Mer Tranquille


ff_asi_icon.gif castle4_icon.gif ff_des2_icon.gif elliot2_icon.gif eve6_icon.gif ff_gracie_icon.gif ff_nadira_icon.gif nathalie4_icon.gif ff_nova_icon.gif ff_silas2_icon.gif ff_stef2_icon.gif

Also featuring:


Scene Title Mer Tranquille
Synopsis An encounter with New Chicago's Administrator leaves several unsettled but others with hopes of a new trade route between the Pelago and lands afar.
Date July 7, 2021

By the time that some members of the convoy decide that perhaps a bed in town might be worth looking into, word's already made its way ahead of them. No matter where they decide to lay their heads, the reception is aware of them, able to pick out which group they've traveled in with in a number of words, and advises them their stay will be comped by Administration.

The groups individually are given a thick coin painted black, a golden laurel standing up from the minimally-degraded enamel. Instructions are given that refreshments are awaiting them at a certain establishment, if they want to go this evening before turning in.

For those that do, the building doesn't look impressive from the outside. It seems dark– one of the factories without neon or apparent remodeling, at least by its exterior. Someone is standing guard outside, nonetheless.

Someone who only allows those bearing that token of passage to enter in.

Mer Tranquille

New Chicago

July 7, 2021

Inside the factory, the broken windows on the highest part of the building indicate the upper storeys might not be in use, but one might also conclude that's a deliberate design choice in keeping the ground-level interior a secret.

Beyond the darkly-shrouded door, visitors enter a lounge lit by electric bulbs dimmed low for mood lighting, shrouded in velvet and mahogany. The walls are painted a deep ocean blue that complements the purple seating and the reddened carpet all in different ways. The bar is well-stacked with a variety of crystal-clean glasses, and the vintage flanking the bartender all looks to either be made before the fall of things, or made well enough it can sit comfortably amongst those other names of an age now past.

As the group arrives, after collecting a drink of choice (with ice even, if they prefer it), they're directed to a meeting room off the side of the spacious lounge, one with loveseats and chaises that look inward on a rounded, felt-topped table fit better for gambling than for plainer business than that.

The bartender tells all of them the same thing: the Administrator has been notified they've arrived, and will be down shortly to greet them.

Nathalie LeRoux is absolutely cheered from the moment she enters. While the welcome to New Chicago put her on edge, she can't quite shake a sense of delight at the gentle lighting, the warmth of the wood, the feel of velvet under her fingers.

It comes from being dead a few days ago.

She orders a whiskey sour, with ice, and sinks onto a chaise longue. The glass chills her fingers, but that just seems to be another slice of experience to enjoy at the moment. She knows the other shoe will drop any minute here, especially when there's a looming specter of someone who goes by a title instead of a name, but she's squeezing what joy she can from the moment.

Before the flood, bartending here would have been a dream job for Nadira. Now it simply reminds her of just how much the water had steered her life off-course. Her drink order she left in the hands of the bartender—dealer’s choice always seemed to speak as much about someone as a conversation could. With her glass in hand, she settles on one of the loveseats to wait, fingertips brushing at the condensation on the glass almost absently.

The whole space feels both alien and so like home to Gracie. Her eyes are wide, curiosity unveiled as she takes it all in, from busted windows to polished bartop. She nearly bumps into Nathalie as they pass by one another, lost in her study. “Sorry, sorry.” A hand on her arm steadies her as she steps aside to let her take her seat. A smile slowly curves her lips as she settles again.

Her fingertips trail across one of Silas’ shoulders as she sidles up next to him at the bar. “Don’t suppose they have any imports from Hawaii, do you?” she murmurs quietly, like it’s a joke shared between them. The amusement is overtaken quickly by astonishment, her lean is abandoned as if it will help her to see the bottles better to get further from them. “Shit.” There, on the shelf, a bottle that’s shaped nearly like a club. Before long, Gracie has a Harvey Wallbanger in front of her. She sighs happily. “Jackpot.

Silas Mackenzie is taking a moment to nurse his drink — a very good bourbon on the rocks — and looking well and truly distracted, his gaze alternately seeming to stray to the glass in front of him and then to the coin dancing over the fingers of his free hand — black, marked by a golden laurel. It seems… not new, but newish, at least. Just the right touch of wear to convey usage… but not much.

In reality he's rather more aware than he lets on, taking the time to assess details where he can. The selection of liquors, the immaculately clean glasses, the mahogany and the velvet; the burgundies and violets of the seating, the deep blue of the walls. The broken windows at the top floor. The guard visible outside the entrance, and the others who hadn't been visible nearby, but had almost certainly been present. Not a place of business, but of Business.

Gracie's arrival is noted, but it's only when she trails her hand across his shoulder that he glances over to her, offering her a subdued smile. "You know, this place actually might," he answers quietly, his gaze moving to that impressive selection of drinks. "They've got a lot of stuff from before the Flood, looks like." Probably nothing new, though. That's a source of pride that makes Silas's smile widen a bit, though not one he's inclined to speak any more about. Not here, at least; the walls may or may not have ears here, and unlike some others among their number, he's never really been a fan of fucking around and finding out.

