Static Friction


bella_icon.gif vincent_icon.gif

Scene Title Static Friction
Synopsis Vincent confronts Dr. Bella Sheridan sooner than he intended to when he shows up to shake down her apartment unannounced and finds her slowly succumbing to the cold inside. They are both polite. Also, bad people.
Date May 13, 2010

Bella's Apartment

Bella's handling of yesterday's gentleman caller was… perhaps unwise. But wisdom, however, badly needed, does not persist long in the face of the bleak and indefinite stretch of hours, days, and, should they extend far enough, fatal weeks. Being found, either starved to death or frozen, within her own apartment is a future reality Bella never really considered for herself, and she is loath to give it the courtesy of her direct acknowledgement. Damned fate will have her either way, she should at least put up what small fight she can.

It's dark, the heat is yet another degree lower than it was the day before as the building's gas heater comes closer to running on fumes, and finally, at long last, Bella's flashlight has gone out. She has no illumination save the paltry rays that filter through the thick snow on her windows, a snow she will not disturb considering its insulation is all that keeps her from freezing to death, the heat sucked right out through the pane glass. She's long since given up on trying to read - she could use one of her lighters, but she'd rather save the fluid for building an incredibly ill advised fire out of her Ikea furniture should the heat finally, truly give out.

Things are dark, in all respects, for Dr. Isabella Sheridan, huddling on her couch, immured in blankets, her books spread out around her. She stares at the dead face of the television. If only she could watching this scene there, rather than having to be in it. Though, honestly, she'd probably find it overwrought. She'd change the channel.

Knocking is for people restricted to operating only as a tangible three dimensional jello mold of muscle fiber, fat and skin around bone. Which Vincent is not. Knocking is also for honest people. Which.

You know. He's beginning to learn that honesty can be more flexible than he previously thought.

All at once there's a smudge on that television screen, detectable to eyes that have long since had time to adjust themselves to the absence of electricity. Something formless and terrible striking up tall behind the couch — a pillar of dark vapor that turns thickly over itself in its flush from the floor. Already rapidly assuming a human shape. A hallucination. A ghost. A gas leak. A government agent with a dark coat and a darker eyes, balding skull shaved close and brows pre-set at an aquiline level. His reflection in the television is not especially happy to be here.

It's not especially tall, either. Certainly shades less intimidating than the initial means of his arrival, remnant smoke mingled with the lighter vapor of his first biological breath for god knows how long. "There's nothing good on tonight anyway."

Bella has not reached hunger, cold or sleeplessness levels, individually high enough (or low, in a sense) to produce hallucinations. This, as a doctor, she knows. Boredom and darkness /can/ produce the conditions for false sensory perception, but anything on this scale usually requires a tank of water and Epsom salts. A full grown person, speaking… that seems a mighty tall order.

Ever since Jack's arrival, Bella has kept her taser on hand. She feels /safer/ with it. It rests on the couch cushion next to her, and her fingers curl around the grip. Via reflection, she meets man, eye to eye. "I admit I've lost track of the day," she says. Her voice is a bit dry, and using it makes her realize how thirsty she is. Dehydration, of course, is more likely a fate than starvation. Silly her. Though cold will beat them both, considering how little she has to metabolize into heat. "May I ask why you're here?"

"You may," says Vincent. Unfortunately that's all he says on the subject to start, right hand lifted to adjust absently at his tie where the cut of it between the lapels in his reflection is less than satisfactory. He's wearing gloves. Not so unusual given the weather, even if it is warm enough in here that he found someone to talk to rather than a corpse and a stack of paperwork.

He studies her reflection for a fair while before he moves again, this time to reach for his belt. And the badge clipped there. "My name is Vincent Lazzaro. I work for the Department of Evolved Affairs. You may already know my name." If nowhere else, from the asshole emails he occasionally CCs to the entire Company trying to bully them into re-training. "I have a helicopter."

