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Dr Archeville

One Boss, Two Boss, Red Boss, Green Boss

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April 2nd, 2019

 

"Sir, April Fool's Day was yesterday," the ArcheTech receptionist said, trying to keep annoyance out of their voice.  "And that's in incredibly bad taste to-"

 

"Yes, I know what yesterday was," Archeville replied calmly, "I am aware that the timing of this call is not ideal.  But I am back in town, now, and this was the earliest chance I had to call to make an appointment to meet with Miss Americana.  And she will want to meet with me, because-"

 

It really was the first chance he'd had to call.  He'd been in Freedom for about a week, intentionally keeping a low profile.  He had already mended fences with one of the (former) Interceptors, and had a harrowing encounter while meeting with the Freedom League just yesterday.  He was still shaken from that, but he knew he had much more to do, so he pushed himself on.  And now he was trying to set up a meeting with the woman whom he had handed his company over to, which was proving about as difficult as he'd expected.

 

"Because you're Viktor Archeville, founder of ArcheTech," the receptionist repeated.  "Yeah, yeah, you said that already.  Do you know how many people try to get to see her?  And they pull off better stories than that."

 

"I am sure that is the case," he replied, still calm and smooth, "but I really am..."

 

Meanwhile, an automated alert had pinged Gina Evans.  She had kept tabs on Archeville for some years after the ArchEvil incident, but eventually handed that over to an assortment of 'bots.  So she was aware that Archeville had come back to Freedom, and was planning to meet with various folks, but not his exact schedule.  The most recent ping alerted her that Archeville -- or at least someone claiming to be him -- had called in to ArcheTech, and was trying to make an appointment to meet with her.

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"Thank you, Taylor," Miss Americana said, smoothly breaking into the call from her office desk. "I appreciate your diligence, but I will speak with Dr. Archeville myself." She waited until the slightly rattled assistant had hung up, then let silence hang on the call just a moment longer, a silence filled with unspoken words.

 

Miss Americana had done a lot for Archetech in the years since she had taken it over, had been perhaps the only person who could have saved it in the wake of the incredible public relations disaster that had befallen it when its founder had gone so publicly villainous. The way she'd done it, though, had been to ruthlessly sever all connection with that founder, disavowing his actions and scrubbing him from institutional memory so thoroughly that his name was mentioned only twice on the company's entire website. (The Wikipedia page was quite a different story, despite her best efforts.) It had worked, but it was entirely plausible that the man himself might see it as a slight, if not an outright betrayal from his handpicked successor. 

 

"It's been quite a long time, Doctor," Miss Americana finally said, her mellifluous voice carefully neutral. "You wanted to see me?" 

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"Ah, Miss Americana!," he replied, voice lifting a bit yet still very calm and serene.  "So good to hear your voice!"

 

She'd known about all the therapy he'd been receiving.  She also knew that, in a way, she never really knew him.  No one did, since he'd been under the influence of that otherworldly thing since long before he'd come to Freedom.  So who was this at her door?  And what did he want?

 

"As I was trying to explain to your receptionist, I'm in town for a bit and wanted to get in touch with you.  I've already visited with the League, and a few others, and only now have managed to find time to contact you."  She knew this already, but confirmation was good.  "I know you -- and others -- had been following my progress after the... incident," his voice faltered a bit, but quickly recovered, "and I thought you might be interested in a fuller report, as well as notify you of some future plans I am considering.  I also wanted to congratulate you on all the hard work you have done in salvaging and maintaining the company... and to apologize for putting you in that situation."

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"Thank you," she replied smoothly, "but your past apologies are more than sufficient, especially given the external factors in play. I'd be happy to meet with you and catch up on your progress and your plans. Would you mind coming to my personal lab on Diligence Way? There's more privacy there, less logistics." Fewer prying eyes, she didn't bother to add, less chance for a camera to pick up the disgraced man entering his company and starting a news story that Archetech couldn't afford. The main office in Freedom City still had picketers a few times a week even all these years later, to say nothing of the conspiracy theorists online. She wouldn't want to give them any fresh meat to chew over. 

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It didn't take a genius to pick up on what was left unsaid, but being one didn't hurt.  I do hope that receptionist doesn't get too chatty with the wrong people.

 

"Of course, of course," he readily agreed, knowing the space she spoke of, "whatever you think is best.  Is now good?  Or later?  I honestly had not expected to be able to meet with you today, so if you have something else which requires your attention now, I can come over at whatever time is convenient for you."

 

He leaned back a bit in the bench he was sitting in, in a small park not far from ArcheTech.  Not many people were out -- it was in the mid-40s, and a light rain was due in that afternoon -- which left him with some solitude, even before factoring in his concealing coat and hat, and the holodisguise he had under that.  He'd sat there for a good while before making his call, listening to the faint chirps of birds and other signs of spring returning to the city.  A time of growth and renewal, which seemed a good time for his return.

