Designer Luggage


ace_icon.gif gideon_icon.gif odessa2_icon.gif

Scene Title Designer Luggage
Synopsis Sign in blood, if you please.
Date June 17, 2020

d'Sarthe Group Complex: Gideon d'Sarthe's Office

With construction still in full swing at the old Howland Hook Terminal, the air is dusty and the noise clamorous. Leased robotics are putting the finishing touches on several buildings, manual laborers working to wrap up others. The terminal has never looked so nice, perhaps not even when it was first established. Industrious in both activity and view, the architecture echoes as much. Lacking brutalism, the place is still quite modern and industrial. Warm lighting and white walls, glassy doors, geometric angles, alongside the standards of a shipping terminal of colored steel and bayside warehouses.

Offices for the group by large are in slow movement into the new building; Gideon's own space has been newly inhabited. A secretary outside gives a sense of business, while his office proper is lounge-like in feel. A sitting area, a conference table and screens, and of course the languid shape of the desk. The table and desk and the few other flat surfaces are topped with marble and lagoon-colored resin, pops of deliberately calming color.

The only incongruous construct amidst the otherwise straight office is the large flight cage cradled in the corner by the window. Currently occupied by a large, dozing white cockatoo.

"No disturbances on my next block," Gideon d'Sarthe stands near the window, hands clutched around a folder, other flipping through the edges of the contents. "And I do mean none. You know how to handle things." Bright blue eyes turn to regard the dark ones of his secretary, to whom he passes the file.

"Of course, sir. I always do." Her mood is calm if not cheerful, a neutral manner of friendly professionalism. Smoothing the fall of black hair behind her ear, Ms. Mun gives a smile before she heads out to her desk, small heels clicking.

By the time she sits, Ace Callahan's familiar face appears between opening elevator doors. He looks up as they open, hands clasped behind his back.

"Ms. Mun," he greets her automatically as he steps out of the lift.

"Mr. d'Sarthe is waiting for you, Ace."

"Thank you." He looks over his shoulder to the woman walking with him, green-grey eyes appraising of her. Not a hair out of place, or so he desired. Whatever he sees in her is enough, as he doesn't bring them to a pause outside the executive office. Instead, he opens the door, heading in first but holding it open for her in the meantime.

"Mr. d'Sarthe," Ace greets pleasantly from the doorway. "I appreciate your time and consideration for this potential candidate for employment." After she enters, he lets the door click softly shut behind them both. "This is the one I was telling you about previously…" Months back, in February.

"This is Odessa Price."

The small blonde that follows Ace from the elevator to the office is impeccably dressed in black. A satene bodice hugs her curves, but maintains some impression of modesty with a matching bolero. The pencil skirt likewise accentuates her figure, hem just low enough to only show the barest peek of the bottom edge of lace-topped, back-seamed thigh high stockings. Her eye make-up is neutral, but smoky, lips painted a shade that straddles the line between dark pink and red. As she strides forward, her head held high, a little grin kicks up the corner of her mouth. She’s pleased with the sound of her four inch stilettos on the polished floors. Those are silver.

She feels like herself again.

A deferential nod is given to Gideon’s assistant as she passes her desk. It always pays to be courteous to those close to the big hats. They hear and see more than most expect them to. Make sure they like you and they’re less likely to spill your secrets if someone comes asking.

Odessa pauses, expression neutral and countenance entirely unruffled under the weight of Ace’s inspection. She may not have a hair out of place, but it’s still blonde at the roots, sparking into burnished red at the mid-lengths and the ends that brush at her shoulders. When it catches the light just so, the copper and gold seems to glow like wildfire. She has the confidence to pull the two-toned look off.

Monsieur d’Sarthe,” Price greets with a polite smile. Her voice carries easily, strong and confident. Striding readily past Ace without hesitation or trepidation, she doesn’t glance back at the sound of the door sliding shut behind her. Nor does she seek Callahan’s stage direction. This is her stage, and her role is one well-rehearsed. Although it doesn’t hurt that she’s siphoning some of his self-assuredness to fuel her own.

Her French is perfectly accented, slipping between it and her regionless American English effortlessly. “Je suis enchanté.1 Your reputation precedes you,” is perhaps slightly trite to say, but no less true for it. “I am most grateful you have decided to take the time to meet with me.”

