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Dr Archeville

Opposites Attract [IC]

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Date: January 16th, 2010 (Saturday)

Time: Around noon. 49oF, WSW wind 11 mph, clear skies. Skies forecasted to remain clear throughout the day.

Doktor Archeville had known of Fulcrum for some time -- he knew of most every superhero and supervillain in the world, particularly those of Freedom City -- and had even fought alongside her briefly (very briefly) during the Hell Invasion from a couple of months back. He knew she was strong and tough, but more importantly, noble and compassionate, like the man she tried to emulate, the famed Centurion. After their recent meeting, however, Viktor saw her in an entirely different light.

You're reading too much into it. You're setting yourself up for a fall.

No. No, there is... she is different. Admit it. Even you think she is different.

...

Admit it.

... yeah, you're right. Happy? You're right. She's different.

See? Was that really so hard?

You're a fool, Archy. You're a damn fool, and she's going to break our heart.

He had spent every moment since she left ArcheTech preparing for this date, making sure that it would be memorable. He had not really been on a date in many years -- after his college days, his intimate interactions with women tended to be of a far more transitory nature -- but he got an altogether different sens from Mona. He had to of course be careful not to overdo it, lest she think he was some sort of mad stalker with a crush, but there were no equations or formulae for this sort of thing, so he was definitely out of his element.

And it thrilled him.

They had agreed to meet at a Timothy's Bistro, in Midtown, for coffee to start; afterwards he would show her more of 'his world,' though he kept the hows and whens a secret. And there, in the Bistro, he sat (drawing more than a few stares and whispers), in polished black work boots, neatly pressed black khakis, purple dress shirt, blue tie, and what could only be described as a formal white lab coat, nervously twirling a coffee stirrer between his fingers.

"It... it is tradition for de voman to make de man vait, ja?," he thought aloud.

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"Only when the man insists on being early," quipped Mona over the bustle. The buzz intensified as more patrons noticed her and her lunch date apparent. Whatever self doubts she harbored yesterday were long gone today. She walked with her head held high, an air of supreme confidence both in her abilities and appearance.

'Less is more' must have been Fulcrum's motto. She arrived in a classic little black dress that accentuated her curves while still showing off her physique. Combined with sensible flats, a matching handbag and touch of make up left one with the general impression that she was...well...smokin' hot. Hell, even if she wasn't, her attitude told everyone how she felt on the subject.

Knowing someone by reputation was a bad way of starting a friendship. Particularly when that reputation had some occasionally scandalous details. Which was another reason why Mona refused to dig any deeper into Viktor Archeville's past. Better, she thought, to have this first date without preconceived notions and leave his privacy intact. Still he was an intriguing fellow: complex, inscrutable and surprisingly passionate.

Not that her reputation was particularly stellar. Hers was a history of mid-term relationships that always ended messily. Her record was eight months, and that one was nearly two years ago. The details were kept carefully private, but that didn't stop people from talking. If one believed the gossip pages, she was a butch lesbian trying to find a compatible beard.

Which of course was utter nonsense the moment she smiled at Viktor. Sweeping her long legs alongside the table, hovering was the name of the game as she settled in. "If I was mean, I could have let you sweat and been 'fashionably late'," she said while searching through her purse.

"You look handsome, Viktor."

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Archeville had not looked into her dating history. Before now, he had not thought to do so, and since yesterday, he was far too busy with making plans for their date. And, judging by the double-take he did when he saw her (and the coffee stirrer now freed from his twirling and clattering on the tiled floor), her own preparations were definitely appreciated.

Oh, my...

Where the heck does a 2.4892m gal get a dress like that?

Amazon.com?

... haaate...

He rose when she approached, and kissed her hand. "Und you look absolutely stunning, Mona." Ever the gentleman -- as far as she knew -- he pulled out the chair for her, then moved it aside when he realized she would not be able to actually use it.

If she had bothered looking into his past, she would have found a peculiar thing: during most of the year, he was near-celibate, barely seen even having dinner with anyone (though there was one notable exception), focusing entirely on his work when not saving the day. This all changed, though, during the two weeks of Oktoberfest, when he'd return to his homeland and let his hair down, being seen with three or four different girls each night; this pattern had repeated every year for the past decade or so. Gossip columns often speculated on who (if anyone) he'd ever settle down with, with a few stating -- with tongue (mostly) in cheek -- that he'd only ever settle with a women he made.

He chewed ever-so-slightly on the right corner of his lower lip, "Have you been here before? I haff not, but I haff heard good dings about it. Such as de live Jazz performances on de veekends."

Oh, real smooth there...

That's not helping.

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Mona smiled as she put down her purse, "Why thank you, Viktor. I've be waiting a long time to break out this dress again."

And a gentleman to boot.

