The Orchestra Adjourns


teo_icon.gif ygraine_icon.gif

Scene Title The Orchestra Adjourns
Synopsis Ygraine and Teo have a conversation concealed in public by a double-layered security protocol of both French and an elaborate musical band metaphor. Another one chooses to retire, but this time, on far better terms than the others.
Date February 25, 2009


Though it's less than two miles square, Chinatown is home to some quarter of a million residents. Cramped, ancient tenements are the norm, though the fourty-four story Confucious Plaza standing at the corner of Bowery and Division does boast luxurious accommodations by comparison. Mulberry Street, Canal Street, and East Broadway are home to streetside green grocers and fishmongers, and Canal Street also boasts an impressive array of Chinese jewelry shops.

Compared to the weather of the past few months, today is positively balmy. Blue skies overhead, sunshine filtering down to the streets a temperature above freezing and no wind…. In this relative paradise, the shoppers have come out in greater numbers than has often been seen recently, bustling to and from the canal street market and between the shops and businesses that line the roads of Chinatown.

Rumbling to a halt outside an Orientally-stocked supermarket, a motorcyclist in black leathers with the flag of the United Kingdom across her back pauses to lock her bike, then swings off it and removes her dark-visored helmet. That gets stowed in one pannier, while a perfectly mundane canvas shopping bag is withdrawn.

Sometimes, Teo just walks. Well, occasionally he just walks. More frequently, these days, he has some extra layer of ulterior or practical purpose other than just dawdling along on his feet; today, he's familiarizing himself with the terrain, as it were. Moving into a new place brings a catalogue of exciting new concerns and logistical quandaries, like which window to go through if there's a cop at the door, what alleyway network to bolt down, which establishments belong to Triads. Or possibly he's just paranoid. It's not like he can tell a Triad man aside from the next arrogant dick in a suit, anyway.

He's trawling along the sidewalk with a cigarette poking out of his mouth, his boots a steady thump and scratch along the pavement. The occasional National Guard checkpoint and armored vehicle don't draw so much as a glance, which is partly subterfuge and partly the same weary acclimation that has worn its way into the lobes and habits of all of Manhattan's citizens. What does turn his head is the grand hog that rounds into view as he turns the curb.

He doesn't know a lot about motorcycles, still, but he can recognize a fine piece of work when he sees one and it angles his path nearer, makes him pause, through the currents and eddies of chattering New Yorkers. His shoulder bumps past a counterfeit handbag; he tilts his head up to look at the rider.

There aren't over-many 1050cc cycles in New York, let alone British-made imports. All black and chromed silver, it's neither an easy-rider nor a crotch-rocket, though its stlying also marks it out from most American-made road bikes. Its owner is a pale-skinned, light-eyed brunette, presently whistling some Mozart as she draws a second canvas shopping bag out of the other pannier, then locks both the bike's sturdily-reinforced luggage compartments.

Turning around, she glances left and right into the flow of people, much as a pedestrian might when crossing the road - then looks back to the left again, brows lifting as her gaze settles upon Teo.

A recognizable woman, if not one he's seen in awhile. Teo looks more or less like he had in the Lighthouse, though his hair is growing out of his buzzcut and his clothes are different colors, cuts, if no marked improvement in quality or newness. Hoodie under a jacket, other layers underneath those. The cerulean of the frozen sky manages to look warm compared to the ice-locked tint of his irises, but the expression that characterizes the face around them never shows cold.

"Buongiorno, signorina," he offers, by way of greeting. He glances back into the stream of human traffic before picking an edge of pavement out of its way, a loping half-step closer to the street. "Sorry, not to get in your way." He inclines his head to the shopping bags in her hands and the cargo chambers. "Just noticed your bike. It's beautiful. It's too bad you never met Christian— he'dve had more than a layman's compliment for it."

Ygraine glances down and back at the machine in question, lips curling into a gentle smile. "I'm rather fond of him, I admit", she confesses. "Not too many Triumphs on this side of the Pond, though you see a few here and there…."