Ace earns barely a glance from the secretary, while Odessa gets a quick, astute assessment. A lack of judgement, simply a presence of mind. Lastly, a bubble of admiration of the shoes, once she spies them as the duo enters the office.

On her way in, Odessa's senses pick up bits and pieces; overall, however, it seems that there is a sense of purpose here. Speckles of texture, like anger or joy, give it realness. Normal human spectrums. Inside the sprawling office is a slightly different take. Inside there is weight. Not oppressive, only a burden. A moment's introspection. An inner sharpness to the quieter man they arrive to see.

"De même, mademoiselle," A sliver of pleasant surprise comes from Gideon d'Sarthe, whose own countenance is an impeccably dedicated one; a dark blue suit, threaded with silver at the cuffs and collar, matching of what white has taken over his hair and well-groomed beard. The dark of fabric also serves to contrast the bright blue of his eyes as he takes her— as well as Callahan— into consideration.

"How could I say no?" Gideon turns from his post at the window, smiling, voice tinged with gravel as he opens a hand out towards the lounge space. Formalities are best kept short. That reputation paints over his graciousness. Yet still ever a gentleman, not an unfamiliar feeling for Ms. Price.

"Please, have a seat." Brows lift with the impression of inquiry. Underneath, a certainty. "From what I've been told… I understand you have quite the baggage, Ms. Price."

Door closed, Ace begins a leisurely stride that direction as well. "It's a different set of baggage than the last time we spoke on her, at least. Both have their challenges. Ms. Price, as opposed to being on the lam, is recently released on parole for good behavior. The good news is this means she could work for us in a proper, official capacity." He settles down into one of simple armchairs in the sitting area, one leg languidly crossing over the other.

"But the challenge is, unfortunately—" A look is shifted aside to Odessa, like it stands to blunt what he means to say rather than somehow make it sting worse. At least his emotional keel is even, nothing meant to be conveyed by it. Still, his brow lifts. "Well, she's still Odessa Price. Even with all the appropriate blessings to make her legitimate, a face like hers has history, one not easily erased." Now, he looks back to Gideon, all practicality. "However, seeing as an investment was already previously discussed with regards to Ms. Price, I posit there's a way to still resolve her remaining issues, to make her most useful to the Group. A changer of faces recently has returned to New York, one whose services cost, but will be negotiated down. This is of course, presuming…"

He tips his hand over, exposing his palm. Green-grey eyes flit back to Odessa.

"All presuming you deem Ms. Price a worthy enough asset to invest in."

It's up to her to prove it, now.

“Now, now, gentlemen,” Odessa chides in a velvet purr, brushing her fingers over the back of Ace’s chair, apparently in no hurry to take her own seat. “A lady doesn’t have baggage,” she corrects them, examining the deep purple lacquer on her nails. “She has designer luggage.

While Ace continues to explain her situation, Odessa circles around the front of him, a deliberate strut as she makes her way to a particularly sumptuous looking loveseat. Smoothing her hands over the back of her skirt as she lowers herself to sit, she perches at the edge of the cushion, knees primly together, spine straight, hands resting flat on her knees. Like an obedient schoolgirl waiting to be called on to speak. Or for a ruler to the back of her knuckles.

The spotlight is hers now.

“I have no intention,” Odessa clarifies after Ace has given the overview, “of jeopardizing my legitimacy. If Odessa Price disappears, SESA begins looking into it, doesn’t find a body, assumes I’ve gone and pulled a runner, and I’m back to watching over my shoulder every moment of my life. I’m not interested in that scenario.”

She cants her head to one side, the copper ends of her curls spilling across her shoulder while her gaze holds steady on d’Sarthe without apparent sharpness or chill. This is a pleasant conversation, after all. A discussion of opportunity and possibility. “I do, however, have buy-in from the agent in charge of my parole, to have alterations done to my appearance, if I can find the means. They will also allow me a new identity. One free of the trappings of the disgraced Dr. Price.”

So that covers the logistics of what needs to be. Now, for her to explain why she’s worth such fuss. Odessa leans forward slightly with a polite smile. “I’m sure you’re aware of much of my resume, but in the interests of being thorough, I hope you’ll forgive some rehashing.

