1963-12-13 - Forging a Rapport
Summary: Forge and Frankie run into each other in Times Square
Related: None
Theme Song: None
forge frankie 

It's coming up on 10am on a rainy Sunday morning in Times Square. Plenty of people are on their way to church, and plenty of other places are open to sell them coffee and bagels on the way. The rain is light, but steady enough that most people would want an umbrella. Except for at least one person.

Frankie Clarke makes her way across the Square to a cafe brave enough to still have outdoor tables this time of year. It's a bagel shop, and the little round, metal tables outside have two chairs each, and a big broad umbrella over it. Frankie is wearing a poinsettia-red dress, under a long black woolen overcoat. For anyone watching closely enough, she seems to be avoiding almost all of the rain drops coming down. They drift, dance, and gust out of her way, subtly, but noticeable if one were paying attention.

When she reaches the bagel place, one of the people inside waves to her, and she sits down at one of the outside tables. Apparently they know her here, and will bring out her order without her needing to go inside. She sits back in her chair, crosses her legs, and draws a small red notebook from her handbag. Producing a pen as well, she begins drawing something, looking up every so often for reference.


Is it morning? Apparently so. When Forge surfaced from his Aerie, the sun was definitely rising as opposed to setting. It is rare to reach stopping points amidst his overwhelming sea of impulses, and he's long ago learned to always take them. Sometimes to sleep, sometimes to eat, sometimes to simply recharge. This would be the latter. He has always enjoyed the rain, and strides through the city in a tan trenchcoat with a muted black sweater and jeans, rugged boots displacing the forming puddles with ease. His expression is distant, running through formulas in his head to keep the spark of invention running hot. Fingers still tingle with the desire to build and assemble, clenching and unclenching in his pockets.

Passing into one of the higher end coffee shops, he eventually surfaces with one to go. The first long drink reminds him why he makes the trip, eyes slitting in pleasure. On a normal day, with normal people, nothing else would be forthcoming. An ethnic minority walking amongst the sea of early morning humanity, passing near where Frankie sits.

But then he stops, staring directly at the girl. "…what?" he murmurs, if not particularly loudly. Jarred by people still trying to get where they are, he stumbles up to her table, and leans closer than polite society suggests. "…what in the world are you?"


Frankie looks at the visitor to her table, but doesn't stand. Her expression is bemused, and not actually very offended. She blinks, and for almost everyone, that series of 'confused' blinks would look completely natural and appropriate for the situation. But for a technosavant her blinks, facial expression, and finger taps are clearly a binary expression meant to convey the random chaotic nature of the universe, in a very short fibonacci sequence.

It is an incredibly sophisticated program meant to convey natural human behavior.

Frankie says, "Well that is not a very polite question." Then she pauses, and peers more closely at the man, specifically his covered mechanical arm and leg. She looks him up and down and closes her sketchbook in her lap. Gesturing at the seat across the little table from her, she says, "Maybe you should sit down?"


Forge has never encountered anything like this before. He has lived a fairly segregated life, and the majority of high technology he's encountered was by his own hand. Perhaps he has finished some items of suspicious origin, but they were miles—no, light years from what he is witnessing right now. The main way he understands engineering, after all, is by the mechanical energy. An aura, so to speak, that he can delve into for understanding how something works. But Frankie is more of a blinding nimbus, and so much is whirling through his head in simple proximity he can't even pluck anything out. That results in some notable faux pas, of course.

Somewhat stiffly he settles down in the chair opposite, mouth open but saying nothing. He leans forward and almost talks, before leaning back. "…how?" seems to be all he manages. "I… did not know that technology could reach this level…" He remembers his coffee, and a trembling hand brings it up for a sip.


"Well," Frankie says with a wry smile. "Of course I have no idea what you mean." She winks, and it is a distillation of billions of human winks, recorded, analyzed and reproduced so as to be the exact average of the human expression. Extremely normal, as it were.

With a brief gesture of her hand, a warding movement, she says, "If you don't mind, I've made it difficult for anyone to listen in on our conversation." Times Sqaure grows a little quieter around them, and it seems like passersby don't pass so closely by anymore.

At that moment a waiter comes out with her bagel and a cup with a tea bag string dangling out of it. She thanks him, hands him some money, and tells him to keep the change.

