Title: Lost Lamb
Description: Scott, PM to invite
Max_Coleridge - March 30, 2011 05:56 AM (GMT)
March 15th (5 days after LS's departure)
Maximilian Coleridge’s scowl deepened as the pawn reported. Longshot had missed his scheduled check-in time. The little clone was erratic. He was vain. He was occasionally willful and more than occasionally confused. But he never… never… disobeyed orders. From his penthouse office in the pleasure palace, Max opened a portal of darkness and arrived in the data center in a swirl of darkness.
“Pull up scans of the school grounds,” he ordered curtly; the mansion itself had been too well-insulated against thermal energy and sound leakage to get any clear picture of what went on inside its walls. “Are there any apparent signs of an emergency?”
The pawn nodded at the voice of his master and focused on intently on the video feed of the school. Zooming in and panning the picture through several angles. “No, my lord. There are young children using the playground and the older students walking the grounds who appear to be unconcerned,” he reported.
He folded his arms across his chest and scowled as the calculations and probabilities concerning Longshot filtered through the Black King’s mind. “Report my movements to Control,” he ordered the pawn, “I’m going to the Xavier school and shouldn’t be gone long.” It was annoyance, one that he ignored when it suited him, but ever since both his and Forge’s abductions by the Shadow King, the HFC had become increasingly stringent about the locations of its members, which was another reason this absence of Longshot’s gave the Black King more concern that it would seem to warrant.
Miles away in Winchester county, in the office of Scott Grey-Summers, a portal of darkness swirled into existence in front of his office and expanded into a dark void the size of a man. The man who emerged, wearing black glasses and a business suit worth more than Scott Summer’s entire wardrobe, wasn’t a stranger, but nor was a friend. Stepping out of the portal, he was unconcerned with the alarms this action triggered; he’d expected nothing less.
“Mr. Grey-Summers, I urgently need to speak with Longshot. He was scheduled to report in and assure us of his continued good health. Can you explain to me why he has failed to do so?”
Cyclops - March 30, 2011 08:53 AM (GMT)
Scott was about to leave his office to teach his morning math class. Strange sometimes to think that once upon a time, he had to take the remedial classes in most of his courses, because of the brain damage from the fall from the sky and the resulting coma. He awoke with an untapped and unexplained understanding of spatial geometry that never seemed odd or unusual until his powers manifested. Then suddenly as he began to adjust to this new way of his life, he understood. The Professor had understood mostly though, and he had done what needed to be done to help the angry and withdrawn young mutant he had chosen to start his dream with learn how to translate what he knew into something he could someday teach. It was quite possibly the dullest and least liked class in the school, it was dry, it was methodical, it was routine, and Scott Summers loved every minute of it, in spite of, or possibly because of, his students' boredom. In a world so frequently harrowing and death defying, the monotony of a litany of figures was comforting, even if he was the only one who recognized it.
Given the nature of the file he had been studying up until this point, Scott was more than ready to retreat into his very Scott-like field of study. Milbury's notes, these translated nightmare tales, he hadn't been able to reconcile these files with his memories of the kindly man who had taken such good care of him. How could they possibly be the same person, how could he have done this... how could know one have known?
The alarms in his computer flashed a split second before the dark void materialized and produced the grim visaged Shroud, his dark eyes as impenetrable as Scott's own hidden gaze. “Mr. Grey-Summers, I urgently need to speak with Longshot. He was scheduled to report in and assure us of his continued good health. Can you explain to me why he has failed to do so?”
Not relishing the thought of what might be so urgent that the Shroud came looking for his little pet, Scott thought about suggesting that if he wanted to keep in contact that a telephone would probably be more convenient, but something about the Shroud's manner told him that the Black King would not be all that welcoming of a reminder of protocol. He wouldn't have barged into Scott's office if this wasn't important. The man was a sinister, amoral, downright creepy bastard, but he wasn't a fool. It suddenly occurred to Scott that Longshot had left them five days ago, the date memorable because it was the date that Alex had dropped this bombshell on him. The youthful clone had not checked in with his master? That seemed off.
"Shroud," Scott said, "Your man left us almost a week ago. In the middle of the night. There was no sign that it was anything but voluntary. You're telling me that he didn't go back to the Club?"
Max_Coleridge - March 31, 2011 05:57 AM (GMT)
He’d anticipated being told that Longshot had been injured, possible on one of their fool-hearty missions, those would have appealed to Longshot’s whimsical and romantic nature; something where Longshot’s uncanny luck was needed. The news that Longshot wasn’t here was a shock but Max took it in with the stoicism of a statue; if anything, his features set into colder, harder lines.
“No, he did not,” he replied with words as warm as ice. “He left here in the middle of the night, without a word to anyone?” His hand unconsciously reached and rested on the top rung of Scott’s guest chair, the knuckles of his tan fingers growing white under the force of his grip on the wood. Longshot, though just a servant, was important, he was loyal; and Max Coleridge, sinister and amoral though he may be, valued loyalty. “Mr. Grey-Summers,” he said, facing the schoolmaster, “ take me to the room he occupied. I also need to review his movements just before his hasty departure,” he ordered, his mind already preoccupied with forming plans and cycling through possible enemies.