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"How about this evening, maybe nine PM?" she replied. "The parking lot is gated but I'll pass you in when you arrive." She gave him the address and the major cross-streets, a good-sized office park in an area of the city that hadn't quite realized its potential yet. "It's the third building on the left, just look for one with the E.G.E Realty signs in the front windows. I like to keep up a front that keeps away the curious without looking too forbidding. The actual door is around the back." 

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Posted (edited)

"Thank you very much," he replied, remembering the building from when he had initially checked her background before hiring her, "I'll see you at nine."  He clicked off his phone, leaned back, and focused on his breathing for a moment.

 

That went alright, all things considered.  Glad I'll get to see her tonight.  That will give me time to check a few other things off my list.

 

And so Viktor Archeville visited several small locally-owned shoppes and cafes, buying small trinkets or snacks from each, and leaving colossal tips with each purchase.  All were businesses that had been damaged during the ArchEvil event, which had for one reason or another not been able to fully recover from the destruction.  He did all this in disguise, never letting on who he was.  Showing his face would lead to too many questions.

 

At 9:00:00pm, at the gate to the parking lot of Diligence Way, a figure appeared.  That is, he literally appeared, stepping out of a blue-grey portal that manifested and dissipated in an instant.  If Miss Americana had any sensors that could detect alterations in gravity, they'd be pinging now as one of Doktor Archeville's wormholes dropped the errant & erratic genius off at her door parking lot.

Edited by Dr Archeville

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The building looked vacant, as promised,  the dual storefronts both slightly dusty and containing furniture that spoke of some old failed business ventures. Around the back there was a single security light burning over a heavy fire door. That door swung open as the doctor approached, silent and smooth and automatic. Inside, there was no trace of office equipment, rather a spotlessly clean and well-equipped electronics lab filled the majority of the space. At a glance, most of this workspace was devoted to robotics of one sort or another,  both maintenance and fabrication. Schematics for a detached left leg filled the closest computer screen. Off to the side was a sitting area with a sofa and two comfortable but worn chairs, and the smell of fresh coffee was strong in the air.

 

Miss Americana stepped forward from one of the computer consoles to greet him. She was dressed as impeccably as ever, a smart navy twinset with red accents and a white labcoat thrown on over it. Her long blonde hair was pinned back for lab work. "Doctor Archeville, so nice to see you again," she said with the studied pleasantness of a businesswoman. "How have you been finding the return to town?" 

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"Rougher than anticipated," he replied, smiling weakly, "but not as bad as I'd feared.  I was able to meet with one of the Interceptors, which went quite well. And I met with some members of the League, which went... less well, though it was painfully necessary."  He did not volunteer details at the moment, as he did not particularly want to recall his recent Deep One-induced PTSD attack, but he knew he might be pressed on the matter.  "I've also visited a variety of businesses that suffered during my... episode, and made considerable donations to them," his holodisguise cycled through a variety of settings, mostly tourists of varying European origins,  "all anonymously, of course."  The disguise settled back to his Viktor Archeville form, "I'm still not sure about showing my face," then he dropped it completely, revealing his true technorganic nature, "or this one."

Edited by Dr Archeville

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"I understand the feeling, to a certain extent," she told him wryly, "but I'm afraid I don't have much advice to offer. Would you like coffee, tea, a doughnut?" She gestured to the little kitchenette and its full coffeepot and electric kettle. "People keep telling me to get a Keurig, but the coffee it makes is just so bad." Miss A stepped over to the kitchenette, ready to serve up as requested. "Please, have a seat, make yourself comfortable. I have to admit, I'd noticed you come into town, but I wasn't sure you'd be getting in touch." 

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Archeville took another look around the space, then sat in one of the offered Comfy Chairs.  "Coffee, please," he replied, a bit uneasy, "with a dollop of whipped cream if you have it.  I hear Keurig's making some improvements, mainly in the pods," he said, trying for some semblance of small talk.  "Reaching out to more restaurants to carry their blends, making their own.  Though there are of course some inherent limitations to the machine itself."

 

He glanced around again, at once feeling more comfortable for being in such an ultra-tech place, and less comfortable for knowing he was in someone else's lab, someone whom he'd betrayed.  Well, it was more complicated than that, which made it even more awkward.  He remembered when he had first revealed his new technorganic form to Miss Americana, and the thoughts they'd both had about advances it could present for her work in prosthetics.  I wonder if she continued exploring those paths?

