Claude, Charity and Confidence


claude_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title Claude, Charity and Confidence
Synopsis Ygraine meets Claude. He gets a hotdog, and she gets food for thought.
Date September 23rd 2008

Central Park

Central Park has been, and remains, a key attraction in New York City, both for tourists and local residents. Though slightly smaller, approximately 100 acres at its southern end scarred by and still recovering from the explosion, the vast northern regions of the park remain intact.

An array of paths and tracks wind their way through stands of trees and swathes of grass, frequented by joggers, bikers, dog-walkers, and horsemen alike. Flowerbeds, tended gardens, and sheltered conservatories provide a wide array of colorful plants; the sheer size of the park, along with a designated wildlife sanctuary add a wide variety of fauna to the park's visitor list. Several ponds and lakes, as well as the massive Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, break up the expanses of green and growing things. There are roads, for those who prefer to drive through; numerous playgrounds for children dot the landscape.

Many are the people who come to the Park - painters, birdwatchers, musicians, and rock climbers. Others come for the shows; the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theater, the annual outdoor concert of the New York Philharmonic on the Great Lawn, the summer performances of the Metropolitan Opera, and many other smaller performing groups besides. They come to ice-skate on the rink, to ride on the Central Park Carousel, to view the many, many statues scattered about the park.

Some of the southern end of the park remains buried beneath rubble. Some of it still looks worn and torn, struggling to come back from the edge of destruction despite everything the crews of landscapers can do. The Wollman Rink has not been rebuilt; the Central Park Wildlife Center remains very much a work in progress, but is not wholly a loss. Someday, this portion of Central Park just might be restored fully to its prior state.

Claude's new description, now that he's free of the Company and can choose his own style…

This man is, in one word, unkempt. He stands pretty tall at 6'2", and it's clear from his thinning gray-brown hair that he hasn't lifted a comb that high in months. Probably longer. It's clear he's not exactly dressed to impress either, wearing a thoroughly slept in and unwashed pair of pants and sweatshirt. His eyes have an almost perpetually tired or skeptical look to them, and his nose - though straight - looks like it might have been broken at some point. The lower half of his face is largely obscured by several weeks' worth of graying facial hair. Years of a less than healthy diet have given him a bit of a belly, but he is fairly lean otherwise. A pair of small but ugly scars sits at the back of his neck.

The park is quiet this early morning, with the part of it that's still in tact occupied by little more than a few joggers and bikers. Most of all people are just trying to get from one place to the next, enjoying the bit of green around them as they do. One man, however, is standing completely still amidst it all. From the looks of him— simply a bum. A confused one at that.

"Come on…" Claude growls at nothing in particular, having stopped in the middle of one of the park's paths. Every time a jogger passes in a curve around the man, he curses something under his breath before waiting for the next one. Muscles more tense, and looking a fair bit more annoyed as time goes on. "Give me something." But there is nothing. Or is there? Anyone watching long enough will notice parts of him starting to flicker— starting to fade. For a second he's not there at all, before returning completely back to normal again. "Come on!"

Sitting up on her bike, both hands busy as she adjusts the chin-strap of her helmet, a figure in rather professional-looking black lycra moves at moderate pace along that same pathway. Guiding her vehicle with her knees, she's keeping an alert eye out for any obstacles that might require more active direction on her part — though a man fading in and out of view was certainly not a problem that she'd anticipated. Dropping forward onto the handlebars, she hastily brakes, slewing to a halt a few yards from the not-quite-invisible man.

The sound of the bike's tires on the path is not a welcome one, to Claude. Hell, right now he'd have rather had a biker crash into him instead of this. He turns to face the new arrival, eying her closely. "You can see me, I presume." He dryly states, clearly discontent about the fact. "Go on, then. Run along! Tell your friends. I'll be gone soon." He's almost got it! This has got to be out of his system some time soon.

Ygraine lifts her brows, cocking her head as she eyes the possibly-mad man with open curiosity. "You don't sound as if you're from around here", she ventures after a moment's thought, her own voice carrying distinctly educated British tones.