"Looks like you're walkin' better. I'm glad," he says, giving another small smile — this one perhaps tinged with a hint of apology.

“Chess is a miracle worker,” Gracie responds breezily, masking the uneasiness that lies beneath. Her arm slips into his and she feels safer for it as they make their way to the lounge.

Destiny comes to settle in one of a pair of armchairs with a small table between them. She sets her drink — something pink with a vodka base — on a leather coaster. She feels out of place in a place this fine in her weathered black long coat and green sweater fraying at the wrists. Her token is buried deep in a pocket sewn inside her outer layer, hoping to keep it as a souvenir of this stop on their journey.

The lighting being as dim as it is comes with shadows being deeper in the meeting room. The ceiling in here is more shallow than the main lounge, and there's a creep of footfalls passing above, possibly from the party they're all meant to meet beginning their relocation. Asi's eyes go up, her own imbibe of bourbon paused as she senses something shifting.

Her shoulders relax when the only thing that happens is that a recording of soft jazz begins playing throughout the lounge space, carrying in into their area. She lets out a quiet hm and finally sips from her glass.

"Feels like we've been invited by those… in charge. Anyone know what to expect?" Asi asks quietly, looking between the others, but especially between those she knows have been to another world.

"If I had to guess," Elliot says to Asi while cradling a glass of clean ice water, "a subtle investigation of our capabilities to see who can be poached." He seems distracted, eyes half focused, taking sips of water just to look like he's doing something. Inside he's calm, though his steady heartbeat came at the expense of a round white pill.

When Gracie touches Nat's arm, she feels an unpleasant sensation, like the pins and needles of blood coming back to a numb limb only instead of abating, it only seems to grow more intense. Until she moves off. It isn't personal, but it may be an insight into another reason for Nathalie's good mood. There's life around here, enough to siphon some off the top.

Nathalie looks over at Gracie, for the first time since the ambush, and her smile turns decidedly unfriendly. "I would advise you," she says, ice in her voice, "to keep clear of me." There's just a moment's pause before she adds, "I don't like your face."

So that bit might be a little personal.

The sensation isn’t entirely unexpected — she spent a fair time around Richard before this transference of power had occurred — but the hostility does take Gracie by surprise. Her brows furrow, worry showing in her eyes for a moment. She knows what that ability is capable of. She and Nathalie had been friendly on the Ark, so why…?

Well, she did nearly die, so maybe she’s entitled to more than just a little surliness. Gracie resolves to stick close to Silas.

Much like the one who shares her current affliction, Stef too seems to have a brightened mood at the moment, having pulled back her hair and looked a little more bright-eyed than usual. Curious, even, as she looks around at the various signs of technology and the drinks that are being offered. Any food gets a skeptical look, and she sticks to staples, but she does order an electric lemonade, with ice. The library had been one of the more advanced areas of the Pelago when it had existed, but ice had been a luxury that they hadn’t had often.

She makes a mental note to get something nice to bring back to the vehicles for Nate later— maybe they have root beer. Or even— ice cream. She may not stay within the city, but she intends to be here to negotiate. She keeps her backpack on her lap, precious cargo close and secure.

As for Castle, they are keeping an eye on their mom, and thus, only order a water and find a seat, curiously watching Elliot with a tilt of their head, pale hair pulled back out of their eyes.

Nathalie's coldness towards Gracie is entirely unexpected — Silas's distracted smile seems to wash away like greasepaint for a moment, the corners of his mouth shifting downward into a sharp-pointed frown as he tries to puzzle out this sudden unexpectedly sharp dynamic… and fails.

He makes a note of it, taking a sip of his (still excellent) bourbon before moving on. Elliot's answer to Asi's question sees Silas nod. "I think you're probably on the right track," he admits, gesturing in Elliot's direction and dipping his head slightly. "But…"

"I think the main thing is they're gonna be tryin' to learn as much about us as they can is information. This Administrator," Silas says, and suddenly that black-laquered coin is in his hand, dancing on the backs of his fingers, "seems real good at knowing things, and at picking up what they don't know quick. Think of how quickly they decided to get this meeting together — less than half a day after we've arrived, and they've gotten this lined up." Silas shakes his head, more than a little impressed.

"I'm betting they're wanting to fill in the blanks as fast as they can, figure out what they're dealing with so they can go back to making sure the trains are running on time." He snaps his fingers and the coin is gone — no tricks involved, save plain old sleight of hand.

With the musings come the various thoughts that come with them, some more charitable than others. For those experiencing the unspoken latter, the shadows in the room subtly become darker things, carrying the darkness of those thoughts with them.

Behind Gracie, Nathalie could swear she can see an echo of the Rue who betrayed her, the one whose poison kicked off a chain that led to her death.