"No, I've never eaten here. To be honest I'm surprised you managed a reservation on such short notice. Someone owe you a favor?" A warm smile followed. "The jazz is supposed to be phenomenal."

Then she stopped and looked him. The gaze was an analytic one, yes, but also sympathetic if inscrutable in its own right. Lacing her fingers together, she leaned forward to better scope him out. Finally she nodded and whispered, "Relax. You're doing fine. No test will follow, but paparazzi may."

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Archeville audibly gulped, and Mona saw a bit of color come to his cheeks.

"Actually... ja, ja, he did owe me von," he replied at last, smiling. "Und by 'he' I mean de eponymous Timothy. He und some friends vere backpacking through France a few years back, und de inn dey vere staying at vas used as a target for a new veapon developed by some ultra-tech supervillains. At least, I dought it vas a veapon; I had been tracking dem down for some time. Turns out de 'veapon' vas in fact a being of living nuclear energy; very nasty. De villains got avay before I could subdue dem, do I did manage to short out some of deir technologies; I treated de people at de inn, und dey vere all qvite grateful."

As he spoke, Archeville shed the last bits o his 'caught off-guard' look and took a more confident mien.

Be awed as I regale you with tales of my heroic!

Keep it down, I do not want your overweening pride ending this before it even gets started. And besides, as I recall, you were quite upset with how that particular incident ended.

Well, we could've caught them, if you hadn't insisted on making sure the civilians were okay!

Perhaps, but you have certainly not objected to all the connections and contacts we made that day. And even if they did not shower us with gratitude, it was still the right thing to do.

"Is Jazz your favorite type of music?" His hands still fidgeted a bit, until he began tracing around her knuckles with his fingertips, "any particular favorite artists?"

Cell phones were brought out as a few patrons began to take pictures of the famed (and somewhat freakish) couple.

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"That was very brave of you, fighting a nuclear entity! Was everyone okay? Makes for a great story. You must have all sorts of contacts from knowing him," came the rapid-fire response, as she tried to read a joke or deception in his face, "So you really know Timothy, the owner of this place? Amazing."

Fulcrum chuckled softly as he put his hands to better use than fidgeting. "To be honest I really know very little about music in general, let alone jazz. I probably couldn't name a jazz artist if I tried, although much of it is very entertaining. Which means whatever sounds good is my preference. My musical collection is very eclectic." Noticing the camera phones, she shook her head and turned back to Viktor, "Which is sort of funny considering that I hung out with music majors in college."

"I tend to run with the artist and bibliophile crowd. Amazing how many hobbies and names bohemians and new age hipsters know. A lot of the thanks that are offered, even if I politely refuse, filter through that milieu. Something as upscale as this really isn't my style, but I'm not complaining." She winked.

"What sorts of music do you enjoy?" she said as the waiter arrived for their drink orders.

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"Treatment for radiation exposure, und a few in de inn suffered some bumps und bruises vhen I vas knocked through a vall by de team's heavy hitter." Mona saw no hint of deception there, though he was treating it as a fondly-remembered part of his past, "dat vas von of mein first real supervillain battles. See, for de first yeears out of college, I traveled around Europe, trying to aid ozhers by repairing und rebuilding dings damaged as a result of Metahuman brawls, or the far more common military und terrorist actions. A 'tinkerer,' if you vill, not really sure of vhat to do. It vas during dose vanderings dat I made many, many contacts, de people I aided und deir friends und relatives. Some of whom proved to be qvite influential."

We were so stupid back then.

What? How can you say that? We did a lot of good!

We were janitors!

And yet you have never complained about all the favors you have been able to call in.

"In short order, dough, I progressed from dealing mit de aftermath of supervillain activities to dealing mit dem directly. Made qvite a few enemies, but made some friends among de European superhero community, too. Even vorked mit Daedalus a few times!" His chest puffed up a bit at that.

He nodded as she told of her artistic associates. "Mein mother vas a Bohemian. Literally -- de vord was a common term for de Romani people of France, who had reached Western Europe via Bohemia, vhich is now known as de Czech Republic." Mona detected a touch of loss in his voice.

A bit early to be talking about the parents, isn't it?

What? I thought it was a nice little bit of trivia, which happens to tie to me personally and to her through her college friends.

And when she asks about dear deformed daddy?

... I will cross that bridge when I come to it.

"Mein own musical tastes run mostly to classical, particularly de-" He broke off when he noticed the barrista, and turned away from Mona just enough to flash a smile at her, "ah, hello. Dallamyr Classic, please. Black."

I want a Danish!

There are plenty back as the castle, you can have one then. You do not want to spoil our app-

I want a Danish!

Oh, fine, it it will keep you quiet.

"Und a raspberry danish," he quickly added.

