The First Age

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The day that she was given her credentials was a good day. She rode the subway to the Red Square station and walked to the visitor's entrance in the same sort of awe as when she met Marcus. Only, the difference today, was when she stopped at a check-in to report it was her first day on the job. Technically, there was no lab yet as it was still under construction, but she had been busy the last few days preparing for it anyway. There were orders to place, plans to approve, and employees to filter. She still wasn't sure what to do with her students, but she hoped that Marcus would allow them to come along.

Despite the fact that she wore a rather simple black, pants suit she felt sorely out of place. Everyone she passed in the halls were dressed immaculately. Even the man answering the phones had a hawkish look on his face and wore a freaking pocket square in his jacket.

She was given a temporary office to use. It was quite a bit smaller than the office she occupied at MSU, but it was near Consul DuBois' office. She didn't want to know what happened to the person that recently vacated it.

It was hours past dinner time when she finally packed up her stuff and got ready to leave.
Marcus didn't sleep well. It was warm in the room, for one. At one point, he got up and opened the window, kicking off one of the blankets.

His eyes were tired the next morning. He turned on the news as he got ready. The usual items dominated, including the announcement about the Atharim Registration. That irked him. He had been consulted, of course. But as he recalled, no decision had been made. Perhaps Bykov and Vladisvavovna had met with Ascendancy in private and pushed it through. He did not know. And frankly, he didn't like it.

He liked them, as far as that sort of thing went. But it would do him well to remember that they had been at this for as long as he had been alive. They played a deep game. And they had their own agenda. It might due for them to see him as a pawn. But he'd better be careful that appearance wasn't in fact reality.

His suit that morning was his brushed cream with brown shirt and purple leather tie- a throw back in fashion, but rather matching his purple leather shoes. Not that he cared all that much this morning.

Just over all he felt a general malaise. Perhaps another hunt...except that last night could only be called a marginal success. A killer put down, it was true. But there had been no satisfaction in it. He had been an irritated petulant child, to taken with Aria to press the issue.

Aria. He wanted to talk to her.

He realized that part of his frustration was realizing that despite his precautions, he still put himself in danger with his hunt. He had too much to lose. It felt like tearing something away, to realize that he was losing freedom at the cost of ascending in power. There had to be a way he could have both. There had to be.

He was in a foul mood when he got to the office. His affect was minimalistic, the bare necessity. Thankfully, most were busy with their jobs that he was left alone for the most part. He sat in his office for an hour answering emails and messages, making arrangements for the Atharim registration. Something would have to be done with them.

Bah! He was bored. He needed a walk. He stepped out his office and started off in one direction. He needed a distraction. His walk took him near one office and he paused. Dr. Zayed. He was idly curious as to how she was getting along.

He knocked and then peeked his head in, putting on a friendly smile. "Dr. Zayed. Good morning. How is the move going?"
The system hummed into hibernation when a voice jolted her from her thoughts. She jumped, and put an embarrasing hand to her heart. "Oh! Consul DuBois! You startled me."
She laughed off the faux pas and circled the desk. Did he have to stare so hard like that?

"I'm good, How are you? Wait."
She blinked and laughed again, "You didn't ask me how I was."
She palmed her forehead. What had he said? "Oh, the move! Yeah it's great. Well, actually it's been kind of terrible, but in a good way! I put a lot of people out of work with leaving MSU as fast as I did. They'll get settled eventually, but I feel guilty."
Not guilty enough to turn down the offer, though. "Not that I'm complaining! I can't wait to get things started. How are you?"
Marcus laughed to himself, wondering why she was flighty or flustered or whatever it was. Maybe this was just her usual manner. He stepped in, the steam from his coffee mug rising, and adjusted his smile to be apologetic.

"I didn't mean to startle you. I will knock next time. I know how it feels to be lost in thought."
He looked questioningly at the chair before sitting down. He really didn't need to ask permission to sit in her office, but people's offices became extensions of themselves. The rules of etiquette always helped smooth things over.

He listened to her exchange with some amusement, more intrigued by her mannerisms. One could almost read her thoughts that way. To think, he had been suspicious of her, wondering if her openness was a facade that concealed ulterior motives. But no. She was refreshingly transparent and honest. A reaction that surprised him.

He wondered if the bureaucracy of working for the government would beat that out of her. Academia hadn't, so far. But the cut-throat nature of Academia was children playing at recess compared to CCD politics.

On a whim, he made a decision. She needed to be able concentrate on her work. Clearly, when she was in the zone, everything became distraction to break her concentration. Her work would complement his and he desperately needed more tools available. He could already feel enemies circling. He pushed away his grumbling about the Atharim registration. He would make sure to shield her from the worst of things.

At her question, "Things have been well. There's always too much to do and not enough time to do it. Like being beaten to death by feathers. As to your projects, do you have any idea where you'd like to start? Is there someone you'd like me to put you in touch with that might facilitate things for you?"