Folding her hands in her lap, she begins. “I have a scientific and medical background. I’ve been studying medicine since I was able to hold a book in my own hands. I ran a surgery for the Company for a decade, and I was a field medic during the war. I’ve been a biologist, virologist and geneticist for the government in varying capacities — none that they’ll cop to.” Those are the skills she expects won’t much appeal here. While having an on-call surgeon isn’t entirely out of line in the sorts of endeavors under the d’Sarthe umbrella, she knows she has so much more than that to offer.

“I’m multilingual. I am of course fluent in English, but also French, Spanish, and Japanese. My Russian is also more than passable. As is my Czech.” It takes some effort not to glance to Ace out of the corner of her eye when she mentions that last one. She doesn’t need to. If he’s ruffled by anything, she’ll know.

While those certainly are practical skills, she’s not so naive as to think they’re enough. He can get anyone without a criminal record to translate for him in those infrequent times when it’s necessary. “I’m afraid I’ve saved the best for last, though.” Now she does throw a conciliatory glance to Ace (one that shifts right back to Gideon without such apology present). The last time she did that, he chided her for not leading with her strengths. Can she help it if she enjoys a big finish?

“I also have a certain… intuition. I am very good at divining the intention in men’s hearts.”

Odessa chuckles quietly, finally breaking that eye contact so she can demurely look away. “Not to be too flowery about it. What it means is that I can often tell when someone is lying.” Finally, her posture relaxes and Odessa allows herself to lean back in her seat, one elbow propped on the arm of the settee while the other drapes along the back. One leg crosses over the other and she slowly slants a grin in d’Sarthe’s direction once more. “I don’t think I have to explain how beneficial it would be having a pretty little lie detector on your payroll.”

Waiting for Callahan's pitch to wind up is something which Mr. d'Sarthe has a reservation of patience for. He appreciates the flair, as he should. He refrains from joining them properly until then; a good host waits for his guests to be seated, which is precisely what he does. For Odessa's part, he seems just the tiniest bit amused for her correction that precedes the rest. The affect of primness fails to escape him—

—yet it makes a lovely case. Gideon seats himself last and during the first portion of Odessa's words, linking his fingers over his lap, elbows on the chair's arms. His gaze remains interested, undisturbed in their clarity from start to finish. Ace may have had the pitch, but Ms. Price is the one running the bases. Seeing her accomplishments on paper is one thing; hearing how she describes them is entirely another, and one he prefers.

The best for last, she claims. Gideon isn't disappointed, unlinking his hands and leaning into the perch of one arm, fingers running down his jaw. The glint hasn't left him, of course, though it shifts, in a way. His appreciation dots with an encroaching anticipation, a glimmer of humor.

"You'll get no judgment on flowery from me, my dear." Said humor comes with the crook of a smile, a bristle of beard against his fingers before they fall. Gideon leans forward, one palm on his knee. "You're quite right…" His drawling voice is even, tinged with a shadow and his mood fluctuating from curious to critical. Both of his brows unfurrow, lifting higher. "You don't need to explain. I have to say the temptation of handing you a new life is real."

"So, Ms. Price, as you said, in the interest of being thorough… tell me about yourself and Humanis First."

The corner of Ace's mouth turns without him looking in Odessa's direction as she relabels her circumstances. Such zazz. A tinge of pride swims in his pool of cool confidence, coloring it favorably in her direction. Externally, such opinions are kept to himself, the green-grey of his eyes simply flitting coolly to Gideon to take in his reaction to her spin on things.

His eyes leave his employers for only a moment, meeting Odessa's sly glance with a flat one of his before he moves on from her. It's Gideon's reply he's waiting for, and the man pulls no punches, cutting directly to the heart of it.

He expected nothing less.

Ace performs a slow blink as he shifts his attention back to Odessa, his eyes going to her with the same critical curiosity. Yes, how will she explain that one? In the pit of his lap, his thumbnail idles against the pad of his index finger, waiting to hear what she decides to say.

The shift in Gideon’s mood before he delivers the punch helps her brace for the blow. It allows her the grace to maintain her languid posture even as the question lands like a fist to her stomach. Her brows lift, as if impressed in a mild fashion by the query itself. “Nobody ever really cares about the answer to that,” she muses, a spark of appreciation mingled with curiosity in her blue eyes. “Are you truly the first?”

