garza_icon.gif zachery_icon.gif

Scene Title Independence
Synopsis Shedda Dinu's leader reaches out to one of his own.
Date August 12, 2019

Inside the dimly lit confines of a live-in apartment adjoining one such bar, the pulse of music batters arrhythmically against any biological sense. Muffled sounds of voices, the clash of cups, and the occasional shout over the music are deadened enough by soundproofing to be survivable on a long enough measure. But much like bulletproofing, it doesn't mean there can't be injury.

Or sounds that can intrude.

Like knocking on a door.

Zachery's Apartment

Dirty Pool Pub

Sheepshead Bay, NYC Safe Zone

August 12


The sound of someone knocking on his apartment door only just reaches Zachery's senses over the throb of music through the many layers between inside the bar and outside the bar. But it's there, a steadier beat. Four knocks, politely arranged.

It's probably a good thing that one of the things the soundproofing does filter out is the hybrid of a groan and a whine that leaves Zachery from underneath the arm that's been slapped over his face. He's lying sprawled on the leather couch in his 'office', one leg up, heel of his shoe caught on the edge of a countertop and one hand dangling off to the side with a glass still caught between his fingertips. "We're fucking clooosed." He tells absolutely nobody.

He lifts his drink and the arm draped across his face for a sip, but ends up breathing a heavy sigh into his apparently empty glass. Well. If he's going to get up anyway…

The door opens outward, just a crack, about thirty seconds after. "Are you dying?" Comes Zachery's voice from inside, hoarsely, volume rising only just above the noise from within the bar, "Because if you're not, fuck off." He hasn't bothered to put the acrylic eye in today, it seems, and the hollow socket and awkward angle of unsupported eyelid only add to the look of exhaustion he's had on his face of late.

Antonia Garza stands silent on the other side of the door; trimmed beard, curly gray hair, an unaffected smile, and a sharp suit. "Zachery, I thought we'd meet somewhere more comfortable for you to talk business." He brings up the butt of a bottle of wine to tap on the side of the door, brows raised.

"Because it's time," Garza says in confidence just loud enough to hear over the music at their close proximity of that barrier. "To talk business."

Though the location does not allow for a silence to hang between Zachery and his visitor, the seconds that pass before the black door slooowly swings open to let the light pour out into the pub - and onto Antonia Garza - probably say enough.

And if they don't, there's the fact that Zachery's revealed to be standing there, one hand still on the door, face frozen somewhere between wide-eyed disbelief and supefied grin.

Both of which he tries to suppress as he steps slowly aside, neither of which are. "Business." He clears his throat, casting a somewhat panicked over his shoulder. "Of course. Come in."

The look Garza gives the apartment on his entrance is an incredulous one. He pauses by the door, letting Zachery close it before politely handing off the bottle of wine like some sort of housewarming present. "I wasn't sure what to expect," Garza says, standing just a few feet from an operating table, "but, I will admit… it wasn't this." In spite of his meticulously manicured appearance, Garza doesn't seem taken aback by the conditions of Zachery's domicile, but rather shares a lopsided smile with the doctor and a raise of his brows.

"Where is best to sit?" Garza asks politely, "I know I didn't give you any warning to…" he spreads his hands slowly, "prepare for a houseguest. But, I like to get to know the people I'm working with on a more personal level. To establish trust, you understand. No one is more vulnerable than they are in their home, when they are themselves."

"There's not, ah - much to prepare here, is there." Zachery breathes the rhetorical question out in an unplanned laugh, as he bends down to hastily scoop the empty glass from where it was left on the floor and moves to leave it in the sink, gesturing to the couch on his way there. Granted, unless his visitor would like to sit on the operating table or the floor, it is the only option available.

Staring momentarily down into the sink, Zachery then cants his head to look to Garza again, leaning a hip against the counter. Be it by virtue of panic or the fact that he's been caught off-guard, his voice carries with it a sincerity that Garza may not have heard before. "Though - isn't that contradictory? Establish trust, through vulnerability? You don't — corner a coyote to get it to like you, do you."

