Closed RP Good Business

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Ban Bean

Member
Beatrice sat in her office, quite contented to go over financial reports and memos at her desk, while the world outside was occupied with snow, Christmas and cheer. Even if she celebrated Christmas in a religious sense, she hadn't been a fan of the time of year since her parents died. Work was a distraction, and there was much she had to plan before her announcement. Then her obligatory trip to New York to spend the holidays with Amos, as expected. He was family after all.

Beatrice heard a knock on the door. Her secretary, Monica, stood in the doorway, "You wanted to see Mr. Creed?"

"Yes, forgive me,"
Bea politely stood from her chair. "Please come in. There's a few matters I wished to discuss, Director."

She would never get used to being the superior to older, more experienced people, but it was simply a matter of circumstance. When she was older it would be easier to manage people.

Her office was an oddly stark place. A desk, two sofa chairs for more personal meetings and interviews, a small bookcase and filing cabinets. The few items that weren't strictly professional were a few photos on her desk, a large potted plant in the corner, and a small basket of knitting tucked in a bin near of the sofa chairs. It was a certain contrast to Beatrice herself, a young woman wearing black lipstick, black eye make-up and a nosering. She wore combat boots with her pinstripe pantsuit, and a bright turquoise blouse with matching jewelry. The image was only ruined by her arm in an ugly sling, and the cover-up over her bruises.

"Please, make yourself comfortable."
 
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"Ms. Waters."

Preston Creed was not a born aristocrat, unlike some others. He had clawed his way to his position, but he had long grown past any concern whether it showed. He wore the suit as effortlessly as any other man - gray, with a complementary tie, cuff links, the works. He bowed his head slightly to her and smiled as he walked into the office, regarding her politely for a moment before taking his seat opposite hers.

For many years now, he'd been in command of a portion of Waters Pharmaceuticals. He'd grown accustomed to control. His routine was as immaculate as his appearance; no stubble, nary a hair out of place. It'd not even begun to gray in the temples, something which had befallen his own father by this age. No, Creed was the image of health.

After a beat, he smiled in an easygoing fashion, but his eyes betrayed a manner of concern.

"Before we get down to business, Beatrice...I'm very sorry about your accident. It's terrible," he offered, gesturing at the sling in her arm with his left hand. His golden wedding band was conspicuously present, though it was common knowledge that his wife had passed away years ago, on a trip to Europe.

His eyes scanned her, and he took in her appearance - it'd been a bit since he'd seen her last. She was eighteen now, nearly his height, if not meeting it; her hair hung down around her shoulders, and she wore heavy makeup. But that didn't disguise her pale skin, her piercing gaze. There was something metal in her nose - a rebellious contrast to the position she'd assumed.

SAY THAT SHE REMINDS YOU OF YOUR DEAD WIFE.

He squeezed his knee for a moment, and cleared his throat.
 
Beatrice sat back down at her chair, and motioned for him to sit down as well. As much as she didn't want to talk about her injuries, it would be rude not to acknowledge his sympathies. "Thank you, Director Creed," Beatrice said. "It could have been much worse. Thankfully I was wearing a helmet. I'm recovering well." He would know the common excuse going around the office. Miss Waters had been in a bike accident. "But that isn't why I called you here today."

Now that both of them were seated, she took the opportunity to slide a few manila folders across her desk toward him, "In the past few weeks I've noticed a dangerous pattern in Pittsburg. Metahuman crime is running rampant. People's lives are being uprooted and destroyed and the police seem to be powerless. I've spoken with a few of our researchers and we've decided that Waters Pharmaceuticals has a perfect opportunity to develop a metahuman cure- one for those with dangerous abilities as a matter of public health and safety."

"We're calling it Project Lachesis."


Beatrice let the words hang in the air. It was a serious proposition for the company, and could be a problem with the press if not handled right. She took a deep breath and continued, "We have already started research on a few samples in Delta Lab. We're only in the beginning stages, but I would like your opinion, and frankly support, before I make the announcement to the public."
 
"Mm-hm."

CURE?

Creed didn't react. Then he didn't not not react. He nodded and narrowed his gaze, and rubbed one hand along his brow, leaning back slightly in his seat. He intently affected being in deep thought.

"The client will be the...government, then," he supplied, nodding. People wouldn't cure themselves of their own volition. At least, not most people. The powers were a boon. (He felt that way, and so did he).

Creed made a note to himself to look up what "Lachesis" meant; he couldn't check now, and it didn't truthfully matter, so he wouldn't waste his breath asking. It was good that it had a codename. That would give it trade secret protection. (The elements of a trade secret are: information including formula, pattern, program, device, and/or method which derives independent economic value from not being generally known or ascertainable to others and is subject to reasonable efforts to maintain secrecy).