His attention turned fully back to his date, and continued after she placed her order. "Mein musical tastes. Classical, mostly, particularly de composers of mein homeland und neighboring countries. Bach, Haydn, Mozart, Wagner. I do enjoy some jazz, dough, both American und German, und even a bit of rock 'n' roll und -- believe it or not -- musical theatre!"

After the barista had left, he leaned forward and brushed against her ear, "Und if you dink dis is upscale, you haff seen nutzing yet...."

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Fulcrum quirked an eyebrow at his coffee choice and smiled to the barista, "Hello. I'll have the same coffee but no danish. Thank you."

"Musical theater? Really? Somehow...I can see you enjoying a little musical theater now-and-then. I don't know, just something about your personality makes it plausible. Any particular favorite? Seems like most fans have a very particular favorite show," she asked, grinning at some unspoken thought."I listen to all of those composers, but I particularly like Schubert. His work has such accessible yet artful personalities. I enjoy sculpting to his sonatas especially. In fact a lot of my work flows more smoothly with an appropriate accompaniment."

She debated whether to ask about his parents at this stage. After a moment's consideration, especially at his melancholy, she opted against it and, with a touch of whimsy to her voice, "My first super villain battle was against a second-rate mystic named Gregori the Great. Not the most original name, and the guy couldn't fight to save his life, but he had one thing going for him: animating objects. I ended up fighting a car, crane, a swarm of bicycles, a soda machine and a statue of President Jefferson. Mr. Jefferson had a nasty right hook."

"In a way that fight was a help to me as well. I saved a carload of art collectors traveling to an auction." Leaning back a bit, the giantess mused over that both embarrassing yet very funny episode of her career.

Glancing back to him, she added neutrally, "This is about as upscale as I get honestly. I've never even thought about ordering a cup of that coffee."

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"My favorite changes from time to time, dough I like dem all. Wagner, Korngold... Bernstein, Gilbert und Sullivan, Rodgers und Hammerstein, und Webber, und Sondheim.... Lately, dough, mein favorite has been... vell..." He hesitated largely because what he was about to say would sound very cliched, "de Rocky Horror Picture Show."

My favorite's still Sweeney Todd, Sondheim version.

I though the remake with the guy from those Disney Pirates movies and most of the adult cast from those teen wizard films was good.

That's because you are a clod.

When she shifted to talking of her art, he took her hands and flipped them palm up, and began tracing the lines on them with his fingertips, "vhat sort of dings do you sculpt? Abstracts or representational? Vhat medium do you prefer to vork in? Your strength vould afford you a vider variety of materials, I vould imagine; you could mold most metals mit your bare hands as if dey vere clay. Are any of your vorks shown anyvhere? I vould bet dey are. Do you do any vork on commission, by request, or is it all just vhatever captures your fancy?" His voice kept trying to speed up as he thought of more and more questions, but he forced himself to slow and calm down.

Slow down, slow down, slow down....

Talking to yourself, hunh? That's a sign of madness, y'know.

...

That's alright, you just keep talking, I'll be thinking about what else she can do with those artistic hands...

Ack! No! I am not letting you do that, not with her! We are not going to treat her like all those girls you use and then throw away!

He looked up at her, locking his eyes to hers. "I... I vould very much like to see more of our vorld. Und I vould very much like to show you more of mein."

Several cell phone camera clicks interrupted the moment.

Accursed paparazzi! Give me half a moment, I'll send an EMP that'll wipe their drives clean!

I thought you ate up publicity like this?

Yeah, when it's on my terms!

Archeville chuckled a bit and shook his head. "Almost makes me miss de Power Corps," he said just loud enough for her to hear.

"I am not surprised you vould never dink to order dat brand of coffee," he said in his more carefre tone. "Dallmayr is a German brand, de fifth most popular in mein homeland. It is rare to find it in de States, but since I moved to Freedom I haff made sure Timothy gets a bag or two in every month."

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"I love the Rocky Horror Picture Show! The stage version is great, but the movie is just so iconic. At the midnight showing one year, a drag queen friend convinced me to dress up as Rocky while he went as Dr. Frank N. Furter. Talk about 'deconstruction' of the genre!" Smirking lopsidedly, she asked, "Have you ever been to a midnight showing? An art film theater in Riverside has one every few months. You'd make a great Rocky Horror."

Leaving that latter comment lingering, she moved on to his art questions. Noticeably, however, her palms were rougher than one would expect given her superior toughness. Obviously a good moisturizer sat in her bathroom. "I sculpt whatever catches my fancy, but I mostly work in abstract. I prefer metal, particularly scrap that rusts or patinas nicely. Yes, my materials are like clay. You'd be amazed at how organic some of my newer pieces look. Not to mention the fine detail work I can do without casting." Mentioning exhibitions, she became a touch uncomfortable, "I work on all three. Ironically my free form and side line pieces sell the best."