“Are you a coyote?” Garza asks simply on his way to the couch. “Some things work better when you’re dealing with people more so than animals…” Settling down on the couch, Garza gives a momentary crease of his brows at the texture of the cushions and shifts a moment to make himself comfortable. He still hasn’t really addressed the contradiction in his means, and judging from the moment of silence he gives as he clasps his hands together, he may never.

“I wanted to ask you a personal question,” Garza says, lacing his fingers together. “We don’t know each other well, though given the nature of our work together we entrust each-other with our lives. It’s a difficult position to be in. Especially given that our work’s kept me from being as hands-on as I’d like. Especially when it comes to understanding the people who trust me to have their best interests at heart.” Whether they actually trust that or not.

Spreading his hands, Garza looks around the room, then as he brings them back together squares a look on Zachery. “Question being: forsaking any perceived challenges of making it happen, if you could be anything in life— be anywhere, be doing anything, where would you be right now? Who would you be?”

As Garza speaks, Zachery stands still for a moment, in these so much less-than-ideal circumstances he finds himself in. His eye stays on Garza while his shoulders square back with a slow, deep inhale and an attempt to recompose himself - and maybe his thoughts - into something slightly less… unprepared.

But there's not enough time to prepare for the question ultimately asked, and the room goes quiet again with the process hardly even having started. "Someone successful."

His arms fold loosely over his chest, eye contact maintained, a little guarded but unflinching. "Someone who owes no one anything but - perhaps - his time. With the means to stay occupied, minimize risk, and the stability for things to move forward in much the same way. Someone with a future. Not, suffice to say," his voice dips lower, tired grin creeping back onto his features as if against his will, "someone standing here, in this matchbox, wondering if this question is being asked so you get to feel more justified in taking out what could possibly be a weak link." He pauses, but only for a beat, gaze darting once to the side as that grin widens a smidge, "… With too big of a mouth."

“You haven't said anything untoward yet,” Garza says with the level of cagey vagueness that makes it easy to imply as here and now as easily as it could mean you're being watched. “Success is relative, though. Everyone is content with different levels of it, but that isn't what I think you actually want. There's…” Garza creases his brows and narrows his eyes a touch, motioning over to Zachery, “it sounds like you're confusing success for independence. Related ideas, certainly, but it feels like you want freedom. Which…” Garza raises his brows slowly. “Allow me to provide a momentary diversion to be vulnerable,” he says with a hand to his chest.

“I once had an ordinary life. Business, success, wealth. Happiness in small measures, but I was trying.” As he talks, Garza leans back against the couch and drapes one arm across the back casually. “Then I came into my ability. I awoke to something no one else could take from me, something wonderful, something terrifying…” he holds his bare hand out, as if to admire his fingers.

“That is when the Company found me.” Garza says flatly. “That is when they tried to first control me, and then when that failed, contain me.” Lowering his hand to his lap, Garza looks over at Zachery. “The Company, they sealed me up inside of a concrete vault for more than thirty years. Entombed, alone, in the darkness with no one but my thoughts to keep me company.” Slowly, he moves his arm off the back of the couch and sits forward. “My current superior freed me, took the feral monster in a concrete prison and turned him back into a man.”

“He made me independent.”

Garza folds his hands at his knees, nodding once in silence before looking back to Zachery. At this distance, for this amount of time, Zachery can feel Garza’s internal body temperature runs well above fever level. Somewhere past 110 degrees Fahrenheit. He seems acclimated to the heat.

“What would you do with your independence?” Garza asks, one brow raised. Zachery can already see the edges of what Garza is doing with his.

Edges that are not, necessarily, reassuring right now. Nor have many of the things Zachery's surmised about Garza been before, but never have they been gleaned in a soundproofed room. He tries to keep the tension from knotting his muscles, but in shifting his weight, one of his hands finds the edge of the stainless steel sink nearby and his fingertips are pressed hard into the cold metal while he listens. An anchor, of sorts, while an absent echo of his grin remains.