"This will be dangerous, but I can see you're set on it. If it's us, it's us. We'll do it right."

He smiled.

"As in everything, you have my full support. We haven't always seen eye to eye, but you know what you're doing. At the end of the day, it's my job to help you."

Her poise was impeccable. Even with her arm in a sling, she spoke with the measured confidence of someone born for command. She'd be popular at school, with girls. With boys.

TELL HER -

"Speaking of...I have something to say."

He pushed his hand through his hair, staring at the table between them, then up at her.

"I knew Thomas and Marigold well. After what happened...I should have been more present for you. Not at arm's length. I would have, but..."

He tapped the ring on his hand.

"You know. It was right after Mary-Anne's accident."

Preston shook his head.

"I want you to know that I'm here for you now. With your accident - you can't ride your bicycle around. The state the city's in these days anyway..." he provided, thinking of the horror that'd haunted the news of late: widespread larceny, a massacre on Main St. carried out by a valkyrie of all things, and vigilantes loose - it all went without saying.

"...the company couldn't handle another tragedy, Beatrice. I don't think I could. You're a CEO. There are ways for you to travel in safety."

 
"We'll have to work closely with the government and coordinate with law enforcement. However, I cant see a scenario in which they wouldn't be eager to have an effective deterrent for criminal metahumans." Beatrice said, glancing over her other documents. She smiled faintly at him as he spoke of not seeing eye to eye, but supporting her regardless. "I've always been thankful for your talents and expertise. You have far more experience and I'd be a fool not to draw from it. I was pleased when you were promoted to Director."

Beatrice didn't expect him to bring up her parents. She took another breath, and quieted her mind. She could get through a conversation, she just needed to focus. It'd do no good if Marigold Waters appeared in the room with them. She looked up at Mr. Creed, "Thank you...My paren'ts spoke fondly of you, and were always thrilled to have you as a part of the company, but you needn't feel guilty about any absence. You were grieving yourself, and I had my Uncle...from what I have heard about her, Mary-Anne was a wonderful woman, and its a shame I never got to meet her properly."

Another breath. Beatrice found if she kept her statements and thoughts professional, and organized, they were less likely to run astray. "I am grateful for your concern, and rest assured, I've taken to using the company care for the time being. I'll be quite alright, Director.
 
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Her faint grin at his mention of not seeing eye to eye, of course, was emblematic of her knowledge that he had opposed certain recent initiatives. Beatrice liked spoiling their clients - she unnecessarily capped prices for certain products. While that drove demand up, it made everything they supplied more costly, relative to production costs. Part of him wondered whether they'd be giving the cure away for free. Surely if they were awarded a government contract, that would help offset her proclivities for what he regarded as pure waste.

He didn't make the rules. This was business. He didn't spend eight years studying the fundamentals to have them upended by a teenage heiress. She'd need more protection from the Board if she wanted to keep her position.

The conversation turned towards Mary-Anne, and her accident in Europe. Crushed to death.

Creed smiled apologetically and rose from his seat. He crossed the room, passed Bea, and looked at her bookcase. His left hand was snugly in his pocket; he twisted the wedding band on his ring finger with his thumb.

SAY THAT SHE -

"You and she would have gotten along, Bea. You remind me a lot of her."

Bea. That informality was a risk. It'd slipped out.

He turned and looked at her out of the corner of one eye.

"This project will put you under immense scrutiny. I suggest that if there are any emergencies, you call me - not the company line. Some things are best kept discreet."

He turned again to face her, still standing.

"The cure. What you're suggesting we do is dangerous, Beatrice. When something comes up - and something will - please contact me directly, and I'll handle it immediately. On or off the record."
 
If the use of her nickname bothered her, it didn’t show. Beatrice held to formalities when she needed to project authority. In a casual meeting like this, she wasn’t gonna correct him.

“I’m glad to hear that.”

Beatrice however was professional, and after an appropriate length of silence following his comment about Mary Anne, she continued. “I’m thankful for your concern, and if anything does get out of hand I’ll be sure to let you know.” She elected not to tell him about the warehouse or Slate. If she was lucky she wouldn’t need to.


“I placed Doctor Karr as head researcher and he will be reporting to both of us. Security has been asked to keep an extra eye on Delta Lab, and everyone is under an NDA. I’d rather a lot of this not be made public except for what we plan to announce. …As of right now Dr. Karr and his assistants are working with the biological samples of four metahumans, who wish to remain anonymous. I plan to keep it that way.”
 
