The Wrong Side Of The Glass


francois_icon.gif goodman_icon.gif

Scene Title The Wrong Side Of The Glass
Synopsis Francois attends a meeting with the head of the Institute's Human Resources. It could have gone worse?
Date September 14, 2010

Cambridge, Massachusetts

There's nothing more nerve-wracking than a job interview.

Especially one you have to drive six hours to go to.

Situated square in the middle of the college campus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the offices of the Commonwealth Institute are a stark and utilitarian looking affair. Off from the main street and the hustle of busy Massachusettes traffic and the state's notoriously aggressive drivers, the long, paved driveway leading to the Institute is bordered by four foot high concrete dividers that partition the Institute's grounds from that of MIT, though the brick-faces buildings of lecture halls are still well within sight.

When the white-walled buildings of the Commonwealth Institute finally come into view, it looks like something out of a dated science-fiction movie, all sharp angles and pointed architecture, part expressionistic art piece, part utilitarian retro-futuristim. Before the true details of the Commonwealth Institute's headquarters are revealed, however, the guard post approaching looks deceptively low-key. A single wooden gate arm and one guard post with a windowed booth where a wiry looking man in a blue uniform with a baseball cap drawn down over his head featuring the Instutute's DNA helix logo watches the black Lincoln approaching.

Catching a look at himself in the rear-view mirror, Francois Allegre sees the college town of Cambridge through the rear window of his car, sees the creases of worry wrinkling his brow. When the black luxury car finally rolls to a stop, the security guard in the booth leand towards the driver's side window with an expectant look on his face.

A flick of a switch has the automated window roller sliding the subtly tinted glass down into the door. You know, it didn't used to be so easy. Francois got one of his first cars stolen for virtue of the window crank getting broken and sticking the window half opened, and not God nor willpower could get it to come back up. This flash of memory being the random synapse firing, inappropriately, when the guard is cruising up — it's been a really long six hours, and it's finally time to focus. Focusing for six hours might have driven him insane.

Or to sickness. Francois already has what passes for valid ID, these days, his Registration card between fingers to confirm himself, and with a flash of a stranger's polite smile, it's offered for inspection. "I have an appointment," he tells the checkpoint guard, other hand resting relaxed on the wheel. He makes an ordinary sight in the drivers seat of his car, in a plain and slightly old fashioned grey suit, white shirt, a deep sea-blue tie of a satiny quality clipped with silver.

The piece missing from his ear and the scarring just visible at where his collar pinches close might mark him as a little different than the average overpaid surgeon-jock. "An interview," he supplies.

Taking the ID card, the security guard leans back into the booth and types the name into the computer terminal in his booth. Lolling his head to one side, a brow arches and with a few keystrokes, there's the noise of rustling paper and a printer working while the guard pulls out an empty identification laminate and a bright red lariat to clip on it. When the badge has finished printing out, the guard slides it inside and then brings a metal stamp up to crimp the plastic and the paper together, then leans out the window to hand the ID badge and Francois registration card back.

"He's expecting you, Doctor Allegre," Doctor. "Pull ahead and park in the A Lot, then head thorugh the glass doors. I'll call ahead so that HR will be expecting you. There should be someone waiting for you in the lobby when you arrive." There's a friendly smile flashed as she security guard leans back into the booth. "You have a good afternoon now!"

As good as it can be anyway, what with the lightly drizzling rain leaving tiny footprints across the windshield, not enough to warrant putting the wipers on, but the lsate gray sky overhead is suitably ominous for this trip.

"Thank you," instead of merci, but accent-tinged all the same. Two fingers pinning both cards to his palm, Francois steers the car as directed, the smooth purr of luxury vehicle quiet and contained, and coming to a stop. Three seconds pass before he switches engine off, tilting head back against leather-covered seat to eye the ceiling of the cab, as if he could will or meditate frazzled nerves away. Whether he can or not, he's still going to go out there. Old age doesn't actually make you braver, but it makes you fake it easier and easier.

The door slams closed behind him with an efficient snap and beep of locking mechanism. A glance upwards at wet sky, and he puts some hurry into his step to avoid the misting rain. Ducks through the glass doors as instructed, his Registration card slipped into slender wallet, ID badge clipped as appropriate to jacket lapel.

The lobby of the Commonwealth Institute is as unusual as its exterior architecture. The floor is patterned in dark blue and white, as if shadows were cast on the floor by something with narrow shafts of light breaking it up, but it seems more an intentional patterning of the tiled floor than anything, an artistic pattern that isn't a logo or the veins of marble, but just seemingly incongruent geometric shapes. The walls are a stark white, as is the ceiling and the domed skylight overhead, frosted glass pattering with falling rain.

The reception desk is a circular affair broken up with two narrow entrances for reception staff with a tall black monolith of architecture rising up out of the middle with water cascading from it. Set at the center of this monolith is a blue double-helix of DNA and the designation of Commonwealth Institute seemingly floating in mid-air as if some sort of illusion. Though it is an illusion, it's more of the optical kind, an image cast against the cascading water by a projector somewhere on the sculpture, visually impressive and attractive never the less.

