Umbrella Surveillance System
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Trixie Heavy clouds cover the evening sky, lending Paris an oppressive air and eclipsing the shadow of the Eiffel Tower with their own heavy shadow. Among the scattered tourists and locals in the park at its base, Trixie looks up at the tower and can't fully suppress a shiver, wishing she'd thought to buy a raincoat. "Well," she murmurs sardonically, "/this/ trip was well-planned..."
Buck Rogers "I do not know how to speak French," Buck says, voice slow, measured-- thick with the condescending drawn-out syllables one takes when communicating with a child.

"Buck, buddy, you don't gotta speak it," the wire-thin man replies, polishing his glasses and his smile. "Look, it's just a book signing. You just sit at a table in the library, wipe the murder off your face, and scribble on every copy of Raccoon City in a ten mile radius."

"I do not know how to speak French," Buck repeats. He stares down at the much smaller man, their contrasts comedic; one a twig, all full of energy, and the other a brutal giant, with all the lazy calm of a sleeping mountain.

"Just sign the books, Buck. It's easy money and the first step in an international exposure tour. It's a few hours, then do your thing. Get le Big Mac, fuck a few French girls. See the Eiffel Tower. Get on the god damn plane."

"I do not--"

"Get on the fucking plane."

--

Buck cranes his thick neck back. He regards the womb of the sky, dark and pregnant, waiting for the storm's birth-- for the rain and lightning that will shatter the city, and the winds that will dance across the high bars of the tower. His wrist is sore from hours of signing his initials, and heaven's threat is mirrored on his own brooding features. He hasn't fucked a single French girl. He parts the crowds around him like steroid Moses, rumble-thumble-thump each step, massive sprawling shoulders drawn back and the barrel of his chest expanding with each growled breath. He looks like he might pop, and those thousand dollar accessories and the fine, fine suit don't stop it. He's near enough Trixie, at the tower's base, but has not seen her.
Trixie Trixie quietly wishes she'd brought her umbrella, since the dead calm means that the wind couldn't kill it like her last umbrella. But the weather reports had promised no rain, so she hadn't. Clearly the reports had been wrong. She buries her hands in her jacket pockets and sighs softly.

Only then does she feel a faint shudder beneath her feet, a faint wind of passage and sensation of heat across the back of her neck. Looking back, she notices the mountain of a man behind her, the sense of restrained violence beneath the thousand-dollar suit and accessories. It's only when she sees the face at the top of the mountain that she smiles.

"Buck, is that /you/?"
Buck Rogers Buck lacks the massive popularity he is used to outside of the United States; it was America that devoured his tale and clung to his propaganda-laced image for comfort in an uncertain world, and while American media is consumed everywhere, the same emotional needs do not exist. As such, he is recognized, here and there-- glances drawn by his size, awareness of the signing elsewhere in the city, talks of the in production movie, but he can move about with a certain anonymity he has not experienced in ages.

Then Trixie goes and recognizes him. The big man ignores her for a long minute, then pivots on a heel, slow-shuffle, and stares down at her. He's the tower in human form; his shadow dominates. His cufflinks shine-- they look like silver anchors. He furrows his brow, all Cromagnon, and stares the girl up and down. He stares without shame, without hesitation, openly devouring her with his eyes-- and then the furrow fades and the bearded brute breaks into a broad grin, eyes lighting up. "Trixie Mackenzie," he says, tasting her name on his tongue for the first time in near a year. "Look at you, biker girl. Sightseeing in beautiful Paris?"
Trixie "Nothing else to do right now. Most of my pay went toward my leathers, so I can't afford to do more than eat when I have to. At least walking around Paris doesn't cost much of anything," Trixie replies wryly. "Good to see you again. You're probably the one person I know who survived that I didn't have to find again on my own. I can look around and see your name almost anywhere, anytime. I'm glad somebody got something out of that fiasco."