The question is rhetorical, of course, but it lingers in the air while she seems to be scrutinizing his intent the way that she says she’s able to. In reality, she’s stalling. Most people don’t want to know about her connection to Humanis First. They want to gloss right over it, ignore it, pretend it isn’t an issue. It means she hadn’t been prepared for the question, and she berates herself for it internally.

What she doesn’t do, to her credit, is turn even a fraction of an inch toward Ace. He isn’t her stage manager and she doesn’t need cues from him.

That earlier primness vanished the moment she sank back into the cushions and it doesn’t seek to make a return now. One foot bobs up and down gently and she reminds herself to have enough restraint not to let her shoe slip to dangle off her stockinged toes, but she’s entirely unperturbed by the way the top of her stockings peek out from the bottom edge of her skirt when she shifts back just so to tilt her head, regarding Gideon with a half-lidded gaze.

“The shortest version of that answer is it was a mistake.” Which is as good a place to start as any, by Odessa’s estimations. “While I was serving as an indentured servant to the Institute,” she begins, letting her gaze shift momentarily to show that she’s uncomfortable with the fact that she was forced into such a situation, “my ability was stripped from me. I was left powerless.”

Even before the word finishes leaving her lips, she can feel the ripple of Ace’s surprise, revulsion, and something that tastes bitterly of pity. By now, she’s expecting it and buries it even before he manages to do the same. Between his confidence and Gideon’s quiet calculation, she’s able to maintain the evenness of her own affect.

“It allowed me to capture the attention of an old associate of mine from our days with the Company.” There’s no hiding those connections. They’re all a matter of public record, after all. “He promised to help me destroy the Commonwealth Institute.” That particular memory makes her smile. An expression she hides from her sponsor by lifting her elbow from the arm of the loveseat to rest against the back instead, allowing her to rest her head in the cradle created by her thumb and forefinger. The back of her palm obscures her face from Ace’s sight at this angle.

She can spare him this portion of the performance.

“The other thing he promised me,” there’s a hitch to her voice then, one that’s genuine rather than rehearsed, “was to teach me the strength in humanity.” The arm draped across the back of her seat sees her fingers curling in to caress the pads over her palm slowly. It’s a memory so vivid it requires a sensory validation. “By the time I understood what that meant, it was far too late. After the collapse of the Institute, he took me away from Eltingville — the Expressive slum — where I had been living even after I’d had my DNA scrambled.” Now, she capitalizes on the bitterness that comes from that to fuel her.

Though, she suddenly isn’t so sure that it isn’t Ace’s bitterness that she’s allowing to color her testimony.

“When the war started, I was already surrounded by those who wanted my kind dead.” The intensity of her gaze returns, still settled on d’Sarthe as she spins her tale of deception and woe. “I was never one of them — Humanis First. I was merely the spayed bitch pulled along at the end of Michal Valentin’s leash.”

Odessa pushes up from the back of the couch then, leaning forward to cross her forearms together over the peak of her knees, her nostrils flaring with an irritation, an anger not meant for her potential new benefactor. “I saw what they did to the men and women who tried to desert, Monsieur d’Sarthe.” He can see the terror reflected in her eyes, can see it in the set of her shoulders and the tremor that runs through her even now. “I didn’t have the ability to do what your man Callahan did.”

Now is when she finally lifts her head and turns to look to the man who brought her here. There’s a softness in her expression, a vulnerability there. That much is performative. “I stood by and I watched him kill those soldiers.” The awe with which she delivers this information is genuine. “What a spectacular production it was. And how envious I was when I discovered he would truly be able to walk away.” That much is true as well.

But it wasn’t simply Ace’s ability that allowed him to defect. It was the fact that he was unfettered by emotional entanglements like those that held her back. Part of her wonders if he remains so now.

And if she’s stroking Callahan’s ego, it’s only because she’s making a silent plea to him: Lie for me.

Odessa doesn’t wait for any indication that he will or won’t before turning back to Gideon, lips parted in a soft o shape. “I watched them tether men, bound by their wrists, to the trailer hitches of pick-up trucks, and drag them through the woods until they were barely recognizable as men anymore.”

Again, she sits upright, spine straight, chin up. “J'ai vu la cruauté de l'humanité,2 she breathes out in his native tongue, so as to help him understand how deeply affected by her ordeal she was. “Je n'en serai plus jamais rendu esclave.3 Now, her gaze lowers to her hands clasped over her crossed knees, an admittance of the shame she feels for her past.