Looking back to Teo, she hopefully enquires, "vous parlez Francais, par chance?"

"Eh oui." Teo's good-natured commiseration in regards to the Triumph gives way now to a hint of surprise. Pausing, he glances around their segment of sidewalk, pre-empting a potential segue into shop talk with a little caution, before he squares his gaze back on the woman. He speaks a lot of languages. His right hand chugs upright, canting a thumb toward the Oriental grocery store. "«I could help you a little bit, if you like. Gives time to talk, unless this is very quick for out here.»" His accent and vocabulary falls in line with that spoken by Parisians, give or take a little fading rust from disuse.

"I worked as a translator for the UN, during my first period in the city", Ygraine says quietly in the same language, albeit with the swift fluidity of full fluency. Her own accent is educated but of no particular place, though with a hint of Provencal - close to what might be expected for diplomatic training, perhaps. "And certainly, help would be welcome."

Pausing momentarily to double-check the locking of her panniers, she hands Teo one canvas bag with something of a flourish then slips through the flow of people to enter the shop. Once inside, she moves to a display of vegetables and fruits, lingering there while at least pretending to examine the merits of various shapes and colours. "You _are_ aware that one of our incorporated friends from the inter-organisation meeting found me recently, and asked questions about "the others", aren't you?", she enquires amiably in French, offering Teo a sweet potato as if asking his opinion on it.

Subject to the whims of the flourishing Briton, the Italian is left to take the shopping bag and follow, hapless as a baby terrorist is wont to be. Or not. He is a competent grocery shopper, actually: his mother made sure of that, at the risk of pinched ears and starvation. He studies the sweet potato, pinches it. Nods his head once in cheerful approval, which is at odds with— "Non." A pallid eye flicks back up at her face, a brow stoop low, darkening his expression with a shadow as physical as it is emotional.

That's fucking irritating. "«Which one? The Russian or the woman, I would imagine?»" Not Deckard; he's almost entirely certain of that. Deckard knows better and, out of the three, holds by far the least stake in Phoenix's business. Despite his occasional Indiana Jones-style theatrics, he would imagine Felix does too.

«She didn't leave a business card, so I can't say for sure quite who she worked for», Ygraine answers obliquely, continuing her sorting through the the vegetables, adding a couple to her bag before offering another to Teo. «And she wasn't too plain about quite what she wanted. It might just have been a good-natured visit motivated by nothing but the purest amity. But I wasn't at all sure that she wasn't sniffing around to see if any of the artists there might not be open to a transfer of label, and might be seeking to use me to get "in" with them. Or maybe just find them through me so that direct approaches could be attempted by her group…»

Elle. The first instance of the pronoun has Teo jerking his head away, accepting the vegetable she proffered and staring out of a face blank from ill temper. Minea fucking Dahl. Teo's mouth thins. "«She said it was best we parted paths. For her sake, and ours. She's a professional, so the break in pattern probably means something's up. Turning up at your place might be something as courteous as a warning shot, but it's nothing good.»" A long finger overturns a squash, tests the texture and firmness of its flesh with a prod of thumb and forefinger. "«Do you believe you and Jennifer are all right for now? Do you want to get out?»"

Ygraine darts a sidelong glance at Teo, attempting to mutely encourage him to keep his cool. Not necessarily helping, another randomly-selected fruit is presented to him. «I have the impression that she was only interested in the performers at that charity "do" I helped out with. Didn't seem to occur to her to ask me about anyone else. So… it looks like there's a limited pool targeted for corporate interest, at least from her side. Like I said - I can't be sure it's not just amicable… but I thought it wise to avoid any risk of being seen hanging out with people from the scene, just in case she or her colleagues decided I was a good route "in" for them. Thought it'd cause you and your colleagues a lot less hassle if I just faded into being a dull, boring dead-end as far as the corporates were concerned.»