Just the other day Betsy had mentioned that Shatterstar was nowhere to be found either in the Pleasure Palace or New York. At the time, it didn’t concern him; the young clone was as easy to distract as kitten … he could’ve been distracted with a kitten. Only a firm hand could keep Shatterstar focused; it was something that Forge was too preoccupied with his inventions to do and Betsy, frankly, didn’t have the temperament to sustain the discipline Shatterstar needed to keep him from blowing around like a kite in a storm.
Cyclops - March 31, 2011 07:45 AM (GMT)
He was no great scholar in reading emotional response on an other man's face, in his eyes. Scott had long ago trained himself out of showing those emotions himself, and a man like the Shroud had clearly done the same. At any rate, his eyes were solid black pools, hard to read even for someone like Jean. But there were always tells, and Scott was keen to notice them, particularly when it was a matter of having an advantage over an enemy. The Shroud was not necessarily his enemy at this moment, but his grip on the chair, it was dangerous. There were few things as dangerous as a father whose child is missing, and Longshot, for all his appearance, and his deadly ways, was perhaps someone that the Shroud saw as his child. Not, maybe in a loving and nurturing way, but as someone who was cared for and in return gave back a certain level of care back. No matter what Scott thought about about the Hellfire Club and how they conducted their business, it was not his place to object to the choices Longshot, a free man, had made, and it was very clear that the little clone adored his King. Apparently, judging by that death grip he had on the chair back, the Shroud, in his own way, was fond of his Knight.
The Shroud demanded Scott show him Longshot's room, and Scott only hesitated a moment. He was not keen on the idea of this man parading through the school while there were children around, but there was always ways around that. ::Jean,:: he thought, ::I need you to clear a path from my office to the second floor guest room that Longshot was occupying. The Shroud has arrived to tell me that when Longshot left here, he didn't return to the Hellfire Club. He suspects something might have happened. If you would, after you shoo our students out of sight, could you sweep the school for anything amiss and report to me? If you find something, then alert me immediately, but if not, just keep your mental eyes on me. Thanks.:: A little curt, maybe, a little bossy, definitely, but it was that last word that meant all the difference. He didn't thank his soldiers in the middle of issuing orders... But he did thank his wife. He would always thank her.
Scott leaned over to the interschool intercom system, which wasn't exactly like a standard school communications set up, of course it wasn't, and he keyed a number, waiting for the person on other other end to pick up. Immediately once they did, he said, "Warren, something's come up. Can you take my morning geometry class for me?" He clicked off without giving Warren a chance to object. Through his rapport, Scott was informed that the halls had been cleared out, and he nodded to the Shroud.
"I'm not sure what you'll find," Scott said, "I'm sure the room's been cleaned, but all right. Once you've taken a look, I'll pull up the security video. Follow me."
Max_Coleridge - April 2, 2011 01:30 AM (GMT)
“Your cleaners undoubtedly didn’t notice anything amiss because they weren’t looking.” Max stayed at Summers’ shoulder as they made their way through the deserted. “No doubt they and you thought it was perfectly in character for him to steal away without a word, like a thief in the night.” The quick steps of their shoes on the polished floor sounded in unison. It was an unconscious indication of how alike in some of their habits and traits the two men were.
Coleridge extended his sight, peering past the vacant hallways and into the rooms, some empty while in others, children and teenagers looked curiously at the closed doors they’d been hurriedly hustled through by Jean and whispered, ‘What’s up?’
“Not that I don’t appreciate not having to brush against an unkempt horde of children and teenagers, but did you clear the halls to protect them from me or to keep them from seeing someone outside the Xavier School philosophy, who isn’t the infamous terrorist Magneto, and asking inconvenient questions?” Arriving at the second floor, they into a long, deserted hall. “Not that it matters either way, children always seem to find a way to forbidden delights, regardless of how many sets of blinders you put on them. They will run toward it with their arms wide open.”
The room was clean but small and sparse is its decoration. “Not unlike a monk’s cell,” Max commented as he stepped to its center. He focused his mental sight on the room, looking the dresser drawers without touching them, peering behind dresser and into the closet, where the darkness wasn’t a hindrance. “His clothes from the drawer, you stored in the closet,” Max told Scott what he undoubtedly already knew. “But also,” Max crossed to closet and opened it. On the floor of the closet sat a cardboard box with the Longshot scrawled across it. On top were a left behind pair of expensive shoes. Darkness engulfed the box and it vanished. “Longshot is a packrat. No,” Max corrected himself, “actually, he’s more of a magpie,” he said as Darkforce coalesced at the top of the closet shelf and a small, hobo-like pouch of cloth tied at the top with a ribbon, dropped into Max’s waiting hand; it closed around the sad and somewhat pathetic little bundle of odds and ends that comprised Longshot’s treasures. “He might leave his clothes without a moment’s hesitation but not his treasures.” He regarded the bundle in his hand; it reminded him of what was behind surface appearance of Longshot, the unstable killer; it was Longshot, the broken and searching soul.