She looks back to the Tower, and the sky, for a moment. "So, what brings you to gay Paree? Business or pleasure?"
Buck Rogers Buck's smile shows teeth. "Poor lil Longstocking," he teases, glancing over her twin, silver-bound pigtails. "More fun walking around Paris as a pretty girl, I reckon. All those French men serenading you on the water, or speaking that gobbledegook." He waves a hand dismissively, that feral smile shrinking til it's just a quirk at the corner of his mouth. The hand falls, one thumb tucking into the pocket of his dark pants, the other fingers curled into a half-fist. He tilts his head toward the nearby park, in particular the stone round table and low-set seats. He talks as he walks away from her. "Business. Book signing a few blocks away. Some book store called... La.. Bible Tech. Religious, I guess?" A wide-swung shrug of his free arm, smashing the air in front of him like a bludgeon. "A few hours signing books, smiling and nodding to French praise, and taking pictures with people. Tedious as fuck."
Trixie Trixie follows him, shaking her head. "I haven't gotten much of that ogling and serenading you're talking about. None, actually. Maybe the French girls keep them too busy to notice me or something. Can't say it bothers me." At his description of the store, she giggles softly. "La bibliotech... I think it means bookstore. Or library. That one's kind of hard to keep straight, 'cause there's also la librairie, which means something else. My French is awful, just in case you can't tell," she adds wryly. "Your publisher really should have sent a translator with you, so you could talk to them meaningfully. It would've been fascinating to find out what they thought of your experiences on this side of the Atlantic."
Buck Rogers "Oh, I got one of those," Buck says, easing himself atop the table. Hunched as he is, he's more boulder than man, prized fabrics wasted and stretched across a natural disaster. "Some pretty thing with frosted tips and a mouthful of bubblegum." His hand slips from his pocket and both flatten on the stone, sliding back as he stretches. He turns his head toward Trixie and watches her. There's an uncommon directness to his gaze--he doesn't break eye contact at the normal times people should, still staring when others glance away and back again. It lends him a stifling and sometimes oppressive air. "But it's a hassle to try long conversations, so we kept it short and simple. I'll have to get used to it, though-- there'll be more of these trips in the future." He turns further, leans in toward her. "What've you gotten up to afterwards, beautiful? Regale me."
Trixie "Good luck. Bonne chance... probably the one French phrase I remember easily," Trixie admits, shrugging helplessly. She begins to become aware of that unmoving gaze he directs at her after a few moments and feels herself blushing in spite of herself. "Um... mostly I've been getting my life back together. Went regular army, on the advice of my former CO in the Guard. From there I was selected for the F.B.C., and I've been there ever since. Given the way it works and how much they try to keep us and everyone else in the dark, I wonder if taking the selection was a mistake. The training and gear feels totally inadequate for what we're up against, and there's been nondisclosure paperwork flying around to boot. What good does it do to keep a lid on this? People need to know, so maybe we don't get another Raccoon City. From what I've found out, that cruise ship that disappeared was another bioterrorist attack. And unless we start fighting this in the open, there's gonna be more of them."
Buck Rogers There is no better listener in the world than Buck Rogers; his attention is a thing of weight, rough-textured and unsubtle. It manifests in the direction of his eyes, the turning of his body, the way his mouth now and then mimics the words he hears--huge as he is, he suppresses the world around him, a visual obstruction that deletes the tourists and natives walking about, veils the table, and as he nears closer, sliding along the smooth stone, looms high enough to near block out the Eiffel Tower itself. If the sky weren't dark and cloudy, he'd certainly drink away the sun itself; he violates personal space by existing.

"Folks don't need to know what's happened until it's been taken care of," he replies, one heavy hand reaching out to pat her head. "You've been working real hard, sweetheart, and I'm proud of you. But you have to listen to me: people don't want to know about a problem unless it's being solved. Security trumps the pursuit of knowledge; you ever think otherwise, you're liable to start a panic. Fact is, all this shit's new, and the world's full of people trained to deal with everything under the sun... but when the Devil sings, and the earth splits, and a storm of demons rises, ain't no one ready for that." Another pat, his fingers brushing down a pigtail, and then withdrawing. "Some things can't be taught. They gotta be learned. You know that, beautiful." He rattles his knuckles against the table. Rat-a-tat-tap. Flexes his wrist, fingers bent, and forces the joints to firecracker pop. "But yeah, that ship's straight, pure fucked. Heard the rumors-- tons of people dead, weird sickness from some bad buffet food. Nah.. not after Raccoon. I'm pretty sure those islands the ship came from got some demons under the soil, too. That's where I'm headed next."
Trixie Trixie grimaces slightly as her head is patted; his hand is quite heavy, even when he's being gentle. She pouts as he describes the public's bliss in ignorance, their hope that the problem is being dealt with, and that they will thusly never have to deal with it, blinking and uttering a little confused noise as her pigtail is brushed and her head is patted again. Then she winces at that explosive pop of joints. "But we can't be everywhere, Buck... by the time we hear about these things, it's already too late. Someone's got to tell us, and they have to know how to see the danger for what it is to do that. Keeping them in the dark just means more people will die before anyone even knows to lift a finger to save them."

