|Johann en Sereniteit by die Boekwinkel|
As it happens, Johann has managed to make the time to meet Serenity here for their, er, scheduled outing. This is immediately obvious when he strolls up from down the street, smiling as he joins Ren's side and peers into the window alongside her. "Somezing catching your eye, hm?" he asks.
Serenity twists quickly to regard Johann as he speaks up, leaving an oddly-shaped smudge on the window. "Hello, Johann!" Ren extends a 'wing' from the water to offer him a pat on his free arm. "No, I don't have my eye on anything in particular yet, though those colorfully-illustrated magazines are certainly attention-getting." Ren motions to the comic books. "I hope that you are doing well today?"
Johann perks his smile up a bit more as Serenity turns toward him, nodding to the invertebrate as he pats the 'wing' in return. "Good afternoon, my dear." he exchanges greetings, and then turns to look through the window at the indicated 'magazines'. "Ah, zose are comic books. I vas never an avid reader of zem myself, but I have pored zhrough a few. Zey can be quite exciting, if over ze top at times." With a quiet chuckle at childhood memories, he nods at his friend's question and says, "Ah, yes, I am doing quite vell for myself today. And you, Serenity?"
"Shall we?" Ren suggests with an answering smile, gesturing to the door with a pair of fins folded to an impression of sleeve and human arm. "I have to admit that I've yet to visit the bookstore. I've been using my computer," Ren motions to the rhinophore cuff, "and doing rather more writing than reading." Ren reaches over to try to wipe the smudge mark from the window with the tips of a pair of fins. "As for today, I've been keeping busy with planning and some rumors of new monsters, but I'm feeling well all the same."
Johann nods, though first he helps Ren to wipe up the smudge from the window with his sleeve. It's not the worst fluid he's gotten on his coat, after all. "Hm, it seems ve both could get out a bit more, heheh." he chuckles, then heads toward the door, holding it open for Serenity as he questions her a bit. "Monsters, hm? I'd heard a thing or two about them from one of my patients, but I zhought he vas simply hallucinating. Maybe I should look into it."
Serenity grins at his initial remark, then slips inside the store and makes a little gill- and fin-fluttering spin to face Johann once again. "I've grown wary of imagining anything to be entirely impossible here," Ren remarks with an ironic note. "Physics seems to give out, going from one place to another and there are no shortage of cultures. Perhaps you have better means to judge than I, but I can only assume honesty and sanity until proven otherwise." Ren motions out the door and adds, "In this particular case, Dante did offer me some warning, too, so I'll be staying indoors at night for now."
Johann enters after her, though he stops when she turns aorund to face him again, the colorful patterns of her skin swirling beautifully through the movements. "Ah? Yes, I suppose I should be less skeptical myself, given ze zings I have seen in my own vorld. But aside from you, everyone here seems so... ordinary." he says with a shrug. Casting a glance out the door into the street, he nods and cautiously says, "Yes, perhaps zat vould be for ze best."
Serenity ripples in toward the shelves ahead of Johann, though wisely opts to watch the intended path and avoid putting a large amount of paper underwater. "Ordinary? That sounds more than a little strange in itself. I've had plenty of opportunity to meet the strange and the special." Ren pauses to offer him a tooth-free smile. "But I'm pleased that I have the opportunity to interrupt your ordinary experience." Ren adds curiously, "Do you suppose you'd share any of your reading preferences with me?"
Johann follows behind Serenity, making sure not to bump into her or get between her and the books. He can see now why she doesn't come here very often. "Haha, vell, I suppose I have different standards of 'ordinary'. In any case, I zank you for providing me zat opportunity, my dear." he says with a smile, then starts thumbing through a few books that they pass. "Ah, vell, much of my reading is required for ze job. Medical texts, scientific journals, and ze like. In ze times I can read for pleasure, I am quite ze fan of classical horror. Ze tale of Frankenstein has long been my favorite, for... perhaps obvious reasons, aheh."
Serenity watches Johann attentively as he explains, returning a nod. Ren moves to 'stand' next to him, and leans over for a look as he stops to examine a book. "I'm vaguely familiar with the premise of Frankenstein, though I haven't read the book. I'm not one to seek out horror beyond a possible morbid curiosity in the news." Ren seems content to divide attention between the book spines and Johann, not yet reaching out of the water to take anything. "But like you, I've been mainly focused on nonfiction related to my work and studies- before my trip, that is." Ren grins and admits, "My eyes may have touched a bad romance or two, too."