An idea occurred to him. It might benefit both of them. "You may have heard of the Benefit Ball being thrown for Legion Premier. Would you care to accompany me as my guest? I imagine you might be able to make some contacts that would prove useful to your work in the future."
Ascendancy had asked that he accompany Vellas and his men as part of the security. Having a date on his arm might keep attention away from him, should it become necessary for him to act.
Danika's eyes flared to saucers. She had definitely heard of the benefit ball. There was a long conversation about it between two women in the bathroom earlier. She'd finished her business a while before then, but was so fascinated in what they were saying she she pretended to need extra time and got rather lost searching it online from her wallet. Her feet were numb when she finally left the bathroom.

"You're asking me to go with you??? That would be incredible, but sir I don't have ten million dollars."
She laughed. She didn't have ten thousand dollars. Danika wasn't in science to get rich.

She licked her lips, though, hungry to go. She rounded the desk and went to him, her grin on the verge of hope. "What kind of contacts could there be at something like that? No offense, but I don't know of that many quantum mechanics or theoretical physicists that go to those kinds of events."
Marcus laughed in delight at her reaction. Eyes as wide as they could go. Rounding her desk to approach him with barely concealed excitement. If he hadn't known better, he could imagine her as Cinderella having been given a glimpse of the gown and the pumpkin coach.

As to that....he would broach that in a moment. Her concerns required his attention first. He smiled broadly. "Please, sit Dr. Zayed. You are a beautiful butterfly and following your fluttering about will strain my neck."
The twinkle in his eye let her see it was both joke and truth. On all counts.

"As to the fee, I have been asked to attend in an official capacity, and having a friend- and I hope I can call you a friend, if only a new one- and colleague as my guest is part of that."

Strictly speaking, he wasn't sure but he would speak the Ascendancy and explain. His role there was two fold and a date on his arm would make that far less obvious. In any case, the words were out and what was done was done.

His grin dropped to faint smile, chuckling. "As to are correct. I doubt any scientists, especially of your caliber, will be there. But think of it this way. Beaurocracy does very little to promote experimentation and innovation. I hope my Consulate will be different, but at the end of the day, government is government. I hate admitting that, but it's true. But those who will attend have hundreds of thousands of people working for them, a small but sizable percentage involved in research and development, optomization, and so forth. That competative environment tends to reward the best of the best. With the few exceptions such as yourself coming from Academia, this is where the CCD poaches the most brilliant people it needs."

He paused. "In any case, you can never know whose ear you might bend, whose interest you catch. Perhaps your research will depend on some piece of technology not yet invented. Or perhaps a variation of what you need, with some minor adjustment, is already sitting on a shelf gathering dust. Connections are easy and effortless to make, and yet can be so valuable."

She was beautiful. A butterfly was right. He frowned, unsure of how to bring this up without giving offense. In truth, she'd probably stand out radiantly in any standard formal attire. But sometimes people felt self conscious.

An idea hit him. In hindsight it was fairly obvious. He hs been given the same. "In general, I know you will be working in the lab. But this Ball will not probably not be the only function like this you may need to attend. A clothing allowance is available for those who might want to use it. Usually, we have a standing account at any of the shops in the GUM across the square. If you'd like, I can have my secretary give you the necessary information. If you'd like to use it."

He smiled warmly and let her see his honest thought. "Not that I think you need it."

Edited by Marcus DuBois, Jan 16 2018, 09:27 PM.
No one said Danika needed convinced. Her mind flashed through images of how this night could go. Something in between Cinderella and Liz Lemon came to mind. "Well, call me convinced! You really had to twist my arm."
She chuckled. When he offered information on the clothing allowance, she almost choked. "No way. That'll be incredible. Wow, I even had to buy my own lab coat at the university."
She laughed. This was going to be awesome. "So is there anything I need to do to get on some sort of list? Just tell me what to do and where to go, and I'll be there. Thank you so much for the opportunity!"
Danika was almost too giddy to realize one last question that came to mind. She blurted it out without thinking. "Wait, is this a date? Is that allowed?"
Her eyes narrowed suspiciously even as she grinned.
Marcus was completely Marcus. That in itself was a calculation, to allow his reactions without some adjustment. Malik seethed. And for some reason, that amused him, enough that he laughed out loud.

She was a butterfly, now jumping from subject to subject. He let her wind down. "As to where, I will pick you up at your apartment. The location has yet to be announced."
He hid a smile and feigned seriousness. "The ride will have drinks of caffeine though. I think that's safest for all of us."
Then he grinned.

"As to the question of date...let me play the politician and say it is a date, insofar as two people are going to enjoy an evening together in the presence of magic. I think that's straight from the dictionary, actually."

Another smile. "But be at ease. Nothing untoward will happen and nothing is expected. You would be doing me a favor and I believe that it would benefit you as well. That is the full extent of it. You don't have to be a alarmed."

He stood. "Well, I should be about my day. But I truly appreciate your helping me. And I look forward to the Ball."
He left with a smile on his face.

That was thoroughly fun. Unpredictable. His wallet beeped and he read the notification. The smile fell, not to nothing, though. An eyebrow raised. Interesting. He headed toward the exit, stopping to let his secretary know Dr. Zayed would be coming by and to cancel the rest of his appointments.

He hadn't been to the Facility in many months.