She gasps softly as he tells her where he's going next. "Buck, you can't fight that kind of horror alone! You'll need help... official help. You'll be cut off otherwise! And Raccoon taught me that getting cut off means getting killed," she cries, the concern in her eyes very nearly a palpable thing.
Buck Rogers "With how fast this spreads, by the time a civilian notices and informs it'll have cost too much in life to sleep comfortable," the giant rumbles, drawing one leg up atop the table. The other remains flat-footed on the ground. He cuts a sharp figure in his suit and Italian leather shoes. Hell, even his socks, she can see as his trouser rides up a little, are silk. "Government ought to keep track of hospitals, implement better quarantine procedures, and get to work on developing vaccines. We're in a new era, sugar-- any damn terrorist can carry a nuke in their back pocket, and smash it on a whim." He raises his arms up high as the clouds rumble. His maw opens like a lion's, sharp-toothed and hungry, as he stretch, stretch, stretches toward the sky, as if to wear the storm like gloves.

One fat raindrop strikes between his eyes, setting the bridge of his nose to glisten. "There's no preparing for that. There's no being ready. Not really." Folding an arm over his raised knee, turning to face her, and limned in the shine of city lights, Buck is radiant--he's not a beautiful man, not by any means, but his time in the spotlight has taught him how to pose and posture. He wears celebrity like a cloak. "I'm just heading to check it out. I've been poking my nose in. Think there's something troublesome there, worth checking out-- and if I'm wrong, fuck it, I'll see how many college girls I can fuck stupid before the alcohol kills me."

A moment's pause, and he leans over toward her again, all sharp smile and predatory gleam. "A little secret, baby girl. Between you, me, and this ugly piece of shit tower: I'm immortal."
Trixie Trixie stares up, and up, at Buck as he plants his foot on the table and poses, and postures. "When did you become so theatrical?" she asks softly. "Not that it's a bad thing. Success definitely seems to agree with you." She watches the raindrop fall and strike, blinking as he poses again. "You know better than that... it wasn't the civilians not noticing what was going on in Raccoon City that killed it. It was the information flow being dammed up at the top. If that hadn't happened, we might have been able to make something happen and save the city before it was too late. But the officials kept us all in the dark, so we couldn't coordinate... nobody would even /believe/ us when we told them what was really happening. We were almost helpless. Get rid of the mushroom treatment and we can make things happen."

Then she shakes her head. "Honestly? Crude as it sounds, I hope you do get that chance to get alcohol-poisoned. It'll mean there's no disaster in the making." But his next words leave her staring speechless at him for a long, long moment, and then another.

"I... really don't follow you," is all she can muster, blinking owlishly at him.
Buck Rogers Buck cuts his hand through the cooling air with a toss of his head the opposite way. He runs his fingers through the thick, pointed bristles of his black beard. The sound of it seems to soothe him, as his expression softens, just a little-- a crinkle of the eyes, the easing of his scowl. "I'm saying it's all connected, and none of it's any good. The reason it was suppressed is that no one knew what it would become; it started small, then exploded. We got sucker-punched by God Almighty, and I don't blame the higher ups for treading lightly. We had some animal attacks, a few murders; shit happens. You don't expect a surprise Armageddon after that. By the time anyone noticed, really, it was too late. Maybe we could have had some more evacuations.. but hell, I'm glad we didn't. With how it spreads, who knows how many infected would have slipped out?" He goes quiet, hand falling away from his beard, and he turns back to watch the pretty redhead near him again.

"Raccoon City might just be the best thing that could have happened. The whole world's on edge now. Big, eye-catching, and now we've got eggheads and politicians working 'round the clock to make things better. I can see a whole lot worse that could have happened if these viral weapons advanced even further with us not knowing." One massive arm pushes out, and he gives her a little nudge on the shoulder, pressing in, before teasing the back of his knuckles against her cheek. The contact is brief and shameless. "You're awful cute, you know. Never said it before; wouldn't be appropriate on the job. But hell, I'm a god damn star now. The whole fuckin' world's mine." His laughter has all the humor of barking dogs. "Boring as hell. I'm immortal--it's all too damn safe. I'm hoping the world ends."
Trixie "The reason it was suppressed was because they /wanted/ to see what it would become," Trixie says, her voice low but insistent. "The higher-ups didn't keep a lid on things because they didn't know any better... they did it because they were in on it. Umbrella had the city government in its pocket. Our town was nothing but a petri dish for their viral experiments. But you're right about one thing... it /is/ all connected. And Umbrella seems to be the glue. Maybe Umbrella America's on the ropes, but they've got facilities and offices all over the world, and I'll be really damned surprised if they've got stuff under stones we don't even know to turn. Just maybe those islands were host to another one of their labs."

