Umbrella Surveillance System
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Buck Rogers "Maria," pleads the chunky, thin-haired Frenchman, staring with moist eyes at the woman across from him at his table. An opened wedding ring box, the ring still within, sits between them. "You don't want to... "

Maria, much prettier than the man, blanches. She masks the look of disgust by taking a long drink, covering her face with her hand and the cup, until she gathers herself. "Petyr, I just think it is too early to think like this. We've only been together six months!"

"But I love you!"

On the other side of the cozy little cafe is Buck Rogers, splayed out upon a comfortable Parisian leather sofa. Designed to seat a small group, there's room enough for the majority of his titanic frame, though his right leg does hang off the side toward the end to balance him against the floor. He half-lays, half-sits, head tilted back to rest against the corner for support, while his fingers drum the melody to an unheard song coming from the small black buds in his ears. The wires lead down to the pocket of his pants, where the tight fabric moulds to the shape of a small portable media player.

Earlier, he'd invited Trixie to meet him here, claiming she should take a load off once in awhile, discuss some things with her. If nothing else, he offered to pay for the drinks and the snacks.
Trixie Trixie arrives perhaps half an hour after the invitation had been sent, and the black European-style bike leathers she is wearing are a restful change from the FBC's uniforms. She hustles inside, looks around for a moment or two, then smiled faintly and hurried over to his booth. "Hello again, Buck," she says warmly. "Thanks for inviting me. I haven't been to one of these shops in a long time. They have a habit of exploding when I come in."
Buck Rogers "I am the angel, I am madness," Buck sing-mumbles, nodding his head along with the words. His fingers fold in on themselves and he begins to drum against the side of the sofa with the protruding middle knuckles. "I am the word, I am the law." He's dressed to the nines-- his cufflinks are golden lions wrought in exquisite, realistic detail; a charcoal suit of finest-tier merino wool rests over an ivory shirt; his shoes are from master cobbler Giacommo-- probably. That's the sort of name that sounds like a famous Italian shoe-maker. From head to toe, Buck's wearing more than ten thousand dollars' worth of pointlessly luxurious fashion, all because he can.

Sometimes, even he forgets he's rich-- let alone someone like Celeste, who has yet to quite understand her sugar daddy could give all of Candyland a toothache.

At the moment, eyes closed, he can't see or hear Trixie. He'd continue like this forever, it seems, oblivious to her presence, but--

"You slut! Where did you get that hickey?" Petyr is yelling; when Maria's hand slipped away from her face, and she looked to the side, she neglected to conceal the faint lovemark on that pale, slender throat. The yell is louder than Buck's music, and he opens his eyes in time to see the leather-clad woman.

"Hey there, beautiful," he remarks, as Maria and Petyr begin to argue in earnest. He scoots up to make room. "Ahh, lover's quarrels. Aren't they grand?"
Trixie Trixie winces at the sudden shout, glancing at the quarrellers nervously. "The /noise/ is certainly grand..." she murmurs, sinking into the offered seat, glancing at Petyr and Maria every once in a a while. "So, what's the occasion?" she asks softly. "You look like a million dollars, and I get the feeling that suit alone would eat my salary alive."
Buck Rogers One of the cafe employees, a petite brunette girl, slides up to the quarreler's table and tries to intervene. The noise dims somewhat, but their argument continues, though the red-faced and angrily humiliated Maria is poised to leave. Petyr throws a wad of money down on the table and storms off.. leaving the ring-box on the table.

"I make more money than I know what to do with," Buck admits, withdrawing the buds from his ears. The sound of some melodious metal song wafts out, though it depresses to an inaudible silence as he pockets the wires and flips the device off. "Speaking fees, film and book royalties, contracts to use my likeness, advertisement deals-- did you know I have a body spray? I did a commercial for it when I first came to Paris. They have me in the street as zombies attack, people screaming, getting eaten. Then I charge in with my chainsaw and strike 'em down, baptizin' everyone around in blood. Two college girls look at me and make a face.. until I pull off the helmet, spray myself, and walk off with them." His laughter booms as thunder.

He reaches over and musses her hair. "Military ain't exactly a gold mine, sweetheart. You need money?"
Trixie Trixie blinks at the earbuds and their outpouring of sound. "How did you hear me over those?" she asks, mildly incredulously. As he tells her about the body spray commercial, she rolls her eyes and stifles a giggle. "Do they make a version with a shower function?" she quips. "I could've used something like that after several jobs I've been on. I wouldn't care if it /was/ a manly smell, long as it worked."

Her gaze moves back to The Argument Table, as she's christened it in her mind. "Poor girl's walked into a hornet's nest," she muses sympathetically, watching the employee try to intervene and Petyr storm out.