A G-Man? Bella is dry amused at the sudden advantage of her having no illegal drugs left to hide. "I've got a deal for you," she says, slowly turning to properly face the man, half thinking (well, maybe a quarter thinking) he won't be there when she looks at him directly. "You give me a ride on that helicopter, and I won't ask you for a warrant."

There's an ethereal fade about the hand Lazzaro has lifted enough to better expose the badge outlined silver against the leather of his palm, shadow to shadow, smoke lifted like dust off the angle of his forearm and less definitely elsewhere. He continues to study her all the while, dark eyes and default frown. Not outright cowardice. Just very, very careful.

"Alright." She could do worse than flat agreement, especially from the looks of this guy while he pushes his badge wearily back down into place, except: "You answer a few questions for me, and I'll even take you where you want to go."

Bella turns further, one arm coming to rest on the back of the couch, the other staying behind it, out of view… the one with the taser. "I'd like to know the legal context of this questioning, if you wouldn't mind," she says. Even she's not sure if she's actually protecting herself, or if she's playing the system of civil liberties just for the sake of it. The latter would seem very stupid, considering her civil liberties won't be much good to her if she dies here.

"There is no legal context." He's tired. It's quiet in his voice more than he cares to let it show elsewhere, save maybe in a faintly impatient tip of his head at her expense. As if he suspects she's intentionally trying his patience. "I'm in the business of knowing things. Today I would like to know what you know."

A beat later, his brows twitch and cant, silent acknowledgement that this isn't the standard kind of polite phone call for any information you think might help. "It's very convenient for me that you're trapped in your apartment and gradually freezing to death, granted."

"Then consider me at your disposal," Bella says, "With no threat of self-incrimination to balance out the threat of hypothermia, I think I could manage to be very talkative." The psychiatrist glances down at the taser in her hand, a look that Vincent isn't likely to miss. "I'm armed, so to speak. I'm going to get up and still be holding my taser, if that's all right. I'd like to get ready to go. You can ask your questions while a pack."

Lazzaro follows the look down and renders no comment, tolerance as of yet still firmly intact. Unruffled as the rest of him, peacoat and suit and shiny black shoes to go with his badge. "Knock yourself out," would be a more ironic thing for him to say if he was in enough of a hurry to put a needle in her. But he isn't. So it isn't.

He does look like he intends to follow, though, weight shifted subtly to one side in anticipation of her moving to whichever room in search of luggage, toothbrush and clean underwear. Or whatever else. "For practical reasons you'll understand if I ask that you not bring it with you in the helicopter."

Bella moves to her bedroom, the door to which she leaves only partially open when she enters, a clear sign that he is /not/ to come in after her, but that he's permitted to talk to her through the gap. The sounds of doors opening are followed by mild expression of exertion as Bella pulls her big suitcases from their resting place in the walk-in closet that helped sell her on this apartment in the first place. Clothes are first priority, much of of it dirty, back when she stupidly bothered to change what she was wearing every day. Strange how enduring habits can be, not in spite of crisis, but because of it. We take normalcy where we can get it, vacations of tedium from the harsh disruption of daily life.

"Of course," she calls as she folds pair after pair of trousers, the taser in question resting beside her on the bed, "Now, I believe you had questions for me."

A kinder, less invested or otherwise more timid operative would respect the boundary posed to them by an only partially open door. It should probably come as no real surprise then that when Vincent replies, his increasingly familiar voice comes from behind again — in the bedroom with her with no trace of footsteps having crossed the intervening space. The door hasn't budged.

"I've heard rumors of a temporary chemical enhancer of evolved abilities potentially still in your possession." He stands politely in a parade rest despite his intrusion, outwardly oblivious to or not interested in any boundaries crossed, outline murky and expression difficult to read in low light. "I need to know if you still have it. Also, whether or not anyone else might."

There are certainly worse things a government operative must have witnessed than the bedroom of Isabella Sheridan. Certainly, one can understand why she wanted some degree of privacy, the preservation of a minimum of personal mystique. Sex toys rear up from the bedside tables, competing with the similar profile of a water pipe. It's nothing exceptional, just the low level debauch of a well-to-do socially liberal single woman of almost-thirty. Bella does start, visibly, but doesn't turn around to look at him. She doesn't want him to see her close her eyes, an visibly calm herself. She'd rather appear, if not totally impassive, than able to /appear/ totally impassive. Control over emotional display is halfway to emotional control itself.

