2009-11-05: Nerves Of Steel



Date: November 5th, 2009


Some things are made whole, others are on the way to being broken.

"Nerves Of Steel"

Building 26 - Isolation Room

There's been no change to the sweltering, isolated room Tracy Strauss has been delegated to for the time — however long — she's meant to be imprisoned here in Building 26. In the nation's capitol. It doesn't need to change: the set-up is simple, but it works. More than anything else.

Lamps bearing down their considerable heat surround her on all sides but one — her back, left to face the door from where she's been placed in the center, on the chair she can't move from. Given that there's been no need to move her immediately, the travel restraints are gone from her ankles, and she's drawn her feet up on the edge of the chair.

Every now and then, she has to move, look around the hellish orange-and-red hues of the heated prison and remind herself that she's going to get out of here. This is one of those times.

Yesterday was a very busy day for Max. Recovery. Settling Peter into their shared suite. Devising new and exciting methods for interrogating his newest plaything. Another day in the life.

The door to the Isolation Room slides open, sillhouetting Max's form in the arch. He lingers for a few seconds before he steps inside and in front of Tracy. He's wearing a sedate, slate grey suit and white shirt. Jacket slung over one shoulder, tie removed, top two buttons of his shirt undone. These are his only concessions to the heat. His outfit is tailored in such a way that the stump of his left arm is displayed for all the world to see. Though blood no longer soaks through his bandages, there is a rust-colored stain the size of a man's palm caused by the leaking and drying of fluids. He has a block of metal tucked under his good arm. It's in the neighborhood of two feet long, eight inches wide, and another eight inches deep. Despite the obvious weight, he cradles it against his torso in an almost motherly fashion, as if to protect it from harm.

"Ms. Strauss," he rumbles, his voice low and neutral. "How very nice to see you again. You'll excuse me if I don't shake hands."

As he speaks, a man in a fitted black jumpsuit drags in a steamer trunk and a cushy folding chair, then scurries out with a brief, furtive glance over his shoulder.

Before, when the door would open, Tracy would be quick to turn, inasmuch as she can, to see who's there: tormentor or saviour. This time, however, she is not so alert. The woman's silhouette stays unmoving, arms resting along the back of the chair by necessity of the metal bar between her wrists. Her reaction is delayed; with a faint jangle of chains, she looks over her shoulder once, slow, then faster, in recognition.

The heat has taken its toll: she's lethargic, covered in a glossy sheen of sweat, her long hair hangs limp and strangled, and her eyes are glassy and tired. Lifeless they are not. The strange chunk of metal, the trunk, and the state of Max's arm all earn a pessimistic glance, but her eyes focus up on the man in front of her, hardening with a coldness that defies the temperature.

"I was wondering when I'd see you again," Tracy says with no lack of bite.

Max keeps his eyes locked on Tracy as he lays his jacket over the back of his chair. It's somewhat awkward, as he appears unwilling to set down his block of metal. Still, he manages. Like a beloved child, he shifts it to his lap and supports it in the crook of his elbow. His scarred mouth tugs upward into a smile as he strokes his fingers along the smooth, rapidly warming surface. "I should still be in bed," he admits. "But I couldn't resist dropping in on you. And how are you, my dear? You look a bit wilted, truth be told."

"How do you think I am," Tracy's low, bitter words are quick to form. She slides her bare feet from the chair's seat to the warm floor and adopts a bolder pose despite her captivity, leaning back to sit straighter. Knees wide, it would be a casual pose if it weren't for— well, everything else. "What's that," she indicates the metal block with a subtle jerk of her chin.

"Cheer up, Ms. Strauss. This is the beginning of something new. Something very exciting for me." Max's smile grows wider, taking on a familiar, wolfish slant. "I was terribly vexed with you for taking my arm, you know. Then I realized that I should be grateful. You see, you've helped bring me one step closer to perfection. I thought we should share this moment, you and I."