Johann glances aside at Ren as she floats over to him, shifting slightly to make it easier for her to take a look at the book's contents as well. It seems to be some kind of science fiction novel, by the look of it. "Ah, vell, perhaps it vould not be ze zing for you, zen." he says with a nod, setting the book back on the shelf before poking at a few others as he speaks. "Heh, I suppose ve are both rather boring in zat regard." Then, arching an eyebrow, he looks at her with a mischievous smirk and asks, "Really, Serenity? My, my, I never vould have guessed you vould be into /zat/ sort of zing."
"I suppose you need some regard in which to be boring, considering your history and emergency-resolving present course," Ren replies with an amused tone. Flowing along at a matching pace with gentle ripples of the undulatory fins, Ren looks up from the titles to Johann. "No?" Ren says, rubbing at the mane of gill feathers in a gesture that hides the face with the fin briefly. "Not quite the fine literature, true. I'm afraid that the ones from my country suffer from stock characters and situations even more than the ones from Earth, but gender doesn't seem to complicate the Earth ones as much as one might think." Ren looks over to Johann again and notes with amusement, "Perhaps I should distract you with childhood reading interests."
Johann nods, looking a little grim. "I do vish sometimes zat my job /vere/ more boring. But yes, I have plenty of excitement in my line of vork." he says, then shakes his head and lightens up a bit, following along as the two of them pay less and less attention to the books themselves. "I vould scarcely call many romance novels 'fine literature' except in jest. It is a subject zat is notoriously difficult to write vell, but many still try, vith varying degrees of success. And frankly, given how cliched /our/ novels can be, your statement fills me vith dread." He grins, then, turning to Ren. "I see no reason vhy not, my dear. Tell me, vhat /did/ you read in your youthful days?"
Serenity extends a pair of fins to answer Johann's initial remark with a damp pat on the shoulder. As he turns to face Serenity again, Ren nods. "It's not terribly surprising, I suppose, that I wanted to be a dancer before I became a researcher of dance." Looks to the side thoughtfully, Ren pauses before continuing, "Hhh... What /was/ I expecting to be when I grew up? I suppose in toward the end of my primary education it was acting, for one, involving more than a few plays beyond those required."
Johann reaches up to place a hand on those fins, but decides against it and simply nods, listening to Serenity's words. "Hmm, vell, zey are closely related career paths. You seem to enjoy dancing, vhich I vould consider a victory on your part, especially since you are so good at it." he says, then looks up at the ceiling for a moment. "I vas alvays a gifted child. I zink zere vas never any question zat I vould end up in an intellectual field of some kind. I zink my story is more straightforward zan yours, as I vas reasonably certain from a young age zat I vas going to be a doctor. Ze human body, and how it vorked, alvays fascinated me, vhich I suppose is vhy I loved Frankenstein so. To be able to reanimate ze dead like zat, to bring back ze spark of life in cold flesh, vas my dream." Shaking his head with a small smile, he adds, "I have not quite gotten zere, but I I vhat good I can."
Serenity responds to Johann's raised hand with a high-five... or perhaps -seven or -eight, as Ren wasn't counting the number of scallops in the fin edge just then. With his continued story, Ren nods and seems to listen attentively. "I suppose there is an enormous amount to learn about physiology, one of those unending supplies of new discoveries that an active mind needs," Ren smiles and motions a fin edge toward Johann. "Perhaps studying people with tails, humans with green skin, and shapeshifters will give you even more perspectives?"
Johann is a little perplexed at the high-eight, but he doesn't question it, simply shrugging with a smile as he lowers his hand. "It is quite ze expansive subject, yes! And it continues to grow larger every day, I find. Even in my own vorld, zere vas no telling vhat manner of strange extrahuman creature one might find. Vhy, I have heard of one such monster whose bones break and reheal vith every movement. Imagine zat!" he says, then takes her fin in hand and winks. "Or translucent aquatic invertebrates."
Serenity shows a bit of a wince, in rhinophore recoil and shifted eye height, at his example of breaking bones. Evidently the differences in anatomy aren't enough to prevent a sympathetic reaction to injury. But the smile returns with his latter remark, and Ren answers the wink with a playful waggle of the 'antennae' poked out of the water towards him. "I'm quite glad that you were already prepared to learn all manner of new things, as you'd certainly be less entertaining company if your mind were too brittle to bend with the flow of insanity in this town." A ripple of muscles within the smooth blue flesh has the vague impression of fingers squeezed between Johann's, as well as some folds implying a cloth-covered hand and arm to go with it.
Johann notices the wince, and offers a quick apology for making her actually imagine it. But it seems all is well as she smiles again and mimics clasping his fingers with digits of her own, and his own smile returns as well. "Haha, vell, it vas quite strange at first, but I suppose I am more flexible zan I vould be if I came from a vorld vithout such oddities. But as far as entertaining company goes, I zink you take ze gold zere, my dear."
