2007-12-12: Banter With The Best Boys


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Summary: Lee, Randall, and Kory talk about whether or not 9th Wonders is really as amazing as all that. Among other things.

Date It Happened: December 12, 2007

Log Title Banter With The Best Boys

Location - The Jones Apartment, above the Secret Lair.

Lee was in an uncharacteristically good mood when he got back from school - perhaps things are going well? He breezes through the Lair with hardly a nasty word for the sort of people that are in a comic book shop on a Friday night (okay, maybe one or two, while smiling) and can be heard bustling in the apartment upstairs.

Every now and again, Kory takes her legally mandated break up here in the house of Jones. It's a home away from home, and it's quieter than the office. Also a bit less creepy, given what's behind the office wall. Plus, there's TV and herbal tea. "Hey, Lee," she calls as she pushes open the door. "You're having a good night. Finals over?"

Far enough behind Lee to have missed spotting him, Randall enters the shop and browses the shelves for a minute or so, before asking after Kory at the counter. "Oh yeah, she's in the back," explains the guy manning the cash register, "right down that hallway over there." Which leads almost directly to the stairs; he has an odd sense of humor about things like that. Randall takes the gag in stride upon discovering its nature, squinting as he approaches the top of the flight.

Lee says, "Nope, but I'm thinking a few might actually pass." He's brewing coffee and has his sleeves rolled up to clean out the sink. Maybe a guest later in the evening. "The Christmas spirit. How's the sales looking?"

"Pretty good, actually. Everybody's jazzed about the upcoming Iron Man and Batman movies, so their stuff is starting to really get legs. And since we aren't as crowded as the big box stores, a lot of the moms like to come in here to avoid the crazy you'd find at, say, Toys R. Us." Kory is pleased by this. Carefully placed word of mouth to strangers on the subway, at the coffee shop, in the grocery store. The psych degree does, betimes, come in handy. "So it'll be a green Christmas. Nima will be thrilled."

"I thought that would be a black Christmas," Randall chimes in, having just walked close enough to see who exactly is up sharing the second floor with him. "Do they switch over to green if you make a /lot/ of profit?" He waves casually to Lee, who he's had several months to forget about having seen once or twice before.

Lee waves. "Oh hey…uh…I forgot your name. Are you Randall?" He grins. "Been waiting to meet you, man." He wipes his hands off on a towel and extends it. "Come in, come in. I've got some coffee going…do you want some…tea for you, Kory?"

Kory turns, surprised, at the sound of the familiar voice. She smiles, a soft radiant smile that hints at carefully concealed gigawattage. "Randall. This is Lee. Lee, Randall." She pushes off the wall by the kitchen and walks over to greet the new arrival. "Off from work tonight, or am I catching you between breaths?"

Randall has much the same expression at first, but that's only because he couldn't see Kory right away. Once he does, any pretense is more or less discarded. "No, I actually managed to escape for a bit," he replies, holding his hands out toward hers. "And yes, I am— I assume from context that you're Lee, then?"

Lee says, "Yep. Brother of the owner of that dump downstairs." Technically the missing parents still own it, but. He pours himself some coffee and plops the kettle on for Kory. "Where do you work?" he asks Randall.

Kory's eyes roll skyward as Lee disses the Lair. "And since he lacks clue one how to run it, plus hates it like root canal, I got stuck running it." She takes Randall's hands and gives them a gentle squeeze. "But I can't really complain too much about that." Her life has certainly become more interesting since becoming manager, and the handsome guy who enjoys her company is certainly a plus.

Randall merely shrugs, letting those with a vested interest carry on the merry argument over the shop's merits. "A succession of odd jobs," he explains to Lee. "Tending bar, this month— thankfully nobody's gotten seriously hurt since I started there." Not that people haven't tried.

Lee says, "You must be mixing it right, then. Coffee?" He comes around to the front of the tiny kitchen and leans on the counter with his slender arms crossed, shirtsleeves rolled up. "I'm a civics teacher at Brubaker Secondary." he explains. "The kevlar vest is in the closet."

"Odd is right," Kory says, shaking her head, and not quite able to suppress a shudder at the memory of the dive bar where Randall makes a living at the moment. To distract herself, she jokes, "What Lee means is that he's a literary snob, but nobody will pay him to do that, so he tries to educate the dangerous minds."

Randall winces, evidently taking Lee's comment at face value. "Hey, we all do what it takes, right? I was driving a cab for a while— but I'd skip town completely before I'd go back to that. The third window that got shot out was what finally convinced me."

Lee grins. "I taunted the Assistant Principal to agreeing to let me do a French literature unit next year if I hit my pass rate on the achievement tests. She thinks it's impossible and that I'll be fired by March. But I have what we in the business call 'plans.'" he says almost eagerly. "So how did you two meet?"