“Five days,” anger glittering on those two accusatory words. “A five day head start.”
Cyclops - April 2, 2011 03:59 AM (GMT)
Their footsteps echoed in the quiet halls and Scott's look was enough to send the students skittering back into their classrooms. Max commented on it, and Scott answered, "It's time for them to be in class, and even if it wasn't, this is more for my sake than yours. I'm not an incredibly patient man, sir, I don't like to have to answer questions. You bring a lot of questions as a rule, but this visit of yours is not their concern, unless you make it so. It's simpler all around."
The Shroud, of course, made it far more insidious than it seemed, always attempting something underhanded to benefit himself, trying to goad Scott into admitting or denying something that could be used against him. There was nothing here though that Scott could reveal. None of his people had done anything wrong. It wasn't their place to babysit his little pet. He should have belled that cat if he didn't want him to stray.
Leading the darkly sinister and evermore irritating man up to the guest room, Scott watched as the Shroud poked around and confiscated Longshot's abandoned belongings, comparing the broken clone to a magpie. "Yes, Jean explained to me that there were holes in his mind even in their earliest 'conversations,' shall we say, that he filled with bits and pieces of other memories. When he was here before, we attempted to repair the damage, but he fled after an attempt on his life by another of Mojo's toys. This visit with us was marked with his wandering aimlessly around the school, shunning any directed attempts to educate him, or to even explain what it is he expected from us. You sent him here for a purpose, to grow he said, and I don't know that Longshot is capable of growth. There is something in his very make up that suggests it's impossible for him, a fear perhaps, something that's keeping him reverting to type. I'm no psychiatrist, that's my wife's field, but it's clear Longshot needed something from us both that he wasn't getting. Maybe those treasures were no longer enough. Maybe he left to find whatever he is lacking."
“Five days,” the Shroud said angrily “A five day head start.”
"I have to ask, sir, who you're angry at here," Scott folded his arms over his chest, "If you're thinking to blame us, it begs the question why. After all, if Longshot was supposed to contact you and he didn't why did it take five days for you to notice?"
Angel - April 2, 2011 10:39 PM (GMT)
When Scott Summers told someone to go on to their scheduled class and go about their business, they would do so without question. When Scott Summers told Warren Worthington to do those things, he'd do so just long enough to keep his class busy and then find out what was going on--because clearly something was amiss if he was told to go about his day. The winged man had known the leader of the X-Men more than half of his life and he could distinguish the workings of something else afoot better than many, although not better than Jean, of course.
Under the ruse that he was going to find some paperwork in his office, Warren left his students hard at work mapping out patterns in inflation. He wasn't completely stretching the truth, his retrieved gradebook tucked up underneath his arm, but this wasn't to say Warren couldn't take the scenic route back to his classroom. He had a classic pair of Raybans to mark the occasion, as senseless as it was to wear sunglasses indoors. Warren had seen Jack wear them inside before, although it probably had something to do with the way the blonde professor ducked away from the large-paned windows that graced every hallway of the institute.
Regardless of any fashion faux pas, Warren found himself in the confines of housing, noticing that a guest room door was ajar. His interest piqued and he approached it in a casual stride, one of his wings grazing the wall as he passed.
"Knock, knock," Warren greeted cheerily, rapping on the doorframe with the back of his hand as he peered in to find Scott looking miffed and what appeared to be Max Coleridge rustling around in a closet that had previously belonged to their guest clone--Longshot. Although judging by the unsettled feeling in the room, this wasn't a visit of simple pleasantries. "Usually we're more welcome to guests," Warren observed further, having noted already how quickly the students had made themselves scarce.
His gaze traveled from one be-spectacled man to the next, and an almost sheepish expression befell him, and in perhaps a mild attempt to diffuse the tension, he pushed his shades back from his eyes. "Well.. I feel silly for wearing these when I don't need them." Specifically speaking, neither did Coleridge, but they served a purpose.
Max_Coleridge - April 4, 2011 12:57 AM (GMT)
"I have to ask, sir, who you're angry at here," Scott folded his arms over his chest, "If you're thinking to blame us, it begs the question why. After all, if Longshot was supposed to contact you and he didn't why did it take five days for you to notice?"
Like Summers, his eyes covered; so he turned his head to face Scott wordlessly, taking in what the man said about Longshot’s aimless wandering around the school and it possibly being impossible for him to grow. Longshot’s failure to report hadn’t been five days ago, only a few hours, but he let it pass.
