The Buffet of Free Will


bella_icon.gif warren_icon.gif

Scene Title The Buffet of Free Will
Synopsis Warren Ray plays host to a somewhat cagey psychologist.
Date October 7, 2010

The Octagon - Warren's Apartment

It's noon when Warren calls Bella suddenly, explaining that he needs her help with someone, but that he has memory issues to discuss first. He invited her to his Octagon apartment, having ordered a pepperoni pizza to sit on the coffee table with a large pitcher of sweet tea and two glasses. When she arrives, he opens the door, wearing his black suit with the unbuttoned jacket and white leather gloves, and of course a tie. "Hey, Bella. I've never felt the need to use this word before, but you're a very radiant person."

Bella's dressed for business, in a slate grey pant suit with a burgundy button up beneath the jacket. It would be best to describe the psychiatrist's affect as crisp. Her smile is well formed, presentable, but hardly glowing. If she radiates, it's a radiation that is refracted through the crystal exterior of her mien. She offers her hand to shake, however. "Why thank you," she says, "I have to wonder what that means, specifically, from someone with your mechanical aptitude. Are you being technical when you use the term?" A joke! No one would guess how close she's holding her cards to her chest. She steps inside, assuming the invitation is tacitly extended. "So… memory first, referral second? Shall we?"

"I consider people to be cogs in the greater machine, but the human body is still not quite a technical thing to me." Warren closes and locks the door, then walks to the couch and opens the pizza box, patting the couch to invite her over. "I'm just going to dump this all out at once, and hope you don't think I sound crazy. Alright, so, I remember that we sort of… shacked up, during the storm, and then you gave me my ability back, which is all a very hazy experience I just barely remember. The getting my ability back part, not the shacking up." He definitely remembers the shacking up.

He reaches for the pitcher to pour them both a glass of tea, stopping when it's half full. "I've been told that I used to have three personalities, that I used to be insane and kill people. But I don't remember any of that, because the girl who used to be my girlfriend suddenly forced someone's hand, and some sort of mind manipulator fused my personalities and removed my insanity. Some of my memories are perfectly clear, others without context or chopped up, like my memories with you. All I remember is really, really wanting you, like this intense attraction and trying to find a way to get by your barriers. But I know there's probably a crazy half, I'm quickly learning that there almost always is."

It is rather hard for Bella not to level technical objections of her own as Warren describes the snowed in rendezvous as 'shacking up'. Definitional as well as situational and consciousness-based corrections press forward in her mind, but, ultimately, what's the point? Such details are effectively meaningless, from his phenomenological standpoint. He remembers what he remembers.

Bella takes her seat, and leans forward, lifting her glass to her lips and taking a sip. She regards Warren with polite interest, hearing him out. This all sounds quite reasonable, a testament to how insane Bella's life has become and further testament to how you can get used to most anything, as long as certain symbolic structures remain intact. "I was familiar with all three of your previous personalities," she says, placing herself in relation to his history, from her perspective, "I will treat you, in this consciousness state, as another person entirely however. My viewpoint is that you are. Connected, certainly. Some kind of composite. But a new person. I trust you'll use that tabula rasa well."

"Alright, you're still the person I thought you were. Sometimes I misinterpret my memories, it's frustrating. I hope we're friends, right now I'm in need of those." Warren smiles, then lifts his glass and takes a sip, sitting back with a relaxed sigh. "Alright, I need your help. You were at the discussion the other day. That woman, the one the student wanted to work at the Suresh Center? I'm helping her. She was attacked by Humanis First, had filthy words carved into her skin, and now she's afraid to even leave her job or home. I thought you might be able to help her, since I can trust you, I hope, and I don't want her to be with just any therapist."

"We're not friends yet," Bella states, right up front, "because I don't really know you. But I am willing, as I said, to go forth assuming you are a discreet, new individual. Which means we may become friends." The glass of tea is held between her palms, its base resting on her crossed leg. "I think I recall her, yes. That sounds like a terrible trauma… I hope I wasn't too harsh at the discussion. The gloves sort of came off. A bit excessive of me, but…" but what, exactly? "well, what was is what was. Tell me more about her. Are we thinking likely post-traumatic stress?"

