Customer Service

August 24, 2014:

Jim Reha makes contact with Mera and Rowan. Follow up scene to Cultural Exchange.

FDR Boardwalk, Staten Island

Shopping, food and beach all in one convenient location.

Characters

NPCs: None.

Mentions:

Mood Music: None.


Fade In…

Rowan knew Mera was around here somewhere. He hadn't quite expected her to be on shore. Given that… it seems reasonable that he can break Arthur's command about not going there himself. He really needs to get out from 'house arrest' anyway. It's been a while. He's at the point where he's close to just setting off swimming. Or walking. Whichever.

40 knots doesn't seem like a whole lot, though it's slow for transiting long distances in the water at least by Rowan's standards. It's all he can manage though when his only option is 'Calling Water' to himself and not actually transforming. Still, it's plenty fast when one breaches the water at that speed, arcs into the air and lands on the beach in a crouch to the surprise of everyone. There's a momentary gasp of panic as everyone stares at the lean faced Blue in fear… and then slowly realizes that he's not visibly armed or taking hostile action. Indeed he just nods to the people and, siting Mera about twenty yards away, makes for her. Rowan had been in his 'uniform' which looks like a blue-black set 'shorts' (tight ones) and a similarly colored under armor shirt. As he walks though it starts to change, something altering it to look more like everyone around him. By the time he's halfway to Mera its black board shorts and a red and white tee.

*

It's been a bit of a day already for the portly fellow. After literal hours of getting clean from something obscenely filthy, Jim Reha is finally able to go out and do something on his day off. He's desperately hoping that this little side-trip doesn't go even further into the weird. What is it with New York these days? Can't barely sneeze without running into something crazy.

In addition to his normal clothes he has a somewhat weathered yet durable backpack currently loaded down with glass bottles — at the advice of an ally he's acquired some adult beverages in case they are needed to soften the edge of discussion with the blonde who saved his bacon earlier.

He's a bit discomfited, though. No word from the Buddha Bird, and it's been at least three or four hours. This really isn't the partner's style.

Dangit. More shenanigans!

He should just keep walking and pretending that hey, that just happens every day in the Big Apple, like all the other residents seem to be wont to do. Unfortunately, he's got a bit more of a conscience than that, and given recent events with a major ecological disaster, this could be a front for an attack or an effort at parlay, or well, anything. Jim steps up his pace to get to the walk nearest where the fellow is heading.

*

Mera turns to look at Rowan as he arrives, neither startled by his arrival or by his clothing altering to suit the environment. Her own garments are unchanged from what he's seen her in underwater. Either her clothes aren't nifty like that or she just doesn't care enough to make them change. She takes a couple of steps toward Rowan and tilts her head slightly, very much aware of how the surfacers that had finally stopped gawking at HER are now gawking at HIM. "Rowan." It's as much a greeting as it is a one word request asking why he's there. At least she doesn't sound in any way disapproving or rebuking.

*

Rowan sees Jim but his gaze slides over him. "Had to see it…" Rowan murmurs as he gets close to Mera. The Sea Queen knows that's just how he talks. Just loud enough to be heard. At least, that's all he's ever done before. And it may make sense if she probes his mind. Where he is from, New York is a warzone. The coastal cities are often focal points in the battles between the Atlanteans and their allies and the Psychic Overlords.

The solider, though that's not clear what he is, pauses to look around. So many people. None of them… dangerous. Well, visibly anyway. He takes in a deep breath and lets it out. As he does the blue tint that had been in his skin seems to coalesce out of it in the form of blue vapor which seems to crystallize and shatter as it dissipates.

*

How does one approach a couple of potential terrorists that are willing to despoil the environment to prove a point about how humanity is screwing things up? Where the heck is Buddha Bird? In the absence of such ancient hoary wisdom, Jim is forced to improvise. He clears his throat a bit while raising both hands to show that he's unarmed slowly.

"Greetings, people of the sea! Welcome to New York City. I'm Jim. How ya' doin'?"

"Not here to start anything, I hope?" That is definitely a hopeful tone there — he has NO authority and he definitely doesn't want to see this escalate.

Customer Service Powers: GO!

