2007-06-25: Less Than We Bargained For

Starring:

Max_icon.gif Nova_icon.gif

Summary: "Ten years of running, and I was hiding from a job offer."

Date It Happened: 25th of June, 2007

Less Than We Bargained For


Hartsdale, NY - Primatech - Cells

Max is tired. Very tired. Boredom is no so much an issue for him now that Mohinder has brought him reading material, but he hasn't been sleeping well since he was taken off of his self-prescribed pain management plan. He hurts. He hurts bad. He's perched on the edge of the bed, surrounded by textbooks, file folders, and stacks of loose paperwork. He's flipping through one of the file, his blue eyes intently fixed on the combination of typewritten and chickenscratched notation that is every scientist's mainstay. Two days after his confrontation with the guards the bruises on his face have faded to a sickly combination of dull blue, angry purple, and vivid yellow. There's a fresh bandage pasted over the long, stitched up gash across his cheekbone. As he's not yet been allowed to leave his cubicle, both the man and the location are starting to smell a bit ripe, and the cleanly trimmed edges of Max's beard have gone ragged with growth.

This is Step Two. Not a step Nova is particularly interested in taking. She told them, she warned them, that this is not her strong suit. She did her job, pretty efficiently she might add, and now Swan is left at the hands of scientists and whoever else wants to poke and prod and eventually get rid of him. Not so, however.

Nova betrays only confidence when she walks down the corridor, smoothly strutting past the glass window without a glance towards the man inside. The idea of standing outside and talking to him through the glass doesn't appeal - despite the scuffle Max had with guards not a few days ago, Nova doesn't deem this precaution so necessary. She steps through the door, once it's unlocked, with a fresh bottle of water in her hand. The height of luxury. Much like their first encounter, she's not particularly dressed up - a navy blue t-shirt with a v-neck, loose jeans, sneakers, her hair tied back.

Max is clad in the standard issue white t-shirt and trousers issued to all of the Company's guests. When Nova enters, he lifts his eyes from the file and sets it aside. "You." Rarely in history has one word contained so much emotion. Loathing. Anger. Attraction. Even respect. After all, Nova was the first agent to take him down alone, and she's a human to boot.

Her gaze flicks over him in assessment. If Max looked like hell before… the bruises only add colour, really. Nova stands for a moment, as if uncertain, water bottle clasped between two hands. "That's right," she confirms, with a slight nod. She remains stoic, save for the tiniest flicker of a smirk. She gestures at him. "Still fighting, Max?" She moves to set the water bottle down somewhere close by.

It takes a substantial amount of Max's willpower not to bolt immediately for the bottle. He wants to, but that would be unseemly. His gaze flickers over to in longingly, then he makes eye contact with Nova again. "I am," he confirms. "Would you like a demonstration?" It seems like an honest enough offer. He even quirks an eyebrow curiously.

There's a clatter as Nova sets down a chair, after walking a few paces to grab it, a little closer. Conversational distance. "I reckon a stiff wind could blow you down, mate," she says, frankly, as she sits down with no amount of elegance. "Maybe another time. If you ever get out of here, even."

"If," Max agrees amiably. Any malice he holds toward Nova for his capture is well-concealed after his initial outburst. He shifts in his seat, gingerly seeking a more comfortable position for his aching body. "So. If you're not here to fight, what bring you to my corner of paradise?"

He's a hard one to read, but Nova studies him anyway. While her thoughts and feelings may also be well concealed, her posture betrays some tension. He may seem weakened, but you never know, with Evolved types. Humans are easier to predict. "I just came to talk," Nova says, and now offers him a smile, the same sort of wolfish smile that comes from a more genuine place than the demure, friendly ways of expressing herself when she drugged him. "I wanna know what you plan to do here."

Max allows his gaze to roam freely. Though a t-shirt and jeans could hardly be called flattering, he's nothing if not a man of imagination. "Other than meet pretty girls?" He pauses to smile back, though there's something vaguely feral about the expression. "I plan to escape. If you were in my place you'd do the same."