She winces a little as her hair is mussed, and awkwardly smoothes it down afterward. "I really don't... not right now, anyway. You've been really sweet to me, and I don't want to be a mooch or something like. You don't deserve that," she says, something in her tone suggesting she is overwhelmed by the gesture.
Buck Rogers "I couldn't hear you," Buck replies, hand withdrawing from his snug pocket. He shifts again upon the sofa, the weight of him sinking into the leather and making it crease and creak, the furniture as rickety as old bones. His blue eyes drift from a faded poster of a smiling man playing the guitar stuck upon a hanging corkboard, over the heads of sitting and mingling guests, to the cash register and attending cashier, to the machines lining the wall behind the counter and the peek at the closed Employees Only door leading back into the building.. over the flowers and the carpets, the tables and the chairs, to the glass walls that overlook the cobbled patio at the corner that seats a few outdoors guests-- ah, and there is Petyr, moving like a storm in the opposite direction of the adjacent traffic, stewing--

Well, he sees all of that, and returns at last to the starlet of the show seated next to him, straightening his spine and looking down at her. He inhales deep of the coffee scent. "Alright. But I've always got odd jobs that need doing, favors to call in, so if you're ever looking for extra curriculars, darlin'.." An idle flourish. "And heh. I ain't been that sweet to you. You ain't been that sweet to yourself, neither. Fix that-- order yourself somethin' tasty, and tell me what it is you're looking to do with your life."
Trixie Trixie rolls her eyes, unable to help a faint smile. "Good thing I wasn't doing much more than saying hello, " she teases softly, though her eyes widen at the suggestion of potential side jobs. "I might be interested. And I really don't know what I want anymore... at first I thought I wanted to try to go to college on the G.I. Bill after my tour was up, but this bioterrorism thing..." She sighs helplessly, throwing up her hands. "I can't just walk away from it, even if I really hate working in the military, or whatever the hell the F.B.C. is. Bad as it is, at least it seems to be organized and able to do some real good against psychos like Umbrella. And they seem to finally be getting their game together, after months of just fumbling around."

At the invitation, her faint smile returns, albeit fainter than before. "Thank you. Hmm... what looks good?" she murmurs, glancing at the menu board, and the Argument Table, to see what's transpired since the angry man's departure. And the man himself. "He's better be careful, walking like that..."
Buck Rogers Buck waves the mediator girl over with a wave of his hand and converses with her in elementary French. He speaks in the halting tones of a learner, stretching out syllables when they slip his mind. But the gist is conveyed well enough-- she bobs her head with a toss of her dark curls, pirouettes, and weaves a path through the seats and the people. "Hope you got a sweet tooth," he rumbles, scratching his beard, "I ordered you a slice of tarte tatin."

His gaze lingers with an obvious interest on the bubble butt of the departing servitor. "Mm, the best part of Paris," he says, still scratching. "The French girls." His hand falls to settle on the armrest. Now he's staring Trixie down, watching her like some wild animal-- his entire body trained on her, the world narrowed until the peripheral is a black border that magnifies her presence. Turned toward her, watching her eyes, blinking rarely. "The fight will go on without you," he states, crisp and severe. "You're a nice lil soldier, girl, but you're not a superhero; and even heroes go out like chumps. That really what you want-- livin' on a boat, stressed and overworked, waiting for the day some creepy-crawly rips out your guts or eats you face first?" A breath. "If you want to help people, TerraSave's got a safer deal. You can campaign. Stir up donations. Fight the good fight with your voice, or a blog. Rattle your sabers at politicians and the media. Hell, if it's college you want, I'll pay for it myself. No strings."
Trixie Trixie finds herself watching the waitress depart, and blushes faintly. "She /is/ cute," she murmurs in soft agreement, swiftly followed by a blink. "Um... what's tarte tatin?" She does spare a glance each for Marie and her former beau, just in case things have gotten any worse for them.

The sudden stare-down from Buck unnerves her almost instantly. "I... I don't know. I don't have much of an opinion of TerraSave, and the little I do have isn't flattering. Besides, even if I get out of the F.B.C., it's not like I can just walk away from the Army... I still have over two years on my tour. Maybe even three," she replies softly.

The offer of sending her to college brings her head up to meet his gaze, now thoroughly shellshocked by the proposal. "You'd... you'd do that for me? But why?" she asks, blinking away sudden, unexpected tears that are beginning to sting her eyes.
Buck Rogers "'tween you flirting with my girl and blushing at the waitress, I'm thinking you're a lesbian, huh? Bet you ain't even kissed a man. Gold star, you." Buck chuckles and arches his spine, that massive chest thrust forward-- he takes in a deep breath and pushes his shoulders back, making all the little bones in his chest and back and ribs pop like crackling woodfire. "Explains a lot. Takes a dyke to resist my charms." The stretch brings upon him the sudden great urge to yawn; he sucks a deep breath into the chasm of his lungs and opens wide, wide, wider still, until he looks the lion as much as his golden cufflinks. "Ahh," he says with a smack of lips, "been staying up too late."

