Description: She is unstable, unsure of herself, as any waking moment could be the difference between a breakthrough and another trip to the memory matrix alcoves. Curious that she does not seem to be as aggressive as the reports say, but her detachment from the normal moors of sentimentality may come from her baser natures. I'll make a promise and nourish both of her instincts, to see which grows first. Risk assessment is a large part of our department's core competencies, and I wouldn't be lying to say that internal affairs is always a passing interest of mine..
The sound of pen over paper carries in the silence.
Silence is a bit of a strong word. Magi's office is quiet, certainly, certainly enough to rival many hospital waiting rooms. However, there are certain snowfalls of ambience in the overarching space. Every so often, the sound of a small servomotor. Every so often, the hum of a changing display, a flickering holographic action with lines of code and several icons. The pane is declassified, proprietary information carefully curated into output, and reading it for any given moment gives nary more information than a series of 'report levels' and an ongoing voice waveform banner that is, for the moment, prickling green.
Then, 'BULLSHIT! BULLSHIT!' in tinny relief, on some small monitor or another.
The space is almost overwhelmingly large to be occupied only by his desk and a few scattered black leather couches and tables. Dark, contemporary colors are surprisingly unblazoned with corporate slogans, or logos, or anything of the sort. Instead, pure bright ghostly aseptic white light gleams from two spots in the top corners furthest the elevator, along with accent strip lighting threading through the wall trim hidden behind seams to chase away the dark.
Of course, there are always a few shadows left behind.
Magi is one of the Ultratech executives in charge of some department or another, of which no one could really explain. Only that he's summoned one particular doctor from one particular corner of Ultratech's interests to the labyrinthine sub-levels of the mid-levels of the Pinnacle. Getting to his office is actually harder than getting someone to explain what exactly he's in charge of -- it's on a separate lift elevator from the main elevators, as near as anyone can tell, attached on a the mutual wall between the Broadcasting offices and the Interests offices. Once there, mercifully, the elevator opens directly into his office.
The man himself sits at his desk, filling out analog reports. His shades are sitting some ways away, open and idle near his empty organizer. He seems to be watching a small display at the side of his desk, watching someone run away from a pair of actual dinosaurs. Given the company's Killer Instinct tournament, it very well could be somehing being edited for broadcast. Judging by the profanity, however, it is going to require much, much more editing to be suitable. Not even to mention the dinosaurs.
Well. She was told to bring any research she deems applicable.
Not that there's much they don't already have.
Or that she's told a lot about what's considered applicable.
Her superiors were interested in results. Fio Tessitore could be a fiercely productive worker only when her prodigious talents were steered towards singular, highly-targeted goals. All else would detract from that aim, resulting in brilliant and inspired work, to be sure -- but altogether -unprofitable- aims.
Dr. Tessitore was, without a specific goal, forbidden to socialize, at the risk of marked impacts to her productivity. It said so, in boldface, in the first paragraph of her personnel file, with occasional interstitial reminders scattered throughout the rest of it. And yet, the record is also annotated with a high number of deviances in which this advice was broken. With profound, unaccountable results.
The elevator doors slide open. And the Italian beauty strides out, a 3cm-thick sheaf of papers and manila folders tucked under her right arm. Delicate fingers raise to adjust the pair of red designer spectacles upon the bridge of her nose. Long tresses of curly black hair bob along with each purposeful stride of her high heels. Her dress is an unusual mix of iridescent fabrics, shimmering between red and purple depending on the angle of the light. None of it matches the antiseptic white lab coat -- as if the luxury of the fashion was designed to make up for the boredom induced by such a thing.
Painted lips purse at the seemingly random invectives tossed out from the display. As she strides, her eyes cast back and forth at the austere features of the room, ultimately settling on the seated figure.
She stops a good ways from the man's desk.
"Good evening. Fio Tessitore, reporting as requested."
She flashes a charming smile, reorienting the papers so that she can hold them more comfortably with both her hands.
She waits a preordained amount of time, before her compulsive thought processes force her to blurt out, "My apologies, but... have we met before?"