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Creed's right eyebrow raised slightly at that news. The project had already begun.

"Four metahumans," he repeated, crossing his arms as if in deep thought. His brow knit.

Four.

NOT A PROBLEM.

It could be a problem, he thought pointedly. His other half thought himself invincible - physically, he would always walk away intact. His other half had made a game out of hunting metas. He did it for fun. But the possible complications that could ensue from dealing with any single metahuman factor in a business environment were incalculable. Creed needed to know everything. He needed the files.

"I assume they're being compensated. How did you scout them?" he inquired. Part of him wondered if they even knew what they were participating in. He'd get the rundown from Dr. Karr later, but he wanted to see what she thought of it. Had this been her idea from the ground up? If so, it was an impressive one. The audacity of it.
 
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"They are personal acquaintances of mine, and eager to volunteer. However, as you said this cure could get...dangerously political. They don't want to get involved and I will not be the one to involve them," Beatrice said, brushing hair from her face. Under no circumstances would she admit where she had gotten her samples. Two gangsters, the man who nearly killed her and worst of all- herself. She'd warned Doctor Karr what would happen if he revealed her secret.

She continued, poised as could be. The illusion of confidence did the same thing as confidence itself, "Do you have questions? Concerns? I do apologize for starting this project without warning, but you understand the importance of keeping this under wraps."
 
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His head drew back a little, chin tilted up toward the ceiling.

She said they were her acquaintances. What were the odds of having four metahuman friends? Though he supposed he was one. And he kept his secret tightly guarded. How many others were there, he wondered, that had never been detected - never reported about? And how did Beatrice meet them? He watched intently as she brushed the hair from her face.

SHE WOULDN'T LIE TO US.

Creed wasn't so sure about that, but his inner voice seemed deeply convinced of her honesty.

"Hm."

Questions and concerns...by the dozen. Mentally, he sorted them into ones he could ask Karr about - power types, age range, names - and ones that only Beatrice could answer.

Then he sorted further: the most important one.

"We both know it's not about the money with you," he said, matter-of-factly, and without a hint of criticism.


"So my question is...why, Beatrice? Why this project, and why now?"
 
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Beatrice considered being honest. About the attack, about the Mustache Man and group of robbers that had taken her. About Mary and Redblood. About how ever since she had gotten to this city, and before, it had suffered from the presence of metas and their crimes.

“There was a bank robbed on fifth and Maple…I know a young woman whose family was killed by a meta.” Beatrice could live with giving Creed half truths, omitting anything incriminating. “There is meta human crime everywhere. It’s a matter of public safety at this point. No one is doing anything to help…so I will.”
Beatrice knew many of her employees didn’t share her love for philanthropy or altruism. They were focused on profit and making shareholders happy.

She sighed, “It’s not about the money, but rest assured if we can produce this cure you’ll be pleased with the financial returns. And I’ll remind you ever since I took over we’ve had steady 5.9% increases in profit.”
 
"Certainly."

As if, he thought, in her short tenure, those gains could be attributed to her love for giving away as much money as possible. He felt strongly that they were earning in spite of her, not because of her, in the comparably short duration she'd been in charge. It was by his hand, not hers, that this company would thrive - at least here in Pittsburgh. She was precocious, but not a genius, and no matter how much she'd endeared herself to him, he would not be talked down to - or at least, he would not ignore it. But he needed not verbalize all his thoughts (the same as she).

"You've done well so far."

Companies were like living things. If they didn't sustain themselves, they starved. And they did not reach equilibrium. The line was either going up, or down.

It could be a rapid death spiral. A company that remained static became a comparably bad investment. Bad investments didn't get funded, and projects got cancelled. Profits would plummet, employees would be terminated, and the company would contract, wasting away down to a skeleton. Then it'd be snapped up by a competitor. Like predators, they all had to eat. None of them were free of that desperate hunger. Not Creed, not any other associate. Ironically, it was when he assumed his alter-ego that he needed not to worry about such matters - that was when he was at his most peaceful.

From a certain point of view.

"I'm proud of what we've accomplished together. There'll be much more to celebrate soon," he smiled, subtly checking his watch, then returning his gaze to her.

Another thought crossed his mind.

ASK HER -


"How is college? Keeping busy? Making friends?"
 
"Yes, and I look forward to it," Beatrice said, crossing a leg over her opposite knee. "And it means a lot to me to know you're proud, and that I have your support." She meant it. Whatever business disagreements she had with Creed, he was a good employee. A pillar of the Pittsburg branch she could rely on.