“Responsibility, Summers, not blame. He’s my knight, my right hand, I hold myself responsible, not just for what he does but for his well-being, physically and otherwise; I don’t know what kind of a man you are, Summers, how deep your loyalties to the people under you are, but I owe that to someone who will one day lay down his life for me. Those are my responsibilities and you, I do hold you responsible for what happens on the grounds of your school,” he replied hotly and would’ve continued if Warren hadn’t casually strode into the room, bringing a burst of cool air and sunlight with him. The shining blond had always been like that and suddenly Max was thinking about twenty years in the past, when they’d both been just two boys together at boarding school, locked in youthful, friendly competition; before Warren had gotten his white wings, now replaced with metal, and before the deaths of Max’s parents and darkness had entered his soul. The dark side and the light side of the same privileged coin. If things had been different, if Xavier had come for Max Coleridge and Hellfire had claimed Worthington… but Max stopped the speculation in its tracks, the past couldn’t be changed.
Despite the tragedies in his life, Warren’s demeanor was as blithe as ever as he lifted off the shades, "Well.. I feel silly for wearing these when I don't need them." It was something that Max tried not to envy.
“How fortunate for you, Worthington,” Max said as he untied the ribbon and opened Longshot’s bundle of treasures onto his hand. “But then, you’ve also been uncommonly fortunate, almost as lucky as Longshot… almost. By the way, how are the wings, Worthington,” he continued in a feigned tone of disinterest as he perused the modest jumble of odds and ends. “Hmm, so that’s where that went to,” he murmured as he picked up a black cufflink with a stylized C on the face. “Planning on wearing that image hologram in public until the blue fades from your skin? I assume you are working on taking care of that,” he said, unconsciously falling into the same verbal fencing pattern of parry, slash, lunge, but always with a smile, that he and Worthington always seemed to fall into around each other. He dropped the cufflink back among Longshot’s treasures and frowned; whatever stories they held for the little clone, none of them had seemed to be the cause of his erratic behavior.
“I’d like to see the surveillance video you mentioned. You said that nothing out of the ordinary happened that night,” he said to Summers, holding up the discarded bundle of treasures before pocketing it. “These are Longshot’s anchors, his comforts, if he was a religious man, they would be his rosary. Something extraordinary would need to happen for him to abandon them. You didn’t know that because you didn’t spend time observing him and see underneath his antics. That was an error on your part.”
Cyclops - April 6, 2011 07:17 AM (GMT)
Max went off on responsibility and how he cared for Longshot and his well being because someday the little clone would lay his life down for him, and Scott cocked an eyebrow at this. Unlike the visor which was a much bulkier piece of equipment, his glasses, while wrap around and sealed around his face, did allow a great range of emotion to be visible, though to be honest, Scott was not incredibly expressive in general. "The kind of man I am, Shroud, is one who doesn't expect someone to lay down their life for him. I protect the people who I am sworn to protect, and if they protect me in return it's in an unspoken arrangement of mutual respect and consideration. I stand at the head of my people, my team, and my students, but only because I am willing to be the one hit by the first attack."
He would have said more, he would have defended his position more, but Warren entered, breezy and Devil-May-Care. Scott narrowed his eyes behind his red lenses, but he felt his shoulders lower from the defensive lift they had been in, like a cat starting to puff, a dog starting to raise its hackles, despite himself. Warren knew him too well, knew him enough to know that he wouldn't have missed his class without reason, and knowing that any reason that was that drastic and still remained in the school was one that needed investigation. Scott wanted to be irritated at his oldest and best friend (besides his wife) but this very thing was probably the biggest reason that Warren was his best friend.
Warren made a bit of a joke and Scott said, completely ignoring it, "This is not the classroom, Worthington." There seemed to be little change in the tone of his voice, but Warren would be certain to notes the distinct lack of that tightness that only people who knew him could hear.
The Shroud and the Angel exchanged witticisms, well, the Shroud did, pointed little political jabs of the sort that Scott was not fond of. He was a man who spoke simply and succinctly, not from lack of education, though frankly he only held the equivalent of a G.E.D. and not from lack of thought, because Scott was an introspective man. But he avoided the nonsense of such sparring because it was ultimately fruitless and petulant. He was many things, Scott Summers was, abrupt, often inflexible, a bit arrogant and sickeningly self righteous, but he was mostly a great lover of efficiency. He did not play time wasting games, he did not dance around issues and he almost never lied.
"Enough, Coleridge," Scott said, to the Shroud's snipes, "Save such sparkling wit for an evening at that club of yours."
The Shroud returned to the matter at hand, and began to accuse Scott of negligence, and Scott opened his mouth to protest. But then he stopped, and with a slight incline of his head, he said, "You're right, actually. I don't understand Longshot, and he represents a time in my life, and that of my wife, that we have difficulty reconciling in our minds. By his very nature, he is an uncontrollable instability and it is, my nature, to attempt to fix what's wrong with him. The fact that any attempt to fix him would only result in breaking him further is like nails on a chalkboard to me, and I have, subconsciously I assure you, taken a stance of distance. You're right. I failed to protect Longshot, and, I should have done better with so fragile a creature."
There was absolutely no sarcasm in his voice.
Angel - April 16, 2011 04:40 AM (GMT)
Warren could hardly be surprised by the Coleridge's wit, black with past miseries but razor sharp nonetheless. His barbs were ones the avian mutant could take in stride, although Warren had learned long ago how to keep a placid exterior, even when that same exterior was at the end of Max's remarks. Pressing his shoulder into the door frame, he batted back some loose strands of his hair to steal a casual glance at the state of Longshot's once-room.