He's read her file. There was a measurable concern for the interviewee's stability, echoed throughout the documentation. Concerns about instability is a common thread in Ultratech's personnel, and many of the company ventures have been focused on less-than-stable gambits. It is, in fact, a core facet of why the company was heavily invested in combat entertainment. Instability made for good television, and having control over the production meant that what would be nominally unprofitable is kept off of the news and on more spin-friendly broadcast mediums.
However, the core financials were always based in the boring fundamentals. Low risk hedge funds, mostly, and, if he remembered right, algorithmic futures trading that always seemed to go correctly for the company's portfolios. And then there was his department, which dealt with certain elements of the business before they were relegated to the annals of channel 727. Or was it 327? Mm.
The soft skrit of ball-point ink on paper pervades the one-sided conversation, long enough to let the modern day anachronism of analog pen and paper in a room with casual terabytes of throughput no less than a hand's span away hang as an unasked question in the air. The dazzling Italian is almost assuredly not the type of woman that people let wait for very long, and it is almost assured that more than one intern has tripped over themselves in the labs trying to alternately stay out of her way or get her what she asks for. It is doubly assured that more than one intern has been terminated for trying to hold a protracted conversation with her, additionally.
And yet, here we are.
"If we had... mm. Excuse me."
At his word and with nothing else to be focused on in the space other than the executive, it's hard not to be chilled. There is - something - about the Ultratech executive, a mild energy that is hard to avoid, something that makes him feel far, far closer than he actually is. The effect is mild now, something that touches just barely on the back of the mind. It's something noticed in the heart instead of consciously recognized. The asian seems calm, and so his 'space' is calm, with his authority overlooking it.
Then, he quietly sets the pen down.
In the background, from the desk display: 'bullshit!'
He takes another tack, never returning to the question.
"Doctor," the man greets evenly as he looks up, his pupils visibly contracting as he takes her in. "I've heard so much. Magi. From corrective measures and research," he introduces. "Thank you for making the trek out. I trust the trip was not over-wrought," he begins, politely, opening a gloved hand to indicate nearby rolling seating. To call it an 'office chair' would be a bit of a misnomer; the managerial chair indicated is as spartan as the other elements of the office, but otherwise is heavy enough with enough ergonomics to indicate it as one of the more expensive acoutrements in the office spaces.
His fingertips steeple slowly.
"I hear you have been developing excellent research data for us since your recovery."
The Italian researcher has looked over her logs enough to know that, if she -had- met the enigmatic Magi before, it would have been a very, very, -very- long time ago. Timecodes on her research notes show a pattern of nearly uninterrupted research dating back as far as she'd ever cared to search. With her meticulous notekeeping, it stands to reason that if she -had- met Magi before, she'd long since lost record of it.
.Hence the question that occured to her.
And its self-evident answer.
The doctor's charm takes a hit from the bitten-off reply.
Her self-confidence takes less obvious damage.
Slender fingers sift through the folders at her -- perhaps a nervous tic, at being kept waiting. She finds her attention drawn to the screen and all the curious sounds emanating from it. It might be rude to stare, and yet Tessitore cranes her neck towards the display anyway. The rein of social mores upon her amounts to nothing more than her toes remaining a fixed distance from the desk; even her heels rebel, as she stands on her toes for the better look.
It's only the word 'Doctor' that breaks her transfixed spell. Heels drop back onto the floor. Pupils widening in momentary anxiety, as Tessitore's gaze dances about the Asian executive's features, before locking more securely onto his gaze.
He speaks. A moment passes, as the eccentric doctor hustles the statements through their processing queue.
"I a-asked a nice man for help," she stammers, her grip on the papers tensing. "H-he wasn't much help," she admits with a light titter. Mechanical servos whirr and click at her back, settling in roughly the same timeframe as the grip upon her papers.
She catches up with the understated suggestion, nodding once, slowly, and a second time, quickly. She bows her head and shoulders in apology; an odd affectation for someone -not- of Japanese upbringing, perhaps. But, with the pseudo-formalities of her lower station dispensed, she makes her way to the indicated chair.
