able to… make your own decisions? Like, I mean… Having things blocked out. Doesn't that hurt more than help?"

"Oh, I can make my own decisions. I have a lot of plans and no intention of letting people control me. I know other people like me, people hurt and used, but I won't let it continue. I'll fix this city brick by brick if I have to. These terrorists don't understand, like Messiah, they only make it worse, they destroy. We need to build and repair and show others the true potential of Evolved. That's why I build." Warren runs a hand over the back of his mechanical one, looking down at it in deep thought, his expression a somber one.

"It hurts, a lot. It feels like flipping television channels. I lack context for so many things I remember. But I know who I am now, that's the one thing I'm sure of. I know who I am, what I want to do, and I have the skills and knowledge to do it." Warren spreads his hands out to indicate, well, everything. "The person I am now is the only person I remember, and I plan to make real, genuine memories. I won't dwell on what I've lost, I'll turn it to my advantage. The pieces of life are like chess, I just have to make sure I can make a strategy to get through it on top."

"How are you going to build?" Milena asks, the words almost bitter. And what good will it do if groups - like Messiah, which is, in her opinion, a pretentious name to start with - only ruin what good people like her and Warren can do? "I had a lot of time to think. People take years to accept change, unless it happens to them. Otherwise, it's just someone else's problem. The more things change, the more people… resist. I know. I used to be the same way." Finally, she takes a sip of her coffee. When she puts it back down on the table, she briefly wonders if she could make a whole coffee plant grow from the minute particles inside it. Her fingers melt into the cup, and dark brown liquid drips out around them. Within the slidge, she finds what she's looking for…

"The person you are now. What's to say you're not gonna go back to that person you can't remember?

"These memories don't come back, if they did, I'd be able to at least remember some of my first seventeen years by now. I'm twenty-five. These are serious people, my boss is a dick, he doesn't work on ifs and butts. Whoever I used to be, that person is gone. And I plan to make completely sure of that soon." Warren looks over as more people start to enter, which prompts him to lower his voice a bit.

"They've altered my mind to the point that I developed a tumor, something else I need to fix. But I can repair the city, I promise you that. You say people don't understand change unless it's happening to them, but we have to think in terms of change happening for them. Building, fixing, it's not just about machines. People are parts, actions are parts, this city is the machine. I know it's all vague, but…" He has a slight frown, letting out a sigh. "Fixing the city requires a series of gestures to sway the hearts of everyone. Imagine if Midtown blossomed into a massive beautiful garden, with a giant tree in the middle of groundzero to represent life."

"And what if…" Milena starts to ask more questions, but trails off. There's no sense in wondering about what hasn't happened yet, and might not, in this case. His intentions seem pure right now, but she'll have to re-evaluate that every single time they meet. Because she doesn't trust him, nor does she really trust the people he works for. The people she works for. Weren't they supposed to offer some protection against things like mind-wiping and psychological pain?

Of course, his idea as to how to fix things piques her interest. It causes that guarded look on her face to become less distrustful, and she sits forward in her chair.

The coffee leaking from her cup stills as she finds, of all things, the tiniest bits of coffee beans still existing, the smallest bits that made it through the filter. Suddenly, the mug is full of a coffee plant. It's a perfect exclamation for what Warren is suggesting. "That's a lot of work," she says. "Especially with all the radiation."

"I can't tell you how because it would mean breaking someone's privacy, but if I get their permission, there's a way to do this very easily, with your help of course." Warren looks down at the plant, smiling and reaching over to touch it. He still has trouble believing it, despite everything he's seen. Electricity, fire, they're fine and all, but this is life. "Bringing Midtown back from the dead… and we wouldn't even take credit for it, it'd just be a mysterious miracle. But they'd know Evolved had something to do with it."

This is something she's all for, actually. Even if it's for selfish reasons - maybe one person in the world will decide that Evolved aren't all that bad and she can stop playing 'Hate on Me' at high volume on nights when she feels Downtrodden by 'The Man' - it's a project that she can certainly back.

With time, she's able to extract her fingers from the coffee mug. Since it's not made out of anything really natural, the holes don't seal properly, which causes the rest of the coffee to spill out onto the table. The plant is still left behind, though.

When the waiter brings her sandwich, all she can do is smile sheepishly up at him and shrink back into her seat with a very quietly mumbled 'oops.' To Warren, she says, "Well, you don't have to tell me any more right now. Just show this to whoever you're talking about." She pushes the coffee plant across the table. "Tell them there could be more where that came from." …She kind of feels like she's become a pot dealer.

Warren takes a few napkins from the dispenser, cleaning up the coffee from the table, then he takes the plant and looks it over. "I'm sure my friend will appreciate it." He pokes at the plant a litte, since it's not every day that one gets to see a coffee plant. "We have opposite abilities. Mine works best in the city, I can take cars apart, take advantage of everything around me, at least in the sense that I can modify and use non-computerized machines. But yours works best outside of the city."

"Kind of," she says. "All it takes is a little particle of… something. A seed, a piece of paper, even wood chips - you know, like in those sidewalk trees around the city. I can't make something from nothing, but…" There it is. It just takes a little tiny thing to make her power work. Something that used to be living plantlife - anything. A dead leaf, or a bit of pollen. "It's a lot easier to find stuff in a forest. I mean, there might be a grain or two in cement, but in a forest… The whole earth is made of plantlife, you know…? So…" She pauses. "Yeah, I guess it works best outside the city." Reaching out, she pulls the Cosmos flower toward her with one hand, and picks up her sandwich with the other. "I guess I should give you some way to contact me."

"You've already seen that I can build things out of wood, or any material really, I prefer working with metal and actual parts, it's just… easier to see where everything goes." Warren nods, and picks up one of his hotdogs when he notices they've come already, taking a small bite. "Some way to contact you would be nice, but as ironic as it sounds, I'm not very good with computers. I can barely figure out email."

Reaching into a pocket which contains her wallet, pens, and a good amount of paper, Milena writes down the number to the observatory. She's not about to give Warren her own personal cell number. Who knows what he could do with that? Track her, harass her at all hours…

No, she's certainly not the trusting sort.

After writing down her number, she passes it across the table, careful to pull her hand away before he reaches for the paper.

Warren takes the paper, then slides it into his jacket and leans over his food to eat. "I think this meeting did us both some good. Call any time, I know it's probably rough for you." He starts removing his right glove so he can lift the hotdog without ruining his leather, then grabs the bun again. "Is there anywhere you want to go when we're done here?"

Milena's not sure the meeting did her much good. At least she doesn't feel as frightened anymore. Things are adding up in her mind, even if it doesn't seem to come up to any logical sum. If Warren was going to hurt her already - as he said - he would have done so a long time ago. "No." She answers the question decisively, then takes another few bites of her sandwich. "All business. If it's something we need to do, then fine. But if not, then I should go back home."

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