Calculated Realities


alister_icon.gif chess_icon.gif

Scene Title Calculated Realities
Synopsis An impromptu visit results in philosophical discussion and other indoor sports.
Date April 24, 2018

Alister's Penthouse

When Chess approaches the Staten Island Trade Commission, she'll note the presence of armed security around the premises. They'll ask her name, and if she answers Chess, they'll let her in. They apparently are expecting her arrival, even though she likely didn't announce herself.

As she moves in, she'll note that there are workers all around, busily moving shipments like any normal company. Even inside, on the lower levels, there's countless boxes of supplies, regular workers chatting away, not exactly the look of miserable employees. They're taken care of, they're a bit less hopeless and filthy than is usually expected of people stuck on Staten.

She'll have to take an elevator up to his penthouse, which is then unlocked from his side once she's up there.

He's wearing an all white golf outfit, with a sweater and all, and locks the elevator once she's inside. "I wasn't expecting you. Excuse the outfit, I was golfing. It was quite boring, but I thought I'd make an attempt at a dull high society social activity. I think the attempt was enough. I'll donate the outfit, which I'm also not a fan of."

He looks down at his sweater, which is pastel pink. "My sister picked it out."

The entire way up to the building and through the building and up to the penthouse, Chess rolls a baseball in her hand, her dark eyes darting around as if she expects to be ambushed at any moment.

She's not dressed up for this visit, but in her usual leather jacket and jeans, in dark hues that serve as a good foil to his (ridiculous) outfit — which she lifts a brow at as soon as he opens a door.

"I wasn't expecting to come, so it's a surprise to both of us," she says wryly. "And isn't half the enjoyment of being rich so you don't have to do what other people do if you don't want to? You seem to do a lot of things simply because you think you're supposed to. Fuck that. I bet you drink or eat stuff you don't even like just because someone important does. Like, I don't know. Foie gras or something. Pate. Vermouth."

"Some things are done because it's important for business meetings, or rubbing elbows, as they say." Alister explains as he walks through his rather spatious penthouse. There's art, modern furniture, random dishes with far too expensive snacks. This place does not seem like it belongs in Staten, or even in the Safe Zone outside of Yamagato.

"Money and power is often about acquiring more money and power. I'm not where I want to be yet. How rich I used to be, well, let's just say that what I'm maintaining right now still requires a lot of discipline." He peels the outer sweater off and tosses it into a white basket that looks like weird modern art, leaving him with a simple white button up. "Once you're rich there's not much else to do except become more rich. Though, as I've expressed to you before, I have an interest in expanding to more personal endeavours. To learn what more there is."

A short, unamused huff of a laugh escapes her lips. "I understand money is power and I get that having money makes things easier. So wanting to be rich isn't bad in itself. But you should want to do something other than make money. Be something other than rich. You know? Like, didn't you watch Saturday cartoons or something where the Care Bears or Superman tells you this?"

Her arms cross loosely, as if she's afraid of touching anything in the pristine environment. She stops to examine a piece of art, her eyes narrowing thoughtfully. She looks tired, dark circles under her eyes, maybe a little thinner than she was last he saw her.

"Didn't have much time for things like that, my parents were quite strict. They raised me to thrive in a cutthroat corporate environment from birth. Eat or be eaten." Alister heads for his kitchen, motioning for her to follow. There's a table with lunch already prepared. Mostly fancy sandwiches. There's some crackers with salmon and sour creme as well, and a fancy tea set with gold laced in the china. "My young student doesn't seem to be coming any time soon, so you can make yourself at home." he notes, motioning to the table.

It would be rude to point out that she looks any different.

"I'm adopted, so I do sometimes wonder if I'd be different with, well, more nurturing parents. Though I know absolutely nothing of my biological parents." he admits, taking one of the crackers and sliding it into his mouth. "What I want to be other than rich is tricky. I have found myself with a void, it's a part of why you grabbed my attention. Your sincerity of existence. I want to know how to exist that way, in a way where your existence isn't so… calculated."

"That sucks," sounds sincere about his parents. She looks a little skeptical at the food, but she pulls a chair out to sit. Only after he takes a cracker does she, but turns it in her hand as he talks. A brow lifts at the mention of his being adopted, and then she huffs another short laugh at the following words, despite the fact they aren't particularly funny.

"My sincerity of existence," she repeats. "I don't know. I just don't like being fake. I'm not going to pretend to like someone I don't like, you know or put on airs or whatever. I probably could have gone down that route if shit didn't hit the fan with powers and the evolved," her hand gestures vaguely, "SLC-E, you know, back when." She lifts a shoulder. "I'm not trying to accrue money and power, though." She smirks. "Obviously."