The winged man's gaze fell to the image inducer, his free hand adjusting the strap. "When the memories with that color fade perhaps I'll consider doing without it. Should I find a different color until then--green? Macaroni? I hear pink is very in this year."
His observation quickly turned into a jest as he let ill associations with his appearance pass him by, and it was difficult to discern if there was a change in his tone. But Warren knew well enough that the spotlight had not fallen on him this day, and Scott was quick to bring them back down to business, as was to be expected--Warren was the airy witticism, and Scott was the stony truth--a pair that worked so well that Warren suspected Charles had known this future from the very beginning.
Now the drollery turned to allegations, the Shroud sharply accusing Scott of neglecting Longshot and allowing him to disappear. Warren could never have imagined the reply that came next--the calm tone, yes, but the words--not quite. In that light, Warren was not yet convinced that this was entirely anyone's fault of those present. "Regardless of the affection Longshot had for those objects, he appeared to be out of his own element." He did not know the man well by any means, but Warren could see at least both the sparkling charm and the young, unworldly mind. "Perhaps something did happen while he was here; he was, after all in a new place with unfamiliar faces all on his own." Warren need not even mention the fanclub the blonde clone had acquired in his stay, starry-eyed students trailing after his shadow in shy blushes and giggles.
"Is it not possible he left of his own accord?"
Max_Coleridge - April 17, 2011 02:37 PM (GMT)
Max’s swipes at Worthington had drawn blood, in a sense, but not Worthington’s, Summers had snapped at him to protect his friend from a perceived attack; that was food for thought. A corner of his mouth curled up in a cold, satisfied smirk. It didn’t last long though, as again the sense of time running out weighed on his mind. Angrily, he turned his attention to Summers, accusing him of failing to understand Longshot, to his amazement, Scott agreed. Grimly silent, he listened to Summers’ explanation and his admission of failure, it was something he never expected from Summers, the man was a perfectionist and not known for acknowledging his failings. It was Worthington who broke the silence first.
“Worthington,” he said flatly, “Longshot has nothing. The few trinkets he does possess mean everything to him. A mentally whole person could lose everything and remake their lives, but Longshot,” he let the sentence trail off as his hand closed on the bundle of abandoned treasures. “We discovered Longshot in the ruins of Mojo’s island fortress, curled up and starving himself to death because although he hates being owned he can’t function without someone to lead him. It’s not the way his broken mind works.” The image of what Longshot had looked like then floated in Max’s mind, he’d been filthy and the torn remains of his bloody and stinking clothes hung on his skeletal frame.
“He has been getting better, that was reason I sent him here, to learn the kinds of things he can’t at the club,” Max explained, pausing to take one last look at the empty room then brushed past Warren on his way to the hallway. “If he’d snapped again, he’d have come to the club and tried to kill us… me, as he did Mojo; he wouldn’t have been able to resist emotional pull his master as on him, but that didn’t happen.” He waited for Scott to lead them to where they were going to view the security footage. “You were right, Summers, he is a fragile and unstable creature but I’m not going to abandon him to his fate.”
As they continued through the empty hallway, Max came to a reluctant decision. “I’ll also need you to connect your brother. Longshot isn’t the only clone created by Mojo who’s missing; there’s a second one in the club,” Max revealed, “he also vanished. Something I wasn’t informed of until recently,” he said sourly. “I’ll need to speak with the Harper clone,” he said simply, blithely mentioning the reconstruction of Scott and Warren’s longtime friend. “Something that will go smoother if you tell him to expect me.”
Cyclops - April 21, 2011 12:25 AM (GMT)
[JP Max, Scott and Alex]
Max and Warren both seemed a little dumbfounded that he had admitted his neglect of the clone, and Scott thought about pointing out that the wrongdoing was not one sided, but what was the point of such petulant one-ups-man-ship? Scott did not give a damn frankly what Coleridge thought, and Worthington knew him enough to understand if he actually thought about it. The Shroud was right though. Longshot would not have left without his treasures. Even Scott knew that much.
But then, Max revealed something that was disturbing. That there was another Mojo Clone at the HFC was disturbing enough, but to have him also have disappeared? Well, that didn't take a tactical genius like Scott to put two and two together. "I'll call Alex, right away," Scott said, bringing out his cell phone.
Max merely nodded at Scott as he called his brother. “I must confess, Worthington, that I never envisioned you happily being a teacher in an out of way school in Westchester,” Max said, turning his attention from Scott. “Being tethered here, pouring over student papers with your red marker poised… it doesn’t seem to be you, Worthington. I haven’t seen you at any of the social events this season. Have you become a hermit at thirty years old?” he asked wryly.
Ignoring Max's snippity baiting of Warren, Scott waited impatiently for Alex to pick up. "Why bother having a cell phone if you don't... Alex, Scott."
