Exchange For Ruin


magnes_icon.gif odessa4_icon.gif

Scene Title Exchange For Ruin
Synopsis One last attempt at dissuading Magnes from his quest to join the Institute has unexpected results for Odessa.
Date March 23, 2011

The Center Stage

It smells of sweat in the basement of Coco's boxing gym all the time; sweat undercut by blood. Beneath the floor of Long Island City's oldest boxing gym lies a newer secret, a dirty and grimy basement of exposed pipes and chain-link fence that has become an underground fighting sensation. Since the collapse of the Pancratium on Staten Island, the appetite for destruction held by so many of New York City's criminal element is sated here in painful beauty.

This basement is five rooms with low ceilings, serving as a unisex locker room, makeshift medical bay consitting of a single uncomfortable gurney on wheels and a few first aid kits and a back office. The primary feature of Coco's basement is the "center stage" as it's called, a spacious storage floor where a thirty foot by thirty foot floor to ceiling chain link cage surrounded by a ten foot buffer zone of screaming, sweaty spectators where the action happens.

Three nights out of the week unlicensed underground bloodsport takes place down in that cage, with non-evolved fighters from around the city pitting themselves against the desperate, the depraved and the sportsmen. Betting is organized and enforced by Triad connections and enforcers from the Ghost Shadows Triad are entirely common on all open nights.

One night out of those three, however, serves as the "main event" where Evolved fighters are pitted against one another in no holds barred competition.

This isn't Odessa's usual scene. Not that Odessa truly has a scene. She paid her ten dollars at the door and took up residence at the bar to wait for her companion to join her. The plain black patch over her eye doesn't get more than a second glance. Visible around straps of a navy tank top (that brings out the colour of her uncovered eye), stitches at the front and back of her right shoulder don't draw much extra attention either. This is something Odessa appreciates, as her appearance generally draws more attention than she would like.

Rather than a skirt and heels, as per her usual attire, Odessa's dressed in flared jeans and rounded out with green Converse hightops that tap against the rung of her chair in time with the music playing in the club. Her shoes are almost the same colour as the drink sitting in front of her.

When Magnes enters, he's dressed more like himself, or at least what could be called his current style. Black suit jacket over an old school shirt with dark blue Tron suit designs on it, some plain black jeans, and blue Chucks. He heads over to her, taking a seat on one of the stools, cheeks a bit flushed in silence.

What does one even say? This is the thought that runs through his mind in the first few seconds, finally making eye contact. "I'm glad you called me. I've wanted to see you again but I started a new job and got a bit swamped settling into it. I play piano at a ballet theater now."

"I didn't know you played the piano," Odessa comments only loud enough to be heard over the music. Her lips pull into a thoughtful expression that's brief. She turns her head so she can really look at Magnes then. "The Institute hasn't hired you on just yet, then? Or have you given up on it?"

"I'm helping with a project that a friend is doing, my father said that if I show results he'll bring me in. It's not as if I plan to commit a bunch of crimes against nature, I really want to see if I can find some good in this place." Magnes grabs a glass of Guinness when it's sat down in front of him, then he leans in to take a light sip. "I'm not holding out any false optimism, but I really need to know if my father is someone that I can have faith in. I hope you don't think that's too stupid."

He genuinely seems to care if she thinks it's stupid or not, but moves one hand to the bartop to play a few invisible keys. "I play piano and bass, I've gotta pretty good at bass but I'm much better at piano."

"Not stupid, no." And Odessa means that, even. Magnes wanting to believe in his father, to find out more about him as a person, is something Odessa can relate to, even if it isn't an opportunity she has herself. "I play harpsichord myself. I have one in my apartment. I spent a small fortune on it. Totally worth it." She smiles faintly at that, stirring what Magnes recognises as a Sonic Screwdriver with a straw. "So what's the project?"

"At this point we're mostly just seeing the effect that some viruses have on Evolved abilities, learning more about things like the last outbreak, but I'm just an assistant so I don't know a lot." Magnes watches her drink, shaking his head at the mention of the harpsichord. "You're an insane person. 88 keys is hard enough, a harpsichord takes some real talent. I'd love to play with you some time."