 

"I figured you would," he replied at last, "you, and a few others.  Again, I am sorry for taking so long in getting in touch with you."  He sat still as a statue, hands neatly folded in his lap, "I truly am impressed with all you've done with ArcheTech.  Glad, too.  I know so man counted on it, and I'm glad that they can continue their work."

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"No whipped cream, but I do have sweet creamer," she offered, pouring coffee into an insulated paper cup. Only one cup, of course, she wouldn't bother to pretend to drink in front of him. When his coffee was fixed up she gave it to him, then sat across from him and folded one leg neatly over the other. "I promised myself I'd do what I had to in order to keep the company alive," she told him, unvarnished truth. "And I was angry at you at the time, very angry and disappointed," she admitted, "but I hope you don't think that anything I did with the company was out of animus. I... we had to separate from you to survive."

 

Miss A sighed, ran perfectly manicured fingers through her perfect hair, disordering the pins slightly. "There's a lot of water under the bridge since then. We've both gotten some much-needed therapy, I think." She smiled thinly. "I like to think I at least understand a little more than I did." 

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He accepted the cup with a smile, then held it in one hand as he used the other to retrieve a small glass vial from an interior coat pocket.  He flipped open the top with his thumb and sprinkled some of the contents -- a silvery blue powder -- into the drink, then returned the vial to his pocket and began to slowly stir.  "Powdered gallium," he said, answering Americana's unspoken question while still focused on the swirls of dark brown and white in his cup, "one of several 'nutritional supplements' my new body requires."

 

"And yes," here he looked up from his cup to her, looking her directly in the eyes, voice still calm, but with a bit of warmth coming through, "I understand completely.  I do.  You did what you had to, under unfathomable difficulties.  Honestly, I'm a bit surprised you still kept the name... though I suppose 'AmericanaTech' would go against the 'international chain unconnected to any one government' aspect of the company."  He chuckled once, nervously.  

 

He took a few sips of his coffee, closing his eyes so he could focus momentarily on the sensation, but they snapped back open at her next words.  "I'm surprised -- though glad -- to hear that you're receiving therapy for your own issues.  Did my... incident lead to a raised awareness of emotional and mental health issues among the superhero community?"  He knew superhero-ing was a stressful life, but, like so many people, few sought out professional help dealing with those stresses or the problems that could arise from them.  "I suppose that could be one silver lining."

Edited by Dr Archeville

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"I don't really know," Miss A admitted. "Most of the heroes I work with don't talk about that sort of thing much, at least not with me." She smiled, a little wry. "I have to cultivate my air of friendly aloofness, after all. But it's certainly possible that some people who might have been having problems thought about getting professional help when they realized what the potential consequences could be." She smoothed her hands over the hem of her already pin-straight skirt. "For my part, I didn't start going until my fiance encouraged me. It's been a bit of a long road, but you know how that goes." 

 

She studied him for a moment, "Have you been able to source all the nutrients you need, and facilities for healthcare and... repair, if necessary?" She offered the word delicately, not wanting to offend, not sure what else to call it. 

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He made a soft hrm sound, "indeed.  Congratulations, by the way," he added, voice growing warmer, "to both of you."  He paused, not quite sure how much she would want to reveal about personal matters, when her next question gave him something else to focus on.

 

"'Repair' is as good a word as any," he said with a soft chuckle, "and, yes, I have.  Thankfully most of the 'supplements' I require, while unusual or even toxic to most humans, aren't that exotic or hard to come by -- they're the sort of things one would find in any decent electronics workshop.  A bigger challenge has been finding a way to get over the taste!"  He chuckled softly again, "the medicines you need the most often taste the worst, yes?"  He took another sip of his coffee, "but this has lead to more experimenting in the kitchen, finding ways to mask their bitter aftertastes."

 

He opened his mouth to say something else -- a joke about not mixing up the salts at the next dinner party he hosted -- but paused.  "I have been stockpiling the things I need," he began, his voice shifting to a more measured, even tone, "because of my loss of contacts among suppliers, but also because of a future plan I am considering.  On one hand, it could be a very dangerous thing, which would require no small amount of courage on my part.  On the other hand,"  he let out a slow sigh, "I am concerned it's just another way for me to be ignoring my problems, running from them, like a coward.  I've not even mentioned this idea to anyone, kept it to myself," he cocked his head slightly to one side, "which I'm aware has been a problem.  So, I'm going to share this with you, because I would appreciate your judgment and advice."

 

Another deep breath, "I'm thinking of going to space.  Deep space, beyond our solar system.  Exploring uncharted areas."