"Actually...I really haven't had many showings beyond those I arranged with favors. As far as the fine arts are concerned, I'd be a starving artist without my comics work." Glancing at the gathering crowds, she continued quietly, "My money maker is comic books, especially, as you could guess, super hero comics. I love the work. I've considered putting my sculpting on the back burner and starting up my own small press."

"I'd like that too, Viktor," she replied, gazing deeply into his eyes, "Now just say so if my world bores you after a while. And yes, I'd rather deal with villains. You may be able to blend in at least." She chuckled, almost giggled.

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"Never been to a live show, but I do have de special collector's edition of de movie on disc. I actually got it in de first place because of Meat Loaf; I love de theatrical quality of his music und performances. I vould certainly be up for a midnight showing, dough! Und if ve really vanted to deconstruct it," his grin turned decidedly mischievous, "I could go as Rocky und you could be Doktor Frank N. Furter!"

There's a liiight....

You better wise up...

He took a sip of his coffee whle she spoke of her art, then almost spat as he blurted out, "Perhaps you could show some of your pieces at ArcheTech?" This was followed by some rapid addendums, "or... at some museums or schools. I make considerable donations to a number of dem, both in Freedom und beyond, if you felt too shy to show someding locally, und I am sure I could get some people to consider your pieces. If you vanted, of course. I am sure I could help find a venue for some of your pieces... if you'd like."

Odd that her hands are so rough; I would think her abilities would have removed any-

Fool! Do you remember nothing? Her body channels and generates 'Terminus Energies' -- she can mold metals and such because they weaken under her touch! That, and her ridiculous 'superhero' lifestyle, do nothing to smooth her hands!

Right, yes, of course... which means no amount of lotion would do any good, since it would break down into its components before it could do any good.

"I vould very much like to see your comics vork, too. Do you do anyding aside from superhero comics? I recall a study from about two decades ago saying superhero comics were losing popularity, since de characters in dem could not match de vons found all around us, und dat de predicted trend vas for a shift to comics depicting historical events, or illustrating great literary vorks." He paused to take another sip of coffee, "did you find dat to be de case? I vould imagine dat you und ozhers in your field might haff problems mit royalties und copyrights und licenses, if you made a comic based on some existing Super, or some Super comes around who happens to be identical to von you created for your vorks."

Ooh, maybe I should introduce her to Gossamer, she had some comics in Japan. Maybe her publishers could help get her work distributed.

I can think of many other things I'd prefer to do with Estelle and Mona....

... yes, I am sure that you can.

"It is probably not dat different from de issues I run into mit patents for mein inventions. Which is von reason vhy," he leaned in a bit , as did several of the gathered onlookers, "I do not dink I could ever get bored mit your vorld."

"Soo...," he glanced around them, "how much longer did you vish to stay here?"

So come up to the lab / And see what's on the slab / I see you shiver with antici... pation.

This is not one of your one-night stands.

I know that, if it was I'd have lit up a cigarette hours ago!

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"It's a date then," she answered with a tone of finality. "I'll have to order the costume this week. Custom orders and all."

As to his offer of help, her face tensed a little, but the smile remained, "Thank you for the offer, Viktor. Perhaps after our relationship as matured a bit. It's not that my pride wants me to succeed on my own, but I really do not want to mix business and pleasure at this juncture. Of course your offer is very tempting. Ask me again in a few months and you may get another answer. Especially considering your connections."

She nodded, moving on, "They are a dying breed. The more superheroes people see every day, the less they want to read comics about them. Most of the really successful hero comics are about normal people leading extraordinary adventures. For example, my current book is Typhoon, in which the lead character is sort of an Indiana Jones-ish everywoman. I've also done a couple of literary comics, as well as a couple of graphic novels adapted from movies. Right now, in fact, I'm working on the first layouts for The Old Man and the Sea, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the upcoming Boudica movie. I agree with that trend and see it continuing, but the supers still have a lot of diehard fans."

"Thankfully I haven't ran into copyright or trademark problems yet, but I know its only a matter of time," she added.

Glancing around along with Viktor, she nodded and replied quietly, "Perhaps we should have the order to go. Any closer and they'd be leaning over our shoulders."

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Archeville's face also tensed when she mentioned their relationship maturing, and the relaization of his faux pas. "Oh, of course, of course!," He drew back some and looked around, a bit nervously, "Sorry, dis is... dis is all still somevhat new to me."

Stop making us look like a fool! Let me have my way with her, and end this farce!

No! You have 'had your way' with far too many women, it is time for something more.