Castle thinks they see a subtle turn of Elliot's head, a distance in his eyes that might indicate some something they don't have insight into. Perhaps their break in discretion is already known. Perhaps the consequences are already coming.

Gracie feels for a moment that every eye in the room is sharper and darker, swiveled her way with judgment and ill intent. They all have Nathalie's bearing in that blink.

Asi imagines, however briefly, the corners of the room and those lording above it to house the knives she fears will come down on them.

Silas watches the shadows that play across his knuckles with the stunt complete, and sees in them another dark shade– red– along with a splicing line appearing across the shadows the others cast on the floor. It's a subtle trick of the mind, sure, but a play of kind of thing that might happen if someone in power decided the best thing to keep the trains going would be to get rid of the pieces that clog the tracks, and quick.

Elliot's lack of focus on any one thing makes him see something shifting in the shadows, too. Imprecise echoes of memory, of shaken hands and past deals– capabilities poached in the name of subtle investigations. It feels like in a shadow by the doorway, the face of Gideon d'Sarthe looks right out at him from a slot low on the wall, studying him. Then the shadow leaves from the wall, becomes inhuman entirely, elongating and becoming vaguely lupine, wolfish. A mass of imprecise black that wants to be real and is terrifying enough it could be believed to be.

The low growl as black lips pull back over black teeth certainly can be heard over the music as the thing stares right at Elliot, ears pressed flat back against its head. It's certainly visible, too, at this point, even while hunched down in its warning. With its appearance, so vanishes the momentary haunt that had preceded it.

Someone steps through the threshold and places a manicured hand on its head, petting back through the smoke and black flame of the creature. "Now now," they chide. "That's no way to welcome our guests." The wolf-like creature quiets, bows its head, and the smoky shadow it is begins to recede… this time down into the black garb and shadow cast by the person who's walked in before all trace of it is gone.

For those that know Seren Evans, the person before them bears none of that natural easygoing nature, dressed in a tailored split-sleeve black jacket, comfortably holding a tumbler of whisky and ice as an accessory. Equally black slacks pair with fine shoes, the dark of the outfit offset only by a sleeveless grey top, and gold hanging from their right ear in an elegant waterfall of thin strands. The grey of their eyes seem smaller than they should be, the outside of their irises ringed in a glittering diamond color.

"Let me be the first to actually welcome you to New Chicago," Seren greets the group as a whole with a quirk of a smile, their drink arm opening wide from their side in that welcome. "I'm the d'Sarthe Group Administrator working to keep this fine city running. My name is Seren. And you all are members of the Convoy that came in this afternoon, aren't you?" They look congenially between the convoy members in a sweeping glance. "I'm interested in making your stay here as comfortable as possible."

Nadira's dark eyes take in Seren and their shadow creature, her gaze hard to read as she takes a sip from her drink before she says anything. "It is a pleasure, Seren. I admit I am a little surprised at the luxury here, it is a pleasant surprise." She sets her glass aside, leaving the ice to melt in it as she focuses on the Administrator. "I am Nadira, thank you for the hospitality. I believe we can all say the drinks are refreshing."

The flicker of red sees Silas's expression flicker into a frown, but at that horrid growl the expression fades partially, his eyes scanning the room to find goddamn G'mork glaring at Elliot…

Then, as the Administrator makes their presence known, Silas's frown recedes entirely, leaving behind a blank expression. He can afford that for a moment — let them think it's his reaction when he's startled or taken off-guard. It's not even entirely a lie… it's just not quite the truth, either. Not in this particular case.

But a moment's grace is all he has; if he suddenly goes all gloomy there's a chance of drawing attention he'd rather not have. So after a moment he lets out a nervous chuckle. "Yeah, that's the truth; been a long time since I've had a good bourbon on the rocks," he says, raising his glass slightly. "Name's Silas. Your hospitality is appreciated, and I thank you for the welcome," he says, whipping up a grin.

It may be something of a relief to Gracie when Nathalie's attention shifts behind her instead of directly at her. Nat's mood was already spoiled by Rue's face, and a second one doesn't seem to affect her too much more. Just that she takes a long drink before she turns toward the new voice.

"Hospitality?" Nat echoes the others, disbelief in her tone. It's not the word she would have used for this particular welcome.

Her eyebrow arches, a questioning look meant to prompt Seren to continue their pitch. Because she is sure a pitch is coming.

The hairs on the back of Gracie’s neck raise slowly as apprehensiveness trickles cold down her spine. She follows Nathalie’s look past her, twisting a look over her shoulder and seeing nothing.

But feeling every eye in the room on her once she’s turned. Of course, everyone’s too smart to continue staring at her like that when she starts scanning their faces. The bird of paranoia begins to gather twigs and bits of fluff to build a nest in the cage made from her ribs. The sight of that adumbral predator gives her a place to focus other than those from the convoy, but he inspires merely a different type of anxiety.

Gracie’s eyes settle on the creature’s holder and finds the Administrator’s greeting does nothing to put her at ease. Ice tinkling faintly in her glass alerts her to the fact that her hands are shaking and she makes a conscious effort to quell it. She does not introduce herself.