Claude's own brows lift from their rather low position, and his anger makes way for a bit of surprise. "Well hello, Pot. Meet Kettle." He sniffs, and momentarily flickers invisible again. Not entirely to his knowledge, it seems.

Ygraine chuckles softly, cocking her head as she studies him. "I'd have thought that there'd be safer places to try practicing, but… are you trying to overcome the distraction of people moving around you, or something?"

Claude frowns, lifting one of his hands for a moment to study it, before… realizing that's of little use, and looking back up to Ygraine. Not particularly in a sharing mood, he simply begins to walk away. "Not that it's any of your business, but I was trying to get them to bump into me." Again, he fades out of view. Longer this time, but still only a few seconds before he reappears a few steps later. "Or— something!" Argh, frustration.

"I know the Yanks can be annoying but that sounds like a rather painful way to give them a nasty surprise", observes Ygraine with a wry smile as she nudges her bike into motion, matching his pace to keep the distance roughly the same as she resumes progress along the path.

"Completely right. Rotten thing to do." Claude replies, continuing his walk to nowhere in particular. The words come out of his mouth with a certain reluctance. If only his abilities were back to normal, he could walk away unnoticed. "I'm a terrible person. So why are you so interested?"

Ygraine shrugs amiably, offering another grin to Claude's back. "I'm always interested to meet another Brit here, especially one who is quite so… determinedly unconventional as yourself…."

Claude grunts, then… slows his pace as some of the more destroyed areas of the park come into sight. "I haven't been around for a while." Then, pointing halfheartedly, he asks, "Not since before that over there."

Ygraine allows her momentum to carry her closer, following Claude's gaze. She sighs, nodding slowly. "I only returned recently. I was here, on the day it happened", she murmurs.

Claude seems to have stopped trying to get people to crash into him. For now, at least. "Lucky you." That's definitely sarcasm. Then he turns to Ygraine with what appears to be a look of genuine curiosity on his face. "So, that's what caused these abandonment issues, then? Following strangers around for no good reason?"

Ygraine pokes her tongue out at Claude, but doesn't seem unduly offended. "You're a Brit. You're sarcastic. You're unselfconscious. That'd make you interesting even if you hadn't been fading in and out of view since I first saw you."

Claude's lips curl into the tiniest of grins. He can appreciate an attitude. "Yet for all you know I'm just mad." He blinks. "Or maybe you are. Since you're the one seeing people 'fading in and out of view'." Not that he's denying doing what he was doing. That much is clear by the tone of his voice.

Ygraine's own lips quirk into another wry smile, as she sits up once more, to let herself offer Claude a sardonic little bow. "Well, I did spend some time in an institution, after… what happened. So perhaps I am just delusional, and having a discussion with a figment of my imagination. I doubt it, however."

"In an institution? That must've been a fun time." Claude mutters, folding an arm over his stomach as it growls quietly. "Just imagine, a figment of your own imagination, telling you to piss off. You've got problems."

Ygraine chuckles, shrugging. "I'm told it's quite common. The other… element of an hallucinatory conversation is often supposed to exist to prompt change and provide confrontation. An embodiment of the war within, or some such notion… However, you, I suspect, aren't exactly limited to arguing with me alone. I'd hazard a guess you're happy to spread your rudeness more widely." She offers another grin. "Fancy grabbing a bite to eat? I was intending to stop off for some breakfast anyway…"

Well, that's interesting. Ygraine momentarily manages to leave Claude speechless. Only for a few seconds, though, before his rudeness kicks back into action! "… Oh excellent, caught me a smart one." He breathes out a sigh, giving Ygraine another, skeptical look over. Seems harmless enough, but those sort of thoughts have gotten him into trouble before. "My stomach and distrust are having an argument over the answer to that one."

Ygraine laughs softly, shrugging her shoulders. "Well, if you want to leave me marginally wealthier, I'm not going to complain too much. But I'd advise listening to your stomach, this once. It's not as if I've had an opportunity to dash ahead and get all the vendors to prepare poisoned food, just for you."