*

Mera watches Rowan's reaction to all of the people around, most of whom are sleeping on the sands, or playing in the surf, or tossing colorful discs about, or piling sand in strange formations, or standing in place and watching pieces of fabric swim in the air tethered to their owners with pieces of string… and then still frowning faintly she turns to look at the portly man who approaches them in a gesture she's seen Arthur use to indicate he does not intend violence. He uses words of greeting as well. Clearly an emissary of some sort, though she's been spectating on the beach for hours now.

"Greetings, JimHowyadoin. What manner of thing would we be starting that you hope against?"

*

Rowan's gaze snaps to the portly man. It's not that he seems hostile or aggressive it's just that he has a gaze that is at once both very intense… and sort of far away. Almost as if he's looking through Jim at something else. Something that isn't there.

"Hello Jim. Greetings. I am Rowan and this is Her Majesty the Queen of Atlantis, Mera." He gives Mera a deferential nod.

"Hard to believe this is the same city…" He frowns a bit. This place is… kind of crowded. He'd love to get a better view. The lean faced man closes his eyes. There's a swirl of wind about him (not unusual on the beach) as his skin becomes a bit paler. He's called Air, to him. His features seem to become more sharp, more hawk like. There's a snapping noise as large, colorful feathered wings begin to unfurl from his back. Four of them.

*

Mera starts and turns back to look at Rowan again. "Rowan, you will cease what you are doing." She sends it to the Blue telepathically at the same time as saying it aloud, and if he doesn't at least open his eyes right away, she WILL get a goodly amount of water from the surf right here to soak those feathers so he can't fly.

*

"Jim." He points to himself. "The other thing was just bein' polite and asking how your day was going."

Courtesy. Dignity. Respect. Though pounded into the former retail worker as part of dealing with co-workers, it also applies to dealing with other people, too. And it is only fair to lay it out a bit more, from the little bit he heard on the news.

" 'bout a week or so someone attacked an oil rig down south. Just wanna make sure you're not coming back to cause even more trouble?"

He blinks at the royal introduction and then squints at the fellow as Rowan does the birdly thing. Okay, that's not Buddha Bird's thing. Is that a display of aggression? Peace? Negotiation? Heck if he knows.

"Your Majesty, welcome to the United States of America. If you wish to go to the United Nations, it's down that-a-way." He gestures in a vague direction. "But you should be aware that we don't have a monarchy here in the States, we kinda got rid of that thing about, oh, two hundred years ago or so."

*

Rowan's eyes snap open. He's garnering more stares though he hasn't considered that. Where he's from many people can do unusual things and while his trick is rather unique even on his own Earth, the sight of people doing such tricks wasn't horribly uncommon, especially for soldiers. In short, he's a bit blase about it. The wings are complete and unfurled though no other changes have come over him. No scales. No growth. No claws. No radical morphological redefinition. "I… your Majesty I just wanted to see from the air…"

Jim is momentarily put on hold because Mera is, so far as Rowan knows, very skeery.

*

"Hey, buddy, ah, Mister Rowan was it? If you're not trying to pick a fight, you might want to put the fancy stuff away. Just sayin'. Flashing that kind of thing around is sort of like a beacon and folks don't take to it too well and then they get kinda cranky and they might even think you're a mutant — nothing wrong with that — or something else freaky and they might start to panic. As it is, I'm sure at least a couple of folks are already trying to get you on their phone cameras with the looks an' all."

He pauses for a moment.

"We're all cool here, right? Just, like… stand down, take a deeep breath, count to ten, let it out. We're all adults, it's a nice peaceful day, let's just keep it that way, okay?"

Oh this is gonna suck.

*

Mera looks at Jim again for a moment before returning her focus to Rowan. "As this one has just related, another undersea dweller claiming to be of Atlantis has attacked surfacer holdings recently, and others might not take to your presence so kindly. I promise you'll get to explore soon enough." With that, she steps back from Rowan and turns to Jim again.

"We are not affiliated with the other individual, and learning of this frankly angers me. Is there any way my husband or I could offer assistance to repair the damages?"