"I was raised to treat life a bit like a game of chess. Every aspect of life, myself, who I am, is useful. Even my insistence on wearing suits. Do you think a suit is the most comfortable thing I've ever worn? Of course not." Alister's table is large, but despite that, he chooses to sit next to her. "By the way, I've set things up so that food is donated to the numerous veteran programs in the Safe Zone. I realized that we actually have a stock of food that goes wasted frequently. So, rather than simply allowing it to expire and toss it out, I've decided to start donating what we don't sell to the veteran hospitals, and what they can't take will go to the locals on Staten."

He reaches out to place a hand on her shoulder, turning to face her. "I would be lying if I said I didn't do it because you asked, but it would also be false to assume that I have no sympathy for the oppressed."

He laughs a little, lifting one of the sandwiches. They're some sort of caramelized maple ham affair, with a bit of kale and some sort of creamy tasting condiment. "When I was younger, back when I had an ability, I was into Evolved supremacy. I believed I'd be some kind of messiah." He has to laugh again, a little louder. "It was stupid. But I truly felt so strongly about that cause, like I could dig all of them out of the mud and rise up against the 'human oppressors'."

"So, that's what I wanted to be, a messiah. I'm long over that, now I'm a bit…" he shrugs his shoulders, trying to find the words. "Aimless. I'm focusing on rebuilding Staten, but I don't have a particular aspiration. You pique'd my interest, talking to you is like talking to something that truly exists outside of my calculated reality. I truly relate to the Grinch at the end of that story, when I see you."

Chess' eyes widen slightly when he says they're no longer throwing out food, more because they were previously throwing out food, than that it's now going to people who can use it. Still, it's good news, so manages to smile, though it's still a little incredulous. "There's always someone who can use it," she says, quietly, though it's not quite an admonishment. Maybe a reminder.

His confessions about feelings of being a messiah, being supreme, are met with another lift of her brows and she mouths 'okay' to herself.

"The Grinch," she repeats, her tone dry. "Well. That's a compliment I've never received before, so thanks for that," she says wryly, lips curving into a small smirk. She finally takes a bite of the cracker, chewing and then swallowing before asking, seemingly a non sequitur, "You ever read Kant?"

"No. My parents made me read Rand as a child." Alister admits, to the shock of no one, and then he finally reaches out to gently move her hair from her face, entering her space a bit. "I don't want to be rude, but you look exhausted. If you're having a difficult time out there, you can sleep here, you know. It's safe here, there's food. When my sister returns she might look at you strangely. And Sibyl's harmless, she's my student, I'm teaching her to be my successor."

"Ugh. That qualifies as child abuse," says Chess, with a roll of her eyes at the mention of Rand.

She stiffens a little at the touch, before she shakes her hair back from her face, to complete the job he started, maybe. A hand follows through with raking it back farther as she shakes her head. "I'm fine. If anything, it's because I haven't been 'out there,' so to speak. If anything I've been feeling a little claustrophobic in proper buildings with locking doors and central air and no holes in the walls. It's hard to sleep when it's quiet." There's a small attempt at a smile there, though it lacks any real amusement. "It's partly why I came out to Staten today. It's less of a 'calculated reality' out here, too, you know?"

"Well, my parents certainly had a unique style of parenting." Alister considers her explanation, taking another bite of his sandwich. "I have a television, with a sizable collection of movies and TV shows. My sister gets bored easily otherwise. There's plenty of noise from the workers around the premises."

He motions to a sandwich, for her to try one. "Let me take you somewhere nice. You can pick out a dress and just point somewhere, some place you've always wanted to go, an escape from life for just a day."

She's quiet for a moment, before finally reaching for one of the sandwiches, setting it on the plate and then tearing off a piece to bring to her mouth. "Probably better I don't go out, at the moment," she says, tone neutral but serious — there's no dry humor or sarcasm coming through for once.

"A movie'd be nice." She breaks off another bit of bread and meat. "I'm adopted, too, actually. My parents were nice people. Are nice people… except, you know. Afraid of powers. We didn't see eye to eye on that, anyway, and then one day I turned out to be SLC-E. I haven't seen them since before the war." She lifts a shoulder. "I don't really miss them, which is probably terrible to say. Yours are gone?"

"They exist. You know, it's a funny thing, when your parents raise you to be cutthroat and then you steal your father's company and oust his board of directors, among other things." Alister shrugs at that, watching her eat. He doesn't seem particularly phased by his story. "I take care of my sister, I've always cared for my sister quite deeply. Don't tell her that, of course, she'd never let me hear the end of it."