Tessitore sits firmly in the chair. Files fall into her lap, her hands pressing atop them. Her arms avoid the armrests in a closed posture. As comfortable as if she were expecting a ritual execution.
"Y-yes, sir." She purses her lips, gaze casting downwards as she processes that last word. Recovery, recovery...? The statement seems to confuse her -- until she remembers the need to process -all- the words.
Coughing lightly, she looks back up at Magi. "Yes... Most of my research is into biological processes. Stimulating regenerative effects, mutations, artificial replication. My most recent studies have been in..."
Two mechanical limbs crest past her shoulders, crawling up on the seat cushion like spider legs. Tessitore seems not to notice, instead flipping open the top file and pressing her finger to the top line of the first document.
"Determining the most efficient neural signalling methods for interfacing with cybernetic augmentation." She punctuates the sentence with a brief, perfunctory smile. "I am happy to be of service to Ultratech," she concludes, answering the question no one asked of her.
On inspection, it is clear that he's not looking at a movie. Were they not sitting where they were sitting, in the circumstances that they are in at exactly this moment, it would be a hard sell to think it actual, real security footage instead of a computer generated horror movie of some sort. Though it's hard to defeat the privacy angle of the monitor, once you do, you can see a man's eyeball in close reference. He's very close to the camera, arguably hanging from it as he hollers incomprehensibly about a dino being on the loose. In the next few frames he's running all over the place being poked at and snapped at by raptors, to no end of foul language.
Then the video loops back to the beginning.
Magi's neutral expression eclipses into a sardonic edge as he notices where the bellissima's attention strays, though his own is a chill, even cage. It is the attention of a smooth-walled cell, with nothing for the mind to grip onto. By the time she notices he's looking at her, the expression is but a ghost.
The rhythm of the conversation is not smooth, with the man in the exquisitely grey suit perfectly content to feel the young genius out. There is the impression that he watches her every move, and even the lightest betrayal is much to the dark-haired man's interests. She laughs, briefly, saying something about the esoterics of his office, something which he acknowledges with a briefly opened hand, a concilatory gesture. "It's convenient enough, for the work that I do," the man says, by way of the contrition that never quite reaches his neutral face. "Less so for the interns," he reflects, with some grim satisfaction.
As Tessitore reaches through the aether for the meaning to what he says, the executive takes great care to reach across the table, the sound of thin metal on wood as he retrieves his glasses, folding them neatly as he listens to her. "You do the research that we can't have others do. As a result, your successes mean that you save others from the burden of having to account for their failures," he points out, though he never explains exactly what it means. "That is," he continues only, "if you prefer to see it that way."
"But. 'Is that all you're really good for?'" he supposes, aloud.
The way the distant executive puts it is an open question, posed by no one in particular. Given his mien, and the unfelt rhythm that thrums even in the wood, his attention coils slowly, but inexorably. Dark eyes fix themselves on the technician, even as he reads her posture. His tea-shades are tucked away in an unseen drawer, the fastidious man eager to set aside things left on the table. A moment passes, long enough to be uncomfortable, and certainly long enough for him to determine exactly what she makes of what it is he says. He leaves her all of the room in the world before he returns to the thought. "I understand that you're one of our youngest researchers. And we have so many projects for you. You must be positively exhausted. But.. if I had to ask ..."
Magi does not blink. He hasn't for some time.
"Are you satisfied with the world, as it is?"
Raptors. And a test subject. Tessitore smiles at the knowledge that somewhere, somehow, her experiments may have led to that very scenario taking place. But that's when Magi decided to heap praise on her anyway, which had the net effect of putting her in a remarkably cheerful mood.
She's here in the seat now, though, and with her brief report delivered, she closes the top folder on her pile of documents. The Italian seems pleased at her preparations, cheeks reddening lightly as her chin droops low. Lenses glint from the shift of illumination.