"That's what I'm thinking, at least. She's very afraid of getting close to people, of people in general. She's afraid of making relationships beyond business because she has trouble trusting, and believes anyone could potentially hurt her, possibly take her life." Warren reaches for a slice of pizza, nodding his head to the box as indication that she can get one too. "I think I might have at least cracked one barrier. She has a hint of trust in that she's not worrying about me hurting her. I'm the one who took her to the Suresh Center, to get her out and doing something."

"That was a wise move," Bella says, giving a small nod, "getting her engaged with some sort of work or activity. A lot of recovery is just about re-normalization, processing and distance. But if her trauma is as severe as it sounds… I do think professional help is called for. Please, give her my information and have her call me. She can set up an appointment with me through the Suresh center as well. What is her full name, again? Any other things I should know about ahead of time?"

"From what I heard at the Center, her last name is Daley, so I'm willing to guess it's Milena Daley. She's a tier-2 with the ability to control plant growth, but try not to spread that for anyone who doesn't already know." Warren takes a bite of his pizza, staring at her for a long moment in the midst of his chewing. "So, since you're considering me a new person, and I know a person like you must be incredibly curious, any questions?"

Bella nods, "Good to know. And don't worry, I take confidentiality very seriously," so she says, "please, point her in my direction. I can't seek her out and find her myself. That would be inappropriate. Make the suggestion, let her know my door is open."

The redhead arches a brow very slightly. Incredibly curious, is she? Selectively so, really. "No, no questions," she says, "not yet. I am scientifically curious, certainly, but I know, as any good scientist does, that observation and inquiry, in and of themselves, change the observed and its answers. I'd rather get to know you on more organic terms, Warren. I suspect, after all, you may need some time to get to know yourself."

"I don't know how to explain it, but I feel like I'm trying to have a personal relationship with myself, and failing, especially since I was augmented. An Evolved briefly augmented my ability, and suddenly I was inspired, I saw the city for how broken it was, and suddenly the people were like gears. I've been working towards fixing it." Warren takes another pizza bite, still staring as if he's trying to figure out some deep secret written on her face. "But when I come back to thinking of myself, and everything else, on a human level, things fall apart."

What secret might that be? Bella's not aware that she's a tablet upon which is inscribed anything of particular note. Hers is an insight maybe not of common sense, but certainly of a straight, empirical analysis. Something a man who knows machines could have access to himself. Though his grandiosity, it seems, remains.

"I'd have to ask, Warren, what a 'fixed' city would look like? What does your final product resemble? And what place in this mechanism would there be for yourself?"

"A utopia where Evolved are free to perform 'miracles', using that word in the least technical term, for everyone, including themselves. No one has to be homeless, no one has to want for anything, and people get to have hope and not live in fear. But where do I see myself?" Warren places his left hand against his stomach, staring down at it. "The behind the scenes maintenance man, never to be seen or heard of by the public."

"So this utopia would require maintenance?" Bella presses, her head tilting slightly, "what would that consists of?"

"No machine works forever without maintenance. Gears get rusty, parts get mis-aligned, batteries run out. There's always going to be some politician, some terrorist group, or some ambitious Evolved with a dangerous ability that tries to ruin what we create for ourselves, 'we' being the human race." Warren reaches over to take her hand after brushing the crumbs from the pizza off his gloves, trying to raise it inbetween them. "I realize that the only way to fix the city, the only way to create a utopia, is to stabilize the emotions of the people, to sway their minds toward a single goal, a single cause, met through individual causes. To simplify it, people have to want to make things better, and they need to know that they have a means."

"And if you're wrong? If the political, the terrorist group, the ambitious individual… what if they see a flaw in your plan? What if they don't see themselves as rusty or mis-aligned? What if they take issue with the designer and his design, for creating a structure in which some people are viewed as 'broken', in need of repair or replacement?" Bella's questions have a touch of her affect from the discussion at the Suresh Center, a steady sort of skepticism, an eye for cracks that might be being glossed over.