Serenity grins, continuing to grasp his hand for the moment. The grip isn't very strong, while the body temperature seems lower than human but considerably above room temperature. Ren twists his hand to examine his knuckles curiously, then raises eyes again. "My thanks for that sentiment," Serenity replies with a nod. "I'm glad for your fortuitous preparation, too." Ren adds thoughtfully, "I wonder if I would be less entertaining company now, had I followed some of the fancies that preceeded my acting and dancing plans."
Johann returns the grin, careful not to grip her fins too hard either. The lack of strength and low temperature of her 'hand' are expected, given her nature, but it's still an unusual feeling that he has yet to get used to. As she inspects his own hand, he offers no resistance, allowing her to take the same curious interest in his physiology as he has in hers. "I do try to be prepared, my dear. But, vhat makes you say zat? Vhat sort of ideas did you have prior to acting and dancing, zat could be so... uninteresting?"
"Hh, perhaps 'uninteresting' is too strong. I didn't intend to value those jobs any less. They are just different than my current course, I suppose," Ren allows. "Before taking the more social course of action -this was in the middle of primary school, mind you- I had a mind to be a rescue worker of some sort. A bit of activist spirit, perhaps, and it looked rather exciting. I might say too exciting, today." Ren releases his hand but tries to touch 'fingers' of fin edge to Johann's fingertips. Ren smiles and continues, "In early primary school, I was even less settled on something. Playing with building sets had me asking about construction work at one point, while my infant sibling inspired some plans to be a midwife."
Johann listens intently to Ren's tales of her childhood dreams, his hand allowing hers to slip away but keeping contact between their 'fingers'. "A rescue vorker, you say? Exciting, yes, and dangerous too, depending on ze situation. But in some vays, saving lives is its own revard, as I could tell you." he says with a small smile of his own, then nods and chuckles a little at the mention of building sets and younger siblings. "I see. Somezing about zat image is... heh, quite adorable, in my mind. I cannot begin to imagine vhat infants of your species look like, zhough."
"I'm sure that you looked quite adorable, too, playing at medicine as a your child," Ren remarks with an amused tone. Ren tries to fold the edges of the fins like knuckles, but the attempt comes out more like not-yet-creased origami folds than a good impression of finger bones. "Baby fsst don't metamorphose or any such thing, they just have bigger eyes and heads and have more body than fin." Ren adds thoughtfully, "Now human infants are cute even to me, but I can't help but imagine the intersection of between a bone-filled head and childbirth..." Ren shrinks a bit at that thought.
Johann chuckles again, and perhaps that's a blush on his face at the remark? He watches her try to imitate his knuckles, but being familiar with the anatomy of a hand, he knows how difficult it is to get the fine details right. "Ah, hm. Much like humans, zen, yes? Zhough human children have all of zeir limbs from birth." he says, then nods and winces on her behalf as he gives her fins a pat. "Yes, vell, it /is/ quite painful, but it can be vell vorth ze effort in ze end. At least, if you don't mind raising zem after."
Serenity lowers the fins from his hand and nods in reply. "Indeed. A powerful responsibility, a powerful reward," Ren agrees. "But I can't say that children are very high on my list of priorities, particularly with..." Ren motions out to the sides in an all-encompassing gesture (asmuch as possible between the bookshelves). Then, with a lighter tone, Ren motions toward Johann. "I should note that while I may have been convinced to act as a secretary, I won't be convinced to play midwife or emergency worker."
Johann returns his hand to his side, wiping it against his coat absentmindedly as he nods too, then smiles again. "Vell, I vould certainly hope to have a better home for zem to grow up in, hm? It can be quite dangerous here, even vith vhat I am used to from my own vorld." Then, a small laugh before he continues. "Zere is nothing wrong vith zat, my dear. Both can be quite demanding."
"I do hope that the city will eventually become a safer place for children and adults," Ren wishes. "I have some doubts about the viability of a familiar sort of democracy here, but I can still imagine enough concensus-building to ensure the basic duties of citizens and a government." Ren grins and offers, motioning toward Johann, "To begin with, I imagine strong support for a 'don't eat people' law."
Johann nods in agreement. "A safer environment for everyone is one of my dreams, believe me. I vould rather treat ze common cold zan bullet vounds." he says, then sighs. His smile quickly returns with Ren's little bit of humor, though. "Heh, I suppose such a law vould be quite popular, zhough perhaps not among ze more voracious of ze carnivores around here. Regardless, if ve could set up any kind of government here, one vith strong support and zat vould provide strong support to ze people, zat vould be... vell, vonderful."