"Hey, wow, good luck," Kory says, with the sort of sincerity that indicates she and Lee do this verbal fencing thing out of affection. But at his question, she swings her gaze back to Randall. "We met downstairs in the shop," Kory says, eyes going off into the distance with recollection. "Randall came in looking for Megatokyo, if I remember right."

Randall nods. "Yeah, it started there. Ran into her again during a dog walk, got to talking…" He conveniently skips over the part where they didn't see each over for over a month because he screwed up her phone number. "So, the principal," he adds instead, slightly misremembering the title, "does she have it out for you in particular or just everyone in general?"

Lee says, "Assistant Principal. The Principal doesn't know what's going on. And O'Donnell…she's the school hatchetwoman. She sees me as a way to dump a lot of students that it would be politically difficult to just expel. There's other people she harasses, but she's worn most of them down by now. I'm the new guy. The nail that sticks up."

"The one who likes sticking up," Kory points out. "Lee's not happy unless he's the center of attention." She glances at him with an embarrassed expression; Kory realized belatedly that might've come off like a barb. "Brubaker's been a mess for years, though. Lee's actually making a difference, and the bigwigs are scared of all the changes." She holds up her hands in a gesture indicating the faculty at Brubaker must consider him some sort of boogeyman.

Lee looks abashed at Kory's remark, not mad. He does like attention.

Randall makes a face. "They would be— the expected rate of failure's easier for them to explain away than the risk of a really spectacular failure if one of the changes turns sour. No matter how much there might be to gain." He looks around for a patch of wall to lean back against. "That's gotta be rough, though, working with kids— I've got no special talent for it, I think a lot of people don't."

Lee says, "No talent involved with me, I just bust my ass. The downside of being the new guy is barely knowing what you're doing." He sips his coffee. "Little by little."

"Lee's probably the only person I know who reads more than I do," Kory says, giving Lee a quirked eyebrow of surprise. "He's just being modest." By her expression, that's a new trait on him. She draws Randall over to sit on the little sofa. "Are we making plans?" she asks him, curious about why he dropped in. Or perhaps he's just decided he doesn't mind seeming potentially stalkery after all.

Not any more he isn't, not after the reception he got when that month-plus of inadvertent separation finally ended. "I don't know," Randall asks, "are we? I mean, I'm just visiting, you guys are the ones who run the place. Though I did want to check out the section on heightened perceptions at some point." Bit of a hint there, without just spilling everything on his mind at once.

Lee says, "You're organizing things by power now? That's… something new, at least." He still doesn't like comics, but this seems a bit intriguing to him.

Oh, yes. That was quite a warm reception. He'd be getting more of the same if this wasn't Lee's apartment. Or possibly, only, if Lee weren't standing here just now. "Given lately I've had people come in asking about comics that have characters with this power or that power," Kory shrugs, "It seemed prudent to make it easier on new customers. I mean, they can always hit the longboxes afterward if they don't find what they want there. A little experiment. Worse to worst, I can always put things back as they were."

Randall nods absently. "And if someone's looking for one particular character, it helps them too. At least to narrow it down from 'everything in fifteen years of this one series'." He trails off, though, glancing over at Kory to see if she plans to pipe up about the real reason behind the reorg.

Lee says, "I have to admit that what tiny sliver of theme exists in those birdcage liners is more likely to be preserved by organizing them by internal elements than by chronology." A grudging admission.

Kory stares, wide-eyed, at Lee. He said something kindly about comics. And about Kory doing something with them. She's unabashedly astonished. "Well, you know. Small business, big city. Had to do something, what with all the niche customers we've had lately." A meaningful look at Lee, as she makes herself comfortable, stretching her long legs out in front of her and crossing them at the ankles.

Unfamiliar with the thoroughness of Lee's snobbery, Randall interprets the comment - and Kory's visible reaction to it - differently than she does. He doesn't say anything out loud, just shoves his hands into his pockets and glances back and forth to see whether the awkwardness is planning to break itself up any time soon.

Lee snorts. "Yeah. I ran into another one at the movies the other night. He went to see Explosiontown of course, and, get this, he was complaining there weren't enough explosions in it." He shakes his head. "I tried to tell him the guy in 9th Wonders wasn't me, it was that guy from that movie about the three brothers in the train in India, but he wouldn't listen, he just insisted it was me."

"Well, you have to admit," Kory says, carefully, "The likeness was uncanny. And a lot of people have found what looks like people they know in 9th Wonders. Not everybody is convinced he can see the future, Mr. Mendez. But some are. Mrs. Sanders is kind of worried about her son reading them if they really do predict the future."