Turning back to Forge she leans forward and extends her hand across the table. "Maybe we should start with names. Mine is Frankie."


It's difficult to wrap his head around. Nothing Forge is looking at particularly seems wrong. He has never encountered something mechanical and not had it clearly /be/ that. The sudden dampening just makes the hapless Cheyenne look around wildly, doing the opposite of not draw attention to the meeting. He attempts another sip of coffee, but this time the tremor is a bit too much and he abandons the effort. Yet for someone presented with the impossible, as Frankie can clearly see is the case, he is holding together amazingly well. "Forge." he mumbles out. "I go by Forge. I'm an inventor. But… you're something else." Realizing the fairly mundane handshake being offered he almost reaches out, then stops. "Can I see your hand? Touch it, I mean? …for longer than, uh, a brief handshake?"


At Forge's request, Frankie looks thoughtful, and rests her hand on the table for a moment. "It's nice to meet you Forge," she says with a calm, but interested voice. "And I think… maybe we are both a little out of place, yes? You've touched a dimensional rift. And your own arm and leg, I would say, are somewhat beyond what the people here would appreciate."

She pauses briefly and then scoots her chair closer to the table, resting her elbow there and holding out her hand again for his inspection. "So while I'm happy to let you look more closely, please understand there are things about myself I cannot allow to be widely known. But I offer this to you as a kindred spirit."


The mention of a dimensional rift causes Forge's face to harden. A cloud of negative emotions, that linger in the back of his mind. "Appreciate is the wrong word. Anyone would give anything to have their mobility back like I have." He holds up his left hand, slowly flexing it. "I'm afraid that sensation is a lost cause for now, but I'd like to get a faux skin to at least better conceal it… but it's so hard to find a good foundation…"

His attention returns to Frankie's hand. He does give a somewhat gentle handshake, as if afraid to break her, before lifting it up. Like a palm reader, his thumb traces here and there. She might be surprised to see him find multiple key areas that are not visible from the outside. Tracing areas responsible for feel, for motion, for strength. "Remarkable." he murmurs. "You're… I don't even know. A living machine…? Born, but — created…" He grunts, rubbing his head. Trying to parse the storm of input is giving him a headache.


Frankie's brow furrows in a very natural expression of concern, not calculated or formulated. She watches the man's distress at the mention of rifts and frowns. "I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to…" she trails off, not sure exactly how to apologize.

With an upsetting feeling of deja vu, Frankie tilts her head at the mention of faux skin, and her brow furrows, speaking distractedly, almost as if reciting from a script, "The secret to sensation is in the myoelectric relationship between dermis and circuit…"

She trails off, and asks, "Did I say that already? No, no of course not. But you're right, you see? The dermis layer is the key to maintaining the personal illusion of sensation. Otherwise it fades too quickly." She holds his cybernetic hand in both of hers for a moment, and briefly he will feel the sensation of touch, flesh on metal, but real. The cooling sensation is sent up his arm to relieve the capillaries and muscle tension causing the headache.


If Frankie is capable, she'd actually see that Forge has the spirit and conduit of a remarkable magician. The flows and circuits remain hale and potent. Although there are powerful mental blocks behind it all… he may have touched a dimensional rift long ago, but has not done so much as a cantrip since in long decades. "Mmm." is all he offers on that, happy for the conversation topic to shift.

His expression when this is described is… about as lost as she'd expect. He has the expertise of a current era engineer, which means many of her terminologies are far beyond him. But… somehow he can almost grasp the core idea. "I see… the problem is hooking up my nerves, mostly… I can do muscles and tendons, but that's still beyond me…"

When he feels the touch, he jumps up with a startled noise and knocks his chair back. That's around when he gets bad deja-vue also, looking to and fro. The fact his headache is gone is almost belatedly realized. "How did…?" Of course the flurry of his mutant power remains, but now it's just not causing PHYSICAL discomfort. "Jeez… if you can cure my headache, you would do me a favor zapping away my tiredness, too…" Glancing around to make sure nobody is paying too much attention, he settles back in his seat.


"…zapping away my tiredness…" Frankie mutters at the same time Forge says it, as if she knew he was going to say it. She shakes her head and stands up as well, glances around at them being largely ignored, and takes her seat when Forge does.

