2010-03-14: Non Ducor, Duco



Date: March 14, 2010


After smuggling Elle out of captivity, Max brings her to an old laboratory, where they rest and consider their next step.

"Non Ducor, Duco"

I am not led: I lead.

Somewhere in NYC, NY

"It's not the top of the world, but it will keep us out of sight," Max explains as he leads Elle up to a heavy set of metal doors. They are barred from the inside, a situation that he remedies with a wave of his hand. Magnetically compelled, the doors squeal in protest as they swing open.

Once upon a time, this might have been a nice private laboratory. Each piece of equipment is careworn and the entire place has the feel of a seven figure operation working under a six figure budget.

Sadly, it's not nice anymore. Whenever Max last left, he clearly did so in a hurry. An entire bank of computers has been smashed and warped beyond all recovery. The smell of smoke still lingers in one corner of the room, where a great deal of hard copies were used to build a fire in a metal trash can. Anything incriminating or personal has been removed or destroyed. The only fully intact area is the loft, which seems to serve as office, bedroom, and locker room. It's similarly bare, but the shower and bed are still in one piece.

It's somewhat unfortunate that Elle has to see the inside of the laboratory at all. Before she steps inside, her look is one of open admiration for the display of his ability, accompanied by a low, appreciative whistle. The look is quick to disappear as she moves through the doorway, ducking her head instinctively as if the chaos might cause a ceiling tile to fall. "The hell happened here?" Even as she asks the question, she mentally chides herself, rolling her eyes. "Never mind." She meanders through the wreckage, picking her way carefully, her curious gaze passing over each piece of damaged machinery with interest. "Should I even ask what you, uh. Used to research in here?"

Ever a hopeless show-off, Max grins and bows at the waist in response to Elle's attention. Then he slips out of his suit jacket, folds it, and drapes it across the back of a hopelessly dusty chair. "Us," he says simply, loosening his tie and unbuttoning his collar, much to his relief. "Everything about us. When I focus, I focus on how we grow stronger."

Watching him remove the jacket, Elle is acutely aware of her own attire, her muscles tensing at the thought that she has no proper clothing here - and she won't be returning to her apartment any time soon. "Figures," she says, her tone somewhat distracted, running her fingers along the top of a shattered monitor. She passes to another, only this one cracks once, sharply, and lets out a hiss of smoke. She tips her chin back, eyes closing, as a rapturous smile appears on her face. "God, I missed this." She pulls her hand away from the machines, turning the palm over and letting a ball of pulsing blue light form. Without taking her eyes from the electricity in her hand, she asks, "What do we do now?"

Max's eyes home in on the the ball of electricity with unerring accuracy. His grin turns into a sly smile as he paces a semi-circle around Elle, studying it from several different angles. Then, slowly, he strips the glove from his prosthetic hand, revealing its all-steel construstion and unnaturally smooth contours. He flexes it to a fist and it dissolves liquidly, reforming into a long, wicked blade.

"Whatever we want," he replies.

Elle's gaze snaps to Max the moment he removes his glove. She watches, transfixed, the glowing ball in her hand dimming somewhat as her attention drifts. For a long moment she says nothing, opting instead to stare at the blade with a mixture of fascination and fear, her heart racing. "Now I get why we wanted you so badly." She drops her hand to her side, the electricity dissipating almost instantly. "So I guess the question is," she says, looking up at him with a vaguely mischievous expression, "what exactly do you want, Max?"

As quickly as it formed, the blade dissolves and takes the shape of a hand once again. He doesn't put the glove back on, though. He relishes Elle's response and he doesn't try to hide it. "What do I want?" he muses, stroking his bearded chin theatrically with a steel finger. "I think that some of us carry a burden of greatness. We hold a power inside us that elevates us above the everyman. If we were a class unto ourselves, subject to no laws or governments but our own, then we would hold a position deserving of our power."

Elle can't pretend that she hasn't heard mission statements her entire life, and this is simply another mission statement, albeit with a far different goal than the Company she grew up with. She's never been one to have a mission. But if she learned anything from her upbringing, it was that there are times when it's in her best interests to play along. So she does. "No laws, huh?" Quirking a brow, she turns away from him then to move slowly around the room as before, a smirk tugging at the corner of her mouth. "No rules, no government agents hunting us down, no worrying about being strapped down to a bed with an IV in your arm again? Yeah, I could get on board with that."

Max curls a skeptical eyebrow. "You don't strike me as a joiner. Think it over, take your time. For now, if you don't mind my saying, maybe you should take advantage of the shower. Several times. If you're done before I get back, there should be some things in the closet that you can cover up with." He jerks his head in the direction of the loft and smiles blandly.

"I'm not going to tell you I give a damn about who has the power," Elle explains more candidly, glancing sidelong to her savior. "I don't care about my position or anyone else's. What I care about is living my life without looking over my shoulder." She edges towards the loft, rolling her shoulders in a shrug. "That's something I've never had. For as long as I can remember, Max, I've been living the life someone else set out for me. And I've always been running. So if you're telling me that you want to make a world where people like me can stop running? I'm on board. I don't care about governments or power or whatever else it'll take to get there. I just care about where we end up and what it means for me when we get there." Lifting her shirt and taking a long breath, Elle grimaces at realizing just how badly she really must need that shower. She'd forgotten about the rats. "I'm not sure a shower is going to help. That is vile."