Dubiously eyeing something for which she doesn't know the name in any language, she shrugs, then drops it into her bag as well. «I dropped a note about this in with some recordings I quietly forwarded to a mutual friend», she adds quietly. «Wanted to make sure your legal department knew to check contract security for its artists, and could warn the other performers who were involved. Figured that any direct activity on my part'd just "confirm" me as part of a network of contacts the corporations'd use.»

Aggravated or not, Teo isn't about to take his temper out on the fruit. He puts that in the bag after a quick examination for brown spots and the weight of juice inside. The combination of metaphor and language is a lot to get his head around, but Teo manages, for no greater reason than because he has to. Breathing in the smell of produce, he mulls the whole thing over.

It takes him a moment but, eventually, his features ease. "«She was seeing the artist formerly known as Con. That might have been it. Maybe. It might have been as simple as that.»" Wishful thinking, as far as he's concerned. He pokes through an array of shiitaki mushrooms. Holds up one musty, big brown specimen for Ygraine's perusal— "Good for soup," he notes, aloud, before circling back to the other subject, restlessly. "«I guess, as holding patterns go, that could be worse. I'll see about who she's working for.»"

Ygraine winces at mention of Con, but manages to return her expression to neutral - at least until she shoots the odd-looking mushrooms a dubious look. She accepts the offered one, carefully placing it into her own bag. «I'll need to dig up some recipes…. Part of my concern's that… well. I'm here on a work visa. Any corporation with any strings to pull can get one of those rescinded in short order in the present climate. I made vague noises about knowing some people were doing fine and not having heard from others, without naming names, and she seemed okay with that… but the less I know about anyone's current projects, the less reason whoever her bosses are will have to think they might be able to use me. But I don't want to overtly tell them I'm a fan of independent unsigned performers and dislike how they handle things, lest they make a couple of phone calls and I'm given 72 hours to leave the country. I'm all too easy to punish, thanks to needing that visa to stay here at all. So I've been visibly back at work, being dully normal.»

"«She had all of our names and faces,»" the Sicilian replies, shading a glance toward the flinch that had momentarily marred Ygraine's features. More mushrooms find their way into a bag; just enough to give one soup experiment a reasonable attempt. "«If her memory is worth anything at all. Fortunately, I know who her family is, and a little more about her besides. That probably isn't enough to protect us, so I understand why you're taking further precautions. You make some kick-ass music.»" His eyes go slightly crescent-shaped with humor. He cants his head down toward the baskets of leafy vegetables. "«I'd hate for them to take that away.

"«Are you sure you don't—»" Teo lapses into a brief pause, maneuvering around analogy, even as he gently removes himself from the path of a rotund little woman with a gigantic durian in her hands. The great, spiny melon smells uncomfortably like cat urine. "«You don't want to stay with our associates for now? Work underground?»"

«Unless the doctor provided more than what was seen at the meeting, there'll be gaps in her list of potential performers», murmurs Ygraine. «I can attest that she seemed to have no interest at all in at least one she might've thought to ask me about specifically if she had known…. And… dropping off-grid too long invalidates the visa without them doing anything. It's a work visa - too long without paying taxes and clocking in, and it bounces automatically.»

She shrugs gently, guiding Teo along to study the array of rice on offer. «I'm honestly not _sure_ of much. But… after hearing Con's last performance up-close and live in a way few others did, saving a fellow performer from that disaster, handling that hardware for the first time - never mind using it in a live show. Then getting whacked on the head as we cleared up….» She darts a glance to Teo. «Some time off'd probably be a wise idea anyway. I'm not sure I'd be anyone you could rely on not to get stage fright if the same sort of situation came up again right now. I've… got a fair bit to digest.»

Hopelessly rueful, Teo smiles sidelong at her. "«Okay. I think I understand. The performance I was in — didn't go very well for me either, I don't know if you heard. I think our experiences were kind of similar.»" Bloodshed, chaos, devastated significant others, head injury.