There’s no such worry holding back the Featherweight’s captain. “I’m Destiny,” she greets with a smile. Certainly she noticed the deepening of the shadows, but nothing so heavy weighed on her mind to magnify their darkness. To her, it all lifted just about as quickly as it was noticed. A trick of the light, perhaps, or a fluctuation of the power grid. “This place is amazing.” She wears her wonder and appreciation openly and raises her drink a little. “Thank you for the invitation.” Already she’s thinking about her pitch to establish trade between New Chicago and the Archipelago of Manhattan.

From her seat, Stef stiffens for a moment, as if sensing the tension hanging in the air, and she grasps the bag on her lap even tighter for a moment— until her eyes find the strange creature and his companion. The Administrator. “Stef Winters,” she offers in a more terse voice, lightened mood faded for the moment as she focuses on the drink in one hand, and the bag in her lap in the other. “We were certainly surprised to see such a thriving city.” She doesn’t echo all the awe of the others, but the clink of ice in the drink certainly seems to hint at something for a moment. “Are there any other such settlements around?”

As for Castle, they froze when the sudden anxiety filled them, a distance forming in their blue-green eyes. Eyes that, for the moment, don’t seem to be seeing anything. Their breathing comes slow and steady, almost as if they are counting the breaths in order to regain their composure. With a blink, they look reorient and shift their eyes toward Seren, and murmur something to themself. “This actually bodes well for the contingency plan, I’d say…”

Elliot's mild alarm at Nathalie's misplaced fury is waylaid by the shadows of his fear and the specter of his desperation in the walls. A chill fills him as it becomes an antagonist of Wright's favorite childhood novel. Then, unexpectedly, he can't help but give the beast's master a small smile of recognition. He tries to tamp it down, but it's good to see someone who's safe. It takes a moment to dawn on him that this version of his friend may not be, their bearing that of a total stranger.

When Nova arrives, her bright yellow fisherman’s jacket strikes a sharp juxtaposition with the interior of the elegant lounge and especially its host in black and gray. Despite the rare treat of ice, the young captain has opted for something hot, and she pauses to take a sip of the steaming mug rather than risk spilling it as she walks.

She’s unsure of just what she’s walked into – there’s a strange vibe here that she’s aware of as she looks around at the faces of those she’s come to know in the past days, but what exactly that vibe is, she’s not sure. Her wide-eyed gaze slides over to Seren as they command the room and the attention of everyone in it. For now she lingers on that threshold, as if unsure she wants to join whatever this is.

Seren nods through the introductions as they come, and smiles in return to the ones given– their eyes turning in the end on Elliot, and that smile carries with it familiarity. "Thank you for looking after them until I got here. You're being looked for, though. You should head on to see him." They step aside from the doorway to let him leave as much as to give room for Nova to properly enter the room. In a quieter aside, they apologize fondly to Elliot, "Sorry about Baird. You know how he gets." That much said with an amused quirk of brow, they look after to Nova properly and wave her in. "Come in, come in…"

They meander farther into the room to engage with those who seem willing for it, not particularly lingering on those who didn't return introductions. Stef's reply in particular garners some interest. "Well, there's nothing quite like Chicago," Seren admits, fingers waggling idly off the side of their glass before going on, "Little settlements here and there, but they're just that– settlements. This here is the finest city you'll find, and the finest there will be for a hundred years yet."

But the visitors didn't know that, and they didn't seem to have expected to run into anyone. Curious.

Seren dips their head on a more humble gesture before acknowledging the situation. "It's been some time since a new crew as well-equipped as yourselves came into town," they explain cordially, gesturing among the group with their drink. "I'm curious where it is you've all come from, and what brings you into the city?" Their eyes glitter as they smile between Nadira, Silas, and Destiny in particular.

"We're a traveling circus," Nathalie says, after taking a drink, "isn't it obvious?" She glances toward Nova, sending a questioning nod toward Seren. As if she might have more knowledge and experience of how things work here. More than the timeline jumping team has, she assumes.

Her attention turns to Elliot, since it's become clear he has a reputation here— and since he isn't from here, she's curious if the travelers have a protocol for running into alternative selves during their travels. So she's watching with a tilt of her head and a much more impassive expression than she's had since she came into this place.

What the absolute fuck. Elliot's thoughts decouple and collide like airborne boxcars. His instinct at the moment is to suddenly be anywhere else on the planet, and he's grateful that the local Seren is making room for him to do so. He can't keep the only person they could possibly be talking about waiting. Not having much to say is an advantage in this situation. If he has to pretend to be a local version of himself to get out of this situation it shouldn't be a problem; he used to be just like him. He clears his throat and puts on the mask of the man he used to be. "On…" he false starts, swallows, resets, "on my way." He takes his leave as calmly as he can.

