No Hard Feelings


praeger2_icon.gif russo_icon.gif

Scene Title No Hard Feelings
Synopsis The complications of Russo's situation are carefully ironed out.
Date January 25, 2011

Financial District: 26 Federal Plaza

This is one of the first rooms with windows that Bradley Russo has been introduced to since his initial arrival to the Suresh Centre some few days ago. A reasonably bewildering transfer to the Financial District had ensued this morning, where a small group of press shelled around the entrance, snapping images across the barricades at the TV show host as he was escorted by men in kevlar into the hive of 26 Federal Plaza and then there was a—

White walled room. With a table. A mirror. And a locked door.

There is something about the absent-minded nature of the Department of Evolved Affairs that can make one feel like a prisoner, except that convicted criminals have at least a modicum of certainty about what happens next, even if that's nothing.

It's late in the afternoon by the time he's finally brought upstairs, in the steely interior of the elevator, two suits at either side, and escorted into an expansive office that has enough window to make up for all the closed off rooms he's had the privilege of existing in for the last few days. It shows a hazy New York skyline, ruined in the north, grey and the faintest tinges of yellow in the cloud as the sunk sinks. Up here, it's hard to tell if it's snowing or not, but the window seems to remain dry. Despite that, the sprawling mass of grey city looks cold.

Condensation gathers on the side of the glass of water that the receptionist had set on the desk for Russo, whether he asked for it or not. He sits in a chair that is almost as comfortable as the proper one on the other side, empty for the last few minutes before a gentle creak of the door heralds Raymond Praeger's entrance.

"Hello Bradley!" is cheerful, warm and sincere, as the Secretary of the Department of Evolved Affairs steps into his own office, a coat slung over an arm which then gets hooked up by the door on the way through. "I'm so sorry to have kept you waiting, I hope you've been comfortable here with us."

Whether intentional or not, there was a visible change in Brad's entire demeanour once entering the windowed room— his posture actually nearly relaxed, for a moment, anyways. Just one. After so long with such little amounts of stimulation, that all-too-familiar horizon has a nearly calming effect, whether intentional or not. He's been polite to each of the suits, to everyone involved in this— whatever this is. In many ways, the time within these walls, his mounting fatigue, growing uncertainty, and his constant concern for at least one person outside them makes him look like a much older man.

His blue-grey eyes trail down to the water glass while his hand grasps it to raise it to his lips. A single sip. Cool. Quenching. The glass is returned to the table, but he doesn't release it, clutching onto anything he can. A glance is given his hands there, followed by a small frown; he'll never look at his own hands the same way.

The creak of the door snaps him to attention. A smile strains over his lips, tight enough to emit some measure of discomfort, but broad enough to bear with it goodwill and politeness. "Mister Secretary," he rises slowly from his chair, a reaction rather than a thought-out act. Once he's standing, however, his eyebrows draw together slightly, while he manages an easier smile, extending a hand for Praeger to shake, "Always a pleasure."

Despite the fact that there is now video in the world of Bradley throwing a man through a prop wall with these very hands, Praeger isn't shy about clasping this one in a firm shake. "Likewise," he says, over his glasses, moving then to sit across from Russo in precise and economic movements, from his steps to his adjusting of his chair, through to making sure the strip of satin of his tie is placed correctly. "I know you've been having a very trying time these past few days. Sudden manifestations are some of the leading causes in many isolated Evolved incidences, and on camera— "

Genuine sympathy is all Russo can really read from the white haired politician, who looks a little bit tired himself, as if on Bradley's behalf. "So I won't take up too much of your time, I hope. From what I gather, the reports show that your sudden manifestation is as surprising to you as it was for your associate, is that right?"

As Praeger sits, Russo follows suit, sliding forward in his chair before clasping the arms of it lightly, a nearly protective position— busy hands aren't blasty hands, he thinks, anyways. His lips quirk into a semi exhausted smile, lacking its usual good humour and merriment. "It's been— what it is." His lips press together, but that slight curl to his lips remains. "Honestly? I haven't smoked in over fifteen years and more than anything I've been craving a cigarette since it happened."

He leans back in his chair as his hands grip the arms a little tighter, just a stitch. "It was unprecedented." There's a brief pause as the regret overwrites his expression. A hand combs through his hair with a faint shake of his head, "I've never lost my temper on camera. Never. I've never gotten angry on set, and I've never reprimanded a guest." He swallows as his eyes crease with an unusual concern, "And then— I.. " there's another pause, "Mister Secretary, I was trained early on. I learned to throw a punch from a young age, and while such things warrant some measure of danger, I consider myself a man of sound judgment. Doing that to a colleague..?" his eyebrows arch upwards and there's a firmer shake of his head. "I'm only thankful he was merely shaken up."

That brief smile for Russo's banter on cigarettes fades as he continues to talk, Praeger tucked a couple of fingers beneath his own chin and nodding at the right intervals as he listens, peering at Russo over the edge of his frameless glasses. "Well," he says, after a moment, keeping blue-eyed stare level and coolly sympathetic, "should your colleague press charges, it will probably help your case substantially when you go in with a full confirmation from the Department of Evolved Affairs that you were tested with a batch of SLC testing kits that were deemed faulty. A recall of five hundred Evolved tests will be expensive but not impossible.