"A machine doesn't know it's being fixed, it simply is. When the city gets to the way that I want it, as far as they know, it'll have gotten that way on its own, simply pushed there by a series of Evolved miracles. I'm not like a dictator, or even a leader, I just see the design and I know how to create it. I just have to push people in the right direction, let nature take its course. You can't fight nature, you can't fight natural events, and everyone benefits." Warren looks down at the back of her hand, eyes flushing with silver, as she's probably noticed always happens when he stares at something he wants to understand. "I don't gain anything out of this, I just don't want people to suffer anymore, but I don't want to blatantly control people either, I just want to point them in the right direction."

"I'm not suggesting that it's you that stands to gain. Selflessness, though, and nobility, motivates the worst of projects. You know what Dostoyevsky wrote? That if God is dead, everything is permitted? He's wrong. If God is alive, everything is permitted, because anything can be done in His name. The same can be said for any grand cause like that," Bella gives a slight shrug, "I'm mostly playing devil's advocate here, but at heart, I'm quite serious. Pointing people in the right direction is predicated on your knowing what the right direction is. Can you be confident in that knowledge?"

"My ability makes me confident in that knowledge on a level that I can't put into words, but I don't claim to be infallible, I'm definitely not a god. My ability is for machines, I'm not even sure why I got this grand inspiration." Warren releases her hand, eyes reverting to their normal blue. "Thank you for being an impartial observer, I think I'd feel confident using you as a measure of my judgement occasionally, when I'm in doubt."

The relinquishment of her hand is accepted just as its initial taking was - wordlessly, unprotested. "The effect of you ability on your phenomenological experience is exactly the sort of thing that interests me, professionally," Bella says, "that feeling of confidence… I'd honestly like to know what other kinds of states it resembles, chemically. Is it anything like mania, for example? Or like a drug induced exultation?" she sets her tea glass back on the table, mostly undrunk - maybe she's not that thirsty - "I'm an observer, not impartial, but certainly critical. But please, when in doubt, feel free to consult me. I would, however, suggest you try and let yourself feel doubt when you are at your most certain.

"We rarely do so much evil as when we are sure we are doing good, after all."

"It's not like mania or a drug, I don't think it's like any other human experience. When I see this way, the way I am now? This is just a room, that's a television, that's a table." Warren gestures to each item respectively, then his eyes blink and shift to pure silver. "Now the television is a thousand parts that I perfectly understand, the table is a hundred different things I could create if I had a carving tool. And this room? Everything in it together? It's a million grand machines that even I can barely comprehend the function of, these are all things that I know for sure and can pick apart in my mind, it's like having an entire team of people thinking for me at the same time and instantaneously consulting, coming to dozens of conclusions per second and in perfect agreement."

"A fascinating form of cognition," Bella says, slowly rising to her feet, an indication that she is readying for departure. She is, however, close to as curious as he gave her credit for, and clearly had more questions than she claimed to at first. Though this 'getting to know' is of a different sort. "How is it that you decide on which of the million machines to crate?"

"Well, let me put it this way… how do you decide what to eat in a buffet?" Warren stands, walking so he can see her out. "It's that simple a choice, really. Whatever I want, whatever I need, what I feel most inspired for at the moment, various factors."

"It is that moment, Warren, that is the worrying one," Bella indicates, lifting a finger to establish the singularity of the event, "because the choices you make aren't just you. A lot else goes into making the ground for that choice. And what chooses how you choose… that's where things get dangerous. Skewed." She turns, offers her hand to him again, "I hope, despite my endless naysaying, that I was of some help. I hope, also, to be of help in the future."

"You're intelligence personified, Bella." Warren lifts her hand, kissing the back of it. "And you were plenty of help. You're welcome here any time." He opens the door for her, nodding to the exit.

Bella's smile is thin, and her hand is reclaimed with just enough delay to avoid seeming rude. She dips her head, slightly. "Thank you. I'm sure I'll see you again in not too long." Not as familiar now, certainly, but she did say she was treating him as a new person. And, given the alternative, distance is really preferable. Not that he can know that. Bella slips out the door without further ado, leaving the apartment behind. All the insanity, removed? Bella does not think so. She defines insanity rather differently. And she knows it is a resilient beast.

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