She shakes her head. "An awful lot of people are dead for the best thing that could've happened," she mutters sadly. "I just can't see it as worth it." But then her shoulder is nudged, and then his knuckles brush her cheek. She tilts her head into the caress, eyes half-lidded, before she knows what she's done, and when she looks up at him in surprise, she's blushing. "Thank you. I never expected you to say something like that, but it's sweet of you. And it's really sad, but I think I'm beginning to understand what you meant. I guess if you're so famous you're untouchable, it would feel too safe."
Buck Rogers "I'm all for raging against the machine," Buck says, "but why sacrifice a whole city like that to run some tests? There's evil, and then there's mustache-twirling evil. One thing if a junkie flips out and stabs his mother to death, another if the world's richest conglomerate opts to pull a Hitler." A shrug. "I've heard enough about Umbrella to have my own guess. I think they fucked up, and panicked, because that fuck up means what you saw-- a whole lot of death, a whole lot of attention, a whole lot of notoriety. Makes getting a penny harder." Another rattle of his fingers against the table, and he pushes himself to a stand, straightening his spine and giving his hand a curling flex. His forearm bulges against the seams of his bespoke suit as he adjusts his tie. "Splitting hairs, though. Umbrella's responsible. No doubt about that-- and there's more out there. We're in the eye of the hurricane, and in just a little bit of time, you trust me on this: that eye's gonna blink, and we'll wake up to nightmares."

His expression does not match his words. There's a light in those baby blues, a fire, a fierceness-- and he's smiling without realizing it, lips parted, turned, breathless and excited. His lips peel back, canines exposed, his shoulders rise and fall, and for a moment, if only a moment, his expression is bestial; more like the mad frenzied hunger of Raccoon's dead than a man.

"Don't you hate this, baby girl? You were there--you were like me. We went from busting drunks and dealers and gangbangers to ripping apart the damned with a holy fury. How can you stand it? Working some shit job, walking around some peaceful little city--THESE PEOPLE ARE DEAD! We were more alive in Raccoon than this. It's all--it's all fucking catacombs, now. We're walking with corpses and they haven't noticed." He sets his jaw, watches her, sees the fading blush from before, and finds himself compelled to touch her again-- to cup her cheek, with that huge hand, and brush his thumb along her lips.
Trixie "Buck, it was Umbrella who killed our chances at evacuating some of the survivors off that ship. I've talked to people who were there, who weren't bound by the damned hush contracts. There was an attempt by the UN and the Chinese to get choppers to the ship to pick up survivors. But Umbrella had their own security forces attack them and land troops on the ship. They came to get something, but they sure didn't mind killing off as many survivors and rescuers as they could. And they brought more monsters with them. More B.O.W.'s. And those killed more people than anything else. A commando team could've gotten in quietly and seized what was there without any trouble or excess murder, and nobody would have known... but they attacked the rescuers with B.O.W.'s instead. They're /testing/ those things, Buck. They /are/ mustache-twirling evil!" She can't help wincing at the word. It sounds so silly. But it's just too terribly real.

As he continues, she stares at him, confusion warring with fear in those baby blue eyes. "Buck, you're scaring me," she says at last. "You /want/ to go back to that nightmare? What good is living while everything around you dies?" But the cupping of her cheek is what silences her in surprise and confusion. "What... what are you d-doing?" she asks, blushing and wide-eyed.
Buck Rogers Smile wide, Buck replies, "I'm not like the rest of you." The tip of his thumb tickles across her lower lip; in her surprise, she hasn't yet pulled away, and the brutish man has no problem making the most of that temporary stun. His hand burns in the chill drizzle-cooled air. With a foot on her and some two hundred pounds, the disparity is enough that his hand cradles her head; his fingers, thick and blunt, curl and thread through the bits of that red hair that hang near her ear and nape. "You have nightmares, little girl, don't you? Sometimes you wake up, curled and small and scared, imagining patchwork mutants and human throats making all the wrong sounds. All those hungry sounds." His eyes damn near glow. "It was pure. We lived like we should have. It's in our D.N.A., beautiful-- those urges to hunt, to feed, to fuck and fight. Haven't you ever felt dissatisfied? We're all so caught up in these rat races we lost some precious essence. We lost that desperation. We lost that chance to struggle; we've been neutered. Our spirits domesticated." His thumb dares to press itself between her lips-- if she's still not pulled away, why not go for broke?