"You have my vote for Minister of Health!" Ren replies cheerily, extending a pair of fins from the water to nudge Johann in the shoulder. "But, in fact, I am glad that you are imposing a small bit of civilization even now by cheating death and disease. Suffering from some illness that would be readily treatable back home would be doubly disheartening."
Johann smiles and blushes, turning away a little bit at the compliment. "Oh, you. I am just a simple doctor, not a government official." Still, it's true that things seem to have improved a little since he got here, at least as far as healthcare goes. In return, he winks and says, "And vhat about you, hm? I suppose zis Mr. Diablo has never seen his papervork organized so neatly. It must speed zings up considerably, having such a helpful and efficient secretary as yourself. And one who dances so vell, to boot~"
"I imagine that you feel about government service the way that I feel about paperwork," Ren says with an answering waggle of the rhinophores at him. "Maybe I should test my powers by seeing whether I can convince Dante to institute dancing as an official police training technique?" Ren adds with a grin. "What would you do in a government position?"
Johann chuckles, scratching his chin. "Vell, perhaps. Ve do not alvays enjoy ze zings ve are good at, as it happens. Such is life." Then, a roll of his eyes. "Somehow I zink zat might actually come in useful /somevhere/. In any case, I have never given much zhought to vhat I vould do in such a position. Perhaps revoke ze rights of corporations, since many of zem seem to be effectively people zemselves in ze eyes of ze law. A silly idea, zat. It is vhat has kept ze Gravel Vars going for so long."
"I suppose that imposing greater responsibilities on corporations, shifting the burden from individuals and government to large businesses might make sense," Ren agrees. "It seems a rather abstract point here and now, however. Medical Mechanica seems to have power on account of its technologies more than any nonexistent government failing to rein it in properly."
Johann nods as she speaks, though he is interested in one thing she mentioned. "Medical Mechanica? I have heard brief mention of them, and seen ze name around, but I do not quite understand what sort of corporation zey are. Vhat do zey actually /do/?"
Serenity frowns thoughtfully. "They seem to be rather more enthusiastic about their benefits to society than they are specific about just what those benefits are. I have a suspicion that some of this rhetoric might be from enthusiastic employees describing the company for which they worked in another universe." Ren continues, "Now, I do know that the Integra's Arms apartments are owned by the company here. That suggests that artificial intelligence, nanotech construction, and... whatever it is that allows rooms to be bigger on the inside than out... are areas of expertise."
Johann listens, rubbing his chin as she describes them. "Hmm, very mysterious sorts indeed, by ze sound of it. It may even be zat zese employees don't even know vhat ze company does, if zey cannot say for certain zemselves. AI, nanotech, and spatial varping seem like strong possibilities, however, from vhat I have seen around here." He thinks a little more, then lets out a small 'heh' as an obvious thought occurs to him. "Of course, vith a name like zat, I vould zink zey deal in medical machinery as vell. Perhaps I could arrange a meeting vith one of zeir research team, if zey even have any. I'm sure ve could both learn quite a lot from each other."
Serenity nods in reply. "Yes, I would suppose excessive team spirit and compensation for inadequacies before I imagined any nefarious conspiracy," Ren remarks amiably, then gestures a pair of fin edges toward Johann. "I think that a meeting sounds like an excellent idea. I have to admit that both your medical technology and the contruction of my apartment seem rather magical. Surely they're advanced enough to be compatible."
Johann shakes his head. "I am sorry, I did not mean to imply zat zey vere conspirators of any kind. Simply speculation on my part, you understand. Ze corporations in my vorld vere all less zan trustvorthy." he explains, then grins at the idea. "Ooh, I do hope so. Zink of ze good zat could be done vith a little cooperation! Ve might come a few steps closer to getting zis place properly civilized, even!"
"Let's not get ahead of ourselves here," Ren replies playfully, attempting to slide past Johann without dampening either him or the bookshelf. In any case, Ren turns to face him once more. "Rather than civilization, let's set our sights on the less ambitious goal of well-designed interior decorating."
Johann presses himself up against one of the bookshelves to make some room for Ren as she passes, though he does get a slight moistening. It's all good, though. Better than blood, anyway. "Haha, yes, I suppose zat is a more reasonable short term goal, isn't it?" he concurs, idly brushing a few drops from his clothing. Arching an eyebrow with a smile, he asks, "So, vere you zinking of helping redecorate ze Vellness Center, zen?"