There is, after all, a great deal of satisfaction in the woman being told she's not just useful, but above all, valuable. "I am happy to serve, sir." The suggestion of failures -- and, knowing Ultratech's history, the likelihood of those failures being fatal -- does not seem to faze her in the slightest. "I'm just excited to be able to work with a company that doesn't shut down at every little mishap." With a giddy smile, she laces her fingers together, her palms thumping lightly upon the stack of folders on her lap.
The question of 'is that all she's good for?' does draw a raised eyebrow though. It's an odd direction for the conversation to take, even by the eccentric researcher's estimation. She bites her lower lip, focusing her attention on Magi in hopes he might provide her with additional context.
And he phrases his seeming concern in the form of a question. Which causes her chin to lift once more, her nostrils flaring with an intake of breath. "Hmm..."
She answers the assertion of 'exhaustion' first. "Well, I am... a little tired, but it's good to work up a sweat for the things that matter, isn't it?" A cheerful smile ensues, for all of a second, as she shifts gears to cogitate on the second thought. The tips of the two spider-like metal limbs tap her shoulders as a meditative aid.
"I am concerned that we, collectively as a society, are not advancing as fast as we ought to. Population is growing faster than ever before, and yet the appraised value of any individual lifeform is -also- seen at a historical high-water mark?" She covers her mouth with her hand, even as the two mechanical limbs behind her splay into a shrug of their own.
"It's a recipe for disaster, sir, so no... I would -not- say I'm satisfied with this world." She clears her throat, averting her eyes. "We stand at the threshold to new worlds, sir. It's our -duty- to show humanity what's on the other side."
"Evolve or die," the executive summarizes, quickly and without particular bias or inflection.
"It's an idea that many in the organization are intimately familiar with." He makes no large secret of the fact that he's watching her, a simmering interest in a naturally sharp expression, and the space he leaves her inbetween his cues are almost assuredly deliberate. He is backlit by the strangled lighting behind him, casting his face in the muted dark. Even so, the cut of his studying glare and the outline of his eyes is very clear. Almost unnaturally so, for the lighting. But only just.
Reading his mood even on a casual level is hard. He lacks a lot of the normal tics and cues that the rank and file have, replacing what would be normal interactions with strange swaths of empty space and quiet that give him an uncustomary severity only barely kept in check by the very light hand he takes with her, his tone bordering on conspiratorial.
Still, based on the smooth, featureless, professional and clean mien he presents, there seems to be much about the mood in the room that Tessitore, if she stopped to think about it, would recognize is being dictated to her in ways that are not entirely within the realm of the five senses.
The executive seems satisfied enough with her response, this time making a show of tapping the lacquered dark surface of the wood, a soft sound muted by the leather of his gloves. Noticeably, he wears different gloves than usual today, not the rough-worn fighting gloves he's known to wear usually, but thinner affairs, something more suitable for indoors. "There are factions here that hold to it, the driving aesthetic that's all but become mission statement as of late. Others are just trying to survive. And in the midst of it, there's others." He smirks; the lapse in check is brief, lightning-quick. Blink and you'll miss it.
He busies himself, meeting her eye to eye, before his glance dips to the mechanical limbs just past her white shoulder. The near-silence of the equipment is telling. "Just people," he says mildly, absently trying to guess at the model for the opposable prosthesis. "Trying to survive until they make it to the next day."
There is something provocative about what he says, but it's very hard to place.
His eyes drift from her equipment, trailing down beneath the edges of the desk as she averts her eyes. He holds there a moment. He looks towards the folders she holds in her lap, a momentary glance meant - quite specifically - to remind her of the folders she still holds.
"Simply," he explains without lifting his gaze from her cradled sheaf. "My department has a few projects we'd like your consult on. But, not all of it is lab work."
One gloved hand opens. "May I?"
His summarization is far more condensed than the scatterbrained researcher could have managed. Evolve or die -- indeed. She pounds a fist into her palm, then raises her finger in an a-ha expression. "Bang, that's it, right on the nose." Her tone reaches a tone elevated above normal, but perhaps not -quite- one that would require an exclamation point.
