2007-12-09: Attracting the Wrong Crowd


Kory_icon.gif Randall_icon.gif

Summary: Kory explains to Randall about the Joneses and their magnum opus.

Date It Happened: December 9, 2007

Attracting the Wrong Crowd

The Secret Lair, East Village

The store is in a very …ordered sort of disarray. Which is to say that there's a new section being built by Kory. Well, that's not quite accurate either. She's taking a break. She's curled up on the comfiest chair, having made the mistake of flipping through an issue of 9th Wonders while she was building the new display.

Randall slips inside and makes his way through the piles and pillars as best he can. He's familiar with controlled clutter, but he's at a disadvantage because it isn't his own. "What's this one?" he asks, unprompted, leaning forward and pointing to the unfamiliar cover (hey, X-Men it isn't).

Kory looks up, hair falling into her eyes with the motion. "Hmm? Oh, hey." The words are subdued; the smile is anything but. She sets the issue aside, leaving it draped over the arm of the chair. One page hangs in the air before fluttering to lie back down. "9th Wonders. I've run into a lot of people who find it interesting reading, and I was trying to —" she stops. "Finish the explanation in a minute. Hi." She tiptoes up to give him a brief kiss, much to the sighing consternation of a few fanboys huddling over a screen and dice in the back.

Randall smiles back, leaning down in turn. "Hi yourself," he murmurs afterward, declining to rub it in with the cleric and the bard; he's not that different from them, when you get down to it. "And you're right, I shouldn't have waited to drop by. Anyway, what's going down lately?"

"What hasn't?" Kory ripostes, hands going into the air in a mild sort of exasperation. "The Christmas rush was not so much a Christmas rush as it was a bunch of people all looking for very specific things. Hence reorging the store." Which she resumes, as she is almost done. The 9th Wonders display is prominent. "Here, look at this. This is why." She flips open to the page where Lee is yelling in aggravation at someone throwing a grenade at him. "See that? That's the owner's brother."

Randall shakes his head. "Could be worse— get enough people rushing in the same place, someone could get trampled. Like the soccer games in Italy." Perusing the comic, he smirks at the dialogue, but replies to the commentary instead. "Friends with the author, huh?"

"Trampling only happens in big box stores on Black Friday," Kory says, but not scoffing. She's happy that no such thing happens here. "No, they've never met," she says, casually. How much can she trust Randall, she wonders. How he reacts to that statement may give her the answer she hopes for. She slips between stacks and they quickly diminish in size, leaving her visible again as she reorganizes certain comics which are now listed with tabs indicating the powers of the characters in the longboxes.

At that revelation, Randall's eyes go wide; he leans closer and lowers his voice. If the roleplayers want to assume that they're being mushy, so much the better. "Wait, so you're saying he's a clairvoyant?" It sounds, at least, like he's taking the idea seriously. "How long's he been writing this?"

Kory looks across the boxes at him, with wide brown eyes. "That's the prevailing theory, yes. Particularly since the owner's brother tells me that although the art doesn't really look enough like him to suit him … the scene in question actually happened." She pauses for a moment, considering her words. "More precognition than clairvoyance. This issue is a couple months old. And Lee wouldn't lie about this just to mess with me." Though Lee does love to mess with the geeks he so disdains.

Randall scratches at the back of his neck, considering. "Lee's the brother? And how generic a scene is it--" He squints at the page. "Not very. Oh wow, I hope he's being careful about this stuff… wrong people see it, could set up an ontological paradox. I don't have this in my model at all, I'd barely know where to put it anyway—" Wait, what?

"Yeah, Lee's the brother. And not very, no." She smiles and slots a few more books. Then Randall says …

"Model?" Kory asks, voice sounding equal parts innocent and bewildered. "You're tracking ESPers?" She finishes tucking comics away by the powers, and comes around to Randall, the better to keep the conversation intimately low between them. She's not afraid; Randall has to struggle to pay the bills, so he can't be from the organization Lee and Cam have warned her about.

"I'm tracking magic in general," says Randall. Congrats, Kory, your new guy has picked the wrong genre. "ESP's a part of it, but tough to get a handle on, unless they choose to open up to you… I've spotted more in the way of physical manifestations. Not a lot, but… a couple."