"I recognized your abrupt ring, big brother," Alex said on the other end, his voice as always holding a slight hint of amusement to it when dealing with the singularly unique man that was his only living blood relative. "What's up?"
"I need to speak to Harper," Scott said, "But I..."
"You and me both, Scott," Alex interrupted, "Jon's been Awol for a few days now. Madison's been attempting to locate him, but all we've found is his phone."
Scott felt a cold dread, "What? Jon's gone missing too?"
The comment snapped Max’s attention back to Scott. “I want to speak to him, where is he?”
Scott rolled his eyes behind his glasses, wondering if anyone at the Hellfire Club was ever taught proper manners, and perhaps it showed a little in his voice as he said, "Alex, I have the Shroud standing in the middle of my school demanding the honor of your presence. Where are you at the moment?"
"Oh, I'm sure that's a joy and a delight," Alex said on the other end, "Tell his majesty, I am standing in my kitchen fixing a microwave burrito."
Scott didn't smile at his brother's mocking tone, looking to Max instead and saying, "He's in the X-Factor HQ's kitchen." He held out the phone, "Do you want to talk to him? Or should I continue to play business secretary?"
While Apocalypse had been a disaster for the world, the members of the HFC had managed to profit from it; beneath Max’s suit a powerful and still mysterious gem rested securely in a chain around the Shroud’s neck. He didn’t normally wear it, the temptation of its ready power was also a danger but it was an edge he would need to help Longshot. “Thank you for the offer, Mr. Grey-Summers but that won’t be necessary.” Warren’s mutation gave him innate knowledge of wind currents and aerodynamics. Scott’s optic beams gave him an extraordinary ability to calculate angles and trajectory. When Max discovered his ability to open portals, he realized he had an innate sense of distance and location; it only applied to places he had been to before, but he knew the direction and down to mere inches where places were in relation to himself.
The gem warmed against his chest as he stretched out his power. A swirling spot of darkness appeared in the air and in the blink of an eye expanded into a huge void taller than a man and blacker than a pit into the abyss. Its twin had appeared in the middle of the X-Factor kitchen.
“Walk through,” the Shroud said in a clear, carrying voice.
Alex Summers stepped through, with a bemused look on his face and he said, "Well, no one can accuse you people of living dull lives, can they?" He nodded to Warren, something flickering in his eyes that was unreadable to anyone except perhaps the winged mutant who had shared a nightmare with Alex once not long enough ago. Turning his attentions to the Shroud, Alex smirked, "If had known I was going to receive a royal summons I would have nuked a burrito for you too."
"Alex, please," Scott said, "Tell us what happened to Jon."
Alex shook his head, "I don't know. He's taken off here and there before, and we usually find him with Director Hill or whatever, but he's never been gone so long. Madison is working on a tracker to find him, but if it failed, you were going to be our next stop."
"Shield can't find him?" Scott frowned.
"We haven't asked yet," Alex said, his amusement at the situation rapidly fading, "Jonny's... Jonny, you know. He's... unique. Why? What's going on?"
“He isn’t unique,” the Shroud corrected, his face stoic and void of humor at Alex’s quips, “he’s one of three, the three Mojo created clones. Longshot and Shatterstar vanished five days ago. When did Harper disappear?”
All trace of humor was gone from Alex's face in an instant, "Five days," he said, "Wait a minute, you don't think they..."
"Something's happened to them," Scott said, "Longshot left here in the middle of the night, leaving behind his collection. We figured, like you did, that it was just his way. But all three gone missing at once. I don't think we can call this a co-incidence."
“Now that you know,” the Shroud stepped forward, darkness trailing and roiling around his feet as though it were living thing, “is there any information you have to explain where they’ve gone?” Alex wouldn’t, of course, but he had to ask, just to make sure. He probably didn’t need to see the security video of that night either, but he would still need to see it for the same reason, just to make sure.
"We haven't found hide nor hair of Jonny in the city," Alex admitted, "I'm guessing you haven't spotted your wayward clones either?"
"Cerebro," Scott said, "The clones' minds don't give the exact same signals as a naturally born mutant, but they are distinguishable from human signals. Jean should be able to locate them fairly easily..."
"Hold up there, Scott," Alex said, looking to Max, "You don't have to do anything here. Not without some bargaining."
Scott frowned, "What are you talking about?"
"The HFC, they don't just give out their favors, why should you?" his brother said, "I owe the Shroud here for his help when Lorna was captured, but you? You don't owe him jack. I'm thinking you should make sure your interests are covered. Don't you, Warren? You know how these things go, right. If Scotty offers the X-Men's resources, I think that Mr. Black King here should owe them a debt, don't you?"
Angel - May 7, 2011 02:54 AM (GMT)
Despite what Warren considered sound reasoning, Max remained unconvinced, and the avian mutant made no fuss of the matter, reminding himself that perhaps he did not know Longshot as well as Coleridge. The matter remained that Longshot was still missing, and apparently there were others as the Shroud revealed, giving cause for Warren to arch his brows in surprise. Their next play of action was to contact Havok, a task in which Scott engaged immediately.