She calms herself by continuing to pack, kneeling on the ground to gather up a stray brassier. "You probably know you're putting me in a difficult position here," she says, "And I have to wonder just how much you /actually/ know, but aren't saying, just to test my honesty. Yes, I was present during an inadvertent ability enhancement reaction, in an administrative capacity. Yes, I believe the data gathered during the event may have been used to help engineer an enhancement drug. I was not part of that process, so I can't speak to it. I'm a psychiatrist, not a pharmacologist or a biochemist."

Vincent has been married and has seen sex toys before, just like he has been a policeman and worked with lesbians before, just like he's worked closely with evolved affairs for a year now and seen people turn into fire and ice and smoke before. He does smile faintly to himself when she doesn't turn around though, sense of humor at her expense dredged warmly up through stagnant shadow and creeping cold despite himself. Beyond that, so long as she isn't in there rifling around after a firearm they could be standing on the surface of the moon or the floor of a dildo factory for all the difference it makes.

He doesn't touch anything.

Doesn't even really look beyond his initial assessment and a lift at his brows to match.

"Sounds like a personal problem," said dispassionately of her dilemma over just how much he does or doesn't already know, he breaks parade rest long enough to scuff idly behind his ear while she goes on with her packing and explaining. Not part of the process. Psychiatrist, not a biochemist. "Naturally. But you needn't worry. I realize it's a lot to ask of someone overseeing illegal experimentation to actually know what they are doing. Do you have access to the aforementioned data?"

"I don't know. I haven't asked. If you asked me to ask, I would tell them you asked me, and then I most definitely wouldn't," Bella says, permuting verbs, subjects and objects over and over on each other. She pauses. She does have to spend some brain power on figuring out what she'll bring with her, what she can afford to leave behind. She might need more business clothes. She will be living at work, after all.

The shrink gets up, moves to the closet, enters, and exits again, carrying a number of hangers, adorned with suits, complete with jackets, some with skirts. It would be better to use a garment back with them, but they aren't exactly Valentino Couture, so she just folds them in over the rest of her clothes. "By the way, I am not admitting involvement in any illegal activities of any kind, regardless of the context of this discussion. For the record, which I know we aren't on."

"I see."

That is a quandary. Resigned to her Jormungandesque denial of detail, Vincent tilts his watch to better read the time via light strangled in sallow through a snow-packed window. "Why don't you start by telling me who 'they' are. The pronouns you aren't admitting illegal involvement with." Just to clarify, you know. To cut down on potential confusion while he releases the watch from his stare and feels through a coat pocket for his ear piece instead..

"If you need help carrying anything, feel free to let me know."

"I think that depends on where the helicopter is. The roof, I'm guessing?" Bella says, drifting into the bathroom to gather her toiletries. "And I'm sorry, I can't start, continue or end with telling you who 'they' are. Half the time I'm not even sure, and where I'm sure, I'm also sure I can't tell you." She returns with a black dop kit in hand, as well as a ziplock back full of cosmetics. She lets them fall into the suitcase, "I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but I really don't know what the consequences of speaking freely will be. I'm not a member of the secret world government illuminati whatever. I just push pills and pick up checks."

"Circling, I think," answered honestly with distraction while he fits the wire into place, Vincent nods along with her supposition all the same. "But it will be before long, yes. You don't sound very sorry." The last noted with a bleak sideways look on his way to peering back at the bed, he manages to withhold judgment past that and the fleeting consideration that he could just leave her here. Could and probably should.

"Okay," he says after a moment of peering at the nearest sex toy instead of her, probably without realizing what he's looking at, thoughts shuffled and rolled around under the glassy black surface of his glare, "I confess I'm feeling a little ineffectual right now, Doctor Sheridan, and my impulse — my impulse — is to leave you where I can find you again with the kind of documentation that apologies alone cannot defer."