As she speaks and later blinks back the tears, Buck breaks eye contact for a long minute. He's staring off at nothing, if she follows his eyes-- some speck of dust that has him setting his jaw, and pressing his lips into a firm flat line. There's just his breathing, and in the distance, Marie looking out of the glass. She runs her finger along the hickey near the hollow of her throat.

"Most everyone I worked with is dead, sweetheart. Most everybody I ever knew is dead. The people I saved? Well-- they all ran off, got their own lives, and I ain't a part of that." He's watching her again, and his smile is uncharacteristically small. "I'm not a good man. Deep down, I can't feel bad about what happened-- Lord knows I tried, I tried. But that doesn't mean I want to see a cute, helpless lil thing like you bleed out in some third-world shitheap, or wander around all dead-eyed and cannibalistic. Maybe I'm buyin' karma. Stockpiling for the end of the world." A shrug. "Or maybe my girlfriend likes you, and I always thought you were pretty, and now that I got money to burn I want to be a man and help you out."
Trixie "If you're willing to help me like this, expecting nothing back, then you're a lot better man than you think," Trixie replies, blushing faintly as she realizes how cheeky she sounds. "Whatever happens, I'm grateful for what you've done, and what you've tried to do. This is... it's just way too big for me to get my head around right now. Anyway, I still don't know how I'd get out of the Army with years left on my ticket." She winces faintly at the very audible stretch, mostly at the scatter of sounds.

"Maybe," she murmurs, idly following his gaze to that speck of dust, and Marie. Her eyes find the ring box, and linger there for a long, long moment.
Buck Rogers "A man's soul is like a still pond," he says, finding a thumb tack on the ground near the sofa as he rests his arm over it. It must have fallen from the nearby corkboard. "Look into it, and you see yourself. It's only when the water is disturbed that you can see the bottom." The point of the tack pricks his thumb and draws a bead of blood; when he grabs it and lifts, the sharp end of it glistens red. "I read that on a fortune cookie once."

At this point, the waitress returns. She holds in her hand a small plate and sets it down on the coffee table in front of the sofa along with a fork. The smell of baked and caramelized apples, rich with butter and sugar, permeates the air-- the pastry on the dish is an upside-down cake glazed with red apples, sweet and warm. "Here you go, miss," she says with a smile.. and then pouts when she notices the bloodied tip of Buck's thumb. "Oh! Sir, are you alright? Hold on, we have some band-aids in the back." She skips off.

"Don't think too hard about it all, beautiful. The decision's yours to make-- but if you ever decide on something safer, you let me know. I'll take care of you." He laughs again, eyes crinkling, and his unbloodied hand reaches into his pocket. "Right, reminds me," and he withdraws a bright red rectangle with the iconic visage of Mickey Mouse upon it, "I bought a bunch of tickets to Disneyland. Booked a whole stay, actually; park access, hotels, the works. It's why I called you out here-- surprising Celeste with 'em. You come, too."
Trixie Trixie bites her lip as Buck pricks his thumb with the thumbtack. "Surprisingly deep, but I don't get the visual aid," she muses, glancing up as the waitress returns, offering a faintly distracted smile and nod and a soft, "Merci beaucoup. It looks /amazing/." Watching her hurry away in concern for Buck, she stifles a giggle. "Was that the reason for the visual aid?"

Dessert is forgotten, however, as he draws the rectangle from his pocket, and she gasps in awe and disbelief as she sees it clearly. "Ohmigawd... I can't believe you'd do this for me! Thank you!" She instinctively hugs him tightly, almost like a much younger girl similarly surprised with such an amazing gift.
Buck Rogers A furrowing of the brow to make his confusion sufficiently cro-magnon follows Trixie's question. "Visual.. ? Ohh. No. That was me being clumsy." He brings his finger to his mouth and sucks on it, draining the blood and leaving a thin sheen of saliva to coat it. Then he slides the tip beneath his index finger and squeezes to soothe it with pressure. "But I don't mind her concern. Always fun to bring another girl or two back home. A man never feels more like a king than when there's a woman on either side of him." His smile's bright and his teeth are sharp.