Claude gives her a look, narrowing his eyes for added dramatic effect. "You might have." Still, with the un-threat of her having somehow informed the entire city about his arrival, his stomach eventually reminds him that he's really quite sick of the freely offered food he's been eating. "Alright. But if I taste even the smallest hint of cyanide, I'm out of there."

Ygraine giggles, shaking her head. "And I promise to be on the look-out for almonds, too. Or is that arsenic? I can't recall, I'm afraid. Clearly, I need to read up on my classic poisons again…. I'm Ygraine, by the way."

"An interesting name to fit a… less than boring person." The man quips, nodding in belated greeting. "Claude."

Ygraine offers another low laugh, inclining her head. "Not exactly a run-of-the-mill name, either," she observes with a smile. "So… hot dog, burger, or something else?", she asks, gesturing an invitation to proceed towards the vendors.

Claude smirks, already starting to walk away once more. This time, however, expecting Ygraine to follow. And just maybe eventually lead the way, since he feels far from familiar with this place anymore. "Anything that isn't watery soup and stale bread." For all his bitterness, his wishes are remarkable simple.

Ygraine offers another amused look, shaking her head. "I'm not sure that there ARE any vendors offering that. I think that I can spare you from shelter food for one meal…."

Claude nods, watching his surroundings a little bit more closely than perhaps necessary. Blame that on having to constantly dodge people in the past. Or maybe just the aforementioned smidge of madness. "So, while we're on the way— assuming you've read a paper in the last, say, year, mind giving me the skinny on recent events? Pretend I've been living under a rock for a while, and go from there."

Ygraine arches a brow, studying Claude for a moment before nodding slowly. "Well, you missed the Beijing Olympics. But I suspect that the terrorists and the fuss over Registration might be more relevant to you…. Or are you more interested in the state of the economy and who won which elections? As a Brit, I'd guess you're not too bothered about who's in which House over here…"

"I did pick up a paper this morning, but it was mostly rubbish about this or that. Things never tell you what you want to read." Claude complains, scratching his cheek idly and looking to Ygraine again, "Economy I couldn't care less about. But… terrorists, registration, elections, go." Pretty commanding for a homeless man.

Ygraine permits herself another chuckle, cocking her head. "Mmmmm. Well, Medvedev is in power in Russia, having taken over from Putin. Russian foreign policy remains much as you'd expect, and it's throwing its weight around increasingly often — particularly using its stranglehold on natural gas supplies to mainland Europe as a stick with which to beat countries that want to stand up to it. Here, making the big news locally we have a fun little group who seem to be the city's current bogeymen. They might be associated with the "strength and liberty" slogans that have appeared around the place, but they're mostly being attached to attacks against government branches trying to enforce Evolved registration…"

Claude breathes out a halfhearted laugh, giving Ygraine a look of mild surprise. "Who needs the paper when they've got you?" He thinks for a moment, then continues. "Enforcing the registration. In general, not talking about rubbish 'polls' or statistics or all that nonsense, what do people think about it? Or hell, what do you think about it?"

Ygraine shrugs slowly, pursing her lips. "I'm a foreigner, from a rather different social and legal environment", she observes with a smile. "Us Brits have never really gone in for the federal agency sort of set-up — it's still regarded as rather spooky, to have "security services" active inside the UK, isn't it? Here…." She shrugs. "US presidents have for a long time found it useful to have an external bogeyman around opposition to which they can encourage people to unite. The Evolved have become the current bogeyman… but they're inside. I could see the US suffering horribly from this, but most people have been taught that the response to any threat is to "monitor" it — and once it proves to be a definite threat, to corral it, then perhaps exterminate it. I'm worried that the US might find itself being guided by that paradigm into doing things "in the name of national security and the public good" that will be just as ill-judged as the McCarthy red-hunts, but with more power and more public support."

"I think the real question here…" Claude speaks slowly, slowing his pace and looking at Ygraine with both eyebrows high and his lips in an unfriendly sort of smile. "is why aren't you stuck in an office, talking like that? High ups love your sort." Though this may or may not be an insult of some sort, his tone of voice doesn't particularly lean either way. Think what you must.