She may slip from time to time. But that's what one does, when they are as anxious as Tessitore is, hungering to take advantage of a new opportunity, and yet uncomfortably wary of giving off the impression of being -too- eager. One hand cradles the other, as she draws her thumb back to her lips, fixing her gaze entirely upon the executive's features.
It's a puzzle, now -- one that has even her mechanical pedipalps pressing tensely upon her shoulders. For, while in her giddy euphoria, Magi's tacit answers have ignited her sense of scientific curiosity. He speaks of factions, of those who walk the mission statement's path, and those who step outside it. Her lips press together warily, as she chokes back the urge to speak further. One cannot hear unless one is silent, after all.
Survival. It's a point he touched on earlier. And it's something she takes silent note of, as she forces herself to relax. To pose less of a front of merely -surviving- the conversation, but actively participating in it.
She catches his eyes drifting to her papers. A clear sign -- holding more meaning in context.
"Of course." She swiftly rises to her feet in response, smoothly stepping towards his desk. Tessitore takes a moment to jog the edges of her papers into a tidy stack, before turning it around so that he can read it.
As she is now standing, all four of her mechanical limbs stretch out -- seeming to be artificial intelligences tethered to the doctor's subconscious need to stretch out, after being confined to the high-backed executive chair for the past few moments.
The researcher's domain is, quite clearly, biology and all its sub-sciences: genetics, organic chemistry, signaling, and the like. And yet, the experiments she's selected do not focus on rote biology, but rather in cross-disciplinary applied science. Cybernetics. Quantum mechanics. Materials science. There are a plethora of photos and diagrams amongst her research papers, breaking down the complex fields of study into an easily-digestible summary -- much as Magi had, moments ago.
Given the proper opportunity, Tessitore can be quite succinct.
"I'm eager to help out, sir. I mean, I..." She coughs lightly into a balled fist. "I apologize if I seem nervous. I am. Really nervous." Another light titter. "I... would love to offer my expertise, sir. For it's like you say -- I'd like to do more than just -survive-. That suggests one is not taking an active role in their own existence."
She laces her fingers together, as her bionic appendages spread out like blades of a windmill. Exposed such -- it would be easy to see that the top two appendages have sharp, scythe-like pincers, while the bottom two have more blunted, rubber-sheathed grippers.
"What sort of non-lab work did you have in mind?" Tessitore smiles hopefully, biting her lip with momentary apprehension.
The soft rustle of pages fills the air for a time thereafter.
Some of the pages were thinner, others laminated photo grade, others yet still a thicker grain, a heavier weight. Yet never out of place, and each is selected and organized on its merits. The older man leans in his chair, receiving the compilation of reports graciously and spends a measured amount of time flipping through it. Somewhat admirably, he still has a meaningful amount of dexterity through the gloves he wears and seems to have very little trouble with the pages, only touching his fingertip to his tongue once to break out the first few pages of the folder. It is a deft motion, to be scarce noticed were it not one of the only ancillary movements he makes.
Everything about him is planned, a carefully controlled ...
"--Control units for the Fulgores, interface systems... a little outside of your comfort zone," Magi observes passively before the spread of her metal limbs breaches his notice. There is a smouldering thread of insight, a silver line that the executive never brings to light. But his examination is one that is more felt than betrayed by anything he overtly does. It's something felt in bones you'd never know you had otherwise.
"But, exemplary work, regardless."
He seems satisfied enough, turning the angle of his chair to the side as he studies her work in greater length as she speaks, sparing her the searching force of his eyes for the moment and relentless focus. There is another crisp page turn between her admissions and questions and his response. He never says anything out of turn, as if satisfied with the sound of her voice alone. It's only when she reaches a dead end that his attention even drifts away from the pages before him. In truth, it's only when she just begins to settle on any one thought inside of her head that he inserts the--
"Why are you nervous?" the executive asks, his voice carrying no inflection underneath the harsh lights.
"There's nothing wrong with working in the dark."