Kory listens and regards Randall in silence for a long moment. "Have you?" She meets his eyes seriously. "Be careful, okay? You're not the only person studying people with powers. And they're not all simply curious." She reaches across to take his hand. "I don't … they might make you disappear, Randall." Her expression is serious. Solemn. And she hasn't reacted like she's weighing his cuteness vs. how crazy he sounds.

Randall laces his fingers with Kory, nodding. "I have been," he replies. "I'm not sure if anyone mentioned other searchers, but one person did at least say they were scared of the idea." Frowning, he takes a couple steps to place his back against a wall. "Why would they disappear me? Not like I'm going public or anything, at least not yet— if anything, I'd think they'd disappear the writer, he sorta already has." Again he gestures to the 9th Wonders issue on the shelf.

"Somebody did," Kory murmurs, giving a little involuntary shudder as their conversation causes a cognitive link between the death of Isaac Mendez and the idea of people being 'disappeared'… "He… died a few months back. The current issue on the stand is the last posthumous one. I'm an issue away from reading that one. Two of my customers came in last night, and our conversation took up two pages in the issue I was reading when you walked in."

Randall starts to say something… then stops. "Wait, you were in it too? Does that mean I'm--" Then he shakes his head. "If I am, I don't want to know. Not yet. So how's he— how did he pick out who to write about? Is it random who he saw, or is there a theme to it or what?"

"I don't know if you are or not. I've still got half an issue to go," Kory tells him. "I'm not sure whether I hope more we're in it together, or if you're safely not in it." As for his other questions, all she can do is shake her head at him as she comes around to stand closer to him again. "I have no idea what he decided goes in the comic. Never met him. And the one customer who has hasn't been around lately."

Randall shrugs, straightening up and raising his voice back to a normal volume. Best if he doesn't make the whole conversation look like something out of a Bond flick. "Who's that, just on the off chance?" They might have met, who knows.

"I haven't met him myself. He's a bike messenger, but Tito called and left him a message. Hopefully he'll be swinging by this week." Kory takes the cue to bring her own voice to a normal level as well. "But he's probably really busy with the holidays and all, so who knows?"

"I can imagine," he answers, "everything's too crowded around here to do everything by truck. So, um… these characters." ESPers, without using the term out loud. "How much do you and Lee know about them, so far?"

Kory glances at the gamer boys. They're embroiled. Not paying attention to anything but their game. Good. She nods, pleased with that, and turns her attention back to her boyfriend. "Bits and pieces. Lee's parents believed in the powers. This store was their great experiment. They put a comic store here in the hopes of attracting people with abilities. And the gamble paid off. They come here. For owner's manuals." She gestures at the section now listing comics by character powers.

Randall nods slowly. "It does make sense. Any mistake you can just read about someone like yourself making, instead of making it yourself…" Then he bites his lip. "But it's dangerous… it could attract people from the other side, too, for the same reason. Like a Mr. Glass."

Kory gives Randall a 'wha—' expression, before she realizes he's referring to the Unbreakable movie. "Oh…that's a really good point," she admits, hand lifting worriedly to her mouth. "Lee…if he's here…would be able to handle that." She swallows hard. "I'm really glad you think in four dimensions, Randall." The hand lifts to her forehead, as if she were getting a headache. "And I was just thinking not having to keep all this stuff secret from Lee was such a relief." She may not realize she said that last bit aloud, so shaken is she by the idea of a Mr. Glass.

For all that his raison d'etre is looking for abilities, Randall sometimes sees them where they aren't. Or, as in this case, overlooks them where they are. "Yeah, I guess if he told the general public what his parents were up to, it'd defeat the point. They wouldn't want to buy owner's manuals where everyone would look for them to be doing it."

"He's actually made noises about going public," Kory muses. "Because somebody wants his parents' notes. Or wants them gone. But that's his story to tell…and maybe he's right to go public with it. If the world knows…" but she trails off. Shakes her head. That never ends well in the comics. Or the movies. Or in any book. "Right."

Randall takes a step closer. "I'm just glad he trusted you with it," he offers. "That much trouble in his life, I'm sure he can use as many people to talk to about it as he can get."

Kory gives Randall a pained smile. "He'd actually rather not talk about it. He thinks comics are a waste of time, and he thinks anyone trying to use them as an owner's manual for their special abilities are ill-advised simpletons. He has…you should pardon the expression…issues, regarding comics. Tied into his parents and this store. Long, unpleasant story. And developing an ability isn't helping him." She closes the distance with a step toward him. "So -- yeah. Customers new and old, or even some of the regulars, may be the sort of people you're looking for. So far, though — all friends. No foes."