*

Rowan sighs and puts the wings away which in this case mean they literally disintegrate, blowing away as chunks of some kind of glittery dust that seems to be gone in the space of a foot. He turns back to regard the shoreline and the city not too distant. He's getting really, really tired of being treated as a prisoner or a time bomb. Particularly be people who are theoretically his allies. If they were enemies at least he'd have the option of fighting… So he's not particularly listening as Mera and Jim converse.

*

Thank goodness for a chain of command and potential accountability and… wait a moment. They want to help fix the problem? That's really awesome!

Except for the fact that he's just a guy that probably stuck his nose into the wrong mess and holy crow this is WAY ABOVE HIS FREAKIN PAYGRADE.

Relax. Calm. Deep breath… let it out slowly.

Think.

"I don't think it'd be a good idea to offer to repair the issue directly unless you've really got some serious oomf. But… hmm. Let's see. There's the United Nations, over there. Might also… crud, you guys don't have an embassy, do you. Shit."

"Hold on. I've got it. Give me a moment to make a call?"

He slowly reaches down to his pocket… no fast moves, that guy looks like he might have some military experience…

Mera watches Jim's slow and careful movements while addressing Rowan telepathically. ~ I know the limitations rankle you. But these surfacers are not as accustomed to undersea dwellers as the ones you remember. If they fight wars amongst themselves for reasons as frivolous as the shades of their skins, how well-received do you think you or I would be? ~ She waits patiently for the man to do whatever it is he's doing, apparently offering him enough trust to pull his phone out. That, or she's confident that she and/or Rowan could take the man down before he could deploy any manner of weaponry he might have on his person.

*

The pudgy guy pushes a couple of buttons on the device then presses it to his left ear.

"Hey, Pepper? It's Jim. Jim Reha. You're NEVER going to believe this. I don't believe this. There's some royalty from oceanic properties here an' they want to help clean up the mess down south, but… you're better at the connections thing. Do you think you could maybe get, I dunno, someone from, uh, the State Department or uh, hell. Someone who's better at talking this out? Wasn't expecting this and I really don't want to screw it up?"

He smiles hopefully as he listens to the phone. Doesn't appear to be a threat, and he isn't trying to be deceptive, either. He really does want to help, because this would be sheer awesome.

Buddha Bird may or may not be proud of this.

Rowan doesn't answer Mera. It's not because he's being rude but because he's seeing another landscape. One ruined and wartorn for multiplied decades. At length he turns back and blows out a long sigh. //~ I'd be less rankled if anyone cared what I think about the matter.~?/ Sadly, Rowan has no evidence of this, given that Arthur made his decision over his objections and it continues to be enforced over them. There's a rather significant backlog of resentment building up that isn't being addressed and isn't going away. So far, foreign royalty and surfacers seem to count for a lot more in weight of opinion than he does. Is that fair of him to think? Perhaps not. But there it is.

Cell phones are not a thing where Rowan is from but he learned about them during an encounter with another surfacer. He's rather curious to see who will be on the other end.

*

Mera actually turns away from Jim to look at Rowan. She would really rather NOT have that conversation in front of others, especially surfacers, but if the shapshifter presses the issue, she will. Then she turns back to Jim.

Mera continues to stand seemingly placidly and watches Jim talk on his phone, though she does ask aside to Rowan, "That is one of those little boxes like SimonWilliams had, yes?"

*

Jim nods, even though the person on the other side of the phone can't see it with his nearly obsolete technology. "Understood. Thank you very much, boss. I'll do what I do best in the meantime." He then hangs up.

He smiles to the two. "Okay. I just called my boss and we're going to get this all worked out. Thank you very much for your patience. I mean it. It's a very big deal what you're offering and it went well beyond anything I'm used to."

Okay, Jim, shut up already, take a deep breath, let it out. It's all going to be good.

"What sort of things do you have where you're from? I mean, like, do you have cars and such? No offense intended, honest."

One of the rules of sales in any shape or form is to find out more about one's customer and what they need, want, or like…

Rowan is calm… ish. But since he knows Mera is a telepath he offers this. ~ Tell me it would not grate you as much were our positions reversed. ~ He's not prepared to argue or fight about it. Not yet, anyway.