One end of Warren's mouth drew dryly as Coleridge began to question his social status. "Were I a hermit we would not be speaking now, Mr. Coleridge," he remarked, keeping an eye on Scott as he waited impatiently for his brother to answer. "One can only have so many life-changing events before having to examine their priorities." It went without saying as to what he was referring to, and his wings reflected the proximity of those memories, drawing closer to his body as if for protection.
They tautened further when Scott dropped a bombshell, aghast aloud that their cloned close friend had also gone missing. The situation was quickly becoming more dire, their hearts drawn sharply into this mystery now that one of their own had disappeared. The one-sided conversation between Scott and his brother was making them anxious, and Max complied to then resolve this problem with a shadowy portal. Unfortunately, after Alex emerged there was not much more he could tell them to sate their curiosity, other than Harper had disappeared at the same time as Longshot.
He gave a sage nod as Scott suggested Cerebro to find them,"With no trail of evidence, that seems to be the best course of action we have at our disposal."
But Alex suggested a bargain before they took these things underway, and Warren had a fleeting moment of a troubled expression. It was not as though Havok had not made a point, but there were clearly lives at stake. "If there is an agreement to be had, we should best find a middle ground quickly. We don't know if they are in any danger, but it's hardly a risk worth taking."
Emma Frost - May 16, 2011 04:20 AM (GMT)
If there was a mental signature that Emma knew all to well it was Max's. To say she knew it may even be an understatement, his and hers past was one more complicated then either one of them would ever say out loud. And when it came down to it he was one of the few people who could out match her when it came to be self centered and looking out for number one....and if he was in the school she was sure nothing good could come from it. She gave her class busy work and took to the hallway, she didn't truly care if Scott had told them to stay in their rooms... this was Max.
And he could not be trusted.
She moved down the hallways with purpose as she played catch up to the group. Her eyes narrowed as she took in the small gathering of men. Scott and Max of course, and then Worthington had found his way into the mix. It was a who's who of the X-men's Hellfire Club. Though she figured it was best her and Warren had come despite what Scott had said since they understood the club on a personal level, though Emma always had felt Warren never quite used the club to his full advantage. She strolled into the group her eyes glancing between the men as she let her arms cross, she got the tail end of what all was going on. Seemed another issue had crossed the lines they teams have drawn in the sand forcing them to stand side by side once more. The very site of Max made her blood boil as the man made her feel a very wide range of intense emotions all at once, but now was not the time to show any of them so she kept them all to herself. She was an expert at hiding them and she buried them as deep as they could go. Warren and Max exchanged a few quips, and she merely gave her head a shake. “Children. Let's not prolong this anymore then we have too. I'm sure the sooner Maximilian leaves the sooner we can all go back to the better parts of our lives.” Her eyes narrowed a bit on Max. “Besides if you want our help bailing your shattered little club out...again. It is best to play nice now isn't it?” An evil smirk crossed her lips, she was more then aware of the rocky shape the royal families of the club were in. She may not be there every night but she was well aware of the many happenings from people she paid to know such things for her. And Max was a king without a Queen or a full court at this point... she couldn't help but chuckle inside to herself about how the mighty had fallen. Her eyes glanced back towards Scott.
“A much as I hate the sound of these next words. Your brother is right, it is never a good idea to scratch Max's back without a large insurance policy. He tends to scratch back with a knife into the back of those he deals with....” she bit her tongue a bit before she went to far and made things worth. “So tell us Max. How much his your knight worth to you?” She pulled herself back as she felt herself inching towards a line she was sure Summers would not allow her to cross. But she had said what she thought needed to be said, she may not care about the school or the people in it. But it was her home for now, and she wasn't going to let Max ruin her life anymore then he already had.
Max_Coleridge - May 18, 2011 01:35 AM (GMT)
Favors, it was the currency of the Hellfire Club; something that Alex clued his brother in on. Max marshaled his thoughts to do some hard bargaining, but Warren had indeed been away from the cut throat world of the Club and high society too long, and spent too much of his time in the open, honest, warm-bosom of the X-Men, where everyone was family and always ready offer a helping hand. Warren made no move to seize on the advantage that was in front of his face. Poor Warren, the events over the last few years really had thrown him for a loop. Regarding him, Max made a mental note to make Warren a pet project; the winged-one seemed to have lost his fire. “Worthington, you really are letting yourself go; you’ve lost your edge,” he told him bluntly but without a note animosity.
Someone who hadn’t lost her edge made herself known. As much as he gave Warren a hard time, there was still respect and a weird kind of friendship that Max felt for him; as Emma made herself known, the cold wariness Max had for her, made it plain whom Max regarded as the true enemy among the group.
“Emma, seeing you again is truly… indescribable,” he said flatly. She was beautiful and cold; he’d gotten the better of her once, and Emma Frost was not the kind to let a wrong go unavenged.
“A much as I hate the sound of these next words. Your brother is right, it is never a good idea to scratch Max's back without a large insurance policy. He tends to scratch back with a knife into the back of those he deals with....” “So tell us Max. How much is your knight worth to you?”