Odessa nods her head slowly at Magnes' explanation. "I used to do stuff like that back in my days with the Company. You're working with Blite then?" Because she can't really think of anyone else who would do work like that. It follows rather neatly. "Be careful around her. She gives me the creeps."

And that's really saying something, from the girl with one eye and a face full of scars and an affinity for serial killers, war criminals, and terrorists. "You really should walk away from all of it. If you decide you don't like what they're doing, Magnes… If you try to cross them, they'll do one of two things. They'll either put a bullet in your head, or they'll take away your ability and dangle it over your head and make you dance their dance for it." Odessa's gaze narrows, expression sour. "I speak from experience." She reaches up and rubs her hand over her face, careful not to smear the black Kohl around her eye.

"Yeah, I'm working with Elvira. I think she's a nice person, but she's a little harsh sometimes. She means well… I think. She's the one woman on Earth who basically gives me a rule book so I can avoid screwing up, but I still screw up a lot. You seemed like a pretty cool woman, maybe too cool." A smirk briefly tugs at the side of Magnes' mouth, quickly going away to hunch over his glass. "If they start doing things I don't like then I'll leave, I'll be careful."

"You don't understand, Magnes. It's not like that. You don't just leave. If I try to leave, they will kill me." Odessa reaches out to put her hand on Magnes' shoulder. "I'm not kidding. I'm not exaggerating. I'm deadly serious. They will fucking kill you. And if you think you've made yourself useful? They'll take something you love from you and hold it hostage."

The white-haired woman gives her companion a little shake. "They took my ability. I am powerless. And I am terrified of these people. I never used to be afraid of anything." Odessa leans forward, her gaze wide and imploring. "If you're serious about this, there's no turning back. Not ever."

"Dessy… I am serious, if they really do things like this then maybe it's even more reason for me to join." Magnes reaches up to gently place his hand on to hers, smiling. "Maybe I can do some good in this place, improve the state of things, I don't know. With our project…" He leans in close to her, his tone going down to a whisper, the closeness so she can hear over the music. "Maybe I can give you your ability back, and the Institute would never need to know."

Can… Can he do that? Odessa's gaze grows wide and somewhat incredulous as she stares back at Magnes. Maybe he could get access to the files from Project Icarus, even though it's hypothetically been abandoned. "You get me my ability back, and I will seriously return the favours they've done for me." She may as well be honest about it.

"I'll do my best. In my position I'll be the first to know if we have a breakthrough." Magnes takes her hand down to hold it inbetween both of his now, his gaze a bit more serious after he sits back up. "In all honesty, I've been trying to date Elvira because a relationship with her just seems like it would be simple. But when I met you, I felt like I related to someone more than I ever have, so… maybe in exchange for me staying on top of this research for you, uh, you'll go out on a date with me?"

Any astonishment fades from Odessa's expression as her brows come together and arch, bemused. "You're a nice guy, Magnes." She doesn't try to extract her hand from his. "I don't date nice guys. I ruin them." That admission has something like sadness showing briefly in her face. "I'm not a good person. And neither is Elvira."

"Shouldn't you let me worry about being ruined or not? I'm a big boy, I've been through a lot, more than you can probably imagine." Magnes raises her hand up to his chest, placing her palm flat on it in a bit of a symbolic gesture. "I've always just dated women because I thought they were interesting or nice and sweet and stuff like that, I've never dated one because I thought we related in some way. Women have pulled me through the emotional grinder, maybe you just need a nice guy who can take whatever you can dish out."

He finally releases her hand, keeping a small smile. "If I can't take it then it's my own fault, not yours. You warned me and I'm poking at the hive anyway."

Odessa slowly withdraws her hand from Magnes' chest and then looks him up and down. Maybe she's assessing his sincerity, or something else. Equally intangible. "I…" She leans back in her seat and then nods her head. "Fine. You be my champion, and I'll let you wear my favour. You should know there's already someone else, though. So whatever we start up? It isn't going to be serious."