"Whatever reason you aren't going out, you'll be fine here. I always have a gun, or my hands. Fighting in the war was quite eye opening, I adapted quickly to committing violence without an ability, which I know is not the most charming thing to hear." He stands up, taking his plate with him. "You can bring your food. We have no one to impress here, this is my house after all."

He heads for the living room, sitting the plate on the fancy modern art coffee table. "Most people don't know this, but I'm telling you this in the interest of I suppose demystifying myself."

He walks over to the entertainment system. The large TV hangs on the wall like a huge piece of art, and the entertainment system is mostly full of box sets and movies. Most of them were chosen by Margaux. "Years ago, shortly before the war, I was captured by the Institute. You know, those people who were put on trial. They did experiments on me, though I don't very well remember a lot of them. But one of those experiments led to the loss of my ability. It was rather humbling, as my entire identity was my money and my ability, and I lost both."

His tone is more serious now, after a pause. "I lost everything, really. The war was like a rebirth, but right now, what you see here, this is me doing what I know. Knowing who I was for so long, and no longer being that person, it made me realize that I don't truly know much of anything about life."

"This might sound insane to you," he looks back at her, hand resting on top of the blu-rays in his crouch. "But I sometimes wish I wasn't born rich, so that I could have learned to contextualize the world in a way that built up my personhood outside of material possessions."

"Damn," is all Chess has to say about his parents. They don't sound too worthy of her sympathy, though, so she doesn't give it to them. "My brothers are like my parents. I loved them but we weren't much alike. Even less so now. I guess I still love them — I hope they're okay. I just don't… think they need me in their lives," she says with a shrug, picking up her plate to follow him to the living room, sitting on the corner of a sofa.

"You mentioned that. I'm sorry you had to go through that. But it doesn't sound insane. You can still do that, though. Money isn't what makes you a person, you know? You care about people who don't have a lot of it, so clearly you don't think that," she says, setting her plate down and leaning against the armrest. "So people like me, people like your student, who I assume isn't independently wealthy, if you see value in us outside of money, then your worth is something beyond your material gains, too, you know?" She lifts a shoulder. "Money makes things easier but it doesn't make up for the things you need to really make you happy."

"I find it thrilling, knowing a woman who can combat me in that borderline sociopathic rich person way. But while I find it mentally challenging, psychologically stimulating, there's something about it that doesn't truly compromise me." Alister chooses a blu-ray and stands up, staring at the back of the case. "You challenge me in a different way, which is a part of what initially captured my interest, beyond my previous desire to hire you as Sibyl's bodyguard. I feel emotionally compromised when I talk to you, which is a rather dangerous thing, but I want to know what that truly means."

"What happens when you allow yourself to be compromised." Then, he holds out the movie, showing it to her. "This movie, Limitless, it was one of those Hollywood blockbusters I think. One of few movies that I chose that aren't my sister's. I enjoyed the concept of what would happen if someone could reach their maximum intellectual potential, how the average person would use that."

Chess' brow lifts as he speaks, looking like she might be offended at first, and then like she might be worried. She'd be a terrible poker player, the way the emotions play across her face like a movie on the silver screen.

"I think if you care about people, you can compromise and that's a good thing, yeah? To give a little for the sake of someone else's happiness, sometimes. But to be compromised — that sounds like, I donno. A loss of integrity. Like a security breach if you've been hacked," she says. "I'm not trying to compromise you. I don't want to compromise you, Alister. I mean, you have plenty of shit you can change but you need to do it for your own damn self, not because I make you feel like your heart grew three sizes in one day." She lifts a brow. "Or anything else, for that matter."

"I've been trying to find myself for a long time. It's far from simply being about you, I barely know you. But you're a product of trying to find myself, trying to explore what it means to be me." Alister slides the disk into the player, then walks over to the couch, taking a seat next to her.

He lifts his knee up onto the couch so that he can actually face her. "When I say that you make me feel compromised, I mean that you make me feel as if my facade is useless, like no matter what etiquette or social games I was taught, it ultimately won't matter to you, it won't connect with you in any way. That truly challenges me, it forces me to talk to you as myself, whoever that may be."

He runs a few fingers through his carefully combed hair, messing it up a little. "Is that so wrong?"

Her eyes narrow a little as she studies him, moving left to right as if she could read his face like a page. "No. It's good, I guess. But you should also try to know other people as yourself, and not just this weird Frankenstein's monster collage of what you think people think is powerful or important."

She looks up at his hair, and tips her head, before flicking one more hair out of place. "Why do you have an ocelot?" seems like a non sequitur.