A spark of anger and yes, some fear, blazed in his thoughts as she came closer; before he’d gotten his son, he never felt fear, his own death was the worst anyone could threaten him with; but he was a warrior and a true warrior didn’t fear death, it was merely an inevitable release. But his son…. “I am here, aren’t I? Here, asking for help. That ought to tell you something, Emma.” His toned was suddenly laced with aggression, on a personal level that he aimed toward her. “It ought to tell you the lengths I’ll to for something I want. But you already know that.” Then added, “Do you think you’ll fair better next time?” He turned his back on her and faced Scott; it was a calculated move that she wouldn’t brazenly attack him, not with her hands and not so publicly.
“Regardless, it wouldn’t be a debt to you, Frost,” he said over his shoulder. “Yes, Alex Summers, you still owe me a debt and the fact that I haven’t called you to repay it and ask you ‘what her life was worth to you,’ ought to tell you something as well.” He faced Scott; two stoic men facing each other, ruby lenses and ebony lenses mirrored in each other. “Helping me reclaim Longshot will put me in your debt. I prefer it that way rather than charity,” he frowned at the last word as though it left a bad taste in his mouth. “If my word isn’t enough for you, then trust that I’m not a stupid or foolish man. I never make a bargain I don’t keep… and expect the other to keep as well,” a veiled comment that wasn’t directed at Scott.
Cyclops - May 20, 2011 06:51 AM (GMT)
Scott was not happy with this. He absolutely despised the game playing and favor keeping that men like Coleridge were so skilled at. Scott never expected to be paid back for the things he did in the service of doing what was right. To be truthful, he didn't even expect to be thanked. If he did, he would be an Avenger, or Hell, even part of Alex's X-Factor Team, open and public, instead of concealing his identity with a melodramatic and, if you thought about it the wrong way, vaguely insulting codename, and stealthy vigilantism even if they usually became city destroying scenarios. Scott was simply and purely a man who did what he did because the thought of doing otherwise was inconceivable to him. It was probably the same thing for Max, really, as unfathomable to him not to demand repayment, as it was for Scott to do so.
But as Alex and Emma, emerging at the right (or was it wrong) time, said it was what Max expected, what he was used to, and Scott, in the end, was a smart enough man to realize that there were more important things here than arguing over petty details. If he was asked, he would have admitted he couldn't care less about Longshot or Shatterstar. They were both unsavory and wicked little men who had killed too many, and felt too little about it. He would make certain they were rescued because he knew that to not do so would not be in keeping with the high standards he held himself to. Jonny was missing though too, and while he had had his issues accepting the strange clone of his long dead friend, he had grown to care for him.
As Max made his... well, it wasn't really a plea, request perhaps, Scott received a message from Jean, who had already gone down to Cerebro the second he had telepathically informed her of this strange trio of disappearances. It was simply a map, flashing indicators showing where the clones, with their very unique brain wave signatures, had landed. "I know where they are," Scott told those gathered. "Jean's found them. They're in the Caymans, where they were built, but not on Mojo's main island. It looks like they are on one of its calves. We can dispatch the Blackbird."
Alex looked to Scott and then to Max and said, "I'm in, Shroud. My friend was taken. I owe you, sure fine, whatever, but now, you owe Scott, and anything Big Brother is going to ask for in return will probably be a hell of a lot more important, than anything you could have me do."
Angel - June 7, 2011 05:39 AM (GMT)
Warren was not unfamiliar with this game of compensation, the game becoming only more and more treacherous with each rung of society. But an eye for an eye was never only an eye--it was always more, and Coleridge was no Hammurabi, that much was certain. His final thrust in their fencing dialogue spoke as much, and Warren felt a line crease his brow. "You know as I do that I have more than enough 'edges' ", his wings moved ever so slightly to make his point.
It sounded more begrudging than he intended, but Warren found that he could no longer simply snap back into place like a taut rubber band that had been stretched over and over. They all twisted and warped eventually, or worse--broke. His wings and skin were those twisted rubber bands, and so long as they were there he would never forget what he'd done. But this was not about him, and that much Warren and Max could perhaps agree on.
In this already complex mix, Emma managed to find another way in, illustrating quite plainly Max's convention of betrayal in her own clipped words. Regardless of the dealings of the Shroud, they had to put their hands in this murky water because of Jonny. Before Warren could open his mouth, Scott made it known that Jean had found their exact location--and they were together. As relieved as Warren was, he knew that all the clones in one place could leave room for double-dealing, but he hoped he knew Max better than that.
Still, being prepared for nothing was far better than being unprepared for everything. Warren spoke up at last, "Then this makes it easy, doesn't it? Each has a stake in this, so naturally each would keep their word." Warren made sure to look at no one in particular on this one.
"We all find those that were lost to us and afterwards depart ways on clean slates, debts paid." As much as it would be handy to have Max on a string for something in the future, Warren would give that up to make sure Scott's brother was not on that same string.