Ygraine shrugs slightly. "I was with an analysis department at the UN, on the day that… that happened." She nods in the general direction of the ruins. "And I have a nasty tendency to speak honestly, which makes me rather ill-suited to politics. How about you? I'd guess that you're either registered or very confident, if you're practicing in public…"

Claude smirks weakly, looking ahead of him again. Wary, still. "Confident, more like. And I'm not practising." His temporary good mood seems to have gone, his words coming out more forceful and short-spoken. "I was… testing. I was on something that kept me from doing— what I do, and it's not out of my system yet."

Ygraine frowns, abruptly rather worried. "On an inhibitor of some sort, and out of touch for a year? Where were you? It sounds like you're only just out…."

Claude's mouth pulls to a light sneer, and he picks up his pace again. "Another story for another time, maybe. You really don't want to get involved with me any more than you are right now. Trust me on this one."

Ygraine arches a brow, then chuckles and shrugs. "You might want to get some new clothes, to blend in a bit more. At the moment, you're going to be eye-catching anywhere that has pretensions to respectability…. Still…" She gestures to the vendors now in view. "What do you fancy?"

Blending in is not exactly something Claude has high on his list of priorities. The sooner people won't have to look at him at all, the better. "Eh, let's go with the classics, then. Hotdog it is."

Ygraine nods, swinging off the seat of her bike to wheel it closer. She orders a hotdog with whatever trimmings Claude requests, before — after a moment's thought — indulging in one herself. "So…", she says once she's underway once more. "When did you get out?"

Claude seems no longer interested in talking once he is handed the food. Not shelter soup, not a Company provided tray of indeterminable sludge, but food. Or as far as a hotdog is actual food, anyway. "Mmf—" Right, swallowing your bite first may help. "Three days?" He answers, thoughtfully. "Yeah, three days today. And a half. I woke up different today, though. Like I had it again." Alas. Talking is once more given up in favor of food. This time, for nearly half the bun and hotdog in one go.

Ygraine nods pensively, watching with some evidence of concern. "Was the, ahhh, inhibition a side-effect, or deliberate?", she asks quietly. "I know from experience that some drugs can wreak havoc with concentration…"

Claude shrugs, wiping a hand past his mouth after swallowing again. "Hell if I know, wasn't one pill in that cocktail I recognized. But it doesn't matter now. They're wearing off, I know it. Just not fast enough!" His head sinks, shoulders squaring back a little. "I shouldn't even be out here like this!" Inside voice be damned. Grr.

Ygraine shoots Claude another sympathetically concerned look. "Somehow, I have the impression that you weren't there entirely willingly", she observes dryly. "Are they likely to try to find you?"

Claude refuses eye contact, instead choosing to shamelessly stare at anyone nearby as though they're somehow insulting him by simply just existing. "Yes." He answers sharply, then immediately seems to change his mind, "No. Maybe. Somehow I doubt it. Still, I shouldn't be taking chances." Then, just before stuffing the rest of the hot dog into his mouth, he adds with an overconfident grin, "Why? You thinking of turning me in?"

Ygraine rolls her eyes, then shakes her head. "Just… worried. I got out of "my" institution with the discharge papers all in order… and I still sometimes have attacks of paranoia about someone deciding they made a mistake, and that they'll take me back…."

"They don't call it paranoia for nothing, kid." Claude smirks, "Let those kind of things get in the way, and the fears'll just keep coming." Not exactly waiting for a counterargument — or anything else for that matter — he takes a step back. "It was nice to meet you, Ygraine, but I've got places to go."

Ygraine chuckles softly. "As a reasoned fear, paranoia's sometimes right. I hope that you don't have to worry about whether or not your… concerns are. If you see me again, feel free to say hi. It's good to know of another Brit here."

"I'll keep it in mind for another potential free meal, eh?" Claude gives a grin and a halfhearted wave, and turns to walk. "Take care!"

Ygraine touches a finger to her helmet in playful imitation of a deferential salute, offering Claude a smile before she resets herself upon her bike and pushes into motion once more….

September 22nd: Double Salted
September 23rd: This We Know
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