High Expectations, Higher Hopes


kellar_icon.gif melissa_icon.gif

Scene Title High Expectations, Higher Hopes
Synopsis A meet with a stranger ends up pushing Melissa's higher than she might have expected.
Date January 23, 2011

Japanese Restaurant

The phonecall came quite suddenly. The smooth tones of an older man, urbane, pleasant. Addressing her as Miss Pierce. Saying he is an interested investor, that he'd like to meet with her, that he's already made a reservation at a very nice sushi restaurant not far from her work, that he'd like to shake hands and talk business. No particulars, not over the phone, thank you. You know how nosy the government is.

His name? Please, just call him Mr. K. Details, devilish things, can wait 'til later. He assures her.

And sure enough, should Melissa arrive at the ordained place at the ordained time, and should she ask for Mr. K's table, she will be flawlessly led to a sliding door of rice paper, behind which sits a well dressed Caucasian man with a full head of grey hair, a high, thoughtful forehead, intelligent blue eyes framed by crowsfeet and, upon seeing her, a thousand watt smile gleaming from flawlessly white teeth.

"Please, have a seat," no detectable accent, a hand with a gold school ring gesturing towards the cushion opposite him, "help yourself to sake or, as is proper for sake, I will be happy to pour you a glass. It tastes better than way, custom states."

There's a bit of paranoia, certainly, at the phone call, and before going, Melissa called Perry, letting him know what was going on, just in case something bad happens. You can never be too careful, right? She arrives in black pinstriped pants and corset, with an ankle length coat over it, along with a fedora. She studies him for a moment before she sits.

"I can serve myself. I'd rather know who you are and what it is that you want with me. I've never met you, and I don't know what your name is, or why you'd need a club manager."

The man, not terribly tall, not particularly imposing, still carries himself with a composure that doesn't make unease abate so much as fixes it. This is someone who does business, with all the formality and brutality that characterizes the dance of Capital. Melissa's distrust is met with a still wider smile.

"My apologies, Miss Pierce," he says, hands coming to rest on his thighs, head dipping, "allow me to explain. My name is Claudius Kellar, and I both own and represent Lucid Consulting, a small but well respected firm based out of Houston. You may, of course, choose to investigate my history and that of my company at your leisure. I've nothing to hide, I promise you."

Mr. K - Mr. Kellar - reaches down to the ground beside him, snapping open the latches on a briefcase hidden from view, and extracts a file which he places on the table between them. "You, on the other hand Miss Pierce, have a rather fascinating and checkered past and present," he taps the file, "you will forgive the flagrant violation, but I've taken the liberty to have a private investigator look into you and your associations. Fascinating. You, an avowed former tenant of federal prison, carrying on continued association with another former tenant and… dare I say fugitive? One Mr. Griffin Mihangle. And then the rather peculiar Mr. Pericles Jones, an- electrical engineer? With whom you took a well timed vacation not long after your attendance at the newsworthy party at D'Sarthe's on Christmas Eve, which event you attended with Mr Jones.

"So I am left to wonder, Miss Pierce, just what two Evolved criminals and an electrical engineer with very interesting purchasing habits - all in discreet cash payments - have to do with one another? Club managing aside."

Melissa's eyes narrow as she picks up the file, opening it and glancing within it. "You had no right to investigate me, Claudius. My past, checkered or not, is my business. And Perry isn't peculiar, nor is he any of your business either. And if you don't tell me what it is you want with me, I'm going to leave, and very likely pay you back for this violation of my privacy, which has been violated more than enough in the past."

Mr. Kellar lifts his hands. "I did apologize!" he says, smile still in place, "and I suppose this isn't much of a first impression, but I wanted to impress upon you the ease with which someone who is curious and motivated can connect the dots, so to speak. Information, Miss Pierce, is my business. Knowing. And what I know about you makes me wonder what I don't know, knowing only the outline."

His hands fold on the table before him. "I wasn't being cute when I said I am an investor, Miss Pierce. Though I am an consultant I am also a financier, and I know risks and rewards - I have to. I am averse to risks, I admit, but I take them when the reward is substantial enough to offset it. This meeting is a risk. The reward? Well…" he dips his head, "that brings me to your question. What do I want?

"It's quite simple, really," Kellar says, "I want a bid for the future. You see what this country is coming to, and I get the sense from your associations," he gestures to the file, full of snapshots, logs of movements, lists of purchases, a thousand little not-quite-incriminating details, "that you take exception to the current handling of the ongoing SLC Expression crisis."