It takes Silas a moment — not long, but a moment — to realize the implications of Seren's exchange with Elliot. Once he does, he takes another sip of his bourbon to keep from gritting his teeth, mind already furiously running that old calculus of trust and secrets — what to give away, what to hold back, costs now, costs later. They are gonna figure out that our Elliot's not the guy they think he is sooner or later; that's inevitable. On the other hand, outing Elliot immediately isn't gonna do him any favors… so in the end he settles for watching Elliot retreat with a faintly puzzled expression.

Thankfully, Seren's already given him an excellent reason to move on; his attention swings back to them and he takes another sip of his bourbon. "We're from New York," he answers, then grins. "Or, to be more accurate — the Archipelago of Manhattan."

Silas leans forward, his expression growing more serious. "When the waters came, New York street level was left underwater… but the skyscrapers still stood. Islands in the sea, like Venice of old," he says. "And there we made our home," he proclaims solemnly.

He leans back a bit. "As to what brings us here — we're making a trans-Continental voyage!" he says, grinning proudly. "We've heard tales of settlements out there, on the West Coast, and we were hoping to establish contact. Start some trading, maybe." He'll leave it to Nova to expound on that if she so chooses; for now his gaze is on Seren. "Course, it's a long trip between here and there. Now, I'm not the Captain on this particular expedition, but… seems to me that if trading does start between Manhattan and points west… well, having a safe place to rest our weary heads halfway might prove to be a lot better than just roughin' it the whole way," he posits, hands moving in front of him, palms up. He's betting that this Seren is shrewd enough to see the opportunity in that.

Nova’s brows rise slightly as Seren addresses Elliot and he responds as if he knows what she’s talking about, but she gives him a small wiggle of her fingers as he heads toward the exit. Catching Nat’s look, she lifts one shoulder, her blank expression revealing that she knows nothing more than anyone in the room. Probably less.

But Seren’s invitation for her to join is met with a smile, and she doesn’t want to be rude to their host (It could be dangerous), so she murmurs a soft, “Thank you.” She heads in so she’s not standing half in and half out of the lounge, finding a seat near Nathalie.

“He talks like a fantasy novel,” she says fondly to Nat as Silas takes on the job of introducing their group and explaining – more or less – their purpose of their expedition, leaving out a few minor details of course. She doesn’t chime in to speak of Anchor, but instead takes a small sip of the steaming drink in front of her.

Destiny follows Silas’ lead without hesitation. “We’re from the Council of Captains!” Never mind that she doesn’t have a ship anymore. Most of them don’t. Management doesn’t need to know this. That blanket statement of hers is kept purposefully vague, beyond the glance she gives to Silas, making this a strictly opt-in situation, rather than forcing anyone to contradict her statement to be left out of whatever shape this negotiation process might take.

“You have out here what we’re working to build,” she continues on in her complimentary way. “Being on the water, we don’t have quite the same resources you do, so we’ve developed differently.” Not in any way lesser, she’s meaning to imply. “It also means we have direct access to resources you don’t.” Des lifts one shoulder in a half shrug. “The Archipelago is shaping up to become a hub for trade on the sea. We’d all benefit from exchange.”

Near Silas’ elbow, Gracie is still uncomfortable. Almost enough to squirm. “Can you make me disappear?” she asks him in a whispered hush only for his ears that’s delivered with just enough of an edge to allow it to be interpreted as a joke, even if she’s not really joking. “I don’t wanna make a scene if I rabbit.” If she can just get all those eyes off her, she might be okay.

What a combination of personalities at play here. For their part, Seren keeps their attention directed to those more willing to be cordial, not rising to Nathalie's bait. They do let out a chuckle to Nova's comment, though, and smile warmly. "And what a tale it is," they remark appreciatively. Destiny's contributions to it paint in additional context, ones that drive to their surface a bit more of the shrewd interest they've taken in the passing crew.

"That's a hell of a trip to be making," Seren notes thoughtfully, taking a sip from their drink as they wander a bit more into the room, angling for the meeting table made up of one designed for betting. They gesture with their glass out back between Silas and Destiny as they propose, "One I venture might be made much easier if you were to land safely here in Chicago on your ways between. If not for having a welcoming roof over your heads, then for the sake of being able to refuel midway on your excursion."

"I won't spend time now hammering into the finer details of such an arrangement," and now they do look back at Nathalie a bit pointedly, their smile sharpening in that moment. They don't let that look linger long, intent not to be showing any ill intent on their part. "But I believe there's only good to be gained by mingling our pools of wealth together. And I can imagine there are a few among our number here who might be interested in seeing this Archipelago for themselves, if there are any among you who'd be willing to head back, rather than forward."

Seren arches their brows high, arguing cordially, "It sounds as though it might be better to square away agreements with the rest of your Council in advance of negotiations that will have to open up once you reach the other Coast. Not to mention…" Their look turns thoughtful, a hand sliding into their pocket as they set their glass down on the tabletop. "I imagine some of what we have here could be of use to you sooner rather than later. Skyscrapers on the sea sound like they'd be in need of quite a wealth of steel to keep standing after so long." Smiling warmly, they input, "A resource we here in New Chicago could provide or source."