When she went back to speaking of her comics work, he calmed back down, and leaned in again, hanging on her every word. "Dose all sound fascinating! Dough, er, if you find yourself illustrating any of de great vorks of science fiction, I hope it vould not be inappropriate for me to offer mein services as a technical advisor. Dough... I vould guess dat sci-fi vorks are in de same category as superhero vorks, dat dere is a decreasing call for dem because so much dat vas science fiction has become science fact, or vill be so in de very near future. Vhich vould be a true shame, given how much I haff been inspired by it!"

It would be a pity if those fall by the wayside. Sci-fi can inspire such hope for the future, just like our superheroes!

Yes, and horrible new terrors, too. Wondrous terrors...

When she agreed with his suggestion to go, he flashed his warmest smile at her, before waving over one of the baristas and asking for some assistance in facilitating their egress. When she came back with the requested items (and the bill), Mona may have noticed that Viktor was a very generous tipper.

20% is customary, your wastrel, not 200! Has she got you so addled you cannot do basic math?

Waitstaff are chronically underpaid, and depend upon tips. Besides, she was courteous and prompt, and deserves a reward.

Bah!

Moments later, they were outside, strolling down the sidewalk, cool breezes on their faces. "Oh, dis is much better!"

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Mona looked over her shoulder at the various patrons standing at the door. She gave them a cheesy, cheery smile, which also happened to imply that maybe they shouldn't follow. Nothing overtly hostile, just a warm goodbye. Turning back to the good doctor, she strolled, albeit slowly, next to him.

"Yes, this is much better. All of those people were something of a mood killer," she replied while sipping the coffee, "This stuff is amazing. No wonder it costs so much, or you tipped so well." A hint of mischief echoed in her voice.

After putting a bit of distance from the Bistro, she continued, "I'd love to have you as a science adviser. I know just enough to get myself in trouble." Despite the small talk, something more serious was simmering under the surface.

"Really, Viktor, if I can give you, and repeat, a piece of unsolicited advice, relax. I don't bite and you won't run me off unless you start acting like a complete pig. That will set me off. But I'm surprised this is all new to you. Besides I'm so nervous I can barely think straight." Glancing over to him, she preempted the question, "I am. Not because it's Dr. Viktor Archeville, but because it's a date. My heroic persona makes me really good at looking relaxed."

Chuckling, she leaned close to him and added, "We 'paragon' types apparently have stoicism written into our genes or something."

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"Ah... vell..." Archeville was clearly trying to stay calm and relaxed, but was also clearly becoming more and more anxious, "you see..."

Oh, just let me handle this already!

No!

The Doktor took in a deep breath, and let it slowly out, rising slowly into the air as he did so via his Gravimetric Belt. He turned and looked her in the eyes, "de ding is, dis is all new to me. Mein dating history fluctuates from 'nonexistent' to 'dings Ace Danger vould do a double-take at.' For most of de year, I don't date, don't have any sort of relationships, und focus entirely on mein vork. Except for de 'sabbatical' I take every year at Oktoberfest, vhen I let mein hair down, und... make up for all de lost time. Und... vell..."

He glanced away slightly, just enough to break eye contact, "dere vas no end of villing und eager co-eds who vere happy to spend an hour or so mit Der Doktor."

"But," he looked back to her, "as I said yesterday, dat is losing its appeal, und I no longer vant it. I vant -- I need -- someding more to sustain me."

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Although the moment was very serious, and emotionally sensitive, Fulcrum barely kept a straight face. Something was very, very funny. Instead of simply replying, she wrapped her arms around his neck and gave him a quick kiss. "Well thank goodness I have superhuman stamina," she teased.

Patting him on the shoulder, she continued walking. "I know I'm not helping. I'm starting to sound like a broken record. I just want you to enjoy our time together as well. Feels like I'm back in high school all of a sudden. As long as you're honest with me, I certainly will be honest with you. If something is on your mind, don't hesitate to speak it."

"Besides," she continued, "we need to be friends first, yes? Then we can move on to romantic matters. Which is why I'm very much looking forward to seeing your world. Really seeing what makes you tick. I'm worried you'll bore of my lifestyle very quickly. It's all pastries and eccentric artists and art house movies. But I'll still show you around. Hey at least we have Rocky Horror."

"If it helps, I'm not used to really opening up to people. Many people, if not most, think I'm emotionally bulletproof as well as physically. We can work through this relationship together." She chuckled and kissed him on the cheek.

"Speaking of which, that was a very generous tip you left."

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I look forward to testing that stamina...

Cut that out!

"Ja, friends first, ja, ja...," Archeville muttered. Then he flashed his smile and waved dismissively, "ah, ja, de tip. Vell, I try to alvays tip generously, especially at places I like; I know vaitstaff like de barista who vaited on us depend upon tips, und I can certainly afford to be generous mit mein patronage. Spread de vealth, und all dat."