He shifts his eyes away from Tracy and to the block of steel. His stroking grows firmer. More aggressive. Then, abruptly, he passes his hand over the block, pulling strings and shreds of metal away from the whole with his power and casting them to the floor. What's left behind is the rough outline of a hand and forearm.

A look of rapture overtakes Max as he fits his new prosthesis over his stump. Bound by his ability, it holds itself in place as he lifts his arm to display it with pride. There is an audible, creaking protest as his new fingers clench and unclench in a jerky approximation of human movement. "It's beautiful," he murmurs. "Don't you agree?"

There is a distinct lack of anything reassuring about Max's words to Tracy. She grows more and more suspicious of him by the second. She very specifically doesn't let her gaze linger anywhere but Max's face— until, that is, he works his powerful ability on the metal. And does that to it. She can't help but gape, her eyes widening in alarm. It's horror more than it is awe — not to mention realization. "You're like me," she says, seeming both surprised and unnerved by this little revelation. "It was never my intention." Full of ire for a confession. "I only wanted to stop you. To make you let them go. None of this had to happen."

"But it did, my dear," Max murmurs absently, still enthralled by his new appendage. "You lack faith. Conviction. Strength of will. If you can't commit yourself to the cause, then this is where you belong.

The creaking, twisting, and turning pauses and his blue eyes bore into Tracy's. Slowly, purposefully, he leans forward until only a few scant inches separate them. "And never presume that you are like me," he growls. "You're nothing like me. You're weak. Soft. I pity you for that."

In the harsh, surreal light, Tracy's cool blue eyes seem more red than blue as they lock rather hatefully on the man's. "Don't presume yourself," she contests with a short-lived grin and a faint scoff under her breath. "If you think for a second that I'm weak?" She leans ahead another half an inch or so, the metal bar keeping her arms immobile jarring against the back of the chair. "You don't know me," she hisses. "I know exactly what you can do with your pity." Shove it somewhere, sounds like.

Max tsk-tsks and wags a gleaming, silvery finger. "When my pets are poorly behaved, they get no treats. No water for you today, Ms. Strauss. Though it pleases me that you haven't been broken. Yet."

He flips the latch on the steamer trunk with the toe of his shoe and kicks it open. Inside is a six pack of bottled water and a large canister that's similar in appearance to a fire extinguisher, save for it is labeled CRYO-CYL. "I wonder, will you melt if we keep in you in here? And if you do, what will happen if I decide to freeze you? The possibilities are… stimulating."

Not broken, but not unaffected. Tracy's hackles may be up, she might be staying strong and making like she's impervious, but glancing at the contents of the box riles up a flash of worry. Granted, the contents would mean little if it weren't for what Max says — that's what causes the apprehension in Ms. Strauss, as much as she tries to keep it at bay. She leans back. "…what're you gonna do," she starts out incredulously. He couldn't… "Experiment on me, is that it?" A breathy laugh comes to the fore. Worry or no, she's ever the rebellious prisoner. "I'm not your pet, you can't just— the Senator would have your head!"

"I believe the Senator is disturbed by your lack of faith," Max quips dryly. "If I were to tell him that I might divine some invaluable bit of information by subjecting you to certain clinical trials…" his voice fades, allowing Tracy to fill in the blanks with her imagination. Then, sharply, he kicks the lid of the trunk down again. "Such is the life of a terrorist. I will leave you now. I'm starting to perspire, and it would be a shame to sweat through a shirt as fine as this one."

He hefts the trunk easily and rests it on one shoulder, picks up his jacket, and heads for the door. On his way, he pauses for a final smile and a farewell. "Next time, if you're well-behaved, you'll get something to drink. Goodbye, Pet."

More than defiance is written all over the woman's face: it's denial. She can't believe that Ivory would condone the sort of thing Max is talking about, but then, she can't be sure Max won't do it anyway. "No," she protests, quiet but adamant. "No, he wouldn't authorize it!" Tracy twists uncomfortably to watch Max leave, gritting her teeth. Pet?! She's nobody's pet. She tugs hard against her chains as she watches him go.

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