"Considering the consequences you experienced yourself, I'm sure you'd be— " And he gives Russo a quick smile. "Open to advocating the importance of the Registry and testing for the SLC. Am I wrong?"

Praeger doesn't wait for an answer before sliding open a drawer, but his glance back at Russo confirms he does expect one.

Brad's stare is equally cool. His fingers stroke the several days stubble that's accumulated along his chin while he leans back in the chair, generating as much distance as he can from the other man. His head tilts slightly while his chin drops. "I have always encouraged my viewers to register," is the honest answer. "From the moment the call went out for voluntary registration." He smiles cunningly, "Any political pundit worth their weight knew it would all be mandatory anyways." And then, the smile is gone and his tone becomes matter-of-fact, "It's the law. I always encourage my viewers to abide by the law."

His elbows rest on the arms of the chair as he leans forward in it. "So if you're requesting the show— " assuming he still has a show after those antics "— proceed in the same vein, I think it goes without question." His fingers lace together in front of him, "But if you're proposing something else— ?" his eyebrows raise, he'll have to know what's being asked first.

"The Advocate has been nothing but supportive," Praeger assures, pausing so as best to gesture with a splayed hand. "In the face of some of the criticism we get— a very vocal minority indeed— you've always allowed us a platform to try and be honest with America. I wouldn't have made my appearance if I didn't feel that way. And I believe that Daniel Linderman had a similar appreciation, back in the day when the Registry was being built up." If there is any— any— implication in this statement, it shows in a flick of a glance that is as brief as a shark flashing its tail.

He sets a folder down upon his desk primly. "Down the same vein, that is very correct. I'd also like to enquire about your interest regarding a position in our communications branch." He laces his hands together. "The contract details to be negotiated, of course, but our public relations team could really use a spokesperson such as yourself. And with your experience, I think we could help each other to portray your manifestation in a light that is positive and reinforcing. We would, after all, be admitting to a mistake.

"We'll make sure that your current position as TV host remains constant — in fact, we'd encourage it, obviously. And of course, we'd be happy to offer our creative consultation when it comes to guest lists, the topics presented…" Praeger trails off around then, settling into a comfortable, gently inquiring silence.

Russo is statuesque through the proposal, nearly frozen aside from his blinking blue-grey eyes. His jaw tightens some, but for now he only watches and listens. As Praeger falls silent, however, Brad finds himself swallowing the lump in his throat while he shifts in his seat, repositioning himself to grasp the arms of the chair again. He clears his throat. "I've been very fortunate throughout my career to garner the respect of men like yourself and Daniel Linderman. And I've— " his lips tick up into a nearly grin smile "— been keen to give back for awhile." If that's what this is. Again he swallows hard.

The folder placed on the desk is eyed, particularly as Brad brings his water glass to his lips. "I think we could negotiate something, and I would be open to your suggestions in terms of the topics and guests brought forward. Of course, Kristen and myself would try to balance the panel for debate and discussion as always— " In his own way, he's testing the water.

He slowly releases a breath, a nearly calming effect over his own nerves. "I imagine we could come to some agreement." That hopefully doesn't involve him entirely selling his soul.

"You know, I find that even with a city in turmoil, agreement can always be reached when everyone just sits down and tries to be civil," Praeger says, with an easier smile. "And you and your producers won't have to worry — we'd just like to be kept in the loop, really, you probably won't even notice us. A balanced panel on a show such as yours is to be expected, and Georgia Mayes, one of our top media experts in the Department— " Well, that's one way to put it. "— will know to respect and honour that."

He flips open the file, and nudges it over for Russo to read over. "If you'll sign this, you'll be able to leave the building." A soft laugh, deprecating and almost humourful, but there's sort of a no, really tone to it too. "Simply a few official words regarding no hard feelings towards the Department for the recalled batch, and the statement from the police officer that administered the test."

A silver pen is offered. "The terms of your partnership with us will be written up over the week, and I'm sure you'd prefer to be able to go home rather than haggle over that. Tomorrow's a new day."

The pen is taken, perhaps too enthusiastically, the notion of leaving just too close within reach, but Russo manages to exercise some measure of control, particularly as he peruses the document, fully heeding Kristen's former advice Never Sign Anything Unless You've Read It First. His tongue rolls over his lips as his eyes scan the sheet. There's always something ill-advised about signing anything until a lawyer's looked it over, but things seem on the up and up, and so he signs in messy, nearly illegible scrawl: Bradley Russo.

The pen is left on the desk, pushed forward followed by the file. "And yes, I'm anxious to get home. Shower." His hand once again runs over his chin and cheeks, "And shave." His smile grows further now, complete with a bright flash of teeth, "I try not to haggle terribly, and I imagine my producer— " and then a little more interjected than he intends "— and my fiancee— are concerned." Or some measure thereof.

"I'm sure you won't," is elegant a delivery as ever, Praeger glancing over the signature hawkishly before deciding it would do. Offering out his hand once more, for pen and then a shake of departure, he tucks his chin in in a nod that seems to act as punctuation for a meeting's closure. "Have a good evening, Bradley — you should be expecting your new, amended Registration card in the mail any day now."

The shake of departure brings something new but likely expected from Brad, relief. "Thank you, Mister Secretary. I'll keep my eyes open for it." He can angst about that later, for now it's all pleasantries and appearances. "Have a wonderful evening. I look forward to hearing from your people again." And with a final salute, he's free… ish.

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