He turned to her, "und you do not haff to vorry about me getting bored mit your vorld," He reached out and brushed a few strays hairs behind her ear, "I like art, I love film, und I adore pastries!" He giggled and kissed her on the cheek.

I've got a gr-

Stop.

What? I was just gonna say I've got a cr-

Stop. I have had enough of your lewd innuendo and bawdy puns.

He turned slightly so he could see which way they were going, though always kept at least one eye on her. "Okay, ve both need to vork on de whole 'letting people in' ding, but dat is fine because ve can vork at it togezher. So, before ve get to de next spot on mein little tour... tell me, vhat is your favorite book, movie, und food."

In the distance, the familiar pyramidal shape of an ArcheTech facility could be made out.

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She smiled at his antics. "Okay, I'll admit, baked goods in general are a love of mine. I adore them, but they've never adored me, you know what I mean? My mother makes these wonderful little cookies called Baagh-lava. They're made with cardamon, ground almonds and sugar. Absolutely addictive. When you meet her, I'll ask her to bake a batch." Did her stomach just growl at the mention of dessert?

Once she settled into his questions, the answers came rapid fire. Obviously she knew what she liked. "My favorite book is, in fact, The Old Man and the Sea. Sometimes I feel like Santiago. My favorite movie is one you may not of heard of called The Great Outdoors. John Candy is one of my favorite actors, and he was on the top of his game in that one. As for food, I'm equally split between stuffed grape leaves with lamb or a good, old-fashioned cheeseburger." Okay, maybe not entirely sure.

Glancing up at the rising ArcheTech, she asked, "How about you? Book, movie, food? How about tv show and drink to mix it up?" She grinned and successfully resisted the urge to muss up his hair.

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"Oh, I definitely look forvard to some baklava!" Archeville exclaimed with a big grin, "und, it pleases me to know dere vill be at least von ding on de dinner menu dat you should enjoy!"

"Favorite book, movie und food vould be... Fried Green Tomatoes!" Archeville replied, smirking. "Heh, sorry, von of mein Literature professors used dat line."

That line was bad then, and it's worse now!

I am trying to break the ice! Ease the tension!

He cleared his throat, "mein favorite book is actually a series: Perry Rhodan. It has been running nonstop for nearly forty years, under a rotating cast of writers, who constantly incorporate new bits of real vorld science und technology into de series." Lights danced in the Doktor's eyes as he spoke, "de series has inspired many astronauts, scientists, und even a few musicians! A very close second is another series, Sector General, about de lives of de crew on an intergalactic medical space station. It is more a medical mystery series, focusing as much mit vhat is right mit a species as vhat is wrong. De author -- de entire series vas done by von man -- vas quite de pacifist, und showed dat gripping stories can be told mitout great conflict."

Pfaugh.

Yes, yes, I know you do not like the series.

It's bad enough it's such drivel, but worse is that it's poorly written drivel!

"Movie... vould be Fritz Lang's Metropolis. A predictable answer, ja," he smirked, "but it really is a classic of cinema!"

"Food... hrrmm...." This one appeared to be a real stumper, "I enjoy all sorts, but... I guess I vill go mit de broad category of sausage. Ground meats und herbs und spices in tube form, easy to carry, mit a vide variety of flavors; easy to make but near-impossible to master. Mein current favorite is curryvurst, a pork bratvurst served mit diced onions und a sauce made from tomato paste und curry powder. Und de same goes for beer... vhich should come as no surprise from de man whose homeland has had laws und regulations about de brewing of beer for nearly five centuries!" he laughed. "I tend tovards Bock beer, an amber, heavy-bodied, bitter-sweet lager; dey are higher in food energy and nutrients dan lighter lagers, so it is a good choice betveen late-night sessions in de laboratory."

Mmm...

... beer.

"Dat covers drink, so tv show... vell, honestly, I do not haff von, because I do not vatch much television, aside from news reports. I am familiar mit all de science und science fiction shows, but I haff never taken time to sit down to vatch any of dem. You?"

As if I would waste my valuable time with such pablum!.

Oh, I am sure there are some programmes even you would like.

They were now crossing the parking lot of the ArcheTech facility. People went in and out, many finishing the last bits of their lunch before darting back in to their stations.

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"Wise guy," she teased, batting him very gently on the shoulder. "I've actually heard of Perry Rhodan although I haven't read it. May have to give it a try since my reading speed has increased dramatically."

"Metropolis really is great. I'm a fan of the original Nosferatu also. One of the most frightening movies I've ever seen. I still do not understand the allure of the whole sexy/seductive vampire genre. To me Dracula isn't an allegory of Victorian sexuality but sexual exploitation and disease."