Though he is only aware of a handful of these similarities, the truth is, they have more common experiences than either of them probably enjoy. Leaves something to build wry sympathy on, even as he places a hand on the rice bag looks at Ygraine inquiringly, moves onto the next if she shakes her head. "«Musicians are fucking histrionic, aren't they? Getting beaned by an instrument in the head isn't something I care to repeat. I hope you are going to be all right. Your girl, too.»"

Ygraine offers a swift, ruefully grateful smile, momentarily ducking her head. «Thanks. I fear the feeling's not mutual on her part. I think you're all still being blamed for those two days she spent thinking I'd fallen into the Hudson, or something, as well as her personal creative differences with others' approaches. Still… she's interested in the scene. Might well work with your colleagues. If I'm as sure as I can be that the corporates've lost interest, I might go that route, too - but returning to the "known" crowd might be all too risky for everyone concerned, even if they just check up on me occasionally.» She looks and sounds rather sad, but shakes her head. «Still, we didn't expect the big guys to be happy with us for doing things our way, did we?»

"«No. What pisses me off is that they could have done things their way, were given the chance, but didn't.»" Teo levers the appropriate sack of grain up into his arms with little apparent effort, balancing the plastic corners between long hands and broad shoulders.

From over the top of the bag, he looks — sad, unmistakably, but reassured too. "«I have nothing but respect for our colleagues. As far as I'm concerned, if you're going to them, you're not gone. She probably isn't wrong to blame us for putting you in harm's way.»" There's a quaver-beat's pause, then, as he realizes that they're sliding out of metaphor, but he lets that pass with a good-humored little shrug. "«If you hadn't met us, you wouldn't have been there. And maybe the world would be worse off for it.

"«It's ugly and less rewarding than I'd prefer anybody to deal with.»" There's an imaginary Brian in the back of Teodoro's head, punching him in his mind's eye for taking such a gentle tone with the molecular duplicator who had deserted for receiving treatment no worse or better than anyone else in Phoenix had, but Teo ignores imaginary-Brian. Because he's imaginary, not because he's Brian. "«I can ask one of our associates to set up a dropbox for you. You leave them a note when you're ready.»"

«I'm not sure I made any real difference to the overall performance», Ygraine says quietly, taking a semi-random selection of herbs. «Things… became a solo performance. Bastard didn't tell us in advance, of course, but… given it was his swansong, I guess I can understand him not wanting to let anyone know what he'd got in mind beforehand. Me… well. I might've made a difference in the bigger scheme, but I doubt it. On the smaller level - I can claim full credit for the boy band not losing another member, at least. Very nearly removed myself from the playing order in the process, but I did it. Twice over, in fact.»

Looking up from the jar she's presently holding, Ygraine meets Teo's gaze. «He should be fully aware of that, too. Makes his… anger over the creative differences rather harder to bear. He of all people should know how committed I was to making things work. The… hostility I saw in him when last we met was….» She shrugs, glancing away. «Helped to make me think that maybe my partner _was_ right about everything, after all, and we'd never been more than tools. But… I'm still a supporter of the scene. If it won't cause problems with the corporates, and they're willing to have me when I'm… potentially of interest to the big boys, I'd hope that I can hook up with your colleagues in future for something.»

Despite that it makes Teodoro uneasy to speak on the behalf of someone who isn't present, that seems due a response. He's quiet for a moment, his eyes flitting underneath fluorescent ceiling panels and the quiet hubbub of shoppers checking off their lists. "«Everything interconnects. Sometimes subtly, sometimes not. It's important to me that the — boy band stays intact. God knows, he was a crucial tipping point on one stage. Maybe not the one you were on, but a distraction that horrible almost certainly would have made him slip.