"Familiarity breeds contempt?" Randall bites his lip, reaching his hands out again in an attempt to ease the mounting tension. "That's a good percentage. Hmm, I should map this out against Enlightenment— two foci, so an ellipse." No shortage of random ideas cluttering his head.

Kory seems, belatedly, to realize he's offering an embrace, and takes him up on it. "I guess the idea of hiding in plain sight has some merit," she admits. "Enlightenment is probably full of the more cerebral types. The ones who want to read the Suresh book. Activating Evolution."

Randall draws his arms closer. "Seems to draw a number of types. I did check that one out, but… it's like a lot of cutting-edge science, it's missing something. Scientists always want to assume that because their methods have worked so often, they'll eventually work on everything. Their version of a religion, in a way."

"Funny you should put it that way," Kory says, leaning her head against his chest. "But the kinds of things I'm seeing lately defy science. People do things science doesn't have a ready explanation for." She shakes off the malaise. "It's almost funny - in the comics, New York is always the epicenter of powered activity. Life imitates art."

"It makes sense, though," he murmurs, distracted by the closeness, "if you think about it. Not only have you got an awful lot of people in one place, but they're crowded together, too. That forces a lot of activity on all levels— and people with powers are still people, when you get down to it."

"True," Kory agrees, bolstered by how calm he is about this. "They are. The problem is, people are people, and the ones who aren't so nice have powers too. That's what scares me most. It's like some circling carnivore, playfully taking swipes before it really decides to lunge in earnest. The other shoe's going to drop sooner or later. Question is, how to make it so there's no blast crater when it does?" She's still spooked; but there's a tiny ember of determination lighting in her eyes now.

Randall considers the question. "Organization, I suppose," he finally replies. "Don't let them divide and conquer— if possible, do it to them instead. And try to draw them away from the crowds, but that's even less easy."

"Way less easy," Kory confirms, nodding. "There were two of them a few weeks ago. D'you remember the magician? The one who got killed in the park? Her killers walked through the crowd hurting people just because they could." The idea fills her with a mingling of emotions: disgust, terror, anger, and fear foremost.

Randall sighs. "I did, a little, but the stories were so confused. If I'd been there in person… But do you remember that baseball game early in the year, where people started jumping off the top of the bleachers?" For a moment, he shivers, thinking back. "I was there— and whatever was going on, I got caught in it. Barely made it out of there in one piece."

Kory tightens her arms around Randall as he shivers. "Too many close calls," she decides. She goes on, eyes going a bit distant as she thinks about the park attack. "I wasn't there, but someone I know was. I'm glad you weren't there in person. I might never have seen you again. I saw what that woman's touch could do. Up close. I'm told they caught her. But how can you contain someone whose hands give off acid that strong?"

"Good question. Handcuff her so she can't reach anything? Or keep her sedated, I guess." Randall shakes his head, declining to voice the obvious permanent solution. "I'm glad you weren't there, either. I'm sorry if you did lose someone." Since she didn't say directly what happened to that someone.

"If she can't just exude it from the rest of her skin," Kory muses, but she's aware that he didn't make the statement. "And no. I didn't lose anyone. A friend got burned by her. But…if she's not caught. Or if she gets loose again. I could lose friends. That's what worries me. I …don't know if that future's been averted or just rescheduled."

Randall shakes his head. "I'm sure someone did bring her in. As long as it's been… if she was still loose, she would've made the news again by now. Especially with something that blatant." Straightening up, he nods toward the exit. "Let's get out of here, okay? I think you could use some distracting right about now."

"You know, that's a good idea," Kory agrees. "Tito! I'm bailing." The guy who's been sort of half-heartedly watching the gamers looks up and gives her a high sign. Kory sticks the issue she was reading into a slot under the counter, then returns to wind an arm around Randall's waist. "More pancakes, then?"

Randall waves in passing to the man indicated as Tito, resting a hand at the small of Kory's back. "Maybe later? I saw a pizza place not too far from here, looked worth checking out."

"Ray's or Tony's?" she asks. She's apparently very familiar with the neighborhood. But the distraction is already working. The thought of a quick meal has brightened her already.

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