She resisted the urge to laugh, and instead put a hand on her hand, all mock shock, "I'm shocked! Shocked I say! A German that liked sausage and good beer? Never!" Smirking now too, she continued in a normal voice, "Actually that curryvurst and Bock sounds really good. I prefer ports and stouts myself, but a full-bodied lager would do nicely as well. Do you ever drink anything harder?"

Looking around as if confessing something, she plunged ahead, patting him on the shoulder, "Funny you should mention alcoholic beverages. I may sound like a pleb, but I'm a hard liquor fan myself. I love good whiskey and vodka. I'm not some barbarian either. I drink my whiskey neat. In fact I have a little bottle of single malt scotch stashed away for a special occasion..." She smiled at him before looking up at the looming facility.

"I watch very little television. Most of what I watch are old movies or news shows."

No one could miss the subtle looks the strange couple were receiving. Yeah, it may officially be only their first date, but she had to ask. Chuckling, she leaned down to him and whispered, "So what do you think our odds are?"

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"An... associate of mein, a former teammate," he replied, "vonce implied dat de current 'vampire svell' in de media -- in popular teen novels, in movies und television, und so on -- is a plot by vampires demsleves to make us lower our guard. To get us used to dem, accepting of dem; to see dem as angst-ridden victims to be pitied und nurtured, not de blood-gulping fiends of old. And idea vhich is... almost too disturbing to ponder."

Interesting term you used for Avenger.

You would use worse, but... well, he does give me the creeps. And even with Elena and Taylor vouching for him, I just cannot...

Yes, that's it - give in to your instincts! You know he is unnatural, an aberration, unclean!

I prefer focusing on more pleasant circumstances at the moment.

He chuckled a bit, and put his arm around her shoulder (as well as he could) when she'd moved to patted his. "Ah, vhat can I say -- mein tastes are just von of de stereotypical dings about me. I am quite fond of Jägermeister -- more shock, ja -- und of Apfelkorn, Bärenfang, Goldwasser, Ratzeputz... er, of Schnapps und vodkas from Germany." He smiled and gave a slight shrug, "in some vays, I am very much a patriot."

Because ours are the best!

Now, now, there are some fine French and Spanish-

THE BEST!

"Und I haff several bottles of dem all, stashed avay," he continued, winking, "und vould be more dan happy to introduce you to dem over de course of de evening."

A few of the passing employees waved to or greeted Archeville, and he flashed smiles at them and gave quick nods back. Just as many were so focused on getting from A to B or on the projects in their hands, though, that they didn't even notice the couple. He led them down one hall, to a bank of elevators, and went to one on the far end. A modified freight elevator, it appeared, which could easily and comfortably accommodate Fulcrum.

Just as the doors opened, she'd whispered her latest question. The brief flash of shock on the Doktor's face was priceless.

Depends on how exciting and obedient you are!

Stop that!

"I... that is..." He turned away slightly and nervously cleared his throat; when he turned back, he was smiling, and pulled her into the empty elevator with him. "I dink dey are qvite good. You haff said many times dat you are concerned dat ve are too different, dat I vill grow bored mit you. But I do not see dat happening. Relationships are maintained by commonalities, by shared values und goals und tastes und so on, but it is de differences dat make a relationship exciting, vibrant, dat keeps it interesting und alive! Vhen each can bring someding new to de ozher, show dem a new vay of seeing de vorld... vhen each can still find some vay to surprise de ozher... vell... I dink dat is special."

"Und if you get too villful, my dear," he added, hunching slightly, rubbing his hands together, and taking on a hamtastic B-movie tone, "I can just haff mein robot minions attach a hypnochip onto de base of your neck und make you mein slave!" He threw his head back, "Muah hah hah hah hah hah!"

That is your one outburst for the night, okay?

Hey, you're the one that said 'differences make a relationship exciting'...

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"The light of justice will burn away your evil, villain!" countered Fulcrum in her best serial hero voice, shifting into a bold stance and shaking a fist dramatically, "Your pitiful robots are only delaying the inevitable. Surrender now!" Then she grinned, her tone lightened. "You're really good at that. Please don't ever go mad scientist on me."

"I know I've mentioned my reservations several times. To be honest with you, this is one of the few times I've been timid, really, as far as dating goes. I'm still a little overwhelmed with the possibility. I know I won't become bored with you. Something about you helps me to relax. All those lovely drinks will help too," she continued. This time she smirked, "Now as you can imagine, I'm not a cheap drunk. In fact alcohol doesn't bother me anyway. What is this Goldwasser? Is it related to Goldschlager?" Her eyes had lit up a little at the mention of specific brands.

"Aren't we great role models? Talking about booze as a common interest," she teased while absently watching the floor display.

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"If I ever do," he replied, smiling, "I haff several friends who vould be villing to stop me before I do anyding too terrible."

Pfaugh.