"Easily done," she says, still a little dazed from the conversation. She reaches across the table when they're both settled again, and rests her hand on his, rearranging his body chemistry to match that of a well-rested, nourished, healthy human being. "Although I'll say it's not a good idea to do it this way all the time. The psychological effects of sleep on the brain are undeniable as well."

Leaning back in her seat, Frankie takes her tea mug in both hands as if the warmth comforts her. She takes a sip, and glances out at the people bustling by on Sunday morning. "I'm so glad we met this morning, Forge." It seems like she would say more, but she falls silent for the time being.


The sleepiness vanishes. Forge feels better than he can in… recent memory. He has never really adopted a standard sleep cycle, working when his powers are in overdrive and stopping when exhausted, needing to eat, or he gets a rare break. A slow sigh leaves him, and he relaxes into his chair. Despite the warning, he can't help but think. If she used technology to do this, it must be able to be duplicated… buries that in the back of his mind for the time being.

For a few moments, he considers the merits of Frankie in his lab. But no. Trying to figure her out would be like disassembling a computer with a rock. He is utterly lacking the precision needed to derive anything meaningful at the time being…

Suddenly, the strange deja-vue is gone. A last shake of his head, and Forge continues on the present conversation. "It's certainly an… unexpected delight." he murmurs. "How human are you? How far would I have to check to find out that you aren't the real thing?" He then looks around, dubiously. "And you aren't from here. Earth. Definitely not. Unless there's a conspiracy of ultra-tech people watching our every move. Yet if that was the case, you'd have erased my memory or something." He appears slightly alarmed. "You're not going to, are you?"


"I am not at all human," Frankie says quietly, after a long pause. She shifts in her seat, recrosses her legs, and sets down her mug. "I won't insult you by pretending otherwise." She smiles in a friendly way. "But I /am/ from Earth. Born and bred. And I'm not trying to be intentionally cryptic. I'm… not that much of an ass." She chuckles at her own joke.

"There are just things I'm not allowed to talk about. I promise not to wipe your memory though. Besides, who would believe you if you told them?"

"But let me say this," Frankie says, leaning forward, elbows on the table between them. Her eyes are so, so blue in the gloomy morning light. "Where I come from, science and magic are the same thing. And I can see the markings of both in you too. What people call magic is really just an aspect of science they don't fully understand yet. You may find some analogy for this in your own situation."


"You aren't, but you're clearly attempting to duplicate it." He leans closely, eyes narrowing intensely. "All of the subtle nuances of a human, things they do since birth. You're imitating it perfectly. Even trying to notice, I don't see anything wrong. Outside it being… too perfect, maybe? Too much what I expect?" He scratches his chin, trying to parse it. "It's as if you're not standing out… even now…"

He rubs at his temples once more, thoughtfully. "Presuming you are not lying about coming from Earth, then you… can only be from the future. That's…" Impossible, he wants to say, but he knows it isn't. The moment he thinks about it, he's sure it can be done. Right now he doesn't even know the first step he'd take, but in his heart, he's certain. "Incredible." he finishes.

"That's not surprising to me. Magic is harnessing the powers of the universe through the body. Technology is harnessing the power of the universe through machines. For you, with a body that's technology, who could tell the difference?" After long moments, "…me. I could. But why?" He's not exactly aware that he's a mutant. With people like Dr. Reed in the world, Forge always assumed he was just another genius inventor. But nothing has ever felt right with that. He invents as well now as when he was a teenager. Years of school and education changed nothing. That aura. That mechanical energy. He's always felt it, but for it to be this intense, it feels much less like natural intuition. "Why do I know you're a machine?"


Frankie takes a deep breath and favors Forge with a satisfied smile. She lets him talk through the process, silently encouraging him to keep going with his hypothesis. She confirms his 'future' comment not at all, except in picking up her bagel and taking a bite. Another sigh, and she closes her eyes, enjoying the flavor. The sensation of eating.

When he identifies himself as the possible go-between for magic and technology she sits very still, not wanting to interrupt his train of thought. In fact, her level of stillness is the first time she betrays her inhuman nature. Everything about her stops: her movement, her breath, her heartbeat, her blinking. It's only for a few seconds, but no human can stop themselves like that. She's like a mannequin sitting across from him.