Bella stops packing, and not in a way that suggests she's done or she's taking a break, but that she's /deliberately/ suspending her action so she can turn and meet Vincent's eyes. "Hunger and cold are in close competition for my life, and you are the second potentially threatening man to come traipsing through my door with less than the vaguest mimicry of consent on my part. You work in a governmental capacity, meaning you have authority that may or may not be in contest with the authorities I am professionally bound to respect, and may, additionally, be in contest with my basic civil liberties as an American citizen. I have not slept well in some time. I've been without power and running water for days on end. I am, in short, spending every last bit of energy I have trying to stay alive in the moment, and in the immediate future. Please consider all paucity of affect a result of my massive exhaustion, and my truculence the result of being placed in a completely untenable position."

"I have hardly traipsed. At least, I don't recall any traipsing." Lazzaro thinks about it as if that's the most important thing. Traipsing is very rude, after all. It entails a certain kind of entitled, galumphing carelessness, and he has not touched or knocked over a single piece of Ikea furniture.

"In any case, you are obviously more than welcome to file trespassing and menacing charges at your earliest convenience." There's a click-click like a pen being tabbed out in his pocket, which the pen then follows, along with a note pad. If she's reached anything in him that might resemble guilt or unease, it certainly doesn't show in his posture or in his eyes. "I'm merely curious, is all."

Clothes, check. Toiletries, check. What's next? Far past the point of self-consciousness, Bella moves over to the bedside table, opens a drawer, and tugs out a plastic bag, proceeding to sweep vibrators, dildos and various activity appropriate ointments and unctions into its open mouth. She ties the handles together, and tosses it into the suitcase with a careless underhand.

"That's very nice. You've turned your natural curiosity into a professional tool. Not everyone's so lucky, to have a job that is also their natural inclination." Bella stands, turning, trying to think what she might possibly look back and wish she had taken with her. There's always something, but you can reduce the magnitude of that something if you try and project yourself into the future dilemma. "Do you have any other questions for me? Ones that maybe I have the proper freedom to answer?"

Like the watch before, Vincent tips the pad window-wards to eek out enough meager light to scratch a few notes down by. He doesn't look very impressed with his own handwriting once he's done, but odds are he'll be the only one to have to mess with it later on anyway. "Don't forget the pipe," remarked aside without much feeling while she surveys her domain, he flips the page and scrawls again before he turns the little book over between his gloves to close it.

"Assuming there are multiple individuals pushing pills to pay their bills, you must surely have some competition within the organization."

"I've nothing left to smoke, and no way to get more. And I don't want to break it. It's glass, very nice. Bought it in San Francisco," Bella says, dropping with incredibly ease into a hostessly exposition. It is a nice pipe, its clear glass swirled with dark blue lines in a simple pattern. "I don't consider myself in competition with anyone. I have my specialty, and I perform my function, as a purveyor of mental health." A thorough non-answer.

Nothing. She needs nothing else that she can think of. Well… wait… She moves into her closet again, and when she returns, she's carrying a metal rod topped with a wolfshead, two red jewels for eyes. "Gimp leg," she explains, and she has been favoring one leg over the other, though she doesn't seem to need a cane, let alone one so gaudy and difficult to match with an outfit not worn to King Richard's Faire. She hefts it slightly, then sets it to the side of her suitcase. "Be right back," she says, stepping out the door and moving into the living room. One last thing. She stoops, picks up a single, very weighty book, and reenters the bedroom.

"It looks very nice," Lazzaro agrees, even looking up when he says it, common houseguest to hostess.

He doesn't let irritation show until she's stepped back into the closet, jaw locked and eyes darkening further with deepening dislike for the few seconds she shows him her back.

When she's back again, so is he, quietly inscrutable while she adjusts the cane and fetches a book, a staticy voice buzzing tinny and faint in his ear. Coordinates. Or times. Potentially both. "It's interesting that you should describe yourself that way. Additionally as a supervisor, given that I was lead to believe your participation in certain activities was altogether more hands on. What's with the book?"