"It is, I believe. Tell me, Jim, do you know of the, er, Actor, Simon Williams?" Rowan is much more familiar with the two name convention of the surfacers.

*

Mera nods to Jim respectfully. She can tell how unnerved he is, and still attempting to contact his superiors about their offer.. he's earned a gesture acknowledging his efforts. "Thank you, Jim. And, I do not know what a 'cars' is." Though she seems willing to find out.

~ I would be far angrier. And I was ready to let you explore, but this one here mentioned that surfacers might react poorly, and I would rather you stay safe and angry with me. ~

*

"I've heard of him, yeah, he's one of those folks who does a couple of movies every couple of years. Though, honestly, I haven't seen much of his work? I… don't get out very often what with work and all."

It's a *slight* stretch of the truth, but easily explainable with two jobs and other situations going on. Plus the fact that he'd much rather read up on something than see it on the big screen. That reading up has actually helped save lives, even.

"Is Mister Williams a big thing for your people?"

He nods respectfully back. Keep it cool, keep it clean.

"You're welcome, Your Majesty. Thank you again for your patience. Cars are also known as 'auto-mobiles'. They are methods of transit we use up here to get around on the ground a bit more quickly. Well, except during certain parts of the day. Then you're almost better off walking. I don't drive one myself. I prefer to walk and use public transit to get to places. Better for the environment that way, and it's a heckuvalot cheaper."

He pauses a bit, as if trying to think of what to ask or answer next. Honesty, decency, clarity.

*

The info dump is actually quite bewildering. Enough so to distract Rowan quite a bit. "I…see… and these vehicles are unarmed and unarmored?" They seem to be but he simply cannot believe his eyes.

*

At that comment about a lack of military capability Jim pauses for a moment. Would an internal combustion engine be considered Top Secret information? Would diesel-electric? The questions start to flood his mind as he gets the faintest feeling of *something* trying to parse what he's thinking. Buddha Bird, is that you?

"For the most part. Sometimes the local law enforcement will have some that are a bit beefier, some armor plates, slots for guns, y'know, that kinda thing? And we're not talking like tanks or such… y'know, actual military gear?"

Wait, the guy's some sort of military. Spy? Or… just a vet?

"For the most part, our society is peaceful, largely respectful, and we try to just get along, y'know? We have our share of crime, too, and that's kinda, well… what kind of crimes do you have?"

*

Mera knows that Rowan is actually one of the last people fit to be trying to share information about Atlantean society with this friendly and chatty surfacer, but she seems distracted for the moment. It's entirely possible she's having a telepathic conversation with Arthur elsewhere. Or maybe she just thinking about something. Either way, her thoughts are elsewhere.

*

Rowan actually does, rather sensibly shake his head. "I'm not from the part of the ocean near you. That's part of why I'm on a short leash. I'm used to a more… militarized society. Everything has a purpose for attack or defense. That's all that matters when everywhere is the front." He sighs. "So strange to see… so many civilians just… milling about."

*

"Sometimes during the roughest of situations EVERYONE is thrown on the line with the hope that with enough people the lines will hold?"

Buddha Bird, are you offering insight now?

"Pacific, South Atlantic, Indian?" he inquires when the ocean Rowan hails from is mentioned. "I was in the Navy for a couple of years a lifetime ago. And that was always the weirdest thing was going on leave or such and seeing… not a lot of people in uniform or with the same sort of urgency or anything?"

A potential break-through to the more stoic of the two?

*

"Arctic." Okay, that's a lie. Rowan is from the Atlantic but… not from this Atlantic. "Just no contact with your people, you know. Don't come up there much. Too cold."

Hopefully his Navy won't have gone exploring up there. There's ice there on this world, yes?

*

The former sailor blinks a bit. "Your people must have developed some really good camouflage techniques. That's like, literally cool. How can you stand it down here? You must be cooking, even with some shape-changing ability?"

Jim's pretty sure the Nautilus made the first approach to the North Pole, a nuke boat. Still, he's not going to raise a huge deal about it beyond what he's said so far. No need for diplomatic incidents when things are just starting to get hammered out. Keep it clean, keep it keen.