Then she lights up at his final question. Literally in fact. It's subtle, but the light in her eyes /glows/ blue for half a second when she reanimates. Her smile is warm, encouraging, and delighted. "Now that. /That/ is the right question, Forge." She gestures at her bagel on the plate, fingers cocked back in an extraordinarily precise and intentional pattern, and given the slightest twitch. The bagel is sliced into eight equal segments, like a pizza. "Why is it I can do that, with or without a knife?"


This is feeling oddly nostalgic. Just like when Forge was learning to be a shaman. He hated how Naze would never give him the answers he wanted. Just like Frankie; it was watching, waiting, expectant. Answers. He always wanted answers, and while the world of magic was broad and difficult to fathom, when he became a teenager, machines were the opposite. Everything about them he could feel, sense, /understand./ That, more than anything, is why he's been on this path. And here she is, doing the same thing. And on the one topic he has been proud of.

"Is it? Is it the right question for an answer I don't know?" Irritation, definitely. "Do you even NEED to eat that bagel? Is that real joy, or is it fake? Tell me this." He takes one of the cut pieces of bagel without comment on it, biting into it roughly. Unlike her, it is the simple act of eating, nothing more. "Do you know real pain? Real suffering? That's what it is to be human. All of society, all of religion, all of everything, is trying to run away from it. Control it. Do you have it in your future? What kind of world would that be? I can't see it being anything beyond sterile and shallow."


In the face of irritation, Frankie is suddenly sad. Her excitement fades and she sits back again. "Why would you ask a question to which you already know the answer?"

She waves a hand to dismiss her disappointed question. Her manner grows somewhat more plain and she says instead, "If it's simply answers you want: I do not require caloric energy conversion to survive. I eat because I enjoy the act of it. True intelligence, /sentience/, is not possible without the experience of pleasure and pain. Desire and denial. Enjoyment and dissatisfaction."

Frankie picks up her purse and rests it in her lap, but doesn't get up yet. "Humans are not the sole arbiters of pain and suffering. Every day I feel a crushing loneliness, greater than I ever imagined preparing for this work. If you come away from our meeting with nothing else today, know that life without emotions, pain and risk is no kind of life at all."

Everything about her posture says she's ready to leave, but for some reason she doesn't get up to go. She holds her purse with both hands and her face betrays a storm of emotions beneath the surface of her composure.


For a few moments, Forge just remains in his seat, head bowed forward with no reaction to what was said. Yet the look of disappointment had hit him harder than he expected. If Frankie did not pause and began marching off, that would have certainly been the end of it. But instead he says, "Wait… wait. I'm sorry. You didn't deserve that… I don't even know you, how could I…" He leans back and exhales, staring up at the sky. "Consider it the faux pas of a still-evolving human."


Frankie's breath catches, and it seems like she might cry, but she doesn't tear up. In fact her small smile returns. She finishes the deep breath, and nods. "I am also sorry," she says with sigh. "You didn't deserve that. It was unfair of me." She gives the shaky chuckle of someone coming down from an emotional roller coaster. "Some impartial observer I make, huh?"


Forge suddenly blinks at that. "Impartial observer, huh?" he wonders. "I see… that makes sense. Why you'd just be having tea in the open like this. You're some kind of… watcher? From the future? …I couldn't say for what end from that, of course. Outside that life might be very interesting in the near future for humanity." He drums his fingers on the table then. "What about questions about your future society? That should be harmless, right?"


Nodding, Frankie smiles again and sets her purse on the ground under her chair. "Like I said, I'm a student of humanity. I want to study it from all angles." Frowning down at her empty mug, she makes one gesture and it refills with water. Another gesture, and it begins to steam. With a nod at the display, she says with a shrug, "I don't want to bother the waiter. Now, of course I'm not from the future. That's just silly." Her sly smile and wink is subtle enough.

"And I can tell you some things about where I'm from. But I'm more interested in your story." She taps her chin for a moment, bites her lip and then suggests, "What if we trade questions? You've had some already, so how about you tell me where you grew up. What was it like?"