"We'll start with something simple," Magi says shortly after, changing the subject as he stands briskly. "The company is currently monitoring a set of energy anomalies. There's reports of people disappearing. Being handed invitations to a castle that doesn't exist. It's not a high priority for my department, we're formally keeping hands off for the time being. But I prefer caution over callousness. We'll need a monitoring station set up in the region," he instructs. "Someone in charge who might be able to tell what they're looking at and render a report if we need it." He smooths out his suit jacket at the lapels. It occurs that he put away the folder and shut off the display sometime during all of this. "It's just the sort of thing that would be in your wheelhouse, wouldn't you say?"
The executive from Shanghai steps around the desk as the curves of her blades arc around the young doctor. He steps around, almost walking past, but instead settling into the space of those vicious blades, quietly testing one with the back of his hand. Though there appears to be no part of him that moves quickly, it's hard to tell exactly what he means by the motion until he rests a gloved hand on the doctor's shoulder.
"Doctor Tessitore." Magi uses her full title with the utmost care. "I will make the necessary arrangements for you. I look forward," he states, as sharp as a knife, "to see how you are best able to service our company. If you do well here, there are limitless possibilities for you." He leans in, the affair of only a centimeter or two. "'If you survive that much, I will give you a gift,'" he says, in a strange accent.
It is the sort of idea that sticks in the mind.
He will leave her in his office, to more or less do as she will.
"Yes, sir." This conversation is just one of many things outside her comfort zone. She would sit, once more -- but doing so would rob her of the opportune viewing angle that allows the researcher to know which folder and which pages he might be commenting on at any given moment. As such, her fingers stay laced, thumbs pressing against one another so as to turn their tips red. The compliment earns a smile, a light dip of her head, unnaturally sharp shadows casting across her features.
She starts to protest, though, at the statement that there's nothing wrong with working in the dark.
She swallows her thought, choking out a, "Yes, sir." She keeps her lab bright to keep the darkness at bay. She glances askance at the shadows to her side, before reminding herself that such a view is not helpful. Turning back to Magi, she then... realize he has a plethora of options for her to work upon. Specifications flow like water -- a calming brook, babbling away to soothe her rattled nerves. She nods along, taking mental notes on each facet of the upcoming assignment. The new assignment is, gratefully, one of many things within her wheelhouse. "Yes, sir," spills out a third chorus, before adding, "This sounds dreadful, and yet, in another sense, intriguing!"
She would add more, but Magi had shut off the display -- making it even darker -- and moved to walk behind her, stepping into the domain of her AI-driven appendages. Each synthetic limb sways slightly when touched -- petrified, but non-hostile, responding as if four extensions of her own body.
She can't say anyone's ever -wanted- to touch them before. The experience is more than a little disquieting -- as would be evinced in the quake of her jaw as her eyes pivot towards him. The calm of mere moments before has been thrust into the depths of uncertainty. And then Magi proves he's not -just- in it for the science as he rests his hand on her shoulder.
Gulp. The words could have -been- a knife, and would have elicited no worse a response.
And yet. Those thumbs rock bad and forth, as she gives a quick nod. "Thank you, sir. I'll do what I can to make sense of..."
Magi shifts. And it seems she doesn't notice, drifting off into thought.
She speaks again -- not even sure if Magi is still -listening- to her, her voice returning with a staccato, analytical cadence. "The blood moon, sir. The moon's at its closest, and thus, the largest. It can have a marked effect on the leylines, for those able to sense such things. And a lunar eclipse. And as it is associated with an invitation, my hypotheses would be that someone who -is- able to make use of such things would certainly find a good opportunity..."
A moment passes. And then another, with no response. Tess bites her lower lip, sucking in her breath.
Five seconds pass.
And then she pulls the last item off of the stack of folders on Magi's desk. A pen is pulled from her jacket pocket. And with it, she begins to write as if the end of the universe depends on it, spilling her thoughts into inked cursive, just as quickly as she had spouted them off verbally moments prior.
Log created on 18:03:01 05/24/2021 by Magi, and last modified on 11:57:11 06/05/2021.