“I gave my loyalty not to a cause, but to a man who allowed me to live.” There’s still confidence within her, but it’s tempered with the knowledge that her mistakes will always haunt her. Odessa again meets Gideon’s eyes. “If you give me the new chance at life I’m asking you for today, you will have that loyalty. I am very good to those to whom I am loyal.”

And if there’s a dark promise in those words somewhere, that’s up to his interpretation.

Indication that he truly is the first lies in the fact that Mr. d'Sarthe leans back in his chair again, fingers threading. It's her only physical cue; on the inside, his intent seems genuine. He wants to know. He wants to hear it. From her.

That said, Gideon d'Sarthe is a man of patience.

Throughout Odessa Price's tale of abuse, heartbreak, and horror, the outer layers are undisturbed in a most clinical way; blue eyes remain on her, square jaw still save for once or twice, a thoughtful shift of tongue against teeth. Considering. Listening. Open to her words. It becomes an important point, as she gets closer to what was promised to her. What Valentin promised to show her.

Her bitterness raises a taste of the same in Gideon. Whether from his own understanding or from the aura of the room, it's there, a film slicking gray over the rest of his moods. Odessa's switch in language brings him more fully from introspection, his chin having found itself cradled in the split of his fingers.

"Je l'ai vu aussi."4 Gideon's posture remains rightfully like a man in power— yet that gravelly voice responds to Odessa in the manner of a man empathetic. "I can tell that much. You wouldn't be here today if not." His brows lift, forehead furrowing a breath later, jaw working. "Have you ever given yourself to a cause, Ms. Price?"

As opposed to those people shielded behind them.

Much like Gideon, Ace's reaction to the tale lives under his skin. He listens rather than watching Odessa explain how the apparent blackest mark against her record came to be. If he looks, perhaps he'll actually react. And all of this— as new as the full of it might be, it was critical to him that there be nothing but stillness in his waters.

Below the surface, however, there's loathing for the man responsible for her induction into Humanis First's number— the man who she was anchored to.

He knows how they must have seen her, how it was exactly how she described. But he imagines Valentin saw something different in her. Something…

Ace flicks the nail of his middle finger against the pad of his thumb, glancing up finally when his own role in her tale is laid bare before his employer. He turns to her, the green-grey of his eyes cold and distant. Even when he speaks, it's offhanded, absent. His head tilts toward Gideon as he asides, "She undersells what she did the day I mutinied. Were it not for her, I would have had pursuers. While she might not have had the strength to walk away then, she had the strength to do what was right."

Right might be subjective, but no less valid.

He finds he likes very little that he cannot follow the critical bits of exchange that happen in d'Sarthe's native tongue, but doesn't so much as blink, waiting patiently for the conversation to wend its way back to English again. Perhaps he should pick up a primer in his spare time.

Bravo. If she could, Odessa would throw roses at his feet for the way he lies for her. For all that she’d like to smile at Ace, she knows better. Her mask stays firmly in place, playing the repentant woman, full of regret, and laid vulnerably bare for it. Whatever she’d like to say in response, about how ensuring Ace’s survival was the right thing, or perhaps that it was a pleasure to witness the deaths of those who made her very soul ache, it stays behind the cage of her teeth. The only acknowledgement his portion of the tale receives is a nod.

Then, she’s studying Gideon’s face, as though reading lines on his palm to divine where this is all leading. Her head tilts, expression soft and curious rather than cold and scrutinizing. “Vous n'êtes vraiment pas comme les autres hommes, n'est-ce pas?5 The corner of her mouth hooks upward in a smile.

She knows better than to say that in a language Ace can understand.

“When I was young,” Odessa begins, “I believed the world was sick, and that someone needed to save it. I may not have known any other kind of life, but I knew I wanted to help. That was my cause. And in my naivety, it was twisted, and used to convince me to do… things I would not find conscionable now.” The tilt of her head straightens out again slowly, her eyes opening just a fraction wider. “Now, I understand that there is no cure for what ails this world. There is no inoculation or excision that’s going to fix everything. It all just is.

Then, as if catching herself, she demures again. Her chin lowers along with her gaze, smile small. Deferential, almost shy. “If you find a cause that I can believe in, monsieur, I would be happy to embrace it. Until then…” Blue eyes flick up again, catching Gideon’s steelier shades. “In my experience, a cause is just a smokescreen for the machinations of scheming men, and I would rather support the man, with my eyes open wide, than the lie he sells to those of weaker wills.”