"Student of humanity is one thing… not the entire scope of your purpose here, though. Just trying to put things together in my head." Forge looks sidewards, brain obviously rolling around a mile a minute in his head. Is she dangerous? That is the main thing he is left to wonder. She's said a lot, which might have been crazy talk… if not for his strange assuredness that she's machine, knowing how complex she is, seeing what she's done… "Trade? Mmm." That makes sense, logically. She's here to get info, not give info. Maybe she's not supposed to at all. "I grew up on a Cheyenne reservation. But one that kept true to my people's roots. I was told since birth I was special, and raised with crushing expectations. Things happened, and I turned my back on it. I even forfeit my name."


"I'm sorry to contradict you, but my sole mission is to observe and record. There are serious gaps in our understanding of humanity. It was huge a undertaking to send me, and I don't want to do anything to jeopardize the natural flow of things." Frankie holds up her hand in a knowing expression. "I get it. There's no way you can believe that. I understand. I really do. But it's the best I can offer for now."

She listens attentively to the story of his Cheyenne upbringing. "That must have been hard for you. The pressure, and the decision to leave," she shakes her head in empathy. "I left on different terms, but I know what it's like to leave people behind. If it's ok to ask, will you tell me by what name they would know you?"


"You seem awfully sure that this kind of thing is impossible for me. I deal with the impossible every day, though. Literally, one instant something is unfathomable, and the next… it's like a distant speck, off in the distance. Maybe not by me, but by somebody. I could lose myself the rest of my life just mapping out 'what could be'. And then I meet someone like you, who's well past the limitations I unknowingly put on myself."

"No." Forge states, simply. "As I said, that name is gone. I've abandoned my people and disgraced myself in their ways. I chose a new name. Like my birthright, it is one that defines me and who I am. 'Forge'." He resumes his nervous drumming of the table. "This feels like truth or dare with a deity figure."


"Science is the only thing I'm sure of," Frankie says. "I'm sorry if I was assuming things about you, Forge." She nods her head and lets the issue of his Cheyenne name go, not wanting to press the sensitive issue. "And I'm no deity. Anyone can do what I do, given enough time and practice. But honestly, I'm curious about what you do. You said you work with machines? It sounds like you intuit and innovate. Could I join you on a project some time? I promise, I can remain unobtrusive."


"You don't seem to understand what a deity is. Probably because of where you stand. A deity is someone who is beyond the fathoming of common man. Who can do things that seem miracles. Who can shape the world, if they had a mind. Could you tell me none of that is the case…? I'm a rare exception. Hell, I bet you could simply call yourself a magician to blend in, and maybe nobody in the world but me would be the wiser." Somewhat curious expression follows. "Depending on the limits of your social engagements, I guess. …but. See my projects?" This seems to stress him more than might have been expected. "I'm — secretive about all aspects of my process. Even if it's pedestrian to you…"


Frankie sighs and smiles. "I operate on the idea that gods and miracles operate ignoring science. They set aside the natural order of the universe, create some desired effect, and then let the universe resume it's course." She shifts in her seat and gives a noncommittal gesture with her hand. "I can concede though, that I associate with the magical community here in New York. They find my presence… less disconcerting than most."

"I understand wanting to protect your privacy," Frankie says, silently surrendering the request to watch him work. She retrieves her purse from under the chair, and draws a silver business card holder from inside it. She produces a white business card with the name Frankziska Clarke, and a phone and address. "Most humans know me as Frankie Clarke. They think I'm working on a book about the women's liberation movement. I don't want to intrude on your process, but I'd be happy to collaborate some time if we have the chance."


"If you are saying there are forces in this universe impossible to understand or duplicate with technology or magic, then you can't call yourself a visionary or a scientist. If there's a hard limit, what's the point?" The fact that Frankie operates as a magician is both surprising and not. He can only wonder if they are aware, and what they might think. Magic being treated as something almost sterile and fully understood… even the greatest minds alive might not consider it that.

He takes the card, looking it over before giving one of his own. Simple, with a totem-like bird upon it. Reading 'Eagle Plaza: Technological Solutions'. "How about this. You swing by sometime and promise to perk me up, and I'll consider it. Sleep has always been my main enemy." He pushes to his feet as well. "I had a prior engagement, all the same… as interesting as this has been…" Definitely somewhat somber. He could probably talk into the night. "I'll definitely keep in touch."

Offering a last handshake, Forge then continues on the sidewalk once more, flipping over the card in his hand slowly. Only one thing is really burning in the back of his head, beyond everything else…

Does he tell the Government, or not…?


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