Expectant looks come from the navy-blue dressed secretaries at the front desk, though the name, "Doctor Allegre?" is questioned not by them, but by a tall and broad-shouldered man making a quick approach, his weathered features painting an age of close to fifty or maybe just a little past on him, though his posture and the way he fills a suit makes him seem more athletic than age would permit.

"Hello Doctor Allegre, my name is Stephen Larson, I'm with human resources." Offering out a hand to take with a broad smile on his face, Stephen goes about making a good first impression as best as he can, seemingly eager to meet Francois.

It leaves the question of just how good the resume that Sarisa fed him was.

Francois meets him a few steps over, taking his hand for his best impression of a professional's handshake, discomfort forced aside, hidden, behind an automatic smile and the professional lines of his suit. Clean-shaven, hair combed despite the lengthy drive, and fatigue, miraculously, stifled somewhere deep. "Bonjour monsieur," comes automatically, keeping the contact brief, his gaze once more drawn towards the decadence of the water sculpture and projected imagery. "I see I didn't have to worry about finding where to go."

Well, there's no running now, no excuse for a family emergency, lost in traffic, flat refusal to the response he was given. He doesn't resent lone-wolfing it, either. It's easier.

"The HR director will want to see you, I figure. I saw your resume was flagged to go straight to his offices, so I'm mostly just playing greeter today." There's something of a wan smile from Stephen as he takes a step aside from Francois, then jerks his head over and waves one hand. "Follow me and I'll take you up to his office." As Stephen turns, breezing past the front desk with Francois in tow, he passes by a glass wall overlooking a differently labeled parking lot, the rain outside visibly falling harder now as seen through the tinted glass.

"I have to say, I'm impressed with your record of employment, you know we have a few people who'd been working for the Pinehearst Company come through here, mostly independant researchers who wanted to see if we'd continue their lab projects. We're happy to take all of them on a case-by-case basis, but yours certainly lept out at me."

Heading towards a staircase that goes up to the second floor balcony, Stephen offers a look to Francois as he slows his pace down. "I know that Doctor Luis had done some groundbreaking research in your field, and I guess it figures that we'd be getting another French neurosurgeon, especially one with your credentials. How long have you been involved in human testing for man-machine interfaces?"


Neurosurgeon. Man-machine interfaces. A hand up to fidget with the silver clip of his tie, Francois' expression remains one of polite neutrality, studying the HR guy's profile as they walk, reluctant to slow down and chat but forcing himself to conform to the pace that his guide sets. "An opportunity to meet Dr. Luis would be amazing," he says, quite sincerely, if for very different reasons than the imagining being painted between them. "For a while, now, but my work in New York has derailed my research some.

"But discoveries in the field dictate that I see what opportunities there are out of the emergency room." Spoken like charity, the academic who looks to pepper his resume with a little humanity of doing something so basic as night shifts in Ground Zero. "I'm grateful that my application is even being considered."

Bon dieu.

Never say that the French don't make good spies, Stephen seems enthralled with Francois' charm and poise in the situation. "I'm sure if everything goes well that Doctor Luis would be eager to meet you, you two would be working in roughly the same offices I think." The notion itself is somewhat frightening, sidling up side by side with one of the men carrying on the work Kazimir Volken performed on Francois out in the Nevada desert decades ago.

Up on the balcony and down a hall, Stephen brings Francois to a white door marked with black writing that reads Human Resources on the front. Two quick knocks elicit a terse, "Come in…" from within. Smiling back over his shoulder, Stephen turns the doorknob and leans into the office.

"Francois Allegre is here to see you sir." Stephen barely has time to make the introduction before the velvety smooth voice on the other side of the door welcomes the applicant in.

"Send him in, and thank you for bringing him up to my office, Stephen." A polite nod is all Stephen offers to the HR head as he leans out of the door, flashing a smile to Francois before motioning him to move on in as he pushes the door the rest of the way open. The glass-topped desk sitting in the stark black and white furnished office looks sleek and glossy set against the otherwise matte furnishings. The man seated behind the desk matches the desk itself, dark, sleek, cold.

With hands steepled in front of his mouth, Roger Goodman leans back in his chair, coal black eyes staring thorugh the doorway to Francois, one brow raised. "Come on in, Doctor Allegre," a dark hand motions towards the chair opposite of Roger's desk, "I think you and I have quite a bit to talk about."

A muttered 'thanks' to Stephen is given, Francois smoothing his tie as if he could so easily realign his own nervousness into streamlined confidence, and stepping into the office. There is an undercurrent to the charade that only makes his anxiety gnaw deeper, not so shallow as simple stage fright, but a sicker kind of distaste for the surroundings he's sliding himself into more and more. He does smile to Roger, a thin and simple expression, but it feels strange on his face, forcibly arranged.

"Thank you for meeting me," he says, hyper aware of a still open door, scars partially obscured by his buttoned collar shifting with a swallow as he moves up towards the desk, a hand out in offering, one that used to be twisted with scars itself, but not any more, whole and healthy and clean. His skin is cool to touch, by now. He wishes Goodman's name were more familiar.