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Miss A thought about this for a moment, which for someone with her processing capability was a long consideration indeed. "Well, I can't say I've enjoyed my own space travel much at all," she finally offered, "but some people take to it much more readily. You, for instance, would probably not be traveling cargo." She studied him, cocking her head slightly to one side. "I suppose the merit of the idea depends somewhat on the intent. Are you excited by the possibilities of traveling in space, or is it that you consider the mysteries of space preferable to the certain unpleasantness of rebuilding your life on Earth?" Her voice was not unkind, but it was blunt. 

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"No," he replied with a slight grin, "I'd be using my own ship, something I've been tinkering with off and on since before I'd even joined the Freedom League Auxiliary.  I'd be happy to share my schematics, if you're interested."  His smile became a thin line, "as to your question, I would like to say it's just the former -- and also the possibility to work with alien tech on CoVic Station -- but," he paused to take a sip of his metal-laced coffee, "in all honesty, it would be more accurate to say it is both those things.  I have put in a lot of work these past few years to rebuild and re-center myself, both physically and mentally, but the social facets..."  He let out a sigh, equal parts frustration and sadness, "most of my connections and contacts have burned, it would be generous to say I'm back to square one with the business or scientific communities.  Or the hero community.  With all that's happened, all that I did and all that happened to me, I'm not sure there's much more I can do here."

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A small smile curved Miss Americana's perfectly bowed lips. "Well, it would be pretty goddamned hypocritical of me to tell anybody that running away from the past and all its problems isn't a viable solution. At least, not for the short term. I hear that there's plenty of work for a genius scientist to do out in space, you could probably do a lot of good out there. Maybe make a name for yourself with people who don't have any preconceived notions. The thing about running away, though..." She sighed  a little, leaning back in her seat. "The longer you stay gone, the harder it is to ever go back." 

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Archeville was a bit conflicted: on the one hand, he truly did value Miss Americana's intelligence and insight, but on the other, he had suspected that this would be her response.  Did I come her for honest advice, or an echo chamber?

 

He ignored that for now, promising himself he'd come back to it, and seek out others for their advice so he'd have many opinions to consider.  "Yes, I've heard many fascinating stories of CoVic Station, and would be very interested in seeing technologies from dozens of alien worlds working together.  And if I can find some that would be compatible with standard Earth technology, well," he allowed himself a small grin, "then when I return, it could be like Jason returning with the Golden Fleece."

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"There is something to be said for a return in triumph," Miss A allowed, "as long as you think that the people whose minds you're hoping to change will actually be impressed." She leaned back in her seat, nearly slumping but not quite losing that excellent posture. "If I've learned anything in this job, it's that the public is a fickle creature, and never wants to pay attention to the things you want to highlight. I have lost count of how many press conferences I've given where clean energy or prosthetic advancements or shareholder confidence has been ignored by the press in favor of talking about whether my skirt was too short or long.On the other hand," she allowed with a tip of her head, "they do love a good redemption story.  Are you planning on going alone?"

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"Hear, hear," he replied, raising his coffee cup to her, "even in the best of circumstances, public opinion can be a tricky beast to wrangle.  Though from what I've seen, you've handled it with supreme grace and skill."  He nodded slightly to her before taking another sip of his drink, "kudos on how you handled that one heckler at the American Orthotics and Prosthetics Association assembly last September."

 

Redemption, yes.  I have to work on redeeming myself, my image, I want to do so.  But I also want to go far away, not see or be seen by anyone.  Which is driving me more?  Which is going to be charting my course out there?

 

"My initial plan was to go alone," he said after half a moment's thought, "with some AI companions, and plenty of reading material and movies.  And I am still leaning in that direction.  Though one of my former, ah, associates... employees... ah," he shook his head, "Grimalkin, formerly of the Interceptors, she had expressed interest in accompanying me, though she has some issues that keep her Earth-bound for the moment.  And in any case, I would be sure to leave behind some communicators with the League and others -- yourself included, should you want one -- so I can reach or be reached in an emergency."

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"Probably a good idea," Miss A agreed. "We do run into those all hands on deck situations from time to time. Plus, going out for god knows how long into space with only AIs you've programmed yourself is a recipe for going stir crazy." She grinned at him. "Even Mike Nelson had some evil scientists to talk to. But space is a busier place than we used to give it credit for, you could probably find some company out there without too much trouble. I know some Earth heroes have gone to space permanently already." 

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"I'm trying to stay away from evil scientists," he chuckled, "but, yes, I do see your point.  I had heard of some heroes who had gone out there already, like Dark Star and Supercape, and though the chances are -- pardon the wordplay -- astronomical, I may run into them on my way to CoVic Station.  And once I'm there, I'm sure I can find some allies, even make some friends.  If nothing else, doesn't the Freedom League still sends some members up there on routine missions, yes?"  He finished his coffee and set the cup down on the table between them.  "So there'd be a few more familiar faces."

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