For a while, he stands so still that if not for the fact that his one eye fixes on Garza's left, then right, then left again, it might look like he's perished upright. But then, there comes another question.

This time, after a dry swallow, Zachery's answer comes a little quieter. A little less rehearsed. "I would… breathe." Then, at the risk of sounding trite, "And have the oxygen to grow beyond what I've managed to be so far."

Slowly, Garza offers Zachery a smile along with an appreciative nod. “I would toast to that, but it seems not the time for those things.” Comfortable, as in mirror to Zachery’s tension, Garza leans to the side and rests his elbow on the arm of the sofa. “Then that is what I’m promising you, Zachery. When all this,” he motions to the room, “is over and done with— your work for me and for us,” his hand comes to his chest, “isn’t something long term. When it’s completed, I want you to know I will find you that independence, that oxygen you need to grow.”

It’s in this moment where Zachery sees there’s an uncomfortable but earnest sincerity in Garza’s demeanor. It felt weirdly performative in the larger group meetings, but up close it feels like Garza is someone out of another generation. His mannerisms and openness feel like a byproduct of someone who soaked in the cultural ambiance of the 1960s and 1970s America with aplomb. Like he’s one rolled joint away from talking about music.

“The inner circle of Shedda Dinu,” Garza goes on to explain, “deserve something for all their hard work. I want to try and find that for everyone. What use is money, power, influence— all of that— if you can’t use it to build something better for other people?” Garza’s brows rise at that question.

Movement returns to Zachery in bits - his shoulders drop, chin lifts, the fingers of his free hand curl slowly inward, then come out again. Garza is studied, those mannerisms soaked up to be documented somewhere later, possibly. Now is not the time for that.

A hand comes up to be dragged across the stubble on his jaw, momentarily pulling the hollow of his left eye socket a little lower. "What if your superior had asked you the same thing, back then?" There's a short but sharp inhale after this question, upon realising it's left him. But it has left him.

For better or worse, he commits. He pulls away from the sink and starts in a slow amble around the operating table, letting a hand brush lightly over the sparse cushioning. Still watching his guest, still on the alert. Then again, he rarely isn't. Even if it is not always for the right thing. "Your current position. Would it align with what your answer would have been? Who you would have liked to be, or become?"

“It wouldn’t,” Garza admits with a drift of his attention down to the floor, “no. It wouldn’t.” Sitting forward, Garza folds his hands and rests his elbows on his knees. “I wasn’t given the chance — freedom — to do anything with my life that I’d wanted to. Part of that was my doing, part of that was the Company’s doing. We don’t get to rewrite our mistakes, just try and use them to learn and…” he languidly lets one hand lift up, as if grasping for a notion. “I don’t know, guide people? The man I would have become doesn’t exist anymore, does he?”

Garza shrugs noncommittally, letting his hands come back together with a soft clap. “But, I digress. We should talk about work before we get too far ahead of ourselves. Specifically, your work and where you’ll be needed.” Garza says with a look over to Zachery, sitting up just a little straighter as he does. “Obviously, you know you’ll need to go to Providence. We have some funds set aside for you to make yourself comfortable there, and I would advise under the guise of a physician. We can get you whatever supplies you’ll need, within reason for your cover.”

Zachery's steps slow, then come to a halt. Though his focus so far has not left Garza for more than a handful of seconds at a time, he turns his gaze, now, to the operating table. "As a physician. In Providence." This leaves him the way one might speak of an enemy rather than a place, and through gritted teeth at that. "There's a reason I did not fight your… 'suggestion' of my moving there."

His head dips, hand sliding further along the operating table's surface until his fingers hit a bend in the teal of the table top. There's no dust there, but he checks anyway. "I have contacts there. This makes me a - well, I won't say a good candidate, but a candidate nonetheless. I won't pretend like I don't hate it out there, either, or that it's convenient for me relocate there, even part-time, while keeping my job at Raytech to any capacity. And yet, I feel like, maybe —"

He looks up again, fixing a narrowed stare on Garza again, what was left of the grin gone from his face. "… This decision could sparsely be in better hands."