Don't argue. Engage. Although the way he looks over her makes Nova want to skip a few steps in 'argue' and get straight to the knock out. That last sentence is enough to bring her back to what she's supposed to be doing, and she settles for absently cracking the knuckles on her right hand as she speaks. "Security is tight," she says. "More than you know. You can walk out of here on your own terms, but that's not the way it'll happen."

"I think you'll find me to be full of surprises," Max murmurs modestly. Finally, he can't take it any longer. He reaches by Nova and grabs the bottle of water from the top of his desk. After cracking the lid, he downs a third of it and lets out a satisfied sigh. He lifts the bottle up and peers at Nova through opaque layers of plastic and liquid. "It's amazing. Reduce a man to a helpless, captive animal and the smallest of comforts becomes a luxury. So. I can walk out of here, can I? And what would I have to do?"

Respectfully, Nova waits for him to down the water before speaking, somewhat satisfied when he finally goes for it. She raises an eyebrow at him at this mention of luxury, and raises a shoulder in a shrug. "We don't want you dying on us," she says. "We want you out of this cage as much as you do." She wrinkles her nose a little, bringing a hand up to contemplatively scratch the back of her neck. "I see it like you got two options. Stay in here for as long as it takes, or run with us." She was never one for dancing around the topic.

Suddenly forgotten, the bottle of water falls from Max's slack grip and splashes to the floor, spilling its precious contents. "With you?" he asks, incredulous. Of all the intimidations and offers he'd expected, this is not one of them. There are many things to consider here. Max is not actually opposed to what the Company does. Only what it does to him. And if what's been done to him is any indication, he's just received an offer that's very promising for an aspiring young sociopath. Plus, the potential for deviousness and double-crossery would be nearly unlimted. "Intriguing. Most intriguing. And if I say yes, what guarantee do you have that I won't turn on you at the first opportunity?" He doesn't bother asking what's in it for him. What's in it for him is that he gets to stay alive and not be locked in a box. Same if the Company wanted to turn on him. They could kill him in a cell far easier than if he was let loose in the city again.

See? Subtlety has its place. Why ease him into it when you can spin his head? Nova reaches to pick up the now mostly empty plastic bottle, and sets it aside. At his question, she snorts. Same one she asked her superiors, in a rare moment of uncertainty. The answer she delivers is her own, however. "It's not smart to bite the hands that feed you," she says, arms folding across her chest as she leans back into her chair. "And you'll just be right back where you started, except with the key thrown away." She relaxes, and tries to seem… appealing? Friendly? Equal? Something. Less threatening, in any case. "This isn't a threat. It's just the way it is. We're not willing to let you go do your own thing just to be a thorn in our sides. It's a waste of your potential and a waste of our time."

Max is still reeling. Nova has flipped the script on him. He's accustomed to being the one making the offers. He reaches up to stroke his bearded chin thoughtfully. "I assume that there are conditions, and that your people have specific duties in mind for me." Not a question. As a mad scientist and sadist extraordinaire, Max's skillset is somewhat limited. He belongs in a lab or in the field, not in an office.

"That's right," Nova confirms, with a slight nod of her head. "You won't be doing any filing, that's for sure. And all the pharmaceuticals a Company paycheck can buy you." There's a pause, although its clear she has more to say. A glance down at her hands for a moment, then back up to meet his eyes. "We do good work here. Making sure people don't go around and cause chaos, letting them get control over their own powers so they don't go harming others. Or," a chin up to Max, "themselves."

Max considers this briefly, but it doesn't take much thinking. He'd be a fool to say no, whether he plans to follow through with the agreement or not. He nods. "Very well, I accept." Anything to get out of this cell. He stands, unlimbering his sore, battered body. "So that's it," he muses. "Ten years of running, and I was hiding from a job offer. Let's go. I crave a steak and a crisp suit."

It takes a little restraint to not stand up when Max does. Call it habit, or instinct. Sitting down is never a point of advantage against your opposition. But Nova stays seated, tilting her head to look up at him, and… well at this stage, she might smile pityingly at him, but she's not so good at pity, or even faking it. "My superiors will be happy to hear it," she says. "But it's not as simple as that." She nods towards the bed, a wordless suggestion for him to sit back down.