“The Archipelago has not been where I expected to end up in life, but I am amazed at the tenacity and strength those of us who live there have from our experiences,” Nadira says with a fond smile. It’s not hard to imagine she’s thinking of how proud she is of her little group of misfits. “I think we can only benefit from having trade opened up. I am certain we can find some kind of mutually beneficial arrangement, provided all parties are interested.”

Despite the fact that many of her group seem nervous, she keeps a cool head and calm demeanor. It probably comes from having to deal with the downsides of managing that particular group of lovable misfits under one roof that she had been so fondly reflecting on. That probably required a lot of meditating.

"How much good this potential negotiation could be for Manhattan," Nathalie says, casting a slightly incredulous look toward the cordial ones, "entirely depends on what New Chicago would want in return." She turns back to Seren, not missing the sharper smile and not missing the opportunity to send one back. She just doesn't seem to mind letting hers linger. "There's been a lot of talk of hospitality and comfort but no hint of the cost. For someone who made a point to walk in and try to put all of us on the back foot, you've been remarkably patient before laying out what you want from us. You'll have to forgive me for not believing that you want to show us kindness for nothing but the warm fuzzy feelings a good deed might give you. Or your boss. So before we bring anything back to our people, I think we should know what mingling our wealth means to you."

She tilts her attention toward Nova, her head shaking in disbelief at just all of this. Silas' word choice likely included. "That seem fair to you?" She asks, seemingly toward Nova, although likely not only her.

Nova's comment about Silas's speaking style draws a rueful chuckle of amusement and an incline of his head. He nods more seriously to Seren's thoughts about how New Chicago might prove a useful ally to the Pelago… but when Gracie murmurs to him, he frowns and looks to her. His eyes narrow a bit; he considers for a moment, then murmurs something back to her quietly before returning his attention to the situation at hand.

Which Nathalie adds her own rather more blunt two cents into. The apparent incredulity she favors Silas with is met with a placid expression, marred only by the barest hint of a raised eyebrow. He peers back at her inscrutably for a moment longer; only after she's looked away does his own gaze shift to regard Seren. While Silas would have rather drawn this out a bit longer before coming to brass tacks, he's curious as to how Seren's going to respond.

Silas has his own theories as to what Seren's aim is for this meeting, but how they respond to Nathalie is going to give some insight to who, exactly, they're dealing with here. He doesn't think Seren's going to go full Director Don in response to Nathalie's needling, at least… but if there is another shoe they're waiting to drop, it'll have to come out in the open sooner or later. And sooner is better than later.

“Smart lady,” Stef says quietly, flashing Nat a compliment as she shifts to look at Destiny and Silas. She doesn’t disagree with laying a lot of the information on the table right away, it’s better to do so than not, without giving specific details on the destination, but she reaches into her bag and pulls out something wrapped in plastic.

A book?

“Nothing is ever free, and we certainly didn’t enter this big bright city with no intention of offering payment. But as our friend has said, I’d think we’d rather cut to the chase—” Her drink is raised as she adds, “If only so we can all return to enjoying these libations.”

From their side of the bar, Castle stays silent, watching and waiting, because this could go sideways very quickly, even if their optimistic side has faith in this other Seren.

Seren is mid-nod to Nadira's observation when Nathalie's inputs become unavoidable to address, and their smile laxes, a soft sigh breathed from their nose to have their attempt at pleasantry balked at. "With all due respect," they tell her patiently. "Your glibness has spoken for you in that you're likely not the one to be negotiating with." Their head tilts as they wonder, "Do you hold any power with your Council?" Their chin tips down as they ask dubiously, "Are you a Captain?"

"Our time, mutually, is not well-spent in negotiation if you hold no real power as either emissary or leader…" they explain their stance as they set their glass down. "But to be blunt, there's plenty we both stand to gain by starting things out on friendly footing." A moment is taken to glance to their shoulder before they admit mildly, "As for my daemon, he's already been reprimanded. I thought he could be let out for a while today, but… well." They chuckle with a slight shake of their head. "He's always been overzealous when it comes to my protection," they explain lightly before their voice solemns. "Elliot's aware of how he is."

Their eyes go to Stef's bounty and they dip their head in interest, considering the wrapped package. "Materials of luxury go a long way, in terms of generating goodwill… or paying back perceived cost incurred by generosity." Seren smiles again, but this one is smaller. They turn out their free hand in expectation of the book. "If you'll let me know which of you speak for your Council, I'll follow up with them separately– and let the rest of you get back to enjoying this taste of what good relations with New Chicago's leadership could provide you."

Nathalie’s comment to Nova earns her a wide-eyed look from the younger woman, and Nova seems unsure whether or not to agree. She gives a small nod, using her hot toddy as a means to not fully commit to the gesture.

“I can’t speak for the Pelago,” she answers Nat quietly; there’s no attempt to raise her voice to project to the entire group.