"I can live with that, I have been trying to date Elvira, so I guess we'll just dive in and see what the result of this not-serious relationship is." Magnes reaches for his glass again, looking thoughtful. "I was telling my former therapist, Bella, that what I want right now is someone I can talk to about mutual interests, relate to, and just have fun with. You're the first person I've ever met who matches up to my life on so many levels, though I doubt you have a bookcase full of comic books."

A short pause, and he adds, "Though if you do we should just go get married right now."

Her smile is tight, but not insincere. "Don't… tell Bella about us. Okay? And don't tell Blite." Odessa's gaze turns toward the ceiling her cheeks puffing out. What did she just agree to? "The Institute believes I'm a traitor, by the way." Oh so casual as she takes a sip from her drink. "I don't think they'll consider you a very good candidate if you tell everybody that we're dating. But it's up to you." She lifts her good shoulder in a shrug.

"So we're secretly dating? That sounds pretty exciting. But yeah, I can be discreet, I won't tell anyone, I'll just be in a mysteriously good mood, which is probably better than my mysterious bad moods." Magnes stands after taking one last, long drink, then reaches out for her hand. "So what should we do first? We already got super drunk the first time we met, so let's do something different tonight."

"Let's… just drink tonight." Odessa gently pulls her hand away from Magnes' and tilts her head back toward the bar. "That's what I really want to do tonight. It's what I came out for. I wasn't planning on a date. Is that okay?"

"Yeah, sure. I just wanted to seem exciting anyway." Magnes admits, sitting back down to start nursing at his drink again. "So tell me more about you. How did you take up an instrument being raised in a lab? Or is this new? And don't hesitate to ask anything you want to know about me, I'm an open book."

"I started playing when I was very small," the woman answers easily. Vodka, orange juice, and Blue Curacao start making her belly feel warm, and the club look a little fuzzy. "I listened to classical music, and I said I wanted to play whatever instrument it was that made my favourite pieces sound so pretty, so that's what I was given. I wasn't exactly well rounded or anything." Odessa stares down at the bar's surface, tapping her nails against it rhythmically. "I don't know why I was given that opportunity. Maybe someone took pity on me."

"I don't think anyone is truly heartless… well, alright, I take that back, but I don't think most people are truly heartless." Magnes watches her fingers, starting to do the same with his, complimenting her rhythm. "I started playing when I was young too, but it wasn't because I wanted to, it was because my parents wanted me to have a 'sophisticated' talent. I took up bass because I wanted to play a traditional rock instrument, and our band needed a player."

"I suppose most musicians dream of playing in a band, huh?" That's to imply that Odessa didn't. "It never crossed my mind, ever. You don't regret learning or anything, do you? Nobody forced me to learn anything I didn't want to. I wanted to learn. When someone decided I was a smart child, and that I should study medicine, I didn't question it. I wanted to know everything about it."

She shakes her head and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear. "I wish I had a legitimate degree to show for it. I mean, I've got credentials now, thanks to the Institute. But I'm sure they'd go up like vapour if I tried to find work elsewhere."

"I don't regret learning, though I do know a lot of useless things that I don't really need. And I didn't really dream of being in a band, it's just that Sable is one of my best friends in the world, and a band has been her dream for a very long time, so I decided to help her see it through. We're doing pretty well so far." Magnes holds a hand over his Guinness, not drinking as much as he normally would. He makes the liquid spin a little via the force of gravity. "Don't worry Dessy, one day everything's gonna work out for you, I'll make sure of that. I've seen amazing things happen and I've made amazing things happen, just have a little hope and faith, as unscientific as that may be." He reaches over to lightly touch her shoulder. "I go far for my friends, and I'm someone you can count on to be loyal."

Odessa's gaze pointedly slides in the direction opposite Magnes. "Loyalty is overrated." Her mouth ticks upward in a faint and rueful smirk. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions, Varlane. In case you haven't seen the signs, you are on that road right now."