“It was,” is how Garza frames it, “I won’t lie to you, you’re our second choice. You’re the only other person available to us with the medical expertise we need to handle the research we’re going to need you to, discreetly, perform while you’re in the town. We were going to entrust this to someone we already have on-site, but it turns out that she’s either going to be recalled or…” Garza spreads his hands, “I only know so much.”

Watching Zachery’s motions for a moment, Garza allows for that sentiment to breathe in silence before he continues. “That said, the work you’ve done at Raytech with Mr. Clendaniel is going to give you a head start on what we need you to continue for us.” The implications that Garza knows what goes on inside of Raytech is both surprising and somehow not, given Shedda-Dinu’s reach. It’s just that Zachery can’t seem to connect the dots on how.

“This will be a longer-term assignment and… I’ll be the first to admit, it won’t be easy. But what it will be, is rewarding. For you, personally,” Garza says with a motion to Zachery, “when all is said and done. If, by then, you want to walk away and get your independence… you have my word that we’ll make that happen for you.”

None of the information given hits Zachery with any impact greater than a breeze would, if his lack of a reaction past a slowly growing grin is any indication. Okay. Sure. Everyone knows everything, as usual, that seems about right.

Next on the docket is Providence, a subject which dampened his spirit whenever it came up previously — but suddenly it seems to straighten his spine all the more. After a thoughtful run of tongue over molars, he says, "The more I think about it, the more this assignment - and move - may have come at the exact right time." He recenters Garza in his vision with the slightest turn of his head, "I don't suppose there's any chance I could personally thank this first choice of yours for her shortcomings?"

“That depends on some environmental factors,” Garza admits delicately, “but let's say no for now. The future is a wild thing, though, and often defies our best expectations.” Wild, he says. “Once you're settled in Providence and have a few weeks to ingratiate yourselves with the locals to your level of comfort, we’ll send a courier to you with a delivery I need you to be completely quiet about. It's a person,” Garza says, adopting a conspiratorial tone.

“A while back we came into possession of a biochemist who can help with our larger agenda,” Garza motions to the door as if indicating it happened far from here. Or maybe just not right here. “She has a unique ability, complementary to yours, that allows her to manipulate cellular fission. We’re going to need you to one, keep custody of her, and two, ensure that she assists in the research we send you.”

Garza makes something of a grimace once he delivers that information. “Like I said, it's going to need to be kept strictly between you and I. To the point where… honestly, and I don't ask this of you lightly, if anyone finds out that had to be, you know, the end of that.”

"The good news is," Zachery answers all too easily indeed, exuding what is possibly too much confidence given certain goings on of late, "that I've recently learned some very valuable things about keeping secrets."

Perhaps realising that this is far too open to interpretation, he adds quickly and cheerfully, "I don't think this will be a problem in the least. Colour me…" he pauses, an errant thought pulling his grin slightly further to one side, "fascinated."

Garza nods, satisfied both with Zachery's reaction and his openness. “Good, then we've reached a consensus. You'll be given the particulars closer to your active role. For now, acclimate yourself to the environment and try to be helpful, but not indispensable to them.” Leaning forward, Garza levers himself up off the sofa and straightens his blazer, turning to look back at Zachery with a fond smile.

“One last thing,” Garza asks, a hand held out toward Zachery as if to feel the air between them. “Do you by chance play the piano?”

And like it's been set neatly on a chopping block, Zachery's confidence halves in a flash. He blinks, brow knitting in confusion, expression frozen along with the rest of him.

Save for his mouth, but what else is new.

"… Not exceptionally well. And not for a time, now."

Garza purses his lips in thought, pointing two fingers at Zachery in a tapping motion. “Good to know,” he says as if that was some all fucking important answer. “It's been nice talking with you, Zachery.”

That he shows himself out is a small mercy.

Because it isn't clear if Zachery has the energy to deal with any of that now.

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