They would, you know. It is but one reason I am so happy to be on the Freedom League now.

Though what they were in was clearly originally designed as a freight elevator, given its massive size, the interior was as well-decorated as any other office elevator, with tile floor and brushed metal walls. Classical music played from concealed speakers.

"Und I am not a cheap drunk, eizher. I mean, I am German, so dat explains some of mein resilience, " he chuckled, "but mein frequent exposure to de vide assortment of chemical und chemical veapons, both in mein labvork und in mein clashes mit supervillains, haff made me rather resilient to de effects of most toxins, including alcohol. But in my travels, I haff found -- und even made -- some spirits vhich can effect even dose mit superhuman constitutions."

I'm very good at making poisons, yeesss...

Yes, and I have become equally good at making antidotes.

"As for talking about alcohol, vell, I believe von of mein favorite American historical figures said it best: Bier ist Beweis, dass Gott uns liebt und uns glücklich sein wünscht." He chucklad and gave her a wink, "'Beer is proof dat God loves us und vants us to be happy.'

"Goldwasser is like Goldschläger, ja," he continued as the elevator doors opened. The lights indicated they'd gone down, to the sub-basement, though the corridors here were all as well-lit as the ones near the lobby. He sowly glid down the hall, hovering a few feet up to keep at eye level with Fulcrum. "Goldschläger is a cinnamon schnapps, und about 87 proof; it used to be 107 proof but dey changed it some years ago. It is Italian, dough it has a German name; de vord "Goldschläger" refers to de profession of gold leaf makers, who beat bars of gold into micrometer-thin sheets, eizher for decoration or for food. Goldwasser is a 70 proof root und herbal liqueur; less alcohol, but far more flavor. As for de ozhers I mentioned: Apfelkorn is a sweet apple flavored liqueur made from vheat spirits -- like a vheat vodka -- blended mit sweet, ripe apples; Bärenfang is essentially vodka made from honey; und Ratzeputz is a schnapps made from ginger. good for de stomach," he added, smirking.

Soon they'd reached a set of double doors, which opened as they approached. Beyond was a large room, with a number of large round glowing platforms on the floor and matching round glowing bits on the ceiling directly above them. Connected to each platform was a control panel, and one side of the room had a master control station. Yes, they looked very much like Star Trek transporters.

I hope everything is ready!

By my calculations... I don't care!

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As they walked along, Mona listened diligently and nodded at the appropriate moments. Otherwise her eyes wandered, observing the decorations and generally getting a feel for the building. Something about aesthetics pleased her, not only personally, but in her opinion of Viktor Archeville. He apparently liked and respected his employees. The elevator, though, made her wonder if he did that for her personally.

Pushing that vanity aside, she stopped before the double doors, "That would be Mr. Franklin of course. Given the opportunity I would try all of those varieties." Once the double doors began cycling, she fell silent and curiosity crossed her face.

"No...these aren't what I think are they?" she nearly laughed, circling around to examine the strange machines. "Teleporters, or transporters, depending on the lingo?" A light giggle followed, one reminiscent of discovering some juicy secret. She smiled wide, "For us? Will they even work on me?"

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A very broad, Cheshire Cat grin had spread across Archeville's face. "Dey are indeed," he replied, tracing a finger along her cheek as he parted from her side and moved to one of the pad's control panels. "Officially, dey are 'Schwarzschild Vormhole Aperture Producer,' or SWAPs. Dey create vormholes betveen two points, similar to mein Belt; I am fairly confident your errant Terminus energies vill not interfere mit its functioning," he said with a wink. "Karl Schwarzschild vas a German physicist who made some discoveries in General Relativity, some in concert mit und some independent of Einstein. His research interests vere extremely broad, including vork in celestial mechanics, observational stellar photometry, quantum mechanics, instrumental astronomy, stellar structure, stellar statistics, Halley's comet, und spectroscopy."

Why are you bothering? It's not like she can understand anything you're saying.

What? How can you say that?! She is not an idiot, not like all those other girls you bed! She is... is... special.

Mmm-hrm.

As his fingers flew over the buttons and switches of the controls, one of the pads began to glow more intensely and give off a gentle hum. "I am vorking on anozher name for de system, dough," he admitted, "since it does not really fit -- 'SWAP' implies an exchange of matter, but de system can send dings from A to B mitout requiring an equal exchange from B to A. Dough," he continued, "since de vormholes are not von-vay, at least some atmosphere exchanges, so I suppose in a vay it is an accurate name...."

You're babbling. Stop babbling! You're making me look bad!

Well, you certainly do not need any help in that regard.

One final switch was flicked, then the Doktor hovered over to the pad, and landed on it. He held out one hand to Fulcrum, and gave a come-hither look. "So, ready to be 'SWAPped out' to out next destination?"

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