And pray really hard that this doesn't make the news.

*

"Our physiology is pretty radically different. Well, the Blue's is. I'm not Atlantean myself." The way Rowan says it they're different… races, perhaps? "We do not suffer extremes of cold, nor pressure and the differences in our muscular and vascular systems make us stronger up on land. Living in a fluid medium, well, having to move and work in it, is a lot harder in some ways on the muscles." And easier in others but that's neither here nor there.

*

Mera returns her attention to the others and looks from Jim to Rowan and back. And then a thought occurs to her. A way for Rowan to safely explore this surfacer city without resorting to drawing undue attention to himself. "Jim, would you be willing to assist Rowan with exploring this city?" It's probably coming out of left field, but it's a way for the two of them to keep chatting, and Rowan to feel less… fettered? Is that the word? "I will wait here."

*

"That's pretty interesting. We run into all sorts of things these days, can't imagine it's any different for y'all."

He ponders briefly. "With all due respect, your Majesty, I'd feel much more comfortable holding tight at least until I have someone I can 'hand-off' to? I mean, if something happened to you — no offense intended — that'd be really bad for everyone. I really do appreciate the offer and consideration, though? And I'd be more than willing to act as 'tour guide' in my off-time for Mister Rowan. If we can learn a bit of one another, then we can discover our mutual strengths and weaknesses and where we overlap."

*

Jim holds up his right hand and shakes his head for a second. "Sorry, got a bit of a buzz in the head, I'm good now. Not everyone gets that. Sort of like migraines, even."

Corvinus, if you're trolling me I'm totally going to figure out a way to reformat your hard-drive. Twice.

*

Rowan sticks his hands in his board shorts pockets and seems to think. "Should I return… where is the best place to gain information about the city and… nation-state?" He's not sure actually. "City-state? You mentioned 'United Nations.' Whom are they?"

*

Mera doesn't know who the 'United Nations' are either, so her attention turns again to Jim for an answer. Talk about being on the spot all of a sudden.

*

"The very best place would be a museum. There are several in New York City that would work. The next best would be the public library system, and there's a whole bunch of branches as well as several key facilities. Next up would probably be City Hall for New York City proper. If you were looking for State history, well, most of that'd be up in Albany, where the state capital is."

The heavy-set fellow pauses briefly then considers. "Okay, back at the end of the Second World War, a bunch of folks got together and said 'Y'know, this whole 'world war' thing really blows. Let's try to set something up so we can at least talk to each other and prevent at least some of the misunderstandings and such. Started out in San Francisco, moved to New York. There's around a hundred and eighty or so different countries represented there. And sometimes there's things like natural disasters or humanitarian crises or such that they can step in on too. Kind of a big deal, though sometimes they get bogged down in bureaucracy."

He pauses for a moment.

"Sorry about that, I'm kinda blathering? I mean, I really got into what they were all about when I was a kid, but then I had to get a job and all that and that kinda, well, I haven't really thought about it for years?"

*

"A hundred and eighty nations?" That's a lot… and at the same time not a lot. A simple city state could count as a nation and a hundred and eighty city states isn't a huge number. A hundred and eighty action nations though…? "Is this your governing body? One… council for the hundred and eighty nations?"

*

Mera tilts her head a bit, listening to Jim's blathering quite attentively. This is far more than she's gotten from anyone else outside of Arthur about the surface world. And, even though they're standing safely several feet up from the high tide line, on the next wave that reaches up the sand it continues up the sand until the Atlantean queen gets a thin but all-encompassing layer of water over her person, and then it falls away again to soak into the sand.

*

Jim shifts into an educational sort of mode, somewhat relaxing as he prepares a bit more infodumping.

"Thereabouts. Some are kind of huge, for example, we're in the United States of America right now. There's fifty states in the United States plus some territories and protectorates. Population something like three hundred million people or so. Then you might have a smaller nation state, like, say, Liechtenstein, with a population of about forty thousand people."

He backs up as he sees the wave coming, as he has sensitive electronics, his wallet, and his brand new shoes that he doesn't want to see get toasted by getting drenched with salty water.