The mention of the daemon draws curious eyes in Seren’s direction – she’d missed the presence and then the ebbing away of the wolf-like beast, but her brow lifts. “A demon?” she whispers. “Is this a cult?”

"Council?" Nat asks, blinks, then brings a smile to her face. "Right. Council, of course." It isn't the captains that concern Nat, but Marlowe. She doesn't offer that up, though. "I'm not a captain, not council, not any fancy title. So I suppose that makes me a waste of time." She finishes her drink, stands, and gives Seren an elaborate bow that can only be mocking. "Thanks for the drink."

She turns on her heel, only pausing to put a hand on Nova's shoulder and mouth good luck to her. She hasn't ruled out New Chicago being a cult. Some sort of Industrial Revolution, dieselpunk worshiping cult. But then, she shows herself out, leaving the talks to people with more diplomatic intentions.

Something's been watching up above, a crimson cloud curling in on itself. It's almost impossible to make out what is said from up here but Eve can read movements, sees the tiny lights everyone holds flaring brighter with Nathalie's flaring the brightest of them all, maybe because she lived with so many souls. There was life here.

Then the brightest of the stars is trailing away and Eve feels a slight tug in that direction.

She begins to loop lazily and a cackle echoes out: "Some things really don't change!" The fine mist curls into a loose ball and hurdles out towards where Nathalie is retreating, "And some things DO!"

A final word: "Catch me if you can BasilCastleSaffron!" Another shriek of laughter and the Mad Imp buzzes away.

“If books are considered a luxury, then what I am offering shall be considered an embarrassment of riches, assuming you are capable of receiving it,” Stef adds, cryptically, even as she returns said book to her bag, bright blue eyes hooded by long dark lashes, returning to her drink, as she watches the red cloud cause trouble with a shake of her head. “At least we can be assured of your settlement’s feeling on certain subjects.” Wariness on how this city felt about people with abilities had been one of the many reasons she had made her son stay with the caravan.

It’s obvious now that at least some of their group has abilities, thanks to Eve’s display, and as Stef is being so blase about it’s not a surprise.

As for Castle, there’s an exaggerated sigh and a mutter of a, “My apologies,” and they start disappearing in the direction that the red cloud went, with a can’t take her anywhere look on their face.

That Baird is apparently a demon sees Silas frown perplexedly as he studies Seren. When Nathalie announces her leave, Silas's gaze swings her way, the frown hardening just a bit, but no less perplexed. It's only when Eve executes her drive-by clouding that Silas's frown vanishes, washed away by an expression of startlement, quickly fading into exasperation as he lets out a sigh, one hand coming up to massage the bridge of his nose.

Still, Seren's made an offer, and Silas intends to strike while the iron is hot. He takes a breath, composing his features back into a smile. "Destiny and I are among that number; we'd be happy to follow up with you, either now or at your convenience later," he says, with a nod and a bright smile.

Destiny watches Nathalie with a look of saddened concern. That didn’t go the way she’d hoped, but she doesn’t have much time to dwell on it before Eve makes her lurking presence known. There’s a little sneeze from the blonde, which she seems to recover from quickly, head snapping up in a flash and half risen from her seat. She only eases back when Castle excuses themself to follow after.

Rubbing the back of her hand under her nose briefly, she casts an apologetic glance Seren’s way. She isn’t sure what to say about that, so she instead pushes past it entirely. Taking a small drink, she summons a smile, nodding in response to Silas. As far as she’s concerned, she’ll have another ship in no time. If this succeeds, she can return to New York and the Council and make this deal work out. “Yes,” she’s recovered well enough, her smile a renewed and stronger thing. “But you didn’t know we’d want to talk trade,” Des acknowledges with a gesture of her hand back to Seren. “Please, go ahead.”

Looking off in the direction of Elliot’s departure, Gracie’s brow knits with worry. The other person in this group she trusts to have her back, and who has his? Gripping Silas’ arm firmly enough to be uncomfortable, she nods at his whispering. Then, her hazel eyes stay on Seren, silently repeating the word daemon to herself without realizing the faint movement of her lips. Baird did certainly seem a demon to her, and potentially a very real threat. She brings her glass up for another sip to again hide the telltale sound of the tremor in her hand.

"I cannot say I have any sort of power in bargaining," Nadira replies, "other than simply being useful when I can be. I will leave things to the Captains, but I am certain they will know if they need to bring me into anything." Her gaze goes to both Des and Silas in turn with a small nod. "I will say thank you for the drinks. The ice has been a bit of a treat all things considered." Her smile is still there, only faltered briefly by Eve's appearance and disappearance.

It seems there's a daemon of her own following Nathalie– or at least, Seren has no other context for what Eve's sudden announcement and then disappearance is. Alarmed at first, the diamond brilliance of their eyes slip back toward grey and perhaps darker, the edges of their shadow roiling on the ground as a being who'd like to jump free from it strains against being civil in ostensibly polite company.

But he stays where he is. Seren's gaze trails after Castle and their apology before coming back to the moment, to Stef's comments, and they let out a hm of thought.