"Je fais de mon mieux pour ne pas être."6

Gideon's answer doesn't lack for amusement, though the crook of his smile is somewhat resigned. At the very least, Ace knows the face made when the boss is winding back and evaluating someone a second time. Judgement in the knit of brows being much of it. Despite this, he settles in to listen again, attentive.

Odessa's take on the state of the world isn't a foreign one, though internally there is a disagreeable shade which passes behind his eyes.

"No, we can't fix everything." Gideon straightens in his seat, shoulders against the back and brows arching higher. "But we can make our own lives easier, non?" Expectation flourishes in him, inside and out, dipping his chin when he looks into Odessa's face. Studying as much as all else. "I can't find anyone a cause, Ms. Price,"

"But I can enable them to create their own. It sounds to me as if there's never been a distinct part of your life that you've had the chance to do that. To support a person over an idea, you still need to see something there. Something that they're doing, that's worth doing too." Affectations of a businessman— and a manner more gentler than that. Paternal.

"What is it that you believe in now, Odessa?" Gideon's test of her given name is a cautious one with a sense of depth; his tone low, the question itself contains a sense of intimacy.

He wants to know.

While the conversation passes between the two, Ace begins to settle back further into his seat, shoulders lowering as he lets his arms laze on the armrests. The flow seems to be set, now all that's left is to read its current— and not disturb it.

Gideon's level of interest in her sees his head turn back in Odessa's direction once more, subtly lifting his brow. She's doing good, and that's as much as indication as she'll be getting from him. What he's making isn't an offer just yet, but it's encouraging.

His calm tempers, shifts. Anticipation rises. The swing back to closing on a good impression is close.

Mm. She’d lost herself there for a moment. Indulged her own thoughts and whims. That’s a mistake she won’t be repeating. Not for the duration of this meeting, at any rate. This is all still a work in progress, as it were. And, it seems, d’Sarthe finds her ultimate pronouncement acceptable enough, despite the momentary ripple of disagreement from him. This harm is not irreparable.

But he again delivers an unexpected question. One that she allows to give her visible pause, but in a way distinct from the previous moments of thoughtful consideration. This one, she allows him to see that she’s stunned. “I will continue to be honest with you,” she answers finally, eyes wide with her guileless sincerity, “nobody has ever cared what it is that I believe.” Her brows furrow faintly, like she’s trying to decide whether to believe in or trust this concern of his.

“You’re right,” she admits, “I haven’t had much opportunity to choose for myself. Anything.” Odessa turns in her seat so she can look at Ace, though with her face carefully tilted so that Gideon is audience to the emotion that plays out on her face. “But that’s why I’m here. To hopefully secure the freedom to make those choices. To test the waters and find something worthy of me.” Her heart is practically in her eyes as her gaze lingers on Callahan.

If not a cause, it would seem Odessa has found her man.

The struggle not to smile manifests itself in a brief twitch of her lips. After a short series of rapid blinks, she manages to break whatever spell she’s under, looking away from him again to turn her focus back to the man she needs to impress. By that point, any traces of girlish infatuation have vanished.

“I believe that I am a worthwhile investment.” Odessa’s gaze has sharpened, a spark visible behind her eyes now as she leans forward again. “I believe that if you give me this chance, I will pay dividends. If you want to consolidate power, if you want to build your empire, I would see you succeed.”

Ace is a study in peripheral; Gideon keeps note of his broader reactions rather than the intricacies. Callahan's not the one under the microscope. At least, not in the least from his employer. Odessa, on the other hand— it doesn't go missed, of course. He was like that too, once upon a time. He remembers.

"Believing in yourself when nobody else has." Gideon paraphrases, resting the curl of his fingers against his jaw, mouth obscured. "It's something, you know. Vous avez beaucoup de force.7" Spurred by something unseen in both emotions and gesture, the older man rises from his chair, a brief hand signalling them to remain seated. He adjusts the lay of his cuffs, idly smoothing the front of his suit as he makes his untroubled way to his desk. There, he lifts the gleaming shape of a tablet.