"I've been to hell and back, I guess they just forgot to stamp the back of my hand." Magnes leans his elbow on the bar, resting his cheek into his fist to stare at her. "If you're a demon, I hope you make the trip worth it."

"I don't know about a demon." She snorts at that notion, peering back at Magnes again. "And I'm telling you, don't get your hopes up with me. I'm no good." In many ways, in Odessa's mind. "I don't know what you think you see in me, but you're hallucinating."

"I enjoy talking to you, you don't treat me like some ignorant kid, and we can actually talk about our pasts and understand at least a bit about how the other feels from experience. You seem like a nice woman, I'm sure you've done things and had your past, but…" Magnes points to a random clock on the wall. "This is us, right now. If you're going to disappoint me or turn out to be someone I didn't want, then we'll just have to wait for that to happen. I'm not going to judge you based on your past, I'm going to judge you based on what you show me while we're being us."

Odessa's attention lifts to the clock. She stares at it for the space of several seconds, unhappy with the ticking of the second hand. She looks down at the watch on her wrist after that, bringing her thumb up to rub along the scar across her mouth absently. "I get that you think that you can do good, but I still don't understand why you're trying to join the Institute. I'm only here because I have nowhere else to go. Because first they saved my life, and now because they'll end it if I try to run. I have no place to run. Do you think your old friends in the Ferry would hide you if push came to shove? Because they'd kill me and dump my body in the Hudson. Ask them sometime about what happened to Doctor Price at Gun Hill."

"As I said, I want to learn what they're really doing so I can know if my trust in my father is misplaced. If they're truly doing horrible things then they won't last long. And I don't expect the Ferry to hide me, I don't expect to run, I'll handle things my own way if it comes to that." Magnes finally finishes off his glass and shakes his head. "I already know someone that the Ferry would kill if they could, and we mostly keep our friendship a secret too. I don't have the same perspective as most of them do, I see things a little differently… I guess that's why some people don't really understand or like me, but I can live with that."

"You don't understand," Odessa insists bitterly. "It isn't that you're stupid. You just don't see things the way I do." She lifts her glass, straw held out of the way so she can actually bring it to her lips and consume the liquor in large gulps. "I didn't want to leave the Ferry. And I don't want to be with the Institute. You don't want to make my mistakes and wind up out of options."

"All I can say is that I'll try very hard not to make your mistakes, but I feel like what I'm doing is both personal and for the greater good. I know the risks, this is an informed decision." Magnes tilts his glass a bit, an idly gesture with his finger. "You won't be trapped forever, your life isn't over, I can promise you this. I'll get your life back even at the risk of my own, because you don't deserve to be trapped any longer than you already have been."

"You don't really know what I do or don't deserve, Magnes." Odessa smiles, though. "But it's sweet of you to think that I deserve something better." She doesn't. Or she doesn't think that she does. "I should get going. I can't cheat curfew anymore and my keepers will know if I don't come home tonight…"

"I don't know anything for sure, I just know what I think right now." Magnes stands and offers his hand to help her up, smiling again. "I can give you a ride home if you want, I don't really have any plans tonight with Elvira working on her secret plans."

Odessa considers turning down the offer, but instead she sighs and relents. "Actually, a ride would be great. Are you sure you're okay to drive?" She's a bit of a lightweight herself, so she thinks it's a fair question.

"I'll be fine, I only had the one drink. Besides, I'm a gravity manipulator, car accidents are the last thing on my mind." Magnes starts to lead her out of the club, and once they're outside he opens the passenger side of his black '67 Impala. "Just give me directions and we'll be good to go."

Pulling on her new coat, a drab grey thing that's mercifully free of bullet holes or blood stains, is a bit of a difficult task with her wounded shoulder. Odessa manages in the end after only one quiet hiss of pain. "Roosevelt Island," she tells him when they get in the car. "The Octagon."

"I was thinking of no such thing!" Magnes says with a bit of playful insincerity, nodding in agreement. "Alright. I'll see you around!"

"Good night, Magnes." Odessa slides out of the passenger seat and swings the car door shut behind her, offering one last parting wave before she disappears into her building.

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