Max isn't thrilled with this conversational turn, but he seats himself as indicated. He crosses his arms over his chest and cocks his head curiously to the side. "Mmm. Tell me more," he murmurs. It's easy to see that if he wants out of here while his plumbing still plumbs, he's going to have to play ball.

Nova nods once when he sits down, her own posture unmoving, save for her arms now unfolding and hands coming to rest on her knees. "We just need to be sure we can trust you," she says. Always with the 'we'. Nova tilts her head as she regards him. "More people will swing by here, appointments likely not as fun as the ones spent with Agent Bonham," she says, and if there's amusement there, it's covered by a steel mask of stoicism. "You go along with everything as best you can, and you'll be out of here in no time." Nova hesitates. "We'll work as a pair, at first." Hard to say what she thinks about this.

This is hardly surprising. If the roles were reversed, Max would likely take even more precautions than the ones that have been laid out for him. "Very well," he agrees. "I still want a steak. You'll find me a much more agreeable partner with proper clothing, as well. If I'm to remain here, I'd like to do it as a guest rather than a captive."

There's a pause as Nova takes that in, then she snorts. "We're just going to get along like a house on fire, aren't we." She shakes her head, ponytail swaying with the movement. "As for a steak, you can settle for your medication. You can go back to your own kind once you're out of here, and you'll get out of here once we know you can behave."

"So I agree to work with you, and in return I get nothing." Max repeats this out loud to clarify things for himself. He frowns and lets out a skeptical snort. "You have a lot to learn about negotiation. Will you do me a favor, and kindly go fuck yourself?"

"You agree to work with me, you take the pills like you're meant to, then you get out of here within a few days," Nova says, patience wearing a little around the edges. "And you get your ability back. This isn't negotiation - these are the terms. I didn't come up with 'em." She wants to say more, but she governs herself. She was told not to turn him into an enemy. She's determined to abide by this instruction. For as long as possible.

"It seems that I have little say in the matter." Max holds Nova's gaze for several long seconds, then pointedly picks up the file he was reading when Nova arrived and returns to flipping through it. "If you have nothing else to offer, you may go now."

For… as long… as possible. Nova considers her options, weighing what she wants to do against what she should do in this situation. You don't get to be 35 without some awareness of this. All the same, she finds herself reaching out, fingers closing over the file he's lifted to read, and lowering it back down. Yanking it away would be too telling. "You have more say in this than you seem to realise," she says. "You want to be a guest here? Then choose your battles, Swan. Insulting me's not gonna get you so far.

Max shakes his head slowly. "You give nothing and expect everything. You demand respect, yet you offer none in return. You shouldn't be so surprised by my response." Now he's starting to get angry. His eyes flash dangerously, and he casts the file aside onto the bed. "Despite this, I am at your disposal, Agent." The emphasis he puts on the word isn't quite disdainful. "What else can I do for you today?"

"You want me to negotiate," Nova says, leaning back again. "But you don't have much to negotiate with yourself, mate. Just your coorperation. You want something in return for this… exercise some patience." Now, she stands, having been determined not to leave when simply dismissed, although she doesn't walk away yet. Maybe the height of standing up is just a nice advantage to have. Here, however, she actually offers a smile - barely a flash of white teeth, impulsive. "And here was me thinking I won your respect through an arm wrestle." She reverts to seriousness, adding, "That'll come in time. Mutually." Or so is the plan. She looks a little dubious of this particular exchange.

Max doesn't look completely convinced either. Still, he's ahead of where he started when he woke up in this cell. That's better than nothing. "I will do as you wish." It's as close as Max can come to compromising under the circumstances. He takes several deep breaths to steady and calm himself. When the angry, furrowed lines have smoothed from his brow and the muscles in his jaw have relaxed, he looks up at Nova again.

A nod of acceptance, and a flash of… well, no, 'sympathy' would be stretching it. Maybe understanding, rather than compassion. Either way, it's brief, and she relaxes a fraction also. "Thank you," Nova says, and with that, she turns her back on him. Rather than leave without a word, she says, "I'll see you very soon," over her shoulder, before reaching for the door to head on out.

Max's only response is to nod. Sooner. Later. It's all the same to him. Time doesn't have much meaning when you're locked in a windowless box. When he picks up the file again to study it, his hands are shaking slightly.

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