"C'est une grande qualité à avoir.8" d'Sarthe reaches into the lining of his jacket and produces a pair of silver-rimmed glasses, brows up as he dips his eyes to manipulate the surface of the glass. "Given the right circumstance…" His voice drawls quietly on his return to the pair. To Odessa Price, he offers the tablet.

A contract. Standardized to accept the offer of employ by the d'Sarthe Group.

"I believe you may find a purpose here."

It's only once Gideon has stood that Ace allows himself a reaction, only once he has the other man's back. His lips twitch into a sly smile, brief and pure, swimming in an overwhelming sense of victory. It's now that he allows a look toward Odessa that lets her see beneath his mask, revealing his cool pleasure at the way events here have developed. He knows d'Sarthe would have simply dismissed them both if he found Odessa not worth the cost, and takes a moment to relish what comes before it happens.

By the time his employer has turned back around, that smile has faded, though he leans forward, elbows on his knees and hands laced before him. He passes the remaining time it takes for Gideon to return with the tablet taking stock of his own feelings, his own thoughts about the matter.

The unnatural tilt to Ace's emotions becomes apparent once more to the clairempath in the room as he goes through that process. He's learned something here as well, something that will take time to fully process. He's keenly aware that it's admiration of himself that's brought Odessa here, but it may be admiration for d'Sarthe that keeps her, long-term. And he'll have time to grapple with that later, to do everything to keep it being his finger she's wound around…

But in the meantime, there's the deal at hand— the final bow to take in this prelude of events.

Ace’s look is returned with one of excitement and elation from Odessa. She did it. She bites her lip around a grin and keeps herself from letting out an exhale audible enough to betray her pleasure.

Much like him, she’s carefully neutral again by the time Gideon’s turned around once more. She uncrosses her legs and turns to face forward in her seat properly again, knees together, hands in her lap, waiting on this pronouncement.

Merci,” she offers graciously, turning her face now to regard the tablet that’s been handed to her. She doesn’t lift her head when she looks up at Gideon again, just staring up at him with her eyes under lifted brows. It’s an expression she’s employed with Ace as well, and she wonders if she’ll find it as effective here. “I’ll be taking a moment to read this,” she informs him. “I do pride myself on being thorough.” Her gaze holds just a moment longer, one brow briefly climbing higher than the other before she returns her attention to the print on the tablet.

The tremors she feels from Ace’s direction bode ill for her. She’ll be needing to have a discussion with him once they’re back in his car, she expects. For now, Odessa, adept at devouring the most dry textbooks and academic studies as voraciously as any juicy tabloid article, makes quick work of scanning through the language employed in this contract.

Finding the terms satisfactory, she works on putting her digital signature to e-paper. “I cannot thank you enough for this opportunity.” Once finished, she offers the pad back out to her new employer. “I would be pleased if you decide you’d like to continue to call me Odessa.” So, yes, the use of her given name had been something she enjoyed. “How would you prefer I address you, monsieur?

Odessa’s chin lifts now, the better to illuminate her features under the spotlight as she smiles, happy with this deal they’ve struck.

A deal with the devil isn't always signed in blood.

The devil was once an angel, after all.

Odessa's insistence on reading it is accepted with a gesture; be my guest, it speaks, as the older man retakes his seat. The terms lay out a modular system; this first, most base, puts her in the system. More will come later. More which are specialized to her skills. Test runs. Gideon waits until she has finished, sliding the tablet back to himself and giving it a cursory look. Satisfied with what he sees, the corners of his eyes are touched with the small spread of his smile.

"Mister d'Sarthe will be fine, thank you." The pointed way he responds is a tactful way of letting her know that they aren't on a first name basis. As always, he saves some of the very best for the very last.

Notably, after she has set her thumb to parchment.

"You may be pleased to know that I am playing host to a few of your peers from PISEC. Off the record, of course." Gideon's hands link again, and he gauges her features on this particular news. "One of them perhaps too keen to please me" A drawn, deep sigh, noting his exasperation, more for Callahan's benefit than Odessa's. "Another has drawn someone else out, for lack of better explanation."

"It's up to you whether or not you engage them."

It's here Ace finally intervenes, makes his will known. He sits more upright in his seat, gaze flitting back to Odessa. "Given your situation, it's better for you if that engagement doesn't happen, or is kept to a minimum. It is better for us all if the eyes that watch you do not become eyes that watch us."