"The only woman I ever loved, Eileen Ruskin. She died, pecked to death by birds." Alister answers, very bluntly, but for the first time tonight he averts his eyes, not making eye contact at all as he explains this. "She also stole all of my money, led to a man taking over my company while I was captured, and entirely ruined my life right before she died."

"And yet I loved her, despite the fact that her love for me was an elaborate con to take my money, it was the closest I ever felt to truly loving someone more than… than anything logical, or rational, I don't even know why I loved her." But, then he's back to the ocelot. "The ocelot, it reminded me of her. Graceful, beautiful, and yet an absolutely vicious animal that could never truly return my love."

She listens, brows lifting again, then drawing together. "I'm sorry for your loss," Chess says, quietly. It's awkward — sincere but not followed up with any other hollow sentiments like it usually is, and a little uncertain, given the other confessions that come with it.

"You don't have to have a reason to love someone. Sometimes it just happens — the person doesn't have to be worthy of it. I think usually one of the people isn't." It's her turn to look away, her confused frown becoming something else, something sadder, something deeper.

"And in your case, which of the people is the one who isn't worthy of it?" Alister asks, reading into her body language, reaching out to place a hand on her shoulder again.

Her expression is a dark one when her eyes cut back to him, as if it's his fault she wears those emotions so obviously.

"It was me," she says flatly. "And he died for that 'compromise.'" The word is charged, like her little bombs of baseballs or apples, a warning and a weapon, ready to be hurled.

"Do you think so?" Alister asks, shifting a little closer, but removing his hand from her shoulder, as if to both take away space and give it at the same time. "I don't know what happened, obviously, but do you think that it might be more accurate that you blame yourself, and that nothing, not even you, could have ever felt worth losing him?"

"Don't," she murmurs, head shaking very slightly, her eyes steady on him like he might pull a weapon on her, rather than simply ask questions she doesn't want to answer. "You don't know. And you don't know him," she says, voice low, full of warning, in case he might disparage the dead. "I'm not. Worth it. I'm not good and I don't even know if I count as a real person anymore." She stands up, wincing as she cracks her knee against the artful coffee table, but moves across the room to one of the windows, to stare out at the dirty green waters of the water below them.

"You're right, I don't know him, and I don't know how you feel. And, incidentally, I wasn't saying that you were worth it, or that anything was worth it." Alister corrects, holding up a finger. "It's not my place to say that. But what I am saying is that it doesn't make you an awful person. I don't know much about love, but I don't think it makes you unworthy of being loved."

"And you're certainly a person." he says matter-of-factly. "You're more of a person than I am."

Chess takes a breath, holding it, and releasing in a shaky sigh before she turns to look at him, arms crossing. "He loved me more than he loved himself and he should be here instead of me. That's all." Her voice is flat, her expression schooled into a neutral expression, but there's a glint of tears in her eyes; they've been held back, restrained.

"Sorry," she says, with a small flap of one of her hands before it rests back on the opposite wrist. "I don't talk about him. I can't." She lifts a shoulder, then breathes out another little huff of a laugh, no amusement in her eyes. "I'm not a good candidate to teach you about that sort of thing, Alister. I'm pretty screwed up in that regard."

"Do you think I expected you to come from a life of no hardship, no heartbreak?" Alister asks, finally standing, slowly walking over to her until he can return that hand to her shoulder, looking down at her. "You don't have to talk about anything you don't want to. And I won't say that you're wrong for anything that you think about what happened with him. I'm not the most comforting human being, but I can say that I don't expect you to be perfect."

He raises his hand up to her face to wipe a tear from her cheek with his thumb. "If I wanted to involve myself with someone who knew all the right things to say, I could find that. But instead, I clearly haven't kicked you out yet. I'm quite good at kicking people out."

His words make her roll her eyes, though not at him, this time. "There's not a lot I want to talk about, even when things aren't the shit show they are right now," she says, flatly.

She reaches up as if to brush his hand away, but instead captures it in her own. "I'm not going to love you," she tells him, words matter-of-fact, "and this doesn't mean anything." She tips her head up, then pulls him down by the neck with her other hand to bring his lips close to hers, but not quite letting them meet. "If that matters to you, then say so."

"That's perfectly fine, though know that I am someone who solves problems." Alister assures, before he's getting pulled down, and then he considers her warning. "If I feel anything particularly irrational, I'll let you know." He considers that if he made this agreement with someone in the past, he probably wouldn't own an ocelot.

Then, hand reaching to firmly grip the back of her neck, he meets her lips like someone who is particularly accustomed to savoring things. Food, experiences, people.

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