When the door to Human Resources closes, Roger's demeanor changes. Gone is the affable smile, present instead is a chiseled look of stern inspection of Francois face. "You look remarkably good for your age, Mister Allegre," gone also is the title of doctor, "When your resume came through the Institute's doors I will admit I almost presumed the name to be a manner of happenstance, until I took a close look at the information. It's very unusual for someone to go so far out of their way to tailor a resume with as many carefully chosen details as yours. I only fact-checked half of them to know what I was looking at…"

When Roger leans back in his chair again, there's a noisy creak of the leather, fingers steepled in front of his mouth. "You are a conundrum, Mister Allegre. When I put in a request to have a security detail meet you on the premises to escort you to a holding facility, I was stopped by the Director himself. It seems that despite your subterfuge, you have friends that you did not know about on the inside."

To that end, Roger tilts his head to the side and arches one thin brow. "In this I'll ask out forthright, why go through all this trouble?" Dark eyes narrow steely, "What do you want from the Institute?"

At least he won't have to talk about man-made machine interwhats.

Francois invites himself to sit, green eyes up to scan the corners of the office as if they might contain something of worth, before uneasily settling upon Goodman's dark face, his expression unflinching at the news of a near capture save for a small and bitter twist at the corner of his mouth. "Perhaps your Director recognised a white flag when he saw one," is innocent suggestion, words selective in their caution, deliberately steady. He's not sure if he invites this change of pace.

Which probably means that he should. "I am ninety-two years of age," is only sort of a lie, but easier to parse than the truth. He can explain, later, where those fifteen years went. "I have been a subject of interest of Kazimir Volken's twice — once in Germany, and again in Nevada. It has been a very long time and the world has changed. Now that his work is in the hands of people who are capable of wielding it, I have interest in contributing."

Most job interviews have a glass of water on hand, and Francois could do with one. "Or at least seeing that there is nothing lost in translation. Admittedly, I have interest in seeing what has come of it also." He allows a smile, there, as if abashed. He hopes it doesn't look as desperate as it feels.

The long and stady stare that Roger affixes to Francois seems like it lasts forever, those cold black eyes unblinking in their regard of the Frenchman. "Your name is on a very short list of very long lived people, each of whom has a different classification. Be fortunate that you are held in a different regard than the likes of mister Monroe." Lifting up one hand to pick up a pen from his desk, Roger swipes a slip of paper from a notepad and writes down atop the slip, quietly and carefully spelling something out before looking up to Francois.

"Your previous scientific endeavors were on the wrong side of the glass for most of our research needs, mister Allegre," is a bit biting, but Roger's entire demeanor seems a bit cold. "Furthermore, work on Project Icarus has been indefinitely cancelled due to complications with the project's lead researchers. However, according to our records you may have something indespensible to us anyway."

Sliding the piece of paper across the desk, Roger reveals an address to Francois. "That is the address of a training facility just outside of Braintree, it's run by a representative of ours named Howard Lemay. The Braintree facility is a training center for aspirant agents of the Institute as well as a dispatch point for field operatives working the New England area."

One of Roger's brows rise slowly. "I've heard stories about your miraculous healing capabilities," oh God, "the Director would like you to head out there and see if Mister Lemay can find a place for you on his staff. Specifically, in our security department. We've… had some openings for our personal security team, and we know you're no stranger to war. We'd like to see if you have what it takes to be the medical officer for our security force. It comes with a very stylish suit."

Francois takes the piece of paper mostly so that he has something to stare at in mute panic as Goodman sums up his offer, static silence filling the office. He doesn't let it last very long, dismissing the concern of what comes next and how on god's green earth he's meant to work this angle in, as a bridge he can cross when it comes. Heart going hard enough that if he wasn't a doctor and all, he might imagine that Roger would be able to hear it. The paper crinkles in a twitch of a gesture at both hands.

The angle of a casual glance towards windows is, perhaps, designed to show the lacing of white scarring that curls along the aborted nip taken out of his ear, before veering that look back towards Roger once he knows the smile that goes with it won't look completely tense. "If that is what your Director wishes, I am no stranger to adaptation, monsieur," he responds, with a nod. "I appreciate your willingness to work with me."

He imagines Kazimir Volken would be laughing at him right about now. If he had the capability to do so.

"Do not mistake my compliance with the Director's instructions to be cooperation with your own personal agenda," is Roger's decdedly unfriendly way to end the meeting. "Before you head to the Braintree facility, we'd like you to report to Doctor Isabella Sheridan in our New York branch offices at the Suresh Center for a full physical and psychological evaluation to ensure that you are fit for duty. Doctor Sheridan will also need to validate that your ability is in good working order before we have you meet Mister Lemay."

Folding his hands over his stomach, Roger arches one brow inspectingly of Francois, then adds. "You're to report to Lemay in Braintree by the end of next week to begin your Horizon Armor training, provided your eval's go as scheduled. I look forward to seeing you passing this testing, we could use a good medic on that team."

But Roger Goodman isn't leaving room for Francois to leave much in the line of commentary. "You're dismissed," sounds a whole lot like he just joined the military, not a scientific organization.

For Teo's sake, he'd best be able to pull this off.

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