"Did you go where you were led?" Bella inquires, flipping through the first few pages of the book before looking up at Vincent, "Are you asking me this because you believe I had this 'hands-on' involvement and want me to confirm it, or because you don't know whether or not to believe your source and you want a more informed opinion? I'm not trying to split hairs here. I'd just like to know what you are /actually/ asking me. Since, in fact, you have asked me nothing. Merely made implications that I am, I suppose, expected to respond to. It's for a friend," she taps the front of the book, then extends her hand to Vincent, "May I borrow your pen for a moment?"

"I'm asking because I'd like to know." Non-answers are fielded with more of the same in return, reasonably genial, temper never quite rolling at the surface where he can retrieve his pen and hold it out for her to take instead. No acknowledgement of the potential significance of the absence of a literal question mark and whether or not he thinks it has a genuine impact on the kind of answer he is likely to get. "I have the luxury of going where I please. It comes with the helicopter."

Bella takes the pen in hand, then moves over to the same place Vincent stood to get the light he needed. She flips the cover of the book open, and makes a quick inscription. The book shuts and Bella stashes this last item in the suitcase before zipping it up. These matters attended to, she deigns to reply. "When performing research, I will personally oversee the more important stages," is her answer, as crisp as she can make it, "Ah… I actually would like a sheet of your note paper as well, if you don't mind. And then I'll need a moment alone to change. I'm not going outside like this," she indicates herself, dressed in an amalgam of PJs, long johns and winter fleece - an outfit for an arctic sleepover.

Vincent watches the book until it disappears, but for whatever reason — pride maybe, in addition to that missing warrant — he holds back. Flicks his notebook out again instead to thumb a page from the back, balding countenance demonstrating no disapproval of the added inconvenience. Possibly because he next says, "You will be, actually, unless you'd like to put on a few coats over it. I wouldn't worry, though. Sam won't say anything."

Bella gives Vincent a smile, a pretty thing she has only just now managed to ramp up the energy for. "Thank you," she says, before moving to the nightstand. In the blinking half-light of the alarm clock (12:00 12:00 12:00) she scratches out a quick message, then folds the paper and tucks it into her bra, just for safe keeping.

"All right then. I'll get my coats, and you can carry my bag up to the chopper," Bella says. There's more brightess in her tone now. The prospect of escaping seems to have lifted her spirits. She plucks the wolfshead cane from its lean, and heads out into the living room, making for the front closet, where her coats and scarves are piled. Wrapping herself in warmth, donning her boots, praying the few heels she made room to bring remain comfortable, she stands by the door, ready to depart. Let's go! As if it were Vincent holding them up all this time.

Jaw jutted into an ever increasing sideways set after her once she's smiled at him and gone out, Vincent watches her do her thing with eyes of crude oil. All the way until she's done, folded letter he can't see under several layers, book in the bag he's taken up on his shoulder.

Once again any tell-tale signs of a goat that's been gotten are gone by the time he joins her at the door. There, he looks her over once, adjusts the sit of her clothing and personal library of phalluses across his back and nods to the hallway beyond. "All the way up the fire escape well. The roof access door is unlocked. I'll meet you there."

The taser is left, as per his request, in the bedroom. Bella is being /trusting/, isn't that nice? She waits for Vincent to exit the apartment, then closes the door, locking it and then unzipping herself long enough to tug out the note, which she sets at the foot of the door. She turns to Vincent, and nods, "No need. Lead the way. I've never taken the fire escape before, luckily."


"…I'll meet you there," repeated with precisely the same inflection after a pause once he's watched her set the note into place, Vincent churns to smoke, taking her luggage with him. He's in pretty good shape, but he's not carrying a bag of cocks and clothes up however many flight of stairs on foot.

Oh. So /that's/ what he meant. Bella is consigned to the normal, non-Evolved methods of transport. Rendered graceless in her winter clothing, she heads for the fire stairs. Warmer halls and greener pastures await.

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