They look between Silas and Destiny, reconsidering their willingness to talk business in the moment. "We take an interest, of course, in those coming and going from our borders. Especially if they're well-equipped or far-flung, categories your convoy double-dips in," they relate succinctly, no smiles now. "There's much you see out there that could be of interest to us here, and much we have that could be of value to you both in travel and in living. If you mean to head west after here, though, then ultimately deals will have to be brokered with those that aren't."

"I'd prefer us to be among 'Captains' already when in-person correspondence is opened with Manhattan, if that's possible. I'll ask in earnest, are there any among you who could go back with one of mine to the Archipelago?" Their brows arch. "Someone who can attest to what they've seen here already and will be shown, someone who's trusted among your Council."

Nova’s brows knit as Nathalie takes her leave, followed by a surprise Eve, followed by Castle, gaze dancing around like she’s watching a tennis match. At Seren’s question, she looks around again, then shakes her head.

“I think most people were in it for the long haul, but now that they have seen what Chicago and you have to offer, maybe some will choose to remain here rather than taking a risk on the onbekende…” she pauses for a moment, before stating the English translation: “The unknown.” A verbal clue to those amongst her that maybe Anchor should not be mentioned to people who have power and means – at least not yet. Not unless it’s deemed in their best interest.

"Exactly so," Silas agrees, folding his hands. He's likewise dispensed with smiles, opting for a more earnest expression. "Our plan was, initially, to proceed further west. Under the circumstances, though… I don't think there'll be any difficulty in finding someone suitable to accompany a representative of New Chicago back to the Pelago."

Destiny nods in agreement to that, and takes Nova’s clue to remain mum on some of these details well. Some of the light in her eyes diminishes as she realizes that someone will have to leave their group and she has to wonder who will. Hopefully the other captains are both right and someone will volunteer. She suspects some of their number are reconsidering staying the course after what happened in Toledo.

“Considering the circumstances, there could be a volunteer, though we will obviously need to broach the topic to the rest of the group,” Stef says quietly, looking in the direction that the red mist had vanished a few moments before with a frown. “I do think setting up a trade route between the two of us would be quite beneficial to us both.” And they have just trailblazed the path, in many ways. They know some of what to avoid now—

And, perhaps, they’ve even taken out one of the more dangerous obstacles.

Asi does her best to repress her frown when it's suggested someone stay behind, knowing balling here isn't productive. They've already lost some of their number, though, and it's hard to skirt around that. "逆に…" she starts to murmur to herself, then glances up sharply when she realizes she's spoken aloud.

"Conversely, to be down by one or more of our people… perhaps you're interested, too, in what could be found west of here." Asi doesn't look directly at Seren when they turn their attention her way, much as she tries to steel her voice into a pleasant shape. "Two birds, one convoy."

Seren begins to smile again and lifts their glass from the table to signal their appreciation. "An enterprising suggestion, indeed– one we'll have to follow up on in the morning, once you've gone back and spoken with your people." They nudge their glass slightly higher in cheers before they indicate, "I think that's plenty to drink to. This promise of opportunity for us both."

“Opportunity,” Gracie murmurs under her breath in a tone so low it’s impossible to determine if she’s being sardonic or musing. In either case, she skirts around behind Silas to settle at his other side, not breaking contact with his arm until she’s set a hand on the other. It puts more space between herself and Seren’s shadow, which she continues to eye warily, worried about it solidifying again. They seem to have struck up some harmony, however, so she no longer feels the urge to bolt. That will have to be enough.

Asi's comment sees Silas's gaze swing to her, brow furrowed slightly. It's a nervy play she's making, a double-or-nothing… and the more he thinks about it, the more he appreciates it. Fortune favors the bold, after all, and if New Chicago is going to send a rep, they'll want to invest in the Convoy enough to make sure they reach their destination.

Assuming Marlowe and the other Captains buy in, at least, but Seren has the right of it there — that is a matter for a later time. He nods to Asi, then his gaze shifts back to Seren. Even as one hand goes to lay on Gracie's, where it's settled on his other arm — he'll have to follow up with her later — he raises his glass as well. "To promise, and to opportunity," he says solemnly, finishing his glass. "And to good bourbon," he adds, with a good-humored smile.

It's a smile mirrored by the remaining Convoy members' host as they drink deep, satisfied with the turnabout in the conversational direction. Agreement to come to a negotiating table is better than nothing, and they've done their part in extending a welcome to New Chicago, as far as they're concerned.

"I'm sure you're weary, having come this far," Seren acknowledges sympathetically. Their brows arch high as they gesture about the converted space. "Please, enjoy the lounge to your heart's content before you all get back on the road… we'll speak again before you set out."

With as much said, they begin to slip a step back, tipping their head as they go, and then they turn and leave, the shadow trailing behind them flickering like a poorly-contained flame. It serves as one last metaphor for the seemingly-tranquil waters in the City's running of itself– offering a glance to less-charitable machinations deep in its depths.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License