Max hadn't dismissed her, per se, but he'd mentally moved on to other issues. The sincerity and conviction in Elle's voice is enough to make him pause and look back at her intently. He fixes his eyes on hers for a very long moment. He nods, just once. "You'll do, Bishop. You'll do nicely," he murmurs. Then he turns and lets himself out of the lab. An instant later, the bar is lifted back into place by an unseen force.

When Max is gone, Elle takes her time in reaching the loft. With no one else around to mind her unhygienic state, she wends her way through the laboratory, every now and then letting a small spark leap from her hand into the wall or an old computer. Finally, when her curiosity about the lab is sated, at least for the time being, she makes her way to the shower.

Washing off the stench of dead rats is more difficult than you might imagine. Three times, Elle assumes she's accomplished the task, only to start over again. Finally, she decides that whatever residual scent of corruption is left, it's in her mind rather than on her skin. When she's finished, she climbs out of the shower wrapped in a towel, then moves to the closet to search for something to cover herself up.

Shopping. Max loves shopping. Throwing money around for no damn reason at all. Spending a thousand dollars when he could easily accomplish the same task with a hundred. It's a rich, heady experience. Add on that he's escaped from a miserable job and liberated a new partner in crime, it's no surprise that he's in a fine mood. He's rolled up his sleeves and he has several garment bags slung over one shoulder, but otherwise appears much the same as when he left. "Honey, I'm hoooooome," he croons as he lets himself in and resets the bar.

At first, the sound of the door opening sends Elle's heart into a frenzied pace, skipping beats for how quickly it's racing. Even when it becomes apparent that the sound is Max returning, it takes her a moment to release the breath she had been holding. "We need to work on a knock or something so you don't give me a heart attack every time you come back." Or she could just not be so paranoid. Still wrapped in the towel, she keeps one arm pressed to her side, hand helping to keep the towel where it should be, as she takes a few steps nearer. Eyeing the shopping bags, she raises a brow, offering him a slight smirk. "Have fun?"

"The door bars from the inside," Max says, smirking back. "And I had a wonderful time, thanks for asking." His bags are laid down atop the jacket-covered chair, protecting them from dust. Then he heads for a sidebar and pours himself a healthy measure of vodka. "I hope that's to your liking," he continues, pausing with the glass halfway to his lips. "I'm sure you'll look stunning."

It's been a long time since a man has given Elle anything she could consider a gift. Creeping towards the bag, placing her steps carefully, she leans over to peek inside. A twitch of a smile is all that betrays her pleasure. She isn't the type, at least not any more, to squeal with delight over a gift and jump up and down. Instead, she hooks a finger through the handles of the bag and carries it with her back to the washroom, casting an impish grin over her shoulder to Max. Once inside, she nudges the door closed with her foot. "Never met a man who was any good at buying clothes for women," she calls through the closed door. "My father actually paid people - women - to shop for me when I was a kid. You're a piece of work, Swan."

Using his discarded jacket as a dust mop, Max wipes down two chairs and then tosses the garment away into a corner. When he's finished, he settles lazily into one of the seats, crosses his legs at the knee, and sips at his drink. "One tries," he replies demurely, raising his basso profundo voice so he can be better heard. "After your time wearing prison chic, I thought you deserved a treat."

Elle pauses in the doorway once she exits the washroom, dress donned and damp hair tied back in a knot. It certainly fits her nicely, if perhaps a little long thanks to her diminutive stature. With one hand lingering on the doorframe, she takes slow, languorous steps towards the chairs. "Thanks," she replies, her tone caught somewhere between mischief and sincerity. As she settles down into the second chair, crossing her legs at the knee and leaning back, she says, "It's been a while."

Max smiles and raises his glass as Elle steps back into the room. He looks her up, down, and back up again without the slightest hint of reservation. "As expected, you look very fetching," he toasts. Then he drains off his vodka and sets it aside. "You're a tiny thing, though. I'll keep that in mind for next time."

As a counter to Elle's freshly scrubbed and changed appearance, Max is starting to look a bit the worse for wear after their various adventures. His shirt has wilted, the knot has gone lopsided on his tie, and he's picked up a smudge across the tip of his nose.

"You look like you could use a vacation." Reaching out with one foot, Elle nudges him playfully and motions towards the washroom. "Your turn. You might not smell as foul as I did, but you're looking pretty rough." She leans back in the chair once more, tipping her head back, eyes slowly closing. For a moment she stays just like that without making a sound, taking in the silence. Finally, she says: "I had no idea I missed this." It's questionable what 'this' is, but when you've spent the last few weeks in a prison, just about anything would be worth cherishing once free again. Looking back to Max, she says, "Go take your shower. I'll hold down the fort. I doubt they even know we're gone yet, but if they do…" A devilish smile appears on her face as she raises her hand, letting an arc of blue light fly from her hand to the nearest wall. "…I've got it covered."

"I trust you."

And oddly enough, it's true. Max hauls himself out of his seat and gives Elle another lingering, studying once-over. Then he chucks his thumb over his shoulder to point at the rest of the shopping bags. "There's lamb and scallops from Tabla in one of those bags. You should avail yourself while I freshen up. Just save some for me."

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