The file is closed and Melissa's hand rested on top of it as she looks back up to him. "I'm evolved. Of course I take exception. You know that I was in Moab, so again, of course I take exception. Anyone who's evolved does, Claudius. We're being treated like second class citizens in a modern day holocaust. What isn't to take exception to?"

She picks up the sake with her other hand, sipping at it without taking her eyes off of him. "The question though, is what you want to invest your money in. And why you've chosen me of all people. I'm not the only person who used to be in Moab or has strong pro-evolved feelings."

"Oh, but you see, that's just it," Kellar says, sounding delighted, "listen to yourself! Listen to that rhetoric. Not everyone knows just how deep we've sunk. Not everyone who knows about Moab knows what Moab really is. And so many of those who do, such as Mr. Mihangle, are on the run. Lacking the freedom for, well… public appearances. For, in a word, politics."

His smile gathers lumens, burning bright. "Money talks, Miss Pierce, but it needs someone to speak through. Someone to tell it what to say. You, Miss Pierce, being both a respectable woman of business despite your difficulties with the current unjust laws, are in a unique position to do just that."

Melissa leans back, her head tilting, one brow arching, but her expression otherwise remains blank. "So you want to invest in me for politics? Because I don't think that I'd do too well in politics given that I do have a criminal record. Who wants to elect a woman who was in one of the most infamous prisons of all time?"

"Oh, the cursus honorum is a long one, however swift your feet," Kellar says, pleasantly, his enthusiasm and confidence seeming imperishable, his vivacity that implacable kind belonging only to those who are lively in their dusk years, "but just because you aren't wearing the white toga doesn't mean you can't start building your own rostrum. Your criminal record is a talking point - even Reverend King spent time in jail, after all - you just have to paint it as civil disobedience. And we wouldn't drop you into politics at once. There are many entrances to the public forum."

"So then what exactly is it that you're proposing if it isn't putting me on the ballot for the next president?" Melissa asks dryly, but at least she does seem to be listening now, and not quite as hostile. There's still some hostility, yes, but not quite as much as there was just minutes ago.

"A charitable foundation," Kellar says, in two words and an indefinite particle, "would provide a firm foundation for the social work needed to get you visible, to build your political resume and to make the sorts of connections all good politicians require. It would, however, mean you would have to be somewhat more discreet in your minglings with anyone currently wanted by the law."

"I'm not mingling with anyone currently wanted by the law," Melissa says with a shrug. "So that's not a problem. But I assume there's a catch. No one shells out enough cash to form and maintain a foundation without there being some sort of catch. And I should probably let you know that I don't pander to bosses. I don't hold my tongue when I disagree with something, and I have very definite ideas on what sorts of things need to be done."

"Miss Pierce, it is precisely that attitude that makes you ideal," Kellar says, indefatigable in his optimism from all appearances, "this country is simply dying for some honest, outspoken politicians, one who don't play the pork and spoils game. As for my own part well…" he nods, "I can admit to having a rather vested interest in the politics you'd practice. I am a private man, Miss Pierce, one that believes in the sanctity of private property, so I don't think the details of my biology should be subject to public consideration. That opinion, however, makes me in violation of certain relatively recent legislature. If you follow."

"I follow. But while I sympathize, and have no intention of ratting you out, don't you think that might be a little suspect once the foundation is opened and the financial backer is looked at? Because you know they will look at you, right?" Melissa asks, keeping her hand on the file, even as she continues to sip at her drink.

"Ms. Pierce, you will be headed for a public career, a place in the alternately bloated and beleaguered public sector," Kellar says, with an air of apology, "I am a man of the private sector. These names - public and private - are more than coincidental. I do not wish to be seen as directly connected with your actions. I am not registered, nor do I ever wish to be, finding registration and unforgivable symptom of Big Government. I will hide my tracks, Miss Pierce. And it is that particular that we need to discuss first, if you and I are in agreement,"

The man gives a wide, somewhat lupine smile. "How would you like to be a business owner?"

"Depends on the business," is Melissa's answer to that, finally taking her hand off of the file, but she leaves it close to her, even as she folds her arms over her chest. "Perhaps you should just…outline what you have in mind, from start to finish, rather than offering up little tidbits here and there? It might work better, and you might even get what you want out of the deal."