With a shift of his attention back toward Gideon, he notes, "Odessa's ability, in combination with our renovations to Howland Hook, may see her most useful interacting with those that use our port. It might be underqualified work for her other areas of expertise… but we all start somewhere."

Ace recalls, for example, when he was relegated to intercepting supply runs for the military. But everyone has their glow-up eventually, once they prove themselves.

"If that sounds reasonable to you, sir."

This is news to her. There is no amount of emotional evenness on the part of the two men in the room that can smooth out the receipt of that information. It results in a look of wide-eyed shock that has her turning sharply to Ace, feathers proverbially ruffled. “Who is here?” she demands of him. Who the hell else escaped? As far as she knew, her fellow unaccounted for inmates could be presumed dead.

He had mentioned Redd, but he hadn’t mentioned anyone else. The irony of this lie of omission is not lost on Odessa.

The accusation and betrayal is out of her eyes by the time she’s turning back to d’Sarthe, but she still has to wait the space of a steadying breath before she finds her voice again. The topic she chooses to address is that of how to best employ her talents, initially. “What Mr. Callahan proposes sounds reasonable to me,” in case he was concerned at all for her own thoughts on the subject. She still holds the expectation that he was not. “Whatever you want from me, sir.”

There’s a deliberateness in that choice of words, and it isn’t for Gideon’s benefit.

Glow-ups are for everyone indeed. Gideon quietly notes the reaction of the news, only to file it away. Perhaps some connections are best left aside, though he isn't about to sever them just yet. There is potential, still, for what leftover tatters remain from PISEC.

"It does." A turn out of his hand towards Ace, eyes still on Odessa through the panes of his glasses. For her deference, a more friendly expression, a toothless smile that touches his eyes a second time. "No harm in a trial run, hm, Ms. Price?" There's no pause for a reply before he adds on, "If you should want to use Mr. Callahan's contact for, ah, cosmetic alterations—"

That face changer that was mentioned prior. Gideon's tone carries a sense of familiarity, skirting whether or not he a) already knew, or b) has an inkling of who. "My daughter can help you in budgeting the costs, supervise the transaction." No word on keeping Ace from accompanying, at least.

Ace supposes that leaves the question of who else from PISEC remains for him to answer, not that he particularly wants to. "A handful of escapees," is as much as he deems to elaborate at the time. The look in his eyes gives away that can be a discussion for later.

Especially in light of what he overhears in Odessa's tone, or thinks he does.

"I'll have her coordinate with Marie, then." It's without particular pomp that he comes to his feet, smoothing down the front of his jacket. The smile that cuts across his face is thin, professionally pleasant without any extra effort to it. It's not his customer service face, something more genuine instead. "Thank you, Mr. d'Sarthe."

“Understood,” Odessa responds succinctly. “Your investment in me won’t go to waste, sir, I assure you.” Though she has to hold on to the emotions of the other men fiercely in order to keep her own from sinking. Perhaps there had been a part of her that hoped he would have said changing her appearance is out of the question.

But it’s what needs to be done to give her her best chance.

Ace rising to his feet is her signal that this meeting is coming to a close. It’s in a fluid motion that she comes to stand from the seat, stepping forward to bridge the gap between herself and Gideon until she’s close enough to offer her hand out to him. Sure, she’s signed her name, but all deals require a handshake, don’t they? Her palm is turned down when she presents that hand to him, however.

She offers him a smile that draws faint creases around her eyes. “Vous ne le regretterez pas.9 Her smile grows then, a brightness to Odessa’s expression as though she’s now truly embracing the possibility before her. “Je promets.10

A handful. Mr. d'Sarthe rises to meet their exit, tablet tucked away in his off-hand. Ace earns the slip of a smile in return, his employer able to recognize those glimmers of something— more real than feigned.

Odessa steps closer to offer her hand, and both predictably and without skipping a beat, Gideon d'Sarthe takes it in his own and puts a chaste kiss to her knuckles. Despite the gentleness of his grasp, there's a restraint and care put into keeping it that way. Shoulders solid, hands firm, closeness tells her more clearly that he is more robust than at first glance. Whyever for, is professionally hidden by tailoring and bringing attention to his face.

A face now considering hers with a downward shift of blue eyes, and the faintest of forewarning in his voice. "J'espère que tu peux tenir cette promesse."11

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