She twitched uncomfortably at his next question. Twisting the ring on her finger she shrugged, "Classes have been going well. I'm really enjoying Macroeconomics and my accounting course. And I have met a few people. Everyone has been nice."

Beatrice didn't mention the people she met, she hadn't grown close to anyone in particular. The most she really had in terms of interaction with people outside of work has ended in disaster. Fire. A dumpster. And two very nice people who had helped her. Still, she wasn't about to tell Creed a vigilante had pulled her from a dumpster, or that a strange meta girl had burned down a building of gangsters.

She had never been great at making friends, having constantly switched between private school and homeschooling depending on her parent's whim, which mostly depending on how well she was controlling her powers. Bea also didn't dress like most kids her age, or listen to popular music, or watch popular movies. Reading books was a bit easier, but even then she avoided anything horror or overly imaginative.

"I've been doing good here, I think. And Uncle Amos keeps in touch. He'll be happy to hear you're looking out for me."
 
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Creed had years of experience in meetings. He enjoyed them greatly. He enjoyed picking people apart, trying to understand what they were thinking. And even in more delicate, casual meetings, he was terribly observant. He noticed right away (without staring) that she'd crossed one leg up over the other - he also saw the small twitch, the fidgeting with the ring on her hand. But when he saw it, he didn't react in any noticeable way. Instead, he simply absorbed her answer, and nodded reassuringly.

"That's good."

She continued - she was doing good here.

Doing well, he thought, but didn't say anything. This was just how most people talked.

DOING GOOD!

He grinned slightly, then dispelt it; sometimes, he felt like he didn't have control over his face. That was something which - which frightened him, some days. The idea that HE might just...pop out. Decades of control, of practice - and yet he never felt fully composed. HE was always there, lurking just behind his eyes.

"Of course. Anything you need, I'll take care of it. You have more than enough to worry about. I remember my college days."

With that, he took a breath, then moved towards the door, effectively dismissing himself from the meeting.

"I'm going to go speak with Dr. Karr and get caught up on Project Lachesis. Have a good day, Ms. Waters. And please be careful out there at night," he finished with a nod and a warm smile before departing.
 
Beatrice saw the flicker of his smile. There was something disconcerting about it that she couldn't place. but it had vanished quickly as it came, and she tried not to let it bother her too much. She stood when he did, and allowed him to dismiss himself. Normally she would have been annoyed, but it was getting late and there was nothing more to keep him here.

"Yes, I've informed Dr. Karr you would be overseeing part of the project. I've already sent you all the relevant documents. You can stop by or reach out if you have any questions or concerns." Beatrice smiled. A social norm. "Have a good night, director."

Once Beatrice was free of him, she finished up her evening catching up on E-mails and organizing her calander for the next few weeks. Two dates were marked.

December seventeenth. The day her parents died. While visiting New York over Christmas she'd have to visit the cemetary with Amos. An unpleasant outing she never looked forward too. Beatrice quickly changed her train of thought as the smell of gasoline and smoke started to waft into the room.

The second was January First. The day she would be announcing to the world that hope for a metahuman cure was possible.

Beatrice grabbed her coat and bag and took the elevator down to the ground floor, and politely said good-bye to Carl, the security guard, before walking to the bus stop. Snow began to fall lightly, but she didn't mind. The air was cool and the night quiet.
 
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Someone in the office was chewing something.

Officially, Creed didn't have a problem with someone eating at their desk. They worked late hours here, and as long as there was no smell, company policy was to tolerate that. And ordinarily, he could tolerate it, even though he never partook in the same practice. But right now, the sound of...mastication...was like nails on a chalkboard to him, even as far away from the cubicle as he was. He'd met with Dr. Karr and was heading to his office to pick up his things when he noticed the sound. It nearly froze him in his tracks, and a small muscle bulged on his neck.

Oh, no.

OH YES!


Heightened aggravation towards minor things was a...sign. Creed's nose twitched back and forth for a moment as he hurried to his office, fast-walking there to gather his things. He passed the chewer again on the way out.

It wasn't that the sound had set him off. Rather, it was an omen that he was coming. Nighttime, and the voice in his head had been talkative today. Little comments weren't unusual, but requests were infrequent, and coincided with emergences. His diet, sleep, and exercise had been good; he'd seen one of the women recently, so that wasn't what was driving it; no, maybe it was just time. Inevitability. Recurrence.

There was no chance of just riding this one out. The best he could hope for was getting in his car and getting home.

After pulling out of the garage, he knew that would -

- be -

- impossible.