"I apologize for being roundabout," Kellar replies, smile shifting into a rueful register, "I've spent too many years in the southwest. One draws things out there. I forgot about New York's… velocity. In short, we begin to advance you in local government as a populist advocate. There have already been demonstrations against curfew's effect on small businesses. You can mobilize concerns on economic and civil libertarian grounds, which will give you a strong center vote as well as some Leftists," this last is added as if this is something to be endured, like a headache, "and your funding will come from owning the club you now operate, with the help of overseas investors. Which investors will be fronts for my money."

"So you want me to buy my club, with your money, so I can run it and start getting involved in local politics? On top of running a foundation? That's a lot of work." Though Melissa is all about working hard. "What do you get out of it? A politician in your pocket, I assume? Or will you be pushing your own agendas if this works?"

"I was accelerating the pace of explanation," Kellar says, "this won't all happen overnight. First you purchase the club with the assistance of my paper investors, then you use the cashflow it can generate and that I can subsidize to found the foundation. The foundation will allow you to create a name for yourself, helping launch you into politics." He nods, "much of the work can be done by loyal employees. Other people of like mind and ideal, whom you trust. They can manage the club while you manage the foundation, then when you go on to politics, you can name a successor to the foundation's operation." He gives a mild shrug and a smile. "I will admit that I have certain principles I want preserved. But I'm sure they're ones we share. I want small government and freedom of trade. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness, like any other red blooded American."

"So basically you just want there to be no distinction between evolved and non when it comes to rights. Fair enough. And you're right, I do share that." Melissa's quiet for a moment, studying him intently. "Why me, though? There have to be others out there who would work better in politics than me. So why choose me?"

"The best way to ensure that is to have there be as little government as possible. Business owners, productive members of society, ought to have their proper say, instead of tenured fat cats," Kellar says, which is his way of agreeing. He sounds like he believes he and Melissa are on the same page.

"Why… you, specifically?" Kellar echos, "if this is me offering you an opportunity, shouldn't I be the one asking that question? Do you want this, Miss Pierce? Do you think you are the right choice? Because you'll need to convince the voters you are."

Melissa smiles, head tilting. "You know I'm the right choice, Claudius, otherwise you never would've approached me. I know why I'm the right choice, I'm just wondering why, out of all the evolved in this city, you chose me. Because, while your motives sound good, I want to know what the reasoning is now so it doesn't come back and bite me in the ass later on."

Kellar takes a brief spell of silence, hands laced together on the table before him. His eyes are cast down to his lightly wrinkled digits before lifts his gaze up at Melissa. Iris blue, whites traced with the dim ruddiness of inevitably advancing age. "I trust you will understand when I say…" He looks down at his hands again, closes his eyes, reopens them. When he looks back up at Melissa, his irises have shifting their pigmentation. Blue no longer, yellow now, like a cat's. "I see things with a certain clarity." He blinks, and in that passing instant the pigment shifts back to its normal pale blue again. "I have instinct deeper than wisdom that tells me this is the right path."

Though she doesn't move, Melissa seems to come to attention when she sees the shift in eye color. "Yes…I understand what you mean," she murmurs. There's more silence, then she nods slowly. "I'm sure you'll understand though that I need a few days to think this over. Rushing into anything won't be good for either of us, or our goals. Is there a number that I can contact you at, when I've made my decision?"

"Please call from an outside phone," Kellar says, pulling a slim silver box from his pocket, flicking it open to reveal a tiny silver structure that holds three small stacks of business cards. He plucks out the bottommost, and offers it to Melissa. It displays only a number, nothing else. "Call this, state your name when prompted, and then ask the automated program for a connection to Mr. K," he instructs, "that should have me on the line with you within minutes, less even."

The card is taken and her lips twitch when Melissa sees the emptiness of it. "Easy enough. And trust me, I know how to be discreet. It's how I lasted so long without being hauled in for escaping Moab." The card is tucked away in her pocket and the smile fades. "I'm sure it won't be but a couple of days until you hear from me."

"I wouldn't want to rush you," Kellar says, rising slowly from sit, taking his time - not as young as he once was - though not without a certain deliberate grace, "but time is more than just money. I look forward to your thoughtful and well considered reply." He offers his hand. "A pleasure meeting you, Miss Pierce. My expectations are high, my hopes higher."

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