"«We would've all been fucked then. I think he… he was just frustrated that he had sacrificed so much, and would have done it all again, but others seemed… less willing. Yes, things sure as shit could have gone better. But the bottom line, for him — and I guess for me as well, is that we'dve done it again if there wasn't another way and that trumps all the pain of effort or loss. It's a general thing, I guess. An 'attitude' thing? I don't have a good attitude,»" a crooked grin splits his cheek. "«I feel bad for talking about anyone else's.

"«Anyway. I know it's not fair to expect everyone to work the same way or to make such demands. Maybe we'd all still be working together if everybody had more patience, but — spilled milk. I'm sorry if it's caused trouble. At least seems to be working out.» Oui?" As if to apologize for talking her ear off, the young man makes a gesture toward the tea. He knows some things about tea. He could actually be useful about tea selections, if Ygraine is a tea person.

Ygraine is quite happy to be guided that way. She knows a certain amount, too, as a well-off Brit - though from a somewhat different perspective, which she's happy to broaden. «I nearly ended my whole career, just to save him from suffering», she murmurs to Teo, leaning close to rather blindly peer at a label. «I knew the band'd survive without one member, but… I risked everything I had to try to spare him from hurt. To… to be doubted by him afterwards….»

She sharply shakes her head, closing her eyes for a moment. «It's not as if I'd be on this continent if I were here to further my career, get rich, or anything of the sort. I… I… merde. I listened to someone's last-ever performance, right up to the last word, after very nearly making my own final appearance. I… I just wanted to make sure people didn't have to risk that again, if it could possibly be helped. But… seems like it's a good thing, actually. Me sticking to my own projects for the past little while. Means the corporates haven't got their eyes on anything they shouldn't. Just me being domestic with someone they've no interest in.»

There's this wholly affordable brand of green tea that Teo likes. "Good for the blood pressure," he says, rapping on the tin with a forefinger. Some fruity mix of rose and some Chinese jasmine species known as silver needle sits nearby, and he points that out with a swift-fading smile. "My ex-girlfriend liked this when it was cold. It's still cold. I guess, maybe not to an Englishwoman." He pans a half-smile at her, before stepping back from the shelves to watch her make her decision, absently interested in her own personal preferences. "«He was angry with— your girl.

Not with you. Some part of him must understand you had to stand by her and he is grieving for your soloist as well. If we could do it again and do it better, I'd want to try, but in the end, I have to believe it was worth it. I understand if you and your dear say otherwise and need to walk away. I guess, in the end, I still believe you'll do good in your own ways. God knows I question how much good I do every day.»" His grip tightens on the sack of grain, tension tremoring briefly in his shoulders, before he relaxes with a pop of relief in his back.

Ygraine glances over what she can understand of the tea's label before tucking it away. She listens quietly, then sighs hevily. «Neither of us ever said it shouldn't have been done. Ever. My partner, if anything, is more passionate than I am about doing the right thing. All we criticised was… how things were handled. Risks taken. People lost from future events that maybe could still've been there. To me, someone wrapping up his career's a really good reason to check things over and see if he felt he had no other choice… or if it really was the best thing. It might be… but we need to check, if we're to give him the respect he deserves. Not to do so, to me, would be the disrespectful thing.»

She offers Teo another sad little smile, then adds a second helping of that green tea. «But I really shouldn't get involved in anything like that, not even in a one-off conversation, lest word get back to the corporates. I apologise. And I really do hope that you guys manage to stage some truly brilliant events in future. And reassemble all the other performers you can, for them.»

"«If you forgive my saying so, miss,»" and Teo hesitates momentarily, wondering whether or not to proceed, "«that wasn't exactly the message that your friend imparted. As I recall, the ingratitude of others and her own personal suffering were her major complaints, and the terms she used to announce her leaving — that she didn't want to be used anymore, that she blamed us rather than the ones we fought off — conceded nothing to our soloist. It doesn't… I don't want to talk shit about her. The whole thing was fucked up and terrifying and it wasn't our job. I doubt I'm thinking about it clearly too, and it isn't my place to question her. Or you.