"I'd be worried about it myself," Randall adds, taking his hands out again and gesturing in the air as he speaks. "Whether it's actually you or someone you know, or not, if you're convinced that things are heading that way… People can start getting tunnel vision about a thing like that, go out and do things they normally wouldn't."

Lee says, "She should be worried about her son reading them if she wants him to develop decent tastes in art and literature. There's plenty of books in the libraries that will tell him more about the future than a frickin' comic book will, no matter how stultifyingly 'accurate' it might be." Now there's the Lee-on-comics we all know and love. He even says 'accurate' like it's a bad thing, or at the very least an irrelevant thing.

Kory sighs. "Could you swallow the vitriol long enough to get past the fact that it's a comic? If Isaac Mendez had, say, decided to paint stuff that was showing up in Guggenheim showing the future…" she prompts, hopefully.

Randall shrugs. "I dunno… one way to guarantee a kid pays attention to something is to tell him he can't have any of it. And considering some of the stuff that shows up in the galleries, I hope that isn't going to come true any time soon." The abstracts are strange enough without bringing Mapplethorpe into this.

Lee says, nodding to Randall, "They'll put anything in the Guggenheim these days…" but his expression and tone is such that he sees Kory's point. "Anyway, my point remains." He shrugs. Wait, what was his point again?

"I'm not sure what your point was, to be honest," Kory admits. "But the thing of it is, if it's accurate, I guess Micah's mom has a reason to be worried. Maybe we all do."

"Micah's mom is Mrs. Sanders?" asks Randall, trying to fill in what he hasn't seen first-hand. "What do they think it's showing them doing?"

Lee says, "My point was that you can't go arond trying to work out what the future is just by happening to know what it will look like and what people will say and be doing, that's ten pounds of baloney in a five pound bag. That's just a picture, a snapshot. The future's made by everyone and everything, just like the present, just like the past."

"Mm," Kory murmurs, unconvinced, "Even though we both know someone whose portrayal in 9th Wonders turned out completely true to events?" She folds her arms and regards Lee speculatively. Go ahead. Talk your way out of this one.

Randall blinks, looking over at Kory. "Completely true, as in not even arriving there due to misleading circumstances or anything? Old as Shakespeare, at least."

Lee shrugs. "It's accurate. Like a security camera." he says dismissively. He nods to Randall: "Exactly. And myopic, too. Too focused. It's a waste of time. Not trying to change the future! Changing the future is great. Everyone should try to do it. But trying to change a comic book about the future? Sheesh. Why introduce a middleman?"

"It wasn't misleading circumstances in the issue I saw," Kory tells Randall, shrugging almost sheepishly. "I was just standing there, and then it was sort of deja-vertigo, because Hiro was saying 'Look!' and showing me a page with a panel of Hiro saying 'Look!" and showing me a page…" She shakes her head. The memory alone is disconcerting.

Randall says— wait, no, he doesn't. He blinks. "Okay, infinite hall of mirrors… but her name is actually Hero? I thought that was five hundred years out of date, too." Well, the reference is accurate, at least, even if the year is a bit off.

Lee says. "Hiro, that was the Explosiontown guy! Yeah, that doesn't surprise me. Self-referentiality is a common crutch in these desperately postmodern times. If you can't think of anything better, have someone break the fourth wall, or hang a lampshade on some ridiculous conceit, or criti…cize… the format… " He pauses, looking like he just creeped himself out.

"How can it be self-referential," Kory protests. "I never met Isaac Mendez in my life. Not even in a comic book!" She is about to answer Randall, when there's a shout from below. "Kory! It's that customer again. You know the one." Tito sounds like he's trying very hard not to panic.

"Oh, dear." Kory pulls a face. "I better run and take that, guys. This could take a while." She bends and gives Randall a brief, but affectionate kiss. "Catch you later, okay?" And a mock-glower to Lee. "At least pretend to be nice, huh?" And with that, she's nimbly off the sofa, only to trip over an air molecule, catch herself on the doorframe, and then fling herself bodily down the stairs with rapid steps.

He, not she, Randall thinks to himself. Who knows, he might meet this weirdly-named guy himself at some point. "I don't want to know, do I," he offers, nodding toward the stairs and the bad juju below.

Lee says, with a quirky half-grin, "They're all like that to me. Later, Kory."

Your words, Lee, not ours. Randall listens downward for a few seconds more, then moves away from the wall. "I should probably get going myself, actually. I'm sure you've got stuff to work on to stick it to your boss, right?"

Lee says, "Exactly. Fight the power. Nice meeting you, Randall. Take care."

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