"I believe you, sweetheart. Everything you said about Umbrella, that boat, the conspiracies. But I can't hate them like you do. The world needs that. I need it, you need it. It taught us to be human in all the ways we forgot."
Trixie Trixie has to resist the urge to rest her cheek against his hand, fighting some deep-down instinct to let herself be protected. She shivers as he mentions nightmares, as she is all too familiar with them. "It wasn't pure..." she whispers. "It was twisted and horrible, and those things used to be /people/! Friends, neighbors, lovers, even those grumpy people you didn't like to bump into on the street. People who didn't deserve to die like that..."

And then suddenly his thumb presses between her lips, and she gives an inarticulate squawk of surprise and fright, twisting her head away from his hand, even going so far as to stand, stumbling around the edge of her seat and to her feet, staring at him and covering her lips with her hand, feeling her cheek and jaw with her fingertips.

"What the /hell/ was /that/?!" she cries, her blue eyes flashing as though they would shoot sparks.
Buck Rogers Amused, eyes gleaming, Buck watches the girl stumble to her feet and pull back. The movements were obvious enough to draw a few pairs of eyes; flurries of French words and amused smiles, headshakes and glances galore, all focused on the duo for a few heartbeats in the darkening shadow of the tower. His thumb, slick with a faint sheen of her saliva, chills in the air, the street lights bouncing off it in oilspill glitter. "You are gorgeous," he says, smiling, and that's it-- he's quiet after that, back straightened, drawn up to his full size. He hooks both thumbs in his back pockets, shoulderblades flexing beneath his suit and chest pressed out. He just takes up so much space.
Trixie Trixie stares at him, unexpectedly breathless in the wake of her clumsy rush to her feet. Up at him, to be honest. He towers over her, dominating her field of view. She feels her cheeks burning, partly spurred along by the chatter surrounding her. She's inadvertently made a scene, she knows, and that doesn't help her mood.

In the end, she just shakes her head. "And you're a /brute/, Buck Rogers. A crazy brute to boot," she retorts, her voice as calm and cold as she can make it. For all that, however her anger and fear are easily read in those big blue eyes, the emotive sort that betray her at every blink. "What the hell are you trying to pull?"
Buck Rogers "Seeing how you'd react to a bit of flirting," Buck admits, utterly unaffected by Trixie's tone and look. "It's fun to make you blush, sweetheart. Looked like you were liking it, too." He's a wolf, that man, sharp-eyed and carnivorous, looming with constant implied danger. The class of the outfit does not hide it: he is a beast. It shows in the heft of his fists. The predatory focus of his eyes. The way he invades personal space -- oh, how fast the gap closes when he takes just one single step -- and the way he touches. "You getting red and soft when I touched you, melting all cute when I get protective, hell-- that's plain arousing."
Trixie "But /you/ don't arouse /me/," Trixie says, forceful without raising her voice. "What the fuck, Rogers? What the helll kind of flirting is sticking your thimb in my mouth? It's not arousing, that's for sure. It's just... gross..." In spite of her calm, she suddenly shivers. "I was glad to see you after so long. But I don't think I'm so glad now," she adds, her tone shivery
Buck Rogers Buck laughs. "It's the usual next step after cupping a face and brushing a lip," he points out, scratching at his beard once more. "But that's alright, sweetheart. Doesn't bother me none if you're not interested." Half his mouth twitches up, not quite a smile, not quite a smirk -- straddling that line. But whatever you might call the expression, remorseful and apologetic are not it. "I'm gonna go check out that restaurant. Got time to kill before my next flight." He's looking past Trixie now, up and over her, toward the wide restaurant built into the Tower up above. She may as well be the wind itself when he walks past her. "You're welcome to come," he says without looking back, but he doesn't slow one bit, a bull through the china shop of the world.
Trixie Trixie just stares at him as he walks past, as if he were something alien. Less that he's disgusting, though that's not totally absent from her expression. More that he is too alien for her to understand. "No, thank you. I don't think you're my kind of company. Not right now. Have a nice night." Shaking her head, she turns and walks toward the nearest street, looking for a taxi.

"That man is just /crazy/..." she murmurs, glancing back once before resuming her walk toward the street.