"«You don't have to apologize. You did more than enough, and I thank you for it. I'll walk to back to your bike?»" Teo will have to, probably: he's carrying a few things and he's glad to do it.

«She's got more fire in her than anyone else I've met. I've felt a little of it at times, but… you can probably tell which of us has had mediation training, easily enough.» She musters a weak smile for Teo, guiding him to the till to fork out the requisite cash for her purchases, before heading back to her bike. «I'd sit you down and go through issues in detail. I'm trained in the analysis of how systems and structures of communication and organisation go wrong, and how conflct begets itself. But I'm a danger to be seen with, so far as I know, if you're of interest to the corporates. Given the number of people I meet through work and the places I visit, I'm not worried about them trying to recruit everyone I encounter - but if your face is already known….»

She shoots Teo a concerned glance, juggling her own burdens as she unlocks the panniers. Her assistant is left holding his bag while she settles her own into one pannier, then removes her helmet from the other and steps aside to let him finally free his hands. «I am glad that you want to improve things for future performances. And I wish you the best of luck. Honestly.»

The Shanghainese woman at the counter spent a lot of pain and effort to learn English so that she could understand what the white bastards who come through here are going on about. She's a little put out when she can't understand the exchange going on between Teo and Ygraine and it shows in the knit of her brow. Teo hastens to offer a farewell in Mandarin, happy New Year timed to the lunar calendar, tipping a hand upright to go with it, and well-wishes, before he takes his share of the goods and moves after Ygraine. "«My face is as known as yours,»" he replies, simply.

Obedient as the help ought to be, Teo stands on the pavement and watches her fiddle panniers open and seat her helmet on her head. "«I was going to ask you if you and your girl would mind having a few sensitive memories locked, but I think that could wait for a different time. I'd rather leave the door open to you two, if that's all right for now.»" Handle fibers creak in his grip and under the pendulous weight of the grocery contents, held out to her.

«Your face is known», agrees Ygraine. «But the corporate didn't find you for a little chat. If anyone's being watched, it's me. Hence… not wanting to risk being seen with anyone they might be interested in. I didn't risk my neck saving the boy band just to hand over people on a plate a few weeks later», she mutters, voice just loud enough to carry over the bustle of the street. Teo's bag is carefully put into the now-empty pannier, before each container is locked. Slipping her helmet into place and fastening the chin-strap, she flips up the visor to let herself again meet his gaze. «Whether or not anyone else involved in that show wants to see me again, it's best if they don't at the moment. There's a chance I'm totally safe to spend as much time with as anyone might want to - but if I'm not….» She shrugs ruefully. «Take care of yourself, and the others. I've personally got a lot more faith in things being handled well now, under the new management, than I did before - not that I should find out whether I'm right any time soon. Keep me in the dark, unless you really need me. If I can, I'll hook up with your colleagues, who should be off the radar too… but that'll have to wait a while, at least.»

Minea Dahl needs to be seen to, one way or another, Teo acknowledges inwardly. Inward, also, is the flinch that her compliment for his leadership engenders. This wouldn't be the time or audience to mention his own wistful retirement plans, likely. "«I'll take care of them. Thank you for being there, if we need you.»" With one last slap of a hand on the convex belly of the rice bag, he steps back and out of range of most imaginable accidents, inclining his shorn head in farewell. "«I'm sorry we didn't get to know each other a little better before this. You two stay safe too. If you need help — same terms, dire necessity — we're still here.

"«We owe you that much.»"

Ygraine shrugs worriedly, then forces herself to relax. Swinging onto the bike, she offers Teo a rather weary smile - albeit one largely obscured by her helmet. «Your… colleagues should be able to get word to me, if required. Your legal department also know where to find me, on- and off-duty. No offence… but I hope I don't hear from any of you for a while. Should mean that things are going tolerably well, at least.» She nods to Teo, slips down the visor, then brings the throaty rumble of the bike's powerful engine into life.

February 24th: Dark Messenger
February 25th: On The Surface
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