The hug catches him off guard for a moment. He accepts it, running his hand along her back. It slips low-- he can't quite palm her ass with her sitting as she is, but his big mitt does rest on the small of her back. "One of those things more fun with a group," he says. "Hell, if that cute lil waitress wants to sit in my lap for a bit, might be I'll give her one, too."
Trixie Trixie rolls her eyes, chuckling softly. "You'll never change, Buck," she teases gently, releasing her hug slowly and moving to draw back, though she remains sitting closer than before. "I'd be glad to come with you two. And not just because I think it would be totally sweet to see Celeste happy. I want to see /you/ happy, too."
Buck Rogers Buck grins toothily. "I am that I am," he declares, sounding content enough with that truth. "Though I don't think I'll fit on most of these rides-- theme parks weren't much my deal." As the waitress reappears in the distance, slipping out of the back and drawing close, his eyes are on her once more.. this time, rather than the shapely rear, he watches the swell of her breast. Given Celeste's own dramatic proportions, his tastes aren't subtle. "My hobbies are a bit rougher."

The waitress manifests before the pair. She takes one long look at the two of them, noticing Trixie's closer proximity to the tall, muscular, and wealthily-dressed man who eye-fucks her every time she waltzes by, and hmms. Then she reaches out for his wounded finger, both her hands seeming to fit in his own, and lifts it up. "I'll just get you patched up," she says, looking over his fingers. "Umm.. was it the other hand? I don't see the prick."

He smiles. "Right there, you got it, beautiful. Good girl." He wiggles his thumb and she wraps it, though it hardly seems to need a bandage. She smiles and flutters her fingers before walking off with a little shake of her hips.

"Mm. You wouldn't say that if you knew what made me happy, sweetheart." An absentminded comment.
Trixie Trixie smiles at the waitress, not missing her apparent misgivings. "We are not a couple, Mademoiselle," she advises warmly. "Only close friends. Do not be afraid of upsetting me." She glances after the woman as she walks away, then smiles a wry little smile. "I have an idea of it. I withdraw the sentiment. But I still want to see you enjoy yourself at Disneyland with Celeste, hopefully without anything needing to be killed. That's what usually ruins my outings."

She gives his thumb a long look after the waitress has gone. "I can't believe the bleeding stopped so fast. Dad used to tell me that he never saw anyone pick herself back up from a skinned knee faster than me, but that's a whole giant step better," she observes softly, impressed.
Buck Rogers "I heal fast," Buck comments, looking toward the pastry on Trixie's plate. "Always have. Chalk it up to high testosterone." He lifts an arm, and beneath the luxurious wool that clings to him like a second skin, the rock-like muscles of the limb are apparent, thick enough to replace Trixie's waist, and strong enough to hold her, Celeste, and the waitress up with ease. "Same reason I'm so great." He flexes his hand, opens the fingers wide, then crushes them into a fist with a sequence of popping joints. "The park'll be fun. I'm not always rampaging, come on-- even I've got an off switch." Mind, he didn't have one, awhile back-- it's still a recent development that he's mellowed out, and the causes are things he never elaborated on.

He gives her head another pat. "Alright, sweetheart. You eat up. I've got a tab here, so if there's something else you want, go wild. Try the whole menu and waddle that pretty lil ass of yours back to the boat after. Pretty sure they sell coffee, too." He grins. "You know, if you're gonna stay in this line of work, one of these days I gotta put that fast healin' of yours to the test. See how you hold up against me. It's been a long time since we worked together; I'm not the same as I was on the force."
Trixie "Iiiii... think I'll stick with this. But thanks so much for the offer," Trixie replies, amused and slightly discomfited by the offer. Maybe it was the 'waddle' part...

"I doubt it begins to compete with yours," she adds, wincing slightly under the pat. "Mostly it seems to amount to little stuff like scrapes and cuts being gone in a couple days, or maybe three. I did have a broken arm back in grade school that knitted faster than the doctor expected. Got the cast off almost two weeks early. But that's not exactly the kind of thing I want to test again. I'd be perfectly happy to never, ever get shot or stabbed." She turns her attention to her dessert, taking her first nearly dainty spoonful.
Buck Rogers "Eat, eat," Buck commands, emphasizing his words with a clap on her back. He's in control of his strength enough not to hurt her-- but the touch is still forceful; he's not that limits himself well. "I've been fattening Celeste up, too. After Disneyland, we'll stop by my gingerbread house." He cracks a smile at his lame joke, then rises to his feet, stretching his arms waaaay up high. "Some folks just get better better," he states. "But I wouldn't wanna see you shot or stabbed, either. You're too pretty to bleed. Bruises, though.." He trails off on some deviant thought or another that he has the social grace to not elaborate on. "You think about what I said, princess. You think about your future and what you wanna do. Though hell.. at your age, I was in prison, so you're doing better than me. Don't gotta rush it."