"No, no," Ren assures. "I'm no expert in any sort of fashionable decorations. My apartment's design is shamelessly stolen from an advertisement that I had saved, and I haven't met many here who share my aesthetic for clothing." Ren motions to the oval patch on the lower abdomen, this one depicting a lime green crystal garden on a dark purple background. Like the other clothing, the print appears to remains the same shape even when stretched. Ren frowns slightly on noticing the dampened clothing. "Hh. Pardon. I don't believe you mentioned a desire for swimming today."
Johann ahs and nods at her explanation, giving her outfit an appreciative look. "Hm, it looks good on you. I vould not say it is somezing I vould vear, but my own tastes are rather dull, I zink, in comparison to most." Then, with another small chuckle, he waves off the apology. "No, no, it is quite alright. Ze coat vill dry, and it is far from ze vorst zing I have spilled on it. However, I do still need to pick up zat swimsuit eventually."
Serenity responds to Johann's appraisal of the outfit with a playful wave of the 'antennae' at him, lengthening the body, extending 'wings' to smooth but static curves, and holding a ninety-degree twist for a moment. Ren then collapses back into the usual shape and extends a pair of fin edges to pat his shoulder. "Your clothes speak of a dedication and orderly mind, I think," Ren offers. Then Ren shakes a 'wing' off to the side. "Barring a medical emergency, I suggest a trip to the S-mart at the earliest opportunity," Ren says with a smile.
Johann watches her motions, stroking his chin as he appraises the way she twists and curves. "Hmm, yes, I vill have to maintain my response. It looks great on you~" he says with a wink, then lowers into a bow with a flourish, straightening up soon after. "Zank you, my dear. I do try to look as professional as I can. It helps instil confidence in my patients zat I do, indeed, know vhat I am doing." With another chuckle, he nods and adds, "Ah, yes, zat vould be convenient, I zink. But vhat of you, Serenity? Surely duty must call for you quite often as vell."
"Yes, I imagine that it is important to not only know what you are doing, but to convince others of the same," Ren amiably agrees, making an answering bow with a fair approximation of a human-like fold in the back. "Indeed duty does call, but I suspect less insistently than yours. Excepting some messages from people in the field, I can generally plan ahead to make some time for personal pursuits."
Johann strikes a pose, standing straight and tall and jutting his chin out, one hand behind his back and the other across his chest. It's a very smart look, and the proud grin he bears adds to the aura of confidence he exudes. "Heh, it is true. If others do not believe you capable, zen zey may make your job unnecessarily difficult." he adds to his explanation from before, then settles down into his normal stance, smiling as Ren mimics his bow. "Vell, your job does seem to be more predictable, at least. Making time for outings like zis must be much easier for you."
The posing from Johann gains him a bit of extra attention from Serenity, looking him up and down with antenne inclined towards him. The greenish eyes return to his face as Johann relaxes. Ren considers his explanation thoughtfully for a moment before nodding. "Yes, I imagine so," Ren then replies to his latter remark, motioning an upturned fin edge towards him. "So I'm very glad you could make it here." Ren adds, "Have any books caught your eye?"
Johann nods back and takes her fin in hand, bowing slightly to kiss it. "Of course, my dear." he says with a grin, then wipes his lips on his sleeve as he lets go of her fin. "Pfft, I should have zhought zat out a bit more." Shaking his head, he picks out a book from the shelf beside him. "Actually zis one looked interesting. Stranger in a Strange Vorld. It sounds quite... appropriate, vouldn't you agree?"
Serenity grins at the gesture. Aside from the salt, the skin is also coated with both bitter and wintergreen-like salicylates. "Your courtly manner is much appreciated, in any case," Ren offers cheerily. As Johann moves to take the book, Ren ripples over to his side for a look. "Indeed, though is the world in question strange enough to have important lessons for us?"
Johann chuckles again. "Vell, now I know to expect such zings next time I attempt such a gesture, hm?" he says, holding the book up to give Ren a better look at it. "Vell, I do not quite know myself yet, but perhaps. Zere is certainly no harm in finding out, is zere?"
Serenity nods to his latter question. "It's somewhat belatedly come to my attention that this bookstore is filled with quite a lot of paper books," Ren remarks with a smile. "I'm accustomed to electronic ones, you see. It occurs to me that my touch might disturb things other than your lips." Ren holds up portions extruded from the edges of both pairs of fins.
Johann nods as he looks around at all the actual, paper books. "Ah, I vas unavare of ze existence of electronic books. Or at least, I did not pay zem much mind. I come from a vorld and time vhere such zings are unheard of. Ve do not even have ze internet vhere I come from." he explains, then lets out a quiet laugh. "Ah, my apologies if zat vas too bold of me, zhough you do not seem to mind overly much. In any case, I suppose ve should purchase zis book and make our way to somevhere less, ah, susceptible to vater damage."