There was an alleyway close by where he could change - had changed, before, and not been caught. There were no cameras there. No bums. Nobody would see him go.

At least he'd known it was coming this time. Sweat built on his forehead, and he shook his head, and started chuckling, then giggling, then laughing, as a feeling of overwhelming sensation took him. God above, it felt great. Nothing wrong would ever feel this great. He'd managed to strip some of his clothes away, to preserve them for later - things like phone, keys, wallet, all meticulously left behind in his car. As he laughed, he punched a command into the touch screen. His car would actually drive itself back to his house for him, even though it had no passenger. (This was truly the twenty-first century). He pried his shoes off and tossed them into the passenger seat.

The laughter had become raucous, uncontrollable. He doubled over, clutching his stomach, as heat grew from his heart. It was the world's funniest heart attack.

Creed's senses sharpened as he lurched out of the car, every bone in his body cracking at once. Next, he took off his face.

Hair, muscle, and fat sloughed off of him, his skeleton, his muscles, his everything engorging. Under his ribcage, a bright light glowed like a fallen star, excess heat energy venting through pores that opened to release steam. What remained of the fabric on him ripped apart until it was little more than rags. And he felt joy - the overwhelming sensation of freedom. This was a night full of possibility. To think - he was just going to go home, eat, and go to bed! Ha!

But why now, the last vestige of Preston Creed thought? He had...stuff to do...

His brown eyes had shrunk to small, golden orbs, lidless and peering. He inspected his hands, wiggling each huge finger. The car looked tiny as it drove away from him.

"Hmmm-hmmm-hmmm," the thing intoned, taking a moment to flex with renewed strength. He found a puddle and stared into it, his egocentrism temporarily satisfied - still beautiful. Next he cracked his back. It'd felt like forever.

Wait.

Was it fucking December? He could've sworn it was the summer. It'd clearly been way too long. His time-sense had gone all woozy.

He found a handhold and started climbing the building, hoisting himself easily upward along the sheer walls by simply digging his fingers through the bricks.

Looking to see what he could see.

There were things he noticed that Creed didn't - like when Beatrice usually left the office, and by what means. For all his ambitions, the man was really, authentically wrapped up in his work. But the Creature, locked away behind his eyes and ears, had nothing to do but look - look for interesting things. There was no design at play. Creed would hate him for this (like the wife thing), but it'd be funny, and interesting. At the end of the day, wasn't that all that mattered?

Where are you?
 
Beatrice adjusted her arm in her sling and kept walking, instead of taking the bus. Her apartment wasn’t too far from the office. She’d picked downtown specifically because it reminded her of New York. The light and sound were better for her sleep than peace and quiet.

Not much happened on her walk, save for her stopping at a gas station to buy caffine. Beatrice did a poor job of keeping a stocked kitchen, and she also knew she wasn’t sleeping tonight. Between Mary, the cure and the Mustache Man she had too much on her mind for her brain to let her rest.

She kept walking another block down before taking a seat at on local park bench to sip her coke.
 
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Bea, Bea, Bea.

Creed was the one with some kind of design. The Creature didn't know exactly what it was - more corporate influence, or something else - and he didn't much care. But messing with her was a fun way to mess with him. And he had other selfish reasons. The cure, for one. What was that all about? Something that could destroy him, medically. Administering it would be another story - he had no idea whether this could be some kind of aerosol, or an injection, or - the most likely - a prolonged treatment. But he would never be voluntarily destroyed.

Would his host do that? The skin he lived inside?

Creed had tried to take them both out before, but it didn't stick. (It was after the damned wife thing, but not right after - a little while had passed). Little weasel.

There was a bench across from Bea's bench.

Walking upright, at about 8' tall without any adrenaline in him, he advanced, striding in a normal fashion. A gigantic mass of flesh and muscle bent in all the wrong ways, with tiny yellow orbs for eyes. Horrifically ugly. Something that should not exist.

He sat on the bench across from hers.

"Nice night for a walk."
 
Beatrice looked up and blinked. The man was huge- taller than any man she had met before.

Something inside her cowered like a small rodent that didn't want to be manhandled. It was strong enough to overcome her instinct to flee, and kept her frozen in place. Fighting this wasn't an option. She took a breath and calmly took another sip before answering, "Not much of a walk. I'm just heading home."

Stupid. You don't tell people where you're going.

It was too late to retract the statement. What if he followed her? Each passing day she was regretting coming to Pittsburg. The whole city was a fucking madhouse. Beatrice reminded herself, madhouse it may be, at least it was away from her Uncle, and their strained conversations and his overly watchful eyes.

"But yes, it is a lovely night."
 
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