"The United States has a three-part government, with an Executive — called a 'President' — He kind of calls the shots for the bigger body. Then you have Legislative, which has two Senators from each state plus a number of Representatives that fill up two bodies that produce the laws… and then the Judiciary branch, which kind of sits there and makes sure that the laws that are passed by the Legislature are legit and also can order the President to do things. Founding Fathers of our nation were paranoid that if too much power got into one person's hands that, well, bad things would happen. No offense, Your Majesty."

*

"Three hundred million people?" Rowan seems shocked. Apocalypses tend to be hard on the overall; population. Rowan's never even considered a nation with that many people in it. City-State populations, even taken together probably wouldn't get near that number… though he doesn't know for certain. One of the things about being at war is that accurate census counts can be hard to get."

"So you rule by council? Interesting."

*

Mera simply nods to Jim, Arthur having explained at least that much to her about the surfacer city-state he came from. "None taken, Jim. The right one person is far harder to find than the wrong one person." She seems to silently agree with Rowan that this information is interesting.

*

"It's part council, part single rule, part court to adjudicate. Keeps things split up a bit for the most part."

Jim relaxes a bit more. He's familiar with THIS subject material. "We don't have any sort of titles, though individuals may hold positions in the government and the position may have a title. And the closest thing we'd have to a knighthood… well it's a military decoration that the Congress can authorize, or the President. It's called the Medal of Honor and the posthumous rate of awarding is somewhere around sixty percent or so, last I heard. And if I'm boring you to tears, please, say so, I really can get behind this sort of politics and history."

*

Rowan looks over to Mera. He's on a new world so he'll need to be learning this sort of thing eventually. And he'll stand here for hours to listen to it if Mera doesn't decide to get the lesson another time. Which would not be unreasonable considering. There is one other thing he wants to know.

"I'm sorry. Before you continue, what is that?" He points to a street food vendor behind Jim handing out some funnel cake.

*

"Funnel cake. It's a desert pastry. I'd have one myself but I'm on a diet. Pretty tasty stuff. You two aren't allergic to wheat, are you?"

Yeah, that'd be quite the incident — Local Guy Poisons Atlantean Dignitary, news at 11.

"Here, this should be enough money to buy some. You should get some money back. If you have something to keep it dry, you can keep it, even. Souvenir."

Jim pulls out a twenty dollar bill and hands it to Rowan. "Go on, just head on over, say 'Two funnel cakes, please."

Okay, this could be interesting.

*

THAT is a funnel cake? By the look that crosses Mera's face, someone has mentioned the name to her, and the image presented here is NOT what she'd formed in her own mind. It is far, far worse. "No. Arthur has warned me against the foods that surface dwellers tend to favor. I will refrain." She hesitates, then looks at Jim. "Thank you for your consideration, though." Note, she didn't say that Rowan couldn't try it.

*

Rowan might himself be somewhat dubious since wheat isn't a thing that grows underwater but he knows two things that Mera might not. One, having worked extensively with surfacer allies on his world, he knows he can eat surfacer foods. Two, he knows that Aspen has survived up here in this world so how bad can it be. He walks over to the vendor. About ninety seconds later he's walking back with a sugary confection, regarding it curiously. It tastes good, but also odd. Not at all like the simple hearth breads common to this part of the surface on his world.

"I do not have a way to keep it dry. So I will give you the… he called it 'change.'"

*

"Better safe than sorry, totally get it. I can't eat certain kinds of seafood without breaking out with a skin reaction, so totally understanding it." Jim's very empathetic, then nods to the returning Rowan, taking the change and putting it in his pocket unless Mera wants it. He does offer a handful of coins to Rowan. "Souvenirs. It's small change, I can afford it, some of our currency. We do metal, paper, and plastic. Plastic is actually a line of credit against resource value in a bank somewhere."

He glances at his phone to see if he's gotten any texts or voicemails or the like briefly.

*

Mera watches Rowan taste the funnel cake, and is honestly a bit relieved that the Blue doesn't immediately choke and collapse. Still doesn't encourage her to try the confection. She'll wait to try a surfacer food when her husband is here. Because.

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